More specifically, the psalms.
For some background information on what the Psalms are if you didn’t grow up singing them as part of religious practice, read the Cliff’s Notes. Yes there are Cliff’s Notes for the Bible!
Growing up Catholic, I loved the part of mass when the psalms were read and sung. I could feel the emotion, the praise of something bigger than us. Although I no longer practice, I still love the psalms. Or maybe the idea of them. The Psalms are a mixed bag – grief, fury, rage, praise, jubilation. According to the Cliff’s Notes, “In Psalms, the longings, the hopes, the sorrows, and the disappointments of individual worshipers find their clearest expression.”
And of course, they need to be sung.
Psalms are songs that describe the full repertoire of emotion of life. (And I thought you could only find that through The Bee Gees – true poets of life’s ups and downs.)
At a time when we are easily filled with despair and cynicism, an unfortunate condition that our species tends to gravitate to, we need a little more song, some lyrical poetry that expresses our humanity.
I am starting off this week with praise. Praise for Pooh Bear.
This all started with Winnie-The-Pooh, the book I am reading aloud to the kids right now. In the first Chapter, he is singing the praises of a simple thing. Instead of the Song of David, The Song of Pooh. It has a good ring to it. Pooh is making up songs, inspired by what he is experiencing in the moment.
Sometimes mamas need to shout an alleluia and an amen. I recently raised my hands to the heavens in praise and song after cleaning our office/pantry/library space. It needed a good overhaul. #1, #3 and I tackled it with perseverance and patience.
I have done, and still do, the gratitude thing. But gratitude is different than praise. There is something quieter about gratitude as we whisper “thanks” after dodging a bullet while praise is a full-bellied shout from the mountaintop. Sometimes we need to a good rejoicing. The term is “sing the praises” not “whisper the praises” or casually converse the praises” or “bitch the praises.”
It’s amazing how singing out the words changes the tone. Nagging instead becomes a melodic chant. There are many ways to incorporate song: singing out instructions; singing an observation; singing to break the silence (or the noise) of the jungle at home; and singing my praises for the little things like a Tupperware of cold papaya in the fridge ready for my smoothie bowl. (A fridge that didn’t exist four weeks ago so we collectively sing praises for the fridge. We’ve set the praise bar low, Chris and I.)
What is the difference between appreciation and praise? There is a sense of worship associated with the latter; a raising up in exultation. Praise is appreciation on steroids.
To exult a part of creation is a psalm. I don’t exult enough. Do you? When is the last time you exulted something or someone out loud? With or without an organ accompaniment?
Many modern parenting books warn against praising your children. They say, “Be neutral and pay more attention to their effort and process.” Yes I get it. Behaviour might be then motivated by receiving the praise as opposed to simply doing something for its intrinsic value.
But the word praise has its roots in value and price. Before we associate praise with God in the late 14th century, the word came from the Latin word pretium – “reward, prize, value, worth.” Think appraise.
If we stick to the other type of praise, I see how it can go to your head. Giving or receiving praise then becomes an uncomfortable deed, one that feels should be saved for the gods/God, the divine.
But what about a surprise chocolate cake prepared with love or that daily cup of coffee made by the love of your life? Can we sing our praises without second guessing the divinity of those small doses of perfection?
If singing praises can mean singing what we value most right now, then we can find God in the small things. If God is not your word, how about Love?
Where else would I find God/Love but in the way my son gently leans on my shoulder or in the hover of a hummingbird?
To sing a song to Life herself is a celebration of the Mystery.
Pooh Bear sings praises to a Cloud:
How sweet to be a Cloud
Floating in the Blue!
Every little cloud
Always sings aloud.
A simple psalm acknowledging the sweetness of a Cloud. Cloud with a capital C. A song that even David would praise.
Are we afraid to sing praises because we will be disappointed if we discover the truth? That the object of our praise was not deserving, that we overestimated its vale? Or maybe we risk committing to beauty that could fade or become invisible to others?
It’s time to throw caution to the wind and learn to sing, learn to exult. It doesn’t have to be a full on Kirk Franklin gospel song or a lyrical poem with the totality of creation placed on a pedestal.
Think a little less grandiose.
What if we lived our life in praise of the ordinary? In praise of that cat that sneaks downstairs in the wee hours of the morning to cuddle on my lap? In praise of the clear counter space? In praise of subtle yet fleeting breeze that happened to blow by me in the middle of the tropical noonday heat? In praise of the stack of books I love to look at and will eventually read? In praise of the 4:30am waking? In praise of finding a handwritten note? In praise of homemade pesto on homemade pasta? In praise of that podcast that made me stop to think about how I want to curate this blog and all the other information I have accumulated about learning and having my children at home and the life we have designed that is so different than I thought it would be?
You might think that I am overdoing it a little. I don’t think so.
What harm could there be in living a life of lyrical poetry or at the very least, a pinch of optimism?
But I am not asking for a pinch, the pinch that I can find in my gratitude journal or a side remark of appreciation for passing me the salt. I am looking for the deluge – the praise, the full and unwavering jubilant song we humans are more than capable of singing. We just forgot that we could and that we should.
To what or to whom would you sing praises today?
My Book of Hours: The Remix is feeling more like a psalm book as well. Although I probably won’t be recording an album any time soon singing the praises. A FREE online class is on the way. Sign up here to receive more information.