Griffin at Chapel: Find quiet time to listen to Jesus
Story by Lana Sweeten-Shults
Photos by Gillian Rea
GCU News Bureau
Sometimes in life, you need a little clarity.
Dr. Tim Griffin, Grand Canyon University Pastor and Dean of Students, wondered if Larry Walters might have thought the same thing that July day in 1982.
“Larry Walters had a dream of being a pilot,” said Griffin, who spoke at Chapel on an unusually cool, rainy Arizona Monday. “But he had bad eyesight. He wasn’t ever going to qualify to be a pilot in the Air Force, which is what he aspired to be.”
Instead, the truck driver kept firmly on the ground, until that one day, when he and his girlfriend, Carol, came up with an “interesting idea,” as Griffin put it, that would allow Walters to experience flight.
A couple of days before Independence Day in 1982, Walters decided it was a “Go!” for Inspiration I, his homemade airship, by attaching four levels of helium-filled weather balloons – about 45 of them – to a lawn chair balanced by water jugs as ballasts. He tethered Inspiration I to the bumper of his Jeep in his driveway, then strapped himself to the lawn chair.
“He packed certain things to take on this trip with him. He packed sandwiches, and as any first-time pilot should do, he packed beer,” Griffin said with a smile.
He also took with him into the wild blue yonder of San Pedro, Calif., his point of origin, a citizens band radio and a pellet gun.
Griffin said, “At the right moment, he said, ‘Honey, cut the line!”
His idea was to float over the Mojave Desert and, when it came time to start making a graceful descent, start shooting the balloons.
But Walters’ best-laid plan didn’t go exactly as expected.
“He shot up to 16,000 feet,” Griffin said. “… He started to drift into air traffic space, and some jet pilots, as they were landing, happened to look out their window — ‘Oh, there’s a guy in a lawn chair attached to balloons.’ At some point, did he think to himself, this wasn’t a good idea?”
He was spotted by people in two commercial airliners, and he floated into the primary approach corridor of Long Beach Airport.
As planned, Walters started shooting the balloons above him. On his descent, the dangling cables of the balloons got caught in power lines, blacking out the electrical power in one Long Beach neighborhood.
“Lawn Chair Larry,” as he would be dubbed, ended up being arrested by the Long Beach Police Department.
“So here’s the point,” Griffin said. “From time to time, we need a moment of clarity, and I’m sure Larry, at some point as he’s sitting in that lawn chair floating around, is asking himself, why am I doing this? How did I get to this point in my life?”
At this point in the school year, Griffin said, students have to be asking themselves the same kinds of questions: “No doubt, some of you have gotten to that place this year in your life, where it has become busy and complicated and overwhelming to some degree. You’re being challenged from every side to figure out what is important.”
Life starts to barrel forward like a freight train, he said, and he asked students to set aside time for quiet reflection.
“You need to think through how important these kinds of experiences are to you in your life, because life will continue to become more weighty, more complicated, more challenging as you get older and older. This is one of the best times in your life. To be a college student, where you can sleep until noon, eat dinner at 11 p.m. … Enjoy it, enjoy the college days. This is a great time in your life.”
He said others will put pressure on you to become engaged in various activities.
“People will call to you, far and wide, telling you you need to be engaged in these things and do these activities, make this a part of your life, and sometimes, for those of us who cannot say no, we will say yes to that and yes to that and yes to this … ”
He likened all the noise to a passage in the Bible, Luke 10:38-40, when Jesus and his disciples visited the home of a woman named Martha shortly after Jesus finished the Parable of the Good Samaritan:
“As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’”
“Someone in this picture had a moment of clarity,” Griffin said.
Jesus responded, “Martha, Martha. You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or, indeed, only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Not that students should tell their professors when it comes time for homework or attending class, “Hey, I’m spending time with Jesus; I don’t have time for that.”
Griffin said professors probably wouldn’t like to hear that.
But he reminded students just how important it is to be mindful, to recalibrate and to make time for Jesus.
“Some of you have incredible ambitions, and I don’t want to discourage you from that in any way. … But I want to encourage you to have an ear for Jesus. Listen to Him. Give Him space in your life, regardless what others say, regardless of the life that you create for yourself. Back up and just say, I just need to spend time with Him. I need to sit at His feet and I need to hear His voice.”
He said, life is like a wall of water sometimes and you can get swept away by the tide. “Next thing you know, Jesus will be pushed to the end of the day, to the edges of our life.” And even as you’re sitting in church on Sunday afternoon, you’re thinking about other things — about assignments due at midnight. “You’re sitting at church saying, ‘Oh no! I forgot about this!'”
Griffin told students, “Don’t let the first thing on your list go to the side, which is your time with the Lord.” He said, “When God the Father was witnessing Jesus being baptized He said, ‘This is My Son. Listen to Him.'”
“I want to encourage you to find those quiet spots, where you turn off the radio, turn off your phone, turn off the TV, turn off Netflix, whatever you need to turn off, and just be quiet and sit in front of Him and let Him speak to your heart.”
● For a replay of Chapel, including the music performed by the Worship Team, click here.
● Next week’s speaker will be Brian Kruckenburg of New City Church.
Contact GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 602-639-7901.