May 31, 2008

mindnumbing rest

So, yesterday we went snorkling off of the Ko'lina Cat. I got some underwater pics, but will have to wait for them to be developed. We swam, sat in the sun, and generally made a day out of being beach bums. Last night we went to a laua. It was pretty interesting. The best way I can explain is to say that if I planned a laua based on what I thought was supposed to happen at a laua, it is what I would have done. Nevertheless, it was a gas. Dinner and a show on the beach at sunset -- what is there to complain about? I guess I don't have a lot to say, but then a picture is worth more anyway. So, enjoy these.

May 29, 2008


Aloha all you hawlies. Life is good in paradise. (Is that redundant?) I got in Tuesday night, we had dinner on Wikiki Beach and by the time I hit the sack my jet lag had been conquered. Sam and I got up the next morning and toured Pearl Harbor. The afternoon was spent baking by one of four spectacular lagoons by our place. Today, we are headed up to North Shore. We were scheduled to swim with the dolphins today, but something came up and they canceled us, so we are working to reschedule that one.
So far, I am doing everything I can to not think about work. Unfortunately, my subconscious doesn't let go quite so easily. I dreamt last night about the demise of the Methodist Church and our coming fight to save her. Fortunately, there isn’t much stress that the rising sun over the pacific ocean can’t immediately stifle!

May 26, 2008


Tomorrow I leave on vacation. Which, of course, means that today I am running to and fro trying to prepare to be gone. Does it seem strange to anyone else that going on vacation is so stressful? You have to get all your clothes cleaned, pack your bags, spend the day figuring out exactly what you have forgotten to pack, cleaning the house for the house/Maddie-sitter, and on and on. The payoff though is certainly worth the flurry of activity.

I am headed out to Hawaii – going to Oahu to be exact. Some of my really good friends invited me to come out and spend a week with their family who is vacationing this month out there. I have never been to the islands before, so this is very exciting for me. I am ready to truly shut down and simply relax. I am picturing myself as a small puddle on a perfect beach absorbing ridiculous amounts of sun. One of the things I have learned to be very good at these last four years is vacationing. I will turn my phone off, refuse to check email, and trust that I am not indispensable to the life of the church. I learned this from one of my early mentors, Rev. Frank Wolfe. Pastor Frank was my boss when I was doing youth ministry in Pflugerville. He taught me that our work is always life and death. There would always be something going on at the church that demanded our attention – whether we were there or not. When you are literally in a life-and-death business, there is no such thing as a good time to be gone. Yet, renewal is absolutely critical for longevity in ministry. The cost of sacrificing personal health for the immediate fires that ignite could well be burning yourself out long before your time.

This trip is a little gift to myself for having endured a decade of work in the Methodist Ordination process. I’ll come back to Texas just in time to pack a different bag and head down to Corpus Christi for Annual Conference where I am set to be ordained.

I will try to do some posts while I am gone – I know my folks will appreciate some pictures, but I can’t promise anything. Aloha, yall!

May 17, 2008

stray thought

Luke 11.11: “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?”

Ask for your heart’s desire. Don’t be a fool for trying to avoid being made to look foolish.

May 14, 2008

oh, so i AM hearing you

There are times that I go through when I really miss the unmistakable sound of my Lord’s voice. I am left to my own intellect – my experiences, my understanding of scripture, and my reason. These things are very useful to be sure, but after a while, you just need to be sure you are moving in the right direction. Lately, I have been in that very quiet place. Though I remain there still, I recently had some encouragement that let me know that I do seem to be hearing something.

I was out to dinner on Saturday night after service with some young folks from Austin. They came down to go to the youth service and say hi to some of us around the U that they know from being a part of the Conference Youth Program. One of the guys who was there just graduated from UT and will be working at a church in Austin this next year. I am really a fan of this guy. He is bright, articulate, and an excellent model for the youth of his church and our conference. I actually tried to bribe him into coming to work for us this summer! Truly, I feel like this kid is worth investing in for the sake of the church. He clearly has a dynamic call and is one of the best and brightest of his generation. How the Methodist Church would gain from 50 like him swelling the clergy ranks.

He was telling me how this summer he will be going to central America to live for a couple of months working with what are in effect street kids. He is just getting ready to start fundraising for the trip. Now I know what a youth intern gets paid. It doesn’t matter that this kid has an ENGINEERING degree from THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS and could command large sums in the private sector. So, here is a kid, giving up a good income to work for a church and preparing to stick his hand out to others so that he can go work with street kids in a developing nation.

His lodging was going to run $800 for the eight weeks he was there. My first thought was were is my checkbook – its in my bag in the trunk. As he was talking (he never asked), I thought, I will write him a check for the whole thing. Then that other voice spoke that said, maybe just $25-30. I just listened and prayed all through the rest of dinner. When we went out, I called him over to the trunk where I was madly scribbling a check. While he said, “oh, Ryan you don’t need to do that,” I finished writing. I handed him a folded check for the amount that I thought God inspired: $500. He stuck the check in his pocket without looking at it, hugged me, and drove off.

So, a week later, I am paying bills. Ahem. I decided that perhaps “God” was not the inspiration for the amount I had chosen. I found myself wondering when/if I would with certainty hear from my Lord. Seriously, I prayed a lot about this, figuring that I must have not been led at all.

An envelope appeared in my mailbox this week. It was addressed in block print to my name at the church. The return address had been block printed with the church’s address. Uh, oh. It was an anonymous letter. I get these from time to time and inevitably they grieve my spirit to no end. Broken people can say the most hurtful things under the “protection” of anonymity. It is my habit to just discard them. I’d rather take my beating like a man – face to face with my accuser. My heart holds such fear that my hands tremble a little bit as I open the letter.

The letter reads: Pastor Ryan: Just a quick note of thanks for all the things you do for us at University. We feel so fortunate and blessed to have you as our worship leader. We attribute our current level of stewardship to your (sometimes not so gentle) prodding. We have benefited in many ways from becoming more involved at church. Our faith in Christ and relationship with him continues to grow. Above and beyond the tithes and gifts we make to the church, enclosed is a gift for you. If you still have outstanding school loans, we want you to apply this toward them. If your loans are paid off, please pass this on to a colleague who may use this toward his or her debt. Our gratitude and prayers are with you.

With the letter was an anonymous money order. Want to guess how much it is for? $500.

To my secret benefactor: thank you. The money is helpful, of course, and I hope that I can multiply it and bless another the way that you have blessed me. But even more than for the money, thank you for hearing from God and obeying. Your action is a sure and certain sign to me that God is hearing my cries and he is responding. Your faithfulness gave me witness of my own. What greater joy can pass between believers in the body of Christ than mutually encouraging one another to good works and greater faith?

May 9, 2008

Meet the U's new Discipleship Pastor - Rev. Will Rice

Over the last four years, I have been introduced to a number of the clergy in the Southwest Texas Conference. One of those is Rev. Will Rice. Will and I come from very different backgrounds. I am a southern boy who was raised in a Christian household. He is a yankee (but he has overcome this affliction nicely) who had no Christian upbringing. While my calling has been a lifelong process, Will received his almost simultaneously with his salvation. I matriculated through Asbury, he through Perkins and Austin Presbyterian.

I think it was Will’s incredible intelligence that drew me into conversation with him. Like Wesley, I find Will to be one of Methodism’s great practical theologians. His insight and understanding of Scripture and matters of faith is profound. Even more impressive, Will knows that understanding without application is a boat without a sail.

I think one other thing needs to be said. I am a student of preaching. I am a preacher and I love the discipline. Nothing excites me more than a well delivered sermon. For me, listening to a sermon is kind of like a painter walking through a gallery. I can appreciate the finer arts of preaching, the subtleties, the nuances, and the overall delivery.

I have had the opportunity to hear Will preach and lead liturgy. I think he is probably one of the finest orators I have ever heard. I know that discipleship is his true passion and primary giftedness, but folks, this guy can flat out preach.

It still makes me smile to think about the start of our friendship. As many of you know, over the last 3 years, I have had to go to Mt. Wesley for “Covenant Connection,” an overnight retreat for those seeking ordination. These are meetings at which the potential ordinands are scrutinized for evidence of ability to be in ministry. To say the least, it is a high stress environment! We had gone several times when the leaders announced that we would have “dinner on our own” in Kerrville (as opposed to the Mt. Wesley cafeteria). Somehow, Will and I both interpreted that to mean that we could go have dinner on our own. We knew there was a big group going to Chili’s, but we decided a little one-on-one conversation was just what our souls needed – so we went to Mamacita’s (ok, maybe we knew some enchiladas were also needed by our souls).

That was the true start of our friendship and the highlight of my entire 3 year process. We sat that night and shared things of importance. I learned about his wife, his upbringing, and his call to ministry. He learned about my passions, my work, and my dreams. In just a few hours, I knew I had made a lifelong friend.

When we got back to Mt. Wesley, we were in some hot water. Apparently “dinner on your own” was code for everyone is having dinner together at Chili’s. Honestly, it was a truly innocent misunderstanding on our part. Over the next several years, every time dinner plans were announced, it was stressed that everyone should be there. Truthfully, I don’t know if it was the dinner or just being in trouble together (from there on out we were the bad boys!), but Will and my friendship was cemented forever. There really is something powerful about suffering together. I can honestly say that it was Will’s friendship that most enabled me to grind through the process.

Though it probably shouldn’t, it still astounds me that God works in such marvelous ways. I couldn’t believe it when the Bishop announced that Will would be appointed to University as our new Discipleship Pastor. I knew that Will was a conference leader in discipleship and had been tutored in theology by our own Charles Anderson, but I never thought I would really have the chance to work side by side with him! God is good – all the time!

I think I may have buried my headline here – I had intended to only write a quick paragraph to tell you about where you can get to know Will in his own words.

Will was my inspiration for beginning a blog and he is much more faithful to the discipline than me. His former blog was tied to his church in Corpus Christi, but he has started a new one just for you! You can read Will at: He has posted there his writings about the ordination process as he has experienced it. I know his writing will bless you, just has it has me!

May 8, 2008

blog stalkers

So, I recently got an earful from self-identified blog stalkers who chastised me for my sloth. They went so far as to claim that I was “cheating” by posting articles I wrote for the Encourager magazine.

I will admit: I have been very unfaithful to the old blog. I hesitate to promise to do better because I like being a man of my word! The truth is, I often think about writing something to post, but the words have just been few and far between. I find that I am not doing a lot of deep thinking about anything worthy of sharing! It seems that the rigors of my administrative responsibilities are sucking much of my creative life right out of me. Add to that some family things that weigh heavily on my heart and my sweet stalkers are out of luck.

So, to the faithful – please accept my apologies. Over the next few days, I will be posting some of the few thoughts and insights I have managed to have in the last month or so. As I offer them, I appreciate your comments and commentary!

May 1, 2008

Claiming Pentecost

The following was originally written for the May edition of our Monthly uzine, The Encourager. The complete publication can be found online at

Two thousand years ago the disciples witnessed a miracle. The Lord Jesus had risen from the grave – triumphing over hell and death. He repeatedly appeared before them commissioning them for work in His Kingdom. Again and again, Jesus demonstrated the veracity of his resurrection and offered them words of instruction and the promise of power to come.

The disciples waited, wondering about the promised presence of God’s Holy Spirit. They met together discussing the significance of these events. Remaining together, no doubt huddled in prayer, they waited. All of scripture and wisdom had been made known to them through the ministry and resurrection of Christ. They had all the information they needed to carry out God’s master plan for His Creation. God has long declared that he had chosen his people as His inheritance – His portion. Of all creation, God had chosen humankind to be his treasured possession. Now the time had come for the treasure to shine. Yet, they still waited. Knowledge and information simply wasn’t enough to translate into fruitful activity.

On the Day of Pentecost all of that changed. Added to the disciple’s knowledge and experience was the long promised gift of the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit of God fell on humankind, Peter stood and quoted the prophet Joel saying, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Acts 2.17-21)

For some people Christmas is their favorite of the Christian holy days. For others, it is Easter. Not me. My favorite day in the Christian calendar is Pentecost. It marks the true birth of the church – the birth of community and missional purpose in the world. Pentecost signals the end of preparation and waiting. Like a starters pistol ringing around the word, the giving of the Spirit signaled the final leg of God’s redemptive race.

As a people, we have been given everything we need to succeed. God has revealed himself to us in the flesh of Jesus Christ. Through His teaching and ministry a pattern for holy and perfect living has been set before us. Through His death we received atonement for our sins and freedom from the body of death that so easily ensnares us. Through His resurrection the magnitude and scope of God’s activity in human events became known. And through the outpouring of his Holy Spirit, strength and power have been given that His people might be agents of redemption and reconciliation in the world.

This year, Pentecost falls on May 11 – Mother’s Day. It is appropriate that on that day we all celebrate the work of the Holy Spirit who gave birth to a church. He who formed a family for God that goes beyond bonds of blood and unites us all in spirit and truth.

I pray that this Pentecost finds us ready to receive anew the gift of God’s Spirit. God grant that we would be a people who look for the signs of God’s ongoing work of ministry in the world. Moreover, grant that we be a people who are agents of God’s ongoing work of ministry in the world. As the Spirit empowers us, may we look more like Jesus and work in ways that enable the world to look more to Jesus. May the Spirit of God unify us into one body, singular in our purpose and mission. May the Spirit of God embolden us to offer Christ to all. May the Spirit of God empower us to transform and renew the face of the earth through our ministries of mission and service.

Church, I beseech you: Let us live like a people who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Let us be a people who proclaim with signs and wonders the goodness of God’s grace in Christ Jesus. Let us be a people who work like those who are made in the image of Christ to exhort the world to call upon the name of the Lord and find salvation therein.