God Is Still On The Move i
We are soon entering into the season of Lent that concludes with Christ’s resurrection at Easter. Easter is always a joyous occasion during which we celebrate God having raised Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit and thus overcoming all powers of sin and death. Easter is wonderful, and always concludes with the resurrection of Jesus. However, there is no resurrection without death. The Lenten season takes the church on Jesus’ journey to the cross, his death, and finally his rising on the third day. As we ponder this journey together during lent, our worship services will focus on the theme of “God on the Move.” We will explore God’s Gospel work through the travels and teachings of Jesus. Jesus didn’t stay in one place for long. His earthly ministry was one of moving from place to place and encounter to the next He also moved through every part of the human experience, encountering everything from temptation, to joy, to suffering, and even death. Our Lenten series will help us reclaim the movement of Jesus’ ministry from temptation to condemnation, through his teaching and miracles and finally through the story of his death and resurrection. As we encounter the life and ministry of Jesus, we cannot stay the same. We ourselves are moved to grow and change as followers and imitators of the Gospel. The comforting truth of Lent is that as we delve deeper into our own self-examination, we find that we are not alone. God is still on the move in our lives, walking with us every step as we travel the road to Easter.
Fresh Year, Clean Slate?
There’s something about a new year that beckons us to see a few more blank slates in our lives. For many, a fresh calendar year signifies a fresh start, a new beginning, a hope for the future. Perhaps you have new year’s resolutions fresh in your mind, or perhaps 2019 is already feeling like ordinary time once more. In this cycle of new years, clean slates, and fresh starts, I’ve learned that amidst all the change, one thing is constant: I keep bringing myself. In the midst of changing days and times, I am still me. God is still God. True change and transformation comes not from the changing of a number, but from the honest and real encounters that come from showing up with my full self, embracing the God who made me, and connecting with those around me. The real, meaningful change happens in the context of relationships. On February 23rd -26th , United Methodist delegates from around the world will gather in St. Louis for a special session of General Conference, the global governing body of the United Methodist Church. This special session of General Conference comes after decades of debate and tension regarding human sexuality and the doctrines of the United Methodist Church. The General Conference delegates – who come from all over the world – will work through legislation relat-ing to human sexuality and church structure. There’s a possibility that the denomination could embrace a traditionalist plan, a more progressive plan, or a plan that makes room for differing views to coexist within the same denominational structure. There’s also the possibility that none of the plans on the table will receive enough support to pass, and this General Conference will come and go with no major legislative changes made. It is a tender time, a vulnerable time, a time when many hearts and lives feel the weight of the decisions they are being asked to make, and a time when many are feeling the weight of how those decisions will affect their lives and their ministry. It is a time for us to be in prayer for our denomination, for those entrusted with making decisions, for all who will feel the weight of whatever decisions are made. While this is a difficult time for the United Methodist Church, I know that no matter what happens this February, there will be some important constants that remain the same. There will still be people who are hurting, weary, or grieving who need a place to rest, worship, and encounter the healing love of God. We will still find ourselves in a community hungry for the transformative love of God, and we will still be called to make disciples of Jesus for the transformation of the world. As with any transformation, the real work happens in the context of relationships – showing up with our full selves, embracing the God who made us, and connecting with one another. My hope and prayer is that in a time where our culture is often marked by anger and divisiveness, that we would model what it looks like to have healthy and loving conversations with people who see things differently than we do, that we would demonstrate what it looks like to build loving, Christ-centered relationships with others, even when we don’t always agree on everything. My hope and my prayer is that we would turn towards humility, wisdom, love, and God’s peace that surpasses all understanding. My hope and my prayer is that we keep showing up, even when it’s hard. After all, that’s where the real transformation happens.
Let’s be the Church,
If you would like to talk more about topics related to the upcoming General Conference, please know that I would love to be in conversation with you. I firmly believe we are need of the gift of being able to talk with one another, even when it’s hard. Additionally, the most up-to-date and accurate information on the special General Conference can be found at umnews.org.
Goodbye to a good friend
As many of you know by now, my family lost our dog, Charlie, a couple of weeks ago. Anyone who has loved an animal deeply knows the grief that we are experiencing. Something that helps me process is to write. What follows here is a piece I wrote the night of our last day with Charlie. Some of you have seen this already as I shared it on Facebook, but I wanted to share it with those of you who do not have Facebook, too.____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Today we said goodbye to our dear dog, Charlie. Adopting Charlie has been the best decision that Elise and I have made together. Over two years ago we showed up at the local shelter in search of a puppy, but instead returned home with an eight year old pointer. Unbeknownst to us, during our introductory visit Charlie displayed glimpses of her many quirks that we would grow to love: she showed no interest in toys, she insisted that we pet her head even though we’d just met, she shook with both anxiety and excitement, and even after having been her owner for two years, it’s still difficult to tell the difference between the two. Charlie won me over by proving a capable running partner on the first of our hundreds of runs together. It took the sign of hearing Eddie Money’s“ Take Me Home Tonight” when we got in the car to leave the shelter for us to say yes to Charlie becoming a part of our family. We have not regretted saying yes to Charlie for a single second of our time together.
Charlie spent the last two plus years of her life snoozing on our couch, the back of the loveseat, anywhere else soft and cozy, and especially in her favorite spot, the perch of our front bay window. From her beloved nook in the front window Charlie sun bathed endlessly, assumed her seat as Queen of the neighborhood, and ensured that our home was protected from the neighbors’ cats and all other dangerous threats including other dogs, nice people, and adorable children. We have no current plans to clean the smudge marks from the glass through which Charlie watched the world.
As much as she loved watching the world, Charlie more so loved being in the world. Our morning runs on which she would point at, stalk, and subsequently chase after all critters smaller than herself brought us both unspeakable joy. Being restrained to a leash and collar out of doors went against her nature, but she tolerated it in exchange for a loving home. Charlie’s favorite place in Escanaba was always Ludington Park for its various scents, open grassy areas, and people to greet.
This morning we took Charlie to the beach at Ludington Park one final time. She had communicated clearly to us that her time on this side of Heaven was drawing near a close.
Charlie awoke in the middle of the night not able to control her own body. The cancer already infecting several of her organs was now affecting her neurological functioning. With the knowledgethat this new symptom marked a line in her quality of life that we were not willing to cross, we made the most of our last hours holding onto our beloved companion. Before saying our final goodbyes we desired to let Charlie inhale the sweet Lake Michigan air at the park one last time. No longer able to walk, our pupper rested in our arms and took in the sensations of the place she had always loved most. In that moment she was peaceful and content.
Charlie is remembered for her welcoming and gentle spirit, her emotional intelligence, and dwelling in the softest spots on top of all of the pillows and under all of the blankets. I will miss sharing videos of Charlie’s nightly routine of tucking herself in under a blanket in her bed next to ours. I will miss having company over and watching Charlie make the rounds and give every single person in the room a chance to scratch her head. She made everyone in the room feel special even if her motives included maximizing her opportunities to have her head pet. Driving is not the same without a dog in the backseat sticking her head out the window to feel the wind in her face. I miss Charlie nudging her head under my hand indicating that she wanted to be pet. I already miss hearing the jingle of her collar and the clicking of her claws on the floor before being greeted by a smile, sneezes of excitement, squeaking yawns of anticipation, and spinning circles of joy.
Elise and I decided long ago that Charlie’s unofficial official middle name is Grace. Charlie Grace in part because I lost her the first morning we had her by letting her run off-leash. Though Charlie followed intricate and detailed commands inside, she behaved functionally deaf outside. Charlie Grace was lost, but after an hour of frantic searching in all directions Charlie Grace was found back in the same place I’d lost her. Charlie Grace also because every day with her has been pure unmerited gift. We are reminded every day that God’s love is shared through all of God’s creatures. Charlie Grace came to us in the midst of many transitions and comforted our souls when we needed it most. Having adopted an older dog, we always knew that each day with Charlie was a gift. Though we currently miss her presence deeply, we remain grateful for the ways God has cared for us deeply through the grace of a little dog named Charlie.
____________________________________________ Thank you all for comforting words, cards, and presence during the last couple of weeks.
In Christ, Pastor Ryan
Greetings, Church! With joy and thanksgiving I am pleased to announce that by the grace of God Elise and I are expecting the birth of our first child in April! Many of you have already heard this news, either in worship or through the grapevine, but I know that some of you are reading this get much of your church news through the newsletter, so I am sharing it here, too! I have already been amazed at the responses of the congregations of both churches I serve: many sincere congratulations, many offers to babysit, many people looking forward to holding the baby, and many insisting that the baby make it to both worship services. The most common questions have been: will you find out if it’s a boy or girl? When is the due date? Answers: We have not yet decided if we will find out, and are slightly leaning towards not finding out. Surprises can be fun, and the gender of our child will not greatly impact how we prepare for his or her arrival. The due date is April 15th. I am already beginning to see what a blessing our church families will be in this new endeavor. It is a joy to share our excitement with all of you! All three of us are grateful your, anticipation, kindness, and prayers as we begin this new adventure.
In Christ, Pastor Ryan
“Why do we pay apportionments anyway?”
With Charge Conference season approaching, many local churches are working hard to pay their apportionments for the year. Many congregations of Unite Methodist Churches have asked the question: “Why do we pay apportionments anyway?” Below is an article pulled from umc.org offering some detail about where our apportionments go. More info can be found at: http://www.umc.org/how-we-serve/apportioned-funds. In Christ, Pastor Ryan The main way we support the ministries of the church is through our apportioned funds, a method of giving that proportionally allocates the churchwide budget to conferences and local churches. For United Methodists this method of giving has become a strong, generous tradition. Together, through our connected congregations, we accomplish what no single church, district or annual conference ever could hope to do alone. In this way, each individual, each family, each congregation gives a fair share of the church’s work. We combine our prayers, presence, gifts and service to make a significant difference in the lives of God’s people. The general funds include: World Service Fund: The World Service Fund is the essential core of our global outreach ministry, underwriting Christian mission around the world. By giving to World Service we empower United Methodist evangelistic efforts...stimulate Bible study and spiritual commitment...encourage church growth and discipleship...and help God’s children everywhere. Ministerial Education Fund: Men and women choose the ministry because God calls them. The Ministerial Education Fund is our way of helping them answer that divine call. Our United Methodist seminaries lead the effort to proclaim God’s word in a world desperately in need of that message. Episcopal Fund: Bishops have always had a very special role in our church...elected and consecrated to speak to the church...and from the church. The apostle Paul called it “a noble task,” but it is practical, too, since our bishops oversee and promote the church’s spiritual and temporal interests as well. Black College Fund: The 11 U.S. historically Black colleges and universities supported by the United Methodist Church have played a unique role in U.S higher education. Their graduates—teachers and doctors, ministers and bishops, judges, artists and entrepreneurs—are leaders in the African-American community and in a rapidly changing, more diverse United States. Interdenominational Cooperation Fund: We United Methodists acknowledge that we are but a small part of the worldwide Christian church—the living body of Jesus Christ. Our unity with other Christian communions is affirmed as we witness to a common Christian faith, meet human suffering and advocate for peace and justice all over the world. Africa University Fund: This vital fund supports the only United Methodist-related, degree-granting university on the continent of Africa—serving students from 21 countries, all across the continent of Africa. Africa University provides higher education of excellent quality, enriched with Christian values, for both, men and women, developing visionary leaders of tomorrow. General Administration Fund: This fund underwrites and finances, general church activities that are administrative in nature, rather than program-related—like General Conference, the legislative branch of the church. General Council on Finance and Administration coordinates and administers the finances of the church, receives, disburses and accounts for the church’s general funds, safeguards the denomination’s legal interests and rights, compiles and publishes denominational statistics and maintains the church’s records.