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.

An Ancient Path for a Modern World (V): Spiritual Journaling


On April 25, 1725 John Wesley, the great leader of the 18th Century Methodist Movement, penned the first entry in his spiritual diary. He was 21 years old at the time, studying theology at Oxford, and the diary in question was an old red notebook in which he detailed the vicissitudes of his spiritual life as a student.

This habit of spiritual journaling, stayed with John Wesley his entire life—over the next 65 years he would fill the equivalent of a book-shelf’s worth of old red notebooks, in which he would record the trials, the victories, the struggles and the developments both mundane and profound in his work as a minister of the Gospel. On July 16, 1790, he penned his last journal entry. On March 2, 1791, he died.

The Published Journal of John Wesley, a carefully edited digest of his journal that he prepared for publication, covers the years from 1735 – 1790.  For the glimpse it offers into 18th Century English life, the portrayal gives of the challenges faced by the Methodist movement during its early years, and the spiritual portrait it paints of its author, it is fascinating reading.

Over the last month or so at terra incognita, we have been exploring some of the more modest, or lesser known disciplines of the Christian life, things like silence, solitude, breathing, fasting. The goal has been to explore how these spiritual practices can actually deepen and strengthen our habits in the more essential means of grace, such as Scripture reading, prayer, care for the marginalized, and so on. If John Wesley is any example, one spiritual discipline that can be found profoundly helpful in our development as fully devoted followers of Christ, is the habit of journaling.

Though we don’t always think of it in this way, a spiritual journal can be a powerful tool for our growth in the way of Jesus.

My personal experience with journaling has been varied. Though my bookshelf has any number of abandoned journals on it with only the first three pages filled, still I can think of at least three seasons of my life when journaling played a crucial role.

When I was a young man nearing the end of my university studies, I kept a journal for about 8 months, in which I processed many of my struggles to discern next steps for my life after school.

Later when my first child was born, my parents gave me a “Father’s Prayer Journal” as a congratulatory gift. It included prayers and guided journaling exercises, which, as I did them, began to open up a number of my insecurities and immaturities as a new dad. God used this journaling experience to confront me with and heal me of some unhealthy habits of the heart that were keeping me from being the best dad I could be.

The third season of my life when journaling played a significant role was during a time of pastoral burn out, back in 2013-14. This journal contains a number of very raw entries, some of which I completed under the direction of a Christian counselor, where I uncovered and exposed some of the inner stuff that had led to my burn-out.

So there have been seasons when this spiritual discipline played a crucial role in my discipleship. And that is, actually, one of the points I’d like to make about journaling: it is best understood, I think, as a "for-a-season" discipline. When God is doing some fresh work, taking us to new heights or depths in our discipleship, or we’re going through a major life transition, these are times when it is an especially useful tool, for documenting and processing what God is up to.

As I look back over these seasons of my life, however, I am aware of two journaling alternatives that have also played a significant role for me. This blog, for instance, though it is hardly an old red notebook, still has been one of the most important repositories of my spiritual musings, reflections and insights I’ve ever kept. I began blogging back in 2009, and here, some 6 and a half years later, I can (and sometimes do) look back on old posts and discover all sorts of spiritual memories of things God was doing for me and in me and to me at certain points in my pastoral ministry. In many ways, this blog has become for me a digital journal (though not in every way: what I publish here is highly edited and polished, in ways that most spiritual journaling probably shouldn’t be).

The other “journaling alternative” in my life has been my habit of song-writing. I began writing songs back when I was 17 and my guitar teacher told me that if I really wanted to grow as a guitarist, I should start writing my own material. I took him at his word, and 25 years later I have a notebook filled with about 120 songs that I’ve written over the years. My guitar teacher was right.  It did help me grow as a guitarist, but what is interesting to me, as I look back, is how I’ve grown as a Christian, too, trying to put my responses to God’s grace into verse and set it to music.

I share this only to encourage creativity when it comes to journaling. It may not be an old red notebook for you. This is a new age and perhaps there are new wineskins for this old wine (although there is still something to be said for the slow, reflective pace of a pen scrolling over paper). But whatever it looks like, perhaps you are in a season in your walk with God, today, where this very old Christian practice may open up fresh avenues for meeting with and responding to the Lord Jesus.

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