Friday, December 28, 2007

Let It Snow ...

We woke up to a fresh blanket of snow on the ground today. Beautiful sight!!

Started the day with a breakfast of egg nog pancakes and bacon while we watched the snow fall. However, I spent the rest of the morning in bed nursing a bit of nausea. It subsided around mid-afternoon, but was a bummer because I was hoping to hit the hills with the boys today. Oh well ... thankfully, we still have tomorrow!

The snow fell all day long. Late afternoon featured a long walk in the falling snow. It's amazing how quiet the snow makes the surroundings. It was good to get out of the house a bit.

Tonight we enjoyed Turkey Fiesta Soup and tamales. It's been a day of football movies. We watched "We Are Marshall" this afternoon and and now we're watching "The Gridiron Gang" together. Both good and very inspirational movies.

The snow is still falling, but is supposed to clear up sometime tomorrow afternoon. We'll have to dig out a bit, but it looks like my prayer for a snow-in isn't going to happen. Maybe another time.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Post-Christmas Reflections

I am in Homewood, California (west side of Lake Tahoe) with family. We are enjoying the afterglow of our first white Christmas. It's Thursday (Christmas was Tuesday, for those who lose track of time the week between Christmas & New Year's) and we are anticipating a good snowfall overnight.

The snow has been falling for the last few hours. It's supposed to really pick up overnight. It's currently 19 degrees, and supposed to get down to 5 degrees overnight! Then, after a break in the afternoon, we're supposed to get another storm for Friday night into Saturday. Friday afternoon sounds like a sled-fest to me! My boys are gonna love that, as I have been quite the couch potato the last few days just decompressing.

It usually takes a me 2-3 days to physically and mentally decompress when I go away, whether for vacation or one of my study breaks. We left Sunday afternoon, and it only took us 8-1/2 hours to get here (I was thinking about 10), including stops. We made great time.

After all the prep for Christmas, both the trip here and church stuff, I was pretty tired and ready for the break. Lots of resting, relaxing, reading, wonderfully rewarding time with family, both my own and my in-laws, has been the order of the week!

You're wondering..."Paul, you're on vacation. What are you doing blogging?" Well, the place we're staying at has wireless internet access and there are lots of good things that are accessible by internet for us and our kids, particularly informative stuff about the Tahoe area.

The kids have spent a good amount of time outside, but even they can only last so long in freezing temps! They've been enjoying plenty of movies and lots of Nintendo Wii time with their cousin. And, of course, we've all been enjoying the food that just tastes so much better when you're not in a hurry in any way.

We plan to head home Sunday, but we'll see what the weather holds!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!!!

Its 12:07 am Christmas Day and I'm about to hit the sack. Thought I'd just leave a "Merry Christmas" to anyone tracking!

I am so grateful for family and friends that have walked through 2007 with me! I am so grateful for Jesus; all He has done and is yet to do on into our future together.

May the glory of His presence invade every part of your heart today!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

12 Days of Christmas 80s Style

Come on now....you can hang out with me for just a FEW minutes and enjoy the fact there are only 4 days left to Christmas! PLAY THE VIDEO!!


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Starbucks Saturation

Did you know that in East Simi Valley, there there is one Starbucks for every 9.48 square miles and for every 12,253 people?

In West Simi Valley, there is one Starbucks for every 4.24 square miles and for every 7,198 people. How come the west side gets all the good stuff?

Want to check it out in your area? Find out here.

Guest Blogger Debut

I was given an opportunity by a friend to become a Guest Blogger on his blog, ChurchMarketingSucks.com. It's a blog dedicated "to frustrate, educate, and motivate the church to communicate, with uncompromising clarity, the truth of Jesus Christ." I love that!

You can check out my article here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Jack Hayford Colorado Shooting Udate

You may have heard that Pastor Jack Hayford, President of The Foursquare Church, happened to have been the Guest Speaker at New Life Church in Colorado Springs on Sunday, December 9. That was the scene of the second church-related shooting in Colorado that day. The shooter in both incidents was 24-year old Matthew Murray.

On Tuesday, Pastor Jack relayed an update of the situation as it occurred near him. It read as follows:

Shooting at New Life Church in Colorado Springs

December 12, 2007

By reason of the many calls I have received, graciously and lovingly expressing concern for me in the aftermath of the widely publicized, tragic event that occurred in Colorado Springs, Colo., last Sunday, Dec. 9, I have been asked to offer this report.

First, let me address the most basic facts; information I offer only because having had several phone calls, along with recurring questions, I believe answers the most common ones: Where was I? What happened? Was I in danger?

  1. The arrival of the gunman was at about 1:00 p.m., 20-25 minutes after the conclusion of the 11:00 service, at which, as at 9:00 a.m, I was the speaker.
  2. The gunman’s arrival was after more than 85 percent of the approximately 4,500 in the second service had left the church parking lot—obviously, the first of many providences of God’s grace, reducing the exposure of thousands to what took place.
  3. I was in the pastor’s office, having a light lunch before leaving for the airport, when his assistant and her husband burst into the office, urgently announcing that a gunman was in the building, shooting in the hallways. The office was a relatively secure situation, a floor above the hallways, in an area accessed only by a coded door. However, we could hear gunfire.
  4. Within the next 30 seconds we could hear gunfire and 2-3 minutes later were advised it was the final exchange; the final shots being fired by a security guard, resulting in the instant felling of the shooter. The guard had warned the gunman to put down his weapon—only to have him continue random firing, while reaching for a smoke grenade attached to his belt.
  5. Over the next 10 minutes we received word, that upon arriving in the parking lot and exiting his car with an automatic rifle in hand, the gunman immediately began spraying bullets into the cars everywhere. Tragically, this is when the two teenage girls were struck, one dying in moments, the other at the hospital later. Their father was also hit, but not fatally—the prospects of his recovery being described as excellent. (His wife, the girls’ mother, was also with them, but was not hit. You can imagine the deep emotional concern which all feel for this bereaved couple.)
  6. Two other casualties were realized, as the result of the gunman’s entrance into the hallways where he fired on the relatively few remaining there—most were able to hide in doorways or behind pillars. However, one person was shot in the shoulder and another in the arm. I am informed that both of these are in good condition and recovering well. Again, the Lord’s grace is evident.

Having given these facts, let me conclude with these remarks:

My presence was, of course, by reason of invitation from New Life’s new senior pastor, Brady Boyd—a leader I’ve developed a friendship with over recent years. At age 40, and with a proven pastoral leadership record in both the Amarillo and Dallas areas, Brady was asked last July to take the pastorate formerly held by Ted Haggard. As Brady has regarded me as a mentor and one to whom, with four or five other leaders, he holds himself accountable, he was very hopeful I could be his pulpit guest before his first six months was completed. This explains why I happened to be present on the occasion of the shocking events last Sunday.

Having been there, let me affirm two things:

  1. The miraculous intervention of God was monumentally apparent. The grace of God’s providence in the man’s being put down early in the foray most certainly saved scores of lives. The police said he had over 500 rounds of ammunition on his body and was set for a slaughter.
  2. The pragmatic wisdom and preparation of the church’s security force is a lesson for us all. They, having heard of the event in Arvada, Colo., earlier in the day, and only 75 miles north, prompted their special attentiveness—not because they had any reason to expect attack, but simply because a part of their pastoral style is to take every precaution, at all points, to protect those on their campus in any regard—including the least expected, an attack such as occurred.
Thank you, again, for all who have indicated their gratitude to God upon hearing I was not harmed on this tragic occasion.

Please continue to pray for New Life Church and the pastoral staff, as well as for the whole congregation. May God’s mercies and comfort attend them—especially at this very tender Christmas season.

Pastor Jack Hayford

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Colorado Church Shootings

No doubt the news of the next days will be about today's tragic shootings at New Life Church in Colorado Springs and at the Youth With A Mission Training Center in Arvada. The YWAM event happened around 12:30 am and the New Life shooting happened about 12:30 pm.

My only comments at this time are:

  • We should not be surprised ... we are always moving closer to the "End Times", whenever they may come. Stuff like this is going to happen, even though today's shootings don't appear to be persecution-type attacks so far.
  • An armed church security guard had to do something he probably thought he would never have to do at a church today. I am thankful for his bravery, skill and willingness. May God give him the necessary resources over the next days and weeks to move through this incident.
  • Obviously, my heart is ripped for the families who are "left behind" in these incidents. I pray the Lord of Peace, the Prince of Peace in this season, would marvelously garce them with his comfort.

The article from FoxNews.com is as follows:

ARVADA, Colo. —

A gunman shot four staff members at a missionary training center near Denver early Sunday, killing two, after being told he couldn't spend the night. About 12 hours later and 65 miles away, a gunman fatally shot a parishioner at a megachurch and wounded four other people before a guard killed him, police said.

The police chief in Arvada, a suburb about 15 miles west of Denver where the mission workers were shot, said the shootings may be related to those at the Colorado Springs church but declined to elaborate. Arvada authorities said no one had been captured in the shootings there.

The gunman at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs was shot and killed by a church security guard after entering the church's main foyer with high-powered rifle shortly before 1 p.m. and opening fire, Colorado Springs Police Chief Richard Myers said. Four others were wounded, Myers said.

Click here for the Youth With a Mission Web site.

Click here for photos

Click here for more on this story at MyFoxColorado.

The church's 11 a.m. service had recently ended, and hundreds of people were milling about when the gunman opened fire. Nearby were parents picking up their children from the nursery.

Police arrived to find that the gunman had been killed by a member of the church's armed security staff, Myers said.

"There was a courageous staff member who probably saved many lives here today," Myers said.

Gov. Bill Ritter ordered state authorities to help investigate. The FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were assisting, and officers combed the church campus looking for suspicious devices.

Three of the injured were taken to Penrose Community Hospital in Colorado Springs, said hospital spokeswoman Amy Sufak. One person was critical, she said. It wasn't known where the fourth injured person was being treated.

New Life was founded by the Rev. Ted Haggard, who was fired last year after a former male prostitute alleged he had a three-year cash-for-sex relationship with him. Haggard, then the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, admitted committing undisclosed "sexual immorality."

The New Life church is one of Colorado's largest with about 10,000 members. The mission training program in Arvada has a small office at the church's World Prayer Center on the New Life campus.

About 7,000 people were on the Colorado Springs campus at the time of the shooting, Boyd said. Security at the church had been beefed up after the early morning shootings in Arvada, he said.

That shooting happened at about 12:30 a.m. at the Youth With a Mission center in Arvada, a Denver suburb, police spokeswoman Susan Medina said.

A man and a woman were killed and two men were wounded, Medina said. All four were staff members of the center, said Paul Filidis, a Colorado Springs-based spokesman with Youth With a Mission.

Arvada Police Chief Bob Wick, asked whether he believed there was reason to think the shootings are related, responded, "Yes, there is reason to believe that."

Wick said the suspect spent several minutes speaking with people inside the dorm. Peter Warren, director of Youth With a Mission Denver, said the man asked whether he could spend the night. Several youths called on Tiffany Johnson, the center's director of hospitality.

"The director of hospitality was called. That's when he opened fire," Warren said. Johnson, 26, was killed.

Warren said he didn't know whether any of the students or staff knew the gunman. "We don't know why" he came to the dormitory, Warren said.

Witnesses told police that the gunman was a 20-year-old white male, wearing a dark jacket and skull cap, who had a handgun and left on foot. He may have glasses or a beard.

Police with dogs searched the area through the night, and residents of nearby homes were notified by reverse 911 to be on the lookout. Medina said residents were asked to look out their windows for any tracks left in the snow during the night. About 4 inches of snow had fallen in the area in the past day.

In addition to Johnson, killed in Arvada was Philip Crouse, 24. Youth With a Mission said Johnson was from Minnesota and Crouse was from Alaska.

The missionary center identified the wounded as Dan Griebenow, 24, of South Dakota, and Charlie Branch, 22, whose hometown wasn't immediately known. One of the men was in critical condition, and the other was stable, police said.

The missionary center is on the grounds of the Faith Bible Chapel. Cheril Morrison, wife of chapel pastor George Morrison, said Crouse had just hung up Christmas lights at her home and that Johnson was "an amazingly beautiful person."

Mimi Martin, who lives near the center, said she received the warning call at about 9 a.m. warning neighbors to keep their doors and windows locked.

"Why would anybody want to hurt those kids?" Martin said.

Darv Smith, director of a Youth With a Mission center in Boulder, said people ranging from their late teens to their 70s undergo a 12-week course that prepares them to be missionaries. He said the center trains about 300 people a year.

Filidis said staffers are usually former missionaries themselves and that the "mercy ministries" performed by trainees include orphanage work. He said he didn't know where the group being trained in Arvada was going to be sent.

Youth With a Mission was started in 1960 and now has 1,100 locations with 16,000 full-time staff, Smith said. The Arvada center was founded in 1984.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Pastors on Antidepressants

I read somewhere recently the comment that "it is sad news that 22% of pastors today are on antidepressants." I can't remember where I read that, but depression does that to me ... hmmm.

In processing that comment over the last few days, I have to say that I think the sad news in not that 22% of pastors today are on antidepressants, but that ONLY 22% of pastors are on antidepressants. I know that's a strong thing to say, and obviously it's coming from a pastor who uses them. Uh ... yes, that would be me!

I know alot of pastors. ALOT! I'm just tellin' ya ... it would help many of them to seek help for why their Monday drags into Tuesday and the rest of the week!

Pastoring is a care-giving profession. Many of us pastors don't want to call it a "profession", but it's what we do, even if you're bi-vocational. Why don't we care as much if psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors, nurses, elderly care and mental health workers are on antidepressant medication? I, for one, have not heard "alarming" statistics on how many of those care-giving professionals are on medication.

In this post, I know there's alot I am saying, as well as a ton that I am not saying. I am presuming you know that I don't see depression as purely spiritual or medication to help it as some kind of taboo subject. Any who know me personally are aware that I have struggled with clinical depression for a number of years, at least since being diagnosed in 2001, but probably for many more years before that.

Just a little of my ramblings on the subject. Feel free to toss in questions or comments if you have them! Maybe I ought to write a little more on my journey in case it's helpful to someone else.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Looking & Listening

I've been working through a teaching series lately called "Seasons", where we've been looking at how God has set the earth to identify when certain seasons change. Depending on what part of the world you live in, you can tell by the weather when Fall turns to Winter ... Winter to Spring ... and so on.

God has also set into place different seasons in each of our lives, according to Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. God tells us there that there is a season for everything we experience or can experience under heaven. That would be BEFORE you get to heaven, in case you're wondering what "under heaven" would indicate.

It's helpful, in my opinion, to be on a regular lookout for what season of life you're in at any given time. It can help us to distinguish if what we may be experiencing is of God, or of, say, the devil. I think we are sometimes a little too quick to blame the devil for some of what we experience in life, when God is wanting to do something fresh in us even when life hurts.

For instance, how many people (read: Christians) have asked you how you're doing, only to have you choose to be honest and let them know you're not doing all that great; then to have them toss it back at you with something that makes you sound or feel like a faith-less, whining, sniveling, aardvark (or anything else that crawls close to the ground)?

Uh-huh ... just what I thought ... it's happened to you too. Sometimes, again, in my opinion, we're too quick to blame the devil for something unique God is doing in our lives.

Let me be clear: I do NOT believe that God is the author of confusion, nor that He tempts us, nor that He makes bad things happen (enough of those things happen on their own or because of my own bad decisions, folks!), nor that He wills for us to wallow in self-pity.

That said, I DO believe His Word, which declares just as strongly as anything else that ...

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace." (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)
I just recently had an amazing thing take place. A close friend of mine who had left my life a few years ago because of a significant disagreement we had at the time came back into my life. Now, those words don't do justice to how amazing this is to me! I can't put how I feel into words in reality.

We've talked alot about how much we missed each other over these last years. We spend time together quite a bit and talk more often now than we did before the split in our friendship.

When we reconnected, I didn't know I would be doing this series. As the Lord began to develop it in my heart, and I took a new look at the Scripture above, in a very fresh way, I saw with my heart, "a time to tear and a time to mend".

One of the things my friend and I have asked each other is, "how come this took so long? Couldn't this have happened sooner?" Maybe; but maybe not. As we look back, the separation needed to happen for this couples life for alot of reasons. Maybe it needed to happen for mine too; I don't know.

I do know that the Lord has brought that phrase to life in this friendship for me ... "a time to tear and a time to mend" ... this is our time to mend and learn from each other more about Who God is as He is shaping us both. I don't understand all of God's ways. I'm just glad He is always involved, no matter the season I'm in!


Friday, November 30, 2007

Chocolate Rain & Marketing Smarts

Have you seen the "Chocolate Rain" video by Tay Zonday? Never heard of Tay Zonday, you say? Well, somewhere around 11,000,000 other people have. He posted a music video on YouTube about 7 months ago called "Chocolate Rain". It took off because his voice doesn't look like it fits him. The song is really about nothing, but he and it are just unique. Since the video took off, he's done the late night talk show circuits and YouTube had him do an employee luncheon event.

If you haven't seen the video, here it is, but read further after you watch it:



Now, Tay Zonday has made a follow up video, only this time it is a unique and (while I don't like all of what is in the video) genius marketing ploy by a famous company. You have to watch the video all the way through to get the marketing part. This is a company taking tremendous advantage of the fact that millions are using YouTube. Disclaimer: The video below, and its comments (on both this one and the original) on YouTube, contain material that may be offensive to some.


In Case You're Following The Story...

Yes, I did get the van door trim panel back on successfully, to the tune of about $40 for 8 tiny plastic clips! Unbelievable! Must say that it does feel good to finalize a repair myself though!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Frustrated!!!

I am just frustrated as all-git-out tonight! My van passenger power window has been inoperative for some time now. I ordered a new motor a couple months ago. It's been sitting in my garage ... TAUNTING ME ... "Install me, why don'tcha?", it screams whenever I pass it by.

Well, Saturday, I finally did! My father-in-law helped me take the door trim panel off, we found the old motor and took it out. Not easily, of course. It just HAD to be installed with "well nuts"; a metal nut set inside of a rubber casing DESIGNED to be used ONE TIME! You HAVE TO break the things to get the motor off.

And does AutoZone or Pep Boys carry these "well nuts" with now-stripped bolts? NNNooooo! You HAVE TO get them from the dealer. Three bolts and three "well nuts"...that'll be $25 sir! Got those today and tonight, presto, that new motor whirs in its place like a well-tuned machine!

Now, let's get the door panel back on with those generic panel clips from the auto parts store that my father-in-law picked up for me. Taking the door panel off required breaking the old panel clips. Does AutoZone or Pep Boys carry Plymouth Door Trim Panel Clips? NNNooooo! Now we (sorry ... I ...) gotta go back to the dealer tomorrow to get those fancy clips! Anyone want to start a pool on how much those are gonna cost me?

Call me a whiner ... cry me a river ... thanks for letting me gripe!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Search Keywords For My Blog

I was perusing my blog statistics tonight, specifically checking out the keywords people are using on search engines that got them to my blog. Those are usually pretty benign, but I got a laugh out of some of the phrases I found tonight.

The best ones were:

  • "it's gonna be a good day to get high today" (oooo...kay!)
  • "musings of an old pastor" (hey ...c'mon ...I'm not old enough to be called "old"!)
  • "pastor for memorial service" (ugh ... the hardest part of my job)
  • "pastor paul 105.1" (never thought of myself as the rockin' pastor!)
Hmmmm ... good night!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Too Busy To Enjoy?

I love this article I found at PastorHacks! It's not just for Pastors, but for anyone caught in the "always available" trap.

Enjoy! .... REALLY!

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving and that it was filled with family, friends, and lots of food and fun! We had plans in the morning to serve the homeless in downtown L.A., which Colleen and the kids did. I was sidelined with a worsening case of bursitis in my right hip (long story). I am glad to say they had a great time and my hip is feeling better today.

We then hosted Colleen's sister and her daughter, Colleen's parents, my Sister and her husband, and a single mom from church, along with her son for the traditional Thanksgiving turkey and trimmings.

I can't imagine Thanksgiving without turkey, and I really enjoy doing the carving. I am always looking for the best ways to pull this off, and I think I've found the best so far, though I haven't use it yet. I found it AFTER dinner!

Click here to see it. I'll use it on my next turkey a few days from now. That first turkey is always so good, and it's so cheap this time of year, I always buy another to cook later. My mother-in-law taught me to BBQ it a few years ago, so if the weather complies, I'll probably do it that way.

If you get to use the carving method attached here, let me know how it goes!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Who Are My Friends REALLY?

Here are some interesting thoughts from a friend about the current trend of social networking .... enjoy!

I add to his thoughts (especially for us Facebook users) ...

  • "TOP" Friends?!?! What is UP with that application? Seems to be for people who have so many friends that aren't really friends that they now have a way to indicate who their friends REALLY are!
  • I like Facebook for its easy to read (MySpace drives me NUTS when someone has been overly creative with their page background) interface and ability to communicate with a whole bunch of folks at once.
  • I don't do the SuperPoke thing because I don't want you to feel bad if I don't poke you back. Nor do I want anyone to wonder why I poke some and not others ....

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Weekend Reflections

  • Another awesome weekend at NewHeart! Worship rocked (not just "rock 'n roll" in that, but "rock your world if you let it" is more like it).
  • Second Sunday every month is "Family Sunday", when we have our kids in with us during worship. Great way for kids to see worship modeled. Today being Veteran's Day, I thought it was great for them to see us remember our veterans as a church family too!
  • Started a new series today. I'm calling it "Seasons" and talking about the different seasons of life God walks us through. At the end of each service, we took some time to be silent and ask God to reveal what season He has us in and how we should respond to it. Then, we asked people to share if they wanted to. End of second service was amazing!
  • Sounds like God has us as a church in a season of harvest. I don't get that by numbers necessarily, but by what God is speaking to a number of folks.
  • My beard is growing still, and so are the questions. Again, NO, I am NOT growing a beard ... just being lazy. I think it's OK to be lazy about some things once in a while ... not ALOT of things, just SOME things. It's still there because Colleen said, "Let it go another week if you want."
  • Only 43 days left till Christmas! I'm putting some lights up this week because I can't WAIT! I've never gone this early before!
  • Our boys' football season ended yesterday with a loss. I'll miss the camaraderie and cherish the new friendships. Just realized this week that my boys will leave this team next year as they move UP a level and most of the team stays where they are.
  • I'm looking forward to some gym time! I don't know that my body is, but the rest of me is ready!
  • Took time yesterday evening to pick up a couple of very good friends of my boys who live a couple hours away. Met them and their dad halfway, but didn't anticipate some pretty heavy traffic. What should have taken about and hour took us two and a half! I wasn't all the way done with my message, so bedtime didn't come until 1:30 am! I was TIRED this morning, but God still showed up!
  • Gave blood today at church. Really! A lady in our church organizes a blood drive twice a year. What a great way to give life to others!
  • Saw "Fred Claus" with the family and some friends this afternoon. Funny movie, though I cringe at the allowance for stuff like couples living together before marriage being an OK thing.
  • Got our first comments back this week from the Planning Department on our upcoming bathroom and entryway remodel, which will be more extensive than it looks. Not too bad a list of requests. We'll meet this week with the contractor to adjust the drawings some and resubmit. Keep your ears and eyes open for more info soon.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

It's Gonna Be A Good Day ...

As I was tidying up my morning list of things to do, I was anticipating heading over to Starbucks for a good tall, extra hot soy white mocha, decaf and no whip. Looking outside at the grey sky and knowing the temperature to be a bit cool, the thought struck me, "wouldn't it be great if Starbucks had egg nog in today?" It is the drink I look forward to ALL year!

Well, lo and behold, I walked into Christmas cheer at Starbucks ... TODAY was their very first day to dress up the store and add EGG NOG to the menus!!

THEN, I ran into a couple of NewHeart ladies enjoying time together! Talk about a good day!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Weekend Reflections

  • Our Harvest Festival last Wednesday was incredible! Probably our best ever. John Cox made a video we showed Sunday thanking our volunteers. Here it is in case you missed it:

  • Colleen and I were BLOWN AWAY by the gifts we received for Pastors Appreciation Month! The Starbucks cards alone should hold me over until, say, next week or so! Just kidding ... in actuality, they'll probably hold me for quite a while!
  • Our boys' biggest football game of the year was Saturday. It was for the playoffs and we barely got there. Literally made it into this game by a coin toss. Anyway, we did well in the beginning, but eventually lost. Last game is this weekend as a consolation game. I have bittersweet feelings about the season's end.
  • Got lots of comments this weekend on my new beard. Actually, I don't really have a beard because I can't grow a good one. From a distance, it just looks live I haven't washed my face in a while. It's there because I was too lazy to shave last week (and OK with it!). For the record, here's a picture before it comes off.


  • Katie Miller is doing a fantastic job as our new Worship Coordinator. Sunday's time of worship was so fun, rich and themed really well around the cross as we received Communion. For any Worship Leaders reading this, her set was Beautiful One, Indescribable, You Are Good, Lead Me To The Cross, and Jesus' Blood. But then, at the end they transitioned back into You Are Good, and it was amazing!
  • We concluded our "Lord of the Spiritual Things" series on Sunday morning. Taught about why things like psychics, tarot cards, palm readings, horoscopes, and Electronic Voice Phenomenon are NOT good things to be messing with. You can listen here if you want.
  • I got to spend Sunday afternoon with a couple who just came back to our church after being gone for 4 years. They left under strenuous circumstances. We were very close to them and it was very painful for us to be without each other for these last years. God opened doors for us to reconnect over the last couple months or so. We have watched reconciliation and restoration of relationship happen and they ended up feeling led to come back to NewHeart. ONLY GOD!!
  • Took the boys to Barnes & Noble Monday night so Colleen could have a quiet evening to prepare for a test at school today. Did you know Colleen started her Sociology program at CSUN this Fall? Taking 2 classes right now. I am SO proud of her!

Sad State of Affairs

If I could count the number of couples I've sat with who felt like they were done with each other and incapable of finding any more passion and compassion for the other person, I know the sheer number would be unbelievable. Whenever I think about it (which happens whenever I see a couple like this, which is way too often), it makes my stomach turn.

Well, how's this story working for ya? (found via Anne Jackson's blog)

A Bosnian couple are getting divorced after finding out they had been secretly chatting each other up online under fake names.

Sana Klaric, 27, and husband Adnan, 32, from Zenica, poured out their hearts to each other over their marriage troubles, and both felt they had found their real soul mate.

The couple met on an online chat forum while he was at work and she in an internet cafe, and started chatting under the names Sweetie and Prince of Joy.

They eventually decided to meet up - but there was no happy ending when they realised what had happened.

Now they are both filing for divorce - with each accusing the other of being unfaithful.

Sana said: "I thought I had found the love of my life. The way this Prince of Joy spoke to me, the things he wrote, the tenderness in every expression was something I had never had in my marriage.

"It was amazing, we seemed to be stuck in the same kind of miserable marriages - and how right that turned out to be.

"We arranged to meet outside a shop and both of us would be carrying a single rose so we would know the other.

"When I saw my husband there with the rose and it dawned on me what had happened I was shattered. I felt so betrayed. I was so angry."

Adnan said: "I was so happy to have found a woman who finally understood me. Then it turned out that I hadn't found anyone new at all.

"To be honest I still find it hard to believe that the person, Sweetie, who wrote such wonderful things to me on the internet, is actually the same woman I married and who has not said a nice word to me for years."

- from ananova.com

If anything, this story ought to REAFFIRM for this couple that they really CAN communicate with each other. There are obviously some issues that would remain to be resolved, but if couples can find this place of intimacy in their communication, I believe a number of issues would never be issues because of the passion and compassion for each other that is such an important part of the foundation for any relationship.

Every couple comes across issues that must be resolved. No two ways about it. However, the way in which we communicate with each other makes all the difference in the world toward either digging the hole deeper or filling it up to truly resolve it.

Just my thoughts.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Linking Into The Market For Ministry

Very interesting article in Sunday's Los Angeles Times about the recent explosive growth of GodTube.com:

Click here to go there.

Southern California Santa Ana Fires

In case you haven't heard, the Santa Anas are here! It's an annual thing in Southern California, a really warm and forceful wind that blows you off your feet if you're not careful. It also gets blamed for the wildfires we host each Fall.

We've had them burn a circle around Simi Valley before, as recently as October of 2003, but so far all we've got is smoke covered skies from nearby fires.

Here's a pretty cool satellite image that shows some of what one radio weather man claimed last night was "skies are clear except where there's smoke in the air". DUH!!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Simi Valley Shooting - October 9, 2007

Spent most of today out on a Chaplain call out to the shooting that occurred at 7:30 this morning. I was called in at 8:30 and arrived at the Police Station at about 8:45. From there, I was dispatched to the hospital, where the owner of Tire Pros and an employee were taken after being shot.

The 20 year old was shot in the abdomen and the owner was shot in both forearms. The owner of the store had surgery tonight to repair a shattered bone in his right forearm. The 20 year old had surgery earlier in the day and came through it well.

Most sad is that the shooting at this point looks completely random, and a 53 year old woman waiting for her care to be repaired took the brunt of it with her life. Imagine just sitting and waiting for your car when someone walks up and shoots you! Unbelievable!

After shooting the 20 year old and the owner, the shooter took his own life. By the time police arrived, the whole ordeal was over.

The surviving victims both attend Blessed Hope Chapel, where my friend, Joe Schimmel, is Pastor. A wonderful man! He and MANY of their church family stayed at the hospital throughout the day. I was there until about 11:30 am.

From there, I went to the scene and spent about an hour or so chatting with involved officers and Detectives. What I get to do as a Chaplain is an amazing thing to me. We call it a "ministry of presence". Just being there in some of life's most tense moments is an honor and privilege as people open up about some pretty deep things. Some of it seems or sounds superficial, but it can quickly turn pretty deep, and almost always does.

I went back to the hospital to hear the good news of the 20 year old's surgery and spent time with his family. Got back to the office around 1:30 pm.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Good To "See" You Again!

Once again, it's been a while since I've blogged. I just gotta get used to the idea of blogging being something I do when I can, rather than allowing it to become something I feel I "must" do. I find myself at times getting a bit worked up and anxious that I haven't blogged in a while.

Truth is, life is busy! That's no news to you, I know. Not to me either. I want to be a better, more concise communicator. I have a desire to use the best modes of communication and contact available. Thus, my blog.

Life just gets in the way! I'm still a human, I find! I'm a follower of Jesus, a husband, a dad, a son, a friend, a Pastor, a Chaplain, now a quasi-Assistant Football Coach ... where does it all fit in?

So, that's where I've been the last while. Now, with school in full swing, a new Youth Pastor on board (if you're at NewHeart, you're gonna want to get to know this guy!), Colleen into her new CSUN classes part-time, my computer dies! Like I said, life happens.

All that aside, I do feel like life is falling back into place a bit. So, we'll see. Soon.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Thinking About Transitions

Having to process transitions over the last many years as a Pastor has taught me a few things, and continues to do so every time the process presents itself. I'm referring not just to staff transitions, but any kind of life transition.

Some are planned for and some catch you by surprise. Some happen slowly, while others leave your head spinning, wondering what just happened. Some are good and some are bad.

The months of June and July seem to have gone by in both slow motion AND fast forward SIMULTANEOUSLY! Incredible when life happens like that.

Sometimes, life's jerks (I'm talking about EVENTS, not PEOPLE!) and twists and turns that are so unexpected just grab your life and have their way for a while. That's what I feel like this Summer has been like.

Even as I write at the very end of July, our own Susana Pozu is in the hospital after a mild heart attack awaiting an angiogram, Shurie Southcott had an expected surgery on her hand that came up much sooner than anticipated, and Mark Sanders will finally have his long-awaited kidney transplant on August 7, also much sooner than the nine month wait they expected. Please be praying for each of their healing and wholeness!

Many have been asking about my Mom and I am glad to say that she continues to do well and is getting stronger, slowly but surely. Her surgery and recovery were one of those events that grabbed me somewhat by surprise.

Then, Stephen Hampton's sudden and tragic death grabbed us all by surprise. Anytime someone so young and filled with potential dies with so much ahead of them, it takes us a while to process the loss of them from our own lives. It will still be a while - and then some - before we can figure out how to move ahead from this loss.

Another process of some "loss" for me has been John Cox's transition off our staff. Even though he is still here in town and even a part of our church family, we don't see each other as often.

Grief is a process of life that NONE of us can pass by. Try as we might, it won't let us. Grief INSERTS ITSELF into our lives, whether it's the loss of person by death, severed relationships, loss of a job, a move from one neighborhood, city or state to another.

Grief's fingerprint is as different for one person as it is for the next, but one thing holds true .... it takes time. It's process of time is not something you can make happen any faster or any slower than it does.

Where you go with it is hopefully led by Jesus as we trust Him to daily show us more of His life and ways. Scripture declares that "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." (Psalm 34:18) and that "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." (Psalm 147:3)

Being a continual survivor of clinical depression, I can say from experience that IF God is closer to a person at one time over another, then He is closer to you in your grief and brokenheartedness than He is when everything's grand in your life. I say this from the vantage point that God is always in the midst of working something in our lives, whether we feel His presence or not. Why would grief and brokeness be any different?

Just my thoughts ....

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Stephen Hampton's Memorial Service

Stephen's service today was marvelous. The place was packed with family and friends. Pastor Marty Kruse did an awesome job leading the service. It was filled with tremendous memories and the honoring of Stephen for the excellent young man he will forever be.

I was unexpectedly blessed to be standing in front of a door at the rear of the auditorium just moments after the service started when the Hampton family entered. It was my first occasion to see Leon & Susan personally, and I was deeply honored to be able to hug them as they walked into what must have been an experience both peace-filled and excruciating at the same time. They are just an incredible couple and family.

I also wanted to post that Leon has started a Memorial Blog for Stephen, and direct you there to leave comments and condolences. Click here to get there.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Memorial Service for Stephen Hampton

Just got word today that the Memorial Service for Stephen Hampton will be held on Saturday, July 14 at 2:00 pm at Discovery Church in Simi Valley.

Having just graduated from Wheaton College in May, Stephen was on an adventurous journey in Germany for a language school. On June 17, he was killed in a tragic accident. For more on Stephen, click here. Feel free to leave memorial comments there if you would like.

To get a map to Discovery, click here.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Final Gas Stop

To let you know just how hot it is out here (111 degrees in Thousand Palms, CA), I got a whopping 19 mpg between my last gas stop and this one!

Crossing the Border

From Arizona to California at 110 degrees !!!!

Phoenix at High (& HOT!) Noon

103 Degrees !!!!!

Final Day of Driving

It's 10:00 am in Tucson and after a better night's sleep but a still yucky head, I'm going home!

See you there! Well, not really, but you know what I mean!

Friday, June 29, 2007

What A Day!

Other than the actual day of Mom's surgery, Friday was my longest day. After about 7 hours on the road, I arrived in Benson, AZ around 3:30 pm, confirmed Aunt Margaret was at home and then drove the 30 miles or so south to Sierra Vista. The picture you see here is she and Uncle Dominic. They've been married 53 years!! Aunt Margaret looks very much like my Tante (German for "Aunt") Barbara, my dad's sister who passed away in Michigan almost 5 years ago.

In two very fast hours, I learned quite a bit about the Kuzma side of the family. I have yet to confirm, but so far, it sounds like my great-grandparents Kuzma were the ones who actually came to America from either Hungary or Austria. My grandfather's oldest three siblings were born in Austria.

Here are a few other tidbits I learned:

  • My great-grandfather, Paul Kuzma, died at the young age of 59. He and my great-grandma were on the way home from a Jehovah's Witnesses Convention in Detroit when he had a heart attack and crashed the car, killing him instantly.
  • Yes, you heard right. Apparently, my great-grandparents were avid Jehovah's Witnesses.
  • All 3 Kuzma girls, including Aunt Margaret, were/are JW's.
  • Interesting my great-grandfather died in a car accident, as his son and namesake (my grandfather), Paul, died in 1948 in a trucking accident.
  • One of my great-uncles, Peter, also died in a truck driving accident.
  • Seems a love of driving runs in the family. As I shared my love of driving with Aunt Margaret, she said, "me too!". She is 85 now ... only 5 years ago, she made a trip all by herself from Arizona to Florida and back!
  • My Grandfather, Paul, was good friends with Aunt Margaret's first husband, Hank Borak. One day, Paul & Hank were chatting with a neighbor across a fence, joking about their own deaths. Within months, my grandfather accident occurred (July 20, 1948). Then, in October, Uncle Hank was killed in a hunting accident!
  • Aunt Margaret was good friends with my grandmother, Mary. Both were widows within months of each other!
Aunt Margaret encouraged me to look up one of my dad's cousins, who lives in Montana. She claims he has the family history written down pretty well. We'll see how that search pans out.

I left their house about 6:00 pm for the 70 mile drive to Tucson. After answering some emails, I was hungry. I found the nearest Cracker Barrel (probably my favorite non-California restaurant) and had a working dinner, wrapping up Sunday's message as much as possible. Like I said, long day!

I am looking forward to my arrival home tomorrow, and trying to kick this head cold that seems to be trying to work its way into my chest. Hoping for a better night's sleep!

On To A Fascinating Meeting

Last night's sleep was restless for some reason. A head cold is trying to take root, so that's nasty and unhelpful!

I am packed and walking out the door at 10:00 am CDT. I'll drive about 425 miles to Sierra Vista, AZ, where Great-Aunt Margaret and her husband, Dominick, live. I am really looking forward to hearing more about the Kuzma side of our family.

See you out there!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

FYI - Skip Van Horn, TX If At All Possible

Just a piece of advice. If you're traveling through Texas and are tempted to grab a night in Van Horn, keep going! It won't be hard, trust me. I should've kept going. It's one of those towns that derives the memories of contemporary ghost towns. Burned buildings that were never cleaned up. Car and truck parts (BIG parts) left in places they shouldn't be.

Pulled in at 7:45 pm CDT to (thankfully) a newer Holiday Inn Express and have spent most of my time here finalizing my message for Sunday. I am also mentally preparing for my visit with my great-Aunt Margaret tomorrow. Should be an exciting visit.

Blog at ya tomorrow!

Headed Home

Left Mom & Dad's at about 10:50 am CDT, stopped at Wal-Mart for gas and road snacks, and left Rockwall about 11:45 am. It's 4:35 pm, I've driven 315 miles and am in Big Springs, TX, stopped for a gas fill-up with about 225 miles to go to tonight's stop in Van Horn, TX. I'll catch up with you there!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A Day To Contemplate

I use the above for the title to today's post because it's what I am studying as I prepare for Sunday's message. We are completing the series I've been teaching on Sabbath this Sunday.

God is amazing to me ... how He orders things and puts you in places (sometimes geographical, but sometimes emotional, and sometimes both) where you know you are in the exact place that you are because He ordered it that way. For whatever reason(s).

As I have been working through this series, I knew the time was approaching for my Mom's surgery and this trip. It eventually became obvious that this 4 part series would be split up. I'd get 3 parts done before I left and have to bring the last message (on contemplation as a characteristic of Sabbath) after I got back from the trip (this Sunday).

That bothered me a bit. Those who know me realize why this would bother me some. I like to have things finished and in order. I hate to leave things hanging.

Well, as I am looking back on the process of the last 3 weeks, it has been all about contemplation. I came to spend time with my Mom before her surgery, knowing (contemplating) the possibility that the surgery could find her entering her eternal rest. And I mean that in however full of a biblical and right meaning one could communicate it with.

Sabbath is a pre-cursor, if you will, meant to be a taste of what it will be like to spend eternity with God. Hebrews 4 talks about this Sabbath-rest for the people of God having to do with Heaven.

Since Mom's surgery went so well and the Lord has seen fit to allow her more years here with us, the relief from the possible loss and grief has given me a chance to see (contemplate) how beautiful (at least in my finite mind and perspective) God wants our lives to be and to become in this present day. This is only just a piece of what I believe the Lord wants us to see about our earthly Sabbath.

I've seen Him in so much of what has occurred over the last 3 weeks, but only because I stopped (remember ... "Sabbath" means "to cease") a few things by necessity (distance from home being one) in order to be in a different place to intentionally experience whatever it was God would have (not knowing if we would be celebrating or grieving). I hope some of this makes sense!

It's pretty powerful to me, but maybe it's just me! ;^)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Rainy Day In Texas

After a late night arrival and a good night's sleep, it's now been a rainy day here in Texas. The thunder I was hoping to experience has been somewhat common throughout the day, and I do love it!

I am currently writing from what my parents call my "second office" whenever I visit them. That would be Starbucks. Easy internet access and good coffee!

Found out today that I will depart Thursday (instead of Wednesday) and return home Saturday (instead of Friday). Aunt Margaret is only available for a visit on Friday. That'll work out OK. However, I will relocate my "second office" to the Rockwall Library tomorrow so I can get Sunday's message at least MOSTLY prepared since I am now a day behind.

I will also get to spend tomorrow evening with my brother and his wife. They left yesterday morning for a visit with my sister-in-law's family and will return tomorrow afternoon. So it all works out well.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Headed Back to Texas

After a great weekend at home, I am in Terminal 1 at LAX waiting for my 5:00 pm flight back to Dallas. I am supposed to land there at 10:50 pm CDT (8:50 pm PDT). I'll spend 2 nights there and start my drive home on Wednesday.

I am excited to make a stop Thursday in Sierra Vista, AZ to meet my great-aunt Margaret. My Dad's aunt, we apparently were together when I was a very little kid, but I have no memory that far back. She is the last remaining Kuzma sibling that far back, and I hope to hear some stories about one of her brothers, who is my namesake and grandfather.

I anticipate returning home sometime Friday night.

Mom was released from the hospital yesterday (Sunday) and it sounds like she is doing well today. It will be a good feeling to start the long drive home with everything having gone so well for her!

Yesterday at church, we took the morning to hear from Johnny Cox, our Associate Pastor for the last four years, on his last "official" Sunday on Staff. We normally receive an offering to send a transitioning Pastor to their next assignment with a financial blessing. For Johnny, we received offerings of finances and support cards for Over The Top Ministries. I am excited to hear how this turned out sometime in the next few days. It was a great morning, and so good to be home to worship with the NewHeart family!

I am discovering a little bit the last few weeks of what it's like for those who have jobs that require constant travel. It's a whole different kind of mind frame it seems one has to be in to travel regularly and stay healthy mentally, physically and emotionally. Different time zones, different cultural locales, the rigors of living from a suitcase and navigating the maze of packing and airport issues.

As I woke this morning knowing today would be travel-filled, I had my mental checklist of things that needed to be done before I left. That's where my mind was, but my heart was at home, wanting to just be with Colleen and Jonathan (Joshua is off on a vacation with a friend and their family), rather than cruising the house and local streets doing stuff.

It was necessary stuff, just not what I wanted to be doing or where I wanted to be. So, it seems that the mind frame (maybe the mental game) that you have to go through to travel regularly is just more than I've realized before.

Enough driveling for now. I'll blog at you later!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Grieving the Loss of Stephen Hampton

By now, sufficient time seems to have passed to share publicly about this week's loss of Stephen Hampton. At a too young age of about 21, and recently graduated from Wheaton College in Chicago, Illinois, Stephen was apparently struck and killed by a train on Sunday, June 17 in Germany. Click here to read Wheaton's public statement on Stephen's death. (UPDATE on Wed., June 27, 2007: For some reason, Wheaton seems to have completely removed the notice about Stephen's death from their website, so the link will get you nowhere. Sorry. I have had a number of people emailing me regarding information on Stephen's memorial. As soon as I know when and where it is, I will post it on the blog.)

Stephen was practically born and raised at NewHeart. The youngest of three brothers, his parents are strong and committed believers in Jesus. The Hampton family was a vital part of NewHeart for most of Stephen's life.

I will never forget Stephen's dry and quick wit. For such a young man, Stephen was a deep thinker, always questioning and searching God's Word for Who God really is and all He really stands for. Stephen always wanted to be sure that who he was lined up with who God wanted him to be.

Stephen always struck me as someone who not only said he was going to change his world (and he did say so often!), but would actually do it. Stephen was going places!

I never questioned whether or not one place Stephen would go would be heaven, but I never would have thought he would go this early (not that any of us think such about our youngest ones). My heart has been wrenched this week, so I cannot imagine the heartbreak and loss that his parents, family, and closer friends are feeling. My heart, thoughts and prayers go out to them as they deal with this senseless tragedy.

Anytime someone so young is snatched from our supposed grip in this life, we're left with the unanswerable questions. Why? Why now? Why so young? What purpose does this loss serve? I have no answers to the questions, only the questions along with those who ask them.

What I do know is that we stand on this side of eternity and God stands on the other. I believe things look completely different to Him than they do to us. His Word declares it so in Isaiah 55:8-9 ....

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,"
declares the LORD.

"As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts."

I don't and won't pretend to know the gravity of the loss those closer to Stephen than I am may feel or experience right now. All I CAN say is that God is with us through the darkest of days and the deepest of valleys. He stands not just upon the mountaintops waiting for us to arrive there, but walks with us through the raging rivers that threaten to steal our joy and cripple our faith.

Through the grief, I declare my stand with the Hampton's for strength, comfort, peace, grace, and courage.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Mom's Day 8.1

I am so glad to see that Mom is improving and strengthening more today! I fly home tonight, so it's comforting to see her progress. She walked all the way around the hallway loop today, which was more than expected!

My flight leaves at 4:10 pm CDT from Dallas Love Field Airport. That's the one JFK arrived at the day he was shot in Dallas. ANYwho ..... I change planes in Austin, do a 30 minute stopover in El Paso and get to LAX at 8:00 pm PDT.

I am really looking forward to seeing Colleen and the boys this weekend, and am at such peace knowing Mom is in good hands her at Baylor and is doing so well. She and I have had some really good conversations over the last couple of days.

I am also really looking forward to being with NewHeart on Sunday. I miss everyone! This should be my last post until I am on my way back to Texas Monday. Blog with you then!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Mom's Day 7.1

It's about 4:00 pm CDT. Mom has done even better today. Walked about 80 feet down the hall way and back and is on orders to eat all meals from the chair instead of in bed. Talked to the surgeon today, who is strongly encouraging her to move even more and estimates she may go home on Sunday or Monday.

Arranged my travel plans today. I fly home tomorrow (Friday) night and then return back on Monday (June 25) night. I'll rest and visit Tuesday, then start my drive home on Wednesday, anticipating my arrival home on Friday night, June 29.

I am looking forward to the weekend at home and am so glad that Mom is progressing. I definitely feel at peace with my decision to stay the extra couple days, although I know it is tough for Colleen alone at home with the boys. However, as it works out, she is off work next week and one of the boys is gone with a friend's family for their vacation. I trust it will work out well, and that Mom's progress just strengthens day by day.

To day is my little sister, April's, birthday. I won't divulge her age here. She can be the one to do that. She has gone through so much in her life the last couple years. It has been good to re-connect with her. The time has been good that way. Tonight, we celebrate her birthday at Cracker Barrel.

Sounds like I missed my storm today. Steve called and said it was dumping buckets and thunder and lightning were in good supply. Not here in Dallas, a short 30 miles away. Nope, dry as a bone here, of course! Maybe my drive home will afford more. We'll see!

During my drive home, I'll make a stop Thursday in Sierra Vista, Arizona to visit my great-aunt Margaret, the last left of 9 Kuzma siblings. She is my grandfather's sister. I never got to meet him and even my Dad didn't know him well as he died in a trucking accident when Dad was 7. I have been told that she would have been the family historian, so I am looking forward to some good history and pictures.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Mom's Day 6.1

It's about 3:30 CDT and I am blogging on my laptop right from Mom's room. Amazing! I've been here with her for the last 3 hours, during which we've talked about all kinds of things that people who are under the influence talk about :^) - happy things though; good and funny things. Things that shall remain between her and I. She made me promise!

After a good session of physical therapy and a good dose of her pain meds, she is now sleeping peacefully. I have made the decision to stay another couple days and fly home, probably on Friday night.

Mom is still doing well and progressing, but is not out of the woods, especially in terms of her kidney. Her kidney is doing OK, but has been a little bit sporadic today. They believe it may be simply a result of her starting solid foods today. When they do that, they usually reduce the IV fluid intake, assuming you'll get it from the solid diet. BUT, that's not happening effectively yet, so they've reintroduced the IV fluids.

Probably TMI for you ... I did just now get to watch a CareFlight helicopter land close up out the window of Mom's room ... COOL!

With my brother Steve, and his new wife, Danielle, living with my parents for now, one way they've been helping out has been by preparing meals. Neither of them are food pros, but I'm telling you, they could be! I feel like as far as food is concerned, I've been at a resort or something. It has been a joy to have the family eating around the same table again!

Before this trip, I had only met Danielle once, briefly, over a dinner with she and Steve last Fall. I don't know exactly how to describe Danielle because I don't know her well. She has quickly become a part of our family as though she has been around much longer than she has.

Danielle is funny, likes to have fun, and yet has been around the block for someone so young. She is very perceptive and is sensitive to other people. Seems to me my brother has done well in his choice of a wife.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Mom's Day 5.1

It's about 2:30 pm CDT and we're in Mom's room at Baylor Medical Center. She is in room 901 in the Roberts Hospital portion, and it is a private room, which is very nice.

It is a very good step for her to be moved out of ICU and into her own room. When we arrived today, she was just finishing her first round of physical therapy.

She was in quite some pain, but the nurse has now given her a cocktail of happy juices and she seems to be resting pretty peacefully.

Today will be the day I decide what to do next with my trip. Mom is well taken care of, but still not out of the anesthesia all the way. I would share with you how I know that, and to do so would bring you some good laughs, as it has brought us, but I'll just keep that in the family for now!

Because I am driving, and have the goal of being at church Sunday for Johnny's last "official" Sunday on Staff, if I drive home, I need to leave tomorrow. I am prayerfully considering why I am not yet comfortable with a decision to leave tomorrow. I know some of it is that I want to be here when Mom is more cognizant.

My other option is to use a round trip ticket that a dear friend has offered to fly home Thursday or Friday and then figure out when to come back for my car (probably in the first week of July). I would appreciate your prayers that God would give me wisdom.

Some of me feels (not just feels, but actually knows), that I have not always been as connected to my family as Mom, or I, have wanted for me to be. I think that's some of why God has given me this trip.

I have been working the last few years to strengthen my connection with my parents, spending time with them whenever I can. It's not been the easiest thing since they have lived in other states, but I have done my best, and it has made a difference for me.

All that to say I am trying to sort this all out for myself emotionally, spiritually, physically, mentally, etc. Thanks for listening, and for understanding!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Mom's Day 4.1

Headed back to Mom & Dad's house after today's hospital visit. She is at Baylor Medical Center near downtown Dallas, which is about 30 miles from Royse City, where they live.

When we got there today, they let all 5 of us in to see her at the same time. She was sitting up in a chair and was eating soft foods!

We only got to stay about 25 minutes as they have decided to keep her in ICU and reassess tomorrow morning. They want to keep a closer eye on her another day before sending her to a 6 nurse per patient care ratioon the Med/Surg floor.

For those who may be hearing news about nasty weather and flooding in NE Texas, we're OK here. We did get some cool dark clouds, a little lightning and a bunch of rain, but that's it for us. It's already all dry, hot and humid.

Probably gonna do some nostalgia today into Heath, TX, where we lived the first 2 of our 4 years here.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Mom's Day 3.1

They were able to take Mom off the ventilator at about noon today! This is a big hurdle! She cannot have anything to eat for 24 hours as they have to monitor her respirations to be sure she can do her own breathing. If not, they will have to place her back on the ventilator. Please pray that she gains the strength to be able to breather healthily!

She certainly is back to my Mom! She had plenty to say about what hasn't happened well for her in ICU care-wise. She also had a finger to shake at the smoking members of our family to declare "No more smoking!!" She evidently was told that her smoking is one reason it was tough for her to breathe on her own. Her feisty-ness is a sign to me that Mom is back!

I did not ask, but am sure she will be in ICU at least until tomorrow due to the respiration monitoring. Her kidney function remains good at this point.

I will post more later as we know more.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

A Really Proud Dad

With Father's Day approaching tomorrow, I am really missing my boys. I am so proud, and feel tremendously unqualified to be Joshua and Jonathan's Dad. My goal is to raise two great men, but I certainly don't claim to be the best at it.

I do know that I am proud of my Dad, and that he instilled in me the value of hard work and appreciation for the good things life brings. Perusing old photos this week, I was able to grasp a deeper appreciation of the place in life God has granted me as a Kuzma.

My boys both "culminated" from their Elementary School this week, Joshua from 6th Grade and Jonathan from 5th, both headed for Valley View Middle School. I am extremely proud of both of their accomplishments, but nervous as a Dad about Middle School.

Allow me to pull out my wallet ...

Joshua Paul Kuzma (12 years old - 6th Grade)
Jonathan Pierce Kuzma (11 years old - 5th Grade)

Mom's Day 2.1

The doctor has decided to leave Mom in ICU through today (Saturday). They are still trying to wean her off of the ventilator, but she is just not ready yet. They hope for it to happen this evening.

The ICU nurses say it is a bit of a balancing act. The pain medications strong enough to ease Mom's pain have the ability to require the ventilator, yet they don't want her to take enough of the medication to keep her on the machine. For now, Mom has control of the pain medication by way of a push button. I can only imagine she is in quite a bit of pain.

The doctor originally told us that she could be in ICU for the first 2-3 days following surgery, so none of this is a surprise. It's just part of the process for now, and only Mom can do it. Only she can determine her ability and strength to battle through the process of getting off the machine.

When we saw her today, she was groggily alert and able to mouth some words. She communicated that the nurses have been "great", that she loves us, and that her pain has been somewhat moderate. She also knows the doctor said she came through surgery well.

In the meantime, we are letting her rest. They only allow 2 visitors at a time for a 15 minute slot every 2-3 hours.

Had our first thunderstorm last night. Wasn't much, but certainly more than we ever get in California. Rain has been on and off throughout the day, but we should get a few more thunderstorms in the next couple days, so they say.

More later.....

Friday, June 15, 2007

Good News on Mom

The surgeon just came out to report that surgery could not have gone any smoother than it did!! Her only kidney had to go without blood flow for about 45 minutes, but it seems OK.

He said that as soon as he reconnected it, the kidney began to produce, which is a good sign. She will be in ICU for a couple of days, but he expects she will be able to come out of the anesthesia in a few hours.

I'll keep you posted as the weekend goes by!

Update at 3.5 hours

Received a call from Mom's OR Nurse at 12:45 CDT to report she is still in surgery and Mom is doing OK. That's all for now.

Surgery Start Time

We've been here since 5:00 am CDT. Mom was wheeled down the hallway for the OR at 8:10. We just got word that surgery started at 9:12. The surgeon expects it to go about 5-6 hours. Will keep you posted as we know more.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Countdown to Mom's Surgery

Only a few hours from now, 4:00 am CDT to be exact, the family will make the trek together to Baylor Medical Center in Dallas. Mom's surgery is scheduled for 7:00 am.

Today has been one of laughs, tears, and even hard discussions. We are all praying for and believing the best. My Mom is one of the strongest people I have EVER known. And I mean EVER.

The procedure she is undergoing, however, is very high risk. She has a couple of other parallel issues that heighten the "normal" high risk. The reality that 24 hours from now, Mom could possibly be in our eternal home is sobering.

I've been around this reality with other families enough to know it's best to have tough conversations about what one's wishes are before they get to that point. It's excruciating for families to have to figure that out once someone has died.

In my heart, I just know that Mom's strength is where it needs to be for one to physically make it through such a procedure. I also know that her spirit is in the Lord's hands whatever the outcome. For that, I am so glad for the hope that God gives us in Jesus!

My phone is one of those nifty ones that gives me the ability to post to my blog quickly and easily. If you check back every few hours on Friday, I will post whatever we know as soon as I am able.

Leroy's Story

Spent last night not just reminiscing with my Mom, but actually writing down details of much of her story. It's worth its own post one day soon.

Part of her story is Leroy's story. I write about him a post or two ago and told you I would share more, so here it is. Let me cut to the chase ...

We were living here in Rockwall, Texas in August of 1977. As a matter of fact, the house we last lived in on a main street into the town square was just torn down a day or two ago. Monday night we drove by but it was too dark for pictures. Tuesday afternoon we drove by and it's now a pile of rubble. Making room for a wider street.

Anyway, I think it was August 17, 1977 when I was at home and heard the news that Elvis Presley had died. I ran down the street to The Brown Derby, a fast food restaurant my Mom was managing, to tell her. I had NO IDEA what was to come.

She was visibly upset, but I had no idea why. It was a little weird to me how upset she was at the news. Leroy's story unfolds.

We were always told that my Dad was not Leroy's real father. His birth father was apparently someone Mom had a short relationship with. Turns out that was true. What we were never told was who the person was ... until the day Elvis died.

That's right ... turns out that Mom was a night club singer in Frankfurt, Germany while Elvis was stationed there and the two hooked up. Just after Elvis left Germany, Mom found out she was pregnant with Leroy.

When Elvis died, a friend who knew my Mom in Germany and knew the story called Mom and coerced her into telling my brother that Elvis was his real father. The Midnight Globe got hold of the story and sent Mom and Leroy to Graceland to do a story on them.

I know ... hard to believe. But there are a few people in Mom's life who attest to it. Here is a picture of them both ... you be the judge ...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Family Reconnecting

I will blog more about our reconnections as the week progresses, but want to mention an exciting reconnection that happened yesterday. Our family has a pretty extensive knowledge of my Dad's Mother's side of the family, the Barkowska's (or ...skI's, depending on who you talk to). However, we have very little knowledge and connection with his Father's side (the Kuzma's) of the family.

When my Dad was 7 years old, my Grandfather (who is my namesake ... Paul Daniel Kuzma), was killed in a truck driving accident in Indiana. My Dad and his sister were raised by my Grandmother and her side of the family. There was some contact with the Kuzma's, but not much.

When my aunt died four years ago, I went back to Mayville, Michigan to help settle matters there for my Dad. During my time there, I tracked down the closest Kuzma, my Dad's Uncle John, and spent some time with him.

While there, he mentioned that the most history would come from their sister, Margaret, who was living at the time in Arizona. These last few years, I kept meaning to look her up and visit her.

Well, we were able to find her yesterday, and I spoke with her by phone. She agreed to allow me to stop by on my way home to California. I am really looking forward to this!

The picture to the right is my Dad, FYI ...

Tonight, we are headed to get a family picture done together! First time in I don't know how long!!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Family Reunited

After a really good night of sleep, I awoke this morning to a flat tire! Apparently took a nail sometime yesterday and developed a slow leak. Fortunately, my brother, Steve, has spent the last couple years in his mechanic career specializing in tires and suspensions. UNfortunately, the nail was right at the joint of the tread and the side wall of the tire (more in the sidewall than the tread), which makes for an unrepairable tire.

He received a call last night from the Rockwall Dodge dealership in response to his application there, and they set him up with an interview at 2:00 this afternoon. While Dad and Steve's wife, Danielle, went to DFW airport to pick up my sister, April, Steve went on his interview. I mowed Mom & Dad's lawn. With the heat and humidity, I think I caught up on my last few months of missed workouts!!

Steve's interview went well (he awaits return of the obligatory drug testing), April arrived in good spirits, and we all spent the evening at Casa Miguel, a Rockwall Tex/Mex restaurant that operates out of an old house with great food.

An additional and very deeply sentimental feature of this restaurant is their Rockwall sports memorabilia, which includes our older brother, Leroy's, Rockwall High School Letterman's jacket and an 8x10 of his football picture.

Some may not have heard of Leroy, who passed away in 1994. More on him later.

After a great dinner, here I am at my second office getting a few needed things taken care of, including updating you. A few have posted comments letting me know they're traveling with me in spirit. If you haven't yet, please do!

Monday, June 11, 2007

It's Monday

Last night, spent much of the evening with my brother, Steve, catching up on the events of his life. The last couple months have been somewhat chaotic. He is hopeful (as we all are) that this move to Texas will give him a chance at a new start in his life.

This morning, met he and my Dad in the city of Rockwall. That's where I spent my Middle School years, and it is just south of Royse City. They were dropping off Dad's van for some work. The three of us had breakfast at IHOP (have you tried their new Stuffed French Toast? AMAZING!) and then made runs to Wal-Mart and Lowe's.

In the parking lot of Wal-Mart, a Rockwall Police Officer noticed my brother's California license plates and asked where he was from. Turns out the Officer spent 14 years with LAPD before moving here, but was born and raised in Simi Valley! Small world!! May get to do a ride-along with him sometime this week.

We've now settled at what Dad calls my "second office", Starbucks, while we wait for his van to be finished. I've yet to make my nostalgia trips around town and into the little town of Heath, which was where we lived most of for 2 of our 4 years here.

It was at Heath Baptist Church that I started to establish my relationship with God, so it's got a special place in my heart. I also have a nephew who is buried in the cemetery there. He was my older brother, Leroy's (who passed away in '94), son who only lived for one day in 1982.

Commissioning of USS Kidd

Saturday's events were really cool. Spending the day with Matt, Kerry and Gramps was fun. Matt looks and sounds good.

Kerry and I got to take a guided tour of the ship, including the CIC (I forget what it stands for) that is the "nerve center" of the ship's defense system ... radars, computers, huge map screens, guys that sit next to each other that can't make decisions without each other to make sure people don't do anything alone that would be stupid.

Among other things, I learned ...

  • A ship is NOT an official part of the Navy until it is actually commissioned. Commissioning is NOT the same as Christening a ship.
  • Matt is now what they call a "Plankowner", since he is part of the crew when the ship is commissioned. Grampa Bill is also a "Plankowner", having commissioned a ship in 1943.
  • In the old days, when they decommissioned a ship, they would literally give a plank of that ship to each "Plankowner".
  • Babies of the crew can be christened (baptized) in the ship's bell. They talk out the hammer, turn it upside down and fill it with water. The first baby christened in a bell has their name engraved inside the bell. When that bell is taken out of service, they find the person whose name is in the bell and offer it to them.
Cool stuff! Below are some pics of the day ...

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Safe Arrival

Arrived at Mom & Dad's about 5:30 pm CDT. Will blog more Monday, including some pics from Matt's ship commissioning.

Day 5

Had a late breakfast with Kerry and Gramps on their way to the airport, I left South Houston for Royse City at 12:45 pm CDT. It is now 2:25 pm and I just crossed the 2,000 mile mark. More later!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Hurricane Season Is Here ... hmmmm

Sometimes, you don't realize where you are until you're there. Driving from South Houston to Galveston today, I realized a few things ...

  • Galveston is actually an island in and of itself.
  • I've heard of Galveston lots in my lifetime.
  • The vein I've heard of Galveston in is always relative to bad weather.
  • There is only one main transportation artery onto and off the island - the I-45.
  • The I-45 was a parking lot before Hurricane Rita hit, right after Hurricane Katrina, with BOTH the north and southbound lanes opened for NORTHbound traffic.
So, on my way from Galveston back to my hotel to pick up something this afternoon, the freeway electric lighted signs read, "Hurricane Season is here. Keep your gas tank full."

At the same time, I was listening to my second book on this trip. It's called "Leading With A Limp". Been on my book radar for a while and I was able to get it cheap on CD.

Author Dan Allender asserts in the book that God always uses leaders with problems and issues in their lives. How true it is! Moses, Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Saul, David, Solomon, Peter, and Paul. Read 'em and weep!

When I saw those signs on the freeway, Allender was talking about how "busy-ness is the moral equivalent of laziness that often serves as a mask for other issues." That really strikes home for me.

You know. The phone rings, and the first question the caller asks is, "Are you busy?" What do you say? "NO! I was just sitting here waiting for you to call"? Our answer ... I'm sorry ... MY answer is usually filled with a string of recently done or almost completed projects, hoping that it gives the caller a sense of how important I am.

One result of such behavior is that we keep our wheels spinning endlessly without reprieve for fear that someone will get the idea that we don't have enough to do. God forbid that we should reserve some energy or time for family, friends, or the at times necessary emergency or unexpected occurrence.

There it is again ... "Hurricane Season is here. Keep your gas tank full." Earlier in the book, Allender talks of how filled life is with the unexpected, loss and grief. It's important to realize that we need margins in our our lives AND to live reasonably with our limitations ... our limps ... our imperfections.

Unrealistic expectations we have of ourselves and sometimes of others leads us down dangerous and painful roads. Pain, disappointment, discouragement and disillusion is inevitable in life. Not everything turns out the way we thought it would. King among them is ourselves.

In general, I think we hold expectations of ourselves that Jesus never asked us to carry. Hurricane Season is here. Sounds like LIFE to me. Life is like a never-ending Hurricane Season. That's why it's important to keep your gas tank full.

How are your expectations of yourself? What are your reserves like ... emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually?