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 Weight of Choice

I heard Erwin McManus say once that the most spiritual thing we can do is to choose. I've been thinking about this these days: could choice be the most spiritual thing?

Maybe.

Or at least, it shouldn't surprise us if it were. Anyways, our culture seems to think there's something deeply important about choice. From the moment we're old enough to watch a commercial, we're told that when we have choice, we have power. Choice is freedom. Choice is the potential to define our selves.

And you can tell a lot about a person from the things they choose.

The Bible knows about the spirituality of choice, I think; and I think that's why it points out over and over again that God is a choosing God.

Because you can tell a lot about him from the things he chooses.

So4000 years ago or so, two twin babies were born to a guy named Isaac. And God chose the younger over the older, even though he was the youngest; even though he was second place, second choice. And when God’s people where in slavery in Egypt, and God wanted to bring them into freedom, he chose an exiled shepherd to call them out, even though Moses admitted he was a man of faltering lips. And when God’s people asked for a King, God chose David, even though David was the eighth son of his father, younger, weaker, less significant than all his brothers.

And when he brought Salvation to the world, he choose the things that we would have long since passed over: the lowly, the humble, the outcast.

He chose a humble Hebrew virgin who had nothing to offer but simple acceptance of her place in God’s plan, and an incredible story about a Divine Conception. And he chose a poor Hebrew carpenter who had nothing to offer but a handful of nightmares telling him to get up and do inexplicable things like marry an unwed mother and flee to Egypt for no apparent reason.

And he chose a baby—a shivering baby born into the darkness and stink of a lonely sheep pen— He chose a 1st Century homeless rabbi with a rag-tag band of followers: reformed prostitutes and delivered demoniacs and redirected zealots and failed fishermen— He chose a crucified Jew executed by the state as political revolutionary—

He chose this as his way of making peace between himself and his sin-blinded world.

If it's true that you can tell a lot about a person based on the things they choose, then what does it tell us about God that in Jesus Christ, he chose the things that the world rejects, that the powerful look down on, and the wise despise?

Because in Jesus Christ, he chose us, too. Ordinary, outsider, outcast, lowly, least, poor, insignificant, broken, failed, reformed, rag-tag though we were, he said: in Jesus Christ, I choose you.

And in Jesus Christ, he frees us to choose back.

He invites us to respond with the likes of Mary, who heard the Spirit choose her and answered: "I am the Lord’s servant—I am the servant of a God who chooses the humble—let it be to me according to your word.” And as we choose back like this, in response to his First Choice--we find ourselves following this Little Lord Jesus into a world where—like Gabriel promised Mary—nothing is impossible with God.

3 comments:

Jon Coutts said...

I'm not sure we should say the most spiritual thing we can do is choose. That doesn't sit well at all. The rest of your post sits fine, but not that part, which I gather you weren't sure of either.

Let me try to articulate it:

If it is all about God's choice, could it be revoked? Is it a choice true to His character, or is it capricious? Is it a choice we can know as good, and eternal, and grounded in the heart of God?

And if the most spiritual thing we can do is choose back, isn't that saying more about the power of our faith-ing than we want to say? It almost sounds like what Christianity so often gets accused of: That Jesus died but then was resurrected, not actually, but in the hearts of believers who, with Paul as their frontrunner, raised him in their hearts through faith. That faith could be said to be connected to Jesus, but it really comes down to it being a human faith of human choosing: All the transformative power is on the human side.

I don't think your post falls into those traps, but with the Erwin McManus bit of overplay I think these issues are residual.

I don't know if that made sense.

Dale Harris said...

Thanks for this feedback Jon-- I appreciate your comments/cautions/critique. (And to be honest, I wasn't all that sure of this one when I posted it.)

I wonder, though, if you aren't reading both too much, and too little into what I've said.

Too little, in that you seem to be taking "choice" in the most limited, evangelical, Billy Graham, "make your choice for Jesus" sense of the word, which is not what I meant, nor, as I recall is it what McManus meant, either. I intended it to describe more broadly the life-lived-in-response-to-God's-grace-- the life lived "in step with the Spirit"--the life of entering by the narrow door and walking the narrow path.

This is, I think, a deeply spiritual way to be, and unless were fatalists, pantheists or hyper-Calvinists,this way of being does involve the choices we make (daily, mudanely, hourly), to step with the Spirit or not, to respond to his freeing grace or not, to walk one more time through one more narrow door or not. If this way of being involves us at all, it must involve our choices.

But I also think you've maybe read too much into what I'm saying, because (although the tag list includes "election"), in talking about God as a choosing God I am not trying to describe a systematic vision of predestination/reprobation (I am, after all, Methodist :). I meant it more simply to observe that God does choose-- the Bible's pretty clear on that-- and as a choosing God, he chose the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus as his means to save the world-- and when God chose to save the world like this, of all ways, he showed us something about his heart-- to make foolish the wisdom of the wise, to exalt the humble, and scandalize the powers and principalities of this world.

And maybe at the back of my mind I was thinking of Hans Boersma, who talks about election as a demonstrration of God's hospitality to the outsider, the powerless and the excluded.

And I guess I brought these two things together (a life of choosing predicated on God's choosing) because as I've glimpsed God's heart like this, and glimpse it more and more deeply (i.e. When I consider that he chose the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus as his means to save the world, and the weight of that choice bears down on me), it inspires in me (maybe old fashioned theology would say frees my will, not sure?), it inspires in me faithful, and more faithful choices to walk in step with his spirit.

Does that help? Or did I spring the trap? :)

Jon Coutts said...

No I don't disagree with the moves you are making there, nor did I find your post uninspiring or lacking in value. I just recoiled at the McManus line, and still do, although your way of putting it I have no problem with.

"The most spiritual thing we can do"

I think that's the problem. Says too much. No?