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.

1 Peter 5:1-11 The Stand


Serendipity Smiles, a song



Serendipity goes down to the river in the moonlight
And she slips her foot in laughing
And she says the water’s fine
And I don’t want to drown while we’re swimming in the starlight
So I hold her body close to me and tell her that she’s mine

And O, Serendipity, I glimpse eternity
Once in a while;
And O, waves of ecstasy
Washing over me whenever Serendipity smiles

Serendipity lies down in the grass under the willow
And she stretches out her body
And she says the shade is fine
And the sun is beating down
And I’ve got no place I need to go
So I stretch out there beside her and I take her hand in mine

And O, Serendipity, I glimpse eternity
Once in a while;
And O, waves of ecstasy
Washing over me whenever Serendipity smiles

Serendipity sits down in the silence on the mountain top
And she spreads her arms out to the world
And she says the view is fine
And the breeze is dancing round us
And I don’t know when we’re gonna stop
So I lean my body into hers and I let her take her time....

And O, Serendipity, I glimpse eternity
Once in a while;
And O, waves of ecstasy
Washing over me whenever Serendipity smiles

The Final Chapter of the Rest of Your Life, a devotional thought

I used to think that Acts 28 verse 31 was a pretty anti-climactic ending for the book of Acts. Basically, it ends with Paul under house arrest in Rome, preaching the Gospel to anyone who comes to see him and waiting for his trial before Caesar. And that's it. But the more I study Acts, the more fitting, even perfect, this ending seems. Acts began with Jesus' promise that the Christians would become his witnesses to the ends of the earth. Of course, when he said that, the Faith was just a little off-shoot of Judaism from the back-woods of the Empire; hardly something to make the world sit up and take notice. But by the end of the story it's causing waves in the capital itself, about to be heard by the very emperor of Rome.

Even so, there is something nagging-ly incomplete about Acts 28:31. As if no one knows exactly how Paul's story is gonna end--or the story of the Gospel, for that matter. And I think that's part of the point. It's sort of like God's asking us, at the end of Acts: "And where will the Gospel of Jesus go next? What will the next chapter be? It's really up to you." And when you think about it like that, it leaves you wondering: how am I helping to write the "29th" chapter of Acts? Am I doing my part to "finish this story" about the love and lordship of Jesus and how it reached every corner of the world?

Bonjour Ma Petite, a song



Bonjour ma petite, je te chante la bienvenue
Nous t’avons attendu il y a longtemps
Et peut-etre que ce monde, il t’est inconnu
Mais ce bras t’aimeront pour tojour
Alors, ferme tes yeux et reve dans ton coeur
Et plus tard tu le decouvririas
Alors reste ici, tout pres de mon coeur
Et ces bras t’aimeront pour toujour

Hello, little one I sing your welcome
We have waited a long time for you
And maybe this world is a stranger to you
But these arms, they will always love you
So close your eyes and dream in your heart
Tomorrow you will seek you will find
But rest right here, right next to my heart
And these arms, they will always love you

1 Peter 4:1-11 A Grand Finale

Success Story, a devotional thought

The very last sentence in the book of Acts—after all the intrigue and danger, toil and tears, adventures and brushes with death—is that while under house arrest, Paul “proclaimed the Kingdom of God with all boldness and without hindrance!” Some commentators note that Acts seems to end somewhat abruptly, but for my money, this sentence: “He proclaimed the Kingdom of God with boldness and without hindrance” is about as fitting a conclusion to Acts as I could imagine. After all, isn’t this what Jesus promised would happen way, way back in Chapter 1: that his Spirit-filled disciples would become his witnesses “to the ends of the earth”? And isn’t Paul’s preaching in Rome, at the very epicenter of the known world, a direct, if somewhat unexpected, fulfillment of that promise?

I call it unexpected because from a strictly worldly perspective, everything has seemingly fallen apart for Paul: the Romans have him under house arrest, he’s been waiting two years for his case to be heard by Caesar, the Jewish leaders have rejected him, and God only knows what’s next to come. And yet, measured by God’s measuring stick, two years of free, uninhibited telling-others-about-Jesus (to heck with house-arrest and forthcoming trials) is a major score for the Gospel. It gets me thinking about earthly measures of success versus God’s measures of success. If I could reach the end of my journey and say, “I got to tell others about Jesus, boldly and without hindrance,” then regardless my circumstances or my worldly achievements, by God’s standards that’s a life shot through with success.

Hey Fireweed, a song



The firestorm may have left a scar
The flames have swept over me and
The ashes are burned black and charred
The valley is smouldering and
The embers are still glowing but
The beckoning stars are finally showing through the smoke
They’re finally showing through the smoke

The hottest flame brings the brightest green
The ashes are rich with new life
The blaze has swept the forest clean
The phoenix will come alive and
The heart that’s been tried by fire will
Awaken and flourish with desire at the dawn
With new desire at the dawn

So don’t you walk away right before your miracle arrives
Your resurrection’s waiting on the next sunrise

Hey fireweed, it’s not over yet
Your beauty is breaking up through the ashes
It’s flowering, hopeful violet
It’s blooming from the embers of your passion
Hey Fireweed,your beauty is breaking up through the ashes

The smoke will clear with the morning light
The flames that swept over you, it
Won’t always be so burning bright
One day you will start anew, when
Your heart has been tried by fire it
Will flower with beautiful desire at the dawn
Beautiful desire at the dawn

So don’t you walk away right before your miracle arrives
Your resurrection’s waiting on the next sunrise

Hey fireweed, it’s not over yet
Your beauty is breaking up through the ashes
It’s flowering, hopeful violet
It’s blooming from the embers of your passion

Hey fireweed, it’s not over yet
Your beauty is breaking up through the ashes
It’s flowering, hopeful violet
It’s blooming from the embers of your passion
Hey Fireweed,your beauty is breaking up through the ashes

1 Peter 3:8-18 The Right Stuff, a sermon

Going Public, a devotional thought

In Acts 26:26, Paul is on trial for creating a stir in Jerusalem, and is giving his defense to the Roman Governor (Festus) and the King of Judea (Herod Agrippa). He recounts his meeting with the Resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus, his conviction that Jesus is the Messiah promised in the Hebrew Scriptures, and his mission to proclaim this fact among the Gentiles.

And then in verse 26 he says something that makes you stop and think: “I am convinced that none of this (the events surrounding the life, death and resurrection of Jesus) has escaped notice, because it was not done in a corner.”

It’s that “not done in a corner” bit that gets me thinking, anyways, because it reminds me that there is something unavoidably public about the Gospel. God did not do what he did in Jesus quickly, quietly, and then sweep it under the rug; he did it openly, publicly, and announced it to the world, with public parades into the City of Jerusalem (Palm Sunday), a public execution of an innocent man (Good Friday) and an empty tomb on display for any and all to see (Resurrection Sunday).

What’s more, Paul’s own ministry demonstrates that what happened that first Holy Week so long ago is meant to be broadcast around the globe. It was not, that is to say, “done in a corner”; nor can it be tucked away into a corner. The very fact that this harried and homeless itinerant rabbi—Paul—is proclaiming the message of Jesus to the likes of Festus and Agrippa—the power brokers of his world—is proof of God's determination not to let the Good Thing he did in Jesus fade into a quiet corner of the global scene.

Christianity is, and always has been a matter of the public record, meant for public display and requiring public engagement. Of course, when you do stop to think about this, it leaves you with all sorts of challenging questions: Are we living our faith in corner? And what might it look like for us, to follow Paul’s example and bring the message of Jesus out into the open?

More Than She Knows, a song



She’s got sunlight in her hair
But she doesn’t know it’s there
Shining everywhere she goes
She’s got laughter in her hands
That she doesn’t understand
She knows more than she knows

How quickly once upon a time
Becomes forever after
Like petals falling from a rose
And when the journey’s dark
I want your daylight to surround her
so much more than she knows
I love her more than she knows
I love her more than she knows

There is a star shines in her smile
You might glimpse once in a while
If it don’t fade before it shows
And there’s a wisdom in her words
Even when they sound absurd
She knows more than she knows

How quickly once upon a time
Becomes forever after
Like petals falling from a rose
And when the journey’s dark
I want your daylight to surround her
so much more than she knows
I love her more than she knows
I love her more than she knows

Be thou her beauty o Lord of my heart
Be graceful and radiant in every part
While the World tries to teach her to trade it for lies
May naught be so fair as your light in her eyes

How quickly once upon a time
Becomes forever after
Like petals falling from a rose
And when the journey’s dark
I want your daylight to surround her
so much more than she knows
I love her more than she knows
I love her more than she knows