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.

My Christian 2015 in Review

Usually at some point every January I try to take a minute to look back on the year that was, and reflect on some of the major news events that impacted, influences or otherwise illuminated the world of Canadian Evangelicalism.  This year I am a bit behind the eight-ball, as usual, and 2015 is already feeling a bit cobwebby and archaic, but even so, I hope you’ll join me for one last glance over the shoulder at the flotsam and jetsam of 2015’s headlines.  When it comes to the “evangelically-significant” events of 2015, this list is hardly exhaustive, I admit, but it’s a good place to start.  Who here remembers when ...

January 7:  Two gun men attack the offices of the French satirical weekly newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, killing 11 people.
As it relates to Canadian Christianity, this story was particularly of note for the way it brought into stark relief a number of global issues all at once: the West’s distorted view of the Muslim world, the recurring narrative of armed gunmen randomly killing victims, the conflicting themes of tolerance and free-speech.

January 22:  Historical Jesus writer and member of the Jesus Seminar, Marcus Borg, dies at age 72.
Given the plethora of more notable and weighty headlines, the passing of Marcus Borg went almost unnoticed, but I’ve included it here inasmuch as: a) his rigorous debates with his friend (and evangelical scholar) N. T. Wright was part of the grist for the historical-Jesus mill that eventually produced Wright’s seminal book Jesus and the Victory of God; and b) it seems to me that the era of liberal  “Jesus-Seminar” style speculation on the “historical Jesus” has in many ways run its course.

February 6:  The Supreme Court rules that the Canadian ban on Physician-Assisted Suicide is unconstitutional, giving Parliament 12 months to enact new legislation.
Along with the question of Muslim relations, and how we will respond to acts of terrorism and violence, 2015 seemed also to be the year when God was asking Canadian Christians how they will respond to the ongoing erosion of traditional Christian values in the broader culture. The EFC has done much good work, speaking out on this issue, which I would encourage those who are concerned about where this one will land, to check out.

February 13:  The film Fifty Shades of Grey released amid much controversy.
On a strictly aesthetic level, this film was, by all accounts, a piece of cinematic drivel.  The only reason it holds a place on my list is because of the attention it drew for its supposedly “risqué” and “raw” handling of sexual themes.  It suggested to me, at least, that Christians have, in fact, a unique word to speak on the meaning of sex, in a world that has almost entirely unmoored it from the things that once gave it meaning and beauty and life.

June 18:  A gunman opens fire on a church prayer meeting in Charleston, South Carolina, killing 9.
2015 was also a year where God confronted his people with their calling to be reconcilers and peacemakers in a world where race relations are as conflicted and fraught as ever.  This racially/religiously motivated act of violence was only one of many headlines that challenged us this year to take our calling as Christians seriously when it comes to the issue of racial reconciliation.

June 26:  The US Supreme Court requires all states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and to recognize same-sex marriages validly performed in other jurisdictions.
Celebrated by some as a major victory for human rights, and lamented by others as the final crack that broke the dam, this decision effectively legalized gay marriage in the US.  It seemed to bring out the worst in everyone.  In its wake I saw a lot of defensive vitriol from Christians who felt backed into an ethical corner, and also a lot of vindictive smugness from “liberals” who couldn’t understand why traditionalists weren’t yet with the program.  I heard stories of Christian business being bullied for holding positions of conscience on the issue; and I also heard stories of Christians retaliating with their own share of bullying.  At the very least, it suggests to me that any church that wants effectively to proclaim the Kingdom of God in the 21st Century will have to have thought through this very pressing issue.

September 2: A moving photograph of drowned child sparks international concern over the plight of Syrian refugees
Another story with a whole bunch of themes braided into one: Muslim/Christian relations, xenophobia and hospitality, the plight of the world’s displaced, questions about American foreign policy, the proper Christian response to the refugee crisis all got discussed in turn.

October 1:  An armed assailant opens fire at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, killing 10.
Reports are unconfirmed and still under debate, but some suggest that this assailant targeted Christians in his rampage.  This story would be just as heartbreaking and appalling, either way, but what strikes me in looking back is how rote our response to such incidents has become.  I include it on this list because of my hunch that it was one of the events that motivated Jerry Falwell's tirade on December 2 (see below).

October 19:  Newly elected liberal government pledges to receive 25,000 Syrian Refugees by years’ end.
Another story that shone a spotlight on issues of xenophobia and the Christian call to welcome the stranger in Jesus’ name.

December 2:  Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty Christian University in Lynchburg, Va. encourages students to carry concealed weapons.
This headline almost seemed like it was pulled from The Onion, when I first saw it, but when I read further and realized it was serious I was dumbfounded.  That the president of one of the largest Christian colleges in North America would be received with cheers from his student body when he publically encourages them to start carrying concealed weapons to defend against Muslim terrorists should any decide to show their face on campus... and that they should do this, expressly, in the name of Jesus ... well ... I don’t know what to say.  Except to lament how distorted the Way of Jesus is becoming in an increasingly polarized and dangerous world.

December 15:  Wheaton College, Illinois, suspends professor of Political Science Larycia Hawkins, for public comments claiming that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.
Here high-falutin’ theology and down-to-earth current events come together, as voices from all corners of the internet chimed in on the questions: do Muslims and Christians indeed “worship the same God?”  Is that the best way to put it?  And, inasmuch as this was one of the questions related to Ms. Hawkins’ suspension (now dismissal): what are the theological implications of saying they do?  Given the way this list is sprinkled so liberally with headlines relating to the Muslim faith, it seems that these are no longer lofty ivory tower ruminations, but issues that Christians from all walks of life should be thinking through.


1 comments:

The Moores said...

November 13, 2015 - Paris terror attacks - A very sad day in our home. I remember that we were baking a cake that night for a friend. We were safe and cozy in our home spending time together in the kitchen. I will never forget the horrific images on TV. It solidified for me that humanity is in dire need of Jesus' teachings.

December 2, 2015 - San Bernardino attacks - Another incredibly sad day. There was a lot of praying during our trip to the USA that week. So many lost souls in this world.

Thanks for sharing that Pastor Dale. It's good to take a look back and try to think of ways that we can contribute to bettering the world!