Tag Archives: Hallelujah

This New Year Needs More Sister Act

Full disclosure: As of right now (second day into 2020), I’m absolutely terrified about this new year. Legitimately, like to the point of periodic paralysis (I think they’re called panic attacks), as if I’m one of those freezing goats. I’m stuck between the end of one year that brought about SO much, the end of one decade that brought about even more, and the beginning of so much new.

New and unknown.

I think that’s why there’s such a tendency towards New Year’s Resolutions. New year, new you. Time to get things right, finally. Looking ever forward, in last year’s nests there are no birds this year. And it makes sense. We long for order—for a narrative. Structure. And there’s something about points in time like a New Year, the end of one period and the beginning of another, that just resonates with that longing; like a chapter break, and then a new chapter.
So we resolve particular things. In one sense of the word, we hope to end (bring resolution) things we didn’t like. And then we resolve other particular things. In the other sense of the word, we “commit” (make a resolution) to things we want for ourselves. I put commit in quotes because that’s always the issue, isn’t it. The commitment part.
So we believe in making New Years Resolutions. Ultimately, to bettering ourselves and our lives.

And that’s my point. I don’t think we don’t need resolutions. But what we need is a different definition of resolution. A different understanding of it. Because I believe what we really long for isn’t better, but harmony. Perhaps an end to disharmony in our lives, to discord, and to reach or achieve true harmony.

Music is based on a seven chord scale (7 has interesting connotations, like the seven days of creation). In a major chord, there’s…perfect harmony. But in a minor chord, one note is one half step off. The minor chord makes us long for the major chord; the minor chord evokes a longing for harmony. Basically, it evokes a longing for completion.
The discord (or perhaps, dis-chord) causes us to long for harmony, for completion. And in music, the term for this is resolution. When that major chord is reached, it’s called a resolution.

Harmony is resolution.

“It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift.”
The baffled king composing hallelujah.

That’s what’s being talked about in that song. The fourth to the fifth. The minor fall and the major lift. It’s talking about the progression from disharmony to harmony.
It’s talking about resolution.

When the minor falls, do you stop there?

In the film Sister Act, Deloris Van Cartier (Whoopi Goldberg) is put in a convent as a form of witness protection. She’s told to lay low. To keep quiet. This is only temporary, and then she can get her old life back.
And she ends up changing everything. But more than that, she ends up being changed by everything.

See, as the clip above reveals, the choir is horrible. Out of tune. Unstructured. Disharmonious.

And everyone hates it. Well, actually, everyone hates it, but is content to leave things the way they are. To just deal with the horribleness of it, the discord.
Eventually, Deloris (called Sister Mary Clarence in the convent) gets placed in the choir, and takes it upon herself to correct it. You see, she’s not supposed to stand out, she’s just to lay low and not get too involved. But she can’t help it. So she takes charge, and turns discord into harmony.
She brings about resolution.
But it doesn’t look exactly like how everyone wants it to look.

She brings harmony, but with funk. She brings harmony, but it’s unbridled.

She brings harmony, and in a word, it means freedom. Even if freedom is uncomfortable.
And freedom is not what everyone wants. Because freedom can FEEL like chaos, it can SEEM like discord. Which can easily be confused with discomfort.
But harmony is freeing. And freedom is contagious.

Harmony spreads.

Basically, in the film Sister Act, when “the minor” fell (for Deloris Van Cartier), she didn’t stop there. She didn’t settle. She kept going to the major lift.
She kept going THROUGH the discord (dis-chord), until the harmony. Even if she and everyone else suffered through discomfort for it.

That’s an important point to zero in on:

Discomfort can feel like discord, but it doesn’t always mean that those two things are one and the same.
If all you’re used to is discord—if all you’re used to is disharmony—then harmony can absolutely BE uncomfortable.

 

I always connected to Whoopi Goldberg’s character in the Sister Act films. That feeling of being stifled. That longing to not be stifled. And then finding yourself in that very position. In everything I’ve done in my life, I’ve wanted to bring about the freedom that she brings in those films. To bring harmony, and also funk.
Because freedom is harmonious. But I like to think it’s also funky.
If you’ve never allowed yourself to truly be free, well then once you experience freedom truly, it can truly make you uncomfortable. But would you rather be uncomfortably free, or comfortably not free? To be king of your own castle, but one that’s a prison.

Maybe we’re all the baffled king”… (or at least start out as such)

Because all of this feels so baffling, particularly to someone like me who tends to find comfort in knowing.
As I said at the beginning, I’m terrified of this new year.
Personally, there’s a number of reasons why. One of which is the fact that I’m not going to be teaching this coming spring semester, and returning to teach again for summer and fall. But in the meantime, I have no idea what I’m going to do.
I’m finding myself completely baffled. Confused. More to the point, I’m finding myself in discord—disharmony.

The song Hallelujah begins with the verse, “I heard there was a secret chord, that David played and it pleased the Lord.” David is the “baffled king” that later verses are referring to.

With all of my being, I wish I knew that secret chord that pleased the Lord. Because somewhere in my head, I’m convinced that if I get it right, if I can just do something right, I can please the Lord. And MAYBE, just maybe, if I do that, I’ll not be so terrified, because I know I’ll be taken care of.
And I won’t have to worry.
I’ll only be free when I get it right. When I get ME, right.

I don’t want to be the baffled king. And I don’t want to keep living in the minor fall.

But maybe it’s because I don’t really want to “compose hallelujah.” (In the Hebrew texts, “hallelujah” basically means “praise God” or “to praise God”) Or at least, I don’t want to be “composing hallelujah” in disharmony.
I want harmony. Without suffering through being baffled.
I want harmony without the hallelujah. I want harmony without praising God.
Because harmony in disharmony doesn’t make sense in my logic and reason and need for structure and narrative. Because praising God in discord is difficult. Hell, it’s more than difficult. It’s practically hell.

How do you exist as a baffled king, and also compose hallelujah?

When you find yourself the baffled king, it feels like your voice has been taken from you. You don’t want to sing. You feel like you can’t sing. Like maybe your song has been taken from you…

In Sister Act 2, Deloris Van Cartier is put in a similar position and role as she was in the first film (only this time, it’s her choice to do so; she knows her role): namely, to bring harmony to disharmony. To turn discord into resolution. And she does it again. Because again, harmony spreads.
But at the end of the film, as the high school choir is set to compete, another school has sung their song (“Joyful, Joyful”). One student in particular, Lauren Hill’s character, has been repeatedly told that nothing will come from her singing. Which seems true of the choir as a whole. To an inner city school and its population, maybe that’s true. Nevertheless, when all seems lost, when it’s all pointless, the choir sings.
More than that, they allow themselves to be free. Instead of being what they should be (as we try to make ourselves with our New Years Resolutions), they simply allow themselves to be themselves. They don’t change themselves (make themselves).
They sing.

And maybe that’s exactly the point.
That harmony IS composing hallelujah when all is lost.

What if harmony is “composing hallelujah” in disharmony?

I have no clue what this year will bring. Not least of which for me, let alone for you either. But the question I pose to you is the same question I pose to myself:

How willing are you to be the baffled king, and compose hallelujah?

I think we need New Years Resolutions. Or perhaps just resolution. What we need is an end to discord. Harmony.
Is it worth it?
Is it worth the discomfort?
What if you had to take off your robes, or your fig leaves? What if it requires you being you? All of you? Exposed?
What if resolution requires vulnerability?

Put on anything you want, if we’re gonna go out there, we’re gonna go out there comfortable.”

Meaning, we’re gonna go out there FREE.

Or maybe it’s going out there that’ll make us comfortable. Eventually.

So if you find yourself in turmoil this New Year, in strife, in discord and disharmony, remember Sister Act (1 and 2). Don’t try to change yourself. Or strive to be what you think you SHOULD be.
Surrender to the song.
Let it overtake you.
Sing.
Because if you keep singing, Resolution will come. The minor falls, the major lifts.
And harmony will come.
And freedom will come.
And it’ll be contagious.
And it’ll be funky.
And above all, it’ll be joyful.

2 Comments

Filed under Celebrating, Celebrations, God stuff, Uncategorized

A Broken Hallelujah or…an Apt Title for What Can Simply be Referred to as My ‘Spiritual Journey’

(Written 7.August.2012)

When I hear the words ‘spiritual journey,’ it’s difficult to keep my mind from thinking that what is desired is a whole bunch of Christian jargon strung together to formulate so cohesive a whole that it ends up looking like a religious résumé, where words and phrases like ‘hard-working,’ and ‘honest,’ are replaced with ‘repented(ance),’ and ‘it was me who murdered Jesus.’

Truth is, I believe at my core that the ‘journey’—the ‘Pilgrim’s progress from this world to that which is to come’ IS Jesus.
And Jesus is (and, through His revelation, has become) so much bigger and grander than I have ever imagined or can imagine.

I honestly don’t know if I’ve been fully ‘converted.’ Like the woman at the well, I’ve tasted living water, yet unlike what the Scriptures say, I’ve gone away thirsty again…and again…and again, as if I forget the presence of Jesus—His love and His grace. So I wander off; forgetting what is good, and even at times forgetting to remember. It’s like I’ve been awoken from a dream to reality: seeing the proverbial windmills for what they truly are (giants), and yet fall back asleep again, forgetting that it’s a dream, thinking giants to be ‘just windmills,’ and this world to be what is, not what isn’t.

Why?

If I’ve truly had a ‘conversion’ why do I not feel fully ‘converted?’

In my history, I’ve had the private time as a child alone in my room, ‘asking’ Jesus to come into my heart (as if the drawing to him—the romance was entirely up to me), battled sickness and disease meant to take my life (or at the very least, my spirit), I’ve been brought to utter ruin at the hands of others (and still bear the scars on my body to prove it), brought myself to utter ruin (time and time again), lived a year or so in utter anger towards my maker (never once forsaking or denying truth, but despising it all the same), made a covenant with God that I would follow Him and do what He brought to me to do (in a state of loneliness of drink and smoke, where I felt as if I made my ‘bed in Sheol’ and yet, He was still there with me), fallen in and ‘out’ of love, struggled with grace, wrestled with unrelenting love, and come to see that at the center of it all, in it all, through it all, IS JESUS.

So I keep coming back. Back when my ‘brains dry up,’ back when my spirit runs dry. Because to me, I have not had a ‘conversion experience;’ that is to say rather, I believe Jesus is AT ALL TIMES SINCE BEFORE MY BIRTH CONVERTING ME.
And it’s a process that both hurts and frees.
It’s a process that requires me to be ‘unmade’ in order that one day I will be fully ‘made;’ made in the image of God.
I believe the converting fire is a refiner’s fire, and that fire is good. For fire is what burns away that which is not real, to bare that which is.
And lately, that fire has been burning hot.

I have seen myself as God sees me. Not through an absence of my sin, my failures, my mistakes, my ruin, but all encompassing. That I am created for no other reason but love, and loved for no other reason but I’m created.
And that for me to see that, I NEED a nature that keeps me from God, for it is because of that nature that keeps me from Him, that He sent His son. While I was/am still a sinner, CHRIST DIED FOR ME. I cannot see His unrelenting love and His irresistible grace that is Christ Jesus without seeing and knowing that because of my sin nature, God demonstrated His love, that there is nothing in me and of me that makes God love me. He just loves because He IS LOVE.

Thus, it’s not that I ‘chose’ to be converted—that I ‘chose’ the Way, but the Way CHOSE ME. Not only that, but the Way is constantly choosing me, constantly in the process of converting me, until such a time as “It is finished.”

What do I wish to do then? I wish to be a voice.
I wish to vocalize the unrelenting Love and irresistible Grace of God.
Not to bring, but to reveal.
Not to convert, but to be an ambassador.
To show just where Jesus IS in other’s lives, and reveal how HE HAS LOVED THEM.
To bring others to see that Jesus isn’t the Way OUT OF THE FIRE, but THROUGH IT. That as C.S. Lewis says of Aslan, Jesus isn’t at all safe, but He is good.
And that is something to trust in.
That Jesus will bring about the death of you.
But that part of experiencing the love that is all around us, in us, through us, working, like Paul says in the beginning of Colossians.
And I have come to believe that part of that calling requires further education and credentials (a Masters in Theology) on my part, in order to have clout and backing to wherever He is calling me to, and placing me in specifically.

Beyond that—that is, what that is exactly, is still veiled to me, and that’s okay. For just as the story has been told whether I know its details or not, it will continue to do so. All I can do is what is and has always been in me to do: to seek where God is, what He is doing, and my part in it all.
This pursuit has led me in and out of service in the Church, be it leading Bible studies, being a group leader, leading a college group on Metro Campus, leading worship, being part of various worship teams, volunteering in various capacities in my present church, to working in retail, and teaching Early Childhood for 4 years, getting married, writing and maintaining a blog, writing and composing music, the possibility of writing for the Religion section of an online News Source, the possibility of being an adjunct at Metro State and teaching a course on Hell, gaining jobs, losing them, and going in and out of the ‘Wilderness.’

And no, it hasn’t always BEEN SAFE, but it’s been good.

Of late, that safety has been less and less a reality. We’ve come to see just what a young married couple can survive on whilst still maintaining bill pay, insurance, rent, when one is working full time and one is on meager unemployment. Yet deeper than mere fiscal safety, a spiritual safety and trust has been tested—tempered.

Song # 1 to listen to whilst reading this:

It’s strange to think that it grew to be easy to say that I would and do trust not merely God himself, but that He IS Good—that I am not afraid, that He WILL provide what is good, He will show just what path I’m meant to take, but compared to the difficulty faced presently, of course it would seem easy to say previously.
And yet even with the difficulty and challenges staring me—us, square between the eyes, and the ease at which I could just give up, stop fighting, stop seeking, stop longing, to question God’s goodness, God’s faithfulness, God’s love, I still can’t seem to bring myself to do it.
No matter how much I may want to.
No matter how much I think I do give up in the darkest of moments; alone, longing for the sanctuary of sleep, but cannot bring my heart to stop pounding, my head to stop swimming.

But that’s just the thing about hope, I guess.

Hope is what has spurred me ever forward, never satisfied, constantly seeking, and yet also presented me with some of my greatest challenges, obstacles, and disappointments. You see, when there is hope—true hope, I’ve learned that one pours all they have and all they are into their endeavors; and that can be a very dangerous thing to do when one is not prepared to be scorned and covered with scars. For hope leads to reality beyond what is seen, heard, felt, but it can also lead to heartache, heart break, and being battered and war torn.

Is this ideal? I don’t truly know. For I cannot rest assure and put forth that my relentless hope has led solely to accolades, accomplishments, honors, and prestige. Whether I’m an old fool of a soul yet or not, one thing’s for sure, the parallels between Don Quixote and I seem to grow more deep and rich.

Hope.

My hope, in its unrelenting way has many times left me realizing I’m merely fighting windmills, or that royalty are merely mule drivers. Yet Quixote could not give up hope. Hope that he was something beyond what people saw, and therefore called to fight for what is not seen. To the world and everyone in it, his brains dried up. To him, he had awoken from a dream into what was truly reality, and he lived fighting to bring about what ‘should be’—or at the very least, make it what ‘could be’ to those and for those still sleeping.

The world considered him mad; a madman in world prone to see the extraordinary as ordinary, yet void of the ability to see the ordinary as extraordinary. I hold that Quixote’s madness lay not in having the ability to do both, but verily, in the hope of bringing his reality to the world’s doorstep and into its house.

My parter has been reading a book in which at one point the main character comes to a fork in the road with a sign post labeling each direction which reads:
“Lose your way”
“Lose your mind”
“Lose your life”
“Lose your heart”

It struck me as an interesting question to be presented with: if faced with the choice of losing one of these, which would you actually choose?

I wish it were that easy.

For I’ve been in a constant seeking my entire life of just what is my ‘way,’ so to lose what it seems I have not yet found is to fall into a groove of assuming I have found a way, yet it being the wrong one.
I’ve lost my life (or so it feels) time and time again, so the loss of that does not seem to be so difficult a path for me to walk down, yet with the unceasing hope God has created me with, I cannot seem to shake that there is a reason I’m still here, still traversing, still purposed.

Thus, the challenge would be choosing between losing my heart or losing my mind.
Having lost my heart plenty, and trying (in vain) to guard against that, I would not under any circumstances choose that path again. And truly, having seemingly traversed the roads and ways I have thus far, I can’t shake the feeling that to lose your heart and to lose your life may be one and the same road, if not, then at the very least being parallel.

If it were up to me, I’d take the path to lose my mind.
The problem is not knowing before I head down that path whether or not I still will feel when my heart gets broken, or lost, or hurt. Would I know? Would I be concerned?
What if I have already lost my mind? Again, can unrelenting hope when surrounded by hopelessness be considered madness?
Then I’m mad. I’ve already lost it.
And I still feel every hurt, every ache, every heart break.

And I still feel mad, I look at myself and think “you must be crazy.” After all this, to still continue on, to still Dream the Impossible Dream.
So perhaps I’ve taken the way of losing my mind long ago, and–it being my first path, have traversed all the rest without realizing it. Loss of way, loss of heart, loss of life.

I just can’t for the life of me give up and give in. I feel urged to press forward, onward, upward, into or out of darkness.

And I’ve got to keep believing that the world will truly be, ‘better for this.’

Song # 2 to listen to:

Song # 3 to listen to:

Leave a comment

Filed under God stuff