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.

A (Belated) Christmas Homily

This is a Christmas reflection I shared at our Christmas Eve communion service the other night.  I hope it's edifying and helpful today, as you clean up the wrappings and box up the left-overs of the night before.  Christmas blessings, everyone.

***

It’s actually just a quirk of history that we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25, of all the days of the year. I don’t want to sound like I’m spilling the beans about Santa Claus to a bunch of first graders or anything, but the fact is: no one knows for sure when Jesus was officially born. There are competing theories for the exact birthday, but most historians agree that December 25 is actually an unlikely candidate.

The quirk of history that made this day the big day was back in 336 AD, when a guy named Pope Julius I decreed that December 25th should be the official feast day for the birth of Christ. He wrote it with a big red sharpie marker on the church’s calendar, and it’s been there ever since. (At this point, most historians note that December 25th is close to the winter solstice (on December 21), and that back in 336 AD, the Romans already had a tradition of feasting and celebration around the winter solstice—a party in the dead of winter known as the “Saturnalia.” So it’s likely Mr. Julius I was just co-opting a pagan thing and sort of sanctifying it—redeeming it—for our Lord Jesus Christ.)

Most historians also note that they didn’t really have sharpie markers back in 336 AD.

But be that as it may, I don’t think it’s an accident that we celebrate the birth of Jesus in December, in the dead of winter, so close to the longest night—the darkest day—the coldest season—of the year. It’s a quirk of history, to be sure, but it’s no accident.

Because in some ways, “the winter” is actually a pretty good metaphor for thinking about what Jesus came into the world to save us from: winter—coldness—the cold. It’s a pretty good way of describing what the birth of Jesus was supposed to change for us. I mean: if I told you that Jesus came to warm what had grown spiritually cold in our world, you’d get it, wouldn’t you?

Because we use this language all the time. If I told you that things had “grown cold” between me and a good friend, you’d know what I meant. If someone told you that her lover—her husband—her son—was giving her the “cold shoulder,” you’d get the point. If someone told you that his family or his circle of friends had left him “out in the cold,” you’d know how isolated and betrayed he felt.

When Jesus warns us that in the last days the “increase of wickedness” will cause the love of many to “grow cold” you know he’s talking about something very serious and very dark, there. That’s “dead of winter” kind of talk.

Although, to be honest, the Bible doesn’t use “winter” language to describe this kind of thing too often—that line from Jesus I just mentioned is the only place I can think of. But that’s because just the Bible wasn’t written in Canada—where next to Hockey, waxing poetical about the cold is our national pastime.

If the Bible were written in Canada, and it wanted to talk, let’s say: about the way human sin makes a mess of relationships and alienates us from each other and makes authentic human interaction difficult and strained, it would probably point to that husband giving that wife the cold shoulder, or that kid whose family was keeping him out in the cold or that friendship that had grown cold. And it would say: sin sucks the warmth out of life like that. Worse than a winter wind on the prairies.

Or let’s say it wanted to explain how sin had made us God’s enemies and he was after reconciliation with us, it would probably say something like: our hearts had grown cold towards God.

And if it wanted to describe life without God, life turned away from God, life alienated from God. It would probably (if it were written in Canada, anyways), it would probably talk about it in terms of a spiritual winter—you know: the bitter cold on the longest night of the year, where it hurts to breathe it in and it hangs like a cloud in front of your eyes, and you just can’t feel anymore?

Or maybe it would simply remind us of how Jesus said it: in the last days, he said, the love of many to “grow cold.”

So I don’t think it’s an accident that we commemorate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ here, in the cold of winter, like this. Because, whatever else this birth is about, it is about God entering (if I can put it this way) entering the spiritual winter of our lives. To save us. From the spiritual cold-shoulders (so to speak), from being left out in the cold (if you follow me), from the bitter cold of life without God.

There’s an old, old Christmas Prophecy written half a millennium before the First Noel, where one of God’s ancient prophets says it like this: But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves.

(Of course, I can’t resist pointing out that most of us do indeed frolic like "well-fed" calves on Christmas Day.) But more to the point: this Christmas Prophecy said that when the Messiah comes, it will be like the Sunrise of Spring, after a long, cold winter. The sun will rise for us, it said: with healing in its rays and warmth for what had grown cold and life for what had gone dead.

One of the old Chrismas Carols picks up on this image. You may have sung it before. It goes: “Hail the heaven born prince of peace. Hail the Sun of Righetousness. Light and life to all he brings, risen with healing in his wings.” Does that ring any holiday bells for you?

So this is Christmas.

And this week—as we celebrate the birth of the one who entered into the spiritual winter of our lives like this, I suppose it would be altogether fitting to dwell on this question for a moment: What has grown spiritually cold in your life lately?—this Christmas season?—this year?

In your life with God, what’s cooled off? In your life with God’s people, what’s grown cold? In your relationships, in your devotional life, in your heart, in your soul, what is at risk of frost bite?

What do you need the Sun of Righteousness to warm for you?

Because it’s no accident that we’re celebrating the birth of Jesus here, in heart of winter. Because God’s promise to us is this: if we will invite him in to those places of “spiritual winter” in our lives, we will experience the life-giving warmth of the love of God; for us a Spring Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in its rays.

May God warm us like that, each one of us.

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