Monday, November 5, 2012

After the Storm, Psalm 85: A Poor Man's Prayer in Times of Trouble

Today for a while, I tuned out all the news about the effects of Hurricane Sandy. I have had a severe cold the past few days and have been lying in bed sleeping and sneezing and drinking water and diet ginger ale.

I knew the tears I was shedding over how much people are suffering in New York and New Jersey wasn't doing any of them any good. So I decided to spend the morning sleeping and listening to James Taylor and trying to forget the misery around us. (All these photos of the Breezy Point section of Queens, first appeared in The Tablet, the publication of the Diocese of Brooklyn.)

Outside, it was sunny. The housepainters were back, cheerfully scraping the peeling paint off our house and getting ready to paint the exterior a dark blue. I took the boys shopping at Burlington Coat Factory for winter coats, mittens and hats. A Nor'easter is blowing in here on Wednesday and I wanted to be ready. As we drove down Route 18, I was happy to see, in part due to gas rationing, no lines at the gas stations and that all of the stations were open. Before we came home, we dropped off new socks and packaged underwear for families who have sought shelter in an elementary school gym a mile or so from our home. 

Our lives were normalizing. When we returned home, we learned the boys will have school tomorrow, after six days out. They will attend split sessions in the middle school because the high school still is without power. The school district where I work still is closed because four of its schools still have no power. But everything felt like it was ebbing back.

Until tonight. That is when we received a phone call from our water company. "Immediately store an ample supply of water for sanitation and drinking purposes." There was a malfunction in the power at the water processing plant, as well as in its backup generator. The water will be turned off  later tonight.   We jacked up the thermostat in our house to bring in as much heat as possible. Our old house relies on steam radiators to warm us.

Tonight I pray for families who have so much less to rely on than we do, for the friends who are going house to house to get a warm nights' sleep, for the girlfriends evacuated from their Manhattan apartment after its boiler blew up and who are scrambling to find permanent housing, for the families now sleeping in cots in an elementary school gym a mile or so from us.

I have been praying all along, but my own improvised prayers, which sometimes end up being chaotic and not offering me a lot of solace. Tonight instead, I turn to the prayers of our church, the Liturgy of the Hours.

Perhaps David wrote Psalm 85 for a night like this one.
A poor man's prayer in time of trouble

You, Lord God, are slow to anger, abounding in love.
Turn your ear to me, Lord, and hear me,
  for I am poor and destitute.
Keep my life safe, for I am faithful;
  O God, save your servant, who trusts in you.
Take pity upon me, O Lord,
  for I call to you all the day long.
Make your servant’s heart glad,
  for to you, O Lord, I have raised it.
For you, Lord, are gentle and mild:
  you are kind to all those who call on you.
Let your ears hear my prayer, O Lord!
  Turn to the voice of my pleading!
In my time of trouble I call on you,
  for you, O Lord, will hear me.

No other god is like you, O Lord,
  and nothing compares with your works.
All people – all nations you made –
  will come and worship before you;
  they will give glory to your name.
For you are great, you work wonders:
  you alone are God.
O Lord, teach me your paths,
  and I will come to your truth.
Make my heart simple and guileless,
  so that it honours your name.
I will proclaim you, Lord my God,
  and give you praise with all my heart.
I will give glory to your name for ever,
  for your great kindness is upon me:
  you have rescued me from the deepest depths.
O God, the proud rise against me,
  in the meetings of the powerful they seek my life:
  they do not keep you in their sight.
And you, Lord, are a God of compassion,
  full of mercies, patient and true.
Look upon me, have mercy upon me,
  give your strength and protection to your servant:
  your servant, the child of your handmaid.
Give me a sign of your goodness,
  let my enemies see it and be confounded;
because you, O Lord, have helped me and given me comfort.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
  as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
  world without end.

This final photo, which gives me great hope, is from the facebook page of Father Sean Suckiel, the friend of a friend and a newly ordained priest in Breezy Point, Queens. It is estimated every single family in his parish now is homeless.


  1. A beautiful and heart touching post. Be assured of my prayers. May God bless you

  2. I always see your fruits of faith.....especially in this time, I'm so sorry I have not checked in with you sooner. I forgot that this was right in your backyard....I hope your all safe and your feeling better soon, Love Heidi
    your in my prayers

  3. Heidi: Thanks for stopping by. As a friend of mine said "We might not have what we want but we have all we need." Truly, ours were minor inconveniences.