Saturday, April 28, 2012

Aunt Bessie's Dresser

I wish I could get away with the hilarious bluntness Eugene Peterson expresses in his translation of scripture: “The Message”. Oh, I know full well the attitude of the brainiac theologians toward Eugene Peterson: “He is not theologically sound.” “He is weak in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic.” “His interpretation is child-like, therefore is meant for children.” Etc., etc. and so on. I have sat under the best of theologians during my long life on this earth and I have heard most of their spins on major doctrines of our Holy Bible. I tune in on TV the current ones I respect and pull up on my computer my brother-in-Christ Ray Stedman who may be encircled right now in Heaven with five of my family (two sisters-in-law, my nephew, my husband and son, all of whom were taken from here by cancer). There’s one thing for sure: There are no wiggly doctrinal conclusions in Heaven for our Abba is right there to explain exactly what He meant.

I am so weary of church fusses over doctrine (and usually the fuss isn’t about doctrine at all but is about hidden human dislikes of one another that have laid dormant until a doctrinal difference explodes and opens the gate to justifiable war. My family of origin fussed and I found refuge by burying my face in my Grandma’s lap as she rocked away in the adjacent dining room as the war raged at full throttle in the kitchen. When the Lord plunked me in the middle of a tiny group of born again Christian on the campus of Kansas State when I was nineteen I was startled by peace that prevailed amongst them. They were the kindest no-fussin’ people I had ever met. It was their kindness and love that drew me to Christ. Little did I know at the time that for the rest of my life, in nearly every church we would serve fusses would arise.

My Abba promised me during my pesky broken hip interruption-to-life the same promise He has given to many of you: ”I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord; plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” There were times during those many weeks of recovery that Heaven was lookin’ pretty good. It still does, but I don’t get to go there yet, apparently.

I should check back in my Blog archives before I spill out this story that formed in my head when my classes were studying Hebrews, but it’s worth repeating and has become a light-hearted opening for many a conversation. “How many Aunt Bessie’s dressers did you throw off your track this week?” So here comes the story of Aunt Bessie’s Dresser. I told it to a beloved pastor last week and he laughed and said he was going to plagiarize it.
My ancestors were pioneers, living along the Kansas Santa Fe Trail. Some of them could still see the ruts that had been cut in the prairie grass by the schooners as the oxen trudged with their heavy loads from the east to the west coast.

Picture this: Hiram and Abigail are packing their schooner, saying goodbye to loved ones forever, when a heated discussion arose about including Aunt Bessie’s dresser with the load. “Hiram, it came over from the old country several generations ago. It’s a family heirloom.” Hiram: “Abigail, the oxen simply can’t pull any more. It will kill them.” Abigail: (hands on hips, pout on face: “If we can’t take Aunt Bessie’s dresser. then I just won’t go!” …and Hiram is stuck with a decision many a husband is familiar with: dead oxen or a sour-faced wife all the way to California

Hiram: “All RIGHT! We’ll take the #@$% dresser, but you’ll have to walk and I don’t want to hear any fussin’ from you.” …and so they begin their journey. About ten miles out, the oxen are on their knees, tongues hanging out, sweat pouring from every pore, and finally Abigail faces the truth. Aunt Bessie’s dresser is going to spend the rest of her life, tossed alongside the Santa Fe Trail, UNLESS some hapless husband is talked into confiscating her.
Now, where is this going? Turn to Hebrews 12: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great crowd of witnesses let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” The message here? Travel light. This is a tough assignment for anybody, but especially for Christians for it requires being almost “cutthroat” about who and what to allow in our prairie schooner on a daily basis. Stuff and people accumulate but stuff and people can take away all our joy in living for Christ.

I made a new agreement with my Abba while I was recently recovering from a mangled hip: I will cease and desist from assuming that every fuss among the brethren or the sistern requires my sage advice or even my attention. I have the privilege of disappearing and listening to my Shepherd’s voice only. …but then if I do that I will be deprived of using Peterson’s words: “But for right now, friends, I’m completely frustrated by your unspiritual dealings with each other and with God. You’re acting like infants …capable of nothing much more than nursing at the breast.” I SO want to be able to let loose with those words in situations that I am observing from the sidelines. …but No! I made this agreement with God.
SO, what Aunt Bessie’s dresser is the Holy Spirit telling you to toss off the trail laid out for just you? Maybe you ARE an Aunt Bessie’s dresser and you need to remove yourself from the schooner. My Grandmother’s lap went to Heaven with her when I was fourteen and I began my search for another “lap”. I found it in Jesus. He enfolds me and tells me “Come unto me, all you who weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

This week’s hymn: Praise Him!
Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer!
Sing, O earth—his wonderful love proclaim!
Hail him! Hail him! Highest archangels in glory;
Strength and honor give to His Holy Name!
Like a shepherd Jesus will guard His children;
in His arms He carries them all day long.
Praise Him! Praise Him! Tell of His excellent greatness.
Praise Him! Praise Him! Ever in joyful song!
Love Jo

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Dangerous Duo

George Fraser and Ted Stone were a dangerous duo. Both were idea men who saw no reason not to trust God to carry out their ideas. Both were great team men and neither wanted any glory for himself. They have been in Heaven together with the Lord for a week now and I suspect they aren't even close to running out of conversation. George's Memorial yesterday at First Presbyterian Church in Bakersfield was packed to capacity. All on the program talked about a different phase of George's life. Much time was given by Chaplains for George was proud of his time in the service. George had instructed everyone as to what he wanted them to say. He wanted the Gospel clearly presented and his wishes were honored. The highly gifted Dodson family provided the finest quality of music. The Dodson's daughter married Celia and George's son. there ya go:spectacular free concert music that wove all through the service at the gravesite and at the church.

Many tried to explain George. I admired that man so much. Ted played a major part in launching George into ministry (George showed up at our door one night and announced: "I quit my job. Disciple me!") and George showed up at a strategic time in our lives by way of a phone call when we were still in Houston. "Ted, we need you back in Kern County. I have seen what you did here when you pastored Fruitvale/River Lakes to bring churches and ministries together and you've done the same thing in Houston. We are in a virtual Bible belt here and it's getting messy. Would you come back?"

Ted: "George, we've been in the church-without-walls ministry here in Houston for seven years and Jo longs to have another pastorate." ...dead silence on the other end of the phone. George:"Well, I don't understand it, but if you want a pastorate, there are about forty people up on Bear Mountain that are ready for a church". The set-aside acreage was begging for a building, so Ted hired a chief and challenged the folk to become Indians alongside him, and by golly, that gorgeous church went up. I visited there recently and can practically see Ted hanging from the rafters as he hammered and painted and encouraged.

Ted helped George launch Interns for Christ which morphed into Titus Task Force International. George finished his manual not long before Hospice moved in to try to save his life.  I suggest that you buy it: "Titus Task Force Operational Manual", (Infinity Publishing) read it and give it to your leadership.  Mike Loehrer, local pastor friend read it and said, "Where has this been? We have needed it for so long." George then endorsed Mike's book, "Ego-less Elders" which is being printed right now. Westbo Publishing, a part of Thomas Nelson Publishing.

I am walking without much of a limp, my energy is gradually returning. I did not know if I would survive this last onslaught. What will I do now? What I've always done: studying (There is so much I don't know.), teaching, discipling and counselling. I am freer than I have ever been to have my mornings for study and prayer. How I love those mornings.

Twice now when I have come this far with the blog it has disappeared. If you find it floating out there somewhere trash it. It had its chance!  SO, I am quitting before this one disappears too. I will never conquer a computer. It's gonna get me first. .


Must Jesus bear the cross alone and all the world go free?
No, there's a cross for everyone and there's a cross for me.

How happy are the saints above who once went sorrowing here
But now they taste unmingled love and joy without a tear. 

Love, Jo

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Winter Showed Up—Late

It's Saturday morning. My twin cats have been sitting side by side on my computer table staring, enthralled, at the swirling snow outside the window that has been swirling for over twenty-four hours now.I won't be going anywhere today or possibly even tomorrow even though I have a four-wheel drive Honda. I've plenty of food for the cats and me, so far the electricity has not failed us, I have a half-finished history novel begging me to finish reading it and I see no reason to get my blood pressure up.

I feel a farm story coming on. Our farm, though many thousands of miles south of the North Pole had few obstacles to slow down the icy winds that blew in with every snow storm ...and we had some lulu's. We had central heat, which meant we had a big ol' wood and coal burning stove in the center of the dining room. The rest of the house was on its own. Freezing. The huge cast iron kitchen cook stove inhaled cords of wood that all of us dug out and carried in from the snow-covered woodpile, heating the food, water and us when we huddled around it. One morning I "huddled" too close and scorched the back side of a brand new kelly green skirt. That was not a happy morning. I've never seen my mother so mad. Well, that's not quite true. She was a full-blooded Irish woman with a temper to match.
Forget a Saturday night bath when there was a blizzard raging. Nobody wanted to be THAT clean when a tub from the wash house had to be dragged in, three or four teakettles of boiling water dumped in along with a bucket or two of icy water from the well outside the kitchen door. Only the lower quarter of our freezing bodies enjoyed a few moments of warmth in five or six inches of water.

...and now I have four and a half bathrooms, one with a jacuzzi. I don't know why. They came with the house. ...and those bathrooms have actual flush toilets! I was so embarrassed as a teenager about not having a modern bathroom that I wouldn't let any of my town friends come to the farm. One time, my mother planned a camping trip for my birthday (She understood my pride for she had been raised on the same farm and had the same struggle with HER pride.). Can you believe the rain began to come down in sheets and we had to throw everything in the car and head for our farm. ...and can you believe those girls had the time of their lives sleeping in the hayloft and using the outhouse and not having to take a bath? Somewhere in there is a lesson that makes me very uncomfortable to this day. Maybe this excuse will squeak me by: I had never even heard the Name of Jesus until I was nineteen. After that all of my sins of pride come straight out of my own flesh.

I am walking now with very little limp and no metal thingamajig or cane. Someone called me "frail" at church last Sunday, so this week when I was searching for a picture for a book my writer friend, Carole Lewis is publishing, Daughter Dee quipped: (She is so GOOD at "quipping")"O.K., Mom, here are your choices:splicing a picture of you and dad when you weighed fifty pounds more four years ago or a recent one, looking "frail"". I chose the "splice" but it nearly sent me to my crying room after looking at all those pictures of Ted and me, gazing into each other's eyes. Sometimes I miss him so much I think my heart will melt into a blob of nothingness. ...but obviously if the Lord can pull me through the deaths of my husband and son within a year, diverticulitis, shingles and a broken hip, he's toughening me up for something. Here's what I think: We have an enemy. I am no more important to him than you are, but apparently he hates me because God pours the Gospel through me into people every week. I will not quit until I am forced to. My salvation cost my Saviour far too much for me to hang it up now and coast the rest of the way to Heaven. I was excruciatingly aware of his attempts daily to push my head under the pit muck during the mangled hip episode. I never fought harder in my life to keep from going to bed and just giving up. Many of you prayed for me and I thank you, with tears flowing down my face.

Hymn of the Week
Lead, kindly Light, amid the 'encircling gloom. Lead
Thou me on
The night is dark and I am far from home; Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see...
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

...and it is still snowing!

Love, Jo

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Had I Known...

…how many of you out there suffer at times with depression I would have swallowed my pride (It’s shrunk quite a bit anyway) and spewed out the truth and nothing but the truth. The responses have been many. Some have even been helped to cope when there is no particular reason they can find for being depressed. That hasn’t been my case for a couple of crises ago I was considering folding up my earth/chair and just going Home. ….but then I think about the people He is letting me teach (albeit my lessons are homespun and I wouldn’t be considered for a paid faculty anywhere in the world. …well, maybe an Unnamed Tribe along the Amazon, if I provided by own food, hammock, native carriers, camp necessities, school materials, with no salary.

You must have ratcheted up the prayer, for finally, after 12 weeks of waiting to see the doctor who drove three nails into my hipbone, he declares me HEALED. I asked him to pass that news to my hip; he must have because I creep along with just a cane now. I will juice that for awhile for there have been benefits: food brought in and cooked; my laundry done, floors and bathrooms cleaned, beds changed, I am read to, prayed with, put to bed and covered with love and prayer. Not even when my kids were born did I receive such spoiling. …but there is a day a comin’ and I think it’s today. My printer decided to die (along with my washing machine and possibly vacuum cleaner) so heretofore when something like that has happened, Dee’s immediate response has been, “We’ll be right down.” …not today, though. “Mom, you can drive now, so bring your laptop up and we’ll send your blog from here.” I knew as soon as the words were out of my doctor’s mouth that I shouldn’t have invited Dee into his examining room. Well, as I have told you, the dear girl (to me, she will always be “my girl”) is completely exhausted. It would not be wise for me to even complain of a headache, for she’s done!
…so it’s over. …my trip to whatever Planet I landed on for twelve weeks…..and boy howdy am I ever glad.

Ted and Doug, I don’t imagine there is a “Heavenly Gazette” published there, but somehow I think you are told what is going on that’s important down here. THIS IS IMPORTANT. Doug, after church, all three of your children and Lexi will reinact the ol’ pagan ritual of an Easter egg hunt. Yes, yes, I know the origins and they’re rotten. It’s been YEARS since the kids were little and found eggs you had hidden all over this property. …then one year you donned an Easter bunny outfit and scared the little kids half to death. The other day, Maddie said, “Daddy always made everything fun!”
After dinner, I (Me, Gramma) am invited into the children’s circle to study and discuss (mostly “discuss”) the third chapter of John ….and honey, that opportunity hangs right up there at the top of the Richter scale.

Easter with Jesus. What must it be like for Daddy and you with Jesus? Maybe you’ll fly around Mars or Jupiter in your own heaven/jet. I can’t imagine Heaven without the two of you flying since that is what you loved so much here on earth.

I serve a risen Saviour; He’s in the world today! I know that He is living whatever men may say. I see His hand of mercy; I hear His voice of cheer, and just the time I need Him He’s always near.
Love, Jo