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: The Top Five Oddest Movies I'm Glad I Can't Forget

First Posted May 7, 2009

A couple of years back, after an extended stint of picking some doozies, I was banned for a while from choosing the movie when we rented videos for a movie night (I think Anaconda was the pick that finally got my video-choosing license suspended for a while). It's not so much that I have bad taste, but I'm usually a sucker for an intriguing idea, however poorly executed, or an exotic setting, however dull the action taking place there. With this disclaimer up front, I've put together a list of the top five oddest movies I'm glad I can't forget. By "oddest" here I mean both that the movie concept itself was oddly unique, and that it's odd the movie should have etched itself into my imagination the way it has.

(On a side note, in his book Through a Screen Darkly, Jeffry Overstreet talks eloquently about the spirituality of films, and the unique way in which this particular art medium can act as a window onto the divine. While only one of the movies here makes it to his 200+ list of spiritually thought-provoking films, I think each of them in its own way raises spiritual themes that the Christian Faith might speak to.)

5. Meetings with Remarkable Men. Directed by Peter Brook (1979). Hands down one of the strangest movies I've ever seen. Based on a semi-autobiographical book by an obscure Greek-Armenian mystic named G. I. Gurdjieff, the film is a fragmented series of episodes and dialogues that traces Gurdjieff's journey through Central Asia looking for spiritual enlightenment and esoteric knowledge. It culminates with his initiation into a mysterious brotherhood of mystics. I had a friend in university who was a self-styled Gurdjieffian searching for esoteric knowledge himself, and who roped me into watching it with him. I wish I had known then what I know now: that in Christ, God's hidden wisdom and knowledge have been made public in the open scandal of the cross (Col 2:1-3). What talks we might have had then.

4. Walkabout. Directed by Nicholas Roeg (1971). The story of two British schoolchildren, abandoned in the outback of Australia and befriended by a silent aboriginal boy on walkabout who helps them survive. With a lot of surreal, dream-like footage of the Australian landscape, and a lot of drawn-out, wordless interactions between the three children, it asks a lot of the audience, and the ending is anyone's guess. It struck me at the time as a kind of "return to Eden/back to innocence" story wrapped up (ironically) in a poignant and painful coming of age story. Maybe it's the kind of back-to-Eden story we should hear more often.

3. Joe vs. The Volcano.
Directed by John Patrick Shanely (1990). Though this is probably the one movie Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan would like to call a mulligan on, I found something strangely appealing about this campy story of a man's journey to find his inner hero. A satire of western capitalism, an allegory about the modern search for meaning, a quest story about finding inner wholeness by confronting our fear of death, it asks the kind of questions about the spiritual life that Christians should be engaging, I think, with the answers of Christ. (You can click here for a hypertext film-study I designed for teaching this movie in my grade eleven English classes.)

2. Far Away, So Close. Directed by Wim Wenders (1993). A film about fallenness and grace and incarnation, it tells the story of an angel who becomes human in an instant (to save a boy falling off a balcony), and who then finds himself on a quest for experience and redemption in his new life in the flesh. Apparently angels can only see in black and white, and can hear everyone's thoughts at once, which makes for some pretty evocative scenes moving in and out of colour with all sorts of mumbled lines in different languages coming at you all at once. It's the kind of film you could wear your beret to if you want.

1. Babette's Feast.Directed by Gabriel Axel (1987). Critically acclaimed and demonstrably brilliant, this is the only movie on this list that I would endorse as a must see. It tells the story of Babette, an extraordinarily gifted chef de cuisine and Parisian restaurateur who has been living incognito as a simple cook to two elderly sisters in a small, rustic fishing village in Denmark. When Babette wins 10,000 francs in a lottery, rather than return to Paris, she choses to spend the money on a lavish banquet for the villagers. Though they are woefully ignorant of the luxury they are being treated to, a spirit of genuine fellowship settles over them through the course of the meal, exposing and healing some deep-rooted hurts and bitterness in the community. Funny, moving, and evocative, this film asks powerful questions about the spirituality of food, and table-fellowship, and hospitality and art (and for the Christian, it also suggests poignant questions about the meaning of the Eucharistic meal, where Christ invites his community to find reconciliation and healing at a table laid with the extravagant feast of his own poured-out life).

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