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.

In the Temple


After Jesus rode into town like Zechariah's promised Messiah and Temple-reformer, he went up to the Temple Mount and pronounced God's judgement on the "House of Brigands" it had become.

For the Start of Holy Week

John 12:12-19: When Love Comes to Town


"Give Them Jesus"

I'm thinking about the impossible task of preaching again. I "happened" to read these words about the "holy task of preaching" on this blog when I was just starting out my new life as a preacher. God's brought them mind a number of times over the last few months:

But this is the gift which Christ gives to us preachers. It isn’t ours to control. That is a gift. It’s His Word, His preaching. Only He can accomplish what he will with His own Word. I know this is hard to remember, especially when you are under pressure to “preach” people to give more, come to church more, be more involved, or whatever the pet Law of the congregation is at that time. Your holy task is to give them Jesus and forgive their sins. It’s that simple.

"Give them Jesus."

I pray it really is that simple.

Because the temptations to do Law, to moralize, to entertain, to seek false-relevance, to do self-help, or to climb up on a soap-box behind the pulpit is always there, reading over my shoulder when I'm writing, like some bustling Martha with her many distractions. And yet, as Mary discovered, it's only in sitting and resting at Jesus' feet--listening, learning, being there-- that we find the one thing needful.

May God give his church many "Mary" sermons; may he fill his pulpits with preaching that leads people to the feet of Jesus and invites them to discover there the one thing needful.

CGI Magic

This Christmas we got my son some new video editting software, and lately he's been experiementing with its green-screen technology. Here's a short movie he made in the Indian Jones tradition that's pretty impressive. Little would you know that this "Temple of Doom" was actually just a green bedsheet taped up on our basement wall. One day I want to blog about whether or not CGI has helped or hindered the art of movie-making (Lord of the Rings: helped; Star Wars I-III: hindered woe-fully), but for now, just enjoy:

A Prayer for the Offering (2)

A couple of months ago I signed up for Google Analytics, the popular internet service that tracks your website usage. The other day I was looking at my "stats,"and I noticed that recently many of the first-time visitors stumbling across my blog found their way here after doing a Google search for "a prayer for the offering."

This surprised me somewhat.

Could it be that there's such a paucity of offeratory prayers out there that Google would direct people to my humble corner of the internet when they're looking for words to say when people put God's money in a basket on Sunday morning?

Curious, I googled "prayer for the offering" myself, and sure enough, terra incognita came up number eight. So, in the interest of filling a liturgical hole in the world-wide inter-web, I've collected this mini anthology of some of my more thoughtful offeratory prayers. If you're here today because you asked Google for "a prayer for the offering," here are some of the prayers we've prayed at the Freeway over the last couple of months:

God,
In your book, the Apostle Paul told us:
here’s what I want you to do, God helping you:
Take your everyday, ordinary life—
your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—
and place it before God as an offering.
Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.


That’s what we want to do today as we give: place our everyday lives before you as an offering you’ll be happy with. Can you help us do that? And can you make these gifts of money here be a sign of that desire in us?

In Jesus name and for his sake we pray.Amen.


God,
You are the Giver of every good and perfect gift:
You gave us your Son Jesus, to find us when we were lost.
You gave us your Spirit, to fill us when we were empty.
You gave us all sorts of spiritual gifts to heal and strengthen and build up what was fallen and weak and broken.


And you gave us the very money that we're now offering back to you.
So as we give now, will you remind us once more that every good and perfect gift comes from you? And will you give once more? Out of the infinite riches of your love for us, will you give us the imagination and skill we’ll need to use this money for your plan in the world. May it be used to bring fellowship where there is enmity, and peace where there is fear, and hope where there is despair.


We pray this for glory of Jesus Christ our Lord.Amen.


God,
We live in a world that continually weighs and measures things by asking "how much." How much did you... earn? win? accomplish? How much did you give?


But your Son Jesus stood by the offering plate in Your house a long time ago, watching as the rich came and gave out of their great abundance.

How much did they give? Well, your book didn't write down the sum,

But then a poor widow came and only gave two pennies. Humble and devoted and trusting, she gave all she had. And Jesus pointed to her and said: "She gave more than all the others combined."
Your book wrote down the two pennies.


And their Your Son taught us that you don't ask "How Much." You weigh and measure things by asking "how." How did you earn? How did you accomplish. How did you give?
God, can you make us like that widow today? As we offer back to you only what you;ve already given to us, can you make us humble, devoted, and trusting? So that our gifts-- whatever the sum-- would be pleasing in your sight?

In Jesus name we pray.Amen.


God,
As we put money in the offering plate today,
Show us how the spiritual and the material,
worship and work,
How in some mysterious way they’re coming together here.

Remind us today as we give,
that you invite us to love you,
mind, heart, soul and strength,
with our hands as well as our hearts,
our substance as well as our spirits.


And then give us eyes to see those places where we earned this money—on the jobsite, in the classroom, at the office, the storefront, the boardroom, the market, the home—wherever it was—to see them as sacred places where your grace is at work, and your Spirit is present, and your love has staked its claimed.

In Jesus name we pray,Amen.


God,
Your Son Jesus taught us that we can’t serve two masters.
We remember how he said it: you can’t serve God and money, because either you’ll love one and hate the other; or you’ll be devoted to one and despise the other.

God, if we’ve been trying to serve two masters like that—you and money—will you show us that today?

Will you show us? So that in your great love for us you can redeem us from that half-hearted, double-minded, willy-nilly kinda of life with you, and lead us into the life that is life indeed: a life of rich, deep, full fellowship with you?


We ask this because we’re about to give an offering of money today, and we don’t want it to be about going through the motions, dropping a few pennies in the jar, patting ourselves on the back for what we did or didn’t give. We want to be serving the right master.

Can you make our offering today an act of whole-hearted devotion to you, an act of cheerful, eager partnership with you and what you’re up to in the world?

In Christ’s name and for his sake we ask it.Amen.

I Bind Unto Myself Today

I blogged this time last year about my affinity for St. Patrick, so I won't belabour any points here, except to wish you all a happy St. Patrick's day, and to mention a second time the "Breastplate of St. Patrick." It's a Latin prayer attributed to St. Patrick that I've found very meaningful over the years.

About seven years ago I set the words to music. This recording is about as old, but it's a "live" recording of me and a couple of my friends from my old church back in Two Hills Alberta doing the song.

The Breastplate of St. Patrick

Lyrics for the Lenten Journey

When I was all messed up
And I heard opera in my head
Your love was a lightbulb
Hanging over my bed
O come on, baby, baby, baby
Light my way

(U2, Ultraviolet Baby)

Not much to blog about these days, but this line from one of my favorite U2 songs is on my mind tonight.

A Third Psalm for Lent

Psalm 29: The Storm-Chasers