A common occurrence around our home is asking each other “what are you hungry for” or “what are you in the mood for”? We are blessed to live in a bountiful country.  More variety of foods are easily obtainable now than in any time in history.  Even exotic foods shipped from the far corners of the world can be picked up at a reasonable price at our local grocery store.  With so many choices it is easy to ask “what are you hungry for?” If you are like us sometimes it is an easy answer, and other times we go back and forth as we really don’t have a specific craving and therefore don’t really know what we want to eat. In some strange twist of creation (that I will one day no doubt take up face to face with our creator) for some reason unhealthy food options tend to be the most pleasing to our human pallets. Though the family dog isn’t far behind on our rationale. Developing an appetite for healthy and nutritional foods isn’t always the easiest of things to do.   I especially know this to be true as my wife has a masters degree in nutrition.  Most people have the perception that it would be incredibly easy for us to eat healthy.   My favorite reply is to simply state “would you like to guess how many flavors of ice cream the dietitian has in the freezer?”  The most intriguing part of it all is that we know that eating healthy is good for us.  All at the same time knowing the poor food choices have an adverse affect on our health and quality of life. No one with sound thinking would argue that reality.

So where are we headed with all of this. You are thinking, “if I wanted a health talk I would listen to your wife’s radio talk”. It is amazing to see how so many natural principles can be transferred to spiritual lessons.  See we know that what we have an appetite for will ultimately affect what sort of spiritual life we will have.  If we never feed our spirit man and instead only gorge our flesh then it is easy to see that we will have a weak and puny spirit man, inept to deal with even the most simple of problems in life. As Christ followers we know that spending time with God in payer, bible reading,  worship, serving, and in Christian fellowship are key ingredients to a relationship with God that will thrive.  When we feed our spirit man we are able to face life issues, and we all know that life can throw more than a few sucker punches.

Why then is it so hard to develop an appetite for spiritual disciplines.  Not an attitude that I “have to”, but I “want to”.  Just like the unhealthy food options it becomes so easy to develop and appetite for those things that consume our lives in such a way that we have no time for God.  I think Jesus said it best in Matthew 5:6  “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.”

When we begin to physical eat healthy we are enabling our body to function better.  We provide it with the basic nutrition we need to live, fight off disease and infection, and live longer fuller lives. In addition to a wealth of other health benefits. In the very same way when we develop an appetite for godly things it equips our spirit man to thrive.  We are able to grow deeper in our faith.  We are less shaken by the calamity that befalls us. We become “healthier” Christ followers. It is time to evaluate your spiritual diet. Are you starving your spiritual man by filling your days with other passions and desires. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy the occasional dessert and sweet as much if not more than the next guy. Don’t even get me started on dark chocolate. Manna from heaven…. Okay focus Brian. In the same manner it is okay to have other passions. We can have other interests and spend our time on things we enjoy.  However when these things take the place of a regular healthy spiritual appetite then it becomes a problem.  Grandma probably knew best when she wouldn’t let you eat the cookies before dinner, why?  “You’ll ruin your appetite!” When we get our fill of everything the world has to offer us we have little room or desire to consume healthy spiritual options. So what are you hungry for?

Every year we have an amazing opportunity to take our students to an event called CDYC.  This year the theme was Inscribed, and it comes from Isaiah 49:16 that says, “Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands…” As in years past our group had an amazing time and really connected with each other and God.  There is just something about disconnecting from the daily grind and pressures of life and making some time to really take inventory of where we are in life.  I am so pleased that we can offer such a quality opportunity for the students at RSM. As usual it is best to hear directly from the students on what exactly CDYC means to them and how it has impacted their lives.  My only regret is that you can only hear from a few of our students.  There are so many amazing stories to share.

Sacred Cows

April 18, 2012 — 1 Comment

In several eastern religions the cow is revered and honored. Not quite in the same we Americans revere steak, hamburger, and every other food adorned with beef. No these cows are given a place of honor, they are distinguished and carry incredible significance.  To our western eyes it would seem silly and at times ridiculous to hold a “pre big mac” in such regards.  I mean after all it is just a cow, right? We slice ‘em and dice ‘em, and cook them every which way. Though the practice may seem odd to us, in some cultures these exalted cattle hold a very high place in society and people will go out of their way to bring honor to said steer.

The Hindu religion holds the highest reverence for these sacred cows.  In some states in India it is illegal to kill a cow, and punishable by life in prison. Several yeas ago, five men were beaten to death in a north Indian state by an angry mob on suspicion of killing a cow for its skin.  Even Gandhi the highly regarded religious leader from India known for his non-violent protests that led to the liberation of India had incredibly high views of the cow.  He is quoted to have said “I worship it and I shall defend its worship against the whole world. “ and he believed in may ways the “mother cow” was better than our mothers that gave us birth.

So maybe about now you are thinking, thanks for the world religion and history lesson on cattle.  What exactly does any of this have to do with me?  So glad you asked. You see a literal sacred cow is an actual cow that is treated with sincere reverence. A figurative sacred cow is something else that is considered immune from question or criticism, especially unreasonably so. Okay have you figured out where we are headed?

The plain fact of the matter is we all have sacred cows in our lives. Go ahead and read that last statement again. Be it unintentional or even intentional we all have things in our lives that we bring sincere reverence to just like Hindu’s do to the cow. Before you check out and decide that you don’t in fact have anything in your life that you hold so sacred you may want to take a closer look.  You see the key issue with a figurative sacred cow is that it is above questioning, or criticism.  Anytime anyone trounces anywhere near our glorified herd we tend to either vehemently defend it, or are so blinded by our devotion that we don’t even realize it.

These sacred cows can take many forms. Most of the time they become a road block or a hindrance to our walk with God, our relationships, and our families.  They most certainly affect our ability and willingness to serve others, and to fully live a Godly and simple lifestyle that our creator desires for us. It is all too easy to start looking at other people and pointing out the sacred cows in their life.  It is challenging at best to become introspective and really discover what is holding us back. Even as a few things are starting to come to mind you quickly have 100 reasons why you “need” this object, relationship, event, hobby, ritual, ideal, media, lifestyle, career, and the list goes on.  Just as Gandhi was ready to defend the worship of cows to the world, we are ready to defend our blind devotion and worship to the sacred cows in our lives.

It is time to ask our selves why? I mean really why do we “need” these things? It begins with prayer and talking to God. Ask him to point those things out in your life. Another step is to seek out wise council from those whom you trust and will tell you the truth in love. Friends it is time to bust out the grill and have a BBQ. We are serving up sacred cow burgers and steak. Are you willing to really take a look at how you live your life and decide what things you really need to let go of? What is it that is holding you back from really following after God with all that you have got? What is it that keeps you from following after Him with reckless abandon? For too long we have gone to extreme measures to bring honor to the sacred cows in our lives. It is time as Christ followers that we give God our undivided devotion and worship. We bring worship and honor to God with our lifestyle, the way we live. It is about serving others as Christ did while on this earth. Do you hear that sizzle?  That is the sound of the sacred cow taking it’s rightful place. Don’t hold back or be afraid to bring those things before God to the alter, or in this case the BBQ. For with this cookout comes a new level of freedom and a deeper walk with our Savior.  After all it is He who has given us direction on how to BBQ that sacred cow when He said,  “well done my good and faithful servant.” (Sorry I couldn’t resist.)

 

Learning When to Say No

February 15, 2012 — Leave a comment

For some of us learning to say no is a difficult thing. I know not everyone has this issue, but for me it is a reality.  The issue becomes even worse when you have to say no to a great opportunity.  The truth is that every time we say yes to something, we are in return saying no to something else. We only have so many hours in the day, and so many days in the week.  As I see it the real danger comes as we keep saying yes to more and more.  When we do this we typically end up saying no to things that should really be a priority in our life.  We only have this one life to live.  We can’t go back and redeem the time.  This is why it is so important to learn to say no, but even more important than that is setting priorities.  When we are asked what our priorities are in our life, or even what we want to be known for we can give a list of what we deem to be important.  Our relationship with our spouses, our children, and family members usually top the list.  Also our relationship with God (if you are into that kind of thing) also makes the list.  We say we want to give back and contribute to society and help those in need. Yet in the mix of all that we say yes to why does it seem that the very things we set as a priority are the very first things that get cut from our schedule.

Now I’m not making a case for being lazy.  We shouldn’t say no to everything. In fact sometimes we need to say yes and get off our butt and go do something. This is more about taking the time to understand what our priorities are in life and then saying yes to making time for them. There are moments and situations when we do say yes to something but understand that something else will need to be said no to. What we must not say no to are our families and relationships.  We can’t say no to our relationship with God either (once again if you are into that sort of thing). We can’t say no to serving and giving back. Living a disciplined life means saying no to really great opportunities.  There is no way we can do it all, though at times we try. We end up burned out and have no time for the things that are really important in life.  This is something I must constantly remind myself about. At the end of my time here on earth I want to look back and know that I did the best I could with my time.  It is easy to identify the things we waste our time on, but it takes diligence to identify the good things we sometimes need to let go of. This is not so we can have more leisure time for TV, internet, vacations, sports and all the other things we fill our days with. Not that those are bad things. Rather it is about having the time to give to those things we say are a priority in our lives.

 

3 Weeks in Haiti

November 15, 2011 — Leave a comment

I had the privilege a few years back to meet Michael Andrew.  I met Michael for the first time at a photography workshop that he was teaching.  I originally came to know about him from his training videos and blog.  At the time I was very much interested in photography and as is typical for me I was all in.  I love to learn and to know as much as I can about the things I enjoy to do.  I am by no means a professional photographer or even a semi pro.  I enjoy taking pictures.  I have received many complements over the years on some of my pictures.  That is in part due to what I have learned from Michael. He is a good teacher.  Beyond some casual interactions we don’t have a deep relationship.  In January of 2010 the nation of Haiti was devastated by a massive earthquake.  Michael had announced on his blog that he intended to go to Haiti to help with the aftermath.  He asked for any possible leads or connections to Haiti.  I had a friend Casey from college  that grew up in Haiti.  His parents were missionaries there.  His father and sisters still run a medical clinic there.  I contacted Casey and gave Michael his contact information.  They were able to connect and Casey was able to share with Michael about what he knew and his families operation there.  Michael did indeed end up going to Haiti. He recently wrote a book about his experience titled “3 Weeks in Haiti”.  He contacted me when the book was complete as I had been mentioned in it a few times.  I was familiar with some of the story as some of it was published to his blog while it was taking place.  As I read the book I found it very difficult to put it down.  It is a very compelling story and one thing leads to another and this keeps you in anticipation for the next part of the journey.  The book is incredibly inspiring and is filled with honest to goodness wisdom.  I don’t think Michael would spin it that way but I had several big takeaways personally after reading it.  The more I read the more it almost seemed unbelievable.  You either have to choose to believe in huge coincidence over and over or believe that maybe just maybe they were guided by something divine.  It is amazing story how one person can truly make a difference.  Michael made some incredible friends and alliances on his mission to help.  I have no doubt there are people that are alive in Haiti because of the efforts of those who worked together in this book. Everyone from those stateside that provided intelligence and communication, to the team on the ground that put it all together.  I highly recommend reading it.  I know it will inspire you and challenge you.  I am honored to have played and incredibly small part of the story.  I was deeply touched by the story, and the lives that were impacted.

The book is currently available at:
Amazon’s Kindle Store and
Apple’s iBookstore
Barnes and Nobles Nook Store
Sony’s E-Book Store
A printed version is in the works.

9/11 We Will Never Forget

September 11, 2011 — Leave a comment

It is hard to believe that ten years have passed since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. We have all heard it said that we never forget where we are or what we were doing when such tragic historical events take place.  I was a senior in college at ORU. My friend James called me and told me to turn on the television.  I asked him what channel and he said, any.  I watched alone in my room as tragedy unfolded live on television. For the first time in my lifetime America was under attack on our own soil, and it was live on TV. It was more horrific than any movie or TV show.  I remember weeping a lot. It really affected me.  Seeing the World Trade Center towers collapse was almost unbearable.  First there was a lot of fear and panic. Later that turned to resolve and a sense of renewed patriotism was birthed in our nation.  As I think back on the entire event it almost seems surreal.

The other night I watched a news special on Dateline.  They replayed highlights of the footage from that day.  They highlighted many of the humanitarian stories that took place. They interviewed survivors with firsthand accounts of that sheer terror that unfolded on that day. They were so incredibly thankful to be alive, yet so torn for the colleagues, friends, and family that were lost.  Family members, widows, and children also shared the great loss that had taken place that fateful day.  Hearing the account from first responders and their incredible heroics was simply breathtaking.  As I watched the video and saw the images I instantly felt sick to my stomach.  I honestly felt such a wide range of emotions.  It is very difficult to put into words.

Ten years later I feel an even deeper hurt for those who lost love ones.  Now I am married with two beautiful daughters.  The thought of losing spouses, parents, and children to such an incredible and deplorable act of selfishness and hate is hard to come to terms with.  I honestly think I still have more questions than we have answers for.   I have found myself deeply affected by the events that took place so long ago. I appreciate life even more, and I am exceedingly grateful for the time I have here with my family.

I know that one day I will share this unfortunate part of our history with my children.  I feel a sense of responsibility to make sure they understand the depth of what took place.  I know this is a defining moment in my generation.  The proof of pure evil within the world we live. There is so much worth living for. I want so much for my girls to grow up in a world absent of this terror.  The reality is that it will proceed. Yet our resolve stays firm. We continue forward.  Life is worth living, and the fight is worth fighting. Our hearts are with those families who feel a deeper loss than I could ever convey. We truly will never forget.

Learning from Goldfish

September 1, 2011 — 1 Comment

The other night my two daughters (age 2 and 1) were snacking on some goldfish crackers. My wife gave them each a handful. Quickly our youngest noticed her older sisters pile of goldfish.  She was no longer interested in her own stash, she wanted her sisters.  The funny thing besides that they were the exact same thing is that upon closer look our youngest actually had more in her pile.  As my eldest valiantly defended her stash from being poached I couldn’t help but chuckle at the situation. A moment later I realized how we often do the same thing.

Even as adults we have the tendency to focus on what others have. We do this even to the detriment of realizing the things we have going for us. Whether it’s someone else’s possessions, talents, gifts, relationships, or goldfish crackers it is easy to become envious.  We become so determined that we are lacking and need what they have. We become completely blind to the fact that we have some great things going for us. We should be thankful for what we do have, but we so quickly get focused on what we do not.

What do you think? Is it easy to fall into the trap of comparing and wanting that what we honestly don’t really need?  Why even from childhood are we so obsessed with what others have?

Jarid and Joni Wedding

August 7, 2011 — 1 Comment

 I had the great opportunity to recently take part in the wedding of a really good friend of mine.  I met Jarid way back when I was 12 years old.  A lot has changed over the years but I am glad that we have stayed connected through all of life’s twists and turns.  We went to school together just outside of Pittsburgh, PA in a village called Imperial, and yes it is a village.  It says so right on the sign.  I am now living in Indiana, and he is currently residing in Texas.  His lovely wife Joni is from Texas, and oddly enough my wife is from Indiana.  Interesting how that works out isn’t it.  I have lots of memories of Jarid growing up.  Ask me to show you the home video we made one summer day years and years ago.  It is horrifying to watch now. To think we were that geeky, okay maybe not that much has changed, well for at least one of us.  We were in a rock band together, I was the lead screamer.  What an amazing front man I was, or not. They seemed to get much better once I was off the stage. We even attended college together for a few years.  Now there are some really crazy times.  That is where Jarid first met Joni.  But there love story starts many years later.  I won’t even attempt to tell it.  I will save that for them to share once they get a blog.

Okay enough of the nostalgia, back to the wedding.   Did I mention it was in Texas in July? No, how about that it was an outdoor wedding in Texas in July, during one of the worst heat waves in Texas history?  Yes sir, it was 102 without the heat index.  All complaining aside it was a fantastic day.  To see how God brought these amazing two individuals together and to be a part of that day, it was simply amazing.  Jarid and Joni were beaming, and it wasn’t just from the extreme heat.  You could just see it on their faces, the anticipation, the love, the excitement, all of this while staying incredible calm and peaceful.  There is something so precious about seeing two people who are so deeply in love with each other joining together as one.  I was honored to play a small part in such a special day.

Seeing them together, and being at that wedding took me back 7 years earlier in the same month when I married my amazing wife Kristi.  It made me appreciate the love we have for each other, and the commitment we made to each other.  Time goes by so quickly and we face challenges as in every marriage, just having children is enough to test your marital bonds.  I still very much love her and I am thankful that God brought her into my life.  She is a wonderful wife and mother and I can’t imagine my life without her.

I am so excited for Jarid and Joni. I can’t wait to see all of the great things that are in store for them. I am privileged to still call Jarid my friend.  I am so incredibly happy for him. I pray the very best for their marriage and that they would live a full and blessed life that is pleasing to God. I know they will face challenges and adversity but as they put their faith in God and look to him I know they will overcome any obstacle that comes their way.

All wedding photos provided by Sara Sobkoviak Photography
http://sarasobkoviakphotography.com/
More Wedding Pictures Here 

 

Celebrate Stamp

July 26, 2011 — 1 Comment

I recently had to buy some stamps at the post office.  The clerk handed me a page of stamps that said “celebrate” on them, neon and all.  I laughed and said to her, “celebrate? What that I am sending in bills?” She replied, “well maybe celebrate that you can pay the bills.” I was taken back and thought, you know what she is right.  At times it is easy to see the negative side of things, or to miss the blessing in the midst of the mundane.  While it is anything but a celebration to send bills in the mail, it is indeed a huge blessing that we have jobs that allow us to pay those bills.

It started to make me think about all of the things I do have to celebrate in life.  It is easy to miss all of the great things going on around us because we get so focused on what we don’t like.  We become critical of our situation, and even of others.  I admit we may face some difficult challenges, and that life is far from grand. That however shouldn’t stop us from recognizing the things in our lives that are going well.  Instead of being critical we can take the time to make inventory of what we are thankful for.  So what do you have going on in your life worth celebrating?

Well it is almost unbelievable that our youngest turned 1 on the 4th.  Yes our Lillie is a 4th of July baby, and we have heard all of the jokes. “She is a real fire cracker” and so on.  I am amazed how fast this year went. Even beyond that is how much this tiny little girl has accomplished in her short year here on earth.  She started walking like a pro at 10 months and hasn’t stopped going since.  She has such a sweet disposition but doesn’t hesitate to let you know when she doesn’t like something.  She has the cutest little baby talk.  We have no idea what she is saying, but she loves to say it. She constantly talks to us.  Immediately when she wakes up she is on, like a light switch.  She just looks at you and starts talking.

I am so thankful for both of my daughters.  Being a parent is hard work. I don’t think you can fully appreciate that until you are in the thick of it. But honestly, seeing the love in my little girls eyes makes it all worth it.  When they snuggle up on you and want to be in your arms there is nothing like it.  Truly. I love when Lillie gives me a kiss, it is the sweetest thing.

It is hard to believe it was a year ago when I saw Lillie come into the world.  Witnessing the birth of a baby is the greatest miracle. We didn’t want to know what gender our babies were before they were born.  Most people can’t believe that we are able to wait to find out.  They usually ask us how we would be able to get prepared. I think that is silly.  Prepared as in what color pink or blue?  In a microwave society there are so few gifts as waiting to find out. Meeting our girls for the first time has been the highlight of my life.  The anticipation and wait is so worth the cost of not finding out.  I think we kind of cheat ourselves out of that blessing.  It is a simple blessing in life.

So Happy Birthday to our little girl, Lille Beth. You are such a blessing to us and we are so grateful for your life.