Tell him what you want

Hiding Place (Psalm 32:7)

Ah, there are those days
When the best place to be
Is hiding out with you
Where stillness is to be found
And perspective from problems.
Where hope can be restored
And peace re-enters the mind.
Where joy waits to be savored
And mourning given her due.
Thank you for being my Hiding Place

Joyce Rupp, Fragments of Your Ancient Name

It was just a couple of weeks ago that I had an amazing life intersection with my first grade teacher, Sr. Mary Amy. She is Sr. Joyce Rupp now, an author, a retreat speaker and the co-director of the Institute of Compassionate Presence. The passage above is from the September 18 entry from a devotional she wrote. And today, it put my own prayer into beautiful form.

Psalm 32:7 says “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverence.”

When I was a very little girl and I was sad or scared I had a hiding place that I never told anyone about. (Well, I told Steve recently. I tell him everything. Poor man…) I was scared of the dark when I was young. When it was time for lights out at the end of the night I always wanted Daddy to leave the hall light on and our bedroom door cracked open a bit so I could still see the light. That’s when I could fall asleep. It seems funny to me now. I saw the light. I closed my eyes and it was dark. I went to sleep. But it worked.

In the middle of the night if I woke up and got scared, I went to my hiding place. I got up very quietly so as not to wake up Susan and Jana, crept quietly down the hall so I didn’t wake up Sally and Cathy across from us or Heather and Heidi next to us, made my way stealthily through the kitchen and over to my dad’s room. Then I gently opened his bedroom door, and breathing as silently as I could, closed it behind me…and crawled under the bed. Not in the bed. Under the bed, with the box springs just brushing my face, I would lie there and wait for my heart to stop pounding and just rest knowing that my father was right there. Nothing could harm me or get me. I was protected from trouble, just like the psalmist says.

There is not a lot that scares me anymore. In that I mean I don’t feel afraid for myself. I feel fear for those I love – known and unknown to me – like Jana, the folks in Iraq and Syria and Lebanon, the children at a school where a gunman shows up, journalists and relief workers being held and killed by ISIS.

But I am not afraid of the dark.

I am afraid of darkness, however, like the darkness that has come into our family through the murder of our little sister Cathy. I am afraid that this man has not only killed Cathy but has brought the darkness of what he did to her into our minds and our dreams. What if he gets out? What if he does this again to someone else’s sister or daughter or mother? What if? The light in the hallway is out and even though I remember the way to my dad’s room, he is not there anymore and I can’t crawl under the bed. Even if I could, I’m 55 years old for crying out loud and it hurts to get down that low.

But there it is in Psalm 32 verse 7 and brought back to me by Sr. Joyce this morning. My hiding place is not under a bed. It’s in the arms of my Father God. It’s in the midst of my prayers to him and the songs I sing for him and his arms as Steve holds me and tells me we will get through this together. All of us. He is under my bed and over my bed and beside my bed and he even crawls in there with me.

And he hears my prayers. He speaks with me. He answers. He calms. He offers his peace.

And here is where another intersection/intercession came for me this morning.

On Facebook this morning there was this lovely gift of a song, “Jesus on the Mainline.”

Jesus on the main line, tell Him what you want
Jesus on the main line, tell Him what you want
Jesus on the main line, tell Him what you want
You can call Him up and tell Him what you want

You can call Him up, call Him up and tell Him what you want
You can call Him up, call Him up and tell Him what you want
Call Him up, call Him up and tell Him what you want
Go on, call Him up and tell Him what you want

His line ain’t never busy, tell Him what you want
His line ain’t never busy, tell Him what you want
His line ain’t never busy, tell Him what you want
Go on, call Him up and tell Him what you want

It was being sung by one of those people I love but I’ve never met, Tripp Hudgins, a pastor and doctoral student who blogs at anglobaptist.org. I first read one of his posts at sojo.net several years ago. I was totally blown away by his biography and his writing. He’s a Baptist pastor, serving then at an Episcopal church and writing about a Catholic saint. I printed out the post and shared it with George, my pastor at the time, because it was so ecumenical. I found him on Facebook, and God bless him, he accepted my friend request.

Tripp is a musician along with everything else he is and does. He regularly posts videos of his playing one of the stringed instruments he is such a master of. And he sings in this ocean-deep bass voice that can touch the high notes as well. He lives in California and apparently he gets up very early, as the video of this wonderful song was posted at 7:00 a.m. my time, which is Central, two hours later than his.

And he sang these words of the God who is my hiding place: His line ain’t never busy, tell him what you want. And so I did. “Please Father, send your peace. Send it to my family in the midst of the darkness of justice which is playing hide-and-seek for our sister. Send it to my brothers and sisters in the Middle East where the darkness of ISIS stalks and storms. Send it to a world that needs your light. Bring us out from under the bed into your arms of love.”

In your hiding place, in the dark, or in the sweet light of the sun, tell him what you want.

Shredded

Steve is the head chef at our house and I am always pleased to serve as his sous chef. In that capacity, one of my main duties is to shred. I shred cucumbers and cheese. I grate lemon rind and ginger. Whatever needs to be moved up and down that four-sided, multi-gauged tin instrument, I do it.

You take that block of cheese, hard or soft, it doesn’t matter, and in a couple of minutes you have rendered it into a pile of shreds. You can’t put it back together. Same thing with a lemon. Use the smaller gauge on the shredder and once you have moved that bright yellow lemon up and down and up and down, you’ve changed its appearance and it will never be the beautiful Sunkist fruit anymore. It’s just an odd-looking piece of citrus with no skin, except that white pulpy stuff. Then you squeeze the juice out for something else and all that’s left is the shredded, hanging pulp of the fruit. There is just nothing left to it.

Yesterday I wrote about how my brothers and sisters and I are finding comfort in the midst of our pursuit of justice for our baby sister Cathy. And I do believe that not only have we found comfort, but comfort has found us. That is what I said. I still hold on to it and am grateful for the gift it is.

But today, we aren’t in control of the grater. We are the ones grated into a pile of shreds. We are the lemon that has not only had its skin shredded off slowly, but the juice has been squeezed out too. Right now I feel like the substance-less pulp of the sunny yellow lemon that is no more.

Our wait will be longer. Word came to us today that the man who murdered and raped and tortured our little sister Cathy is not competent to stand trial for the crime. He won’t even have a hearing to state that he is incompetent. As far as we understand – and it is so hard to comprehend! – he will simply be declared incompetent and moved to a facility to rehabilitate him…for what we do not know. For a trial eventually? That’s our hope and our desire, but we don’t know if that is what will happen. He has been down this road before. After being rehabilitated, he was released as someone considered “not dangerous” to society. And that is how he crossed paths with Cathy, shredding the life out of her.

Here is how we read about it in the Press Enterprise of Riverside County, California, in March, 2013:

http://www.pe.com/articles/hernandez-671982-court-prescott.html

This is what we have been living with for the past eighteen months, every day another day of waiting for justice. Every day another day of seeking and finding comfort. And some days, like today, we feel like we have been moved up and down and up and down over the sharp edges of a grater. It feels like being a pile of something that was once a person, but today is just pieces. And the shredding hurts. And we feel helpless to do anything. Even if there is something we can do, we don’t know what it is.

But I got a great hug from my pastor today. That felt like a healing balm where healing is hard to come by. Rich came into my life and the life of my church last July, 2013, as our interim. He has been with me and Jana through most of the stages of this crime and aftermath. He will be moving along soon as we call a permanent pastor and hopefully we will be able to carry on our journey with this new shepherd. I hope he gives as good of a hug as Rich does! But those hugs really do help pull the pieces back together, making me somewhat whole and able to carry on through the day.

We are reading the book of Revelation in staff prayer these days and I just want to hurry forward to chapter 21 where I know this passage awaits me:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Vs. 3-4)

I love that image. It’s a parent pulling out the kleenex or the dishtowel and just smearing the tears out of a child’s eyes and off the face. Maybe that mom or dad just puts their hand of the side of the face and wipes them off with their thumb. The intimacy of that kind of comfort, the in-your-face embrace of it, that is how I think of God the father. Such love…

But this is my favorite part: no more death! No more crying! (That one is hard to imagine for me, but wouldn’t it be amazing?!) No more mourning or pain or shredding or wringing out of our insides. For he has wiped it all away. And we will all be there together and he will be right there with us. And there will be hugs for Cathy and for Sally and Mike and Susan and Jana and George and for me. Our shredded family will be whole, shining like the sun…or a sun-kissed lemon.

Back in one piece, from many.

Sometimes the wait is long

“Boy! How many hearings will there be before one that really counts??? I thought ‘your trial’ was a pre-trial hearing?”

That was Jana’s email response to me when I told her Sally’s answer about the hearing scheduled for the man sitting in jail for murdering our little sister Cathy. I told her the hearing would be rescheduled at a hearing on Wednesday. It’s confusing to me and to Jana with her brain racked by multiple injuries and seizures, it is simply impossible to comprehend.

In age order from front to back, left to right: George Jr., Jana, Julie, Susan, Mike, Sally. This picture reminds us we once were seven.

In age order from front to back, left to right: George Jr., Jana, Julie, Susan, Mike, Sally. This picture reminds us we once were seven.

We have been preparing as a family to attend this competency hearing in Riverside, California, for many, many months. It’s been scheduled, postponed, rescheduled, postponed again and again…and again. We all have airline tickets on Southwest because, bless their hearts, they will let us change them or cancel them without penalty. We all continue to juggle our schedules and pray that we can all be there to support each other. Sally has classes to teach, Susan works in a veterinary ER clinic that needs to be staffed, Mike has the print shop to run, I am heading to the Middle East in November. I hesitate to schedule doctor or dentist appointments for me or for Jana because I am trying to keep the schedule clear so we can go. When they tell us. This time. Or the next time. The wait is long.

Cathy was murdered on March 24, 2013. I don’t think any of us will ever forget the date, and not just because it is there on the marker where we interred her ashes.Cathy's headstone It’s one of those things that just stays with you. She is the only one of the seven Prescott siblings who didn’t get to celebrate the big fiftieth birthday. She was only 48. I waited for each of us to get past the 34th birthday, and one at a time we each did. That’s the one our mom never got to celebrate because ulcerative colitis took her at 33. We all made that one! And we were each breezing through the big 5-0 as well. But then the worst happened.

So it has been a long wait. It’s hard to find closure when the horizon it sits on keeps moving away from us.

But here’s the thing. I am grateful there is a process based in the law. There is a process that we go through to make sure we get it right. We don’t always get it right as there are people on death row right now who might be exonerated in future years because new evidence is found proving their innocence. But we don’t rely on frontier justice where we hang someone and ask questions later. We don’t parade “infidel criminals” in front of cameras and then exact justice for their alleged crimes by cutting off their heads so their families can feel the pain. Our system is better than that. And yes, our system makes us wait…and sometimes the wait is long, like it is for our family now.

Sojo.net gave me this word today:

Again I saw all the oppressions that are practiced under the sun. Look, the tears of the oppressed — with no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power — with no one to comfort them. – Ecclesiastes 4:1 

Our family has cried rivers of tears in the last eighteen months, but I believe we have found comfort: in friends, in each other, in those places where we rest our hearts. I think George, our river rat, finds it when he is working in his garden or out on the marsh. Mike found some at the Burning Man Festival in their temple when he left a memento of Cathy there. I believe Sally finds it when she rides her horse on the eastern plains of Colorado or drives her Mini MO ZA across the Mackinac bridge in Michigan. I think Susan feels the wind rushing into her face when she runs or rides her bike and there is comfort there. I have found it by hearing God’s word through Sojourners or in singing that song that has just the perfect lyrics like this Sunday when the choir sang Thomas Dorsey’s Precious Lord:

Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, help me stand. I am tired. I am weak. I am worn. Through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light. Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.

There can be comfort in just living the days as they come, one by one.

None of this brings Cathy back to us. And though ripped from our lives as she has been, no one can rip the memories and the love we have for her out of our hearts or minds. She is our sister still and no one has changed or can change that.

So we wait for justice, but not for comfort. Comfort has found us.

Amen.