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.

Polishing Up My Proverbs 16 Crown of Glory (Part III): A Ripe Old Age

I’m not a huge Lord of the Rings fan, but I read the books more than once when I was younger, and something that always sort of struck me was Tolkien’s tendency to wax poetical about the age of things.  The Forest of Fangorn, for instance, owes its great power and mystery to its extreme age.  The Old Forest in the Shire, too, is ominous especially because it is an old forest.  The enigmatic and much-loved character Tom Bombadil, for all his youthful mirth and frivolity, is of immeasurable age (his elven name is Iarwain Ben-adar, the Oldest and Fatherless).  Even the One Ring itself owes something of its power to its great age. 

In Middle Earth, ancient things are powerful, magical, ominous and revered, and powerful things, magical things, ominous things are, especially, old.

Okay, maybe I’m more a fan than I care to admit.

But the reason I’m pointing all this out is because, in its deep respect, even awe, for all things ancient, the world of Middle Earth is, I think, very much like the world of the Bible, and very unlike our own world; and seeing how this theme plays out in a work of mythic fiction may help us hear something important that the Bible is trying to say about the theology of aging. 

The word that best captures what I’m trying to get at here is itself an old fashioned word (sorry): the word is, venerable.  According to Google, the word “venerable” means “accorded a great deal of respect, especially because of age, wisdom or character.”  Whatever else the Bible has to say about growing and/or being old, it recognizes, and asks us to recognize, that there is something venerable about great age.

Like I say, “venerable“ is not an adjective we use that much anymore.  At least, it’s not the first word that jumps to mind for me when I think of “old age.”  In the Scriptures, old age tends to give things (be they people, objects, teachings or ideas) a certain degree of credibility, authority and weight; old age tries, tests and proves things true.  In our world, by contrast, it’s not old age but youth, novelty, originality that has credibility and authority.  The long line-ups to get the latest iphone is not hard data, of course, nor is the dismissive tone we use when we call something “old-fashioned,” but they are, I think, subtle markers of this cultural difference.  Where the authors of the Bible tend to give special credence to old-ness, in particular, we tend to give it, especially, to new-ness.

This helps us to make sense of one of those parts of the Bible that often leaves people scratching their heads: the table of ages in Genesis 5.  If you’re unfamiliar with the passage, let me explain.  Genesis 5 contains a long, carefully structured genealogy of Adam’s descendants, from Seth to Noah, and what stands out as especially curious to modern readers is how old everyone on the list was.  Supernaturally old, you might almost say.  Methuselah, the oldest, lived to the ripe old age of 969; and Lamech, the youngest on the list, lived to a meager 777.

Without getting mired in circular debates about the historicity of these figures or the biological likelihood that anyone really lived 969 years (I’ll leave those posts to bloggers who know more than I), let me just point this out:  there are exactly 10 generations in the list, and the last one, Lamech, lived exactly 777 years (that is 7 (the number of completeness) times 111 (the sum of whose digits is 3)).  This suggests to me that there is something very symbolic going on in this genealogy. 

What we are seeing here, among other things, is a tribute to human venerability, the Creator’s original intention that human beings should live to a ripe old age, and that in their great age, they should grow wise and knowing and experienced and, for lack of a better word, venerable.  Of course, the “great age” that the author of Genesis has in mind was, in fact, eternally old—we were meant, originally, not to die at all (which is why He planted the Tree of Life in the Garden (Genesis 2:9), and it’s only after the Fall that humans are prevent from eating of it (3:22)).  This is a pretty standard reading of Genesis 1-3, but what’s seldom mentioned in discussions of eternal life, Edenic or otherwise, is that Biblically, in some sense or other, it would have meant, also, eternal aging.

The fact that eternal aging seems almost a monstrous fate to us is probably more evidence that we don’t really share the Bible’s perspective on old age in the first place.  We have come to see it, especially, as a kind of loss; the authors of the Bible tended to see it as a kind of gain: age expands our heart and layers our wisdom and enriches our character and, especially, deepens our experience of God; and if life was meant to be eternal, then there was not meant to be, originally, any end to the expansion of the human heart or the layering of human wisdom or the wealth of human character, or, especially the depth of our life in Him.

If I’m on to something here, then it’s worth noting that as we get further and further away from the “ground-zero” of the Creation Event in Genesis 1, we see human life-spans contracting rapidly.    Noah lives 950 years, his son Shem 500, and his great-great-great-grandson Abraham died at the still-ripe old age of  175.  As Eden shrinks into the distant past, it seems, our potential to reach a venerable old age diminishes, too.  Eventually it’ll settle on the infamous Three Score and Ten (Psalm 90:10).

But it’s also worth noting that among Christ’s many titles and attributes is this one:  he is, according to the prophet Daniel, “The Ancient of Days” (Dan 7:9), the Truly Venerable One who existed before time began, who is now and ever will be.  From a biblical point of view, this is, in fact, one of his claims to authority, that he is both Ageless and Ancient.

Like any true theology, a theology of aging must start here, with Him; and when we do, what we find is the thought that, in restoring to us the eternal life we lost with Eden, he restores to us, also, our potential to become truly venerable in our old age.

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