Thursday, April 30, 2009

"did you PLAY with these?!"

my parents have been storing several boxes of my old toys for years. I just picked them up from them a few weeks ago. when I opened the boxes, I was transported back to my childhood. there they were: transformers, gi-joe figures, he-man figures, playsets, vehicles, and a whole lot of spider-man toys. it was like opening a time capsule or a treasure chest.

but what was I going to do with all of this stuff? I’ve got no room to store it. I don’t want to wait for it to sell on ebay- and I don’t really know how to sell it on ebay. there is this used toy store in town that seems to specialize in toys from the 80’s. I called them and asked if they were interested, and I got ready to take them down.

before I took them down, I started getting them all ready. I put all of the toys in little baggies and made sure that all of the little plastic accessories went together. as I did this, I could see that many of these toys had dates inscribed on them from as early as 1979. jane came by to see what was happening. she said, “hey dad. can I play with this green car?” (It was a gi-joe tank!) “sure.” I said. so she put dora the explorer and woody from toy story in the tank and drove them around her room. she thought it was a car.

I finally had everything organized. of course, nothing was in mint condition, everything had a piece or two missing or something slightly broken. but I was hopeful. as I drove down to the store I wondered, “how much money will I get for this stuff? maybe $100? maybe $1000? I’ll be happy with anything.”

“I lugged all of these boxes out of my little beetle into this guy’s store. this guy knew his toys. he looked at my optimus prime and said, “the exhaust is always broken on these…” he looked at my shogun-warrior Godzilla, and said, “these are always missing the hand…” as he was holding one of the toys he stopped and said, “did you PLAY with these toys?” (as if I had committed a crime.) after about a minute, he closed the boxes and said, “how about $40?” I was a little surprised. he explained, “I already HAVE all of these toys. not only that, I have all of these toys- and they are all STILL in the box, never even touched!” then he walked me around his shop and showed me those same toys that I brought in, but his were still in the box, as if they traveled through time from the early 80’s.

I put all of my boxes back in my car. as I drove home and thought to myself, “did I PLAY woth those toys? heck yes I played with those toys! and I played with many other toys that didn't survive- I played with them until they were broken. I enjoyed them. I loved them. my mom bought me these toys, not to be saved, but to play with! these toys aren’t worth anything now, because I played with them!" then I thought, "who would be interested in these toys?" my answer? BOYS! boys with vivid imaginations like mine would enjoy these toys. so now I’m looking for some boys who could would appreciate these toys and can enjoy the same adventures that I did as a kid. so now I'm looking for an orphanage or a shelter, and I’m going to give them these toys. because these toys are not meant to sit in a box for 30 years. they are not investments, they’re toys! and they are meant to be enjoyed by boys.

God is love.

lectio divina:: jeremiah

I’m just finishing up the book of jeremiah this week. its sort of depressing- but also fascinating.
God tells jeremiah that he would speak on His behalf- even from his childhood. God basically told jeremiah that he would prophesy to the people, but the people would never listen. jeremiah didn’t want the job, he wanted out, but was compelled to preach. there is a famous line that says, “but if I say, "I will not mention him or speak any more in his name," his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.”

jeremiah was to tell the people that they would be defeated by Babylon. they refused to listen, and eventually imprisoned him. along the way, God used jeremiah’s actions, not just his words to make His point. jeremiah walked into royal settings with an ox’s yoke strapped to his shoulders. he went to a potter’s house, and bought a pot, and then smashed it to prove another point. eventually, the government tossed him into an empty cistern and he sank down into the mud and nearly died.

jeremiah has an interesting message to the jewish people- he tells them that Babylon will take them, and he tells them not to fight it. he tells them: “This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: "Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." for those that are left, he tells them to remain where they are too. many considered leaving to Egypt. what this communicates to me is that change comes- and it comes from God. so often we work, and scheme, and stress, all to keep things from changing. jeremiah says: don’t fight it. instead, plant a garden, raise your family and live with the change that He brings. God is bringing change because He wants to do something in you. He brought the Babylonians to bring humility and repentance to His people. who knows? He may bring you back to the place where you were- He may not.
don’t fight change, plant a garden instead.

God is love.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

jane-quotes 4/29

jane has this baby-doll named o-joe. (which makes no sense to me. previously every doll in the house had the same name: jane.) jane looks after o-joe like she’s o-joe’s mommy. she tucks in o-joe, kisses her, she also makes sure that I don’t make too much noise- so that I don’t wake up o-joe when she’s sleeping. (like i make a lot of noise. i think she just enjoys shushing me.)

today jane and i were talking about o-joe and she said, “I’m the mommy, and I take good care of o-joe.”
“just like your mommy takes such good care of you!” i said.
“yeah. that’s why i’m so special.” she answered.
cute kid.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

going after God

I have a friend that wants to be a youth pastor like me. Recently he asked me what he needs to do to have a job like me. I told him that he would need training and experience in an existing youth ministry, and some sort of degree from a bible school. however, all of that takes time, and he doesn’t want to wait- he wants to get in the game right now. I told him to call my friends at elm street mission. they serve kids in santa cruz, and they could use some more help. he would get a lot of opportunities there. so he called them.

a few months ago, I went down to elm street mission to talk with ben, their pastor about an upcoming trip. he told me that my friend had called, and I told him the situation. he said something that has stuck with me ever since. he said, “no- we don’t care if you have a degree from a bible college or a seminary, but we do care about is that you’re going after God.” then he gave me some examples. he said, “take mike for example. he’s preaching tonight in the service. I don’t expect to see him at all until he gets up to speak. I never see him on the day he speaks. but I know that he is up in his room with his bible open and his face on the floor. I know that he has been fasting all day, begging God to use him. that’s what we care about. who cares about a bible degree? I want to know if you’re going after God.”

at that point, my master’s degree from western seminary didn’t seem as big or as important as it once was. ever since I’ve been asking myself, “am I going after God?” that has been my measure of success- I still count how many staff and students that show up. I still have the offering counted, but more importantly, I have been searching my heart and evaluating my own level of desperation for God to use me. and of course, some days are better than others, some are worse. what about you? are you in ministry? are you going after God?

recently, I was at elm street mission, and I listened to mike preach. I could tell that he hadn't eaten all day- he was crazy-hyper, which can happen if you don't eat, but still drink coffee. but I could also tell that he had prepared for that message all day, and that he had been in the presence of God.

in the end, that is your credentials- not your degrees, or your past success, but your nearness to God.

Monday, April 20, 2009

two friends with cancer

2 of my friends died this month of cancer.

the first one was my friend devonna.
I became a Christian when I was 16. I was quickly welcomed into a group of friends that went to my church and my school. one of those friends was a guy named seth. devonna was his mom. it seemed like the youth group was always over at seth’s house, swimming at his pool, and hanging out with his parents. after college, seth moved out to san jose and I wasn’t far behind. later on, he and his family joined venture, our church. (who would have thought that we would go to the same church after all these years and I would be one of the ministers at that church?!) one night at church seth told me that his mom was dying of cancer. as the weeks went on, he told me that they were getting ready for her service. I wrote her a card saying that you for being an encouraging adult to me when I was a new Christian. she received it just before she died. I went to modesto for her funeral. the church was packed. there were so many adults there who were former students in the youth group. my friend lin got up to speak and said, “one of the few good things about cancer is that you can prepare for your funeral. devonna has written her won eulogy…” it was a sweet tribute to her husband and children, and the people who had impacted her life. my friend pam sang a song called “somewhere its snowing.” it was a song that we used to sing during Christmas musicals. I was choking back tears. she was a great lady.

my other friend that died this month was named ed. when I first came to the church, he was doing high school ministry, while I did junior high and college. we were fast-friends. more like brothers. we could make each other laugh out loud, and make each other furious in the same day. we used to talk for hours about everything. he drove me nuts, because he hated to study for his sermons, but when it came time for him to actually give his sermon, it came out so smoothly. he was a natural. the classic youth pastor. students loved to be around ed. he used to walk into my office randomly and do this pat-benatar-shoulder-shake, singing “WE ARE YOUNG! LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD!” I fell out of my chair laughing everytime. ed eventually moved to sacramento. we talked regularly over the years. I was sitting in a conference last month and one of my friends called and said, “did you hear about ed? he has cancer and only a year to live.” I told him it was a rumor. but it turned out that he had actually spoken with him. it was true. the next day I went to see him in the hospital. he was in absolute agony. I spent the entire time chasing down nurses and trying to get him more pain meds. they finally gave him more pain medication and he went to sleep immediately. I wept the whole way home. ed died earlier this month- way sooner than they thought he would. I got to call him hours before he died and told him that I loved him and that it was all going to be fine. through the whole experience, he was trying to encourage others. he was never afraid, instead he was full of hope and sure that God was calling him home.

one time ed and I were sitting in my office talking about everything, and the afterlife came up. ed said, “I was thinking, what if God rejects me when I face Him? if He did, I could go through eternity with the joy that I had seen Him face to face, and that I had been in His presence if only for a moment…”
I can’t even imagine the joy and peace that ed is experiencing now at home in the presence of God. he was a great friend, a great dad, a great husband, and incredible youth pastor.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

easter egg hunt 2009

here are some video’s from today’s easter-egg hunt. notice how fast the eggs disappear from the first video to the second! (and notice how I use my power to speak and not be heard in the first video!)

hunt 1 from rob walter on Vimeo.

hunt 2 from rob walter on Vimeo.

counting her treasures:

hunt 3 from rob walter on Vimeo.

now we can go see willy wonka! (or get a little piggy-mask…)

Monday, April 6, 2009

i'm in a book!

this is from kurt johnson's book middle school ministry made simple.
if I can help just one youth pastor to not rent a wood chipper, then my work will have not been in vain...

the wheels on the bus...

I’m in charge of parking at church. I don’t mind. its pretty fun actually. I get to talk to a lot of new people and find out things like how parking lots are paved and signs are made. it gives me an excuse to go outside on sunday mornings too. there is a great team of parking guys who are pretty self-sufficient, and motivated, and ready for anything- and that makes everything easier.

we recently had an issue where we ran out of parking! we have fixed this by having all of our church staff and volunteers park around the corner. there is a team of bus drivers that take turns getting everyone to church and back to their car. Art drives from 7:15 to 8:15, I drive from 8:30 to 9:00, rigo drives from 10:15 to 10:50, and bruce drives from 12:00 to 1:00pm. I really like driving on sunday morning. it gives me time out of the office, and gives me some quiet time with not much to do other than wait for people to show up, look over my notes and pray for the church.

(this sunday was crazy. I was speaking at the 9:00am service, and I was supposed to start at 9:15. people kept coming to the bus late! I didn’t get out of the bus until 9:13! I RAN to church, strapped on a microphone, caught my breath and started preaching. sheesh!)

I wait in this spot and often look right at this tree while I’m waiting for people to come and get shuttled over. this tree fascinates me. I think to myself things like, “how much do those branches weigh?!” “why don’t they fall?” “what kind of effort would it take to fabricate something like that?” “how deep do those roots go to keep that thing in place?” not only that, what fascinates me about this tree is that its alive. it grows and evolves. it repairs itself. it withstands weather. if we were to create something like that, it would need thick cables, a deep anchoring system, lightweight material, and a super-strong frame-
but this is just made with wood and water. and it supports itself.
we can never out-create nature.

“blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.

He will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit."
-jeremiah 17:7-8