Thursday, December 17, 2009


There Tanja...I updated my blog.

Monday, October 19, 2009

How Big A Boy Are Ya?

Click Here If You Want To Change Your Life in 90 Days Guaranteed.

Them's big words right there! Click a link to change your life in 90 days...hmm... Sounds like a hoax, or a bad infomercial. Well, it's neither. If you click that link you will be taken to a Bible reading plan that is so ambitious it will take you through the entire Bible, cover to cover, in a mere 90 days. It's rough, it's tough, and it's not for the lazy. It's called B90X (yes, it's a play on the P90X workout program) and it's not for the faint of heart.

I'm so tired of who I am that I want to kickstart my change as radically as possible. I'm willing to make the sacrifices needed to be a man after God's own heart. I figure the best way to do that is simply spend more time with God's Word. I am excited to see how the next 90 days will refocus me into a sharper, more Biblically educated man of God. I'm especially excited because the next 90 days are what are considered by most Americans to be the "holiday shopping season" where people frantically stimulate the economy by buying up a bunch of stuff people don't really want, for people they don't want to buy for, using money they don't have.

What are YOU going to do with the next 90 days of your life? Lay on the couch? Watch some TV? Root for a football team? Yeah? Well me too, but I'm going to do it while reading the Bible. The ENTIRE Bible. All of it. Every last word of it. And I will love it more than I did before.

If you want to join me on this intense Bible journey, just go back up to the top of this post and click that link. You'll be able to print out your own B90X plan. Then come back here periodically to see where I will blog about how it's changing my life. Leave comments about how it's changing your life too!

Monday, September 28, 2009

My New Car-In-Waiting

Well, it's official: my beloved 1999 Dodge Dakota is dead and buried. I don't even know where it's being stored right now. At this point I'm just waiting on the "defendant's" insurance company to tell me how much money they're going to give me for my truck since they declared it "totaled". In the meantime, I think I found my next vehicle, who's picture you can see above. For some reason, this stupid blog won't let me show the full picture, but if you click on the car, it will take you to a full size picture of it.

For those of you that don't know me well, when I purchase a vehicle, my plan is to run it into the ground until it completely dies (or is destroyed by an inattentive, inconsiderate driver like my Dakota was). Therefore, when looking for a vehicle, I try to find one that fits my personality because I consider it a VERY permanent purchase. After much prayer I just didn't know what I would find, but God really came through this time and I think that 2004 Pontiac Vibe GT is going to be my new 2nd home for a LONG time!

I've even named it and when I get it I'm going to apply for a personalized tag for it: "MACVIBE". I think that says it all! Well, that and a Scotland flag ought to do it! :)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Today is my 2 Year Anniversary of Being Called To Sunnyside, 2 Weeks Into Low Carb Update, and Massive Truck Wreck

Well, you're probably wondering about those pictures up there, but I'll get to that in a minute...first things first.

First of all: Today is my 2 year anniversary of being called to Sunnyside! Thank you Jesus!

I began this phase of Low Carb 2 weeks ago today at 215 pounds. Today I am 204 pounds! 11 pounds gone in 2 weeks! That's pretty exciting for me.

As for the pictures, Emmi and I were absolutely CREAMED by a driver that wasn't paying attention yesterday around 5:30pm. We were on 36 going from Kingsport to Gray and we were completely stopped behind 2 other cars while waiting on the car in front to turn left. THANKFULLY I left about 11 feet between me and the vehicle in front of us. I had been stopped about 15 seconds and I looked up and here came a 2001 Nissan Frontier barreling down on us at full speed (around 40-50 miles an hour), and she didn't even slow down a bit and just RAMMED us HARD! Emmi of course was scared out of her mind and crying, but we are both fine.

You can see some of what it did to my truck, but the woman that hit us broke her hand, was cut up, and burned a little bit. Her truck was totaled. I didn't have my camera at the accident site, so I didn't get a picture, but trust me, that truck is gone to pickup heaven, a sacrificial lamb for a driver who was in too big of a hurry to pay attention to her surroundings.

Why did God do this? Well, I'm not totally sure, but I got to witness to the lady and everyone around her! It was great, and I'm grateful God offered me the opportunity to share my faith when otherwise I'd have just kept driving down the road to get home.

Well, time to go. Wednesdays are busy, busy, busy. For more pictures you can see my Facebook page (for those of you that are on my friends list).
Weekly Weight Loss Update:
9-9-09: 215
9-16-09: 208
9-23-09: 204

Monday, September 21, 2009

2 Week Low Carb Update

2 Week Low Carb Update coming Wednesday.
Stay tuned.
In the meantime, check out my boy Jimmy Moore's blog, and be sure to check out his new book too:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Diet Update

Okay, so I've been doing Low Carb again for 7 days. My weight last Wednesday morning was 215. My weight this morning was 208, so 7 pounds gone this week. I know, it's water weight. What else is new? At least it's gone. The real test/results will be a month from now.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My Oh My, How I Hate Dieting

Man do I hate dieting, but I just have no choice. If I don't watch every calorie, every carb, every everything, I end up gaining weight. With me there is no such thing as weight maintenance; I'm either gaining or losing. It is tough, irritating, and a daily battle.

See the thing is that an alcoholic can quit cold turkey and avoid alcohol 100%. A food addict can't do that. Imagine HAVING to ingest the very thing you are addicted to multiple times a day. It's tough. Just look around and you'll see how tough it is.

Well anyway, tomorrow I begin another round of Low Carb to see if I can get this under control before I have to order the t-shirt you see above. Pray for me that God will give me strength and persistence with my diet.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Back From Vacation

I'm back from vacation, and I'll post a blog update as soon as I can. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

First House Showing...and Chainsaws

Yep. I am now the proud owner of a Poulan PRO 18 inch, gas powered tree-eatin' machine, and boy howdy did it get some use this past weekend! Tommy, my bestest bud here in the TRI sacrificed a LOT of time helping me purge my back yard of a lot of overgrowth. In fact, our back "yard" looked more like Endor than Gray until we whipped out the chainsaws. (That's a "Return of the Jedi" reference for you non-Star Wars types).

Who knew that 4 limbs would yield a whopping 7 truckloads of brush? Needless to say, it REALLY opened up the back yard, and it must have worked because here we are two days later with our first showing of the house.

Everyone be praying because we REALLY need this thing to sell so we can move forward with the purchase of our new home in Kingsport. We are a Kingsport family now, but don't live in Kingsport, so it's like we're in a foreign land. Now don't get me wrong, I really REALLY like Gray A LOT, but our lives are really centered around the KPT now, not Gray.

Here's the old house in Gray:

And here's the new house in Kingsport:

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

But I'm Strong.......

"The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows when
But I'm strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain't heavy, he's my brother.

So on we go
His welfare is of my concern
No burden is he to bear
We'll get there
For I know
He would not encumber me

If I'm laden at all
I'm laden with sadness
That everyone's heart
Isn't filled with the gladness
Of love for one another.

It's a long, long road
From which there is no return
While we're on the way to there
Why not share
And the load
Doesn't weigh me down at all
He ain't heavy, he's my brother.

He's my brother
He ain't heavy, he's my brother."

Mmm, mmm. Just reading those lyrics again makes me choke up and get blurry eyed. Those are the lyrics to one of my all time favorite songs, and definitely my favorite secular song that I've ever sung. In college I was in a little do-wap a capella pop group called 7BucsWorth (later ammened to 10BucsWorth) over at ETSU. My freshman year I was called in a month before school started to go to "camp" where we would learn an entire concert in 3 days and then perform it for our peers at an event called "Preview". That "camp" I later found out was basically a performing boot camp. We got up at 6am and rehearsed all the way until nearly midnight, stopping only an hour for lunch around noon and an hour for dinner around 6pm.

I'll never forget the first three songs we learned in that very first session: "I Love a Rainy Night", "Here's That Rainy Day", and "So Hard To Say Goodbye to Yesterday". I can remember the arrangements in my head as we speak. But it wasn't until the afternoon session that a lightning bolt struck my heart in the form of a song called "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother", the lyrics of which are at the beginning of today's blog entry. We got about halfway through the song and our director (Dr. Jenrette for those of you keeping score) decided to let a tiny, squeeky voiced, really high tenor sing the solo. (Consequently, the guys later nicknamed me Keebler that weekend because I was so tiny compared with all the other guys. The group was called 7BucsWorth, but I was the 8th member, so when people used to ask why there were 8 of us instead of 7, the other guys would say "Oh Keebler there is just the pocket change".) Anyway, that was my very first college solo.

Every time, EVERY time we sang that song, I was moved to tears. EVERY time I hear it now I'm moved to tears. I saw the Osmonds sing it once at an anniversary concert, and they brought out the two oldest brothers (who most people aren't familiar with) who are deaf, and they signed the song while the brothers sang it. It tore me up.

I can hear you now: "What in the world is a Worship Pastor doing getting so torn up over a clearly secular song?" Well first of all, God can use anything He chooses to point us to Jesus, secular or not. If it glorifies God, it glorifies God. Period. If it defames God, it defames God. Period. Think about that, Christian, the next time you use dirty words or treat someone like a doormat. Anyway, I know that I was once lost as can be, a sinner condemned to hell, and the worst part about that is that while I was in that state, my parents were going through a NASTY divorce, and I was leaving my beloved hometown to start a new life in the Tri Cities. Life was rough.

Then someone gave me a Bible and I read the following words from Hebrews 2:10-13:

"In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. He says,
"I will declare your name to my brothers;
in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.
And again,
"I will put my trust in him."
And again he says,
"Here am I, and the children God has given me."

Gulp. Jesus calls me brother? I am a child of God? Jesus suffered for me?

Yep, it finally sank in. I realized that when I repented of my sins and turned to Christ for salvation, I became an adopted member of another eternal family. No matter how bad life was with my broken, earthly family, all was well with my heavenly family. My forever family.

I was NOT alone. Jesus was with me.

And I came to know that singing that "secular" song during all those hard, difficult, painful moments where I THOUGHT I was alone, Jesus was there the whole time, covering me, carrying me, because I am not heavy for brother.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Middle of the Night Reflections

I'm not sure how wise it is to blog at 3:41am Eastern Time in a hotel room in Nashville, TN when you're 4 hours from home, worn out as can be, and blurry eyed from a lack of sleep over the past 8 weeks...but I'm gonna do it anyway.

The past couple of days have been phenomenal for me, and really in unexpected ways. I have heard from God from guys in worship leadership positions that really spoke to my heart.

Regi Stone said "It's gonna rain" and introduced me to my new life verse, Zephaniah 3:17:
"The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing."

The "It's gonna rain" thing I'll have to blog about later, but let's just say it's about God raining down his goodness on you when you've been in a real scary dry spot.

Travis Cottrell said "How big do you need God to be? Well, that's how big He is!" That is really simply profound.

Tommy Walker said "The devil will try to steal your calling. Your friends, family, choir, and even YOU may have given up on you, but God hasn't."


I mean WOW.

I'm going to be vulnerable here for just a moment and admit that the devil HAS been trying to steal my calling from me. He has been trying everything to derail me from what God has asked me to do. My self esteem has been attacked, my purpose has been attacked, my usefulness and effectiveness has been attacked, and my joy has been attacked. I have been especially discouraged at what's been happening in my ministry over the past few months.

It seemed like at Easter things were going really well and then **poof** it all seemed in my eyes to unravel. My choir of 75 began impersonating a choir of 35. Not cool devil, not cool. My weight has skyrocketed, even after losing 40 pounds last year. Yet again, not cool devil, not cool. My asthma got worse and I developed a painful umbilical hernia...hello...I'm a singer and a bagpiper...REALLY not cool.

I look over the empty choir seats and question why I haven't been able to express how beautifully awesome God is to those choir members enough to inspire them to show up and do what God called THEM to do. It is ESPECIALLY discouraging when I walk onto the platform and see 11 choir members sitting in the congregation, staring me in the face (which happened Sunday, by the way). That is a HUGE tool satan uses against me.

I had come to about an inch away from giving up on me as a full time "professional" or "paid" minister, before God spoke to me through these 3 men of God. Now I've got a lot to think about on my 4 hour ride home in my little pickup truck. I know it's not about me, it's about what God can do through me, but lately I have felt as useless as the filthy rags I know I'm made up of.

But I am reminded that God is big, HUGE, omnipotent...and He loves ME. Little ole, dirty, sin stained, useless-on-my-own-me. He wants to use me. What a thought. I don't want satan to steal my call like He's stolen my joy. I want to reclaim that in the name of Jesus.

God hear my prayer tonight in this empty, lonely hotel room in Nashville. Forgive me for allowing myself to become beaten down by my own sinful nature. It is MY fault for taking my eyes off of you and believing the lies satan has been telling me. You are the great One, the Rock, the Love, and I know You love me, and tonight I claim that love again for my own. Heal my broken heart and restore me to usefulness for You again. Please use me to touch the lives of others and to help point them to Jesus. All I want to be is a giant roadsign pointing to Jesus. Help me in my failures Lord to be more like You. I love You, I adore You, and I am sorry for sinning against You. I claim the blood of Jesus again today as I have every day since You first saved me. Cleanse me, renew me, and use me. I am and forever will be Your child.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Regi Stone

Just another quick update on the conference.

I've known about Regi Stone for a few years now. He's the worship leader at Christ Church Nashville, but more than that, he's a gifted songwriter, and a fantastic Christian. I've sat in on two of his classes this week, and right now I'm burning the battery up on my iPod with his newest project "Everything". For those of you in my choir, Regi can be heard singing the solo on our demo of "End of the Beginning", so yeah, he can also wail.

This guy is humble and is really being used of God in many ways big and small. Check him out at

I'll write more later. Right now I have to get cleaned up because I'm singing with the Christ Church Choir in a concert in just a couple of hours! Man I love it when I can be a singer instead of a director. **sigh**

Travis Cottrell is the BOMB!

Okay, now I'm impressed. Here at the Christ Church Music and Worship Conference there are hundreds of worship leaders from all sorts of denominations (mostly all evangelical and some pentecostal), and artists from all walks here, not to mention the "Voices of Lee" (incredible a capella group from Lee University) and the Christ Church Choir itself. But who brought the house down AND led everyone to the throne of God?? The Southern Baptist's very own Travis Cottrell.

If you don't know who he is, he is the former Worship Pastor at 2 Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville and is currently the Worship Pastor for the Beth Moore conferences. Check out his website at

Consequently, he also gave the best seminar today. Tomorrow I get to hear from Tommy Walker, who wrote one of my all time favorite songs "He Knows My Name". This should be great.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Christ Church Music & Worship Conference

As those of you in my choir now know, I am in Nashville at the Christ Church Music & Worship Conference. I tried to keep that under wraps because the last several times the mice knew the cat was away, they indeed did play, averaging only 15 in attendane out of 75. I think my little experiment worked though, because the initial report from last night is that we actually had better attendance last night than we normally do. Well done choir!!

So far I've attended sessions with Travis Cottrell (the worship leader for the Beth Moore conferences), Regi Stone (Christ Church's worship leader, and the composer of many songs we sing, including "Power in the Name of Jesus" that I sang with our choir a few weeks ago, "Let Your Holy Rain Fall Down", and "O Magnify The Lord in Me" just to name a few), and Landy and Joy Gardner. Landy directs the Christ Church Choir and his wife Joy has appeared on many Gaither videos, and was female vocalist of the year (I think in 1977).

The Q&A with Landy and Joy was especially interesting. It seems that even the mighty Christ Church Choir has problems with faithfulness. It makes me sad that the choir that inspired me to start directing choirs is starting to dwindle, but in a way it's a relief because I really thought I was the only choir director having MAJOR issues with choir members being TRULY committed. Let me tell you, it really depresses even the most veteran and successful choir directors when only half your choir shows up week after week. It only depresses them more when the common response to that is "Oh, that's just the way it's always been around here." It was also interesting to note some of the problems they have that we don't, and vice versa.

When God saves a soul, He immediately calls that person to serve. Every last one. No exceptions. Period. Not later, not after training, NOW. The mode of service may change over time, but we are all called to serve in some capacity NOW.

Serving in a choir situation is hard. I won't lie to you and pretend it's all fun and games to try and fluff up the membership numbers. No, it's HARD...DARN HARD, and it takes commitment. It takes ZERO commitment to just show up when you want to, when it's convenient, when you feel like it. There have been many days in my past when I just didn't "feel like it", but went anyway. That is called OBEDIENCE, and that is what God calls us to. In the Bible He doesn't encourage us to do the best we can, He INSISTS that we OBEY Him, regardless of the circumstances.

What has God called you to do? Has He called you to be in your church choir? If He has, then please be faithful to that calling. If you are in town, and can walk, you should be in church. If you (faithful choir member) can show up to church, and can talk, you can most likely sing, and you SHOULD. I know there are days when you don't feel like it...hey, I get it, I REALLY do. But God didn't say to serve Him when we feel like it. He said SERVE and OBEY...and be blessed.

And see, that's the key. We forget that the blessing comes through obedience. The annointing comes from faithfulness.

God is not going to bless disobedience.
God is not going to bless unfaithfulness.
God is not going to bless mediocrity.
God is not going to bless luke-warm worship.

God will bless obedience!
God will bless faithfulness!
God will bless our best efforts!
God will bless passionate worship!

If you are spiritually dry right now, and I mean dead dry like a crunchy dead leaf in your backyard in the middle of December, then the solution for you is simple:

1) Ask God what He wants you to do.
2) Shut up and do it, and do it obediently, consistently, faithfully, and passionately with love, then repeat.
3) See the first part of number 2.

I know this was a hard blog posting to read, but I wrote it for me, not you. If something struck a chord with you, then hey, I wrote it as an open posting for me, perhaps God is trying to tell you something.

In closing, here's one of my favorite quotes:
"Preach the Gospel. Use words if necessary."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Hyde and Heddle

Every year I attend the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in Linville, NC. It is one of the largest gathering of Scots in the United States (and probably the world for that matter), so needless to say I really try to never miss it. If you've never been to a Highland Games, you really should do yourself a favor and check one out. I recommend three that are within driving distance of East Tennessee (click on the name for their websites:

I know there are more than those three, but those are the ones that seem to get the best reviews. The one at Gatlinburg is far smaller than the other two, but has a nice, homey feel to it. I've never been to the Stone Mountain Games, but EVERYONE says it is the nicest one. They have a seperate grove in the woods for the Clan Tents, and usually they have some sort of military tattoo, which is cool.

But the Granddaddy of them all is Grandfather Mountain, "America's Braemar". I'm not going to post about all I saw and did there, but I will tell you that it's big fun when the Meadows-side campground gathers all the pipers and drummers and "invades" the Across-the-street-side campground. What insues is the world's largest marshmallow fight, and then an impromptu concert by the pipers and drummers.

David Ross, my favorite historian and author was brilliant as usual, and my only regret is not getting to see more of him. I did manage to video about 80% of one of his presentations though, which is great. Albannach, an intense Scottish Tribal music group of a piper and several drummers was also great, but I only got to hear them do a couple of numbers.

The highlight of this year's games, as usual, came almost as a fluke. Every year I like to visit the tent of Hyde and Heddle Leatherworks. Ron Gray is their master artist, and I wear one of his leather bracelets EVERY day if you'd like to see some of his handywork. Just as every year I went by his tent Saturday night before the concerts and saw his wife working on some leather goods with a needle and thread, and asked if they could repair a sporran I had recently purchased. Not only did Ron repair it, but he actually improved the sporran's design on the back so that it would last longer. He did it in a very timely fashion, and charged VERY LITTLE for the work he did.

As I was in the tent I noticed a neat mug holder that matches my bracelet that attaches to your kilt belt, so I picked that up. I also found a really cool little wooden whistle that plays a full octave to add to my collection. I learned the full scale in about 10 minutes, as it's very similar to an ocarina. I also picked up a NICE black belt that Ron's associate made (I'll update this blog with his name after I can find his business card. He was a great guy too, and also a Southern Baptist to boot).

But off to the side on Ron's workbench was the most beautiful piece of leatherwork I've ever seen. It was a "Rob Roy" style sporran (more of a pouch than a useless decoration). The shape, design, and coloring were absolutely stunning, and I knew I wouldn't be able to afford it, but I also knew that would be MY sporran for the rest of my life. It was unfinished, but still more beautiful than any sporran I had ever seen. After a short phone call (as they have to be on top of the mountain because of sporadic cell phone signals...hello Verizon...Can YOU hear ME now???), I convinced Traci that I had just found my lifetime sporran. She agreed I could get it, so I immediately ran back to the H&H tent and told them I wanted it. It was a STEAL at only $55!!! Most CHEAP sporrans are around that price. To get a hand made sporran like that could easily run upwards of $200 or more.

Well, I had the honor of watching Ron finish the sporran's back part, which was really cool because now I can tell my kids I actually watched the maker make my sporran. If you are into leather stuff or if you need a new bracelet, belt, or sporran, do yourself a favor and drop a line to Hyde and Heddle Leatherworks. You won't be disappointed! I'll add pictures in a later post.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Office Disaster

Uhm...yeah. My office. My sanctuary. My...junkyard.

For those of you that don't know, my office was used as the church office's closet for almost a year before I took it over in October 2007. Since that time I haven't had any down time where I could reorganize and clean up the mess. Well, today it stops and I am the trash terminator. I am throwing out junk with vengence, and relocating worthwhile materials where they belong.

The thing about it is that I am still in full-on busy mode with other things to take care of, plus the new guy just moved in next door and he's cleaning his junk up too (though we made sure to keep his place as empty as possible during the last move). Therefore, my office is in the "it has to get worse before it gets better stage".

So if you come to my office and can't find me, just dig...I'm sure I'm in here somewhere.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Back in the "Good Ole Days" summers used to mean vacation time. Even in recent years it has at least meant somewhat of a slow down for the Sharps. This year however seems to be the summer from hell. In fact, that's exactly how I'm going to remember May 2009-August 2009 in the annuls of my memory. I have been busier this summer than last Christmas season, which is saying A LOT considering that is a Worship Pastor's "busiest" season. There is a wedding every weekend, and camps coming out my nose. How in the world does a church as small as ours have some sort of camp every week? (Oh, and no Sunnysiders, we are not in a big church).

Traci has school EVERY morning and work EVERY night, and we have to shuttle Emmi to a bevvy of babysitters every morning and night. To be honest with you I feel incredibly guilty that we haven't had ANY family time in FOREVER. We get to see each other PART of the day on SOME Saturdays and that's about it. I spend more time with my family in choir practice than I do at home. Sad but true.

So my only time to unwind...oh, at about 11pm-1am after everyone else is in bed. It's funny, but I have to stay up late in order to flake out a little and de-stress. My destressor of choice at the moment:
This is an ingenius little game where you basically just run around a little town you create, living out your life. It's sort of a "Sims" type game where you go fishing, gather sea shells, catch bugs, talk to other residents (in the form of little animal people), and just kind of "live life". Emmi loves watching me play this game, especially the fishing part. I know it's silly and it took me almost a year before I picked up a used copy, but I'm glad I did. You can also share "friend codes" with your friends who have a Wii and this game, and you can go to each others' towns and even talk to each other if you have the Wii Speak microphone peripheral that attaches to your TV.

I'm also playing through "Ghostbusters" for the Wii, which is cool because it is the next story in the GB sequence of events, in essence making it the 3rd part of the Ghostbusters Trilogy. Well, enough blogging. Time to get back to the grind. See you 'round the 'net.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Wedding of the Century

That is a picture of my sister Andrea and her new husband Matt.  This past week was action packed with VBS every night, and then straight on to Knoxville for Matt and Andrea's wedding.  It was a gorgeous affair, and I had the honor of singing Malotte's "Lord's Prayer" at the wedding, and Sister Hazel's "This Kind of Love" at the reception for their first dance.  The rehearsal dinner was in the skybox at Neyland Stadium!

It was a great weekend and I love ministering in Kingsport, but times like this really make me miss Knoxville A LOT.  People here in Kingsport have often asked me "What is it about Knoxville???"  Well, honestly, for me, it's home.  I supposed wherever you are born and raised will be speical to you no matter what.  All my family still live there, my favorite teams still play there, and I have some incredible memories there.  Plus, it's close enough that I can get there within 2 hours if I need to.

Anyway, my sister popped up on Facebook last night, which surprised the heck out of me because she is honeymooning in Costa Rica right now.  She said she is literally in the jungle and that the only form of communication is the Internet.  Funny, I always thought of Costa Rica as being a 3rd world mission field, being just south of Nicaragua.  Who knew it was a hot vacation spot?

Also, last night Jonathan Smith, Andrew Gibbons, and I had the privilege of leading a 21 year old lady by the name of Tiffany Lawrence to the Lord.  It was wild because she wasn't even the person we were looking for at that house during visitation.  I love God ordained appointments!

Well anyway, that's all for now.  I'm exhausted.  Like, the can't keep my eyes open, head hurts, need to lie down and close my eyes or I'm going to vomit kind of exhausted.  So I'm going to go find a quiet corner and hide for a few minutes to try and shake the nausea, just in case you come by the church and can't find me for the next half hour or so.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Week One of NutriSystem Down and VBS, Funerals, and Weddings, Oh My!

If I live through this week it will be incredible.  I am on my second week of Nutrisystem, VBS is in full swing, I have a funeral this afternoon, and my sister is getting married this weekend.  I am singing in the wedding and at the reception, so I've got a lot going on there, plus it's in Knoxville, which complicates things.

VBS started last night, and it went really well.  I think VBS is an incredible idea that has worked for decades, and is STILL a viable and effective evangelism tool for the church.  But dang does it wear out the teachers and workers.

Now, as for the Nutrisystem...I tried this last year and looking back on my journal entries I lost an average of 2 pounds per week while on it until about the 13th week, where I just stopped losing.  I don't know what happened, but my weight loss completely petered out around that 13 unlucky week, and never started back again.  I went about 2 months without losing weight before finally just giving up on the program.  Almost a year later, I had gained 27 of those pounds back and started looking pregnant again.

I had decided around January of this year that I would try Low Carb again.  To be honest with you, I really gave it an honest go for about 4 months and didn't lose any weight.  I KNOW I was doing it the right way because I was hyper careful, and I'm REALLY well educated and REALLY well read on the subject.  I even bought a membership at the YMCA and averaged 5 days a week working out.  Nothing.

Well, here I am after the first week on Nutrisystem again, and what are the results?  My official first weigh in 9 days ago was 213 pounds.  My weight this morning is 206 pounds.  There's an extra two days in this first week because my official weigh-in days are on Mondays, and I started on a Saturday morning, but still...two days ago I weighed 208, which would be 5 pounds in 7 days, which is still incredible.

So anyway, I will be making entries every Monday morning specificially related to my weight loss.  I am also taking measurements, but I don't have those on me right now, and I'll probably only post those once a month anyway.

Brian's Weight Loss Chart:
October 1st, 2007:  230 pounds (My heaviest point, and the true beginning)
May 23rd, 2009:  213 pounds
June 1st, 2009:  206 pounds

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Mid-Week NutriSystem Update

Okay, I am a pretty firm believer in only posting weight loss numbers once a week, but I thought I'd go ahead and post these.  I started NutriSystem on Saturday morning at 215 pounds.  This morning, after 5 days, I'm at 208 pounds.  7 pounds gone in 5 days sounds like a pretty good way to start.  I'm not hungry, I'm not MORE tired than usual.  I do think I probably should clean up my CPAP machine and start wearing that pain in the butt again.
Anyway, here's a few of random pictures that I think are funny:

Monday, May 25, 2009

It's Memorial Day, We're All Sick

Well, today is Memorial Day 2009 and we're all a coughing, hacking, sick mess over here.  Thanks Traci.  I love you anyway.

I am taking a break from Low Carb for a while because frankly, I wasn't losing weight, but gaining, and I just can't handle it anymore.  Desperate times call for desperate measures, so today I'm OFFICIALLY starting NutriSystem again.  The last time I did it I lost something like 40 pounds, so I'm going to give it one more go.  I began eating NS two days ago, and I've already lost 4 pounds, so I'm pretty optimistic that this will work.

Now don't get me wrong...Low Carb is a perfectly fine, healthy way to eat, and my decision is in no way a reflection on my Low Carb pals.  It's just that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect different results.  So, I'm trying something different.  Like I said, desperate times...desperate measures.

And you may think I'm insane for starting on a holiday where eating is the centerpiece of the day.  Nope, that was intentional.  Part of my epic failures of the past have been "giving in" on holidays.  I figure I've got a ton of momentum right now since it's at the very beginning, and if I can make it through this holiday unscathed then it will set the benchmark for my future holiday eating patterns.

So today I weigh 211.8 and my goal is to get to 160 and re-evaluate from there.  So the march is on in the war against obesity.  It's a march of 52 pounds this go around.  If I reach my goal weight, then my total weight loss since coming to Sunnyside will be 70 pounds.  Epic.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

I Hate Being Fat, Round 2 **ding ding ding**

Okay, so the fight is on.  It's Low Carb in one corner, and NutriSystem in another.  I have fought for both sides and against both sides at different points in my life.  I have lost more than 40 pounds at different points using both systems, so both systems work.  I have kept the weight off and sustained each way of eating for about the same amounts of time.  In both cases, my health and bloodwork improved.

So here I am, back up to 215 pounds, desperate to do something to take the weight off.  I'm already hitting the gym 6 days a week (5 at a base minimum in the case of holiday weeks like the one coming up where the gym is closed on Memorial Day).  So the only thing left to do is adjust what goes in my mouth.  I have proven myself to be an absolute failure without a structured way of eating, so an absolute, hour by hour plan is a necessity for me.

I've been doing Low Carb now for 2 months and the total weight loss I've seen so far is a whopping 15 pound weight gain.  I know Low Carb works, so before you start to bash LC, just back off.  It's a healthy, proven way to not only lose weight, but control your health as well.  But, it's not working for me right now, and a change is in order.

So, I'm doing a four month experiment starting tomorrow, depending on when the Big Brown Box comes from UPS.  I am signed up for NutriSystem again.  My plan is to take it one month at a time.  If I lose weight in month 1, then I will continue on to month 2.  If I lose weight in month 2, then I will continue on to month 3, and so forth and so on.  I can cancel anytime (like I did last time), so the instant it stops working for me, I'm done.

Here's the deal: at this point, I don't care if it's something gimmicky, if I can't sustain it, if it's unhealthy, I don't care.  At this point, I HAVE to lose at least 60 pounds.  PERIOD.  I don't care how it happens as long as it's legal.  Can I sustain the strict calorie reduction of NutriSystem?  I don't know.  Can I sustain the strict carb reduction of Low Carb?  I don't know.  All I know is I have succeeded with both plans in the past in losing weight, and I failed to sustain both of them in the past.

I guess the point is that I need your prayers.  My back hurts from the extra strain placed on it by my belly.  My ego hurts from so many people at church commenting to me that I need to lose weight (YEAH, that REALLY happens EVERY week to me.  And believe it or not, most of the time the snide comment is accompanied by a nice humiliating pat on my stomach).  Step number one is to simply lose the weight.  Once I get there I'll figure out what to do next.  I can't deal with that far down the road right now.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I was born and raised in the highlands of East Tennessee on the border with North Carolina, but I am a Scot just the same. My bloodlines go through Clan Donald on both sides of my family. Author and historian David R. Ross often discusses that there are remnants of the Scottish clan system still in place. I can attest to that because we are NOT a clan society in Clan Donald, but are truly still a clan (a family). We have tried with all our might to maintain our oral histories and traditions within Clan Donald, especially here in the Mid-South. I am a piper and have the opportunity to play (and teach) quite often. In fact, most every day I stand outside the church and pipe for my beloved Scotland even though I know she can’t hear me.

I am indeed 6 generations American, but I was a thousand a Scot before that.

I am a Scot, as were each of the thousands of generations of Sharps (MacIlherons) who came before me, and as will be the generations coming after me, starting with Emori.

Now, I am a proud American as well, and I won't speak to that today.  But I will say that I am very patriotic, ALWAYS stand at attention with my hand over my heart when the Star Spangled Banner is played, and sing it with all my heart.  I get a tear in my eye when I see a color guard fly Old Glory, and think of the men and women who sacrifice every day for my selfish freedom.  But I am also a Scot.

I have never been to Heaven, but I am a citizen of Heaven.  No one questions that.

I bring all this up because this weekend the Scottish Games season kicks off with the Gatlinburg Scottish Festival and Games.  It is a short opportunity for me to go be with my people and be myself without fear of being made fun of for who I am.  In fact, those without kilts on will be the outcasts.  The liberating freedom that comes with these games is incredible.  As chaplain of Clan Donald's MidSouth region, it also allows me to minister to people there as well.

2009 is also the year for Homecoming Scotland.  According to the official website iis "an events programme celebrating Scotland's great contributions to the world. In 2009 join us to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Robert Burns’birth, Scottish contributions to golf & whisky, plus our great minds and innovations and rich culture and heritage."

I could do without the whisky part altogether though.

Here are a few short videos that express how I feel about Scotland:

Flower of Scotland, the REAL Anthem for All Scots:

David Ross, Author and Historian on our kilt:

The Edinburgh Military Tatoo...Watch especially starting at 1:30.  If a tear doesn't come to your eye, well, then you're not a Scot and you'll never get it:

Here is the offical TV Ad for Homecoming Scotland:

And finally, an ancient form of music from dear Alba called "mouth music".  It is sung in the mother tongue of Scots Gaelic:

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Coffee! You Can Sleep When You're Dead!

Oh Vanilla Biscotti Folgers Coffee, wherefore art thou? Why has thou caused my coffee pot to explode, spreading your caffeinated goodness all over the office counter, leaving my handcrafted mug of happiness empty and wanting? Oh poorly made coffee maker, how you vex me!

Have you ever awakened to the sound of bagpipes, only to realize that you just woke up 5 minutes before you were supposed to be at work, and you have a 30 minute commute, your shirt is not ironed, and you really, REALLY need to shave, take a shower, and properly spike up the hair before going in?  No?  Well, that has been me for the past two weeks.  I'm just so exhausted that I flat sleep through two alarms, one of which is the aforementioned Great Highland Bagpipes.

I once saw a fellow piper notice someone asleep at one of his concerts and he promptly advised the person sitting next to Sleeping Beauty to check his pulse because the last person that slept through Scottish Bagpipes was actually dead.  Well I'm pretty sure I'm not dead, but I do feel like the undead this morning.  And there is still no coffee to speak of.

Apparently, if the cone shaped coffee filter folds in on itself during the initial stages of the brewing process, that causes the whole operation to go all 3 Mile Island on itself, ruining not only the lovely pot of caffeinated brew, but everything within a 10 foot radius of Mr. Coffee himself.  Who knew?

Anyway, I know this wasn't a very spiritual post, but right now I feel about as spiritual as the bottom side of a Dr. Scholls.  And no, I'm NOT gellin'.  I'll get back to you after the adrenaline has settled from my Top Gun meets Talladega trip into the office, and the caffeine has taken over from Vanilla Biscotti Office Coffee: The Sequel.

I'm off to mop the office.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I am Throwing Myself Into a Volcano!!!

Well now, THAT got your attention, didn't it!  Metaphorically speaking, I AM indeed throwing myself into the volcano, as a living sacrifice, just like you see in the movies.  No, I haven't been captured by the natives and am being forced into the mouth of a gurgling, boiling cauldron of molten earth.  But I AM going to be a living sacrifice.

I no longer have the rights to decide what I am to do.  I must go throughout this day according to someone else's plan for me.  I am standing on the lip of sulphuric mountain, and I am jumping in...voluntarily!  That's right, no one is pushing me in.  No one is standing there with a poison tipped spear or blowgun threatening that I'd better get in to appease the fiery bowl below.  Nope, I'm doing this of my own accord with no one around.

Why, you ask?  Because in that sacrifice is freedom; freedom to be who I am created to be.  Freedom to use all of my gifts to please my master; freedom to break out of the brittle mold the world tries to force me in, and grow beyond that false frame, that imitation of life.

Indeed I have orders from the Great God who Is.  He is indeed the God of fire, but it's not because he's an idol on a door frame shelf in some jungle hut.  No, it's because He created fire.  It's because He created water.  It's because He created EVERYTHING, including me.  It's because He is the creator, the Creative-One-Who-Provides-For-Me.  He is the One-Who-Loved-First; the One-Who-Loves-Anyway; the One-Who-Loves-Even-Me.  Perhaps you've heard of Him.

He's all powerful, yet all loving.  He's vengeful, jealous, and full of wrath for those who move against him, yet He's gentle and loving enough to make sure His children are always welcome in his arms.  He is the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Jesus Christ.

And I'm safer, more loved, more protected jumping in His volcano than anywhere else in the universe.  I choose today to let Him deal with my problems.  I choose to let Him worry about my perilous situation because He WILL save the day.  He WILL come to my rescue.  He WILL love me.  I know this because He already has, and I love Him for it.

What will you do with the gift Jesus has given YOU today?

"1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."
          -Romans 12:1-2