July 19, 2008

Men vs. Wild

I took yesterday afternoon off and met my friend from Austin, A.J. up at the Guadalupe River for a little fun in the sun. We swam in the river, basked in the sun, and generally had a good time talking theology and catching up on life.

It was nearing twilight when we saw a snake making its way from the opposite bank over towards our spot – just a little downstream from us. We did the only thing a guy can do in such a situation – we started chuckin’ rocks. Well, the snake turned around, swam back across the river and holed up in its lair. Being the manly men that we are, we declared our victory and (after the slightest pause . . . ahem) jumped into the water to claim our domain.

While we were swimming, we noticed the serpent again making its way from the opposite bank towards our camp. The tribal man in us sprung into action. In a flurry of activity we emerged from the water, scooped up rocks and sticks and headed for battle. As the viper beached himself we threw a warning shot into the river behind him – hoping to block his escape. He wasn’t planning on going anywhere. It was on.

As I hurled my first projectile, he coiled, began shaking his tale and unhinged his jaw giving us a good view of his fangs set against the white background of his mouth. His sudden movement caused my first shot to be a miss and he shot up the bank after me.

AJ was just behind me and now the snake was between us. He swung hard with a large stick which shattered against the rock just missing the snake. Unfortunately, drift wood isn’t all that sturdy! Nevertheless, AJ’s shot caused the snake to turn and head back for the water. He had had enough of us.

Little did he know that I am a student of King David. I threw the rock in my left hand and watched it momentarily sink the snake now a few feet from the shore. Even while the first was in flight, I transferred the much larger projectile from my left to right hand and let fly. I got him square on the head. Whether he was stunned or dead at that point, I don’t know. Just to be sure, we pulled him out of the water and finished him off, again. And, again.

This morning, I decided to do a little research on our snake and here is what I read.

Water Moccasin:

When sufficiently stressed, this species engages in a characteristic threat display that includes vibrating its tail and throwing its head back with its mouth open to display the startling white interior, while the neck and front part of the body are pulled into an S-shape. Many of its common names, including "Cottonmouth" and "gapper", refer to this behavior, while its habit of snapping its jaws shut when anything touches its mouth has earned it the name "trap-jaw" in some areas.

At night, they are at their most active, when they are usually found swimming or crawling. Contrary to popular belief, they are capable of biting while underwater.

Symptoms commonly include ecchymosis and swelling. The pain is generally more severe than bites from the copperhead, but less so than those from rattlesnakes. The formation of vesicles and bullae is less common than with rattlesnake bites, although necrosis can occur. Myokymia is sometimes reported. On the other hand, the U.S. Navy (1991) states that the venom has strong proteolytic activity that can lead to severe tissue destruction.

Yikes. Happy tubing campers . . .

PS: Just so I don’t hear from PETA or the like, remember:

Genesis 3:14-15:
“14 So the LORD God said to the serpent,
"Because you have done this, "Cursed are you above all the livestock
and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust all the days of your life.

15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."

July 18, 2008

Bishop Mike Lowry

On the 11th ballot, Rev. Dr. J. Michael Lowry is elected a Bishop of the United Methodist Church. When you next see him, he is no longer Pastor Mike, but Bishop Lowry. What a great moment for the United Methodist Church. Congrats my dear friend.

July 17, 2008

pray, pray

The first ballot of the South Central Jurisdiction is now taking place. One of University’s own members, Mark Nerio is a delegate at the conference as is one of my young padawan’s, Walt Lengel (a great guy I have known since he was in 6th grade and who is now a sophomore at Texas and the youth intern at Pflugerville UMC!) This conference in Dallas will elect the new Bishops who will serve in the Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Nebraska Episcopal areas of the United Methodist Church. My good friend and former boss, Rev. Dr. Mike Lowry is a candidate for Bishop this year. I sincerely believe that God has called him to this work and am praying for the wisdom of the holy conference. Beyond Mike’s election, I am watching the happenings with interest as the only Bishop I have ever served under, Bishop Joel Martinez will be retiring in August. We will be assigned a new Bishop by the Jurisdictional Conference later this week. Obviously, when you work in an appointive system who your Bishop is makes a big difference in your life! So, I invite you to join me in praying for this conference – for Mike, for Mark, for Walt, and for a Bishop to be named later!

If you want to follow the elections, a good site for watching ballot summaries is at: http://www.umc.org/site/c.lwL4KnN1LtH/b.4340133/k.97F/Episcopal_Elections_Ballot_Results_Summary.htm

We are in the SCJ (South Central Jurisdiction).

July 11, 2008


So, in a recent sermon I was talking about man's stewardship of the earth - that while God has certainly given us dominion, we must move beyond domination and possession towards true stewardship. I made mention that one can't help but wonder if we aren't seeing evidence of our need to do better with all the wild natural events occuring around us. At that time, I noted that scientists predict that all the ice may well melt off the North Pole by the end of this summer. I have had a number of people ask me about this particular piece of information. I promise, though I make many things up - mostly about my prowess at sports - this was not one of them. If you are interested you can read the article on cnn.com. It is posted at http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/weather/06/27/north.pole.melting/index.html?iref=newssearch

The data comes from the National Snow & Ice Data Center - their website is at www.nsidc.org.


Busy barely covers what I have been over the last several weeks. If I was a car, I’d be in high gear! Life around the church has been great – very rewarding. Strangely, I have really enjoyed doing the work of the Operations Pastor. Though it is a lot of extra work, there is something great about doing a job that produces immediate results. A lot of my duties for my job produce results that are difficult to measure. Much of my work is about a journey, a process. When I do the operations work though, there is a product at which to point. When I write a Building Usage and Fee Schedule – it is done, ready for consideration by the Trustees. When a room is renovated, you can watch the progress until it is finally complete. Though it has really added a number hours to my week – and unfortunately taken me away from some areas in my own ministry that need additional attention – overall, it has been very rewarding.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be more than ready to turn all these additional responsibilities over, but I am grateful that God is allowing me to learn new skills during this season of our church’s life.

On top of all these things, I have been on the go quite a bit. I attended a clergy retreat, took a much needed week of vacation, was ordained at Annual Conference in Corpus, went on a mission trip to Rwanda, preached at a Jr. High Youth Camp in Kerrville, and led the Saturday night Girls Chrysalis service – all in the last six weeks! In fact, in a 7 day stretch I preached 10 times!

It has been good to get back into the groove this week. There’s nothing like a busy schedule to remind you of how good normal can be! Traveling and preaching is something I never want to give up, if for no other reason than it reminds me that there really is no place like home. When I am able to get even just a little outside of my own environment I gain valuable perspective and find my ability for ministry greatly enhanced.

July 6, 2008

JAM 2008

So I spent part of last week preaching out in Kerrville at a Southwest Texas Conference summer camp. It was a camp for Methodist Jr. High youth – sponsored by our Conference Council on Youth Ministry and led by my good friend, the Rev. Dr. Rusty Freeman! The camp runs from Sunday evening to lunch on Thursday. For the first time, two of the kids at camp came from the U! (They and their parents wanted to experience “those camps Ryan & Mark are always talking about!)

Overall the camp was a great success. Swayze was leading the music – bringing our buddy Kyle Brown out to play guitar along with some of his traveling musicians. One of our favorite pastimes up at camp is to play with our Nerf dart guns. We have those sticky dart guns that you can make shoot long distances with a little rubber band modification! This year, we didn’t have a lot of time for that as we played pretty hard with the kids. Lots of ultimate Frisbee and underwater freeze tag wiped this guy out!

Every morning at camp includes morning devotions, alone time with God, small groups, and family learning rooms. The afternoon is given to recreation with a large group activity after dinner. At night we worship.

You might not believe me, but 9 out of 10 kids would tell you that worship is their absolute favorite part of camp – and the reason they come. They have discovered that nothing compares to finding yourself in the resurrected presence of Jesus Christ – and they love it. To be honest, so do I. It’s the reason Mark & I go back year after year.

Every year we are amazed by the activity of God in young people’s lives – and this year was no exception. This year, 19 kids gave their life to Christ; 31 rededicated their lives to him; and 43 professed a calling to full time ministry.

Let me say that again, 43 Jr. High students professed a calling to full time ministry. God is raising these young leaders up just in time too. In Methodism, the average age of someone who is being ordained is somewhere around 55. Books are being written about the church’s coming crisis (now being realized) regarding the lack of first career clergy. Yet, part of the solution must be putting examples out in front of our young people. It must include a deliberate encouragement from the pastor and the congregation. We must tell our young people that there is nothing better that they could do with their lives than give it in service and ministry to their God.

I noted with joy that one of the young men who believes himself called to ministry mentioned my former intern and now Corpus Christi Associate Pastor, Mark Montgomery. Having been there less than a month, his very presence – his earnest desire to serve God has shown a young man in his congregation that ministry is a real option for him.

May God add an increase to this young generation who is ready to stand and serve their God.