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 Full Divine Panoply

first posted May 10, 2010

I can still remember when I first learned about that famous passage in Ephesians 6, the one where Paul talks about putting on the "whole armour of God." It was Bible Camp, grade 6. I vividly recall how the speaker walked us through each item in our spiritual panoply: the Belt of Truth, the Breastplate of Righteousness, the Shield of Faith, and so on.

I`d been working my way through Tolkien that summer, so I guess my 12-year-old imagination was pretty fertile ground for images of spiritual warriors armed with mystical armour with arcane names like "The Helmet of Salvation" and "The Belt of the Truth." When I got home, I drew an elaborate picture of some elfin warrior who bore a striking resemblance to Aragorn (as I pictured him in my imagination; this is, remember, well before Peter Jackson), bearing a flaming"Sword of the Spirit" and warding off demonic darts with his "Shield of Faith."

A talk on "The Whole Armour of God," I'd discover later, is standard fare for Bible Camp speakers. I`ve heard the most elaborate talks explaining obscure details about the typical armour of the Roman Infantry, and relating them to intricate details about the means and methods of spiritual warfare for individual Christians. I was even at one Bible Camp where the speaker was a Christian children`s entertainer named (I`m not making this up) Fester the Clown. Fester the Clown made an entire set of the Whole Armour of God out of balloons, Sandals of Evangelism and all. One lucky camper got to take it home with him in a giant plastic bag as a reminder of his call to arm himself for spiritual warfare.

Now, I hate to burst Fester`s balloon, but the thing that he never told me, nor did any of the other speakers I`ve ever heard expound on this passage, is that throughout Ephesians 6:10-20 Paul uses the 2nd person plural. He is not talking to or about individuals here, arming themselves for solo combat against their personal demons and temptations. He's talking to and about the group, the community of faith, the Church. Put differently: "you" are not called to put on the whole armour of God as much as "we" are called to do so together. This is a subtle point, perhaps, but a few examples will show that it's not so subtle as to be moot.

Take, for instance, the Bride of Christ imagery. While Jesus is most certainly the lover of individual souls, when the Bible says that "you" are the Bride of Christ, it means "you" plural, that is the church together, is the Bride of Christ. And we miss a vital theological point if we miss this distinction. A more obvious one, perhaps is the Body of Christ imagery, where we are each, clearly, only members of the whole Body and can't function without the others; a less obvious one is the Temple of the Holy Spirit, where the primary reference is to the community of Faith together being built up together into the Temple of God (Though it's common to hear talk about how you (sg) are the Temple of the Spirit, out of 7 references to the Temple of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, only 1 refers to individuals and all the rest are about the community together).

What difference would it make if Paul's envisioning the Community of Faith in Ephesians 6, arming itself together for spiritual combat, and not individual spiritual gladiators? Maybe a good place to start thinking through the implications would be 6:18, where he talks about the "secret weapon of prayer" (as I heard one preacher call it picturesquely). If Paul's primarily imagining corporate prayer here as a "weapon" in our battle against the powers of this dark world, then it will mean, I think, remodelling the "prayer closet" a bit. In most of the discipleship material I've ever seen, the emphasis has been almost exclusively on individual prayer.

And if Paul is calling the church corporate to take up the "Sword of the Spirit," which is the Word of God, then sharpening my personal knowledge of the Bible in my personal "quiet time with God" will certainly not do it. Instead, the call will be answered as the community of Faith itself becomes a place where together we seek out, listen for, weigh together and respond in one spirit to the utterance of God (the word there is rhema, not logos) as it is breathed by the Spirit through the Scriptures into the gathered community. Puts a little different spin on the "sword drill," that other staple of Bible Camp spirituality.

We could do the same with the rest: what if lacing up the Sandals of Evangelism was less about me personally leading individuals to the Lord (though it may include that), and more about the community of faith becoming, and being, a place where the Gospel or Peace is proclaimed, and lived out, and given room to touch and transform lives? Of course, Fester the Clown would have to do a whole lot more balloon twisting if this reading is right, but as a spiritual exercise go through Ephesians 6:10-20 and read it asking yourself: would it make any difference if this was about "us" and not "me"?

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