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.

24 September 2012

Our biggest "Kindness Project" project... we rarely talk about

It's not sexy anymore.  It's tough to have a "rah rah" rally about it.  Our low rental housing project Freedom Gate Apartments has taken more time, work, effort and financial faith (right up to this very moment where  we take a big faith gulp about bills and hope AGAIN for a loaves and fish miracle during this weekend's golf tournament ) than anything else Freedom House has ever done.   By a LONG SHOT.  And for what?  15 affordable apartments for people to live in.

And it's been worth it.  Because as inglorious as it can seem... THIS matters.  I call it inglorious because it really is.  Owning an apartment building has created a PLETHORA of dynamics we didn't expect, left us as the resolver of issues we never thought even existed and has given our administrator nightmares!

And it's been worth it.  Even with the grants we received and the AMAZING partnership/friendship between a local businessman (without whom this project NEVER even gets off the ground), it's a financial LOAD to carry.  A biggun for a church. And it's not an option.  It's big and brown and ours still for this, and the foreseeable, season. Few people rally around housing.  It's 15 apartments... sitting there on Market Street.  OH boy eh?  But this, for us, was God's response to changing the culture of our street and the lives it housed.  And it's all been worth it.

We tried a church there.  It was big and blue and I have fond memories of our humble beginnings in it.  But the more folks we met trapped in destructive cycles of poverty, the more we realized that our call is to SERVE our fellow man. We were reminded of our need to intentionally and sacrificially meet physical needs AS WELL AS the spiritual needs.  The two go hand in hand.  And the people in our neighborhood needed a home that they could afford and where they could be safe and stable.  So we said YES.  And while there are only 15 family units using the space at a time...  just being there and representing a Church just up the street too... it's been a street-culture changer in it's own way.

One day, after many years of quietly operating this apartment (often living on financial faith if we're honest) it will turn a profit too.  And that money will go towards funding MORE Kindness Project outreaches while still accomplishing its goal.  But right now it's WORK work. Work few know about with fewer exciting stories than a play, a festival or a free BBQ.  We had also hoped to find a "Missionary" from our team to take it on as a project, to build genuine relationship with the tenants and use it as a palate to dream together with God's dreams about a unique living experience.   But that hasn't really happened.  It will though.   It's a terrific opportunity laying in wait.

 But it's all been worth it.  First... because it's been OBEDIENCE to God and obedience IS success.  And also because ordinary people and specifically the Church HAVE the ability to meet practical needs in Jesus name.  It takes work and faith and sacrifice and it's more often than not done in obscurity.  But who cares.

There are two rules to life.  Love God... Love Others.
Period.
Go hard.

23 September 2012

Me and my Queen


I got a pretty amazing letter from the Government of Canada and the Province of Ontario this week. It said that I am about to get a medal.  A MEDAL medal. From the QUEEN kinda medal.

It's called the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal. It's OFFICIAL reasoning is:

"A new commemorative medal was created to mark the 2012 celebrations of the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the Throne as Queen of Canada. The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal is a tangible way for Canada to honour Her Majesty for her service to this country. At the same time, it serves to honour significant contributions and achievements by Canadians."

... and is presented to someone who has made:

"... a significant contribution to a particular province, territory, region or community within Canada, or an achievement abroad that brings credit to Canada." 

It also says that I have to be alive as of last February. So that part I got covered... in spades. I was the alivenest guy around last February.

I was understandably shocked.  I've never had a more replied to tweet or liked Facebook status
People's reactions have been IN-credible. I couldn't feel more humbled and I'm sure that I'm going to have more to say about this after October 6th when I receive it. I'm not one to make a big deal... but when I think about what my Grandfather's war medals from the Queen meant to him and generations of family, I know that this token that will forever speak to my kids of the value of community service onto our God.  This IS a big deal.

I wanted to share something important about my relationship between me and my Queen. For as long as I could remember, I didn't understand the "Royal" thing.  I couldn't imagine why our clearly independent nation was hanging on to an "archaic" monarchy set up.  It's not that I didn't LIKE the Queen, I just didn't get her. We didn't have lots in common. But then again I'm a Gen Xer.  There isn't anything Gen X hates more than everything.  My whole life I've considered EVERYTHING bunk until proven otherwise.  Often this insistence has proven me prophetic.  Sadly just as often, if not MORE often, it's caused me to admit and accept my haste and self-centered bent when proven wrong.

Then a couple of years ago I began to talk extensively about honoring our leaders.  I believe that, even when it's not easy because we don't understand the logic or their rationale, it's still a GODLY principle.  I read this again in Romans 13:

"Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong.So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience." 

And then God convicted me.  He convicted me quick, hard and clear.  I am a SUBJECT of the Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and of Her other Realms and Territories, Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith. And if I'm CALLED to honor her... I need to honor her.  In fact, it was in her name and:

 "To the Glory of God through the service of youth" 

... that my kid's school was dedicated. See...



So I SUBJECTED myself to her majesty quietly.  And it changed me... and FREED me.  During the Olympics this summer, I actually wept during "God save the Queen" on a Friday night before going to serve food to the poor.  I left my home that night wanting to honor my God and Queen. A VAST change from years before.   The Queen's Annual Christmas addresses have been very moving to me.  See last year's whole thing here but she encouraged us that:

 "Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves - from our recklessness or our greed. God sent into the world a unique person - neither a philosopher nor a general, important though they are, but a Savior, with the power to forgive"
Queen Elizabeth 

Preach it my Queen. This was living word spoken from a high place.  A place that God has ALLOWED to exist and be in authority.  And like the Biblical Timothy told us, I pray for her because the fruit of it is living "peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." Not a shabby way to live.

In 2 weeks, I'm going to receive a medal from my Queen because I share her value of serving community and country.  It is the highest honor I've ever received and I plan on using it to give praise onto my HIGH King the Lord Jesus Christ in whom I live and move and have my being. 

God save the Queen.

14 September 2012

All the lonely people; a concert is rarely what it seems to be




Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been, lives in a dream. Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door. Who is it for? All the lonely people. Where do they all come from? Where do they all belong?
Lennon/McCartney


I used to avoid concerts. I don't like crowds, spending money or public celebration very much. I subscribed to the philosophy that I could listen to the music I liked in my own home clearer and with less chance of sitting beside a sweaty stranger. But I one Sunday morning, as I was lauding the value of public, corporate worship I realized the grander potential that existed when experiencing a piece of beloved music together with others. So I began to say yes to seeing artists that I'd always admired, cost be damned. And I haven't regretted this decision.

But concerts are not about concerts. It's an introspective experience masquerading as a demonstrative one... and if you pay close attention to the audience (where the real show is found) there is a tangible sadness laced into it... with a side of hope.

Last night, I watched John Fogerty perform... and he was phenomenal. CCR, even though they were only together for 5 years before suffering an emotionally crippling breakup, remains one of my favorite bands. His personal struggle with artistry includes disillusionment, betrayal, and eventual redemption. It's not been an easy road encapsulated by his raucous refrain of "It ain't me. I ain't no fortunate one."

The reason I love CCR is that I latched onto them during a season of confusion, teenage transition and a bit of lonely heartache. I'd listen to "Have you ever seen the rain" (a song written expressing the pain of a band breakup) in my buddy's backyard, floating in his pool while we wondered why didn't get invited to the parties our friends did and why others all seemed to get girls when we just got... each other listening to CCR.

I studied and eavesdropped on as many of the thousands who had made a pilgrimage to hear the music they love as I could. All around me people spoke frankly of their real-world struggles between songs. Behind me during a 30 second lull, a woman shared with a girlfriend about her mother's cancer. I heard stories of heartbreaking tragedies within earshot. I witnessed the overcoming of handicaps as evidenced by a one-legged fan this in the front row determined to stand as close to John Fogerty as possible, hoping that he'd hear her singing Bad Moon Rising. You could watch struggling relationships in full-on overcompensation mode hoping to reignite passion.

I asked myself why other people come with those they know the most, looking for the healing tonic of collective experience... when the music is something they can hear clear in their home. People come in to the arena with their memories and longings. They remember a time where they did some THING in the real world that was accompanied by the soundtrack they've come to ingest. It's like Jack Sheppard trying to get back to LOST island, doing whatever he did the first time to get there, playing his internal movie playing out in his mind. People are remembering love-making gone by, hoping that by following the siren song, they will somehow rub the genies lamp just right... the enchantment will fall... and they'll get back to where they were for attachment again.

Ironically I think the artist is in the very same situation as those who come to the feeding trough are. The artist simply does his best to navigate his way through life authentically, make sense of what he sees, and share it with others. He as well hopes desperately for validation and connection.

The bitter separation that can lead to sadness can come with the fact that we adore the artist because they have LIVED the songs that we've heard (and sometimes imagined living out for ourselves) ... but somehow our lives don't live up to that picture. We escape into their world because it seems idyllic. Sadly, it can leave us singing in the dark, forgetting about the loneliness and dark times that the artist ALSO experienced as heard in songs like Lodi.

If I only had a dollar for every song I´ve sung. And every time I had to play while people sat there drunk. You know I´d catch the next train back to where I live. Oh Lord, I´m stuck in a Lodi again


Beside me sat and older native man at the show by himself. I could almost see the movies playing in the recesses of his mind as the parade of classic songs played out on the stage. His wistful expression didn't fluctuate much throughout the show. Some songs were smilers & clappers... but you could tell there was memory and genuine emotion buried not far underneath at any given moment. When Fogerty played my favorite song, "As Long as I can see the light" I caught his eye. We both nodded knowingly, thoughts far from where we were sitting.

I used to play this 3 minute song on repeat for hours, to sir up enough hope to make it through the night. When I got home, I could still feel it. I watched a generic YouTube clip of the old song and scrolled through the comments. There were stories of kids of addict mothers, struggles with overcoming poverty, and others who just listened to stir their soul.

Even the 80 year old couple who danced like no one was watching for 2 hours at the front of the stage have story. While entertaining and adorable, these two clearly cared deeply about this music for a reason. It wasn't about Proud Mary. It was about something else.

Make no mistake. What we're doing is never about what we're doing. There is always something deeper in play.



7 September 2012

In every rink across this country... final thoughts on Hockey Night in Brantford




Most Canadians have had a "Hockey Night" experience. In one form or another, you've likely walked into an arena in your home town and sat down to watched unshaven men or rose cheeked youngins chase a puck. It's not a "Uniquely Canadian" phenomenon as there are many European nations that understand this collective experience. But "Hockey Night" is a shared experience, even common ground coast to coast in Canada... a nation that sometimes struggles to find East, West, North, South unity points.

Last night we had our wrap up meeting for the very successful Hockey Night in Brantford that we ran back in August. It was the dream of our MP Phil McColeman to host a hockey game like Brantford had never seen. A game where the names from local hockey past took to the same ice as the stars of today while including the kids of hockey's future. He also wanted to raise a LARGE amount of money for a local charity as a way to give back to the city... serving the city he loves. Phil is a very good MP, does hard work for the right reasons and it's a pleasure to be on his team.

But in many ways, it came down to the hockey. I was a part of this game from it's conception and while that came with a lot of work, it came with some pretty cool perks too. Like the day we announced that New Jersey Devil Calder Trophy nominee Adam Henrique would be playing in the game, my son Jared got to hang out with him... possibly solidifying a new favorite player for him. A HOCKEY memory even for a kid who's "rink" is the family driveway, like his non-skating father before him. Hockey in Canada has a wider social currency than just playing a game.

The reason this game WORKED was because we saw parents (and grandparents) bringing their kids to the rink to remember and revel. Guys like Doug Jarvis took to his "home ice" to play in a game for the first since since he became an NHL legend, winning rings and hardware... some of which was on display by the Hockey Hall of Fame in the lobby.

I watched older Brantfordians beam with local pride telling their kids about Doug's iron man record, while keeping one eye on the ice for Adam or Zac Dalphe. They were easy to find. They were the ones scoring goals on Phil McColeman. Then they were the ones the gooey eyed 13 year old girls were following after the game.

That's hockey in Canada. It can make political rock stars like Peter Mackay make the trip from Ottawa for the chance to skate with the masters and still have a glint in his eye when he goofs around with the ever-young Walter Gretzky. It's a glint familiar to those of us in Brantford because we get it too.

BECAUSE the game WORKED, 70,000$ was raised for the Brant United Way. In the Brantford Expositor video wrap up HERE, they caught United Way Executive Director Kristin Pass doing a butter-churn happy dance shortly after seeing how much extra they'd be able to invest into those doing GOOD in the community SHE cares about too.

But my favorite moment of the whole day was after most of the rink had cleared out and I was ready to head to the after-party to celebrate. There was a little old lady waiting outside of the dress room tunnel. She COULDN'T be waiting to ask for an autograph could she?

"Is Paul in there?" she asked me sweetly.
"I'm sorry who?" I responded politely.
"My son is Paul Mackinnon... one of the players" she surprised me with. Paul Mackinnon is a Brantford born, former defenceman for the Washington Capitals.
"I'm not sure ma'am" I smiled enjoying the humor of the moment.

"Darn that Paul. He's been the last one out of the dressing room since he was a little boy. I've been waiting out here for him for him for 50 years!"


Doomsday prophets are concerned that the upcoming NHL labor stoppage will destroy hockey. Nah. Hockey is bigger than that. It's Canadian fabric. You can't fully analyze the comings and goings; ebbs and flows of a city without considering hockey as a factor. Hockey Night in Brantford worked because it celebrated what happens in every rink across this country.


6 September 2012

There is only one thing men KNOW men want





There is no remote reciprocal equivalent to the relentless male barrage pursuit of the female that I've come to believe is one of the primary motivating forces in this world.

I don't believe that's an overstatement. Comedians, writers, commentators and their ilk have noted it for years... often in jest because of it's seemingly bottomless limit, absurd results and the inexplicable inability of men to harness this urge. It's funny... kinda. But I imagine it would be as obnoxious to be on the female receiving end as I KNOW it's been on male anxious, yet clueless end of the exchange.

Jerry Seinfeld famously observed:

"I have absolutely no idea what women are thinking. I’m not getting the signals. Women, everything they do is subtle.. men are not subtle. We are obvious. Women know what men want; men know what men want. What do we want? We want women, that’s it! It’s the only thing we know for sure. How do we get them? Oh, we don’t know ’bout that. The next step after that we have no idea. This is why you see men honking car-horns, yelling from construction sites. These are the best ideas we’ve had so far. The man is in the car... the woman walks by the front of the car... he honks. This man is out of ideas. What is he expecting? For the woman to stop and say 'Hey you honked at me. That’s so sweet ... I never knew you felt this way!'"


I saw nearly this exact scenario play itself out this weekend. I feigned amazement. Coming back from the Blue Jays game on Monday, we found ourselves in completely stopped traffic. Like PARKED, engines off, people playing Frisbee on the 403 kinda traffic. Right before we were about to move after an hour, my carload witnessed a 50 year old man take the plunge and give a 25 year old attractive blonde girl his phone number.

"I've been gazing at you in your Passat and you're quite fetching. Maybe this accident wasn't an accident. I can't lose you."


At least that's what I imagined he said. It was likely equally as stupid. Inside however, he was just desperately scrambling to verbalize a primal grunt of "ME SEE GIRL. ME WANT GIRL. UHHHH.... GIRL!!!!" As sad and fruitless an attempt as it was... there was a degree of empathy inside our van. We've been there.

I wish this wasn't true. But it IS true and everyone on both sides if this equation knows it to be true. I'm guessing that trying to somehow strategically position himself, down to the detail, was how this dude spent his hour in traffic. Making sure One Direction didn't come of the radio so she'd lose interest. Ensuring that his bicep was angled on a visually optimal angle on the car door so there was a minimal about of flab showing. This is NOT an exaggeration of the mind of men. We both know it. Men want woman and woman KNOW it and subsequently must spend an inordinate amount of time planning gentle rejection and hoping that it's going to stop one day. It won't.

We've got to be aware of this in ministry too. This summer doing our street barbeques, we've had a much larger population of young girls than guys volunteering. These girls ROCK. And the drunk guys eatin' free hot dogs know it too. I spend a great percentage of my time on the street strategically positioning myself between the hitonER and the hitonEE. It's like a runaway train of failed male flirt attempts. But these girls are not ignorant to this fact... because they are girls!

Two thoughts:

  1. We can't control this
  2. We CAN control this

We can't control the fact that men are created in A way by God. And that way seems to include the pursuit of the female. It leads to great things and needs to be continued into marriage. But we MUST control it as well. If men were left unrestrained in this area... it would be chaos! A gentleman controls himself. In fact... all you men who don't know what to do to get the attention of a woman... here's a tip. The lack of self control in this area is a deterrent to your goal and thus should be adhered to.

Married guys... we need to remember this too.

On the other side of the coin, I remember Chris Rock doing a very funny bit (that I wouldn't be able to put in my blog... because it was Chris Rock) about his wife rejecting him sexually because woman are SO used to rejecting the advances of men. Their whole day is one big rejection fest so it's easy to forget to stop! This can be a big problem in marriage. Again... managing and controlling this dynamic so very important to a healthy relationship.

Single people... you think this stops when you get married??? We're out of ideas too.




1 September 2012

Sermonizing





Preaching is one of my favorite things in the world to do.

I love the whole process. I love the anticipation of what will inspire divine revelation that week. I love the moment where I get sent down my path. I love the research... the historical trails to follow. I love the gathering... I love the collaborative process that social media allows. I love the nagging gut feeling of "is this enough?" I love the explosion of theatre, social interaction, working for laughs, and even the soul agony that the orator experiences longing for the message to be more than ingested... but digested.

For me, sermonizing typically starts with an odd fact, historical event, cultural oddity that suddenly STANDS OUT when it shouldn't. Like the famous little girl in red from Schindlers List who the author isolates as the subtle subplot to be a point of contact as the scope of story is told. That's what it's like for me.

This week... it was the smash 1751 hit song "Adeste Fideles" that lept off of my internal map. I've spent most of my sermonizing time reading everything I could get my hands on in the limited time available to me about it's controversial and unsettled history. You'll have to come to Freedom House tomorrow morning to hear how it all turns out... because as I blog this afternoon in the house emptied so that I can sermonize properly... the equation is not yet complete.

Items and shapes and history and quotes and scriptures sit like puzzle pieces on my Grandfather's desk as I await the Holy magic to take place as it inevitably does and bring them all together into something beyond mine own skills.

Preaching is one of my favorite things in the world to do.



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