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.

The Halloween Files (Part II): The Modern Living Room and the Age-Old Denial of Death

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Time was the modern-day "living room" was called the "parlour."  The word derives from the French word parler (to speak) and pointed to the fact that once upon a time this room was reserved for entertaining on only the most formal of occasions.  Here we kept the most valuable of our furnishings and the most ornate of our domestic status symbols, in a kind of sacred space within the home that was set aside for momentous events and special visitations.

Like births, and wedding receptions, and funerals.

Yes, funerals.   The word "parlour," and the memory that once we hosted funerals in the living-room, actually lives on in our modern euphemism for the local mortuary.  These days funerals happen in "funeral parlors," but time was the funeral--at least the open casket and the viewing and the reception parts of the funeral--time was this happened in our own parlors. 

The “funeral home” used to be our own home.

Because once upon a time dealing with death was an integral part of life, and by necessity we made space for it in our day-to-day.  Like Psychologist Richard Beck puts it, "We used to live with the dead.  We were born in our homes and we died in our homes.  The wake was in the home, and our dead bodies were viewed in the parlor of the home."

Of course, we don't call the parlour a parlour anymore, anymore than we use it for wakes and funerals.  Today professionals deal with death for us, in professionalized space out of sight and out of mind, and, what with all that valuable real-estate taking up space in the home, we've reclaimed the room that once served this purpose.  Today it's called "the living room" (perhaps aptly), and the memory that it was once used for dying, too, is all but gone.

This isn't the only way we deny death in our world.

We used to worship alongside the dead, for instance.  The churchyard was a cemetery, and once a week you had to walk by that sombre memento mori on your way to meet with the Lord of Life.  Time was. 

Richard Beck points out how now a-days, cemeteries are kept on the metropolitan outskirts, not at the centre of public life, and since no one wants to drive past a field full of morbid-looking tombstones, we've replaced all those solemn monuments with ground-level grave-markers so the fact that it is a cemetery can be kept strictly on a need-to-know basis.  A modern cemetery looks more like a serene city park than real graveyard.

I think there is something almost pathological in our modern world’s efforts to push death to the edges of our awareness and to professionalize and de-sacralise our encounters with it.  In general, I would argue that making peace with the reality of death is a vital step towards spiritual maturity, and that the denial of death leads to spiritual emptiness.  This is part of what Thoreau was getting at, I think, when he said that “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”  Quiet desperation hums almost audibly in the heart that refuses even to look at death.

But there’s more: because as a follower of the Risen Jesus, I believe both that death has been drained of its despair, but also that the inevitable fact of death can, and should, and does point us to our Maker and the offer of life he makes us in Jesus Christ (so death, defeated, is made to pay tribute to its Conqueror, Jesus Christ).  But in a world that refuses even to look at death, the news of its defeat will fall on deaf ears.

Which brings me at last to the point of today’s post.  Because in 22 days our culture will celebrate a community-wide ceremony that asks us all to take a good hard look at death, if only for one night of the year.  Or at least it used to ask us to.  It came knocking on your door asking for a treat, of all things.  And even today, the vestiges of that ceremony—plastic tombstones and rubber skeletons and all—are still hung up on display, a Made in China memento mori, but a memento mori nonetheless.

And it seems to me, thinking about Halloween theologically this month, and all, that there’s something going on here that the Gospel can, and should lay hold of.   Because the truth is, in Jesus Christ we need neither deny death nor to despair in it.  And as the quiet desperation of a death-denying culture is given voice, (mask-muffled voice, to be sure, but voice nonetheless) on this one "All’s Hallowed" night of the year—whatever else is going on October 31—we're being given the opportunity to remember and proclaim the sure saying that we live by:  “Death has been swallowed up in Victory.”

Thanks be to God, who gives us victory through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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