One Hand Up

 

I’ve been a fan of The Strumbellas ever since I first heard ‘Sailing’ during a Hockey Night in Canada Remembrance Day montage made by Tim Thompson.

I immediately downloaded all their available music, and have become an even bigger fan with each subsequent release and live show (seen them twice, hope to again soon).

They just dropped a new album last week, and I can stop listening to it. Paste Magazine recently lauded the band for creating songs of hope in a dark time, and that’s a perfect way to describe their vibe.

In this time of division and rancor, songs of community and hope are needed more than ever. But such songs are useful only if they can persuade us to trust their message. And that’s one of the hardest tricks to pull off in pop music. In fact, any hint of sappy sentiment or formulaic bromides is likely to create mistrust and produce more pessimism than optimism.

That’s why the Strumbellas are the right band at the right time. The Ontario sextet’s new album Rattlesnake boasts the kind of anthemic choruses that can rouse an audience from its seats to dance in place and sing along. The stimulus is not so much the positive lyrics—which are easy to write—but rather the magnetic melodies, which are so difficult to come up with.

The song posted above stands out as an early favourite off Rattlesnake. I love the lyrics, love the tune, and have it on repeat. I hope you enjoy as much as I do.

[Verse 1]
We can burn bright if we want to
Like stars in the night when they’re shining through
We can explode just like dynamite
To where, we don’t know

[Pre-Chorus]
There’s no turning back, so raise it high

[Chorus]
We can hold one hand up for tomorrow
We can hold one hand up to the stars
We can be the change that we wanna see
Just don’t give up on me, yeah

[Verse 2]
We can be the love and we’ll teach ’em how
We’re pounding on the drum when they say “Quite down”
We can go wild if we want to
We can run for miles

[Pre-Chorus]
There’s no turning back, so raise it high

[Chorus]
We can hold one hand up for tomorrow
We can hold one hand up to the stars
We can be the change that we wanna see
Just don’t give up on me
We can hold one hand up when we get there
We can hold one hand up for the gold
We can be the change that we wanna see
There’s no give-up in me, yeah

[Bridge]
It’ll change you life, it’ll change your life, oh my
It’ll change you life, it’ll change your life, oh my
It’ll change you life, it’ll change your life, oh my
It’ll change you life, it’ll change your life, oh my
It’ll change you life, it’ll change your life, oh my
It’ll change you life, it’ll change your life, oh

[Chorus]
We can hold one hand up for tomorrow
We can hold one hand up to the stars
We can be the change that we wanna see
Just don’t give up on me
We can hold one hand up when we get there
We can hold one hand up when we win
We can be the change that we wanna see
There’s no give-up in me, yeah

“Did God not like dinosaurs?”

There’s nothing quite like conversations with a 4-year-old.

I was putting our youngest son Henry to bed the other night and, as per usual, the routine included reading some stories (as well as requests for a drink, cries for mama, and a need to pee. But I, like he, digress).

We began with Hug-A-Bible, a fur-covered collections of 10 stories meant to remind children of God’s great love of creation.

Let me say here that sometimes I struggle with how to talk to the boys about God. We flipped past a page about Noah, for example, and it talked about God spared Noah, his family and two of each animal, with a nice rainbow to put a bow on it. Of course, it failed to mention the story was about the rest of creation being destroyed by an angry God who was sick and tired of humanity screwing things up. That’s the bit left out in Sunday school.

Henry seemed to get the basic, age-appropriate gist though – God loves him and will always be within and around him.

We turned to a book called That’s Not My Dinosaur. He’s smart enough to dinosaurs don’t exist anymore, and before we were able to turn the first page, he asked me what happened to dinosaurs. I explained they were all gone because a big rock fell from space and caused a “spolsion” (his word, not mine) and now they’re extinct.

That satisfied him for a moment, but maybe the Noah story triggered something because then he asked, “did God not like dinosaurs?”

How does one even begin to answer that?

We already implicitly covered the fact that God (allegedly) got rid of most created beings through the flood, not to mention there are those who believe God sends people to hell for all eternity if they don’t believe in Jesus. Maybe God thought velociraptors were getting too smart for their own good and fossilized them. They can open doors after all, and probably took a bit from that God forsaken apple.

I tried to affirm that God loves all that God created, and sometimes things don’t go as planned (which he’ll learn more about one day when he watches Jurassic Park). I think an all-loving God would have been sad when dinosaurs went extinct, but apart from that instinct, I really didn’t know how to answer.

Instead, I simply blurted out, “that’s not my dinosaur, his back is too scratchy!”

Maybe the best thing I can teach him and his brothers is there are some questions that can’t be answered, and that’s OK.

 

Comedy Sex God and me: A review of Pete Holmes’ book

My journey to Comedy Sex God began with Rob Bell, which is fitting because he’s the author of Sex God.

Similar themes, but less funny.

Rob is the former pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, MI (not to be confused with Mars Hill Church in Seattle). I used to religiously download his weekly sermons, and was feeling a Bell-shaped void after he decided to take off for Los Angeles to pursue other ventures.

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It was 2013 and were planning a trip to Ottawa at the time, so I did a search for Rob Bell in my podcast app to help keep me entertained on the long drive. I came across his name listed beside this funny little logo and was interested to see how the author of Love Wins could make it even weirder. As it turned out, that book was the impetus for this podcast host to reach out to Rob, and I quickly learned that I actually had a lot in common with Pete Holmes.

We were both raised in the church. We both went to small Christian universities (I even knew people who went to his). We both liked to make jokes, although he’s admittedly a million times better at comedy than I could ever dream to me. We were both clearly fans of Bell’s, and welcomed his work as opposed to bidding him farewell like so many others still caught in the throes of evangelicalism.

I ended up listening to that episode more than once, and You Made It Weird has been part of my weekly routine ever since. I love the silly episodes, the spiritual elements of it, the Friends of Rob Bell series, the comedy guests, the inside baseball tales from the worlds of stand up and show business. I rarely take a week off.

On top of that, I devoured clips from Pete’s foray into late night television, his HBO specials, and especially the recently-cancelled Crashing, which I loved for all the same reasons I keep downloading the podcast.

So when Pete first announced he was working on a book, I knew it would be right up my alley.

I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy from Harper Collins and made my way through it over the course of a few days. Here’s a few thoughts on this delightful piece of work.

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I was already pretty familiar with Pete’s story from all of the above, but I really resonated with his early struggles with the church, particularly as it pertains to purity culture, the sins that tend to befall teenage boys, dealing with that guilt and shame, responding to countless altar calls and repeating the process over and over again.

Like I said, I too went to a Christian college, began to explore new/old ideas, and eventually left the church I grew up in.

Our stories aren’t quite the same (my wife didn’t leave me for a small Italian man, thank God), but I weave in and out of phases of deconstruction and reconstruction as a result of life circumstances, having my eyes opened to new ways of thinking while shelving old, harmful beliefs about faith and God’s role in the world in which we live.

I can’t say I’ve gone so far as to have my mind opened by psychedelics, and likely never will. Pete’s deep dive into Ram Dass is kind of where our paths veer most obviously. I’m interested in him and will check out his teachings, but I won’t be humping on a plane to Hawaii anytime soon. At the same time, I’ve kind of found a guru in absentia in Richard Rohr – another previous YMIW guest and a fave of Pete’s – and often think about planning a retreat to New Mexico to meet him.

That’s kind of the point of Comedy Sex God, really. We’re all on different paths, but we all come from the same Oneness, and the more in tune we become with it and each other, the better off we all will be.

Pete referenced Bell in this book, and I know he has a relationship with others I admire, namely The Liturgists, David Bazan, and Rohr himself. Again, different streams, but all flowing from the same grand river.

The sections on meditation and breathing and Awareness were particularly meaningful for me, and I know these are practices I need incorporate into my life. Thanks for another kick in the ass, Pete.

I should add Pete is a really great writer, and both his comedy and his warmth come off the pages in droves. This book is hilarious, and I laughed out loud on several occasions; it’s also deeply moving, and I teared up more than once. It’s above all incredibly honest and vulnerable, and Pete’s authenticity is what draws so many to his work, myself very much included.

Right off the top, Pete writes “My mom always wanted me to be a youth pastor. When I become a comedian, she said, ‘Close enough.'” I’m a grown man with a wife and 3 sons, and Pete’s inner youth pastor speaks to me on a regular basis. It will come as no surprise that I can’t recommend this book highly enough. I hope you all read it, love it, and come to admire Pete as much as I do.

Book review: Holy Envy by Barbara Brown Taylor

After years of serving as an Episcopal priest, Barbara Brown Taylor began teaching Religions of the World at a small liberal arts college in Georgia. She guided her students through Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity, discovering more about herself and her faith along the way.Image result for holy envy

She recounts stories about this in her new book, Holy Envy. The title speaks volumes; only does she allude to be very much attracted to elements of religions other than her own, she sees holiness in all of them. We are all created in the image of God, and religion – at its best – is humanity’s attempt to figure out what means.

There’s a million different ways to go about it, and certainly a fair amount of diversity within Christianity itself. Regardless of what you believe about God and Jesus, few object to the notion of a divine spark within us, and the call to love. As the author writes:

Yet this, in a nutshell, is the monuymental spiritual challenge of living with religious difference – and more centrally than that – of living with anyone that does not happen to be me. “Love God in the person standing right in front of you,” the Jesus of my understanding says, “or forget the whole thing, because if you cannot do that, then you are just going to keep making shit up.”

Amen.

We don’t need to be afraid of the differences between us; a lot of it comes down to using different languages and symbols to try and articulate the same things.

We are all made in God’s image, called to love each other and take care of this world. It’s OK to open our eyes and look around at what others are doing, and we don’t have to be afraid of otherness.

All that matters in the end is how we loved each other.

Thanks to Harper Collins Canada for hooking me up with a review copy of this book.

The time hockey made me cry

There’s nothing wrong with crying.

I don’t tear up as much as I used to, having said that. My first memory of crying comes from kindergarten, when I slipped on some ice outside the school, busted up my chin and had to get stitches. In Grade 3 or 4, someone tossed a pencil at me and it landed in my glasses, poking me in the eye. I cried then, and was so embarrassed when the teacher helped wipe my nose that I yelled “HONK” into the tissue.

I absolutely wept when Lauren decided to work at a different camp during the summer we were first dating, which is quite embarrassing in retrospect. I cried on our wedding day, when each of our sons was born, when our youngest was undergoing a procedure at 4 months to have a heart issue repaired, when Lauren was diagnosed with breast cancer and many times during her treatment.

These days, I mostly get emotional watching an episode of This Is Us and when one of our boys tells us a story from school about kids not including them.

Hockey has only made me cry once, as far as I can recall. It was back in 2011, and the Bruins had just won a Game 7. They did that three times that year, and the one that got me emotional might not be the one you’d expect.

I had been a Boston hockey fan for over two decades by that point, really coming to love them in the early 90s thanks to Cam Neely, Adam Oates and Ray Bourque. In fact, one of the big pushes to cheer for this team was the fact my older sister was mad about Edmonton, and I took it upon myself to passionately cheer for the enemy during 1990 Stanley Cup Final. That didn’t go well for me, but the black and gold stuck.

The team hadn’t attained much success in the intervening years, and the previous year had featured the infamous collapse against Philadelphia.

Their run in 2011 almost didn’t happen, seeing as Montreal had gone up 2-0 in the opening round courtesy of two road win. The Bruins fought back and pushed the series to seven games, winning in overtime thanks to Nathan Horton.

No tears to that point, though.

Those would come in Round 3, actually. The Bruins were once again faced with a Game 7 on home ice, this time against Tampa Bay. Vancouver had already won out West, and as the Presidents’ Trophy winners, were sitting pretty as the Cup favourites awaiting their next combatants. Be that as it may (or mayn’t, as it happened), all I wanted was for the Bruins to have a shot at winning it all.

The game remained painstakingly scoreless until late in the third period, when Horton once again clinched it off a sweet feed from David Krejci. The Bruins held on, and as the celebrations began, I started crying.

 

 

We had a 9-month old baby, and he and Lauren were both sleeping at the time, so I went out into the backyard, raised my hands in the air, and let out whispery, teary, celebratory cries into the atmosphere. If my neighbours had looked out the window right then, they would have thought I was nuts.

It seems silly, looking back. Crying over a game played by people I’ve never met. I was certainly overtired at the time (see note about baby), and I had never really seen my favourite team advance to the Final with years of disappointment behind me. The fact it was up in the air until the very end set it apart from Game 7 of the next round, which was won with far less dramatics and was enjoyed my yours truly with smiles and beers.

I’m not sure it will ever happen again, either. Even if the Bruins were to go all the way this year or in the future, I’m not in that space anymore. My head and heart don’t have as much emotional real estate for fandom as they used to, and my time writing full time about hockey helped me learn to appreciate good stories all over the NHL and therefore become less invested in one particular outcome.

Still, I’ll never forget that moment.

Horton from Krejci forever.

The most beautiful song I’ve ever heard

The musical duo soon to be formerly known as Gungor is currently in process of saying farewell, touring down in the States for the final time using that brand name.

As Michael wrote not too long ago, “Gungor feels to us like it’s done what it needed to do. Said what it needed to say.  And now it’s time for something new.”

Gungor’s music has become extremely important to me in recent years. I jumped on the bandwagon through I Am Mountain, developed an appreciation for their older beautiful songs, and was helped through times of struggle and doubt by the truly amazing One Wild Life album series as our family weathered through various health issues.

I wrote a bit about all of that when I reviewed Lisa’s book here.

I have their songs tucked in a De/Reconstruction playlist on my computer, alongside Derek Webb, David Bazan, The Brilliance, John Mark McMillan and Audrey Assad, all of whom I adore. But there’s one Gungor song that fills me with … something I can’t even describe when it comes on, and it’s truly the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard.

Please enjoy ‘Vapor’ and I hope it speaks to you today.

 

 

I’ll miss you, Gungor. Can’t wait to see what’s next.

Also, please read Butt Prints In The Sand if you haven’t already. It was inspired by another one of Gungor’s projects.

5 Simple NHL Trade Deadline Rules

Copy of custom home trends 2019

 

I mentioned on Twitter the other day that this will be my first NHL trade deadline as a casual observer since 2013. In recent years, I had the privilege of covering the annual gong show as “work”; this year I’ll be at my home office, performing my current duties while obviously keeping an eye on the proceedings (although I did write something for Daily Hive already).

 

 

In my experience, these are 5 simple NHL trade deadline rules you need to follow:

  1. Don’t expect anything to happen before lunch – If you tune into the trade deadline shows in the morning, you’re basically watching a hockey version of The View.
  2. Don’t fall for breaking news from fake insiders and team accounts.
  3. Remember that not every report or rumour is fact until it’s announced by the teams, even if it’s coming from the most trusted hockey people.
  4. Don’t immediately judge a trade. Sometimes these things take years to gestate. (Exception: Anything resembling Erat for Forsberg).
  5. I originally have “everyone have fun out there!” here, but Ashley (who rules and you should all be following on Twitter) wisely came through with a good and important one here: Don’t @ your team.

Finally, don’t forget there are actual human beings with feelings and families involved in these decisions:

Seriously, this is too much.

What say you? Did I miss anything?

Butt Prints in the Sand

I was listening to a wonderful Liturgists podcast episode on Buddhism the other day, featuring a chat with Bushi Yamato Damashii. He talked about how we spend so much time trading all over the earth looking for answers, solutions, advancements, often failing to find what we’re looking for or making a mess of things – literally and figuratively – in the process.

Bushi also talked about the importance of rest, meditation, contemplation, being, and he and Vishnu Dass joked about creating butt prints instead of footprints. It’s been done before by others, but here’s my simple spin on a popular poem to remind myself of this podcast and the impact it can have on my life.

Butt Prints in the Sand

One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was sitting on the beach with my Lord,
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of butt prints in the sand;
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the butt prints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of butt prints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d sit with me along the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of butt prints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”

He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of butt prints,
It was then that I remained still
While you ran off trying to figure things out on your own.”

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Remembering Why I Write

I came across an old post of mine, and went down a rabbit hole that led me to all my old blogs, the first of which dates back over 13 years. I was reminded why I write, why I keep putting stuff out there for few to actually click on. It’s part of who I am, and something I won’t give up anytime soon.

I’ve been doing a lot of hockey writing these days (on top of the 150 or so posts written for my day job in recent months), which I love. It’s been something I’ve been working towards for a while, the whole reason I started my own little sports blog (the now defunct scorenation.ca).

I didn’t realize how technical this new venture would be; there’s a lot more to it than posting some relevant information about a hockey team or players, or crafting a good story about some current event. There’s a distinct way to structure the post so as to attract hits, involving the use of embedded tweets and videos and something called SEO (Note: This is hilarious because my current marketing job is all about SEO). The more I wrap my mind around it, the more I see the value of it, and it’s actually kind of fun.

But there’s something to be said about eschewing structure and just writing for the hell of it.

That’s why I started blogging 13 years ago, and it’s something that I feel I’m missing the boat on these days. Like I said, I love the hockey writing, but there are different spheres of my life that also deserve attention: marriage, parenthood, and oh, the fact that I have a Master’s in Theology but haven’t written much along those lines in some time.

That’s where this website comes (back) in. This small corner of the Internet will be a place where I come to basically jot down some life notes, in a wholly unstructured way. Maybe I’ll type up a couple paragraphs on my phone and submit on the go, or just post up a quote or song that I’m feeling at that moment.

I hope I can keep up with it. Life is indeed pretty busy these days. But that’s part of the appeal, to stop and share.

And maybe, just maybe, start a conversation or get people thinking or remind at least one person that they’re not alone in this crazy world.

Confessions of an unapologetic Switchfoot fan

I originally wrote this in 2016 and thought I’d update and re-post in light of a new album dropping on Jan. 18.

In 2015, I wrote a post on this blog entitled Confessions of an unapologetic Lifehouse fan, wherein I admitted to being fully on board with a band that might not land me many cool points.

Here I am once again fessing up, openly expressing my appreciation for a band that has helped provide the soundtrack to the past 15 years of my life.

Drawn to their alternative rock sound, catchy pop hooks and positive lyrics, I became a Switchfoot fan during my college years (early 2000s).

I picked up a copy of The Beautiful Letdown and made the journey downtown with Tyndale friends to see them perform at El Mocambo, then quickly went out and grabbed everything they had recorded up to that point.

Yes, that included their contributions to the ‘Walk To Remember’ soundtrack, and Lauren and I even had ‘Only Hope’ sung during our wedding ceremony.

I’ve picked up every album since, and while some of have been better than others, the band’s constant challenge to make the most of life and impact the world for good has always left me feeling hopeful.

It’s right there in the band name.

According to (frontman) Jon Foreman, the name “Switchfoot” comes from a surfing term. “We all love to surf and have been surfing all our lives so to us, the name made sense. To switch your feet means to take a new stance facing the opposite direction. It’s about change and movement, a different way of approaching life and music.

(Wikipedia)

Switchfoot releases its 11th studio album Friday, and NATIVE TONGUE proves the band is as tight as ever.

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The first song that stands out to me is All I Need, making me think about where I’m at as a husband and father in his late-30s.

Sometimes I feel so small
Like a picture on your wall
Like I’m hanging on just to fall
No matter how I try
So love sing to me gentle
That I’m more than just accidental
More than just inconsequential
Burning out tonight
All I need is the air I breathe
The time we share
And the ground beneath my feet
All I need is the love that I believe in
Tell me love, do you believe in me
There’s a place down by the ocean
Where I take my mixed emotions
When my soul’s rocked by explosions
Of these tired times
Where love sings to me slowly
Even when I feel low and lonely
Even when the road feels like
The only friend of mine
All I need is the air I breathe
The time we share
And the ground beneath my feet
All I need is the love that I believe in
Tell me love, do you believe in me
One light
One goal
One feeling in my soul
One fight
One hope
One twisting rope
I’m ready to run where the ocean meets the sky
All I need is the air I breathe
The time we share
And the ground beneath my feet
All I need is the love that I believe in
Tell me love, do you believe in me
Tell me love, ’cause you’re all I need

It brought me back to that first album I bought, and the question ‘this is your life, are you who you want to be?’

That’s what makes me love this band; they challenge me to be a better person as a result of listening to their music. Some may consider it cheesy, but as I get older, I see great value in embracing that side of life.

Again, in the words of Dave Grohl,  “there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure; if you like it you like it and that’s ok.”

I like you, Switchfoot. I like you a lot.

p.s. Lauren and I went to see a Switchfoot + Lifehouse show during the summer of 2017 and it ruled.