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.

Creative Being (II): Creative Spirituality

Creativity is hard to define but impossible not to notice when it’s happening. It’s a musician who somehow takes a traditional form and produces something entirely original with it, all while respecting the bounds of the form; it’s an artist who puts brush to canvas and produces an image that captures the essence of something everyone else had looked at before but no one had ever really seen; it’s a novelist who tells a story that no one has ever heard but is for all that hauntingly familiar.

Creativity is one part discovery, one part remembering, one part observing and one part expressing.

Interestingly, many authors attribute a spiritual quality to creativity. According to Rollo May, creativity “brings to our awareness what was previously hidden and points to new life. The experience is one of heightened consciousness, of ecstasy.” Dieter Uchtdorf called the desire to create “one of the deepest yearning s of the human soul.” Brene Brown said, “Creativity is the way I share my soul with the world.”

What these and other authors seem to be touching on is the sense that when we are being creative, we are coming into contact with something deeply interior—something inside of us—and at the same time, something profoundly transcendent—something above, beyond or outside the everyday—and that whatever else spirituality is about, it, too, has to do with the coalescence of these two things: the interior and the transcendent.

Whether or not there is, in fact, something genuinely spiritual about creativity (my jury is still out on that one), there is, I think, something profoundly creative about spirituality. Put differently: it may or may not be the case that through creative activities we can “encounter and express the spiritual,” but it is most surely the case—at least, from a Christian perspective it is—that when we truly encounter the Spiritual, something very creative happens in us. I say this in part because of the themes of New Creation woven like a gilded thread through the tapestry of the New Testament witness: if anyone be in Christ, there is New Creation (2 Corinthians 5:17); our Lord is the one who (behold) makes all things new (Revelation 21:5); he admonishes us to forget the former things for (again, behold) he is doing a new thing (Isaiah 43:18). The Scriptures pulse with this promise: that something brand new, original, unprecedented and above all creative happens, and is happening, whenever men and women discover their true nature as Children of God through faith in Christ.

It may not involve composing a musical score or drafting an epic novel, but to the extent that creativity is about seeing things that never existed before and bringing them into being, to the further extent that creativity is about discovering worlds of possibility where before there were none, and to the ultimate extent that this is actually what happens to us, spiritually, when we come to Christ, as God reveals in us an identity that had not previously existed and opens up for us a world of hope that was not there before—to that extent, Christian spirituality is deeply and profoundly creative.

In his spiritual autobiography, C. S. Lewis talks about the role that poetry played in his coming to faith. He says that as he approached the point of conversion, he discovered a "ludicrous contradiction between [his atheist/secular] theory of life and [his] actual experiences as a reader." Namely: "those writers who did not suffer from religion and with whom in theory [his] sympathy ought to have been ... all seemed a little thin. ... The roughness and density of life did not appear in their books."  At the same time, the authors he felt he could feed on most deeply, and did—George MacDonald, G. K. Chesterton, John Donne, Spenser, Milton, Herbert—all "by a strange coincidence" shared the same unfortunate "kink": their Christian faith.

As he puts it: “Christians were all wrong—but the rest were all bores.”

At the time, he assumed these authors were good "in spite of" their faith. But as he reached the threshold of his own Aldersgate moment, he began to believe they were good "because of it."

To this we might say: of course they were; what else would you expect? The Christian experience is an opening of the eyes to things previously hidden. It is an expanding of the heart’s capacity to feel, a piquing of one’s thirst for truth, the ultimate (and most literal) of inspirations, the fulfillment of God’s own promise to give dreams and reveal visions to his people.

The real head-scratcher would be a Christian who had encountered Christ and afterwards did not see things afresh, or feel things deeply, or thirst for truth, a believer who was not daily inspired and dreaming big dreams by the Spirit.

This head-scratcher happens, of course—there is such a thing as a dull Christian, to be sure.  But my experience is that as people take steps forward in their faith, as they take risks following Jesus and let him lead them out of their comfort zones, he awakens this Spiritual Creativity in them. The business man who spent a life time making rich people richer starts looking at the world afresh and creatively redirects his business efforts into justice for the poor and the oppressed. The teacher who up till now only saw his career as a path for personal advancement comes to Christ and creatively starts speaking grace and truth and love into the lives of his students. The construction worker who simply punched the clock all these years discovers in Christ ways to use his skill creatively, building churches on the mission field.

These are all examples from my own circle of acquaintance. And again, none of them have to do with writing music or painting pictures for Jesus (though I could share those stories too), but they have to do with something far deeper: the way Christ, when he touches us, also touches something in us: a human longing to act creatively in the world. Christ wakens it in us, and by his Spirit, he awakens us to it.

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