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 May 2012

Most of what we do... isn't very interesting

Do you know what most people in the world just had for lunch?

Rice. 

Plain ole rice.  Maybe spiced to local taste.  Maybe not.  Most people right now are wandering around a market.  Or nosing around in the dirt tending to plants or animals.  Or having a largely inane conversation with someone... one that they've likely had many times before... and will have many times again.

Most of what we do on earth isn't very interesting.

Even those who think themselves rather important make a perspectively inconsequential impact on the lives of almost every single human on a daily basis.  Yet we're very enamored by the notion of personally changing the world.  Disproportionally likely.  Most of life is what happens while we're waiting for "the big stuff" to go down. This is neither pessimistic or optimistic... just realistic.

Paul encouraged the church in Rome, "Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought"

 Our Western Culture, ironically considering the amount of time we self-sooth & entertain ourselves into sugar-shock, often mistakes the daily routines of in and out life as "not enough" or worse... an indication of failure.  Smiley Charlatans are itching to con us with flowery speech and segmented-testimonial into believing that a sufficient level of gumption and habitual Carpe Dieming will eliminate the daily blahs culminating with you smiling like Tom Vu on a yacht.  Then they leave town with your monorail money.  It's a fallacy.  Most of us eat rice for lunch and most of us will eat it for dinner too.

"Ignorance is Bliss" is quite untrue but the root of the sentiment has bread crumbs to something very important.  Contentment is an incredible place to live in, but one that doesn't come unintended for those of us who are no longer ignorant.   Few authors or leaders have made a larger impact on this world than the Apostle Paul. Yet he said this in his letter to the Philippians:

Actually, I don't have a sense of needing anything personally. I've learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.  

He saw great highs and great lows in life.  But, not unlike you, Paul likely lived most of the moments of his life walking, and talking, and eating and sleeping and working... and likely most days, nothing of any great significant happened.  But he learned to live in a place where whatever came his way, he'd sleep well knowing he was walking with The Lord in obedience. That's a state of being that God can... and will use to do the things that we simply can't by TRYING to BE. 

We suffer unnecessarily sometimes because of what, while it might feel like well-meaning ambition, can actually be an ego-inflicted arrogance that our time "should" be spent carving out a great niche in eternity for ourselves.  Most days for lunch... most of us eat rice.  And if we're given rice to eat today, let's contentedly smile and say thank you.

24 May 2012

Making Goodness Fashionable


 Holistic, sustainable transformation is not a magic button.  You can't simply call down the right trick prayer to trigger a bolt of "Revival Lightning" that will instantly change a culture.  But genuine, long-term, intrinsic difference CAN be accomplished with some broad macro vision.

  Eric Metaxas has written a fabulous essay called "Cultural Elites | The Next Unreached People Group" in which he tells the powerful story of William Wilberforce, The Clapham Circle, and how what they were able achieve 200 years ago in Britain is immensely applicable today.  You might recognize his name as "the free the slaves guy".  And he WAS that.  In fact he was one of the most societally  He actually founded Freetown Sierra Leone as the first British colony in Africa purposed by "the abolition of the slave trade, the civilization of Africa, and the introduction of the gospel"  Amazing right?  A lofty dream that would keep many a social justice minded Christian up at night spiritually drooling over.   But THAT was not possible without cultural & social  reformation in their motherland.

 Explain further how cultural elites fit in to slavery abolition? Here's a story Metaxas tells about his NYC home and it's celebrity culture:

"I’ll begin by telling you about the night talkshow host Dick Cavett and I went to see Mickey Rooney perform. This is not a joke. Before the show I got to meet Mickey, along with the photographer Richard Avedon. It was a trip. But the point of this is what happened later that evening, in a Park Avenue bistro, where Cavett and I bumped into a Catholic priest friend of mine. Suddenly, as though it had been eating at him for years, Cavett asked the priest where the Golden Rule came from. The priest, knowing Cavett to be brilliant and well-educated, reached way back and came up with the actual Hebrew passage from the Old Testament, which Jesus would have been referring to when he so famously spoke it in the New Testament. But that’s not what Cavett was after. He didn’t know Jesus had given us the Golden Rule. That’s what he was asking! It was an odd moment watching the priest and the pundit missing each other, and realizing that my favorite smartguy didn’t know what most American fifth-graders know. Why? Because for the last fifty years he had been living among the intellectual and cultural elites of Manhattan – folks like Woody Allen and Susan Sontag and Pauline Kael, people so secular when compared to the rest of the country that they wouldn’t have known it was Jesus either. And if they had, they wouldn’t have brought it up at George Plimpton’s cocktail party or at Paloma Picasso’s opening. Get it?" 

What does this have to do with changing the world? Everything. Because, for good or for ill, it is the cultural elites who determine much of what goes on in the rest of the culture, who can set the tone and content of the cultural conversation. They can determine what we sneer at and what we ooh at and ahh at. Not that they are trying to do this. It’s just the way things are"
 Metaxas

Aside from issues like slavery, William Wilberforce's other passion was influencing a deep-root cultural transformation in England because he knew that:

  • Truth was truth everywhere and his home needed revolution too
  • Transforming the culture of influence and resource would take his third world mission from peanuts to peanut fields so to speak. 
  
His driving force became this powerful thought: 

"Make Goodness Fashionable" 


His group of friends committed to change became known as "The Clapham Circle" and was made up of merchants, CEO's, politicians, professors, lawyers, clergy and entertainers.  They became collectively committed to make goodness fashionable, putting their own egos aside and instead pooling talents for the benefit of others... to "insiders" as "insiders".  They combated the rampant secularism, specifically with the cultural elites, that very negatively filtered down into everyday life.

"The elites set the extraordinarily low cultural standards, being as hedonistic and selfish as anything we can imagine outside Versailles; they gave nothing to the poor and did nothing to help them. As far as they were concerned, the poor deserved to be poor, and they deserved to be rich. End of discussion. The effect of this was incalculable, and throughout the whole of the 18th century extreme poverty and social chaos held sway, complete with public displays of animal cruelty, epidemic alcoholism among all classes, and every other kind of social horror. One contemporary statistic paints the grim picture: 25 percent of all single women in London were prostitutes. Their average age was sixteen.

Still, despite these longest of odds Wilberforce and his devout friends somehow succeeded in radically changing the cultural conversation and climate over a few decades. By Wilberforce’s death in 1833, they had managed to bring a Christian worldview into the cultural mainstream for the first time in modern history. To say that it was miraculous is merely to know the details. And they did it, as we have said, by showing their faith through works, and by moving principally in culturally elite circles."

Metaxas

"The ethos of Clapham became the spirit of the age"
Historian Stephen Tomkins

 I walk around in a big red leotard and a cape... a lot.  I espouse the philosophy that a city can be changed "BY good INTO good with kindness."   My vision is NOT specifically to give away free hamburgers although I help give away thousands and thousands each year. 
My vision is to see the macro-infiltration of the SPIRIT behind kindness. And through it all... I've found a hunger with the "cultural elite" locally for something MORE.  We're beginning to locally see goodness become fashionable.  And it's making a grass roots difference in Brantford.  The Kindness Project seeks to facilitate change on a city-wide scale, towards ordinary people taking care of each other through co-ordinated kindness. I want to see this because:

  • Jesus Christ taught his friends to ask his Father God for "His Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven" and then he sent his buddies, from many sectors of society, into the world to help show the love they'd experienced. That "Kingdom come" includes prosperity and provision for needs aplenty.  And we, together, HAVE the resource.
  • There are selfish elements of our society that need transformation for our OWN good
  • There are selfish elements of our society that need transformation for the good of others near AND far.  

There are lagging continents, cultures, neighborhoods and families on our globe that could and CAN flourish if "goodness becomes fashionable".   This vision is DOABLE. 



5 May 2012

Sing us a song... you're the piano man


Tonight, as a church, we had the opportunity to be a participant in our city's first ever Food and Wine Show.  There are so many angles that amaze me about this that we'd need to have lunch together to be able to tell the full story properly.  But as interesting and unique as tonight was for us, it was also very familiar.

We did what we've done thousands and thousand of times tonight.  We cooked up BBQ... and gave it to people for ZERO dollars.  Simple.  Today instead of our regular cheap meat on the street, it was a fancy slider with a homemade sour cream, bacon and parsley sauce for a higher income demographic... but fundamentally, there was no difference.  People are people and kindness functions similarly across demographics.

Later in the evening, I got into a conversation with a lovely guy who had been hanging around our booth for a while, due to his fascination with what on earth we were doing.  It was like he was watching analytically and trying desperately to make sense of it.  Why give something for nothing?  Instead what happened was that he began to tell me his story.  He told me of financial situations.  He told me of relationships strained.  He told me of homeland missed. As he was doing it... the jazz singer began to sing Billy Joel's woe song "Piano Man"


He says, Son can you play me a memory
I'm not really sure how it goes
But it's sad and it's sweet and I knew it complete
When I wore a younger man's clothes

This is a story I've heard hundreds and hundreds of times after giving a free burger to a stranger.  No joke.  I listened and encouraged and assured him that I'd be praying for him.   Over what?  A tiny piece of meat.  70 cents for soothed soul.  Well worth it.

When you listen to "Piano Man" you hear the world many live it.  We all often make the mistake of believing that we're the only ones with insecurities.  We're sure that everyone else has it together and our own lives are messier than others.  We all carry baggage and it robs us of being able to fully enjoy our lives.  We all need more FREEDOM.  And the amazing thing is that it doesn't take much to spur a freedom encounter in someone else.  Simply knowing that someone else acknowledges their value as a human soul is ASTOUNDINGLY powerful.  Trust me on this one.  Rich, poor, old, young... I've seen grown men weep brother.

Be intentional.  Care.  Sow & invest in people.  The rush of freedom is addicting.

1 May 2012

salˈvāSHən


 

 Fall 1995:

My parents had had enough of their 19 year old son drinking his life, talent and education away.  My friends were all headed away to University, following their dreams onto bigger and better places, while I set new personal "Budweiser Best" totals.  The beer however, was never the problem. 

I didn't "Believe" in much.  I still don't.  Overly positive people , "system" pushers, and Pavlovian drones got my goat.   I refused to participate in a system I knew was flawed, propagated by jaded gatekeepers, who saw these flaws but were dependent enough on their weekly paycheck to unquestioningly force-feed tripe down my gullet.  I wouldn't have it.  I still won't.

I picked at the hypocrisy of man and prodded whoever was within sticking-distance.  I saw the ugliness.  I hated the mindlessness.  I alone could see the answers and errs.  It was as plain as the nose on their faces; why couldn't anyone else see it?  Christians were the worst because they CLAIMED goodness.  They were easy marks and boy did I love putting them in my sights.  Fish in a barrel.  Made one or two cry on the outside in my time, but on the inside, there were more... because I was good at it.  Still am.  That toxic mix of arrogance and insecurity was (and is) exhausting and inescapable. 

 Inexplicably in fall of 1995, in my 6th year of high school, something changed.  You know that day that happens every April when you first smell spring in the air?  You're walking to your car and... ahhhh... the season blows in.  You did nothing to bring it, but all of sudden there it is.  That's what sprung up from the ground in the fall of 1995.  Salvation. 

 At the back of my history class after an infuriating, intrusive and undesired trip to the guidance councilor; I found myself unnervingly emotional.  I felt like I was drowning right there and then.  A short, blonde girl I barely knew with blue sweat pants (who sat right in front of the teacher for what I could only have assumed were brown nosing motivations) looked back and saw me.  Puzzling that others didn't as many of my friends were in the same class. She asked me if I wanted to talk.  Much to my surprise... I said yes.

 We met in a school library cubical after. She quickly became the "illogical" ... "out of nowhere" ... person from a very different social group than me who I could talk to.  And she was a Christian.  One of "them," yet she let me be angry.   You see; she knew of me because she knew how much my actions hurt my brother and Mom.  She had heard the prayers of her friends for this angry, sarcastic, disillusioned guy.

We became friends over the next month, much to the chagrin of my friends and to the well-meant nerves of hers that Miss Blue Sweat Pants getting in too deep with someone who might hurt her.  As "friends" turned to "like" it became clear that I was at a crossroads.  The God and girl... or not.  I knew they were a package deal.  But you don't blindly accept the validity of a DEITY for a GIRL! It was against everything I believed to be true. 

But salvation was springing up from the ground.  It's wind kept blowing.

I agreed to chat with an expert because something like this deserves a little rational consideration.  Over a Swiss Chalet Festive Special we dialogued about things immortal.  Over the Toblerone after, we had a heart to heart about things invisible.  I told him that I'd consider what I'd heard and went back to school.

As I opened my locker... salvation sprung up from the ground and rushed over me.

Something not of my doing was happening.  Embarrassed at not being in control, I grabbed my stuff and headed home.  I speak no exaggeration in saying the sky was bluer than it had ever been that afternoon.  The sun was brighter than it had ever seemed.  I couldn't understand why the trees looked so BRILLIANT all of a sudden, nor could I explain the tears streaming down my face while the lyrics of Amazing Grace rang through my head.  This was highly unusual behavior for Thursday afternoon.

My mother was surprised to see me home at 2 o'clock but was considerably more surprised when I began to apologize for how I'd treated her over the last couple of years.  This was the same son that had mockingly (but viciously) screamed, "Onward Christian soldiers... right Mom?" in her direction a mere couple of weeks earlier.

It felt like I was being broken and fixed at the same time... because that's exactly what WAS happening. 

I slept on it, because I knew the narrow road that Christianity taught.  I knew that I was an adult and it was time to make adult choices.  If I woke up with this same freedom... I was in.  If not, I'd tuck my emotional outbreak away down deep and move on.  But there were no more decisions necessary.  When someone is saved from peril, they know it.  I KNEW that this God who identified himself with Jewish Patriarchs, Radical Royalty, Paupers and Jesus Christ a crucified Carpenter King... had SAVED me and set me free.  I could breathe again.

The one who created the heavens and the earth had searched me out, not only to pull me OUT of my muck... but to pull me UP so I could see the beautiful picture he was painting out of humanity that I couldn't see because that darn veil kept getting in my way.

The beauty of that picture is was makes me move even today.  I need the gift of salvation to pull me out from under myself every day.  And to make it even better... I married that cute girl in the blue sweat pants. 

 "Open up, O heavens, and pour out your righteousness. Let the earth open wide so salvation and righteousness can sprout up together. I, the LORD, created them.
Isaiah 45:8

Related Blogs

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...