Glow in the Dark…

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One of the verbal games we play to pass the time bike riding is to name as many things as we can that are connected to a word.  The word water  for instance can be waterfall, water main, water bug and so on.  We do this with word after word…biking is made, for me, more enjoyable.

Glow worm, glow fish, afterglow, glow sticks, glow in the dark…these terms came to mind after a friend sent me a message about her brother-in-law.  He is around my age and has recently been diagnosed with stage four cancer.  He feels just fine but he has lesions in the brain, lungs, liver and bones.  His medical diagnosis is not good.  Not good at all.

So I was amazed and thrilled when she said of her relative-through-marriage:  “He is glowing with the goodness of God.”  He is a glow-in-the-dark kind of Christian Person!  Dark circumstances but light in his heart.  Generally when people receive a death-verdict here in this life, it is all darkness and doom.  But when a person is related to Father God through faith, that person can truly be a ‘light’ in a dark world, shining with the hope of God and Heaven – even if a healing miracle does not happen on this side of “Home”.

“That is why we never give up.  Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.  For our present troubles are quite small and won’t last very long.  Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever!  So we don’t look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen.  For the troubles we see will soon be over but the joys to come will last forever.”  (II Corinthians 4:16-18 NLT)

It seems the darker the room, the more those glow-in-the-dark objects shine.I wonder how much more light and joy would be in the world if every Christ One were a “Glow in the Dark” Christian?

Blessings,

Phyllis Dickinson

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It’s a God thing.

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A few weeks ago my wife and I made a road trip up to Peoria for an Alzheimer’s event. We left in the afternoon, got there just before the event started and came back that same evening. It probably seems like a bit of a distance to drive for an Alzheimer’s event I know, but it was their guest speaker we went to see, Teepa Snow. My father-in-law has Alzheimer’s and in my typical fashion, I spend a lot of time researching it, discussing it with people, and learning as much as I can about the disease. So I follow a group on Facebook that deals with the disease. It was started by the author of “While I Still Can” who had early on-set Alzheimers and wrote a book about the experience.

This is how I found Teepa Snow. Someone posted a video and I watched it, but then began to research her and that’s when I found the event that was happening two weeks later in Peoria, which is the closest she would get to St. Louis. We reserved our spot so we could go see her. She mainly talks about the caregiving side of the disease with a little medical to explain. It ended up being a perfect event for my wife and she gained quite a bit of insight. Plus she walked away with a better understanding of what is happening with her dad. As Teepa said “It isn’t about memory, it’s about organ failure. You wouldn’t look at someone with lung disease and tell them to breathe better, so why do we expect someone with a brain disease to think better”.

I believe finding Teepa Snow at the time that I did is a God thing. It was perfect in helping my wife, as her dad is slipping into a new stage of the disease. It was perfect timing so we could go see Teepa live, and because what Teepa said helped my wife. It’s a God thing, and while others might call it coincidence I have too much proof in my own life to just mark it off as coincidence.

“I know the plans I have for you” it says in Jeremiah and I can tell you that my life is full of God’s guidance to bring me to where I am today. So many moments that there had to be a guiding hand involved to help me along. His hands placing the people in my life at the right time, helping me be aware of poor behaviors, opening opportunities for me, and so on. He gifted me with talents that helped me prosper, then took those talents and put them to use to help others.

He has provided lessons all along throughout my life. Ones to open my heart, to bless me with a different kind of sight that sees all the caring in the world, and lessons to open my soul to understanding what it means to truly touch another’s life. All of those experiences and helping hands I have received are more then just coincidence. It is guidance from someone that loves me.

We had an Astro van that we took on a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains, and on the day before we left to come home, the speedometer quit working. Then as we journeyed home it began to have more odd behaviors, but still drove. We stopped for the night in Clarksville, TN, got up the next morning drove on, stopped at Rend Lake to swim and then on home. The next morning, I went out to start the van and it wouldn’t start. The fuel injection system had went out and took the computer with it. My family wasn’t left stranded somewhere, we were able to get home where I could take the time to replace the parts needed. How can someone say that was just coincidence and not a God thing?

My children have heard me retell the various stories of my life and the influence of a higher power that was there. I just can’t accept coincidence for so many occasions in my life. I learned at an early age to just have faith and follow where I am lead. From my personal experience, hearing God isn’t a voice but a push, an inspiration, an article or show placed at the right time for you to see, and so on. It is about just allowing yourself to be open to seeing it and well, sometimes realizing it only in hindsight.

It is interesting sometimes to look back over your life, and look for those moments that God had an influence. Even more interesting is to look back and realize that something you may have thought was negative, actually had a positive effect because it really was a God thing.

Just remember sometimes those things we pass off as coincidence could very well be a God thing.

With kindness,
Tyrone
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Think Orange

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This has been a challenging year… My life has become different is so many aspects. I am about to finish my first year of seminary, God has blessed me with an opportunity to connect with OTHS in ways that I could have never imagined, and I have been partnering with a group of local youth pastors to find a way to connect Jr. and Sr. High students with Christ, and a local church, all of this while preparing for my first born and eventually being blessed with a baby boy in mid-February. With all of that said, one of the most challenging things for me this year has been having the patience to let God show how Orange will fit in with our congregation.

This was an idea first placed on my heart in August 2014. The goal was to try and connect students and their families, because together life change can happen. However, with guidance and direction from a mentor and friend, the idea of Orange, a strategy used to unite the church and family, came about. It was the combination of the Church (Yellow, representing the light of Christ) and the Family (Red, representing the heartbeat that moves us) to form a substantially stronger influence together (Orange) than they were separate. From that moment on, God has been working on laying the foundation to move this forward in our local congregation.

One of the most recent steps has been attending the Orange Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. This was a tremendous experience that helped to shed light on the ins and outs of what it takes to become Orange. This was a time of challenge, conviction, inspiration, and exploration. At this conference many relationships were formed and connections were made. God will provide for us at First United Methodist Church in O’Fallon, IL. We just need to let Him be our guide.

If you want to know how to get involved in Orange, I have three things for you to start with: Pray, Patience, and Participate. We need your prayer that God would continue to be the guiding light, and the main focus in all that we do. We need your patience, because we by no means have everything figured out yet. God is guiding and leading this process, and we are trying to follow where He leads. Finally, we need your participation. This is a family strategy. That means we need our entire church family. There are so many volunteer opportunities and ways for you to connect. DO NOT miss out on this amazing journey that our church is about to take. God has a plan for us to reach our city, will you be a part of that plan?

Brad Lewis

Youth Minister

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It’s Just a Phase

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The theme of this year’s Orange Conference was a phrase I have been accustomed to using while raising my two daughters. Whether three a.m. feedings, temper tantrums, or separation anxiety, I’ve learned that no one trial of parenthood lasts forever…each is “just a phase.”

On the flip side, I know about how all the sweet innocence of childhood is fleeting too. One day, trips to the playground, footed pajamas, and baby dolls will be things of the past. They too are “just a phase.”

Before this past week in Atlanta, however, I hadn’t connected how, as these phases of childhood pass, so do opportunities to be sharing the love and salvation of Jesus with our children.

Now, you may be saying, “Stacy, you work for the church. Of course you’ve been teaching your kids about Jesus.” Yes, Mark and I try our best to share our faith with our girls, but what the Orange Conference impressed upon me was the need for us as Christian parents to be intentional and strategic. Childhood is over in the blink of an eye, and now is our chance.

Our conference host Reggie Joiner put things into perspective. “A hundred years from now, the only thing that will matter is a person’s relationship with God.” Wow! In the end, it won’t be important if my child becomes a professional soccer player, receives a college scholarship, has a Pinterest-perfect birthday party, or eats nutritious home-cooked meals. What will matter is the relationship she has with God, the Father. There is no greater gift I can give my child than to introduce her to Jesus.

As our church adopts Orange philosophies and embarks on a new strategy of ministry with families, I am excited, both as a Children’s Coordinator and as a parent. I see an opportunity for us, as a family of faith, to work together to reach the next generation for Christ. I, as a parent, can’t do it without you, the church. And I, in ministry, can’t reach the children of O’Fallon without you, the families. We need each other.

I invite you to join me in committing to be intentional…to spending time, energy, and prayer leading children to the peace and joy of knowing Christ. I’m not saying it will be easy, that we need to be perfect parents, or that there’s a magic recipe for success, but I do know our efforts will be worthwhile. The legacy we will pass to our children will be eternal and not “just a phase.”

Stacy Robinson

Children Ministries Coordinator

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The Right Strategy at the Right Time

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About seven years ago, when we were first working on Milburn Crossing, my son in Atlanta was attending The Northpoint Church’s Buckhead Campus. NorthPoint is the largest protestant church in North America. They are one of the pioneers in extension sites. I had studied them in my doctoral work and was excited Aaron was a part of such a dynamic congregation. He was on the tech team at Buckhead and offered to see if he could get me a tour of the campus, and maybe even talk with someone who was working with new campus development.

I was blessed to get the tour and to have over an hour with the head of Second Campus development. I came back here and shared that I hoped someday we could move in the same directions. The Orange Movement is not a program, but a way of looking at how we do church. It came out of Northpoint. Most of the things we are going to be talking about, are the things that I was so excited about then. The difference is they have had eight years of experiencing, testing, faithful prayer, extensive study and refinement. Most of the top churches in the country have gone orange.

Orange is about using the best tools possible to empower families (including singles and other groups within the church which are the nuclei of our lives) to make the most of the tools available to be faithful followers of Christ and raise children who love and serve God. One of the concepts which goes back to the Lectionary and common graded Sunday School Curriculum that was so popular 50 years ago. The idea is to get the whole congregation along with other churches, to gather around the same themes and pull in the same direction. Orange approaches this “old” idea with new, creative, culturally relevant, tested, inspired techniques. Orange is quality and it is the right strategy at the right time for our congregation.

The conference was awesome. There was more inspiration and information than I can process here. Writing a summary in this short space is impossible. A few things off the top of my head that stick out are:

*There are no first time visitors on Sunday Morning. Almost every new person who comes to our church has already visited our website. It is our first portal of entry.

*The youngest Millennials (78 million, my kids’ group) is now 16. This generation is totally immersed in technology. If we do not use technology well, we will lose this generation. The fact is, we are already losing this generation and if we do, American Christianity which is already in big trouble, will be almost non-existent in 50 years. Not nearly enough are in church as children and those who are, are exiting at an alarming rate. They are gone after high school and unlike previous generations, they are not returning when they have children. Orange is one way of thinking, that is helping turn this around.

*The message of Christianity is still relevant, needed and received but, as is true with every generation, we have to find culturally relevant ways to share that message starting with the children.

*Younger folks still need mentors but the style of mentoring needs to be adapted to meet the needs and culture of those being mentored.

These are just a few thoughts. Some of the other staff appeared surprised to see how excited I was about going Orange. In reality, it is the direction I was hoping and praying that we would go for years. It just makes sense and it is a lot of fun. I believe following Jesus should be fun and exciting even during tough times. There will be no compulsion to change everything. You will not be forced to do things you are uncomfortable with. If you like what your adult class and/or group are doing, no problem, but there will be resources to help if you want them.

Joel has been blue at times, our family is trying to go green and now I’m orange all the way. Hang on! It is going to be fun.

Pastor Joel

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A Mother’s Tears

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When I started writing this, I began with the thought of a mother’s love, which brought me to the thought of a mother’s tears. There is nothing more precious than the tears a mother gives for her child. The tears of pain, love, hurt and joy. Beautiful tears given in celebration and sad tears in disappointment.

Watch a mother when her child graduates, gets married, or finds happiness and the beautiful tears you see on her loving face.  We see those tears of caring when their child deals with pain and hurt. The tears that tell us just how much they care about what their child is experiencing in this life. Beautiful tears that express so much to us.

Mothers never lack in their tears of love. They shed them freely for their child and they express so much love that it lets us know the heart that lies within for their child. Those tears for every occasion speaks volumes about the love God placed in their heart. On this Mother’s Day, I want to thank all the mothers for keeping the faith in their children, just as God keeps his faith in us. Your love is a precious gift.  Thank you so very much.

with kindness,

Tyrone

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From Our Windows…

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Duluth, Georgia in the greater Atlanta Area. Eight people from O’Fallon First UMC among seven thousand others at the Gwinnett Conference Center. Most attendees young and mid-adults. Praise and worship music that nearly rocked us out of our comfort level! That was the Orange Conference 2015- which you will hear more about from us and other leaders in our church.

What touched our hearts deeply was the desire for people to get filled up on God and to learn of relevant and effective ways of linking people to the ancient ways of faith in an ever-changing culture. That requires some updates in our style in sharing this life-changing faith we claim.

In the second book of Timothy we read, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the Word of Truth. (II Timothy 2:15 NIV)

We ask all in our faith community here at O’Fallon First to pray.

Pray for what?
…That we will be willing to hear from God to upgrade our outreach
to members, outsiders, families, individuals

…That as we grow older, we will all grow more mature in faith
and in love with God and others

…That we will act like we understand that everyone was made in the image of God

Older faith dogs who are learning new tricks,
Ron and Phyllis Dickinson

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