Praise the Name of the Lord;
give praise, you servants of the Lord. – Psalm 135:1
From outside my studio window come the sounds of summer: a blue jay, a lawnmower, children playing. The air is slightly hazy and tinted a little orange, probably from a distant forest fire. A little breeze lifts the edges of leaves on the trees in the back yard, making them dance. But it is hot out – unbearably, unnaturally hot.
Earlier an incandescent green hummingbird visited my feeder, and I imagined it to be a love note from God: “Pay attention; this moment will never come again.” So I looked and listened and breathed, felt the joy of being surrounded by beauty, and sang a little song of thanks to the Creator.
But now I am uneasy. I think of far away places. I envision trees exploding in flame, panicked animals dying, billions of gallons of smoke choking the sky. That leads me to remember stories of polar bears unable to walk to their feeding grounds across the disappearing ice, rising sea levels and thousands of air conditioners taxing the grid. This in turn leads me to think about how painful this moment is for people who do not share my good fortune, how for millions it is full of hunger and heartbreak, terror and hopelessness. And in compassion my prayer changes. “Show us your presence, help us find the answers, save us from ourselves.”
Like the distant fire tinges the sunlight here in my back yard, the experiences of all living beings tinge my prayers. We are all one, and so we all pray with the same mind, the same heart, the same mouth. We glorify God whenever we do so out of darkness and with anguish as well as with serenity and light.
There is all the more reason, then, to remember to praise God whenever we are able. We do so not only on our own behalf but for everyone who in this moment cannot. For those who have lost their voices, their hope, their courage, or their faith, let us praise God. For those who are too weak, too hungry, or too enraged, let us glorify the Holy One.
For just as everyone else’s experiences inform our prayers, our prayers tinge all other lives a little orange with the fires of adoration. When each of us praises God, the hearts of all beings open just a tiny bit toward their Creator. And then it becomes just a little more possible for all of us to imagine wholeness and peace.
Laurie Gudim is a writer and religious iconographer who lives in Fort Collins, CO. You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries.
By Charlesjsharp (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons