November 28, 2007

pictures are worth more anyway

So, we have been on the go. We've been moving around Boston, went through Lexington, Concord, Marblehead, Rockport, Cape Ann, Plymouth, Martha's Vineyard and all points between. We have seen no less than 100 Duncan Donuts (no idea, but they are EVERYWHERE here.) I am beat and we are headed to Cambridge for dinner soon. I am sure that I will have the energy to summon hugely witty and enlightening thoughts about my trip at some point . . . but probably not today! Instead, you will have to settle for a few pictures (on the right) and make up your own stories about my vacation. Oh, and how about Pat's place up above? Nice, huh?

November 25, 2007

morning worship

So we set out this cold Sunday morning headed for church. We had two plans in mind, neither of which came to fruition. Instead we ended up wandering through Cambridge looking for a church to attend. Every time we saw a steeple, we would venture a little further along and go up to read their posted worship hours. We were either too early or too late for each church we found.

Finally, we saw a large Baptist Church and decided to go in. I assumed that a Baptist Church in Boston would be similar to a Methodist Church in San Antonio – at least theologically. I was wrong. It was a unique experience that I would neither trade nor repeat.

This congregation’s twin missions were clear within five minutes of our arrival. The whole of the service, worship guide, and interest card spoke of what they considered their identity as a community. They exist for the promotion of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender folks and for reaching out in love to the homeless of Boston. We prayed the prayer “Inspired by Jesus,” it may be almost familiar to you – “Our Father and Mother, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name.”

Though the church was massive, the congregation was small. The inside of the church was decorated like a dance studio. Why you ask? Well, they sublet the sanctuary out during the week to a ballet company. Between that, leasing out their parking lot, and receiving of grants from the historical preservation society they keep their church open. As it happens, I sat next to the church’s treasurer.

The people of the church were sweet as could be. My neighbor, the treasurer, opened his hymnal to the right page and handed it to me every time we were to sing. We were greeted warmly and welcomed with what was clearly authentic joy for our presence among them.

Yet for all that, I couldn’t help think – it matters what you believe. It matters what you believe about Jesus, his heavenly Father, and the work of his Spirit and Church. This line of thought isn’t quite developed enough to flesh out here, but I will work on it.

Hope your Sunday is blest and that you spend some time today with the Creator of all. As always, I missed the good folks of University this morning and became more convinced of the supreme blessing it is to be part of the movement of God’s Spirit blowing new life into the heart of a congregation. This simply isn’t the reality of most of America’s churches and we must never grow complacent or forget how greatly we are blest.

but it is a dry cold . . .

Rusty and I spent the day wandering through the Cambridge area of Boston. It is the home of Harvard and MIT. You could almost feel the brilliance all around. We were nicely layered up for the cold – and boy is it cold.

Boston is an amazing city. Its buildings speak of the city’s brilliant past. Here is the home of the great American experiment. Almost every building seems to have a sign of some sort claiming to be America’s First or Boston’s longest running.

We had dinner last night in the Italian area of town. A large party of Italians ate on one side and another large family of Italian Americans ate on the other. The host, Paul sat us quickly while telling others it would be an hour to an hour and a half wait. I’m not sure why he extended us such kindness, perhaps he knew we were from out of town.

The thick accents of Bostonians, Italians, and Irishmen are everywhere. Culture and ethnic identity evidently never quite melted here. You get the feeling that sights, sounds, and smells observed today could as easily have greeted visitors two hundred years ago.

At the same time, the city is young and vibrant. Home to numerous colleges and universities, Boston is a youthful city. Everywhere we go there are young people. The city is active and vibrant, contradicting the age of the structures – but in an oddly complementary way.

November 23, 2007

vacation update

What a great vacation. I hope to have some time to share some good thoughts I have been considering during my time off, but I thought I should at least update you on my adventures thus far.

I spent a few days with my sister and her boys in Houston, then flew to Miami where I met an old friend from seminary. Needless to say, we pretty much owned South Beach from the moment we set foot on the island. What a wild place. Surreal, really. From there we jumped on a cruise ship and headed to Nassau, Bahamas. We rented scooters and toured the small island paradise.

I know they are not for everyone, but I loved the cruise. I am definitely a cruiser and will be doing it again. I ate a ton, went to the shows, and enjoyed the water immensely. Even the first night when we had 15 foot seas and lots of people were in their cabins sick, we had a huge dinner in a largely deserted dining room and laughed as we lurched our way around the boat!

After the cruise, I spent Thanksgiving with my folks in Houston. The usual huge supper, making crosses in my dad’s shop, and generally enjoying the comfort only felt in the house you grew up in.

So, I had a quick pit stop tonight in San Antonio to unload one suitcase, reload another, and drop off Maddie (my dog). She is staying here this week with a good friend who is house sitting for me. I will be in Boston this next week seeing the sights with my friend, Rusty Freeman. Look for us Sunday night, we will be at the Patriots game. We will be the ones shivering in the cold!

November 19, 2007

from my one reader

In my last article in the Encourager, I asked reader(s) to share things about our church for which they are thankful. Here is a list emailed to me from one of them:

Things I am thankful for at UUMC:

The wonderful people
God's salvation
God's love
The beautiful building
Our many missions
The children
The Youth program
My friends
Our wonderful, smart, overworked pastors
Mark and his many talented musicians and vocalists
Volunteers with servant hearts
Mary McKay and her wonderful music minsitry
Did I mention the children?

and especially...

The Space for Me!!
It fits me perfectly.
No one else would fit in my funny-shaped "ME" space at UUMC!
I especially thank God for my space!

November 9, 2007

a slow start

I always seem to have trouble starting a vacation. I have put work aside, but now I am just messing around the house. I have this thing where I don’t like to go out of town unless it is clean. Why this should be, I have no idea – particularly since I don’t generally keep it clean when I am in town . . .

I finally have some plans for my time off. I had really wanted to do a visit to NYC, do something tropical, and go home for Thanksgiving, but Rusty’s passport had expired so we decided to go to Boston for a week instead of Costa Rica. I am pretty pumped – he somehow managed to get us tickets to see the Patriots play! Given that this may be a perfect season now that they have squeaked by the Colts, it will be cool to say, “I was there.”

While I was online trying to get some tickets and hotel reservations for NYC, I noticed this thing called, “Last Minute Deals.” One of the options was a cruise to the Bahamas for only a couple hundred dollars. So, I called my friend, Rob who I was scheduled to see in New York and asked him if he would rather hit up Miami and the Bahamas for a couple of days. “Last minute deals:” It feels so wrong to be rewarded for procrastinating.

Before and between the two trips, I am going home to see my family!

Oh, and for those waiting for word on the hair, don’t worry, Nancy wouldn’t do red. It’s more of a purple.

November 7, 2007

ready or not, or not ready

Well, day one of my annual vacation is off to a stutter start. I woke up early with 1000 things on my mind – none of them tropical beaches, snow covered mountains, or reclining chairs. So, I am spending the morning cleaning out my email inbox – at least responding to the people who got their correspondence in before I set up my, “I am out until December 1” auto response. I figure it would be pretty rude to leave people in the lurch for 3 weeks without them knowing they are in the lurch! I also have a decidedly non-vacation meeting this afternoon with my mentor for covenant connection. This is our last meet – we have met once a month for the last 3 years – so I am justifying the work time during vacation as a visit to an old friend! (I know, I know, but we really are friends and it is absolutely the last “work related” moment of the vacation, I promise. (Ahem.)

After that, I am going to see the wonderfully gifted and talented, Nancy Madden. For those few of you who don’t also go to Nancy, she is a barber extraordinaire. Ok, technically she is totally a stylist, but my manhood can only tolerate going to a stylist – not admitting that I have one. I am pretty excited. We have been planning something a little different for some time now. I fully intent to walk out with some red hair today. Unfortunately, some of you have gotten to Nancy somehow so she is unwilling to make my hair RED, but will make it just, red. I was really hoping for some fire engine type highlights. Apparently though, word has gotten out and some of my friends who also get their haircut by Nancy complain loudly every time she does something a little too creative with my hair. Anyway, we shall see.

Beyond my haircut today, the rest of the vacation is a little bit fuzzy. I am positive now what I will be doing, just not 100% on the when. I will be stomping around nyc with my best seminary bud, Rob – a New York native (Buffalo). I will also be home for Thanksgiving. The pollsters have spoken! Finally, Rusty Freeman and I are headed up to Boston to catch a New England Pats game. That should be pretty cool, I think. I have not ever been in the North East, so I am excited to see some new country.

Well, I best finish tying up loose ends. Maybe I’ll put up a picture after I finish my stint in the . . . er . . . barber’s chair. No promises though, we’ll have to see how it comes out!

November 2, 2007

vacation plans (or lack there of)

Well, I have managed to take procrastination to a whole new low. I am scheduled to begin my annual vacation in just a few short days, but I haven’t confirmed a single plan yet for my time off. At one point, I had an itinerary to Rwanda, a plan for Costa Rica, and information on a number of cruises.

Vacation begins next Wednesday and I have no idea what I am doing! The great news is, I can pretty much go anywhere in the world at a moments notice. Not everything about being single is great – but this is sure one of them! I have my passport and shots from previous travels, I just need to get a move on.

Here is what I know for sure: My friend Rusty and I are going to something, sometime. I’d like to do Thanksgiving with my family in Houston. I wouldn’t mind a little NYC trip to see my seminary bud, Rob. I really enjoyed being in Colorado for my work trip last month and haven’t been skiing in YEARS.

So, I invite you to take the survey off to the side and cast your vote on Ryan’s fantasy vacation schedule. Don’t worry; there is plenty of time to cast your vote . . .

November 1, 2007

giving thanks

The following was orginally written for and published under my"Inspiring Word" column in the November issue of our uzine, The Encourager. To view the whole magazine go to our website at and click on "News & Calendar."

Last year during the Thanksgiving holiday my dad took a little notebook and passed it around. He started with the grandchildren, moved onto the children, and finally he and mom filled in their pages. We were all required to list the things for which we were thankful. I thought it was a little silly – until it was my turn.

I started with the obvious, paused, and then filled the page with my gratitude for all that God had done in my life. Big and small, it was all there in my heart. Acknowledgment of God’s provision and providence humbled me.

When I was done, I couldn’t help but sneak a peek at what the others in my family had written. I was moved by their obvious love for God and one another. I could see that taking some time to give thanks was an equally worthwhile endeavor for them.
This month, I want you to pause as you read this column. I want to invite you to grab a piece of paper, pick up a pen, and begin to make a list of everything about University for which you are thankful. Go ahead.

Seriously, stop reading and start writing. The column will continue when you are done. . .

This year as I reflect on God’s good gifts, I am overwhelmed by the number of blessings I could list. As always, I am thankful for the people of the church – the ones who are new this year and those who have been standing by my side for years. I thank God for the opportunities to share the Gospel he has given with our new unite service. I am grateful for Charles Anderson’s leadership and the exciting movement of God’s Spirit in the church.

Most of all, I am simply marvel that God has given me the opportunity to be a blessing. Have you ever considered that idea? God, in whom all glory and honor rests, has invited us to be partners with him in building his Kingdom. It is almost unfathomable to me that God would invite me to be his friend, his partner.

This is the good news of the Jesus’ Gospel. We are invited not only to serve his kingdom, we are invited to be co-heirs in building and administering it. When God first called his servant Abraham, he instructed him to be a blessing to all people. When he called Israel, it was to be a blessing to the nations. When he called the church, it was to bless sinners and saints alike.
It is remarkable that God has called flawed and broken people to be the instruments of his holy work. Yet, that is precisely the course he has chosen. You and I have been invited to stand shoulder to shoulder with Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Savior of Man. Together in ministry we are invited to share in his work, his suffering, and his glory. We are invited to be active participants in the redemptive work of God among his creation. We get to go where Jesus goes, feel what Jesus feels, and do what Jesus does. God has blessed us by allowing us to be a blessing to others.

By the way, I would love for you to share your list with me. Post it here on the comments section, email it to me, or drop it off at the church. I will post some of your thoughts on my blog throughout November!