Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Lent update

People have been asking me all week what I'm giving up for Lent. I've not been forthcoming with the information. Matter of fact, I've been pretty crabby about it. Please accept my apologies if you've borne the brunt of it!

I initially decided to give up Starbucks for Lent. Now, I'm a Starbucks fan, but not necessarily the kind that WON'T get my white mocha somewhere else if a non-Starbucks is all there is. However, I wasn't giving up Starbucks in a "I could go to Coffee Bean" kind of way.

The first day, I happened to be sipping on a cup of coffee from home. Don't drink it black anymore and hardly drink a non-espresso coffee at all. But that day I was.

As I was about half-way through enjoying it, I had an uneasy feeling. Not sick, just uneasy. I began to sense that the Lord wanted me to give up more than just Starbucks. Now, it's coffee altogether.

And hey, for me, it's not even the caffeine part of it. If decaf is available, that's what I go with. It's coffee altogether, and it's been harder than I thought!!

How about you. Wanna tell what you're giving up?

A Privilege

Got to officiate a wedding last Saturday night. This one onvolved a couple who met online. I don't recommend this method because of its inherent dangers, but I have seen it work for a number of couples.

The bride has been a part of our church for a number of years. This is the only church family she has ever known. We've been through the ups and downs of life together.

The groom moved to this area last Summer from the Central California Coast area when it was clear the relationship was going to last. He is a great man for this woman.

The amazing thing about them is they are both in their early 40s, and this is the FIRST marriage for both of them! They have patiently waited for God to bring them the right person, and I believe God is going to bless that.

Then, Sunday morning, I had the privilege of dedicating Micah Allan Littlejohn, born on January 20 to Craig & Stacy. Stacy was a part of my Youth Group when I was the Youth Pastor here. Craig led worship for our church during some of his Bible College days.

Now, they're parents! It's just a privilege to serve the same church for over 21 years now, and events like these help me see why I do this. I love watching people and families grow through the years!

Friday, February 16, 2007

12 Years Ago Today

It was 12 years ago today that Colleen and I walked into Holy Cross Hospital and waited. It felt like we were at an airpot waiting for someone to come in from a flight. But this was NO ORDINARY ARRIVAL.

This was Joshua Paul Kuzma, our first son. His birthmother (catch that for those who don't know ... Joshua AND Jonathan are both adopted, though we rarely think it and NEVER feel it) had arranged for a C-section.

So, there we were, waiting for our son to arrive when the elevator doors opened and a nurse stepped out, asking if we were the adoptive parents. WOW ... 12 years ... I cannot believe it! It seems like only yesterday .... well, maybe a few days ago!

Cool ... we're doing one of our birthday traditions ... pulling him out of school at lunchtime and taking him to In 'N Out (his favorite burger ... are we raising this kid right or what?!?). Then, we let him ditch the rest of the day (Sorry all you teachers out there!).

Last Sunday

LATE Saturday night, I posted about my anxiety toward the next morning. You can see it below. Anyway, apparently, my anxiety was totally unfounded.

The Lord moved in, I think, a BIG way as I just shared my heart about the season Jesus has us in, and has us moving toward. I am EXCITED to see what will happen as we all consider together how to participate in Lent, 40 days (not including Sundays ... more on that THIS Sunday...) of prayer and some fasting.

It begins THIS Wednesday, February 21 (traditionally known as Ash Wednesday) and will end Easter Weekend. In case you're wondering, Easter is April 8 this year.

Oh, and by the way, did you know that the Spring time change happens this year IN THREE WEEKS!?!?!? Yep ... mark your calendar to turn your clocks AHEAD ONE HOUR on Saturday night, March 10.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

A Little Anxious

I am just putting the finishing touches on tomorrow's message, and feeling a little anxious about it. I really want it to come off right.

I am going to be proposing that our church participate together loosely in a "church" season called Lent. It's the 40 days (not including Sundays) between Feb 21 and Easter Saturday.

I plan to teach next Sunday in more detail about Lent ... what it means, history, why it was/is important, how we can still take advantage without getting "religious". In the mean time, I know many people from different church backgrounds (especially Catholic) could freak out about the idea.

Don't want that, but also don't want to throw out the baby with the bath water! At the same time, a lot of people with no church background before NewHeart could get nervous about what they've heard about things like Lent.

For those who might be nervous or wondering, we won't be doing the ashes on the forehead, and I'm not getting "religious" on you. I DO, however, want to invite us all to keep our hearts open as the Lord reveals more of Himself to us during this season of preparation for Easter. Hang on tight!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Things Kids Say

My younger son, Jonathan, said one of the funniest things tonight. We were headed for ice cream ... Dairy Queen for the kids, and the grocery store for ice cream sandwiches for Colleen and I.

Jonathan suggested that I drop off he and his brother, Joshua, at the store to get the ice cream sandwiches while I head to Dairy Queen for their blizzards, then pick them up on my way back. I told him that wouldn't fly.

He asked the kid-natural question ... WHY? I informed him I had no cash to give him, not wanting to tell him I didn't want my 11 and almost-12 year old sons wandering the aisles of a grocery store without me or Mom.

He very "adultly" suggested that I just give him my credit card and PIN number!!! To this, I stated that with my picture on the front of my card, I didn't think the cashier would go for it.

Jonathan said, "Sure she will. I'll just tell her that picture was taken when I was 2 years old. That was when I was young and looked old, and now I'm old and look young. I'm doing the 'reverse thing'!"

Where he came up with that I'll never know, but it CRACKED me up! As we grow older, we sometimes wish it were true, huh? Come on, don't look at me like you don't ever think that! I KNOW it ain't just me!

Feeling better

Thanks to all who read the blog and took the time to ask how I was doing yesterday and last night! Didn't expect that response ... it was cool and appreciated!

Today is better ... not quite 100%, but definitely better. Slept hard last night and didn't have the sweats. Can't ask for much more than that!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Seemingly strange

Have you been following this Astronaut-turned-weirdo story? Lisa Nowak, a NASA Astronaut who flew the US Space Shuttle last Summer, went haywire.

The story so far goes that she had a crush on another Astronaut, whose mother-in-law now says Nowak ruined his marriage in '05. Last weekend, she drove from her home in Houston, Texas over 900 miles to someplace in Florida ... in an adult diaper! She didn't want to have to stop for a bathroom break.

The purpose of the trip was allegedly so that she could kidnap and kill another lady who apparently is involved with the guy she has a crush on. She is now being charged with attempted kidnapping and attempted murder on the lady.

I know what you're thinking .... we hear weird stories like this all the time! But about an Astronaut? An all-American role model like an Astronaut? Now NASA says they're going to review the way they screen Astronauts.

I gotta make a connection here for you ... "how could someone so supposedly upstanding go so haywire all of a sudden?" Like say, a Pastor, for instance. Get where I'm going?

It's not just Pastors. It's not just Astronauts. It's human nature.

I'm reading a fantastic book right now called, "Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership: The Paradox of Personal Dysfunction". It asserts that we ALL have a dark side, and it's called humanity. The only questions are: 1) what kind of dark side do we have, 2) do we recognize it in ourselves, and 3) what do we do about it?

In no way am I saying we're all going to go haywire to the extent that Nowak may have. I am saying that all those people we are sometimes judgmental about? We are them! They are us! We are in the same boat, struggling with very similar life issues and making decisions everyday about who will really prevail in our lives ... Jesus or Satan.

I really hate to sound simplistic, but it's not as complicated as we sometimes make it. Whadya think?

A Little Off

Ever felt like you were just a little off? Not like "in the head" off, though this IS in the head.

Yesterday and today, I've been a little off. One of my kids has carried the "almost flu" thing (fever, chills, headache, etc.). Well, yesterday I FOUGHT that exhausted feeling all through the morning until finally giving in and going to bed for a couple hours from lunch until the kids got home from school.

Afternoon was a little better as long as I stayed still. Got some good reading done. Slept well overnight, working through a couple sessions of the sweats.

I HATE this stuff ... you wanna get stuff done and you just can't. At least not the way or in the time you want to.

This morning, the energy level was better than yesterday, but still not quite where I want it. Resting where and when I can, and trusting this will be gone before the weekend.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

For What It's Worth ...

I heard that both services that I missed at NewHeart today were awesome, with some "fireworks" present at the 10:30 celebration. If you didn't catch it, I guess there was a person who was being a bit disruptive and had to be dealt with, which we do LOVINGLY, but FIRMLY.

If you were there and DIDN'T notice it ... GOOD! We'll see how the Lord orders this week in dealing with that situation. That aside, it doesn't surprise me that as we draw closer to Jesus together during this season of "Turning Challenges Into Miracles", that the enemy of your soul and mine would try to throw our focus off of Jesus.

Occasionally we have to (ANY Church has to) deal with someone who becomes disruptive "in Jesus' Name". In other words, they are great-hearted and good people, but can have and hold an attitude or opinion that what is happening in the service should not be happening the way it is.

So, they will try to "correct" what is happening in a disruptive way, all the time claiming they are speaking on behalf of the Holy Spirit, as though no one else leading the service is sensitive to what God is saying at the time. When you speak with them about it, they will often claim that they can't help it, as though God has taken them over in a way that is uncontrollable to them, which is actually unscriptural. They will also often claim that they are untouchable because they are "functioning in or with the anointing of the Holy Spirit."

The Apostle Paul wrote that, "The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace." (1 Corinthians 14:32-33, NIV) When someone is given a word of knowledge or wisdom, or a prophecy to be shared with the whole Church, they are never subjected to an "uncontrollable unction".

It ought always be shared with the authority and permission of the church leadership, whoever that may be at the time. On a day like today when I am not present as the Pastor, there is always someone else who is in charge. Today, that was Pastor John, and I think he did a great job handling the circumstance, along with some other wise and discerning leaders.

More than anything, when this does occur, it's a sign of the person's immaturity and lack of biblical understanding of the function of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Two of the signs I look for as a test of whether or not someone has an authentic word from the Lord are humility and peace. When there is a lack of one or both of those qualities present in what someone shares, you will likely find someone functioning more in the flesh than in the Spirit.

James wrote, "Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness." (James 3:13-18, NIV)

Didn't mean to turn that into a sermon, but just thought I'd toss that out there for affirmation and encouragement. At NewHeart, we fully accept, believe in, and desire to see more of the function of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and endeavor to do so in right order and Godliness, so that the whole body is built up and strengthened.

Food for thought ...

Quite the weekend

I had a BLAST this weekend serving alongside two OTHER Pastors officiating Gaylord Wolfe's wedding in Paso Robles. I REALLY enjoy officiating weddings, especially when a couple have made a concerted effort to put Jesus FIRST in their relationship as it develops toward the wedding.

I can't remember a time when I have officiated along with another Pastor, except for one other time, just last April. I was asked to stand at the front and ask the "Who gives this woman...?" question while MY Pastor, Chuck Shoemake walked his daughter down the aisle and answered the question. That wedding was alot of fun too, because I have known Chuck's daughter, Tisha, since she was a Jr. Higher!

Anyway, Gaylord's mom and Cathy, his new wife, both hail from Paso Robles, so Gaylord is moving there, which is sad for us, but GREAT for him. It was a real honor to get to know these other two Pastors.

One is Pastor Steve Boggan, from Living Waters Christian Fellowship, in the Heritage Ranch area of Paso Robles. That's where the wedding ceremony was held. Pastor Steve and his wife, Christina, have served there for 8 years now, but Pastor Steve has actually served 12 churches over 27 years!! WOW!!

The other Pastor is Pastor Steve Calagna (pronounced Kalanyay), from North County Christian Fellowship in Paso Robles. He planted that church 31 years ago and has led there ever since! It is always amazing to me how small the world is!

Pastor Steve (Calagna) told me he knew me from somewhere and recognized my name. Conversation turns out that he started his Masters of Divinity program in the same class I did back in August of 2000. BIG difference is that he finished and I didn't ... a whole other story. Anyway, later on he mentioned that he remembered leading worship for the class. As soon as he said that, I had this WILD deja vu moment and remembered his face from that class!

Getting to know those two guys was very cool and added to the blessing of the weekend! Another blessing was being able to get away for a little bit (even though it was a "working" weekend) with Colleen. With the kids at home, she doesn't get to travel with me much when I do travel, so we treasure chances like this.

We stayed at a very nice, but affordable hotel. I think it was so nice because it was brand new. Hope they're able to keep it as nice as we experienced it, which featured a great breakfast spread included in the price.

Well, we go down for breakfast and I run into two off-duty Simi Valley Police Officers, who also happen to be a newly married husband/wife couple. (For those who may not know, I am a Chaplain with the SVPD.) That was a fun surprise for the three of us!

When we got home, Colleen dropped me at a friends house, where I got to indulge in the Super Bowl on a great TV with some good friends who like to WATCH the game (a peeve of mine ... I really enjoy WATCHING the game, including commentary and replays ... am I getting too honest in this blog or what?).

I was personally glad to see Peyton Manning finally reach this pinnacle for himself. I was also proud of the way both coaches (who are strong Christians) handled themselves and their relationship with Jesus. I love to see God get the glory in our human endeavors!

I was also glad to hear that Brett Favre is returning for another season as Quarterback with the Green Bay Packers.

Anyway, that's all for now!

Friday, February 02, 2007

A Fulfilling Weekend

Most who know me are aware that I'm a "long haul" kind of guy. I am passionate about being involved in people's lives over the long haul. Heck, I've been here at NewHeart for over 21 years now! I suppose that says it.

Anyway, I get to have one of those long haul, very fulfilling kinds of weekends. This morning, Colleen and I will drive to Paso Robles, where Gaylord Wolfe is getting married to Cathy Anding tomorrow night.

For years, Gaylord and his late wife, Linda, were involved in our church, hanging through thick and thin. A number of years ago, Linda was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a form of blood cancer. We prayed and saw God do miracle after miracle. A little over two years ago, Linda's battle on this earth ended.

What a privilege it was to be involved in Linda and Gaylord's battle. This man was SO faithful to every need Linda had. And the Lord blessed him with such understanding employers, especially at the end of Linda's life.

Well, we grieved and celebrated like nobody's business at Linda's homegoing and beyond. And now, God has brought this wonderful lady, Cathy, to Gaylord's life. And I am honored to be a part of officiating at their wedding.

These are the times that I take a deep breath and say, "It's worth it!"