Hallelujah

What’s your favorite version of the song Hallelujah? It seems like nearly every popular singer or group has done one from time to time. Since I first heard the song it was an instant favorite, but never did this song hit me quite the way it has in 2020! Who is with me?

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post because…well, because 2020! In fact, after I wrote my last blog, filled with hope and excitement about a new decade and then almost a few weeks later we got the news of Covid 19 and the shut down, I have to say I was sort of in freeze mode or WTF mode as probably was most of the country, even other parts of the world.

And what a year it’s been! I think we’ve gotten to see every side of human nature in the last 5 to 6 months, haven’t we? We’ve seen the people who catastrophize. We’ve seen people who are overwhelmed and don’t know what to do. As a therapist, I’ve seen people who believe it’s just gonna blow over really soon and people who think will be dealing with it for a couple of years. I’ve personally known people who have lost family members, and others who think it’s a conspiracy. With all the unrest right now, it’s really difficult to be positive.

We’ve seen the people who believe in conspiracy theories. We see the people who are in denial that it’s even a problem. Meanwhile we see 200,000 Americans dead and political and social unrest. All in all it’s been one hell of a year, and the years not even over yet. I have been thinking for a while about what song could embody 2020. It took me a while, but I arrived at the song ‘Hallelujah’.

The song has a refrain:

🎶 The baffled King composing Hallelujah...🎶 showing us that it’s not uncommon for people to be in disbelief on how their life is playing out, or their reaction to their experience.

I guess it had always been a thing that I’ve wondered how people do; stay joyful through a difficult time? How is that possible? It seems that when those thoughts crossed my mind I wasn’t really aware of the difference between joy and happiness. Isn’t our culture obsessed with being happy? We see coffee mugs and T-shirts and memes and slogans that say things like ‘good vibes only’. I like the way Maya Angelou put it.

So that brings to mind the question; what is the meaning of the word Joy? Joy is not the same as happiness. Our culture is obsessed with being happy. For many it’s a life goal, one that has people living outside of the present, telling themselves, “I’ll be happy when…”. But life was never supposed to be 100 percent happy. Joy is different. Joy is more like a deep abiding. It lies in the realm of authenticity. It is the acceptance of unchosen circumstances over which we have no control or power. It’s an ability to sit in and walk through difficult life experiences with a sense of peace. Allowing us to be present and available for those around us. For me, it’s been a lifelong destination. A practice I’ve begun to hone through desert experiences, rock bottom valleys, and the occasional mountain top view.

Living in America for some people makes it hard to get an accurate view of what life is supposed to look like. For some people 2020 is a struggle, sure, but they’ve been struggling their whole lives. For others 2020 is a big slap in the face for someone who realizes that maybe they really don’t have as much control over their life as they thought they did. Or maybe 2020 is a wake up call for someone who didn’t think racism was a problem, or that a pandemic wasn’t just a chilling movie plot, but something that could affect the entire world.

I do a lot of deep pondering. Not a stretch for an Enneagram 4 who is comfortable in melancholy. And then I heard the Jeff Buckley version of Hallelujah. The person who recommended it to me has a unique connection to music, but didn’t know about my deep connection to the song. Listening to this version of it for the first time felt like time and space standing still, as I experienced its raw unrefined melody. You see, nothing speaks to me more than live acoustic versions of songs because of their authenticity. The song is like that too though isn’t it? All the ways a person, in this case a man, can go wrong and still end with a bittersweet hallelujah. Whether it’s sung courageously, triumphantly, defeatedly, or barely audible through grief or regret, its a song for every life chapter, inevitable that we’ll hear ringing true if we’re blessed to live a life of any length or magnitude.

🎶 And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah
🎶

Regardless of where you stand with how 2020 hit you, it seems reasonable to say that it must have affected you in some way. For me personally, I got to a point where I realized why it’s so important to lay a solid foundation, and to have a contingency plan or to prepare for a future that you don’t have a guarantee will ever happen but realistically know could, or for one you hope for and pain to bring into existence. If 2020 finds you disillusioned Buckley’s version has a verse not found in all versions. It’s one questioning if there is a God above. If you feel that way this year, you aren’t alone.

My hope and prayer for you is that through whatever you are experiencing this year, you will remember God wants us to ask for what we need. Hallelujah!

Song Credit Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah

Continue reading “Hallelujah”

Natural

“It feels totally natural to be a Christian”. Said No One Ever. If I’m being honest, living in my human skin, being a “good” Christian does not come naturally to me.

What does come naturally to me is getting really mad when someone cuts me off in traffic or wanting to point out to someone who doesn’t seem to notice the “10 items or less” sign when they have 25 items in their basket and I have 3, plus a screaming toddler who is overtired and HANGRY. Clearly I fight my primitive brain regularly to keep my lips shut in such a situation, and it’s a battle I don’t always win.

🎶 That’s the price you pay
Leave behind your heartache, cast away

Just another product of today
Rather be the hunter than the prey
🎶

The human condition. That’s what comes natural to us because that’s who we are. It’s the part of you that just said “Duh!” In your head. 😆 There are simple truths we try to deny like this though. We stop viewing ourselves as moral creatures and view ourselves instead as animals, acting on our desires, we use this as a justification for our actions. “I can’t stop myself from doing it. It’s in my DNA. It’s who I am.”

Or maybe you feel like society has done it to you. I’ve been there. I definitely got to the point in my life where I became very cynical. Disillusioned. Being a person who DIDN’T guard my heart, I started to justify why it would just be easier to be like everyone else.

🎶You’re a Natural
A beating heart of stone
You gotta be so cold
To make it in this world
Yeah, you’re a natural
Living your life cutthroat
🎶

You know, it’s that “armoring up” concept, but sadly I wasn’t using the full armor of God, I was just building up a thick wall of protection for my own benefit. I began believing that being a machine would make my life easier. But it came at the expense of my authenticity.

God didn’t design me to have a heart of stone. He didn’t choose me so my life could be easy. So there I was, faced with a conundrum. Being fake really did feel like selling out. But being real was so exhausting.

Of course my natural human response to God’s call for me to return to the heart He gave me was, “I can’t do it God. It’s just too hard and painful”

I wasn’t quite prepared for his response. It was a simple, “You don’t have to do it alone”.

Not of this world. Ever heard that terminology? It’s the idea that as Christians we have to choose to act differently. But our culture screams, “What fun is that? You only live once!”

So if it’s not natural to act like Jesus Christ WHY do people want to be Christians? I mean if you find you’re a natural at shooting hoops you may join the basketball team, right?

But Christianity isn’t a club people join because they are good at it. You can’t “act” like Jesus. In fact, from my perspective, I decided to follow Christ after using everything else I thought I was good at that would work on my own effort and I came up empty. Emotionally, physically, financially EMPTY.

The reality of salvation is transformational, but it doesn’t happen over night. Being a Christian literally means to be a person who is Christ-like, but the process referred to as “dying to self” is what gets you there.

I almost used another song title for this article. I was driving down the road the other day and saw a car with a bunch of different bumper stickers on it, one of which said “Only the Good Die Young”. Classic Billy Joel. It hit me that it’s possible that not only does acting like a Christian seem unnatural, it also doesn’t sound like much fun to many people out there.

I mean I could spend my life putting others needs before mine, Or I could just live my life the way I want to live it, satisfying my every thought and desire.

Flashback to my life before Christ. That’s exactly what I was doing. I had the list many of us have that says “When I have THIS, THIS and THIS”, then I’ll be happy, life will be good. I will have ARRIVED.

It’s so funny for me now to look back at that version of myself and chuckle a little at how misguided I was. I’d been drinking the proverbial koolaid that our culture will sell you about what happiness looks like. The right relationship, status, money, that car and house you always wanted. A couple kids. Fantastic vacations.

I chuckle because the place that I said would represent the notion that I “had arrived” still didn’t fill that void. And I was ANGRY about it. Honestly I got to a very desperate point. I thought I deserved all that stuff but in reality, I was making it my God. And at the end of the day I had all that cool stuff, accomplishments, and still a HUGE GAPING HOLE.

That’s not surprising to me now but at the time I was like “what am I doing wrong?!” The problem is I was asking the wrong question. Being the girl that wanted to do everything on her own strength I was not only EMPTY but also EXHAUSTED. God let me know in ways only He can that it’s not going to work like that. Sadly, God had to show me that other people are going to fail me, often when I think I need them most but HE never will.

Now, I’m looking forward to a day where it’s a little more natural for me. It’s definitely getting easier.

I think about how even God’s chosen people had to have that desert experience for 40 years before they were ready to enter the promised land.

Honestly, I experienced the same kind of “wandering through the desert” trying to figure things out, and I had days when the path didn’t seem clear. It might have been right in front of me, but it wasn’t illuminated. Something like this photo. I just had to learn to trust God one step at a time.

There’s also the part of me that realizes it’s not an act. You can’t act like a “good” Christian. Putting on a show for others is addressed in this verse. BTW if scripture is hard to understand check out the MSG translation it makes sense to just about anyone:

So maybe you can’t fake it, but there’s a saying I heard that I really like: FAITH it til you make it!

Having served in the United States Air Force, it’s also about a code I live by, not by judging others but by feeling good at the end of the day because I’m not perfect, but I’m striving every day to live for something that’s bigger than me. To leave a legacy of Faith for my children and generations to come.

Reminds me of these lyrics at the beginning of the song:

🎶Will you hold the line?
When every one of them is giving up or giving in, tell me
In this house of mine?
Nothing ever comes without a consequence or cost, tell me
Will the stars align?
Will heaven step in? Will it save us from our sin? Will it?
‘Cause this house of mine stands strong
🎶

If you are curious about my blog and what that stands for, you can read about that here.

What Is Your Blog About?

Song inspiration:

Imagine Dragons – Natural

I can see clearly now

Something that I never thought to do when I was younger was take some time to get out there and figure out who I was.  The reason why I never thought to do it is because I was so busy trying to be someone I thought I had to be; and that was an image of perfection that did not allow me the freedom to take time to make mistakes, explore different avenues, and decide which worldview I actually identified with. I think because it had been impressed in me that there was only one right way, and if I did not go that way, then I was wrong. Now, I am not blaming anyone for this.  I just was not exposed to the idea that it’s a lot better to find yourself before you go out chasing things: like relationships, in particular.

Like many others I have met, I was the type of person that had to fill my life up with so much stuff to do that I really did not have time to truly process many things that I really needed to deal with.  Now I know that was a defense that I had to protect myself from things that I thought were too painful to process.  I feel like a lot of other people out there very innocently felt, as I did, that if something bothers you or you don’t like it, you should avoid it.  I was a shy child and I did not get involved in lots of activities that involved social opportunities, for example, and I was not encouraged to step outside of my comfort zone so I could grow in this area.  I really regret not choosing more opportunities like this before my brain pruned all those pathways.

So, I just kept going and going and going continually filling all my waking hours with stuff and things to do.  I kept up this frantic pace for over 20 years, all the while not letting others in who perhaps wanted to help me, and basically feeling like I had to be in control of every aspect of my life.  This approach was taking its toll, all the while I was in complete denial that it was going on.  I had no idea how I looked to other people.  Then one day at work, a co-worker came up to me and said “I know you are going to think this is really weird, but God told me to give you this book.”  The book was a book about the Life of Mother Teresa.

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Now, I knew who Mother Teresa was, kinda.  But I didn’t really know much about her or why someone would be giving me a book.  I took it home and looked at it and discovered that she was someone with a whole different way of looking at people than I had really ever experienced.  She said simple things that were somehow very profound. Things like:

“The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread”

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, than feed just one.”

“Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love”

She also talked about simple things like faith and trust.  Mind you prior to receiving this book, I had not exactly been on a path looking for salvation.  I suppose I felt like I believed in God and that was enough, even though the life I was living really did not reflect any of that. After my son was diagnosed with Autism I really felt like God must be punishing me or that I wasnt worthy, and that was the last straw for me pursuing my faith.

I’d like to say I got the book from my coworker and then “Ahhhhh” I saw the light and my life moved in a new direction. Basically it spoke to me that I must look pretty pathetic for someone I barely knew at the time to walk up to me and do that.   Actually, it took over 2 more years of this same coworker  constantly walking beside me and feeding into me before things really started to sink in.  What can I say, I am hard-headed! I warmed up to the idea that there might be something to this whole Love thing Mother Teresa  talked about but I was still trying to do it my way.

Then one day I walked in to work and we all discovered we were getting laid off.  It was if God was saying “Oh, you don’t want to be still?  Well here, I am going to give you that opportunity”.  And just like that I suddenly had time.  The next 3 years, even though I was pursuing my Masters in Counseling, I had considerably more time to think and just be.  I examined myself from angles Id never even considered before, and re-evaluated who I am, where I’m going and how my behavior affects others.

The result is so striking its like I am not even the same person anymore. Its like I stepped into a clearing and suddenly things are crystal clear.  I listen to songs that used to speak to me and I just think “Wow, I can cross that one off the soundtrack of my life now”! Kind of surreal, really, like I should be singing this song :I can see clearly now – Johnny Nash

Here’s what I discovered.  I needed time to discover who I am.  I spent over 20 years trying to fit myself into a mold that either did not fit, or denying the truth or things about me that made me who I am, because I either thought they were inferior or because I was in denial that they defined me.  I was totally freaked out when I lost all control of the ability to keep that charade going.  I found PEACE when I decided to let go and do the necessary work involved to become authentic.  The peace I found involved me surrendering my role of playing God in my own life and required me to trust that I was incapable of doing many things myself but with God I can do anything.

I will definitely strive to teach my children to do this much earlier in life than I did!  As they say, Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:32). The back story of this blog is all about TRUTH! Read about it here: tRUTHful Inspiration

 

 

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