Thoughts on life from Pat Oaks
It was opening night for the 1998 revival of ANNIE GET YOUR GUN on Broadway, starring Bernadette Peters (my only Broadway credit). We had been rehearsing the show for three months, and the after-party was being held at Tavern on the Green Restaurant in Central Park. I had two complimentary tickets to the dinner, so I invited my landlady Alice to accompany me. We parked in a garage a few blocks from the restaurant and walked up the sidewalk in our best evening wear. My tux was a secondhand ensemble my mom had negotiated for at a Brooklyn tailor shop, but that's another story. As we approached the front door of Tavern on the Green, a stretch limo pulled up to the curb right beside us. Alice said, "Could be somebody important!" I said, "Could be!" The chauffeur exited the driver's seat, and opened the side door. Donald Trump stepped out of the back seat and fell in step with us as we walked in. I said, "Hello, Mr. Trump!" He smiled at Alice and me, and said, "Good evening!" Alice looked at me with raised eyebrows and whispered, "How about that?" As we stepped into the lobby, dozens of flashbulbs went off, so I know there's a picture of me out there somewhere walking into Tavern on the Green with my landlady and future-President Donald Trump.
President John F. Kennedy
This blog has no punch line, no morality lesson....actually no lesson at all. Just a memory I thought you might enjoy.
When I was a senior in college, one of my best friends lived just outside Washington D.C. Her Dad was a chaplain in the army and she had lived all over the world. Her name was Joy. Another friend of ours owned a red convertible. Not sure of the make.
I always went home for holidays, but that year, Joy invited Beverly (red convertible owner) and me, to go home with her for fall break. I asked my Mother if I could go and could hardly believe it, or contain myself when she said yes. My Mother was very protective of us and rarely did we get to go anywhere, much less 10 hours away to Washington D.C.!!!
You cannot imagine how excited I was! The only places I had ever been were Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, N.C., Georgia and Florida.
The trip was everything I hoped and dreamed it would be. We stayed with Joy's family, but went into D.C. everyday. One day the other two girls wanted to go study at the library and I said "no way"! So, I went exploring on my own. I was barely 20 years old and here I was walking around the nation's capital on my own. What a thrill! I passed some boys on the street who whistled at me and I just grinned and waved. I had NO fear!
Another day, Joy and Beverly were with me and we were walking around the outside of the White House. They were ahead of me at the back of the White House when all of a sudden President Kennedy himself came out from behind some bushes. It looked as if he were just out for a stroll and some fresh air. I yelled at the girls...."hurry and come back here. It's President Kennedy!" They laughed at me and said, "sure Combs!" (My last name.) So I stood at the fence gazing at the President of the United States, and all of a sudden he glanced up.....and waved!
Yep. I had a small moment in my life with just the President and me...all by ourselves. I waved back and he turned and walked back to the white house.
Needless to say, the girls were upset that they hadn't believe me!
We had other adventures that week but the most exciting was my encounter with John F. Kennedy.
Every Wednesday night you will find us underneath the 640 bypass bridge serving food, playing piano, preaching or doing a multitude of other things. I usually work at the dessert table with two other couples, Becky and Stanley and Alexis and Cameron. Most of the time the five of us are there. We have to cut cakes, put them onto plates and serve them. It takes awhile to cut all those cakes!
Last week, none of the 5 of us were there! A rare occurrence but it happened. Becky and Stanley were on a mission trip to Romania. It was good to see them back and the first thing I asked Becky was, "how was your trip?"
I will try to remember, as best I can, her words...."It was terrible! I was so miserable! We had gone with medical people so everyone had a job but me. They put me with little children coloring and reading the Easter story. I am not good with little children! To make it worse, it was Easter and I missed my family terribly! I felt sorry for myself almost all week until the last day. They asked for someone to give a testimony so I volunteered. While I was talking I saw several people crying. I felt like the Holy Spirit was telling me that this is why He brought me to Romania!"
I know Becky and I know that she has a heart for the Lord and for serving Him. Sometimes though, it is difficult to see what He is trying to do with us!
After that conversation, the next morning I was reading in my "Joyce Meyer Bible" in Joshua. She always makes comments in the margins. In the first chapter Moses had died. The Lord allowed the Israelites to mourn him for 30 days. After that God told Joshua that it was time for him to take his new position. (Joshua 1:2)
The comment that Joyce wrote in the margin was this:
"Because Moses had done many things for Joshua and the Israelites, before he died, they needed to learn how to handle new responsibilities after he died. They may not have felt prepared to step out into new things, but God knew they were ready. It is actually a good thing when we do not 'feel' ready, because then we are more likely to totally lean on God. If we feel self-sufficient , God can't really use us."
New things always seem frightening, but soon they will become old things and God will have another 'new thing' on the horizon of our lives. We need to grow accustomed to stepping out into new things. The more we do, the more we realize that we don't have to be comfortable to be obedient. In order to take hold of a new thing, we must let go of the old and allow ourselves time to get acquainted with the new.
Do not be afraid to release and walk away from what God is finished with; He has wonderful new things waiting for you!"
My prayer...."All you command us we will do and wherever you send us we will go." Joshua 1:16
We haven't been to the store for a few days, so tonight for supper I decided to just see what I had on my shelf and in my refrigerator. I knew that I had bought a package of boneless chicken breasts awhile back and had frozen half of them. I looked up Chicken in an old Betty Crocker cookbook that Tommy had bought me for Valentine's Day early in our marriage. (Perhaps a hint???)
As I looked down the list I saw a casserole dish using any kind of meat. It also called for cubed bread, cheddar cheese, onions, peas, tomatoes and a white sauce. I didn't think I had any tomatoes or peas but when I looked on the shelf I had a can of each! I really wanted fresh tomatoes, but settled for the canned. I had some croutons, so used those instead of bread.
I had left over rice from last night, so warmed it up and we had a wonderful supper! I was telling the guys that it was supposed to have fresh tomatoes but I had a can of whole tomatoes that I used instead. About that time, a friend of ours, who comes underneath the bridge with us to work with the homeless, knocked on our door. She asked if we needed any tomatoes! There were two big boxes full!!
Now, I don't know about you, but I just think that is really strange. Or maybe not. Maybe it was just God's way of saying, I have all the resources anyone could ever want or need!
Thank you sweet Donna. You are the dearest of friends and not just because you brought us tomatoes!
I am keeping 3 of them...they are HUGE....but tomorrow I am taking them to our food truck to give out to those who come every Tuesday.
What is it that you need this day? "Ask and ye shall receive!" (John 16:24)
In Deuteronomy 8 we read where the Lord fed the Israelites with manna from heaven and gave them water from a rock, and they still complained! Their clothes and shoes didn't wear out, and still they complained.
Every week we give food and water to a hundred plus people underneath a bridge in Knoxville. We also give clothing and shoes. We aren't the only place who does this. No one in our town needs to go hungry or without clothing and shoes.
Yet, I can't tell you how often I hear complaining. I can't tell you how often I throw away plates full of food, or find perfectly good clothing left behind on the ground.
It isn't just the homeless...it's me. How in the world do I feel I have the right to complain about anything? The Lord is constantly providing food and water for me..Many times that food seems to appear out of the sky! The water seems to appear out of a rock. My clothing lasts far longer than it should and my shoes never wear out.
Yet I complain.
"Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments. His precepts, and His statutes which I command you today., Lest when you have eaten and are full, and have built goodly houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all you have is multiplied, then your minds and hearts be lifted up and you forget the Lord your God." Deuteronomy 8:11-14
What does it mean to be happy? Is happiness something to seek after? Does the Bible say much about being happy?
These are all questions that have come up recently in discussions in our home. After mulling over it for the past few days, I have decided that happiness is not something that one can seek and find. Actually, I decided that the times in my life when I have been most miserable, were the times when I was the most happy. Let me explain.
We have been to Mexico on work trips a few times. Those trips were miserable. Sleeping arrangements were awful...tents in the desert. Showers were bucket showers where the water had creepy crawlies and unknown particles! The heat during the day could and did get up to 115 degrees...nights down to 30. The work was hard. We mixed the concrete for the houses we built, by hand. 4-6 houses were built in 4 days.
I remember getting up around 5 in the morning to the sound of a rooster. I usually sat outside my tent and wrote in my journal, One morning I walked to the edge of our camp to brush my teeth, I looked out over the desolate scrub brush and the thought suddenly came to me that I was happy! Enormously happy!
One particular trip we went on was on a dump site. The people in the area made their living by sorting through stuff on the dump to sell, One day I walked down a dusty road toward the dump. No one was around and all of a sudden I heard something behind me! I turned around and a huge pig (it came up to my waist!) was following me down the road like a puppy dog! At first it scared me. Then I started laughing, I realized that that pig had made me happy!
When I came back from my trip to the dump I told Tommy, "I think I could live here!" And I think I could!
Happy isn't something you search for until you finally find it. Happiness just HAPPENS! All of a sudden it appears before you, like a pig on a dusty road. You can't explain it. You couldn't if you tried. But, all of a sudden you will be walking down a dusty nondescript road (whether literal or fictional) and you find yourself overcome with happiness. It may last the rest of the day or it may be fleeting, but it was worth whatever hardship you went through to reach it.
Tommy said that the beatitudes in the Bible can be translated Happy instead of Blessed.
Happy are the poor in spirit
Happy are they that mourn
Happy are the meek
Happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
Happy are the merciful
Happy are the pure in heart
Happy are the peacemakers
Happy are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake
Happy are YOU when people revile you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things about you on HIS account
Be glad and supremely joyful!
When I think of being happy, I don't usually think of persecution! Maybe the next time I say "I just want to be happy", I should read the Beatitudes again.
God told me
We were at the grocery store, as we are most Thursdays, getting food to feed our boys who come to our Thursday night Bible study. They eat a lot! Sometimes they give us food for them from the food pantry at the Dream Center next door, and they did this week. We got a large roll of hamburger to make tacos. There were a few things that they didn't have next door, so we went to the store to get the rest.
While we were shopping we ran into an old friend that we rarely see. We caught up and he said he wanted the guys to come to his church sometime. He left and we finished our shopping.
As we headed to the check out, our friend came back in. He said when he got to his car the Lord told him to come back in and pay for our groceries! Actually what he said was that when he went back out to the car he was asking the Lord to show him someone to help. As he was praying the Lord hit him up side of his head and said, "You just left them in the store!"
What he didn't know was who the groceries were for! When we told him, he knew for sure it was from the Lord. He even told us to get more! We said we had plenty and he said, "Where is the hamburger?" (We had told him we were having tacos.) We laughed and said that they had given us that at the warehouse!
Coincidence? I don't think so. God does stuff like that all the time! The problem is that we don't always listen. So, the next time you have a generous impulse, follow through. Chances are it's the Lord speaking!
Some of our Thursday "crew".
In I Samuel 18:5 we read about David, who was a very young man, but God chose him to do great things for the Kingdom. He was working in the palace of the King (Saul) and the Bible says "David behaved wisely wherever Saul sent him."
Further down in the chapter, verse 14, we read "David acted wisely in all his ways and succeeded and the Lord was with him."
Even further down in verse 30 it says, "David had more success in battle because he behaved himself more wisely than all Saul's servants."
Three times in one chapter we are told how David behaved wisely. What a message to young people! And...not only to young people, but to all of us. How much heart ache and misery could be avoided if all of us "behaved wisely."
Sad to say, later on, in II Samuel chapter 11 we see David NOT behaving wisely. He sent his men into battle without him. He should have been on the battlefield with them. Had he "behaved wisely" he would have been! He would not have been at home on his rooftop watching a woman bathe.
As I look back over my life, I realize more and more that all of the mistakes I made and all the sins I committed were because I wasn't behaving wisely. Perhaps I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Instead of being on the battlefield fighting for right and for justice, I was walking around on my rooftop enjoying the cool evening breeze.
God has a job for each of us. We have to behave wisely though, and we have to pay attention when He tells us it is time to go into battle. My prayer for all of us, His followers, is that as time for the end draws near, we will listen to Him, behave wisely and be ready to go into battle at a moments notice.
Image: Study of King David, by Julia Margaret Cameron. Depicts Sir Henry Taylor, 1866.
A Christmas to be remembered
It was Christmas Eve. Jason had to work at the tv studio so we packed all our Christmas food into laundry baskets, along with a festive table cloth, candles and a center piece and off we went to have Christmas eve dinner at the tv studio.
On the way home I had a text from our preacher, Paul. He asked if I could get in touch with Patsy, a widow who lives alone and has no family to care for her. He said he had tried to call and she wasn't answering the phone, I called and she answered. She said she was sick. When I called Paul back, he had already called an ambulance to go to her house. I called her back and told her to watch for it.
An hour and a half later, she called and said that the ambulance had never come! So Tommy and John boy went to get her and take her to the hospital. They left her and came home and got a shower because at this point we didn't know what was wrong.
At 11 o'clock p.m. she called that she thought they were going to keep her over night, so we went to bed. At 4 a.m. the hospital called for us to come and get her! WHAT??
So, the guys left to pick her up. On the way out of our parking lot they looked over at the church building and water was pouring out of the building, down the driveway and into the road. It was bitter cold here, so the water had frozen in the road and looked like an ice skating rink!
When they had gotten Patsy safely home they came back to the church. A pipe had broken in the ceiling and water was pouring into the church building, out the door and down the driveway. After turning the water off, and sweeping water out of the door, they finally got home around 8 a.m. got another shower, and headed out to get Patsy's prescription. (She has a kidney infection,)
This Christmas has taught me so much. The first thing it taught me is just how selfish I am. I had started to ask Patsy to come and spend Christmas day with us, and for purely selfish reasons, did not.
Second it taught me how the Lord always orchestrates things in our lives and how He always works things out for the good, if we but listen.
The most important thing it taught me though, is from now on I need to be aware of people around me who are alone and hurting, and invite them into the comfort and peace that our family has. I won't make the mistake again of wanting to keep Christmas just for our immediate family. There are "shepherds abiding in the field keeping watch over their flocks by night" and they want to be invited in to see the Christ Child. What if they had stayed out in those cold, barren fields and never come to the manger?
He invites ALL to come and see Him. Why don't we?
We are doing a reading of the Polar Express in the Knox County Schools the three weeks before Christmas. We have decorated the inside of the Knoxville Dream Center book mobile to look like the inside of a train car. It's magical! We park out in front of the school and the kids come out and climb into the "train car" for a ride to the North pole.
They walk down a red carpet and sit in little red chairs. We read the story to them while they sip hot chocolate complete with marshmallows on top! After a few mishaps (we forget the coal every time so the kids have to sing a Christmas song in order to get enough Christmas Spirit to power the train!)...we are off to the North Pole!
We go to a new school every day and have 5 or 6 groups come to ride to the North Pole and we read the story to them. Every day as we leave, we ask what stories we each gathered from our time with the kids. Here are a few of my favorites.
Tommy said as he was passing out the hot chocolate, one little boy said "oh wow! I have never had hot chocolate before!" Every time I think of that my eyes fill up with tears. How much we take for granted!
Another little boy said on his way out..."this is the best day of my life!"
As the children leave they each get a silver bell (off Santa's sleigh, of course) and a candy cane. They step off the train into snow falling all around them. Today one of them looked at me and exclaimed in a voice full of wonder...."it really is snow!"
All of a sudden, it became that to me as well....REAL snow.
What could be better in life than hot chocolate and real snow? I'll tell you. The birth of Jesus.