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.

23 April 2013

Sacred Spaces and Thin Places

 There is both, something very human and something very spiritual, about us that congers up memories of significant encounters when we're exposed to familiar stimuli.  A room that makes us feel as we once felt.  A smell that brings us back to a time and place.  A pied piper's song that charms our spirit to another world.  

Often people speak of "Sacred Spaces."  The Celtics called them "Thin Places"... where heaven and earth intermingle.  They are often places where God HAPPENED to us.  We love marking some ground as a little more special than other ground. I recall very vividly when my father, the history teacher, took me to the see the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City.  He had retold the story of Wolfe and Montcalm's clash many times to classes over generations (and his eldest son too) so it was like we were on hallowed earth. It was as if he could nearly see the ghost of General Wolfe in his brilliant red jacket laying slouched on this back, dying on the ground like in the painting on our wall.

One of my favorite, "Sacred Space" stories is that of the Eagle and Child Pub in Oxford England.  This pub was where CS Lewis (Narnia) and J.R.R. Tolkien (Lord of the Rings) met every Tuesday morning along with other writers and disciples... for 30 years. Their group was called "The Inklings." They'd meet, enjoy a pint or two, and challenge each other about how to paint word entry points into The Kingdom of God.  Not many have done this as artfully or effectively.

“The Bird is now gloriously empty, with improved beer, and a landlord wreathed in welcoming smiles! He lights a special fire for us!…I know no more pleasant sound than arriving at the B. and B. and hearing a roar, and knowing that one can plunge in.”
- - J.R.R. Tolkien on The Eagle and Child pub in Oxford

Clearly this was a very special place for these "pen is mightier" prophets. And few could write sacred spaces better than they. I have some places kinda like this and have even written about my "Churchill Room" that I'd love to have one day.

I googled some photos of tourists in this pub and read some online reviews of this simple, could be anywhere, establishment. I even watched some YouTube videos of people who made the pilgrimage to this literary landmark to drink and eat steak and kidney pie while sitting where their heroes sat. They either kind of seemed underwhelmed, puzzled by it's normalcy... or were caught embarrassing blurting forced "woo hoo" type group enthusiasm.

"This is it?"  I'm sure some thought. Is it possible that this space is any less thin or sacred today? 

I think it's that sacred spaces and thin places are in the eye of the beholder, or more accurately... in the spirit of the experiencer.  It's a place where God HAPPENED to us. Or even where God facilitated his Kingdom coming with friends.  It's an Ebeneezer Stone like Samuel raised in 1 Samuel 7 to mark the time where God helped his people to victory.  In fact the Holy Land is littered with stones and markings of where God HAPPENED.  It's good to remember it... but it doesn't mean that THAT'S where he STAYS.

Moses didn't go back to the burning bush when he needed to hear the voice of God although I'm sure there were times he'd think, "I'm dry and if only I could get back to that bush... but I'm way far away from my sacred space." But he couldn't and wouldn't dare really, because God had moved him onward.  It wasn't that the pub or the Plains of Abraham that were MORE sacred or thin... it was the company of gifted men or warriors as appointed by God. 

 When our church moved from a small, dirty and dank old bar laden with character to a unit of a mall... some left our family.  They left because of what we had done to their sacred space and thin place.  What we did was meet felt needs of a community by creating affordable housing... thus opening up the story of The Kingdom of God to others. The great part is that when we began worshiping in our mall... the place got thin too.  What an unfortunate misplacement of value on PLACE instead of PRESENCE.

Spaces and Places are nice.  They can be special for us. But it's the Presence of God that makes it sacred or thin.  And the presence of God roams about the earth and goes wherever he's welcomed and offered a chair at your table.

15 April 2013

The 14% mental evacuation

  I am not a doctor. Although in an ill-fated and short lived radio gag, I did once refer to myself as The Dr. of Love until a "dear sister in the Lord" rebuked me for misrepresenting my savior for misleadingly posing as someone who actually earned a title when I was simply an arrogant, young, smart-mouth sending the sheep astray by my deception.  Darn close to a direct quote. Such a precious saint. Life can be... exhausting.

I'm also not a psychologist, nor a sociologist. I'm also not really all that aware of what healthy cultural norms should be. But I do think that:

It's a healthy thing for us to think about saying "Screw it all.... I'm packing up the family, growing a huge beard and we're moving into the wilderness to live like hermits on a lake without human interaction ever again" about 14% of the time.  

That's about once a week.

Any more than 14%?

  • We'd get caught up in wonderland
  • We likely wouldn't get anything done
  • Even worse... we might indulge ourselves in actually DOING it.  

Any less than 14%?

  • We'd be sucked into a never-ending vortex of concrete, capitalism, crassness and craziness. 
  • Our brains would scramble enough to STILL never get anything done
  • Even worse, we might indulge ourselves in actually FORGETTING that what we see around us... is IT.

Definitions of evacuation include the "Discharge of waste materials" and "leaving a place in an orderly fashion." And every now and again, I think that's a good thing.  I think it's a good thing to remember that working this hard land isn't our final destination and doom in perpetuity! Imagine that?  We ARE called to vigorously till the soil on our current calling of the plantation.  But it's not forever and I think it pollutes our mind to forget it... or to live there. 

Your, "Screw it all.... I'm packing up the family, growing a huge beard and we're moving into the wilderness to live like hermits on a lake without human interaction ever again" would likely read differently than mine.  It might be the, "what I'd do if I won the lottery" plan that we all seem to have.  That enticing scenario that you know, in your heart of hearts, that if you did forever... you'd rot. But finding rest in removal once a week... is refreshing.

You might have gathered that I'm contextualizing The Sabbath. It's God's plan of a day of rest... once a week.  14% of your time.  It's the commandment I like the least, because I struggle with rest. I don't like taking it and I don't know how to DO it when I do!  Complete abandonment & hermit living is where my wonky mind gets to without a healthy discipline of rest. I'd actually hate it. We're not CALLED to live as a recluse. What we really need, is a healthy short-term mental evacuation and then a reinvigorated reentry into our task.

When we don't do it well it effects:

  1. Body- Bad sleeps and Physical Vulnerability
  2. Soul - Alertness, General Awareness, Freshness of the mind
  3. Spirit - The vibrancy and acuteness of ours dreams, and our ability to use not JUST our natural eyes to see
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 says, 

"May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ. The One who called you is completely dependable. If he said it, he’ll do it!"

But we have to partner with this to see it happen. We have to take care not to spend life as a permanent mental vacation, but there are perils of never getting out either for a breath of fresh air too.  I don't much like the habitual ramifications that might come from delving into The Sabbath to be honest.  But I DO like the promised results. 

12 April 2013

Jackie Robinson... my hero

 Jackie Robinson was the first person who I could rightly call "My Hero."   I don't remember what age I became aware of his story, but I DO remember feeling THAT THING rising up inside me when I did.  That stirring, swirling. unsettled... impetus (The force that makes something happen or happen more quickly) that supernaturally happens when something on earth connects with something heavenly that's hiding inside you waiting to be excavated.

 There were pretty big differences between the Jackie Robinson Story and The Dave Carrol Story.  He was a South-of-the-Mason Dixon black rights activist during the historical breaking point of American segregation... and I was a sarcastic Suburban Canadian white kid. But when I heard this incredible story about a dissatisfied, young hot-head who used our common muse of baseball to beat of the crap out of a broken status-quo... I was enraptured.

  • When I heard that Jackie LIKED sports but CARED MORE about his larger destiny... I was THERE. 
  • When I heard that he was a strong rebel WITH a cause within the Negro Leagues first... I researched and dug deeper. 
  • When I heard about the visionary entrepreneurial AND justice-laced actions of Branch Rickey... I dreamed deeper and wider. 
  • When I heard about how Canada embraced Jackie before others did... I was proud.
  • When I heard about the scene, that I can't wait to watch in "42" tonight, where Rickey verbally abused Jackie in his office and told him that THAT'S what he have to ENDURE to be able to BE an apostle... I dug deeper in my soul's understanding.
  • When I heard about the cost and depth of Jackie's friendship with Pee Wee Reese... I never wanted to wade into the shallows again.
  • When I heard about the love for, and CO-devotion to cause of,  Jack and Rachael Robinson... I knew what kind of wife I wanted. 

Then I heard about how the stresses and sacrifices that Jackie actively and willingly made in life... pretty much killed him.  And................ it stirred me MORE.  Not less.  Today, Rachael Robinson still fights the fight and is vigilant about Jackie's legacy.  Because it COST her.  But it was a cost that was worth something and CHANGED things.

I still find Rev. Jesse Jackson's eulogy for Jackie one of the most beautiful things ever written.  And it's a piece that has stood the test of time... because Jackie was an apostle.  A sent one.

Today we must balance the tears of sorrow with the tears of joy. Mix the bitter with the sweet in death and life. Jackie as a figure in history was a rock in the water, creating concentric circles and ripples of new possibility. He was medicine. He was immunized by God from catching the diseases that he fought. The Lord's arms of protection enabled him to go through dangers seen and unseen, and he had the capacity to wear glory with grace. Jackie's body was a temple of God. An instrument of peace. We would watch him disappear into nothingness and stand back as spectators, and watch the suffering from afar. The mercy of God intercepted this process Tuesday and permitted him to steal away home, where referees are out of place, and only the supreme judge of the universe speaks.
Jesse Jackson. 

It's also worth listening to the cadence of Jesse's actual voice with the haunting piano Jacqueline Schwab playing "Steal Away"

Eulogy For Jackie Robinson by Baseball on Grooveshark

As long as I've had a desk... this picture of Jackie Robinson has been close to it.  

Jackie is my reminder of the necessity of sacrifice, pain and cost that comes with apostolic forging into what SHOULD be for OTHERS freedom. 

3 April 2013

Like Jesus does

The "couldn't get it out of my head if I tried" song ringing inside me these days is Eric Church's Like Jesus Does.  It's a love song... because it's a grace song.  On level one, there aren't many songs I've heard that describe what I'd sing to my wife if I was able to write & sing songs.  But on level two, it's a picture of God's love for our glued-together, jigsawed selves. On level three... it's both mixed together.

I'm a long-gone Waylon song on vinyl,
I'm a backrow sinner at a tent revival,
But she believes in me like she believes her Bible,
And loves me like Jesus does.

I'm a left-foot-leaning on a souped-up Chevy,
I'm a good old boy, drinking whiskey and rye on the levee,
But she carries me when my sins make me heavy,
And loves me like Jesus does.

All the crazy in my dreams,
Both my broken wings,
Every single piece of everything I am,
Yeah, she knows the man I ain't,
She forgives me when I can't,
The devil, man, no, he don't stand a chance,
'Cause she loves me like Jesus does.

I always thought she'd give up on me one day,
Wash her hands of me, leave me staring down some runway,
But I thank God each night, and twice on Sunday,
That she loves me like Jesus does.

This song speaks to me because of  how my faith and my wife have always intermingled. As a good faith should be, its inseparable from our "real life" since it IS our real life. This song resonates because it speaks to the part in all of us that will always feel kinda fraud-like.  The part of us that is sure one day people will discover that we're actually NOT the "best of" montage we array for show on Facebook.  This song exposes the manufacturing defects and weathered parts of me, that ONLY my wife (and my God) even come close to knowing... and blankets them with love like Jesus does. 

Like Jesus does, my wife loves me into freedom and confidence. And like Jesus does, she easily identifies when it's not there... and graces me with patience and pull.  "Public Dave" is a great guy.  I like him too. But he's the makeup over the blemish.  Only the grace (Unmerited favor) of a good wife and a greater God can turn an ordinarily-weary, common man into something... just a bit more.

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