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.

26 November 2011

The Best Musical performances I've ever watched on Letterman

I have been a fan of Dave Letterman for as long as I can remember. Before I was old enough to stay up and watch his show, I would listen to it at 12:35 after Johnny Carson on the radio feed of Global TV. To this day, he's what I'm doing if I'm up at 11:30. I must of have watched 1000 musical acts on his show... most of them forgettable like most live music shows. Some of them very good. But a few over the years have stuck with me for nearly 20 years. The one thing that plumlines through all of these clips is the fact that Dave is tickled by each of them and how much you can see that he genuinely enjoys it.

Here are my top 5 musical performances I've ever seen on Letterman:

5. Blues Traveler - Hook: Letterman loved these guys and they were regular guests before they were famous. So fans like me knew of John Popper's harmonica skills years before the rest. This was likely their biggest song, and includes a MAD harmonica solo where you can see Paul Shaffer with an awe-filled smile during it. Then at the end, Popper does as he always does and gives Dave his mouth organ. Letterman plays it and gives it his running joke line... "Too Spitty"

4. Lou Reed and the Blind Boys of Alabama - Jesus: A couple of years ago I happened to be watching and heard this absolutely magnificent combo of the POWERFUL Blind Boys of Alamba and the awesome Lou Reed. Not sure if you could jam the name of Jesus into a song more... but I felt every one. Love how Dave rightfully gushes over the rare jewel he just heard.

3. Drive by Truckers - Everybody needs Love: I had never heard of Drive By Truckers before this summer. But when I heard this old Eddie Hinton with some rarely authentic blues rock complete with a lap steel guitar... I played this clip for months every morning. The bit that Dave does at the end is uncommon. You can tell he loves the song that he does a whole bit about it and gets them to play it again! I can't EVER remember that happening and the smile on the lead singers face when he does is fabulous.

2. Van Halen - Not Enough: Early 90's Van Halen. With respect to Diamond Davers... this was the era where Van Halen was at their best. You can tell Dave is just thrilled to be close to these legends. Eddie plays the piano AND a screaming guitar. Sammy just kills the vocals and in this clip when they come back from the commercial and they are just finishing up "Jump" ... you can tell that something else very special just happened.

1. Bruce Springsteen - Glory Days: Far and away #1. Let me set the scene. This was the final show of Dave's at 12:30am on NBC after a nasty fight between networks where NBC had just chosen the sad sack Jay Leno over Dave Letterman to host the Tonight Show... Dave's lifelong dream job. Dave was slighted and devoted fans like me were outraged. Me and my friends felt like we were fighting for and along with our sarcastic TV friend. So this show was the final "Up Yours" to a network that didn't believe in him and soon lost the ratings battle for many years.

I taped this show on my VCR and watched it over and over again. Tom Hanks was the guest and did a great bit about being a bellhop at an LA Hotel where he had comedy legend Slappy White yelling "Stop bending the shaft" at him while he was putting his clubs in the truck.

Then... just before the show of shows ended. This happened.

I was euphoric. My favorite singer singing my favorite song the most intense way I had ever seen. The entire band was having a PARTY! Bruce was doing Karate Kid-like leg tricks and pounding his rock-foot on the piano! Even sax legend David Sanborn in the back was givin'er. I wore an old black and white shirt that looked like Bruce's on in this performance for many years after... because I figured if I could ever come even close to being as cool as The Boss in this most... I'd be OK in life.

When Dave comes over at the end and thanks him that genuinely... all the stars collided. I've always felt a kinship with David Letterman. He's been an immature, cutting, sarcastic, kind of uncomfortable in his own skin, old guy for years... even when he was young. I related to it and still do. I feel like I kinda get him. He never made it to "the top" partially because he's not someone who pretends to like thing he doesn't. Sometimes he even turns on a guest who peddles him a line of BS.

All of these acts have somehow captured an eternal place my memory. I can tell you exactly when and where I saw them and who I was with. And all of them, Dave felt the same. You can tell. Not all music is powerful. But some is. And when it is...

24 November 2011

Santa vs Jesus: Can't we all just get along?

There were a few years where I was a rabid Anti-Santite. Well it was not exactly as if I was affected by rabies... but I meant it. I was a Christian dern it! That jolly old elf was one of the great deceptors of our time. A filthy mix of greedy consumerism and nearly OPRAH-like nicey nicey feel-good pablum that was conceived by the Devil himself to make us forget to do Living Nativities in town squares and light advent candles.

We once declined to allow a Santa-related gift we received into our home as not allow the enemy to infiltrate our jingle belled haven. Deep sigh. I know. But don't judge until you've tried earnestly center your life around genuine service and devotion to a deity. Have a little grace. It does a body good to analyze our culture instead of just lapping up what we're being handed.

Can these two Christmas superpowers get along??? My brother tweeted this the other day:

It made me laugh. This stanza has always fascinated me:

Santa knows that we're God's children,
That makes everything right
Fill your hearts with Christmas cheer,
'Cause Santa Claus comes tonight

It's like Santa's doing his thing while respecting God's turf. So that makes everything "right". Listen... Santa was hard core. Saint Nick was a stinkin' FAITH HEALER and radical carer of the underprivileged in the name of God! Check out these Santa stories:

"A poor man had three daughters but could not afford a proper dowry for them. This meant that they would remain unmarried and probably, in absence of any other possible employment would have to become prostitutes. Nicholas decided to help him but being too modest to help the man in public, or to save the man the humiliation of accepting charity, he went to his house under the cover of night and threw three purses (one for each daughter) filled with gold coins through the window opening into the man's house. In one version the father confronts the saint, only to have Saint Nicholas say it is not him he should thank, but God alone."

Go Santa! And now the one of about the human meat pies of death:

"A terrible famine struck the island and a malicious butcher lured three little children into his house, where he slaughtered and butchered them, placing their remains in a barrel to cure, planning to sell them off as ham. Saint Nicholas, visiting the region to care for the hungry, not only saw through the butcher's horrific crime but also resurrected the three boys from the barrel by his prayers. Another version of this story, the man murdered them, and was advised by his wife to dispose of them by turning them into meat pies. The Saint saw through this and brought the men back to life."

Hard Core. Now THAT'S a Santa story. The real question as a parent is how to treat the Santa myth with our kids. It is a very legitimate argument to say, "How can I convince my kids of a mystical man at the North Pole they never see but who cares and brings gifts... then tell them that he doesn't exist... but that the other mystical man in the sky they never see but who loves them and gives them gifts DOES." It's GOOD logic. And one day, for every parent, push DOES come to shove at some point.

How it rolled out for us was that we didn't say much at all. We have never played up the absolute veracity of Santa. There are no "From Santa" gifts under the tree. But our kids have grown up enjoying the stories. And two weeks ago our oldest son Jared, who is now 8, asked point blank for the first time if Santa was real. And I told him no. Was he crushed? Absolutely not. He was pumped that he figured it out and pieced together what was God and what was a nice silly story logically. I told him about the human meat pies of death and how Saint Nicholas took care of the three daughters and he made the connection to that event and our knit stockings today. We watched Elf this weekend and Jared winked at me. It was great. As a result... my kids did not have be Anti-Santites at a young age. They just learned about the origins of Christmas AND that a way to incarnate that love IS through gift giving today. My December article in The Brant Advocate coming out next week is about why we shouldn't stop giving gifts at Christmas.

This Saturday is the Brantford Santa Claus Parade and it's theme this year is "Santa's Workshop". Our float this year is a Mini Living Nativity scene to promote our up-coming musical in Harmony Square and we toyed with including the line:

"The Living Nativity... the original workshop where Santa got the idea"

We didn't ... but I think it might be time to stop pretending that our purpose at Christmas is to defeat Santa. Tell the story of Jesus. It's SO important and IS the real meaning of Christmas. But Santa knows that we're God's children man. Be generous and help each other in Jesus name. And if you happen to see a bucket of people guts about to be turned into meat pies... think to yourself... "What would Santa do?"

23 November 2011

My crazy family

I found these buried on our camera today. I think the pictures speak for themselves.

Our family doesn't run marathons. We're actually more likely just happy to hang together on the couch and make fun of TV. We don't spend our time fretting about getting enough veggies. We eat more KD and PB than we should. We yell and lose our tempers at each other sometimes...

... but I don't know a group of people who laugh together and tell each other "I love you" more often and sincerely than my family.

21 November 2011

Where churchmen ought to be

The cross must be raised again at the center of the marketplace as well as on the steeple of the church. I am claiming that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves; on the town garbage heap, at a crossroads so cosmopolitan they had to write His title in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. At the kind of place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse, and soldiers gamble, because that is where He died and that is what he died about and that is where churchmen ought to be and what churchmen should be about.

- George McLeod

The 99% yelling at the 1% is nothing new... neither is it right.

LOTS of anger these days being hurled towards a group being labelled as "The 1%". The elite. The wealthy. The decision makers. The power brokers. The law makers. The economy creators and propagators. They are being characterized as a lost, misguided, selfish group who deserve to be despised, reviled and stopped at all costs.

It sure does seem like something the majority of people should be able to rally around... like 99% of the people right? This blog post is not specifically about the Occupy Movement. It's simply the newest manifestation of a very old and ugly sentiment. People who are perceived to be "Have not's" like to hurl stones at the perceived "Have's." It's the reason why stats CONTINUE to say people in the vast expanse of Canada hate Toronto. It's the reason why people in small church love to tear down big churches. It's why citizens seem to revel in tearing down their political leaders.

It's the easy way.
It lacks character & integrity... and it's wrong.

It's an interesting percentage breakdown actually. If the 99% really believe that the 1% are lost, oppressive scumbags... check out how JESUS says we should treat those 1%.

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.
Matthew 18: 10-14

That's the numbers given by the incarnation of love on earth... not mine. He says that if that 1% are lost... LEAVE THE 99 AND GO GET THEM! He doesn't say, go tear them down! He says that he loves them so much that we should leave the crowds to aggressively show them love! They are not nameless, faceless numbers. They are regular people who God would BE HAPPIER to see reached than care be made for the 99 already "awoken".

Want another example of how Jesus treated the 1% in his time?

"Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew's house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus' followers. "What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riffraff?Jesus, overhearing, shot back, "Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: 'I'm after mercy, not religion.' I'm here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders."
Matthew 9 10-13

And don't you go all "Rich young Ruler" on me. Because Jesus gave that guy a chance and a challenge and WANTED him to play his role. Jesus acknowledged it was tough... but since when does that mean that we back away from "tough"???? In fact that sounds like a mission! Ghettos are tough but we laud praise on those who go into the depths with a message of love, grace, forgiveness and stay there to fight for people's freedom. But but but... how could Jesus feel that way about the 1%? He DID and DOES. He eats with them and makes a special point to show his affection in fact, even at the expense of the crowd.

I help lead a church in the downtown of the city. Often people think that we FOCUS our outreach on the poor. Not true. We care for the poor because we're supposed to and I think we do a pretty good job of it. We ALSO create outreach strategies for the suburbs... because there are PEOPLE there! Lot's! We are going to be creating series of business seminars and we're a part of BIA's and are actively looking to spend MUCH time and effort to create context to engage (through personal relationship) with the 1%, so that they too can thrive in their surroundings AND in their faith.

In fact... my heart is found in the suburbs and the boardrooms. I blogged a while back about "Impacting the Suburban Ghetto" I encourage you to read it and even get mad at me because of it if you want. But there are some destructive cycles in our culture (part of what the Occupy message actually is ironically) and real people have found themselves trapped in them... and these people MATTER to God. How we treat them and speak about them matters to God. AND the engagement of this sector of the city EXPONENTIALLY releases strategic resource to care for the poor too. Example:

Today after a month camped in a Toronto Park, people focusing their time being bitter at the 1% will leave a nearly million dollar mess in park. In one moment of generosity, a 1%er could say, "I'll fix the park because I care." Will they? I hope so. I know people who do exactly this kind of thing anonymously. Imagine that... someone showing love to another who spent a month reviling them. I will tell you that these days in my city, we're seeing businessmen and people of influence beginning to really think about the difference they can make by going above and beyond in city-investment. It happens through care, relationship, and the extension of the same love and grace (Unmerited favor) that every one of God's "Little ones" needs to be shown.

I know most people don't think much about "conversion" ... but as someone who does espouse a belief system and works/studies lots about the best ways to do it make it influence society... I will tell you that calling people scum from afar doesn't work. The Church tried it. It makes it worse. We're feeling much better now.

But but but but... But nothin'

"Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God's Law and Prophets and this is what you get."
Matthew 7:12

Want to know the truth though? Most of the 1% that I've met personally... want to help. They just need to be given a context to do it that works, communicated in a language they understand. We were never designed to let people come to us... our mission is to GO and speak the language of others to communicate the same message cross-culturally. WE need to be willing to be uncomfortable for others freedom. Let's get on that instead of calling another creation of God dirt. That's NOT how Jesus would treat them.

Or and one more thing... looking globally... you likely ARE one of the wealthiest 1% on our planet. Are you committed to personal generosity? Are you leading the way by example? I certainly hope so because Jesus also said:

"Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, 'Let me wash your face for you,' when your own face is distorted by contempt? It's this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.
Matthew 7: 1-5

There are no have and have nots. Just people.

14 November 2011

Wonder Pounces

When you stop; wonder pounces.
Wonder teases the boy about his manly reflection.
Schoolyard tickles about grey whiskers and his glutinous paunch.

Wonder pounces and marvel's men at their mountains.

How did I get this far up a MOUNTAIN??!!??
How will I reach the top??!!??
Can I get down if I want to??!!??
... I hope everyone is gonna be OK

Wonder nods with a comforting smirk and a friendly wink.

Wonder sing songs to climbers who just don't know better.
Well maybe they do...
but who can remember what you learned in Boy Scouts when there is hungry cargo in your pack.

Some call wonder a bully.
But wonder is nothing of the sort.
Wonder just show slides of yesterday and paints pictures of tomorrow.
Every Picture tells a story... but put 'em together and WHOA.

   /ˈwʌndər/ [wuhn-der]
To be filled with admiration, amazement, or awe

12 November 2011

The Best Paul Simon Christmas Song you've never heard

From early in November to the last week of December
I got money matters weighing me down
Well the music may be merry but it’s only temporary
I know Santa Claus is coming to town

In the days I work my day job
In the nights I work my night
But it all comes down to working man's pay
Getting ready I’m getting ready ready for Christmas day

I got a nephew in Iraq
It’s his third time back
But it's ending up the way it began
With the luck of a beginner
He’ll be eating turkey dinner
On some mountain top in Pakistan

Getting ready oh we’re getting ready
For the power and the glory and the story
Of Christmas day

If I could tell my mom and dad
That the things we never had
Never mattered we were always ok
Getting ready ready ready for Christmas day

Ready getting ready
For the power and the glory and the story
Of Christmas day

7 November 2011

Want to see a thinner, goofier, different me bombing at stand-up comedy on TV?

6 years ago I got a call from a guy named Greg Harrison, calling himself "Greg Who" asking me if I'd perform stand up comedy and be a guest on his variety show on Christian TV. Greg is a great guy with a big heart and I was pleased to be a guest!

I've written before about my successes and failures in the world of Christian Comedy but reactions have ranged from an encouraged, happy and entertained room... all the way to my audience progressing from hate, to ignoring me, to walking away to get snacks... to me getting a shoulder tap & quick hook followed by me writing apology letters to the ministry team the next day.

Suffice to say... it's a tricky thing to balance the raw, cutting honesty that comedy requires with ministry responsibilities that supersede a laugh. This is a much larger discussion that I have wrestled with for 15 years if you'd like to chat later about it but this is about watching myself on this show 6 years later as the clips just went up on YouTube.

I want to show you the stand-up clip first. I come on at about the 2 minute mark. I will warn you that I too cringed at my material 6 years later.

Then I was invited back to the desk to talk with Greg Who. It winds up with me putting a tennis ball in my mouth. Legendary.

I watched these clips today and realized that I'm a very different person than I was 6 years ago. First... I was just at the end of a YEAR of fasting, culminating in a 40 Day just juice fast. So I was DARN skinny. Thankfully years of eating has restored my winter layer.

Also, I think my speaking (and comedy) has been refined greatly. I believe that I've learned to use less words more effectively. I watched those clips and wished I'd have just made the point I was trying to make instead of babbling my way around it. Hit and stick with the joke clean... pull and hit clean again. Stand up comedy is very much like a boxing match. Shout testify if you've tried it. It's the single toughest public speaking discipline I've ever done.

I also see a younger and more... spry man in these clips. At the time I was only a few years into the church-planting adventure and things were pretty novel still. I can't help but think of some of the hard work, tough times, and late night planning sessions leading to sleepless nights that have happened between then and now and I think it's changed me. The Dave in these clips struggled to focus in meetings, while today I'm sitting on boards of directors. The Dave in these clips could say or do most anything he wanted without much serious or lasting criticism/impact. Today, I have to make sure that everything I say or do in public, online, in print, or on TV is consistent with the story I want my life to tell... because people are listening. The Dave I am today is more who I've always wanted to be, but it's come with darker eye circles, less sleep, more late night eating and a heavier responsibility weight.

But I'll say one thing... like the U2 song from "No Line on the Horizon" says, there are times where I'll go crazy if I don't go crazy. I learned years ago, that my gift to make people laugh was given to me to refine and use as a communication tool to influence people. It's not JUST for me and my pleasure. It's a tool. The joke used to be paramount. Now the message is. But I HAVE to make people laugh. I HAVE to be a little edgy. I HAVE to have bouts of craziness... or I'll go crazy.

5 November 2011

When Kings go off to War

If you grew up going to Sunday School, you know the story of David and Bathsheba. It was one of the “kinda dirty” Bible felt-board stories. Wakka Wakka Wow Wow. The King of Israel was bored one day, wandering around his palace and went Peeping Tom on a pretty young lady having a bath who he decided to “take” and accidentally impregnated. To cover up his “Oopsy” David sent her husband into battle to die. A pretty ugly chapter in the life of one of the world’s most famous leaders.

But the story starts with one fascinating line. “In the spring, at the time Kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army.” Two things stand out to me. The first is that there is a season where men must fight. They MUST fight to defend and conquer for the freedom of their subjects and those in kingdoms beyond. The second is that bad things happen when, even good men, abdicate their responsibility.

Why does the Bible mention war 135 times? Why do most of the instances point to war as a sometimes necessary responsibility? How does it make sense when it also says that we’re given the “ministry of reconciliation?” How does one... kill? As a 35 year old lilly-handed suburbanite, it’s a very difficult thing to wrap my head around given that the closest I’ve personally come to war was during the Braveheart craze of the mid 90’s when I was inspired by the powerful line,

“Every man dies. Not every man really lives”

My Great-Uncle Les died this past year. He embodied what a GOOD man is. He worked hard with his hands and square-danced around North America dosey-doeing, decked out in red plaid and a Bolo necktie. He met his dancing partner, my Aunt Dorris, overseas serving Canada while fighting in World War II. She was his war bride until the day he died. I loved and respected my Uncle Les greatly for the warmth, generosity and passion with which he lived his life. Remember that old Bell Canada commercial where the a grandson calls his grandfather from the beach of Dieppe just to say thanks? I used to call my Uncle Les to do the same when I’d see it. The frog in the old man’s throat was the same one I heard over the phone from my Uncle, choking back tears, thanking me for remembering. This was the first time in 25 years that he was missing around our traditional family Thanksgiving campfire and his absence starkly felt.

I knew there was always part if him that never left Europe. He rarely spoke of the war, but in 2005, he and his band of brothers were invited to a celebration in the Dutch city of Rotterdam that they liberated from Nazi (or ‘Naa-zees’ as he called them) oppression. They were lauded as heralded heroes coming home. Generations of Dutch families came out to thank them for their sacrifice and bravery, showing my kindhearted Uncle the free happy children to whom he gave the opportunity of life. I had never seen my Uncle so touched as he remembered what had happened right at the end of WWII in the spring of 1945; in the season where kings went out to war.

But that was the glory moment that most didn’t get to see including my paternal Grandfather who died almost exactly one calender year earlier... likely in the Italian Battle of Monte Cassino. Along with many other “Kings” John Carrol bravely took heavy fire as they pressed on valiantly, against odds, up the side of a hill from the valley. His body, along with many of his friends, is still there today surrounded by monuments that invoke God, country, sacrifice and freedom. He never met his son, my father, who was born that October on their family farm near Madoc Ontario.

Cities and nations RECONCILED by the death and sacrifice of good men who didn’t want to die or kill, but knew that sometimes freedom comes at a cost. If men like this had chosen to stay home, to take the easy way out while others suffered in oppression in the spring when kings go out to war, their grandchildren wouldn’t be telling their stories and know personally that it’s our responsibility to do onto others are you would have them do to you.

I miss these men. But there is no sting in their death for they lived life fully. Each generation has their own battles to fight and their own foes to conquer. And real men... Kings if you will... lay down their lives for others.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.

-- John McCrae

3 November 2011

The Kindness Project ... in the House of Commons

I have to admit. It was a pretty cool day, hearing our MP Phil McColeman tell the story of Freedom House what has been going on in Brantford with the kindness movement in the House of Commons in Ottawa. We even got some a few "here here's"!

Mr. Speaker, eight years ago, Freedom House, a church and ministry centre in Brantford, began a mission called "The Kindness Project" to see if a city could be transformed by good into good by using simple but strategic acts of kindness.

In these eight years, among other things, roughly 20,000 hamburgers have been given away; a free winter carnival, Frosty Fest, is hosted; a school curriculum is in the works; affordable housing has been provided for those in need; and a local superhero, Captain Kindness, has emerged and taken control of the city. This Friday, November 4, will be the second annual Random Act of Kindness Day in Brantford.

The Kindness Project seeks to uncover the untapped level of synergy in the community as a collective commitment to serving each other. It is people helping people with what we all have in our hands to give.

We hope, together, to make Brantford known as the kindest city in Canada.

Yep... that's the goal. The Kindness city in Canada through a holistic revival. Where all the part of the community begin to prosper together mutual service of each other. Pretty cool day.

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