Saturday, March 22, 2008

Bent Hope Prayer

Tim Huff had asked me to write a prayer that will accompany a chapter in his latest book 'Bent Hope' which should be out in the next month or so. I was one of several people he asked to write prayers in response to various chapters from this 'street journal' - essentially stories from Tim's colourful and faithful work with street people in Toronto. The prayer kind of dropped on this day of vigil, after some fruitless attempts over the last few weeks. Of course, it will make more sense after having read the chapter (a plug for Tim's book!), but I think it works as a stand alone too.
Easter joy to you all!

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
in your unburdened self-giving
teach us the way of traveling light
draw us out from the dark cramped hovels
of entitlement and expectation
into a broad and unthreatened place
setting our shoulders straight
filling our eyes with light
and our lungs with deep capacity
save us from the idols of fixed destination
globally positioned confidence and sacred geography
and tune our ears to your whispered travelogue
here - there - wait - go
in the name of the one who had no place to lay his head
this same Jesus

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Lenten Word

Amongst a few other things, I decided to give up judging for Lent. Wow! That's a tough one. But I was reminded about it today when I read this: "Let the mouth also fast from disgraceful speeches and railings. For what does it profit if we abstain from fish and fowl and yet bite and devour our brothers and sisters? The evil speaker eats the flesh of his brother and bites the body of his neighbour." John Chrysostom. Nuff said.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Christmas Shows

We just had a fabulous rehearsal on Monday for our Moveable Feast Christmas shows, and I'm jazzed! This will be the best year yet as Sahra Featherstone adds a wonderful new dimension with her harp and violin. Also, be prepared for a special vocal number from our very own David White!
People keep asking me if we're going to do a Christmas album at some point. I must confess that I'm pretty cynical about the vast majority of Christmas music that's been released - do we really need another version of Silent Night by some pop artist, who, frankly, has no artistic or spiritual attachment to the thing? Let's face it, much of it is a cash grab! I would only do something if it was possible to do something musically unique and had songs outside of the top twenty you usually hear. That being said I'll give you a few that I return to fairly frequently around this time of year:
Bruce Cockburn - Christmas (I think my favourite all time)
Sufjan Stevens - Songs for Christmas (unusual, quirky, ragged, very outside)
Emmylou Harris - The Christmas Album (just because she's Emmylou!)
Tuck Andress - Hymns, Carols, and Songs about Snow (no self-respecting guitarist couldn't love this instrumental piece)
The Roches - We Three Kings (their voices and harmonies are too cool - meets the quirkiness criteria)
Harry Connick Jr. - When My Heart Finds Christmas (sentimental family reasons - always decorate our tree with this blasting - actually, some really strong tunes here)
Steve Bell - The Feast (meets the 'avoids the classics' criteria, and takes Advent and Epiphany into consideration)
The Blind Boys of Alabama - Go Tell it on the Mountain (how could you not love Tom Waits guesting on Go Tell it on the Mountain, or Solomon Burke guesting, uneven but lots of fun)
Jacob Moon - This Christmas (because he's my friend and I co-wrote a song on it? It's new, but we'll see if it has lasting power)

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Weekend Past

We were in Batawa, Ontario on Friday night singing for a YFC fundraiser. We like the folk there - Pat & Dan Koets are very helpful and encouraging. We like Colin Leaver as well, the worker for the area; he has a high Q factor and is obviously passionate about the evangelism of youth. They also had some terrifically honest and real kids giving testimony (the highlight for sure) and their take on what it means to be a youth in today's culture (my favourite line - "we're into gruesome"!)
One question that always emerges for me at events like these is around the word 'challenge'. It was the theme of the night: challenging youth to become all that they can be, challenging supporters to get on board with the ministry. There's room for that word, but, I didn't hear the word invitation all night! Is the gospel more about challenge or invitation? Is it outcome based or presence based? I for one lean to presence that engages and invites. Challenge is too easily co-opted into judgment and condemnation; and we have more of that than we need! Bless these folk on their journey in Christ.

We then ended up in Peterborough on Saturday for a workshop on Sabbath for the Lindsay-Peterborough Presbytery. It was amazing to see how JP Smit and I were in the same zone on our presentations (without previous discussion). The folk were very open and receptive, and joined in heartily in worship. Best moment was in the closing worship, when I told the old 'Anointing with oil/Burning through' story from St. David's. Carey Johnston from Bobcaygeon in a Spirit led moment came up and gave me some oil she had with her, and I invited people to linger for prayer if they felt the need to be anointed. We had two people stay whom we laid hands on and prayed for - it was very cool.

We then drove over to the home of Bert and Tracey-Ann Van Brenk for a house concert. What a great home! Doug and Michelle Fisher graciously arranged this at fairly short notice, and we were grateful to them for getting about twenty people there. Everyone seemed to enjoy the music and stories, as well as the wine and cheese! We are so amazed at the community of friends out there who believe in what MFR is about, and who help us in keeping the ship afloat - God is good.
Finally got into bed in Rockwood by 2:15 AM after fighting traffic through the top of Toronto because of lane closures at 1 PM. Aaargh!!

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Something Jean Vanier Said

In his marvellous reflection on John's gospel, Jean Vanier suggests that the healthy and mature community will be one ( I paraphrase) where no one deems themselves as unworthy of God's love nor deems the other as unworthy of God's love. Clearly the barrier to true community is the disease of self-hatred which then distorts our view of the other. If only our churches could learn this truth and be credible witnesses to it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


I have had the great privilege of co-writing with Steve Bell and Jacob Moon in the last few months, with some very satisfying results. You can hear the song that Steve and I wrote which is called 'These are the Ones' at the SignpostVillage theatre here.
Jacob and I wrote the title track for his new Christmas album called 'This Christmas'. It won't be released for a little while yet, but I'm pleased as to how it turned out; I also contributed some background vocals to it. I enjoy the process of writing with someone else. You wrestle over words and melodies, but, in the end the process can really work. It always helps to have some objectivity! Look for these tunes on future Signpost releases.

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Friday, September 7, 2007

George MacDonald

I've just been revisiting George MacDonald's collection of poems "Diary of an Old Soul' which offers an eight line poem for each day of the year. The poem from July 10 gave me the title for my second album 'By Faint Degrees'. He was such a wonderful writer, and his writing was grounded in a beautiful (though not uncontroversial) theology. In the first part of these poems from July he deals with the importance of small things and I'll reproduce here the verses of July 4 & 5:

Master, thou workest with such common things-
Low souls, weak hearts, I mean - and hast to use
Therefore, such common means and rescuings,
That hard we find it, as we sit and muse,
To think thou workest in us verily:
Bad sea-boats we, and manned with wretched crews-
That doubt the captain, watch the storm spray flee.

Thou art hampered in thy natural working then
When beings designed on freedom' holy plan
Will not be free: with thy poor, foolish men,
Thou therefore hast to work just like a man.
But when, tangling thyself in their sore need,
Thou has to freedom fashioned them indeed,
Then wilt thou grandly move, and godlike speed.

Amazing stuff. Hope that whets you appetites.