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 December 2012

My Christmas gift that "came around"


During the month of the December, "Captain Kindness" and I got to partner with a number of Christmas kindness events.  At one dinner thrown for the families of a Children's Aid project, there was one young guy who reacted... umm... differently than anyone ever had to my big red presence.

He screamed.  AND SCREAMED.

See there is an art to being a debatabley-sane adult male who dresses like a superhero.  When I first started this gig, I burst into every situation cape a flappin' and big voice a boomin'. But kids would often be a little freaked. Then a friend who's one of  those "psychology types" told me that I was fanning out like a peacock who uses his size to intimidate.

So now when I'm around little folk, I get down real low and talk in a soft, warm "hey there darlin'" voice and ask for a small and simple high five.   It almost always works.  Except for this young guy.  Marky was his name.  I tried everything. I gave him a toy and even took my mask off to show him I wasn't actually scary (again debatable).  No dice.

I eventually had to hide in the hallway while the Mom put a jacket over his head to get him into the room long enough to sit on Santa's knee.  PS he screamed at Santa too so it wasn't JUST me :)

Funny thing is... I found out that when Marky got home, he wouldn't stop talking about how much he loved Captain Kindness.  He made a cape.   Got a mask.  Even acted... KINDLY!  His Mom was blown away.

Before Christmas, my wife was hearing the story from the Mom and she mentioned that they had just returned from Marky's appointment at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto.  During the visit, the Toronto Maple Leafs popped in to sign autographs and she mentioned, "some guy named Wendel Clark" was there.  My wife casually said, "Oh that's Dave/Captain Kindness's favorite player" and before she knew it, an autographed Wendel Clark picture was headed my way as a thank you.

I loved the picture... but I loved the story more.   Seemed to be one of those "what goes around comes around" things.  Kindness is like that.    You don't do it to GET something. But it's hilariously awesome to see how people take note of the little things that would light up your day when you're a giver.

I saw the Mom and Marky while tobogganing day.  She pointed me out and we had a cool non-screaming exchange and I got to thank them for my very cool Christmas gift that... came around.



27 December 2012

Best... Christmas Eve... Ever

This was one of my favorite Christmas Eve's I've ever had.  And I hope that it's foreshadowing of more in 2013.

Maybe it's the big red leotard factor, but I often get emails from people in town that essentially say, "I want to give xyz but don't know WHERE or even HOW give."  It's exciting because one of the major long term goals of our Kindness Project is to be able to facilitate this very thing.

"The Kindness Project is about changing cities BY good INTO good through multi-level, coordinated, intentional, strategic KINDNESS. There is an untapped level of synergy and interconnectedness between business, government, social agencies, the church, education... along with regular families ALL working TOGETHER. The Kindness Project will facilitate change on a city-wide scale, towards ordinary people taking care of each other through coordinated kindness."  

On Christmas Eve I got a message from a local Brantford non-profit organization saying, "We have TOO MANY Christmas gifts and need to find homes that need encouragement and a boost... and we need to do in the next few hours!"  Good problem to have, but it's a real problem.  Distribution systems are a real issue... even with kindness. 

Thankfully... I believe the culture of the city of Brantford has begun it's transformation towards the "People caring for People" that, while many feel it is utopian in modern society, is actually quite achievable with intentionality and wise work.  So I asked my social media network, "Who would like to be Kindness Superhero today?"  One of my primary messages as Captain Kindness is that kindness is super-power.  Putting someone else first and thinking of them before ourselves can be such a cultural anomaly that when it happens, it's fundamentally transformational for the giver and the receiver (and in the case of this story) the one who gives the "seed to the sower (2Cor9:10)"

I had MANY responders!  I simply got to play laptop-point-person gathering information & stories to pass on to the organization for them to put together gift packages. Kindness Superheros across the city drove to HQ, armed themselves with toys and headed into the city loaded to the hilt with GOOD. Real people caring for real people, knocking on a real doors with real things to try and dissolve real burdens.

  • There was the story of a home where a lady on disability had lost her husband and job in November. She was really struggling and someone who had been Christmas-tapped-out was able to meet a need and breathe encouragement! 

  • There was another story of a plucky Christian family of 6 with one income who had a lot go wrong in the past few months financially. They had been struggling with their faith and my friend reported that they had "lost their Christmas spirit this year." Boom.  Kindness changed the narrative of the story.  

  • There was another story of a local pastor who was in the middle of putting together his Christmas Eve sermon and was able to include giving gifts to the lower income kids who would be attending in a few short hours.

  • There was another story of something very unique and special.  I have a friend who works rehabilitating federal offenders who rarely get work... and certainly couldn't afford gifts for their kids.  Rehab of relationships is a tricky process.  My friend got the gifts, put them under the tree and wrote, "From Santa" on them anonymously.  She said that it brought the men to literal tears.  She wrote me after, "This year has been all about giving for me.  This facilitated GIVING in this situation.  These guys DO care and DO have a heart but just made bad decisions."  

I love that story. That's all of us isn't it?  We humans can carry a lot of heaviness with us through our daily walk of life.  And more often than not, it's unnecessary.  But something as simply as this attitude can thwart our very destiny.  It steals from us.  But it's not a hopeless situation. Oh no it ain't.

In each of these situations there was a practical need met... yes.  But it's is rarely if ever REALLY about that.  Acting generously and kindly opens OUR own hearts to see the world differently.  Giving "seed to the sower" opens that door for others freedom.  And the recipient is reminded that they aren't alone. The impact of kindness is EXPONENTIAL!

In our city, there is more than enough to care for each other.  We lack nothing except sustained human intention towards each other instead of ourselves.  This was a marvelous Christmas Eve because I believe I caught a glimpse of what the future could look like. 



19 December 2012

Raptors, Leafs, Jays; What are the top moments of "Sports Hope?"

There are 3 Toronto teams I follow.  3 teams who have had a tough....  decade or so.  Blue Jays are now currently one of the favorites to be in the World Series (believe it or not) according to odds-makers. It's been interesting watching the fans deal with the feeling of "Sports Hope" again.  It's been so very.... very long. As a 36 year old who has watched sports since 1985 or so, I've been lucky enough to taste 2 World Series wins as a fan and the feeling is a great one.  But before the victories... there is always a moment of "Sports Hope" that might be even better than the big win itself.

These are, in my opinion, the top Toronto-team moments of Sports Hope in my lifetime. 

THE TORONTO RAPTORS

It was 2000.  We'd all survived the Y2K scare so our pantries were full of dented cans. For the first time since they'd been baby-dinos, there was a sniff of hope for the Raptors.  His name was Vince.  It's often even tough for me to remember how electric Vincanity was.  Kids had posters in their lockers and there were schoolyard fights over who got to be VC on the court.  They would make the playoffs in 2000 and have their only ever real "run" in 2001.  But Raptor "Sports Hope" peaked during the Slam Dunk competition with two words, "It's Over"



I was with a group of guys who EXPLODED.  We literally had to pick pieces of one guy off the roof.  Since "Sports Hope"  is a fleeting fickle friend, it wasn't many years later when Vince choose his NC grad over the playoffs and admittedly quit on the team. But we should never forget that slam dunk day.

THE TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

There is only one moment that really cuts the mustard in this discussion.  There were other events during the 92-93 run that were huge.  Memorable and magic ones.  But "Sports Hope" piqued in the opener of the Conference semifinal with St. Louis at Maple Leaf Gardens. I was supposed to be doing a school project while watching the game... but that wasn't happening this spring night. The Leafs threw everything in the arena at Curtis Joseph, outshooting them 64-34! But this... this.... Cujo character was saving EVERYTHING!  Then, at 3:16 of double OT, "Sports Hope" happened via Dougie Gilmour.




I was beside myself. I jumped so high I actually cracked my head on the basement ceiling fan.  My Leafs were playing the hockey of their lives and were clearly DESTINED to finally win the cup. Nothing would ever stop them now.  Nothing except a slow motion Jamie Macoun and a terrible non-call on Wayne Gretzky.  "Sports Hope" doesn't guarantee anything, but the rush lasts for the rest of your life.

THE TORONTO BLUE JAYS

It's not the Joe Carter homerun.  That was the end of "THE Era".  It wasn't even the '92 win.  That was another culmination.  The payoff ain't the hope.

It was Game Four of the '92 ALCS.  Dennis Eckersley on the mound.  He was the unbeatable one with a menacing mustache and a fowl scowl.  He was nasty side-arm vicious.  Roberto Alomar was "that showboat" to the haters.  He was "the one with the punch" to the marketers.  But he was the greatest baseball player I've ever watched play day in and day out to me. 

I was in the den at my Grandmother's house; a house that is now mine.  My Sunday-dinnering extended family were all gathered around the little TV because baseball fever had enveloped the nation.  If you weren't there... you wouldn't believe it.  But I was and it did.  With nobody out and a 2-2 count, Roberto Alomar went down to get the pitch from Eckersley and lofted it into stands tying the game at sixes. 



Sports Hope.  I still feel it when I watch it.
Sports isn't the most important thing in life... but it's a really good thing in life.  

17 December 2012

Take me home... because I don't remember

 I was howling at the moon a few nights ago to Phil Collin's masterpiece of music "Take me Home"   The choral refrain of echoed a bit in my recesses: 

"Take me home... because I don't remember"

Sometimes I feel like this.  Often really.
 
HOME is maddeningly fleeting.  It is a mirage, like all mirages, that you wish you could run to grab and hold but winds up as a specter's vapor when you try to handle it.  If only we could get more of it in our pocket. 

One of my favorite fictional literary "Homes" is The Last Homely House from The Fellowship of the Ring.

"Frodo was now safe in the Last Homely House east of the Sea. That house was, as Bilbo had long ago reported, 'a perfect house, whether you like food or sleep or story-telling or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all'. Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear, and sadness. Evil things did not come into the secret valley of Rivendell."

The Last Homely House was in the Elvish land of Rivendell found just beyond the Misty Mountains.  It was a mythical land of refuge and safety based upon the Lauterbrunnental in Switzerland, where J. R. R. Tolkien had hiked in 1911. It was a myth and a wish of a place where people wanted to (and could) STAY not leave. 

In Field of Dreams, Doc Graham insists on STAYING not LEAVING Chisholm Minnesota even though protagonist Ray Kinsella insists that leaving would make his dreams come true.  Doc calmly says with a smile,

This is my most special place in all the world, Ray. Once a place touches you like this, the wind never blows so cold again. You feel for it, like it was your child. I can't leave Chisholm. 

I've always wanted a Chisholm.   A Rivendell.  A perfect house with a Churchill Room and a fire, lots of maps and leather.  I've always wanted HOME to STAY in.  But it's a vapor.  The home I remember as a boy isn't even there anymore.  My friends who shared my Shire are lawyers, teachers and men of industry in far away cities.   My room is labeled "spare"  and a long-haired cat that makes me wheeze with allergies sleeps where my dog used to. 

I think it's what makes me love OLD.  I live in the small century home of my Grandparents.  Today I found an old coat-hanger that my long-gone Grandfather had written his name on. It's possible that his Sunday Church suit may have hung upon it.  It's a vapor but somehow even the mirage reminds me of the me that I have to howl sometimes to remember.

We become adults, grasping at history, hoping that in our scramble for air, space and legacy... we're somehow creating HOME for our kids to frolic in during their gestation season.  We're neither lost nor alone.  We're aware enough to realize that the home we knew, only lives in our memory and we'll only ever get glimpses and gasps from here on out until we arrive in our heavenly home... which I'm going to assume is quite spectacular. I must believe it will be worth the wait for REAL home.  



14 December 2012

My night at "The Joysey Lights" at the Glenhyrst Art Gallery


Tonight I took my family to Brantford's Glenhyrst Art Gallery for the first time.  I'd been there for events but the rest of my young family hadn't. Circumstance... and who knows maybe fate... landed this popular light show on the beautiful Glenhyrst grounds.  It's a jewel in the city that many don't even know about. When we drove up, it was like the end scene of Field of Dreams when the cars began showing up out of the blue.  I spoke with Glenhyst's Stan Gorecki tonight in the gallery and he was telling me that 60-70% of the visitors this week had never been there.  What a gift.

We all toured the art gallery. There was a wonderful soapstone carving called, "Last looked out."  I'm betting it's a reference to one of my favorite Christmas songs "Good King Wenceslas" As the kids admired it, with their limited attention spans, I told them the song-story of Czech Saint Wenceslaus the 1st, who was known for his generosity.

They tigger-bounced over to a photograph of a contemplative soldier with an accompanying scripture:

“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way  is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls."
Jer 6:16

We briefly talked about what she might be thinking this way.

Then our kids ran... awed... and enjoyed the lights together.

At the end of the night, we made our donation to Community Resource Services (The Brant Food Bank) because the night was free of charge.  It was one of those "Everybody Wins" nights.  I think there are more "Everyone Wins" partnerships waiting to be discovered in communities.

 I want to encourage you to get into your city.  Meet new people.  Go and taste-test a new area that comprises your city that you've never tried before. You'll gain a better appreciation and maybe it will spawn new partnership idea that will create a "Everyone Wins" situation for something YOU care about.  Be it church, arts, small business, social outreach, historical probing or community volunteering. Brantford is already culturally rich but becomes richer when we all participate and contribute.

4 December 2012

The Christmas Carrol Sleigh of Love


"But more than these miracles above, good people, we need love"
Eddie Hinton

This weekend, a linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs named Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend.  Then he got in his car and drove to his football stadium. He sought out his coach to tell him thanks for the chance he'd been given... and then he shot himself.  Right in front of the coach. 

It's a sick-in-the-pit-of-your-stomach story from every imaginable angle.  I have no grand stand or social commentary aside from to say that I hate that horrible things lurk in the hearts of man. 

I know that many (many who you know and come in contact with each day) FEEL an overcoming bleakness to life.  I don't pretend to know what provoked Jovan Belcher this weekend.... but I know it was something, "Not Good".  I over-simplistically ache that there needed to be love to triumph over... horrible.  The kind of horrible that might have been dissolved by love.

This is our world.  It is not a scary place though.  It was created in love by a loving God for man who He lovingly created in His image to mirror His character of love to each other by showing love actively.  THIS is our world.  And the actualization of this Holy paradigm is as simple as showing love.

All of the "Let's not give gifts at Christmas" AND the "Mindlessly giving expensive demanded gifts" AND the "Let's just give to the poor instead of each other" movements feel incomplete philosophically to me.  We have a culture where our neighbors (whom we're MANDATED to love) are starved to know that another human actually cares about their well-being. Although all these movements are well-meaning, they each somehow find a way to even remove thoughtfully considering each other from Christmas. Christ was a gift TO the world that the world "Didn't think it needed" either. But the gift was lavish, costly and thoughtful. Gifts aren't about the amount of money. They are about the intentionality of the giving.  Truthfully I don't even like getting gifts, but when someone goes out of their way do something they know will make me smile... it's like infusing me with a booster shot of love.  And love is fuel to breed MORE love.

Begin to council grown North American adult people and you'll find MANY walk through life feeling unappreciated, unthoughtof and lonely. What a tragedy that on Christmas we all too often say, "I'm ALSO not thinking about you today." 

If tangible gifts, or "acts of kindness", or meeting a "felt need" isn't impactful... then our Kindness Project would be a pointless endeavor.  I've seen the offer of a burger (and not even a GOOD burger) reduce a grown man to tears because another human was just THERE thinking about him tangibly in some small way.

I asked God to speak to me this year about how I could practically show my family how much I love them.  I want them to know... desperately. I pray that my busy schedule and fleshly imperfect attitudes aren't being used to rob them of the assurance of their father's (and husband's) love and stability... OFTEN.    

God said, "The Christmas Carrol Sleigh of Love" Dave.  I found the perfect decorative sleigh and even used power tools and paint (not an oft-said phrase for me) to make a sign for the back.  Every morning there is an individualized Christmas card waiting for each of Krissy, Jared, Aislin and Brianna.  Inside I tell them one reason why I love them.  By Christmas morning, they will each have a collection of 25 reasons why I love them.  Aislin, my mushy-hearted daughter, has told me that this is her favorite gift she's ever gotten and I've already caught her reading her love-stack on her bed.  I can almost physically see the words filling her self-worth, confidence and increasing her capacity to reciprocally share love with others.  

Today's blog is overly-simplistic, entirely idealistic and will sound like a schmaltz cliche to some.  But love someone today.  Be generous and thoughtful to each other this Christmas. You have no idea what showing another person out-of-your-way love might do in their life.  It might just save their life. 
“No one has ever become poor by giving.”
Anne Frank

2 December 2012

Santa and the human meat pies of death

As seen in the December 2012 version of the Brant Advocate in stores and homes this week. 


There were a few years where I was a rabid Anti-Santite. While not exactly affected by rabies... 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.

My wife and I once ACTUALLY declined to receive a Santa-related gift 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.  Youthful fervor sometimes has social shrapnel.  Have a little grace. It does a body good to analyze our culture instead of just lapping up what we're being handed.  

It’s not just me.  A friend of mine was once pastoring a church that was doing a Christmas play that include a painted Santa Claus character as a small part of the set.  One Sunday morning service during a quiet portion, a voice began shouting from the back, “There is a messenger of Satan in our midst.  He lurks behind you.  It’s SANTA!”  There’s no going back from that. It’s a “Good Night everybody” moment.  

Can Jesus and Santa, these two Christmas superpowers, get along? Even the carol “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” is a funny mix of Jesus and Santa. 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. You DO know the story about Santa and the human meat pies of death right?  And the other one about Santa and 3 hookers right? Oh Santa was hard core.

Legend has it that the 4th Century Saint Nicholas once came across poor man who had three daughters whom he couldn’t afford marriage dowry for. These were bleak times and likely meant that these girls would become prostitutes. So one night Santa, eschewing public laud in place of modestly saving face for the father, went to their home and left three purses (one for each daughter) filled with gold.  The overwhelmed father caught Santa in the act, only to have the jolly old saint reply, “Don’t thank me...but God alone."

In another legend, Santa (aka Saint Nicholas) becomes a stinkin’ faith healer! During a time of terrible famine, a desperate but malicious butcher lured three little children into his house.  Few good stories start that way.  The butcher...butchered the kids in order to turn them into meat pies, placing their remains in a barrel to cure. Thankfully... Super Santa was nearby caring for the poor of the stricken region. He not only saw through the butcher's horrific crime but also prayed and resurrected the three boys.  

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.  THEN tell them that the other mystical man in the sky they never see but who loves them and gives them gifts DOES."  Santa has been tough logic for me and for every parent, push DOES come to shove at some point.

I was the last kid in my class to finally figure out that Santa wasn’t real.  While I took a youthful barrage of mockery and logic, I stood up to the doubters claiming that I had SEEN the real Santa... and he lived in Muskoka at Santa’s Village.  I didn’t want my kids to be “that kid” either. So we started off by not saying much at all about Santa.  We have never played up the veracity of Santa. There are no "From Santa" gifts under the tree. But our kids have grown up enjoying the myth. It’s a lovely myth.  

A couple of Christmas’s ago  my oldest son Jared, 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 himself!  We together identified what was the real Biblical Christmas story that he already knew and what was cultural myth. THEN I told him about the human meat pies of death, the power of prayer, and importance of defending the defenseless.  He thought it was awesome like an action movie.  I told him and how Saint Nicholas took care of the three daughters and cared tangibly for the poor. He made the connection between our Great-Grandma knit stockings today.  We watched Elf that night and Jared legitimately  winked at me as we kept the secret safe for his little sisters to find out one day.

My kids have learned about the Biblical origins of Christmas AND that it’s a way to incarnate love through gift giving today. Let’s tell the story of Jesus IN our culture. It’s ever-present, relevant and is the real meaning of Christmas. You’re welcomed to The Living Nativity in Harmony Square Dec 7-9 to experience it together as a community. But Santa knows that we're God's children. 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?"

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