It is the glory of God that hides the word, and the glory of the King that seeks for the word.
~Proverbs 25:2 Aramaic Bible
A beloved sister suggested that I write an Alicia story. I was a bit reluctant since I do little vignettes well, but my real life is shot through with those same vignettes sailing through my mind in staccato rhythm, each a complete picture that makes sense to me, but is very confusing to others! But I want to try my hand at writing a remembrance of my beloved sister. But first a little bio to set it up.
This is my third piece on Alicia … I hope you don’t weary of them.
Some years back my spiritual direction changed dramatically, but unlike previous spiritual upheavals, this one quietly manifested itself, and few people noticed. My little congregation was going through its own inner crises as its pastor was stricken with the death of his wife and was unable to respond to many of the disruptive forces that quickly gathered around the beleaguered group.
We had started on a major reconstruction of the building after a tenant had moved out of a portion of it, and the Elders had given me a free hand in the allotting of space to the various functions and ministries. And it was a disaster of incomplete construction projects and moving of furniture. I was in over my head in incomplete projects and not getting a lot of guidance as I showed up each afternoon to sort furniture from one room to another, cleaning up one area only to make a mess in another needed room.
One evening I was sitting in the room where we had piled stuff we didn’t know what to do with. Someone needed the room for their ministry, and the stuff had to be moved, and I desperately desired to quit as I sat at the end of the evening of labor. You couldn’t tell that I had done anything. Stuff was coming into the room faster than I could move it out as people cleaned stuff out of their areas.
I sat amid the disaster and began composing a letter of resignation in my head when a small band of women came in to pray and prepare the sanctuary for services and passed by the door of the room. One of them turned around and walked in the room, placed a hand on my shoulder and began to pray.
I don’t remember the substance of the prayer, but I put the resignation out of my mind for the moment and went home to the first night of rest I had in some time. The next day, two of the women showed up with hair done up in bandanna’s and carrying cleaning equipment.
One was a small Cubañera with leathery, dark chocolate skin who found mirth in everything, and they began moving pieces of … stuff … out of the room. Alicia was her name. That evening there was actually a clear space about ten feet squared in the room. That doesn’t sound like much, but it was the first progress I had seen in weeks.
She and others continued to show up every afternoon for several weeks afterwards, that room and others got cleared, and eventually a prayer chapel and a classroom were completed, and a too-heavy burden was completely lifted off my shoulders even though the work of building continued endlessly on.
Afterwards we all sat in the sanctuary and chatted, prayed, and even sang sometimes. Those evening became special as Alicia and the others refreshed themselves in worship. Sometimes they went all through the night in the soft glow of the nir tamid, or eternal light that hung in front of the ark containing the holy scrolls.
I have never shared with those women the vision of them I carry around as I recall those evenings, but they glowed with power, and I am convinced that power barred the baying wolves from gaining a foothold in the congregation. Alicia’s answer to everything was prayer. A simple, brief request to Abba that was completely devoid of any flowery words. She asked and added amen. Then received.
I joined her in outreach from time to time. But. I am not a teacher. I am not a preacher. I am not a prophet. I am not a healer. However, at that time I was finding stuff hidden in the verses of scripture that were life changing to me. None-the-less, if something is hidden by the Father, it has to be revealed by him. When I tried to reveal those tidbits to my fellow congregants, I received blank stares in return. Alicia seemed to understand those hidden items and encouraged me to share them.
One time we were visiting a converso congregation in New Mexico, and we had gone down there as a group to support them. I had discovered something very profound in the way the camp in the wilderness was set up that concerned gentiles and was eager to share it. It was one of those “hidden” items in scripture.
I stood in front of that congregation and delivered the most incoherent and rambling teaching that I had ever given, and the elderly congregants spoke very little English. The pastor was trying to translate, but I could tell that he was just as inarticulate as I. Alicia was swaying and dancing to the teaching, and sort of sashayed up to the lectern with her eyes twinkling and whispered to me “Your fly is undone!”.
I never tried to teach again. And she never asked again!
As the pastor recovered and the health of the congregation was renewed, it became time to let go of the task. I was slowly disconnecting from that feminine council and finally, it was time to go. I slipped into the sanctuary late one night and sat in the darkness illumed by the nir tamid questioning my plans when Alicia and one of the women pulled into the lot to pick up the woman’s car, and they left. Shortly afterwards, Alicia returned and sat down with me.
I had retired as Deacon several times, but when someone didn’t pick up the slack, I returned. My retirement parties had become the source of humor in the congregation. But it was time, and the only way I could see me letting go entirely was to leave. Both Linda’s and my parents had passed on, and for the first time in married life, we were totally unencumbered with familial responsibilities.
We sat in silence for awhile in the comforting gloom, then I spoke to her of my decision to leave Denver for a warmer climate to live out my remaining time. I don’t recall whether we actually prayed about it, but I am sure we must have.
Throughout my misspent life, Abba has sent guides. One was a drunk Indian brujo. One was an advertising executive. One was a retired jock/drunk/truck salesman. One was a bald-headed sexual deviant and janitor. One was a rocket scientist. And one was a 5’ Cubañera with leathery, dark chocolate skin who I called Miss Priss for her love of dressing up.