Ida May was a good Christian, a nice person, a gentle woman, but even the nicest person has an off day, a day when she wants to either run screaming into the night, or go hide in a cave until it's over, whatever "it" may be.
In her case, Mrs. Magillacutty was in such a blue funk she couldn't decide which was the best course of action. And really, who could blame her?
The holidays are hard on a lot of people, but we get through them by thinking of family and friends, turkey and dressing, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, carolers making melody in the snow, helping someone feel better who is down and out or doing something for someone else.
What to do when YOU'RE the one down and out? Ida Mae's only family, her husband, had run off years before, either alone or with someone. Melvin Magillacutty was long gone, and mostly, she thought, "Good Riddance." Her mother and father were in heaven and she had no siblings.
Worse, she couldn't go to church and seek comfort among the faithful there as she used to do, because they had tossed her out for her outburst against the visiting pastor who told the congregation to repent or burn in hell for all eternity. That she had stood up for the mercy and unconditional love of Almighty God in that church was one of her proudest moments. She spoke truth in the midst of lies, and gave voice to the hope that was in her. Too bad, no one listened to her in the Third Baptist Church on Main Street.
That was not entirely true. They heard enough of her diatribe for Pastor Gooddeeds and Deacons Pain and Keeper to show up and reprimand her later. Worse, her best friends, Mercy Percy and Tru Goodie, who also attended that church, were VERY distant these days, as if they would be corrupted if they associated with her. That hurt. It cut her to the quick, in fact.
Ida Mae was NOT a loner. She liked people, or at least, most of them. She really loved the Lord. He was the best person in her life, but sometimes, she thought, "I really need someone with skin on to be with." What to do about that?
The days marched into yesterdays and Christmas loomed large on the horizon. She wasn't into decorating her house, because who would see it? She half heartedly helped decorate the Public Library where she volunteered, but her heart wasn't in it.
One day, when she was dusting the Library shelves and straightening books, a gentle voice behind her said, "Can you please help me?"
She looked around and saw a tiny dark skinned woman, wearing a very large head scarf and a long, flowing robe of some kind, looking back at her. There weren't many Muslims in this town, but Ida Mae figured she was looking at one full in the face.
"I'll try to help you. What do you need?" she asked kindly.
"I'm looking for a book on Christianity" explained the small woman, her dark eyes very intense and welcoming.
Thinking this very odd indeed, Ida Mae led the lady to the religion area and pointed out the Christianity section to her, adding, "If you need anything else, I'll be at the desk working on the computer." The woman nodded, and began browsing the books in that section.
Ida Mae thought no more about it until she got home. Relaxing over a cup of tea, she wondered "Now, what would a Muslim want with books on Christianity? I wonder if she's going to convert." Since no answer to the puzzle was forthcoming, Ida Mae finished her tea, went to the oven and took the TV Dinner out, carrying it into the parlor so she could watch a game show while eating. She hated to eat alone, and the TV made her feel like she wasn't.
The next day, as she was finishing her breakfast dishes, she heard a light rap on the front door. She hurried over to see who it was. The little Muslim woman she'd helped at the Library yesterday was standing there with a shy smile on her face. Ida Mae was surprised, but recovered enough to say, "Won't you come in? It's cold outside."
The stranger walked across the doorstep and held out her hand: "My name is Selima Medine and I'm your new neighbor. I recognized you when I saw you come home yesterday. I just live over there," she said, pointing to the yellow house two doors down across the street.
Glad she had picked up the parlor, Ida Mae invited Selima to have a cup of tea with her. "I'm glad you stopped by," Ida Mae began. "I've been a bit lonely these days and who knows, maybe the Lord sent you to keep me company."
Selima smiled at her and said, "I've been lonely too. There are not many Muslims around here, are there?"
"No, I don't think there are," replied Ida Mae, and then added, "What brings you to this town?"
"My husband works in a town near here for a company that makes computer chips. There isn't even anywhere for him to worship nearby," she added sadly.
"There are plenty of places for me to worship, but they wouldn't accept me either," blurted out Ida Mae. She had no idea why she said that, but Selima seemed so warm and receptive, it just popped out.
"There are many churches here. Can't you find one you like?" asked Selima.
"The problem is, they don't like me," confessed Ida Mae, "but thankfully, the Lord likes me and that has to be enough."
The two women sat in comfortable silence for a while, until Selima said, "I just wanted to meet you, but now, I have to go to the market. Do you need anything?" Ida Mae thought that was a very nice offer, "Maybe we could go together." And so they did. This began a very friendly, comfortable relationship between two women who couldn't have been more different on the outside, but who, on the inside, were more alike than they were different.
At the market, Selima and Ida Mae ran into her friends Tru Goodie and Mercy Percy who were shopping together. Taking a good look at Selima's Middle Eastern garb, the two friends gave Ida Mae a quick hug and a rather chilly "Hello, how are you?" Ida Mae introduced them to her new friend Selima, and the three shook hands.
"We've got to hurry," explained Tru, "because we're due at the church for visitation. We're just picking up cookies to share before we head out to visit folks. But you remember that, don't you Ida Mae?" The barb was very clear and very sharp, a not so subtle reminder to Ida Mae that she would NEVER be welcome at that church until she repented of her outburst.
"Yes, I do remember," answered Ida Mae. She couldn't help but add a barb of her own, "and I won't keep you from spreading the good news to others," she said bitterly.
Selima said nothing during this exchange but her dark eyes reflected understanding of the deeper communication between Ida Mae and her friends.
After shopping, Ida Mae and her new friend stopped for a cup of tea at a local shop which served home made cookies and scones. They enjoyed sharing their respective backgrounds and though it was unsaid, each thought there might be a possibility of a real friend in the other.
Selima and her husband had immigrated from Lebanon and were now living in the US by means of a work visa. She told Ida Mae that he worked in a nearby town, but the housing was less expensive here and that's why they had moved to a locale which had no mosque. Ida Mae thought it very brave of them to leave their home country and move so far away.
The holidays were fast approaching and the two friends did some shopping together, Selima for food items and Ida Mae for presents to send to some distant cousins. They occasionally met members of the Third Baptist Church, but nothing was said about Ida Mae's Muslim companion.
One morning about 8:00 A.M., the phone rang and when Ida Mae answered it, she was surprised to hear Gordon Gooddeeds' voice. He began, "Mrs. Magillacutty, Brothers Pain, and Keeper, and I would like to stop by this morning around 11:00 for a chat, if you'll be home."
"What in the world do you want this time?" Ida Mae thought, but only said, "Yes, that will be fine. See you then."
She pondered the visit from every angle and brightened considerably when she concluded that perhaps the Christmas Spirit had softened the Church Leaders, and they were coming to tell her she could return to church.
She smiled and hummed as she tidied up the parlor and got out cookies to serve with the tea she planed to offer them. "This will be a nice Christmas after all," she said to her two kitties, stroking their heads as she passed by. "Maybe I'll even put up a tree and decorations so Selima can enjoy them." She had felt very sad that Muslims apparently did not celebrate Christmas, which she thought was a great shame, it being so festive and all.
At precisely 11:00 A.M., the front door bell rang, and when Ida Mae opened the door, Pastor Gordon Gooddeeds, and Deacons Percy Pain and Kyle Keeper swept over the threshold. Pastor Gooddeeds was holding his big Bible in the crook of his arm, the sure sign of a dedicated pastor. Deacons Pain and Keeper held their hats in hand.
"We have to talk to you about something very important," the Pastor said pompously. "May we sit?"
"Well, yes. Let's go in the parlor and I'll pour us a nice cup of tea," Ida Mae replied.
"That will not be necessary, Ida Mae," the Pastor said somberly. "This is not a social visit, but a matter of gravest importance to your soul."
This did NOT sound good to Ida Mae, but she led the way into the parlor and took their overcoats while they sat on the sofa and nearby chair.
She sat across from them and waited to hear what they might say.
"Ida Mae," Pastor Gooddeeds began, "It has come to our attention that you have been fellowshipping with a Muslim. Is this true?"
Startled by this unexpected turn of events, Ida Mae looked him square in the face and answered, "I have been befriending my new neighbor, who is a stranger in this town and lonely, if that's what you want to call fellowshipping." She sounded a tiny bit defensive.
"This has GOT to STOP at once, Ida Mae. Don't you know that evil companions corrupt good morals?"
"But, she's not immoral. She's a religious woman."
"Don't argue with the Apostle Paul, Ida May. I believe he knew whereof he spoke and you had best heed his commandment."
"She's a lovely woman and I'm the only person she knows in town. I have merely been offering her the kindness of a cup of tea and a ride to the market. What's evil about that?"
"Ida Mae, you poor deceived woman. Don't you know that Muslims are terrorists?" blurted out Deacon Pain.
"What are you talking about?"
"Don't you watch the news or read the papers?" Pastor Gooddeeds shrieked . "A Muslim just shot up the Army Base at Fort Hood, Texas, which isn't that far from here, actually. It was Muslims who crashed planes into the twin towers in New York City. It was Muslims who strapped bombs to themselves and killed so many innocent Jews in Israel. What are you thinking?"
Totally stunned by now, Ida Mae, who had a little Irish in her, stood to her feet and retorted angrily, "Well, she might also be an angel. Do you recall that somewhere in the Bible it says we are to entertain strangers because we might be entertaining angels and not even know it?" Satisfied that she'd made a good point, she calmed down a bit and sat back down.
Not to be deterred, Gordon Gooddeeds thundered, "All these nefarious deeds done by Muslims are sin, and God cannot stand the sight of sin nor be in the presence of sinners either. If HE can't, then how can YOU? And for that matter, how do you know she doesn't have an evil spirit in her?"
Flabbergasted would be too mild a term to describe Ida Mae's mood at the moment. In the heat of battle, she threw back her head and shouted at them, "How do I know that YOU don't have an evil spirit in you? I surely don't see Jesus in there anywhere."
At her impudence and unwillingness to listen, the three godly men stood to their feet at the same time, put on their overcoats and hats and walked quickly to the door. Not accustomed to having his pastorly edicts trampled on, by a woman yet, Gordon turned and growled at her,
"You had better repent immediately, and quit seeing this woman, or you will be led off the straight and narrow way. Why, if you don't disfellowship her, you'll burn in hell along with this godless new friend of yours. Those terrorists will all get the death penalty, and so will you if you don't repent. Look it up, hell is in the Bible on every page!" At that, the men stormed out. She slammed the door behind them and just stood there stewing for at least a minute before she went back into the parlor and threw herself face down on the couch. Talk about a snit. Ida Mae was in one, warming up for a hissy fit.
"Lord, how can You suffer such hypocrites to lead your church?" she sobbed. "No one would be a Christian if it meant being like those guys."
When the tears began to flow, she just let them flood out and as she sobbed out the pain of all her losses: her husband leaving her, her church booting her out, the loss of her Christian friends, the Pastor's intolerance, all of it, and now, they expected her to give up the one person who had been kind to her? A fresh outburst of sobs racked her small body. Her kitties were very worried about her, but since they were cats, not counselors, they both fled to the kitchen to have a snack and a little spit bath after that.
The anger had been washed away by tears, but her mind and body were racked with pain and sadness, loneliness and fear. Ida Mae was not a political person. She didn't watch the news because it made her either nervous and afraid, or angry at the stupidity she saw displayed. She didn't read the newspapers either, except to work the cross word puzzles. She had heard about the Muslim Army Major who had massacred so many at Fort Hood in Texas and she figured he did it because he was insane, but now she realized he was a Muslim and so was Selima. Was the Pastor right about her? Should she be afraid?
"Oh Lord, I'm so confused. What am I supposed to think? What shall I do about Selima, Lord. She's my friend."
She felt a hand on her shoulder and saw the soft light in the parlor that told her He was there with her as He had been on other occasions. He said, "Ida Mae, do you trust me?"
Ida Mae sat up and answered, "Of course I trust you, Lord. It's everyone else I question."
"Do you think I would send you a friend who was a terrorist?"
"No, but I didn't know You sent her."
"Ida Mae, I send everything and everyone who crosses your path and enters your life. All things come from my hand."
"She's not a Christian. She doesn't know You as her personal Savior."
"Not yet, anyway, but what does that have to do with her being your friend?"
"Pastor Gooddeeds said she should get the death penalty. What an ass he is. HE should get the death penalty!" She knew she should not judge, but her anger got the better of her.
"All men deserve the death penalty, Ida Mae. No one has kept the commandments and no one has worked his way to righteousness. That's my job."
"What do you mean by that, Lord?"
"I mean that when Adam disobeyed, he incurred the death penalty. Moses gave the Law, but no one kept it and they too invoked the death penalty. All men were under the sentence of death, which is why I came to take it for you. Do you understand?"
"But Lord," she gasped, "You are the only one who was perfect and righteous and good. Why should You get the death penalty?"
"Because I love you; my Father loves you so much, He took the consequences of sin upon Himself to save you. By the terms of the Covenant, He could have executed you all, but instead, He gave himself, us actually, to be the blood sacrifice to pay for the sins of the whole world. Now, no one will get the death penalty, for it has been paid for, for all people."
"Wait, are you saying that God set up the death penalty for law breakers?"
"Yes, He made that covenant with Abraham. The one who broke the Covenant was the one whose blood would be shed."
"But Lord, Abraham and all of us were the ones who broke the Covenant, so we deserved to die."
"That's what I'm trying to tell you. Instead of collecting your debt from you, we paid it ourselves. He was in me on the cross. You were on my mind that day, Ida Mae, and all peoples who ever lived or ever will live were there also."
Ida Mae was pricked in her heart, overcome with sadness and joy mixed in as the reality of what He was saying penetrated her soul. She looked at him with tears in her eyes and her voice trembled as she asked, "So, Muslims are not evil?"
"No more than any other peoples are evil. All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory, but Ida Mae, I came so that you may see and feel and taste and experience the Glory. It is my GLORY which changes everything!"
"I do see Your Glory, Lord. At last I see. Maybe I could tell Selima how wonderful you are, or better yet, maybe you can appear before her so she sees you like you really are. Thank You so much for what You have done for us all and what You are doing here today."
She fell to her knees, bowed her face to the ground and worshipped the King of kings and Lord of Lords, the Savior of the world the giver of all good and righteous gifts.
How long she was on her knees, she didn't know, but when she looked up, He was gone, though His sweet presence lingered long in her spirit after that.
She got up from the floor, went to the bathroom and splashed water on her face, and then picked up the phone and called Selima. When she answered, Ida Mae said, "I hope you can come over here for a cup of tea. I have something quite wonderful to share with you, something that can't be told over the phone. Please hurry. This is such good news it just can't wait."
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
Mrs. Magillacutty Rides Again
The Glory Road
This writing was uploaded to the web 11/22/09,
by Jan Antonsson, webmeister,
and last updated 11/24/09.