Thoughts on life from Pat Oaks
I hesitate to even write this blog. My heart is heavy. I read about people in Nashville being arrested and fined for not wearing a mask...including a homeless man. I go to Walmart to get vitamins, and turn away when I see everyone being herded into one door...each person wearing a mask.
I hear about a friend being verbally attacked when walking into a store because she DARED to come into the store wearing her scrubs. (She is a receptionist at an eye clinic which is not even seeing patients. She merely sits and answers the phone.)
We are all going like sheep to the slaughter, and trust me, there IS a slaughter coming. I told John boy that I wanted to start wearing a yellow star pinned to my clothing, but he said he was afraid our Jewish friends would be upset. I'm not so sure. I think they, of all people, "get it."
When we are with friends, the conversation invariably goes to the covid problem. We tend to focus on the current problem in our world. Finally, someone says, "let's talk about something else," and we do. When we aren't actually out on the streets or in stores, it is much easier to focus on things that are uplifting rather than things that bring us down.
I was starting to get really "down" today after I read about what was happening in Nashville, then I thought of a verse of scripture. (Scripture is what has gotten me through all this craziness!) It is Psalm 20: 7. It goes "something" like this...
"Some trust in face masks and some in hand sanitizer, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God." (Prisha version of the Bible.)
The Bible tells us that Jesus came, not to BE served, but to serve.
We have been studying that with our Tuesday night Discipleship group. It's a small group. Only six boys. We meet every Tuesday night to eat and study the Bible. We have recently been talking about what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus. If we truly want to be like Him, we have to be servants.
A friend of John thomas' who sometimes does gigs with him, also comes. She plays Cello. She asked Tommy and John boy if they would come and cut a tree down for her last week. They did and came back saying her yard needed some work. We decided to put our faith into action and go clean up Kathryn's yard. The boys met at our house and we took the truck and some tools from The Dream Center and drove to Kathryn's.
Tommy started the night with a short lesson about being a servant. (This was after feeding them pizza for fuel!) Then he asked who had not ever used a hedge trimmer. Hands went up and he assigned those boys to be hedge trimmers. He asked the same question about a weed eater, a mower and a sledge hammer! (We did NOT ask who had never used a chain saw!) Then we went to work. We worked until dark, then packed our tools and headed home....a VERY satisfied group of people.
When I look at Wesley, Lake, Joseph, Martin, Zachees, and Allan, I don't see 15 and 16 year old boys. I see great men of God, going forth into this world as servants.
"The greatest among you will be your servant." Matthew 23:11
Years ago, when my grandson Caleb (Cal) was a little boy, he and his parents were visiting our trailer in Elizabethton. His Daddy was building us a deck on the back of the trailer. He needed something from the lumber company which was just one street over behind our house. I said I would walk over and get it.
Cal wanted to go with Prisha (what he calls me), so of course he did! It was cold and he didn't have a coat with him so we put a sweat shirt of Papa's on him and rolled up the sleeves. It came to the tops of his shoes. We put a knit hat on his head and off we went. He was only about 2 years old at the time, so everything he saw on the walk was something to stop and examine.
As we walked in the ditch to get to the other road (we had to go a short way on the highway, and I wanted him far away from the traffic,) he saw some "flowers" that he just had to have for his Prisha. So we stopped while he picked the flowers with his chubby little hands. He held onto them tightly all the way to the lumber company and back to the trailer.
When we got to the trailer we had to find a vase for the flowers before we did anything else.
That was over 20 years ago...actually 22 to be exact. Cal has moved to California now and I haven't seen him, except on face time, for 4 years. But I still have his "flowers," and every time I see them I remember that little hand in mine, walking to the lumber company and stopping to pick flowers on the way
Are weeds flowers? Yes.
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?"