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.

Prayer for the Offering (4)

These posts of liturgical "prayers for the offering" receive more traffic-- both in online hits and in off-line comments from other pastors-- than I would have ever expected. I never would have expected, either, that I'd find it so challenging and inspiring to write them, when once a week every week I'm forced again to think through the theological significance of those little chips of metal and slips of paper (and blips of light on the bank machine screen) that carry so much power in this world.


For the record here are a few more offeratory prayers we've done at the FreeWay:

Perfectly-Wise God,

We remember how the Book you inspired tells us so bluntly:

“Keep yourselves free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God himself has said ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”

You asked us there, God, to long for your faithful presence in our lives more than any material thing this world has to offer. And you asked us to let your faithful presence in our lives teach us to be content with the stuff we already have.

God, that goes so against the grain of this world we live in, where “discontent” seems to be the only measure of things and “more” the only thing worth desiring.

So we invite your Spirit to set us free from the love of money today, and ask you to give us deep contentedness. Make us fully satisfied in the promise of your unfailing love.

Cut against the grain in us we pray, so that we might give this offering today out of that contentedness; the peace of Christ which passes all understanding.

It’s in his name and for his sake we pray. Amen.


***


God, We think about the all-wise Law that you gave your ancient people long ago.

You told us: When we’re harvesting the land and we’ve missed some of the grain in the field, just leave it there. That way the homeless, the orphan and the widow will have something to gather too...

And when we’re picking the fruit off our trees or grapes off our vine, don’t go over the branches a second time. That way there’ll be something there for the homeless, the orphan, and the widow.

And God, in that all-wise Law, you taught your people to remember: The outcast. The powerless. The downtrodden. And to remember that we were once where they are now. Or we might have been. Or we might one day be.

And you reminded us that wringing every last drop out of life—just for ourselves—squeezing every last bit out of the land—just for ourselves—grabbing and hoarding and consuming– just for ourselves. That’s just not your way.

So God, as we make this offering of money today—in this world where so few of us actually gather grain or grapes anymore—God, can you make this offering of money today a reminder of those very same things?

And then, God, can you give us the wisdom we’ll need to use this money in your mission in the world: to include the outcast, to lift up the powerless, to defend the downtrodden. And to show the world that wringing out every last drop for ourselves alone... that not the way of Jesus.

It’s in his name, and for Your glory we pray. Amen.

***


God, In this act of offering today, can you show us where our hearts are at?

Because we remember how your Son Jesus told his followers: don’t store up treasure on earth, where things rot and fail and get stolen. Instead, he said, instead store up treasure in Heaven—imperishable, unfailing, unsteal-able treasure in Heaven— “Because where your treasure is, that’s where your heart will be, too.”

That’s what he said.

So God, can you show us where our hearts are, today, by showing us what our treasure really is? Let this moment here be about more than just putting some money in the plate as it passes by; let it be about discovering where our treasure really is—what we really trust in, and what we really hope for.

And God, if we’ve stored up earthly treasure, as a substitute for heavenly treasure, O God, as hard as it might be to see, can you show us that, too? Because we want hearts fixed on heavenly treasure today: the imperishable hope, the unfailing faithfulness, the unsteal-able love that you’ve offered us in Jesus Christ. It’s in his name, and for Your glory we pray, Amen.


***


God: you taught us that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

So we pray now that you would increase our blessings: give us many opportunities to give, deepen the wisdom we show as we give, and multiply the joy we discover when we give.

Teach us to distinguish between uses of money that enrich life, and uses of money that actually kill the life in us. And save us from making these gifts today a substitute fo the gift of ourselves. Instead, may they be outward signs of our inward commitment: an act of total self giving, for Jesus' sake, in whose name we pray, Amen.*

*based loosely on a prayer found in W. B. J. Martin. Acts of Worship. Nashville: Abingdon, 1960. p. 186.

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