Sing to the Lord a new song.
Sing to the Lord, all the whole earth. Psalm 96:1
Since the beginning of the new year, I have been folding paper cranes. It wasn’t a conscious intention to make this a spiritual practice – and I’m not sure it really is one. It’s just that I got this square watercolor paper for Christmas along with some beautiful origami paper, and one thing led to another.
Having begun, though, I can see why this practice is valued by those who do it intentionally, why folding a thousand cranes would change a person’s consciousness. On my blank square watercolor paper I have made mandalas, rich and vibrant abstracts that are an expression of my soul. And my origami paper is a set of reproductions of Japanese landscapes, gorgeous in their peaceful intensity. So the material of which I am forming the cranes is already very lovely.
Then I fold – clumsily and sloppily at best. While I do so I ruminate on geometry and topography, paper lanterns and little boats, then digress to my upcoming show and the grocery list. And beneath my fingertips the colors and landscapes on the paper are transformed into the suggestions of birds, birds in flight. I am put in mind of all the graceful power of huge wings – and then of angels – and of fire. My heart lifts in a sort of silent song made of air and light, my own creaturely nature reflected in this image of muscled appendages lifting a body into the sky.
Singing the Lord a new song happens in as many ways as there are folded paper cranes. We paint pictures, we play instruments, we walk or run and notice the hammer of our feet against the ground. We build houses or make dinners or give a boost to someone who is faltering. We praise, we adore, we grieve, we demand.
Our songs are sometimes sad, sometimes angry, occasionally full of joy or wonder. Each song is different. Not only does it use its own very particular media but it is also informed by its specific culture and its time. The hand of each singer is unique, and the emotions and thoughts that inspire the song are exclusive to that one person in that single instance.
But all the songs are altars upon which the human heart dedicates itself. All the movements of our souls ultimately lead us back to our one central relationship with our Creator. To be in that relationship – that is both God’s yearning and ours. So no matter who we are or what we are going through, we can return to center through our song.
Mindful of that, let us sing. Let us sing today’s new song, the song that is appropriate to the circumstances of each of our hearts and to the hearts of all who live in our worlds with us. Let us sing unto the Lord a new song.
Laurie Gudim is a writer and religious iconographer who lives in Fort Collins, CO. You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries
Image by Laurie Gudim