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 

Great News

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.

A Praying Church

We are a church who prays for one another. We are a church who prays for the world. We are a church who prays for all of God’s people. I am continually impressed and moreover continually grateful to be a part of a praying church. How many times have you heard a member of the congregation stand up and say: “Thank you for your prayers. I felt them, they made a difference.” We hear this with a degree of frequency, both in the context of sharing our prayers and concerns with the church, and also in passing. Our prayers make a difference. God hears them. Those we are praying for feel them.    During our reading of Ephesians we heard Paul’s encouragement to the church to pray unceasingly: “Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.” With Paul, I encourage you all to pray much the same way. Pray in the Spirit. Pray at all times. Pray in every need.    Unlike Paul, I am not imprisoned as “an ambassador in chains.” However, I do ask that you pray for me. I know many of you do pray for me, and for that I thank you. May we continue to be a church that uplifts one another to God in prayer.  
 
Grace and Peace,  Pastor Ryan 

Central UMC Mission Detroit

Earlier in July I went along with the youth group from Escanaba First and Central UMCs on a weeklong mission trip to Detroit. Some of you have asked that I share from that trip, so I thought that this newsletter article could serve as an opportunity to do so. Our group of thirteen stayed in the basement of Cass Community UMC and spent most of our time doing various work with the church’s partner organization, Cass Community Social Services. The first day of our work included a morning in the kitchen where a group of us peeled and diced seven 30-Lb boxes of potatoes. It took us all morning, and several of the kids never wanted to see a potato again. Cass’ kitchen has a self-imposed budget of zero, meaning that all the food that is served for three meals 365 days a year must either be donated or funded by work done in the kitchen. The kitchen takes on catering jobs as a means to fund the free meals served to shelter residents. The potatoes we peeled became potato salad served at a large corporate picnic event that makes the kitchen enough money to sustain their feeding program for roughly four months.    The afternoon of our first day of volunteering entailed much yard work and landscaping. We pushed lawn mowers, wielded weed-eaters, picked up brush, weeded, weeded, and weeded some more. One motivation for all the lawn work is that the Ford family, who donate to Cass, would be on campus later in the week. Another was that a publication was preparing to take photos of Cass’ tiny homes, and they wanted them to look nice for the photo shoot. The most important though, is that cutting grass and pulling weeds in a neighborhood dotted by burnt out apartment buildings and abandoned churches say something. It communicates that we care enough to cut the grass and pull the weeds; that we care about this community enough to make it look nice. There isn’t a lot of that goes on in certain neighborhoods of Detroit.    One anecdote that stuck with me happened while I was preparing to edge a sidewalk. One of the summer interns, Brandon, put me on the edger without the knowledge that I had exactly zero experience using one. I mentioned this to him after he showed me the area he wanted edged, and his reply surprised me. With no hesitation he simply stated, “That’s great, we’ll figure it out together.” We did, and I edged a lot of sidewalk that week. Not knowing how to do something can often function as a barrier that keeps us from doing it. Yet here was this 20 something year old guy working at Cass for the summer who didn’t even consider the possibility that my lack of prior edging experience would be a problem.    What impressed me most about Cass was their willingness to figure stuff out as they go. They are constantly thinking outside the box, having ingenuity, and creatively using the resources they have to achieve their mission of fighting poverty and creating opportunity. Much of the mission and ministry of Cass is specific to Detroit, but the ingenuity mindset that is constantly seeking creative ways to serve God and neighbor can be applied anywhere.  
 
In Christ,  Pastor Ryan 

Lord’s Prayer Litany