Thoughts on life from Pat Oaks
John boy and I are reading Pilgrim's Progress, the second most read book in the world next to the Bible. I read it years ago, but am finding it even better today. We recently saw an animated version of it, and it was excellent.
I am barely into it, and have come to the part where the pilgrim, Christian, comes to a slough. He and a fellow traveler (Pliable) fall into it. It is called the Slough of Despond. It is a place where all the fears, doubts and discouraging apprehensions in a person settle. "It is not the pleasure of the King that this place should remain so bad." (Isaiah 35:3,4) but many have been swallowed up in it!
There are, however, "good and substantial" steps that have been placed at the slough, but because this slough "spews our it's filth" these steps are hardly seen.
Wow! What a word for the world we live in today. Everywhere one looks it seems there is a slough. It is encouraging to know, however, that there are steps (if we but have eyes to see) that lead out of the slough! Praying for all of us to see those steps!
Not if you are a Christian! The Bible says, "Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done; He came to serve, not to be served---and then to give away His life in exchange for many who are held hostage." (Mark 10:43-45 Message Bible)
And don't wait to be asked. If you see a need jump in and start serving. Do you think a slave asked his Master if he needed help with something? No! He was constantly on alert...watching carefully to see what his master needed.
Recently we were carrying equipment and props into a church building. (a common occurrence with us!) Several young men (about 4 as I recall) were sitting just inside the door. They asked if we needed help. We said it was ok that we could do it. I know I know...we should have said SURE...but we kind of thought it was obvious. I am used to being a "roadie". It's what we do. We carry in, set up, perform, then tear down.
I am not saying we were not at fault. Maybe we should have said we needed help. I am just saying, don't even ask. Just jump up and start helping. I believe that after awhile you will begin to understand this verse more than you have ever understood it.
Being a slave or a servant, requires work. It requires being uncomfortable. It requires a bit of sweat and strain and inconvenience. But, I believe most of all that it requires watchfulness...attentiveness...,and, especially...copying the Master, who has set the example. Do you know of another Master of slaves who has ever set the example? We have that kind of Master. Let's follow Him!
Several months ago we took some friends on a picnic to Watauga Lake in Elizabethton. It's one of our favorite places and we have had many picnics in that beautiful spot.
I always take a pretty red and white checked table cloth and flowers for the table. If the bush with purple berries is in bloom at the lake, I wait till I get there and break off a couple of branches from that for my "flowers." (I actually bought one of those bushes for my yard many years ago. It's called Beauty Berry, if I remember correctly. There is one that blooms in winter called Winter Berry--with red berries. I want to get one of those too!)
Anyway, back to the picnic: Steve and Cindy Bates went with us on the picnic, and she couldn't get over that I brought flowers for the table. She went on and on about it. I, of course, having done it all these years, did not give it a second thought.
This weekend, the guys went to Cindy and Steve's church in Wise, VA. I couldn't go because I was taking care of Jason's animals while he was in California visiting our Grandson. When they came home, Cindy had sent me a beautiful Begonia already potted! What a treasure! I am sure she figured out how much I liked flowers from the aforementioned picnic, but she had no idea how excited I would be to get this beautiful potted plant.
I sat it beside the back door where I see it every time I go in or out of the house. It reminds me of how God has blessed us with the beauty of flowers, but most of all how He has blessed us with the beauty of friendship. Thanks Cindy.
Just this week, my grandson, Cal, moved into a newly renovated apartment in California. He is thrilled and so am I! No matter how old your children or grand children are you never quit being concerned.
We were talking about that this morning. Cal thought he had a washer and dryer but turns out, the regulations where he lives don't allow one, so he has to go to the laundramat.
That made us start thinking about living in NYC and how we had to go to the laundramat. We had a washer and dryer in one apartment, but only one, and we lived there about 7 different times.
John boy started talking about me walking 8 blocks to do laundry, then coming back to our 4th floor walk up and hauling it up the stairs. (I usually went when they were gone on the weekend.) The building we lived in was a fire hazard too, unlike Cal's brand spanking new digs!
I was laughing about the time I was in a zone (or something) and walked up 5 flights instead of 4! John boy said, "that's like going the extra mile, Mom!"
Maybe so. But when you have to walk up 4 flights of stairs, several times a day, one more flight might make one a little frustrated! When I realized what I had done, I laughed, turned around and walked back down...much easier than going up!
Maybe that's what we should do when someone asks us to go "an extra mile". Instead of feeling frustrated or put upon, we should laugh, and gladly do whatever we can to help out. I can promise you, that the walk after that extra mile, will be much easier and you will feel happier and lighter coming back down the road!
I am sure that most of us have heard the story of the loaves and fishes in the Bible. Actually there were two different occasions where Jesus multiplied loaves and fishes to feed huge crowds of people. (Matthew 14 and Mark 8)
However, have you ever heard of Bread and apples? In II Kings 4 (The Message version) we read the story of Elisha taking 20 loaves of bread and a few apples feeding a hundred people, with leftovers. That's a story we don't hear often.
How many times have you planned to feed a certain amount of people and suddenly there were more people there than you had counted on? When the evening was over, there was enough food for all, and you even had leftovers. In our family we always say "loaves and fishes" when this happens.
From now on, I think I am going to say, "bread and apples."
Diet Doctor Enuf is one of my favorite drinks. The only place you can buy them is Upper East Tennessee - Elizabethton, Johnson City, Kingsport, Bristol, and Erwin.
We have been staying at Appalachian Church camp this weekend, and went to Erwin to get a few groceries. As we were leaving the store, a semi trailer was parked in the parking lot with one man sitting in it all alone. It was a collection site for Goodwill.
When we drove by, John boy said, "I feel like the Lord is telling me to buy that man a drink." We pulled up to the Coke, Pepsi and Dr. Enuf machines, sitting in a row outside the store. John thomas tried the coke machine first. It was out of coke. Then he tried the Pepsi machine. It was out as well. Third try is a charm, right?
He punched every button on the Dr. Enuf machine. The last button produced a Diet Dr. Enuf. The only one left in the machine!
When we took the drink to the man sitting in the back of the trailer, he thanked us, then looked at the label. "Oh good," he said. "It's Diet. I'm a diabetic."
3 machines. 1 drink. Hm-m-m-m!
When I was a little girl and made a face or had a "sour" expression my Mother would say to me..."be careful. Your face may just freeze that way!"
Of course I didn't believe her! Now I do!
Sometimes when I look into the mirror I see that parts of my face have "frozen". Especially my lips!
I told John boy the other day that I think my lips are disappearing! He said "well, Mom, that does happen when you get older!"
As I looked this morning and tried to put lip balm on them (forget lipstick...there isn't enough lip for that!) I noticed that they seem locked into a perpetual "purse".
I looked up purse in the dictionary. Besides being something you carry, it also means "to pucker or contract, typically to express disapproval or irritation."
I remembered all the times I had looked at my boys growing up with disapproval, or irritation....especially in church, of all places! Ask them how many times I reached over and pinched them for misbehaving in church! I also "pursed" my lips while doing so.
Now, 50 plus years later, my face has "frozen". My Mother was right!
Now I have decided to work on unpursing my face! I am going to practice smiling more..looking with approval rather than disapproval or irritation. I am going to try and work on looking for the good in people rather than the things I don't like about them. I am going to try and make my eyes send forth rays of joy rather than storm clouds!
It matters what your face looks like! I don't mean all of us are beautiful...at least on the outside...but all of us can be full of beauty! I used to avoid grouchy old people when I was a child. I want to draw children in! I need to unfreeze my face! Or at least freeze it into something beautiful!
I also want my lips back!
Our bathroom has two lights. One in the ceiling and one over the sink. I never turn on the one over the sink. Tommy always turns the one on over the sink.
There is a very simple reason. The sink light shows everything. The ceiling light mutes everything. Sometimes I actually think I look pretty good when using only the ceiling light! (That was a joke!)
I guess I shouldn't worry too much though. According to an article I read recently in Decision Magazine, I am supposed to be dead! The author of the article was Kenneth Cooper M.D. He stated "In America, the average life expectancy (pre-pandemic) for women was 81 and for men it was 77."
I should be dead! I will be 82 in September! Tommy still has 2 years to go!
SO----the next time I brush my teeth or dry my hair, I may just use the light over the sink! For a corpse, I think I look pretty good!
I have known Cynthia since she was about 14 years old. She always came to our week of church camp in Unicoi, Tennessee. When she was too old to be a camper, she started working as a counselor. We did Senior High camp for 35 years in Unicoi.
As most of us know, friendships come and go. Some friendships last for a season and for whatever reason, people move on and aren't as close as they once were. Some are what we call forever friendships. Those friendships last even if there is time and distance between those friends.
Cynthia is a forever friend. Her friendship is based on loyalty. I can even be hateful to her and treat her in an unloving way, and she is still my friend.
Many years ago, Cynthia studied to be a nurse. This was after she graduated with a teaching certificate and couldn't get a teaching job. Instead of giving up, she just went back to school and got a nursing degree. (BTW--she paid her way both times.)
When it came time for her state board exams, she had to come to Knoxville in order to take them. She lived in Elizabethton and we lived in Knoxville. She asked if she could stay with us. Of course!
The day of her exam, we had to be gone part of the day. While we were out I saw an old cabinet top on the side of the road, so picked it up and brought it home. We had to leave again so I put it in the yard to clean later. When we came in that evening, Cynthia was so proud of herself. "I cleaned the cabinet top for you that was out in the yard!" (She knew the propensity I had for picking up stuff on the side of the road!)
Instead of saying, "Oh, thank you! You are SO thoughtful, Cynthia." I said "Oh no!. What did you use?" She replied that she had just used my dish towels!
What happened next was NOT pretty! I "lit" into her! I bawled her out up one side and down the other!
"WHAT????? How in the world could you do that Cynthia! You know how particular I am about dirt and germs. Now I will have to throw all those dish towels away!" I went on a rant for about 10 min before wearing down! I fumed and stomped and let out several irritated breaths before finally finishing my tirade.
Cynthia never said a word. Just stood there grinning, like she always does.
Later, I told Tommy what I had done. Cynthia had gone home by this time, and I was starting to feel pretty rotten about the whole affair. Tommy said, "Well, did you apologize to her?" I said, "No". He said, "Well???"
So, with a heavy heart I called Cynthia on the phone. I really did NOT want to apologize. I was in the wrong and knew it, but I didn't want to admit it.
When she answered, I started telling her how sorry I was for the way I had treated her. Guess what she did?
She LAUGHED! She said "Oh Pitty Pat (what she calls me). I didn't give it a second thought. I know how you are about dirt and germs. All is forgiven and all is forgotten.
Actually, if she reads this, she probably will say to herself..."I did WHAT???"
FRIENDSHIP - Not a word I take lightly.
We have a Tuesday night Bible study with some of the neighborhood boys and one girl! Last night we talked about the passage in Mark where Jesus calls his disciples. He just walks up to them and says "Follow Me" and they get up and leave everything and follow Him.
We had a lot of fun with the passage. Tommy has us "preach" to each other any thoughts we have and it always makes us laugh. At one point I was preaching and I pointed at two or three and asked the question.."would you leave......(whatever their job is).....to follow Jesus?"
One of our boys is getting ready to graduate high school and go into the Navy. He will be on a submarine. I pointed at him and said, "Thadd, would you leave the military if Jesus came to you and said "Follow Me?"
In his lazy, droll voice he answered..."Unless I was at the bottom of the ocean!"
Of course we all laughed, but I have thought about that a lot. Would I follow Him? I mean truly follow Him, and leave everything behind? Would I follow Him, even if I was at the bottom of the ocean?