Put down the candy

Written by admin. Posted in Uncategorized

Sugar…its everywhere. It has become a staple of our society and culture. Its in all the “yummy” things we eat. Its in the gifts we give each other, and used to celebrate virtually every special occasion or holiday. It gives us that energy rush or quick pick-me-up on a long afternoon. It is perhaps one of the most widely used substances today. But is it really ok to eat? Now, I am not here to sabotage Halloween fun, but I do want you to think about this a little bit.

As a dentist, of course I’m going to say its not good for your teeth. I see the damage of sugars every day. On the same token, if there were no sugars in our diet, we would have little to no risk of decay. Apart from that though, what is it doing to your body? Click here for an awesome explanation.

Let me validate myself by saying I am a former sugar addict. I would eat my fair share of sugar and carbs, but I would rationalize it because I run a lot. The problem is the more sugar I ate (which came in carbs of all kinds) the more cravings I would get. I quickly found that it is a dangerous cycle, as referenced above. So I stopped. No more sugar. Right, you say. You may think its impossible, but I’m here to say not only is it possible, it is essential. You may want it, but you don’t need it.

But what about all those family get-togethers? What about social stuff? What about the holidays? What about Halloween, and Christmas, and Valentine’s, and Easter? Well, what does it matter? Who says that it all has to be about the food? How about we all focus on the fact of being together and enjoying one another. You should truly be more concerned with your long-term health and well-being than worrying if you’ll offend a family member by not eating their dessert. Seriously, if someone close to you is offended by you not eating their food, you need to reevaluate their “closeness”. If they love you, they’ll respect you and your desires. Perhaps they’ll even want to find out more about what you are doing.

Trust me, this sugar thing is really that important. Look at our society. Metabolic syndrome (obesity, heart disease, diabetes, inactivity) has taken over and taken us prisoner as a nation. Its time to take a hard look and see what can be done to fix it. It starts with the person in the mirror. While governing organizations, big pharmaceutical companies, and special interest groups will always advise us in one way or another, I suggest you do your homework. Learn about the body God gave you. Respect it. Then tell someone about it so they can do the same. So put down the candy, the dessert, the can of soda…you’ll thank yourself later.

Forever changed

Written by admin. Posted in Uncategorized

Well, this is going to be a tough one to explain for sure. Having just come back from our mission trip to Guatemala a few days ago, the emotions and feelings are still very raw and overwhelming. Little did we know that many months ago when we decided to pursue a trip to Casa Bernabe, we would be affected the way we have at this point. Obviously Guatemala is very special to us considering our oldest son was born there, but now we are at a whole new level of appreciation and sensitivity to the country and the people there. We were simply not prepared for the impact it was going to make on us…and now we are forever changed because of it. Let me also say that while our experience was with Guatemala, there are countless other examples in other countries that have affected countless other people in similar ways. It all comes down to an “aha” moment. A moment where God smacks you up side the head and reveals a truth that’s always been there, but you were too blind to see. Ours came this past week.

You see, we live in a very protected and safe society. We have freedoms and liberties that we have completely taken for granted. We have made a mockery of the sacrifices made for us to have what we have. We live in a society of greed. We expect things to happen when we want them to, and even then, its not fast enough. We are always looking out for ourselves. We are spoiled. Just take a trip to the local store of your choice and watch how people behave. You don’t have to look very far to see agitation, impatience, anger, and frustration. We also live in a society of vanity. We are so obsessed with how we look that we will go to any length to be the most attractive, best dressed, etc. What’s worse is our children are growing up in this environment. Scary. What has happened to us? How can we change our perspective? How can we truly be more like Christ? Our experience in Guatemala taught us pretty quickly…we need to start placing others in front of ourselves.

I will take a step farther into this by saying that I have too often fallen short here. Many times I have been so focused on myself that I have been completely blind to what was happening around me. I will be the first to say that this eventually causes nothing but heartache. God never designed us for solo living. I have often felt otherwise though. Its so easy, especially if you are more introverted by nature, to just “do it all by yourself”. Friend, let me say that this is not a smart idea. You will eventually be presented a challenge in this life, and it will not be possible to “fix it” alone. We need friends. We need people praying for us and with us. We need Christ in us to teach us to do the same for others. We saw this over and over again at Casa Bernabe. We were bombarded with love. We watched as children loved and hugged each other rather than fight over toys. We listened to them sing at the top of their lungs in praise at their Sunday morning worship service. We talked with people who were so passionate about others, and who drew their happiness out of seeing other people’s needs met. Amazing. What a lesson for me. I thank God for the opportunity to have seen that…and now because of it, I will never be the same.

So what happens next? I am not sure. What I do know is that things will be different, regardless. Those little faces we saw and held will forever be etched in our minds. When God started working through my amazing wife many years ago to stretch me and open our family to what we’ve seen and done, I had no idea how powerfully we would be impacted. It is a continuous process though, as God will always have more to reveal to us. We need to humble ourselves to His will and open our eyes to His leading. His timing is perfect and His love is forever. I can’t wait to see how He orchestrates the future for us and for the lives of the little children at Casa Bernabe. No matter what He has in store, I am eternally grateful for Him speaking to me through children that don’t even speak my same language. Thank you, Lord. Keep us in your will and keep us on the path you have for us. Help us to love others like you love them…

Your will or God’s?

Written by admin. Posted in Uncategorized

It seems like this question has been ever present in my mind for many years now. Ever since I came to the realization of what God’s salvation through Christ actually meant, and how it changed me, I have been burdened with the issue of “My will vs. Thy will”. Knowing that even Jesus Christ himself prayed “Thy will be done” as part of his model prayer for all of us, I realize that I need to be praying the same thing daily. But how do we make sense of this? How do we know that what we are doing is God’s will for us? What do we need to look/listen for?

I heard a song lyric many years ago from a song by Brian Sirchio that said, “Where your greatest joy intersects with the needs of the world…go and find that place…and find your calling at the crossroads.” Hmmm. That’s an interesting thought. We all want to find our “calling” in life. I can’t say how many times I’ve sat and wept because I didn’t know what my calling was, or wished I was doing something different. One of the greatest things of our society is that we have the ability to do and become virtually anything we desire. We have the freedom to do so and as long as we put the effort and time forth, we can pretty much achieve anything in our sights. That’s also one of the most dangerous things of our society. With our inherent sinful nature, when we have the liberty and freedom to do anything we want, we always default to wanting more. It is very easy to think we are bigger than what we actually are. Just look at our celebrities and star athletes. So many of them have become so large, that their humanity cannot handle their fame. Just the same for all the rest of us. When we have the freedom to become more, we need to have some perspective and restraint. My point is this…our world needs a little of everything. We cannot all be superstars. We won’t all be rich. There has to be a system of everybody working together, or else it wouldn’t work. Unfortunately, we have taught ourselves that if you don’t become successful, wealthy, and famous, you are somehow lesser than the person next to you who is. Well, that is simply wrong. We are ALL equal in God’s sight. We all have different gifts and abilities, and some will do more in this life than others, but ALL are important to God’s will and His purpose for this life.

So back to figuring out God’s will for you. How do you know? Well, the first step is to humble yourself before God in prayer and ask for Him to grant you discernment. What are your gifts? What do you love to do? What brings you the greatest joy? Next, how can you see that fitting in to serving others? Is there a need that your joy can fill for those around you? Remember, you don’t need to think that you have to do something that will make you wealthy. That’s not true success. I have met some very wealthy people who are very successful, as the world defines it, and they are the most burdened and unhappy people I have ever met. It is true that we all have the ability of becoming successful in this life, but we need to recognize what the word actually means to us. Folks, there can be no greater success than knowing you are using what you have to win others to Christ. That should be the focus of whatever we are doing in this life. All else is fleeting and temporary. Money will one day disappear. Our “stuff” will one day disappear. However, your salvation is eternal and so is the person’s next to you who hasn’t been witnessed to yet. Now is your chance.

I had a mentor say to me once that your career doesn’t always have to be your passion. Some people are blessed to be doing what they are passionate about as a career. That’s awesome! However, some people have a career to allow them to be able to pursue their passion. That’s awesome too! Regardless of the avenue, we need to be sure that we do what we are doing with a servant’s heart. That should be everyone’s “calling”. When we focus on the needs of those around us, God is able to bless our hearts in ways we never thought possible. So, all in all, God’s will for us is to glorify Him in everything that we do. Whether you are a doctor, lawyer, pastor, coach, cashier, secretary, actor, musician, teacher, construction worker, missionary, fireman, business owner, housewife, photographer…or whatever…you need to do it with confidence and a servant’s heart. Find your joy and do it. Serve others and be thankful for each day God has allowed you to do so. One day we will all know how the pieces all fit together. Until then…may God bless your efforts…

Fact vs. Fear

Written by admin. Posted in Uncategorized

I’ve often heard that life is just a series of decisions. Yikes. That is a daunting thought for those of us who have trouble making them! Some people have indifferent personalities, while some want to make decisions, but are afraid to for fear of what might happen. I’ve always been one of the latter. Its so much easier to let others decide what to do and I’ll just follow along. I’m not a risk taker or one who lives “on the edge”. I am especially not one to easily tell others what to do. I have also always craved the security of planning things out and being prepared. If things are all in their place, the world is in harmony. Yeah right. How life has taught me otherwise. Now, this is certainly not an argument for chaos and living life by the seat of your pants, but it is one for adapting to adversity and being okay with that. Man, that is tough…

At the time of this writing, we are amid a time of decision as a family. As many of you know, we have been preparing and planning our mission trip to Guatemala to serve in a local orphanage there. We have hosted numerous concerts, fundraisers, product sales, meetings, and more to help make a way for this trip to happen. Over the last few weeks we have seen the enemy try and erode our efforts. I have always understood how Satan wants to destroy every good work for the Lord, but have not seen it as much as I have recently. He has come in between some of the people involved and created hostility and anger. He has also tried to discourage us by allowing our hearts to be distracted by recent geographic events. Unbelievably, Guatemala has been hit by a destructive volcano eruption, followed two days later by a massive tropical storm, causing landslides and sinkholes. People have died and many others have become homeless. Thousands of others have been evacuated from the homes. People have been affected very dramatically and it has caused many to be afraid…including us. Now what? Well, one way Satan works against us is in our fear. But we also have a promise in scripture. 2 Timothy 1:7 encourages us that “God did not give us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” Awesome words. When posed with a decision that could possibly have some risk attached, we start to shy away. I know I do. So in this time, our strength is gained from reading and meditating on His word. We will continue to follow the Lord’s leading and finish the work he has called us to do…

We may still find out that we cannot go to Guatemala, but there is peace in knowing that is up to the Lord. We will keep on until God closes the door if He chooses. I know that some people will probably not read this until after all of this has or has not happened, but it is just an example of what we all need to learn about life. God gives us the liberty to make our own decisions, but all the while, He is standing by to guide us if we humble ourselves and ask. We need to be encouraged that our decisions should be based on fact and not fear. I am beginning to see that decisions become much easier when we find out all we can about the situation, pray for wisdom, and then make the decision. Then we can ask for God to bless the decision because we have done all we can feasibly do in preparation. One thing we shouldn’t do is beg God to “give us a sign” because that is not faith. It is laziness. Faith is about learning all you can, making a decision based on fact, and trusting the Lord to bless your actions if that is His will. Tough one, eh?

What decisions do you have to make today? This week? This year? Are you willing to put the energy forth to do what you can and trust that God is walking along with you all the way? I, for one, will vow to do this in my life. I have failed at it so many times, but praise God for His grace and unconditional love to give me another chance. May He grant you strength to deal with whatever you have in front of you. Just be sure to not let fear get in your way…

Memorial Day

Written by admin. Posted in Uncategorized

This weekend is more than just a break from our work. It is more than just an “unofficial start of summer”. It is more than just a time to cookout and be with family and friends. These are all great things, but it all pales in respect to the real reason for our holiday. Formerly known as Decoration Day, the holiday of Memorial Day is a very special and impactful one for many in our country. Being set aside to honor all of those men and women who have selflessly given of their lives in service to this country, Memorial Day should be a solid reminder of what we hold dear. Freedom. Freedom to choose. Freedom to worship. Freedom to speak. Freedom to live…

So much of freedom has been distorted through the years. Unfortunately due to our human nature, we have made freedom become a license for entitlement and indulgence. Too many people don’t even have the slightest idea of the sacrifices made in order to give us our freedom. Well, to those of you who have served, those of you have lost a family member or close friend in service, and those of you who are serving now, this American salutes you with my head held high. Thank you all for what you have done for us. We will never be able to repay you fully for what you have provided. So in the humblest of words….thank you and God bless you.

The one thing that is greater than this, however, is what gives us a chance of eternal freedom. No sacrifice is greater than the one that happened on Calvary’s hill 2000 years ago. The Creator of our universe humbled himself to become a sacrifice for ALL of our sins. Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price of death, in order to give us a hope of Heaven one day. I am forever grateful to have a personal relationship with Jesus, and I, for one, will dedicate the remainder of my days in service and thankfulness to Him for what He did for me. I pray that you know this same Savior, and if you don’t, please contact me. I would love to talk and pray with you and introduce Him to you. A life lived for Christ provides the ultimate freedom!

So as we celebrate this weekend, please take a moment to reflect on what is dear to you. Take a moment to give thanks to those who have served. Take a moment to thank God for what He has given us. Freedom.

Fussy people…

Written by brandon. Posted in Uncategorized

Ah…where to begin? Perhaps the title has caught your curiosity. I find myself interacting daily with at least someone who I lovingly refer to as “fussy”. You know who they are…the people that just aren’t satisfied with whatever they have. They always have something to gripe or complain about because life “just isn’t fair”. It truly is amazing to see over the three plus decades of my life on this Earth, how people these days are less and less settled with things. You know the familiar statements. “If only I made more money…” “I really wish I had a bigger house…” “Why can’t my spouse act more like my friend’s spouse?” “Why are my kids always so needy?” “I hate my job…” “I wish I could lose some weight…” “My arms…my teeth…my legs…blah, blah, blah…” Folks, the list can go on and on…

To bring a bit of perspective into this, I need to explain my upbringing. I was blessed to grow up in a small town, where not a lot of excitement happened, but we always had something to do and friends to do it with. Things moved a lot slower than what they do for me today where there is opportunity and privilege around every corner. People rush around in a day-to-day life today that my grandparents would never imagine living. Research and technology have allowed us to instantly communicate with virtually anyone at anytime. Our companies push us to produce, produce, produce…to where the American way is more about profit than freedom. We have developed our society into one that instantly gratifies us, and if something happens to not do so, we become bent out of shape. That’s the interesting part. The more we try to make our lives better, the worse it gets. Now don’t get me wrong…there is a time and place for everything. We should always be striving to learn and grow and not sit on our laurels and be lazy. I strongly applaud work ethic. In fact, that could almost be another subject to discuss sometime….and I probably will. But anyway, back to the subject at hand…:) Why is life so hectic these days? Why do we keep such busy schedules and rush our kids into 20+ activities? Why are people so stressed and at each others’ throats about things? Why? Why are people so fussy?

God designed us in a fearful and wonderful way. (Psalm 139:14) He knew exactly how to form us and what we could do. He created us in His image and designed us for His glory. We truly have the ability to do anything we set our minds and hearts to. How exciting! That is so encouraging to realize because with God’s blessing, He can help us overcome any obstacle or achieve anything. But wait a second…there might be something here. Notice I didn’t write “we alone can achieve anything.” Only by His strength can we stand. Only be His grace can we live. You see, we are ALL sinners and we will continue to be until the day we die. But it is only by His sacrifice of Christ on the cross of Calvary that can we amount to anything. God knew from the moment he breathed life into Adam that we would one day need a Savior. He knew that we would try and do it all on our own, but then find a breaking point. He knows that we are in a crazy time today and that we are all “stressed out”. He knows our reluctance to trust Him…but somehow He is still standing there waiting on us. So just stop. Breathe. Take a moment and chill. Is it really important to fuss about all this stuff around us? No…it isn’t.

As we prepare to travel to Guatemala in a few weeks, I am praying for God to start transforming my heart. Being adoptive parents, we had the privilege of seeing Guatemala first hand when we met our son for the first time. Let me just say how different life is to those people. They have nothing, yet are so happy. They work harder than you or I could imagine, yet make next to nothing. Now there is nothing unique about Guatemala. This is true in any “third world” country where they don’t have the freedoms and liberties we have here. In our country, hard work reaps reward. Plain and simple. There, hard work rarely reaps reward. All I will say about it is this. Stop fussing, people. We have more than we will EVER deserve. We have the ability to go anywhere, do anything, and say anything we want. Sure, we all aren’t millionaires, but so what. Would you be happier if you were? I doubt it. Our human nature is to look for something bigger and better no matter where we are financially. Now again, don’t misinterpret me. I am not a socialist or do I support that kind of society, but I do support the idea of being happy with whatever you have. More than that, I support us being thankful for everyday that God has blessed us with. He doesn’t have to give us that…

So what can you be thankful for today? What has God blessed you with? How can you take what He has given to you and bless others? I pray that we can all start to see how wonderful things really are. There is a lyric to a gospel song that says, “I woke up this morning and there was no hearse at my door…so I’m going to thank Him for another day”. Do you think you can live your life like that? I want to. God wants us all to…

So please, let’s all stop fussing…

Marriage and family…

Written by brandon. Posted in family, marriage

On the heels of celebrating Mother’s Day as a family, my thoughts and emotions are drawn to a very hot topic: marriage. What is it really all about? What is the purpose of marriage? Why does there seem to be an epidemic of failing marriages today? Why do so many men cheat on their wives? Why are so many people unhappy in their marriages? Lots of questions…some difficult or maybe even impossible to answer. For some help, let’s look first at what God has to say about it…

Marriage was designed by God himself. Genesis 2:22 “Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.” Then God explains further in verse 24, “That is why a man leaves his father and unites with his wife, and they become a new family.” God made the husband and wife together for His glory.

Now let me take a step back and recognize a few things. What about people who are single? What about people who desperately long and pray for marriage but never seem to find the right person? What about people who have been widowed? Again, important questions that are sometimes hard or impossible to explain. Simply because God designed marriage, doesn’t mean He designed it for every person. Even the apostle Paul led a single life, and was one of the most influential witnesses for Christ. Essentially a point here is that God doesn’t have to call you into marriage to lead a meaningful and godly life, BUT when he does call you into a life of marriage, it is one of great importance and that is what I want to talk about here. So any of you who are married or planning to marry, listen up!!

My wife and I have been studying a series entitled “Marriage on the Rock” by Jimmy Evans. It is a very poignant and direct introspective into what a God-centered marriage is all about and how to make your marriage a solid union based on biblical principles and foundations. It helps you learn about how to effectively communicate with your spouse, recognize each others strengths and weaknesses, and work together as one unit to live out your lives in honor to God. For sake of space and time, let me just point out a few highlights that have caught our attention and that may be able to help shed light on the curse that is affecting our families today.

Perhaps the most impactful issue is what is important to men and women. God wired us all differently with different personalities and desires, but there is a common bond among all men and among all women. Men need honor and women need security. Sounds odd to boil it down to one word for each sex, but it is very true. Men function at their very best when they are validated and have a feeling of honor. It is oxygen to them and allows them to be the best that they can be. When men are marginalized or demeaned in any way, it very quickly destroys their self-confidence which then leads to a flurry of destructive behavior. Women, on the other hand, crave and need security. When a woman feels secure, they are able to flourish and function in a very powerful way, and be strong in their daily walk. Take that security away, and you destroy a woman’s self-confidence and they will want to find security on their own, which can lead to a feeling of loneliness and abandonment from their husband. However you may “feel” about this, we need to know that God set up these dynamics for His glory and if we recognize this, we will be able to better understand the divine order of marriage. God designed the husband to lead the home with love and wisdom, while he designed the wife to be the anchor of emotional support and edification for the home. When a wife helps to validate and support the husband, he is able to lead as God designed him to. When a wife is protected and loved, as Christ loved the church, she is secure and able to be a rock for the family. If we violate these dynamics, it sets the stage for failure.

Think about it. What is the common denominator in a marriage struck by infidelity? Too often, the man doesn’t communicate properly, becomes very passive in his leadership, leading to the wife feeling insecure, then the wife tries to pick up the pieces and take charge, and very easily becomes critical of the husband, leading to a dynamic of dishonor. Then guess what, the instinct of the man is to seek honor, so he finds it in the attention of another woman. Boom. An affair happens. This then leads to the woman feeling even more insecure, leading to more destruction of the husband/wife godly dynamic. It goes nowhere but down…the marriage is essentially destroyed and both are at fault.

Also think about this. We live in a society of selfishness. The world teaches us to look out for “number 1”. Folks, there is nothing good about that. It drives our sinful nature and selfishness, which leads to our inability to relate and communicate with those around us, especially our spouses. We become so obsessed with things that will “make us happy”. Its interesting to see that the pursuit of this leads to more “unhappiness” though. This is unhealthy for both men and women. We easily fall into a cycle of struggling for power both in our work and our family. Men in this situation bring home a poor attitude, which leads to poor leadership and poor love and respect for his wife, and then the cycle described above can easily happen again. I haven’t even brought up what this does to our children. They are modeled a destructive behavior and the cycle easily continues into the next generation. It is a dead end road. Ever experience any of this?

All of this to say, we need to work harder. Men, step up! Take leadership of your life and your family. Encourage and lift up your wife. Women, honor your husband and encourage him. Work together and approach life as one body. Remember, God made it to work that way! Obviously, this is not an overnight fix. Especially if you have struggled in this area, it takes a constant effort. The husband and wife both need to be on board. If your spouse is not on board, pray that the Holy Spirit can change their heart. Be encouraged, if you stay vigilant and focused on your marriage, God can save it! There is NO marriage that is beyond repair. You have to desire it though…

Friends, may God bless your efforts, and in all of it, let us give Him the praise! He has and always will have our best interest in mind. He wants you to live an abundant life that is lived in humility and honor to Him. Let’s get to it!!!

Order your copy of “A Few More Miles” today!

Written by brandon. Posted in Uncategorized

Check out the brand new album entitled “A Few More Miles”! Make sure to order your copy today!  You can use the Paypal link on the left side of this blog.  Remember ALL proceeds go towards mission work for Casa Bernabe Orphanage in Guatemala. You can listen below to a few song samples from the 12 track project…enjoy!

Hit The Ground Running

His Life For Mine

Soon We Will See

Midnight Cry

You Would Think He Would Learn

Climbing Up The Mountain