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.

31 January 2013

Saturday February 1st 2003, 5:59am

Tomorrow... my oldest son Jared turns 10. I can barely believe it's been a decade of being a parent.  I woke up early on "birth day" before our scheduled inducing and wrote this sitting at my desk... in a life that feels a lifetime ago: 


"When we went to sleep last night, it was just 2. When I come home tonight, I will have seen my baby boy. How will my life change? I don’t know. Will I feel any different tonight than I did yesterday? I don’t know.

Sometimes I play chicken with the alarm clock. I’ll wake up half an hour before I need to and stare at the clock. Sometimes I just don’t want to have to get out of bed. Most of the time it’s because my bed is just too comfortable and there’s no telling what the day is about to bring. But it also used to happen on Christmas morning. The excitement and anticipation was just too much.

This morning is one that’s totally different. The night before Krissy and I moved out of our 1st apartment and left for Africa, we looked at each and other and knew that there was no turning back. No matter what happened, our lives were going to be different. We were nervous but excited. As we walked down the runway to get on the airplane, we knew that God was with us and it didn’t really matter that we didn’t know what we were getting into because he did.

By the end of today, I am going to meet Jared Abraham Carrol for the very 1st time. It’s 5:59 in the morning and the clock is about to ring. That obnoxious sound is going to tell me that my life is going to change forever. It is the last minute that we are going to be 2 of in this house. The next time I crawl into my warm bed, God is going to have juiced my heart full of love for another one of his creations. I’m scared. I’m scared of the unknown. I’m nervous. Because I know that every time that life changes, it can hurt a little. But I’m filled with an overwhelming joy. Because I know that this more than any year of my life,2 will bring change.

God… I commit my life to you. In this final moment of stale, I want to let you know that I embrace the Freshness that you’re bringing into my life. You had your hand on my life through the easy and the hard times. And I know that Jared is yours, not mine. God, protect him, comfort him, and teach him so that “when he old, he will not depart from you”. I acknowledge that you are potter and I am the clay”. Lord mould me into the person you need me to be, and where you lead my Lord I will follow. 6:00am 

Then at 1:17... this happened.   

I was right.  The next 10 years has not been even remotely the same.  They've been better. 

4 January 2013

The Church is Weird... but so are you

This is my January article in The Brant Advocate

I've spent almost all of my life as a church person.  I had a couple of years there where God gave me a mulligan while tasting the fru-its of the dev-il ... but perspectively; the Christian Church has always been a major part of my life. I grew up in the United Church, split away to go free-agent Indy, joined a Congregational network, was a die hard Pentecostal, had a brief respite as an African grass-rootsy, and then helped plant a Non Denominational called Freedom House here in Brantford to try and bring 'em all together.  I have a deep appreciation for all of them while still having lingering burrs up my butt about all of them. They all confuse AND infuse me with passion. But I have a growing understanding that God loves them all far more unilaterally than I previously suspected.

There are 2.1 billion people like me, mandated by an ancient, living, teaching to gather regularly and live life together as a part of massive global family.  It's estimated that there are 3.7 million Christian congregations around the world with 67,000 denominations. There are close to 50,000 new congregations being added each year.  Talk about family dynamics!

"The Church" comes with many of same the daily struggles that most organizations have with the one major difference.  It has a mandate from God Himself. The weight of this charge mixed with human preferences, bents and traditions can wind up being... well …weird.  

I've been a meeting that included (not exaggerating here) 50 swords (including most of the Lord of the Rings replicas) that by the end of worship were being waved about.  

I've been a prayer room with a group of quiet contemplative Baptists when "The Shofar Guy" triumphantly walked in and began blowing that rams horn like his life depended on it. That's a moment that would have won “America’s Funniest Home Prayer Room Videos.”  Or at least got the Tom Bergeron bobblehead.

I've also been in meetings that saw people laying prostrate on the ground under the weighty presence of a tangible God.  I'm sure I haven't seen "it all" but I've seen lots of good, bad and a whole lot of in between. Because each person in each of stories was, and still is, expressing from a very genuine place of worship to the same God; His grace for all of it must be more broadly defined than ours oftens succumbs to.

PEOPLE are the variable in each equation. It's not easy to figure out how we humans should behave around someone we respect and want to impress. A good looking girl, a business person you look up to... God. And because of that, sometimes it can get WEIRD and awkward. Like you never panicked and done something awkward when you’ve gone a courtin’.?  

Not every moment has to be  poignant. Most aren’t.  I was in a worship service recently where at one point there was a woman attempting to sing in a falsetto that sounded like a cooing dove struggling to breathe. At the same time there a young woman singing completely off key in my ear. At the same time a shaggy man was aggressively knee-drumming completely off beat to a song I didn't like. I wanted to bail and take a walk just to let my brain exhale.  But what was happening was genuine people lifting what they had, in their own way to God. Not pretty... but real. More real than most life scenarios because people were actually EXPRESSING love.  A rare bird sometimes.

I remember going to a family funeral when I was a zealous young Christian at a small Anglican Church. Sadly, I got weird. It ended with me being outraged that the priest delivering the message had the nerve to not preside over the meeting like I would have.  I tore out of the parking lot in my dilapidated Chevy Cavalier to make a point. It was an incredibly immature reaction to something as menial as style. I hadn’t learned to get over the things that just don't matter.  

A few summers ago I visited Saint Joseph's Oratory, a massive Catholic Church in Montreal.  The largest church by size in Canada. It was made by a spunky little man named André Bessette. The most impressive part was not the size of the Jesus statue around the sea of candles. It was the wall upon wall covered with thousands of canes and crutches that used to belong to people that Catholic priest André Bessette prayed for. Bessette would visit the sick in their homes and recommend them in prayer to St. Joseph.  He’d anoint them with oil from the lamp that burned before the St. Joseph altar... and they’d be healed.  Like HEALED healed.

My charismatic side leapt for joy when I saw this.  My prideful protestant side wanted to be theology conflicted. Why did a saint have to be all wrapped up in this equation?  It should have messed with my theology.  But I'm learning something. God DESPERATELY wants to show himself through his Church and he mercifully grants us gobs of grace while we weird our way through this astounding mission as awkward, mid-learning-process... but loving kids.  

The Church is made of billions of ordinary people just like me, with a burden to share Jesus with the world... somehow.  So many of these people make enormous life sacrifices to do it. Many never invest in retirement plans because they feel their money would be better spent on The Church.  Many make below poverty line salaries, because it's what The Church can afford.  Many get "you're a heretic and you're leading people to hell" emails and personal confrontations daily... because of a desire to stand for truth.  Many around the world lead churches without any education whatsoever... just because it's burning in them.  Many live with the discouraging feeling of an uphill battle but with a heart full of Holy-ache for the world around them.  

But there are those windows of time where we’re granted a taste of U2's heavenly dream of “the kingdom come where all the colors will bleed into one.” An earthly preview of coming eternal attractions.  And that my brother... makes it worth it.

The Church is weird but extraordinarily beautiful. I want more.

3 January 2013

How someone tried to SCAM me, how I caught it and what I did about it

Let me tell you a story of a beautiful hand-painted and artistically-designed dresser that my wife and her friends are made and are now selling; and how someone tried to steal 800 dollars from us with it.

First... If you'd legitimately like this dresser, it's BACK on Kijiji here.  Now to the story.

I'm going to show you the trail of emails STEP BY STEP with the scammer's email address and contact information in it... so he doesn't get you too.  And I promise you... it gets funny.  So the dresser was on Kijiji for a listed price of $1200.  Within 24hrs of posting... I received this email as the journey begins.

What I didn't notice right away but do now is that the buyer's email address changed from something obscure and phishy to a person's gmail address with a name attached.

I was very happy!  A lot of work had gone into this dresser and it was going to be the funds we needed to further develop this business the ladies are calling REFRESHED.

Perfect.  We went to bed happy.   I woke up Sunday morning to get ready for church to a number of emails.  One from my dear friend Ashley saying:

Okay... umm... Okay.  Then there was another from "PayPal" saying:

So... now I'm getting ready for church and tweeted:

I was suspicious and unsettled at the idea of having to send money without any payment... but I'm far from an international trader and I had just set up my paypal account recently so I wasn't sure how this type thing actually goes down.  Then I got another "PayPal" email

800 Bucks to Brian Morris who is CLEARLY a DARN good furniture shipper. I wanted to stall a bit and fish a bit for info from him and maybe play a sympathy card because it was clear I wasn't going ahead without research so I said:

Ashley was unmoved

I didn't like it.   I was pretty sure it was a scam but I wanted conformation.  It was Sunday and I was headed to a family Christmas celebration after church in the afternoon and planned on called PayPal myself on Monday morning. I began double-checking and looking for inconsistencies. And I found one when THIS was the response to my email query to "PayPal" using the link in their email.

Since I had been getting my PayPal account up to date, I had emails from their customer service department from the email address service@intl.paypal.com BUT the "PayPal" emails I had begun to get after dealing with Ashley was from service@intl.paypal.com.  See the difference?  It's very subtle but there is a period at the end of the fake address.  And I CAUGHT IT!

I was both proud of the catch and mad at the nerve of this person who was trying to steal from our kids and business.  So I decided to screw with him a bit.

No... there is no such thing as an "Illuminologist."  My brother-in-law and sister-in-law and me came up with  it as we together decided how to string this dude along.

It wasn't enough.

I thought the idea of there being more screening to come would be funny.  It was. Mostly to me.  So it got better.  Again... mostly for me.

I was correct I believe.  So Fake-PayPal upped the fake-anti.  But when you know someone is bluffing... bluffing doesn't work very well.

Yep... The FBI was CLEARLY on their way to my humble dresser-makin' abode in Brantford to make me wire 800 bucks to London.

I did report all of this to PayPal for them to follow through with.  The sad part is that since I've put back on Kijiji, I've received TWO emails asking the very same opening query of "Any additional about it or the ad say it all?"

I love that we're all able to access a global community.  It's a wide open marketplace.  But be careful as you do it.   Pay attention as everything online is not what it seems.  Don't "Not Trust" people in life as your default setting  because that doesn't do a soul good in the long run.  But do your "due diligence" and thorough research in each case.

And if you're up for it... we do have a VERY nice dresser for sale.

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