Writer, Church leader, Eccentric Nut, Marketer

I'm Church Leader, Writer, Speaker, Marketer, Kindness Project Founder, Broadcaster and Superhero. But most important I'm a Husband, Father and a worshiper of Jesus.

27 July 2012

Mating lessons from the Leopard Slug

This is some seriously memorizing mating action.

I've been married for almost 14 years and have been together with Krissy for almost 17 years. In about a year, I'll have been with my "Mate" for more than half of of my life. But before that, things were rough in the girl department. I glided up the tree leaving my mucus trail for years and years... I even left the special scent and everything! But alas I found no one following. Then at the time least expected it... I felt a nibble on my backside. I liked the nibbling and before long our "translucent flowerlike globes" were intertwined.

Sometimes now, with half my lifetime gone by intertwined spinning on the branch, I still wonder how an often oblivious and largely tactless slug like me finally succeeded in finding a mate. What makes men and women... CLICK all of a sudden? What are the ingredients of the sexual magic that happens mid spin? My analytical brain is always searching for a formula. What makes one night "work" and another... not. Mates ALL have those private sex-fail stories, shared only between themselves, where they "fall off the branch." If you're married you know what I'm talking about. I'll bet even the Leopard Slugs even have mating outtakes too that aren't narrated by Sir David Attenborough.

I think that people (and slugs) are created to WANT to be together but live with a daily barrage of contrarian instincts that would separate ourselves from those we WANT to be with.

Last night we, along with the 3 amazing fruits of all that mating, watched the very touching "We bought a Zoo." The movie features a number of characters caught in the flux between wanting to BE together and these internally-focused intentions that separate. The phrase that they used to get themselves over the hump was brilliant.

“Sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”
— Benjamin Mee - We Bought A Zoo

Sometimes you just have to have the courage to emit the scent. To crawl up the branch. To nibble the backside. To together glide down that thin string of mucus and spin like you're lost and free.

TOGETHER... can be clunky.
Lots of times it doesn't look like you envisioned.
It's RARELY narrated by Sir David Attenborough

But more often than not... it's absolutely beautiful and we were created for it.

19 July 2012

The Kingdom of God is a Party

I recently had someone tell me that the only thing had left to do in the church was die in it. Actually... the coming of the "Kingdom of God" is a party waiting for us to ALLOW to happen.

I want to share the entire sermon that Tony Campolo preached in September '09 at the Crystal Cathedral including a clip of how he threw a birthday party for a prostitute one night. It's long... but a beautiful telling of "Fuller" that many WISH existed that actually DOES exist!

Tony Campolo: When Jesus came into the world, he declared that he had come that his joy might be in us and that our joy might be full. Consequently, it's not surprising that when people asked him what his kingdom would be like ‐ this world that he wants to create ‐ he said, "My kingdom is likened unto a wedding feast.

A wedding feast and I'm the bridegroom and as long as you have a bridegroom around, you party." That was his word; it was to be a wedding feast. Now I have to tell you that Jesus was Jewish, which is the next best thing to being Italian. Sometimes people ask me if Italians are so wonderful, why didn't Jesus come as an Italian? Well the Bible says he came to humble himself. But, Jews and Italians and Palestinians, all Arab people, the Greeks, all who live in the Mediterranean area, we have one thing in common. We know how to throw weddings. I mean there is nothing more joyful, more celebratory then an Italian, a Jewish, a Greek, or an Arab wedding. I mean, we mortgage the house, we take the money out of the bank, we bring in the band, we go on and on. Jesus said that's what my kingdom's like ‐ my kingdom's likened unto one gigantic party. So, the next time they ask you what time is it at the Crystal Cathedral, you're going to yell back, "It's party time!" Indeed it is. It's always been that way.

When people repent ‐ when they surrender their lives to Christ and say take my sin upon yourself up on the cross, forgive me, and make me into a new creation ‐ the Bible says there is a party in heaven; the angels gather around and celebrate. Beyond that, there's celebration all through the scriptures. Whenever Jesus tells the story of repentance, it's always about celebration.

The prodigal son, you know that story ‐ he takes half of his father's money goes off into a distant land, wastes his father's money in all kinds of terrible ways, runs out of money, and he has to take a job feeding pigs. Can you imagine a Jewish person feeling as he feeds pigs? And he starts saying to himself, "What am I doing here? There are people who work on my father's farm. They live better than I do. I know what I'll do; I'll rise, and I'll go back, and I'll see my father, and I'll say, 'Father I am no longer worthy to be called one of your sons. Make me one of your hired servants.'" Now, if you're going to go home after blowing half of your father's wealth, you'd better rehearse your speech. All the way home he's practicing over and over again: "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against thee. I am no longer worthy to be called your son."

The Bible says his father sees him when he's yet a far distance far off, runs out, and throws his arms around him. The boy starts his little talk, "Father I have sinned against heaven and against thee..." The father interrupts, "Harry, go get a robe and throw put it on this kid. He's got rags."

"...I am no longer worthy to be called thy son..."

"Jim, get a ring put it on his finger to celebrate this day!"

"...make me one of your..."

"Knock it off, son! Hey Bill, out behind the barn there's a fat calf. Kill that sucker. We're going to have a party! What time is it? It's party time!

It's the same with Zacchaeus. Do you remember Zacchaeus? You sang about him in vacation Bible school, "Well, he was a wee little man." Remember? And Jesus comes to town, and he's walking down the main street, and poor little Zacchaeus, he can't get up to the front to see Jesus walking by. You know the rest of the story from the song: "He climbed up in the sycamore tree, for he wanted his Lord to see." Remember this? At last, the Savior came walking by, he looked up in the tree, and he said,

"Zacchaeus you're a dirty filthy sinner and you're going to burn in hell forever." No, that's not what he said. He said, "Yo, Zach! Come on down. We're going to your house today. We're going to have a..." What time is it? It's party time! You're catching on.

Indeed, it's all about celebration and it's a special type of celebration because it's a celebration and a joy that comes from sin forgiven when you come into a relationship with Christ. Your sins are blotted out and buried in the deepest sea. Remembered no more. The burdens are lifted. The burdens are removed. The psychologists tell us that most people, because of the dark and ugly things they've done, practice a process called repression; they push it into the depths of their being. And it's there even though they don't remember it. However, it continues to torture them, and the guilt creates depression.

But, when you surrender to Christ, he cleanses you and makes you into a new creation. Old things pass away; behold all things become new. And the guilt is removed and the joy of the Lord is yours. It's a joy that comes from the forgiveness of sins. "Oh my sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought, my sin not in part, but in whole is nailed to the cross. I bear it no more. Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, oh my soul." It's the joy that comes from the forgiveness of sins.

However, there's another dimension to it. There's also something special about the joy of the Lord because it's a joy that, if you have it as a gift of the Holy Spirit, it's something you have to share with other people, and if you don't share it, you lose it. As a matter of fact, a lot of people don't understand that their own joy is contingent upon their ability to communicate God's joy to others.

M. Scott Peck, the very, very famous psychologist, was once on his way to an appointment. He had a woman with him who was suffering from a clinical depression. He had to make a stop at the hospital. He gave her the names of three persons who were patients of his that were in the hospital, and he said, "While I'm doing what I have to do, would you visit these people and try to cheer them up?" And she did. When he met her at the front desk at the end of the hour, her face was aglow with joy. She said,

"I've never felt happier. This is the most joy I've felt since I can ever remember.

He said, Wonderful. Now we know what will give you joy and will end your depression."

She said, "Well, you don't expect me to do that every day do you?"

Why is it that people turn away from what God wills for them? Turn away from the life that God
wants them to live? Turn away from doing what Jesus wants them to do to share the salvation story and to bring joy into the lives of those who don't have much to be joyful about?

(Then Tony Campolo tells this story. But it's even better when you HEAR him tell it)

Wouldn't we all like to belong to a church that threw birthday parties for whores at three‐thirty in the morning? Well, I've got news for you. That is the kind of church that Jesus came to
create. He came to bring celebration into people's lives that have had nothing to celebrate. This is true religion, says the epistle of James, to visit the fatherless, the widows, and the afflicted and bring celebration into their lives. He is the Christ who saves you from sin and fills you with his joy, commissions you to go out and to spread that joy to the world because the Lord has come.
The Lord has come. It's a joy that comes from forgiveness of sins. It's a joy that comes when you
spread it to others by the grace of God.

But lastly, it's a great joy that is able to permeate your life even in the midst of hard times. Even in the midst of suffering. That's what makes it different from happiness. Happiness depends on what happens. Joy is something that keeps you going even when what is happening isn't going well at all. You're sick, have cancer, trouble with your children, marriage falling apart ‐ and in the midst of it all, we have these words from scripture, from Romans 8:28, and this is the proper translation:

"In the midst of all that's going on all the messes of your life God is there with you, and he will enable you to bring something good out of it all if you just trust in him and allow his spirit to work through you to this end."

You may ask, "Do we understand each other?" Nevertheless, what you're thinking is, "You don't
understand. I've got a daughter. She's on drugs my son's messed up; he's in jail. And it's hopeless." It's never hopeless.

In the words of that great American theologian Yogi Berra, "It ain't over till it's over." God will not give up on you or on your family. God will not give up on his world. He didn't come into the world to condemn the world but to deliver it and to give to the world joy, joy, joy, joy, unspeakable joy.

My church during my childhood was the New Berean Baptist Church in West Philadelphia. When it closed down, the nearest Baptist church was an African American church, and I went there as a teenager. It wasn't long after I joined the church that I went to my first funeral. My friend Clarence was killed in an accident.

I had never been to a black funeral before. All the funerals I had been to were Italian funerals with people yelling, screaming, and crying all over the place. And, this was the happiest thing I'd ever been to. For fifteen minutes, the minister at Clarence's funeral talked about the glory of life after death for those who trust in him. The minister made it sound so beautiful, so wonderful, that halfway through the funeral I wished I were dead. Then the minister came down, went over to the family, and said,

"Let me give you some comforting words from scripture." And he did. He gave them comforting words of scripture. Then, the last thing he did was to go over to the open casket, and for the last twenty minutes, he preached to the corpse.

You may think, wow what's that like? To preach to a corpse? Ask your pastor; he'll tell you.
He just yelled, he just yelled at that corpse. He just yelled at Clarence, and he said it with such
authority that, people. I would not have been surprised had Clarence spoken back to the man. He said,

"Clarence, there were a lot of things we should have said to you but didn't say. We're going to
thank you now." Then, he went down this litany of things that Clarence had done for people, thanking Clarence over and over again. It was lovely, it was beautiful. He came to the end and then he said, "Well, that's it, Clarence. There's nothing more to say, and when there's nothing more to say, there's only one thing to say." Now, if you're a pastor conducting a funeral, do not try this ‐ it won't work. But, it worked for him beautifully.

He said, "There's only one thing to say, Clarence, when it's all said and done. Goodnight. Goodnight, Clarence." And he grabbed the lid of the casket, and he slammed it shut. Can you imagine it? "Good night Clarence." Shock waves went over the congregation. When he lifted his head, you could see there was a smile on his face, and he said, Good night, Clarence, good night, because I know God is going to give you a good morning!"

Then, the choir stood and started singing on that great getting‐up morning, "We shall rise we shall rise!" And we all jumped to our feet and were clapping and hugging each other. At that moment, I knew I was in the right church ‐ a church that can take a funeral and turn it into a celebration. That's the church of Jesus Christ! "Oh death where is your sting? Oh, grave, where is your victory? Praise be to God! Who gives us victory!"

I invite you to the Christ who will give you joy because your sins will be forgiven. Who will give you joy because he commissions you to share that joy with other people. And when the dark times come and the sorrows of life overwhelm you, there will be joy because you will know that beyond the present time is the glorious present, the glorious gift that God has in store for all who trust in him. He makes it into a party time! Into a party time! Into a party time!

So people, the next time they ask you at the Crystal Cathedral what time is it? I want to hear you shout back: "IT'S PARTY TIME!"

3 July 2012

I had a literal dream... and it came to life

I don't remember my dreams. Some do... and I'm happy for them but I don't. At least USUALLY I don't.

On the morning of April 28th out of a dead sleep I bolted up with a newspaper ad, clear as day in my mind. My day job being in advertising/marketing, it wouldn't seem on the surface to be much more than an active subconscious but this felt deeper. I raced to work and sat down at my computer to rough out this image and message burning a hole through my insides. My heart was pounding and fleshing it out felt like giving birth to divine script.

Here's what I saw:

It's is darn near word for word what I saw in my dream and it's going to be in print as a full page ad for Freedom House in a number of print publications in Brantford this month. Let me explain the subtext.

In casual conversation with more than a few friends in town who are intrigued by us but not accustomed to going to church; they had asked a question that left me with nagging issues.

Would I be welcome to come to Freedom House?

On the inside I was shaking my head back and forth making that cartoony cheek flapping around sound effect. I wanted to respond with a "Well DUH" but I didn't because it's one of those leftover 80's phrases that I still have squirreled away that dates me when I say it aloud.

Truth is, Freedom House is far from the church that many are used to and they don't QUITE know how to label us. Some are convinced that we're more social agency or advocacy group than church. Like the Moose Lodge. And if I wanted to join the Moose Lodge, I'd likely have to know a member or meet some kind of qualification or standard. Combine that with the fact that "Church" has made people feel like they don't measure up for many years, and I began to understand the question better. But the more I chewed on this... the more 'pit of my stomach' sick it made me feel about how people see God.

Freedom House has been accused of being too "poor" focused and too "rich" focused too! I'll take both of those accusations because BOTH have access to the same God and so our call is to share the very source of life with BOTH! And if we're showing "too much love" to either then we're doing our job. Both are JUST as welcome.

Everyone LOVES "the arts". It's hip and trendy and we WELCOME those with an artistic passion and commit to seeing the artistic individual released & networked with others to be able to create a vital ministry! Conversely... we also welcome those who would prefer to rationally strategize with money and business and might appreciate a painting but certainly wouldn't spend their day pontificating over it. We welcome BOTH and when they both understand each other... the larger BODY of Christ gets to come alive because we're EACH using our gifts for the benefit of each other!

This ad also speaks to the many in our culture saddled with labels that making them feel disqualified somehow. I used the word "fat" in the ad as an example because it's a word and attached emotion that I've wrestled with most of my life. I've been an out of control eater, an anorexic, a balanced-healthy guy and then on the fat side of life again! I've run the gambit and remember watching people without bellies frolicking and flirting as a kid... feeling like I was disqualified. Of course it wasn't true that I was disqualified, but often "imperfections" make mankind feel this way. And something must be done about that. We're called to "Get free, live free and free others."

It's like that with God too. Years of street ministry has taught me that many feel that because of one of the labels on the ad, (and many others too) that they are disqualified from being a part of God's Church... but much worse... his love and Fatherly affection. The truth is that God's grace, love, forgiveness and passionate redemptive desire trumps it ALL. And this is a WELCOME attempt at breaking down these walls.

Why a FREE Baptism?
Isn't it ALWAYS free?
Facebook event here

"Well duh" I again say inside my head. But MANY don't know this. Believe me. And MANY are walking around the streets of Brantford with a fear that they are going to go to hell if they don't get baptized. You and I know that baptism is an outward sign of an inward choice. But believe it or not... most people don't spend much spare time digesting theology... so we must make it come alive.

On July 15th in Harmony Square at 3pm, we are going to set up a number of pools which we'll use as baptismal tanks. We are going to share the message of how Jesus Christ died for ALL of OUR sins so that we can ALL live free. We are going to share the good news Jesus spoke and Matthew recorded that:

"My yoke is easy and my burden is light"

Ironically, Big Baptism Sunday is not really JUST about baptism. It's about sharing freedom and making declarations publicly. Why right away? Because nothing stands in the way of baptism when we respond with a YES to the Holy Spirit that is drawing people to God. There is a wonderful story in Acts 8 of how the disciple Phillip was out for a stroll and came across an Ethiopian eunuch reading a section of the old prophetic book of Isaiah... trying to figure it all out. Check out this amazing interaction:

The eunuch said, "Tell me, who is the prophet talking about: himself or some other?" Philip grabbed his chance. Using this passage as his text, he preached Jesus to him. As they continued down the road, they came to a stream of water. The eunuch said, "Here's water. Why can't I be baptized?" He ordered the chariot to stop. They both went down to the water, and Philip baptized him on the spot. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of God suddenly took Philip off, and that was the last the eunuch saw of him. But he didn't mind. He had what he'd come for and went on down the road as happy as he could be.
Acts 8:34-39 The Message

I believe many are walking around MY town as metaphorical "Ethiopian Eunuchs" with deep spiritual questions, longings, that can sometimes translate into guilt if not satisfied... waiting for someone to welcome them into the answer.

  1. If you've never been baptized but would like to be... just show up in Harmony Square July 15th with an open mind and we'll help you with the rest from there.
  2. If you've never felt welcomed in church before... Freedom House welcomes YOU

All this from a little ole dream.

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. —Howard Thurman

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