Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Muley Reads: Abner the Clown


What would you change about yourself if you could? Why would you make that change? What are things you love about yourself? What do others love about you? What do you love about others? Have you ever realized that you are perfect just as you are and don't need to change? Because YOU ARE!!


Contact Jeffrey to buy Abner the Clown for $25 + Shipping and Handling at https://jeffreybreslauer.com/contact And for no extra fee Jeffrey will sign your book!!

Muley the Mule assisted by Kevin L. Williams www.muleythemule.com Music is Crazy Chicken by David Fesliyan. https://www.fesliyanstudios.com/donate Muley Reads is a series of videos starring Muley the Mule reading some of his favorite books - and we hope some of yours - wishing to inspire a love of reading, learning, imagining, and creation in children of all ages! And, as always, we love the books that communicate about people, animals, environment, love, and friendship. Some of Muley's special friends may even pop in to request a book. "Reading is fundamental!" Books add the fun, Muley adds "da mental!" Grab your family together, grab a snack or two, and sit back to relax while Muley Reads!!

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Memphis Voyager Magazine: Daily Inspiration

 This online magazine represents the very best of Memphis, shining it in a great, positive way.  CLICK HERE to read the article.



Muley's Summer Kids Congo Speaking Dates

 If you ever want your kids to hear something that's positive and loving, the Kids Congo is a place for everyone and is what we consider the children's ministries title at First Congo.  To catch Muley the Mule giving his talks, the dates are:

August 14, 2022

September 11, 2022

October 16, 2022

November 13, 2022

December 11, 2022



Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Muley Reads: Peter Pan

 


When Wendy is awaken by a flying boy looking for his shadow, she and her brothers follow Peter Pan into a wild adventure meeting up with the Lost Boys and even pirates! This book is a very short version of a longer tale by J. M. Barrie, and this was published by Wonder Books, New York, in 1952!

Peter Pan is a great example of a book that tells the tale of different ways to play, imagine, dress-up, and create stories of your own. What do you like to dress up as? What do you like to pretend? Where do you like to go in your imagination? Never-never Land? Do you fight pirates? Do you save the day?

Muley the Mule assisted by Kevin L. Williams www.muleythemule.com CLICK HERE to donate!

Music is Crazy Chicken by David Fesliyan. Click Here to donate!

Muley Reads is a series of videos starring Muley the Mule reading some of his favorite books - and we hope some of yours - wishing to inspire a love of reading, learning, imagining, and creation in children of all ages! And, as always, we love the books that communicate about people, animals, environment, love, and friendship. Some of Muley's special friends may even pop in to request a book. "Reading is fundamental!" Books add the fun, Muley adds "da mental!" Grab your family together, grab a snack or two, and sit back to relax while Muley Reads!!

Sunday, July 10, 2022

The Gospel According to Muley

 Pastor Cheryl Cornish at First Congregational Church of Memphis, a United Church of Christ congregation, graduated from Yale University in 1983 with a Master of Divinity.  As part of their spring 2022 issue of Reflections magazine, as shared with me by Pastor Steve Garcia and Keith Norman, Pastor Cheryl wrote about "Joy that Comes in the Morning."


One part of the article is subtitled "The Gospel According to Muley," in which she mentions, "We have been deliberate in focusing on what we have rather than what we’ve lost. We experimented with our children’s ministry so that we could expand our reach, rather than limiting it. “Muley”—a talking mule puppet—started a weekly online program of reading books to children in the evening. We noticed that several of our children with autism were especially responsive to Muley, and we became aware that the Yale Child Study Center had documented the positive connection. We are considering new programs for children who live with autism based on this finding, which may never have come to light otherwise."

Soon, we'll be working on creating some more content to help our autistic friends.

###

“Joy That Comes in the Morning”

By Cheryl Cornish ’83 M.Div.

Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. We know them as stages of grief that become part of our story as we struggle with trauma or loss. 

We’ve seen each of these stages on full public display during these pandemic years. 

We are focusing on what we have rather than what we’ve lost. We recently welcomed 20 new members—mostly young people who found us online and were especially open to a message of hope and community during this stressful season.

We’ve watched denial in action by those who have flouted warnings about social distancing, vaccinations, wearing masks. The Ambassador Bridge, linking Canada and the United States, was recently closed for six days by protesters, showing their anger at Covid restrictions. Government officials have found themselves in a politically tense ordeal of bargaining with the public in the effort to balance lockdowns and freedom, and in the struggle to promote competent medical advice against disinformation. And, of course, depression: the United States Census Bureau reported recently that adults were more than three times as likely to be experiencing depression and anxiety now than in the pre-pandemic years.

Conspiracy Theology

Pressures on clergy and their congregations moved to a whole new level. Church members were sick. Many died with pastors and families locked outside the hospital room or ward, unable to offer comfort. Conspiracy theories, politics, and theology merged in the arguments about almost every aspect of church life, ranging from the need for members to distance and mask, to policies on how funerals could be scheduled, to whether church staff could be kept on payroll as the pandemic lingered. 

Attendance dropped. Some members vanished. Communication became an exhausting myriad of texts, phone calls, links and Zoom schedules. Home and church life, always a challenge to clergy to maintain personal boundaries, became inseparable. A November 2021 Barna survey of Protestant pastors found 38 percent saying they’d considered quitting full-time ministry in the past year. Workloads increased with the necessity of more digital contact. Clergy longed nostalgically for a time when working with congregants meant personal conversation rather than social media expertise.

Unexpected Sacred Purposes

Each congregation has its own story to tell of What Life Has Been in the Pandemic, and What Life Might Be After the Pandemic. As it became clear that the pandemic was going to bring not short-term but perhaps long-term changes to our church life, our staff members spoke openly about our resolve to fuel spiritual resilience in the congregation and to keep our hearts open to the blessing that might come, even from these unwanted and unexpected changes in our life together.

Remaining open to new and sacred purposes has been an essential spiritual discipline in fostering this resilience. Three practices have been especially important to us: gratitude, fearless flexibility, and a confident trust that God will open new pathways to ministry. 

Outsiders Welcome

First Congregational Church of Memphis has a history that, in some ways, made it uniquely able to face this kind of crisis—but this history also laid open vulnerabilities. Founded as “Strangers Church” during the Civil War, a haven for Union soldiers, the congregation has a tradition of welcoming outsiders and defying some of the political currents of the surrounding culture. 

The AIDS pandemic was formative in redefining the church’s identity and self-understanding. An informal estimate of this growing congregation in the 1990s showed 25 percent of church membership struggling with HIV and AIDS. The theological narrative of the church required a direct reckoning with death if we were going to provide coherence in a time when so many were struggling, not just with physical illness but with the stigma of disease. It elevated the congregation’s sense of its own significance as a place of shelter and voice of hope in times of crisis. “We must be there for those who have no one else” has become a mainstay of the church’s congregational culture.

This sensitivity to physical vulnerability helped us avoid bickering over the need to wear masks as we gathered during this pandemic. Our large sanctuary made physical distancing a relatively easy arrangement. 

Challenges Aplenty

This is not to say, however, that we’ve been free of challenge! It was a blessing to have added two young staff members prior to the pandemic’s outbreak. They brought awareness and skill to the needed digital transitions that our long-term staff lacked—and had resisted actively. At the same time, they faced special stresses as parents with young children, trying to navigate school attendance and the disruptions in family life brought on by the pandemic. They also were forced to become acquainted with the congregation when it was online only, rather than having the ease of person-to-person contact. 

Church financial pressures, always a concern, were made especially intense because of the congregation’s reliance on income generated by a church-operated hostel within the building and an extensive network of non-profit groups that shared space with the church. The hostel closed and revenue plummeted. Ministry partners who contributed to the church’s operating expenses were not using their office space and were financially stretched themselves. This income dropped as well.

Gospel According to Muley

We have met the financial insecurity by using savings reserves and relying on Covid-era Payback Protection Program loans and Economic Injury Disaster Loan support. Our decision to maintain church staff, even through the financial pressures, has seemed sound. We have been able to offer grief support and counseling, classes on well-being and happiness, Bible study and social outreach online in ways that we could never have explored without this strengthened staff presence. 

We have experienced profound gratitude for long-distance friends who are now able to participate in church programs remotely because we are functioning online. With unpredictable changes in their work schedules, some people are available to participate in church events more than ever before because of the online option.  

We’ve had to re-design a food justice program where a daily hot meal was provided to approximately 100 guests each day. Sitting at a table together became impossible to do safely, but we developed new ways of distributing food that will continue even as we return to this shared meal.  

A community refrigerator outside the building, stocked mainly by members of the neighborhood, has been quite successful. A new food distribution system, where we set up a network of homes from which food could be distributed, rather than all gathering at the church building, enabled folks without access to cars to receive food assistance and enhanced a sense of neighborhood unity and friendship.

We have been deliberate in focusing on what we have rather than what we’ve lost. We experimented with our children’s ministry so that we could expand our reach, rather than limiting it. “Muley”—a talking mule puppet—started a weekly online program of reading books to children in the evening. We noticed that several of our children with autism were especially responsive to Muley, and we became aware that the Yale Child Study Center had documented the positive connection. We are considering new programs for children who live with autism based on this finding, which may never have come to light otherwise.


“You Need to Open”

For several years before the pandemic hit, churches had been challenged to learn how to speak more meaningfully to the many “nones” of the world—those who lack trust or confidence in established communities of faith. Our pandemic experience has been that digital access feels less threatening to many “nones” than actually having to enter a church building to explore what it might have to offer. 

We’ve seen concrete results with this outreach. Our nursery, which previously attracted three or four children, has lately swelled to up to 15 on a Sunday. In the last quarter of 2021, we welcomed 20 new members to the congregation—mostly young people who found us online and were especially open to a message of hope and community during this stressful season.

Soon after the pandemic began and our building was closed down, I was approached by a young woman I didn’t know. She recognized me as the pastor of First Congregational and sounded quite urgent as she asked when we would be re-opening. I had to tell her that I didn’t know. Emphatically she responded: “It HAS to be soon! I’d always thought about coming to worship, but never made the effort. Now I know how much I need it. You need to open. A lot of us need what you have to offer.”

This has been a season of weeping, of loss, of grief. But it also offers the possibility for a renewal in a Christian experience of hope and even joy, of knowing the “joy that comes in the morning” (Psalm 30) if we persist in faith. Amen.


The Rev. Cheryl Cornish ’83 M.Div. has been minister of First Congregational Church UCC in Memphis since 1988, In 2008, she was awarded by YDS for Distinction in Congregational Ministry and has served on the YDS Alumni Board.   

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Muley Reads: Bronto the Dinosaur

 In this edition of Muley Reads, join Muley for Bronto the Dinosaur!  It's a rare, old book but still fun and full of adventure!  It's not available any longer, so you have to do a shopping search to find it nowadays.


Published in 1967, this book was expected to be a childhood favorite as interest in prehistoric reptiles never end.  "The plot of the story leads to suspense as Bronto shows his alertness and bravery by saving his mother from their enemy the Allosaurus."  Based on what scientists thought about dinosaurs at the time, including how they may have lived in prehistoric times, children could learn technical terms like "Brontosaurus" and "Allosaurus," developing a meaningful scientific vocabulary.

We added some sound effects that might be a little spooky, but also some for fun!

Join now as Muley Reads: Bronto the Dinosaur:

If you like this video, please donate to us by CLICKING HERE.

Muley the Mule assisted by Kevin L. Williams Music is Crazy Chicken by David Fesliyan, DONATE. Muley Reads is a series of videos starring Muley the Mule reading some of his favorite books - and we hope some of yours - wishing to inspire a love of reading, learning, imagining, and creation in children of all ages! And, as always, we love the books that communicate about people, animals, environment, love, and friendship. Some of Muley's special friends may even pop in to request a book. "Reading is fundamental!" Books add the fun, Muley adds "da mental!" Grab your family together, grab a snack or two, and sit back to relax while Muley Reads!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Muley Reads: Six Dinner Sid

Muley the Mule loves to read, and in this edition of Muley Reads he shares Six Dinner Sid!


What happens after Sid the Cat takes advantage of 6 different families and 6 different meals and he's caught?

Lot's of "S" words in this story, so when you hear the "S" words make the sound: SSSSSSSSSS!! Also, when you read with the little kids, be sure to help them figure out what number comes next, help count down the numbers!

If you like this video, please donate to us by CLICKING HERE.

Muley the Mule assisted by Kevin L. Williams Music is Crazy Chicken by David Fesliyan, DONATE. Muley Reads is a series of videos starring Muley the Mule reading some of his favorite books - and we hope some of yours - wishing to inspire a love of reading, learning, imagining, and creation in children of all ages! And, as always, we love the books that communicate about people, animals, environment, love, and friendship. Some of Muley's special friends may even pop in to request a book. "Reading is fundamental!" Books add the fun, Muley adds "da mental!" Grab your family together, grab a snack or two, and sit back to relax while Muley Reads!!


Monday, February 21, 2022

Muley's Kids Message: February 20, 2022

Of course, Muley is known for being a little smart aleck and so he is when discussing laws.  In this message, he's more or less decided to pick on DUMB laws from Tennessee.  This is a chance to review what rules help and what rules don't help - both exist!  

Children know when things aren't right, so make sure they know they can come to their adults for help, especially when they feel uncomfortable.  Listen to them, and guide them.

While joking about dumb laws, this particular message focuses on what Sabbath means in The Ten Commandments (the good laws) and why we're given a "law" to remember it and REST

What does rest mean to you? 
How does it help us? 
When can we rest? 
What can we do that is both fun AND restful?  

Remember, grown-ups are an example for kids to follow.  If we get our work done in 5 or 6 days, and use the one day for rest, they will learn to do the same.  Teach them how to complete chores and homework through the week so they can use the weekend to relax.  And teaching them this will remind us that it's perfectly fine to put away the electronic devices, turn off the television, grab a book, and sit on the porch with a nice iced tea; or to just sit, quietly, and breathe and think.


If you like this video, please donate to us by CLICKING HERE.

Muley the Mule assisted by Kevin L. Williams Music is Eye Laugh by David Fesliyan, DONATE.

Excuse the loonnnng intro: the video didn't capture Muley until just when you see him in this video.

It's always fun to get the Congo Beat every Thursday, which you can request on the website (click the image below).  This week included a photo of Muley from Sunday, as well as some cheer for DaMarco Randle!


There was some cheer for DaMarco Randle, assistant to Roy Duck, and the artwork he's been doing with AlivePaint Jamond Bullock!  You can find more of DaMarco's work at his official DamarcoArts website.







Sunday, February 20, 2022

Muley Reads - The Playlist

 This is the compilation of Muley Reads where you can find all the stories!!  Click the image below to start watching!


If you like this video, please donate to us by CLICKING HERE.

Muley the Mule assisted by Kevin L. Williams Music is Crazy Chicken by David Fesliyan, DONATE. Muley Reads is a series of videos starring Muley the Mule reading some of his favorite books - and we hope some of yours - wishing to inspire a love of reading, learning, imagining, and creation in children of all ages! And, as always, we love the books that communicate about people, animals, environment, love, and friendship. Some of Muley's special friends may even pop in to request a book. "Reading is fundamental!" Books add the fun, Muley adds "da mental!" Grab your family together, grab a snack or two, and sit back to relax while Muley Reads!!


Muley Reads: Click Clack Moo, Cows That Type

Sometimes, we have disputes or misunderstandings that need some compromise.  If we can figure how to compromise quickly, our problems could be over before they start.  I bet it would help if we think ahead of things and make sure that people, especially those who help us, have what they need to continue to help us comfortably.  Compromise can end a problem quickly.

That's what Farmer Brown learns when the cows and other farm animals have needs in the book 'Click Clack Moo, Cows That Type.'


Here's a bit of fun you can have, when watching as a family be sure to all make animal sounds when you see them on the screen and especially when Muley reads the sounds!

If you like this video, please donate to us by CLICKING HERE.

Muley the Mule assisted by Kevin L. Williams Music is Crazy Chicken by David Fesliyan, DONATE. Muley Reads is a series of videos starring Muley the Mule reading some of his favorite books - and we hope some of yours - wishing to inspire a love of reading, learning, imagining, and creation in children of all ages! And, as always, we love the books that communicate about people, animals, environment, love, and friendship. Some of Muley's special friends may even pop in to request a book. "Reading is fundamental!" Books add the fun, Muley adds "da mental!" Grab your family together, grab a snack or two, and sit back to relax while Muley Reads!!