Our Bread & Roses community, a dozen formerly homeless women — our guests — and three live-in volunteers, gather each evening for a shared meal.
An inspirational reading complements the meal. Currently, Nan Merrill’s “Psalms for Praying: an Invitation to Wholeness” is being experienced. It’s a rich and beautiful contemporary rendering of Psalms with an emphasis on The Beloved’s boundless love in juxtaposition with our fears and illusions, failures and need for healing.
Time and again, a guest will resonate with a particular phrase that inspires or renders meaning to her own story. These simple sharings meld and subtly encourage each guest with knowing that she is not alone and that our journeys are deeply entwined.
The psalms and my life’s journey are also indisputably entwined. The faith community of my childhood was a Presbyterian church whose Sunday school fostered a rich immersion into the psalms, from primary age through its high school age program. Over time, I have grown in my appreciation of the simplicity and universality of the psalms which makes them accessible to every mind, in every age and in any tongue.
I am grateful for both traditional psalms as found in the Old Testament as well as ever-increasing renditions speaking to our time in language inclusive, free from patriarchal bias based on fear and guilt projecting evil and sin onto outer enemies.
In Sunday school, the psalms of praise and thanksgiving, gratitude and joy were emphasized. With my ability to read, came a new appreciation for the God of the psalms who condoned the “cursing psalms,” those that call down imprecations upon one’s enemies. God, I believed, listened to my whining, sobbing, and raging. In secret, I could punish and seek revenge against those adults in my life whose behaviors led to my total distrust and absolute fear. The psalms of lament also permitted me a freedom to cry to God for help, trusting as did the psalmists of old, that God would hear my prayer and help would be rendered.
The totality of feelings and emotions are addressed within the context of the 150 psalms. I learned early in childhood that I could indeed trust God, an invisible entity always accessible and fully nonjudgmental. Interestingly, I could never relate to visible depictions of God, as the psalms open one to the cosmic immensity of God.
Praise the Blessed One!
Give praise from the heavens, and from all ends of the Earth!
…Give praise sun and moon; give praise, all you shining stars!
Give praise all universes, the whole cosmos of creation!
Praise the Blessed One!
For through Love all was created and firmly fixed forever and ever;
Yes, the pattern of creation was established. …
—N. Merrill, “Psalms for Praying”
Psalm 148 beautifully extols the interconnectedness of all sentient beings and insentient objects. Verse 6 contains a statement that serves as a warning about creation: “through Love all was created and firmly fixed forever and ever; yes, the pattern of creation was established.” God’s creatures, God’s creation, and our stewardship of the Earth all matter greatly. Their preservation is our own preservation. Caring for God’s creation and creatures is caring for ourselves.
The recent global celebration of Earth Day increases our awareness of our connection to God’s creation and creature, and serves as a powerful reminder of our rightful claim and show of responsibility as environmental stewards.
“Let everything that breathes praise the Beloved with their lives!
May it be so now and forever! Amen.” — Nan Merrill.Selena Kilmoyer is a Bread &Roses live-in volunteer, a member of Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation and serves on the Interfaith Works Board. Perspective is coordinated by Interfaith Works in cooperation with The Olympian. The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by Interfaith Works or The Olympian.