Dave Carrol

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 January 2015

Frosty Fest 2015 ~ SOMETHING came from something

As a way to motivate me, my Mom used to quote Jiminy Cricket in saying, “David… ‘nothing comes from nothing.’” As it turns out, Jiminy Cricket ripped it off of Parmenides in the 5th century whose statement became a rallying cry for frightening Nihilists.  Darn Cricket didn’t know what he was doing!  In fact, this concept popped up again (Pre-Cricket) in a different context in Shakespeare’s King Lear.  King Lear decided to retire and divide his kingdom among his three daughters. They are required to come forward and flatter him… for money.  Seems healthy.  His two older daughters Regan and Goneril, flatter and deceive their Dad, and receive their rewards. The youngest, Cordelia, who loves him most, cannot find the words to articulate this love. He asks her to speak up and praise him more than her sisters. When asked 'what do you have to say?' Cordelia responds "Nothing." Lear goes nuts yelling, "nothing will come of nothing," and banishes her without money, title, or any part of his kingdom.

Lear was wrong, the Nihilists are a freaky bunch, and you should never trust a Cricket… but the truth is that nothing comes from nothing. Even in Cordelia’s case, she felt love, but said nothing. We can’t just stare at blank canvass and hope it paints itself. We can’t just wish city transformation to happen.  We must DO SOMETHING for there to BE SOMETHING.

There didn’t used to be a Frosty Fest that drew 15,000 people together celebrate the Family Day Weekend in Harmony Square. In fact there didn’t used to be an ice carving’s chance in hell that 15,000 would ever gather together downtown period!  The story of Frosty Fest is the story how nothing can become something… and how something can become something amazing.  

When Harmony Square opened to the public in we at Freedom House simply approached them and asked, “How can we help serve the city and make this square awesome?” Lori Dawn Cavin of Parks of Rec replied “I wish we could have something that’s big like the Jazz Festival… only in the winter. Do you think that you guys could do a winter carnival?”  Freedom House’s Brian Beattie with idyllic (yet petrified) eyes said, "OF COURSE WE CAN!"  That afternoon he emailed me saying, “We’d better start Googling, ‘How to run a winter carnival’ because we’re about to run one!”  

If you’ve never been to Frosty Fest; it’s delightful. If you catch just the right moment, you’ll find yourself in a Normal Rockwell painting… lost in the mesmerizing art of ice carving, having long-buried memories unearthed from eating snow taffy like your great grandfather used to make while children ice skate in the gentle snow.  This place in time exists in Brantford.  It enriches your soul, revives your appreciation for winter and tastes like a warm Canadian tonic right at the moment of winter that it’s most needed. This February 14-16 will mark the 6th anniversary of this experience of Frosty Fest.  

3 years ago during the annual Family Day apple cider toast in hand-carved ice goblets, Mayor Chris Friel looked out over the largest collection of people that I’ve ever seen downtown at a single moment.  He said words that I’ll never forget. He said, “This is the watershed moment in the transformation of our downtown.” Something came from something.  

When Jesus was asked what the most important rules were, He gave his followers two.  Rule #1 is Love God.  Rule #2 is Love Others.  The rest is gravy.  When you see lanyards around the necks of some of our volunteers during at Frosty Fest saying, “Rule #2,” it’s our way of reminding ourselves that whether we’re cooking up funnel cakes, running The Wrecking Ball inflatable, or feelin’ the chill in the bones from helping kids down the snowslide… it’s about loving others.  And so it MEANS something more.


A city is what a city does.  It is the sum of it’s parts.  Each part came from an idea.  But nothing comes from nothing.  An aloof thought in the shower of what could be or should be doesn’t just happen. All it takes is saying, “Sure I’ll do that!” Saying yes and being actively kind is a powerful, counter-cultural overthrow of the self-centeredness our society is plagued with. The cure of kindness is something ordinary people like you and I possess. Those who will have the courage to stand up and say, "Here you go. This is for you. I see value in you." will shape our future.  

We made Frosty Fest... for you.  We made it because we love you. I can’t wait to share Family Day Weekend together with you.  For all the details, follow Frosty Fest on Facebook or Twitter @FrostyFest




 

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. 


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