Seeds and Weeds…


Abundance in the buckets of rain from heaven has caused our yard to

flourish. The plants are large, some colorful. The grass is thick and lush.

The trees are leafy and shady. And, of course, the weeds are proving to be

an invasive and unwelcome stalker amid all the beauty.

It seems that in the first garden, Eden, sin was what prompted God to say to

Adam “the ground will produce thorns and weeds for you…” (Gen. 3:18a) So

when I wonder where these invaders have come from – there is the answer!

A weed in the worst sense is something that is not valued for beauty. It is

something that is considered a hindrance to the growth of ‘superior

vegetation’. It can interfere with food or fiber production…unprofitable,

troublesome or noxious. (New Oxford English Dictionary). Unwanted. I do

not want weeds in our yard, therefore I sweated the morning out pulling them


Jesus preached about seeds and weeds. Seeds of God’s Kingdom are

desirable. They help us to grow in faith – more and more so that we can

know secrets of the kingdom that God has chosen us to learn. (Matthew

13:11) But here’s the problem: weeds. “And what is the seed that fell

among thorny weeds? That seed is like the person who hears the teaching

but lets worries about this life and temptation of wealth stop the teaching

from growing. So the teaching does not produce fruit in that person’s life.”

(Mt. 13:22) There it is again. Weeds and thistles choking out the life of

something meant to thrive.

Here’s the secret to pulling up weeds in our faith garden. Plant seeds of faith

and pull up the weedy worries sooner than later. You know what happens

when you let the weeds go ?…they do not shrink and they do not go away.

Our Master Gardener has promised this to those who choose to plant His

seeds and pull up the sin weeds: “that person grows more” … sometimes

thirty times more, or sixty or even a hundred times more than the seed

originally planted!!! That is seed­superior­vegetation I want to see in my life.

I better begin pulling weeds of my heart right now if I want the fruit of love,

joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and

self­control. If you have wanted these fruits and have not had them, there

may be a seed to weed imbalance.


Phyllis Dickinson

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“How Would My Mom Think?”


I organized our grandson’s closet this past May when in Chicago visiting.  I love organizing.  To me it is a fun task of just putting ‘like’ things together in ways that make life easier to deal with day to day.

So yesterday when I got this text from my daughter-in-law, it threw me.  “Sorry to bug you but do you per chance remember where you put Rowan’s swimming trunks when you organized his closet?  I can’t seem to find them.”  In three minutes another text message came “Never mind!  We found them!  Sorry for the bother.”

When I replied that I was sorry that they could not find items right away, here’s the reply I received that made me smile and actually laugh aloud:  “Hey it was no problem!  Colby went in and thought ‘how would my mom think?’ and then he was able to find them right away.  It was funny!”

Sometimes I wonder what is happening in the cluttered closet of unknowns in my life.  Then I remember to ask “How would My Jesus think?”  “In your lives you must think and act like Christ Jesus.”  (Phillippians 2:5)  Jesus was humble.  Jesus was obedient.  Jesus was a pray-er.  Jesus was a reader of Scripture.  Jesus was faithful to His Father’s Will and not His own.  Jesus was a servant.  Jesus was an example to us.

Proverbs 3:5 & 6 “Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding.  In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your path.”

Can’t find your way?  “How would my Heavenly Father think?” will bring His revelations.


Phyllis Dickinson

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Keeping it Country…


Is not something I listen to regularly.  But when I travel alone I pause in my listening of my collection of CDs and some radio stations to turn to a country music spot for a ‘break’.  Every once in awhile, I like hearing a country song that pumps out truth with a cool tune.  I found it.  Luke Bryan sings “Crash My Party”.  I don’t know the song writer/singer.  I just heard this number last week.  Here’s what I like about the song though: somebody thinks somebody else is so important that they would stop and drop everything for that somebody.

Here is the chorus:  If you wanna call me, call me, call me.  You don’t have to worry ’bout it baby.  You can wake me up in the dead of night; wreck my plans baby that’s alright.  This is a drop everything kind of thing.  Swing on by I will pour you a drink.  The door’s unlocked.  I’ll leave on the lights.  Baby, you can crash my party anytime.”

The song makes proclamations that the heart wants to hear.  We are loved.  We are loved so much that we are top priority to someone.  We are important in the eyes of someone else.  Someone would make and change plans just for us… simply because we exist.

The world of entertainment and showbiz is just that.  It is not real.  But it can be compelling.  As one country music lover shared, “there is a song for whatever you’re feeling”.

There is a God Who out of His Unfailing Heart of love for me is total reality.  He has a balm for whatever I’m feeling.  He sings over me with love songs that say things like…

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  “Delight yourself in me, and I will give you the desires of your heart.”  “He who guards you, never sleeps nor slumbers.”  “Call to me and I will answer you.”  “Draw near to me and I will draw near to you.”  And six thousand other promises that He is wanting to sing to your possibly country-loving-heart.


Phyllis Dickinson

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Play Ball!


I was watching seven and eight-year-olds play little league.  While waiting their team’s turn to bat, the coach encouraged them to ‘watch’ what was going on in the game.  Several of these novices were standing on the bench swatting each other with their baseball gloves, totally oblivious to the game.  Some of them did this each inning!  Even amid these young players, I could see who was listening  and watching and who was there just to ‘goof off’ and ‘hang out’ with others. They are young and just learning.  I get that.  Fun is their priority.

What about the opposition faced in playing a team sport as an adult?   What would it look like if every professional baseball player, instead of catching or fielding a ball, just turned away screeching, too frightened to try catching?  Or what if when the pitcher pitched a ball, the batter shut his eyes or cried, “You threw that too fast!” or “The ball is hard and might hit and hurt me!”.  Maybe in frustration, the batter just threw the bat at the pitcher?  Or what if the batter did not even try and just ran crying into the dugout?  You would know that the baseball player was useless to the team.

Good players learn what to do through practice and experience and listening to the coach.  Players wear the uniform of their team.  They are proud to be identified with a particular group of persons in the league.  The players wear the items that will protect and use equipment that will help them most.  They do their best to follow the coach’s instructions and to assist the entire team to victory.

Good ball players with heart and passion can teach others.  They know through their own experiences what works and what doesn’t.  They know how to encourage someone else to do better.  They prepare for the opposition.

I think the game of baseball might just have a lot to teach people who are on the Kingdom-of-God-Team!

“I have a lot more to say about this, but it is hard to get it across to you since you’ve picked up this bad habit of not listening.  By this time you ought to be teachers yourselves, yet here I find you need someone to sit down with you and go over the basics on God again, starting from square one – baby’s milk, when you should have been on solid food long ago!  Milk is for beginners, inexperienced in God’s ways, solid food is for the mature, who have some practice in telling right from wrong.”  (From Hebrews 5 The MSG)


Phyllis Dickinson

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Independence Day – Let Freedom Ring


When we think of the Fourth of July, it brings up many different images in our heads. Most commonly we think of barbecues, vacation, and fireworks. Though our thoughts also move to notions of freedom, independence and our service men and women. The Fourth of July is an important date in our country’s history because it is the moment we declared our independence.

If you’ve been watching any type of news source or social media, I’m sure you’ve seen all the events leading up to this Independence Day. The Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act, gay marriage, lethal injection and more. We’ve also seen horrible acts such as the shootings at Emanuel AME Church and burning of several black churches. We’ve seen a push to remove the Confederate Flag from government buildings, a movement that turned into it being removed from stores and even the General Lee. It has been an interesting lead up to our celebration of Independence Day.

There is a saying that floats around that freedom isn’t free. It isn’t, it requires diligence, perseverance, and most of all patience. Much of what we saw in the events before Independence Day spoke very much to the heart of what our nation is about. The Supreme Court rulings demonstrated an attempt to interpret the Constitution into its ideals of freedom. The coming together of so many people in support of the Emanuel AME Church after their devastating event. The reaction by even retailers to the call for the Confederate Flag to be removed due to what it represents to African Americans. All of this speaks to the heart of what our nation truly is about…FREEDOM.

Freedom also comes with frustration. Frustration that what is happening doesn’t align with your thoughts, opinions, or ideals. Freedom is about having the right to be frustrated, and speaking about that frustration without penalty under law. Many of us have seen the quote from Ben Franklin “Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.” When I read these words, I don’t think of NSA surveillance or TSA searches at the airport. I think about what makes us feel secure and what makes us feel uncomfortable, then I think of the plight of freedom. The very plight of freedom, is that it will make us feel less comfortable…less secure. I’m uncomfortable with the notion that people can buy AK-47s at the corner gun shop. Someone else feels uncomfortable because a gay individual can now have a legal marriage license. Freedom was never meant to be comfortable, and the fact that it isn’t comfortable gives me comfort.

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.  For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” Galatians 5:13-14

No matter how uncomfortable the freedom of another makes you, remember that love is the greatest commandment. I am proud to be an American, even though our freedom brings uncomfortableness. I would rather be free than comfortable. My father who served 20 years in the military and fought in Vietnam once told me that I should not hold back my opinion out of fear, nor keep silent on what I think is wrong. He served and fought for me to have the right to speak my mind, and that I should do just that.

As I end this piece, I wish to also say thank you to all the men and women that serve. You help keep our freedoms alive. We wouldn’t still be celebrating Independence Day if it weren’t for brave men and women willing to serve in our armed forces. So again, thank you.

When you are out today, take notice of the freedoms you see things that represent religious ideals, rainbow flags, someone with a firearm on their side, bumper stickers with all manners of freedom written upon them, and even the attire people wear. It doesn’t take long to realize you live in the land of the free, and it is that way because of the brave. Love should always be at the heart of freedom for when love is missing, it becomes oppression.

Happy Independence Day. Please pray for the churches that have been burned, Emanuel AME Church, our country, but also please give thanks today for our freedom.

With kindness,

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A Stephen Ministry journey can have unexpected results.


About eleven years ago I was looking for a new church home. On my very first visit to O’Fallon First United Methodist Church, Linda Isbell got up and asked for volunteers to train for Stephen Ministry. I had been interested in becoming a Stephen Minister, after learning of the program from a friend. I thought it would be an excellent substitute as I had first majored in psychology. I had found my new church home and a new journey.

During training we shared personal information while pairing off in a semblance of Stephen Ministry encounters. The bonds formed with my fellow trainees during role playing remains in effect to this day. This was a particularly great outcome for me as a newcomer.

The first time I met with a new care receiver, I was nervous. How could I expect a stranger to confide in me? But we are trained to pray before each encounter and that got me through every time. It really taught me to focus on the other person’s needs. I would like to think that has carried over into my private life as well.

Over the years I have had several care receivers and they have all been remarkably resilient women. I have been privileged to witness their personal faith journey during some very difficult times. Whether it was dealing with the grief of multiple deaths or divorce or an abusive husband or medical problems, I was there to offer support as a confidential friend. Training teaches us that we are the care givers, but Jesus is the cure giver!

These women have trusted me with painful confidences and with their friendship. Any age differences were never a factor. Even after the organized caring relationship has ended most relationships continue as friendships.

Sharing with someone during this process can be difficult, particularly if the care receiver is having a really bad time or they can’t envision an end to their problems. A friend of mine talks about walking around the park for two hours while the care receiver said the same thing over and over and over again. Most of us have friends who will come to our aid in a minute. However, those same friends might not be willing to listen to you rehash your woes. It can be difficult to be an active, caring listener, so Stephen Ministry has built in Peer Supervision once or twice a month that provides the Stephen Ministers an outlet. We gather to de-stress and support each other. These people have become my friends and my “small group”.

Nine years ago I attended the leadership training course, which among other things was supposed to give me the tools to make referrals; match a new care receiver with a care giver. Well it doesn’t. Prayer is the only tool that works. I believe all the care receivers I have matched with care givers, received the best bonding because of answered prayers. Those prayers provided the care receiver with someone of the right temperament, acceptance and faith to be the right care giver for them, especially when you consider they begin as strangers and the bonding can span years.

Several years ago the Stephen Ministers, at the request of the pastors, visited hospitalized church members. We even read a very practical book, Bedside Manners by Katie Maxwell. Most of the visits I made were not too difficult; however one elderly patient who was extremely hard of hearing and had a roommate wanted me to pray out loud. Praying out loud is not one of my gifts, but as has happened in every situation Stephen Ministry has placed me in, God provided what was needed.

When I started writing this piece, I did not know what direction it would take. All of the Stephen Ministers have their own reason for being a Stephen Minister and they each have learned and/or gained something from it. For me it has been a prayer journey.


Lois Ridenour

Me 2013

A Slice of Pie…

humble pie

…Can be a sweet and delicious summer treat – especially if seasonal fruit is in it!  I found a pastry in the Eckert’s Orchard bakery shop a couple of days ago.  It was a round pie-crust-like base with fruit on top.  It was labeled “Humble Pie”.  Of the three choices, cherry, apple or peach, I chose peach.

I bought this earlier in the day.  Later when riding with Ron in the car, I asked, “Would you like to eat some humble pie?”  He was a little startled by my question thinking he might have done something that needed apologizing for.

We then had a conversation about ‘humble pie’.  Why is it so difficult to eat ‘humble pie’ when it includes an apology?  Perhaps if we walk in humility as God asks us to, we would not have to ‘be forced to apologize – suffering humiliation’.

As we continued talking about humble pie, we both agreed that if we needed to eat it – the apology-kind- life actually became sweeter for it…like having eaten the Humble Pie from Eckert’s.

Humble yourselves (feeling very insignificant) in the Presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you (He will lift you up and make your life significant).”  James 4:10

The Word of God, Our Guidebook, says a LOT about humility.  It is the “foremost test of a truly great person or leader”.  On the other side of things, the Bible says “pride will destroy a person”.

Maybe a slice of “Humble Pie” is on the summer menu for you?  Don’t worry- after a few swallows, it will taste VERY SWEET!

Ron and Phyllis – We thank those who have humbly served God and our country to insure our freedoms