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.

28 January 2011

My #3 favorite place on Earth: A Cigar plantation in the mountains of Punta Cana


For our tenth anniversary, my wife Krissy had always prayed that God would find a way to provide for a Caribbean vacation. It had be 10 years since our honeymoon and subsequently 10 years since our last real vacation together. She believed surprisingly strongly that God wanted to give us that gift. I doubted it (as I typically do).

1 of 3 things happened:

  1. Krissy heard God
  2. God heard Krissy
  3. God wanted to stick it to Dave


... likely all 3.

We had extremely generous friends bless us with a trip to the Dominican Republic. I was going a bit stir crazy in this resort as much as I was enjoying it. I wanted to get out into the cities and start asking questions about economies, churches, life... so we paid an extraordinarily large sum of money to take an excursion around Punta Cana on the day of our anniversary.

Such a beautiful place. Any other international travel I'd done was ministry focused. There was work to be done. Here... our mandate was JUST to enjoy each other and the land. That's surprisingly difficult for me. We began to ascend in our zebra-stripe painted land rover up into the mountains as "Amos the famous" our tour guide informed us we were headed to a cigar plantation.

I was very excited. I LOVE the smell of cigars. I wish it was a cologne (although Krissy vehemently disagrees with this idea). We laughed together, watched an old grizzled Dominican craftsman roll cigars, but mostly we walked together away from the group gazing out over something very very... pretty. After 10 years we were more together than we'd ever been. And it was evident that beauty was all around us.

Why is it #3?


This is why...












That's why.

27 January 2011

My #4 favorite place on Earth: The former Exhibition Stadium in Toronto

As the story goes, when I was born in the fall of 1976, the only thing that would stop me from crying was watching baseball. Specifically it was Joe Morgan, Pete Rose, and Johnny Bench's Big Red Machine Cincinnati Reds. I've had a connection with baseball since my first days on earth. But I don't live on the Ohio River... I come from the Great White North. My Major League Baseball home had a slightly different "feel".

Parts of me wish that I could have had a century old cathedral ballpark to walk into for the first time. Parts of me wish that it was draped with retired numbers, dogeared photos of handsome 1920's men in baggy uniforms, and the certainty of passing a shared experience on to generations of Carrol's in the same location. But destiny doesn't work like that.

In 1985, when George "kiss my big purple butt" Bell dropped to his knees and Tony Fernandez gave him an awkward high-five in shallow left at Exhibition Stadium... as a 3rd Grader I was born again into Toronto Blue Jays fandom. The Baptism came in 1986 as I walked, nervous with excitement, through the runway tunnel of MY hometown Big League Ballpark. Seeing the gorgeous green expanse of the field nearly knocked me backwards.

What a sight.

Lloyd Moseby stretching. Jesse Barfield taking swings in the cage. Garth Iorg taking grounders. Jim Clancy warming up in the bullpen. Willie Upshaw on my program. MY eyes watching MY Blue Jays engaging in the orchestrated baseball dance. I took in everything in relative silence. I've actually tried unsuccessfully to remember who I was with at my first game but I don't recall. I do remember however being absolute enraptured inside myself by... baseball.

History doesn't speak well of Exhibition Stadium as a ball yard. It was clunky and misshapen. Horrid turf. Little apparent ambiance. It was designed as a football stadium so many seats didn't even face home plate. But I sat in those notorious right field bleachers, in the snow, eating crappy hot dogs every opening day and it was the time of my life. It was not only baseball... but it was MY baseball experience chosen just for me. That's how destiny works.

The stadium as I knew it is gone now. But this summer Krissy and I walked around it's remnants that have been constructed into BMO Field where TFC plays soccer. A warm bath of emotion flooded me. An "Inception" type seed that I intentionally planted in my memory came to life. Even at a young age, when I would be in a place I felt was significant and I wanted to last... I'd shut my eyes, clear my mind and then reopen them. I'd take a mental, permanent, picture of a time and place and make note of the sights, sounds, smells, and feeling that came with it. I'm glad it did it too.


Why is it #4?

To this day, walking into a baseball park floods my spirit with peace. It's like a 3 hour retreat from stress, responsibility, harshness. It's one of the only settings in life where I feel as if I can take a respite from my constantly twirling brain. It's where I experience Psalm 23 where David writes this about the Lord:

"He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul"


The dance is fluid, lush, big and green. The smells mixed with the unintelligible vocal buzz brings alive John Fogerty's lyrics in the song "Centrefield" that continue to resonate and unite men like me.

Well, beat the drum and hold the phone... the sun came out today.
We’re born again, there’s new grass on the field.
A-roundin’ third, and headed for home, is a brown-eyed handsome man;
Anyone can understand the way I feel.


In case you missed it:
- Honorable Mentions
- #5: 1000ft in the air over Accra

26 January 2011

My #5 favorite place on Earth: 1000ft in the air over Accra


Krissy and I stayed in Accra Ghana for 7 months in the year 2000. The time impacted our lives far more than any other we've shared together. I remember many beautiful locations fondly... but none more than our December ascent into the sky the night we left Africa.

We arrived as wide-eyed, zealous and (almost embarrassingly now) ignorant kids. We were leaving forever changed and we didn't know what it would feel like to return to a familiar place... as different people. We said goodbye to our friend Albert (who took half a year to pour goodness into our lives) at the airport not knowing if we'd ever see him again.


As the plane took off, for a few fleeting moments I could see thousands of little lights sparkling on the dark streets of the city. Their source was old coffee cans filled with kerosene, lit so humble men and women could sell their kalawole, or fried cassava. It was beautiful. I knew many people on these streets that I'd never see again. I shared in their lives as they changed mine.

And then it was gone.
Scene change.
Those few seconds in time over Accra are my #5 favorite place on their earth.

WHY is it #5?


I think in retrospect it's because I just knew we could never go back there. It's like the end of the "Voyage of the Dawn Treader" story where Aslan tells Edmund and Lucy that they can't return to Narnia.

"I shall be watching you always. In your world, I have another name. You must learn to know me by it. That was the very reason you were brought to Narnia; that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there."
Aslan


That's what Ghana was for Krissy and I. It was our time to learn how to function as adults with our God. It was a time and place that ended with the clear commission to return to change the culture of our "own world". Maybe one day we'll return to Ghana but it will be very different. We can never really "go back".

A few short seconds 1000 feet over Accra will live on in my spirit as I daily remember my Holy charge to shape my homeland.

If you missed it:
- The Honorable Mentions

25 January 2011

My top 5 favorite places on Earth... so far (Honorable mentions)



There are places I'll remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All this places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I've loved them all
The Beatles (In my life)

I was challenged by a friend (OK it was God) to analytically look at the places on earth I treasure the most. Not places I'd LIKE to love... or are the prettiest... but "those" places I've actually been to on this planet that hold the most meaning. Places that are forever etched inside me and hold more magic than the rest. Over the next few days, I want to look at the top 5 places on earth I've discovered and look at the reasons why. I hope to discover something new about myself through it and I want to welcome you on my trip :)

First though, there was a long list of honorable mentions:

Quite a number of sports settings came to mind (and some made the Top 5 too) but I'll never forget being at the old Yankee Stadium in the fall with two of my best baseball buddies. It was the center of the baseball universe and it felt like you were part of something larger when you were there.

There were the bleachers at Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton. When I was in high school, we'd stir up trouble with the drunken steel workers and smoke cheap cigars. Simply the most fun atmosphere of any live sporting event I know... I can still smell the waft of the Century Sams. Saturday night's on Carleton Street Toronto outside the old Maple Leaf Gardens in the winter was a magical place. The row of scalpers standing outside the "No Scalpers" signs always warmed my heart. I once bought a seat in the 1st row of Red's against Winnipeg for 100$. Tie Domi fought Wendel Clark. If I close my eyes... I'm there.

There are personal family places like my parents family room on Christmas morning. Christmas morning was my favorite day of the year growing up. Everyone was at their best towards each other while the fire roared. My Great-Grandparent's farm in Madoc Ontario is the historical center of my familial history. We'd vacation there and even thinking about it, to this day, connects me to my past. Harrison Park in Owen Sound Ontario holds a very special place in my heart as our yearly Thanksgiving camping pilgrimage destination.

I proposed to Krissy on the pier of Port Dover Ontario and I smile when I think of it. I remember Bark Lake camp in Northern Ontario as an 8 year old where my Dad took his Grade 7&8 students to teach them about the outdoors. I'd sit in on the sessions, and combined with what he had already taught me... I'd school the students. It was a proud moment for my Dad and it meant something very real and lasting to me too.

Two places specifically very nearly made the cut. I remember being on the island of Puerto Galera in the Philippines. I had been apart from my wife for a couple weeks while preaching and leading a team around the Manila area. It was our last few days and the host missionaries took us away for a little R&R but my mind was only on my wife. Along the coast of the South China Sea, I walked the most beautiful shoreline I'd ever seen. Brilliantly colored coral reefs lay right at my feet. I found a small Internet cafe with a view of the crystal blue water and I chatted with Krissy on MSN Messenger from very literally the other side of the earth. I started with the words... "You can't even imagine what I'm looking at right now". Connecting with my wife and sharing the moment, knowing she was in my living room seeing my son crawl for the first time, made for a slice of time that is forever etched in me.


The final honorable mention goes to what we called, "The Big Blue House". As a headstrong (and as you'll see MUCH skinnier) 20 something, my friend Brian allowed me to partner my vision for a city with his and we started a church. From nothing. God miraculously allowed us to buy an old crazy bar that was painted blue. Bright Blue. On the black and white checkerboard former dance floor, I saw my kids dedicated, baptized my first person, lay prostrate feeling the weight of the Spirit of God, prayed and danced like a wild man at 5AM while the city slept... and tangibly saw my dreams of what an honest effort at city transformation via an effective, full-on church movement begin.

The Big Blue House is now a Big Beige Apartment complex and it's former self is but a wonderful memory. But places don't stay the same. They change just like we must. We can't hold on to them. They mark times, and lands, and events, and eras. What happens in those places are whats important... because we're called to walk on and discover new wonderful places.

Tomorrow.... my #5 favorite place on earth.

21 January 2011

The Ron Swanson "Pyramid of greatness"


Ron Swanson is the proverbial "Man"


Here's some highlights:










...and at the top of Ron Swanson's Pyramid of Greatness:


I love this man. He is the man men wish they were.


18 January 2011

...it was once admirable to live"

There are nowadays professors of philosophy , but not philosophers. Yet it is admirable to profess, but it was once admirable to live. To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live, according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity and trust. It is to solve some of the problems of life, not only theoretically but practically. The success of great scholars and thinkers is commonly courtier-like, not kingly, not manly.

Henry David Thoreau from Walden

16 January 2011

We thank you Lord

Life can be very lonely and the Holy ache of eternity that drives a man forward can seem too away sometimes.

In the summer of 2000, we were asked to go to Dodawa Ghana to run a baseball program during a Scripture Union camp. It was too much for us. Quite literally. They served food I couldn't ingest. As the fat white guy, I was asked to bathe in a wide open concrete pad with 1000 naked Africa boys (not exactly an inconspicuous scenario). It was the only time that our young, North American, rookie missionary selves couldn't handle the task before us in our 7 Ghanaian months.

God actually must have agreed with us because He mercifully sent us home after only one night JUST at our breaking point. But the morning before we left, I heard a sound that resonates still DEEP DEEP within my soul when I quiet myself before my God and His creation.

Krissy and I, as young married people, spent one of the worst and longest nights of our coddled lives away from each other in the middle of rural African culture shock. We whined and complained, as bold, mature, African leaders prepared to spend a week powerfully sharing Jesus with thousands of spiritually hungry kids. We woke to a meal of tea and bread and an hour long morning devotion and worship session that included about 50 men and women singing a song that echoes in my spirit to this day.

I've searched for it on YouTube for many years but I've never found it. I wish I could. In all my days, I've yet to hear anything with the raw, honest power as these Ghanaian folks singing the simple refrain of:

We thank you Lord
We thank you Lord
We thank you Jehovah Almighty
We thank you Lord
We thank you Lord
We thank you Jehovah Almighty

This was a peculiarly lonely weekend spiritually for me. I felt very isolated by what lives inside my temple combined with the shortcomings and unfaithfulness of man... including myself. Today God threw me a bone and encouraged me through friends. But tonight, remembering this moment in Dodawa, reminded me once again of the massive sheer number of brethren that labor alongside me around the world. Daily dying. Thanking their Jesus all the way.

13 January 2011

Thirsty?



A couple years ago I found myself without a good Bible. Summers of doing street ministry led to me giving my "gamers" away to hungry passers-by who were curious about this God that would cause obscure strangers to cook them a free hot dog at 2am.

Biblegateway.com is actually my regular scripture stop most days. Ear buds, Jesus Culture on Grooveshark and Biblegateway is my most common "secret place/prayer-closet". But I need a book too. I'm far from someone who revels in the memories contained in the smell of Abitibi newsprint... but there is something about a good book in a quiet place.

So because I like buying products locally if possible to support our economy, I went by our local Christian retailer to pick up a new Bible. I wanted a "reader". I love the deeper study of the history, cross-referencing, and entomology of words... but that stuff has never been more easily accessed online in the history of mankind. A book is different. A book is for reading. Devouring. Getting lost in.

Their suggestion was a tin-cased New Living Translation Bible, with the word "Thirsty?" posed as a question on it. It was actually a free throw-in when you bought a Kirk Cameron "Left Behind" video game. So I pitched the game in the trash and walked away with a new Bible. The publisher's description of this Bible is quite hysterical actually.

"... it's about giving teens something totally unique without directly saying it's for them. The Metal Bible has the hippest exterior ever! Style-conscious teens will find this lightweight, compact edition of the Scriptures irresistible."


Yep... that sounds like some serious Christian-Crap ad-copy right there. Right up there with "The Prayer Cross".



Jinkies.

But what's funny is, that no matter how badly man bungles around with our feeble attempts to communicate God's goodness to others... the truth remains unspoiled truth. This Bible publisher and advertiser were handed the task of helping to facilitate young people opening what Christians believe to be a book that contains LIVING WORDS. And they did what they could with what they had at their disposal, likely because their lives had been revived and enriched by God too. This burden falls on all of us.

They posed the question "Thirsty?" on the cover, referencing one of the Jesus stories in the book in John 4. In the middle of Jesus earthly ministry, while the land was intrigued by him and what He was doing, he met an ostracized & messed up woman at a well. He gave her something to drink and let her know just how much He already knew about her and how much she thirsted for something better. Then Jesus said,

" Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”


She ran around free... freeing others by introducing them to Jesus. Quenched. A powerful statement and story that still frees men today.

The internet has been out at our home for a few days. It's been days of book reading around the Carrol household. We really don't realize how much we're online these days until we don't have it! So this morning I was reading my Bible while the kids were eating breakfast and Aislin asked me why it said "Thirsty" on it. I told her the story of the woman at the well and what Jesus did for her... and us. It made her smile peacefully in that Aislin way she smiles with her head half-cocked, knowing that Jesus loves her.

The Bible is a profoundly beautiful thing. It's a pathway to water.

I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star. The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life."
Revelation 22: 16-17


8 January 2011

Brianna the fairy Princess... on an exercise bike

There's nothing quite like the sight of a fairy princess... workin' out. This is one of the best arguments ever FOR having kids. When Seinfeld had kids he finally realized the comedy GOLD MINE that is parenthood.

5 January 2011

Rows of houses

I live in a row of houses.
Humble, ordinary people lead humble ordinary lives in these houses.
Only occasionally are the dramatics of life played out loud.
Only occasionally is the security of shelter broken.

The porch posts align in a symmetrical row.
Row. On Row. On Row.
Vines and differences separate neighbors from the grail of pleasantry and synergy.
Vines that bind.

Across from my house there is a cottage.
A cottage not unlike the rest.
It has a chimney and warm brick to incubate real life.

Ordinary average people aggressively adorn their humble shelter with the trappings of men.
Season... after season... after season... after season.
Increase to a fault.
Excess that hides truth.
But at night, by the firelight, it remains a cottage where idealistic visions of pot-roasts and Christmas mornings are dreamed.

Streets are stories being told.
Stories that bore most readers because of the habitual running into caves of monotony.
Oh, how narrowly we forgo the battle-won vibrant life that all-to-easily eludes common man.
Ignorant, arrogant, oblivious, obnoxious youth rail against these houses and their sleepy inhabitants.
They are wrong.
Wrong wrong wrong.
For man needs a home with a fire and nostalgic music of the homeland to sleep to.

It's not the quests of fortune and fame that such men require to be free.
But it's freedom itself.

4 January 2011

"The Church" ... from a distance


I was at home sick today so I had the chance to watch 100 Huntley Street while dozing on the couch. Moira Brown had a WONDERFUL interview with Dr. Charles Stanley who talked about forgiveness, personal struggles including a divorce, and pastoring First Baptist Church in Atlanta since 1971. Please take the time to watch it when you have the time:




From the day Jesus personally became the savior and focal point of my life in high school... I've wanted to spend my days telling His story to the world with my story. "The Church" is such a wonderful and complex thing. 2.1 billion people like me, mandated by an ancient, living, teaching to gather regularly and live life together as a part of massive global family... inspired by one man.

It's estimated that there are 3.7 million Christian congregations around the world with 67,000 denominations. There are close to 50,000 new congregations being added each year. 7 years ago, I got to be a part of one of those new ones when I helped to plant Freedom House in Brantford Ontario Canada. We're a small group of people who are making a difference in each other's lives and the functioning of our city... but it's not easy.

Dr Stanley hints at the fact that helping to lead (and participate in) "The Church" comes with all the daily struggles that most organizations and gatherings of more than one person have... with the one major difference of having a mandate from God Himself. And there are many times where doing the right thing, can lead to personal difficulty, while trying to be flesh displaying God.

This morning I was again reminded how much God loves "The Church". It's not JUST about us as individuals. God crafted the idea of us gathering together to collectively share His story with each other and the world. Derek Webb's song "The Church" (from one of my favorite albums, "She Must and Shall go free") says this, written as if God were speaking:

I have long pursued her
As a harlot and a whore
But she will feast upon me
She will drink and thirst no more
So when you taste my flesh and my blood
You will know you're not alone

Cause I haven't come for only you
But for my people to pursue
You cannot care for me with no regard for her
If you love me you will love the church


I remember the night I left Africa. It was dark as the airplane ascended into the clouds over Accra. For a few moments I could see thousands of little lights on dark streets in the city. Their source was old coffee cans filled with kerosene, lit so humble men and women could sell their kalawole, or fried cassava. It was beautiful. And I'll often think of this when I think of "The Church". Because "The Big C" Church is made of billions of ordinary people just like me, with a burden to share Jesus with the world... somehow. And so many of these people make enormous life sacrifices to do it.

- Many never invest in retirement plans... because the money would be better spent on The Church.
- Many make below poverty line salaries... because it's what The Church can afford
- Many live apart from their kids or send them away because their life is so unconventional and sacrificial that it doesn't give their family the best start and choice that they had... because of a supernatural calling.
- Many get "you're a heretic and you're leading people to hell" emails and personal confrontations daily... because of a desire to stand for truth.
- Many around the world lead churches without any education whatsoever... because it's burning in them
- Many live with the discouraging feeling of an uphill battle but with a heart full of Holy-ache for a world that God loved so much that He gave His only son to die for

I open our services on Sunday morning at Freedom House. Often I'll remind our little family that we're getting the baton passed to us from the other time zones around the world who have been worshiping already. Somewhere on earth right this very second, millions are praying, holding Bible studies, strumming a guitar in their bedroom singing Hosanna, preparing for midweek meetings, thinking about how to be intentionally kind to a classmate to show the love of Jesus with them.

It's The Church. It's a beautiful thing. Sometimes the grind of everyday life can make it hard to remember the stunning picture that we have the honor of playing an active role in. From a distance... The Church IS beautiful but the challenge is not to stay in the ethereal... it's to roll up our sleeves and play our God-ordained ministry role to the best of our ability, fueled (as Charles Stanley found out and talked about) by the loving embrace of a wonderful God.

Amen


1 January 2011

Today is JUST another day but it IS another new day!



Some say that New Years is the oldest celebration that our culture has. It's pretty big. I'll give it that. Truthfully, to me it's never scored high on my holiday calender ranking system.

It used to always seemed to lack purpose and redeeming application. I could never wrap my mind around why we should legitimize a night that's sole function seemed to be getting drunk. Even when I was a teenage boozehound, New Year's Eve turned into the one night I stayed sober intentionally... just to 'stick it to the man'.

In adulthood, I'd occasionally humor friends by showing up and sulking at their house party. I'm sure they LOVED that. Without purpose and logic set in my head, I just can't (or maybe won't) DO something mindlessly. More often than not I'd stay away from others on NYE, seeing as how my rantings of, "this is stupid you know... it's just another day" didn't win too many friends amidst the whoops and hollers.

A few years ago though, it clicked. New Years IS just another day. But in this life, ANOTHER DAY is to be celebrated and embraced! Not just on New Year's Eve... but everyday! New Years is not the only day of the year that you get a second change to make life right... every day is. Redemption and Hope are fundamental to Christianity. My job is to daily effect my culture, changing it BY good INTO good. In our culture, we throw a party on New Year's Eve. So that means I want to be right in the middle of the biggest one I can find! To be able to be a host of Brantford's New Years Eve party and be the one who led the countdown for the cheering masses was both very ironic and wonderful for me. Not neccessarily because it was New Years... but because we did something GOOD to effect and shape our culture that single day.

We started a new Brantford tradition (again) of coming together in our most public and communal area to believe the best for our city. When that many people believe something in unity, it's powerful. It incorporated multiple facets of the community like business, church (I got to pray a New Years blessing over the city), politics (all 3 levels representing different parties), entertainment, volunteerism and more.

It was yet another example of the changed atmosphere in Brantford. Even moreso... it was another example of potential for more change that exists. Dream it, do it... and it happens.

So Happy New Year friends. Today is another day that we are called to do something great to change our culture BY good INTO good. Make sure today is as successful and significant as yesterday.

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