Silly Kid Dreams You Never Forget…

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As a kid, I loved baseball. I mean loved it. And based on my french neighbourhood in Pierrefonds, Quebec, I looked like that kid in the picture above. But it was cool because of how much I loved this sport! More than I loved the Lakers. So you know I’m serious:)

My friends and I would play for hours in the park, until it was dark outside and our parents were calling us in to come home. We looked like kids from the Sandlot or from the greatest Keanu Reeves movie EVER:

As you can imagine I was a huge Montreal Expos fan, even though our team sucked most of the time and our stadium looked like a really weird upside-down european version of the starship enterprise. See?

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Whether it was cheering Dennis Martinez, Larry Walker, Moises Alou, Pedro Martinez or others, it was about dem Expos and MAYBE the Jays, especially during the World Series days. While I never would have wanted to play professionally (the whole A, AA, AAA system was taxing on my young mind) I loved it.

Now? Not so much. Three main reasons:

1. There is no more Expos. Well, there is but they are the Washington Nationals. I no longer have a team to call my own. And while I live in Toronto and enjoy the Jays, it’s just not the same. The strike of 1994 completely destroyed my team and my thoughts there. (Though I JUST read this that brings me so hope. If it happened to the Jets of Winnipeg, why not La Belle Province?)

2. It’s too easy to predict. Only 10 teams could actually win it all every year. Boring. That’s no difference then cheering for Bron and the Heat.

3. Have you EVER watched a baseball game on TV?

That said, I still have one baseball dream that I want to confess to you:

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I want to visit Fenway Park in Boston, Mass cause I wanna watch the Red Sox play. And this dream was only heightened by the effects of last week’s horrendous attacks. Funny how even the silliest dreams return during times of tragedy. Even the selfish ones.

Why? It would be so stinking awesome! To sing “Sweet Caroline“, see the Green Monster and to work on my Bahston accent (Oh man, Big Bahpi’s wicked smahrt with his bat!)…too much fun. Right now, it’s an improbable dream (money, time, two kids under 4 who wouldn’t appreciate the trip) but still, I dream and wait until it’s possible. And one day, it’ll happen!

Now, I don’t know if that’ll reignite my heart for the game…too much has happened between us. But maybe, just maybe it’ll open up a door to reconciliation. Not saying “Move over Basketball and Football and the Olympics” but who knows…maybe it’ll come true.

And as a grown up, I hope that my willingness to hold on to this silly dream will inspire Liam and Ellie to do the same when they be grown.

Daht be Whicked Smaahrt.

Other dreams: Go to Europe, Go to Israel, See a live Lakers game IN LA, buy Wifey a really nice new engagement ring and a better wedding cake (she wasn’t a fan of the last one…)…more dreams to share…more to come…

Still A Slave…

A while back I was at the mall, attempting to buy a baseball cap to cover my now thinning hair and to promote whatever team the hat highlighted.

It was my luck when the store I was in had a two for one sale; two hats for one price is a steal! I knew I wanted a new Jays cap to join my collection of Jays caps and my renewed allegiance to our local team (note: this was before Reyes & Dickey…) but I couldn’t choose the other as easily.

I knew I couldn’t wear a snapback so that was out of the question (I’m old enough to remember when snapbacks became uncool and were replaced by the now-known fitted caps. I also remember when toques with pompoms were so uncool that I cut my off so I could fit it…oh, to have my authentic Expos toque again…). So it was another regular fitted…but which one? As I looked at my options, my eyes moved to the black and white newly minted Brooklyn Nets logo hat. So I tried it on. And it looked great. My mind went to every Jay-Z song where he referenced “his” Nets, the new craze that everyone had to rep this swag and how much I actually didn’t like the Nets. At all.

It reminded me of when all the rappers would where Yankees hats, even if they were from anywhere BUT New York. Suddenly, the Yanks were EVERYWHERE, even as people couldn’t tell you if Don Mattingly was still on their team! The culture of music videos, magazines and such made a logo WAY more popular than it already was.

And so I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t wear something because a popular figure said it would be cool to; plus, those who know me well know my basketball colours run purple and gold  and so I compromised and got a black and white Lakers hat (The colors of the Nets, the power of the Lake Show.).

But I realized something that day, and everyday since. While I am a free man I am a slave. A slave to public opinion. A slave to culture. A slave to my own selfishness and desire to have. And you are too…even if you say you ain’t, in some way you is. Whether clothes, shoes, popular Christian author, type of person you date, how you DON’T spend money, we’re all slaving somehow to someone else’s idea of what works best. And at worst, we’re telling others how they should be like US, as opposed to how they should be like their Creator’s view of THEM. This is even worse when you have kids; to help them be themselves is delicate dance of both pressure and grace.

And the only way to be free is to say no. No to the Jay-Zs and commercials. No to everyone else’s opinion and ideas (or at least the non-helpful ones). Now does that mean we can’t be inspired? Not saying that. But there is a difference between inspiration and influence and I hope I’m inspired to be me and not influenced to be like someone I’m not.

Life as a Fan Is TOUGH!

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Life as a fan is a bittersweet thing.

For one, you’re not the one on the field/ice/court taking the hit/shot/pass at the last second. Nope. You’re on your couch in your living room watching (and possibly imagining being in that situation yourself…OBVIOUSLY doing a better job…) and hoping for a win, while anticipating a loss.

Secondly, if you’re a big fan and people know it, when your team loses…your enemies will let you know it every time. For example: imagine cheering for a team like the Montreal Canadians in a city like Toronto…not fun when a loss takes place.

Lastly, if you’re a real fan, when your team (notice how we called them OUR team as if we’re partial owners?) loses can ruin your day (or night) and shake you up more than the actual players. Like, imagine being a fan of the Red Sox of Boston before they FINALLY won the world series. The people in Beantown would react to playoff loses like there was a death in the family. I remember when my favourite basketball team lost a championship game (worth the watch). I sat at the edge of my bed and sulked like a small child without a toy. I don’t have any ownership, any stake in them but MAN, I was rocked.

Now I know that we shouldn’t get caught up in things as these, as those who don’t have any cares for sports would say, but man I do. Each year. Hoping for wins, expecting some loses and looking forward to the next season.

Why talk about this? March Madness? Nope. Here’s why?

I am a fan of people! I work with students who I believe in whole heartedly and I can’t say that there haven’t been a few nights where I have sat on the edge of my bed heartbroken at a decision that a few have made. And while I have been heartbroken, I have been hopeful for “next season“, the next opportunity where they could do it right. And as a husband, there have been moments where I have led someone to sit on the edge of the bed, disappointed in me, hoping for the “next season.” Whether we know it or not, we’re all fans of someone…hopeful misfits, believing in a last second shot that’ll change the tide of someone’s existence.

Also: A real fan doesn’t jump off the bandwagon when their team loses year after year (or decision after decision). Instead, they keep on believing, risking their hearts, investing their time (and coin) and energy to hope, to dream and to one day celebrate in one of those championship parades.

And with everyone I have in my life, I hope to be able to do the same thing.

I am your BIGGEST fan!

P.S. Go Lakers, Canadians, Blue Jays (and since I no longer have the Expos…I guess the Nationals), 49ers (and sadly the Cowboys), Wolverines and Man City.

Question: Who are you believing in? Who is believing in you? How does this affect how we should live?

Hope and Disappointment (An Ellie Lesson)

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My daughter is a hopeful person.

She wakes up every single day at around the same time excited for whatever the day will bring. There is never a sad, “Oh man, what will I do?” moment with her. Each morning, she awakes not remembering the day before but anticipating the joy that is to come.

Ellie’s hope is SO big that when she gets bad news, she falls hard. The other day we noticed that her eyes ACTUALLY well up before a single tear falls. Just like in the movies. Ellie will stare off into the vast distance and those green eyes just go. (Side note: that will get me every time…).If Ellie finds out that she can’t go to a friend’s house or that a trip is postponed, her life is OVER.

Until the next day when she awakens to new hope. New chance. New possibilities.

Today, she was hoping that her friend could come over for a playdate. Wifey and I weren’t sure it could happen and wisely said, “we’ll see…we don’t know…” because we’ve been bad at telling her we’d be doing things only to take it back because of broken plans (funny how adults shape disapointment in their kids through the little things. A little, “I know I said we would BUT…” goes a long way.)

So we didn’t place any hope in the situation. But Ellie did. For over an hour, Ellie sat on the couch with her play backpack on…waiting in anticipation for the arrival of her friend. And when her friend came, she responded with a defiant laugh and jump of “I knew it!” At that moment, hope won the day. And it was awesome.

Now I know she’s 3 and that one day she’ll be older and possibly miserable as only a teenager can be. But for today? I love that she’s filled with hope. Hope that we’ll always go to McDonald’s. Hope that her favourite sitter will come over and take her out to buy a fish. Hope that Sid The Science Kid will come on TV JUST when she says so. Hope that the sun will come out so she can play outside (or snow for winter). Hope that everyone will like her and be her friend.

I pray she always “keeps” her playdate backpack on as she gets older. I pray that as she puts “…childish things…” away that she never loses the hope found in believing “…like a little child…“*

And God help the person who ever ruins that.

Meaning? God help me.

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*Scriptures found in 1 Corinthians 13:11 (KJV) & Luke 18:17 (NIV)

A Love-filled Fool (An Ode to ResonateAPC)

Plaid Night @ #InsideOut13 with Resonate (Agincourt Pent. Church's Post-High Group

I have just returned from a great time away with 30+ of the funnest, funniest, truest people I have the privilege of knowing. While tired in my body and weak in my mind, I have stopped many times to think over the blessing each of them are to me and to each other.

You see, this group is a family. Not in the way of how people say “I love coming to __________ because we’re like a family.” They are a family in that they don’t have to say it but people know it. They are all unique persons but they’re united in the main things (for starters, a deep rooted faith in God, through Jesus Christ, revealed by the Holy Spirit and grown in healthy community…sorry…HAD to preach there!!), which keeps them (and me to them/them to me) constantly connected. We laugh, cry, grow, learn, agree, disagree and serve together. And we’re all better for it.

And we’re a family that takes risks together.

For example…one night during our retreat, while taking a group picture, an idea was sprung up by one of younger brothers that then RESONATED through everyone. I, being the eldest, wasn’t the most excited for said idea. But I truly love these ones, and so I added my two cents to our creative potluck. The results are now being slowly viewed by friends of friends through various social media outlets, but what was captured in the room, can’t be defined by a 30 second clip.

In that room, a few hours prior, was laughter due to games, stories and pictures. Later on, tears, support, songs and prayers. And then following THAT?  A fun dance party. None were exclusive from each other but rather like a real family, they bled one into the next, a beautiful mosaic of stories, lives and excitement. And while I didn’t shed tears, I was moved. And here on my couch, retelling the stories to Wifey, looking a vast array of pictures, I still am.

And so, like the song Endless Love says, not only would I “…be a fool…” for them for dumb things (and for smart meaningful things too), I can’t think of a better group of people I’d be a love-filled fool for. I do love them a lot.

And as we move towards the #nextadventure we take together, like Max from “Where The Wild Things Are” proclaimed:

Let the wild rumpus start!

#plaidtobepentecostal

Sleepless in Ajax

ImageIt is currently just after 6 AM on Friday, March 1st (Happy birthday 25 Tamika Chase, btw!).

I haven’t slept a wink. Not because I hate sleep. On the contrary, I love it muchly. It’s because where I am sitting (in our living room on my sofa), across from me on our love seat is my daughter Eliana. She is so peaceful; a mixture of curly hair, random eye rubs and light snoring.

Why is she on our couch at 6 AM and not in bed? Well at around 11:30 or so, she began to whimper and couldn’t be consoled back to sleep. When she gets into those mode, Wifey and I know that we’re in for a long night. After doing some visit (which consists of checking on her, giving her some water and singing songs), she told me something that really made me sad. She said, “I don’t like it when you leave.”

Now context: Today I go away for a few days on a retreat with some of the best people around (#insideout13) and had my bag packed. This is my first retreat, as pointed out by Wifey, that doesn’t have Eliana attending. And though my daughter knows I love her, she was sad that I had (and still have to go). So I did something quite fun. I took her out of bed and brought her down to watch a basketball game with me.

Now this might not be a big deal to you but this is something I would have wanted my dad to do with me when I was little (he’d more likely do it now if he had the time again…he’s a good man). I sat her on my knee and explained who was who and why this would be her favorite game. And I know she would remember who Kobe Bean Bryant is  or why the Lakers are important but she’ll always remember the time she fell asleep on Daddy after reading two Bible stories and watching the Lakers mash the Timberwolves.

I often don’t think of myself as a good husband or father (I mean I know I am but sometimes in the busyness of life and my own mistakes, I feel I fall short) but tonight? Tonight was a win. And so all night I’ve just watched her sleep (while also watching sports scores…) and EVEN got to hang with Liam too, which is normally NOT fun at 4 AM:)

Making memories. I’m glad early this morning I got to make some.

PS. – She just woke up and said “I had the best dream ever!” Now she’s talking about her cousin…

Under Pressure

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Dum dum dum da da dum dum
Dum dum dum da da dum dum
Dum dum dum da da dum dum
Dum dum dum da da dum dum

In 1981, this baseline opened up the classic Under Pressure, written and performed by David Bowie and Queen, fronted by virtuoso vocalist Freddy Mercury (it was later on sampled and used in 1991 by Rob Van Winkle, better known as Vanilla Ice. If you don’t know what song I am referring to…that makes me sad…).

The opening lyrics to the song are:
Pressure pushing down on me
Pressing down on you no man ask for
Under pressure that burns a building down
Splits a family in two
Puts people on streets”

We can all relate to that sort of feeling. Well at least I can. Even the coolest cucumber among your tribe of friends feels some sort of pressure, a downward sense of “I don’t know what to do here.” Pressure comes from multiple sources. Here are mine (see if you have any that are similar):

Family – being present when present (which I am currently contradicting by writing these thoughts while Ellie and Liam play at my feet), being a leader in my home, serving my family through my actions.
Work – helping people reach new levels of potential, menial tasks that still matter in the long run, long term planning and short term actions.
Financial – paying off debt, saving, investing
Physical – resting, working out, staying groomed (though #beardwatch continues, suckas!!!)
Spiritual – Growing in my faith intake, making moments for faith outputs
…And more and more and more…

I’ve learned that pressure comes from inside (we know what we NEED to be doing and we want to get there) and outside (those who watch us either place on us expectations OR we, out of insecurities, try to impress others through living for them) but its born out of a need to make ends meet and make due. When we are kids, it’s the pressure for grades and accomplishments planned out by parents and coaches. When we are older, it’s bosses, spouses and other achievers. It is always there. And those pressures, when left alone or added to can kill a job opportunity, kill a family and ultimately, kill a person.

This fall, I felt that sort of pressure in a way I never had before. Some staff changes had me move into interim roles that added to my workload, left me with less home time and pulled me way beyond my regular threshold. So to keep myself ALIVE, here are some things I have tried to incorporate into my life, especially as this fall turned into a winter with more responsibilities on my plate (knowing that all of these things start with a heart to live out Mark 12:29-31 as my launchpad).