PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Don’t Let Me Miss The Glory”.
By: Ron Woodrum
Back in 2010 we had the privilege of attending the Bill Gaither concert at the Coliseum. All the usual guests were there to sing all the usual songs. It was a marvelous evening of worship and Christian fellowship. But in the middle of the concert there was a hidden surprise. The pianist, Gordon Mote, shared a recording of his own. He played and sang the song Don’t Let Me Miss the Glory. That was the highlight of the entire evening!
In the view from the mountains
There’s a story to be told
In the crashing of the ocean
There’s a power that no man will ever hold
All the stars in the Heavens
Decorate Your Handiwork
And like a mighty choir
They’ve come to celebrate Your worth
Don’t let me miss the glory
Don’t let me miss the grace
All creation is singing
To the honor of Your name
Don’t let me miss the wonder
Don’t let me miss the grand design
And the lighting and the thunder
Lord, open up my eyes
Don’t let me miss the glory!
In 1982 Larry Walters attempted to join the Air Force and to realize his life long dream of being a pilot of a fighter jet. He wanted to become a real life Top Gun Pilot. But Larry failed his eye exam. His poor eyesight put the kibosh on those Top Gun dreams. Larry was not to be denied! He had entertained his own idea of flight for over twenty years. He had seen some helium weather balloons hanging in an Army Surplus store. He had an idea. On July 2, 1982 he purchased 42 balloons…filled them with helium…tied them to his Sears and Roebuck Aluminum lawn chair, strapped on some water jugs for ballasts…packed a pellet pistol to shoot the balloons out for descent, added some sandwiches, a parachute, and a CB radio…and of course a few beers, and he was ready. He intended to release the balloons, rise to about 100 feet in the air, level off, and travel from San Pedro, California across the desert, to the Rocky Mountains. So he released the rope tethering his homemade aircraft he had named Inspiration I, with high hopes! Would his experiment work? Would it ever! In a matter of a couple of minutes Larry was past his intended 100 feet. He quickly ascended the heavens, at a rate of 1,000 feet a minute, to a height of 16,000 feet before leveling off! He was way up high, and he was scared, he had lost his appetite for the sandwiches, and never gave another thought about relaxing in his chair and slamming a couple of Miller Lites! Not at 16,000 feet! In all the excitement he lost his glasses! He now had another problem…he was drifting into the flight paths of incoming planes to Los Angeles International Airport. A clearly worried Walters used his CB radio to transmit mayday calls picked up by the Airport Flight Towers. Two TWA incoming LAX flights had already notified the Flight Tower that they just passed a man, in a lawn chair at 16,000 feet, holding a pistol in his lap! The tower had made a radar fix on him and were tracking him. Despite his precarious situation, after the initial shock wore off, Walters was the picture of calm. He told those now monitoring him that he knew he was in trouble, one way or another. He would either plunge to his death, get sucked into a jet engine, or else get busted big time when he landed! Eventually, after mustering up enough courage, Walters began shooting out the helium balloons one at a time. He began a slow descent, but as he descended, he lost grip on the pistol, and dropped it before he could complete the job! Ninety minutes after lift-off from San Pedro, he was back on terra firma…well almost. his balloons got caught in some power lines in Long Beach, knocking out electricity in several neighborhoods. His chair was dangling 5 feet off the ground when he unhooked his homemade seat-belt and hopped down to his welcoming committee from the LAPD! Larry was charged with “operating a civil aircraft for which there is not currently in effect an Airworthiness Certificate”. His original fine was $4,000. Helium balloons? Lawn chair? Pellet gun? What’s not airworthy? That charge was later reduced to $1,500 and he was charged with “operating an aircraft near an airport without establishing and maintaining two-way communications with the control tower”.
Walter’s stunt earned him his requisite “five minutes of fame”. When asked why he did this stunt? Walters replied, “A man cannot just sit around in his lawn chair!” He was now famous as “Lawn Chair Larry”. He appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson; Late Night with David Letterman, earned a 1982 honorable mention from the Darwin Awards; He won the Bone-Head Award from the Bonehead Club of Dallas, Texas. He appeared on a few game shows; he was featured in a Timex watch ad in the early 90’s. The Smithsonian requested his lawn chair for its museum, but he had already given it to some neighborhood kid who had asked first! He tried his luck as a motivational speaker, but that soon faded. He soon withdrew from Public life and spent a lot of time hiking in the San Gabriel Mountains outside Los Angeles…and doing volunteer work for the U.S. Forest Service. But after losing out on his dream…and enjoying his short-lived fame as “Lawn Chair Larry”, in 1993, only 44 years old, after missing the glory he longed to see, but never experienced, Walters committed suicide in the Los Angeles National Forest, shooting himself where he hurt the most, in his heart! Missing out on the glory…he became another member of that generation LOST IN SPACE…WITH NO TIME LEFT TO START AGAIN! A member of the tragic generation instead of the triumphant generation! What a tragedy! It reminded me of the words of Thomas a’Kempis who wrote, “to walk inwardly with God, and not to be held in any other outer affections, is the state of a Spiritual man”…to miss that is to miss the glory…and to miss it all. If only a friend would have told Larry Walters that reality instead of being a member of the Lost generation, he might have belonged to the Lasting generation! We can make a difference for eternity in the lives of those we meet and know! If we don’t miss the glory!