Monday, June 26, 2017

One Extreme to Another...

This morning it hit me that I've been gone more the past two months than I've been home. Out of the past 57 days, I've been gone 30 of them (or more). Now granted, not all were ministry related, some were family vacation. But let me tell you this, some things I looked forward to, others I didn't. As a matter of fact, I was really looking forward to vacation, but seriously dreading church camp. However, after it was all said and done, I enjoyed church camp way more.

You see, Sherri and I took a cruise to the Caribbean in early May. Oh the vacation was fabulous and it was nice to let our hair down. However, as fun as it was, there were aspects that we simply did not enjoy because we do not surround ourselves with such things. Not because we look down on those who do, but because we simply do not want to surround ourselves with the temptation; it is far too great for us to withstand. We love to cruise, but we will be looking for healthier options for cruising and vacationing.

With that said, I was not looking forward to camp season. 3 weeks, super hot, and kids everywhere. In my own opinion, I teach adults better; I simply have trouble relating a message to kids. In fact, my own children echo this. It was out of my comfort zone to say the least. But first came the High School kids. Wow. What a surprise that was. So many of those kids have a solid faith under them. Not only that, but it was refreshing to see them growing closer to God through the camp. That week I led family groups and played sports I hadn't played in a long time. It was so much fun.

The next week was 3rd - 6th grade, which I was the main speaker for. This is what I was so nervous about. Would the message that I was trying to convey get across to a bunch of tweens? Well, as much as I lacked confidence in myself, I knew God would use me to speak to them, in spite of my weakness in teaching younger children. Once again, God moved in mighty ways. Kids were working through tough situations, letting go of hurt, pain and anger, and simply opening up to God's lead. God showed up immensely.

Then came Junior High week. The week everyone was the most exhausted. The week that could be the most difficult simply because of the age of the kids. Sunday and Monday had no shortage of difficulty. There were some major obstacles blocking God's movement in that camp. We're talking major spiritual battles. Many of us leaders felt it, especially in one of the campers. That's when we enlisted the help of the prayer warriors in our home churches. That's when the team came together in prayer at camp to break the walls down. God came through Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Between the main camp speaker, the teachers in the morning and the testimonies at campfire, God moved those walls. By the time Thursday night came, only a handful of kids didn't get up from their seat for prayer. Even then, I could see those still in the pews wrestling in prayer. God came through, like He always does.

From one extreme to the other, it's been a roller coaster of emotions the past 2 months. As much as I loved the cruise; as much fun as I had relaxing and letting my hair down, I had more fun working my behind off for 3 weeks at camp. I enjoyed seeing the next generation of Christians forming in their walk before my very eyes. I am still saddened for the future of what our country holds for my fellow Christians and I as time moves on. I dislike the fact that our camp has been smaller in recent years. However, what I do like? The fact that the quality of those kids in our churches is heads and tails above what it has been. We are no longer raising lukewarm kids. They are serious about their faith. Yes they struggle. Yes they can get lukewarm at times. But they're committed. They're serious. And God is preserving a remnant in the children we see before our eyes in our churches. Invest in the kids. Disciple them. Pour the faith, grace, mercy and hope into them as God has poured it into you. Don't lament over lack of numbers. Rejoice in the quality of those present.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Food & The Christian Life

Food. There's just something about it that comforts the soul. It can take you back to your childhood when mom and grandma made those fabulous meals. However, it can also be a trigger to painful memories depending on taste, texture or flavor. As Christian's, we understand that food is talked about a lot in the Bible, everything from sharing meals to the sin of gluttony. The purpose of food is multifaceted. We need it to fuel our bodies. It can be used as a fellowship tool. It is one of the items behind festivals, holiday's, and feast days. It is a ministry...with it we can help those who are hungry by giving what we have in excess, facilitate fundraisers, or even help others learn how to use food wisely.

Recently, I've been confronted with a bout of anxiety. Within this bout are deep seeded issues within myself that I must work through. One of the things I've been convicted of is this very idea of food. Sometimes, I just eat to eat. Boredom, self-comfort, and even just because I want to. It was in this that I realized why I hadn't gained or lost weight recently in my weight loss journey.

I had been on anxiety meds before, and I knew a side effect of them was increased appetite, so 2 years ago, I felt it time to get off the meds, so I stopped meds, changed what and how I ate, using more natural ingredients and picked up my walking habit that had waxed and waned over the years a bit. I lost 20 pounds over the course of that time frame. But I bottomed out and hovered within 5 pounds either direction for a while. Then the anxiety came again. When that happens, I naturally lose my appetite a bit anyway. This was the motivation I needed to really look at why I had bottomed out and not lost weight. I love food...too much. I mean, I went to Culinary School. I'm a sucker for a good meal. But the problem is, everything I strove to accomplish was undone by snacking and processed carbs. I had cut my carb intake anyway, because I discovered I was gluten intolerant when I kicked off this weight loss journey.

With that said, I kicked processed breads, sugars, high fructose anything, canned things and processed food (for sodium reasons primarily) altogether in favor of fresh/frozen instead. I eat more boneless skinless chicken breast, fish, beans, and legumes for protein. I cut my calorie intake from 2000 to about 1500. In the 2 1/2 weeks post Thanksgiving weekend wake up, I've shed another 18 pounds. I've increased my walking again in addition to my eating habits. The pounds are melting off. And that's when it hit me. I LOVE the way I'm eating now, I feel better, AND the pounds are disappearing! It occurred to me that eating healthy doesn't have to be a drag. I discovered that food is a lot more important than I had originally thought...and I've always thought the ministry of food was important. I discovered that gluttony is a much bigger problem in America than I realized at first. That's when God led me to realize that I have a gift that He wants me to use for His glory.

With my education in the Culinary Arts and calling to minister to God's people, God can and wants use me in a very valuable way to tackle the issue of gluttony and healthy eating. Eating can be fabulous and healthy at the same time. I believe God wants me to help other people who struggle with gluttony, weight loss and eating healthy (and for the right reasons) as a ministry. I've been equipped to help others fight this fight. So, let's do this.

In a nutshell, here's what I've done. I've cut processed carbs like all breads, pastas, sugars, high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated & fractionated oils, margarine (I use unsalted butter ONLY if I can't substitute), canned goods, processed foods (boxed potatoes, meal helpers, canned soups, deli meats, etc.), reduced dairy and beef intake, started with a quality fish oil supplement, increased boneless, skinless chicken breast, natural skinless turkey breast, and fish intake, increased fresh fruits and veggies (or frozen), beans and legumes, healthy nuts and natural grains, and I used more healthy oils like canola, olive and sesame oil instead of butter. I make an Ezekiel bread, not sprouted, but whole grains and use that as a "bread" of sorts. It doesn't do well with sandwiches like PB&J, but the PB, unless you make it yourself is loaded with bad oils like palm, hydrogenated and fractionated oils, and the J is loaded with sugar. I've also downloaded a calorie counter to help me keep track of what I'm taking in.

In addition to this, what's needed is some cooking skills. First, cut out frying altogether. Stop frying stuff. Fried stuff, even pan frying, is bad. When oven baking, use a wire rack to raise whatever it is off of the pan so it doesn't soak and cook in the grease. Steaming is the best, obviously, so I've combined the saute idea with the steam idea. For breakfast, it's homemade oatmeal with honey and nuts or fruit of some sorts, yogurt and a homemade low/no sugar granola that has nuts and dried cranberries or raisins. I also throw in a healthy cereal like a puffed rice or oat O's once in a while. For lunch its a tossed veggie salad with beans, chicken or fish as a protein, with usually no dressing. I try to leave a little sauce when I cook my beans to wet down the veggies or even use a very small dab of vinegar/olive oil to help moisten it up. However, I've come to love no dressing on a salad. (That wasn't always the case...I had to have a little something, though I've never been a huge fan of dousing the dressing on a salad.) Sometimes, if there is a leftover from the night before, I'll use that someway. For dinner, I usually chop up some veggies and a protein of some sorts and saute them with a tiny bit of olive oil and sesame oil. I'll season with various things...anything from turmeric and Italian herbs, apple cider vinegar and a pepper herb, or even a southwest spice motif. The idea is that you use enough herbs and spices without adding salt. You can put a little wine in to add flavor, or I put water in. Either way, it helps to 'steam' the veggies. I usually find that I get enough sodium from other things to cover my necessary intake and the other flavors really add enough punch to cover the reduced salt (pepper does well too). Now this isn't a hard and fast menu, but it's a basic idea of what and how I do things.

The idea is that you can eat healthy, affordable and tasty. If you need help with this, please leave a comment here or find me on social media. I would love to see you get healthy and pursue food for the right reasons. In the coming years, I will be releasing a book dealing with food and our Christian life titled, "The Life Diet". In this book we will discuss these ideas more. Until then, again, if you need assistance with this, please let me know.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The 5 Gifts from God: Hope

This week we started the Advent series! Listen in as we look at the 5 gifts from God!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Ephesians: Draw Upon the Well for a Lesson Learned

In this week's sermon we spend time in Revelation looking at the Ephesian church down the road a bit.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Ephesians: Draw Upon the Well for Armor & Encouragement

Armor is vital to our walk with Jesus. This week we look at the Armor of God.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Word of Caution

For those that know me well, know that I am not a Clinton supporter and have been skeptical about Trump from the beginning. I've always thought that he was playing the field because of his history with the Clintons as well as being a New York Democrat. I thought his purpose was to bring the Republican party closer to that of the Democratic party. And in ways, he has. However, he has done what seemed like the impossible. I honestly expected to wake up this morning to a Hillary Clinton Presidency. I had myself fully prepared for her. Instead, I almost find myself in a state of shock because its surreal that Donald Trump will be the 45th President of the United States of America. I ran through scenarios on electoral maps trying to piece together which states he could possibly win. I figured Ohio, North Carolina and Florida...but it wasn't enough. He needed more and I wasn't too sure he could muster the electoral votes. I thought maybe he could swing Pennsylvania or Michigan and maybe even Virginia, and that was a stretch...but Wisconsin and Idaho with Pennsylvania?! I underestimated his support. Big time. All of this to say this: Evangelicals came out in droves for Trump. I am located in a state where I cannot write-in a candidate. Whoever is on the ballot is who your choices are. My candidate was not on the ballot, so I voted for President under protest and a letter to my State Congressman. But the issue I'm having is that I see Evangelicals looking to Trump almost as if he is some sort of "American Savior"...and this causes me concern.

So I want to give a word of caution. The 'old fashioned values' of yesteryear are in the past. The days of having a Christian culture are over. Our country is well on its way to a more liberal and progressive future. Donald Trump isn't a savior. He is the President-elect who now has a tough job of reuniting this country, which, if you look at the vote once again, you'll see a very stark divide. I will support Trump as President, but my word of caution to the Church is this. Don't let this opportunity slip you by. We have a chance to once again become comfortable in our culture...or we can stand in stark contrast to our culture and lose our lukewarmness. Give respect where respect is due in the government. But don't let the government give you the feel-goody's about being rich, powerful and safe. As Christians our sole focus is Jesus Christ and His message of salvation. Let us win souls while we have the opportunity of government allowing us do so. Too many times in the past has the church had opportunities to reach the lost but squandered the open chance. We're getting a new chance to replay those lost times. Let's capitalize on them while the harvest is ripe for the picking. A lot of people are scared half to death of a Trump presidency. Let us share with them the reason for our hope and joy. Let's share with them our reluctance to support such a flawed candidate, but trusting in our Sovereign God and His ability to influence events for His purposes. That despite a culture becoming more hostile to a Christian way of life, we are ready and prepared to give a reason for our faith. We've gotten a 4 year reprieve if Trump holds to his word. I rest my trust in Jesus Christ because all events are being put in place as a set up to His return. For that, I echo the words of Revelation 22:20, "He who testifies about these things says, 'Yes, I am coming quickly.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!"

Monday, November 7, 2016

Ephesians: Draw Upon the Well for Our Careers

This week we talk about our career and a little more on priority!