from “A Psalm of Life” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
Tell me not, in mournful numbers, Life is but an empty dream! For the soul is dead that slumbers, And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest! And the grave is not its goal; Dust thou art, to dust returnest, Was not spoken of the soul.
“As long as I live,” the psalmist will praise God. I remember first reading this psalm several years ago and think that this would be a wordy existence. We often think of praising God as something we do with language, singing, praying, saying the right words at the correct times during a worship service, or before dinner.
Psalm 146 falls within a unique category of psalm, one that centers on praising God with life, breath, or very being. These psalms reflect on God as the life-giver, the divine creator, justice bringer, liberator, healer, and host. These psalms are not about praising God as a language act for all these cool traits, but on living these cool traits out as a form of praise. Living a well lived life is a form of praise to God. As folks that have experienced justice, love, mercy, healing, and hospitality, we share in the very life of God. If “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” as Charles Caleb Colton contended in 1820, then imitating the live-giving traits of God is our sincerest form of praise.
There’s something lost in us when we aren’t able to chat in Lantman’s or visit one another at church, school, the gym, or the barn. We aren’t surrounded with as much life as we used to be, and it feels diminishing. But life is happening all around us; we have to work in new ways to experience it.
Yesterday after our community check-in, my daughter Camille and I picked up twelve chicks. Little did Camille know that the rest of our family had picked up three chicks and five poults (baby turkeys) earlier in the day. Our living room now has twenty little cheeping baby birds being over handled by little hands. They already have names – weather themes with this batch – Stormy, Windy, Foggy, Cloudy, Frosty, Hailey, Icy, etc. I love it because we get to see new life grow and thrive while we are temporarily less connected to others right now.
One of my favorite lines from Robert Frost is this: “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.” Perhaps there are new ways to live a well-lived life these days, but even if we begin to struggle, life will go on.
May God bless you and keep you as you live out today.