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.

Feast of Trumpets, a song



Feast of Trumpets (a musical experiment)

[listen]

The Gift, a poem

Some gifts we must receive
Before they can be given us;
     passionate kisses
     and warm embraces
     number high among these.

Others seem to sort of
steal in the giving:
     a long afternoon with nothing
     important to do
     but rest or read
     is such a gift
     as this.

And the gentle but determined
prying loose of fingers, stiff
with too long clutching,
and too hard,
things unneeded and
long since unwanted, leaving nothing
but a promise in their place:
of empty hands healed
and still and blessed and graced--

this gift is a bit of each.

Corpus Christi Carol, a song



Corpus Christi Carol

text based on a 16th Century English hymn;
original setting


[listen]

Lullay, lullay, lullay, lullay
Falcon has born my mate away

He bore her up, he bore her down
He bore her to an orchard brown

And in that orchard there was a hall
It was hanged with purple and pall

And in that hall was laid a bed
That was hanged with gold so red

And on that bed there lieth a knight
His wounds a-bleeding day and night

And by that bed there kneeleth a maid
And she weepeth night and day

And by that maid there rests a stone
Corpus Christi written thereon


Jacob after Peniel, a poem

Did anyone ever tell you
your limp was beautiful
or that it's going to be?

Other men stride into
rooms with all the raw
confidence and numb vigour of
bulls in China shops
(breaking more than
dinnerware with their
untried horns).

But those tender, stumbling
tentative steps of yours--
on healing legs and broken heart--
they tell a story
more beautiful than words:
of wrestling with the un-nameable
One,
clinging in darkness desperate
till he touched you-- blessed
you on the hip--
and you walked away
transparent,
shining in the final knowledge
of who you are.

Did anyone ever tell you
the ungainly gait he
left you with
was beautiful?

They will.

I Have Inscribed You (Isaiah 49:16)




I Have Inscribed You

I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands
I have etched you here on my side
And I wrote your name with the nails of the cross
On my hands and feet that they might never be lost
In the stripes of my back
With my arms stretched wide
I inscribed you, I inscribed you
I inscribed you on the palms of my hands

Look on the hands you have pierced
Fall at the feet whose heel you bruised
Touch the flesh that you tore in your sin and pride
See the blood that poured from his riven side
I was broken for you, it was poured out for you
It was offered to make all things new

I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands
I have etched you here on my side
And I wrote your name with the nails of the cross
On my hands and feet that they might never be lost
In the stripes of my back
With my arms stretched wide
I inscribed you, I inscribed you
I inscribed you on the palms of my hands

Wish You were Here, a song

Wish You were Here




Wish you were here, it's been such a long time
Since you were here, I almost forgot
To leave the light on

I'm running out of wick
And the night is coming on
Nails bitten to the quick
I wish you were here

Wish I was there, it's been such a long time
Since I was there, I almost forgot
To find my way home

I'm running out of wick
And the night is coming on
Nails bitten to the quick
I wish you were here

Readings, 2013

Normally this time of year, I take some time to compile a top ten list of books read in the previous year.  This is partly for the sake of my own reflection, and partly for the sake of recommending good reads to others.  As per my usual practice, then, I'm reviewing my reading list from 2013.  Given the hectic pace of my year in 2013, it should maybe not come as a surprise to me, but it turns out I only read ten books in total this year, making a top ten list a slightly contrived exercise (like the time Glove and Boots did a top-ten list of their favorite single-digit numbers).  I feel only partly justified by the fact that two of these ten books were Jesus and the Victory of God, and The Resurrection of the Son of God, parts 2 and 3 in N. T. Wright's massive series on Christian Origins and the Question of God (They're sort of the Lord of the Rings for Bible Nerds: together they amount to approximately 1300 pages of reading).  Be that as it may, I'm not going to post a top-ten list per se, but for interest's sake, I will list the ten books I managed to digest this year.  Here they are in no particular order:

1.  The Shallows:  What the Internet is doing to our Brains,  Nicholas Carr.

2.  Mentoring Leaders, Carson Pue

3.  Dead Petals:  An Apocalypse,  Eric Ortlund

4.  Idylls of the King,  Alfred Lord Tennyson

5.  Alone Together:  Why We Expect more from Technology and Less from Each Other, Sherry Turkle

6.  Jesus and the Victory of God,  N. T. Wright

7.  The Resurrection of the Son of God, N. T. Wright

8.  Connecting Christ:  How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths, Paul Metzger

9.  With Wit and Wonder:  The Preacher's Use of Humour and Imagination,  Blayne Banting

10.  Lifted by Angels:  The Presence and Power of our Heavenly Guides,  Joel J. Miller