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 November 2015

"We really like your baby" ~ The Living Nativity 2015

We really like your baby.

This has become a classic line in Freedom House’s ‘The Living Nativity’ that annually fills Harmony Square with Christmas revelers. It’s a funny, off the cuff, line delivered by Freedom House Pastor Brian Beattie who (dressed as a shepherd) has come to see the newly born Christ child… in Harmony Square of course.

The line has it’s roots in the origins of The Living Nativity itself. When Beattie was proposing that this show be done in Harmony Square, he was asked by Parks and Rec’s Lori Dawn Cavin, “What’s the Living Nativity?” Beattie replied, “Well it’s the traditional Christmas story. Mary and Joseph ride a donkey and have a baby. Then Shepherds come and say, ‘We really like your baby’ then we sing some songs and go home.” It became such an endearing exchange between the two that often they still sign emails between one another, “WRLYB” for “We really like your baby.” And the line is still used in our play today.

But it’s a powerful thought when you think about it’s historical, demographic and current-cultural context. The singing and dancing shepherds (of which I am one) provide the comic relief in The Living Nativity. Over the years we started writing an annual pop-culture feature into their tomfoolery. The shepherds have danced to Gangdam Style, Thriller, What Does the Fox Say and who could forget last year’s Do You Want to Build a Snowman. You’ll have to come and see the show for yourself to find out what we’re going to spring on the crowd this year.

Historically however, shepherds… were shepherds. Go figure right? They were just common folks who watched the sheep. Then something amazing happened. Heaven and Earth collided and heaven couldn’t keep quiet about it. Remember when Charlie Brown was struggling to find out what Christmas was all about? Well his little buddy Linus remembered. Linus quoted a Doctor named Luke. Luke wasn’t actually there when this happened… but it impacted him greatly. He became a follower of Jesus, AFTER Jesus was with us on the earth. Dr. Luke was traveling around with other followers, physically caring for those who were sharing the good news and in the marketplace. Linus and Luke said this:

 “And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them! And they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all my people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ, the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the Heavenly Host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, and goodwill toward men.’” 

You can just hear Linus saying that can’t you? And he added in his drop-the-mic moment, “That’s what Christmas is about.” The shepherds ran to see the collision of heaven and earth. I’m sure they weren’t very eloquent. They were just ordinary folks like you and me. There’s no record what the shepherds said when they arrived, but “We really like your baby” is as good a guess as anything else. Heaven and Earth collided to make a way for us, still today in Brantford to find peace, love, hope and freedom. Let heaven and nature sing. Let’s do it together again as a community.

This will be the 6th annual Living Nativity from December 11-13. We estimate about 12,000 people have come to Harmony Square to see this show during it’s run. There are 2 shows nightly, at 7pm and 8pm. There is Christmas caroling and free hot chocolate before the show starts too so come early to get a good spot. Freedom House also welcomes you to share a family Christmas Eve service with us called “One Light” at 6pm. Find us online at www.freedomhouse.ca

*Photos by Ida at "Brant Photos" linked here.  

9 November 2015

Freedom Gate Apartments ~ The least "Sexy" project we have

The biggest “Kindness Project” Project that we have, is one we rarely speak about.  It’s not a very “sexy” project, it’s results are not always clear-cut, and it’s a tough one to have a "rah rah" rally about it.  Freedom House’s low rental housing project Freedom Gate Apartments has taken more time, work, effort and financial faith than anything else Freedom House has ever done in our nearly 13 years. By a LONG SHOT.  And what was it all for?  15 affordable-living apartments for people to live in. And it's been worth it.  

178 Market Street is the spot many will remember as the home of The Rainforest restaurant.  It was a blue bar when we purchased it 13 years ago.  Still looking like a nightclub, this was the setting for the early years of Freedom House. I have fond memories of our humble beginnings in it.  But the more folks we met trapped in destructive cycles of poverty and addiction on that part of Market Street, the more we realized that our call to serve our fellow man in practical ways was a real thing. It extended beyond traditional the church walls.  In fact in this case, it meant tearing them down and putting in bedrooms.

We were reminded of our need to intentionally meet physical needs AS WELL AS the spiritual needs.  The two go hand in hand. At Freedom House we have two rules.  Love God and Love People.  The rest is gravy.  And a big need for the people in our neighborhood was a home that they could afford and where they could be safe and stable.  We met people who we were wanting to break free of cycles but couldn’t find a place to live and the creation of Freedom Gate would facilitate that desire. So we said yes.  After a 1.5 million dollar building project, Freedom Gate Apartments opened in the spring of 2010. While it sometimes seems like a drop in the bucket to say that we have 15 families using the space at a time… those are 15 real families. It’s been a street culture-changer in a way that even a church building wasn’t doing.  That’s because it melt a felt-need on that part of the street and in our city.  And it’s been worth it.

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

Even with the grants we received and the AMAZING partnership/friendship with GK York’s Gabriel Kirchberger (without whom the project would have never even gotten off the ground), it's a financial load to carry.  A big one for a church.  And it’s been worth it. One day, after many years of quietly operating this apartment (often living on financial faith to make it work if we're honest) it will turn a profit too.  And that money will go towards funding MORE Kindness Project outreaches while still accomplishing Freedom Gate’s house goal.  

But right now it's work.  It’s work that few people know about and a project that has way fewer exciting, motivating stories than a Frosty Fest, Captain Kindness, Living Nativity or Flippin Friday.  But as it grows, we hope to continue to make Freedom Gate Apartments an exceptional living experience.   

Freedom House is ordinary people who believe that kindness can transform a city, BY good INTO good.  The door is open and we’d love to have you come by. 

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