Among the Ashes SPECIAL PROMOTION!!!

Since Among the Ashes was released last November, the response has been very encouraging. In order to make it available to even more readers, Among the Ashes is now available, for the first time as an ebook! This past weekend we ran a special promotion where we offered the ebook FOR FREE, and the downloads went off the charts!! Due to the tremendous response, we are extending this free book offer for TWO MORE DAYS! THIS IS IT! After the next two days we will have to end the promotion. So please hurry up and share the news with your friends, especially those whom you feel the book will help. Can I also ask for a favor? After you have read the book, when you have a minute can I ask that you leave a review on Amazon, to encourage future readers? Thank you for your ongoing support! Please click HERE for the Amazon page to download the book for free.

Among the Ashes…what’s next?

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Now that Among the Ashes the concert is done, a few people have asked me what is the next step on the journey. Before thinking about what is next, I want to savor the wonderful evening that we spent together. THANK YOU SO MUCH for being there and for making the evening so special and meaningful for all of us! Some of you were surprised (pleasantly, I hope) that the concert didn’t just talk about depression and mental health, but was built from positive life lessons that we have learned and wanted to share. That is in part by design. We never want to limit our concerts to “target” only mental health issues. Instead, what we want to do is to create a safe, uplifting and positive space where people can listen, reflect, laugh, sing, clap, cry…whatever to enjoy themselves, while having their hearts cared for by God.

In terms of what is next, my passion and desire still is to use my life experience to have conversations and raise awareness about depression and mental health, perhaps especially among communities of faith such as churches. I will be exploring possibilities to partner with other mental health professionals and see how we can use Among the Ashes to help more people. We’ll see what comes around the next corner. If there are ways you can think of that we can partner with your churches, I’d love to hear your ideas!

At the end of the day, I believe the stories of our lives are written by God, one page at a time so that our stories become part of the great big story that He is writing to bless the world. To that end, I look forward to turning the page, and seeing what surprises The Author has in store for us!

Something to chew on…a little food for thought

Today, as I continue to read different reactions and response to the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriages last Friday, I noticed one of the common themes mentioned is that gay marriage represents a “re-defining” of the institution of marriage, which God has ordained from the days of creation. For many Christians, that is an absolute non-negotiable. As one prominent Christian leader proclaimed, “God does not change His mind.”

Now, being the “poo-disturber” that I am :-), a question came up for me: Didn’t Jesus Himself “redefined” another institution that God had also ordained right from creation, AND one that was repeated as one of the 10 commandments: The Sabbath?

When people questioned Jesus disciples for breaking the holy Sabbath by picking grains to eat, Jesus gave an Old Testament story where King David also “broke” the Sabbath and ate the consecrated bread because he and his companion were “hungry and in need”. Then He spoke these famous words: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Reference: Mark chapter 2)

Food for thought 1: When a religious “institution”, even one that was ordained by God from the days of creation comes into conflict with human need and becomes oppressive, God seem to be willing to “change his mind” and “redefine” it.

Food for thought 2: May be there are things that we THINK are non-negotiable, but God has something else in mind.

Interestingly, that passage in Mark chapter 2 about the Sabbath came right after Jesus’ illustration of pouring new wine into old wine skin. The point? God is doing a new thing, which is too new, too lively, too dynamic to be held and defined by “old institutions”.

Just a little something to chew on :-)

I am an ordained minister. I believe in the Bible. I follow Jesus. And I rejoice in yesterday’s US Supreme Court decision.

Yesterday the US Supreme court handed down a historic, landmark decision, legalizing homosexual marriages across the entire nation. The polarizing effect of the ruling was seen almost immediately with strong voices from both “sides” responding. As a Christian, I believe there is a way we can approach the decision without it becoming divisive among the Christian community and beyond.

Yes, there are some (not all) Christians who believe passionately that they cannot support homosexuality and homosexual marriages and they do so with well thought out and theologically sound reasons.

At the same time, there are Christians who support homosexuality as an equal and alternative lifestyle and support homosexual marriage just as passionately, with reasons that are equally well thought out, and theological rationale that is equally sound.

I have friends in both “camps”. Some say the “Truth” is somewhere in “between”. Personally, I believe that truth ultimately lies “beyond” the two views that our narrow minds have bound ourselves to.

However, regardless of which “side” you may be on, I believe there is a way that we can rejoice in yesterday’s ruling and celebrate with our LGBT brothers and sisters. Because for me yesterday’s ruling has to do with something much more important than the “moral legitimacy” of homosexuality. For me, yesterday’s ruling is a recognition of two biblical principles that are more fundamental, more important, and shared by every single person. They are:

(1) Everyone is created to be equal in the image of God, and thus deserve equal respect and dignity.
(2) We have a God given, biblically mandated responsibility to protect those who are being oppressed.

As a Christian, I celebrate and rejoice in yesterday’s ruling because I am thankful that I live in a society where those two fundamental biblical values are upheld and respected, regardless of one’s religious affiliation, racial background or sexual orientation.

As a father, I rejoice because should one of my children grow up to be gay, I want them to live in a society where their rights will be protected by law, where being gay is no more a point of discrimination than the fact that they are female or Chinese.

In the mean time, there is SO MUCH work that we need to do as a church: Caring for the sick, building healthy communities, looking after the poor, speaking out against injustice, both locally and around the world just to name a few. Why do we insist on arguing and fighting and dwelling on this one issue, when there is so much more good waiting for us to do, together?

Let’s get on with it, shall we?

倒數日記(三)

六月十三日。

距離演唱會最後七日。

當我正應該收拾心情預備明晚的最後綵排時,忽然有一種說不出的筋疲力盡。

準備一個音樂會, 無論大細,基本工作都是少不了:揀歌, 練歌, 打點一切,這些都已習以為常。疲倦,壓力,都慣了。

但今晚所困擾我的,卻是一個很基本的問題:

“你究竟搞咁多嘢為乜?”

為愛好音樂?間中約朋友飲酒Jam歌豈不更好玩過癮?

為名為利?更加不用說。

忽然記起好朋友造給我的一張卡。卡的設計是用海星的故事。故事的教訓:幫得一個得一個。

提醒自己:搞咁多嘢,係為希望可以幫到人。

幫得一個得一個。

“我餓了、你們給我喫 .渴了、你們給我喝.我作客旅、你們留 我住.我赤身露體、你們給我穿.我病了、你們看顧我.我在監裡、你們來看我。義人就回答說、主阿、我們甚麼時候見你餓了給你喫、渴了給你喝…又甚麼時候 見你病了或是在監裡、來看你呢。 王要回答說、我實在告訴你們、這些事你們既作在我這弟兄中一個最小的身上、就是作在我身上了。” (馬太福音 25:35-40)

最後七日,請為我們祈禱,和幫我們邀請你覺得應該出席的朋友來。

倒數日記(二)

Today in the news i heard the story of Dr. Matthew Morton. Dr. Morton was a young doctor living the perfect life: Great career, beautiful family, bright future when he was diagnosed with incurable brain cancer. That was in 2008 and he was just 32 years old.

However, rather than focusing on dying, he put his energies towards living every day he has left to build a legacy for his family and for his students at U of T medical school. During this time he and his wife had 2 more children, and he invests his time to teach his students about lessons he has learned about medical care and compassion as a dying man. He has recently moved into palliative care, and the University presented him with an award for excellence in teaching. His students brought the award to present to him at his home. Dr. Morton talked about how his experience with terminal cancer has made him a better teacher:

“Sometimes the most effective teaching moments are those when someone will just sit down and share with you a rare piece of knowledge that you would not have acquire elsewhere.”

Your stories, my story are given to us for a reason: that we may sit down and share them with someone to inspire, to encourage, to bless others. That’s what we hope June 20 will be about. Unlike our previous shows in the bright lights and big sound in theatres, June 20 will feel more like sitting down with good friends in a living room, sharing some laughs, listening to some good music, and swapping favorite stories.

Hope to see you there!! Let us know if you are coming. We’ll keep the door open and the porch light on for you :-)

Here is Dr. Morton’s story.

倒數日記(一)

六月二日。距離演唱會十八日。 正式進入倒數。

正如以往每次開 concert 一樣,所有熟識的感覺。如好友一般回來探望我:期待, 興奮, 緊張, 感恩, 開心。但今次,有一位新朋友也來了:懼怕.

上年鼓起勇氣, 把自己過去十年和憂鬱症掙扎的經歷寫成書。今次演唱會希望把書背後的故事和感受坦白的和大家分享。

坦白和誠實, 是有risk的.

我沒有擔心音樂的準備,自己的狀態,售票的情況。經驗告訴我們,這些一切一切,冥冥之中都早有安排。

我唯一害怕的,是不知大家會怎樣接受這一份坦誠。不知得到的,會是甚麼的回應。

但我知道兩件事:承認軟弱,比假裝堅強能對人幫助。

還有,扮演一個不是自己的人,是浪費生命最直接,最愚蠢的方法。

所以六月二十日,我要在台上飾演自己。

到時見!

Living now, being here…

Tonight after a long busy day at work I was a little short on energy and patience, and gave Taylor a hard time for not cleaning up after herself. After lecturing her I sent her to take a shower while I finish cleaning up in the living room. As I came upstairs she had just finished, and, like I have done since she was a toddler, I blow dry her hair for her.

As I stood behind her with the blow dryer looking into the bathroom mirror, I caught myself thinking how she is growing up so quickly. It literally felt like just yesterday when she used to sit on my lap when she was 2 or 3 when I blow dry her hair after bathing her. And then she stood on a stool in front of the mirror for me to dry her hair. Now she is standing tall by herself. It occurred to me that very soon, she won’t need me to blow dry her hair anymore…

I then realized how special a moment it was that we were sharing. It hit me that I want her to remember more the times when I blow dried her hair, than the times she was lectured by me. I turned off the dryer, hugged her and apologized for being harsh with my words earlier. And then she, being the fully matured 10 year old, said, “It’s okay Daddy, it’s not your fault” :-)

Life is so different for me now compared to when I was a pastor. I no longer live life from Sunday to Sunday, always just thinking about the next sermon. Now, I find that I am learning to live life moment to moment, truly appreciating how special each moment is.

When I was a pastor I spent my share of time with people during the last days of their lives. And I have learned that when life gets to that point, all of us have regrets. However, I have never met anyone on their death bed regretting they have not worked enough, earned enough, bought enough, or accomplished enough. The single biggest regret I have heard countless people talked about during those moments is that they wish they had taken more time to show their love for their family. “I always thought there will be time to say those things, I never thought time will run out on me….”

That’s why as a father, I want my girls to grow up in a home where love is lived and spoken. Constantly. Moment to moment. Above all else, I want them to grow up learning to speak and express love. I am learning to take the time to give kisses and hugs, just because. I take the time to linger after tugging in my girls, even after they have fallen asleep, to look at their faces and be amazed by how wonderfully God has made them, and plant more kisses on them before I leave the room. I take the time to text my wife during the day to tell her I love her. (Which has become my favorite activity on Sundays when I am bored during sermon time :-) )

Live now, be here, speak love. Just one of those lessons I learned after a long and busy day :-)

Why Among the Ashes?

Do you know that even in the developed world, at least 50% of people with a mental illness never receive the help or intervention they need. That gap grows to 90% in the developing world.

Even in a first world, first class city like Toronto, resources for mental health is scarce. Resources don’t come anywhere close to being able to meet the need. Private counselling are costly and not everyone can afford it.

We need to change the way we think. We need to stop automatically shifting the responsibility for mental wellness to the hands of “the professionals”. Because the reality is that there are not enough “professionals” around and available.

The solution lies within ALL of us.

We need to create safe and healthy communities. In our churches. In our homes. In our work place. Among our friends.

We need to create places where it is okay to be transparent and honest. Where it’s okay to say “I am not doing well” when someone ask “How are you doing?”

We need to create communities where all of us are just “people”…and no other labels are put on one another.

We need communities where mental health issues are properly understood, where it is safe and okay to talk about it without being gossiped and labelled.

We need communities where we understand all of us go through tough times and all of us make mistakes. And it is okay to have failed and the community will embrace and rally around people to get them back on their feet.

I truly believe any solution we come up with towards solving the challenge of mental illness needs to be grassroots and communal. It is not about having more professional counsellors, more mental health hospitals, etc If that’s how we think, the resources will NEVER catch up to the need.

That’s why I wrote “Among the Ashes”. That is why I have done my shows over the years, to simply say, “Hey it’s okay. It’s okay to talk about depression. It is okay to talk about our failures. If I can be transformed, you can too. If I can have hope, so can you.” If enough of us start to think that way, I truly believe that a new kind of community will be born that can change the way we think about mental illness and ultimate change our society.

That, in a nut shell is our reason and our hope for the concert on June 20th. Please come and support us and get the word out:

Invite a friend.

Share our Facebook event.

Help us share the message of the book and get the conversation started.

Let’s start a movement!