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.

Polishing up my Proverbs 16 Crown of Glory (Part I): Outnumbered 4 to 1?

One of the tasks I had to complete when I was finishing my training to be a pastor was something we affectionately called the MRRP (pronounced “merp”), that is: a Ministry Related Research Project.  The idea was to choose an issue that was of concrete relevance to the local church, research it thoroughly, and develop a practical project to address it.  When I wrote my MRRP, I had almost no real experience as a pastor, so I chose a topic that was of concrete relevance to me, in particular, and I just took it for granted that it would be of relevance to the church local, too.

I am still convinced that the topic I chose back in 2008, Christian Faith and Care of the Environment, is of vital importance to the church, and I’ve actually had a number of opportunities to follow up on my research in practical ways since becoming a pastor.  So I’m not saying I regret my decision, by any means.  But in the years since my Seminary days, every once in a while this thought strikes me:  “If you were to do a Ministry Related Research Project today, with 6+ years of real ministry experience behind you, and, hopefully, a much more accurate picture of what issues really are of vital importance to the church, which would you choose?”

Lately when I ask myself that question—what pressing issue especially needs theological clarity and fresh creativity and careful attention to biblical detail, today?—the topic that comes first to mind is this one:   How can and ought the church do seniors ministry in ways that are theologically faithful, biblically informed and pastorally responsive to the unique spiritual issues that accompany aging?

Sorry, that was how you wrote MRRP research questions back then.  Let me try again.  Seniors Ministry: how do we do it faithfully, biblically and well?

Please don’t click “Next Blog” just yet!

I know that ministry to, with and among seniors—the elderly, retirees, the aged and aging—this whole vaguely-defined demographic—is not nearly so “exotic” as almost every other ministry focus: ministry to the marginalized, global missions, consumerism and social justice, sexual identity questions, you name it.  But it is, I am increasingly convinced, something that churches neglect to their determent, their loss and, (dare I say) their failure.

And generally speaking, we do neglect it.  I realize that a few entries in the Amazon search bar hardly counts as hard data (and let me assure you, I was much more vigorous in researching my actual MRRP!) but for curiosity’s sake this afternoon, I went to and queried: “Youth Ministry.”

12,274 results.

Then I queried “Seniors Ministry.”

2,797 results.

Even if you add the results I got for “Ministry to the Elderly” (325) and “Ministry to the Aged” (178), bringing the total to 3,300 results, still, it sort of makes you go hmmm... to think that Amazon has almost 4 Youth Ministry items in their catalogue, for every 1 item they have on Seniors Ministry.  And just to add more specious data to the mix, when I searched Google for a “Youth Pastor Job” I turned up about 1,280,000 hits; searching for “Pastor to Senior Adults jobs,” got me 325,000 hits.  Again the ratio between the two, roughly speaking, is 4:1.

Does the church really have 4 times more interest in youth ministry than it does in ministering to, with and among the elderly?

I don’t know.  There are all sorts of ways to interpret these results so that they say nothing at all about the church’s interest in, commitment to or readiness for ministry among the aged (e.g. Seniors ministry is not so easily distinguished from ministry generally, like Youth ministry is; Seniors ministry is often not a formalized ministry, the way Youth Ministry is, etc.).  But still, 4:1 feels right on a gut level.  For every pastor I’ve known who felt called specifically to minister to seniors, I’m sure I’ve known 4 who felt called to Youth Ministry.

But again, I have no clue if the 4:1 ratio is even remotely accurate. Even if it’s not, however, the real point I’m trying to make today still stands.  A church that inordinately emphasizes youth without also thinking through the unique discipleship opportunities that come along with aging, the unique challenges to spiritual formation that the elderly face, the unique blessing to the community of Faith that seniors are, and the unique role, biblically, that elders were meant to play in the spiritual formation of youth—that church is missing something vital.

More than simply missing something.  If recent findings by Stats Canada are any indication, a church without a robust “theology of aging” that in turn inspires practical ministry initiatives among the elderly, may find itself missing some crucial Gospel-opportunities in Canada’s New Millennium.  Stats Canada predicts that by 2030, seniors (65 and older) will make up 24% of the Canadian population (up from 15% in 2013).  In the next 50 years, they say, the number of octogenarians (80 years and older) will have tripled, going from 1.4 million today, to around 5 million by 2063.

These numbers are intriguing.  They become pressing when paired with Stats Canada’s prediction that the number of people between 15-64 (i.e. those of working age) will decline, from 69% today, to somewhere around 60% by 2030.  (See for details.). 

In short: over the next few decades, Canada’s population will see a significant increase in the number of seniors, and, at the same time, a decrease in the number of young adults.  Most analysts wonder about the strain this shift will put on the work-force, the healthcare system, the Canada pension plan, the nuclear family.  Churches, I think, should be wondering about this:  how do we do seniors ministry faithfully, biblically and well? 

I am not planning on rewriting my MRRP anytime soon, but I am planning, over the next few weeks here at terra incognita, to ask this very question in a variety of ways.  My plan is to draw out some key biblical themes that should inform a Christian’s perspective on aging (which is, it turns out, often directly at odds with the secular culture’s perspective on aging), and my goal is to sketch out a theological framework for thinking about and talking about, and especially, ministering to the aged.

It may be that these issues seem especially pressing to me because I turned 41 last spring (my reticence to include that detail in this post is probably a sign that the culture I was socialized in is in more desperate need of a “theology of aging” than I realize).  But whatever the reason, I find that it’s on my mind more than ever these days, the theological meaning of growing old.

If you, like me until recently, have always given 4 times (or more) thought to everything else other than aging, and never really suspected that the Christian Faith actually has some wonderfully counter-cultural things to say about this mysterious activity that all of us, whether we realize it or not, are doing every minute of every day, let me invite you to join me here in asking it:  What does the Bible have to say about what it means to grow old?