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.

The Thursday Review: Rimbaud and the Resurrection (February 1, 2009)

I started this blog back in 2009, as I was finishing off my Master of Divinity studies at Briercrest Seminary and before I knew what my next steps were going to be for me in ministry.  I was mostly looking for a way to keep me creative and thinking through sort of a lull in my life-trajectory.  Seven years and 593 posts later, I have covered all sorts of ground in my efforts to reflect on God, life, faith, love, words and spirituality: from the theology of Halloween, to advice on pastoral burn-out, from the theology of video games to the meaning Gravity Falls.  

As I look ahead to another year of blogging, I'm also realizing that there is a lot of rich material in the terra incognita archive that could bear revisiting, stuff I'd forgotten about, material that new visitors to my blog may never have seen before, ideas that, for all their being 7 years old, are still worth mulling over.  With that in mind I've decided that this year, Thursdays at terra incognita will be dedicated to reviewing and re-posting old posts.  

So whether you're a long-time reader of brand new to my blog, let me welcome you here today with an oldie but a goodie, the very first thing (after my obligatory introductory post) that I ever posted on the blog.  


Rimbaud and the Resurrection (first posted February 1, 2009)

I’ve been trying to brush up on my French these days, and, as my daughter’s Caillou books were starting to leave me flat, I slugged my way through Arthur Rimbaud’s Une Saison en Enfer (this is partly so I can drop pretentious sounding references to Rimbaud at my next cocktail party; but mostly because my niece and nephew have been blessed with a bilingual home, and as they grow older, I’m seeing that my facile conversations with them about colours and numbers won’t cut it much longer. Maybe by the time they’re old enough to discuss Rimbaud, my French will be sharp enough give it a try…). Anyways, I didn’t take a lot from it, but the last phrase of his extended poetical rant has been haunting me for a while now: il me sera loisible de posseder la verite dans une ame et un corps. “It will now be permitted to me to possess truth in one soul and one body.”

Here’s the thing (I think): Most of us could probably get how we might possess “truth” "in the soul.” Most of us are Platonic dualists at heart—what’s truly true is not the touchable matter out there (in the body)—to find the “truly true” you have to journey inward (in the soul). I used to teach this with great enthusiasm when my English classes studied Heart of Darkness. I read the same thing in Wal-Mart yesterday when I happened to thumb through a popular-level book on eastern meditation in the discount bargain bin. But I think that way lies madness (of sorts)—and I think Rimbaud knew it. And so he denounces all such dualisms, and ends with a vision of truth “in one soul and one body” together.

And I’m left wondering, in what way can truth be possessed in the body. Can this actual flesh… these hands, these senses, this coursing blood… can it somehow be said to be somehow true? For Rimbaud, the journey away from spirit/matter dualism led him through a hell of futile debauches and empty sensuality.

But there is a different path.

It’s an inevitable path that leads down from a skull-shaped hill to a burst-open tomb, gaping wide and empty one Sunday morning. And the resurrected body that steps out of that tomb—the one who claimed before they murdered him that he was the truth incarnate—he reaches out his resurrected hand to us and says: “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” With a sweep of that nail-pierced hand, Jesus brushes aside Plato and Rimbaud together. And he points us outside of ourselves, to the Creator’s world broken and labouring, but now claimed by its maker and promised redemption.

And as we touch his glorified body—our hope and our promise—we can really say, in a way that Rimbaud never could: il me sera loisible de posseder la verite dans une ame et un corps.

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