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.

Rest

I took the day off Tuesday: played squash with a good friend, ate a peaceful plate of pad Thai in the mall food-court, took a nap, spent some time with my wife, spent the evening blogging, with the kids building Lego at the table. It was very restful, rejuvenating, re-energizing.

But not, I think, Sabbath.

When I started pastoring, my church board very wisely asked me to set aside a day for rest in lieu of Sunday. I heard a report recently that on average pastors are spending about 55 hours a week at work, and 42% work 60 or more hours a week (LifeWay Research). And in ministry roles in the past, I've stood pretty close to the edge of that deep abyss called burn-out and looked down. The vertigo alone was enough to teach me to appreciate the wisdom of taking a day to rest.

So a day like Tuesday was wise, necessary, healthy and really, a gracious gift from God. But I hesitate to talk about it, necessary as it was, in terms of Sabbath.

I was recently at a pastor’s conference where the speaker told us, in no uncertain or gentle terms, that not to take a day off for Sabbath was to be in "dereliction of duty." And it's that sentiment-- Sabbath is a duty we daren't ignore-- that makes me hesitate to talk about my time off Tuesday as a Sabbath day.

That, and the fact that when we interpret the Biblical idea of Sabbath in terms of simply taking a day off so that we can work harder, better, stronger on the six we have left, a number of ungracious things start to happen.

First, we actually, inadvertently put the focus on the 6 days of work rather than the 1 day of rest, since implicit in the idea of "re-charging" is the idea that the charge is necessary so that we can spend it on the work alone.

Then there's the problem of picking and choosing. What is it about the Sabbath day in particular that must be carried over from the Law, when things like making a woman drink bitter water to test her marital fidelity can be discretely swept under the Tabernacle's welcome mat? And what is it about the Sabbath day that must be carried over when the actual rules about the Sabbath can be discretely ignored (e.g. we don't execute Sabbath breakers like the Law says we must); and what is it about the Sabbath Day that can be carried over when the Law's directives about Sabbath years, and the Sabbath Sabbath (i.e. the Jubilee Year) can be left discretely on the shelf of OT esoteria? (I have yet to leave a field fallow or return any property to its former owner).

And then there's the problem of missing how the Sabbath itself is actually part of the bigger "Sabbath" through which God wants to bless the creation. The Law said: Once a week take a day to rest-- to remember and actually participate in the 7-day rhythm pulsing deep down in the heart of creation, a rhythm God himself counted out when he created the world in 6 days and sabbathed on the 7th-- and this day of rest feeds in to the bigger rhythm of the Sabbath year, where the land is given rest-- and these Sabbath years fit in to the bigger rhythm of the Sabbath Sabbath-- the Year of Jubilee--when the creation itself is given rest, and people find themselves truly in harmony with its deepest rhythms, and Shalom obtains. (Read the end of Leviticus and look at how naturally and directly it connects our keeping of the Sabbath to the deep, rich, verdant flourishing of creation.)

My point here is that the Sabbath day is just one part of a bigger, gracious picture of Shalom for the whole Creation, a reality that the Old Testament is trying to speak into existence through the Law, and that the New Testament is pretty insistent has drawn near, already and not yet, in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

So to talk about my day off in terms of keeping my Sabbath-duty before God seems to trivalize the grand, gracious drama of what Sabbath was supposed to be: the metronome whereby we find ourselves keeping time with the rhythms of creation as the mysterious symphony pulses towards its climax in Christ.

So it was wise to take some time off Tuesday.

But it wasn't my Sabbath.

Or, since the Scriptures say unapologetically that this symphony's climax is played in the key of Christ, better to say: Tuesday was no more a Sabbath than Monday, when I worked on next week's sermon, had a mentorship meeting, met with one of our ministry leaders, composed some ministry emails, met with the vice-chair of our church board and finally dragged myself to bed around 11:00 at night.

Because my faith in Christ is my Sabbath rest.

Paul puts this well. In Romans 14:5, while he's talking to a group of Jewish and Gentile Christians trying to figure out how to do life together, he says: "One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike." At least, that's what the NIV says he said. But this has always left me with the impression that our two options are: to keep one day as a day of rest, or keep them all "alike" and work straight through. There I go putting the emphasis on the 6 days of work, again; and there I go missing the grander drama again.

Because it's not exactly what Paul says. Exactly, he says something like: one man "judges" [as sacred?; lit. krino] one day, the other "judges" [as sacred?; lit. krino] them all. Romans 14:5 seems to be saying: either we still keep one day as Sabbath (out of genuine appreciation for the deep-down beauty of the Law and the high-up wisdom of the God who gave it), or we keep them all as Sabbath.

Since the Shalom which the Law's Sabbath rhythms were speaking about has now drawn near to us in Jesus, since the life-in-tune-with-the-Creator-and-in-step-with-his-plan-for-his-Creation that the Sabbath rules were asking us to live is now lived through faith in Jesus, since the people that the Law was trying to create-- a people who show the world how wise and gracious their god really is-- are now being created in and through and around Jesus, since all this, the meaning of Sabbath has now spilled out into all of life.

One or all. Those are the options Paul offers us.

And because Jesus is slowly showing me that my whole life has to be covered over and caught up by his good will for his world; and because he's slowly teaching me that I can be in rhythm with his plan for the creation only when I continually keep time with him, and because I really believe him when he said things like "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath," and "man was not made for the Sabbath but the Sabbath for man," I'd gladly choose the "all" over the "one."

0 comments: