Run The Race…

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Run the race set before you, Phyllis” were the words I heard boldly shouted out to me from the sideline as I took off running a 5k this past Labor Day.  My heart was uplifted and encouraged…both for the immediate run and for the long-term faith race I run daily.

A footrace always seems to remind me of the faith race.  Not everyone who  should be in the race is at the starting line.  Many sit and only watch from the sidelines.  Some have no idea a race is in progress.  The ones who seem to do best are those who have been preparing themselves in the days, weeks and months prior to the run.  But… even those who just barely get by in their efforts ‘win’ as they cross the finish line!

I love that the person who called out to me at the start of the race was also one who (because he was/is a champion runner) runs to various corners throughout the race to ‘cheer’ people on.  What an encouragement!  And that same guy is at the finish line beaming and telling people he knew that they could make it! (He has usually run many more miles the day of the race than most people run in a week but he says nothing about that.)

The enthusiasm and joy that exude from this one forty-something guy cheering others on amazes me.  He was once deep into a life of sin and turmoil.  He lost everything that people hold dear.  But…he came to God and began the faith race.  Ten years later, he is still going strong and encouraging others…both with footraces and faith!!

“Since we have such a huge crowd of people of faith watching us from the grandstands, let us strip off anything that slows us down or holds us back, and especially those sins that wrap themselves so tightly around our feet and trip us up; and let us run with patience the particular race that God has set before us.”

(Hebrews 12:1 The Living Bible)

God has restored and filled this man to overflowing and he is running the race set before him.  So I say to you today, “Run the race set before you”!  God Himself will bring you across the finish line saying “Well done”.

Blessings,

Phyllis Dickinson

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The Friday Fox…

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We were around mile seventeen of a twenty-four mile bike ride. It was in the ‘remote’ area where we often see wildlife in more abundance. My husband gasped and said, “Look at that! Wow!” Up ahead about forty feet from us was a gray fox who was trotting slowly from left to right at an angle across the pathway. On either side of the pathway is bushy thicket and he was headed for the other side. It was a stunning moment for me as I clearly saw a gray fox and I clearly saw God in the moment.

We have only seen one other fox, a small red fox -years ago now, since riding the Madison County Trails for over nine years. I had prayed just six miles earlier a heart-felt cry to God. I told Him that I was very confused about the decisions that my spouse and I were trying to make about the future. We have gone back and forth and sideways about something for months and months now. And I thought I heard God say in my spirit “wait” after I asked Him what we should do.

I trust God and I love Him. I told Him that at that moment in my prayer. I also said to Him, “I am not trying to test You, God, but if I truly heard from You to ‘wait’, if I see a fox today I will know that Word was from You.” So you can imagine how ‘stunned’ I was to hear my spouse saying to look up and look ahead at what was a fox! Since I had prayed my prayer in the silence of my heart, after I shared with my husband, he got goosebumps. He shared with glee that he would agree with God that we should just stop any action on our part and ‘wait’ on God for His action.

Two people had written to me lately using the same verse from Colossians 1:9
“For this reason we also, from the day we heard of it, have not ceased to pray and make special request for you, asking that you may be filled with the full, deep and clear knowledge of His Will in spiritual wisdom and in understanding and discernment…”

The Friday Fox of faith chased away the ‘fraidy cat of fear! God be praised!

Blessings,
Phyllis Dickinson
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Staying Found

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I was reading an article about ‘staying found’ in wilderness canoe country.  Several experts in this many-paged article have written their perspective for how to stay found using various maps, compasses, techniques and even GPS systems.  Though they all have varying approaches to their advice, they all agree that when you are totally ‘lost’ there is potential danger – for a number of reasons.  And the ultimate danger, of course, is death.

I like this expressed wisdom by one of the authors, Darrel Brauer:  “The best piece of advice I could give if you become lost is to recognize the urge to accelerate your actions and resist negative thoughts about the consequences of being lost.  Slow down or stop, and do whatever it takes to quit thinking about the problem for a long moment.  Take a timeout.  …clear rational thinking is vital to staying found.”

I do not have the best sense of direction for literal orienteering.  But I have developed a God-sense of direction since my episode of being lost spiritually…which is far more scary and potentially destructive.

Can I share with you that the Holy Spirit helping us understand the Word of God found in the Bible is the best compass ever!  Why not “Stop right where you are!  Look for the old, godly way, and walk in it.  Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls.  ..(Jeremiah 6:16)

There is no better plan if you are confused, don’t know which way to turn or totally lost than to ask this of God “Direct my footsteps according to Your Word.”  (Ps. 119:133a)  For Heaven’s Sake, stay found!!!!


Blessings,

Phyllis Dickinson

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Focal Point

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I enjoy my camera. I enjoy landscape photography, getting out in nature and enjoying what God has put there for me to enjoy, even the snakes though my wife would disagree with enjoying seeing a snake. Nature is a place I get focus and where I find myself communing with God more than anyplace else.  Though that’s my sanctuary with God and I fully understand why Jesus went to the Garden to talk with the Father.

I like my camera because it allows me to see the world differently. Even just holding the camera will change how I see the world, because I sometimes see the world through its lens even when I’m not actively taking a picture. You focus more on the flowers, a bird, or other beautiful things that grab your attention. My wife and I were walking along a creek at Ferne Clyffe State Park and I noticed how the water rippled and glittered in the sun, the nuances in a large rock, and various other things.

Last Sunday, while listening to a wonderful sermon from Pastor Ron about Orange and basically being like Jesus when we interact with the world, I thought about focus. I thought about how walking with Jesus means your focus changes. It is much like carrying my camera, how you see things changes. When you carry Jesus with you, it should change how you perceive things and interact with others.  When I wake in the morning, I make a choice on how I want to perceive that day.

As I walk out the door in the morning, I remember to try and focus on the good in any situation, and to remember to look back at a bad situation and find the good.  I walk out the door and remind myself to not see labels, but people.  It is what we choose to focus on that helps form our attitude and our interaction with others, that is why faith, hope and love were important parts of His message and why love is the greatest of those.

I found a store a few years ago that sold Life Is Good shirts. They have become my favorite shirts and my wardrobe has slowly increased in them over the years. I like wearing them not only because they are quite comfy, but as a reminder to myself and to others that life really is good. We can too often focus on the bad and miss the good. We can forget to pick up Jesus when we wake up or as we walk out the door and put him around our neck to help us focus.  To have him in our hearts so when we see another person, we see them through our Jesus lens instead of with just our own eyes.

Romans 12 gives us a great idea of what our focus should be when we choose to see the world through the lens of Christ.

With kindness,

Tyrone Castle
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On Sunday, August 23, fifteen teams from OFFUMC gathered to take part in an Amazing Race. Modeled after the popular TV show, some challenges focused on fun, friendly competition.  In pure silliness, groups of friends and family shook off winter clothes, raced through obstacle courses, jousted Youth Minister Brad Lewis, and cannonballed into swimming pools.  While laughs were shared and bonds strengthened through these antics, certain aspects of the day held deeper meaning.


Keeping with the theme of “Thinking Orange,” many activities called teams to use their love of Christ and of one another to spread God’s light to the community.   With this outreach in mind, teams collected canned goods for the food bank, paid it forward by buying drinks and meals, and delivered flowers to passers-by.  Participants of all ages lent helping hands to neighbors by walking dogs and doing yardwork.  Lives were touched as representatives of Christ bought bus fare, donated coins at the laundromat, and pumped gas for those they had never met.   Teams even invited strangers to share in words of prayer.  With each act of kindness, a small card delivered a message wishing that the recipient would “feel God’s love today.”  In total, approximately 250 gestures of love were shared on the streets of O’Fallon.  At the end of the day, teams gathered back at OFFUMC to share stories and a meal, bodies tired and hot, but spirits filled by God’s amazinGRACE.

Blessings,

Stacy Robinson

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A Convoy Rolled into Town

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On Saturday August 15th the work began well before the first glimmer of the morning sun.  When we arrived we found heavy dew on the ground in the O’Fallon Community Park and the warm summer air was static and sticky.  In just a few short hours there would be over 3,000 guest taking advantage of a day of neighbor helping neighbor. That is the Convoy of Hope philosophy. There would be over 1,000 volunteers most wearing their blue Convoy of Hope t-shirt with the word Momentum printed in large letters on the front.   Momentum can be defined as “mass in motion” and that is what we were, a group of volunteers all in motion preparing to receive our “Guests of Honor.”

Over 50 Metro-East churches came together to offer a day of love, care, and generosity to those that may need a little assistance. Before the sun came up volunteers were unloading a 53 foot 18 wheeler full of groceries. Written on side of the 18 wheeler in huge letters over a red, white, and blue background are the words “Convoy of Hope.”  The groceries were sorted and bagged and ready to hand out. Not far away the smell of hot dogs cooking filled the air. By now the sun is up as well as the summer temperature and the call for everyone to stay hydrated rang out.  Final preparations were made in the “Kids Zone” and the haircut area.  At the far end of the field the Veterans Administration and the National Breast Cancer Foundation area were ready to receive visitors.

The O’Fallon FUMC responsibility was Jobs & Career Services which involved organizing employment counselors to be available to assist our guest. Jane Jung assembled an “all-star” group of counselors that offered a high level of care and expertise to job seekers to get them to the next level of their employment search. The employment counselors also offered workshops which in one such workshop visitors learned how to network with employers and how to use on-line “job boards.”  At the end of the day over 275 customers came through our 40 by 60 foot tent seeking advice.  To aid our job seeking guest we offered childcare which proved to be a great help to those that needed to speak to a counselor.

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Overall the day of neighbor helping neighbor included free groceries, haircuts, family portraits, backpacks, shoes, and a free lunch.   The Veterans Administration sent a Mobile Vet unit which was equipped as “offices on wheels,” with the capacity to provide individual and group counseling for Veterans and their families.  Veterans also learned how to access their benefits and were able to make follow-on appointments.  The National Breast Cancer Foundation Mobile Van contained state of the art equipment to offer screening, counseling, and education.  In the medical area people could get flu shots, blood pressure screening, and much more. The Kids Zone was a huge play area with bounce houses and games.

By mid-morning the O’Fallon Community Park was a village where radical hospitality ruled the day.  In 1 Peter 4:10 we read “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (NIV)  Peter tells us that we each have a special gift and we should us it to glorify God.  By any measure Convoy of Hope Metro-East was a huge success.  The number of guest served was very impressive but more importantly the relationships forged together will leave lastly impressions.

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I heard stories of how people discovered anew how important it is to stand in the gap and pray for others.   Volunteers that were paired to work together boldly stepped out of their comfort zone to serve others.  Here is a story from the Veterans Administration tent: “I had quite a few Women Veterans who approached the table and were informed of our services, who expressed a desire to enroll.   One in particular, a blind Woman Veteran who is at imminent risk of homelessness, came by and was given resources to assist her.  She has a 6 year old child and a husband who is being treated for lymphoma.  She is planning to enroll so that we can assist.” 

It is not about the project but about building relationships. The project was to hand out groceries, lunch, haircuts and more but the true measure of success is about the relationships. We can transfer that philosophy to our daily lives. Take time to say hi to the cashier at your local store or to offer a smile to someone you meet.  Maybe that is all it takes to get that person through another day.  You are showing God’s grace to others.   May God’s strength be with you as you boldly step out of your comfort zone to serve others.

Convoy of Hope Metro-East Statistics:

  • Volunteers – 1,128
  • Guests in Attendance – 3,040
  • Guests Prayed with – 2,736 (90%)
  • Looking for a church – 50
  • Gideon Bibles handed out – 2,136
  • Haircuts given – 652
  • NBCF guests – 606
  • Women’s shoes – 960
  • Children’s shoes – 1,790
  • Plum Organics guests – 1,270
  • Job & Career service guests – 275
  • Portraits provided – 413
  • Meals prepared – 4,430

Blessings,

Ron Fontenot

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Power of Prayer

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As many of you may know, John and I have taught second grade Sunday school for the past twenty-one years and recently retired this year on Promotion Sunday. Over the years we have learned right along with our students, getting to know the books of the Bible better, and also the amazing power of prayer. One year along the way, we began doing “prayer concerns” before the opening class prayer, and this had become a regular part of our classroom routine.

We would go around the class, allowing each student to mention their praises/concerns (which often led to discussion by others in class), then I would start a prayer followed by, “and Lord we have these concerns for you: Jerry…”As concerns ranged from skinned knees, sick/lost pets, fun birthday parties, travel plans, to sick relatives, I began writing them down, so that Jerry would remember what his concern was. John or I would usually go last. One Sunday, my prayer concern was for our daughter’s friend, Jacob, who had been in a bicycling accident and was in the hospital with serious head injuries.

That same Sunday, we had brought in a clay jug that a family friend had sent us after a trip to the Holy Land, containing water from a well. As we passed it around the room for the students to look at, one student said, “Mrs. Tompros, your prayer has been answered! See, it says right here: ‘Jacob’s Well’!” That same afternoon, we heard from our daughter that Jacob HAD made a remarkable recovery and was going to leave the hospital within the next few days. It took a second grader’s unconditional belief in the power of prayer to strengthen my belief! We sent Jacob that jug the next day.

In God’s Hands,

Nancy Tompros

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