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 V): Christian Community as the Fountain of Youth?

They say that Okinanwa, a small island off the southern coast of Japan, has the highest rate of centenarians in the world. Proportionally, that is to say, more people in Okinawa live beyond the age of 100 than anywhere else on the planet. Not only do people live longer in Okinawa, but they also enjoy relatively good health into their centenarian years, with the lowest rates of age-related disease—coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer and so on—of any people-group in the world.

So remarkable is the Okinawan life-expectancy, that the island has become something of a tourist attraction for the Japanese, who visit it not to lounge on the beaches or to see the sights, but specifically and expressly for a first-hand encounter with a genuine Okinawan Centenarian.  Imagine photo albums full of pictures of Japanese tourists doing the say-cheese-finger-V-thing, next to a bunch of Okinawan senior citizens, and you’ll get the idea.

Scientists have been scratching their heads over the phenomenon of Okinawan longevity for a while now. What, in particular, do the Okinawan people have going for them, that they are able to live so well for so long, well after the rest of the world, on average, has succumbed to the aches and pains of old age?

There are probably a number of active ingredients in the Okinawan elixir of youth. Caloric restriction and healthy diet seem to play a role (Okinawans simply eat less food than most Westerners, and what they do eat is mostly plants).  Genetics and lifestyle are also factors (Okinawans are much more active throughout their lives, well into their senior years).

But in a study of Okinawan longevity that I read recently, a crucial factor stood out to me for special consideration, especially as it relates to my interest in developing a theology of aging. Put simply: Okinawan culture places a high value on old age. Rather than seeing it as the beginning of the end, Okinawans see old age as a badge of honour and a cause for celebration. Rather than shuffling the aged off to out of the way “homes” where they are left to live out their final years with other seniors, Okinawans make all kinds of space for the elderly in their communities, their families, their society. Rather than being treated like an inconvenience, the aged are cherished, respected, and, above all, embedded in the broader community.

Okinawans who have passed their 100th birthday, in particular, are given a great degree of freedom, respect and license.  The centenarian years are viewed as a “second childhood”; and not in a condescending way, but in a permissive way, similar to how young children are humoured and admired and cherished as a vital part of the community.  As I understand it, it’s not uncommon for the younger generation actually to vie with one another for the honour of getting to care for their centenarians in their old age.

Could it really be that growing old happens best in cultures that wisely embrace aging, that view it with healthy respect, even appreciation, that warmly and ungrudgingly welcome the fact of getting old, and have learned to celebrate the simple achievement of living long and well?

The mystery of Okinawan longevity suggests it’s so.

And so, of course, does the Bible.  It’s not for nothing  that the Torah instructs us to stand in the presence of the elderly (Leviticus 19:32).  And it’s not for nothing that the New Testament instructs the young to cherish the old with special deference (See: 1 Timothy 5:1, 1 Peter 5:5) and further instructs the old to share the gifts of their age and experience generously with the young (see 1 John 2:13).

In the broadest strokes, the Bible paints a picture of a community where old age is seen as a profound spiritual resource, and where the bonds between young and old are strong and rich and reciprocal; and in that picture we see the spiritual flourishing of young and old alike, the thriving of community as a whole, a little glimpse of shalom.

A church with a robust, biblical theology of aging, I think, will adopt an attitude towards old age more like that of the Okinawan people—where the community makes much space and affords much dignity to the old—and less like that of the West—where the practice is, by and large, to remove the very old from community whenever the realities of old age become too great an inconvenience.  To “stand in the presence of the elderly,” today, as a Christian, is to resist this modern, Western impulse to segregate by generation, and to do all we can to maintain those strong, rich, reciprocal bonds between young and old that are so vital to a shalom-oriented community.

We may actually find, in doing so, that our own experience of growing old becomes one filled with health and wisdom and vitality and joy.


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