Friday, June 26, 2009

i'm a terrible father...

for laughing in this moment, and probably even worse for putting this on the internet

green slide from rob walter on Vimeo.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

jury duty

on monday morning, 8:30 am, I had to report for jury duty. everyone always tells me that “once they find out that you’re a pastor, they’ll let you go.” that’s not necessarily true. I expected a long day of waiting, and sitting, so I dressed comfortably in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, and I brought a couple of books. When we got inside the courtroom, we were asked to raise our right hands and swear to tell the truth. we were also told that we risked being charged with perjury for lying. there were a lot of perjurers in that room.

without going into detail, the case involved an adult taking advantage of a middle schooler. sad for the student, great for me, I knew that they wouldn’t want me. they asked that if anyone felt like they had a hardship with this case, to line up, and state it to the judge and lawyers personally. everyone else was on break. I think that everyone in the courtroom got in that line. one by one they went in. some came out cheering, some came out sad. I went in. I told them that I was a middle school minister and that I questioned if they wanted me on the jury. they asked me, “can you be fair?” what was I supposed to say? “yes, I’m a Christian. but I’m really unfair to others.” I said yes, I could be fair. the judge told me to come back later, and to put on some long-pants.

when we got back from break, the judge interviewed each person with a set of standard questions like, “are you married?” “do you know any police?” “have you or a friend or family member ever been a victim of a crime?” at this point, the people in the jury seats did EVERYTHING that they could to get thrown out of court. and I know that some were flat out lying just so that they wouldn’t have to serve. I really wish that the judge would have just asked them,” are you just trying to get out of jury duty?” because it was obvious. one guy blatantly said, “I’m a racist.” whenever the judge asked people if they could be fair, almost all of them gave a reason why they just couldn’t. "it would be too difficult." one elderly woman said that she was raised not to judge people. the judge informed her that she was judging facts, not people. she held her ground…to the point of TEARS! I was especially disappointed with the college kids. they would put on obnoxious shows about how they were unqualified, or told stories of aunts and cousins that had been victimized and therefore could not be fair. later that night I put my facebook status to, "Rob is shocked at what people will do to get out of jury duty." and then, many of my CHRISTIAN friends shared with me the lies that they told to get out of jury duty! great.

the more I thought about it, the more their attitude made sense. the defendant has a benefit from being in court. they have a chance at freedom. the lawyers have a chance at fame and fortune. the judge receives honor and a nice check, desk, and office. but the jurors? what’s in it for them? NOTHING! no money, no fame, no prestige. many of them are actually losing money to be there. until they fix this, and make it profitable for people to serve on a jury, the charade will continue.

in the meantime, judge and lawyers asked some tough questions like:
“can you give a policeman’s testimony the same credibility that you would give another witness’? and vice versa?”
“what if the defendant does not testify? does that make him more likely to be guilty or less likely?”
“can you name a person guilty or not guilty based on just one witness’ testimony?”
“what do you do when 2 witnesses have contradictory testimonies? how do you decide who is telling the truth?”
“if a person is charged with multiple counts, does that make them more likely to be guilty?”

2 things that impressed me today. the first was the judge's patience with everyone's emotional excuses of why they could not be fair. he listened to each one with empathy. he also expertly unraveled many of their lame arguments. I was also very impressed with the knowledge and communication skills of the lawyers. those guys are pretty awesome.

I started off in seat 13. then, by the second day I was moved to seat 5. the lawyers interviewed me, and I told them about my job, and my concern for middle schoolers, and they weren’t fazed at all. they started to release other jurors, but not me. they replaced the jurors, interviewed them, and then dismissed more. over and over, until the judge asked the prosecution if he wanted to release anyone else. he said no.
then he asked the defense. the defense asked for a few minutes to decide. in my head I was saying, “juror-number-five, juror-number-five…” then he said, “the defense would like to thank and dismiss…juror number... five.”
I really didn’t want to do it, but I was going to if they asked me to. I was absolutely relieved when I was dismissed.

before I went in, people told me all kids of strategies for getting out of jury duty, like wear an NRA shirt, or a rush Limbaugh shirt (do they even make those?)
but here are rob’s top 10 ways to get out of jury duty, based on my experiences this week:

1. when a judge or a lawyer asks you a yes or no question, don’t answer with a yes or no.
for example: question: “can you be fair?” answer, “well…I … I’m not sure. I…I don’t think,… well, ok. yes.”

2. be weird.
wear a weird shirt with pot leaves on it. wear your hair crazy. look like a hippy. refuse to take off your sunglasses. giggle at odd points of the conversation.

3. lie.
if they ask you if you are an honest person, or a rational person, or a kind person, just say no.

4. get emotional.
cry. yell. raise your voice. point fingers.

5. don’t speak English very well.

6. look like a criminal.

7. give a lot of credibility to a minor incident from your past.
you got a ticket, so now you don’t trust cops. you took a class on psychology, and now you don’t trust men. your teacher gave you a referral and now you distrust authority.

8. tell them your boss will fire you.

9. sleep in court.

10. don’t go.

2 things that will not necessarily get you kicked off of a jury:
1. being a pastor.
2. wearing shorts.

going to jury duty is a pain, but it could be worse: you could be on trial! so stay out of trouble. and when your jury notice comes in, don’t lie or put on a show just answer the questions honestly and get on with it! don't waste eveyone's time with your lame lies. you might even find the whole process fascinating.

God is love.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

best card ever.

if you didn't guess, I'm the one on the left. jane is on the right. pretty good writing for someone who has never been to school!

Friday, June 19, 2009


when I was in high school and college, my church youth choir would go to L.A. and minister in the juvenile halls. the inmates didn’t really take us that seriously until the end, when my friend lin would get on stage and sing desperado by the eagles. after that, there wouldn’t be a dry eye in the house, and hearts would be ready to hear from God. I just downloaded the song off of iTunes, and I remember those times each time I hear it. and I can't think of a more perfect song for the occasion. here is linda ronstadt’s version- which is more similar to lin’s than don henley’s:

minister on call; june 2008

I’m minister on call this week. that means I respond to emergencies, like members in the hospital. i went the whole week without a call until this morning. one of our members had a heart attack. I went down to the hospital, and found his room, but i didn’t go in, because his doctor was talking to him. his doctor talked to him for a LONG TIME. so I just stood there outside of his room.

I looked in the next room and saw a bunch of pictures of children taped to the wall. “that’s weird.” I thought. “you’re not allowed to tape pictures to the wall in the trauma center! why would an older person even WANT pictures of babies taped to the wall?! maybe their kids just had a baby and think that photos of the grandkids wil pull them through.” there was a young man sitting in the room. he was younger than me. he was holding a woman’s hand. as I looked closer at the pictures, I noticed that he was the dad of these kids. they were twins. then I thought, “it’s not the grandkids. it’s the kids. I hope the woman in the bed isn’t their mom!”

I visited with the church member. he’s doing fine. I kept thinking about this mom and her kids and her husband. he didn’t let go of her hand the entire time I was there- which was about 30 minutes. as I walked out of the trauma center, I saw a young woman lying in the bed. she was asleep with a big breathing mask on her face and tubes everywhere. ugh. this was a mom of twins, and she was really sick. I just started praying. I prayed all the way home.

if you’re a person that prays, pray for this lady.
her kids and her husband need her.
I think I’ll go check again tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

lectio divina:: between malachi and matthew

I just finished reading through the old testament last night. I started genesis 1 on 3/18/07, so its taken me awhile; over 2 years! the old testament ends with the exiles returning to jerusalem and rebuilding the temple. as the old testament closes, God is speaking through prophets like malachi and zechariah. but when the new testament begins, there are no more prophets, no more Babylonians and no more Assyrians in the picture. now its Romans and Pharisees and Sadducees. where did they come from? this has sort of fascinated me recently, and I’ve been doing a lot of reading on this subject, and have lots more scheduled for the summer. forgive me if this is boring.

Nebuchadnezzar of the Babylonians empire was defeated by darius and the Persian empire in the book of daniel. daniel predicted that the Greeks would be the next dynasty, and then the romans. he also predicted that alexander the great would quickly take over the entire world and then die at a young age. when alexander’s armies moved into israel, they let them continue their worship of God. it seems that alexander was impressed that one of God’s prophets would mention anything about him. Alexander spread greek culture and language throughout his kingdom- and this is something that the orthodox jews didn’t appreciate. the protestors later became known as the Hasidim (and later the Pharisees). other jews thought this was cool. jews started sporting short haircuts, and they built a gymnasium in jerusalem. when Alexander died, his generals split the kingdom 4 ways, and israel was eventually ruled by Antiochus IV (who led the Syrian portion of the empire). this guy was not into jewish culture or Judaism. he outlawed Judaism, reading the bible, sacrificing at the temple and circumcising babies. he put a statue of zeus in the temple and even sacrificed a pig in the temple in jerusalem. the place erupted in a revolutionary war.

the leaders of the revolt became known as the maccabees. (these are the guys that I have been particularly fascinated with. they are the focus of my reading these days). their leader was “the hammer,” judas maccabbeus. their followers eventually became known as zealots. the maccabees fought to the death, drove out the Syrians and won their independence. in 63 BC, pompey marched on jerusalem, and brought it under roman rule. the emperor left herod the great in charge.

in the meantime, the greek language spread all over the world. the Pharisees became powerful as local leaders who had a deep love for God’s word. the Sadducees were loyal to the empire, and the zealots all wanted their freedom again; and they knew that if they did it once, they could do it again. the sanhedrin were over everyone, and served as the supreme court of the land. and all of israel waited for the prophecies to come true of a coming king that would rule the earth with justice and righteousness. the world was ready for Him.

not only that, there were no prophets for 400 years. no voice of God for 4 centuries. then, as galatians 4:4 says, "when the right time came, God sent His Son." after 400 years, the voice of God was heard again. this time, it wasn’t a prophet, or an angel, or a sign, or even a donkey.
the voice of God screamed out of a feeding trough in bethlehem;
this time, the voice of God came in the form of a baby’s cries.

God came back-
and the world would never be the same again.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

the townhouse part 2

i mentioned in an earlier post that i found jane’s favorite dollhouse at a goodwill. the dollhouse usually goes from $95 to $100. so I totally scored on a good deal. but the house is missing some parts. my quest continued.

the house was missing lights and a staircase. the ones that we played with never had lights, or never had batteries, and so jane was always curious about the light switches, but never saw how they looked. the stairs were a big deal though. she loves walking the little characters up and down those stairs. where would I find lights and stairs for this obscure dollhouse?

I contacted the manufacturer. they couldn’t give us stairs, but they gladly sent the lights FOR FREE. score! on to the stairs.

I contacted the manufacturer again.
they said no.
I went to one toy store and offered to buy the staircase for $20 off of their floor model.
they said no.
I tried to BUILD the stairs from a hobby kit.
it wasn’t going to work, but they look nice on her other doll house!

I went back to the goodwill that I originally found it at and asked if they had the stairs.
first they laughed at me, then
they said no.
I went to the flea market and looked through montains of old toys.
it wasn't there.
I contacted another toy store and offered to buy the staircase off of their floor model.
they said no.
“what if someone wanted to buy the floor model? it would be incomplete without stairs.” they said.
I went later and asked for a manager or owner, she was out to lunch.
today we went again.
there was a very kind worker who must have been in high school, who understood our cause.
he asked a manager.
they said no.
then he wanted to know what part I was looking for-
we showed him the stairs.
he went and looked in the back.
then he said, “you know- no one ever sees this part when the house is on the shelf, I’m going to ask again.”
jane and I held our breath and waited.
he came back and said, “sure, you can have it.”
I was stunned. “how much?” I asked.
“you can just have it.” he said.
I could have welled up in tears.
I reached out my hand and shook his and said, “thank you so much.”
I handed it to jane and she jumped and shouted for joy.
so in the end, we got the lights, and the stairs, and the house, and it was all for only $5.99.

Monday, June 8, 2009

lectio divina:: jonah

I just finished the book of jonah- and its one of my favorite parts of the old testament.
jonah is a funny guy.
as far as a prophet, he kind of stinks.
he doesn’t like lost people.
he whines.
he complains.
he is blatantly disobedient.
when he actually does get around to obeying God, he phones it in.
(his entire message of hop to the ninevites takes up one verse where he says,
“forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!”)
and several times in the book he proves that he would rather die
than serve the ninevites.

God has a lot of patience for jonah.
when saul disobeyed, God just worked with someone else.
but when jonah ran, God went after him.
God could have had that fish digest him,
but instead, he spit him out safe and sound.
even though jonah gave little effort or passion to his role,
God used him powerfully.

when God sparks a revival, jonah throws a fit and says,
“didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? that is why I ran away to tarshish!
I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
You are eager to turn back from destroying people.
just kill me now, Lord!
I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.”

God’s response is classic.
(and could be said to each of us each time we throw fits of our own.)
he says in 4:4 “is it right for you to be angry about this?”
that’s some patience!

at the end of the book, jonah is sitting on a cliff,
waiting for ninevah’s destruction.
it was hot so God made a plant grow to give him shade.
but a worm came and ate the plant
and jonah threw another fit over his discomfort and disappointment.
God end this short little book with a line that knocks my socks off:

“then the Lord said, “you feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. but nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”

even though the ninevites were vicious people. God loved them and sent a prophet to them to tell them that He loved them.
jonah was weeping over his lost comfort,
but God was weeping over his lost ninevites.

what about you?
what about me?
am I more likely to weep over my lost comfort or lost people?
the answer to that is worth weeping over.

wait a minute-
where is ninevah anyhow?
oh yeah! the middle east!
God loves them! He has always loved them!
wouldn’t it be sad if there were modern day jonah’s
preaching hate against those who God has always loved?

God is love.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

a story by jane

amanda's house from rob walter on Vimeo.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

church::gym entry 22

I have upped my cardio time from 30 minutes to 60 minutes. I haven't got the hang of it yet. I'm still working on it. today I got on the exercise bike and started pedaling. a younger guy got on the bike next to me and said, "are you going for 60 minutes again?!" I totally forgot that he and I had talked about this a few weeks before. "oh yeah," I said. "I'm trying to get the hang of it. its still pretty hard for me."
"I don't think I could ever do that!" he said.
"sure you could." I answered. it just popped out of my mouth. like an exhale.
at that moment I realized that I was being for him like gary has been for me.
at that moment I realized that I was not only being like gary, I had a responsibility to be like gary. so I poured on the encouragement. I gave him some tips. when he finished his 30 minutes I said, "good job bro! you did it! you'll be up to 60 minutes in no time!"
when he walked out, he gave me a head nod, and I could tell that my words had lifted him up.

everyone of us has received encouragement, training, inspiration, and courage from someone else. that can't just end with you- its got to go forward. if you're a believer, someone shared the gospel with you. that can't end with you- its got to go forward to someone else. and then it needs to go forward from them as well. the apostle paul said it this way to timothy, the one that he was investing in:
"and the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others."

who has invested in you?
go and be like them and invest in someone else.
it can't just end with you-
its got to go forward.
you have a responsibility.

God is love.

lectio divina:: job 29

I was reading chapter 92 of guy kawasaki's awesome book, "Reality Check: the irreverent guide to outsmarting, outmanaging, and outmarketing your competition," and the chapter focuses on an interview with richard stearns, the president of world vision. this chapter, like many of the chapters in this book, was worth the price of purchasing the book all by itself. stearns end with a quote from the book of job- of how job was remembered and how he hoped that both he and world vision would be remembered. after reading it, I'd like to be remembered like this as well. I had better get to work- its going to take a lifetime. after reading it ask yourself, "wouldn't I like to be remembered like this too?

"Whoever heard me spoke well of me,
and those who saw me commended me,
because I rescued the poor who cried for help,
and the fatherless who had none to assist him.
The man who was dying blessed me;
I made the widow's heart sing.
I put on righteousness as my clothing;
justice was my robe and my turban.
I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame.
I was a father to the needy; I took up the case of the stranger.
I broke the fangs of the wicked
and snatched the victims from their teeth."

God is love.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

pick n' pull

we’re doing this series called “full service summer” for our midweek program this summer in the middle school ministry. each week, we’ll look at a different car part (steering wheel, muffler, headlights, etc) and use it to make a spiritual analogy. so I thought I would go out to pick n’ pull to get some car parts to use as illustrations.

pick n’ pull fascinates me. there are thousands of cars there, and each one has a story to tell. whenever I’m there (which is not often,) I browse through the vehicles and I wonder about who owned them, how the car got wrecked, and what the car was for. the cars themselves share their stories. some of the cars have clearly been on fire. some of them have all of their airbags deployed. some of them have been customized. I saw a few vans today that must have been quite the party vehicle in their day. they had carpet on the walls, tvs mounted in them, and ice coolers too. you can tell who used to use the vehicles by what is left behind in them: smokers leave cigarette butts, women leave behind girly steering wheel covers, children leave behind stickers, drinkers leave behind beer bottles, gangsters leave behind their tags.

a trip to pick n’ pull is also a little sad as well. as I walk through the aisles I think to myself that all of these cars were once brand new and clean. someone went into debt for each one, and drove them off of the car lot with pride. many of these cars were someone’s “baby.” but now they are here in the junkyard, ripped to pieces, essentially worthless. what once was brand new and expensive is now filthy, smashed and worthless.

as a youth pastor, I have seen many brand new faiths. I watched them on the night they were born at a camp or a youth event. just like those new cars, those new faiths were exciting and full of potential. there was no limit to the adventure that could be had. as a youth pastor I have seen many faiths crash and burn as well. a few bad decisions, and what was once beautiful is now in pieces.

as I walk through pick n’ pull I think, “will my car ever end up here? what would it take for my car to end up here?” it would take a disaster. a lack of judgment, an accident. or ignoring the warning signs and the call for maintenance.
what about my faith? would it ever crash? if it could happen to others, couldn’t it happen to me?

not every car ends up in the junk yard. some cars are more valuable today than the day they were purchased. some cars are old, yet they are as shiny as ever and their engines know how to purr and roar. some cars are old, but they aren’t junk, instead, they are classics. I don’t want my faith to end up in the junkyard; but I need to realize that if it could happen to someone else, it could happen to me.
just like a car, if my faith gets broken, I need to have it fixed, not give up on it.

my dad used to restore cars. and I’ve seen him take a car that was left for junk and make it like new again. I've seen a person's faith be restored too. every now and then we need a tune up, or an overhaul, but even a junked car can be renewed and restored.
that’s the thing about cars and about faith-
its never too broken or too late to be made new again.

“then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. and I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. and I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.”
ezekiel 36 (nlt)

God is love.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I'm so jealous of this guy

for the full story, click here.

Rob! from ImprovEverywhere on Vimeo.

Rob!: Exit Ramp from ImprovEverywhere on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

signs that rob is old:: 6/02/09

this is the first in what I’m sure will be a long series of blogs called “signs that rob is old;” because i seem to be reminded that i’m no longer young on a regular basis. here are the first batch of examples:

recently i was sitting in a staff meeting at work, next to dave, the high school minister. we were doing some group sharing led by our executive minister. he turned our direction and said, “let’s hear from the young guys…well…at least one of you is a young guy…”
he wasn’t even joking.
this is the same guy who once said to me, “I’m used to mentoring youth guys- you’re the first one that I’ve worked with that’s…well…that’s so experienced. you have many, many years of experience…”

a few weeks ago i was leading a meeting of parents of 5th graders, who had students graduating into the middle school ministry. I wanted to help them feel secure by telling them how much youth ministry experience that I had- so I said, “I’ve been doing middle school ministry here at the church for eight years; and I did five years of full time high school ministry back in modesto.” I should have just eneded there, but a thought popped into my head, and then plopped right out of my mouth. I said, “so when you think about it, I’ve been in full time ministry longer than your student has been alive.” ad then it hit me. I couldn’t help but say it out loud. “when did I get OLD?!”

today I was at Walgreens buying decongestant. I took it to the register, and the lady scanned it, and the cash register screen automatically popped up a display that read, “IS THE CUSTOMER OVER 18?” she muttered out loud, “hmm, lets see…” she looked at me and actually laughed out loud and said, “uh YEP! by A LOT!”
I said, “don’t you want to card me?”
“I don’t think I need to she said.”

so- its confirmed. I’m old.
youth is wasted on the young.

God is love.