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.

Song of Ascents, a song

A song about the West and homesickness and also hope and wonder.





Song of Ascents

The harvest moon is hovering
On the edge of autumn orange
And I’m rising up
But that’s no way to start a song
When there’s no good rhyme for orange
And I’m rising up

And the noonday sun is nearly there
At the tip of the blue sky
I’m rising up
After all my life I’m looking down
And I haven’t risen high
But I’m rising up

I’m rising up, out of a haze of innocence
With a song in my head that just dies on my lips
When I try to listen for it
I’m rising up, drawn on by your magnificence
And I know what you said when we started this trip
You’re gonna fly when you catch wind of it
Your song of ascents

The city lights are sparkling
On the edge of the horizon
I’m rising up
Though there’s miles to go I’m almost home
I just have to close my eyes
And I’m rising up

The prairie wind is wandering
Like the footsteps of a pilgrim
I’m rising up
And her clouds are piling in the sky
Like a bowl filled to the brim
And I’m rising up

I’m rising up, out of a haze of innocence
With a song in my head that just dies on my lips
When I try to listen for it
I’m rising up, drawn on by your magnificence
And I know what you said when we started this trip
You’re gonna fly when you catch wind of it
Your song of ascents

Sometimes the lights above seem just within my reach
Sometimes you can’t get there for trying
Sometimes it seems the ground is reeling far below
And what you thought was angel-song was only vertigo

I’m rising up, out of a haze of innocence
With a song in my head that just dies on my lips
When I try to listen for it
I’m rising up, drawn on by your magnificence
And I know what you said when we started this trip
You’re gonna fly when you catch wind of it
Your song of ascents

On Knowing What You're About, a devotional thought

There's a small, almost throw-away line in Mark 1:37-38 that speaks a powerful word to followers of Jesus as they respond to his call on their lives.

 Jesus has been up all night healing the sick and casting out demons. They've brought their wounded to him where he was staying at Simon Peter's house, and from the sounds of things, there was no end of work to do. They were crowding all around the door, is how Mark says it.

So in the morning, Jesus exhausted (I'm assuming), and heads off to a quiet place to regroup (I figure), and when his disciples come looking for him, he says, "It's time to move on." And here's the part that speaks to the heart. Because there's much, much more to be done here, where Jesus is at now. There are sicknesses to heal, blind eyes to open, demons to throw down for the ten-count here. And Jesus is leaving?

In Luke's telling of this part of Jesus's story he draws out the struggle: "The crowds begged him not to go." But Jesus is undeterred; he says, "I've got other cities I need to preach in, for this is the reason I came." Every servant of Jesus (pastoral or lay, vocational or not) is going to see far more Kingdom work that needs doing, than they themselves can possibly do. Wrestle all night with anti-Kingdom demons, and there will still be crowds needing healing, crowding the door come morning. If it was true for the Son of God incarnate, how much more is it true for his disciples? And yet Jesus--and I can only imagine how wrenching it must have been for him--left those crowds to preach elsewhere.

The thing about Jesus is that he knew what he was about. He understood clearly why, in particular, the Father had sent him, what, in particular his Kingdom mission was, and this became the compass point for his life, allowing him to navigate the sometimes overwhelming demands of ministry.

I am learning, or trying hard to learn, from the Master's example here: to be clear on "the reason for which Jesus came into my life. Because the ability to say, with gracious humility and transparent honesty, "this is the reason he sent me," allows us also to say the much harder thing: "that's not the reason he sent me." And the freedom from self-Messiahship, and Christian-super-heroism and needing-to-be-everything-to-everyone we will find in Jesus when we can say that, I think, is a path to re-claimed joy in ministry and renewed passion for serving Him.

The Slow Burn, a song



They say a smoldering wick is safe
With him, or so they say
They say he’d never snuff it out
If the light is dim he won’t leave you without it

They say your weary heart is safe
With him, or so they say
And you can tell him how you yearn
And all about the slow burn

Come to me and I will give you rest
I’ll be your host, I’ll be your guest
That’s me at the door, they say He said

They say a smoldering wick is safe
With him, that’s what they say
And you can tell him how you yearn
And all about the slow burn

No Loitering, a devotional thought

Any careful reader of Mark's Gospel will notice that one word, in particular, shows up with unusual frequency in his account of the life of our Lord, especially in the opening chapters.  In Greek the word is euthus, which means "immediately," or "right away." Jesus came up out of the baptism water "immediately" (1:10); the Spirit led him into the desert to be tempted "immediately" (1:12); the first disciples left their fishing nets to follow him "immediately" (1:18).  It actually appears 5 times in the first 21 verses alone (about once every 4 verses), and 42 times in the entire book (which is about 10 more times than all the other Gospels combined).

And here's what I think it's doing there: you see, Jesus' Gospel is breaking over Mark's world at such a thrilling pace with such a breathless urgency, that in his telling of these tales, the immediacy of the events seems to get special emphasis.  Things happen one after the other at such break-neck speed that the next wave's upon you before you even have time to clear the foam of the last one from your eyes.

A friend of mine suggested once that Mark's telling of the Gospel reads a bit like a 2nd Grader's retelling of a story they can't wait to get through for excitement: "And then .... and then ... and then ..."

I get that.  But it leaves me wondering if we share Mark's sense of urgency when it comes to the Story of Jesus. Do we feel the same immediacy and excitement and expectation about what's happening in our midst and all around us as long as Jesus is walking among us, as Mark seems to have? When I'm most honest with myself, I have to admit that I seldom do.  More often than not, I'm spiritually sauntering in my walk with Jesus; not a peaceful stroll, mind you, but a lally-gagging shuffle, sure I'll get there eventually...

Whatever else Mark's euthus is doing in his book, I think it's there so that we might catch a little bit of Mark's spirit as we read, and feel it in our core how urgent it is, what Jesus's doing immediately, here, right now in front of us, in his mission to bring the Shalom of God to the world.

23 (What it Feels Like), a song

This is another song from my inversions album.  It was inspired one afternoon when I mentioned to my Dad that I need to get some new shoes (literal shoes...) and he, always quick with the wit said, "Well, if you walk a mile in them then you'll know what it feels like to be you."

I was still mulling over the possibilities of that line when I was talking to another friend later on, about leadership and authenticity and stuff, and she said this off hand comment about the strength that comes from reaching a place in life where we have "nothing to lose, nothing to prove, and nothing to hide."  The two lines came together in my mind, and a few weeks later I'd written this song.

Special thanks to my daughter Rachael who lent her flute on this recording, along with the rest of the FreeWay musicians (Tyler, Chris, Andy, et al.).  The "23" in the title is a reference to the 23rd Psalm, which also makes an appearance on the track.




We were singing your
Song about resting by
Quiet waters and
Pastures green

Hoping you’d restore
My weary soul I sat
Down to feast with
My enemy

Cause there’s nothing left to lose
And there’s nothing here to hide
When I got nothing more to prove
I’ll know what it feels like
To be me

I was wandering
Valleys of shadow your
Rod and your staff they were
Hard to see

I was wondering
Over my shoulder if
That was your mercy
Shadowing me

Cause there’s nothing left to lose
And there’s nothing here to hide
When I got nothing more to prove
I’ll know what it feels like
To be me