Wednesday, October 04, 2006

On The Road Again ...

It's been three months since my last post ... hard to believe. I've had a couple folks ask about the lag in posting to my blog. Fact of the matter is (and I'm sure you're aware, in your own version), life is BUSY, ain't it?

I find myself amazed at the speed at which life is passing by these days. My parents said it would be this way! You know ... the older you get, the faster it goes ...

Anyway, I'm sitting at LAX waiting on a flight that will take me on my Fall Study Break. I'm headed to Christiansburg, Virginia, where our denomination is setting up a Pastor's Retreat Center.

They're calling it the Life Center for Spiritual Renewal. It's situated on several acres that used to house LIFE Bible College East, until they closed it a few years back. They're taking 8 apartments and establishing a retreat center where Pastors can get away from a few days to a few weeks, if need be, for Study Breaks, Sabbaticals, or even Crisis Counseling.

The Director is my friend, mentor and Pastor, Chuck Shoemake. Those who are a part of NewHeart are aware that we also sent Pat & Mario Arciero, our Prayer Coordinators and "Resident Care Pastors" (when at home, they spend Thursdays at the Church Office calling folks and available for appointments), out there at Chuck's request for September and October to serve as Hosts for Pastors who will be there. I'm looking forward to seeing them, the Arciero's AND Chuck.

If I get a chance, I'll post along the way, but no promises. I don't know what the internet (or even time) availability will be like. These are almost always refreshing times in which I try to veer away from some of the technological ties. We'll see how it goes.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Lessons In Flying

I recently had the opportunity to enjoy my first hot air balloon ride and it was incredible!! It was a surprise gift Colleen and I got to participate in with another couple with the husband surprising his wife for her birthday.

Being a "wannabe" airplane and helicopter pilot and somewhat of a techie, I had all kinds of questions for our pilot. He was very open and seemed to actually enjoy the questions and answers.

Did you know there are only about 5,000 certified hot air balloon pilots in the world? Did you know that in America, the FAA actually certifies pilots of these unique aircraft?

How about this one ... did you know that all hot air balloon pilots must memorize the "Balloonists Prayer"? If they can't recite it during their test for their license, the FAA gives them a failing grade and they have to take the test over again! At least, that is, according to our pilot, who certainly seemed pretty knowledgeable.

Anyway, one very interesting thing I learned about piloting a hot air ballon is that it's ALOT like being a Pastor! There were times we flew very high and had a bird's eye view of our surroundings.

Then there were times that we did the "terrain flying" manuever the toughest to learn and accomplish, according to our pilot. During such flight, we were literally skimming the vineyards and treetops of the terrain.

As I asked questions, he explained that you can't fly a hot air balloon by instruments, like airplanes and helicopters. They do use some of the instruments of flight to let them know how high they're flying and how fast they are ascending and descending. Other than that, it's all done by reading the wind and using your feel and intuition.

I thought, "Wow! That's alot like my job!" As a Leader, there are times when I have to get my view way up high to try to discern where we're headed and how we ought to get there. Then there are times when, as a Pastor, I'm flying in the terrain with people, walking through the joy and the grief that life brings.

Then, there are all kinds of diagnostic tools and "tips and tricks of the trade" available for Pastors these days. They're meant for good ... even to try to help Pastors accomplish their job more effectively and efficiently. However, fact of the matter is, there's not a fool-proof tool, tip, or trick out there. There is plenty of good, strong, practical direction that the Bible has to offer, and I'm really glad for that!

Now, for the ending ... landing those things is an art in and of itself. You can have your plan in mind for where you want to land it, but where the wind is blowing means everything, even when you're actually trying to land it! We headed for a certain spot the pilot really wanted and were almost there. Then the wind shifted, and we ended up in someone's backyard (it was a big one).

As we approach the 4th of July, having recently enjoyed a few days with Colleen and the boys in Washington DC, my balloon experience makes me think of our Founding Fathers. There were times they had to hold to what they believed was best for the country in a big picture view. Then there were plenty of times where they had to live out every day real life with people too, paying a high price for their leadership.

It also reminded me of what we recently have been (and still are) walking through as a church with our building project. In short, after a few years of planning our Sanctuary expansion, the plan radically changed, requiring us to go back to the Planning Commission.

At the same time, we heard about another church on our side of the City that is planning a relocation in the next 2-3 years. Their facility would be an incredible one for us to relocate to once they move, so we have opened up dialogue toward that end.

As I shared on Father's Day, I'm not sure yet where we're landing, but I do know God still has us on His course, following and serving Him and this City. Please be praying, continue to give toward "Building A Blessing" regularly, and I'll keep you posted as I know more.

Flying high (sometimes) ...

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Father's Day Celebration & BBQ Picnic

Halfway through June ... can you believe it? Only 193 days left until Christmas! Just amazing that we're already so close!

I know you have lots of things going today, especially for parents with the end of the school year right now upon us. Myself, I am headed for a glorious appointment with an oral surgeon later this morning to have an ill-fated tooth removed! Fun, huh? At least I'll be out for it, so this is my last formal communiqué before I go into the world of not remembering anything for a day or so!

I want to take just a minute to remind you personally about this Sunday's Father's Day Celebration. We're making room to meet together in ONE Celebration at 9:30 am, instead of our normal 8:30 & 10:30 schedule. We'll resume the normal schedule next Sunday, June 25.

For now, we're excited about celebrating our heavenly Father with a kind of "Family Reunion". It's been a long time since we've been together all as one. Please, whatever you do, if you're in town, don't miss it. For those concerned about space and "fighting a crowd", put those thoughts aside. It may be full, but we'll have room. And it will be good to be together as one big family!

Right after the Celebration, you'll walk into the courtyard to some kickin' music, the awesome smell of BBQ Tri-tip and chicken, and some jumpers placed around the property for the kids for our Father's Day BBQ Picnic. That's the other reason to be sure to not miss this Sunday.

Wear your shorts (it's supposed to be hot Sunday ... aren't you glad this is a church where it's OK to wear shorts?) and bring your lawn chairs and picnic blankets. It will also make it a GREAT Sunday to invite your non-churched friends, family, co-workers, and whoever else to join you for church. Could there be an easier easy way to introduce someone to the life of your church?

Tickets for the BBQ are $8 for adults and $5 for kids ages 3-13. The BBQ is a fundraiser for "Building A Blessing". I'll give more of an update about where we stand with our expansion plans on Sunday as we are facing some changes that I believe God is ordaining in it all. Further fundraisers at the BBQ are a snow cone machine, a dunk tank, and just this week we added a pie-in-the-face fundraiser! Bring your money folks! If you want to cream my face, it's gonna cost ya!! But it'll be for a great cause!

Regarding tickets, if you don't have them yet, call Shurie at the Church Office (805.583.3433) or click here to email her and just let her know how many adults and kids tickets you'll need. You can pay for them Sunday, but it's really helpful for us to get a more accurate count by 5:00 pm Friday.

I'm really excited about Sunday and all of us being together!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Are You There Yet?

WHERE, you ask? This Sunday's Father's Day Celebration and BBQ, of course! This weekend, we're celebrating Father's Day with ONE celebration at 9:30 (for this Sunday only; we return to 8:30 & 10:30 next Sunday, June 25).

We're cramming everyone into one celebration to give us a reunion feel. It's been a long time since NewHeart has gathered as one and we thought Father's Day would be a great day to do it. If you're in town, I hope you'll make it a point to be with us at 9:30. Whatever you do, don't miss the fun!

Right after, we're hosting a Father's Day BBQ Picnic on the church campus. It's complete with Tri-tip & Chicken BBQ ($8 for adults; $5 for kids 3-13), jumpers for kids, snow cones, music and dunk tank. The BBQ lunch, snow cones and dunk tank are all fundraisers for "Building A Blessing", our Sanctuary expansion plan (more on that in a day or two).

Tickets for the BBQ are necessary and they'll be available Sunday, BUT .... it would really help us out if you could be sure to purchase them by day's end on Thursday. Come by the Church Office Tuesday-Thursday, 9 am to 5 pm to get them. It'll help us plan accordingly for food.

Bring your lawn chairs and blankets on Sunday, and while you're at it, bring some friends. What a great way to invite some of your non-churched friends to experience NewHeart, family style!

Home and then some ...

Well, we made it home and the trip was fairly uneventful. Until we got home anyway. Upon arrival (literally on the Flyaway bus to Van Nuys from LAX), we received a call informing us that an acquaintance whom we had just seen the day of my car accident (May 23) had passed away that morning (June 5).

Keri Houghtalin, just 43 years old, was a survivor of breast cancer and had apparently been experiencing symptoms that were diagnosed as leukemia just a week before she died. Her daughter's 18th birthday was last Thursday. followed by her High School graduation on Friday. Her son just graduated from Middle School today.

Life just has a way of taking us by surprise, doesn't it? I spoke at church yesterday and will detail here sometime this week some of those twists and turns for us as a Church Family. Nothing nearly as tragic as Keri's death, but unexpected stuff nonetheless.

Monday, June 05, 2006

On The Way Home

Well, it's Monday, June 5, and we'll board our plane home any minute now. It has been an absolutely wonderful family time the last few days. Days we'll never forget. Already, we look forward to our next trip to this area. Our next trip will involve quite a bit more driving throughout the region up into the New England states.

I'll write more tomorrow about some details of the last several days. We covered ALOT of ground and yet still not everything. Today's highlight was the Arlington National Cemetery ... VERY moving, especially the changing of the Gurad at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers.

LITERALLY just as our shuttle was picking us up from the hotel today, Martha Lesmes showed up with her grandson to wish us off. We didn't even have a chance to connect with her while we were here, but it was good to at least get in a greeting and a picture or two.

Boarding begins ... I'll write more later!

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Convention 2006 continues

The last two days have been full and fun. Lots of time and connections with old friends. Content-wise, the workshops yesterday were very good.

I attended one called, "The Community Center Revolution", led by Doug Bursch from Evergreen Foursquare Church in Auburn, Washington, a suburb of Seattle. He shared how their church of 120 people has opened a Community Center for the purpose of getting their folks involved and interacting with their community.

I so appreciated how he shared his experience that the church building is often the last place the non-Christian community wants to go to because of certain perceptions they have about what happens in and at churches. He shared some awesome concepts and ideas.

The Community Center concept (much like the coffeehouse we operated about 6 years ago until a fire in another part of the building closed us down) says, "Let's go to where the community is." Some have heard me talk about what I believe is a long-term vision the Lord has given me to open a Community Center that would house a gym (basketball/volleyball, etc, as well as fitness equipment and coffee/juice bar and other youth-priented games).

It could be a place where other community-oriented organizations could meet (AA, for example) as well as a meeting place for our youth, who do not currently have much space of their own on our campus. An example of this idea can be found at Lord's Gym.

Last night's meeting featured a stirring dramatic presentation by Dean Jones of readings from the Founding Fathers of our nation. Following that, I had a great chance to have some good laughs with some old friends, among them Mike & Stacey Barker (former NewHeart Youth Pastor), Eric Mejia (another former NewHeart Youth Pastor), and Bob & Lisa Penberthy (former NewHeart Associate Pastor).

Mike & Stacey, and Eric, have planted a Foursquare Church in Austin, Texas called City Life Community. Bob & Lisa are pastoring NewLife Christian Center, a Foursquare Church in Upland, California. They pass their greetings to the NewHeart family.

A highlight of today is actually a humorous one. One of the main reasons I believe in attending Convention each year is that this is where the denominational business meetings occur. It's one of those things where it's the most boring part of Convention, but one I feel is most crucial to be able to participate in the process of decision making.

The Business Sessions always take place on the last two days of Convention. However, in order to transact business, a majority quorum of voting delegates present at the Business Session is required. This year, there are over 1,800 voting delegates at Convention, requiring over 900 to be present at Business Sessions. Today's session only had 600 present, so they couldn't hold the Business Session at all. I am sure that will not be the case tomorrow!

Colleen and the boys arrived here earlier this evening. We gave Colleen a break by hanging out at the hotel pool for the evening. I didn't get to hear Lloyd John Ogilvie speak, but did get to spend some catch-up time with the boys and Colleen got some good rest.

I am looking forward to tomorrow night's speaker, Pastor Kenneth Ulmer from Faithful Central Bible Church in L.A. They're the church that purchased and revonated The Forum into church use. He is one of my favorite speakers!

That's it from DC for now! More later ....

Monday, May 29, 2006

Convention 2006 begins

After a good night of rest, I hit the gym this morning for the first time since last week's accident. I did notice yesterday that the vehicular anxiety I had been experiencing all week riding in cars as a passenger was gone. That was a relief.

Then, my workout this morning felt better than I expected as well. I am just so grateful for the protection of God, evident even a week later as I feel more and more normal after the trauma.

I had the chance to spend a bit of time getting the lay of the land, hoping to feel well familiar with where things are by the time Colleen and the kids arrive. Today is really the only day to do that as the next few will be frankly TOO busy with the Convention schedule.

Convention began tonight with some real flair. Touching videos reminding us of Memorial Day's reason for existence and some special music along the same course. The music included a Colonial era military band parading through the auditorium to the platform and then leading us in the national anthem and a stirring lone bugler playing taps. It had a way of making our time of worship extra special as well. Of course, it's always a treat to sing and worship with about 3,000 others in the room whose hearts are geared toward the same direction.

Pastor Jack Hayford, President of the Foursquare Church, spoke tonight out of Joshua 1:1-9. His message was on "How God Emerges A New Generation". The most striking part of his message to me was how God declares with the emergence of any new generation, "In rising to the moment, walk with understanding."

As Joshua becomes the new leader of Israel, God says, "Joshua, wherever you walk, wherever your sole treads (as you rise to the occasion), I've already been there (walk with understanding)."

The rest of the evening was spent catching up with old friends, Tim & Kelly Mossholder and their kids, and Bob & Lisa Penberthy. It's become a Convention tradition for that group to gather after the first night's session catching each other up and laughing a whole lot! Kelly said it well as we closed, "Well, we've started Convention off right!"

With that, Good Night ...

Washington, DC

It has again been a while since my last post. I am finding it an easier thing to post to the blog while I am traveling. Things get busy at home and travel seems to allow me some extra time to jot my thoughts and experiences.

It's about midnight of Memorial Day 2006 and I've just a while ago arrived in Washington, DC for this year's annual Foursquare Convention. I am traveling with John & Wendy Cox. I love being with the Cox's. We always have alot of fun traveling together.

Convention will start on Monday night and conclude on Thursday night. I am excited to have Colleen and the boys arrive on Wednesday evening. While the Cox's will return home Saturday, Colleen, the boys and I will stay through Monday for a long-anticipated DC family vacation.

Colleen and I vacationed here in 1993 and always dreamed of bringing our boys to this magnificent place for vacation someday. Now is the time. We've been talking about it for weeks. It was fun to have Jonathan discover last week that all this time, he was under the impression that we were going to Washington STATE to see some good friends that live there. We will get to see those friends here as they are also a Foursquare Pastor's family who will attend Convention.

The Convention is being held (and we are staying) at the Hilton Washington, which our shuttle driver informed us tonight is the hotel that Ronald Reagan was shot outside of in his assassination attempt in 1981. Hmmm ....

More on Convention later as the week progresses.

For now, I thought some might get a kick out of seeing a couple of pictures of my Thunderbird after last Tuesday's freeway accident. I don't mean in any way to be morbid. I suppose that if injuries were involved, I would be hesitant to show the pictures. However, I am very glad to say there were no major injuries.

So far, those involved in the insurance process have each said, "I'm not supposed to say this, but I think it's going to be a total loss." Colleen and I are praying already for the Lord to help us make wise decisions regarding our next steps. We covet your prayers.

Stay tuned throughout the week and I'll post some of our experiences, and as always, leave a comment to let me know you were here. If you have experience in DC and can suggest anything kid-friendly, let me know!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Doesn't Get Any More Sad Than This

If you haven't been watching the news the last 2 days, click here to read the story of 31-year-old Matthew Winkler. He was a Church of Christ Pastor in Selmer, Tennessee who was found shot and killed in the parsonage next door to the church he pastored. Church members went looking for him after he failed to show up for Wednesday night service. His wife and 3 daughters were gone.

Thursday night, his wife and kids were found about 400 miles south of their home in good condition. Friday morning, the news broke that his wife had confessed to planning and committing his murder.

News reports went on to indicate that the community is shocked and nobody had any idea such a thing could happen to this family. Friends, it will not surprise me in the least as the story unfolds to find out that things behind the facade were not all they appeared to be.

I really do not mean to sensationalize a tragic situation. That's not my heart. However, if a story like this is the extreme case of living two lives, think about how many other stories are out there that are not making the news cycles.

This is the kind of tragedy (not just the end result, but the journey) that I have been addressing the last few years regarding Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. No one is perfect and no family is perfect. Yet the question still remains, how can one go years and years with a seemingly deep spirituality (or at least the impression of it) and still come to this place?

Let's watch the story unfold. It may be that Mary Winkler just snapped, and it could be that something happened mentally. But even still, how does that happen without somebody, somewhere, somehow, NOT noticing that something's not right?

You cannot separate your emotional health from your spiritual maturity. When you do, you are sure to deal with the temptation to live one life publically and another privately. And, in the end, that ALWAYS catches up with you.

I am praying for the Winkler kids, and for Mary, and the family members and church body they served. May God's grace somehow permeate the tangible shock and grief that so many will endure these next days and months, and even years.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Interesting Week

I sure miss NewHeart! I mean, I'm here and all, working away like normal, but I had to miss out on last Sunday's Celebration. Couple weeks ago, my youngest, Jonathan, spent a couple of days bowing to the porcelain throne. Seems the stomach bug couldn't resist me.

Last Thursday afternoon, I came home with that queasy feeling we all hate and a slight fever. I hit the sack and hoped for the best, but I guess my best wasn't good enough .... anyway ....

I was glad to have not tossed my lunch, but then again, over the next few days, there was no lunch (or breakfast or dinner for that matter) to toss. I lost 6 pounds between Thursday and Monday! Great for the diet, but hard on the stomach and energy!

Worst of all was missing church on Sunday. I can only remember one or two other times in 20 years that I've had to bail on a Sunday service due to sickness.

Then, Jonathan is playing baseball for the first time this year. He's got opening weekend this Saturday. Of all times for his very first baseball game, any guesses? Yep! Sunday, 9:00 am! It's his only Sunday game that begins before 12:00 noon all season! Go figure!

All that to say I'm missing out this Sunday too! There's just no way I can miss my son's first baseball game. If you're from NewHeart, I hope you can understand. You'll be well taken care of as Johnny is speaking in my stead!

I'll look forward to being there next Sunday, the 19th, and hope you will too!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

A Walk Down Memory Lane

This is the last day of my Study Break. I've spent the last week at my parents' place in Royse City, TX, with the exception of the wekeend spent in Austin. I blogged about that in my last post.

Today, after dropping Dad off at work (Wal-Mart), I enjoyed a "Boots" Burger, downright best and most homemade tasting burger ever. And yes, for us Californians, even better than In 'N Out!!

"Boots Burgers" is literally run out of a backyard shed in the middle of a neighborhood right off the town square in Rockwall, and has been in operation since 1968. The fun part of this town is that when you're in the square, you literally get the feeling that Andy Griffith and Barney Fife are going to walk up to you at any time!

I had the burger on the way to lunch with a friend. "Boots" is only open Tuesday - Saturday until 1:00 pm (or until they run out of burgers, which are never frozen, always fresh), so it was my only chance to get one this week. For lunch with my friend, it was salad only!

After lunch, I traveled to Heath Baptist Church, where my family attended when I was saved in 1979. The Sunday School building was open and I got to walk the halls that seemed so much bigger when I was a kid. Wonderful memories flooded my heart and mind.

It's a traditional Baptist Church in Texas, meaning it also has a cemetery alongside it. My oldest nephew, who lived for only one day in 1981 and has the same name as my oldest son, is buried there. I visited his grave and thought much about the memory of his dad, my oldest brother, Leroy, who passed away in 1994.

After that, I drove a couple miles down the road and saw the houses our family lived in back in those days. It was quite nostalgic, and fun to do again.

Tonight, I'll head home, and I'm looking forward to that! I miss Colleen and the boys. But it's been a good week in every respect. I'm thankful for how the Lord meets us when we set aside time for Him. I'm thankful for how He uses people in our lives, and that He uses us in theirs. I'm thankful for a good spiritual heritage my parents allowed for, and for the time I got to spend with them.

Finally, I am excited about what the Lord has ahead of NewHeart. We are in exciting and challenging days! See you at home!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

An Awesome Weekend

What a joy it was to be with Mike Barker and Eric Mejia last Sunday. Mike & Eric are former Youth Pastors at NewHeart who are planting a church in Cedar Park, TX, just north of Austin. The church is called City Life Community.

I drove in on Saturday to complete plans to lead worship and speak at City Life on Sunday morning. We had a great time together at dinner, retiring for the evening at the Barker's house with their three kids: Cole, Lauren and Emma. They were a blast to be with! Lauren stole her big brother's starter guitar and played along with me as I put the worship list together.

Sunday morning was overwhelming for me. Just to watch what the Lord is doing through these guys was awesome. They've been meeting at Cedar Park Middle School since September and the church has about doubled in that time to an average attendance of 60. HALF of their church are kids 5 years old and under!

It was a real treat to lead worship, speak, and spend time with the "saints" and the "seekers" of City Life. The Lord is doing a GOOD thing in Cedar Park, Texas, and we at NewHeart have a small hand in it! Exciting!

Sunday afternoon, the church was invited and many responded, to the Barker's for Super Bowl in their garage with several comfortable chairs and a giant 9 foot screen. Yeah Steelers!

Monday, I traveled with the Barker's to San Antonio, where Stacey Barker's father, Dan Hicks, planted The Church at Stone Oak almost 10 years ago. Dan has spoken at our church in the past and we have a good acquaintance. It was good to be with him and see the new building they completed two years ago.

After dinner at the Mejia's, with their two kids, Abram and Grace, and the Barker clan, I headed out for my parents place, arriving late last night.

I heard your weekend at NewHeart was wonderful and that Wendy Cox did a marvelous job opening God's Word to you. I knew she would!

I'll blog more later ....

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Great State of Texas

Well, I'm here. In the great state of Texas, on my first Study Break of 2006. I arrived around 1:05 this afternoon, after a slight delay in taking off from LAX that was actually quite funny.

As we were rolling out to the runway, a flight attendant asked a lady a few rows behind me to turn off her cell phone. This was apparently her 3rd request, and the passenger was not cooperating.

Her argument was that she had a Nextel cell phone that has an "airplane" setting that would allow her to keep the phone turned on while not being any potential disturbance to the plane's navigational equipment. The flight attendant politely stated that the setting didn't matter, she would need to turn the phone off.

At this, the passenger became embarrassingly beligerent and refused to turn the phone off! When the flight attendant warned she would have to call the Captain if she didn't get cooperation, the passenger declared, "Go right ahead!"

I kept thinking, "I am NOT hearing this. I am still asleep waiting for my alarm to go off. This is both embarrassing for her and hilarious to the rest of us."

Sure enough, as we're waiting to take off, the Captain comes back to talk to the lady, who repeats her conversation regarding the phone, urging the Captain to "call Nextel and take it up with them!" Still no cooperation. The Captain warned her that if she didn't comply, he would have her removed from the airplane. Digging her heels in, she exclaimed, "Go right ahead!"

I don't think she believed he would do it. A few minutes after returning to the cockpit, he expalined on the intercom that we would have to return to the terminal to deal with a problem passenger. She let loose with a few choice words as the plane turned around!

Anyway, that was the excitement of the day! Flight was smooth and time with Mom and my sister Patty and her husband Gary was rich.

For any wondering, this is not a week of vacation for me, though it is a good time to kill two birds with one stone. Since my parents' place is a restful one, it's a good place to take one of the Study Breaks that I build into my calendar. I'll spend the next few days resting, reading, praying, writing, working out. It's a good and regular time to get away from the everyday and seek the Lord for where we're headed next and how we'll get there.

Additionally, though I try to not do much ministry activity during these breaks, I am speaking this weekend in Austin (about 6 hours drive south of here) at City Life Community, the church that our former Youth Pastors, Mike Barker and Eric Mejia, have planted. That will be a real blast!

I'll try to keep blogging as the week progresses, so check back with me soon!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality ... Now What?

Since September, we've been actively exploring the issue of "Emotionally Healthy Spirituality". Our premise has been that you cannot separate your emotional health from your spiritual maturity.

Experience tells us that when we do, we end up emotionally dwarfed, thinking we are spiritually mature. In reality, we may have lots of Bible knowledge and even have obtained some good Bible study skills or spiritual disciplines. Unfortunately, these things alone do not lead to a well-balanced spiritual maturity.

This teaching series was inspired and drawn from my own life's journey through the pain of burnout and back again. Both of those venues, the series AND my journey, were greatly aided by the book of similar title, The Emotionally Healthy Church, by Pete Scazzero. Pete is Pastor of New Life Fellowship in Queens, New York.

Pete and his wife, Geri, planted New Life in 1987. Somewhere around 1995, Pete found himself burned out and Geri having decided to leave the church due to his lack of leadership and ability to confront and deal more healthily with people. A crossroads to say the least.

Where the Lord led Pete and Geri was a journey that brought Pete to this place of discovering what he calls "Emotionally Healthy Spirituality". When I came across his book almost three years ago now, it triggered some pretty deep transformation in my thinking and living.

I mentioned at the start of this teaching series that this set of teachings would not be kind of "come and go" or "just another series." It's not that any series or teaching I bring is viewed that way in my heart. It IS that I believe this issue of walking out a relationship with God, a spiritual life, is to be one that takes our emotional health in hand to see it grown rightly and strongly.

It was five years ago right now that I found myself spent, not knowing which way to turn or where to go - burned out. I never thought it would happen to me, but it did.

I had given and given and given, denying my own need to be refreshed and cared for. Many of you know what that's like because you've been there yourselves. And, like me, you've been trained to just "pull up your boot straps" and move on.

What does it mean that this concept of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality will be more than just another series for us? What does something that is part of our foundation even look like?
Well, for starters, it means we keep interacting with it. We don't allow each other to live without its consideration and implementation into our lives. We look at issues we face in light of it. We refuse to keep denying the emotional part of our lives and how it impacts our spiritual lives.

You will also find it working its way into our decision-making processes when we talk about what, where, when and how of ministries we offer. I think it will especially be relevant to different small group opportunities, where relationships are impacted at a deeper level than most other ministries.

I am extremely excited about what the future holds. You'll be hearing more of that this month. Change is upon us. We are planning to move our Sanctuary to Township Elementary School right after Easter while our current Sanctuary is expanded, our breezeway is enclosed (no more wind tunnel) and handicap-accessible restrooms are added.

It will be a very exciting year at NewHeart. Stay tuned for more, and as you give your friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family open and warm invitations to come discover what the love of God is all about, prepare yourself to let your invitation be, "Welcome Home at NewHeart!"

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Never Ceases to Amaze Me

What an incredible morning we shared at church today! Our guest, Roger Smets, was with us again, as he usually is the first or second Sunday of the year. He speaks from God's Word and then ministers personally through prophetic words that are interlaced with Scripture over people he calls out of the crowd.

As we re-connected just before the 8:30 service, he shared with me that his wife, Gwen, was not with him this time (they live in Redding, CA) because Roger's mom had passed away 2 days before Christmas. All the activities of the funeral and the holidays had Gwen pretty worn out, so she stayed home to recuperate.

Roger went on to share that today was the first Sunday he was ministering in a church since his mom's death. He and his mom were very close and her death, while no surprise at her age, is a traumatic loss. The grief he is enduring was evident and he was uncertain and apprehensive about how he would minister from here on.

As he was sharing his heart with me, I was immediately grateful the Lord brought him to us at this time. With all we've been processing in our current series, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, what better place for the Lord to put Roger for his first Sunday back in a pulpit! I told him he need feel no pressure to "perform" or live up to unrealistic expectations to "pump everyone up." He could just be himself.

I asked for, and he gave, permission for me to share some of where he is at, and after 30 years of ministering and giving out week after week in different churches, I felt we were to minister to Roger. We had him stand in our "well-worn spot", where we place those we're laying hands on and praying for.

Roger went on to minister and it was a powerful message. Tonight's informal gathering for personal ministry was equally encouraging and powerful. God's timing truly never ceases to amaze me!

I SO want to encourage any and all who are a part of the NewHeart family to really make our gatherings a priority. The Lord is doing some deep things with us, in us, and through us. Bring and include the people He's placed around you who need Him. You too will be amazed!

In the next few weeks, we'll be concluding our series. On January 29, I'll bring our annual "Stae of the Church" message. I am excited about sharing what the Lord has ahead of us this year!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Funny, The Things That Make Us Happy ...

I was thinking just yesterday (the day after the Rose Bowl) how some of the things that make us happy are just plain funny. I don't mean humorous/funny, but silly/funny or strange/funny.

Forgive me for gloating a little, but I'm more a UCLA fan than a USC fan. Not that UCLA is my favorite College Football Team. In fact, in my world, Michigan takes it hands down (GO WOLVERINES!!).

Anyway, it was strange to have the Rose Bowl take place on January 4 this year. Being a resident of SoCal, I am particularly mindful that New Year's DAY is Rose Bowl day (except when NY Day is on a Sunday).

I think Texas had way more fans at the Rose Bowl game. Maybe that's what carried them to victory. Maybe it was way-underrated Vince Young (who is only a Junior right now with 2 Rose Bowl games under his belt) that carried them. C'mon, a QB with 200 yards RUSHING!!

All that to say that yesterday, I caught myself smiling with at odd times. Upon introspection, I was happy not just about a GREAT football game, but that Texas came out on top! Could be that my parents living in Texas now has something to do with it. Or maybe that I played my Jr. High football years there. Face it, there is NO football state like Texas!

Funny, the things that make us happy ...