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.

Another Sermon from the Book of Acts

Acts 27:27-44.  Found at Sea

Happy Trails

Things will be quiet here at terra incognita for the next number of weeks.  The family's hitting the road for a summer road trip, and I'll be offline until sometime mid-August.  I hope to be back at the blogging wheel again before summer's out, but in the meantime, happy trails and happy summer.

40 (more) Foci for Preaching

Around this time last year I was reflecting on my preaching ministry at the FreeWay and posted this list of the focus statements of my first forty sermons at the FreeWay.  The "homiletical focus," as I said back then, is a concise statement that distills the point of the text and anchors the theme of the sermon in a single compelling, (hopefully) vivid sentence.  I'm at-or-around sermon #80 now, and feeling a little retrospetive, so I compiled this list of the focus statements of my last forty sermons at the FreeWay.

1. Romans 8:22-27: God’s Spirit labours in our weakest prayers

2. 1 Peter 2:4-10: God’s building a living cathedral made out of transformed people.

3. John 8:12-20: As God is my witness, I light the way.

4. John 6:34-51: I’m the food that will feed you forever.

5. John 10:1-10: I’m your doorway to God; and I’m God’s doorway to you.

6. John 10:11-21: I’m the God who gives his own life to give life to his own.

7. John 11:17-27: I’m the next life, happening now.

8. John 15:1-11: I’m the tree, you’re the branches, God’s the gardener, love’s the fruit.

9. John 8:49-59: Jesus is the I AM God.

10. Romans 1:14-17: The Gospel is the power of God at work.

11. Colossians 4:2-6: Pray and prepare for God to open a word door.

12. Acts 16:11-15: The Gospel stands at the crossroads with God.

13. Acts 17:22-32. I know the name of your unknown God.

14. Hebrews 10:15-18. Our God has remembered to forget.

15. Isaiah 11:1-10: The perfect son of Jesse brings us perfect knowledge of God.

16. Isaiah 9:1-7: God meets our greatest expectations through the great humility of a child.

17. Isaiah 2:1-5: The peace of God will reign in the end.

18. Luke 2:10-14: Don’t be afraid.

19. John 1:14: The glorious word of God has taken on our fragile flesh.

20. Matthew 2:1-12: Who has seen the child who upsets the status quo?

21. Matthew 4:1-11: So Jesus: what kind of Messiah are you, anyways?

22. Ecclesiastes 1:1-10: Nothing’s worth the effort in a world where nothing’s ever new.

23. Ecclesiastes 2:1-11: Filling up on pleasure only leaves you empty in the end.

24. Luke 8:26-39: The cure is sitting at Jesus’ feet.

25. Ecclesiastes 2:17-26: God can redeem the rat race.

26. Ecclesiastes 3:1-14: Everlasting God gives a season for everything and everything for a season.

27. Romans 6:1-11: Baptism shows the world I’m dead to sin and alive to God.

28. Ecclesiastes 4:1-3: I’d rather not live, in a world with no one to comfort the exploited.

29. Ecclesiastes 4:7-12: Togetherness is God’s best for us.

30. Matthew 21:12-17: The vulnerable see in Jesus what the self-sufficient never can.

31. 1 John 4:1-4: Love is a sacred choice.

32. John 19:31-37: Tonight your perfect Passover lamb is slain; his blood is on the doorpost of the world.

33. John 20:11-18: Let go of what was crucified; step into new creation.

34. John 20:19-23: Receive the Holy Spirit and let God unlock the door.

35. Proverbs 31:10-31: The King’s ideal Bride is the picture of perfect wisdom.

36. Philippians 4:9-11: Practice all the time for God’s peace (in your marriage).

37. Nehemiah 1:1-11: When the walls are broken down, that’s our call to fast and pray.

38. Matthew 28:16-20: I’m heaven’s authority on earth now—now go be my disciple-making disciples.

39. Acts 2:42-47: The Spirit-filled community overflows with life for the world.

40. Acts 20:7-12: Hey Eutychus: Wake up! Get up! And come to the table.

A Dominion Day Reflection

Yesterday I bought my first ever package of fireworks. We’re going to a Canada Day barbecue today, and the last thing you want to do is show up empty handed at a Canada Day barbecue. So there I was, standing in line at Walmart with my variety pack of Roman Candles under my arm, and thinking about how it wasn’t always called “Canada Day.”

I’m just old enough to remember this, but the name of our national 1st-of-July celebration actually used to be Dominion Day.  And that's because for more than a hundred years, from the first ever July 1st bash back in 1879, up until it was officially changed to “Canada Day” in 1983, the name of our nation-wide-birthday party was “Dominion Day”

Because up until about 1951, Canada’s official name used to be “the Dominion of Canada.” Because "dominion" means a place where a king rules, and Canada, of course, was established as a constitutional monarchy under the crown of Britain.

In fact, being a constitutional monarchy, the founders of Canada actually toyed with the idea of calling us “the Kingdom of Canada,” but they felt the phrase would be too provocative to our anti-monarchical neighbours to the south, so they settled for “Dominion of Canada" instead. No need ruffling Eagle feathers when you don’t have to. Hence "Dominion Day."

But there's more to it than that.  The story goes that the name “Dominion of Canada” was suggested by a certain Sir Lenorad Tilley, who took the idea from Psalm 72:8.

In the KJV translation, Psalm 72 says: “Give the king thy judgements, O God... He shall judge thy people with righteousness and the poor with judgment. He shall judge the poor of the people. He shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor. In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace shall endure so long as the moon endureth. He shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.”

Sir Leonard Tilley, we're told, saw that bit there about God’s king having dominion from sea to sea, and he was inspired with this glorious vision of a God-fearing nation having dominion from sea to sea to sea... from Cape Spear, Newfoundland to Tofino British Columbia... and history was born.  To this day, the Latin motto of Canada is  "A Mari Usque Ad Mar." From Sea to Sea.

So I was thinking about all of this, after I got my package of Roman Candles safely home and all. I was thinking about how a lot has changed in Canada since the days of Sir Leonard Tilley, back when the vision of a Christian nation would have seemed pretty plausible; and I was thinking about Psalm 72, and its glorious vision of a God-fearing people whose God-fearing king has dominion from sea to sea and how it’s hard, sometimes, it’s hard to even imagine what that would look like now a days.

I mean, sure, back in 800 BC when this Psalm was written, back when “theocracy” was the only system of government the social studies text books ever mentioned, back then you could maybe imagine it, but 2800 years later, in 2011?

What are we supposed to do with this vision of a “Dominion of God” in Canada today?

Because this is actually, the big question for us as Christians in public life: how are we realizing Psalm 72’s vision of a “Dominion of God” in Canada today? Not just because today is Canada Day (formerly known as Dominion Day), but because the truth is: God demonstrates his dominion through the loving work of his people.

In the loving work of his people. That’s where you glimpse the Dominion of God today. And suddenly Psalm 72 is echoing like a trumpet call across 3 millennia, summoning us to loving action in our world.

Because, what does Psalm 72 say things will look like when God’s King has dominion?

The poor receive justice.

The children of the needy are helped.

The oppressor is disarmed, and political, social, and economic systems of oppression are dismantled.

Peace reigns... in abundance.. as long as the moon endures.

I mean: what is this other than the work of God’s people? This is stuff followers of Jesus are supposed to be about in the world. It’s salt-of-the-earth kind of stuff. Light-of-the-world kind of stuff. City-set-on-a-hill kind of stuff.

And whenever Christians are involved in this kind of work in public life— in our nations or in our neighbourhoods—as we strive to bring justice to the exploited, and a voice to the vulnerable, and freedom to the oppressed, and peace to the troubled—as we answer the call of Psalm 72 on our lives, we’ll discover, I think, that it’s true: God demonstrates his Dominion, through the loving work of his people.