December 19, 2007

Christmas Correction

Sunday is my favorite day, even though it is my battlefront day. Sunday I have to fight the enemy on emotional and spiritual levels. Sunday is usually a 15 hour day for me. It is exhausting but exhilarating. In the midst of frequent disappointments, many mini-crisis, people problems, and sermon bloopers, there are those glimpses of God, of the kingdom breaking through, of the miracles of God occurring in our midst.

My Sabbath is Monday. It’s a different kind of battlefront. I have to battle not obsessing over the lower than hoped for quality of my sermon, the people who were absent, the problems that arose Sunday that will have to be fixed in this coming week, and the tiredness of body, soul, and spirit.

So it’s nice when things go well on Monday, but when they don’t, it’s tough because my reserves are so low. This Monday life was not fun. What should have taken an hour, took six hours, and cost me big bucks.

I had just had the boat mechanic working on our 1995 20’ Wellcraft Open Bow Boat. I went to fill the boat up at the fuel dock. It was running so smooth on the way over. After spending $4.00 a gallon on 40 gallons of boat gas, I was ready to have a relaxing cruise.

I pulled away from the dock and the boat died. I was floating helplessly in the water as I tried for 30 minutes to get it started. I began rowing the long distance to the nearest boat dock. When I was half way there, the Lifeguard boat came and pulled me to the dock.

I tried calling my boat mechanic with no luck. What was I going to do? Meanwhile the precious hours of my Monday were disappearing faster than the money in my wallet. I thought to myself, “Nice Christmas gift!”

The boat dock was deserted and so I just sat there trying to get the boat started or reach me mechanic. The call of nature arrived and I made the short walk to the restroom at the marina. In a somewhat obscured area on the side of the bathroom I saw a refrigerator box. There was a man carefully adjusting the box just right…I realized that he was preparing his cardboard “home” for a long winter’s nap. It looked as if he was happily anticipating his time of rest.

When I came out of the restroom he had pulled the box top closed. Beside the top was a huge black plastic bag, that could have doubled for Santa’s sack of toys if it wasn’t so dirty and lumpy. His entire home was in one cardboard box and one plastic bag.

There I stood in my tiredness, frustration, pity party grousing at the injustice of Larry’s world…and all the time I had a beautiful ocean view home with a festively decorated Christmas tree, and sparkling Christmas lights on my house, and a mailbox full of cards from friends and family, and a sweet stereo filling our house with Christmas music.

A chuckle started at my toes and kept rising until it escaped softly out of my mouth. Life is all a matter of perspective. Your expectations determine your contentment. He who is content with little has a continual feast. My grumpiness seemed so self-centered and trivial standing there near the "refrigerator box man" that I had to laugh at myself.

The best Christmas is found in unwrapping what I already have and enjoying that with a childlike wonder...fresh and new and grateful. That was my Christmas correction.

December 13, 2007

Christmas Dawn

It’s 6:20AM. Our new home has a commanding vista of the Long Beach bay. My study is on the second floor.

One of my favorite things is to arise in the cold, darkness of night, and then watch as the slivers of red, pink, and purple begin to slowly pierce the canvas of black.

The water catches the luminescent paint of my Master the Artist and magnifies the majestic display into a breathtaking masterpiece of light.

The advance of the colorful light is unstoppable. The darkness has no power to restrain the conquest of light. Creation begins to laugh again. The great light has dawned and triumphed once again. Each sunrise is a replay of Christmas morning.

My Master, the Poet, writes of this victory in Matthew 4:16…“the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”

Einstein said that he was able to develop the theory of relativity because of the constancy, the reliability of the one factor: the speed of light.

Each morning my life is recalibrated to the reliability of light. My darkness is defeated by light. No matter how long the night, nor how strong the inky blackness, Christ arises again to spread his colorful light display across the canvas of my life.

The prophet Malachi sings to me of the dawn. Malachi 4:2 “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.”

Each dawn brings His healing to me. The fresh sunrise of his love begins to warm the frozen corners of my heart. The faithful mercy of his love as demonstrated in the dawn empower me to release hurts and cover offenses with grace.

Each fresh sunrise should make me feel like a young calf who has been kept in the small confines of a stall during the night. With the sunrise the farmer opens the gate and the calf, with his youthful exuberance and fresh excitement at the coming day, leaps from the stall to kick up his heels in the grass.

The real Christmas is the sunrise of human history and of my daily story.

December 04, 2007

Catching My Sister

When I was born, Brenda was already 4. She had a head start on the looks, the brains, the personality, and the talent. I thought to myself, "no problem...I will catch her by the time I am 8!" Nope! I am 50 and she's 54 and I am now 8 years behind in all categories.

And when it comes to understanding and living the Christian journey with depth, poise, passion and beauty...well it seems I am a couple of decades back. Of course I always was the ornery one who exasperated my sister's futile attempts to civilize me.

All of these realities only made the injustice of her diagnosis of cancer seem that much more inconceivable. Yet the last four months have done everything they could to convince me of the reality of the enemy invader.

The losses have mounted...her teaching position, her hair, her energy, her feelings in toes and fingers, her color in fingernails, her appetite. Yet in the midst of the losses...she has only advanced. Her faith, wisdom, compassion for others, sensitivity to God, courage, and passion for life have marched forward.

I mentally conjectured that at least now I would be the better looking of the siblings but even without hair, she's ahead. (pun intended) So as tough as it is for a younger brother to sister is quite a whom I pay homage to. (But I am still glad I stuck gum in her hair during choir practice in 3rd grade!)

November 19, 2007

Today or Nothing

I heard a preacher once say, "There's no such thing as a Christian life, there is only a Christian Day".

While his statement was hyperbolic, his point resonated with the reality I live in...we don't have yesterday, nor tomorrow, we only have today. I live in the now or I don't really live at all.

It's important that I chose to follow Christ when I was 8 years old, but so much more essential is, "Do I choose to follow Christ today?"

Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23).
I become a Christian for today...I choose to follow Him today...I choose the way of Jesus for today.

While it is wise to reflect on the past to learn, and while it is essential to plan for the future to reach goals, my quality of life resides in how I live today.

When my pastor friend, Rick, was dying from Leukemia, he said his greatest lesson was learning to "stay in the day". He knew God's power was enough to get him through the day. He celebrated to the finish line.

I want to take today with its joys and challenges and LIVE it, celebrate it, drink deeply of it, grow in it, love with it, dance with it!

Today is the present that God has given me to unwrap and I will do it with gusto and glory!

October 30, 2007

A 50 Year Old Kid

She was about 70 years older than me and she was proud to tell me her age! A slight little African American Great Grandma, she looked like she would blow away if a good gust came up. Her toothless smile looked like it was trying to grab both ears at the same time. But what she said stuck with me like a piece of bubble gum on your shoe on a hot day.

She said, "Age is all about mind over matter. If you don't mind, it don't matter." Then she cackled, not a witch's hollow cackle, but a cackle of such delight and genuine merriment that the flowers nearby seemed to start dancing.

50 is around the corner in just a few more steps. But it's not like some character flaw to be dreaded then lied about. 50 isn't a contagious disease, it's the green flag for the next lap of life!

50 is as old or as young I want it to be! 50 can trap me in such seriousness and stiffness that you might as well start measuring the coffin. OR I can choose new dance steps for a new decade.

I can choose to SOMERSAULT my way into 50 and just keep rolling with a childlike cackle that surprises the stuffier old men my age.

50 SOMERSAULTS...I did 50 in a row today and I felt like I was at recess in the third grade again! My MIND said, "You're still just a BODY said, "Hey old man you haven't done one of those in five years!"

Tonight I am still smiling but also thinking I need a little more practice in "mind over matter".

P.S. If you haven't checked out the main just put some new material on. Exciting news!

October 23, 2007

The Great Sculptor

Pastor Greg was at the table next to ours at the World Impact Banquet in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday. His church, Malibu Presbyterian had pledged $500,000 to the Teen Center in Watts. Pastor Greg, who is a earnest follower of Jesus, gave the benediction.

7 hours later his church building burnt to the ground in the Malibu fire. God, is that fair?

I have found that God's idea of "good" and of "fair" is not bound to the "present", to the "short term", to the "small picture", or even limited to "earth time". His reasoning of "good" is "future", "long-term", "big picture", and "eternity". Until we see from that perspective, we must be careful about passing judgment on God.

Now that is hard...because I don't live in the "future", I live in the "now", I hurt on "earth-time". But it does help to know God is at work to build something better.

Pastor Greg said, "It's not the church, it's only a building. We believe beauty will come from ashes." They were fully insured and now they can start to rebuild in ways that are even more conducive to God's work in Malibu.

I was near the Mount St. Helen's eruption in 1980...the ash was like snow banks. But not long afterwards, artists began taking that ash and creating beautiful sculptures from it.

This is my calling...I am an assistant to the master "ash sculptor"...I am to help Him take ashes in people's lives and sculpt them into something beautiful. Jesus has done and is doing that for me. How about you?

October 18, 2007

Living Large!

A 50 mile bike ride as I seek to LIVE LARGE!
(one of my 50 by 50 adventures) (see previous blog to check progress)

In the Middle of the Night

Let me see you in the middle of the night,
When the dark is long,
When the questions far exceed answers,
When the tossing of my body, reflects the churning of my mind.

Let me see you in the middle of the night,
When my efforts seem so great and my accomplishments seem so small,
When my thoughts bounce like a pin ball that makes noise but scores no points,
When my silent prayers seem as merely a pointless conversation with myself.
Let me see you in the middle of the night,
When the distance ahead is matched only by the distance to return
And I am trapped between reaching for more or being content with less.

Let me see you in the middle of the night,
When I must view you by faith alone.

Let me see you so I may be stilled by you,
And so I may help others see you in the middle of their night.

For you alone are my rest in the middle of the night.
- larryjoewalkemeyer 10 18 07

October 15, 2007

Dirty Feet & Divine Moments

For 16.5 years I have arrived at church service with freshly showered feet. For 16.5 years I have never had my feet washed during service. But not this Sunday.

The Long Beach Marathon runs in front of our house. From our garage you can take the alley to the street and go north to the church. But from our's almost impossible to go north because all the side streets are barricaded. So early Sunday morning...with NO wallet, money, phone, or SHOES...I jumped in our daughter's car to move it behind the house to the alley so she could get to church to teach the youth. Bad decision.

They wouldn't let me back to my house...all side streets were barricaded. I drove for an hour trying to find a route back to my house. Meanwhile the clock was ticking before service was to start. Finally I gave up. I scrounged through Lindsey's car...found one dollar bill...and walked barefoot across the parking lot to a grocery store to get change for a pay phone.

It's been 5 years since I used a payphone....but I called Deb and said..."bring my clothes to my office"...I drove to the church office...walked barefoot through the parking lot... finally 7 minutes before service was to start she showed up...I shaved and changed clothes and ran to service...with dirty feet. Our Leadership Council did an amazing job of running the entire service as an act of love for staff appreciation day. At the end of service...they washed our feet and mine were really dirty! It was a divine moment.

16 years NEVER NEEDING my feet washed. 16 years NEVER HAVING my feet washed at church. But God brought it all is that ODD or is that GOD?

October 12, 2007

Hard to Be Served

Peter thought Jesus had lost his mind. Jesus - the miracle worker, amazing prophet, and soon to be King everything - was doing the work of the lowest slave...washing the grime and grossness off the feet of his friends. Peter says, "You ain't doing me, Jesus...I am not about to let you."

Jesus' reply was world-stopping! "If I don't, you won't have any part of my life". Peter would go on to become one of the greatest servants for Jesus ever. But first he had to learn that Christianity is about being served. Jesus came to serve Peter.

It's "hard to be served". You don't become the "hero" by being served. Instead it humbles you. You have to be humbled to let someone love you, bless you, serve you, even die for you before you can enter into real Christianity.

This Sunday, I will sit through service and watch our Leadership Council serve me and the staff. I will have my feet washed instead of being the one that washes feet. It will be hard for me, but also good for me. (But I am getting a pedicure today!)

October 10, 2007

Sitting Tight When the Seat's Too Tight

In the last two months I have been approached about pastoring two very large churches - prestigious offers of upwardly mobile ministry positions. But after discussion with Jesus and with Deb (in that order) I have chosen to stay sit tight leading a church with only 39 parking spots.

I am not making very good career choices...but I pray I am making great kingdom choices.
It's uncomfortable to my flesh...the seat feels too tight...but in a kingdom where you are called to lose your life in order to find lay down your life for the poor...I believe that, at least for now, its a kingdom call that carries with it reward found following no other path. Jesus, please shape my seat to the seat you have me in!

October 08, 2007

50 Unique Ventures Before I Turn 50

49 going once, going the man turning 50!

But before 49 is released on November 6th, I am doing 50 unique ventures.
Here's the current may change and there are NO promises...I will blog about how I am doing over the next month. Stay tuned....

The List: Between October 8 and November 6

  1. Write 50 post it love notes for Deb
  2. Ride 50 mile in one bike ride around LB (DONE)
  3. Select 50 of my favorite songs and make cd (DONE)
  4. Select 50 of my favorite photos…print some (DONE)
  5. Fast for 50 hours (DONE)
  6. Give away $50 worth of my books (DONE)
  7. Raise $5,000 for church planting in the Philippines
  8. Take the boat to Catalina and back 50 minutes each way.
  9. Sail 50 miles with Karl
  10. Hold my breath for 50 seconds (DONE)
  11. Swim 50 laps at Belmont Pool (DONE)
  12. Take Deb to a nice restaurant and spend at least $50
  13. Go the Aquarium and see 50 different kinds of fish. (DONE)
  14. Read 50 pages of my favorite books of the Bible. (DONE)
  15. Make 50 journal entries.
  16. Tandem Sky Dive for 50 seconds or more.
  17. Watch 5 great Movies
  18. Give 50 5 dollar bills to street people.
  19. Send 50 appreciation emails.
  20. Watch 5 great sunrises (DONE)
  21. Watch 5 great sunsets (DONE)
  22. Write 50 words that describe Lindsey (DONE)
  23. Buy Deb 50 roses (DONE)
  24. Have dinner with 50 friends. (DONE)
  25. Do 5 sets of 50 set ups in less than 500 seconds. (DONE)
  26. Play Golf for 1st time…shoot 50 or less for 5 holes. (DONE)
  27. Have a 50 minute massage (DONE)
  28. Kayak around the oil island and back in 50 minutes.
  29. Take 50 pictures of people I love
  30. Give 50 dollars to a great teenager who needs it. (DONE)
  31. Talk on the phone for 50 minutes with Mom and Dad. (DONE)
  32. Write 50 postcards to people in the church.
  33. Drink 50 ounces of orange juice in 5 minutes. (DONE)
  34. Write a 50 word essay describing my life. (DONE)
  35. Tell 50 jokes.
  36. Spend 50 minutes in the convalescent home next door. (DONE)
  37. Take 50 pictures at Disneyland
  38. Do 50 somersaults. (DONE)
  39. Pray on my face for 50 minutes. (DONE)
  40. Give Deb a 50 minute foot and hand massage.
  41. Drive 50 miles North of Malibu on PCH 101 in a rented sports car.
  42. Donate 500 dollars to a ministry I have never given to. (DONE)
  43. Drink 50 different beverages
  44. Spend 50 minutes singing to Jesus
  45. Sing “Agnus Dei” in 50 different places
  46. Send a 50 word love note to Deb
  47. Walk barefoot on the beach for 50 minutes (DONE)
  48. Write down 50 things that God has done for me.
  49. Write down 50 of my favorite memories. (DONE)
  50. Write down 50 things I want to do before I die.

10/8/2007 12:14:50 PM

October 05, 2007

Farmer in the Hood

If you don't know...I grew up in the heartland...Joe Moon was the only African American kid in our whole town...we were good friends.

Fast forward 40 years and here I am as far from "rural" as you can get, pastoring an urban church in the midst of "blood" and "crips". I have asked the Lord, "What's a white bread farm boy doing in the hood?"

Recently one of the teens that sometimes goes to our church was shot down...yesterday 3 of the girls in our youth group were at the bus stop when one of their friends shot and killed the other boy standing with them.

My heart is broken for the brokenness of our neighborhood. Meanwhile one of our top anglo givers said..."Pastor I'm out of here with my family because our church has become too inner-city." Is comfort the god we bow before?

I am angry at the sin of the church, the sin of the neighborhood and the sin in my heart.
What can a farm boy do in the 'hood?
Pray? Love? Raise Money? Preach the Light of Jesus? Start a Community Center?
Yes...and I hope our team can impact the 'hood!

September 29, 2007

Boundaries? Serve or Surrender?

Boundaries are the invisible lines we draw to define, protect, and maximize who we are. "Boundary Busters" are people who don't respect our boundaries and want to interact with us in ways that are unhealthy and unproductive...perhaps even dysfunctional.

Now as Christ-followers we are to "lay down our lives for others". Christ is our key example...he washed feet, served people and ultimately was nailed down by people as they released their jealousy on him. Did Jesus allow people to "bust his boundaries"?

I want to suggest that there is a difference between "serving" others and "surrendering" to others. I am God's "servant" who serves people. I do not belong to the people, I belong to God. I respond to God's desires, even if that obedience causes me to be merciful to those who don't deserve it, or causes me to place myself in the path of potential physical harm.

I am not driven by the expectations, demands, needs, or desires of people. I live to serve but I "surrender" only to God and not to people. Jesus' life was not taken from him, he freely gave it...He was not captive to the demands or needs of others...he laid down his life to please his Father.

May that be our pattern...strong boundaries, soft hearts to the Spirit.

September 26, 2007

Songs in San Jose

I've never been called "cautious" and I have never been called a "soloist". But I love to illustrate points with song.

So here I am in San Jose at the HP headquarters last week, taping for CCN's nationwide training series for pastors....big gig for a little guy like I decide to sing a few lines from a really powerful song...this was after an internal debate as to whether I should chance it...but I go for it...and right in the a melodic high point...I forget the words...bam...they are I mumble something like "watermelon" end the illustration abruptly...

Was it a matter of being almost 50? Was it God dropping my "smarty pants" in front of multitudes? Whatever...I hated\loved it!

I have often found at my high points my humanity shows up in profound ways. It's a brutal blessing...a chance to look back and laugh at myself and say afresh..."God's got to work or nothing will work!" The dependent life is dangerous and delightful!