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.

27 December 2010

The Magi - The AFTER Christmas story

There are many things about the "We 3 Kings" story that we've jumbled up a little. But the story of the Magi is a VERY important AFTER-Christmas story.

In fact they weren't Kings at all. Many call them astrologers, and this is true. They were that. But they are most accurately described as Wise Men. They used anything at their disposal including science, poetry, art and religion to acquire knowledge and KNOW what of significance was going on. They were on a quest (and subsequently many missions) for truth. Star watching was one of the ways God seemed to use to announce events of earthly significance.

There were almost assuredly many more than 3 Magi who made the trek because when they began to move, Herod knew that the Magi were on the move. There is some dispute about the timeline of when and where it all went down. But there is a pretty good chance it looked something like this...

You'll notice that this puts the Magi at the Manger months AFTER the birth of Jesus. If true, He wouldn't have still been in the manger at all. Matthew 2:11 says

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

A house months later? Dang. This will mess up the staging for next year's Living Nativity. One of the reason's why this is seemingly confirmed is the abnormal and very significant occurrence of the alignment of Jupiter, Saturn and the Earth in 7 BC. TWICE! Thus accounting for the 2 occurrences of the star's appearance. Experts say that this would have been EXACTLY the type of thing that would make the Magi giddy inside and it would have been very bright and visibly notable.

Combined with what the very learned Magi knew as "The Star Prophesy" from Numbers 24:17 that said:

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab,the skulls of all the people of Sheth."

... it would have pointed the Magi in the direction of Bethlehem. A 3 month journey by camel.

It's significant that they came later because their story is a post-birth, modern-day significant story. The Magi were intentionally generous. They didn't stop by the Bethlehem gift shop on the way in. They came armed with costly gifts worthy and suited for a King. Now think about it. If you've ever had a baby, you know that the first couple weeks are a wild blur. The birth, the attention, people stopping by with casseroles! But soon after... it stops. And you're alone with your doubts, fears and (in Mary's case) the lonely/daunting task of dealing with a deity-baby. Then all of a sudden, men of high repute show up, bowing down to your infant son declaring him the prophesied, long-awaited savior. And they brought stuff.

Allow me hypothesize. The gold came in handy for a socially-ostracized, young, unmarried couple fleeing the country with a newborn. The other thing was simple encouragement. Joseph and Mary were likely in a bit of a "what now?" place. Then the Magi showed up and brought them a wise message of warning and fleeing directions. Directions that were soon confirmed by an angel (and by this time, I'm sure the two LISTENED pretty close to angels). But it first came from men sent on a journey to be mouthpiece of God.

Men who were the kind of men that 1 CHRON 12:32 talks about “…men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should." The Magi were men like we have the opportunity to be. People who act as agents of God to further bring God's Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. 1 Cor 2:8-12:

"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him"- 10 but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us."

The new covenant that we live in makes us able to participate in the work of the kingdom! God WANTS us to know what to do! We are actually able to know the times, and KNOW what the church should do. The Magi aren't really a part of The Nativity scene. They were never there. But they are a big part of the After Christmas story. The story we still live in today.

22 December 2010

Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight

Tonight we had a wonderful church staff/leadership team Christmas dinner. We ate and toasted what has been an INCREDIBLE year of ministry and life at Freedom House. It was a toast-worthy night of reflection and celebration as so much good is happening in the life of the church we've all been a part of leading and shaping right from it's inception.

It was wonderful to sit at a table as 6 people who can count on each other to go to war with. I know I could... because I have. Last year we sat around a similar table a couple days before Christmas just on the outer cusp of "Church funk". We all felt a bit battered and bruised, but were just beginning to breathe again. The year before we didn't have a party at all... because none of us felt much like celebrating. But Bruce Cockburn said,

"Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight."
Bruce Cockburn

Our city is at the beginning stages of an incredible and largely unseen type of revival. It's a different kind of revival than Pensacola, Azuza Street, Wales and the like. It's a holistic community revival. Holistic in this case is defined as, "Emphasizing the importance of the whole and the interdependence of its parts. Concerned with wholes rather than analysis or separation into part".

Our city is regaining it's hope and dreams, and faith & trust in each other (both in The Church and out of it). We're not only watching it happen, but we're finding ourselves right smack in the middle of it all... and in some cases, we're even being noted as an instigator of it both in spiritual and secular circles. It's wild.

But I recognized two things about it tonight.

1) It's exactly what we all felt was SUPPOSED to happen. And as a result, we've been praying for it... and working towards it happening for a decade.

2) This great year has been because we've fought for BEST instead of GOOD ENOUGH both in the good and bad times.

As we toasted the mountain, we remembered the valley and realized that our philosophy, resolve and determination was unwavering in both seasons. My wife Krissy recalled a recent situation where someone was whining a little about how much they were being needed to give. She said,

"Pft... You give. You give more. And when you go to be with Jesus you give Him your crown"
Kristina Carrol

I'm proud to serve a very worthy God with these 6 people and lead a group of passionate, talented, community-changers together. And our city WILL be transformed BY good INTO good? How do I know?

"...because this is the longing of creation itself,
the groaning of the Spirit,
the very dream of God.

My tomorrow is his today.
My distant hope is his 3D.
And my feeble, whispered, faithless prayer invokes a thunderous, resounding, bone-shaking great ‘Amen!’ from countless angels, from hero’s of the faith, from Christ himself."
Pete Greig

17 December 2010

Why we SHOULDN'T stop giving gifts at Christmas

"Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we're here for something else besides ourselves." ~Eric Sevareid

I'm sure you've heard, said, or at least thought this during the Christmas chaos:

"We all already have everything we need. I don't need your gift and you don't need mine. Let's stop giving gifts. Christmas is about kids. We'll just get THEM gifts."

It's hard not to be tempted to think this sometimes because of the cultural rut we've gotten ourselves into. At times it DOES feel like a runaway train. Believe me... I get it. I write ads for a living and being around Christmas ads this much is enough to put anyone over the edge.

But I don't believe that stopping giving is the remedy to the ailment. It's a visceral reaction. Dig deeper. Giving... is integrally woven into Christmas.

THE verse in the Bible that we can almost all recite John 3:16 is "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." This is essentially THE story of the last 2000 years in a nutshell. Giving. But not JUST giving. Giving extravagantly and sacrificially to people who thought they had everything and didn't need this gift. In fact a gift of immense value that was given and rejected by nearly everyone aside from those who already longed for deeper meaning and purpose. It was a gift that was so good and was so confrontational to self-sufficiency and pride that it had to be killed off. This season is about giving and it's always come with the temptation to treat gifts incorrectly.

I've heard it said that we get to tell the Jesus story at Christmas because people like babies more than execution and martyrdom. But Jesus eventual death was a known entity to wise men and prophets like the Magi who came (at one point or another) to celebrate the birth of a baby into a cows food trough by bringing expensive, impractical, but significant gifts. Isaiah 53:2-3, 5 describes Jesus upbringing and destiny LONG before the first Christmas gift was given:

He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

A gift. A gift that's beauty and intention still opens hearts. Years ago, U2's Bono was coming back from a very long tour. On Christmas Eve, he went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Belfast. He recalls the revelation he that day about the value of the Christmas gift.

"It had dawned on me before, but it really sank in: the Christmas story. The idea that God, if there is a force of Love and Logic in the universe, that it would seek to explain itself is amazing enough. That it would seek to explain itself and describe itself by becoming a child born in straw poverty, in sh*t and straw... a child, I just thought: “Wow!” Just the poetry. Unknowable love, unknowable power, describes itself as the most vulnerable. There it was. I was just sitting there, and it's not that it hadn't struck me before, but tears came down my face, and I saw the genius of this, utter genius of picking a particular point in time and deciding to turn on this. Because that’s exactly what we were talking about earlier: love needs to find form, intimacy needs to be whispered. To me, it makes sense. It’s actually logical. It’s pure logic. Essence has to manifest itself. It’s inevitable. Love has to become an action or something concrete. It would have to happen. There must be an incarnation. Love must be made flesh."

There must be an incarnation... love has to become flesh. There is something very personally confrontational about receiving gifts. Same with love. It's someone who doesn't HAVE TO, doing something to benefit you... regardless of whether you think you need/deserve it or not. Don't waste your time railing on poor Santa. Saint Nicholas was a faith healer and radical giver whose desire was to see Jesus glorified (link to an old blog called Santa and the human meat pies of death)

Here are a few ways I think we make gift giving and receiving a little more effective this Christmas:

1) WANT to give: In our culture we spend too much time ignoring and disregarding each other to let a season of GIVING go by and not let it change our hearts. Be warned that it can very easily out of shear habit. Learn to enjoy giving. Let the joy of it rise up in your heart. Don't think of people as dollars or lists. Think of them as they really are. Souls and spirits that your incarnation of love can open a door to something more eternal with. It's not about rich or poor. A human is a human is a human.

2) Think about your gift: It does the soul wrong to just pick out some random, insignificant piece in a store and give it because you have to. It SHOULD unsettle you. Really think about what would tickle someones fancy. Something that would really communicate your feelings for them. That's what we do at other times of the year, but the "responsibility" of Christmas giving can rob our creativity and dilute our actual feelings and intention. It doesn't have to be expensive. It could be words that you've never spoken. It could be time. OR it could be a Macbook. The thing doesn't matter... the story and spirit does.

3) Humble yourself to really receive: You're likely going to be getting a gift this year from someone who can't afford to give you something... but they will because they love you. Don't say, "Oh you didn't have to" and feel guilty. They have intentionally given you a gift that cost them something. Humble yourself and receive it and let the spirit of giving warm and inspire you. Be thankful at all times and receive.

4) Give to someone who don't "deserve it": This... is powerful. Think about how The Grinch warms your heart and makes you tear up a little (at least the Dr. Seuss/Boris Karloff version). I watched it this year and said out loud, "Those Whos really should be pissed" after being completely robbed blind on Christmas Eve. But they heaped love on someone who didn't deserve it. It broke The Grinch's heart and cause it to grow. THIS is the kind of gift Christmas is about.

It's not about what we DO deserve. It's about what we don't.

Culturally... we're out of whack with how we function in giving. While minuscule percentages of people tithe and give to the church, and people go hungry around the world... we go into debt at Christmas mindlessly. This is no good. But the answer is not to STOP giving. The answer is MORE giving. The answer is giving more of yourself. Time, Talent AND Treasure. The answer is being intentionally, extravagantly, and unendingly generous on all occasions!

The law of reciprocity tells us that what you give... is comin' back. Still don't think you can do it? Remember what we're celebrating this Christmas. The gift of God's only son, allowed to be born into poverty, even when the one who knows it all KNEW He'd be rejected and killed by the very world He saved from death. Try and out-give that.

Merry Christmas.

13 December 2010

Phil Dunphy on parenting and life

"We like to think we’re so smart, that we have all the answers. And we want to pass that on to our children. But if you scratch beneath the surface, you won’t have to dig deep to find the kid you were, which is why it’s kind of crazy that we’re raising kids of our own. I guess that’s the real circle of life. Your parents faked their way through it. You fake your way through it. And you just hope you didn’t raise a serial killer."


11 December 2010

Are you learning what George Bailey learned?

Are you learning that you were designed to change the world?
Are you learning that God listens to the prayers of your wife?
Are you learning that the prosperity of others takes precedence over your own prosperity but it's the key to your own prosperity?
Are you learning that the journey to your destiny is not yours to decide?
Are you learning that the city where you're planted matters?
Are you learning that the big things are found in cultivating the little things?
Are you learning that God honors those who knowingly sacrifice?
Are you learning that fedoras, cigars, and gramophones are awesome?
Are you learning that you should lay down and die so that you can have life?
Are you learning that right is right?
Are you learning that you get to revel in the life you're living today?
Are you learning that enjoying your wife and kids releases life to you?
Are you learning that it's a wonderful life?

10 December 2010

"Magic" as defined by CS Lewis's Stepson

Brant Hansen is an award winning, engaging, and genuinely entertaining Christian DJ out of south Florida. His "Mornings with Brant" is syndicated around the US.

This morning Brant had CS Lewis's stepson Douglas Gresham on the air talking about the release of the Voyage of the Dawn Treader film. You can hear the whole interview here. Brant began to ask about Christians and their issues with the "invocation of magic" Gresham interupted knowing where it was all going and replied brilliantly:

"There has been a lot of stupidity in people's minds about magic. The difference between magic and science is that magic is what we freely confess we do not understand. Science is what we pretend we do understand. The primary difference between God and man is that God knows what He's doing and we don't"

He went on to define magic in Lewis's (and our) world:

"There are 3 kinds of magic in our world. The peddling little magician magic like Uncle Andrew in 'The Magicians Newphew' where people mess around with things they don't understand. It's movie magic. Then there is the magic of the evil side of things. The demonic forces. And that's not really magic... it's corruption of what really exists. And then finally there is the magic of the Holy Spirit of God which is the creation and maintenence of the universe. We don't understand it... and we haven't the faintest idea how He does it. But it's real. That's the deep magic."

I've been reading my son The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and we're both very excited about the movie. We both laugh out loud when they refer to the deck of the boat as "the poop" and I laugh inside at the number of times I'm reading my son stories of seamen drinking rum. It's such a wonderful story that our Kids Pastor at Freedom House has even written and published curriculum based on the book (linked here)

Like all stories, there is the pact of "willing suspension of disbelief" between the writer and reader that's required whether you're a kid or adult engaging in a tale that includes sea monsters and invisible creatures that obsessively agree with their leader. But because the protagonists are on a "magical" journey, in Narnia, it somehow becomes even easier to find yourself feeling each scene more deeply. They DO encounter all three kinds of "magic" (or spiritual) activity. Basically ignorant dufuses... then good and evil. Just like we are in the real world. The characters are challenged to discern the unexplained, and react largely by faith to the forward draw of the "deep magic" to freedom and liberty for themselves and others.

To me, it's a glorious to thing to engage my son's imagination, spiritual awareness and inner male chivalrous warier. It's tragic that adults have their belief in the unseen forced out of them with age and responsibility as if mystery was moisture and they were a piece of lean jerky. At 35, to be under the great illusion of thinking that one has entirely figured out the workings of the a known universe that (at what we can CURRENTLY observe) has a width of 156 billion light years that is created and controlled by an infinite all knowing God... is ludicrous. Mystery and magic IS a part of our lives.

But we CAN understand more today than yesterday. Yes God is big but He didn't want to stay far away. He wanted us to engage in the action. Just as Aslan keeps appearing to comfort, encourage, discipline and lead... God is there to show us "the way".

"He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food."
Job 36:16

8 December 2010

Writing radio creative at Christmas can make you want to spend Christmas throwing up

We received this paid "Public Service Announcement" from a brand name battery company "warning" the public about the "dangers" of batteries that aren't theirs. Did you realize that they could RUIN your Christmas... and eventually life.

"Battery powered toys and games are popular holiday gifts. For safety’s sake, _______ asks you to look for the CSA certified sticker and only use name-brand batteries. Counterfeit batteries can overheat, explode, or leak dangerous fluids. Always buy toys and batteries from a trusted retailer - and have an adult install and properly secure them. A few simple precautions can help ensure the holidays are both safe and enjoyable. This festive season, power the joy of giving with _______ "

An exploding "counterfeit" battery that sears little Jimmy's face off really would ruin the magic of the holiday season. Yuck.

If Christmas wasn't about the birth of the Savior of mankind I'd bail on this thing altogether. But since it is...

7 December 2010

The most popular blog post ever

I think today I will write the most popular blog post ever.

As an appetizer, I'd like to reference my most read blog post ever. It was the time that I wished the Fattest Man in the World a happy honeymoon. His name is Manuel Uribe and it appears he's very popular. I have also posted the first photo that comes up on Google Images of Manuel and his lovely wife. He's eating fruit for the camera. There are more grotesque photos. But this is all about the numbers.

Next I would like to reference the top news story of the day. CNN tells me that someone named Julian Assange has been ordered to jail over the Wikileaks . In fact, let me quote CNN's breaking news.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was sent to jail Tuesday while a London court decides whether to order his extradition to Sweden.

Next I would like to say that Justin Bieber is cute. Then I'll post a pic.

I'll follow up with the phrases, Justin Bieber is a hottie. Justin Bieber is adorable. Justin Bieber is awesome. Sweet.

Now on to the most Googled things in North America. Many think that it's an easy porn, boobs, sex and girls. Not so (although it's good to cover the basics too). Restaurants, doctors, plumbers and mechanics are also very popular. Some other big ones are (believe it or not) God, christianity, church, Jesus, dating, true love, matchmaking, singles. People also like to google vitamins, nutritional supplements, Viagra, oxycodone, and vicodin.

I would now like to write a nonsensical paragraph using the top searched words from around the world so that my swell of pointless hits on this pointless blog post have an international flavor.

"Tom Cruise and Britney Spears watched The Hangover and ate a burrito together while discussing the state of Jihad and terrorism. David Beckham came in and said that he and Dolly Buster had just taken some Viagra. They were on their way to Iraq to spend some time with the Taliban and homosexuals. Kate Moss, all dopey eyed from the marijuana, suggested a car bomb might be a nice idea. 'Pft... you need botox' exclaimed Beckham. "

Next I'll embed and write out the hottest viral video at this current moment called

Christmas Food Court Flash Mob, Hallelujah Chorus - Must See!

Now I will give you links to share this blog post with so that you will weave this blog post into your social network

2 December 2010

What's going on in the minds of University students who follow Jesus?

This Campus America video brilliantly tells the story of what's going on inside the minds of University students who follow Jesus.

This semester, we started a Young Adult and University group at Freedom House called, "The Marked Generation". Marked means "Clearly defined and evident; noticeable". And this generation IS developing into just that.

Their struggle towards adulthood is real. They face unique challenges and questions but their motives are refreshingly genuine. As a 34 year old, spending time with 20 year olds... it doesn't take much insight to see the vast difference between my Generation X and the Nexters/Millennials/Z'ers. They are a fascinating and hopeful generation that have gestated in an entirely different cultural cocoon than previous generations.

At the same time... they are just people. People throughout time have shared more in common than they've differed on. I have to admit that I've felt older around younger people than I did 5 years ago. Maybe it was the day I admitted I liked country music that did me in. But this week I invited 20 20-somethings over to my house for a cheesy-sweater Christmas party. Some of them I've known for many years, but many were University students in Brantford from other Ontario cities who I've just recently met. We laughed together, drank nog together, and shared the common bond of a genuine desire to love and serve Jesus together.

There was something reassuring to me about it. And by the social media comments (and a few really genuine words of thanks) I believe it was the same for them. Even though generations have differences and everyone has their own struggles and battles to fight... we're not alone. Not by a long shot.

Job 36:16 is one of my favorite verses:

“He is wooing you from the jaws of distress
to a spacious place free from restriction,
to the comfort of your table laden with choice food."

The woo of the Spirit of God that Christians all experience, is meant to be a bonding agent. It happens in abundance if we're willing to share our journeys with each other.

Pics from my friend John's Blog

1 December 2010

Can we milk goodness out of indifference?

This is a FABULOUS 15 minutes of thought provocation by Frank Chimero (a graphic designer, illustrator and teacher in Portland, Oregon) from a recent design conference. Don't worry if your drawing skills are similar to my 6th Grade stick figures... it's not about that. Frank masterfully explores the enormous issue of turning the mundane & indifferent into something vibrant that, if achieved, can change our lives and the world around us.

It's easy to see how changing how you see your the world translates much further than the world of design. It effects communication, personal effectiveness and (from a Church perspective) how we seen genuine cultural change as motivated by God.


"We don't teach people how to see the world. Before you can really communicate, you must first learn how to see. If you change how you look at the world, you see new and different things. Learning to see is about perception and that is a deeply personal thing hidden deep inside us. We know how to respond to bad things. Somewhat so with good things. But hardly at all with neutral indifference."

I think one thing that Christianity has going for it, is that it does challenge people about how they look at the world. Some do it in a healthier context than others do, but it does go down this rarely traveled road. The bad news is that people often STOP creating and "unfolding" at a point. Even within this fertile context and commission, (that should produce explosive creativity, given our audience and access to the One who created the universe) stifling apathy and indifference sets in.


"Can we milk goodness out of indifference? We all have our own design problem that we're all faced with daily. How do we see the world around us? Perception is malleable (DEF: capable of being altered or controlled by outside forces or influences) . We can make decisions about how we want to respond to what happens around us. We have exactly what we need... no more no less."

The idea that we already have everything we need either leads to goodness or indifference... very easily too... depending on the variable of human response. It's extraordinarily Biblical too. 2 Peter 1:3 speaks to our full equipment pack. " His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." The way we define prosperity at Freedom House is having everything we need to do what God's asked us to do. In this manner... we have to choose whether or not we will actually see the world for what it is and play in the playground. That's the freedom we DO have if we choose it.


"Noticing is finding the invisible amazing. Being a tourist inside your own life. Having soft eyes. Almost like you're finding little love notes everywhere. Framing is alchemy... turning the mundane into the exceptional just by putting it through the process of perception. "

Noticing and Framing are VITAL to the communicator as well as the designer. It's the difference between actually being able to make people comprehend and WANT what you're talking about... or not. Audre Lorde famously said, "There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt." EW Howe, around the turn of the 20th century wrote this "Ventures in Common Sense"

"If we can't transform the mundane into the exceptional I think it's very sad and stupid. We are not here to be bored. Indifference is a curse. Worse actually because it's self-inflicted."

Great thoughts.

30 November 2010

You Googled WHAT and found me?

Stats say that every month, there are 2,733,000,00 Google searches done globally. Stats say that in November, 2482 of them found their way to Big Ear Creations. These are the funniest ones.

"your dad no nipples"

NO yo daddy ain't got no nipples. Burn.

"you are insignificant wallpaper"
When you wake up in the morning, there's nothing like the personal touch of 'you are insignificant wallpaper' to remind you of your place in this world. Demoralization Decor is all the rage these days in Paris.

"whats spaecial in december"
Cap on head? Suit that's red? Special night? Beard of white? He's pretty spaecial. I know there aren't many signs of him in the stores but he's very popular. Not a real public figure... more of a grassrooty underground guy.

"who's a person that tells stories about stories"
A very unpopular elderly uncle? A PBS or CBC Radio host? Don Cherry?

"will god hold it against you if you bring your kids out halloween night"
Yes it's very likely. I'd also consider staying away from round haircuts, bacon, condoms, polyester and letting people without testicles into your church. Those and Halloween are burnable offenses.

ugly girl making kissing lips"
Yes... obviously this is something you should Google during your lunch break. I hope you have a fruitful day.

the holy face your passport to heaven"
Define 'the holy face'. Kinda like this?

Done. Now where did I leave my shroud?

"the trinity tattoos"
Theologians and artists have been trying to depict the Holy mystery of the 3 in 1 for Eons. But LA ink made it happen? You went with the vapor/water/ice thing right?

sniff glue worship satan"
It's the only natural progression from huffing. That's what happend to Lloyd Bridges after Airplane. Satan worship.

"rapture funny"
Quoth a post appoloclytic Incredible Hulk

"moving going too fast coyote roadrunner it guys are going too fast"

male sock worship"
Gross. Dang Sodomites. In a Charlton Heston voice, "Thall shalt have no others Gods before me. And that includes stockings"

"how did the fattest man and his wife honeymoon?"
On a flatbed truck?

"fundamentalist barbie"
Finally a barbie pius enough for the saints of God. Blouse buttons done up to the neck. She's judgmental of the whorey cleavage exposing barbies. She proudly recites the begats when you pull the string.

funny looking accountability partner"
I'm thankful that the leadership team appointed Ernie to me. I can talk to him about my secrets and all... but that goiter.

"a child has shouted in my son's ears and now he is complaining his ear hurts"
Let me speak louder then. "IT'S BECAUSE SOMEONE SHOUTED INTO HIS EARS AND SHOUTING IS LOUD" Just happy to be a blessing"

29 November 2010

A hopeful Christmas message of impending beatings in the happy new year

As written for 24/7 Prayer Canada's Advent Blogging

On the first week of Advent, traditionally, we look at Hope. Let’s take a look at the hopeful message of what the Bible promises that we who follow Christ have to look forward to.

We will:

· Be hypocritical, doing the things we desperately hate the most to the point of being the worst of sinners ourselves.
· Be required to walk the hard unpopular road.
· Deal with FRIENDS that WILL put us to death, abandon us when we're poor, avoid us like the plague, ridicule us, cross the street to avoid us, want to blot us from their memory, forget us like a corpse in a grave, discard us like broken dishes in the trash, gossip about us calling us "criminally insane", behind locked doors they will plot how to ruin us good.

…and that's our friends. OK what else?

· People who we love will slander us... and we'll be asked to love them back.
· God may make us blind, sick, covered in boils or afflict us in creative ways for His purposes.
· Our churches often have fighting in them over stupid things
· Our relationships will include MANY misunderstandings and infighting a plenty.
· If someone hits us, we have to offer them other side to hit too.

…so not just a beating but a DOUBLE BEATING! More? How does a physical and metaphorical thorn in your flesh sound?

We’ll be:

· Asked to not worry about the biggest worries our age has ever seen including wars, revolutions, disease, hunger and natural disasters.
· Not allowed to care to much about stuff like buildings, houses, or even how we're going to feed and clothe our families.
· Persecuted... even hauled out of churches to stand trial before high-ranking government officials, maybe be jailed... and maybe even be killed for believing in Jesus

Oh wait there's more...

· Your parents and family may hate you and reject you... they themselves might be the ones who kill you
· You'll likely struggle not to go nuts because of what you're being asked to endure because it will be excruciatingly emotionally and physically demanding.
· God will use you to make arguments that everyone will think are foolish... intentionally.

And if that’s not enough…

There is a supernatural being who will never relent in trying to steal from you, destroy you and kill you. It will use other people… OR it will even use YOU against YOURSELF... or sometime do it will just do it itself.

Fun eh?
What’s hopeful about these enticing prospects?
Because God graciously let us know that we should be expecting it (or some fancy new form of ugliness) in our hopeful new 2011. And like Bill Murray famously rallied the Camp North Star campers in Meatballs… “It just doesn’t matter”

This is how the Message translates Paul’s message of hope in suffering from Romans 5:3-5

“We continue to shout our praise even when we're hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we're never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can't round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!”

Passionate patience that turns into steel virtue!

See it just doesn’t matter! It's all part of the package… because this world is broken and we only live here for a little while. But believe it or not, it's a beautiful world that God's using you to woo it back to Him. The God who allowed His Son to be born in an animal-feeding trough is in love with you. This Era is a drop in the bucket of time, and frankly it's not half as bad as it sounds because:

1) His presence makes the importance and relevance of EVERYTHING else melt away… leaving you with you a refined, mature, sustaining, redeeming hope.

2) We're called to model Jesus ability to overcome these things. Other people, who don't have the benefit of a personal relationship with God, go through some of the same issues. They need you to help them through. They need… Hope.

27 November 2010

Within five miles of where you live...

From "Ventures in Common Sense" by E W Edgar Watson Howe (1919):

You don't have to wander the earth to find truth. Just...


22 November 2010

Brantford's first ever LIVING NATIVITY

Our city came to us and asked us to make this story a part of Brantford's Christmas experience. And so we're THRILLED to present Brantford's 1st Annual Living Nativity. It will be December 17-19 twice nightly at 7 and 8pm. You'll be a part of a half hour musical Bethlehem experience with animals, angels, shepherds and kings along with Jamie Prokop (lead singer of Mercy Train) as Joseph and recording artist Alisha Mann as Mary. You can stay up to date with the progress at the Facebook Event.

A wide spectrum of people who are my age (mid 30's) and older grew up with the Manger scene being a part of Christmas... to varying degrees. To some it was intrinsically woven into the Christmas experience. To some it was the one annual time they paused to consider the impact and value the 2000 year old story that changed the course of history. Be it culturally, traditionally, spiritually or just habitually... there are MANY people in our cities who have a God trigger somewhere deep down when it comes to Christmas.

When you REALLY think about the message of the manger, it's extraordinarily more powerful than it seems at first glance. Here's how U2's Bono described the moment where the beauty first really hit him.

"I remember coming back from a very long tour. On Christmas Eve I went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It had dawned on me before, but it really sank in: the Christmas story. The idea that God, if there is a force of Love and Logic in the universe, that it would seek to explain itself is amazing enough. That it would seek to explain itself and describe itself by becoming a child born in straw poverty, in sh*t and straw... a child, I just thought: “Wow!” Just the poetry. Unknowable love, unknowable power, describes itself as the most vulnerable. There it was. I was just sitting there, and it's not that it hadn't struck me before, but tears came down my face, and I saw the genius of this, utter genius of picking a particular point in time and deciding to turn on this. Because that’s exactly what we were talking about earlier: love needs to find form, intimacy needs to be whispered. To me, it makes sense. It’s actually logical. It’s pure logic. Essence has to manifest itself. It’s inevitable. Love has to become an action or something concrete. It would have to happen. There must be an incarnation. Love must be made flesh."

When you see this poetry brought to life... it stirs something in mankind. It was MEANT to. It's the reason why people grasp at a greater meaning for Christmas. Because there IS a greater meaning.

The reason why we're launching this campaign a month before we actually hit the Harmony Square stage is because (in case you haven't noticed) the Christmas SEASON is already here. It's so you can think about who to open your life and home to; and to share this Living Nativity experience with. It's so you can plan how to use it to change Brantford BY good INTO good. It's so you can make plans to show your kids the Christmas you remember as a child.

Share the link for the video with a friend today http://vimeo.com/17017873

20 November 2010

30 seconds of your time can help change my neighborhood

Do me a "solid" and click here to help out our neighborhood school. Let me explain.

One of the reason's we've planted our family in Eagle Place in Brantford is because of it's reputation. To some, it's not the greatest reputation. Actually... the same goes for Brantford. Places that have everything bore me. I however, LOVE being a part of a good transformation story. Nationally, citywide, churches, spiritually, economically, socially, AND in neighborhoods... and that includes my kid's school too.

BY good INTO good with strategic intention. That's our deal. It's why The Carrol family does what we do.

Joey's Seafood Restaurants
is running a "Community Revival" contest where they are going to invest $25,000 into a community project. Princess Elizabeth School in Eagle Place Brantford DESPERATELY needs a playground. It's a disaster. The surrounding community which includes some CAS projects (that Captain Kindness and the Kindness Project from Freedom House has partnered with before) would greatly benefit from it too. It would change the entire feeling of the neighborhood.

This is an excellent school in an area primed for "revival". We've had people question our judgment letting our kids go to Princess Elizabeth school because of it's "rough" reputation. But the teachers are passionate people with a vision of something better for Eagle Place. I'll partner with that kind of initiative.

Here's the school's YouTube pitch. (My son Jared opens the door and talks about Alexander Graham Bell)

I've written before about my belief that "Creative Capitalism" can be INCREDIBLY effective for profitable business AND genuine community transformation. That's part of what our "Kindness Project" is about. There's nothing random about our kindness plans whatsoever.

I think you should:

  1. Go buy Seafood at Joeys and tell them that you'll be committed intentionally invest your money into business that is committed to kindness.
  2. Take 30 seconds and vote for our " Help a child reach for tomorrow" project.
  3. Share this blog post or the link for the school on Facebook or Twitter. It's a by-vote contest eh!

Dave Carrol

18 November 2010

Jalapenos are breaking up with me

I've suspected it for a while, but my worst fears have been confirmed. Jalapenos are breaking up with me. All the signs are there. And I'm NOT OK with it.

I grew up in a jalapenoless home where my Dad would hunker down over a bowl of less-than-mild chili from a packet sweating profusely. I longed for the heat. I knew there had to be... more.

Then I went to Ghana and discovered little green scalding hot peppers floating in my soup. I was born again. Finally SOUP made sense to me. The trees were greener. The sky was bluer. My lips were on fire... and life was good. Jalapenos and I were in love. We were always together. There was not a sausage that wouldn't be covered by their peppery-goodness. Nachos. Soup. Sandwiches. I have JUST discovered Jalapeno Peanut Butter from Oklahoma for crying out loud!

But something has changed between jalapenos and me. Something is different now. I'm afraid Jalapenos are breaking up with me. They don't treat me well. When I'm with them, everything is good. It seems just like old times. But when we part ways, everything inside me is just... I don't know... turned upside down, upset... just wrong. Sometimes REALLY wrong. And I'm NOT OK with this.

It used to be 24 hours after a jalapeno rendezvous, I'd find myself singing Johnny Cash songs as a joke. I could handle that. Love hurts a bit. But what jalapenos are doing to me is RUINING our relationship. I still love jalapenos. In fact my love for them is only GROWING. They are so much more all-encompassing then I ever realized. They've infiltrated my very way of life. And they're breaking up with me.

Is it over? I've working hard to rekindle the fire over here. My last 3 meals have included them and their by-products. But .... their revenge on my aging body is just ... getting (sob) .... worse. Jalapenos are breaking up with me. And... and .... and... I'm afraid of life without them.

15 November 2010

Frontiers are all around us

“A long time ago, things got broken here. People got sad and left. Maybe the world breaks on purpose, so we can have work to do. People think there aren’t frontiers anymore. They can’t see how frontiers are all around us.”

11 November 2010

No surrender

We busted out of class had to get away from those fools.
We learned more from a three minute record than we ever learned in school.
Tonight I hear the neighborhood drummer sound.
I can feel my heart begin to pound.
You say you're tired and you just want to close your eyes and follow your dreams down.

Now on the street tonight the lights grow dim.
The walls of my room are closing in.
There's a war outside still raging.
I want to sleep beneath peaceful skies in my lover's bed with a wide open country in my eyes and these romantic dreams in my head.

We made a promise we swore we'd always remember.
Like soldiers in the winter's night with a vow to defend;
No retreat baby... no surrender

7 November 2010

The Myth of Elsewhere

John grew up "Here". After brushing his teeth and combing his hair a satisfactory number of times, his father an adequate machinist, would tell John stories of "Elsewhere". John loved "Elsewhere" with all his heart. It was a beautiful, storied land with mountains that shone in the morning sunlight and valleys that smelled of sweet alyssum. Elsewhere, there were men who loved as he imagined love being. That perfect love that poets wrote idyllic sonnets about. A love that John had grown jealous of, being part of the unwashed masses subjected to a birth and rearing "Here".

Here was different than Elsewhere. The sunsets weren't as a red. It's streets were cracked and too many Hereians smoked. Not pipes either. They didn't think twice about it. Monsters really. There were problems Here... and There too. Sometimes John's Father would take the family station wagon "There". "There" had a modest mall where John's father could buy camping supplies for their trip Elsewhere. What a trip this would be. At the end of every month, there would be enough money left over to buy one piece of the expedition gear. A tent here... a Coleman burner there. But the problem with "There" were the Thereians. They were a rude and inconsiderate folk and thought only of themselves. John's father was sure that they had never heard of Elsewhere. You see, Elsewhere was a copious country that the small minds of Hereians and Thereians couldn't comprehend.

John grew to hate Here. And he loathed There.

John's father died. It was not a sad story except to say that hard times had hit Here. So much so that the tent had been sold to buy a stack of canned corn and the Coleman burner had turned into a side of There's finest beef to salt and preserve for the Hereian winter. But John's father's death was sad enough to send John driving for Elsewhere in the willed-wagon without so much as a goodbye. He cursed Here as he sped through town. He'd never "darken a doorway in 'There' again" he shouted as he tore a strip down the common Thereian streets on his mission to Elsewhere.

John drove and drove. The speeding ticket from an unfamiliar county he didn't know existed didn't deter John's zeal for Elsewhere. Finally he arrived. It felt...


6 November 2010

Classically trained British actors dressed as American Hoodlums performing treasured Vaudeville routines

Tonight on "Classically trained British actors dressed as American Hoodlums performing treasured Vaudeville routines" ... "Who's on first" as interpreted by my son and I.

1 November 2010

I'm an asshole

"Asshole" used to be my anthem. If you're a Christian offended by such language... don't be. Because for me, the word was quite literally my legitimate anthem.... and it's a part of my story. In the early 90's, comedian Dennis Leary as part of his "No cure for Cancer" album released a song called "Asshole" that resonated deeply in me at the time.

By definition, an asshole is, "A thoroughly contemptible, detestable person." The song is about someone who is just that. An asshole. And in that season of my life, I fully embraced what it means to be an asshole. No THING or PERSON or TOPIC was off-limits for me. Jokes exposing what I believed to be truth were paramount. Everything else had to die.

I would listen to the song in the morning to get myself into the mood for the day. I'd very literally sharpen my sarcastic and verbally violent edge in the mornings. I'd prepare ways to strategically be an asshole with the goal of reducing people who "believed" in something (anything really) to tears. Tears was the goal and I could do it startlingly often if I really tried and pushed as far as I could. I was extraordinarily good at this. I still am today to be frank. I just choose to not. One day my drama class had an alcoholism style intervention for me in an effort to shut me up in the name of common decency. I was very confused as the people who laughed at my jokes "lynched me" as I saw it. The reality was that I reveled in it.

I was telling this to a longtime friend of mine who didn't know that me today, and he made the comment that he was glad he didn't know me then... because I really was a jerk. And I was. The truth about life, is that the dark things still lurk inside us. Not that far below really.

So why doesn't my friend see me as that person who I still very much am? Because somehow, I've been transformed by the love of Jesus Christ to the point where I'm FREE to be the person I know I CAN be through the glorious gift of GRACE. I don't always act that way, but the desire for what's right, good and pure is present.

This may be my favorite depiction of the idea of grace from the book "Sin Boldly". It's written by Cathlene Falsani out of her discussion with Pastor Jean Larroux

"I think one of the greatest temptations for ministers is to talk about our sin in neatly packaged sermon illustrations so I can clean it up and sterilize it to the place where it's actually a subtle illustration of my victorious application of Jesus rather than a true illustration of the fact that I'm an asshole." This made me laugh out loud, settle in, and urge him to continue. "I mean, I come into work and I've got all this stuff going on and I snap at somebody and I'm just a real, live asshole. And grace in that moment, you can't neatly package. It's somebody throwing their arms around you and saying, 'I love you, but you are an asshole'"

Yes, but you're MY asshole, I envision God saying.

"Grace doesn't deny my assholeness," Jean said, "Grace can't be amazing until your sin is amazing. You've got to get in that place where you can be startled by it, because if you do everything right, you don't deserve it."

As I write this... I'm laying on the ground listening to a room full of University Students worship and pray in a 24/7 Prayer room. It's pretty beautiful really. Somehow, I've become a "leader" quote unquote. And I'm still an asshole in many ways. But I'm God's asshole... because what his son did for me. Receiving this forgiveness and grace unlocked me to touch places of freedom and beauty that I didn't know was there. It's allowed me to breathe rarefied air as I grow. I couldn't recommend it more.

Grace isn't an excuse not to change... it's the the freedom and context to do so.

30 October 2010

I'm Dave and I'm a Christian who takes his kids out for Halloween

Here's Freedom House's Halloween policy. "Vote your conscience". What that means is that Halloween is the ultimate Romans 14 scenario. Read this... it's powerful:

Don't jump all over them every time they do or say something you don't agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. But since both are guests at Christ's table, wouldn't it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn't eat? Or, say, one person thinks that some days should be set aside as holy and another thinks that each day is pretty much like any other. There are good reasons either way. So, each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience. What's important in all this is that if you keep a holy day, keep it for God's sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you're a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli. None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters.
(paraphrased v 1-9)

What we won't do is ignore Halloween, because every day is a chance to change your community, life, and world BY good INTO good regardless of our individual opinions on a gray area. We all have the Biblical mandate to not "insist on our own way". Who in the world wants to be in a real family that holds things against each other? We've got enough of that crap to deal with already!

So how in the world can you celebrate Halloween for God's sake?

I've run the Halloween gambit. I've done church gym harvest parties. I've done carefree trick or treating. I've done trick or treating with a pile of guilt layed on me. I've shut off my lights and pretended like I'm not home. I've had my heart broken for the debauchery of a city. I've handed out candy at my church. You might have a slightly different view on Halloween than me. But that's great! Go hard! But the last 3 years, here's how I've dealt with Halloween...

I got tired of being ostracized from society because of my belief in Jesus. There ARE areas that do not reconcile with society... and non participation works. But there are a HEAP of other areas where it's religious tradition based on shaky reasoning that in no way has a bearing on a relationship with Jesus. And some of these things have separated Christians from being a light in the very world God put us here to inspired on to "love and good deeds." And I'm done with that. The years of shutting my lights off and scolding others for dressing their daughter as a princess are over. For too many years, we were "that house". If you were a trick or treater you knew "that house". The lights were off and you talked to your buddies about how they sucked. I'm quite sure that little boys don't care much about our reasoning behind the silent protest. They just know that you're too damn good to participate in their world.

Are these families with a 2, 4, and 7 year old dressed as the Muppets out just desperately searching for some dastardly act of evil to do? Nope... they are just looking for a smile and some tiny tarts! More "community" happens on my street Halloween night than the rest of the days of the year combined. And people are HAPPY to give to each other. And for too many years... the houses of those called to "light's in the darkness" have been darkened and unwilling to go where people are. Neighborhood families have found the rare community spirit created over simple candy and warm wishes... in others homes. No more.

Last Halloween I dressed as Captain Kindness and sat on my porch talking about how kindness can revolutionize a neighborhood. It was a night that was used effectively and the neighbors KNOW why we were sharing the night without judgment. I'm done with the judging... both Christians and non-Christians over gray areas of little significance. It's a heavy divisive load that I was not designed to carry. I'm sick of intentionally ostracizing myself from conversations over pithy quibbles of "food sacrificed to idols" which is what Romans 14 is talking about.

15-16If you confuse others by making a big issue over what they eat or don't eat, you're no longer a companion with them in love, are you? These, remember, are persons for whom Christ died. Would you risk sending them to hell over an item in their diet? Don't you dare let a piece of God-blessed food become an occasion of soul-poisoning

I can't stop thinking about Pete Greig's "The Vision" where its says:

"...they laugh at 9-5 little prisons. They could eat caviar on Monday and crust on Tuesday. They wouldn't even notice... They are free yet they are slaves of the hurting and the dirty and the dying"

They are words that are transforming how I live and what I do these days. Pete's word have intrinsic power too... since it's modern poetry reflecting what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:

19-23Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn't take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I've become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn't just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!

but but but but... but...

But nothing. I'm a slave to the lost. I could give or take Halloween. It's a "who cares" thing to me. It's of neutral value except it's become a night where my kids and I get to have fun together while helping to create the culture of how our neighborhood will be. Don't kid yourself... you SHAPE your neighborhood's culture. A city is what you make it.

I don't buy the "you're openning your kids up to demons" argument anymore either. I find it to be an immature view on the demonic (that DOES exist). In Ghana back in 2000, we came across a full fledged voodoo priest initiation ceremony, complete with blood sacrifices, idol worship, satanic trances... the whole bit. Albert (our friend) stopped the car and said, "would you like to go see that?". We were stunned. Shouldn't we flee even the appearance of evil? He said... "Nah... if you don't have any unrepented-for sin in your life, you're covered by the blood of Jesus. He who is in you is more powerful than he who is in the world. You're good."

We are not only conquerors, we are SUPER conquerors. Is there more demonic activity on Halloween? Maybe. VERY debatable though. Even if there is... you're stronger as a Christian and you're called to overcome that darkness. The strongest demonic attack in North American... is the spirit of apathy and fear. And the church LOVES that stronghold every day of the year. Guess what... Jesus wins.

This year, if you're called to pray... we are running a 24/7 Prayer room that you can sign up for an hour by following the links here. My friend Katie is running a great cause called "Trick or Eat" where they are gathering food for the Brantford food bank (linked here). If you're not doing Halloween... that's amazing! Bless you in your choice! Seriously! But don't hide. Do SOMETHING to change your life, family, city BY good INTO good!

And you know why we don't get to hold grey areas over each other? Because 3 years ago... I thought quite differently on the subject. I quietly judged of some of my closest friends on their liberty. It was wrong. I hated the feeling and I don't planning on resuming it... ever. It's IMPERATIVE that we know WHY we're doing what we're doing without being reckless and stupid... and maybe that's where the judgment comes from. Our assumptions that others don't THINK... because they don't think like us.

Maybe next year we'll hang out with our other close friends who we LOVE and who think the exact opposite as us and have a home wing ding. Why? Because I don't want my kids growing up CARING about Halloween. I want them growing up caring about not caring about things that mean NOTHING ... and intentionally living free as slaves to truth.

Your task is to single-mindedly serve Christ. Do that and you'll kill two birds with one stone: pleasing the God above you and proving your worth to the people around you.
Romans 14:18

28 October 2010

Sometimes an entire GENERATION disappears

My Great-Uncle Les died this week. He embodied what a GOOD man is. Loved his life. Loved his wife. Loved his kids. Fought for others freedom. Loved Jesus. When the Bible proclaims loudly, "Oh death where is thy sting?"it was written about men like my Uncle Les.

I loved and respected him greatly. We'd camped with them every Thanksgiving weekend since I was a kid... up until this one. Every Remembrance Day I thought of him and often called him to thank him. But it was his time. His death is a celebration. No sting. He's square dancing up a storm in heaven.

Death itself generally doesn't bother, effect or even make me feel sad to be honest. People live... people die. People who don't really know me that well (which is most of you all) can, at times think that I'm a bit of an unfeeling emotionless bulldozer. This is OK though, because I've learned that HOW I process and emotionally react to things is different than most so that's how I'm perceived. I've grown weary of being told it's wrong and sometimes it's even intrusive to other's grieving process. Because of this, I find it best to just share very little... so most of my thoughts will remain my own. BUT this time it's been a little sadder for me than death usually is.

I was greatly moved yesterday at how my Uncle's genuine love and sacrifice for his family changed their lives. His death marks the end of "The Greatest Generation" in my family. Their God, family and country first mentality was the glue that held together our functional societal social norms. And most of them are gone. Mine are.

When a GENERATION disappears, things change. It's not inherently right, wrong or indifferent. People and generations come and go. But I've watched families like mine struggle over the last couple of years to figure out what the new glue will be now that a sticky-generation has disappeared. I'm a pro-change kinda guy. But I think there are elements that have been no-brainer, societal fundamentals that are slipping away and many don't seem to know what to grasp at to put in it's place.

I'm not sad that my Uncle Les died. I'm thrilled for him. No sting. I'll miss him next Thanksgiving and on November 11th. Onward and upward. But I am a bit sad today... hoping that families like mine remember the things "The Greatest Generation" valued and figure out a way to translate the values into our modern society, because the way we did it before is quite literally gone.

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