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.

Contending Against the Baal Within


In Judges 6:32, when the Lord's "Valiant Warrior" Gideon destroys the altar of Baal that was in Orphah, he earns himself the nickname "Jerubbaal."  Jerubbaal is a combination of the Hebrew name baal, and the verb rı̂yb-- to contend or strive with.  It means essentially:  Let Baal contend with him, and when you put the name in the context of the story, the meaning is clear.  Gideon has knocked down the altar of Baal, a competitor in the people's hearts for the glory due to YHWH; if Baal is indeed true god, then let him contend with Gideon.  This nickname is a challenge to Baal's legitimacy as direct and as poignant as the contest with the priests of Baal that Elijah had on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18:20ff).

And when you consider that the act of vandalism which earned Gideon his nickname was actually his first step in leading the Lord's Army against the invading Midianite horde, it also becomes a profoundly political statement.  If Israel is going to be victorious in its struggle, it will take a radical purge of anything that stands between then and single-minded devotion to YHWH, fancy altars to Baal be damned.

Let Baal himself contend with us, if Baal doesn't like it.

But here's the curious thing I've been mulling over this morning.  Later, after YHWH has trounced and routed the Midianites, the tribe of Ephraim complains that General Gideon didn't call on them to join in the fight (See 8:1).  This is interesting on a number of levels.  First, Gideon is from the half tribe of Manasseh, the half tribe for which Ephraim forms the other half.  So that's curious: there is a close kinship between Gideon and the men of Ephraim.  More curious still is the motive behind Ephraim's complaint.  Judging by the tack Gideon takes in placating them, speaking self-deprecatingly, and then flattering them with that line about how the "grapes of Ephraim"  are better than the "Wine of Abiezer" (8:2)), it seems like the reason they're put out has to do with their sense of honour.  By not including them in the fight, Gideon has shamed them, or at the very least, denied them the opportunity to win glory for themselves in battle.

That's curious to me especially because in 8:1 it says that (again, presumably because of their loss of tribal honour) the men of Ephraim "contended with Gideon vigorously."  And the word translated "contended with" there?  You guessed it:  rı̂yb.  The same rı̂yb that gave Gideon the nickname Jerubbaal-- let Baal contend with him.

In 6:32, Gideon tears down the altar of a competitor for YHWH's glory, leaving his friends dumbstruck and earning himself the title:  Jerubbaal.  "Let Baal contend (rı̂yb) with him."  And then in 8:1, after the battle's been fought and won, Baal does indeed, one might say, contend (rı̂yb) with Gideon-- through the contentious vainglory of his closest countrymen.  At least: if Baal represents those things that compete in our hearts for the glory due to YHWH, then Ephraim's complaint that Gideon denied them a chance to win glory for themselves, whatever else it is, is Baalistic to the core.  When they contend with Gideon for letting YHWH win the glory instead of sharing it with them--whatever else is going on there--that is certainly the spirit of Baal, if not Baal himself, contending with Gideon.

The reason this matters to me is because it suggests that the real enemy in Gideon's fight against the Midianites was not the Midianites at all.  Gideon was actually leading a struggle against the "Baal-within"-- the spirit of Baalism in us, that prompts us to steal for ourselves the glory that belongs to the Lord  alone (read the rest of Chapter 8, if you're not convinced).  When I consider Gideon's war in  this light, the story suddenly rings sharply and prohpetically in my ears.

Could it be that the greatest struggle in the Christian life is actually against the Baal within?

Sometimes Christians can move into "crusade mode" when it comes to things happening in the culture, resisting and entrenching and contending for causes with all the zeal of an Ephraimite after a retreating Midianite horde.  Sometimes churches can.  Sometimes, maybe, you've seen it.  And if this is ringing any bells for you, then let Ephraim's contention with Gideon ring louder and clearer.  The struggle against godlessness "out there" is really a struggle against the Baal within.

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