Thoughts on life from Pat Oaks
SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES…
is the title of an old Disney movie. It’s also a book by Ray Bradbury who got the quote from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. I don’t remember the movie at all, but have remembered the title for years.
This is how I feel most days now. I told someone the other day that we should prepare ourselves and be ready for whatever is headed our way. I don’t mean stockpile food, but have a backpack, packed and ready by the door. I think they call them "go bags" in the military.
Now, I think I am changing my tune. I read something in Psalm 11 today that made me think I should not, and need not run.
Psalm 11:1 (The Message Bible)
I’ve already run for dear life
straight to the arms of God,
So why should I run away now
when you say,
'Bows are bent, the wicked arrows
aimed to shoot under cover of darkness
at every heart open to God.
The bottom’s dropped out of the country,
Good people don’t have a chance?”
But God hasn’t moved to the mountains;
His holy address hasn’t changed.
He’s in charge, as always, His eyes taking everything in, his eyelids
Unblinking, examining Adam’s unruly brood
inside and out, not missing a thing.
He tests the good and the bad alike;
If anyone cheats, God’s outraged.
Fail the test and you’re out,
out in a hail of firestones,
Drinking from a canteen
filled with hot desert wind.
God’s business is putting things right;
He loves getting the lines straight,
Setting us straight. Once we’re standing tall,
we can look Him straight in the eye.
This story has absolutely no point…no ending for you to take away with you and make you think for the next days and weeks ahead….no moral whatsoever.. Just a fun story.
When I was a little girl, we would go to Virginia to visit my grand parents. They lived about a hundred miles from us. Invariably while we were driving up the road, and we came upon a white horse, my Daddy would say “see a white horse..see a red headed woman.” Then he would glance in the back seat at my little red headed sister and say “well, there she is!” Of course my sister loved that and none of us ever got tired of his little joke.
We passed a white horse the other day and I told Tommy and John boy that story. They asked if it was an old tale and did I know where it came from, so I looked it up. It is actually an old superstition and the New York Times wrote about it in the 19th and early 20th century. The only difference is that Daddy had it backwards. If you see a red headed woman, then you will see a white horse.
The funny part of the story is that the day after I told them that story, we were watching Charles Dickens David Copperfield. It’s a mini series we got from the library. At one point David is sent to live with a man who has a servant with red hair. The servant is a man. David arrives in a horse drawn carriage and the horse is white. After David goes into the house, the red haired servant goes out to pet the horse.
As I said…no big revelations here, just an interesting story. Sometimes quirky things like that happen and it makes me wonder why…Why did I tell that story to the guys? Why did we see the red haired man and the white horse the very next day in a movie?. Who knows?
Read about this myth by clicking this link:
On most Wednesday nights, you will find me under the bridge of the 640 overpass in Knoxville. By the end of December, it is usually bitter cold. Not last night! It felt like spring! It had gotten up to 60 degrees yesterday and it didn’t feel much cooler than that last night.
For the past month our cook at Lost Sheep Ministry has been sick, so we have been passing out sack lunches on Wednesday, along with blankets, toiletries and last night, warm hats, scarves and gloves.
I was passing out the sack lunches last night, with a new volunteer, Kim. The crowd wasn’t as large, so some people got 2 and even 3 lunches. For some reason, we got more thank you's than usual. As one older lady walked through, she took her lunch from Kim, walked past her, looked straight at me and gave me the best compliment I believe I have ever had in my life.
She said, “thank you Miss Maxine.” If it had been 16 degrees (and it has been before) instead of 60 I would have immediately warmed up.
In that moment, I thought two things. First of all…Maxine has not been forgotten. Second….if someone had said, “thank you Mother Teresa” I could not have felt more complimented.
I hope that Maxine heard that interchange “down under the bridge” as she always used to say, and that she somehow knows that people still love and remember the woman who started this ministry almost 30 years ago. I am proud to have been mistaken for her!
My dear friend of over 54 years died this week.
The last time I saw her she didn’t know me. Then the shut downs happened because of the virus, so I haven’t seen her since March.
I met Ramona at the first church Tommy and I served in Meadowview, Virginia. We started going there when Tommy was in college. It was about 3 and a half hours from the college, and every weekend we drove up to preach. When he graduated we moved there.
Ramona loved children but didn’t have any of her own. Finally, in April, 1969 she adopted Andrea. In November, 1968, John Thomas was born. Once when Andrea and John boy were about a year old, I made them matching outfits and we took them to one of those photograph places you used to see everywhere…the mall, grocery stores, K Mart…you name it. John thomas, of course, threw a fit, but we finally got the picture. I think I threatened him with severe punishment if he didn’t smile! So he did! ( John boy called Andrea, Annea and to this day that’s what we call our sweet girl!)
I had always heard that you couldn’t have “best friends” if you served in a church. I had one. Ramona. We could talk about anything, and we did. Even after we left Meadowview, I could call Ramona and it was as if we had just seen each other the day before.
I have so many funny stories about her. She used to say she was going to end up in a mental facility because her Mother had some problems and she just knew that’s how she would end up. She did. However, we laughed about it at the time. I told her I would probably have the room beside her.
She called me once and told me she wanted to tear down the outhouse (privy) at her Mother’s house and she couldn’t get anyone to help. Would I come? Of course! So the boys and I drove to Meadowview and she and Annea and Christopher, whom she also adopted and was about the age of my Jason, met us at her Mother’s house to tear down the infamous outhouse! What fun we had! It wasn’t as easy as we had thought, but we did it. At one point the kids all came running out from inside the outhouse yelling “there are dirty words written all over the walls in here!”
Of course there were! Ramona had 3 brothers!
Ramona was a wonderful cook. We often ate at each other’s house and when we ate at her house, it was always special. Once they came to eat at the parsonage with us and I had spaghetti…out of a box and out of a jar. I also had bought garlic bread, not homemade like she would have had. Her husband’s name was J.R. She and I called him Jamie. Jamie went on and on about how delicious my spaghetti was. Finally Ramona said, “Jamie, if you say one more word about her spaghetti out of a box and a jar, you won’t get banana pudding for a year." He hushed.
Ramona was the organist at the church in Meadowview and one Sunday a man sang a solo who couldn’t sing. Everyone in the church knew he couldn’t sing, but he didn’t and he loved to sing! About half way through his solo, I looked up at Ramona and had to get up and take John boy out, pretending he was disturbing.
Another time, we had a quartet in to sing a special. They were from another church and were really awful. This time Ramona was sitting in the back with Andrea, and I was also back there with John boy. He started to “disturb” again, so I got up and left. About 2 minutes later, here came Ramona with Andrea. She was almost crying she was laughing so hard. She said “I thought I was going to have to pinch Andrea to get out of there!” We just walked on down to the parsonage with our” misbehaving" children and hung out there till church was over!
She also got me into writing. She had several stories published and she encouraged me to do the same, so I did.
Right now, looking back, I am wishing I had kept a journal through the years about our friendship. Ours was a friendship that when you try to write about it and share it with someone else, it just doesn’t come to life like it does in your mind. MY mind is like an old slide show of slides from 50 plus years.
—the night Tommy was performing a marriage ceremony in Ramona’s living room for one of her wild and crazy brothers (and they were!) and the doorbell rang right in the middle. I was closest to the door so went to get it before the person on the other side rang it again. It was the paper boy and in a loud voice he said “COLLECT!” That same night, Ramona was in charge of hitting the record button on the tape recorder and instead hit “play”. All of a sudden, loud, blaring music started, that was NOT wedding music!
-the time I went by her house because her Mother had died, and her brother David yelled at me as I was driving away. He was behind the hedge waving his pants in the air!
-the time her brother Joe took me on a wild ride on the back of his huge motor cycle. I was terrified and we only went around the block.
-all the phone calls through the years when one of us would call and the other would invariably say..”I was just thinking of you!”…and we were.
-all the stories of our children we shared. She wanted children so badly and no one loved their children more than she did. She tried to be such a good Mother and was. She was almost too good, because they got away with a lot! She cherished each and every moment with them.
Once, when Christopher was very small, she was up on a ladder in the living room painting. Someone started ringing the door bell. When she finally climbed down off the ladder, sat the paint down and went to the door, it was Christopher. She was SO angry, she just “lit” into him. “Christopher, I was up on a ladder. I was painting. You can open the door. Why are you standing here ringing the doorbell."
Christopher’s eyes filled up with tears and from behind his back he pulled a pitiful little bouquet of flowers he had picked for her. Immediately Ramona said, “Oh Christopher! I am so sorry. That was very mean and hateful of me. Can we do this over?”
Immediately little Christopher smiled a huge smile and nodded. Ramona, shut the door, went back inside and actually picked up her paint can and climbed back onto the ladder. When the doorbell rang, she climbed down, sat the can down, opened the door and with a huge smile said ,”why Christopher! What a surprise! What are YOU doing here!”
Tommy uses that story in sermons. He says he wishes we could all get a do over like that.
I could keep going, but I think you get the picture. When I called Ramona I always said the same thing…”Romina, Romina, my sweet Romina!” (from Andy Griffith)
When I heard she died I said “oh Romina Romina, my sweet Romina.” Then I asked the Lord to receive my wonderful friend unto Himself. I love you Romina, Romina, my sweet Romina.
P.S. As I was sitting in the room where they had Ramona’s body, her youngest nephew came in with a blanket. Ramona had made him promise to wrap her feet when she died so that her “piggies” wouldn’t get cold. I watched while the funeral director took the flowers off and raised the lid at the bottom of the casket. Then this sweet nephew carefully wrapped her feet. It was a tender moment.
Many years ago I got this cute little Charlie Brown tree. I don’t even
remember where I got it. It has about 6 branches sticking out and came with one red bulb. I have always thought it was so cute, so I put it out every year.
Last night when we went under the bridge, Tommy asked if I could take the tree and a string of battery powered lights, so I did. We are only serving sack lunches until after Christmas, so we are in and out pretty quickly.
We got there last night before the food truck so it was pitch black. I noticed that some of the people were back, who had been camping down there when the city demolished their camps. No one had a campfire (yet) but I saw several flashes of flash lights every now and then. It looked so sad and lonely.
After the truck pulled in and we got the lunches, blankets, sox, candles, matches and toiletries unloaded, everyone got into line to wait. We didn’t have a sound system since we would be in and out quickly, so Tommy yelled that we were going to have the official “UNDER THE BRIDGE LIGHTING OF THE TREE 2020.” He had everyone count down from 10 and I pushed the button on my little string of lights. Then we sang “Joy To The World.”
I wish all of you could have been there to see the change on everyone’s faces when we lit that pitiful little Charlie Brown Tree! Even with the pole lights we take down there, when you are in line, it gets darker the further you go down the line. When I hit the button, it seemed to light up everyone’s faces. Where there had been sad looks before, everyone was smiling and even laughing out loud. They all participated in the singing and several wanted a hug from me. (Yes, I still hug people.)
After the lighting I sat the tree on the food table so that everyone could enjoy it as they got their food. One guy looked at me with a big smile and said “I love Charlie Brown!”
What a night! When I walked back into my warm, cozy house to all the Christmas lights and decorations I thought, this is pretty, but I wouldn’t have missed the official “UNDER THE BRIDGE LIGHTING OF THE TREE 2020” for all the fancy decorations in all of the fancy houses in the world.
I had so much food left from the trailer tear down that I haven’t had to go to the grocery store for quite a while. Yesterday we went. Our friend Awesome Audrey, as we call her, sent us a Food City gift card! It’s so much fun to go grocery shopping when you don’t feel like you are spending money, even though SOMEONE had to spend money! (Thank you Awesome!)
I couldn’t believe all the parking lots at the stores! They were so full we had to drive around a bit to find a parking spot! I went into a couple of stores and ended up putting my items back because the lines were so long and I didn’t want to stand in them.
We knew the interstate would be crowded so we took a back road to West Town. It’s the road that goes by the old mental institution that we called Lyons View when I was a girl. It’s on Lyons View Pike. Now that property is a beautiful park. We pulled off and drove around the grounds. It has several walking trails so we are going back soon and walk it. The drive out was relaxing so I wasn’t prepared for all the crowds in the stores!
My question is, are we more susceptible to COVID when we are in church? I pray for our preacher Paul and his wife Charity, every day. I am so afraid they are going to get discouraged. We only had about 20 in church Sunday and for prayer meeting Sunday night, only 4.
Tommy is currently working on a sermon about being careful about distancing ourselves from others. I am not saying be stupid, but I guess my question comes back to “why should we stay away from church gatherings, but not be one bit afraid to go into a crowded store where no one is social distancing?”
They say you have to stay 6 feet apart, but no one does. They have lines on the floor at the checkout where you are supposed to stand, but no one does. I see clerks working with masks around their chins, and customers walking around the same way.
None of this bothers me, because I don’t wear a mask and haven’t from the beginning. What bothers me is the church building sits empty while Walmart and Kroger and Food City and Hobby Lobby and Home Depot and Lowe’s, look like a bee hive in the middle of summer.
Just some food for thought.
The place was doomed. Not only had crooked politicians taken over, but evil politicians. Politicians who cared only for themselves. They cared not one iota for all of the people they swore to protect. Yet, some of those same people were rallying around these evil politicians bantering signs that read….”WE WILL BE GREAT AGAIN.” and “LET’S MAKE A LEADER. “ALL FOR ONE AND ONE FOR ALL.” You’ve seen the signs. You’ve heard the speeches. Speeches that say that the people now in office have ruined everything and how only the people you see before you can make it right again.
All the while those speeches were being given and as those signs waved in the air, there was burning and pillaging and destruction going on. Pure chaos reigned only blocks away.
What am I talking about? Oh! I thought you knew. We watched the Christmas Batman and Penguin and Catwoman last night. Filmed in the 1980’s. (The title is Batman Returns in case you are interested.) After Penguin accepted the nomination for mayor, he walked away muttering…”It’s not about power. It’s about reaching out to people. Touching people. Groping people!”
Later Penguin tells Batman, “just relax. I’ll take care of the squealing, wretched pinhead puppets of Gotham. You gotta admit, I played this stinkin’ city like a harp from hell."
What are you thankful for? What makes you happy? What brings you joy? All questions all of us need to ask ourselves continually.
I was under the bridge last night, where I am every Wednesday night. The homeless population was down this night…the night before Thanksgiving. Maybe it was because the week before we had announced that we would only have sack lunches. Our cook at Lost Sheep is sick and hasn’t been able to fix the hot, sit down meal that we usually have.
The girl who answers the phone at the warehouse tested positive for covid, so they sent all the workers home. They didn’t have anyone to cook the hot dogs and stuff the sack lunches, so they called us to come and do it. They already had the bags out….300. Each bag got two hot dogs, which had not been cooked. .
Anyway, I digress. While I was under the bridge last night, John boy, who always plays and sings, was singing “Mary Did You Know”. I noticed one of the homeless girls with her eyes shut swaying to the music with her hands uplifted. She didn’t know the words, but would mouth “Mary did you know,” when John boy got to that part. She looked totally and completely happy and at peace. This girl has a lot of mental problems. Not sure if the street has taken it’s toll on her or what, but she definitely has problems. Yet…she always seems happy and she always thanks me for food that I did not buy and most of the time did not prepare. Very few down there DO say thanks.
As I left the cold of the bridge for the warmth of the car and later a hot shower, I kept thinking about this girl and how happy she seemed. I told Tommy about it and he sent me this quote by Mother Teresa:
Born in Serbia of Albanian parents on August 26th 1910, Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu became a nun, at first in Ireland and then at Darjeeling in north-east India, where she adopted the name Teresa. She longed for permission to move outside the convent walls to work with the poorest of the poor in India. She received permission to teach in Calcutta (now Kolkata), and began to work among the slums of the city in 1948. In 1950 she established the Missionaries of Charity along with twelve other sisters; it grew to include over 4,000 sisters.
She became universally known as Mother Teresa, and in later years she received great recognition and various ‘peace prizes’. At the same time she challenged all kinds of people to compassion and discipleship through her media exposure. ‘Do you know and love the poor,’ she asked. ‘If you do not know them, how can you love them?’ She remained radiant throughout, and commented pragmatically, ‘The surest way to preach Christianity to the pagan is by our cheerfulness, our happiness. What would our life be if the Sisters were unhappy? We would do the work, but we would attract nobody.’ She went to her reward in heaven on September 5th 1997.
I often see the homeless joyful and happy. Sometimes I go down under the bridge or out on the street and i am not so happy. In fact, there are times I don’t want to go. I always come away happier than when I went though.
John boy said when he got under the bridge last night, he spoke to a man and asked how he was. The man immediately replied…”couldn’t ask for anything more, brother.”
What are you thankful for? What makes you happy? What brings you joy? Can you say today “I couldn’t ask for anything more?"
Some people may be wondering what in the world they have to be thankful for this year…2020. A strange year indeed. It seems as if bad news is permeating our country. Sometimes I wonder why I just keep getting up every day and going about my daily business of doing what I do each day. Why am I not in panic mode?
The answer is simple…”My Hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.”
I have that hope, but it doesn’t mean that bad things aren’t happening all around. In fact, last night I told someone that I felt like Jacob because I wrestled with God all night long. (I’m glad he didn’t make me lame…I have enough trouble walking as it is!) I prayed and cried and begged the Lord to heal a dear dear friend of mine who found out yesterday that she has a malignant tumor. She has young children and a husband who love her dearly and whom she loves.
Her response to the news? She is praying that her family will be a witness to everyone because of the way they are handling this devastating news. Above all else she wants to glorify her Lord. She wishes it weren’t happening of course. So do I. I would give anything if this had not happened. But with my friend, I am praying that above all, HE will be honored.
I am praying for healing. I am expecting healing. I stand with Shadrach, Mechach and Abednego in the old Testament who were thrown into a fiery furnace because they wouldn’t bow down to a false god. I believe my God is able to save….BUT IF NOT…I am still going to serve Him.
By the way. God DID save them. They didn’t even smell like smoke! HAPPY THANKSGIVING. We serve a great God.
Tommy is doing a Monday night Bible study he calls Meandering Through Mark. One scripture we have studied (Mark 5:18-20) tells the story of the man who had been delivered from demons to go home and tell his people his story. Every time I hear this scripture quoted, I go back to a little church in Fountain City who met in an old restaurant. The building is still there. My family were charter members of this little church. The Christian Church of Fountain City.
I was nine years old when my family became members. We walked to church, about a mile, and never missed. Our first preacher was L.W. Buckley. He was not a young man when he preached for us, but then, everyone looks old when you are nine.
Every single time Mr. Buckley preached he would walk out from behind the pulpit when he finished, stand with one arm leaning on the pulpit, look out at all of us and quote that scripture. As long as I can remember I have known that verse by heart. I can still hear his gravely voice quoting this as he stared straight into my soul, or so it seemed.....
"Go home to thy friends and tell them how great things the Lord has done for thee and how He has had compassion on thee."