Sunday, March 13, 2011

Miss Annie and the Psalms

March 13, 2011

Dear friends,

Gratitude changes our perspective in constructive ways; perhaps that is one reason grateful people tend to be happy people. I was reading Psalm 148 and noticing that the response of praise is required of many things, all of God’s creation, in fact, not simply God’s people. Let praise issue from stars, moon and sun; hail, snow and frost; mountains and hills, fruit trees and cedars, creeping things, sea monsters and flying birds, beasts and all cattle, the Psalmist writes. “Hmm,” I thought. “I wish I could read Hebrew. That is such beautiful poetry.”

While Psalm 148 is poetry, the message of the Psalm lies deeper than poetry. Miss Annie gave me an interesting insight regarding that point later in the day.

The sky was an incredible blue, and the buds on the lilac bushes have just begun to swell. Spring comes later than we wish for here in the mountains, but it was a day that clearly promised winter is almost over, and spring is on the way. In late afternoon when my work with clients was finished, I went out to sit on the porch soaking up the warmth of the sun and the smell of spring in the air.

Miss Annie followed me outdoors, and after a brief inspection of the porch, sat down on the corner of the top step. I paid no attention to her initially, but when I did, I was fascinated. She was sitting with her nose up, motionless, carefully breathing in the slight breeze, testing, experiencing every scent and essence that it carried. Her eyes were shut and there was a look of what appeared to be utter bliss on her little face.

After watching her silently for a moment, I was struck by a sudden realization. Miss Annie was experiencing the gift of that soft wind in a way that lay forever beyond my capacity, and that what she felt in response appeared to be pure wordless joy. While she made no sound, I had no doubt that, obedient to Psalm 148, Miss Annie was offering up praise beyond my language and understanding for that wind whose scent intoxicated her and for its Creator.

After re-reading the above paragraph, I am struck by its absurdity—Miss Annie is certainly one of the earth’s creatures cited by the Psalmist as called to praise the Creator, but really—a cat, even one as elegant as Miss Annie, engaged in praise? After posting this, I am expecting that many of you will contact my family to inquire if I am receiving appropriate treatment.

Still, whatever one may make of Miss Annie’s spring ecstasy, in the context of Psalm 148, the thought is worth pondering: suppose that God’s creation around us is obediently praising the Creator. Would the disasters and the destruction which mark our world have less power to confuse and disorient us if our ears and heart could hear Creation’s chorus of ongoing praise?

Can praise enable us to keep our balance even in circumstances in which praise appears to be utter absurdity?

Seeking with you to keep my balance AND a firm grip on reality despite life events.

See you next week.


1 comment:

  1. It was when I read the works of Alexander Solzhenitsyn that I first learned cognitively about the power of gratitude. Solzhenitsyn attributed some of his life's happiest moments to the days he spent in a transition prison. After having gone through a long period of severe deprivation at a previous site, he then had a warm place to stay, slept under a tier of bunk beds, had enough to eat, and a roomful of intellectual companions.

    I learned experientially about gratitude while I lived at a food distribution camp in a famine area. We experienced delight in the smallest luxuries, like butter on bread, or a cold mineral water, or a night on a bed in a motel room instead of on a cot in a tent. Those are happy memories.

    I agree with you about gratitude. I think it is the most satisfying of human emotions, surpassing even the feeling of love. Perhaps because it is the closest emotion to worship.

    The relationship between suffering and gratitude is interesting. Sometimes in the midst of suffering, gratitude grows. Sometimes it only blossoms when suffering has ended. The capacity for gratitude does somehow seem to increase as a result of suffering.

    Perhaps those of us, including cats, who live in places where winter imposes itself on us for several months every year have more opportunities to experience gratitude than those who live in warmer climates