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.

29 October 2011

Me And My Stuff


As the November edition of The Brant Advocate is about to come out including an article of mine that I'm very excited about called "When Kings go off to War" I wanted to share with you the full extended version my October article about how we treat our "stuff".


When I was in my early 20’s and could finally afford some of the things I really wanted, I could only think of one thing. A brown leather jacket. One like Kevin Costner wore in Field of Dreams. He was one sharp lookin’ man in that movie and when I wore my bomber jacket that smelled like an old baseball mit, I knew I looked GOOD. Costner good.

Before we were married, while on a date with my wife in Toronto to see the Phantom of the Opera, we were walking down Yonge Street and saw a homeless man. He was not the first nor last we saw that night but this situation was different. As we walked past, I heard that little voice inside me (the one we all hear but too often ignore) say the words, “Take off your jacket and give it to this man”. I instantly went into internal spin mode with a litany of great reasons why NOT to give my coat away.

I was on a date. It was cold out. He HAD a coat,. What did he need a Kevin Costner jacket for? How would I explain “the voice that told me to do something irrational” to my girlfriend? There were lots of reasons to continue walking and ignore the unmistakable burden on my heart. So I did because it was easier and it didn’t disrupt my evening.

I put on the jacket the next day to go to work, and it didn’t feel the same. It didn’t look the same. I didn’t much feel like the Field of Dreams man of faith who brought Shoeless Joe Jackson back to life, to right an old wrong, by acting on what he KNEW was RIGHT. Soon my leather jacket went totally Tell-Tale Heart on me and I had no choice but to throw it in the closest Salvation Army donation bin I could find so I didn’t have to live with the reminder of my failure.

That jacket taught me something about how we should treat “stuff” that has stuck with me for 15 years. There is nothing wrong with having “stuff”. Stuff can be pretty great. But we can never make the mistake of believing any “thing” isn’t expendable for the benefit of others. The task God gave to me on the street that night, wasn’t to deck out a homeless man in brown leather. It was a personal challenge about how generous of a life I was going to live and how I was going to steward the amount of wealth I was going to have over the course of my lifetime. The next time I was faced with a similar situation, I’m happy to report I passed. Not every time, but more often than not because my outlook was changed about how an adult with choices should treat his “stuff”.

In our city there are MANY needs and MORE than enough resource to make sure ALL the needs are met. No foolin’ Wally. Brantfordians are incredibly innovative, talented and industrious. History and our present day revival of civic hope shows it plainly. So why aren’t all the needs met?

What ISN’T the answer is FORCING people to give. This is not an uncaring statement if you rethink the leather jacket. Often attempts to solve social issues by coercion , feels as if during that night on Younge Street, someone stopped me, pointed at the homeless man and forcibly demanded my jacket because I could afford it. Even IF I agreed to such a scenario, it would have been grudgingly, and while an immediate need MAY have been met, the chance of me doing it again or meaning it would be squashed on the spot. It’s not an exponential scenario for any party involved. In fact it actually bypasses the very opportunity for heart-change that can mean the difference between someone choosing to LIVE generously and motivated to personally meet needs repeatedly ... or stagnant solution, ending in bitterness and worse... apathy.

Community leaders, I think we need to believe in, rely on, and challenge our fellow man a little more than we do. Farginen” is a Yiddish word that means “To open space for others”. Be it civic leaders, church leaders, leaders in a classroom, or leaders in business, the good ones farginen for others by opening space for those they’re leading to prosper... GIVING seed to the sower instead of taking it from him.

Then it’s up to us and our stuff. We have enough stuff to go around. When when we have the faith to listen to the little voice and give, it not only meets needs... but it multiplies because it change our hearts and might even free someone else’s heart to give too.

19 October 2011

The church can be weird ... but so are you


I've spent most of my life as a church person. I had a couple of years there where God gave me a mulligan while tasting the fru-its of the dev-il ... but perspectively, The Church has always been a major part of my life. I grew up in the United Church, split away to go Independent, joined a Congregational network, was a die hard Pentecostal, had a brief respite as an African grass rootsy, and then planted an intentionally Non Denominational church with a mission to bring 'em all together.

I have deep appreciation for of them all. I have lingering burrs up my butt about all of them. They all both confuse AND INfuse me with passion. And I have a growing understanding that God loves them all for more unilaterally than I previously suspected.

"Protestants have this fear of Mary the Catholic Boogiewoman for some reason. Are we are afraid she is going to jump out and make us worship saints?"
Aaron White


Sometimes when God's people come together to worship, it's downright weird. I've been in meetings that included (not exaggerating here) 50 swords (including most of the Lord of the Rings replicas) that by the end of worship were being waved about.

I've been in prayer rooms with a group of quiet contemplative Baptists when "The Shofar Guy" walks in to triumphantly announce the "Walls of Jericho" falling down if you will. That's a scene that you wish you had a hidden prayer room camera for.

I've been in services where the truly crazy just walk right up to the speaker and declare them the living Spawn of Satan and I've been in meetings that when finished, people are laying prostrate on the ground under the weighty presence of a tangible God. I'm sure I haven't seen "it all" but I've seen lots of various good AND bad... and a whole lot of in between. And I suspect since everyone in these stories are still following Jesus and still trying to figure it out together... God's love and grace for all of it MUST BE bigger and wider than we suspect.

PEOPLE are the variable in each equation. It's not easy to figure out how we humans should behave around someone we respect and want to impress. Good looking girl... a business person you look up to... God. And because of that, sometimes it can get WEIRD and awkward. Sometimes it's like U2's heavenly dream of “I believe in the kingdom come where all the colors will bleed into one”. Those moments are awesome. Poignant. Meaningful. Memorable.

But not every moment is poignant. In fact most really aren't and it really doesn't matter that much. I was in a worship service recently where at one point there was a woman attempting to sing in a falsetto two octaves above where she should be singing, that sounded like a cooing dove struggling to breathe. At the same time there a young woman singing completely off key in my ear. At the same time someone else was aggressive knee-drummed completely off beat to a song I didn't like. I wanted to take a walk to get away just to let my brain breath. But what was happening was genuine people lifting what had, in their own way to God. Not pretty... but real. More real that most life scenarios because people were ACTUALLY expressing love.

I remember once when I was a young, zealous new convert eager to see revival in my city and family... I, enraged, tore out of the parking lot of a lovely Anglican service. My family was all gathered for a funeral and I couldn't believe that the Man of God delivering the message didn't act in the way that I would have. The nerve eh? It was so silly because what happened was honoring of man and God and meant MUCH to my family... but I couldn't get over the things that just don't matter much.

Many of our churchy things are all just make-believe. Names, titles, precious little traditions. They aren't NEARLY important as we think. But the amount of love and grace that God chooses to have for us as we figure these things out tells me that we need to really consider having much more for each other.

Last night a friend of mine sent me this clip that a personal friend of his shot from a church called Bethel in Redding California. At the end of a service... all of a sudden in the corner of the room a physical cloud appeared and began rain flakes of gold. Keep an eye on the top right corner



Absolutely amazing. Weird? Oh absolutely no doubt. This is NOT a common occurrence. Is it something that happened in the Bible? Oh absolutely... there was cloud of God that walked right along with his people. Do I get it? Lord no. Do I want to? Oh absolutely. What's the key to understanding? Love, grace, peace, patience, kindness and not getting brought down by how things look and seem even if it's not something we "get" ... yet.

The Church is weird but extraordinarily beautiful. I want more.


13 October 2011

What are the most "Liked" verses in the Bible... at least on Facebook?


There's a fascinating site called "The Likeable Bible" that breaks the Bible down verse by verse, and asks people to 'like' the individual verses they like the most.

Let's look at the current Top Ten and see if we can cast vast non-contextual, overblown, sarcastic generalizations and semi-baseless assumptions about what it says about people.

#1 and #2 (The boozy verses)

Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Proverbs 31:6

Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.
Proverbs 31:7


What it says: Well... people like their drinkin clearly. I actually love these verses too. They make the conservative squirmy. Of course it does say right before that it's not for Kings and rulers to crave it... so maybe all those sad sack country songs about friends in low places drinkin whiskey resonate with the facebooking masses.


#3 (The Beginning)

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. Genesis 1:1


What it says: It means that people wound rather get in arguments about dinosaurs, gardens and strategically placed fig leaves than the publicly espouse the deity of Christ. Ooooo...

#4 (The Commandments)

Thou shalt not kill. Exodus 20:13


What is says: It means that people are still trying to avoid thinking about those whole coveting the neighbor and pesky Sabbath ones.

#5 #8 #10 - (The Novelty Verses)

And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them. 2 Kings 2:24

Do not prostitute thy daughter, to cause her to be a whore; lest the land fall to whoredom, and the land become full of wickedness. Leviticus 19:29

But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence 1 Timothy 2:12


What is says: Bear maulings, whores and silencing women. Gotta love the Bible. It says that there are lots of former Sunday School boys who amused themselves by trying to make their friends laugh by passing the funny scriptures around while a lady in a Hawaiian shirt put on a puppet/felt board combo show... on Facebook. I'm personally very disappointed that Ezekiel 23:20 is not there though. That's what I "Liked"

There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses.


Best... verse... ever

#6 (Anger at the rich)

And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. Matthew 19:24


What it says: People love this one. Mostly because 70% of our culture has no liquid money and are drowning in debt and revel in seeing a rich guy is get burned. Schadenfreude. Yep. That's why people like it so much. Of course they often forget the poor widow that Jesus lauded gave MOST of her earthly possession and wealth so... easy treading there plankeye.

#7 (The Slam Dunk)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16


What is says: It says that people only really know a couple of Bible verses... and this is one of them.

#9 (The Tats)

Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:28


What it says: It says that the namesake "Mothers" whose son's chose to honor with ink on their upper arm... didn't find it quite so touching.

BONUS #11 (Fruity Sex)

Strengthen me with raisins,refresh me with apples,for I am faint with love. Song of Solomon 2:5


What it says: I don't know why fruit was such a big part of Bible sex... but it looks like I'm not the only who curious about it. Where do you put the raisins?

4 October 2011

A Grander Vision of the Political Right PART 2: "You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong"


Part 1 (if you missed it)

I continue to be a little bothered by the lack of GRAND vision communicated by the political right. Called the "Ten Cannots" this has been long misattributed to Abraham Lincoln. It was actually written by William John Henry Boetcker, a leading Presbyterian minister, thinker and speaker in 1916. It's thoughts are incredibly important, especially for those of us who care about the prosperity of EVERYONE instead of only a few.

You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
You cannot help little men by tearing down big men.
You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
You cannot establish sound security on borrowed money.
You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn.
You cannot build character and courage by destroying men's initiative and independence.
And you cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they can and should do for themselves.



It's a mindset issue and an important one. I think it depicts a scenario in which good men can ensure MANY needs are BEST met. In my article in this month's Brant Advocate, I tell a story about many years ago while on a date in downtown Toronto where God confronted me about how to treat "wealth".

When I was in my early 20’s and could finally afford some of the things I really wanted, I could only think of one thing. A brown leather jacket. One like Kevin Costner wore in Field of Dreams. He was one sharp lookin’ man in that movie and when I wore my bomber jacket that smelled like an old baseball mit, I knew I looked GOOD. Costner good.

Before we were married, while on a date with my wife in Toronto to see the Phantom of the Opera, we were walking down Yonge Street and saw a homeless man. He was not the first nor last we saw that night but this situation was different. As we walked past, I heard that little voice inside me (the one we all hear but too often ignore) say the words, “Take off your jacket and give it to this man”. I instantly went into internal spin mode with a litany of great reasons why NOT to give my coat away.

I was on a date. It was cold out. He HAD a coat,. What did he need a Kevin Costner jacket for? How would I explain “the voice that told me to do something irrational” to my girlfriend? There were lots of reasons to continue walking and ignore the unmistakable burden on my heart. So I did because it was easier and it didn’t disrupt my evening.


Soon after, I got rid of the jacket. I couldn't even look at it because it was no longer MINE. What it did was make sure that the next time I was confronted with sacrificial generosity... I did what was right. And it changed me. Forever. That jacket taught me something about how we should treat “stuff” that has stuck with me for 15 years. There is nothing wrong with having “stuff”. Stuff can be pretty great. But we can never make the mistake of believing any “thing” isn’t expendable for the benefit of others. Life is about others.

Too often the "Ten Cannots" are broken in attempts to solve social issues that EVERYONE cares about. But when it happens, it feels as if during that night on Yonge Street, someone stopped me, pointed at the homeless man and forcibly demanded my jacket because I could afford it. Even IF I agreed to such a scenario, it would have been grudgingly. And while an immediate need MAY have been met, the chance of me doing it again or meaning it would be squashed on the spot. It’s not an exponential scenario for any party involved. In fact it actually bypasses the very opportunity for heart-change that can mean the difference between someone choosing to LIVE generously and motivated to personally meet needs repeatedly ... or stagnant solution, ending in bitterness and worse... apathy. You cannot legislate care. It has the opposite effect.

"All thinking will be moonshine unless we realize that nothing but the courage and unselfishness of individuals is ever going to make any system work properly. It is easy enough to remove the particular kinds of graft of bullying that go on under the present system: but as long as men are twisters or bullies they will find some new way of carrying on the old game under the new system. You cannot make men good by law: and without good men you cannot have a good society."
CS Lewis in Mere Christianity


We've tried legislating care. It doesn't work. The answer lies in the ensuring of the freedom of man. As fallible as the human being is, God has put His eggs in man's basket. Leaders need to challenge and open space for good men to be generous. We need to GIVE seed to the sower instead of taking it from them. People taking care of people may sound Utopian, but imagine what free people caring for each other would look like. You personally KNOW the needs of your neighbors... Your family... Your community better than anyone. And you'd be shocked at what a little thought, time, talent and money can do to completely revolutionize a life and neighborhood. When WE do it because it comes from out hearts, instead of someone doing it for us, it is MASSIVE MASSIVE. One changes man and creates ripples... the other barely gets anyone by.

3 October 2011

ALL thinking will be moonshine unless...


Politics and its systems are important; but...

"All thinking will be moonshine unless we realize that nothing but the courage and unselfishness of individuals is ever going to make any system work properly. It is easy enough to remove the particular kinds of graft of bullying that go on under the present system: but as long as men are twisters or bullies they will find some new way of carrying on the old game under the new system. You cannot make men good by law: and without good men you cannot have a good society."
CS Lewis in Mere Christianity


We can't HOPE in systems.
We CAN change our world.


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