Three Hands Clapping

This is my latest recording project (released May 27, 2019). It is a double album of 22 songs, which very roughly track the story of my life... a sort of musical autobiography, so to speak. Click the album image to listen.

Ghost Notes

Ghost Notes
A collections of original songs I wrote in 2015, and recorded with the FreeWay Musical Collective. Click the album image to listen.

inversions

Recorded in 2014, these songs are sort of a chronicle of my journey through a pastoral burn-out last winter. They deal with themes of mental-health, spiritual burn-out and depression, but also with the inexorable presence of God in the midst of darkness. Click the album art to download.

soundings

soundings
click image to download
"soundings" is a collection of songs I recorded in September/October of 2013. Dealing with themes of hope, ache, trust and spiritual loss, the songs on this album express various facets of my journey with God.

bridges

bridges
Click to download.
"Bridges" is a collection of original songs I wrote in the summer of 2011, during a soul-searching trip I took out to Alberta; a sort of long twilight in the dark night of the soul. I share it here in hopes these musical reflections on my own spiritual journey might be an encouragement to others: the sun does rise, blood-red but beautiful.

echoes

echoes
Prayers, poems and songs (2005-2009). Click to download
"echoes" is a collection of songs I wrote during my time studying at Briercrest Seminary (2004-2009). It's called "echoes" partly because these songs are "echoes" of times spent with God from my songwriting past, but also because there are musical "echoes" of hymns, songs or poems sprinkled throughout the album. Listen closely and you'll hear them.

Accidentals

This collection of mostly blues/rock/folk inspired songs was recorded in the spring and summer of 2015. I call it "accidentals" because all of the songs on this project were tunes I have had kicking around in my notebooks for many years but had never found a "home" for on previous albums. You can click the image to download the whole album.

blogs I follow

random reads

Book Reviews

Book Reviews
The Shallows, Nicholas Carr
In this very readable, very thought provoking analysis of electronic communciations technology and its impact on our brains and culture, Nicholas Carr brings together media theory (think Marshall McLuhan), history (think Gutenberg) and neuroscience (think discoveries in brain plasticity) to show how computer technology is shaping us in ways of which we are only dimly aware. He argues that such technologies reduce our capacity for deep, creative and sustained linear thought (or at least have the potential to do so) and predispose us to the fragmented, the cursive and the superficial. Worth the read.

Exclusion and Embrace, Miroslav Volf

Ecstasy and Intimacy: When the Holy Spirit Meets the Human Spirit, Edith Humphrey
A fascinating and engaging introduction to spiritual theology-- or the theology of spirituality, as the case may be. This book is a very scholarly, devotional, christo-centric, ecumenical and trinitarian overview of what it means for Christians to live in the Spirit and with the Spirit within. Bracing and enlightening.

Leading with a Limp, Dan Allender

five smooth stones for pastoral work, Eugene Peterson

From Darkness to Light: How One Became a Christian in the Early Church, Anne Fields

Life in the Ancient Near East, Daniel C. Snell
Snell's Life in the Ancient Near East offers a social history of the ANE, tracing the earliest settlement of Mesopotamia, the development of agriculture, first cities, ancient economy and the emergence of empire. Bringing together a rich variety of data gleaned both from the archaeological record and extant historical texts, he tells the history of this cradle of civilization with a special eye for the "human" element - focusing on the forces and factors that would have directly affected the daily life of the various strata of society. Worth a read generally, but all the more for someone with a particular interest in the biblical stories that find their setting and draw their characters and themes from the same provenience.


The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene

Flame of Yahweh: Sexuality in the Old Testament, Richard Davidson
Davidson's Old Testament theology of human sexuality is stunning in its achievement, challenging in its content, and edifying in its conclusions. Davidson addresses every-- and I do mean every-- Old Testament text that deals (even obliquely) with human sexuality, and, through detailed exegesis, careful synthesis, and deep interaction with the scholarly research, develops a detailed picture of the Old Testament's vision for redeemed human sexuality. 700 pages of Biblical scholarship at its best.


Eaarth, Bill McKibben
Bill McKibben's Eaarth, is a call for us to wake up smell the ecological coffee...while we can still brew it. Unlike his previous work, or any writing on ecology I've yet read, however, Eaarth does not argue that catastrophe is pending. Instead, he argues that catastrophe has arrived, and that our all talk about "going green to avert disaster," "and "saving the planet" is woefully obsolete. In ecological terms, the planet as we once knew it is gone, he argues, and rather than trying to "avert" disaster, we need to start figuring out how to live in the disaster that's happened. Key themes he identifies as important for life on planet Eaarth resonnated with me as profoundly Christian ways of being (disaster or no). We must stop assuming that "bigger" is better; we must acknowledge limits on economic and technological growth; we must get reacquainted with the land; we need eschew self-sufficency and nurture community.

Love Wins, Rob Bell
So fast and furious has the furor over this book been, that any review will inevitably feel redundant or tardy. Given the crowd on the band wagon by now, I actually had no intention of hopping on myself, but my kids got it for me for Father's Day. About 15 pages in, I realized that I could probably finish it in on good push, so I got it over with. My thoughts: probably the most over-hyped book I ever read; I loved it and found it frustratingly under-developed at the same time; while he raises some important issues, his handling of them reads like a yoda-meets-Tom-Wright account of salvation; nothing C. S. Lewis hasn't already said more clearly and more cleverly; I'm glad he wrote it, and I'm glad the Evangelical world has errupted over it the way it has, and I hope a much more spirited and generous and optimistic understanding of soteriology and eschatology will infuse the evangelical church's mission as a result.

Rediscovering Paul, David Capes et. al.
Rediscovering Paul is a hepful overview of Paul's life, times and theology. While at times I felt it might have gone deeper, or expressed its ideas more clearly, it provides some interesting and inspiring insights into the man behind the letters. Among these is its discussion of the communal aspect of first century letter writing, and the influence of one's community on one's personal sense of identity, and how those issues might have played out in Paul's writings. Another challenging issue that it tackles is the whole process of letter writing in the Greco-Roman world, especially as regards the role a scribe often played in shaping the text, smoothing out the langugae or providing stock phrases, etc.


Lavondyss, Robert Holdstock
If you've read George MacDonald's Lilith, then think of Lavondyss as sort of a Lilith-for-Non-Christians. It's the convoluted labyrinth of a story about a young girl called Tallis and her adventures in a magical wood that brings the Jungian archetypes buried deep in our subconscious to life. Dense with questions about Jungian psychology, and the spiritually-thin-places of the world, and death and myth and magic and story, it's pretty tough slugging at times, but thought provoking and challenging. At times I felt like I was reading the Narnia book C. S. Lewis might have written if he had pursued the "stab of northerness" in directions other than the Christian Faith where he found it eternally satisfied.

Jesus and Money, Ben Witherington III
My friend John Vlainic once ranked Ben Witheringon as one of the strongest Biblical scholars in the Wesleyan tradtion working today. This thin but powerful volume is evidence to support such an accolade. I opened it expecting (judging by the cover) either a how-to book on Christian finances, or (judging by the other books I've read on Christ and Money) a hodge-podge of Bible verses taken out of context and mushed together as proof texts about the tithe. I got neither; instead, Ben Witherington walks slowly, thoughtful and exegetically through the breadth of Biblical teaching, with special sensitivity to the cultural context of the various texts, the tension between Old and New Testament teaching on the topic, and the differences between modern and ancient economies. If I were to recommend one book to develop a biblical theology of money, it would be this one.

The Gravedigger File, Os Guinness
My first taste of Os Guinness, and, if you don't mind a mangled metaphor, it went down like a bracing pint of... well... Guinness. Grave Digger file is sort of a "Screwtape Letters" project on a church-wide scale. In concept, the book is a series of "training files" for an undercover agent attempting to undermine and ultimately sabotage the Western Church, delivered from the pen of a seasoned saboteur to a young agent recently assigned to Los Angeles. In plot, the young agent ultimately defects, and delivers the "Gravedigger File" into the hands of a Christian, urging him to alert the Church to the operation. It is bursting with "things that make you go hmmm..." and deserves a second, careful read with pen in hand, ready to mine it for its scintillating and eminently quotable lines.

The Manliest Men of American Letters

I've been doing a lot of thinking these days about gender identity and the Bible. It seems to me that our culture has a pretty confused sense of what it means for men and women to be men and women, and my gut tells me that the Bible speaks to this in some way. At the same time, most of the efforts I've seen to use the Bible to define gender seem pretty content to wrench ideas out of their historical, literary and cultural context, and just use them arbitrarily to prop up unquestioned stereotypes about masculinity and femininity. Like the time I read in a magazine with a special family focus that the man must be the one to provide for his family, because of 1 Tim 5:8. Or the time I read in the literature of an Evangelical denomination that a woman's role is to provide hospitality in the home because of Heb 13:2.

Thinking about this, I got wondering: who would I include on a list of truly manly men? (And then, since the first two that jumped to mind were from American Lit, I decided to narrow the search down to that specific field.) Anyways, I present to you my list of the Top 5 Manly Men from American Literature.

1. Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird)-- for courageous commitment to justice. True courage, says Atticus, is knowing you're licked before you start, but you still start anyway. And, of course, he demonstrates this courage, and genuine manliness along with it, in the Tom Robinson case. I wept when Rev. Sykes wakes Scout so she can stand with all the rest of the gallery as Atticus leaves the courthouse after the guilty verdict.

2. Charles Ingalls (Little House on the Prairie)-- for indefatigable resourcefulness. I didn't discover the Little House series until I was a grown man reading to my children. But I'll tell you-- it seems like there was just nothing this man couldn't do. With his bare hands. No power tools. Even his determination must have had callouses on it.

3. Walt Whitman (Leaves of Grass)-- for the exuberant embracing of life. I got a battered copy of Leaves of Grass at a used book store in Massachusetts ages ago. Every now and then I sit down and read as much of it as I can handle, and I always go away with my heart beating a little bolder. "To be a sailor of the world, bound for all ports!"-- the heart cry of a genuine man who is intensely, sensually, madly in love with life.
4. Santiago (Old Man and the Sea)-- for self-sacrifice to a higher cause. My spirit kind of skipped a beat at the end when Santiago staggers up the hill with his mast across his shoulders (falling five times) and collapses in his shack after his long, lost struggle against the sea (arms straight out with the palms of his hands up). And of course, he wakes renewed, soon to face the sea again.

5. Slim (Of Mice and Men)-- for strength in serenity. There's still the moral ambiguity of his "sometimes a guy gotta" line after George killed Lennie, but anyone who can be described as having hands like a "dancing shiva" and still have such authority that not even Curly would tangle with him, counts as a man in my books.

Well, there's my list, for what it's worth.

But here's the thing: as a list describing what makes a man uniquely a man, I don't think it's worth all that much. Sure, any man who could live his life with a courageous commitment to justice, indefatigable resourcefulness, exuberant embracing of life, self-sacrifice to a higher cause and strength in serenity would be a man indeed-- but none of these characteristics are essential and exclusive to men (i.e. things that are only true of men, and without which a man would not be a man).

And "exclusive and essential" is the key when we come to the Bible asking it to define gender, too. There are lots of admirable men in there with admirable characters doing admirable things, but few if any of these traits are essential and exclusive to masculinity.

Where does this leave us? I'm not sure, but I think that rather than starting with culture-coded stereotypes, any theology of gender must take as its starting place the human response to the divine address. A biblical man, then, is a man who hears God address him in Christ, affirming him as a man--and who responds as a man-- "here I am." And a biblical woman, then, is a woman who hears God address her in Christ, affirming her as a woman -- and who responds as a woman-- "here I am."

0 comments: