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.

A Valedictory Address

Yesterday I had the honour of giving the Valedictorian's address at my graduation ceremony for Briercrest Seminary. Still thinking back over the day, I thought I'd post my talk here. You can click below for a recording of me giving the address.

Seminary Valedictory Address, 2009

President Uglem, Chairman Werner, faculty, staff, honoured guests, family, friends, and fellow students: Today hours of reading and writing and talking and thinking about the things of God comes to its culmination in this—this day of celebrating God’s good work in our lives.

And I’m thinking about spiritual gifts.

I actually opened mine last week: It was a nice wooden cross that my family gave me for graduation, inscribed with the words: “I am the resurrection and the life."

A nice gift, very spiritual.

But I’m thinking about spiritual gifts in the biblical sense, too. Because today’s about celebration, and like every celebration, there’s going to be a lot of giving. People giving degrees. People giving recognition for achievement. People giving words of congratulation and challenge.

So maybe it’s fitting for us to pause in the midst of all this giving to reflect a moment on God’s gifts. Every good and perfect gift, after all, comes from him.

In the book of Ephesians, Saint Paul reminds us that in Christ, God has given his church all the spiritual gifts they need so that the body of Christ might be built up. “It was he,” says Paul, “Who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers.”

This verse is probably familiar to many of us.

And if you’re at all like me, you grew up with the impression that the gifts Paul’s talking about here—the spiritual gifts—are the abilities required to do the different tasks he’s listed. And if you’re like me, you’ve probably wondered at some point: “Is my spiritual gift evangelism? Or teaching? Or preaching? Or what?”

But one day I was reading Ephesians 4:11 and it hit me like a new-washed window pane on the noggin of a spring sparrow: Paul’s not talking about the skills here. He’s talking about the people. Paul says: “God gave his church apostles and prophets and evangelists and pastors.”

He gave people.

People who would go on his missions, speak his messages, join in his ministry in the world.

Not the skills or the talents or the abilities, but the people are the gifts.

Graduating class of 2009, you- we- all of us- we are spiritual gifts. And today God is giving us again to his church.

In his book, Life of the Beloved, Henri Noewen says that one of the best pictures you can ever get of the Christian life is at the Lord’s Table, at the Eucharist, the communion meal. Because just like the communion bread is the body of Christ, taken and blessed by the celebrant and then broken so it can be given to nourish all who partake, so too the Christian: in the life of faith we are the body of Christ, taken by God, and deeply blessed, then broken so we can be given to others.

Taken, blessed, broken, given.

As we reflect today on what it means to be a spiritual gift, I’d like to invite you to ponder that image with me a moment.

Because men and women of faith, we are part of the body of Christ. And only a few years ago, we were taken. Taken from thriving careers, maybe, or burdened ministries, or safe homes and families, we were taken, and brought to this prairie landscape to be shaped for Christian leadership. And here we really were blessed and broken. Blessed with loving friends and rich community, supportive mentors and faithful instructors who spoke the challenge of God’s word into our lives.

But we were broken, too. And not just those of you who slugged your way through Greek Exegesis II; we were all broken. In those times of loneliness or doubt—when that one right book, or right lecture, or right research assignment at the right time forced us to ask that one question of God we most feared to ask—when God gently embraced us, saying, “I don’t want pat answers or rote responses or easy-believism”-- we were broken.

But today we acknowledge that all this happened so that we might be given.

Remember called-out Abraham? Remember wrestling Jacob? Remember Gethsemane? And Golgatha?
The taking and blessing and breaking is always only so that God might give. And today God is gifting his church again.

He’s giving her people with hearts burning to see Jesus make hurting youth whole. He’s giving her people with ears open to help others find healing through biblical counseling. He’s giving her people with eyes open wide to see reconciliation take root where there is discord and false peace in her midst. He’s giving her people with minds keen for painstaking academic research, to challenge her to think and love more deeply.

He’s giving her men and women shaped and humbled for lives of service.

Fellow grads, family, friends, instructors, brothers and sisters in Christ: as we celebrate today, amid all the giving, may we hear God remind us that we, too, are being given. May he show us what it means to be spiritual gifts.

Amen.

1 comments:

Ashley Taylor said...

What a blessing it was to be a small part of your Seminary experience. Your new church is gaining quite a spiritual gift, more than one in fact. The entire Harris family will be a blessing soon in Oshawa.