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.

The Wisdom of Qohelet (IV)

Working on the book of Ecclesiastes for the last six weeks or so, it's struck me over and over again how poignantly, vividly and compellingly this 3000 year old book speaks to our world: living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword.

Here's the fourth sermon in our series:

Ecclesiastes 3:1-14. The Time(s) of Your Life


Prayer for the Offering (8)

I haven't posted any prayers for the offering for a few months now, but I know that people check in once in a while on these, and find them helpful, so I thought I'd add some to the archive today. Lately at the FreeWay we've been working through the Book of Ecclesiastes, so many of our offeratory prayers have been written in response to the incisive and rather pointed things The Teacher has had to say about money in this very wise book.


God, the ancient Teacher you inspired once
looked at the way things are with people and money,
and he said: “All our toil in life is for the sake of our mouths,
and yet our appetites are never satisfied.”

And we know Lord, that you meant:
If you’re trying to satisfy your longing for life with things like money, stuff, property wealth— you’re sure to come up empty.

God, we want our lives, as your people, to be about so much more than that—
we want our lives to count for you. So can you set us free, today from working just for the sake of our own mouths—our appetites—desires—wants— and set us instead on the path of working for you in the world.

Make us your servants today, Lord, because we know you’re the only task-master worth serving.

And then, God, can you make this offering here
just one small sign of that life-altering work your doing here in our midst. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.

***
God, you give us all work to do:

From the jobsite to the household
From the classroom to the boardroom
At the office desk, the computer terminal, the workbench,
the countertop, the restaurant, the home, the shop—
Where ever it was that we earned the money
we’re about to give today,
you were with us there.

Even the Adam in perfect paradise had work to do—
he was made to till the ground and take care of it.
And so we acknowledge, God that you’ve given us all our work
And you give us daily, the heart, strength, skill and wisdom to do it.

Thank you for these gifts to us.

As we rest from work today, may this offering of money
Be our way of admitting that all we have and all we do
Is really a gift from you.

And with this offering, God , please receive our prayer
For the wisdom, grace, mercy and faith
To be instruments of your peace
in whatever job you’ve given us to do.

We’re going to need this if we’re going to be
fully-devoted followers of Jesus in this world,
Because it’s in his name and for his sake we pray,
Amen.

***

Father in heaven,

Thousands of years ago, one of the wise teachers you inspired looked at the global economy—though it wasn’t called that then—but he looked at it and called the whole project “a chasing after the wind.”

He said things like, “whoever loves money never has money enough and whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.” He said things like, “The sleep of a poor labourer is sweet, but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep.” He said things like, “I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth is hoarded, to the harm of its owner, or lost through some misfortune.”

“This, too, is vanity.”

God, thousands of years later we still stand under those all-wise words. And if we’ve been losing sleep over our money, or hoarding money to our own harm, or never satisfied with our income, Lord, I invite your gracious, loving Spirit to convict us of that vanity today.

Set us free from chasing after the wind, and set us, instead, to chasing after the Way of Jesus. With all our heart, soul, mind and strength may we live as his servant-followers and sibling-friends.

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

The Wisdom of Qohelet (III)

Contrary to appearances, I have not fallen into a space time vortex, or been abducted by aliens, or called out on assignment with the British Secret Service. My recent slackness in blogging is due to a much more mundane cause: a sinus infection has been having its way with me, leaving me with little energy for the simple pleasures of life, like musing about love, faith, words and spirituality. I intend to be back at my posting post in the coming days, but in the mean time, let me offer here Sunday's sermon, the third installment in my series on the Book of Ecclesiastes.

Ecclesiastes 2:17-26: Running in the Rat Race

The Wisdom of Qohelet (II)

Ecclesiastes 2:1-11: The Pursuit of Happiness?

every day (a poem)

and is this my work to love:
that every day I hear the call
to make of the ineffable
the everyday,
and speak the everyday, ineffable,
and every day to fall, and move,
and lift my eyes to the silent blue
above
and get to laugh for trying?