Thoughts on life from Pat Oaks
Our younger son, Jason, who goes by Amos in the art world (his middle name that was given in honor of his great grandfather Amos Benfield) recently had an art show. The title of the show was "Cicada" and all of the paintings were just beautiful!
As a part of the show, he and his brother wrote an original piece of music and Jason Amos read a poem he had written while the music was played by some incredible musicians. The instruments were a keyboard, Moog, cello, upright bass, and violin.
There was quite a crowd there for the show, which was held in his friend Brian's beautiful home - the historic Temple-Pittman House. As we stood there listening to the music and hearing Jason...Amos read his poem, I was transported back to my childhood in Fountain City. On a summer night, the cicadas were so loud sometimes that you could hardly hear each other talk. Of course we always called them katydids. I kept my eyes shut through most of the performance and just "lived" in my childhood once again.
One of his paintings was just the shell of the cicada, which is shed and left on a tree. My brother and I used to take them and chase my sister with them. She would run from us terrified! We thought it was hilarious. That memory popped up as I stood there and I smiled to myself.
We had green rockers on our front porch and Mother would sit out there on a summer night and sing or say poems to us, while the katydids sung and said poems of their own.
Oh to go back to those summer nights of my childhood and hear my Mother quote once more! "Backward turn backward oh time in your flight. Make me a child again....just for tonight." - Elizabeth Akers Allen
Top image: Cicada No. 3 . oil on wood panel . 48" x 48". Bottom image: Cicada No. 10 . oil on wood panel . 12" x 12" . 2020 Amos Oaks
Last night was bitter cold under the bridge! I want to say it was the coldest night ever, but I tend to forget the other cold nights. Every part of my body hurt, I was so cold. I just cannot imagine the people we serve down there on Wednesday night, sleeping outdoors. I watched many of them trudge away into the darkness, carrying their "stuff" and wondered why there are so many people who live on the street.
I also started laughing to myself, because I remembered the nights in the summer that were so hot I could hardly breathe. It is also much more smelly on a summer night. Am I never satisfied? At least I have a clean bed in which to sleep!
When I was a little girl in the 1940's there were lots of what we called hobos, but most of them were on the road looking for work. I remember my Mother fixing a plate for someone and them sitting on the steps at the back door eating. They were always so grateful.
As we were packing up to leave last night, a man came up to John Thomas and our prayer man, Sam. The man was drunk. He asked for help. Sam told him that they couldn't help him but knew someone who could: Jesus. He said he knew all about Jesus because he had gone to Bible College. According to him, Jesus had not helped him. Sam said, well that's the only person who can help you. John boy started talking to him and he started crying. He said that he couldn't get free of the "booze." John boy told him he would pray that he would lose the desire for it and he prayed right then. We will continue to pray.
One of the reasons there are so many homeless is addiction. Many do not believe they can get better. They want a quick fix. They won't look to the only one who is able to fix them. If they do go into a recovery facility, they are usually back on the street after a month, and the cycle starts again.
I am sure that some of the hobos of my youth had an alcohol problem as well, but they were also trying to find work. I could get on a soap box about this, because a lot of the homeless are young and healthy.
My prayer daily is for revival in our city, and I pray it starts in our homeless community.
This word is not in the dictionary. It should be. I have always been scared of germs. I could have been wealthy today if I had patented my hand sanitizer! I used to carry an old Mennen aftershave squirt bottle full of alcohol when my boys were young. If they got their hands the least bit dirty, they got squirted.
When we were in campus ministry, we were on a retreat once, and one of the boys got sick. He threw up all night. The other kids kept coming to me to have their hands squirted with rubbing alcohol. They told me that they would never make fun of my squirt bottle of alcohol again if none of them got sick. None of them did.
I was known for carrying that little bottle everywhere I went. This was way before hand sanitizer came on the market. Oh! How rich I'd be...had I been the one to "discover" hand sanitizer!
I said all the above just to show you how I try to avoid germs. Now I will tell you what I do during the week every week. I work in some of the nastiest situations you could imagine! We work in a warehouse with food that comes in every week. It then goes out on a food truck to various locations. Recently we have had a mouse infestation. UGH! Not only do I have to deal with mouse pee and poop, I feel like I am inhaling it as well! We go from there to work on a food truck, with nasty boxes which have been who knows where. At night we go to youth group.
Last night we had a new boy at youth group, and at one point he walked outside the gym and threw up! Right in front of the door! Why he couldn't walk a couple of steps more, I don't know. Paul (preacher) and Tommy carried buckets of water and washed it away, then Tommy poured disinfectant over the spot.
We came home, put all our clothes in the wash and got a hot shower.
Do you ever wonder at the Lord's sense of humor? I think He has one! Why would someone who hates germs end up working in a germ infested situation? Perhaps to take me down a notch or two. I don't know. I DO know that I love it! I love every aspect of our work.
If you are in Knoxville on a Tuesday or Wednesday, come and go with us. You will definitely get dirty and it will be dirt with lots of germs. But you will come away saying, "that was the most fun I have had in a long time."
Reporting for duty
I have so many thoughts whirling in my mind today. As I walk through this gift of a house that we have been blessed with, I always say thank you to the Lord. Always. Not just occasionally. I am so thankful to Paul and Charity who allowed us to move in here, and am especially thankful to the Lord for putting it into their minds in the first place.
I know that a house is not essential to happiness. I think I have mentioned in my blog before how convenient it is to go to work at the Lost Sheep Warehouse and to the church and the gym. We walk out our back door and can be at any of these places in about one minute. This morning Rod called and asked if we were coming to the warehouse today. I told him we would be there shortly to "report for duty." I don't see it as reporting for duty though. I see it as a gift from God. I am always blessed when I "go to work" at the warehouse, or the gym or the church building. Not only am I blessed by the work, I am blessed by the other people who are also there to work.
I sometimes picture the people who will receive the clothing, food, blankets and other things that go out from the warehouse. I pray that they will be blessed and in turn bless someone else.
The road we all choose to travel each day, might be filled with danger and sadness. It might also be filled with blessing and joy. I pray that whatever you encounter this day will be filled with blessing and joy. And if you encounter danger and sadness, I pray that you will just keep "reporting for duty", knowing that "weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning." Psalm 30:5
I have a great story for today, so don't miss it! We had prayer day at the camp in Unicoi, then came back to the trailer and had church on Sunday morning. We like having house church and everyone is encouraged to contribute something. When Annette had her turn, she told a wonderful story, which I have permission to repeat.
She said that her sister Deb came in from work the other day and asked her if she could fix some food for her to take to work the next day. Annette decided to fix something in the crock pot because it was easy. She planned on turning it on low when she went to bed, but then read that it only took 4 hours so she was afraid that would be too long.
As she walked into her bedroom that night she casually said "Lord it sure would be nice if You woke me up in the night so I could turn the crock pot on." Then her second thought was "how silly. He has better things to do than that."
She went to bed telling herself that surely she would wake up.
Sometime in the night, she was awakened by a crash somewhere in the house. She got up to investigate and a skillet had fallen off the drain board in the kitchen. She looked at the time and it was about 2 in the morning....4 hours before they got up to go to work. She turned the crock pot on and went back to bed.
All of a sudden it hit her! Why did that skillet fall off the drain board at 2 in the morning? It didn't wake Deb. Why did it wake her? She hated to admit it, but it took her awhile to conclude that the Lord had caused it to fall and had also caused her to wake up.
We are told to pray about everything, all the time. But a crock pot?
We had prayer day this Saturday. We have it once a month at the church camp where Tommy and I worked as counselors for 35 years. It's a Holy place to us, and the ground is Holy ground.
I always come away from prayer day with renewed zeal and perspective not only on prayer but on life itself.
Tommy always sends us off to ourselves for a time of reflection and prayer. As I was sitting by myself, I was reading in I Timothy. This happens to be where I am in my daily Bible reading. Chapter 2, Verse 1-3 (MSG) reads: "The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live."
So often I just want to fuss and fume about our leaders. God says that the first thing we should do is pray for them. I always find myself saying "all we can do is pray," as if prayer is the last resort. I have changed that to "the best thing I can do is pray."
My prayer for you today is for you to pray every way you know how so that you can go quietly about your business and live simply in humble contemplation.
We went to visit Maxine today. She is the person who started Lost Sheep Ministry over 30 years ago. She is in a nursing home outside Knoxville. It is hard for me to see this once vibrant, go getter woman, just lying in a bed sleeping. This is what she does now most of the time. Only 3 short years ago she and I were out on the streets of Knoxville looking for "our girls." (This is what we called the girls who "work the streets" of Knoxville.) Every week for several years we drove around looking for these precious girls.
Someone once said to me, "what do you say to a prostitute? I wouldn't know what to say." My answer? "Hi_______!" (you fill in the blank.) "How are you doing today.? Need anything? Are you hungry? We have snacks. Do you need any hygiene stuff? We have that too. Need prayer for anything.?" We could definitely supply that! And, most of them did want prayer. During those years, we learned over 50 girls names. I still have some of those names on my refrigerator. Many of their stories are in a couple of my books.
i spoke at a women's meeting in Virginia a couple of years ago, and they wanted me to tell a little bit about our ministry here in Knoxville. I started out by saying I work with people who smell bad, who drink, smoke and do drugs and who sell their bodies to get those drugs. But honestly? I had rather be out there with them than here in this room with all of you who not only had a bath before you came but are clean every other way as well.
Maxine didn't wake up while we were there, so we prayed for her and left. We prayed that the Lord would take her into His arms soon. When she makes it to the other shore, I am sure she will start looking for some of the girls she looked for and loved here on this planet. I can picture that reunion! They will run to her with arms open wide!
John boy wanted me to tell you a joke today. There is a story behind it.
One day he came in and said "hey Mom, What did one frog say to the other frog?" I said "I don't know." He said, "Time's fun when you're having flies."
That afternoon, we were walking in our neighborhood and I said, "Hey Tommy, want to hear the joke John boy told me earlier?" He said yes, so I said,
"What did one frog say to the other frog?" He said "I don't know." I said "Time's fun when you're having frogs."
He gave me a blank stare while I was bent over laughing. John boy just looked at me and said "you messed up the punch line Mom."
Since then we have decided that my version is funnier.
Jason called this afternoon to just say thank you. He has been through a rough patch and he wanted us to know he was grateful to us for being there through it all. Thankfully, he is on the other side and in a happier, more joyful place, thanks to the intervention of the Holy Spirit.
I told him that that is what we were here for, and we would always have his back.
Life sometimes does throw a curve ball. A curve ball is harder to hit out of the park (I am told). Some of the most famous home runs have been curve balls. Baseball fans could probably talk all day about curve balls knocked out of the park.
Why does that happen? One reason is that the player has a good coach. Another is that he anticipates a curve ball and is ready for it. We don't always see a curve ball coming until it is almost upon us. However, if we suspect that somewhere in the game one will be thrown, then our reaction is much quicker.
We don't always know in life when a curve ball is going to be thrown . But if we listen to our coach and we anticipate that somewhere down the road, it is bound to happen, then we will be ready. We might not always hit a home run. In fact, we may strike out. But every time we go to bat, it helps us to know that there is always another pitch coming and this could be the big winner. It could be the home run that wins the game!
So keep practicing. Keep listening to the coach. And stay alert for that curve ball.
A whole village
Do you ever wonder why we humans get "down" and "depressed?" It doesn't happen to me a lot, but it does happen. Most of the time it happens when the guys are on the road and I see a long weekend stretching before me. When they are home, we rarely have a minute where we aren't doing something.
When that thought came to me, immediately the answer to my question of why we get depressed came to me. Solitude. We humans aren't meant to be alone. Even in jail, solitary confinement is dreaded. Why would someone prefer being with inmates where their life could even be in danger, to a cell that they have all to themselves 24 hours a day?
We were meant to be in community. A tribe, as Tommy would say. There is an old saying that goes, "It takes a whole village to raise a child." The origin is a mystery, but some say it is attributed to an Igbo and Yoruba proverb, whatever that is! Others say it originated in an ancient African proverb. Still others believe it came from a Native American Tribe. Wherever it came from, I like it.
When I was a little girl, I rode my bicycle from sunup to sundown, all over our neighborhood. All of the children in my neighborhood did that. Our boys did that. Jason had a signal with his buddies. One would stand out in the road and make a grunting noise. I can't describe it, but could do it for you next time I see you! Today, we don't dare let our children roam the neighborhood like that. While we were out and about, we also did not do stuff that would make it back to our parents. If we did do something, we tried our best not to get caught because as sure as we did, our parents found out from one of the other parents.
No one dares do that today! If misbehavior is reported to a child's parents, immediately the parents go into defensive mode! (This is not always true, but it is the rule rather than the exception.) I wonder what would happen if the whole village decided they had a responsibility to "raise" a child. It might not be a good thing, but my belief is that we might just be surprised. I would like to think that the wisdom of a whole village is superior to the wisdom of just one or two people.
Just know if you come to my house and your children misbehave and you don't correct them, I just might! Remember....it takes a whole village!
This painting can be purchased by following this link.