The One and Only Good Snake

I have, at various times of my life, either been set upon pedestals as a ministry star, or abandoned as a flop and failure—pretty much while being the same person and doing the same things. Within a span of five minutes, I’ve been told by two different people that I am an amazing and anointed communicator, but then also that I’m such a bore that I seem to be putting myself to sleep while speaking.

Never wanting to displease anyone, I’ve too often not concerned myself enough with being centered rather upon pleasing The One who really counts.

The task of pastoring is impossible. It is crazy to try to please people, because it cannot be done in a diverse community. Truth is, I’m not as good as those fans who’ve come and gone believed me to be, and a great number of the criticisms are indeed unfairly leveled by people with small lives and even smaller perspectives.

Many people are too easily enchanted by a stage. Christians—ministers even—are no exception. Sometimes we elevate our leaders like Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness … as something to pin our hopes to … something to heal us, because we sense, somehow, that we are sick and need saving. Humans desire something to look to vicariously because we are desperate for something of God that we can barely articulate … something up there.

So, we take the beautiful, the talented, the fortunate from among us and lift them up on a stage. We fawn over them. Feed them. Praise them. Buy and sell their books, or books written in their name. We applaud their sermons skillfully delivered with content provided from a nameless someone from afar.

But the celebrities disappoint, and they will always disappoint. Unlike Moses’ bronze snake (or the Lifted One that it prefigured) we do not find healing for our ills in gazing upon our elevated leaders – the Moses people of our age – but only by seeing the Snake.

The voice behind the microphone and the voice that says “amen” in the pew are not so different. The minister at the lush mega-church with a staff of many dozens and the lone pastor in a spindly rural church are far more similar than they are different.

Or at least they ought to be. Both can be voices of wisdom, servants of biblical words and truth to lost and ornery sheep. Neither can save those that gaze upon them.

Because, you see, the Lifted One erodes the heights and valleys of our elevations. Only in elevating him will we see ourselves and others as we are, finding the life we seek in the desert.

So, after years of hating and dissing snakes and even having a snake category on this blog, I have to admit that there is a good Snake – the bronze one from the desert and the person it prefigured.

(Disclosure – I have edited and expanded upon a shorter piece from Leadership Journal in writing this.)

Snake Good News, Bad News

It has been a while since I’ve written a blog post on snakes – a blogging tradition I’ve maintained for many years now. They’ve not crossed my path in a long time – which is just fine with me. I’ve not seen any around my country property this year … aw nuts!… I shouldn’t have written that. Now I’ll be sure to see one very soon.

Anyhow, there was both good news and bad news about snakes in the media outlets today – both about pythons. What do you want first? The bad news??? OK…

Bad News: The largest Burmese Python ever captured in the Everglades was reported today as measuring close to 18 feet and weighing 164 pounds. Of course, these are invasive species – let loose there by exotic pet owners who realize that their pet reptile has outgrown its happy home. They are populating heavily in this habitat and doing what snakes do best – creating problems (see Genesis chapter 3 for validation). This Florida monster was dissected and found to have 87 eggs! These miscreants have been known to even eat deer and alligators. One of the researchers said, “A 17 1/2-foot snake could eat anything it wants.”  Oh joy! But this one is dead.

Good News: There is a strange snake disease among pythons that causes them to tie themselves in knots! Known as Inclusion Body Disease – or more generically as Mad Snake Disease – it strikes captive pythons and boa constrictors. Apparently it has been isolated to a virus in rodents that has become resident in these snakes. I’m trying to feel bad for the snakes, but am having a difficult time getting there! I have always wondered how very long snakes keep themselves organized – like when they are all curled up and have to move quickly. They never seem to encounter the same troubles I have with things like hoses and extension cords.


Wedding Anniversary and Camping Trips

Yesterday – the 14th – was a 35th anniversary for Diana and me. We were married soon after birth.

Whenever couples unite together, there is a coming together also of two family systems with varied ways of living life. I can see this is something of a challenge for my boys as they connect with the young ladies in their world. We’ve noticed a number of times that our family way of living and parenting has oft been vastly different than some of the girl-dominated families of their relationships.

And my family background was immediately very noticeably different from Diana’s!!  I may write a series of posts about this – which I think will be humorous especially for some of Diana’s relatives who read everything I write!  Just remember – I love you guys, no matter what I say over the next week!

Stimulating my thought to do this was the men’s retreat this past weekend – which was a camping event complete with snake visitations! (see previous blog post)

My family did not go camping. We had the good sense to take a vacation where you go somewhere nice and sleep in a comfortable place like human beings in the modern age! Diana’s family went camping – tent camping – the whole 9.99 yards! In fact, they loved it so much that one time they did it for an entire summer and went all over the entire USA.

So, when I met Diana, she was intent that I should learn this very wonderful family activity that had such warm and romantic memories for her. Being the compliant fellow that I am with such a benevolent heart to please, I did it. We even went camping for 10 of the 17 nights we took on our honeymoon trip to Florida and the southeast. We did a fair amount of camping trips with the boys when they were little, and even a couple of times since living here in Maryland. There was one particularly good trip to Acadia about a decade ago. But honestly, most of them were washouts – I mean that very literally – involving copious amounts of water falling from the sky. One time on Ocracoke Island, the people in the tent next to us were literally able to canoe around their campsite.

Well, back in 2006 when I had a two-month sabbatical, we included some camping nights in Yellowstone and the Mountain West as part of our trip to the National EFCA Convention in Denver. One evening in Yellowstone – in JUNE – it was simply too cold to sleep. There was frost on the inside walls of the tent. About 3:00 in the morning I looked at Diana in the dark and said, “Diana, I’m going to confess something to you that I’ve hidden from you for all these 29 years we’ve been married. I HATE CAMPING; I’VE ALWAYS HATED CAMPING; I only ever did it because I love you. But this is the end. I will never go camping again.”

And I haven’t … not for Diana … not for the men of the church. “Read my lips,” said George Bush 41 … “not gonna do it … wouldn’t be prudent.”

The Evidence of Things Unseen

When we have baptism services each year at the Horst Cabin, people ask me why I’m standing in the water looking around like I’m afraid I’m going to see something. The men’s retreat was held there this weekend, and one of the guys took this picture:

So, I think my fears are entirely reasonable … though honestly, with 150+ people there each August, I’m sure this guy and his relatives take a quick vacation.

Snake Today!

Today I am in far southern Maryland and staying overnight to go to a political convention tomorrow in Solomon’s Island. I’ve never been to this part of the state before, but it is fully as beautiful as I expected it would be.

I got here by early afternoon, as I took a vacation day to go to Point Lookout – which was a huge Civil War Union POW camp (of Confederate soldiers after Gettysburg). None of the buildings remain from that difficult era, though there are varied monuments and a museum. Unfortunately, the museum (I learned) does not open until Memorial Day. Oh well … a bad day of Civil War snooping beats a good day of ……………….. whatever.

The area is filled with many environmental preservation projects and organizations. I followed a nature trail through a tidal marsh and thought, “I wonder how long it will take to see a snake in this place.”  The answer: about three minutes! I’m telling you, nobody can find a snake anywhere and everywhere like I can … they are always just lurking about – the miserable creatures.

Here is a picture for proof … And check some others below it.

Snakepath Road

While driving from Charlotte, NC to Appomattox, VA yesterday, I passed an interesting road name in Southern Virginia. It was intriguing to me, so I turned the car around and went back to explore it. The name of the street: Snakepath Road!

So what generated this name? Was it the migratory pathway followed by slithering serpents upon their annual journey from one disgusting mud hole to another? Or was it merely descriptive of an oft twisting road?  The street did turn and curve a good bit – though not excessively beyond many country neighborhood sorts of roads.

Well, about a mile down the road, Snakepath intersected with Dairy View. Isn’t that special?

But also along the way were the ruined remains of an old log house – quite a sight! When one sees such a building, you cannot but ponder the folks who built and lived in that structure at some point in the distant past.  My guess is that they likely died from some venomous toothy kiss from a reptile!

Snake Update

Those who have read my blog over the years (not just this one, but the former blog hosted on the old church web page) know that I have a strong disaffection for snakes. So, in the spirit of “laughing past the graveyard,” I have a regular posting from time to time about these vile creatures. There is generally no shortage of bizarre snake stories in the news.

With this particular blog that is now hosted by WordPress, I am able to look at a category of statistics that tell me how many people each day read the blog, what pages they read, etc.  It also tells me how people found the blog using search engine terms.

By far, the #1 search term that captures people out there to click on is “ball python.”  You may recall that I previously wrote a post about one of these things.

Ugh! Now, I think that is weird!  I would have thought something like, “the wisdom of Randy Buchman” would have been first … or “incredible pastoral insights upon life and culture” … something like that!  Nope!  Rather it is “ball python snakes!”

Snake Snatching

In my family’s franchise of businesses – the Potomac Bead Company jewelry craft stores – theft is a common problem. You can easily imagine how simple it is in such large stores to drop small objects into a purse or pocket. Extensive efforts with cameras and employee vigilance are a constant reality … especially keeping an eye on products made of silver.

We hate it, but in a small way we are able to understand that there is value in these objects.

But stealing a snake?? Snake-snatching? Reptile-robbing?

First of all, the very concept of a snake store is bizarre for my way of thinking. What kind of business plan would an entrepreneur in reptiles take to the bank for a business loan? I’d simply like to read the portion about the target customer base!

It is just so sweet and cute - makes you want to go right out and buy one for $500!

Well, at a Sacramento business called Serpentarium, a thief brazenly broke the lock on a cage and stole a baby ball python. This particular snake was the off-spring of two pythons with different coloration patterns, and only about 25% of the snake babies born from such a union are known as “Bumblebee Ball Pythons.” This loveable little cuddly ball of joy was selling for $475!

Clearly my son Nathan had the wrong vision for his business empire! He should have gone into snakes instead of beads.

There is so much about this world that I do not understand.

Snake Loving “Friends”

So… these are the kinds of friends I have! One of them – whose initials are Tim Thorpe – posts the following picture on Facebook and says, “This makes me think of my friend Randy.”

Random Snake in South Florida

Then, my other friend – whose initials are Russ Ellis – comments that, “It looks just like the one I saw going down Dam 4 Road!”

OK, so, I know there ain’t no snake like this around Downsville. But, the caption on the picture said it was in Florida … the place I was going the very day I saw the picture!  The place I am as you are likely reading this – if you see it the day I post it.

So, Tim and Russ … watch your step. I always laugh last!

Smokey Snake

“Only you can prevent snake escape,” could be the public service announcement by a cute talking snake in Florida named “Smokey.” (Oh, hold it, there is no way to make a snake look cute!). The 5-foot long boa constrictor escaped from his aquarium and was found in the garden next door.

The even worse part about people owning pet snakes is not simply the troubling nature of the fact that they see this creature as a pet, but that they themselves are … well … how to say this gently … ah … not likely to be people who scored 800 per section on the SAT.

Snake escape stories abound daily on the internet, and the clueless owner always has some version of “I just don’t know how Foofie got out of his container.”  Ah, maybe they shouldn’t be in a container?

To quote the news story, “I just want to take him home,’” <the owner> said, still a little choked up at the thought of losing Smokey.

(I’m not making this up …) She said she was just glad to be able to bring the pet snake home, where she also has three Chihuahuas — Dynamite, Peanut Butter and Lucy. It seems to me that better names for those dogs would be Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner! Isn’t this a little bit like keeping a pet lion in a homemade cage in your sheep pen?

I’ll never understand the “pet snake” oxymoron.