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.

4 ways a Middle Earth Worldview is more Biblical

... than our own.  What with The Hobbit's release piquing fresh interest in all things Tolkien at our house, prompting a family movie marathon through the Lord of the Rings and inspiring my daughter to muscle her way through all three books in about two weeks, I've got Middle Earth on the brain these days.

One of the things that struck me forcibly this time through the series, and especially as I unpacked them with our kids, is how different the worldview of the book is from our own.  "Worldview" is a way of describing the psychological underpinnings, the cultural values, the epistemological framework, and the philosophical assumptions that unconsciously guide the way we interact with the world.

The worldview of our modern, western world, for instance, tends to seek instant gratification, places a premium on the image, takes a mechanistic approach to nature, has an evolutionary outlook on life and society, values self-expression and individuality, gives epistemological authority to screens, numbers, results and speed, sees the self as ultimate and the latest as best.

Realizing that each one of the above statements is loaded far beyond the ability of a mere blogpost to unpack, let me just suggest that these things-- instant gratification, the image as prime, nature as machine, the individual as ultimate-- these things are different from a biblical worldview.  When the writers of the Bible looked at the world, they felt different things were of utmost importance.  They made different assumptions about how things worked and what you could reasonable expect out of life. They drew meaning from different source.  They concluded things were "true" based on different criteria.

And then, as an experiment in "worldview studies," let me point out some ways the worldview of the inhabitants of Middle Earth is also very different from our own, but curiously (even unexpectedly) very much like the Bible's.

1.  Older is better.  When Tolkien points out that something is old, it's usually said with reverence, awe, humility and deference; indeed, some of his most poetical passages are devoted simply to describing the age of something.  This is because in a Middle Earth worldview, older is proven; older is wiser; older is tested; older is true.  Our world tends to see the newest and youngest as best-- fresher, original, more innovative--but this is neither a universal nor especially a biblical assumption.  Generally speaking the Bible's worldview, like Tolkien, sees age as venerable (It's not for nothing He's called the Ancient of Days).

2.  Nature is deeply alive.  One of the brilliant aspects of Tolkien's book, I think, is the way he spiritualizes nature without deifying it.  He draws out the deep-down "aliveness" of the natural world without slipping into the ditch of paganism.  In our worldview, we tend to view nature as a dead, cause-and-effect machine that is ours to tinker with (witness the latest talk about "bioengineering" or "geoengineering").  Not so in Middle Earth, where trees, rocks, rivers and creatures alike are vibrant with a life that give them intrinsic worth.  Though it's sometimes overlooked, this too is a biblical worldview.  When Isaiah talks about the trees of the hills clapping their hands and the mountains breaking forth into song, it's a metaphor, but it's no mere metaphor.

3.  Song and Story are authoritative.  No war council in the modern world would have begun by recounting in full detail the story of the enemy's chief weapon, reviewing all the twists of fate and turns of history that brought the allies to the point they find themselves at.  But that is precisely where Elrond starts with the war council of Rivendell, on the assumption that the decisions of the council depend precisely upon their hearing this story.  It always struck me that in the book, great emphasis is placed on Aragorn's ability to recite the legends, songs, lore and stories of Middle Earth, as though his claim to the throne rested as much on this as it did on his skills with a sword.  That none of Aragorn's songs make it into the modern film adaptation of the book is evidence itself that our world draws "epistemological authority" from other sources.

4.  Fellowship, Community and Fealty are profoundly humanizing.  When Merry is sworn in as a guard of Gondor, Denethor promises to reward his "fealty with honour."  When Theoden musters his cavalry for their glorious charge onto the plains of Minas Tirith, he calls on the men to fulfill "oaths they have taken." In his final rousing speech at the Black Gates of Mordor, Aragorn assures his men that "a day may come when we forsake all bounds of fellowship, but it is not this day."  In a world like ours, that so highly values individuality, these appeals to higher commitments that draw us up and out of ourselves may seem like a relic of a bygone time. In Tolkien's world, however, bonds of fellowship, commitment to community, loyalty to causes that transcend the self-- these are things that separate humans from all the other mythical races (it's no coincidence, for instance, that the orcs always end up battling and devouring themselves; nor is it a coincidence that the elves remain so detached from the plight of Middle Earth).  This, too, is very much like the biblical worldview, where community is throbbing at the heart of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

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