This story is dedicated to our dear friend JoAnne Anstine, who encouraged me to bring Mrs. Magillacutty to life once more.
July 24, 2008
On a bright and clear Sunday morning, Mrs. Ida Mae Magillacutty awoke with a start from a sound sleep, looked at the clock on her night stand, and sprang out of bed with the speed of a woman half her age. "Oh dear, oh dear," she sputtered, "I'm going to be late for church."
She got almost to the kitchen when it hit her. "I can't go to church. Reverend Gooddeeds told me not to come back until I repent of my outburst."
For those just tuning in, Ida Mae had stood to her feet during a "gospel meeting" at the Third Baptist Church, where she was a member, and put the visiting Pastor in his place when he began to preach about hell fire and damnation for all who disobeyed. She was passionate about the subject since her trip to Israel where she had learned that Gehenna, the word translated "hell" in our Bibles was a physical location just outside of Jerusalem, not an everlasting punishment after death. Since that fateful trip, she had been freed from worrying about her eternal destination. She was so grateful to the Lord for showing her this truth, she wanted to share it with everyone.
"What is wrong with those people?" she asked her kitties Taffy and Miss Priss. "Why don't they see the truth, which is as plain as the nose on their faces?" Taffy was taking her morning "spit bath" and Miss Priss was batting her pink mousie around, tossing it into the air and catching it, and neither of them had any comment and seemingly no interest in the subject either.
Undeterred, Ida May poured hot water on a tea bag and continued her tirade. "They're only doing it to scare people," she told her kitties, "but how is fear of hell fire going to make anyone love the Lord? I just wish they'd let me have the pulpit a few Sundays and I'd set them straight."
She smiled at such a bold and wicked thought, but she couldn't do it because women were not allowed to preach or even to pray in the worship service. "Why is that?" she demanded of her kitties. "What's wrong with women? If we're the weaker sex, why do we do most of the work? Do they think God loves people with exterior plumbing better than those who have interior pipes? Besides," she added, "Women are the ones who keep everyone on the straight and narrow path, the ones who drag the family to church, the ones who teach the kids how to behave." She thought she was onto something important here.
"But what if," she mused, "what if, I could get a meeting of my own, like say, in my living room. I could say whatever I please because it's my house."
The more she thought of it, the more she liked the idea until she was determined to do it. How to begin? Since she was sure women would be more receptive to her than the men of the congregation, she decided to start with them.
Her trusty computer had sat idle since she had given up on-line poker, but she turned it on, thought a few minutes, and began to type a flier. She used really, REALLY BIG letters so the old ladies could read it without their glasses.
TIRED of being scared to death by hell fire and damnation?
(That got right to the point, she thought. No use dilly dallying around here).
ANGRY at being lied to about this important subject?
READY to hear the truth from the lips of the Lord?
WANTING a personal relationship with Jesus?
JOIN US in a meeting where you will be set free.
Ida Mae Magillacutty's house, this Thursday night, 7:00 PM Sharp!
Excited about this meeting, Ida May next addressed 15 envelopes to women who attended the church. She stamped them and put them in her mail box for the post person to pick up the next day. She sat back and reflected on how easy this was and smiled as she poured herself another cup of tea.
The next morning, Ida Mae began her Monday routine, making the bed, putting a load of clothes in to wash, enjoying her tea and toast as she made her shopping list. She thought about what she should serve as refreshments at her meeting Thursday night. She decided on cookies, tea and coffee.
She tidied up her house, which was always clean, but company was coming and she thought she'd better do a little extra. She belted out "Onward Christian Soldiers," as she vacuumed the parlor. She figured she could seat everyone there by adding the dining room chairs to the sofas and overstuffed chairs already there.
Monday passed quickly; she volunteered at the town library Tuesday and Wednesday, so they passed quickly as well. On Wednesday night, since she had been banned from attending church, she was home alone, thinking. More precisely, she was stewing and fretting; She said out loud to no one in particular, "What am I going to say? What in the world have I done? What was I thinking? Is it too late to cancel? Who's going to listen to me, a woman, about spiritual matters? Who cares what I think anyway?"
The more she verbalized her thoughts, the more upset she got, until she was in a tizzy of the first order. She paced the room, wringing her hands, red in the face and flushed. Then, a strange calm came over her and she said to Miss Priss and Taffy, "Just a darn minute here. What's the matter with me? Paul said there is neither male nor female in the kingdom. My opinion is as good as a man's."
Satisfied with her logic, she wondered if she should try to find the verse, but not having reached the New Testament yet in her fervent daily Bible reading, she hadn't a clue where to look. She had remembered hearing someone quote Paul, but didn't remember the book, chapter, and verse. What to do, what to do? She thought briefly about how funny it would be if she called Reverend Gooddeeds and asked him, but remembering his rant the last time she'd seen him, she decided to wing it. "Lord," she whispered, "I sure wish You would show up at this meeting. Then, I wouldn't have to look anything up." She didn't hear or see anything, but that didn't dampen her enthusiasm because she KNEW that she knew she was standing with the righteous in her position on hell.
After all, she had also heard someone quote a verse which said God was not willing for any to perish, but wanted everyone to come to repentance. "All except Reverend Gooddeeds, Brother Pain and Brother Keeper," she muttered under her breath. "They seem perfectly happy to let most people burn in hell forever."
Thursday morning dawned bright and clear, not a cloud in the sky. Unfortunately, there were a few clouds on Ida Mae's firmament, but she shook them off and began baking cookies, moving chairs, and setting out cups and saucers. The longer the day worn on, the more this meeting was getting on her nerves. What had come over her? What could she do to get out of it?
She pulled herself together, and set up the chairs in the parlor, determined to see it through. "Maybe the Lord will surprise me," she kept telling herself.
By 6:45 PM, she was a nervous wreck. How she wished she had just a tiny drop of brandy to put into her tea, but alas, she didn't have any. Those were the consequences of giving up her vices. Maybe God would look on her kindly.
Miss Mercy Percy and Mrs. Tru Goodie, her best friends at church, were the first to arrive. They each gave her a quick hug, exchanged a quick glance with each other, and took a seat. Soon, Mrs. Bertha Busy, Miss Fern Garden, Mrs. Flossie Funkhaeuser, and Ms. Martha Mellon came in and sat down. Ida Mae served tea and cookies and sat down to wait for the rest to come. Time ticked slowly by on the old Grandfather's Clock in the Parlor: 7:15 chimed and then 7:30, but no one else came.
This was a bit discouraging, but maybe they had some place else to be. So, Ida Mae slowly stood up and went to the front of the room facing the women.
"Well," she began, "I called you here to see if you were as tired as I am of hearing about hell fire and eternal damnation."
"It doesn't matter if we're tired of it or not," snapped old Bertha Busy, seated on the front row. "It's the truth and that's all there is to know about it. Hell is everywhere in the Bible and I can't see how you could ever think it's not true."
"She's right!" agreed Fern Garden, a thin, frail woman who looked like a good wind would blow her into the next county. Her hand holding the cup shook and she sloshed some tea on her dress.
"I think so too," Flossie Funkhaeuser echoed, nibbling a cookie. Miss Percy and Mrs. Goodie said nothing, but looked very uncomfortable.
Ida Mae was a short woman, but she stood up as straight and tall as she could, looked Mrs. Busy full in the face and said, "But the Lord said He's going to save everyone."
"Preposterous," scoffed Bertha Busy. "I know what Jesus said; He SAID hell is so bad you'd better cut off your arm rather than keep it and go there."
"Besides," added Martha Melon, "we all have to help each other stay on the straight and narrow, and you're about to wobble off it and fall into the flames." She laughed at her little joke, and when she did, her jowls and most of the rest of her, like Santa himself, shook like a bowl full of jelly.
Ida Mae was getting very frustrated because after all, she had called this meeting and it was her house. To calm herself, she passed the cookie plate again. As she was doing so, there was a thunderous bang, bang, banging at the door. As she headed over to see who it was, the door was flung open, and none other than the right Reverend Gordon Gooddeeds, and the deacons Brother Percy Pain, and Brother Kyle Keeper swept into the room like avenging angels.
Ida Mae couldn't have been more flummoxed if Satan himself had walked into her parlor, and she wasn't sure he hadn't, for the temperature seemed to rise about 20 degrees. "What are you guys doing here?" she squeaked. She was sure she hadn't invited any of them.
"We heard about this little uprising of yours, and came over to stop it at once," declared Rev. Gooddeeds, righteous fire shooting from his eyes. "You know women cannot hold church meetings. Are you trying to usurp authority over the men in church? Haven't you done enough already?"
Not exactly sure what it meant to usurp authority, Ida Mae stared at him and then stammered, "There weren't any men here until you showed up."
"You'll have to answer for this, Ida Mae," Deacon Pain threatened.
"You'll be very sorry you rebelled against church authority," promised Deacon Keeper.
"What would the church come to if every Tom, Dick, or Harriet got to change church doctrine to suit himself? You should be ashamed of yourself!" Reverend Gooddeeds roared. "And the rest of you women, what are you doing here? I, the Pastor, and these Deacons, demand that you cease and desist this nonsense and disband this rebellion at once." There was a nervous twitter in the room, shuffling of feet; someone coughed and someone else giggled nervously.
Old Bertha Busy slowly and painfully stood to her feet, hobbled over to the Pastor, shook her crooked old finger in his face and set him straight in her toughest drill sergeant voice,
"Now you listen to me, Gordon Gooddeeds. I've known you since you were knee high to a duck and you always were too full of yourself. Did it ever occur to you that we came over here to get this lost soul back in line? Of course not. Now you just run along, all of you boys, and we'll take care of this, don't you worry about that!"
Startled and surprised, Pastor Gordon Gooddeeds and his minions beat a hasty retreat with a "See that you do," flung over their shoulders on their way out. "If you don't, we'll be back," he threatened lamely, but clearly, Bertha had stolen his thunder.
Satisfied that she had asserted her authority, Old Bertha went over to Ida Mae, who was sitting with her head in her hands on the couch, and said kindly but firmly, "Now Ida Mae, we know you mean well, but you must realize that you'll have to repent of this silliness so we can all get back to playing nice again. The church needs you to get in line so we can spread the gospel."
She'd had just about a teaspoon too much of church by now and Mrs. Magillacutty rose to her feet, threw back her head and screeched, "Who would want that brand of gospel? I will NOT repent of what I did or said. The Lord spoke to me and I will never deny it, NEVER!"
"If that's the way you want it," sighed old Bertha, "then our duty is clear. We will leave you until you see the light and repent. You'll be sorry when no one wants to fellowship with you. Come along, ladies."
One by one, they all rose to their feet and left without another word. Even her dear friends Mercy Percy and Tru Goodie left her without saying anything, though Mercy whispered the word, "Sorry," on her way out. Ida Mae was so hurt, cut to the quick, and confused.
When she was alone with Taffy and Miss Priss, Ida Mae sat there for the longest time staring into space. She got up finally and put the chairs away, took the cups and saucers into the kitchen, and began washing up.
She wasn't angry so much as she was just sad and discouraged and even depressed. How could these good women who called themselves Christians treat her this way defending a horrible subject like hell? Why would they take the church's side and not hers? She didn't understand.
"Oh my, Lord," she confessed out loud, "I have made a right and proper mess of this. All I wanted to do was share the good news you gave me, and instead, I got myself rejected by even my good friends."
A light filled the parlor and she felt the Lord's presence with her.
"I've been waiting for you to talk to me about this Ida Mae." His sweet voice said to her.
"Why didn't you tell me to stop?" she asked.
"You didn't ask me," He replied.
"Am I crazy, or are they?" she wondered aloud.
"It's not about being crazy, but about my timing," He explained. "It was time for you to know the truth because you needed it. Everyone comes to the truth, but not at the same time, some won't get it until they cross Jordan."
"What should I do now? I just can't tell them it didn't happen. You did talk to me and You did show me Your love for all people."
"Let them be where they are for now, Ida Mae. They do care about you, but they are afraid they'll get Father or their church members angry at them."
"I just thought I could help them along by telling them what You told me," Ida Mae said, "but I see that doesn't work. Why not?"
"You were following the logic of Your own mind, Ida Mae. I want you to walk by my voice. I will never lead you astray. Will you do that?"
"Only if You help me, Lord. Will You help me?"
"Yes, I will, Ida Mae. You can count on me. I'm the ONLY one you can count on. People mean well, but eventually, they all let you down."
"What will I do now for fellowship?" she wondered aloud.
"Don't worry about that," the Lord smiled. "There are people all over the planet who love me and walk with me, some in the pews and many out of the pews. You'll find fellowship. It's all around you."
The light faded and He was gone, but Ida Mae had peace in her soul for the first time since the last time He had spoken with her.
She smiled and said, "I'll only do what You lead me to do, Lord," knowing He would help her keep that promise.
Until the next time....
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
Mrs. Magillacutty Collides With Christmas
Mrs. Magillacutty Goes To Hell and Back
Mrs. Magillacutty Gets The Boot
The Glory Road
This writing was uploaded to the web 08/08/08,
by Jan Antonsson, webmeister,
and last updated 11/22/09.