Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Beware of friends bearing gifts


"It is better to meet a she bear robbed of her cubs than to encounter a fool in his folly." Proverbs 17:12
Part I
Every now and then, I get a Saturday morning in which to sleep late. Granted, there aren't many of them, but on this particular weekend, I was all prepared to sleep as late as I could. You know, Rip Van Winkle late. The kind of late that has you eating breakfast at 2:00 in the afternoon.

I had looked so forward to this very special Saturday, that I was tempted to go and buy me a blindfold like "well to do" people who cover their eyes when they go to bed. But at the very last minute I nixed the idea, because, where do you go in Oklahoma City to even buy 'sleep late' blindfolds? Anyway, when I turned in late on Friday night, the only thing I was really worried about was waking up in time for church on Sunday morning.

When I rolled over and looked at the clock at 6:30 (a.m.), a smile rippled across my face as I said to myself, "This is too good to be true." And I gently pulled the pillow over my head, ready to pick back up on the dream I had just abandoned. And then, out of the clear blue, the most horrible thing imaginable happened.

At first I thought it was all a part of the dream, but less than three seconds later, it happened again. It was the telephone ringing in my ear! When I jumped straight up out of the bed, I looked back at my trusty clock which only an hour ago gave me pleasure, but now, at 7:30, was giving me all the pain I could handle.

"Who is this?" I asked myself as I tried to gather my thoughts. "What could this person possibly want at this hour of the day-on a Saturday morning no less?" And then my pastoral instincts took over, for I feared that someone was in distress and really needed me.

And so I answered, "Hello." And from the other end there was this familiar voice of my neighbor-three houses down the block-asking, "Bob, did I disturb you?" Now let me pause here and ask: Why would someone possibly think that they would be disturbing a neighbor on Saturday morning at seven thirty in the morning? Has this ever happened to you?

Well, having known my neighbor for over seven months, I tried to be as diplomatic as I could: "At 7:30 in the morning on my only Saturday off, I'd say things are going pretty slow neighbor! What do you want?" As I said, I tried to be as diplomatic as I could. Don't you just love those friends you can talk to like that?

It was then that my neighbor proceeded to tell me that his wife had just purchased a brand new lawnmower for him, but there was only one problem: it was still in the box with a tag on it that said, "Partial assembly required!" Now friends, if you're not mechanically inclined, as was the case with my neighbor, please don't ever buy a box with the words "Partial assembly required." Run away from those words. Anyway, my neighbor goes on to say, "I was hoping you could come over and be that extra set of hands I need to put this mower together."

Well, so much for sleeping late on the only Saturday morning I had to call my own. And just think of how disappointed I would have been if I had purchased the blindfold. And so, I got up to go help my neighbor.

The Fool's Folly
About an hour later, the two of us were up to our ear lobes in bolts, washers, wheels, wrenches, screwdrivers, and every kind of lawnmower part known to mankind. To think that people really expect you to understand the instructions that come with things like lawnmowers and bicycles is amazing. When you finish putting something like that together, I feel like each box should also have a cap and gown in it, for I feel that you're qualified to receive your master's degree, if not the Ph.D. degree itself. I swore I could hear "Pomp and Circumstance" playing in the background as we worked.
Anyway, three or four hours later, we finished, and to say we struggled would be an understatement. To say my neighbor didn't have a clue as to what he had gotten himself into would be hitting it right on the you have so many spare parts left when the job isn't done right?), I happened to see a card taped to the side of the mower itself. When I removed the card, my eyes fell on two words that were possibly the most important instructions in the entire carton. The words were: Oil often.

Those two words moved me. Whoever had the duty of placing that card on the side of the mower evidently knew that if the machine was going to last as long and perform as well as it should, the owner should not be "sparing of the oil." Now I know this sort of advice goes for sewing machines, cars, and a thousand and one other things, but seeing these words convinced me that if it's good for machines, it's also good for "life" as well. Yes, I said "life."

I wonder how many times we could have softened the hard words, bad tempers and frayed nerves with a few drops of oil? When you stop and think about it, what a wonderful thing oil is. But the kind of oil I have in mind can only be used for living.

Let me explain.
The Oil of Joy and Kindness
When you stop and think about it, there are all kinds of oil we can use in our daily living. The one which comes to my mind first is the oil of joy and kindness. A small amount of joy and a few drops of kindness will go a long way in a world short on laughter and generosity.

If we are to keep life running smoothly, our minds at peace, and our lives from becoming overburdened, then a joyous disposition will most often be what we need. But the main problem in our society today is, we have not oiled the misery of our day to day troubles, and consequently, the most visible expression on our face is a lack of joy. Why is it we allow life to rob us of our happiness? Where is the kindness we should show as Christians?

Dear friends, try a few drops of the oil of joy and kindness in everything you do. It is a splendid lubricant that makes life worth living. When we give joy and kindness to the world, most often the world will give it back to you.

Learn a simple lesson from the lowly oyster. When a tiny piece of sand invades its shell, it causes a severe irritation to the oyster. However, this small mollusk has developed a lubricant that covers the sand with layer upon layer of what is known as mother of pearl, until finally what started out as an irritant ends up being something of beauty. And all because the oyster chose to apply this oil-like substance. And what started out as being an irritant, ends up being a pearl.

Troubles and pains can be turned into pearls if we only knew how to lubricate our daily living with the oil of joy and kindness.
Next issue, we will learn about the oil of appreciation, understanding, forgiveness and caring.

May God bless and keep you all.
Your servant in Christ,
Bishop Hayes


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