Writer, Church leader, Eccentric Nut, Marketer

I'm Church Leader, Writer, Speaker, Marketer, Kindness Project Founder, Broadcaster and Superhero. But most important I'm a Husband, Father and a worshiper of Jesus.

30 November 2009

Happy Birthday Captain Kindness

Saturday night I donned Big Red (aka Captain Kindness)and we continued out kindness blitz "A Poly Lolly Christmas" in Brantford's Santa Clause Parade

We gave out 2 lolly pops. One to keep and one to give away... because kindness is contagious and can change a city. It also marked the first birthday of Captain Kindness as we invented him for last year's parade.

I laughed yesterday thinking about the fact that in one year, we've established an actual local, widely recognized superhero that has opened GIANT doors with our city. I also wondered how I became this character? Ha! I wondered, if this continues (which it will), if Big Red will become part of my legacy one day. When I'm remembered one day... will THIS be the reason? Maybe. There certainly are worse thing to be remembered for.

My dreams, life, time, thoughts are focused on the community transformation part. And as I've had the amazing chance to be able to work as a team with other gifted people with the same dream... you get to realize that your own individual part, is only fraction of the picture. We cannot indulge ourselves in self-importance. Our role is simply our role. The whole is what's important.

"we who cut mere stones must always be envisioning cathedrals." (quarry worker's creed in renaissance times)

The dream is not doing something that makes ME feel good. The goal is "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven". Our lives are a designed to be a sacrifice. It's how others are freed.

27 November 2009

Science be praised! They're finally talking with the Martians!

From today's Toronto Star:


Here are some much anticipated highlight's coming from Astrophysicist Latchezar Filipov, head of the Space Research Institute at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences... better known as "Mr. Science 2009".

1. He and his colleagues are in contact with extraterrestrials who are "living among us." And they don't like what they see.

- Well... maybe you shouldn't have stationed them all in Western New York... and Bulgaria!

2. "We sent (the aliens) 30 questions about global problems," said Filipov, who was vague about how he actually conveyed the queries. "And now we have some answers." The "answers" came in the form of pictograms in crop circles.

- When he had the meeting for the original "questionnaire" drop-off with Spacey-Stacey... maybe the barter agreement should have included the exchange of email addresses so the martians would have a more clear method of filling in the blanks. They also should have exchanged local candy products. Just to shake it up.

3. Filipov says the aliens are here, observing us, but unobservable by us for some reason.

- For some reason. For some reason they only appear as six foot rabbits named Harvey. For some reason.

4. Filipov asked the aliens about the SETI, the broad umbrella project searching for alien life, and the supposed end of the world in 2012, when the Mayan calendar expires.He told the Star that the aliens have told him SETI doesn't work, owing to a confusion about communication through "magnetic fields." They also said there is some truth in the 2012 predictions, having something to do with volcanoes in Mexico.

- OOOOOOOOK. Be mindful of Mexican volcanoes. Gotcha. Who knew that martians followed the Mayan calender. I'll bet them Mayan calenders will be popular Christmas items since so much seems to revolve around them.

5. Further, more prosaic revelations include that the aliens are angry about global warming, disagree with in-vitro fertilization and don't like cosmetics

- The aliens are hippies? Do they AT LEAST shave their armpits?

6. This work is only beginning, Filipov cautioned, and he is still open to the fact that he could be mistaken – "I don't yet believe that this is absolutely true information."

- "But we're hoping. Well... especially me. That tape recorder wasn't on right?"

7."In Bulgaria now, we have a very strange reaction to my research," Filipov said. "The people in Bulgaria are frightened, they don't understand this."You must understand that this is a very complicated situation."

- That look in those glossy Bulgarian eyes isn't fright Dr Science.

26 November 2009

The Cross is in the Ballpark

Some people say a lie is just a lie
But I say the cross is in the ballpark
Why deny the obvious child?
Paul Simon from "Obvious Child"

"The Cross is in the Ballpark" is an image that has germinated inside me over the years. When I first heard the song, I was playing night baseball a couple times a week on my hometown's "B" ball diamond. Right field had a short porch, but left field was deep and dark. There was a haunting Oak tree just beyond the chain link fence that would glisten as the dew started to fall. I used to imagine it as a cross looming tall over us as we played our boy games. Something constant and real keeping watch over us.

WP Kinsella (author of Shoesless Joe/Field of Dreams) wrote a lesser known book called "The Iowa Baseball Confederacy" It's both a very tangible, and very fantastical story Gideon Clarke who slips through a crack in time to experience a 2000 inning baseball game in 1908, between the Tinker to Evers to Chance Cubs and a group of locals forgotten by time. The game turns into a heartbeat. Life, God and destiny begin to be made known.

These days "The Cross in the Ballpark" (like good poetry should do) has come to life for me. These days I describe is as the obliteration of lines we've drawn between the sacred and the secular. See... because some people say that a lie is just a lie, but the cross is in the ballpark. It's everywhere. Why deny the obvious? Everything is sacred. And I LOVE it when people GET this.

Dirk Hayhurst is a pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays and is a friend of a friend. He's a bit of a baseball player oddity... in that he's a deeper thinker, a writer (the soon-to-be-released "Bullpen Gospels") and a very sharp dude. As a side note... his twittering is fantastic @TheGarfoose. He's been writing articles for a local Canton Ohio newspaper and a few weeks ago a great piece called "Prayers are answered in unusual ways". Here's a snippet.

This unpredictable nature of baseball is what leads the men who play it to create such fanciful routines, rituals and superstitions — including buckets of chicken, compulsive tooth brushing and the occasional wearing of women’s underwear. Do these things really impact the sport or are they done simply to soothe a player’s mind?

I pray. I’d like to think my invocations are more than superstition, but during times such as these, when I wander to the ballpark, when no amount of compulsive tooth brushing cleanses the disgust, when my supplication becomes frustration about the absence of a changeup, communing with the Almighty seems less than divine.

At the end of my most recent walk/performance evaluation with God, a sound of joy interrupted our talk, pulling my attention from the destination of the locker doors to the patch of four-base-agony I was on last night.

There, on field, were dozens of happy children.

Plastic bases marked miniature diamonds in left, right and center field, populated by parents pitching soft, foamy balls to the long, loopy swings of bat-sized kids. The players were special-needs children. Some played positions in wheelchairs, others from behind braces.

Still others stood, under the pull of autism or Down syndrome.

God and I watched the scene.

When a long swing struck a ball into play, the children let loose with shouts, chasing after the white bauble like freshly lit firecrackers. Once caught, they clamored at the opportunity to throw their prize. To whom or where seemed irrelevant. Just throwing it was fun enough.

I couldn’t help but wonder, what did that father and his daughter pray? Was it superstition or sincerity? Were they angry when they called on God? Did they grumble about a lack of fingers to fold while praying, how it wasn’t part of their plan, how they’re tired of meeting under such circumstances?

Or were they grateful to a God that makes hugs and home runs possible, even without arms?

In this case... the cross truly was in the physical Rogers Center ballpark. Dirk sensed it. The kids did too. You could have too if you were there and realized that the sacred is all around us if we'll open our eyes to see it. Reading the things that Dirk writes is refreshing because he GETS that baseball isn't the be all and end all of life. It's just a thing. The cross is in your office. It's in your backyard. It's in the streets. It's at the bar. It's in the parks. Everything, everywhere, every moment is an opportunity to bring a little bit more of heaven to earth. Jesus taught us to pray it... so that we'd see it... and then gave us the task of allowing it happen even more.

25 November 2009

Tonight's FHTV

"What have you always wanted to ask about God? Sex, Politics, Religion... no issue is off limits... whatever you've always wanted to ask, this is your night"

Home for Christmas

I'm a people watcher. Today after scarfing down a synthetic Taco Bell something or other, I walked the mall and exercised my "staring problem". Today what I saw were people searching for what we know as "Home".

There were people I've been... like the sleep deprived new parent walking halls, just happy to be around other adults and relishing the chance to change a diaper in a new exotic location. There were people I've not yet been... like the gang of old men in hats, desperately trying to make their small coffee last as possible so that their camaraderie could linger.

What I saw was a vast array of different people... who, at the end of the day, all want to be locked in, away from the coldness, sitting contently with someone who loves them. We've dubbed this feeling as being called "home" but that words seems to be fairly unique to our culture.

"Home is an English word virtually impossible to translate into other tongues. No translation catches the associations, the mixture of memory and longing, the sense of security and autonomy and accessibility, the aroma of inclusiveness, of freedom from wariness that cling to the word ‘home' and are absent from ‘house' or even ‘my house.' Home is a concept, not a place; it's a state of mind where self-definition starts. It is origins, a mix of time and place and smell and weather wherein one first realizes one is an original; perhaps like others, especially those one loves; but discreet, distinct, not to be copied. Home is where one first learned to be separate, and it remains in the mind as the place where reunion, if it were ever to occur, would happen. All literary romance, all romance epic, derives from the Odyssey and it is about going home. It's about rejoining; rejoining a beloved, rejoining parent to child, rejoining a land to its rightful owner or rule. Romance is about putting things aright after some tragedy has put them asunder. It is about restoration of the right relations among things. And ‘going home' is where that restoration occurs, because that's where it matters most."

- Bart Giamatti, Former Professor of Comparative Literature, Former President of Yale University, Former Commissioner of Major League Baseball

There often seems to be quite the dichotomy in how North Americans react during the Christmas season. We're quite Pavlovian with the Christmas frills, in how it triggers "Home". Some find it cheap considering the treasured value of finding "Home". A principled stand yes... almost so "principled" that forgets just how many of us are lonely and longing for even a sniff of something that feels RIGHT.

“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”
- Maya Angelou

Taking a step back and a deep breath reminds me that heaven is my home... and that Jesus charge to me is pray and work for our earth to be like it. It's true that we must be careful not to salivate at the wrong bells. In my youthful arrogance, there have been too many times I've begrudged others their "home" under my own restless colored banner. One day all of our earthly "stands" will just fade away and the "home" that we get tastes of here and there will be in full.

"The galaxies will burn up and the elements melt down that day—but we'll hardly notice. We'll be looking the other way, ready for the promised new heavens and the promised new earth, all landscaped with righteousness."
2 Peter 3

24 November 2009

Chapter 2 of my book: "I don't want any plastics"

Last night while watching inane television and assembling novelty-evangelistic-confectionery... I again found myself unraveling another level of of the mind-mystery that is men. It never fails to surprise. Thought I'd share a piece of one of the few finished chapters in my "in-progress" book about how men desperately struggle to figure out women.


Like most men, understanding woman has always been an illusive skill for me. I've always been someone caught between being a guy guy, and the guy who girls just want to be friends with. So that wound up meaning was that I didn't have many dates growing up. In fact, I couldn't tell you of an outing with a girl that I could substantially quantify as a “date” until the end of my time in high school. I blame this on two people. My Dad and Dana Carvey. When I was in Grade 6, my Dad and I would play chess nearly every night while watching sports. For weeks I had been biding my time, looking for the right way to ask his permission to ask out a girl in my class that I'd had a crush on for years. At that time McDonald's was running “Mac Tonight” Big Mac ads on TV to the tune of “Mac the knife”. Fred Astaire types in hats and tails danced around fry boxes as Grace Kelly's gave them those "oh you" gooey smiles back in a Happy Meal induced haze. It all seemed like a wonderful evening to me. And quite doable too. Big Macs and babes. At 5 bucks a combo, I was in. But how to get from the chess game to the golden arches was my dilemma. I couldn't ask her and come back the next day and tell her that “my Dad wouldn't let me”.

So one night during the first intermission of the Toronto Maple Leaf hockey game between having my queen taken and my nightly "Spassky Bishop Block" joke, I sputtered what must have been the lamest case for 6th Grade dating of all time. As a 6th Grade teacher himself, my Dad knew all-to-well the train wrecks that are 6th Grade relationships. He wisely told me no in about same amount it time it took for us to have the sex talk a couple of weeks before. In fact the two conversations held striking similarities. Only my mumbled “Big Macs”, “love” and “drive me in the station wagon” were replaced with equally as awkward “vagina”, “penis” and a truly uncomfortable sperm-swimming mime performance. It was a funny era of life. Because both my Dad and I (as guys) knew that I wanted girls. He knew it because he's a guy and knew what my man-brain was thinking about. What it came down to was that I had no idea had to get girls. I just knew that couldn't eat Big Mac's or have sex with them yet, even though that's all I really wanted to do.

Dana Carvey's role in my dateless life kicked in soon after. Long before I was allowed to stay up to watch Saturday Night Live, I would listen to it on the radio as everyone slept, none the wiser. Once I knew that I wouldn't be able to take anyone ballroom dancing at fast food restaurants, I played the only card I figured I had in my hand. Making people laugh. If I could make a 6th Grade girl in a training bra wet her pants... she'd surely mop up and go out with me. So l'd listen to Dana Carvey doing impressions of people I'd never heard of before. I'd show up at school doing Johnny Carson bits and full American political satire routines. I barely knew what I was talking about... my audience knew even less...but I was killing out there. Turns out I was good at it! My Dad was a classic comedy and vaudeville fanatic so we'd rent Laurel and Hardy and Buster Keaton films from the library and analyze why they were so funny. I ate up Bob Newhart routines and even created my own characters. The laughs were great, but let's face it, I was doing it for the reason guys do most things. To get girls. And we're trying everything we've got in our arsenal to accomplish this mission. Jerry Seinfeld riffs on the guys who honk horns at girls on the side of the road and keep on driving. “How does it work?” he asks. “Are they supposed to kick off their heels and take off down the road after us? All we know is that we want girls and this is the best idea that we've come up with so far.”

As it turns out, even though every list in every woman's magazine ever published says that what girls are most looking for in a husband is “a sense of humor”... apparently those magazine are published by people like me hoping that doing George Bush “wouldn't be prudent” impressions is going to get them dates. I saw evidence of no such beast. Being funny was all I had in my tool shed so I swung that axe for all it was worth. What happened instead was a whole lot of, “aha ha... you're so funny Dave, now you go over there and dance the monkey dance while I eat Big Mac's and ballroom dance with your best friend OK?”. Yes. Perfect. I'll do that m'lady.


She was wearing blue sweat pants and a big woolly sweater. In fact, she always wore big woolly sweaters. She looked silently with a bit of a pregnant pause, as if deciding whether or not to jump off a tall cliff into unknown waters. Then she said asked me something that I didn't recall anyone every asking me. She whispered the words, "do you wanna talk?" I had no good reason to say yes. That summer, I had seen this very girl act in an evangelistic play that my brother had invited me to in an attempt to "save me". She was carried off stage left by the "Light Brigade". I went home that night, more sure than ever that my brother was firmly in the grips of a cult. But that day in history class, I didn't think about that. I did need to talk. So I said yes.

So we talked. For nearly a month, this very patient girl who seemingly had a new wool sweater every day, let me spew every sort of venomous thought that rolled through my mind (and a few extras just to see how she'd react). It was messy but she didn't stop letting me talk. It was weird quite frankly. Christian AND Cute AND Normal??? We had gone to school together for 5 years and had never noticed each other. We were from very different social circles and had very little in common... but the more we talked... the more we noticed the sparks flying. Something was up.

The first Saturday after turning 19 and being legally able to drink, I bought my friends their beer for our regular Saturday night party... then ditched them. I picked up Miss Wool Sweater in my bus-like Ford Econoline Van and brought her over my house to watch Field of Dreams. Understand this, to guys Field of Dreams is not just a movie. It's THE movie. It's got big dreams, fantasy baseball, playing catch with your Dad. Field of Dreams, hallowed by thy name. When the line of cars "coming to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom", faded to black and James Horner's haunting score cued... she leaned in a kissed me. It lasted the whole credits long until the last oboe had played. This was not the first time my lips had touched another's... but this... was my first KISS. We talked after and decided that we could never be together if we believed different things, no matter what was going between us. We knew how that story ended and neither was prepared to go down that road. Being with the girl I actually wanted, after all these years, had a giant Mr. Omnipotent standing squarely between us, asking me what I was going to choose.

One day the talking stopped. Miss Woolly Sweaters decided that enough was enough. She saw Mr. Omnipotent just as clearly as I did and He was asking her some serious questions too. After listening to my venom for about 10 minutes over the phone one night she said, "Dave... it's time for you to either choose God or choose to go to hell." OK. So this was how it was going to be. And she was right. I wanted her, but I wanted Him more. Two weeks later, I said yes to Mr. Omnipotent. Jesus smiled and hugged me back. Miss Woolly Sweaters was sitting right beside me crying unrestricted tears along with me. Without having to say a word, we knew that we were "together" forever. We went home from the church that night with red puffy eyes and each others snot on our shoulders. 3 years later we stood at the altar. 14 years later we have 3 kids.

One of my favorite scenes in Frank Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life" is when George and Mary really come together for the first time. It's not the puppy love "lasso the moon" phase that I like. Or the wedding night where Bert and Ernie sing "I Love you truly" in the rain while Mary cooks a rotisserie chicken in their drafty old dream house. Those are the postcard relationship moments. They're nice enough... but are fleeting, infatuation-laced, teenage-romp Matthew Mcconaughey movie moment that little girls swoon over, sure that they've found true love that will last forever. Little boys just unsuccessfully try to recreate those moment to try and get girls. We use whatever we can think of eh.

Personally, I like the scene where Sam Wainwright calls Mary to let her in on the ground floor of a big business deal manufacturing plastics. Such a charmer that Sam. Hee Haw. A Bailey Building-and-loan weary, grumpy,dejected George has just come calling on the girl who doesn't seem to fit into what he sees as "HIS plan." She's not a world traveler. She doesn't seem to have big aspirations. She's even a little bit ordinary. But he just can't get her out of his heart and she's loved him since he was a child.

Mary (who for some reason has cross-stitched a pillow in honor of their "lasso the moon" date) tries to recapture the old magic by playing "Buffalo Girls" on the Gramophone, but George will have none of it and starts kicking things. Nice house guest. When Sam calls, George and Mary on on the verge of a "well fine then!" walk out the door and never come back moment. But then Sam calls George over to huddle with Mary around the old two piece telephone. They can hear Sam talking, but their souls begin to lock and load. With half anger and half insatiable attraction, George drops the phone and shakes Mary. He says, in a "damn it woman" kinda way,

"Now, you listen to me! I don't want any plastics, and I don't want any ground floors, and I don't want to get married - ever - to anyone! You understand that? I want to do what I want to do. And you're... and you're..."

He then gives her the hottest cheek to 1940's cheek-smash that I've ever seen. Moments later, in movie time, they're married. It was a messy melange of passion, tears, selfishness, ambition, honesty, lies, control, love, fighting and destiny. That makes for quite a stew, but it's potent, and very real. Both of the fronts that George and Mary had put on to impress and hide were completely gone. Their best laid plans lay in ruins as their lips joined. Being together may have made little sense (relationships rarely do)... but they couldn't deny what was going on. They were just THEM. Together. Two bare souls submitting to what was happening "in the spirit".

"You're not in charge here. The Father who sent me is in charge. He draws people to me—that's the only way you'll ever come. Only then do I do my work, putting people together, setting them on their feet, ready for the End."
Jesus in John 4:44-45 (The Message)

It doesn't seem to matter to Jesus if other people stand up too or if Sam Wainwright has a good opportunity invest in plastics. It seems that Jesus, like girls, just wants me.

22 November 2009

A weird weird way to Kumbaya

I'm not sure how cameras found their way into last Sunday morning's worship service at Freedom House... but... I think it came out quite well actually.

Come on back now y'hear

19 November 2009

A letter to non-believers

Yesterday in Esquire magazine... they gave Shane Claiborne a chance to write an open letter to non-believers. It's all pretty darn excellent, but these are my favorite parts.

The more I have read the Bible and studied the life of Jesus, the more I have become convinced that Christianity spreads best not through force but through fascination. But over the past few decades our Christianity, at least here in the United States, has become less and less fascinating. We have given the atheists less and less to disbelieve

Last week, we walked around downtown with our eyes and ears open. I challenged them to let God show them how they could change the city a little bit in one hour. What they came up with was that they needed to actually find a way to get to know people in the downtown... so that the nameless characters on the street would go from "a little scary" to someone who (as Claiborne wrote) "would be hard to enjoy heaven without"

Awesome. That's distinct right there. So tomorrow night we fire up the free downtown BBQ machine again and Flippin' Friday returns. That's fascinating Christianity.

18 November 2009

"Savior Moments"

As a big fan of Jon Acuff's very funny and insightful writing on "Stuff Christians Like" I was excited to hear that he was turning his work into a book. Today he wrote about walking into Barnes & Noble as he's readying himself to be a "big time" writer. Here's a bit of it:

I love bookstores.

But recently I thought I was going to throw up in one.

I got all dizzy and sweaty. I felt faint and had to sit down. I lost the wonder of Tom Hanks in the toy store scene of the movie “Big.” I panicked.

Why? …

Were they out of Bassin’ Magazine? Did the shelf that contains the veritable wall of “Left Behind” books fall on my foot, crushing several, small but significant bones? Were the moleskine notebooks in the wrong section of the store? Nope. It was much worse than that ….

I realized the Stuff Christians Like book wasn’t going to save me.

I had gone to Barnes & Noble that day to research what other books were in my category. So I went through hundreds of different Christian books and hundreds of different humor books. And I couldn’t find many that were like the one I had written. Sure, Stuff White People Like and Stuff Mid Westerners Like, but there wasn’t a Christians humor section for my book to land safely in. I couldn’t find a place on the shelf were the book I wrote would fit. I started to think, “Oh no, my book is not going to sell.”

I started to think, this book experience isn’t going to change my life. It’s not going to be some financial windfall or make me famous or taller or less insecure. It’s not going to save me.

Then I got really depressed and dizzy and other words that mean the opposite of “awesome.” That’s when I remembered a truth I have learned 37 different times:

“My greatest disappointments in life are when I ask anyone or anything other than Jesus Christ to be my savior.”

Sometimes our brains just don't do us no favors. This morning in my own quiet introspection (OK it was more like moody sulking) I was wondering why every step of the way in life, even in the "victories" it always seems like you have to have faith to make it out alive.

  • Even though... you look back and life and the "God said's" turn out great
  • Even though... you realize that God even today is fulfilling His "I'm better than the birds" promises
  • Even though... you know you've gotten to where you are and are going where you're going by listening to God
  • Even though... you trust that He's got our future in His plans

We are constantly (amid the seemingly bottomless abyss of people who bombard you with "helpful advice" and "hey you should do it differently") needing to make sure that our home, our success, our marriage, our jobs, our money, our Church or our SELVES... are not our Savior. Like Jon wrote this morning, we'll never fail to be disappointed.

In my life... houses are the issue of the day. Matthew 7 has some really "lifey" things to say to me today:

24-25"These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.

26-27"But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don't work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards."

Yep... that sounds pretty Jesus to me. I love verse 28

"When Jesus concluded his address, the crowd burst into applause. They had never heard teaching like this."

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' Name
On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand
William Batchelder Bradbury

17 November 2009

Had some good church this morning...

... in my living room, with 6 people watching Elf together and sticking Captain Kindness "Share the Jolly with a Poly-Lolly" stickers on 3500 suckers. We're about to give them away at the Santa Claus parade in a couple of weeks... and it's a lot of work for a lot of people.

But it was work that was a joy to do together, accomplished a lot, strengthened friendships and was The Church in motion. It's the church that you don't see on Sunday morning. You can't get a full picture (or barely partial picture) of a church in small self-guarded segments like a Sunday morning often is. One of the things about our church (Freedom House) is that it's a ministry center with a ministry team made up of ALL the members! And that means that to GET it... service, work, time, effort and personal responsibility for one's own spiritual growth is a big part of it!

I love some of the things that Tim Stevens, Executive Pastor from Granger Community Church says on his blog "Leading Smart". A while back he wrote an entry called, "A crowd is Not a Church". Not everything in this blog post is directly Freedom House's philosophy but there some important things to glean from it. Here's most of it:

Here is how the conversation typically goes:

Life-long Church Attendee: "Your church is pretty shallow. Felt like it was a show. I need something deeper."

Me: "Really? That surprises me, cuz' I've been here for twenty years and that's not my experience. How long have you been attending?"

Life-long Church Attendee: "I've been to three weekend services."

Me: "Then you haven't experienced our church yet. You've just scratched the surface."

For some reason, people who have attended church for many years will come to a weekend service and believe they have visited our church. I tell people all the time: The weekend is not the church. It is a crowd. We are doing everything we can to draw the biggest crowd we can--and then turn it into a church.

Many times people will ask me how big our church is. I typically say, "Do you mean how many are attending each weekend?" Those are two different questions. We may have 5,000 attending on a given weekend--but that's not our church. That's just a crowd. Determining the size of a church is a bit more difficult. Is it membership? The number of people serving? Those giving? Those attending "deeper" Bible studies? Perhaps a bigger question is--does it even matter?

Here is what I believe: We are at our best when we focus our weekend services squarely on those who are at the beginning of their spiritual journey, and focus our discipleship on those who are further along in their faith. Yes, there is some cross-over, but when we get mixed up in our focus--that's when we begin to flounder. That's when the purpose gets lost, the vision gets unclear and our effectiveness is reduced.

The "your church is shallow" or "I'm not connected" or "I don't know anyone" criticisms are stunningly common in church leadership pretty much anywhere you go. You could be the caringest, deepest, dang group around and you'd get cards and letters. It can frustrating to hear sometimes because of the amount of time, work, energy and passion that you put into it... your friends are putting into it too... and the limitless opportunities that are just waiting for anyone who chooses to serve along and let the unity party of a Sunday translate into everyday action.

Those who decide to really experience a church are the ones who choose to eat meals with each other, walk the parade routes together, give up their Friday night's to hang with teenagers, have the courage to approach other people at a prayer service and OFFER to pray instead of sitting and waiting for someone to come to them. Or... throw whatever it is that you have inside you on the pile and say... "I'm all in". That's a church that can do some damage in a city AND meet each others needs.

16 November 2009

Life's ills

There are very few ills that you'll ever encounter in this world that can't be drastically helped by a walk in the dark. The vast majority of the battles we'll ever fight will be over our own mindsets... and remedies to those problems can be as simple as jacking David Crowder on your ipod and sitting alone on the porch in the brisk, rejuvenating November night.

Life is not nearly as tragic as our attention glutenous self wants to convince us it is. God is near.

14 November 2009

Live Paul Simon music

THIS is why I checked Paul Simon's website this morning on the off chance that he MIGHT be touring any time soon.

He's not... but what a show it's gonna be the next time he's within 200 miles of me.

I've decided recently to make sure I see the people I really want to see live when I have the chance... just in case. Bruce was last year, U2 is next summer, Paul Simon is next (hopefully). A couple years ago I wrote about why Paul Simon's music is important to me. It, in a round about way, actually pointed me towards Jesus. (Read it here)

It costs more money than I wish it did to see the artists who are really really good. There is a practical part of me that bucks the amount it costs just to listen to music I can listen to in my living room. But music ADDS something important to life. I remember very vividly MANY times I've experienced the spirit of the moment manifested by music played live and enjoyed by many... and it's enriched my life for a longer period of time than some hundred dollar thing that moths and rust will just take anyway.

13 November 2009

Yearbook myself? OK

Kind of a Wayne Gretzky meets Stryper

Honestly... how many people did you know who looked EXACTLY like this? Aside from Randy Johnson.

This looks a freaky amount like my Dad in high school... with a bit more of a "Bert" forehead

One with me and m'lady

My youth leadership team... back when cameras needed a dark room

12 November 2009

"I did not make it... it is making me"

A long time ago in a place far far away Rich Mullins sang it...

... but it's far older than even Rich. Some maintain that the "Apostles Creed" was THE Apostle's Creed (an authoritative, formulated statement of the chief articles of Christian belief) . The big names. The legends. It's likely a BIT newer but not much. But it does really explain (across denominations) what and who we ARE. It says:

I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:
And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary: Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell: The third day he rose again from the dead: He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty: From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead:
I believe in the Holy Ghost:
I believe in the holy universal church: the communion of saints:
The forgiveness of sins:
The resurrection of the body:
And the life everlasting. Amen.

I love the historical and numerical weightiness of the Apostle's Creed (not to be mistaken for the Apollo Creed). It connects me to the millions and millions of people throughout history and today who make this truth the "why I move" of life. Last night on Freedom House TV, we talked about the freedom we have in our land... contrasted with the lack of freedom that so many face even today.

When you get ahold of what this creed really means to us... it leaves us with no options but to be in an active, living, moving place of faith. Check out this video recently posted on the Voice of the Martyrs website showing an underground church in Vietnam being raided and broken up.

How do people have the strength to be jailed for merely meeting together to talk about a man who loved people so radically that he sacrificed His very life for our freedom? I love the line in the Mullins song that says, "I did not make it... it is making me". That's why. Because when you legitimately seek to get to know who this Jesus is... and really ENCOUNTER Him. He captures your affections and makes you into something that looks more and more like Him everyday. Into someone who loves so radically... that it physically changes the world around you and forces others to stop and take note.

Check out the two parts of last night's FHTV discussion by clicking here. I'd love to hear your thoughts on our freedom and what we are to do with it!

10 November 2009

My wife is a blogger

My wife is a strong, free, beautiful, powerful, influential, totally rock and roll woman of God who is worth stopping to listen to... and now she blogs too. Check out "I hope you dance".

9 November 2009

I'm better than the birds

The year that I was engaged (and broke) in college was the first time I had ever been gripped with fear about money. How in the world would I ever be able to afford my ONE life, let alone TWO lives??? There were days where, even though I knew that God had led me to where I was (and into where I was going), I barely wanted to get out of bed for fear of lack of provision. Some days I didn't.

This was the beginning of what remains the biggest struggle in my life as a Christian. It's ironic too... since God has ALWAYS asked us to throw caution to the wind so to speak and just let Him do His thing while we focus on our Mission. Almost sounds Biblical...

Matthew 6:
25"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

28"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

That year of college, the only way I made it through in one piece was to write this scripture on a piece of paper and tape it to my wall, right beside my bedroom door. I forced myself to say it out loud at least once a day. I tried to learn how to believe it, even though I didn't really believe it. And it apparently worked.

13 years, and situations too numerous to count later, I've had to do the same thing over and over and over. "I'm better than the birds. I'm better than the birds. I'm better than the birds," then I put my head down and work at what the day has presented me as a challenge.

These last few weeks have been a time where I've had to force myself to "seek ye first the kingdom of God" and choose to believe that "all these things shall be added onto you"... because I don't always feel that way. But God's built quite a case for it being true.

One thing that I did realize last night, is that I've lost a bit of the revelry I used to have in living how the world sees as foolish... but God uses to show Himself large and in charge. Krissy and I have lived in dingy apartments, orphanages with busted up beds, a hard top trailer... and it was all unquestionably God-ordained. And we were great with it, because God used our minor discomforts (and it really was only MINOR) to make His Name great. We have always been able to laugh and revel in the fantastic foolishness of it all.

I don't think I'm any less ready and willing today. I better not be since the vow of ministry I made with The Almighty was, "You take care of me and my family... and I'll do whatever you need me to do to show the world how Big you are" ... and He took the deal. What it likely means is that I need to get my game-face on because God's got something up. Fear is imaginary and easily overcomable when you give a little effort and apply a little truth. The good thing for me, is that my "game-face" is a goofy one.

So bring it on...

8 November 2009

7 November 2009

What a week

What a week this has been. For me personally I lost one (and almost 2) Grandmothers... plugged through a tough week at my day job... we've found ourselves with some very difficult life choices to make... did 5 hours of live broadcasting in the evening... was a part of a week of 24/7 Prayer... and barely saw my family. Ha! But I'll take an interesting and effectual life over a safe and ineffectual one ANY DAY! I wrote this this morning on the Freedom House Blog:

We're almost done another week of 24/7 Prayer, IN the heart of Brantford... FOR the heart of Brantford. Each time we've done one of these weeks, God has led us in a slightly different direction... and He's accomplished different things each time. This time, we've very successfully incorporated our new Freedom House TV Ministry into the prayer for the city. Check this out...

In month.... we've now officially had 1000 visits to Freedomhousetv.com! While that might seem like an abstract figure... living in that number are real people who have been moved by prayer. As we've reflected on the week of 24/7 prayer and the live broadcasts each night, we can identify at least 2 or 3 specific people each night that we know of (who are currently outside of our Freedom House family) that either participated, were touched by, encouraged by, or had new things stirred in them by your constant prayer that has happened this week. And that includes some of the leaders in our city!

Not to mention the fact that as people have been praying in the see-through glass room across from Williams... the large number of people who have come over and inquired about it or asked for prayer. God is so good... and (as we've long suspected) so desirous to share that goodness with many! Remember months ago when we felt like God was telling us that this was "The Era of Everyone"? Well what has happened this week... has TOTALLY displayed that word as alive!

AND... that's not even talking about what God's done in some of us!

AND... that's not even talking about what God's going to release us into next! In the next few months we're going to be Christmas floating... leading carol's in the square... hosting Olympic Athletes... and running our very own WINTER CARNIVAL for the entire city! Friends this is a time of great favor that God is giving us and anyone who wants on this crazy ride will have an important role!

This was a clip of after the broadcast went off the air Tuesday night.

After FHTV went off the air Tuesday night... we worshiped and prayed together a bit

Looking forward to getting TOGETHER in person to worship tomorrow morning.

6 November 2009

Looking for answers to prayer? Cheap Trick has an idea

Last night during our dialogue on Freedom House TV, we were chatting about how we should pray for schools (as Freedom House is embed right in the middle of the Laurier Brantford Campus), and one of the people chatting in the chat room asked this...

"If God already knows the outcome... why do we even have to pray?"

Good question. A lively discussion ensued that brought out many excellent answers. But I'm afraid that nobody even considered the wise words of "Cheap Trick" in the matter.

I want you to want me.

The more I think about life, faith walking and why we pray... the more I think this is a big part of what God is up to.

I'm 5 chapters into writing a book about sex & relationships. It's about the stunning/obvious/uncomfortable/cool way that God as the bridegroom and The Church as the bride, interact in similar ways that we do . This is not "Women are from Venus. Men are from Mars" here... but if you've been married for any length of time and have consummated your marriage (here's hoping on that front :) you know that men and women NEED different things. Lets "go there" for a minute.

Woman usually aren't always "in the mood" to give and receive with their spouse without a few things happening first. Like security... provision... love... touch... talk... and the reality is that we're much like that with God. The groom TOTALLY wants to provide all of that. But one thing that the man NEEDS to be able to love His wife like Christ loved the church and (happily and willingly) give his life for her... is to know that he's valued and wanted. When a man knows that his bride "wants him"... there is nothing that He'd rather do for her than EVERYTHING (which is exactly what she needs!).

I think prayer gets us "in the mood" or "in the right spirit" for answers and provision to happen. It turns our affections to God. It focuses our love towards our bridegroom and allows us to shut out everything else out... things that are of little consequence in the light of a Big Holy God. In a scenario like that... a guy knows that his bride wants HIM. He knows that he's more than a sugar-daddy. In a scenario like that... God answers prayer. It becomes His pleasure and desire.

He wants us to want Him... so that that He can fully pour out His extravagant love back on us. Here's David Crowder's new video "How He Loves" (a cover of the brilliant John Mark McMillan song)

4 November 2009

Tonight's FHTV

... OK what a great show/prayer time tonight. All about cities, governments, business... and how they can really change a city. So good. Got to pray online with one of our city councilors.

3 November 2009

Can a marshmellow predict the future?

Life is an unrelenting Mr Toad's Wild Ride full of constant surprises but there must be ways to not only succeed but thrive. I'm not much for smiley-pie "You're a winner always" theology but I plan on being someone who "does something" with his life.

Read a really interesting story in the Toronto Star a couple of days ago called "How a marshmellow can predict your future". Here's the highlights:

Researchers told children that they could have one thing they really wanted right away – a marshmallow, or a candy or a cookie, for example – but if they could wait while the researcher left the room and came back about 15 minutes later, they could have two.

It was designed to test self-control. The researchers, led by psychologist Walter Mischel, found only about 30 per cent of more than 600 children tested could hold out.

Jonah Lehrer, in a recent New Yorker magazine article, reports those children who waited 15 minutes averaged 210 points higher – more than 10 per cent – on college entrance exams than did those who could wait only 30 seconds.

Collectively, the brain skills needed to wait for marshmallows are known as "executive function" or, more broadly, as "self-regulation." They include inhibiting impulses, sustaining attention, planning, prioritizing, and finding and carrying out strategies to stick to your plan.

In kid-friendly language, it means you can "rise to the challenge."

I hope I haven't offended any marshmellows over the years. I had no idea the influence they had over time and space. Shoot... I used to just throw them in the fire.

Executive function. I can buy that. I can also buy that there are some to whom this will come easy and some who it won't. But circumstances shouldn't be an excuse... and free will is given to us all. Life gets wild for all of us, and sometimes it feels out of control. And what about the eat-the-marshmellow-first-folk? Are we/they doomed to a life of only temporal mellow-related pleasure?

Read another good piece yesterday on the blog of a Leadershipy guy named Brad Rourke. In a post called "Seven things I can control" he lists these as the variables over which we DO have control.

  • Attitude: What do I bring to the situation? What are my expectations?
  • Effort: Am I just coasting along at half steam, or am I all in?
  • Tone: Do I say the correct things, yet clothe them in sarcasm or smugness?
  • Motives: Do I have hidden motives, such as vanity or pride?
  • Thoughts: Am I harboring negative thoughts about others?
  • Actions: Regardless of my intentions, are my actions helpful?
  • Reactions: How do I react to what others do? Is it helpful?

And he's right. Having "executive function" at your disposal sure does help in the activation of these 7 things. But whether we're the gobblers or waiters... we CAN control these things. Life really is so unpredictable and there are time where it SUCKS for everyone. But that's kinda the point. One of my favorite scriptures is about beating our own body into submission... executive function.

1 Corinthians 9:24Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

25Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

... and that happens by choosing the right attitude, effort, tone, motives, thoughts, actions and reactions... whether you're the chubby bunny marshmellow champ or not.

2 November 2009

Who's afraid of big bad death?

My Grandma died this morning. If you met Mellas Moore... you knew that she was quite a character. She used WD40 on her joints to help her arthritis because if it was good enough for the hinges on the door... it was good enough for her. All of her kids, grand kids, nieces and nephews could retell you the story verbatim of how she chopped up a snake on the farm with an axe once... and we know that you NEVER use candles because of the late night mishap her and my aunt had on their way to the outhouse on the farm as kids.

Nobody made a better buttertart... and if you crossed her, she'd quite literally take you down on the floor and sit on ya. When my Grandpa got Alzheimers many years ago, she was right by his side, fighting on his behalf day in and day out. She was scrappy and tough... and she made it known to all of us that family came first.

I'm OK that she died today. In fact, in light of what The Bible says, we should be more OK with death than we usually are. This is how The Message puts 1 Corinthians 15

Death swallowed by triumphant Life!
Who got the last word, oh, Death?
Oh, Death, who's afraid of you now?

It was sin that made death so frightening and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three—sin, guilt, death—are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God!

I LOVE that we get to wash away other life-suckers like sin and guilt when we spend our time with the Life-giver. I LOVE that life doesn't end. Earlier in the chapter it says,

"We're not all going to die—but we are all going to be changed."

I miss the nearly weekly "family first" Sunday afternoon dinners that my Grandma used to organize. Her rhubarb pie spoiled me forever on pie. But in life... we're called to move from "glory to glory" both in heaven and on earth. Many year ago, strokes stole my Grandma's ability to communicate, walk, and live like she wished she could. Today... she has broken through to a very refreshing place of freedom. Glory to glory. This is a happy thing!

We have to be careful on earth not to feel the sting of death too harshly. Death doesn't have a sting "In the resurrection scheme of things". What death SHOULD remind about more often than it does... is that we're supposed to move from glory to glory TODAY too. For eternity, this process never stops. It's the same for my Grandma as it is for me... it's just that her vantage point is just a little bit more breathtaking than mine today.

1 November 2009

24/7 Prayer... on FHTV

One of the reasons I "DO" Halloween is..

... because before long, our kids won't have their day made by pretending to be Cinderella, a Lady Bug and Captain Kindness Jr... or concider hanging out with their parents dressed as Santa and Captain Kindness Sr cool.

"They grow up fast. Enjoy these days"
Smart Parents
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