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.

Top Headlines of (my) Evangelical 2010

The parenthetical "my" in the above title is my acknowledgement that I am neither knowledgeable nor impartial enough to offer a list like this with any objectivity. That said, I've put together this survey of news items from 2010 that stood out to me as notable landmarks on the evangelical landscape. I post it here IMHO, and welcome any nominations for additions to the list:

January 12:, 2010 Pat Robertson waxes inflammatory on Haitian disaster.

Not that I think his (at best) poorly timed comments and (at worst) cruel drivel about Haiti's alleged "pact with the devil" was even worthy of the attention it got, but it made me sad on a number of fronts: sad that for some, Pat Robertson's comments will just reinforce the tainted view of Christianity they already have; sad that a camera and the celebrity it creates has made a man like this some sort of spokesperson for a certain kind of Christianity (and that this "kind of Christianity" is so often held up as normative by the secular media); and sad, too, that mere "outrage" has somehow become a legitimate and sufficient moral response to ideas we dislike.

April 27, 2010: N. T. Wright announces his retirement as Bishop of Durham and his appointment as Research Professor at St. Andrews University.

This barely made a ripple in the headlines, I admit, but the fact that one of my favorite biblical scholars has taken a teaching post at St. Andrews was news to me, inasmuch as it gave me hope that the eagerly anticipated fourth volume of his Christian Origins and the Question of God series may be along sooner rather than later.

June 30, 2010: Anti-theist Christopher Hitchens diagnosed with cancer.

One of the world's best-known and more vitriolic opponents of religion announced this summer that he's been diagnosed with cancer. While some people (people of Pat Robertson's stripe, perhaps) have taken this opportunity to use vindictive phrases like "what he had coming," and "cosmic justice," others have taken the opportunity to practice pious prayer for the enemy, which, depending on the motive and content of the prayers, may be just as opportunistic.

July 13, 2010: The Canadian Government scraps the mandatory long-form census.

While this made more than a ripple in the secular media, I only noticed it because it hit the fan the week my family was away in Alberta and I was home alone, so I was listening to the CBC more than usual. At the time I didn't give it much thought. The portent of the decision didn't sink in until months later, when I was sitting in a room full of pastors, and a representative from the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada explained to us how we might use statistical data to help us in ministry, and I finally realized how useful a tool we'd lost.

July 31: Author Ann Rice "quits Christianity."

When Ann Rice first became a Christian, it turned heads especially because she was the famous writer of novels that could morph into multi-million dollar Hollywood productions staring the likes of Tom Cruise. Now that she's "left" the church (in her words: "In the name of Christ, I quit being a Christian") this is "news" only for the same reason; the story mattered to me primarily because it seems to illustrate James' wisdom in warning us against giving preferential treatment to the rich and famous (James 2:1-5).

August 15, 2010: Theologian Clark Pinnock dies at age 73.

I've read very little of this somewhat controversial theologian, but parts of his Flame of Love and parts of his Wideness in God's Mercy were helpful to me. I'll refer you to David Guretzki's tribute to him over at Theommentary, and commend him here to the mystery of the divine grace he worked his lifetime to describe.

August 24, 2010: Donald Bloesch dies at age 82.

It struck me as notable that two theological servants of the church-- in many ways so different in their theological bent-- should both pass away within 10 days of each other. I read swaths of Bloesch's work in Seminary, and found him to be thorough and challenging. When I heard about his death, I thought of a line in Barth (a theologian for whom he had a special affinity). I remember it imperfectly, but he wondered out loud once if God didn't laugh to see him pushing around his wheelbarrow full of books. I commend Bloesch, and his own wheelbarrow full of books, to the mystery of God's grace.


September 7, 2010: Florida's Terry Jones threatens to burn thousands of copies of the Koran on September 11.


Not that I believe a guy like this deserves anywhere near the amount of the attention he got, but it illustrated a number of things for me: a) the media's tendency to pour gasoline on a fire so they can write with incredulity about the religious flames; b) again how we've come to value "outrage" as some sort of "moral" response to things we think are wrong; and c) how tribal the notion of god has become in a world of tolerance and wars on terror.

October 1, 2010: Rick Warren speaks at John Piper's national "Desiring God Conference."

Purpose-driven Pragmatism meets Hedonistic Calvinism? This one raised my eyebrow. After all, when one of the most vociferous doctrinal watchdogs of American Evangelicalism invites one of the most effective pragmatists of American Evangliscalism to the party, eyebrows are going to raise. And they did: 40,000 blog-posts worth of indignant eyebrows, apparently; some even invoked 2 Timothy 4:3 and warnings about latter-days apostasy. For my part, I was left musing about how, in the absence of a clear ecclesiology, Evangelicalism in this part of the world looks and feels like a doctrinal clique.

December 13, 2010: Barna survey finds North American church to be theologically illiterate.

For the record, I saw methodological problems with Barna's survey so huge that it was hard to take their conclusions seriously, but at the very least this headline shored up my resolve to preach on the Incarnation the first Sunday after Christmas.

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