Sunday, August 30, 2009

extended leave- part 2

today was my first day back at work after over seven weeks of being out of the office. I barely slept last night. my mind was spinning and rehearsing how the morning might go. when I got into my car I thought to myself, “I’m feeling so happy right now- and hyper!” I was so excited to be back with the middle school ministry staff and students. Over the last few weeks, I have learned and re-learned a few things about myself:

1. I love my family.
Deanna and I celebrated 13 years of marriage over my break. we started dating when we were 17- and we have now been together for over half of our lives. I can’t imagine life any other way.
jane is growing up so fast. she is getting so tall and surprises me every day with her growing vocabulary. she always knows how to get a laugh out of me. it was so great to get some extended time with Deanna and jane.

night ride from rob walter on Vimeo.

2. I love my job.
middle school students are the coolest people in the world. they aren’t too cool to be around adults, and they are so open to learning what the bible says. they were all so gracious in welcoming me back this morning. this morning I was walking through the halls of church and greeting many friends that I haven’t seen in weeks and helping guest find their way- and all along, I could hear the worship band sining, “better is one day in your house than thousands elsewhere…” that line had never sounded truer than in that moment.

3. I’m called to work with middle schoolers.
this was reaffirmed in me at camp. and my passion for working with these students and their families has never been stronger. I hope that I can continue to work with middle schoolers for years and years to come.

4. I’m kind of a work-a-holic.
I spent the first 2 weeks of my break writing future messages. if I wasn’t with jane, I was writing or studying. I also attended several meetings, answered every e-mail and voice-mail. I could have done a lot better at resting, and I think that everyone who knows me knew that I would have a hard time slowing down.

5. solitude replenishes my soul.
I knew this already, but I was reminded of this over my break. even though I cherish times with my family and friends, I don’t mind being by myself. its good for me every now and then to spend a day or so in silence and solitude. I must have logged 50 miles in solo-walks over my break.

6. I like books, but only to a point.
going into my break, I had a stack of books that I wanted to read, and I read them all. when I ran out, I got some more. when I ran out of those, I went to barnes and noble and looked through every single aisle looking for just one book that looked like a good read. I couldn’t find a single one. my eyes were so tired from reading, and the thought of reading an entire book made me feel ill. so I picked up a copy of rolling stone magazine and have been thumbing through it for the last week or so.

7. I live in the best part of the world.
I would have traveled but why? is there better weather somewhere else? is there more for kids in another part of the state? san jose has the best of everything!

the fall is here- and it will be a busy one; but I’m ready for it. thanks again to the (678) staff and paco for not just holding things together, but advancing and growing the ministry in my absence. and thanks to venture for the time off. hopefully I can stick around for another 4 years to enjoy this again!

God is love.

Friday, August 28, 2009

philemon by haddon robinson

I heard a version of this message while in preaching class in seminary. I have been thinking about it ever since. its somewhat long, but I hope you are blessed by it.

Monday, August 17, 2009

church//gym entry 23

i went to a new gym tonight.

the church//gym just wasn’t working for me. its closed A LOT. (wednesday nights, saturday nights, all day sunday plus every day between 12 and 3). and its pretty far away.
so I signed up at a new gym today.
its closer. and its open all the time, and its not very expensive.
but it is different.

when i walked in tonight, I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t know where the locker room was, and I didn’t know how to use the machines. and it was really crowded. the church//gym had a strict dress code. my new gym doesn’t. as I was exercising, I started thinking about how everything was different- and once again, I was reminded of conversations I’ve had at church.

our church is on the bigger side. people often check it out when their church isn’t working for them anymore. and they often point out all that’s different. they tell me that the music is too loud, or that the crowd is unfriendly, or that its too crowded. I've been told that the church is too big, and that the church is too small; that the music is too new, and that its not new enough. I've been told that the middle school ministry is too wild, and that its not wild enough. guests have noticed that we do communion differently or prayer time differently, or that there isn’t a cross where there should be one. and they can forget that even though the music is different, it’s the same Lord that we sing to. even though the message is different, it’s the same scripture that inspires it; and even though the Lord’s supper is different, it’s the same cross that we celebrate.

I was thinking about that as I exercised tonight. even though my new gym is more crowded, the weights are still heavy. the machines still make me sweat, and my iPod plays the same songs in my ears while I work out. there are actually a lot of things that are different that I’m looking forward to exploring: like new classes and routines. at my old gym, I know everyone; at my new gym, I know no one. but that’s ok. I’ll make new friends, I’m sure. different and new isn’t bad. its just different and new.

I don’t know if you will ever have the need or the desire to investigate a new church; but if you do, focus on what you know, and why you’re there; everything else will come in time. different and new isn’t bad. its just different and new.

Friday, August 14, 2009


i was feeling like my arms were a little flabby, so I went to the gym and worked my biceps, triceps, and shoulders really hard. i had a feeling that i would be sore the next day, but it wasn’t too bad. then i went to my aerobics class last night, and Lloyd, the instructor had us work arms, shoulders, and chest- a lot. like, so much that i was somewhat offended.

this morning i was seriously sore. like, so sore that i couldn’t really move my arms at all. so, i’ve been sort of walking around my house like a whimpering t-rex. my little girl took full advantage of this weakened state. she found it funny to ram into my arms and watch me wince and groan. i would have chased her and tickled her, if i could. i knew that i was in bad shape when we had to cancel daddy-daughter-day because i could not physically lift my child.

so then I got this tiger-balm stuff for sore muscles that is supposed to make them feel better. and it does, but it stinks super bad. so my arms feel better, but my wife is saying that the smell is making her eyes water. my family makes me laugh.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

life-lessons from a burger chain

I read the new book about in-n-out burger last week. as I read it, I discovered that you can learn a lot about life and faith from in-n-out::

lesson 1: more is not always more.
in-n-out has not added much to their menu since its inception as a company. they do not serve kids meals, chicken sandwiches, burritos, or breakfast; even though all of their competitors do. they serve burgers, fries, drinks and shakes. that’s it. they want to focus on one thing and do it well. and the funny thing is, they are still always packed.

life-lesson: you don’t have to be like everyone else to be successful. when mcdonald’s sold happy meals, every other fast food chain sold them too so that they could keep up. but in-n-out doesn’t sell them, yet manages to keep up. their individual stores outsell any other chain’s individual stores. you don’t have to do what everyone else does to be cool or successful. just be the best you that you can be.

lesson 2: contentment isn't a dirty word.
all of the other fast food chains have gone national and then global. in-n-out stayed in southern california for decades. then they ventured into northern california, and now they have a handful of stores in Nevada, Arizona, and Utah. they could have gone national, but they have chosen not to. they feel that the quality will diminish if they grow too fast. the lines at in-n-out are always long; but they have never sold out. they have stayed a family owned business, even when venture capitalists have offered millions to buy it. they have stuck to their core values of quality, cleanliness and service, even though they could pull in more money by cutting corners.

life-lesson: everything in our culture tells us that more money is always better than the amount of money that you currently have. but in-n-out’s story seems to tell us that they are content with the money that they currently are making, and that outrageous growth may equal more money, but not necessarily a better quality of food (or life for that matter).

lesson 3: take care of people.
in-n-out has always paid their employees well. much better, in fact, than their competitors. they refer to them as associates, not employees. they recognize them publicly, and in tur, their employees are fiercly loyal.

life-lesson: it doesn’t take much to thank the people in your life. it doesn’t take much to recognize a job well done and to be kind to those that have helped you. when you do this, you may see that people become fiercely loyal to you.

lesson 4: you can go public without being weird.
in-n-out has been run by only a handful of people. their religious zeal has been all over the scale from irreligious, to charismatic, and everything in between. the company has quietly taken a stand for its faith by putting bible references under its cups. this has bothered some and has encouraged some, and they continue to do this. the place continues to be packed, even though they are openly Christian.

life-lesson: as Christians, we can take a stand for our faith and be openly for Christ without being rude, angry, or just hard to be around. in-n-out proudly displays their verses while producing a quality product. as believers. we can proudly talk about the hope that we have in Christ and still be a trusted friend to those who would disagree with us.

life-lesson 5: focus on quality.
in-n-out are fanatics about quality. they started raising their own cows so that they could control the quality of the meat they serve. they fanatically train their associates. they want their stores to be spotless, and they want you to have the same burger in san jose that you do in Anaheim. this means they they work hard. they work hard at cleaning, training, and preparing. they don’t cut corners. they don’t use frozen meat or frozen fries. for them, their success comes from hard work and quality.

life-lesson: I see a lot of people who expect to become successful with minimal effort. they want to get A’s and not do their homework and they want to get a raise for the same level of execution. in-n-out’s story tells us that life doesn’t work that way. if you want to be successful, give it your very best, all the time. this is one of the things that I love about the biblical stories of Daniel, joseph, and Nehemiah; all of these guys were promoted by God’s grace, but also after being a hard worker. Colossians 3 tells us, “whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

lesson 6: God gives grace to the humble.
dave Thomas of wendy’s starred in all of his own commercials. colonel sanders’ face is on every bucket of chicken served at KFC. carl karcher’s portrait is in every carl’s jr. but who is the founder of in-n-out? who owns it? don’t know? that’s the way they like it. they don’t want to be known for a personality or even a character like Ronald mcdonald, they want to be known for hamburgers. as a result, you won’t see a lot of books or articles about the company, they intentionally keep a low profile. they have let their customers to most of their advertising for them.

life-lesson: its not about you. its not about your fame, or your credit. as believers, we know that life is more about bringing fame to God than fame to ourselves. Ronald Reagan once said, “there is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.”

lesson 7: follow your moral compass.
for decades, people have been giving in-n-out burger unsolicited advice. well meaning experts have told them to cut wages, to go national, and to sell the company for a big payout. they have told them to use frozen products and to add menu items. each time the company considers these ideas and then chooses to do what they know is right. they choose to do what is right for them, their associates, and their customers.

life-lesson: each of us are presented with options from so-called experts all of the time. we are told to stand up for our rights, to get what’s ours and to maximize our own profits. students are told that little compromises can add up to big results on the social scale. we may even consider compromising to get someone’s attention. our moral compass will not make us rich overnight. it won’t score us instant results; but if we follow it, we will have character, and that always gives us a result that we can be proud of in the end. be careful who you listen to, and stick to your guns.

lesson 8: quality = profits.
the people that know in-n-out burger, love in-n-out burgers. they love the flavor. they love the atmosphere. they love the service. their customers do most of their advertising for them.

lesson: what if the same could be said of your or me? that people would love to be around us because the way we care, and listen, and serve and encourage? maybe our churches would be packed just like in-n-out burger.

God is love.

extended leave- part 1

i have been on extended leave since july 19. extended leave is kind of like a sabbatical; and i have another three weeks left. its been great so far. here are some of the highlights:

we have visited::

:: Gilroy gardens:

:: great America

:: the boardwalk:

:: sky high sports:

jump to foam from rob walter on Vimeo.

:: the children’s discovery museum:

:: the santa clara county fair:

:: modesto

:: and lots and lots of parks, toy stores and fast food places.
we have also shared many, many outdoor meals together,

and jane and I have discovered a new fun thing to do:
hunt for garage sales!

I have personally gone on several long walks:

read some great books,

visited the flea market (several times,)

caught up with many of my good friends,

and have actually finished some big projects for the fall; including a sermon series on the book of Daniel, the book of esther, and on romans 12, for the middle school ministry at church.

its like being in college all over again. i wake up late, stay up late, and act spontaneously during the day. what am I doing tomorrow? or next week? I haven’t thought that far yet, but whatever we do, we’re going to have a great time together.
big thanks go out to venture for the time off, and paco and the team for covering middle school ministry while I’m out!

God is love.