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.

Learning to Fly (a song)



When you reach the top
You’re only just starting to climb
So keep rising up
The jump is gonna be sublime

You’ll be soaring across the sky
You’re not falling you’re learning to fly
Just hold your head up and just hold your wings out and
Don’t let this moment pas by
You’ll be soaring across the sky

And you’re not alone
You’re walking where angels dare
So just don’t look down
You’ll be flying on a wing and a prayer

You’ll be soaring across the sky
You’re not falling you’re learning to fly
Just hold your head up and just hold your wings out and
Don’t let this moment pas by
You’ll be soaring across the sky

Just keep the ground below you
Just keep the sky above and
Just keep the wind against your face
The wings of the dawn will show you
How deep, how high his love and
You will be lifted on his grace

You’ll be soaring across the sky
You’re not falling you’re learning to fly
Just hold your head up and just hold your wings out and
Don’t let this moment pas by
You’ll be soaring across the sky

On Being Filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:57-67)

One Hand Clapping (a poem)


There is a quiet that's always just there
On the teetering edge
Of all our doing and being
Our wanting and watching
Our running back and forth in desperate needing,
Like the perfect peace of nestling in
Against the bosom of one’s beloved,
Or the soft second before the next exhale,
Held gently against the heart
Like the folded fist of a newborn baby napping.

Only when you’ve ceased your straining for it
Will you ever start to hear it, a quiet that comes
With the distant flutter of something like dove wings
While a song of deliverance over you sings
And the trembling silence inaudibly rings
With the ephemeral echoes of one hand clapping.

On Asking God for a Sign (Luke 1:5-25)

Ghost Notes (a song)



After the earth shakes and after the wind dies
After the fire has scorched the ground
Come stand on the mountain and listen for silence
A small still voice that whispers the sound

Of ghost notes in the song
They echo, can you hear them?
Calling, in the heart of the
Long dark night of the soul...

After the darkness and after the daylight
After the shadows have come and gone
In the sound of your breathing, your broken heart beating
The small still voice it leads you on

With ghost notes in the song
They echo, can you hear them?
Calling, in the heart of the
Long dark night of the soul...

Angel song ringing and seraphim singing
A cherubim calls in the throne room above!
Oh can’t you hear it,
Too glorious to bear it,
His song of redemption salvation and love?

Ghost notes in the song
They echo, can you hear them
Calling, in the heart of the
Long dark night of the soul

10 Years of Blogging

It was a grey January morning in Saskatchewan, almost 10 years ago today, that I took my first tentative step in to the blogosphere. This blog was officially born on January 27, 2009, but I had been experimenting with the idea of a blog for about two weeks before launching.

Although 2018 was my least productive blogging year ever--with a mere 3 posts in 12 months--I have kept blogging pretty consistently over the last 10 years. 2016 was my best year, both in terms of output (155 posts) and content (personally I feel some of my best writing happened in 2016), but on average I've produced about 80 posts a year for ten years.  When I started this blog back then, it was mostly because a) I needed an outlet for my urge to write, b) I wanted to continue reflecting on life theologically, having just finished my Masters Degree in Pastoral Ministry, and c) I had a vague notion that keeping a blog was something a pastor of the new millennium ought to do.

A lot has happened in the last ten years. I became a pastor; I beat the odds and served 10 consecutive years at the same pastoral post (thank you FreeWay!); together with my lovely wife I raised three children into young adulthood; I experienced the heartache of a pastoral burn out (2014); I nearly completed a D.Min degree (I'm on the final leg of my dissertation); I've read approximately 180 books (yes, I keep track); I recorded 7 albums-worth of original music (# 7 will be released in the coming months); and I posted almost 800 posts on topics as far-ranging as the theological meaning of Gravity Falls, an exegetical notebook on the Book of Esther, an analysis of the Narnia books, the spirituality of bicycling, the ecological imperative of faith, the theology of Bruce Springsteen, poetry, songwriting, the ascension, the incarnation, parenthood, the historical Jesus, gender, sexuality, and just about anything else I could think of in between.

Over the last ten years (the dry spell of 2018 excepted), this blog has been a great companion.  It has given me space to say things I just couldn't find a better place to say.  It has kept a record of the spiritual vicissitudes of my life. It has challenged me to be a better writer.  It has pushed me to be a deeper thinker.  It's been fun.

It has also been a bit of a pain. The problem with a blog is that it's never finished.  Tomorrow's post isn't written yet, and there will always be another to write after that.  And except for the odd comment or two--that pop up like oases in the desert--you never really know for certain that anybody's reading.

I know this is starting to sound like a typical, "thanks for the memories but I'm shutting down the blog" farewell post, but it's actually the opposite.  After much prayer, reflection and introspection, I've decided to give terra incognita at least one more year of attention.  Last year, between leading through a church merger, producing an original musical based on the life of St Patrick, preparing for the first defense of my dissertation, and launching my second child into university, I had almost no time to breathe, let alone to blog (of all things).  The aforementioned 3-post drought of 2018 is evidence that last year did not have a lot of margin for the blog.  I am hopeful that things will be different this year, and I've laid out a plan for regular posting in 2019.  Among the topics we'll cover this year, I'm planning to explore: the spirituality of the Legend of Zelda, the role of food in discipleship, lessons learned from a church merger, the pastor as poet, and much more.

If this is your first time visiting terra incognita, let me invite you to join me for the ride. If you've been here before, but the last year of silence sort of put you off, let me apologize sincerely.  If you'll give terra incognita one more chance, I'll do my best to keep you thinking, wondering, amused, challenged and stumped as we reflect together on God, life, faith, love, words, and spirituality.

Unregrettable (A Poem for a New Year)

When my time comes
To drop dead as stone
Of heartache after kissing
My last goodnight--
Or however I'll go--
When my time comes
May it come with
Notebooks full of poems
And songs well sung and sermons well preached
And dances danced and plays played
And children, my children
Filled with love,
Like crystal pitchers brimming
With summer lemonade
Squeezed from the lemons
Of life
And my heart, when it bursts (or however I'll go)
Like a sponge sopping wet
With all the joy and tears
Unregrettable,
When my time comes.

A Pastor Musing in His Study (A Christmas Poem)

How much pain there would be
If every Sunday felt the pressure
Of a Christmas Sunday,
To get the words just so and the
Worship in perfect order
So that every last drop of the wonder
Of God’s Love come down to us
 In the Gift of Immanuel
Wrapped squirming in a manger
Might be savored?

How much pain,
But oh how much pleasure?

Afraid of the Dark, a song



I’m not afraid of the dark
I’m more afraid of the light in me
That bright and beautiful spark of you
No I’m not afraid of the dark
Beautiful and dangerous
Burning bright and glorious
Sparkling victorious
Inside of me

Could it be that there’s more than we imagine
Going on inside the soul
Could it be that there’s truth inside the passion
And the yearning makes us whole

The breath is willing, but the blood is weak
The heart is spilling and the spirit can’t speak (cause I’m)

I’m not afraid of the dark
I’m more afraid of the light in me
That bright and beautiful spark of you
No I’m not afraid of the dark
Beautiful and dangerous
Burning bright and glorious
Sparkling victorious
Inside of me

Shine on morning starlight
Come illuminate me
Light up all my blindness
Help me see what you see

The breath is willing, but the blood is weak
The heart is spilling and the spirit can’t speak (cause I’m)

I’m not afraid of the dark
I’m more afraid of the light in me
That bright and beautiful spark of you
No I’m not afraid of the dark
Beautiful and dangerous
Burning bright and glorious
Sparkling victorious
Inside of me

Dead Man Walking, a song



I got miles to go before I sleep
I got miles to go before I sleep
If I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to keep

I’m a dead man walking, taking his first step
Like a blind man gawking, or a baby’s first breath
I’m a dead man walking, for crying out loud
Like a mute man talking, or a torn grave shroud
I’m a dead man walking

And the winter snow, it covers my tracks
And the winter snow, it covers my tracks
If I don’t find my way to you
I’m sure I won’t find my way back

And the lights ahead, they beckon to me
When the wounds of the past are all I can see
And just one more step and I will be free

I’m a dead man walking, taking his first step
Like a blind man gawking, or a baby’s first breath
I’m a dead man walking, for crying out loud
Like a mute man talking, or a torn grave shroud
I’m a dead man walking

I got miles to go before I sleep
I got miles to go before I sleep