Sunday, November 29, 2015

lectio divina:: otters

its been awhile since I’ve posted here!

I’ve been working on an idea- I thought I’d throw some ideas out here and see if they work. I’ve been reading this book on speaking, and the author suggested that the best things to talk about are the things that you’re interested in and passionate about- and it got me thinking that my daughter and I are really passionate about otters. then I started wondering how I  could talk about otters and faith at the same time. here are some ideas. throw some more out there for me if you get any ideas:

fearfully and wonderfully made

otters are obviously cute. they are the cutest animals out there. everything they do makes me smile. otters aren’t just cute- they are important. otters eat sea urchins. and sea urchins eat the kelp forest. and thousands of species of marine life live in the kelp forest. so if the otters disappear, then the urchins eat all of the kelp forest and all of those sea creatures die because their home is gone. so really, especially in the Monterey bay, if the otters die, everything else dies with them. in short, they are cute, but they have an important job to do.
and that’s the same for you and me- God has made each of us amazing. our brains, our eyes, our lungs, our hearts, our spines are all amazing feats of engineering. but God didn’t just make us fascinating or pretty or cute, each one of us has an important job to do with our lives- we all have a special purpose from God. we are the keystone of our own environment- and if we don’t do the special job that God has planned for us, then things are in danger of falling apart.
the bible says in ephesians 2:10, “for we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, hich God planned in advance for us to do.” we are God’s workmanship- He made each of us to be an expert at something. He made each of us significant; and just like otters, we are a delight. and just like otters, we don’t even realize that the work we do every day is making a huge impact on someone.

water tight

otters were almost hunted to extinction because of their fur. otter fur is the thickest fur in the animal kingdom. it has over a million hairs per square inch. when you look at a cat, or a dog, you can spread out their fur and see down to their skin- but not with otters. their fur is so thick that you can’t get down to their skin. many marine mammals have blubber to keep them warm, but otters don’t- they don’t need it- they just need that thick pelt.
this fur does cool things too. its essentially water-proof. not only that, it can hold air so that they don’t sink in the water. they have a built in life-preserver. this is why otters can sleep and float at the same time. otters have been seen actually blowing air into their coats to increase their buoyancy. otters spend a lot of time cleaning their fur in order to keep it working correctly.
otters live in the water, but they don’t get wet. that’s crazy isn’t it? they live in the cold pacific ocean, but they don’t get cold. they are perfectly insulated.
it reminds me of something that jesus prayed in john 17: “ I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.
we are in this world, but we are not supposed to be worldly. we are here to make a difference, but not to be OF this world. romans 12 says, “do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” we’re in the world, and we need to make a difference in this world, but we are not to become like this world.
how can you do that? look at otters- they are in the ocean, but they don’t get wet. they insulate themselves. they keep themselves clean. they make a difference in the ocean, without letting the ocean freeze them out. and that’s our job too- to make a difference in the world without becoming worldly. and just like otters, we need to keep ourselves clean, and be intentional about ridding our lives from the gunk that can sink us.


otters stick together. a group of otters is called a raft. I have seen giant rafts of otters- with maybe 100 or more. they stick together. in moss landing, there is a group of otters that chill at the beach. they are always there- they never move. they famously hold hands when they sleep so they don’t float away.
not only that, they train each other and learn from each other. the biologists at the Monterey bay aquarium have discovered that otters are not born with natural instincts. they need to learn to hunt, and dive, and groom their fur from their mother. all otter-knowledge has been passed down, otter to otter.
for you and me to see our faith survive in the turbulent times that we live in, we need to stick together. we need to link arms and help each other. we need to learn from each other and mentor the next generation. romans 12 tells us to, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”
every one of us needs people in our lives investing in us, praying for us, asking us the hard questions. and each one of us needs to be responsible to help others.
anyhow- those are some fun ideas. some of these ideas are better than others. otters are cool animals! do yourself a favor and check them out the next time you’re in Monterey!

God is love.-rev-rob

Saturday, June 27, 2015

happy stories, june 2015

I've had a pretty great couple of weeks.
last week we had our annual elevation summer camp- and it went perfectly. great weather, great leaders, great students. it was the perfect mixture of fun and serious.

like every year, we spent a lot of time at the lake, we went to the outdoor movie theater, and we had out door teaching and music. we also had jiffy pop and smores over an open fire.

this year I taught on joseph, and talked about how God gave Joseph a dream for his life- and how Joseph got clues of God's dream when he was a teenager.
at the end of the camp, I urged the students to dream and consider what God's dream might be for them and their lives. I encouraged them to paint a picture of how God might use them in the future. the students sat quietly for about 15 minutes and painted their pictures. I walked around and peeked over some shoulders to see what they were making. some drew teachers, some drew doctors, and one it was a painting of my little green youth room, with tvs on the wall with the (678) logo on them- and at the front of the room was a man teaching the students- except it wasn't me- it was the grown up version of himself.
his dream was to be like me.
how cool is that?
when I was a teenager, my dream was to be just like my youth pastor, and by God's grace- that dream moves past me and forward to this student.

when I got home from camp, I got this cool father's day card and went to Malibu grill to get ribs and French fries! I think the painting is supposed to be of me- even though I don't like wearing ties.

jane got to go to her last VBS this year- and she didn't get sick this time! she loved all of the teaching and the music.

on the second to the last day, we got tickets to go to a giants day game, but she refused to leave town until VBS was over. she said, "VBS is more important than sports, DAD!" I told her that I agree 100%. The game was a blast, and it was so cool to go to the place that we have seen so many times on tv.

on the way home from the game I snapped this picture of a happy kid with her mermaid toy in her hand and with a cherry lollipop in her mouth-

the other day we were driving to dinner and we saw a news reporter outside of our house- jane was so excited and we stopped to meet her and to take a quick picture- she showed us her news van and told us how she films her stories:

back to VBS- I was delighted to watch my wife lead so many volunteers and be respected for her leadership abilities and not just for being the pastor's wife. I was also thrilled to see so many of my current and former students serving God and helping kids.
my favorite story of the week happened on the last day of VBS. I picked up Jane and took her to lunch. I asked her how everything went and she told me about the songs and the dramas and the games. and then she said, "in the big group someone asked the teacher how old David was when he became king." apparently the teacher walked around the room and asked students what they thought his age might have been when he was crowned king. Then Jane said, "then I raised my hand and said, 'well, I read in my adventure bible that he was 30 when he became king.'" apparently someone googled it and confirmed that jane had it right.
I almost wrecked the car.
I said, "wait. there was a question about the bible- and YOU answered it?!" I was beaming with pride. I high fived her. I said, "Jane- that is awesome! I'm so proud of that!" she said, "I'm feeling my cheeks get red!" MY KID read her bible and knew the answer to the bible question. to me- that is the coolest thing ever.
jane was telling me that she wants to serve at VBS next year and keep on serving until she is a senior citizen like miss carol. I told her that I plan on serving kids until I'm a senior like miss carol too.
what a great week!
God is love.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

found wisdom:: part 1

recently I was leading a bible club at a local middle school and I was handing out candy to some students. there were some youth workers there from another church- I said to one of them: "it really bugs me when I'm handing out candy to students and they grab at it like savages."

we were borrowing a classroom from a Christian teacher. she overheard what I said and said, "you know why that happens don't you?" in an instant I thought to myself, "no- I don't know why it happens- does she know?"

she said, "you have trained them to have that behavior by repeating it and rewarding them with candy. you need to manage your class through clear expectations. In the future I would say, 'I have some candy for students who are sitting and listening.'"

for a second I thought, "why are you listening in on my conversation? and what do you know about youth ministry?" but that was just a second. I quickly realized that this lady is a WEALTH of knowledge about how to manage rude students. I said, "that is genius. tell me more. I want to know everything that you know about classroom management!" she didn't give me anymore free advice.

a few weeks ago I took some students to the boardwalk, and we rented a big school bus. we were cruising down the road, and one of the leaders was talking about how she had just got her driver's license and how she was a little unsure about driving on the freeway and changing lanes. I started giving her some driving advice (because after all, I DID used to drive a little church bus!) but the bus driver chimed in, "you know what I do to change lanes?"

and again, I thought, "why is she listening in on my conversation?" but that lasted only a second. after that I thought, "what DOES she do to change lanes?! I'm curious!"

she said, "I listen to my blinker. when it has clicked ten times, then I feel like I have given the people behind me plenty of notice that I am about to change lanes. so after ten clicks, I just make my way over." then she said, "here is another tip: don't worry about the drivers behind you. its not your job to keep them happy. if they think that you're driving too slow, they can pass you- but don't drive faster just to make them happy." she had a few more bits of advice that I didn't really catch.

in both of those situations, I got some pretty good advice! I wasn't looking for it, but I found it and accepted it. people like to tell me what I'm doing wrong from time to time, but rarely do they share what has helped them, and what can help me. I think at some point, you get to an age when people don't think you want to be coached anymore- but when I am getting coached by someone who is clearly smarter than me, its refreshing.

there is a story in the book of genesis, when the king of Egypt had a dream that the land would have 7 good years followed by 7 bad years. he didn't know what to do with this information. but a Hebrew slave that had just been plucked out of prison said, "why don't you save up for 7 years to plan ahead for the 7 bad ones?" the king could have easily said, "what do you know? you're a slave that was just pulled out of prison!" but instead he said, "that's genius!" and put him in charge of the whole operation.

well if the king of Egypt can accept advice from an unlikely source- why can't we?
we need to be on the look out for wisdom. you never know where you may find it. a school teacher and a bus driver gave some advice to a youth pastor and now I'm better for it. where will you find wisdom? the book of proverbs says, “Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures.”

there is a treasure chest of wisdom out there- you can find it in books and teachers and seminars- but you can also find it in everyday people and in everyday life- if you tune your ears to it.

God is love.

graduation stories

my kid is a home schooler-
every year during her promotion story she reads one of the books that she had written in the previous year- here are the books and their presentations:


jane's graduation story from rob walter on Vimeo.

first grade:

amanda pig and the lemonade stand from rob walter on Vimeo.

second grade:

amanda pig's slumber party from rob walter on Vimeo.

third grade:

3rd grade graduation story from rob walter on Vimeo.

and just last week- 4th grade-
4th grade graduation story from rob walter on Vimeo.

you can see how she gets taller each year, and how she grows in confidence as she reads. this last year she seemed a little self conscious- but what do you expect? she's a pre-teen now!

sigh. my little author!
being a dad is fun.

Monday, May 18, 2015


lately my family has been really into working on puzzles. we like doing those big 1000-piece-puzzles. when I do them, I often think of the parallels between working on a puzzle and doing a big project at work. here are some work/life lessons that come from assembling a puzzle:

1.       get organized.
when you open a puzzle box and see 1000 pieces, it can be overwhelming. where do you begin? how will this ever become like the picture? it helps to get organized. use a big table that can hold all of the pieces. separate the pieces into groups, make sure you have good lighting and seating.
this works with work projects too. get organized. write things down. make a list. make a chart. whatever helps you to think straight. clear out the clutter on your desk. do the things that will help you think clearly.

2.       break the project into steps.
when you see a big pile of puzzle pieces, it just looks like a big mess that will never come together- but if you break the puzzle into steps, it becomes manageable. so make sure all of the pieces are face-up. find the corners. then find the edges. work on the main characters, or the easy parts first.
again- this helps with a project too. instead of aiming to finish the project, aim to finish the first part of the project, then the second. make a list of what the parts of the project are- and then cross them off one by one.

3.       see things from a different point of view.
a lot of times when I’m working on a puzzle, I get stuck. I always think that I must be missing a piece- because I know that there is a missing piece of a cloud or a tree, but I can’t find it anywhere! sometimes it helps to see things from a different point of view. stand up and take a break. come back and look at things again. or change your seat around the table- or use a desk lamp to see the pieces better. use a magnifying glass if you have one. literally, step back and look at the bigger picture.
when I’m working on a project at work- sometimes I get stuck on those too- it helps to see things from a different angle. step back and look at the bigger picture. look at things as if you were your customer- or your employee or volunteer. ask a friend to look at things- what do they see? often times a different way of looking at things is the perfect way to get unstuck on a project.

4.       every detail is important.
when you have a thousand puzzle pieces in a pile- it looks like you could spare a few. it looks like it wouldn’t matter if you lost one or two- but at some point, each and every piece is going to be important. each piece has the potential to be the very last piece of the puzzle. each one has the opportunity of connecting one major section to another- so you can’t lose even one.
it’s the same for projects too- every detail is important. and if you get careless and miss one- you may discover that the detail that you lost was a very, very important detail! and losing it leaves a big hole in the project! so treat every detail like a piece in the puzzle and make sure it get the attention it deserves.

5.       work with a friend.
I like working on puzzles alone- and I like working on them with my family too. I like working on the easy parts of a puzzle- but my kid is so good at those difficult sections- like the sky in a picture- where everything is the same color. everything goes faster when you work with a friend. and the experience is more enjoyable too. there is a certain satisfaction that you get when you look at a puzzle and say to yourself, “I did that all by myself.” but there is also much to enjoy by finishing the project together.
when we work on projects- try to include others on every aspect- the planning, the execution and the review. include others in the resource gathering. ask people for their help and advice. its doesn’t make you less competent- it adds to the experience and makes everything go faster.

6.       don’t force a piece to fit.
if you have to force it, its not meant to fit there. its in the wrong spot.

7.       resource yourself.
there was a moment when we discovered that we weren’t just casual puzzlers anymore- we were serious puzzle experts. so we decided to invest in our puzzle-habit. we got a portable desk lamp to attach to our puzzling table so we could have good lighting even at night time. we got magnifying glasses. we got one of those puzzle mats so you can move your puzzle- although we decided we didn’t like it.
in your work projects- resource yourself. get the tools you need to finish the job well. get the software and the hardware you need. get a book on the subject. take a day trip with your team to get on the same page. upgrade your workspace. if you need it, get it! sure its expensive; but once you have it, you’ll have it for a long time and that resource will pay off in the help that it gives you.

8.       put first things first.
I recently did a wizard of oz puzzle- first I assembled Dorothy- then the other characters- then the yellow brick road- those were the easy parts. after that, I did the flowers and the trees- those were the harder parts. it helps to do the big parts first.
when you’re doing a project, do the big parts first. get the date on the calendar. rent the facility. order the supplies. then take care of the smaller details.

9.       be diligent
keep working on it- even if its just a little bit a day- any progress is good. don’t rush, but don’t be lazy. it will all come together in the end if you don’t give up.

10.   take pride in a finished project
when we finish a puzzle there is a temptation to crumple the thing up and get onto the next puzzle; but most of the time we just leave it all assembled on a table for a few days. we’re proud of what we did. some people even put glue on the backs of their puzzles and mount them on the wall! we don’t go that far.
when you finish a project at work, take time to celebrate it. have a meeting with everyone involved. tell stories. laugh. eat cake! you did a good job and that needs to be recognized before you move on to what’s next.

God is love.

Friday, April 17, 2015

winnie the pooh is my spirit animal

First of all, I don't believe in spirit animals, if I did, Winnie the Pooh would be mine. 
Jane and I have been watching and quoting the many adventures of Winnie the Pooh ever since she was born. At any given moment we can break into a scene from that movie. We were quoting it recently, which led us to watching it again- which made me realize all over that me and pooh bear are pretty much the same guy. 

First of all, pooh is the definition of introvert. He likes being alone or with one friend at a time. He talks to himself- he enjoys long walks in nature- he hums happy songs to himself. He does his best thinking by himself in his thoughtful spot. and all of that describes me perfectly. 

Pooh and I both have a thing for eating sweets. More like an obsession. Pooh loves honey- and can't control himself when he is eating it. I'm more of a cookie person. And taffy. Just about any form of chocolate. and French fries. and ice cream.
Pooh's weight goes up and down- and exercise only makes him more hungry. One time his weight gain got him stuck in rabbit's foot and he had to wait for his weight to go back down. I've never gotten myself stuck in a door, but my weight has gone back and forth over the years. Right now people are asking me if I'm sick or not. There are quite a few photos of me that will never see the light of day.
Pooh is a little distracted during meetings. This clip reminds me of me during big meetings:

Pooh likes walking and holding hands- so do I. 


Pooh is a fan of the polo shirt. His are red- mine are usually black.
The narrator refers to Pooh as "a bear of very little brain." He doesn't think big thoughts, but he is thoughtful. Me and pooh- we like to keep things simple. We both enjoy the quiet and simple things in life: good food, a quiet walk, and the company of a good friend.

God is love.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

listen to you.

Over the last few years I have picked up a few injuries while running. The worst one was a tiny stress fracture in my pelvis. Because it was in my hip, I couldn't get a cast, and I never really knew when it was healed. I kept trying to run on it though. Some nights I could run 5 minutes, and on other nights, I would crumple after 30 seconds. I just wanted to keep on running so I wouldn't slow down or lose my endurance or gain weight. I asked a few trainers about knowing when to start running again, and they all said basically the same thing: listen to your body. Your body will tell you when it's ready. 

I've kept that advice to this day. Sometimes I don't feel like running but I do it anyway; other times, my body is clearly telling me that it is too tired or too sore or too injured to run. In those moments I need to listen to it and respect it; and I call it quits. Sometimes my body is feeling awesome and it wants to run faster and longer than I planned- and I listen then too. When I take the time to rest my body, it always performs better. It runs faster and farther- and it exercises with joy. 

We all need to listen to and respect our bodies- they know when they need rest; and they know when they want to run. Sometimes we need to push them- but if we push them at the wrong time, we may find ourselves with a long term injury. 

And we need to listen to our souls too.

Your soul knows when it needs to rest; and it will tell you. When it does, we need to respect that, and listen and act. We don't need a vacation that's full of sight seeing and suitcases, we need to do the things that replenish our souls. For some that's solitude- for others it's shopping- either way, we need to listen to our own hearts, and when they need a sabbath, we need to provide them one. If we don't, it's probably a lot like ignoring an injury and continuing to exercise- it doesn't help- it just makes things worse. But when we do listen to our souls and give them the rest they need, we become more effective- 
and better listeners- 
and more patient- 
with better focus. 
Just like a body that has been given a day off of exercise- a rested soul runs farther, and faster- and with joy. 

It is a discipline to rest your soul. Sometimes it's even work. We have to schedule time off, or find someone to fill in for us- sometimes we even lose money because we have to miss work- but it's worth it. I recently asked for some time off to replenish my heart- and I quickly discovered that my work will survive if I don't show up every once in awhile. 
They will get by without me.
 I wish that I had learned that lessons about 15 years ago. I would have been a lot easier to live with and work with. 

Is your soul exhausted? 
Give it the rest it needs.
 Do it soon.
 Ask for someone to cover you. They will.
 And you will be better for it. 

Jesus once asked the question: "what good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?" Or put another way- is anything worth your soul? Nope.
God is love. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

green envelopes

I started writing notes to students years ago, and found some success with it. it gave me a midweek connection with students, and it was like sending ministry to their houses, something tangible that even their parents could see. some students absolutely loved it- others didn't seem to care much. sometimes I sent letters to students that needed some encouragement- or were there for the first time- but in recent years I've upped that game- and right now at least, I send a handwritten note to every single student (that fills out a card) every single week. is it expensive? it is. is it time consuming? oh yes. does every student care? some really do- and their parents love it too. others, I can't really tell. one student told me that she has kept every one- and receiving a green envelope in the mailbox was the highlight of her week. 

some people have been curious about my correspondence with the middle school students at church- and so I thought I'd share how the whole process goes.

it all begins with these "prayer cards." they sit on the chairs in the youth room, and while I'm talking through the announcements, they fill them out and turn them in. a local print shop prints these for me. I don't use them for attendance- only for praying for the students and sending them letters. the students know that if they give me a prayer card, that I'll send them mail. 

I learn quite a bit from these cards. they tell me the schools that we're reaching, the grades that we're reaching, the zip codes we're reaching, and they help me to associate names with faces. right now, we're reaching a lot of 6th graders- and a lot of students from the almaden area. I also learn the best candy flavors! right now this group is really into blue candy, and really NOT into orange candy.
on the back of the cards, students write prayer requests or a note to me. some are serious, some are silly, some say thank you, some tell me what's going on in their world, but most of them leave this area blank.
the cards get all gathered up and go to my office. I pray for each name on each card. on Thursday mornings I meet with some other youth workers, and we also pray for the students by name.
then I get the green envelopes out. green is our signature color, and when a student sees a green envelope in their mailbox- they know its from me.

each envelope gets a stamp on the front, and a stamp on the back.

be awesome today is our motto- its also on the postcards I send. the same print shop that makes the prayer cards makes the postcards.

each envelope is hand addressed and gets a 70 cent stamp. I have to pay extra because of the stuff I put in the envelopes- more on that later- you have to be careful to write out the address clearly, or the mailman will send it back. I get so annoyed when I go to all of this trouble to send someone a note, only to get it sent back. I am shocked at how many middle school students do not know how to spell their street address or know their zip code.

then there is the notes- I try to make them as personal as I can. I tell students that I enjoyed the conversation that we shared at church, or that they did good at the game, or that they contributed something significant to the sermon time. I comment on whatever they mentioned on the back of their card. I tell them that I am praying for them. if it was their first time, I tell them that I hope they come again soon. but for many of them, its something pretty standard:
some weeks I send over 100 letters. my handwriting can get pretty sloppy as I get to the bottom of the list- but I try to write as clearly as possible.
then I stuff the envelope with something fun. right now I'm using airheads candy- because they are thin. the post office will only let you use a letter that is less than 1/4 inch thick. in the past I have put in stickers; and I used to put in green glitter; but a lot of parents got pretty mad about the mess it made. I also put in little announcement cards. I advertise my camps, events, and give the students memory cards for the serieses that we do. these days every bit of advertising that I do needs to fit into a 4X6 envelope.
then- after its been written, stamped, and stuffed, it all goes to the post office- and I imagine all of my green envelopes going all over the city, sending out little bits of encouragement and blessing carried to homes by the mail man.
I'm an introvert, and I like doing projects by myself- and I enjoy this process. its a way to connect with students that's thoughtful and in a way that fits my temperament. I don't expect every youth worker to send out 100 letters every week, but we could all do better to send more mail. everyone loves mail- not just students, but volunteers and parents too. its good to have a stash of stationary on hand to send out a note when you think of it. I get so many comments from parents saying, "you sent my kid a letter in the mail! they love it! thank you!" and that's a good thing for the student- and its good for me too.
like I said, its expensive. there is a cost to the envelopes, the postcards, the prayer cards, the stamps, and the candy. it is time consuming. it takes several hours- but its mellow time that can be done while watching tv or listening to music. there is a sacrifice- but its worth it. and as long as I can afford it, and can pull it off, I'm going to keep doing it. if there is any "secret" to my "success," I would say this is it.
so do me a favor- write someone a note today. they will be delighted- and the blessing will come back to you too.
God is love.

fred rogers and jeffrey

there are times when I'm tired or frustrated or impatient; and those are not a recipe for good student ministry. sometimes when I feel this way I watch this clip of Fred Rogers connecting with a wheelchair-bound boy named Jeff.

sometimes I like to go through and watch all of the things Fred does RIGHT; and really the things I want to do when I meet with students:

// Fred gives Jeff his full focus.
// Fred refuses to get bored with the conversation or to feel awkward, even when Jeff is not the best conversationalist
// Fred chooses to intentionally bless Jeff
// Fred clearly communicates to Jeff that he likes him- which is the primary question that every middle schooler wants answered from every adult they encounter: "do you like me?"
// Fred smiles, he listens, he encourages and he gives Jeff a moment that he would never forget.

I can't do all of those- and I would never sing a song to a student- but I do want to give them all of these things- and I'm sure you do too-

I want to leave them with a sense that they have had my full attention and concern. I want to leave them with a sense that I like them, and that I believe in them. I want to leave them with a blessing. I was to be the middle-school-pastor version of Fred Rogers. watching this clip puts my head in the game and reminds me to slow down and give students a personal blessing. I saved a photo from this clip and printed it:

I laminated a few and keep one in a few places that i'll see when I'm working with kids. you may not be inspired by fred rogers- but if not him then who? who inspires you to give good ministry to others? maybe you could print their picture and inspire yourself to give it your best in every interaction.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

roverbs: like you vs. need you

the other day I was at lunch with some youth pastors and I was chatting and throwing out ideas and tips and this one friend said, "that's like a wise saying from rob! its a proverb- no, a RO-verb!"
of course I loved it.

here is a roverb for you-
I talk with a lot of youth workers who tell me how they are working so many hours and how they don't see their family much, but they are doing it for the church, and for the Lord, and someday this season will pass- and then  I give them my like you vs. need you speech.

I tell them that at my church, they like me. the students like me, the parents like me, my co-workers like me, the volunteers like me. its nice to be liked. some may tell me that they love me, but really, they just like me. when I'm gone, the church will get a new worker- and they will like him or her too. that worker will be a good worker, and they will likely be an even better worker than me. they might miss me for awhile, but pretty soon, they will be so into the new worker that my memory will be long gone. that's because I'm replaceable. everyone is.

but then there is my wife. she needs me. she can't replace me like the church can. I'm the only husband she has. there is no one else that can do the job of being her husband except me. I wouldn't even want to think of anyone taking my place in being her husband.

and then there is my daughter. she needs me. she can't replace me like the church can. I'm the only dad that she has. there is no one else that can do the job of being her dad except me. and I wouldn't even want to think of someone trying to be her dad except me. that job is on me alone.

and everyone can make a list like this. there are people who like you, and people who need you. so as you think about your life, and the roles in your life, and the legacy that you will eventually leave, where should you spend your BEST time? with the people who like you (and will eventually replace you) or with the people who NEED you (and CAN'T replace you?)

why would I give all of my time and attention and focus to some people who will forget me not long after I'm gone? why would I ignore the roles that only I can fill; and the people that are counting on me? it just doesn't add up.

and when I see youth workers giving away time that belongs to their family, just to keep a group of people happy, it makes me shake my head. of course you need to do your job, and earn the money that you're paid; but there is no amount of money (NO AMOUNT OF MONEY!) or position, or title, that is worth selling out your family. and in the end, when its all said and done, no one will care how hard you worked or the hours you tirelessly put in; but they will remember that you loved Jesus, and your family, and the people you worked with.

so when they ask you to give up your day off (again), and you find yourself promising your family that they will get your time eventually, do everyone a favor and take some time off. look at your family, talk with them. go on a walk. go and get sweaty. have a life! work with your hands. read a book that has nothing to do with your job. eat some delicious food in a quiet setting.
because you are more than what you do.
and your family is way more important than your boss. and your job. and the students. and that one committee. 
and being important is not that important.

God is love.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

"do you love me?"

in the 70's, when sesame street was just starting out, they had these little videos of a boy named john-john interacting with their muppets. super-duper-cute videos-

there is one that I often remember, that I have included below:

Grover says, "you know what john-john? I love you."
and John-John says, "you love me? ... Grover? DO YOU LOVE ME?!"
and Grover says, "yes- I love you John-John"
and John-John says, "yeah! count this penny."
and Grover says, "one."

I keep a photo of Grover and John-John on my desk- it reminds me that everyone (especially my middle school friends) have the same basic question that John-John does: "how do you feel about me? do you like me? do I annoy you? do you have time for me? are interested in me? do you care about me? do you love me?"
and when someone feels that you do in fact, like them, then we can start talking, and begin a friendship; but until that question is answered, there is no friendship or trust.

have you ever been around someone and you could tell that they didn't like you? or you could tell that they thought that they were more important than you- or that you bothered them? I know I do! you don't have a relationship with people like that.

is there someone who makes you feel appreciated? special? liked? loved? I certainly do! we trust people like that. we like people like that. we gravitate to people like that; and we need to be people like that.

you don't have to say it with your words- but you need to communicate with the people that you interact with that they are not a nuisance- you're not too busy for them- but you like that they are there- and that you like them.

I know some people that do this instinctively. and I both love them and am jealous of them because of it. some of us are not so instinctive- and we need a little coaching.

how do we do this? here are a couple ideas:
// you need to remember their name- and use it-
// you need to smile when you see them-
// you need to remember things about them and ask them about it-
// use eye-contact when you listen to them
// if its appropriate- you can greet them with a hug
// you can be excited and enthusiastic when you see them-
// you can be focused when you talk to them and not distracted- leave your phone in your pocket- and keep your eyes off of the clock.
(this is one reason why I have clocks posted everywhere- so that no one ever catches me peeking at one).

what are ways that we communicate that we don't like someone?
// talk about yourself only-
// tell them that you don't have any time to talk
// communicate that your phone is more important than the conversation
// interrupt
// sigh.
// roll your eyes.
// have low energy.
// complain about how busy you are. 
// make fun of them.
// be in a hurry to end your conversation.

the list goes on and on.

as Christians, we believe that even though God is busy running the entire cosmos that He has individual time for each of us- and that He is listening to each of us with His undivided attention. that's one of the things I love about Jesus in the gospels- how he could interact with kings and captains, but He could also give blind and mute people His undivided attention. When we ask God, "DO YOU LOVE ME?!" He always answers, "yes- I love you." and when we communicate our care and concern for others, we are being imitators of God.

here is a challenge for you and me: after each interaction with someone you work with (or live with) ask yourself: "what did I communicate to that person? did I communicate that I like them- or did I communicate that I was too important for them?" and grade yourself; and ask yourself how you can do even better the next time.

do this- and your likeability factor will skyrocket-
and so will your influence and impact.

God is love.