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Fluoride: friend or foe?

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Ok, now for one from the dental world. A very hot topic that has come to the forefront of dental discussions is the debate about fluoride, and the potential dangers associated with it. I get asked about it every single day in my office. For many decades now, there has been the advice of using fluoride to help strengthen enamel against the sugars, acids, etc. in our diet. Fluoride has a strong affinity for calcium, so as in the case of tooth enamel, which is predominantly calcium, it helps to “harden” the surface, making it less penetrable to acids and decay. It has also been heavily researched, defended and proven to be a solution for repairing and defending against the effects of a diet heavy in processed sugars, which is unfortunately what our society has today. Therein lies the major issue. Let me explain.

As a follower of a primal/paleo diet and lifestyle, I personally am against the processed junk all around that our society calls “food”, especially high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). I also am a proponent of overall chemical free healthy living, and along with that, I know that fluoride is debated to be among those chemicals. Many people have come to the conclusion that fluoride is potentially dangerous for our bodies, and I agree in part. Ingesting regular amounts of fluoride has been found to have a potential tie-in with multiple metabolic and physical issues due to its affinity for calcium, and that can be cited by a quick search of the internet. While I always caution people to not form opinions based on Google searches, one can see that there many potential dangers of over-ingestion of fluoride. In fact, I am actually NOT a fan of fluoridating our city water supplies for this very reason. I am, however, a fan of applying fluoride to the surface of the teeth, whether personally in toothpaste or professionally with fluoride treatments. Why? Simple. Many of us, especially our kids, have a diet very heavy in carbohydrates and sugars. Big business bottom lines and personal convenience have led us into a trap of eating virtually everything from a bag or box, and HFCS is everywhere. Many studies have been conducted to compare the difference in tooth decay and gum disease between cultures with processed food diets and ones with no processed foods. Big difference. When there is the presence of processed sugar, there will be the high risk of decay. With no processed sugars, little to no decay. Pretty easy concept.

So to counteract this processed diet, we need a solution to help repair and defend the enamel of our teeth, and that is fluoride. That doesn’t mean to drink it though. While there have been defenses stating it can help make teeth stronger as they are developing, once they form, ingesting fluoride no longer has a positive effect. It only has a positive effect on the enamel when it is applied topically. That’s mainly due to the fact of the known damages of sugar and acid on enamel, and the remineralizing effects of fluoride. Along those lines, many patients have been concerned because they have reverse osmosis filters in their homes, which remove fluoride. No big deal there. In fact, I think its ok to take it out of the water, but please don’t be afraid of your toothpaste. If you are a purist and want to use toothpaste products with no fluoride, that is fine, but also make sure you have NO sugars or processed foods in your diet! Otherwise, you may want to keep using the fluoride toothpaste. Granted, there are those who are genetically blessed with strong teeth, and even though they barely take care of themselves and they eat nothing but junk, somehow their teeth stay healthy. At least so far. My advice is to not push your luck though. That’s a rare blessing. Everyone else is subject to damage, that is unless you can have a sugarless diet, which by the way, is entirely possible. (You may want to read my earlier post “Put down the candy”)

So let’s not condemn fluoride. Let’s control the delivery of it, and not overdo it. Ultimately, you are in control of your own body and you make your own decisions. Inform yourself and make the call. As for me, I will always use fluoride even though I rarely have any sugar in my diet. I’ll drink my filtered water, but I’ll stick to the fluoride toothpaste. Its too risky in our society to remove it totally. I have seen too much in the dental chair to convince me otherwise. Just my two cents.


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I was reading an article in Men’s Health (not a huge fan of the magazine, it just came free with my Runner’s World subscription :)), and the author was writing about his battle with gratitude. Sounds interesting in itself. He stated that he was a very driven person, and driven people are programmed to not likely be grateful because they are always pushing for something greater. “Gratefulness implies complacency, and complacency is the sworn enemy of ambition.” Oh my. Fortunately, the article didn’t end with that definitive thought, yet it caused me to pause and think for a moment. Have I been guilty of that? Has my drive and pursuit to be the best I can be caused me to be ungrateful in any way? Do I push myself so hard that I completely miss what God is trying to give me? In a word, probably.

Our western society is formed on ambition. We strive every day to not only provide for oursleves and our families, but to learn and grow and become better at whatever we do. This is wonderful in itself, and it has allowed us to have the opportunities we have as a nation. However, it is a potential trap that can lead to destruction if not kept in check. By humility. If we aren’t careful, our ambition takes control of us, and we lose sight of the fact that we are ultimately not in control. That is, until something happens that changes your mind.

I’ve often fallen prisoner to ambition in my life. I’ve always felt an overarching feeling of self-reliance when it comes to getting something accomplished. I never liked group work in school. I didn’t play well with others. I liked to complete tasks alone and would relentlessly push myself to make them perfect. Looking back, I think there was some good in all of that because it helped me to develop a work ethic that would help me achieve things in life. However, it also often caused times of stress and needless tension when things didn’t go just right, or at least the way I had planned. I know there were also many times of too much self-reliance, causing me to forget about the One who created me to be begin with. The One who allowed me to even have the opportunity to do what I was doing. I can see that I did not have the grateful heart that I shoud have had. I was so clouded by ambition and focus, that I forgot to look for the direction being offered to me.

Is that you? Are you a prisoner to ambition? Do you focus so hard on your goals that you forget to let God lead, even in the small details of everyday life? Do you find yourslef pushing and shoving to get your way to the top? How does it feel when you get there?

Let’s all take a breather. Let’s take a moment to look back just a bit and see what has gone well in our lives, and what hasn’t. Let’s re-evaluate our goal setting to where we don’t become so focused that we forget how to be thankful for what we have. Today is a gift, and it would be a shame to waste it because we’re so focused on tomorrow. Let’s not let ourselves be so driven, that we neglect the One that wants to help us steer the car. Let’s take a moment to be grateful…before we burn out.

A beautiful heart

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One thing in life you learn to expect is the unexpected. We can be living our days as planned and then something out of blue comes and takes us by surprise. Often, these are exciting moments…the news of a child coming, a promotion at work, a friend coming to visit…many things that put a smile on our faces. Then there are those other moments…the not so exciting ones. In fact, some moments happen that make no earthly sense at all. But perhaps they do if we look deeper.

Six years ago, we had the blessing of welcoming a little spit-fire Guatemalan baby boy into our home. To say that he has changed our lives is a huge understatement. One aspect of our journey with him is that we have become friends with some of the greatest people we’ve ever known, and who have been on the same adoption journey as we have. My wife quickly bonded with the other mothers and lovingly refers to them as “doers”. If something needs done, they will do it. I can say the same about the dads. These people just have a heart to serve and put others above themselves…a true example of Christian love. One particular family quickly became close to us, and we found our morals, personalities, and opinions about life to be so very similar. This family has made a distinct impression on us however, because they deal with a lot of adversity, yet always have a spirit of joy and servitude. I struck a chord (literally) with the father, Jeremy, and truly would enjoy times we would have together, always learning from him. We would just sit, drink coffee, and talk about life. We both loved music and Jesus. We both loved our families. What impacted me the most was his peaceful countenace. You see, Jeremy had struggles. While he was a gifted leader in his career, being a nurse and director of a local heart hospital and helping others in their medical issues, he had physical struggles of his own. But you would never hear about it. He had battled multiple sclerosis for years, even though he was just in his early thirties. However, he was always more concerned with those around him. That’s just the way it was. A few years ago, things started to change medically and symptomatically for him, and it caused him to live life a little differently. Earlier this year, Jeremy decided to start living more courageously. He had always loved motorcycles, and one day, he just up and bought one. We all thought he had gone crazy, but he knew that at some point in his life, he wouldn’t be able to ride one, so while he had the chance, he was going to do it. Made perfect sense. He loved that bike and would ride it whenever he had the opportunity. One night, however, a simple bike ride to get dinner for his family turned out to be his last. He was taken to Heaven in an instant when he struck another vehicle. Time seemed to stop.

To know Jeremy was to know a man extremely dedicated to God and to his family. He grew up in a very conservative Christian home and that established an uncompromising attitude toward life. He loved his wife Sandy. He loved his four children. He loved his career. He loved caring for people. His greatest fear however was that his MS would take such a toll on him that he would be a burden to his family. You see, he was a provider and protector. He wanted to make sure his family was going to be cared for. But he realized that his illness was a reality and that it would eventually take its toll, so they started planning for it. They also started doing more things together as a family. They started gripping life by the tail and running with it. In fact, just one week before he passed, they spent a week at Disney World enjoying each other and celebrating life. He lived bravely, not safely.

Its interesting that an individual who had dedicated his career to helping the hearts of others, had the biggest, most beautiful heart of all. He stood strong in his faith, yet humbled himself to others as a servant. Often times as a society, we get so obsessed with mindless details that we miss the beauty of life. Sometimes, it takes a tragedy to kick us upside the head and refocus us. With the passing of this dear friend, I can tell you this. I will never again obsess about the trivial. I will recognize each day as a true blessing that God has given me. He has blessed each of us beyond what we deserve and we need to ALWAYS have a grateful attitude for it. We also need to jump into life and be brave. While that doesn’t justify silly behavior, it does call us to be confident in what we do and trust that our steps are ordered. It also calls us to help those around us. Its so easy in this me-oriented society to be isolated and independent. But that’s not how God has called us to live. He wants us to invest in each other, lifting each other up. Carry someone else’s burden for a little while, and you’ll suddenly feel your burdens don’t weigh that much. That’s how Jeremy lived his life, and while we mourn his loss to all of us, especially his dear family, we rejoice in knowing that his Christ- centered life and attitude has allowed him to literally be at the feet of Jesus now. No doubt about it. His house was in order. He is rejoicing in eternity and is without any more struggles. And for us, he has shown us how to live, and to walk along with each other until we see him again.

So go. Live your life to the fullest. Be brave. Invest in your family. Invest in your friends. Be a light to the world and let God make your heart beautiful. I’m so thankful that I had the chance to see what a beautiful heart looks like. Jeremy, thank you for the life you lived. You can know that your family will be alright because we’ll make sure of it. We’ll see you soon, friend. Do us a favor though, and save a seat for us at the table.

Put down the candy

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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

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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?

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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

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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

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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.

Debut project “A Few More Miles” will be released in January 2010. Now accepting pre-orders!

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Hit the Ground Running

Midnight Cry

You Would Think He Would Learn

I’m working really hard to get this project completed!  It’s in the final stages of production and I am hoping to get it out by mid-January 2010.  It has been such a blast putting this together.  Many hours of song selection were spent in order to find songs that not only encouraged Christians in their daily walks, but to lovingly invite those who don’t know Jesus into a personal relationship with him.  I also have a deep love for southern and country gospel music, so I had to make sure it reflected my personality. 🙂  I feel I can best relate the good news of the gospel to people through music that reaches my heart as well.  The driving theme in the album, as noted by the title, is that we are truly living in the last days.  As foretold in scripture, the second coming of the Lord Jesus is very near.  As we are struggling as a nation and as individuals to make everything work, we must know that God had this planned out way before the beginning of time.  Let’s pray for each other…let’s be encouragers of each other…and let’s do what we can to spread the good news of salvation to everyone we meet.  Most of all, with so many distractions in our way, let’s keep our energy up…we only have “A Few More Miles” to go!!

I pray that this album will do what the Lord wants it to do, and that it is purely a mirror of His love for us.  We serve a wonderful God and I can’t wait to see what is in store.  May God bless each and every one of you!