- Special Sections
- Public Notices
I am always amazed at the work, time and effort given to the World Day of Prayer by women from each host country. This worldwide ecumenical movement of women from many faith traditions annually presents a unique worship service with a specific theme. The result is a celebration of unity amid diversity, both within the writer group and all who offer the service locally.
This year, the focus of worship at 11 a.m. Friday, March 5, at Seaside United Methodist Church is also a call to grow in awareness that we are people upon whom God breathes, people who then are asked to be inspirational beings.
We are asked to share that breath upon our planet, its inhabitants, and all its creatures, as God breathes divinity into us. It seems a simple thing to do. In fact, the action brings us to a new understanding of our human commonality.
Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation only becomes odious when we fear contamination or forgetful of the life or death reality that commands our breathing life into another human being. The women of Cameroon remind us of the words contained in an old hymn, “Breathe on me, Breath of God, fill me with life anew, that I may love what thou dost love, and do what thou wouldst do.”
Recently, my husband had a marvelous experience of this life-giving reality. It was nothing fantastic or so some would say. It was not a life or death event and yet, it gave him new life.
For a long time, he had been interested in and curious about a homestead on Pigott Road that seems to house a number of animals. Goats wandered about the grounds. Statuesque Great Danes guarded their territory. A variety of ducks managed to forage about the land. Likely there were other animals yet unseen. To the untrained eye, this was a menagerie in motion.
Although he was eager to find out more about the creatures and their owner, he never saw anyone with whom he could speak. One day, as he was driving past, he noticed a man in the yard. Summoning his courage, hubby dear pulled the car to the side of the road, got out and walked toward the gentleman. A person of a thousand questions, he started the examination. Before long, he and the farmer were deep into a discussion of all things wonderful in God’s eyes.
It was then the farmer asked my husband if he wanted to see one of the goats that was just three hours old. With hubby’s eager “Yes!” ringing in his ears, the farmer pointed out a bouncing kid. As my husband described it, the little goat was leaping about as if it already knew all that goats should know and do. He was astounded this creature was a miniature version of its parents, unlike other newborns.
The farmer picked up the kid, held it in his arms, and breathed into its face. He explained, “They need to have you breathe on them. That’s how they get to know who you are.”
Briefly, there is the story of God and us. We need to have God breathe on us because it is how we get to know who God is. In turn, we need to breathe on others so that they will get to know us and the God who gives us life. It offers new meaning to the command, “Let everything that has breath praise God.”
At the same time, we know life is not limited to the amazing reality of birth. It is also fraught with the awesome presence of death. Life is simultaneously as simple as the bounding joy of a newborn kid and as complicated as the devastation fraught by an earthquake in a country already demolished by bone-crushing poverty, hunger, thirst, unemployment, lack of educational opportunities and all manner of ills.
Life can and must be found in the darkest of days, in the excruciating pain of exploitation, oppression, violence, inequality and injustice in all its faces.
Life happens when we cry out against these atrocities. Life happens when we shout to God for help in doing what we cannot handle alone. Life happens when we trust that God will not forsake us. Life happens when we believe, truly believe, that we must empower everything that has breath to praise God even, and perhaps especially, in the midst of our pain.
The women of Cameroon remind us, “When we praise God, we are not removed from the difficult realities of our society.”
Paradoxically, divine praise empowers us to see those challenges ever more clearly. Divine praise empowers us to act positively upon that sight and insight. The more we recognize God’s breath upon us, the more able we are to let everything that has breath praise God.
We won’t be able to keep quiet. Our song will erupt from the depths of our being. We’ll sing of justice and mercy. We’ll disturb the comfortable with our prophetic call. We’ll comfort the disturbed with the promise of peace made real by our presence.
Our praising breath will be affirmed by the actions we take and those we refuse to take. Our praising breath will become so integrated with our life that praising and breathing will be the same action.
Cameroonians praise God always, in all places, no matter what they are doing. They praise God for all that is, in every way they know. They praise God by singing hymns and beating drums, playing the harp, flute, xylophone and cymbals. They praise God in silence and in speech, with prayers and by shedding tears, with laughter and jumping with excitement. Their life is a song of praise.
We, too, can be praising people. We can walk our shoreline and praise God with the gulls and egrets, herons and terns. We can praise God with the gliding elegance of pelicans skimming the waves or join the dance of the leaping mullets. We can scurry into praise like fiddler crabs. We can screech our praise along with the great blue herons.
It does not matter how we offer our praise. What matters is that we must join with everything that has breath, praising God for the glory of divinity in us and around us.
The women of Cameroon will be pleased that we caught their message.
Fran Salone-Pelletier has a master’s degree in theology and is the author of “Awakening to God: The Sunday Readings in Our Lives” [a trilogy of Scriptural meditations], lead chaplain at Brunswick Community Hospital, religious educator, retreat leader, lecturer and grandmother of four.