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.

When I Grow Up

Maybe it's the two week holiday I took at the start of July, or maybe it's just the fact that this is the first time in eleven years I haven't had the whole summer vacation off, but I'm thinking a lot about work and meaning these days. As my recent vacation back "home" (i.e. out west) has reminded me, in many ways I'm still learning what it means to be a "Pastor" for a living.

It's perhaps inevitable, and not necessarily unbilical that we should draw so much self-identity from our work. In his book Ethics, Bonhoeffer points out that work (along with family, worship, and governance) is one of the four original mandates for the Adam in Paradise. The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes would probably agree; after all, he reminds us, to be happy in one's work, this too is a gift from God. And having work that humanizes us-- that puts us into honest and reciprocal relation with the people around us, that connects us to the earth that feeds us, and helps us understand ourselves in terms of a meaningful contribution to the common weal of society-- this, too, surely, is from the hand of God.

Don't believe me? Well ask a child what she wants to be when she grows up. Better than a Rorschach test, that. It is, in many ways, one of a child's first acts of self-definition, one of their first efforts to consider their own contribution to the social fabric and to understand who they are, or might be, in relation to the world outside.

For interest sake, here's how I answered it at various stages in my life (and for the record, you can click here if you want to see how life really panned out):

1. Writer (age ?5). I'm not sure how clearly defined this ambition was, but I still remember my first two works of fiction: Fuzzy the Bear (a gripping adventure story about an astronaut bear named Fuzzy and his rocket journey to the moon), and Mr. Who (a suspenseful thriller about a hooded murder named Mr. Who that I dictated to my Dad).

2. Scuba diving instructor (age ?9). My Dad did scuba diving when I was a kid, and this is back before it became a relatively straight forward recreation activity. Once in a while we'd get him to bring his scuba gear to school for show-and-tell, and maybe it was watching my class sit mesmerised as he explained things like the regulator and the weight belt that I first decided this would be an ideal career.

3. Professional wrestler (age ?11). Seriously (no: seriously). My wrestler's name was going to be something like "The Mongoose" and my finishing move involved a back flip off the top rope. Luckily as I aged, my body-mass grew considerably less than my ambition.

4. Archaeologist (age 13). The Indiana Jones movies had made "archeology" synonymous in my mind with exotic treasure hunts and adventurous quests for lost civilizations, and the Egyptology books in our school library added mysticism and esoterica to the mix, making "archaeologist" a tantalizing career choice for an imaginative 13-year-old. They told me, when I asked about it, that a real archaeologist uses a sieve and brush more than a bull-whip, but I just didn't believe them.

5. Comic book Artist (age 14). The margins of almost every notebook I had in Junior High were crammed with doodles of ninjas, knights and random superheros. I even went to a comic book fair, with a portfolio stuffed with drawings of my own superhero designs. I asked one of the famous artists there how I might go about becoming a comic book artist. His answer was blunt, a bit deflating, and, looking back, rather obvious: "First you have to learn how to draw."

6. Teacher (age 14). Wouldn't you know it: career day in grade 9, and neither comic book artist nor archaeologist was on the list of careers for us to chose from for our career-day research project, so I picked what seemed at the time the next best thing.

7. Novelist (age 22). I actually stuck with teacher, more-or-less, right through the rest of high school and into university. For a short stint between the end of my time at university before starting my first job as an English teacher, I toyed with the dream of becoming a novelist. I even tried my hand at it, and got all the way to the twenty-some-rejection-slips in the mail-box-stage before shelving it. Oh well, there's always teaching.

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