“Kickin’ Dirt and Pickin’ Dandelions”

major-league-baseball-469468_1280

Quick bursts of activity followed by longer periods of intense readiness.”  That is one definition of baseball that I found online.  I live in the Metro East Area of St. Louis.  Anyone living here cannot help but notice the huge fan base for the St. Louis Cardinals Baseball Team.  We have attended a couple handfuls of games in the past nine years and the “Red Sea” of color is widespread at the games.  The loyalty and enthusiasm of the area is  contagious.  “Fred Bird” is a big hit of a mascot with the metropolis’ children.  The Cardinal Nation is a newly constructed large multi-restaurant facility where fans can partake of eating, viewing sports and/or enjoying outdoor activity all with a focus on the “Cards”.

Now imagine if you will a pro ball team where the players were waving at their parents and friends instead of concentrating on the game.  Where they were kickin’ dirt and pickin’ dandelions standin’ around.  Or where a T-ball with plastic bat and ball were the main pieces of equipment.  Or imagine the players running willy-nilly around the field without speed or direction.  It is unimaginable because it would not work.  Not at all.

As it is the Cardinals Team is rated Number One in the Central Division of major league teams here in America.  The players get to be on the team because of abilities.  They need to have strong and accurate throwing arms.  They need consistency in foot speed for running bases.  They need fielding skills.  They need to “know the game situation at all times.”  They do not accept ‘baby’ players on the team.  One needs to be a mature player if one wants to succeed at the game.  And in order to become a mature player, one has to practice the skills.  And it is not about just one player, it is a team sport.  If you can grow up into the pro game, go for it.  Otherwise, don’t bother getting off the bench.

“But GROW in grace and recognition and knowledge and understanding of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To Him be glory, honor, majesty, and splendor both now and to the day of eternity.  Amen.”

Are you a mature player in Christ’s Kingdom Team?

Blessings,

Phyllis Dickinson

orange square logo

Lost & Found…

lostkeys

Prayer group had ended and we were chatting happily afterwards when our conversations were interrupted by these panicky words “Hey, I can’t find my keys!”  This gal knew that she had them for she had driven herself from home to the church.  She remembered aiming her lock remote toward her van before opening the church door and walking up the stairs to the place we pray.  She looked all through her purse and pockets.  No keys.  She then dumped her purse completely.  I attempted to search for them by re-walking her pathway to her car.  I then went to see if maybe the bookkeeper at church had come in early and possibly picked them up and took them to the church office.  Nope.  No keys.  Nowhere.

Now I understand lost keys so I wanted to stay until my friend found hers.  I checked her already empty purse as I simultaneously eyed her pockets – just to make sure – though I understood that she had checked and double-checked.  I looked under chairs in our prayer room.  No keys.  Then I made one last effort…I got down on my knees and looked under the chair where she had been sitting…there were the keys strung over a rung on the chair that was high enough it could not be seen except by getting low.  The keys had slipped through the back of the chair to the first rung on the chair.

Every single time I lose something (and it has been reported that we spend one year of our life looking for ‘lost’ items) I do two things.  I pray.  I backtrack.  The prayer very typically goes something like this:   “GOD, YOU ALREADY KNOW WHERE THE LOST ITEM IS AND WOULD YOU PLEASE HELP ME FIND IT!”  I then backtrack – literally and sometimes just in my head- until God reveals the hidden item.  When I bow down before Him, He bends down to help me.

“If you had a hundred sheep and one of them strayed away and was LOST in the wilderness, wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine others to go search for the lost one until you found it?  And then you would joyfully carry it home on your shoulders.”  And then Jesus says we would throw a party!  (Luke 15:3-6)

Who hasn’t lost something or been lost?  God is the God of the ‘Lost and Found’.  So if you are lost in this life or if you have lost something, there is no better FINDER than Jesus.

Blessings,

Phyllis Dickinson

orange square logo

“Game Canceled Due to Rain”…

baseball

…were words our grandson did not want to hear.  All week-end long he anticipated the baseball game that would take place at Warren Park on Monday night at 5:30.  Sunday night before he went to bed, we laid out his clean baseball uniform of pants, t-shirt and socks.  His helmet, shoes, glove and water bottle were right next to them.  Everything was ready for Monday’s game.  We were all eager for this game as the prior one had seen his team win twenty to zero.  Rowan glowed with the memory and was anticipating the next game.  He truly seems to love baseball in a way our sons never did.

It had rained the day before and it rained earlier in the day on Monday.  By the time school let out, the rain had stopped.  We picked him up with the news that the game had been canceled.  I was not prepared for the response.  Even after we explained that though the rain was no longer the problem as such, the wetness and mud of the field was a problem and the coaches had canceled the game.  That did not seem to matter.  “Stupid” was the summation of his opinion on the decision.  And as only children can, he continued to whine and want his way even if it was not a good and logical way.  Over and over he struggled with the cancellation-decision that neither he nor anyone else could change.

We had our grandson’s best interests at heart.  We took him to a grassy place and played ball with him for an hour or so.  We then walked several blocks to “Lickety Split” for ice cream.  Things our grandson was too preoccupied to come up with.  His grandparents out-loved his disappointment.  By nightfall he had experienced a good outcome

Then it came to me.  I am a ‘whiny, baby’ before God more often than I really want to say.  Something is over and done and I want it recalled back.  Something is not yet done and I want it to happen now.  It is called discontentment. “Actually I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally.  I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances.  I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little.  I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty.  Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.”  (Philippians 4:11 The Message)  “Thank you,” Apostle Paul and “Thank you,” Rowan.
Maybe God canceled the game to show me how like a child I can be and how I need to learn even more about being content in my circumstances.

Blessings,

Phyllis Dickinson

Umbrella-less…

umbrella-681892_1280
My husband came home with two very large umbrellas.  I marveled at their size.  But then I have been marveling at size and frequency of the thunderstorms and rain showers we have had lately.

Luscious greenness.  Everywhere I look I see a wealth of green color.  The trees, the grass, the plants…all so healthy and alive looking!  Not one brown, parched place.  God has been sending the ‘spring rains’.  He has been pouring down showers upon His earth.  Nearly every day this week there is a possibility of rain.  Think of it.  God waters the earth!  I have my hoses and watering cans for when the rain slacks, but God can water everything everywhere He chooses.  We do not cause it to happen or make it cease.  God brings forth the abundance for plants and animals alike.  I am thanking Him for every drop.  The earth really cries out for water…without it, life ceases to exist.

There are days when I, like the Psalmist, cry out to God for some of His Rain to fall on me.  “As the deer pants for water, so I long  for You, O God.  I thirst for God, the Living God.  Where can I find Him to come and stand before Him?”  (Psalms 42:1)  I know my spiritual life depends on the Living Water that only God can provide.  Without it, my spiritual life ceases to exist.

Shannon Wexelberg says in words the language of our hearts:

“Lord, I seek You.  Help me find You.  How I need Your touch.  Find my dry and broken places thirsty for Your love.  Lord, forgive me if I’ve wandered far away from You.  You are all I’ve ever needed.  Come and make me new.

Pour Your Spirit out on me.  Fall just like the rain.  Saturate my thirsty soul.  Come and fall afresh on me.  Fill my cup again.  Heal my heart and make me whole.  I need You now.  Pour Your Spirit out.”  (“Pour Your Spirit Out”)

Today I am sensing that if God chooses to hear my cry for more of Him, no umbrella is going up to block that blessing!

Blessings,

Phyllis Dickinson

orange square logo

Love Without End, Amen

fathers-day

My father used to have a phrase “Just gotta be tough”. He’d use this phrase whenever either of us would be going through something hard.  He didn’t just use it on me, but on his own trials. I always imagined the moments he just had to be tough, especially with 3 tours in Vietnam.  When I went in for appendix surgery several years ago, he told me at least I had people that loved me around as I was worried about my first surgery. When he had his, he was in the military hundreds of miles from home and no family there with him.  He just had to be tough.  Those words ring in my ears every time I face a trial and it brings a smile to my face and gives me a bit of strength.

I was very close to my own father, so even coming up on four years after his death, I find it hard to write something for Father’s Day. Last night when I tried to write something, I played the song that I had played at the end of his funeral “Love Without End, Amen” by George Strait. Then I played “That’s My Job” by Conway Twitty, and I was done writing because I was crying.  Even now four years after losing him, I still have my moments. He was a very loving man with his own set of flaws that he brought with him, but it was the love that I remember most and that is what left the deepest and most precious memories.

I think of those words from the George Strait song and then I think of the many fathers I have known over the years.  I think about our Father who art in heaven, and I realize a little better how he works. It probably helps that I am a father as well. I understand that sometimes you just have to let your children learn the hard lesson, because while it hurts to watch them go through it, you know it’s the best way for them to learn the lesson.  That sometimes that stubborn child that is just like you – isn’t going to listen to anything you say, and that the hard lesson is the only way they’ll understand.

My father, probably a year before I lost him, made the comment that he knew he wasn’t going to heaven because of the things he had done.  I asked him if I had done bad things but was sorry for them, would he let me in his house. He said, you know I would. I told him, then you have your answer about heaven don’t you.  Fathers may set rules and be a little tough now and again, but their heart never stops caring no matter what the exterior might show.  The heart has a love that doesn’t end.

Jesus spoke of love being the greatest commandment. When I think of the love I have for my children, I have a little better understanding of the love that comes from above.  My father would give the shirt off his back if he thought it would help someone. That part of his heart exists in me and that gift is precious to me.  I wonder what it was like for God to watch his son come down, knowing what the end result was going to be and the pain he would endure, how that must have broken his heart.  The anger he must have felt when his son was crucified, and only being held in check by the words “Father forgive them”.

A father’s love is truly something without end, and while not always an obvious thing to see, it is there.

Happy Father’s Day to all the father’s that love without end.

With kindness,

Tyrone

orange square logo

Epiphany at Edzo’s…

photo-montage-556806_640

My husband’s looking at the list of Illinois’ ‘Best Burgers’, Trip Advisor and our phone’s GPS took us to Edzo’s in Evanston while we were in the Chicago Area earlier this month.  While waiting for our burgers and fries in this 1950’s style and décor restaurant, I was looking at the patrons.  The diversity of people was fascinating.  Within our time there I saw young families, older couples, outdoor workmen and university students to name a few.  Cultural and ethnic variety come with the urban setting.  As I viewed all the people I heard God speak His Word to me “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  (I Samuel 16:7 NIV)

I memorized that verse as a child.  But it was coming to me at that moment again that it did not matter our skin color, language, age, clothing, education or station in life, God was looking at and seeing our hearts.  Right there.  Right then.

The verse above is in reference to King Saul.  Because of Saul’s insecurities,  jealousies and disobediences, God regretted ever having made him king.  As I went back and reread about Saul in the Bible, it was his thoughts

that took him down a wrong road.  Saul allowed his heart and mind to go wild with ungodly thinking time after time.  It made a handsome king turn ugly.

Jesus was familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures.  He knew about Saul.  Perhaps that is what prompted Him to tell the ‘church people’ (ie The Pharisees)  this:  “How can you speak good things when you are evil?  For out of the fullness (the overflow, the superabundance) of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34 Amplified)

We were in Metropolis, home of Superman, at the end of April.  We who were raised on the T.V. Program know that he had x-ray vision.  That truly is an impossibility…a sci-fi dream.  Sometimes we in the church think we have that ability.  And we are dead wrong.  I think we subconsciously have been judging people.  That is God’s job alone.  He alone sees the heart and knows the thoughts we think.

So I ask myself the same question I asked the day I ate a burger at Edzo’s “What is God seeing in my heart?”  I would hate for Him to regret choosing me to be His Own.

God Bless,

Phyllis Dickinson

orange square logo

What Does a Healthy City Look Like?

convoy

Recently I was in a mission related meeting and we were asked to describe what a healthy city looks like.  Some say employment opportunities, others said good schools but one person summed it up pretty well.  “A healthy city is where people can spend family time, go to work, go to school, visit parks, and enjoy working around their own homes.  In other words people are busy doing things.” Now you can answer that question in many different ways but it is also important to remember that a healthy city takes care of those that might need a little extra help.

Over the years I have learned that O’Fallon 1st UMC is a very caring and generous congregation.  I hear Pastor Ron Dickinson challenge us many times from the pulpit that we are all missionaries which leads me to think about the scripture from Matthew 9:37 – Then He said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.”  Of course this is Jesus talking to his disciples so in turn I believe Jesus is talking to us and He is telling us that there is still much to be accomplished for His Kingdom.  O’Fallon and the surrounding communities have a huge opportunity coming up in August to be missionaries and maybe for some an occasion to step out of their comfort zone. Convoy of Hope is a collaborative effort with Metro-East churches and businesses partnering to bring hope to those in need.  This one day event will be Saturday August 15 in the O’Fallon City Park and will be a daylong event.  Officials expect to host between four and six thousand Metro East residents offering those in need free groceries, haircuts, family portraits, job training advice, plus there will be a “Kid’s Zone” play area.  There will also health screening, a free lunch, plus the Veterans Administration will be on hand to assist our Veteran population.

We look at Matthew 22:36-40 and we find this passage:  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

Convoy of Hope will be a day of neighbors helping neighbors.   O’Fallon 1st UMC signed up to organize and staff the Jobs and Career Services area.  We will be working out of a 40 x 60 tent plus there will be workshops in a 20 x 20 tent.  An example of the agencies committed to the Job and Career Services area include staffing agencies, colleges, GED learning centers, age 55+ job training and Veterans services. This is not a job fair nor will employers be on hand to offer jobs. The focus of this area is to provide job readiness and employ-ability advice to help people prepare to obtain employment.  There will be one-on-one assistance plus various workshops available to those that are interested.   The target population is anyone looking for ways to prepare for a job or a better job.

Convoy of Hope will need as many as 750 volunteers doing various task around the event.  In the Jobs and Career Services area alone we will need approximately 60 volunteers.   We will offer child care in our tent so we will need people that can work with children while parents visit employment experts.  We will need Roaming Ambassadors that will walk the event grounds greeting guests with a smile and introduce them to the Job & Career Services Area.  They will hand out flyers and talk to people.  We will also need a clean-up crew.  If you are interested in working in the many other event areas we can point you to the appropriate team leader.

August 15th will be a big day for O’Fallon and the Metro-East.  Churches and businesses will come together to serve one God.  Neighbors will come together to walk alone side those that need a little help right now.  If you want to be part of the great event please let one of us know – Ron Fontenot email ronbo3@prodigy.net, Jane Jung email jschoeck@ccstl.org or call Denney Cowden at 618-616-1881.

I’m reminded of this quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. –

Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve….You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.

–Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thank you,

Ron Fontenot

ron