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.

And Fit Us for Heaven, a Christmas Homily

Hebrews 2:14-18  Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity, so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death, that is the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For this reason, he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.  Because he himself suffered when he was tempted he is able to help those who are being tempted.

I have one very vivid memory of when our first child was born that still comes back to me once in a while.  We were like, three or four months into our first gig as new parents, and I was rocking my new son in the rocking chair, at something like 3:32 in the morning and this very clear, very vivid thought ran through my mind.

I am never going to sleep again.

Really:  I’d like to say something all spiritual about being a new dad and all, but ... well ... those of you who are new parents, or have been new parents at some point or other, I’m sure you can back me up on this.  You reach this stage where it’s been so long since you had a full 8 hours that you almost forget that sleeping through the night is something that normal human beings do.

I can actually still remember the first time our son slept through the night.  Now, when I say, “slept through the night,” I mean, he slept from 12:17 am to 5:36 am (and the fact that we counted those 5 hours and 19 minutes of sleep as a full night just goes to show how desperate we were).  I had fallen asleep on the couch and our son was on my chest, and it was so out of the ordinary that I actually woke up with a start, thinking something was wrong.

I was thinking about those early days as a new Dad last week, in particular, as I heard some kids singing (for what must have been the thousandth time) I heard someone singing that old Christmas Carol, Away in a Manger.

You’ve probably never heard it before.  So let me catch you up to speed.  It goes, Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus lays down his sweet head. So far so good.  The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes.  But Little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.

And this is the point where the needle scratches on the record player with a resounding:  errrch. Little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.  Really?

I mean:  I don’t want to sound like I’m grinching all over your Christmas morning or anything—and I realize that I’m on sacred ground here, critiquing a Sunday School classic like Away in a Manger, but, well, why would we think that the little Lord Jesus—waking up in the middle of night because some lowing cattle disturbed his sleep—why would we assume that he wouldn’t, in that moment, make a bit of fuss about it?

I have told you about my early days as a new dad, haven’t I?  I mean, back in those days it took far less than some lowing cattle to get my baby boy to start crying in the middle of the night.  Any fully human baby—and again, those of you who are new parents, you can back me up on this—any fully human baby would.

Why would we expect less from the little Lord Jesus?

Unless—well—unless we didn’t really believe it the way the writer of the Book of Hebrews believed it, that “since we have flesh and blood, he too shared in our humanity, so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death, that is the devil...” and that “For this reason he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way.”  He shared, he had to share, fully in our humanity, in order to be our saviour.

I don’t want to put coal in the stockings of the songwriters who first penned Away in a Manger, or anything, but I do think that if the writer of the Book of Hebrews were here, whatever else he’d do, he’d remind them that, listen:  Our redemption required a fully human Saviour.

The fact that the Little Lord Jesus cried in his crib, just like any human baby might have is, actually, it’s good news for us, this morning.  Because what it means—that little fully human baby cry coming from that manger—what it means is that in Christ, God has entered into our humanity, fully and completely and lovingly and redemptively.  I mean: everything and anything that’s true about being a human being, listen: in Jesus Christ, God has taken it onto himself.

There is nothing about being a human being that he has not staked his claim on. Your health, your physical body, your relationships, your love life, your appetites, your distractibility when it comes to spiritual things, your short attention span when it comes prayer, your regrets about the past, your fears about the future, your temptations to live for self instead of living for God.  You name it. If it is something about “being human,” listen:  in the Little Lord Jesus, God has entered into it.  He knows it and understands it and is able to redeem it and transform it and save it.

Your redemption required, the writer of Hebrews says, it required a fully human saviour, and because that’s what it took to save us, that’s what God did for us in the person of Jesus Christ.

The ancient Christians, incidentally, they got this.  They realized that you couldn’t take away the Lord Jesus’ humanity and still have the Saviour we needed.  One theologian, a guy named Gregory of Nazianzus put it like this:  What has not been assumed—that is to say—any part of our humanity that God has not taken onto himself in Jesus Christ—what has not been assumed, has not been redeemed.

And the point was, because God assumed all of our humanity—took it all to himself in Jesus Christ—all of our humanity can and will be redeemed in Jesus Christ.  Your thought life, your emotional life, your flesh and blood, the way you age and grow old, the very fact of death itself.  Listen: All of it is redeemable in Jesus Christ.

Can I encourage you with that Good News this morning?  As we worship him and celebrate his birth today, can we take comfort and courage from the fact that there is no corner of our lives that he does not want to put his healing hand on it and transform it for the glory of God?

Well: I started with a Christmas Carol, maybe I could end with one, too.  Because there’s a little boy at the FreeWay, a little fellow about 6 or so.  And one day his mom said to me: you’ll never guess, Pastor Dale: we were driving the other day and that song Mary’s Boy Child Jesus Christ was on the radio, you know the one:  And man shall live forever more, because of Christmas Day!

And my little boy (said this mom), he piped up and said, mom that’s not true, it’s not because of Christmas Day that we live forever.  It’s because of Easter Day!

You see, we start training our theologians very young at the FreeWay.  And he was absolutely right—it’s because of Easter Day—the death and resurrection of Jesus—that’s why those who have trusted in Jesus Christ can and will live forever more.

But—and I don’t want to pit Bonney M against Away in a Manger this morning, but, but: if the writer of Hebrews were here, I think he would have told our 6-year-old theologian: yes, of course it’s cause of Easter.  But here’s the thing: it’s only because our human life and God’s divine live—our fully humanity and God’s full divinity—it’s only because they came together, perfectly together, in the person of Jesus—it’s only, that is to say, it’s only because of what happened on Christmas Day, that Easter Day could be the offer of salvation that it is.

“He too shared in their humanity,” is how he puts it, “so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death, that is the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.  For this reason he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way.”

Followers of Jesus, your redemption required a fully human saviour.  And let’s celebrate it this morning that that’s exactly what God did for us, in the Lord Jesus Christ.

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