Hallelujah is a glorious word to say
Just say it. Hallelujah!
You’ve shouted it once. Remember, on the mountaintop, hands raised in the V of victory exclamation. Blessed so blessed, God is good. All is well. Hallelujahs full of perfect joy. Praiseworthy.
You’ve sung it. Hummed along or belted it out. Heaven’s common language music, earth’s Hallelujah answering back to heaven’s holy, holy, holy. Notes and lyrics penned by one and sung by many. You’ve owned that verse, it was his but it is yours. Poetry undefinable disputable yet explaining the fragile complexity of your soul. And the sinner’s song, sacrilegious and contaminating, broken and yet most pure as Hallelujah is lifted up like a confession.
You’ve also closed your eyes and bowed your head. Finally opened your fist, exhaled sacredly that long held offense to breath out, Hal-le-lu-jah. The sound a welling up, a giving over, a soul-speak kind of surrendering.
I once asked why. And God’s answer to the offended was hallelujah.
Hallelujah. Broken or beautiful. Holy. Hallelujah!
This January it was 30 years since Leonard Cohen released the song now heard on every sing-show, heartbreak episode of a TV series or elevator ride called, “Hallelujah“. He spent years struggling with the lyrics, penning as many as 80 verses “banging my head on the floor and saying ‘I can’t finish this song’ before he was finally able to cut the song down to its recorded version on the 1984 album “Various Positions.” Then his label, CBS Records, refused to release it not realizing that “Hallelujah” would become one of the most haunting and often sung songs in American musical history, versions made famous by Jeff Buckley and sung by Rufus Wainwright in “Shrek”.
k. d. lang, one of the most notable interpreters of “Hallelujah,” talked about listeners responses to the lyrics. “My mom is eighty-eight years old,” said lang. “She lives in a seniors’ apartment and all her friends were like, ‘Oh, I love that song!’ I said, ‘Mom, do they know what the lyrics are about?’ And she goes, ‘I don’t think they listen to the lyrics; I think they just listen to the refrain.’ I think it’s very indicative of spirituality in general, that something as simple as saying ‘hallelujah’ over and over again, really beautifully, can redeem all the verses. “Ultimately,” she concluded, “it’s a piece of music and it belongs to culture. It doesn’t belong to Leonard, it doesn’t belong to me, it doesn’t belong to anybody.”
I agree. Creative work is inspired to be shared. And when it is universal it connects us and we become part of its symphony of story. But it is also extremely personal. It is pieces of us, exposed. And releasing it takes courage because of the vast vulnerability it generates in its exposure, uncertainty and emotional risks to the artist.
My first fiction novel, “Hallelujah, The Psalm of the Offended” just passed its own anniversary as a published work. What took me years to work up the courage to release has been out 2 years. I relate to Cohen’s head banging struggle to finish the piece and cut it loose. The Psalm of the Offended is really my personal story. Not my-story in a biography, but my story in my journey as an offended one as the Lord spoke to me could His answer to the question why be Hallelujah? I went back this past week to update some content to the back of the book and started re-reading it. I know better. I’m my own worst critic. It was painful. I already knew The Psalm of the Offended had a slow start. It’s an epic in scope, there were several places the story could have begun much faster and tied up quicker, but before I could edit a word, I resigned myself to get my fingers off the keyboard and let it “start where it starts and let it finish when it finished.” Just last night a friend said, “please don’t mess with it. I love their story.”
Like Debbie, too many people have told me they love these characters-Cheyenne & Bennett-and want to see more of them in future books even after the slow beginning and the long happy ending. But others were offended and balked, loudly, about the first cousin crisis-they couldn’t see the forest for the trees. Conflict obviously. And I mean that in a ‘plotting’ way. Try to give me a few believable reasons 2 people can’t be together in this century? Stories need well developed external conflict—ie: some thing that keeps two people apart or the hero from reaching his goal. First cousins worked-see the forest now? probably not but that’s okay, some people just like to look at the trees… sorry, rabbit trail. . .
Readers agree this is a raw,realistic and heartwarming story but I was surprised that some admitted they were immediately prejudiced at the beginning because the family was rich and life seemed perfect and they thought the story was going to be another one of those stories. I smile. I do like to catch you judging and I definitely set you up to get caught with meaningful character development. Plot spoiler, no character is perfect and everybody lies when they’re wearing their mask. Another bit of insider information on writing: You can also expand or shrink a storyworld with several techniques and one of them is to make the characters affluent and widen the playing field. The music industry gave this novel an interesting backdrop playing off the business world of the agents and the global entertainment audience that forced Cheyenne to travel in contrast to the internal world of solitude and inspirational struggle inside the songwriter’s head.
I was also surprised by what people wanted to talk about. I thought those sins would be the hot topic. They weren’t. They’re universal, we’ve all been there. It was the broken a-ha moments. It was Chet in his trailer after New Year’s Eve hitting rock bottom. And the African mother holding her infant son in the back seat of the car. It was Lexi Reed being found, loved and accepted. And Daniel speaking tough truth as he told Cheyenne to take a long walk in the cold and get over herself. It was the complex dynamics of family and the ultimate simplicity of Bennett’s forgiveness.
When people share their thoughts about The Psalm of the Offended with me and their own story of being an offended one, I’m still silently saying, “hallelujah.” The work fulfilled its purpose. And even though I’d love to go in and tighten this book up with a polishing re-edit, that’s not for this story. It needs to read slow so that it’s hallelujah can haunt you into thinking could God’s answer to your why be Hallelujah too.
If you’d like to read The Psalm of the Offended I’m promoting it for free from June 6 – June 10 on amazon kindle.
Please share the deal with your friends and let me know what you thought of the story.
Grace & Peace
The Psalm of the Offended is the story of Cheyenne Cooper. Born to sing, her anointed gift of songwriting takes her farther than she ever imagined into the music world. But Cheyenne never wanted fame or fortune, just the forbidden love of one man. Yet her anointed purpose keeps putting more people, places, and problems between the love she longs for and the life God has ordained her to live. She can’t silence the music and she can’t stop the furious pursuing love of God from transforming her through its song. Her epic story spans glorious mountaintops and the dark valleys of the soul that will change your thinking forever. In a world entitled to blessings and unconvinced by religion, Psalm of the Offended is a raw wrestling match of spiritual reality in a tremendously moving story. For anyone searching for the answer to why, For anyone hurt by the tragic happenings of life and aching for healing, For anyone stirred to finally move towards forgiveness and acceptance, For anyone who loves music and is interested in the creative process behind the melody, Psalm of the Offended is a fresh and original perspective on suffering and surrender. This parable is a must read for anyone who has been offended by the all powerful sovereign supremacy of God.
“This book is so much more than a romance novel. It is an inspiration for anyone who struggles to accept the sovereign will of God when life deals out heart-wrenching challenges (and really, isn’t that all of us?). There is not a sugar-coated page in this book, and we come out the better for it. Read “The Psalm of the Offended” and see yourself in this captivating story of longing, self-denial, and heavenly deliverance. ” ~ Lynn D.
“These characters will hook you fast and you won’t be able to turn the pages fast enough as you read this romantic story of love and loss. I could not put it down. I was drawn to this powerful family as the love story melted my heart. I would recommend this book to everyone that likes strong characters with a steamy love story and a faith-based background . ” ~ D C
“Excellent read. Fast paced. Couldn’t stop reading to find out how things turned out. Looking forward to J.L. Kelly’s
next book.” ~ J. Lee