A Blog That’s Not About Life Insurance

I’ve written about some awkward things. I’ve intentionally made the decision at different points to share with the general public things that most people keep under wraps. I’ve done this because I think it is valuable, because I think there’s a lack of important information out there that could free many people if only they had access to it. So because of this you’re familiar with how I catheterize, I’ve shared about sex, about the deterioration of my body, about the effects of steroids, and even some strangely not often shared info about MRI scans.

Well today I’d love to share some stuff with you that makes me feel even more awkward than any of those topics ever did. I want to share some private stuff with you about life insurance. The reason it makes me feel awkward is because I don’t want it to come off as me patting Jess and I on the back, because the reality is that we were just blessed to be given good advice at a young age and we were just foolish enough to take it. My hope is that I can share a bit of this part of our story and it will invite you into, what I believe, is a really exciting way to live (and die).

Let me also say quickly that I’m not a money guy. I couldn’t tell you much about interest rates, investment opportunities, or anything like that. It’s not my world and I won’t even attempt to fake it. If you want to message me about better life insurance options or something of that nature…please don’t. What I can say is that at a very early age (I think I was 22 and Jess was 21) when we found out we were having a child we chose to get term life insurance for both of us. Because we were young and both very healthy it was an incredibly cheap route to get half a million bucks for each of us if we died. The amazing thing is not that we got life insurance at a young age, but that we kept it all these years. To be completely upfront, we’ve always been poor. We’ve grown very comfortable not having much money and it’s turned into a way of life that we are ok with. It has allowed us to engage in the work that we want to do (church planting) because we’ve been able to work for virtually nothing (or at times, literally nothing). It’s freed our imaginations to create what has now developed into Grassroots Conspiracy because money was not much of a factor/inhibitor in its creation. So the amazing thing isn’t that we got it but that we continued to pay it all these years! (thank God that we did right?!)

Some credit needs to be shared with Dave Ramsey and his Financial Peace University class. If you’re not familiar yet with Dave and what they’re all about…get familiar. FPU was huge in challenging us to live in a way that allowed this reality to exist, it gave us the tools to live off little, it provided the inspiration to buckle down, and…well…it’s just good stuff!

But this blog IS NOT about you getting insurance (though if you don’t have it, you need to…especially if you have kids. It’s too cheap not to). What I really want to share with you is to ask what you’re going to do with your life insurance money. I never really though I’d have to answer that question, but in reality we all will at some point. Most people view that money as their own, they view it as their way to care for their own. And it is. And it should be. But if you buy into the idea that money, stuff, and all that jazz are temporary. If you buy into that crazy idea that stuff (even the good stuff) will eventually rot, that you can’t take any of it with you, and that stuff is here to serve you and not the other way around–then I’d suggest you really question how your life insurance is not only practically used but realistically viewed.

View it as a gift. View it as an opportunity. View it as a chance to make a difference, to leave a legacy, and to partner with those you love in seeing the world be transformed into its original purpose and intended beauty. Money is not evil (as some people mistakenly believe), money is an opportunity–one that shouldn’t be missed out on! One of the ancient practices of the Christian faith that I love is one of generosity. Jesus invites his followers to give up everything, but as a framework, as something to hold onto Christians use the term “tithe”. Tithing is a concept continued from Judaism (of which Christianity is a part) and it essentially means that you give away ten percent of what comes in to God. What would happen if people started giving away ten percent of their life insurance monies to just causes, to care for orphans and widows, to build wells, or to support non-profits among other things? Yes that money is intended to care for your loved ones when you’re gone, but there’s more than just financial support that needs to be thought about! When you invite your children to prioritize giving away a piece of what you have to care for others you are teaching them something that cannot be caught from you in any other way. Outside of practicing it they will never learn generosity from you unless you are generous! It just doesn’t work any other way. In inviting your family to be a part of tithing off your life insurance you are inviting them to a holistic worldview that is larger than themselves and will shape them in incredible ways (not to mention shaping yourself). Talk about caring for your family right?

For a poor kid* it makes me giddy to think about being able to intentionally give away $50,000. I mean, seriously, what poor kid gets to do that? What a gift!? What an experience?! How much fun would it be for you and your spouse or you and your whole family to sit down and dream about how, who, and where you could give money like that? What services are you passionate about? What families do you know that could be blessed by that? What causes need championing? You’ve now got resources to dream with? Your imagination can run wild all because you ponied up $25 a month for life insurance!

So this post isn’t really about life insurance as much as it is about learning to give, to leave a legacy, and seeing beauty emerge in our world in more and more ways. It’s an opportunity that I hope none of us miss out on!


* OK, poverty is so incredibly relative. Geez, I use the term very loosely here and am mostly using it for affect than anything else. I do not feel poor and have never really embraced that term because relative to the rest of the world I’m in the top couple percent I believe.

Take ’em a Meal

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, one of the most difficult things in this whole cancer journey has been learning to be a recipient of people’s generosity. It’s just hard to feel like a sucker–like someone who is just sucking the life of those around you. It’s hard to be humble enough to willingly receive a gift with a simple “thank you”. Very very difficult.

And yet it’s a beautiful journey to be invited into. It’s a journey that I think all of us need to be invited into from different avenues. What I mean is that some of us do not find the challenge in being a grateful recipient because we’ve been in that role for most of our lives and therefore play it well. Some of us need to learn a posture of thankfulness ’cause we’ve gotten used to the receiving. Others need to learn the posture of thankfully receiving because we’ve taken a posture of authority our whole lives. We’ve often even mistakenly placed ourselves as the rider on the white horse who comes to rescue those three feet below us. Some of us are just prideful. Some of us are just lazy. Some of us are both. And I’m sure there’s one or two of you who are neither.

This week, as we’ve been movin’ rooms around, we had many people offer to help. It was wonderfully overwhelming. In the end it was easier to have just one or two people come to do the work, but it was yet another example of our greater community stepping up in a time of need. Thank you.

The tension that it creates, however, is that there is a line. There is a very blurry and often wandering line that Jess and I are always trying to be aware of. The line has very little to do with you and very much to do with our own emotional and mental health. Because there are times that we might need help but we just don’t want it. We don’t want to always feel like we MUST have helped to survive. We don’t always want to feel like our home is overrun with people (a stark change from how we felt before I was sick to be perfectly honest). We don’t always want help…even when we may need it. Sometimes we just want to be a family. Sometimes we want to pretend like we’re normal, like our life isn’t overrun by the cancer narrative. Sometimes we just don’t want to receive.

And the reality, I think, is that those impulses are not bad. They’re not off. They’re not ‘wrong’ (though I hesitate to use that sticky word). It’s a valuable tension to hold, one that, again, is blurry in its definition but important in its usage. It’s very very important that we, at times, create those boundaries and allow both openness to receiving and protection from it to be a part of our story.

So to Blur the Lines a Bit…

I’m asking for a bit of help here. One of the things that has been hugely helpful has been the occasional meals that people have dropped by for our family. They’ve been a non-intrusive way for people to care for us, it provides a huge relief for us amidst the stress of life, and amidst the time crunch of doctors visits that run up until 5pm often days. Here’s what our friend Sherilee, who is graciously managing all of this, briefly said:

For those of you that know and love Ryan and Jessica Woods…here is a organized way to sign up to bring food. To give them time together and not worry about what to make for supper – a small gift that means so much.

She says “supper” because she’s Canadian–and we forgive her for that–but it is a small way that you can bless our family from near or far away (they’ve suggested that you can order food to have it delivered or creative things of that nature). It’s all online so it’s amazingly easier than ever before! Thank you so much for your participation in caring for our family during this really strange and surprising time of sickness. I hope and pray that one day we look back on this time and see how it was shaping us for a future life together. But if the story is different–if the story continues on the same path that it’s gone thus far then we are especially grateful for every moment that you help to create for us to be together as a family and for me to pursue a path of health as much as is humanly possible in this life.


Here’s the link to take a meal.

They Need Your Money and/or Your Time!

Folks these people/organizations need your time and money! Don’t miss out on the opportunity to be a part of these great things. You’ve probably seen me post about this stuff on Facebook. But just in case you haven’t let me make a quick run down on some of the great stuff going on downtown that you should be a part of this Summer.

Compassion Vancouver

Compassion Vancouver is a one day health care event that happens here in downtown Vancouver at Washington Elementary. They focus on providing free medical, dental, vision, and chiropractic medical services as well as offering a great lunch, a social service fair that will connect you up with all sorts of opportunities all across the ‘Couve, a free childcare program so that while you’re getting your teeth worked on you’ll know your kids are safe, and all sorts of other nuts and bolts they toss in as well (dog/cat care, bike repair, etc.) If you want to support CV financially I suggest you do it here: http://su.pr/7Phebv and if you want to volunteer you can do it here: http://su.pr/5mv4sQ and they need help with both!

Coop Du Jour Tour

The Coop Du Jour Tour is an awesome neighborhood event that you shouldn’t miss. It’s a time where any person in the downtown neighborhoods that has chickens can choose to open up their backyard to show off their coops and chicks. It’s more than about chickens though. It’s one of those incredibly rare moments these days where you get to meet and converse with neighbors and new friends in your backyard. These moments just don’t happen any more! So if you live downtown and have a chicken coop you should (quickly) think about putting yourself on the chicken map by contacting them via their facebook account. If you simply want to walk/bike/drive the tour on July 14th then you can pick up a map for $15 a family or $5 a person at Mint Tea, Neighbors Market, or the Vancouver Food Co-op. Oh, and all the proceeds go toward the Hough Foundation and to support our family.

Kiggins Fundraiser for Ryan Woods (foundation)

On July 17th at Vancouver’s historic Kiggins Theater there will be the second annual Ryan Woods (inspired) fundraiser. I say “annual” because it’s going to now happen every year regardless of my health, regardless of whether I beat cancer or die from it this fundraiser will continue under its own 501c3 to continue to bless the downtown community. It will happen every year and will continue our dream of a transformed downtown life that is from the ground up (people-centric). You should come not only because it’s going to be amazingly fun (they’ve got some amazing music lined up and Kiggins is an awesome venue these days) but also because there will be a killer silent auction, and it’s the beginning of something special I think that is much much bigger than me…and I really like that. Oh, they’ve also created a great raffle that has prizes such as two first class round trip tickets with Delta among other great things. You can check out the prizes here: http://su.pr/28kZSc and you can purchase tickets at Mon Ami Cafe, Yogurt Time, and Vancouver Pizza Co..

The Mighty Bowl

Finally I’ve got some good friends that have opened up the first new modern foodcart in Vancouver.* Not only is their food incredible–rice and bean bowls/wraps and fresh fruit smoothies, but they’ve done things right: they have recycling available at the cart, they use as much local food as possible (and most of it is), and they’re local to the Nth degree from the names of their drinks (named after neighborhoods) to the uniforms (local t-shirts). You can read about them from The Columbian here: http://su.pr/221T0x. The Mighty Bowl needs your support, you’ve got to go eat their food, and tell your friends about ’em. To cooperate with Vancouver’s strange rules they’ve got to be mobile and in a different spot on regular occasions–so follow them on Twitter, or keep track on Facebook, or keep up via their website. Oh, and did I mention that it’s incredibly cheap? Yeah, nothing costs more than just a few bucks–I think nothings more than $7. Incredible.


* I say “modern” and “new” because there are some foodcarts that have been around for years and years that were grandfathered into the state/city/counties new rules and regulations for foodcarts. Since those new rules and regulations have been in place absolutely no foodcarts have been able to do things correctly in order to not be shut down by the city. The MB has worked hard to do things right and to (hopefully) pave a path for a continued movement.

The Pain of Receiving

People have been incredible. People have been so incredibly generous to our family. From various doctors who have served us at a discount or even for free to local business owners that want to give us their products at discount prices. I could go on and on about how generous individuals have been but the reality is that most of those people would probably be very angry at me for doing so…which again shows how great these people are: they want to give while also remaining anonymous! People really have been incredible and they all deserve a huge and sustained ‘thank you’. This is not enough, but thank you so much all of you who have cared for our family in amazing ways. We love you all so much. But…it might be awkward to throw a ‘but’ in here…but, all your generosity is kind of driving me crazy! Wait, wait, wait, don’t judge me yet. Let me explain.

Driven Crazy

Like I said, I’ve got to be honest and say that at times people’s generosity drives me crazy. No, I haven’t become an ungrateful and jaded person. What I want to say here doesn’t fall under the whining and complaining category (at least I don’t think it should). The reason that at times I’m driven crazy by your generosity is that I’m terrified that I’m going to become that person. You know who I’m talking about–that guy who thinks he is entitled, who says ‘thank you’ only insomuch as it warrants him a second dose of generosity. You know that guy. I’m terrified that I’ll stop being grateful, that I’ll start assuming people are going to give me a discount or even something for free. I’m terrified that I’ll stop trying to pay for my half of the bill when we go out, that I’ll start assuming that you’ll buy. It freaks me out to think that this could happen…and so I want to pay! I want to buy your coffee when we go out sometimes. I don’t want you to give me a discount because I don’t want to train myself to think that you’re always going to give it.

Another reason why I’m driven crazy by your amazing generosity is that I want you to know that what you’re giving me for free or at a discount is of incredible value. What you’re giving me for free is incredibly valuable. Whether it is a shirt, a cup of coffee, or a service, what you’re offering is something that deserves to be paid for. I want you to know that I seriously value what you do/make/sell. It’s worth spending money on. It’s worth spending my money on. I appreciate that you’re being so incredibly generous, but you must know that sometimes I want to give to you too! Sometimes I want to buy your coffee ’cause I like you and want to bless you. I want to buy your soap ’cause I think you make a really great product and I want to support your business. I want to pay for your service ’cause your a great technician and I want you to know how much I value your time and what you do. You are amazing and I want to throw my money at you!*

So I’ve said it. I’ve exposed myself to the world and given everyone reason to hate me. You’ve seen my ungrateful side and you might walk away from this blog thinking that I’m not appreciative. But I hope that you don’t. I also hope that you do not walk away from this blog thinking that I don’t want your generosity. That’s not what I’m saying either (shoot, it’s because of many people’s generosity that we’re even able to make it financially). No, more than anything what this blog is attempting to capture is that virtually everything has another side to it; virtually everything has a messiness to it; virtually everything comes at a price–even if it’s a very small one. What I’m attempting to do here is to invite you into our experiences as fully as is possible. The pain of receiving may not be much but it does exist…right?…or am I off in this?

What costs have you had to pay when giving or receiving?


*  Let me say one more time that we feel incredibly indebted to you all. There is no way we can ever say thank you enough to the cloud of people who have cared for us and given to our family. We don’t ever want anyone who has cared for us to feel like we don’t value their gifts. The reality is that we are so overwhelmed by people’s incredible generosity that we often don’t know what to do. You all are beautiful and wonderful people and we wish we were better at saying thank you and showing you our gratitude. Thank you for your love, for your creativity in how to love us, for your testimony to our two children of what love looks like, and for your clear sacrifice in giving to our family. Thank you for who you are and for how you care. Thank you thank you thank you.

It’s Not About the Money

It’s not about the money–it’s about the story being told. As with everything since May of last year when I was diagnosed with a tumor in my spine it has always been about a fascinating and wild story that is unfolding from moment to moment.

Today we were overwhelmed by our neighbors again. Three Main Street staples (Vancouver Pizza Co., Compass Church, and Yogurt Time) graciously opened up their doors to gather people together and fund raise to help care for our family. I, in the meantime, hid in my home because I was not feeling good, because I was tired, and because my son was sick. Every Sunday we host the Arnada Community meal where anywhere from fifteen to forty people from the hood come over for lunch–so as the fundraiser was happening many of our community meal folk got their slice and just brought it on down. It was so good to be with them, to be with my people, and to have the freedom to do so in a less-than-healthy and functioning fashion. In the end, however, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to go down to Main street to say hello and to get a little froyo action…and, again, we were overwhelmed by the love and support of our neighbors! There’s no good words to say it but y’all are amazing.

Ok, back to what I was going to say…

Yes, we heard rumors that people gave generously and that lots of pizza and yogurt were purchased…but it’s not about the money! It can’t be. It’s not a good enough story for it to just be about that. The story has grown larger than that. Time and time again the medical bills have been paid. Somehow or another our regular bills and our medical bills get taken care of because we are a part of such a loving, compassionate, and generous community of people. So I can honestly say that I’m not worried about the money. Don’t get me wrong, the money is important and it is a great story and it is a part of the story and I should be using commas in this sentence. But my story the story that is unfolding through us in our neighborhood is larger than this! Let me see if I can explain it a bit…

The Grassroots Conspiracy movement is defined by experimentally living into a handful of rhythms that we think are transformational for the individual, the family, and the neighborhood. One of these rhythms can be summarized by saying that we try to engage within three circles of activity: inclusive community, worshipful life, and being a blessing.*

Blessing and Responsiveness

Being a blessing can be seen when we mow our neighbors yard, when we volunteer at the soup kitchen, when we scrub graffiti off the local shops walls, when we care for single moms, etc. But being a blessing is not actually about activity–it is all about responsiveness. It is about responding to those around you, which requires listening, which requires showing hospitality, which requires creating space in your life, which requires a posture of openness to others. We can fill our schedule with doing nice things, with volunteerism (which is a good thing), with activity. But this doesn’t mean that we’re truly being a blessing. Responsiveness is all about the other person whereas activity can often become about me. The opportunity to respond rarely happens when we want it to, it happens in the middle of life, in the middle of chaos. Activity happens on my own terms, within my planned schedule, and in a context that I’ve chosen. Responsiveness demands that we’re willing to stop what we’re doing to be present for someone or something else. Being responsive kind of sucks. It’s hard. It requires much.

It’s Happening

It’s my belief that we are seeing a movement of responsiveness develop in our downtown neighborhoods. It gets me excited more than you know. I think that what we witnessed today was a community of people who responded quickly, without much fan fare, without much warning, and without much pushiness to a felt need that they observed. It’s not about the money that was fund raised (though we are incredibly grateful in more ways that I can express!!), no, it’s about the developing story of responsiveness that is being told. We, and our neighbors, are learning to be a blessing to others. We are learning to respond to needs when they arise. That’s pretty frickin’ amazing, pretty frickin’ beautiful, and it makes me want to sob like a little baby. Those who follow the ways of Jesus refer to this as gospel living. Jesus referred to this kind of stuff as the kingdom of God breaking into the world. Some just say that we’re learning to be nice. Whatever verbiage you use, the idea is that these moments remind us of how we are intended to live, of who we are intended to be, of what life together is supposed to be like. We get glimpses of it in these kind of Sunday afternoon moments, but in general we live in anticipation of how things should, could, and will one day be!

I personally live in a painful tension. On one side I’m pissed that potentially I won’t be around to see this movement develop. This is what I’ve lived my life for and to think that it could emerge without me makes me incredibly jealous! I want to watch! I want to participate! I want to be a part! While on the other hand, however, I have an incredible sense of peace (and I even feel a bit bad) because while y’all are seeking to live into a reality that will never fully and completely be realized this side of eternity** I will be basking in it fully. I’ll be done waiting, I’ll be done living in anticipation, I’ll be living it up as God originally planned.***

So it’s not about the money–it’s about a new story that is being told. A story that is marked by a way of life that seeks to bless others as we live close enough with them to hear their needs and respond appropriately. It requires much and it might not last, but it’s moments like today where our imaginations no longer need to dream but where we are actually able to see and experience what life together can be like. That’s something to be excited about.


* I won’t ever try to pretend that most everything good is stolen from someone else! We’ve borrowed and adapted this from a book called Tangible Kingdom. Good stuff.

** This blog’s too long already to attempt to flesh out this idea further. The idea here is that the world is broken and messed up (hard to argue with that) but that at different moments we get glimpses of life as God intended for it to be: loving relationships, selfless sacrifice, choosing peace over violence, etc. Those things (and we could list off so many more) are not the norm but Christians believe that when God restores all things to his original purpose and intended beauty those things will become the norm. Until then we keep trying to “usher in” life as it one day will be while knowing that it won’t be a full reality until God does his ultimate restoration thing.

*** I could be way off here. I’m not going to be foolish enough to claim that I’m fully aware of what life after death is going to be like immediately. You may be more aware than I. But I do think that whatever happens post death for me it’s going to be some sort of equivalent to sipping mai tai’s by the beach with a body that doesn’t suck.