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