Thoughts on life from Pat Oaks
I had a dream just before I woke this morning. We were living in a parsonage, but not the one in which we are currently living. There were a bunch of people there, much like the recent retreat we had. All of a sudden this new family came in. We had met them years ago, but hadn't seen them in awhile. They walked in right in the middle of all the chaos and announced they had brought us some gifts. They wanted us to open them right then and there! So we did.
They were strange gifts. I don't remember all of them, but one was a copy machine that looked like it had come over on the Mayflower. In order to make copies you had to crank it by hand. Really strange. We tried to make over it, but I guess the guy could tell we weren't all that enthusiastic. Finally he said "well so much for the copy machine!"
As soon as he said that, for some odd reason, I had this overwhelming urge to pray for our country! Trust me, this line of thinking confuses me too, but I am just saying how it went!
I turned away from this guy who had come bearing gifts and said to Tommy, "we need to gather everyone together and ask God if He can find ' ten righteous people' in our land, will He please spare our country." Then I woke up.
Of course I did pray right then that He would spare our country, but even if He doesn't, if God's people will do what they are supposed to do, He will do what He has said He will do.
I started a new book today. It is set in 1725. I thought the first paragraph worthy of quoting in my blog today.
"In a Northern notch of the Adriatic Sea, beyond allegiance to Byzantium or Rome, a thousand-year-old empire was sinking. No one noticed her descent, disguised by centuries of wealth and reputation, like her citizens, living each day behind their carnevale masks. In the years before the republic fell, this was the Venetian way; to make a mystery of everything, to obscure identity and life, never to look too closely at what lay underneath."
I woke this morning with vertigo. This is not a new thing but sometimes it happens more frequently than others. Whenever it happens, it isn't fun.
We have two house guests moving in with us and the guys had to go pick one of them up at a hospital in Kingsport. I was going to go but since I was pretty much out of it, Tommy and John boy went. I had a big crock pot of mixed beans that I put on to cook last night, and had Tommy turn it on again, before he left, planning on having it for supper, since I didn't feel like cooking.
When I finally got up I decided that I would also fix some spaghetti squash and warm up some leftover bison chili I had made a couple of nights ago. I set the table and got ready for Tommy, John boy and Tyler to get back from the hospital.
After they got here, I called them in for supper. Before they got into the kitchen there was a knock at the back door, and four of our neighborhood boys were standing there. We hadn't seen them in a couple of weeks, and one of them actually had the corona virus. They came in looking for John boy, of course.
I pulled the table out, set 4 more places, threw together a salad, and invited them to eat. I knew they would. This has happened before.
About the time we started to pass the food, Tyler had to get up and take a phone call. By the time he got back...all the salad was gone, all the chili, and most of the spaghetti squash! Thank goodness for the pot of beans!
Here is the kicker. I did not know last night that I was going to have a vertigo attack this morning. I knew we would be gone all day picking up Tyler, so I decided to go ahead and have something ready to eat when we got home. I also did not know that 4 hungry teen age boys were going to show up on my door step. The Lord knew though. I am absolutely convinced that God was behind that pot of beans.
During all of the craziness going on in our world right now, I had already decided to boycott several places of business where I have previously shopped. Now I am adding Johnson City Public Library to that list. I don't want to go on a rant and write all the reasons why I am boycotting these places, but if you want to know ask me.
I was going to print what they said in their newsletter today but didn't want to waste my time. Instead I decided to focus on one scripture in the Bible (MSG).
"Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life."
Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things TRUE, NOBLE, REPUTABLE, AUTHENTIC, COMPELLING, GRACIOUS-------the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into His most excellent harmonies."
One of the reasons I work under the bridge is for the stories. Here is one I think will inspire!
We met Russell several years ago under the 640 bypass bridge, where we help serve the homeless on Wednesday night. Russell isn't homeless but lives in low income government housing. He isn't an old man...perhaps in his 30's...but for whatever reason doesn't work. About 2 years ago, he had all the toes removed from one foot. He has lots of health problems and this was the result of diabetes, if I am not mistaken. He is overweight as well, so after the surgery he started riding all over town in a motorized chair.
Yesterday he called John boy and wanted him to meet him at McDonald's for supper. When John thomas got there, Russell walked in! Here is his story.
One day he was sitting on the street in his chair and a man came up to him. He said "pull over, I want to show you something." So Russell pulled over to a bench. The man sat down and rolled up his pants leg, and took off his leg! He said he had lost it in Iraq. He then pulled up the other pants leg, pulled that leg off and said he had lost it in the same battle.
Then he said, "i know you lost all your toes, and I'm sorry. But there is no reason for you to sit in that chair. You need to get up and start walking." Then he put his legs back on and walked away.
Russell sat there for a minute and decided that he needed to stop feeling sorry for himself and get up and walk. So he did! He has been walking ever since!
What's your ailment today?
It has taken me almost 80 years to understand a great truth. ANYTHING can be an idol! We are currently reading Tim Keller's book, "Counterfeit Gods." We are reading it out loud together each evening. All of a sudden, the everyday things that I have always taken for granted as things to make for a happy, fulfilled life, take on a whole new meaning. I think there has been something lurking there, in the background, but it hasn't really pushed it's way forward until recently.
I have always thought big, fine expensive weddings were strange. I have not longed for a huge house or expensive furniture. I have not wanted to indulge myself in expensive clothes or make up. That is not to say I don't like pretty things or fixing myself up, but there is a limit, at least in my mind.
However, it does not matter how big or how small. Anything that pulls you away from the Lord is an idol. To think that anything can make you happy other than following Jesus, is an idol. Now I am wondering why it has taken this long to finally "sink in." Or has it?
I still get "down" when I think of family members who don't know the Lord. I occasionally fret (just a tad) about when all this virus stuff is going to end. I still get angry each time I hear some new, stupid thing some politician has said. I still like pretty things. I like to "fix" my house up. I like to make it warm and inviting.
John boy made the comment the other day when we were talking about this, that it doesn't say "could" you give up everything to follow Jesus. We are called to follow Him period. The rich young ruler was told to sell everything He had and give it to the poor and come follow Him. That's hard. Giving my "stuff" away is hard. Why is that? Because all of my "stuff" has become an idol. I worship at it daily.
For some reason, I have been hearing about a lot of people who fight depression recently. Many look to artificial stimulants to overcome the depression. That only makes it worse, but by the time they figure that out, they are addicted.
Tommy once told a story in one of his sermons years ago, that has stuck with me.
A woman came to a preacher and told him she was fighting depression. He started meeting with her for counseling. One week when she was supposed to come, he told her he had to stop at the hospital and visit and pray with some people. He asked her if she would like to meet him there and then they could go back to the church for their session. She surprisingly agreed.
When they got to the hospital, he decided to divide the visits with her. He told her to just ask if the people needed anything and to pray with them, then handed her her half and they parted.
About an hour or so later they met up again in the parking lot. The woman said "oh preacher. What a wonderful day this has been! I can't remember when I have felt so alive and so joyful!"
The preacher said "well, praise God! We have found the cure for your depression."
The woman got very quiet. Then she said, "you don't expect me to do this every week do you?"
When I was a little girl, Fountain City was inundated with Mimosa trees. My sister, Teresa, and I called the pink blossoms powder puffs...hence, the Powder Puff trees! I don't think I knew it was called a Mimosa until I was much older.
We had one in our backyard that was quite large. It was large enough that my Daddy built me a tree house in it. I spent at least part of every summer day in my tree house. Of course I stayed in it through the fall as well, as long as the weather permitted.
I don't recall the dreams I had in that treehouse. I just know I had them. I loved books, so spent a lot of time reading in my tree house....books like "Little Women," "Little House on the Prairie," and "Secret Garden." "Girl of the Limberlost" and "Freckles" were also on that list, along with every single Nancy Drew mystery ever written.
I do believe I thought I could write like the authors of those books, and one dream I did have was that I would become a famous author. My first poem was written in that tree house. It wasn't written in the summer or the fall, so I guess I was spending the spring in there as well! Truth be told, I probably climbed up in the winter!
Today, we walked along the Tennessee river on a beautiful trail here in Knoxville that had powder puff trees everywhere you looked. As it always does when I see one of those trees, my mind, my heart and my sense of smell went back to Fountain City Tennessee in the 1940's.
My first poem...
Spring is in the air.
Birds are singing everywhere.
Butterflies and bees,
Flowers and trees.
At night, with the cool breezes blowing and the bright stars glowing
The moon waits for the sun to rise, as it brightly shines up in the skies.
Morning is come! Hear the hummingbirds hum?
Dew is on the ground.
Birds wake up from their nests made of down.
Can't you tell it?
Can't you smell it?
SPRING is in the air.
What were we doing before the world spun out of control, and all of us tumbled down the rabbit hole with Alice?
We were doing what we always do. We were getting up, going to work, going to the store, cooking meals, doing the dishes, changing the sheets. All of the things that make up our days here on this planet. Matthew talks about people doing that very thing when the Son of Man arrives back here for the second time. In Matthew 24 we are told to be vigilant because none of us knows when the Son of Man's arrival will be. One version says, "we have no idea when the Son of Man is going to show up."
Sometimes I think I am more afraid of all the stuff going on around me than I am of the Son of Man coming back. If I let all of what is going on around me scare me, and all I focus on are those circumstances surrounding me, and I don't stay watchful for the Son of Man's return, then that will be far scarier than the corona virus.
The Master is going to show up when we least expect Him. It would do us good then to focus on His return rather than the plight our nations seems to be in at the time. We would do well to listen to Alice.
"It's no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then." (Alice)
"Who in the world am I? Ah that's the great puzzle.."(Alice)
"If everybody minded their own business, the world would go around a great deal faster than it does." (The Duchess, Alice in Wonderland.)
"Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." (The White Queen, Alice Through the Looking Glass.)
All of us can wish for things to go back as they were before March and the Corona Virus, but we can't go back..
We need to decide who we are. Are we children of the most high God or are we just pawns on a chess set?
Through all of this I have wished time and again that all the politicians and media would just mind their own business. But since I am pretty sure they won't, I need to go on to the next quote and try to imagine 6 impossible things before breakfast!
I had an e mail from a neighbor who lived next door to me for 16 years on Crestwood Road in Fountain City, Tennessee. She lives in Kentucky now, but every time we write each other one of us or the other (sometimes both) talk about "when we lived on Crestwood," and how "you are the best neighbor I have ever had."
Not only was Crestwood Rd. a wonderful street to live on, we had wonderful neighbors! All of us were friends. All of us looked out for each other. We even blocked off our street at Halloween so the the kids could run back and forth from house to house safely.
But none was as good as Swannee who lived only a few feet away from me. Hardly a day went by that we didn't cross that little patch of grass to each others back door. Whether it was to borrow something or just pass the time of day, we always seemed to gravitate toward each other at some point during the day.
For some reason, we call each other "Margaret." One day she called me on the phone . She said "It's me, Margaret!" From then on, we called each other Margaret! One day I called and Tom answered. (Tom was her husband and has since gone on to be with the Lord.) I asked for Margaret. I heard him say..."hey Margaret. It's Margaret."
Swannee (Margaret) has a birthday this month. When I mailed her card, all kinds of feelings washed over me. Birthdays that I had on Crestwood, when I would walk outside in the morning and a huge potted mum would be sitting on my picnic table. Other mornings, when it was no special occasion, and I would walk out the door and see a half of a watermelon sitting in the chair, or a half of a cantaloupe. Some days a box of strawberries. One day a box of spring rolls! Don't ask me why she chose spring rolls, but those were the best spring rolls I have ever had! I started buying them at Kroger until they quit carrying them! It figures!
I thought of a scripture this morning that goes along with the story of the two Margarets. It's found in Luke 11:5 (The Message Bible)
"Imagine what would happen if you went to a friend in the middle of the night and said, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread. An old friend traveling through just showed up and I don't have a thing on hand.' The friend answers from his bed, 'Don't bother me. The door's locked; my children are all down for the night; I can't get up to give you anything.' But let me tell you, even if he won't get up because he's a friend, if you stand your ground, knocking and waking all the neighbors, he'll finally get up and get you whatever you need."
THIS Margaret knows for a fact, that my friend, Margaret, would have gotten up on the first knock. She not only would have given me bread, but everything I needed left over from her supper so I could feed my traveling friend a sumptuous meal!