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.

Listen Local, Save the Planet?

Those of you who stop in at terra incognita on a somewhat regular basis may have noticed that September's CD of the month was this one: Wide World Crashing by tripmeter.

Never heard of tripmeter? CDBaby describes their sound as "up-tempo melodic rock with soaring vocals, rich guitars and creative rhythms. In short: well-conceived songs in captivating and clever arrangements."

Recommended, they say, if you like: Foo Fighters, Mute Math, Nine Inch Nails.

Well, I don't really know Foo Fighters, Mute Math, Nine Inch Nails (in the words of Grandpa Simpson: "I used to be with it, but now what's 'it' seems strange and scary to me... it'll happen to you...").

But I've really grown to love the energy and edginess of this album. From the tintinabular peals of "My Addiction's" opening riff, to the pedal-to-the-metal drag race of "Drive to the Sun," to the ominous-but-hopeful vision of "Somewhere" (Somewhere, you can find the heart to beat this... no one gets left behind without good reason...), there's a lot to feast on, aurally speaking.

But it's not just that.

The thing is: I know these guys. They were all students at Briercrest college during my days there. Took Greek exegesis with the drummer (the guy parsed irregular Greek verb forms with as much flare as he syncopates the down-beat). Was in a small group for a while with the lead guitarist. Even the guy on the cover-art was my next door neighbour (helped him when the waterlines of his trailer froze one 30 below morning on the prairie).

And it's this human difference that makes me love this CD. It's the same difference that makes me love home-made soup over Campbell's Chicken-by-Product Noodle: the difference between what's bagged and canned and mass-produced for anybody and nobody, and what comes to us as a gift from hands we know, have shook, have helped to jump-start their frozen car (another 30 below prairie morning with my neighbour).

It's why I love independent music. And I'm not talking about the kind of "independent" music that's really just a niche-market genre gimmick out of Nashville or L.A. or where ever it is that "indie rock" comes from. I'm talking about music that grows out of the lives and hearts and heads of the people next door, down the street, in our communities, in our neighbourhoods, in our lives.

In his book Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future, Bill McKibben develops a pretty cogent argument in favor of making economic choices that promote small, community-oriented, human-scale thinking over the more/massive/mass-market world that we've grown to expect and accept. He argues (again cogently) that the more/massive/mass-market world is pretty de-humanizing after all, and unsustainable anyways, and if we're really serious about building a durable future, we're going to have to start thinking locally.

You know: buy locally-grown food and locally-produced goods from the hands of real people that you can actually shake. McKibben doesn't stop there, though. He goes on to argue (still cogently) that part of building a durable future will include community-oriented, human-scale choices about our entertainment. If we can build community and a sense of place by supporting local entertainment (like our music, theatre, sports, and so on) we might discover a world where words like "more," "massive," and "mass-market" are no longer synonyms for "better."

And this world, he argues, is the kind of world we'll need if we want to build durable and sustainable economies in the coming years.

Well. I don't know if I'll really save the planet by listening to tripmeter, but it's nice to muse. And there's still this: whenever I hear Wide World Crashing, suddenly I'm strolling again along that back alley behind the Sparrow Gardens arena where so many Briercrest bands have had rehearsal space, savouring the muffled sound of rock-dreams thumping through the walls- and whenever I listen to my friend Dale Dirksen's These are the Days, I'm sitting with him again in his office, musing about music and minsitry and life together- and whenever I listen to that rough-around-the-edges worship CD we produced at my old church, I'm there again trading chords and words and laughs with people I love.

I'm grounded. I'm anchored. I'm home.

And the Musik Biz doesn't produce a can of alt-rock-indie-fusion-pop that you could open for this kind of aural experience.

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