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Showing posts with label Guest Blogger. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Guest Blogger. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

"The Door to the Sun" by Abigail Mullis

The Door to The Sun
The following short story was written by my 14-year-old daughter.  
I thought it was quite creative and so I want to share it with you.  Enjoy!

Violet stared up at the ceiling fan and listened to Grandma’s endless snoring. She tossed and turned, but nothing seemed to help her fall asleep. She tried to go downstairs to get a snack, but the steps made an awful creaking noise that sent her right back up. She searched old shelves for a picture book she could look at to pass the time. But alas, Grandma only read Shakespeare and Jane Austen, which had no pictures. Violet passed the old hound dog in the hallway. He looked at her with tired eyes and seemed to say that he was sleepy too. Finally, she went back into her room and looked out her window at the starry sky and the skinny moon. The street was empty and everyone was asleep. Even the hound had finally settled down and dosed off. Violet rested her chin on her hand. 

Nothing fun happened at night. No one played checkers,  jumped rope, or ate popsicles in the heat while playing in the sprinklers. Night was for sleeping, and sleeping was no fun. Violet loved the moon, but she wished she could tell him to go away because wandering around without sleep was exhausting, but the moon wasn’t a person she could talk to…or maybe he was. Her mother was always talking about a “man in the moon”, and mothers know what they’re talking about. 

She decided to give it a try. “Mr. Moon, will you take me to the door of the sun?” she asked. She didn't know where the sun went when the moon was out, so she thought that it must be behind a door. After all, that seemed to be where everyone was when she couldn’t see them. When her mother and father had to talk about something very important, they always closed the door. When her older sister was angry, she closed the door too, or rather slammed it. When her father had to go off to work he shut the car door and sped off. When just about anyone was where Violet couldn’t see them, they were always behind a door. She bounced in her seat while she waited for Mr. Moon to come, but after sitting there for what seemed like ages, she gave up hope. She scratched at the peeling paint with her fingernail and imagined what it would be like to fly through the sky with the man in the moon.

A shadow passed by. She whirled around watching it flutter across her room. Fingers appeared on the window seal. They turned white as they pulled up a person who went straight through the glass.

        “Hello!” said the stranger in a cheery voice. 

        Violet gasped. Was this Mr. Moon? He certainly didn’t look old enough to be a mister. You could tell by his baby cheeks and short stature that he was at most only twelve. His clothes were scrappy and covered in soot. Violet thought that perhaps he was a chimney sweep, like in Mary Poppins. That would explain the soot, but there was more to him. His skin was faintly gray and silvery, like a ghost, and that was like no chimney sweep Violet knew of. 

        “Who are you?” she asked.

        “I’m Mr. Moon. Don’t you remember calling for me?” the boy said with a mischievous smile.

        “You aren’t a mister,” she protested.

        “Well, whatever I am, I’m the person you called for. I’m here to take you to the door of the sun.”

        Violet’s face lit up. “I’m ready!” she exclaimed. “I don’t have to change out of my pajamas, do I?”

        “No. It’s best that you wear pajamas. They’re more aerodynamic than clothes, but only during the night.”

        Violet didn’t know what aerodynamic meant, but she thought it must’ve meant something good.             Mr. Moon grabbed her hand and stepped onto the window seal. He looked back at her with his mischievous smile before sliding through the glass and taking her with him. They flew through the night sky. Violet’s two long braids followed behind. They sailed passed tall apartment buildings, and short yellow houses with sleeping families inside, passed clothing shops that Violet’s mother took her in to try on dreadful frilly dresses, and diners that had the most delicious milkshakes that were her and her grandmother’s “little secrets”, passed the school, post office, grocery store and everywhere else she would go with her mother to run errands. Mr. Moon changed his direction to upwards, and they shot passed twinkling stars and landed on a floating cloud. The cloud was fluffy and like everything Violet had ever imagined floating on a cloud to be like (she thought about it often).

        “This cloud will take us to the door,” Mr. Moon said.

        Violet nodded and rubbed her hands against the silky cloud. She had so many questions she wanted to ask Mr. Moon. They were important to her, even though her mother always said that they were silly and nonsensical. Of course her questions weren’t though, and Violet didn’t mind what her mother said about them much, because she didn’t know what nonsensical meant anyway.

        “Do you know the seasons?” she asked. 

        “Of course,” he said. 

        “Well then, can you ask Winter why he doesn’t just take off his coat and join Spring?”

        “I guess I could. But have you ever thought that it might just be because the Snow is too childish to not be watched over by Winter and too beautiful to be completely given up on?” he answered.

        “I guess that's true.” She looked down. They had floated far. They were already drifting over the ocean. 

        “Ocean!” Mr. Moon yelled down. A wave crashed against the shore as if it was answering back. “What's your favorite snack?” A whale rose to the surface, and shot shimmering foam from its blowhole up onto the cloud. Violet studied the bubbling substance.

        “Sea foam,” Mr. Moon said. He laughed. “Interesting choice,” he called down.

        Another wave crashed, and the whale disappeared into the water. Violet dipped her finger in the sea foam and stuck it in her mouth. It was subtly salty, like the saltwater taffy she would have on vacation. It deflated in her mouth, and coated her tongue. “I can tell why he likes it. It’s a perfect balance between sweet and salty,” she said. She fell over onto her back and watched the passing world. “Mr. Moon, why do grown ups serve tiny foods at parties? Why not just serve the big kind?” 

        “Now that's a good question. My best guess would be that tiny foods are cuter. Wouldn't you agree? But who knows why grown ups do anything?”

        Violet nodded. She looked down at the ground and all the miniature buildings. Her eyes started to grow heavy. 

        “We’re here!” Mr. Moon exclaimed, startling Violet. He hopped off the cloud and helped her down. The ground was rocky and gray. They were on the moon. “Home sweet home!” Mr. Moon bellowed. 

        “How are we supposed to get to the door from here?” Violet asked.

        Mr. Moon pointed straight ahead. There was a long, skinny bridge connecting the moon to a platform, where a yellow door stood. “There it is,” he said. “The door to the sun.”

        Violet's face glowed. She ran off in front of Mr. Moon and onto the bridge. She stepped one foot in front of the other and stuck her arms out to balance herself. 

        “Wait for me!” Mr. Moon called. He glided over to Violet and scooped her up, taking her with him to the platform. There were two guards on either side of the door with the same silvery complexion as Mr. Moon. One guard had glowing blue eyes and sleek white hair. The other had auburn locks that were hung in two pigtails, and amber eyes that danced in the moonlight. They wore identical glittering dresses.

        “Oh! Hello, Mr. Moon,” the blue eyed guard greeted. 

        “Hello, Vega. And how are you, Betelgeuse?” Mr. Moon said, looking over at the guard with the pigtails. 

        “I’m very good, sir. Is it morning already?” Betelgeuse asked. 

        “No, not yet. But my friend Violet asked me to take her to the door of the sun.”

        Betelgeuse and Vega looked down at Violet. She was a cheery girl, with long braids, and curious green eyes. She was short, and her nightgown was so big on her that it touched the ground. “And why did you want to come to this door?” Vega asked.

        “I want the sun to wake up,” Violet answered.

        The guards nodded and signaled for Violet to come up. “Go ahead,” Betelgeuse said.

        Violet tip-toed to the door. She raised her little fist and tapped the door two times. It flew open. Out stepped a tall woman with golden ringlets and tan skin. She let out a long yawn. This was the Sun. The Sun looked down at Violet, and then glared up at Mr. Moon. She furrowed her brow.

        “You’re always doing this! Don’t you know I like my beauty rest! If you bring one more child to wake me, you’ll regret it!” she barked.

        “I’m sorry! It’s just…” Mr. Moon started.

        “It’s just that the night is so boring!” Violet interrupted. 

        The Sun looked away and shook her head. She pinched the bridge of her nose in silent frustration. Violet had seen this expression far too many times. Her mother did it often as a way of saying, ‘I’m disappointed that my daughter is just a silly little girl with her head in the clouds.’  Violet balled her fists. She was not just a silly little girl. 

        “I have to get ready,” the Sun grunted. She turned her back to them and slammed the door shut.

        Mr. Moon took Violet’s hand and flew her back to the cloud. They drifted away, but Violet kept her eye on the door until she couldn’t see it any longer. She had never thought that the Sun would be so rude. They floated back over the murky ocean who waved at them with seaweed in his hand. The cloud stopped over the city.

        “Why was the sun so rude?” Violet asked.

        “Because nobody likes to be woken up,” Mr. Moon answered.

        He took Violet’s hand and jumped off the cloud. Together they sailed passed twinkling stars, apartment buildings, little yellow houses, shops, diners, and everywhere Violet and her mother would run errands. They flew through the window and Mr. Moon let go of her. Violet looked out the window at the dusty yellow sky of the rising sun.

        “I have one last question,” she said. “Why does no one play checkers, or jump rope, or eat popsicles in the heat while playing in the sprinklers at night.”

        Mr. Moon itched his forehead. “Because dreaming is far more interesting. In dreams your imagination has no bounds. In the real world, not everything is possible.”

        Violet nodded. “Goodbye, Mr. Moon.”

        “Farewell, Violet. Call me next time you have insomnia.” He stepped onto the window sill and slid through the glass. Violet drowsily crawled into her bed and nestled into the covers. She didn’t know what insomnia meant, but she thought it must’ve meant something good, because this was the most fun night she had ever had.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Guest Blog - Cooking With Fruit

I would like to give a special thanks to David Crawford for preaching for me at Pleasant Grove UMC while I am away on study leave.  David serves as the music minister at my church.  In addition to being a wonderful husband, dad, gifted musician, and a really funny person, David is also an excellent speaker.  Most of all, David is a true disciple of Christ.  He serves with humility and caring and leads people--not only to accomplish great things, but--to know they are truly loved.  Thank you, David, for stepping out of your comfort zone to preach and for all that you do in the Kingdom of God.  I also want to thank you for allowing me to feature your message on my blog today while I'm out of town.

Cooking with Fruit, by David Crawford
...I thought I would share some of my reflections on the messages [Chris is preaching on the Fruit of the Spirit] and look at how they apply within the context of the scripture found in James 2 verse 26, which reads as follows: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” Would you pray with me, “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you, oh Lord, our strength and our redeemer.” What good is knowledge about the Fruit if we aren’t consuming it and using it to fuel our Christian walk?

Before we start cooking with the Fruit of the Spirit, we’re going to do a little prep work and review a
couple of items. First, while the Fruit of the Spirit grows within us, we cannot grow the Fruit of the Spirit. Only God as the Holy Spirit within us can grow the Fruit. We must accept Jesus as our Savior so the Holy Spirit may dwell within us so God can grow the Fruit. Second, we have to prepare the garden in which the Fruit may sprout, grow, ripen and be harvested. We do this by maintaining a relationship with God. We pray, ask for forgiveness, act on the prompts from the Holy Spirit, attend worship services, lift praise to God, and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And third, the Fruit of the Spirit is a collective of all the fruits. Each of the fruits grows within each of us as the Fruit of the Spirit. To me it’s kinda like a sassafras tree. If you’ve ever noticed, the sassafras tree has different types of leaves, but each one, though shaped differently, is still a leaf from a sassafras tree. Each of us has the capacity for growing all of the fruits that make up the Fruit of the Spirit. So we don’t get to say things like, “Well, I reckon the soil in my garden just wasn’t rich enough to grow self control”, or “This has been a bad year for patience in the garden, it just didn’t take root.” The Holy Spirit is a master gardener, and will grow in abundance all the fruits that make up its Fruit when we do our part.

Now, if we are tending this garden well, the harvest will be abundant, and the next question must be,
what do we do with all this Fruit. When the fruit in our earthly gardens is ripe and heavy on the vines, bushes, or trees we usually keep some for ourselves, and give some away. It’s not that much different with the Fruit of the Spirit. I love going out to my blueberry bushes and looking for the most plump, sweet blueberries, picking them off, and slowly eating them one by one. They are warm from the sun, sometimes wet with dew or rain, firm enough to pop but soft enough to press them open on the roof of my mouth with my tongue, and sweet, oh so sweet. They are my blueberries, I planted them, watered them, mulched around them, placed a bird net over them, watched the stems bring forth leaves, then beautiful flowers, pale green berries and finally a deep blue covered by a light powder. Hmmm, mmm. If you can’t tell, I enjoy my fruit. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the Fruit of the Holy Spirit, in fact it is intended to be a blessing for you as well as others. In this hectic world who doesn’t yearn for just a few moments of peace? A respite from your job, a retreat from your responsibilities, a moment to yourself not spent in the bathroom, which seems to be about the only place there’s at least a chance of peace and quiet. Peace is a fruit that is for you as well as others. The first time I filled in for our pastor and spoke before our congregation, I was extremely nervous. My hands were clammy with sweat, my heart was beating very quickly, I felt overwhelmed and wondered just how badly my voice would be shaking and whether my trembling hands would be noticed from the congregation. I sat there in that chair watching our choir walk past and take their seats in the pews, leaving me alone in the pulpit. I had never felt so exposed. And then, the Holy Spirit went into the garden, plucked a nice ripe fruit of Peace, and cut it open and fed it to my soul. Just as the nerves and fear had been monumentally intense, so was the Peace. Immediate relief and inexplicable calmness spread throughout my entire being. I hope you’ve had a chance to experience that Peace, as it works wonders for your faith, but if you haven’t, and you want to, just volunteer to speak for DJ one Sunday when he’s going to be gone, and maybe you’ll bless yourself as well as others. So what happens when we take a bite of peace? Amazingly, it’s almost the opposite of what we would think, but it causes us to be brave, courageous, and step outside our comfort zone because the Fruit of Peace reminds us that all is well when we are walking the walk and talking the talk for God. The Fruit of Peace is for you, but also for others, because when you are at peace, you are more able and willing to share some of the other Fruit of the Spirit; for example, The Fruit of Patience, which pairs quite well with the Fruit of Kindness and Gentleness. It is very difficult to show patience and kindness if you don’t have peace. As a matter of fact, dealing with people who try our patience is one of the main reasons we seek peace. Most of us have at least one family member, co-worker, member of the church, customer or someone from somewhere with whom we find it hard to be patient and kind, and though we might not like to admit it, chances are we are that someone for somebody else. But when we cook with the Fruit of Patience and Kindness, when we sprinkle them onto our interactions, the actions we take and the way we carry out those actions become a blessing for those with whom we are patient and kind, we are a witness to those around, and we increase our faith because we trust in the Holy Spirit and rely on God’s promises.

Now, if I went around the congregation, and asked you to name your favorite earthly fruit, I’m sure
I’d get a lot of different answers, and I also bet that at some point someone would name a fruit that another person didn’t really care for, or perhaps disliked entirely. Well, there is a Fruit of the Spirit that sometimes requires us to acquire a taste for it, and that is the Fruit of Self-Control. Food, video games, gossip, social media, news outlets, hobbies, Netflix binge watching, and the list goes on; but if I didn’t hit one of your vices, the next time you’re doing anything other than praying, reading the Bible, witnessing, or acting on the will of God, just ask yourself, how long have I been doing this, and should I be spending a little more time doing something else? We live in an era where there are more temptations than ever and I believe more are on the way. It is hard to eat just one Krispy Kreme donut, I don’t want to stop playing the video game until I reach the next level, sometimes we’re so eager to tell the latest gossip we don’t even give Self- Control a chance before we’re half-way through the story and realize it’s too late. Social media lets us hide behind our screens, phones, and tablets while we tweet and retweet, and post and share without giving much thought to our witness before we click that mouse or tap that phone. Our hobbies can pull us away and suck all the extra time out of the day, and if you really want to wonder where your weekend went, binge watch a series on Netflix. The Holy Spirit is in the kitchen, cooking up a nice dish that’s just loaded with self-control, but sometimes we’re like a toddler, with his lips pressed firmly shut as we try to push strained squash through. Self-control may not be the tastiest fruit in our garden, but if you want to grow spiritually and really see God at work in your life, start taking a daily dose. When you choose not to eat that donut, when you put down the video controller, when you keep your mouth closed, or stop working on that project, or don’t start the next episode in the Netflix series, then you are acquiring a taste for Fruit of Self-control. After a little while, it becomes easier and that Fruit becomes tastier, until one day you may find you actually enjoy it. There is immense satisfaction in resisting temptation, just remember, the power to say “no” comes from the Fruit Of the Holy Spirit, not our own strength, but the strength afforded to us because of God’s love and mercy.

James 2:26 - For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

The Fruit of Faithfulness is sometimes difficult to cook with, but it is so important because just as
faith without works is dead, so the fruit of faithfulness without action spoils quickly once ripe. The fruit of faithfulness requires self-control, and we know that self-control can be a bitter fruit to swallow. Faithfulness requires us to pray, to attend worship services, to interact with people we don’t know and witness to them, to read God’s word, to serve in God’s kingdom, and to be consistent in these actions is exactly what Faithfulness is. The Holy Spirit is faithful in it’s promise to grow the fruit of faithfulness. The Holy Spirit will convict us and guide us so we may be faithful in our service to God and His kingdom, but we must take actions, as led by the Holy Spirit, that draw us into a deeper relationship with God. Only through consuming the Fruit of Faithfulness can we have the relationship God seeks to have with us. God has always been and will always be faithful to us, so much that He gave His only Son as a living sacrifice for us, how can we turn up our nose at this fruit and pass the plate around the table.

My idea of cooking with Joy may seem a bit strange, because to me cooking with Joy looks like you
put a bunch of other fruits in a blender and made them into a delicious smoothie. When you are joyful, you act peacefully. Have you ever seen a joyful person engaging in road rage? Yeah, me neither. When you are joyful you act kindly. Have you ever seen a person full of joy take a lollipop from a small child? When you are joyful you are content, and when you are content it is easier to exercise self-control. Joyful people are energetic people, and energetic people have the stamina to be faithful to run the race, no matter how long and strenuous it becomes. Have you ever seen someone filled with joy enter a room? Sometimes they enter quietly and there is simply a warmth about them that spreads throughout the room as their smile settles in. Other times they bounce in with a radiance that dares you not to smile back. Joy is a blessing to you and others, it will grow within you just like the other fruits that make up the Fruit, and Joy is a fruit that others take note of, and ask themselves, “I wonder what that person has that I don’t, that makes them feel so good?”

Lastly, the Holy Spirit grows the Fruit of Love within us. Love is the ingredient whose flavor
permeates all the other ingredients and ties everything together. If you have patience, but are not patient because of love, you might as well not listen at all. If you exercise self-control, but do not do so out of love, you might as well give in. If you act on all the fruit of the spirit, but do not do so out love, you may as well let the fruit whither on the tree. We love because He first loved us. Our actions must be born out of this love in order for the Fruit of the Spirit to work through us and make us an outward and visible presence of God in this world.

So, cooking with the Fruit of the Holy Spirit is taking the blessings of the Holy Spirit and putting them into action in the world around you. I hope you’ll take time to see what is already ripe and ready for the picking, and also take note of what may need a little extra attention and fertilizing. Pray, actively seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and get into the kitchen and start cooking.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Guest Blogger - David Crawford - Spiritual Gifts

Today I am pleased to share a guest blog written by David Crawford.  David is the talented music minister at Pleasant Grove UMC in Dalton.  David has a great attitude and humble servant's heart.  He loves his family and his church and serves the Lord faithfully. 
Spiritual Gifts
 Well it’s been about three weeks since Christmas.  Everyone has had a chance to evaluate the gifts they received and make that decision.  Are you going to ‘love it” or “leave it”?  Yes, my wife watches Hilary and David, so occasionally I hear their catch phrase as I walk through the living room, don’t judge me.  I’m sure we all got plenty of gifts that we had hoped for, and perhaps a few surprises that made hiding the puzzling look on our faces difficult as the revealing piece of wrapping paper was torn away from the present.  Whether your presents took you to elation or consternation, gift giving is a big part of the Christmas season and that is in large part because of the wonderful gift God gave us.  Romans 8:32  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
When I read that I had to do a double take.  Did Paul say give us ALL things?  Because Steven Wright, the comedian has clearly pointed out, “You can’t have everything, where would you put it?”  Of course I don’t believe it means that I, personally, will have all tangible items ever made or ever to be made and all intangible qualities of all of humanity; and I’m sure if we asked Bill Caylor if he had enough stuff, he’d probably say, “More than I deserve.”  God gave His Son.  That was way more than we deserved, it was and is a gift that we can never repay.  So what else does God graciously give us?  I’m glad you asked.

According to Paul, in his letter to the Romans, we are all given gifts, Romans 12:6  We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us...   Now, it doesn’t say, “Some of you have been given gifts…”   We have all been given gifts, and while we are all given gifts, I don’t believe we are given the same gifts.  A  pink Hello Kitty sweater might be great for 9 year old Samantha, but not so hot for 23 year old Jonathan.  God is a lot better at giving gifts than we are, and the gifts we receive from God are a little different.  They are spiritual gifts.  I used to think of our spiritual gifts as our talents or skills, and until I started looking at this message today had not really thought much more about it.  I thought, if you have a talent or skill you should use it for the realization of God’s kingdom here on earth, and I still believe that, but I found a section on the UMC website dedicated to spiritual gifts, and I found some interesting ideas that made me dive a little deeper into spiritual gifts.
According to the United Methodist Church’s Website, “our spiritual gifts are NOT our talents or skills, but the grace of God at work within us, empowering us to match our deep passion with the world’s deep needs.”  As I read this and saw the word talents, my mind went to this story from Mathew 25: 14-30 (Watch it on YouTube).  At first, I must admit, I had a lot of sympathy for the man given 1 talent.  What can you do with 1 talent?  It seemed a bit unfair, so I looked up what a talent was worth, and, as usual, when I delve deeper into the scriptures, I was surprised.  Of course this story took place a long time ago, and naturally there is some disagreement on the value of a talent during this story’s time setting, but I found the lowest estimates to be from about $1000 to $30,00 (today’s value), while the larger estimates put the value between $300,000 and $500,000.  The story began to take on a different light when I realized the value of one talent.  If we look at this story as it is traditionally taught, we see a parallel between the gifts God gives us and the way we use them; and the investments made by the servants on behalf of their master.  And when I discovered the value of the talent, it became sort of a “duh” moment.  I mean, what was I thinking, is God going to send me out on His behalf with less than what I need to represent Him and His kingdom well?  No.  Always No.  God will not send you out on His behalf ill equipped to represent Him and His kingdom.  Doubt me?  Let me drop a few names, like Esther, Noah, Moses, Mary, Joshua, Daniel, all 12 apostles, and you and me here today.  All of these were called by God to further His kingdom, and all were given the necessary gifts to accomplish God’s goal.  
And so the connection between the spiritual gifts and the talents in this parable became more clear to me, even the 1 talent, which I originally thought was not enough to make a fuss over, was more than enough to be invested in the will of the Master.  Whatever spiritual gifts you have been given, they are more than enough to be further the kingdom of God here on earth.
So, I still had a question lingering in my mind, what about this statement that our skills and our talents are not spiritual gifts?  According to the United Methodist Church’s Website, “our spiritual gifts are not our talents or skills, but the grace of God at work within us, empowering us to match our deep passion with the world’s deep needs.”  What were they saying?  All my life people have referred to skills and talents as gifts.  A craftsman has the skill to build, an artist the skill to inspire, a writer the skill to communicate, musician the skill to speak through sound, engineers design, doctors heal, mothers and fathers nurture, and the list goes on.  I think the distinction comes from the last two thirds of the statement. “...the grace of God at work within us, empowering us to match our deep passion with the world’s deep needs.”  All humans have an aptitude for and eventual develop skills and talents.  But not all humans have invited the Holy Spirit into their lives to work within them to match their skills and talents with the world’s deep needs.  You might have the gift of administration, and you might manage a large company to great success making many people, including yourself, lot’s of money, but if you don’t have the grace of God working within you to take that skill and use it to meet the world’s deep needs, then you have simply exercised a survival skill,
not used the spiritual gift of administration.  This doesn’t mean you can’t use your skills and talents to survive and thrive here on earth.  Of course you can and should, but what you do beyond that which is necessary to survive, what you do as a result of the conviction of the Holy Spirit, what you do as a response to the great gift of love and your own love for the giver of that gift, what you do with your skill or talent that addresses the world’s deep needs, that is the exercising of your spiritual gifts.  That is the investment of the talents in the parable we heard earlier.  

You have spiritual gifts.  If you are not sure what they are, you might try taking the survey on the UMC website, or you could discuss this with pastor Chris, or a Christian brother or sister, definitely pray about it, and ask the the Holy Spirit to reveal your gifts to you and motivate you to use your skills and talents to meet the world’s deep needs.
Now, as I was typing this up I kept thinking that, “The world’s deep needs” seems like an ominous task, an impossible mission, a ridiculous goal for just me here at Pleasant Grove UMC.  So start here.  In the church, in your family, in the community.  In case you didn’t know, PGUMC does exist in this world, as does Pleasant Grove, Varnell, Cohutta, Dawnville, Dalton, etc.  And there are deep needs in our community.  Start here.  Make it manageable. 
A friend of mine made a ceramic mug for me and gave it to me as a gift for Christmas a few years ago.  I thanked her, and among the many other coffee vessels I carry around, naturally hers was one of them.  One day as I was using the mug she gave me, she came up to me and said,”It always makes me feel so good when I see you drinking from the cup I made for you.”  And it wasn’t in a, “I’m so good and wonderful, boastful braggish, manner”, it was genuine joy in realizing she had created something for me that I was enjoying and using.   Well, God gave us spiritual gifts.  Don’t you think it makes Him happy when we used the gifts He gave us?  Can’t you see Him smiling as He witnesses us using the gifts He gave us, knowing that by doing so we will be broadening the kingdom of God on earth, thereby making even more people happy as they encounter the all saving grace of our merciful God?  And I’ll tell you something else.  That mug she made me, well, if I have failed to shave, as I often do, and if I sip from the mug at just the right place and in just the right angle, it’ll grab ahold to one of my pseudo beard hairs, and I won’t know it til I pull the mug away from my face.  And yes, then it stings.  But I still love using that mug!  It was made for me, by someone who cared enough to create it and give it to me, and that makes me feel good!  One of the greatest pleasure we get from receiving gifts is…..USING THE GIFT.  How crazy is it that God gave us gifts, and using gifts makes us happy, and using the gifts God gave us makes Him happy too?  Folks, this is almost too good to be true.  You need to get in on this deal.  Discover your gifts if you haven’t already.  Use your gifts if you haven’t been.  And find new and creative ways to keep using your gifts if you have been using them.
Almost every Sunday we say the Apostle’s Creed as our Affirmation Of Faith, and there is line in the Creed that reads: “There He shall judge the quick and the dead.”  That means that Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God judging the quick, which is the living, which as far as I can tell is me and you right now, and the dead.  When we go home to our Master and He asks us how we fared with the talents He gave us, will we be able to show a return on His investment.  Or will hand Him a dust covered cloth filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit that have been buried in our bodies because we were afraid to use them.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Guest Blogger - My Daughter Abigail

My 8-year-old daughter, Abigail, is a witty, intelligent, and budding young writer.  She loves to write stories and spends lots of time doing it(on her own initiative).  Yesterday, she was so excited to show me the "writing desk" she set up in her room exclaiming, "I'm a professional writer now!"  Over the Christmas/New Years break, Abigail decided to research and write about three important female figures in history.  Annie Oakley was Abigail's choice and she asked my wife for two more suggestions; my wife suggested Florence Nightingale and  Edith Wilson.  I share these as a proud father, but I think you will also enjoy these short and creative historical exposes from my little Abigail.


My favorite person in history is Annie Oakley. I decided to write a story about her. After you read this story maybe she’ll be your favorite person in history too.
It all started on August 13,1860 when Phoebe Ann Moses was born. You're probably thinking I thought we were talking about Annie Oakley.  And  we are but believe it or not Annie Oakley’s real name is Phoebe.  When  Annie was 5 her father died. Annie soon got a new father. One day after tons of begging Annie’s stepfather finally let her shoot his gun. With one shot she killed a turkey. That was the first time Annie had ever shot a gun and, she was only 7 years old! That’s basically how it all started.
When Annie was 15 she got a letter from her older sister inviting her to come to Cincinnati and visit. Annie went to a shooting show while she was there.  At the show she met a man named Frank Butler. Annie entered a shooting contest against Frank and she won. One year later Annie married Frank.
Annie and Frank had a stage act together where they did shooting tricks. That’s where Phoebe Ann Moses became known as Annie Oakley. You’re probably wondering how it exactly happened. Well, Annie needed a stage name, so she came up with the name Annie Oakley. Her and Frank joined Buffalo bill’s wild west show. They traveled to France, Germany, England, and other countries with their show.
Annie Oakley passed away at the age of 66, she died on November 3,1926. She lived a wonderful life and she is famous for her life. She was a woman who loved to shoot guns, was great at it and, she is famous because of her love of guns.  

            On October 15,1872 Edith Wilson was born. Woodrow Wilson married Edith on December 18,1915. You may be wondering who Woodrow Wilson is, well he is the 28 president of the U.S.A. When Edith married Woodrow she became the first lady of the U.S.A.
On October,2 Edith found Woodrow unconscious after he had a stroke! The stroke left Woodrow’s left side paralyzed and made his vision blurry. Woodrow’s health got better but his illness were permanent. That left Edith to run the country!
Woodrow could barely do paperwork, Edith had to do basically everything Woodrow used to do! This was pretty important because back then women weren’t  allowed to have positions in the government.
In 1921 Woodrow finished his turn of being president. He had been president from 1915-1921. Woodrow Wilson died on February 3, 1924. Edith Wilson died on December 28, 1961. Edith Wilson is one of my favorite first ladies.

         On May 12,1820 in Florence,Italy Florence Nightingale was born. When Florence was young she started to help the ill and the poor.
Florence knew she would be a nurse at the age of 16. When Florence told her parents she wanted to be a nurse they forbid her from it.They forbid her from it because Florence was expected to marry a rich man and it was below their standard. In 1851 Florence finally got permission to be a nurse.
In 1853 the crimean war started. Florence helped in the crimean war by helping the sick and injured soldiers. Back then there hospitals were disgusting. It was probably as gross as a gas station bathroom. Florence did not like the dirty hospitals. Florence started making all the hospitals cleaner.
At the age of 90 on August 13, 1910 Florence Nightingale died. Without Florence we probably would still have disgusting hospitals. Today we still have the symbol of a lamp for nursing because Florence was known as the lady wit the lamp. She is known for this because she would check on the soldiers in the night with a lamp. Florence Nightingale will always be remembered.