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 November 2014

Inside The Living Nativity


Believe it or not, this December will mark the 5th anniversary of “The Living Nativity” in Harmony Square.  In an era where North American cities squabble over whether or not there should be a faded plastic nativity displayed in parks, our city embraces a living one… including wise-crackin’, dancin’ shepherds.  To paraphrase Katy Perry, in Brantford, this is how we do.  

December 12th, 13th, and 14th there will be a 7pm show and an 8pm show as in previous years.  With good weather, there will again be thousands from all walks of life that will bring their families, dates, or pets downtown to see this story one more time.  Christmas has a disproportionately hypnotic attribute to it.

We sometimes objectively try to analyze why this is. We chalk it up to our Pavlovian reactions to familiar stimuli or even habitual commercialistic instinct. There's no doubt that these do exist, even inside the strongest of wills.

The power of tradition in itself is a factor in play.  This last week I tweeted:


This year when we opened our box of decorations, without any discussion, the kids instinctively put everything “where it goes.”  Tacky Santa X and wacky snowman Y theoretically don’t “go” anywhere.  But try to move them to a different place than they’ve traditionally been and Christmas will be all cattywampus somehow.  

The Christmas story is kind of like that, but the hypnotic factor stems from something deeper. One of the groups of people we created The Living Nativity for, were the generation who haven’t made regular church attendance a cultural and familial absolute. We wanted to give an opportunity for people to reconnect with the Christmas they remember as a child in a broader community, engaging… and even entertaining context. It has become an opportunity for thousands to create a tangible Christmas tradition for their own kids or grandkids surrounding the “something deeper” of Christmas.

The line you’ll read on the Harmony Square banner and all of the Living Nativity posters is, “One family, one journey, one child that would change the world.”  Whatever your belief about the deity of the man known as Jesus of Nazareth, you’d be hard-pressed to argue the impact his life has made on our planet.  Each year during the Living Nativity, Freedom House’s Brian Beattie will tell the story of growing up hearing Johnny Cash sing a song called “Here was a Man.” It says,

“I think I'm well within the mark when I say that all of the armies that ever marched, all of the navies that ever sailed the seas, all of the legislative bodies that ever sat and all of the kings that ever reigned; all of them put together have not affected the life of man on this earth so powerfully as that one solitary life”  

In fact it doesn’t take much in the “step back and look from 10,000ft” department to see that the seemingly ordinary, obscure and innocuous event of a birth into poverty that took place 2000 years ago in the Middle East; became the fulcrum of subsequent history.  History has shown it to be a miraculous thing and we’re drawn into this powerful narrative at Christmas time.

For the estimated 2.8 billion Christians on our planet, it’s even more than just historically miraculous.  It’s MIRACULOUS miraculous.  CS Lewis challenged us to not only engage in this miraculous story but purposely decide how we are to react to it saying, 

Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”  

I personally subscribe to it’s infinite importance, and thus we once again share The Living Nativity with the city.  But wherever you are on the journey of faith, Christmas can’t really be Christmas without engaging ourselves in the “something deeper” of the season.  And let none of us be fooled about where that “something deeper” we all sense emanates from.   Let’s engage in it together as a city Dec 12th-14th in Harmony Square. I hope to see you at the 5th annual Living Nativity.  




18 September 2014

The Hill of Crosses


"The rage of love turns inward to become prayers of devotion.  These prayers are the constant road across the wilderness. These prayers are the memory of God"
Paul Simon ~ The Cool River 

"The cross is in the ballpark"
Paul Simon ~ Obvious Child

12 km north of the Lithuanian city of Šiauliai, kind of in the middle of nowhere, there is hill covered with an estimated half million crosses.  During the sunny Saturday afternoon of the Brantford International Jazz Festival, one of them unexpectedly made it's way into my hands... hand delivered by a member of our Canadian Armed Forces.  Why? Because he just felt like he needed to.

The Hill of Crosses is a bit of mysterious phenomenon.  Nobody manages it.  It just sort of... IS.  In the mid-1800's during a time of conflict between the Russians and the Polish, local people began to climb to the top the hill to pray.  They simply started doing ... something.  Putting crosses in the ground was that something.  Over the years of strife, they've been removed, replaced, removed again and replaced again. 

Lithuanian professor Viatanis Rimkis was one of the quarter million Lithuanians killed or exiled by Joseph Stalin. He says,

"In the Soviet time, the hill became a symbol of resistance. Through the cross, through religion, it was a struggle against occupation, against outside ideology - a struggle for freedom. It was like the cross became a weapon that was invincible."

Local sculptor Aleksas Stepanovicus says of the crosses that adorn this hill,

"If trees have roots, they are firm in the ground but the branches stretch to the sky. So the cross has the same form as a tree. I understand that the cross is like a link between earth and heaven."

Corporal Ken Galbraith grew up around the corner from me in the Brantford neighborhood of Brier Park.  Before he became an honorable member of our military... he  used to just be, "Kenny."  We've connected again in recent years and I was fortunate enough to spend part of last Remembrance Day with him.  As he was serving in Eastern Europe, he came across this hill.  "I couldn't get you out of my head" he said.  "I just knew I needed to bring you a cross from this place."

Corporal Galbraith selected a cross with the Lithuanian words, "dieve, saugok ir globok musu seima" written on it.  It means "God keep and care for our family."  We shared a very special afternoon reconnecting in Harmony Square as humans searching after truth, men, and friends.  

As fascinating as the Lithuanian cross and it's hill of origin is, the object or location itself hold no extra power.  God is just as alive right there in our Harmony Square interaction of love, prayer, friendship and faith as he is on that hill.  The souvenir cross and the hill itself are simply a visual depiction of the outcry of the human soul to God that happens on hills in our own neighborhoods.

Some evangelicals may be tempted decry the hill as people merely attempting to substantiate prayer... in lieu of faith.  But these crosses are not a penny in a fountain.  They aren't whims, fleeting hopes or casual wishes.  They are a powerful representation of a group of people, over generations, doing what we still do today.  We try to find... someway... anyway... to connect heaven to earth.  We all have that longing.  That's faith.

"Without faith it's impossible to please God"
Hebrews 11:6 

 President Theodore Rosevelt's hero was his father who had died many years prior.  His first night in the White House, taking over for the recently deceased William Mckinley, was the day after his father's birthday.   "What would I not give for him to see me here in the White House" he said upon entering. Then he noticed that the flowers on the dinner table were the same variety of roses that his father had worn every day in his button hole. He, as he began on his way to becoming one of America's most storied leaders, stated to his dinner guests,

"I feel as if my father's hand were on my shoulder.  As if there were a special blessing over the life I am to lead here."  

Sometimes God uses roses.  Sometimes God uses a hill of crosses.  Sometimes God uses a childhood friend coming half way across the earth.   I'm almost 40 and I don't totally understand it, but I do know...  that God is trying to get our attention, talk with us, and bring a little bit of heaven to earth.

25 August 2014

This is not a viral YouTube video

This is not a viral YouTube video.  It's not crisp, leveled or professional. It only has about 1,000 views. I don't like a whole lot of new music... but I found this video researching the background of one of my favorite new bands The Lone Bellow.  They are not-very-knows originally from the south; and now Brooklyn. They are not a "Christian Band" but are followers of Jesus singing amazing songs about life together.  This is not their amazing lead singer. Zach Williams.  They started singing together after Zach's wife was paralyzed in a freak accident and miraculously recovered. They moved to Brooklyn and now live life in tight-knit community.   This is Brian Elmquist, the other guy.  This is him in an "every-church" ... likely in a gym, singing an old old song to those devoted to following Christ .... even in NYC.  There are a dozen of these places in your city. It's dirty, simple and beautiful. 

I'm incredibly moved by "The Church."  You cannot remove it from our culture or human functioning.  It's a fundamental. It's a constant.  We need it and it needs us.  It's gnarly (difficult, dangerous, or challenging) (very good) ... both meanings.

CS Lewis said,

"I disliked very much their hymns, which I considered to be fifth-rate poems set to sixth-rate music.  But as I went on I saw the great merit of it.  I came up against different people of quite different outlooks and different education, and then gradually my conceit just began peeling off.  I realized that the hymns (which were just sixth-rate music) were, nevertheless, being sung with devotion and benefit by an old saint in elastic-side boots in the opposite pew, and then you realize that you aren’t fit to clean those boots.  It gets you out of your solitary conceit" 

I'm entirely unapologetic about my support of The Church.  If you're an artist, a business man, a bleeding heart, a lunch-box hero, an angsty teen or Man of Thought ... it's important to come, serve, give and sing together.  Because the song isn't complete without you.


18 August 2014

The Best of The Church - Playing together on our front lawns again



Sometimes the poor and hurting are forgotten and disregarded within communities. Sometimes it's been The Church who have caused these hurts. Sometimes The Church have ignored those who needed open arms the most. But Saturday in a Minneapolis suburb, I was witness to the BEST of The Church.

Me and Captain Kindness were invited by a transformation-minded church called Inverhills Church in the Minneapolis suburb of Inver Grove Heights, to be a part of a huge outreach event and to speak at their church.  It was a whirlwind, jet-setter, in and out weekend that blessed me exponentially more than any contribution I could have possibly made.

For 9 years this outward-focused Church, out of a heart and mindset of community transformation, had been doing a massive free carnival, lunch and loaded school backpack giveaway.  1000 or so each year given specifically to those whom, as helped by the local police force and social services, needed it the most.  This was their baby.  People came to their church property and they were able to show that Inverhills Church cares.

But for God... the story is always bigger. 

God challenged Pastor Bart Thompson to make this event about the ONE Church in the city.  For whatever reason, even within city-unity movements, there is a great Protestant/Catholic divide.  It's a painful chasm to which apostolic bridges must be built.  I saw one built on Saturday.  Pastor Bart reached out to the very large, local Catholic Church St. Patrick's to participate in this act of community kindness.  It was not an easy "yes" because of a dynamic that I didn't expect.

As it turns out, there is a massive Mexican immigrant population in and around Minneapolis.  So much so that Captain Kindness's Superhero in Me presentation had to be translated into Spanish as I spoke. There is a great deal of tension between many Mexicans and the Catholic Church.  There is still considerable corruption and control within Mexico's Catholic Church and the local government. Many have actually had to flee because of it over the years.  There are deep.... deep.... generational hurts that have carried into the Mexican-American experience.  The stark reality is that many of those in most need of help and encouragement were from the Mexican community.

But through the difficult and courageous steps of men after God's heart; they agreed to reach out TOGETHER.   On Saturday 1056 backpacks were given away to a beautiful cross-section of racial backgrounds (including Minnesota's large Somali population) via a beautiful cross-section of denominational backgrounds.  But it was more than just backpacks.  I watched under-validated ethnicity's embraced. I watched pride laid down and with love, kindness and humility.

A community was invited to play together on it's own front lawn again.  


It was beautiful.  I felt the Holy Spirit so strongly on that lawn and could literally barely fight back tears as I watched barriers being broken and hurts being healed.

When St. Patrick's priest, Father Bob, got up to speak... he couldn't find the words.  He, with dampened eyes, eventually pieced together words that clearly couldn't express what he was experiencing.   It was The Kingdom of God.  It was the ONE TRUE Church in action.  She wasn't just meeting needs.  She was releasing the pure, unselfish love of God... BY meeting needs together.

 

28 July 2014

It's time to stop following our dreams

It's time to stop following our dreams.  Now hold your horses.  Hear me out.

I'm pro-dream.  I think we should have a dream.  I think we should have the faith to outwardly move towards a not-yet-seen ideal or goal.  But consider this.

In fact:

What's the difference?  Believe it or not; God is bigger than us.  He's taller.   He's smarter.  He has better foresight.  He has better insight.  He considers more factors.  He's a better life-juggler.  He's the MASTER dreamer with desire to fulfill OUR desires and dreams... if....  and there IS an IF.

Psalm 37: 3-4 says:

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

It's interesting how God knows what we really do desire, but He wants us to DESIRE Him first.  But it's better than that.  We GET to trust someone with more wisdom.  We GET to dwell in his good land, enjoying safe pasture.  We GET to delight ourselves in the Lord.   THEN He'll give us the desires of heart.  

Order of operations means something when it comes to our dreams.  Think about it how many Biblical character's stories are, "He went to his high school guidance counselor who performed an aptitude test and set him on his sensible way.  He worked towards that goal and then achieved it. Amen.  Let us pray.



But success always requires man to put down our dreams in favor of God's dreams.  But when they come to pass (and they do) we inevitably discover that the results are better than we could have dreamed for, it's personally MORE satisfying, and all we've had to do was enjoy being with God instead of sweating the small stuff. 

So yes.... let's follow dreams.  But let's get God's dreams and follow those.  They're better.  

18 July 2014

I've never known how I was gonna get where I'm going

I've never known how I was gonna get where I'm going but I've always known the path.
I didn't know how I was going to afford to get married in college... but I knew the path.
I didn't know how I was going to get a job that paid apartment rent... but I knew the path.
I didn't know how I was going to get to Africa like that vision in my head... but I knew the path.
I didn't know how I was going to get into ministry like that picture in my mind... but I knew the path.
I didn't know how I was going to afford kids... but I knew the path.
I didn't know how I was going to shape the culture... but I knew the path.
I don't know how I'm going to get through my car repairs, my debt, my next visions, my growing grocery bill, my kids college, my mortgage, my retirement.... but I KNOW the path.

These are not trite religious statements.  They are neither small nor uncommon issues.  They are not easily, carelessly or flippantly stated.  I know WHERE I'm going... generally.  I know THAT I'll get there... in one form or another.  But I've NEVER known how, right up until this very moment thinking about the end of THIS weekend.

It's been 9 months since I left the broadcasting industry which I'd been working professionally in for 15 years and cumulatively for 20 years.  I never did make much money in broadcasting because I always had either a ministry or tent-making mindset. For the non-church folks, tent-making refers to when the Apostle Paul actually used his skills making physical tents in Greece to afford to live and eat while preaching around the countryside.

But just when I won a national radio advertising award and potentially stood to be able to leverage it into enough money where I could "know how" somehow... I was called out into the church.  Another "I don't know how" on my part AND the church's part.  Then I very much wanted to start working freelance using these skills to "know how" somehow.   I finished a GREAT pitch email that still sits in my "drafts" file.  It's not that I won't send it.  It's just that...


OBEDIENCE is "The Path"  

Obedience to God is the path.

Without FAITH, you see, it's actually impossible to please God.  Weird thought isn't it?  You can't fully please God and live a life that fully displays him if you totally know how you're going to get where you're going.

When I didn't know how Krissy and I would be able to afford newlywedhood... we prayed and obeyed and jobs came.   When we didn't know how we'd get to Africa... we prayed and obeyed and the money showed up at the right time from the right person. When we didn't know how we'd ever get to do ministry in a meaningful, culturally significant way... we prayed and obeyed and God orchestrated friends who let us start Freedom House with them. When we didn't know how to see city transformation... we prayed and obeyed and now we just hosted the Transform Your World North American Conference and they are shooting a documentary about Brantford that will be shown across the earth to encourage other cities that a tangible difference IS possible.

I DON'T know how God's gonna save the day today.  Literally.
I DON'T know how he's gonna save the day tomorrow.
I DON'T know how he's going to make my next decade of dreams come true.

As I sit on my porch... I truly don't. 
But I DO know "The Path" and so I have confidence that He WILL get me where I need to go.
 

23 June 2014

Morning Musings ~ Being a "SLAVE" to the call


The moment I understood what "serving" God is, was the moment I understood that it wasn't really serving at all.  Accra Ghana 14 years ago in a business meeting, my friend Albert Ocran rebuked one of his whining missionaries saying,

"I am a SLAVE to the CALL of Christ."  

He said it with fire in his eyes and words and I saw "his call" play out voraciously in his life. EVERY day, rain or shine, early morning and late night.  Not because he had to... but because he HAD to.  It BURNED in him. Slave is a hard word but a biblical word. It's "doulos"and it doesn't have much nuance.  It's slave.  Paul didn't have the Road to Damascus smackdown for anything less.  He writes,

"Remember, if you were a slave when the Lord called you, you are now free in the Lord. And if you were free when the Lord called you, you are now a slave of Christ."
1 Cor 7:22

Serious and encompassing?  Yes.  Harsh?  Not as much as it first seems.  John gives us a marvelous insight into God's view of this relationship saying,

"I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn't confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me."
John 15:15

At the cross, Christ bought and conquered our sin that wanted to choke the life out of us.  We've been paid for.  When we, in the freedom we've been mercifully granted, chose to turn over our whole self to God's plans in the spirit of friendship... it's not a passive, balanced, hedged-bet ordeal.  We have a vital role in The Kingdom of God TODAY that will require us to go above and beyond to even approach success in.  And to do that, we don't try to achieve on a higher level of human striving.  Instead, we take our lead from Paul, the man who became a "slave" to his call and... and "die daily"

19 June 2014

The Myth of "Elsewhere"



John grew up "Here."  After brushing his teeth and combing his hair a satisfactory number of times, his father an adequate machinist, would tell John stories of "Elsewhere." John loved "Elsewhere" with all his heart. It was a beautiful, storied land with mountains that shone in the morning sunlight and valleys that smelled of sweet alyssum. “Elsewhere,” there were men who loved as he imagined love being. That perfect love that poets wrote idyllic sonnets about. A love that John had grown jealous of, being part of the pedestrian masses subjected to a birth and rearing "Here.”

“Here” was different than “Elsewhere.” The sunsets weren't as a red. It's streets were cracked and too many “Hereians” smoked. Not pipes either. They didn't think twice about it. Monsters really. There were problems “Here’... and “There” too. Sometimes John's Father would take the family stationwagon "There". "There" had a modest mall where John's father could buy camping supplies for their trip “Elsewhere.”  What a trip this would be. At the end of every month, there would be enough money leftover to buy one piece of the expedition gear. A tent here and a Coleman burner there. But the problem with "There," were the “Thereians.” They were a rude and inconsiderate folk who thought only of themselves. John's father was sure that they had never heard of “Elsewhere.” How could they have?  You see, “Elsewhere” was a copious country that the small minds of common “Hereians” and “Thereians” couldn't comprehend.  “Elsewhereians” would never be like that.  

John grew to hate “Here.” And he loathed “There.”

John's father died. It was not a sad story except to say that hard times had hit “Here.” So much so that the tent had been sold to buy stacks of canned corn and the Coleman burner had turned into a side of “There's” finest beef to salt and preserve for the “Hereian” winter. But John's father's death was sad enough that John couldn’t take “Here” any longer.  In the willed-wagon, John began driving for “Elsewhere” without so much as a goodbye, although there were no neighbors he knew well-enough to say goodbye to anyhow.  He cursed “Here” as he sped through town. “I’ll never darken a doorway in 'There' again!" John shouted as he tore a strip down the ordinary “Thereian” streets with “Elsewhere” on his mind.

John drove and drove. The speeding ticket from an unfamiliar land he didn't know existed didn't deter John's zeal for “Elsewhere.” Finally he arrived “Elsewhere.” It felt...

...familiar.

“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage. Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
Jeremiah ~ 600BC

15 May 2014

Being a parent means never stopping learning about love


I'm not a "kid" guy.  Well... I didn't used to be at least.   In fact, my son was very close to being the first baby I ever held.  My wife was in the same boat.  We weren't the babysitters, we didn't ooo and ahh over babies or even feel the deep emotions that others seemed to.  I couldn't picture her as a mother and she couldn't see me as a Dad either.  It's not that we didn't want to have kids.  We did.  We just didn't have context for... any of it really.

But for the last 12 years (starting from the moment that God set our kid-world in motion with the words "Life can't be about YOU anymore.  You've gone as far as a life revolving around yourselves can take you") I've been on a steep and harrowing yet gutturally poignant journey into understanding kids, fatherhood, myself AND my Lord on a deeper level than I knew existed. 

The last few weeks I've been pushed to new... and challenging depths.

A few weeks ago we had the extraordinarily talented Jacob Moon tell his family's powerful story at Freedom House.  Unable to conceive a child and, while aching inside, they were invited by Compassion Canada to travel to El Salvador to experience their mission with children.  They almost couldn't do it, but pressed on responsibly.  Divinely, a little girl named Sara attached herself to them and they sponsored her... but the impact ran much deeper.  The love they felt for a child that was not of their own flesh unlocked an incredible chain of events, culminating in the couple adopting two young boys from the CAS system in their hometown... restoring their hope. 

As Jacob told the story of love for, and even sang the song he wrote for Sara, I was convicted heavily about the depth of God's love and the shallowness of mine. My wife and I have sponsored 2 kids through Compassion faithfully for 11 years.  God said, "If you can afford one here, you can afford one there."  He was right.  And we did.   We've never missed a month.  But there are times where we have more month than money.  And my first temptation is the Compassion sponsorships.  I know is sounds awful. It never gets through the first wave of thoughts... but it's there. Sorting through piles of mail the other day, I found more unopened letters from our children than I care to count.

God spoke to me and said, "That's because you've never really let them into your heart."  And he was right.  These are HIS kids that he's entrusted a small portion of parental care and love to ME, to distribute on HIS behalf.  And money is not enough.  To do that... my heart needs to dig deeper than I thought it could go.  How though?  How does one make the heart grow?

On Sunday I looked at a row of little girls in our church seated at the front.  They are there each week and my daughters are a part of this cute little gaggle.  Often I'll see various combinations of them pressing into worship, eyes closed, hands up.  When my daughters aren't in that mix, even if its my friends kids, I'll smile responsibly and be about my business.  I'm not a "kid" guy by nature.  But in 12 years... I've become a MY kid guy.  When MY daughter is worshiping... I can't look away.  It's the GREATEST thing.  MY girl taking steps toward Jesus.  I can't think of another thing I'd want to look at. 

On Sunday God stopped me saying, "That's how I am.  That's how I feel when you worship me.  You are all MY kids."   This may not sound profound, but it IS when it's breathed into life by a loving, patient God who picks his moments.  It felt like 12 years of gracious, parental marinating for a moment where simple truth (that I've heard conceptually a million times) came alive.

I love life.  When you walk with the Lord, he truly never stops guiding you deeper... and deeper... and deeper.  We can and MUST be willing to deepen our love for God and others because there are so many more lessons to learn that we won't have the honor of learning and beauty that won't get to be a participant in if we're hesitant to deeper our love. 


14 April 2014

Seeing an old story with new eyes


Storytelling has been the primary tool of the passage of information, legacy, tradition, custom, and even universal truth throughout the ages.  I've been reading the 1874 classic "The Life of Christ" by Frederic Farrar as the last essay of my 2 year ministry course (It's called Freedom Training Centre if you're interested.) The single most fascinating aspect I found is the fact that it feels like a story being told with the language, poetic flow and flavor of the day.   

It’s as if Farrar was simply doing a writing exercise, that I’ve actually had writing, journalism and broadcast students do before. It’s where you take a familiar text or story and rewrite it using their own language.  History tells me that the book was as popular then as it remains today, but I think today it provides an even greater fascination as you’re given the chance to hear echos of a culture long past… yet strikingly familiar.


One passage that jumped out at me was when describing the young Jesus at the temple:


“Even as there is one hemisphere of the lunar surface on which, in its entirety, no human eye has ever gazed, while at the same time the moon's librations enable us to conjecture of its general character and appearance, so there is one large portion of our Lord's life respecting which there is no full record; yet such glimpses are, as it were, according to us of its outer edge, that from these we are able to understand the nature of the whole. Again, when the moon is in crescent, a few bright points are visible through the telescope upon its unilluminated part; those bright points are mountain peaks, so lofty that they catch the sunlight. One such point of splendour and majesty is revealed to us in the otherwise unknown region of Christ's youthful years, and it is sufficient to furnish us with a real insight into that entire portion of His life. In modern language we should call it an anecdote of the Saviour's confirmation.”  


Not entirely new revelation, just a bit more interesting in the light of our current knowledge that nearly 100 years later, Apollo 8’s astronauts would see the dark side of the moon with their own eyes in '68. In the next chapter, when talking about the little known years of Jesus youthful years in Nazareth


“SUCH, then, is the “solitary floweret out of the wonderful enclosed garden of the thirty years, plucked precisely there where the swollen bud, at a distinctive crisis, bursts into flower.” But if of the first twelve years of His human life we have only this single anecdote, of the next eighteen years of His life we possess no record whatever save such as is implied in a single word. The word occurs in Mark vi. 3: “Is not this the carpenter?”


Farrar’s quote is referencing  Rudolf Stier in his 12 volume work “The words of the Lord Jesus.”  Stier was a German Protestant and Mystic, noted for writing a new edition of Martin Luther's Catechism and a translation of the Bible based on the writings of Luther.  He was another man, telling another story in another era, paying homage to yet ANOTHER era.


But this hasn’t stopped today either.  Let’s even take the scripture that Farrar goes on to extrapolate some deep meaning out of, regarding the early life of Jesus in Mark 6:3.  In 1993, Eugene Peterson turn the Bible world on its head by releasing the New Testament as, “The Message.”   It’s official name is actually “The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language.”  It’s an known as an idiomatic translation of the original languages of the Bible; idiomatic meaning “words that have a figurative meaning owing to its common usage.”  It’s a story.


Peterson tells the Mark 6:3 story this way:


1-2 He left there and returned to his hometown. His disciples came along. On the Sabbath, he gave a lecture in the meeting place. He made a real hit, impressing everyone. “We had no idea he was this good!” they said. “How did he get so wise all of a sudden, get such ability?”
3 But in the next breath they were cutting him down: “He’s just a carpenter—Mary’s boy. We’ve known him since he was a kid. We know his brothers, James, Justus, Jude, and Simon, and his sisters. Who does he think he is?” They tripped over what little they knew about him and fell, sprawling. And they never got any further.
4-6 Jesus told them, “A prophet has little honor in his hometown, among his relatives, on the streets he played in as a child.” Jesus wasn’t able to do much of anything there—he laid hands on a few sick people and healed them, that’s all. He couldn’t get over their stubbornness. He left and made a circuit of the other villages, teaching.


It's a very special thing to share in someone else's perspective of an un-changing gospel which we all share. It reminds me that neither of us are, "right" but instead, each hold a slice of understanding... and we need each other. The word of God was made to live inside us and come out of us. You can tell that Farrar had it living inside of him and longed to tell the story... and he did it very very well. 

13 April 2014

What if we ALL tithed?


There is a principle in Christianity and Judaism called “Tithing.” It means intentionally giving 10% of your gross income; in this case to the church. Some Christian circles subscribe fully to it in the modern context, some debate it’s relevance while others have let it slide with the times.  But it’s historical Biblical and Judeo existence in one form or another, for roughly 4000 recorded years is well documented. The Orthodox Jews call it ma'aser kesafim, in partnership with the principle of “Gemilut Hasadim” meaning “giving kindness.” Acts of kindness or “hesed” are said to make this world a more tolerable and better place.  I’m VERY pro-kindness.  Shoot… they call me The Captain.  But, make no mistake that this ancient lifestyle of generosity is about meeting consistent, structural needs through consistent, structured giving.
I know Pastors and leaders who have spent their entire careers avoiding talking about this principle, or giving in general, because it makes them uncomfortable.  However, giving is as important to the individual as it is to the organization.  Ignoring leading others to new levels of generous giving handicaps both on micro and macro scales.
Rich Stearn, president of World Vision USA explains what the title means to him:
"I have often thought of the tithe in a different way, as a kind of 'inoculation' against the power that money can sometimes hold over us. When we are vaccinated against a deadly virus, our bodies are injected with a small amount of that virus, weakened so that it won't hurt us. By putting this small amount into our systems, we develop an immunity to the virus, and it can no longer harm us. Metaphorically speaking, paying a tithe on our income has the same effect. By cheerfully giving away a small portion of our money, we become immune to the corrupting power it can have in our lives. When we tithe, not out of obligation, but out of love and obedience for God, we are making the bold statement that money has no power over us. Even when we give it away freely, we know that we can depend on God to replenish it and sustain us."
And…. bills get paid.  These are days where even stalwart nonprofits, many of which are the glue that hold our communities together, are struggling to make ends meet.  A new phenomenon some organizations are facing is that they have money for “stuff” but not to keep the lights on and the staff fed. There are great, funded programs ready to roll… and no one to drive them. Motivations for giving have changed with the times.  While the “Builder” generation gave out of duty and responsibility, current generations are far more likely to give to a cause, project or an inspiration-of-the-month. And while all giving is good, the least sexy place to give (and the toughest ask) remains the most important.  Non-profits are being tempted to create new tasty initiatives, because people will give towards it, while unable to pay regular bills.  You can see how destructive a trap that can become.
So… what if we all tithed?   Are we even close?  
In 2008, 27.3 per cent of Americans donated to good causes, compared to 23.6 per cent of Canadians, and they gave almost twice as much, according to an annual study on giving by the Fraser Institute. According to the Barna group, whether people believed in tithing or not, the average is about 5% who give 10% of their gross. And according to the Globe and Mail,
“The percentage of Canadians donating to charity actually declined between 1998 and 2008. Clearly, our sense of social obligation is not as fully developed as it should be, which is why, for example, the Ontario government requires high school students to provide 40 hours of community service before they can graduate”
We’re giving less in a world that has more needs.  The only reason Freedom House is able to do what it does in the community is because of the consistent generosity of its members.  The extra stuff (for which we’re ENORMOUSLY appreciative) is awesome but regular giving, we can count on and plan around.  It’s the least sexy form of giving, but the most important in every context.  
This week Captain Kindness was in a 1st Grade class teaching them about being Kindness Superheroes. I heard a young man mutter, "I ain’t no hero." As I continued through our Superhero School presentation where we share with students how they can change their lives, families, schools and communities with kindness… he began to soften as he wrote ways that he could transform his surroundings. Then, to a very general question, he painfully told me "Somebody beat up my parents." I knelt down and quietly sowed this into him, "Guard your heart. You KNOW there is goodness inside you and don't let anyone or anything rob it from your heart." He hugged me SUPER tight.
Amazing right? If I trace it back to the reason why this hesed” was afforded the ability to happen, it was  those who had (in an unheralded manner) intentionally chosen to structure their finances around consistent giving.  In the book of Matthew, Jesus spoke of the tithe, brought it to life, and took it to another level.  He scolded those who were nickel and diming people when it came to the tithe saying,


“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”  


He essentially said, “YES give!  But care!  It’s not a financial thing… it’s a heart thing!  Where your heart is, there your treasure will be.”  


What if we all tithed? I can BARELY imagine it.  But I CAN imagine it.  Incredible things are already being done due to the generosity of many in our city.  But allow me to challenge you to be challenged to budget more, and be a consistent giver to the things that are impact our city for the better.

31 March 2014

I had a quinoa salad for lunch


"I had a quinoa salad for lunch.  It was SO so good.  Do you know how many calories that quinoa salad had?  Not many.  I even know what the daily caloric percentage for that quinoa salad as calculated for my body weight.  I heard about it on the O network.  That Oprah... you've really got to hand it to her.  Well after that quinoa salad, I went for brisk walk.  I did.  And I wore a purple jumpsuit.  But it wasn't that deep purple that you love... it was a pale purple like my Aunt Agnes used to wear.  She loved that color because she had a doll as a little girl... whose eyes were that color.  She always said that she'd get lost in those eyes.  I wonder what it would be like to get lost in an eye.  What's in an eye anyway?  Probably veins.  Did you know that my veins are narrower than most people's veins?  They are.  That's why, when I get really worked up, they turn a slightly deeper shade because of the lack of blood flow.  Or at least that's what the public health nurse told me once.  Remember when we'd rinse with fluoride rinse in schools while listening to the Smurfs dental song?  Why did we do that?  Why don't we do it anymore?  Did you know that the French for Smurfs is Les Schtroumpfs?  It is.  I don't know why.  Do you know why?  The French are weird.   Why do we have to pay more for French food than other food?  And it's all so rich. SO so rich.  And you get less but you pay more for French food.  That's a sad thing about eating out right?  It's not like back when we'd go to the Ponderosa Buffet and we'd get our fill.  Remember Bonanza?  You don't?  I guess you're too young.  I'm going to tell you about it anyway. It had that Lorne Greene in it.  He was Canadian I think.  Google him.  He was right?  Ha.  I was right.  I always get him confused with Bruno Gerussi from the Beachcombers.  I LOVE the beach.   Don't you just LOVE the beach?  I found a 20 dollar bill on the beach once!  I walked over to a lady, who had this gorgeous red handbag... who told me incidentally that it was a hand-me-down from a friend who actually acted as an extra in one of those Chevy Chase movies.  Anyway I asked this lady, who believe it or not had a Croatian accent.  I know that because I actually asked her.  I had to know.  She sounded so exotic.  ANYWAY, I asked this lady if she lost 20$ because I found 20$ on the beach and she said no.  So I took the money went right into the casino.  Did you know that they will give you all the free Gingerale that you want as long as you're playing the slots?  Well I only wanted to spend that 20$ because I don't want to be one of those people who loose more than they can afford at the casino.  Those people are so sad.  My neighbor back in Calgary was one of those people.  He had a cowboy hat bigger than you'd believe.  You know what they say about people with big hats right?   So I thought I'd get an "old-fashioned" like Don Draper drinks and they told me that they didn't make "old-fashions"  How do you even say that drink plural?  Is it old-fashioneds or old-fashions?  That's hard to say.  Grammar sucks anyway.  So instead I just got a free gingerale.  Did you know that they'll give you a free gingerale as long as you're playing the slots?  So I sat down right beside a machine with stars all over it.  That's what I heard someone tell me once and they were a VERY lucky person.  So I played slots for 20 minutes and came out 5 dollars ahead so I got another Gingerale and went home.  Did I tell you that they will give you all the free gingerale you want as long as you're playing slots?" 


"And in the naked light I saw ten thousand people, maybe more. People talking without speaking; people hearing without listening"

Simon and Garfunkel  



20 March 2014

You can't do anything without doing anything


"Advertising is poison gas. It should absolutely attack you; it should rip your lungs out. Great ideas can't be tested. Only mediocre ideas can be tested."
George Lois - Art and Copy.

As communicators... we should loathe white noise.  We should despise it.  We should be repulsed by it. It should be an opposing polar magnetism type repellant. It needs to be the bane of our existence.

Especially in cities of mid to smaller stature, there is an urban message canvass that provides grandiose opportunity.  While there still exists nearly as divergent a population base as large markets (simply in smaller proportions)... to those like myself who are fascinated by holistic city transformation, therein lies the true possibility to mobilize a higher percentage of the collective TOGETHER.  This means strong churches & ministries... but also strong businesses, non-profits, and organizations.

But you do can't anything without doing anything.

George Lois's "poisonous gas" IS a poisonous gas conviction to me as a communicator.  We too often succumb to the soothing haze of white noise without even knowing it's happening.  It's a siren song.  It leads to repetitive ineffective patterns, cliched phrasings, safe words and imagery, lazy market analysis and mimicked techniques you read about on the internet.

In fact, it's worse than you think.  While unintentionally blending in with white noise can start off because of simple inattentiveness or ignorance... continuing down that road it will lead to FEAR.  If you won't use poiseness gas because you're afraid of negative fallout, you may find you've cheated your message, product, serve, brand or business out of it's rightful place of importance.

Jesus was fearless as a communicator.  So fearless that he HAD to be put to death because the faulty man-paradigms couldn't hold him.  His message was paramount over his life... since he WAS and IS the Son of God, there was no way that he wasn't going to see that message communicated not only to those in his "network"... but in His entire Kingdom. 

We must do SOMETHING to combat the lure of white noise.  If you really BELIEVE in your message, product, serve, brand or business... we need to use the right "poisonous gas." Don't settle.  

Email me bigearcreations@gmail.com if your message deserves find its way out of the white noise... and you wanna talk "poisonous gas"


12 March 2014

Winter life around the feeder









"When I think of the wonderful things that are undoubtedly true, and of the wonderful things yet to be discovered, I not only blush because of the little I know, but marvel because so many people manufacture wonderful experiences instead of studying the wonders that are undisputed.  Within five miles of where you live, there are enough strange things to keep you wondering all your life.  Probably in your dooryard may be found enough to employ the intellect of a strong man"

Edgar Watson Howe - "Ventures in Common Sense"(1919)

10 March 2014

The City's Stage


My most treasured moments inside The Sanderson Centre have been the quiet ones.  Sitting silently in the theatre, hours before a show, staring at The City’s Stage is beautiful thing.  Especially when it’s your show.  If you’ve never had this opportunity, you can actually feel the curtain going up in the pit of your stomach.  You know that soon it will once again… be showtime.


Opening in 1919 as The Temple Theatre, becoming The Capitol in the 30’s and then The Sanderson in the 80’s… almost everyone has a memory of The City’s Stage.  I grew up hearing stories from my Dad who worked as the assistant manager of the Capitol Theatre, while in high school in the early 60’s.  His favorite story to tell was how in 1962 Lawrence of Arabia came to town. They would turn up the heat in the theatre a half hour before the intermission; screen-time that featured Peter O’Toole traipsing through the desert.  He recalls that it was the only time where they actually filled up drinks and sold them row by row off a tray DURING the movie. They sold more drinks than there were people in the theatre every night during the film’s run.


When I asked around, people were all anxious to share their stories about The City’s Stage.  Brian Elliott told me of how magicians would come in at Halloween and how his friend volunteered for the guillotine trick. The magician told his friend to grab the legs. He reached out and grabbed the legs of the "beautiful assistant."  The magician said "not these legs, the guillotine legs!" Chris Smith told me stories of Saturday afternoon Elmer the Safety Elephant 25 cent films, where you’d get popcorn thrown in to boot. In 1952 Marty Bruines was 8 when he convinced his mother to let him go see King Kong.  He said, “It scared the bejabbers out of me.”  


In the late 90’s, I used to act in New Life Assembly’s annual Easter Musical.  It was a wonderful time that saw the theatre filled for multiple, free-of-charge performances. But my favorite memory was during one intermission when Pastor Jeff Futers came out to take up an offering.  It was very smooth and professional until, walking off-stage, he forgot to turn off his mic before exclaiming loudly, “Can I take up an offering or what!” to the uproarious laughter of the crowd.  


In recent years, The Sanderson Centre has been the setting for many a Laurier University gathering.  Sydney Nicholson, a 2nd year teaching student still remembers the feeling she got during Orientation Week saying, “I don't know what it was about the place. The energy that all of us first years let out just seemed to resonate throughout the building.”  Former student Becca Vandekemp recalls her first introduction to The City’s Stage being the setting for her Basics of Psychology class every Tuesday night. “I associate the dancing ladies on the ceiling with the parts of the brain and concepts like positive reinforcement” she said with a laugh!


On April 9th, Freedom House is pleased to be co-presenting “Good Night and May God Bless - The Red Skelton Tribute” at The Sanderson Centre featuring the masterful work of Red Skelton’s protegee Tom Mullica... who was trained by the legendary Skelton himself.  

The Sanderson Centre’s theatre manager Glenn Brown saw Red Skelton at the then Okeefe Centre with his now wife and both their parents in the late 90's, calling him ‘The ultimate clown.”  


Skelton, while never playing the Temple Theatre stage during his vaudeville days, conceivably could have.  Red Buttons, a contemporary, did.  In fact Skelton once painted Red Buttons as a part of his massive collection of art.  Skelton was, quite simply, a creative genius.  It was said of him that he didn’t ever do one show a night.  He’d do three. The rehearsal show, the dress rehearsal and the real show; since much of what he did simply flowed out of his brilliant mind.


In a 1967 associated press interview, 16 years into his very successful run of The Red Skelton Show, he described what his typical day entailed.  He would sleep for 5 hours and get up at 5am to write. He’d compose with music, word and paint for 5 hours before having breakfast.  Over the course of a day, he’d record 5 to 10 piano melodramas, routine outlines and pantomimes into a tape recorder. He’d write at least one short story outline a day and complete one full story a week. THEN he would do his daily television, radio and theatre work.  


“I have a collection of clocks, none of them wound.  I think more people waste time looking at clocks than anything.  There’s plenty of time.  The trick is to apply it.” 
Red Skelton


Mullica, whose ability to bring Red Skelton back to life will amaze you, has played on more stages that he can count during his career.  He says “It really is a great feeling when I get to play at a former vaudeville theatre.  Often when you find them across North America, they aren’t always in great shape. Kudos to those have done the hard work to revive this space.  They are the true heroes.”


Glenn Brown agrees, “We've had vaudeville performers like Red Buttons, Imogene Coca and Mickey Rooney on our stage since the return to live entertainment. Listening to their reminiscing about that era and hearing what a beautiful place we have and how lucky we are to still have it is always humbling.”

Every city has a stage.  But not every city has a stage quite as handsome as ours.  Some performers were born for The City’s Stage.  Red Skelton was one of those men.  And while we’ll never again have the chance to see Red in person… seeing Tom Mullica embody Freddy the Freeloader, The Mean Widdle Kid and Clem Kadiddlehopper in a setting so loaded with memories will be a very special night indeed. A couple hours before the doors open, you’ll find me sitting silently in an empty theatre… soaking it in.

Get your tickets by clicking the link HERE, at the Sanderson Centre Box Office or by calling (519) 758-8090... or follow along with the Facebook Event HERE.

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