My Son Has Been In Jail…

 

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My son has been in jail every week, once a week, for five years.  Our younger son is one of the smartest and yet most humble people I know.  He is a tenured professor at Indiana University, Dr. Markus Dickinson Ph.D (computational linguistics).  But he chooses to spend time in the Monroe County Jail every week in the AIR Unit (Addicts in Recovery).  Markus works with men to help them with that difficult transition back into the community.

 

Here is what our son says about jail life:  “Rarely have I experienced the sense of acceptance that I experience when I go to the jail.  My criminal record consists of a single speeding ticket and yet when I sit with twelve inmates, I belong.  Amongst these broken men, I am accepted for who I am.”  And they talk with him, ask questions of him, joke with him “all with an air of love and welcome.  I belong.”

 

Our son has concluded that people in jail are real people.  “People who worry about their kids; people who debate Scrabble words; people who have opinions about politics, basketball, sandwiches; people who need love – and people who show love.”  Opening ourselves up to the “broken people” of the world allows us to come to terms with our own brokenness and accept people as they are.

 

And I love that my son says this:  “Hey, maybe people who are incarcerated are just that:  people.  As the writer of Hebrews says – in a verse that changed my life- “Remember those in prison as if you yourself were in prison.””

 

The organization that Markus volunteers for is called New Leaf-New Life (Bloomington, Indiana).  He has seen that “everyone is worthy of a second chance.”  He further says:  “…I’d appreciate prayers for the group and for the people re-entering society.  It’s not a Christian organization, but I’m a Christian in the organization, so prayers are welcome!”  I am proud of the Jesus in Markus that sits with those in prison each week.

 

With 2016 right around the calendar’s corner, thinking about turning over a new leaf and having new life is totally timely!

Blessings,

Phyllis Dickinson

God Is Near

 

 

I was chatting with a gal who works the front desk at our local YMCA.  She was sharing how she is beginning to feel frantic about the holiday season.  She and her family are going to be traveling to Florida for Christmas and she still has soooo much to do.  And soooo little time.  Most of us can relate.  I know I can.

 

I asked her if she knew what Emmanuel means.  She did not know.  But she wrote it down!!   I said that it is a Name of Jesus.  It means “God with us”.  It means that God is near to us.  It means that we do not have to be afraid of a great distance between ourselves and our Creator.

 

I suggested that she invite Jesus into her holiday.  I suggested she take Jesus shopping with her and share all her struggles with Him.  I suggested that she pray over her day each day before she gets ‘wrapped around the axles’ of the anxiety-driven car of her mind and heart.

 

I am willing to pray for anyone I see who struggles this season.  I am praying that the God Who is near us will be within us.  All of us.  I pray for everyone I see to sense how much God loves them and how much He longs to be Emmanuel to them.

 

“Behold, the virgin shall become pregnant and give birth to a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel-which, when translated, means, God With Us.”

(Matthew 1:23 Amplified)

 

Whenever you are sensing that you feel alone, speak the truth to yourself:  “I am not alone.  God-Emmanuel is with me”.

Merry Christmas,

Phyllis Dickinson

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One Gift…

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…is really all any of us needs.  And probably all any of us want.  Really.  Ultimately.  But we may not know that.

 

How does one relay that this One Gift  is so significant, so eternally priceless, so life-saving that it should be gotten at the risk of losing all else in this life?

 

Words found in the most precious and priceless book of all time, the Bible, are worth reading and comprehending:

 

“And what profit is there in gaining the whole world when it means forfeiting one’s self?”  (Luke 9:25 LB)

 

“For the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  (Romans 6:23 LB)

 

“Because of His kindness you have been saved through trusting Christ.  And even trusting is not of yourselves; it, too, is a gift from God.”  (Ephesians 2:8)

 

No Black Friday Sale or Monday Cyber Sale, no package under the tree…no gift anywhere compares.  At the end of the day…?  At the end of a life…?  I want this gift of Jesus Christ in my heart.  Nothing else will do.  “THE GIFT” has already been bought.  Long ago it was paid for.  It has each of our names on the tag.  How to obtain?  Simple.  Receive it.

 

Blessings,

Phyllis Dickinson

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Twenty-one Seconds…

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Even in the busiest of Advent Season times, twenty-one seconds is easy to find.  Less than one-half of one minute.  That is how long it takes to pray the Prayer that Jesus taught us to pray:  “Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.  Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.”  (Matthew 6:9-13 KJV)

 

Terry Teykl reviews in an article in the “Good News”  (Nov./Dec. 2015) magazine about Jeremiah Lampier’s noon time prayer meeting that began in 1857 in an abandoned New York City church.  Six people showed up thirty minutes late at the first meeting.  Long, inspiring story short…a million people came to Christ from this noon time meeting and a big ‘move of God’ in what is referred to as “The Fulton Street Revival” began and spread all over NYC and the east coast.

 

Teykl says “In a crazy and mixed-up world of random shootings and temptations to sin, I love the idea of someone at noon asking God to deliver me or you from evil.  Perhaps in such corporate agreement we could minimize evil’s assaults and maximize divine guardianships.”  The “Pray Down at High Noon” prayer effort came from Terry Teykl which has become “the largest 21-second daily prayer meeting in the world!”

 

Next time you are tempted to cringe at all the evil around you, how about praying instead?  Even if just you and God show up, eternity will reveal just how much good your “Shameless audacity” in prayer will bring by just you, one person, praying this prayer daily and meaning it!

Blessings,

Phyllis Dickinson

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What Does Christmas Really Look Like?

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As the Christmas season approaches we begin to see images of mangers, wise men, and shepherds.  We might have a vision in our head of snow on the ground and begin to think about Christmas’ past.  We watch little children with a twinkle in their eyes anticipating the perfect gift.  People are making travel plans to be with loved ones, menus are discussed, and the stores are full of shoppers.  The pace of the final days till Christmas begins to get frantic. What does Christmas really look like?  We find this in Luke chapter 2.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2: 8-12

Every December we await Christmas as we remember the coming of the baby Jesus into this world.  The angel didn’t alert the wealthy or the noble but appeared to the shepherds out in the fields.  The shepherd’s life was an onerous one of a subordinate position. The shepherd endured hardship, and even danger. He was exposed to the extremes of heat and cold, his food frequently consisted of what he could find in the field.

The Christmas holidays don’t always go as planned.  I’m reminded of a story about a middle-class family that wanted to have their best Christmas ever.  Each of the three children had their own ideas of a great Christmas.  The oldest daughter had plans to spend Christmas Eve with her boyfriend while the youngest daughter wanted a big tree with lots of presents – all for her no doubt.  The middle son didn’t want any part of Christmas.   The wife generously bought presents for people they rarely communicated with and planned to deliver them on Christmas Eve.

As the story goes the dad got off work early on Christmas Eve and wanted to take the family up into the mountains to cut a tree just like his family did long ago.  Of course the children protested vigorously because they had important plans but the dad won out and off they go.  They keep driving higher up the mountain and the dad keeps telling them the perfect tree is just around the next bend but it begins to snow.  The dad kept saying we are almost there but it really was a little beyond what he remembered.    The mountain snow was coming down so fast they had to stop the car and now the roads were so slick with ice it was not safe to travel.  Stranded and no one else around plus no way to call for help.   The family could see a cabin off into the distance so they made their way to check it out.  They discovered this was a summer cabin for hikers but there was still food and supplies in the cabinets.  They were safe but not exactly the Christmas Eve everyone wanted.   After a lot of angry talk and unhappy faces the dad told the son that they could go out and at least get a tree.   To warm the cabin the mom started a fire in the fire place and began to warm some soup.  The girls found some old magazines and tore the pages into strips to make a paper chain to decorate the tree.

After the tree was up and decorated and they finished their meal the mom asked everyone to recall one of their favorite Christmas memories.   Everyone had a favorite time to share and after a while mom begin to read the Christmas story from the Bible.  The family rarely worshiped together and certainly never outside of church.  The mother read Luke 2:1-20.  In part:

 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 

The family began to sing Silent Night.

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth

By some measures this family experienced a pretty special Christmas.  Time to talk not interrupted by technology or with personal agendas.  God puts us in special places at special times.  What will your Christmas look like this year?

Merry Christmas,

Ron Fontenot

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Away in a Manger

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Amazing things are happening down in our little preschool classrooms. On the outside, it may seem that we spend our days playing, singing, cutting (or attempting to) and taking countless trips to the restroom. However, inside those walls, special things are happening.

Every child is learning to love one another, love themselves for who they are and to love God. Christmas is indeed magic when you are a 4- year-old, but I have learned that Christmas is magic for the 4-year-olds’ teacher as well. It is one thing to hear the Christmas Story, but an entirely different thing to teach it. The 4-year-old child runs on pure emotion, and this story is full of emotion.

I get to feel and remember, along with my little ones, what a surprise it must have been for Mary when the angel came to tell her she was going to have a baby. Together we feel the injustice at learning that this precious mother with child had to travel a long, hard journey on a donkey only to find no room for them to stay in Bethlehem.

We feel impressed that Mary and Joseph somehow managed to make a safe crib for the baby to sleep, and we feel immense joy to learn that the baby was born. We share the warmth and love with so many others that came that night. I see the meaning of Christmas transform from Santa and his reindeer to Jesus and his love. I feel blessed and grateful that I get to answer important questions such as “Why is Jesus special?”, “Where is Jesus now?”, and “Does Jesus love me too?”. My own heart grows in strength, right along with theirs, as God helps me answer these big questions and know that I have the best job in the world.

Blessings,

Kristen Hiam

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Practical Giver

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I confess, I did it.  In a moment of parenting weakness, I purchased a gift for my daughter that I promised I wouldn’t.  The animatronic, talking bird toy has been on my 9 year-old’s wish list for months, and against my better judgement, it arrived yesterday via an Amazon box.

Ordinarily, I love giving my daughters presents.  I adore the sparkle in their eyes when they open a surprise. It’s the promise of that sparkle that made me the owner of a plastic talking bird.  The only problem is that years of mommy experience have taught me the love for the bird is going to be short-lived.  It’s one of those toys that will be exciting for the first day or two but will fade fast.  As soon as the batteries run down or it doesn’t quite cooperate with my daughter’s commands, the bird will be collecting dust next to the stuffed animal from the zoo I was talked into.

You see, I’m more of a practical gift giver.  Things like socks and bed sheets that bring daily benefit seem much more exciting to me.  One Christmas my husband bought me a labeler, and he has seldom looked more romantic in my eyes.  (Sad, I know.)

Fortunately, for all of us, God is a better gift-giver than I could ever be.  He covers all the bases.  The true gift of Christmas, Jesus’s coming to Earth as a baby, is both surprising and practical.

I’m repeatedly astonished that the Savior of the world was born as a fragile, innocent baby, the humble child of a carpenter, in a lowly manger. It takes my breath away to know the Creator of our universe, came into this world for us.  That’s an amazement that can’t be found in a box.

Likewise, the joy of knowing Christ is a gift that will last a lifetime and beyond.  On good days and bad, in youth and in adulthood, through all the seasons of life, I can depend on Christ to be with me.  Even into eternity, the gift of salvation will welcome me into God’s presence.  Now, that’s practical.

So, no matter what presents you put under the Christmas tree, I pray you’ll take some time this Christmas to introduce your kids to a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Knowing Him is a gift that keeps on giving, and one that will put a sparkle in their eye that can’t be reproduced.

Merry Christmas!

Stacy

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P.S.  The church staff and I are here to help your family along this journey of faith however we can.  Please feel free to contact me at offumckids@gmail.com.  You may also want to access some of the resources located on the “Parent” tab of the church website.