Hallelujah – The Song by Cohen

Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen

I first heard the song Hallelujah while watching Shrek.  I know, but that’s when I heard it first, and immediately, I loved it.  I assumed it was a song about faith and God’s love.  Wow, I was wrong.  I’ll admit, I’m a lyrics guy.  I want to know what the lyrics are and what they mean.  I’ve researched the song by Leonard Cohen and remain baffled.  It goes to show you, that religion fascinates many an intelligent person, but intelligence is not enough to grasp religion and faith.

First, if you’re going to sing Hallelujah, assume your listeners are going to think religion.  Its not just a nice word, Hallelujah, it means an expression of worship or rejoicing.  Often, this word means praising God.  Cohen uses it to express sex, apparently what he worships and put first before the Lord our God.  It would ALMOST be fine that Cohen uses the word in Hallelujah if he didn’t wrap in biblical references. 

The first 2 verses are clearly a reference to David and Bathsheba although Cohen starts referencing Samson and Delilah.  Either way, neither are enviable or admiral romances. 

The first verse is:

Now, I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing hallelujah

Cohen seems to suggest that David found some magical secret chord that God was wowed by.  Ha! 

When David danced before God, it was in reckless abonnement of pure joy for God.  He was not baffled.  His wife Michal was jealous that David danced naked before all including the Ark of the Covenant (God) and chastised him for his actions, but David responds, “I was dancing before the Lord” Sam 2:21.  Michal is struck barren for her evil jealously and perverting David’s intentions. 

These actions by David don’t appear to show him as baffled, as Cohen suggest. 

The next verse starts that David needed proof (assumingly that God existed?). 

Here is Cohen’s verse lines: 

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya

Clearly, David does not sleep with a married woman out of his need to prove God’s existence?  Here are the Biblical lines in question:

“From the roof, he (David) saw a woman bathing, who was very beautiful.  David had inquiries made about the woman and was told, “She is Bathsheba, daughter of Eliam, and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.  Then David sent messengers and took her.  When she came to him, he had relations with her.” Sam 2:2-4.

There are suggestions in this song that Bathsheba seduced him, but David is far from innocent and clearly, seems to be the one doing the taking here!  David is a flawed man and he sins here.  This is not a high point for David and he pays dearly with the Lord God taking the life of his son he sires with Bathsheba; it should be noted that David has Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, killed in battle to cover up for his sin.  When we turn from God through grievous sin, we pay a price.  People like to pretend that sin is no big deal but the Bible suggests different; God allows us to feel the effects of sin, and those effects are not nothing.  When we travel far from the protection of the Lord, the Devil can get you, as it does with King David. 

Here is the end of the song:

She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the hallelujah

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah

You say I took the name in vain
I don’t even know the name
But if I did, well really, what’s it to you?
There’s a blaze of light in every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken hallelujah

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the lord of song
With nothing on my tongue but hallelujah

I like a song about a bad break up or a romance gone wrong.  I like a song that deals with pain.  I like a song that is raw and emotional.  Cohen’s song is romance gone wrong, standing before the Lord our God stinking of sin and shoving it in His loving face (I’ll stand before the lord of song) in defiance.  Stand before the Lord, stinking of sin, and scream – have Mercy.  Scream, forgive me!  Scream, Help Me!  Never scream, I did it, deal with it!  God will allow you to feel the effects of sin right here on earth – and possibly after death too! 

I think Cohen’s point is, he had a relationship and he did it all wrong and in the end, he stood before the Lord and said Rejoice (Hallelujah)!  I think he’s trying to suggest, he did just like King David or Sampson, but he misses that those two didn’t do well at these points in their lives, paid dearly and repented, receiving God’s mercy.  King David and Sampson were not proud of their sins, but Cohen seems to be in this song. 

I don’t care for a song that tries to warp a Biblical story into a justification for their own horribleness.  The message of the Bible is ALWAYS Good News.  The story of David and Sampson is Good News but not if you misinterpret it.  See David’s sin, see what happens, see David repenting and see the forgiveness of God.

See the Goodness of the Lord!  He is there – scream the right words to Him!

God Bless! 

Worried

I am human and I worry.  I get stressed and am impatient.  I THINK I worry less and get less stressed than others, but I don’t really know.  I’m sure there’s many who do better and do worse than me. 

When I am particularly worried, I often turn to google for good advice.  I often find, the first thing I’m told to do is to breath.  You might be told to go for a long walk and take stock in the things in life that are important.  You might even read that you should drink three cups of chamomile tea.  My favorite advice was to not google how to worry less.

I’m not saying its bad advice, but with Christ at the center, to be honest, I’m not sure why anyone would think it will all work out.  Why will it work out if Christ doesn’t love us and want what is best for us? 

Well, here is my advice for how to worry less. 

For the next 9 days (the days don’t really matter, it’s not magic, but 9 is a Novena, so let’s go with 9), do this:

-Find a quiet place and pray the Rosary, good and slow.  Mediate for a minute on each mystery prior to the Our Father prayer.

-Read the following, which is a short prayer from Dag Hammarskjöld followed by Matthew 6:24-34 and then meditate on the meaning of the prayer and passage:

The road, I shall follow it

The fun, I shall forget it

The cup, I shall empty it

The pain, I shall conceal it

The truth, I shall be told it

The end, I shall endure it

  

Matthew 6:24-34

 

Jesus said to his disciples:

“No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

 

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?

Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?

Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?

Why are you anxious about clothes?

Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin.

But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.

If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?

So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’

All these things the pagans seek.

Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.

Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.

Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”


God Bless!

Smile, God is Great…

The company I currently work for set out to do an ad campaign on positive social media messages.  They are, in theory, combating the negativity of social media that is currently on display.  I think it’s actually a veiled anti-Trump message, but who can really argue that social media can be very negative.

My Facebook and Twitter account is actually filled with positivity.  I follow a lot of great Catholic thinkers and news organizations that are filled with the Good News.  Perhaps our social media accounts should be like our real friends, where we need to be careful of the company we keep!

Nevertheless, back to my company’s ad campaign.  They put a big sign in one of the hallways that is in the shape of a conversation box, like you’d see in a comic strip.  The sign states: “Smile, you are great!”  My first thought was to take a selfie-picture of me below the sign and send it to my wife and caption it: “see”!

My next thought was, to scratch out “you are” and insert “God is”.  “Smile, God is Great!”  That’s right, you should smile because God is great, but don’t think of this in terms of the world.  God is great, but that doesn’t mean you are going to have a comfortable life.  Life is messy and it can be very messy.  If a loved one passes, no one would expect you to smile.  If you get fired from your job because your boss is a jerk and co-workers were gossiping about you maliciously, it’s ok to cry.  I don’t like to be told that I should just go joyfully smiling because God loves me.  After all, Jesus wept at Lazarus’ tomb.  “And Jesus wept.”  (John 11:35) Jesus wept because he does not take delight in our suffering even if He knows it’s for a greater glory (the raising of Lazarus from the dead).  To appropriately deal with this world, we must cling to the Father and our Blessed Trinity.  We can only endure this life by knowing in our hearts that at the end of the door at life’s hallway stands Jesus, ready to embrace us for fighting the good fight.

My next thought on the sign was what if someone really terrible walks by?  We hate to think that it’s possible that someone really terrible exists, but they do in fact walk the earth.  There are terrible people.  The sign is indiscriminate, and we just know life is not like that in fact.  In the US, we state, all men are created equal, but they are not equal in the fact that all men are as good as the next.  No, all men are created with rights and in those rights, they are equal, but clearly, not all men are equal.  All people deserve dignity and respect and certain inalienable rights.

Finally, I rested on, the sign should express, yes, we are great, Thanks be to God.  We are loved and that is what makes us great.  To define how uniquely we are all great, we can only come back to the fact that we were made out of love, in spite of our sinful nature handed down to us by our first parents, Adam and Eve.  We are sinners and we are loved.  There’s an endless supply of mercy from our great Savior and that makes us great.  We are not like the animals of the earth, we are more loved by our God then those creatures, and we are therefore great.  So yes, the sign is right, but not complete.

“You are great because God loves you; give all thanks to God!”  That’s how the sign should read.  Perhaps I won’t let HR know though…

I have clearly overthought this sign!

Be well and God Bless!

All I need is a Miracle

Lately, I’ve been struggling with some emotions and difficulties.  I’ve been praying and obsessing over God’s plans and my role.  I’ve wanted something to happen and have been asking God for mercy and blessings.

It has been hard during this time, but it’s also been transformative.

During a moment of difficulty, I prayed to God, all I need is a miracle.  Suddenly, the song, All I Need is a Miracle sprang into my head.  I went home and played it on YouTube.  I know the song is not about Christ, but I was singing it to Him – all I need is you (Christ).

A few days later and I could see that God had started to answer my prayer.  I was really feeling it was going to work out and all would be right.  I decided to go for a celebratory cup of coffee at Starbucks.  I hopped in my car and the song playing didn’t suit me.  I flipped the channel up one and of course, wouldn’t you know it, All I Need is a Miracle started playing.

I laughed; God was truly playing a joke with me.  I knew He thought it would be funny to put that song on the radio.

I actually didn’t know who sang the song, so when I looked at the digital display, it showed Mike and the Mechanics as the artist.  Ha!  Being a Mike, how fitting that me and the great Mechanic of the world should be singing this song.

How true in life it is, that we live with the great mechanic, who through His grace, we are fixed.  It was then that a tear of joy sprang forth.

God Bless!

Blessings in Disguise

I have a good friend that has a genetic disorder that makes walking difficult.  With age, his ailment has become worse and he must use a cane to walk now.  His walk is labored but he always wears a smile.  He has learned to live with this difficulty and although at times it does weigh on him emotionally, by and large, I know him as a good and trusted friend.

On a drive, we got to discussing about a time in his career when he was at odds with his boss.  He commented that he hated his boss and hated his work.  One morning, dreading work, he took his sweet time getting to the office.  He was in no rush to be scrutinized for any perceived shortcomings.

The sun was shining, there was a slight chill in the morning but it seemed like the day would warm.  His ailment made riding the subway difficult so on that day, he decided to take a cab.

As he got out of his cab, he looked up to see a giant hole and smoke emanating from the world trade center’s tower 1.  He got back in his cab and went home to his wife and two children.

My friend would have never made it out of that tower given his handicap and he would have been early to work if he wasn’t at odds with his boss.  The difficulty in his career was God’s plan to save him that day.

Men flew that plane into those towers on that awful day.  God saved my friend that day and Jesus saved souls.

Sometimes God is at work and we don’t know it.  Sometimes, trials have reasons that we can’t see.  I can’t explain every tragedy or hardship, but I know God loves us, he allows free will even when that free will yields sin and through that sin, God can bring about good as it did with my friend.

Do your best to let life unfold before you.  Try and make sound decisions based on the Church’s teachings.  Use your brain and conscience in life and work hard but know one thing, you are not in control and you can’t always see the Blessed Trinity hard at work.  Trust in the Lord.  God Bless!

Familiarity breeds Contempt

I have heard the statement that familiarity breeds contempt and it got me to thinking about some of my own relationships.  I have been married for over 15 years and I love my wife more today than I did when we were married.  I also have close friends in town that we will vacation with from time to time and often spend Friday nights drinking beer and eating pizza while our kids run around and play.

I do not appreciate the statement, familiarity breeds contempt.  It should be stated that if you believe that familiarity breeds contempt, you’ll never be close to anyone, and the devil would have won, isolating you from loving deeply those you know. 

We do bicker from time to time but we’re committed, all of us.  My wife and I are committed to each other.  My good friends are committed to us as we are to them.  We know we’re not perfect and we’re ok with that imperfection.

We forgive and we are forgiven. 

I prefer this expression: I love my wife and my friends, warts and all!  I even told my friends, what I cherish the most is that we’re friends, through thick and thin. 

On a deeper level, Christ calls us to love each other to the point where it hurts and He goes on to say, it will be worth it!  There is no greater love than to lay one’s life down for another.  While you don’t have to jump in front of a train for another you can do things for another for selfless reasons.  If dying for another is the highest form of love (love is good) then helping others is great. 

With your friends, spouse and those around you, tell yourself, I’m all in with this person.  No matter what, I’m going to care for this person.  Unless something drastic happens, commit!  Be there for those you care for, don’t let contempt creep in. 

Jesus states we should love God with all our heart and related to that first law is to love your neighbor.  To love God is to love your neighbor. 

I care for my wife.  Does she need a ride somewhere – I’m in.  Will I clean up around the house – I will, even knowing if I don’t, she will.  If she’s hungry, I’ll cook for her.  When she needs me, I’m there, even if it’s not easy.  If she’s sick, I will still love her and care for her.  If she needs me, I’ll be there. 

With my friends, I’m here for them.  Need a couch moved – I’ll be over.  Need someone to walk your dog while you’re away – I’m in.  Need to complain over a beer – I’m there.  If we fight over something stupid like politics, that’s ok, I still care for them.  Forgiveness is just a step away. 

Familiarity breeds contempt for those that aren’t willing to go deep for their friends and their companions.  Commit yourself for others and you’ll find that familiarity will breed a lasting and joyful life!  God Bless!