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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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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: Praying through the Prayerbook of Christ

first posted February 24, 2010

I've been spending a lot of time in the Psalms these days. I'm preaching through some of them as part of the Lent season at the FreeWay, and I'm discovering both how beautiful they are, and how easily mis-read. This is partly because of our ego-centric tendency to ignore that small Hebrew word that starts almost every Psalm, and jump almost immediately to make these prayers, praises, petitions and pleas our own. Of course, this "works" when the prayer is "Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." But it's a little awkward when the plea is "strike my enemies on the jaw, break the teeth of the wicked." And it is downright risky when the petition is, "examine my heart and my mind ... for I continually walk in your truth."

To be honest, I could never pray that last one and be honest. And were I to try-- to ask God to examine my heart because I've continually walked in his truth-- He would only see the depths of my self-deception there.

And that's why that one little word makes all the difference. The word is "of David." In Hebrew it's just four letters. But they're the four letters that transform this Psalm, because they remind us that these prayers, praises, petitions and pleas, they're not ours. They're David's. The Anointed's. The Christ's.

And of, course, not even David could pray them perfectly, but the Shining Christ of whom he was but the Shadow, the perfect Christ who alone walked continually in Yaweh's truth, he could. These prayers for vindication, petitions for deliverance from death, appeals to complete innocence, they belong to Jesus, who alone can pray them perfectly and purely. Only in Jesus can these prayers become ours, as the petitions of God's people (and still they're not mine before they are ours).

Bonhoeffer helped me get this. He insists that we must read the Psalms first and foremost as the “Prayerbook of Christ.” He says: “The same words that David spoke ... the future Messiah spoke. … It is none other than Christ who prayed them in Christ’s own forerunner, David.” And of course, this is how the New Testament writers read the Psalms. They continually and consistently put David’s songs of praise in Jesus’ mouth. For instance, in Romans 15:8-9, Paul applies Psalm 117:1 directly to Jesus: “I will praise you [God] among the Gentiles; / I will sing hymns to your [God’s] name.” Specifically here Christ’s “hymn of praise” is “sung” to the tune of his servant-hood among the Jews, whereby the Gentiles “glorify God for his mercy” (15:9b). In a similar way, the author of Hebrews puts a psalm of praise on Christ’s lips: “I will declare your name to my brothers / in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises” (Psa 22:22). Here Christ’s “praise” takes the form of his willingness to identify as “brother” with those whom God has brought to glory through his own suffering, those who could never merit glory on their own.

This goes beyond merely reading individual psalms as messianic prophecy. The Book of Psalms as a whole gathers together in itself all the lamentations and celebrations and heart-cries, “every need, every joy, every thanksgiving, and every hope” (as Bonhoeffer would say) of God’s people; and Jesus, the Messianic “Son of David,” gathers them together in himself and offers them in his own perfect self-offering on the cross, on behalf of his brothers and sisters. This is why Hebrews 13:15 insists that our “sacrifice of praise” can only be offered “through him,” and must always be an acknowledgement of his name, for as with all our responses to God, our praise must participate in the perfect praise of Christ, our mediator.

Okay. Maybe that's all just so much Ivory Tower Theology.

But watch what happens when we read the Psalms as the prayer book of Christ. Psalm One insists that the way of the wicked perishes and the way of the righteous prospers. And if I read this as my own personal prayer, then I wonder: my "way" has been prospering of late, does that "prove" my "righteousness"? Or maybe: my way has not been prospering of late, does that "prove" my "wickedness?" And suddenly I'm spiraling in this snare of works-righteous, health-and-wealth theology that's so disconnected from the gospel of Jesus it would be laughable if it weren't so tragic and so real for so many people.

But if I read Psalm One as Christ's own prayer, then I discover the beauty of its promise: the "way" of the righteous Christ will prosper; he will become a tree planted by water, bearing beautiful, life-giving fruit in season. And Christ's way is to take broken, weak, guilty sinners like me an make them forgiven, heart-strong and whole in him. And as Psalm one assures me: he will prosper in this way. Because he alone has not walked, stood or sat in the Way of sinners, He can't fail in this.

I'm not the righteous Tree. I'm just the fruit of Its righteousness.

And that's really good news.