As the Deer Longs

Before living in Texas I don’t think I truly understood what it meant to long for rain. I know there are climates much drier than Southwest Texas. However, growing up in the Midwest inclines one to take rain for granted. We may have had dry spells, but nothing like the oppressive and unrelenting heat of a Texas summer. A summer which, for those unfamiliar, can start as early as April and last well into October. The ground is so dry the wind can blow dust into a haze which is capable of blocking the sun. The grass crunches like potato chips underfoot.

Drooping basil in our front yard

Just a few days ago when a tropical storm hit Houston, a stray cloud still carrying water manages to open up over our house. My children were delighted. They threw on their rain boots and hurried to find puddles of any size before they evaporated back into the hot air. As I stood in the brief sun shower, a Psalm refrain came to mind

“As the deer longs for running streams, so my soul longs for you O Lord”

Psalm 42:1

Standing in the rain, after months without it, it felt as if my soul was pierced with understanding. I felt relief, joy, wonder and a desire to raise my hands and face to welcome the water. I laughed at myself, because how many movies have we seen where a character has done just this when a long awaited rain finally comes. But genuinely, this seems to be the most appropriate action. The thing I didn’t realize I was waiting for, longing for, had finally come.

As the deer longs – what am I longing for? For rain, obvious. But what else? What is my soul thirsting for, and what am I using to quench my thirst? As human beings made of mostly water, we can only survive 3-4 days without it. Water is a critical element to our existence and to the existence of all creatures. It’s not surprising then that the Psalmist chooses to use this image of water when describing how our souls yearn for God.

If you are feeling run down, tired, perhaps stressed out, take a few minutes to ponder this verse. Perhaps even repeat the first part a few times as you identify with your own thirsts. As the deer longs for running streams….so my soul longs for you O God. Then, let those thirsts go, recognizing that only God can truly satisfy all your wants and needs. You might also take this refrain to adoration, or perhaps use it to focus the few minutes before the start of Mass. No matter where you are in life, this simple verse can help calm your thoughts and focus the moment on He who matters most.

Even the smallest puddles nourish the soul

December 3, 2016 – Keeping Chaos Away

In case you don’t remember, this whole Advent series was inspired by a new cleaning routine I’m trying to stick with.

A load a day keeps the chaos away.

As most stay-at-home parents will tell you, laundry can be very quickly become a mounting tower of terror especially with small children around. If things get out of hand it can be a daunting task to regain control. The FlyLady’s solution is simple. Do one load a day. Start it in the morning, move it in the early afternoon, fold and put away in the evening. One load, start to finish, every day.

We can apply this concept to our prayer life. I’m not going to promise that a prayer a day will keep the chaos, the whining, the broken sink, the traffic or work deadlines away. However, a habit of prayer will help us to handle these unavoidable situations in a more humble, gentle, patient way.

St. Paul encourages us to “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). I believe wholeheartedly in this pearl of wisdom. However, I also know from experience how intimidating a task it can be. Rather like that mountain of laundry. For just starting out on a prayer journey, I find St. Paul’s advice to the Philippians to be a little more manageable:

Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God (Philippians 4:6).

Still a challenge to be sure and definitely similar, but it’s more concrete. Giving all things to God in prayer and most importantly, doing so with a spirit of thanksgiving. I have found that I am a more thankful person when I talk with God every day, even if it is only for a few moments. The longer I go between prayer, the harder it is to find that thankful spirit. Instead I have an attitude of “Why me?” or “Where were you when!” or “I’m just too tired, talk to you later.”

After only one week we already have a few tools in our prayer preparation toolbox. We have a few periods of time each day that are conducive to focused prayer. We have the Sign of the Cross. We have our guardian angels. Let’s add one more inspired by St. Paul’s advice about our disposition regarding prayer. Thankfulness. Instead of begrudgingly giving God those three minutes, let’s offer them with a joyful spirit. The Psalmist tells us

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His mercy endures forever (Psalms 118:1).

For today, really hone in on these words, they are full of opportunities for reflection during your day.

Give thanks to the Lord….for what? What are you thankful for today?

For He is good…God is always good, even in the midst of a struggle or hardship. Regardless of what is happening in your life today, where do you see the goodness of God? It may be in a place you haven’t looked yet.

God’s mercy…We are wrapping up a whole year dedicated to the mercy of God. God’s mercy is present for us each and every day. What’s more, we are capable of being agents of God’s mercy to one another. Where have you felt God’s mercy? Who showed you God’s mercy? Who have you shown God’s mercy to?

Don’t sit down and expect to answer all these questions in 3 minutes. Wait for your prayer time, say the Sign of the Cross, ask your guardian angel for wisdom. Slowly repeat this verse once or twice and consider just one or two of these questions or one of your own making. Talk to God about it. Ask Him questions, offer petitions, seek reassurance or guidance. Before you know it, your 3 minutes will be up. Pray more if you want but regardless of when you close your prayer, continue your day with a renewed spirit of friendship with God.

If you gain nothing else from these reflections, hopefully some part of this prayer experience will be meaningful enough for you to try and continue it everyday. A prayer a day…

***What other Scripture passages do you like to use for prayer? Have you ever used a specific passage to focus your prayer? Please feel free to share your experience, thoughts and offer support to one another in the comments, on Twitter with the #DailyGraces or on the Facebook page.Daily Graces.