Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmastime in the city

Christmas has come and gone once again, though as we plan a trip to Winnipeg this weekend to see Sarah’s family it feels as though we’re heading into an extended edition of the holidays.  Sarah has had to return to work for a couple of days this week, but with Tyler, Nicole and Olivia still down it still feels like we’re on Christmas vacation.

This year was a bit of a return to tradition for the Cain side of the family.  Christmas Eve at Auntie Laurel and Uncle Don’s and Christmas Day at Mom and Dad’s.  Good times and good food!  Nicole, Tyler and Olivia arrived soon after and we had a larger family gathering complete with Uncle Don songs, more gift-giving, more food and even dancing!  Yep, that’s right.

Two and a half years since its completion, I was finally able to print off a finished copy of my undergrad thesis for Mom and Dad.  I thought it’d make a good surprise gift at the end of the morning.  Though the manuscript was officially ‘done’, I’d gone through it again last October and then again in January when I experienced I really frustrating set-back.  I’d accidently created two different copies without realizing it, and had on some days been editing one version and on another day editing the second.  Sometimes in March, I think it was, I bit the bullet and read through both copies again to try and decide which sections of which version was the final.  Thankfully, I had noticed my mistake early enough and I ended up merging the two without much difficulty.  Still, you can imagine the headache.

Afterwards I was able to finally pull in my title page and table of contents and save the whole thing as a .pdf.  It’s such a good feeling to get it totally done and have a copy printed off.  I wanted mom and Dad to have the first one (I have an older one that I printed when still at the college), as they played such a huge part in me even being able to go to school.


If you’ve been following my blog you’ve probably heard me mention my favourite authors from time to time.  When it comes to the Christian life, Eugene Peterson is my favourite.  He’s down-to-earth and grandfatherly, and his writing is rich, meaningful, and pastoral and imaginative.  For Eugene, it’s all about how everything is liveable, nothing in our Christian faith is meant to be abstract, general, propositional or removed from day to day life.  It’s all personal.  All relational.  All participatory.  Last Christmas I received Practice Resurrection, which I’ve blogged about before. This year I was blessed with three more books of his five-piece series on spiritual theology. Each book is a “conversation” on a different topic related to living.  So now I’m reading Eat this Book, a conversation about spiritual reading.  I think I’ll be able to use it with my Sunday school lessons in January.


It was great to see Olivia again, and to visit with Tyler and Nicole—who we introduced to the thrilling epic farming board game, Agricola.  As we purchased sheep, built clay huts and harvested our grain, Olivia would lean over to me, her Dad’s iPhone in hand with her favourite kids game, and show me how to colour Christmas trees and listen to Tinkerbell stories.  She was pretty interested in all the little wooden pieces for the game, so we let her set up a farm of her own—though all she really wanted to do was collect more wood and assign everyone coloured bowls: “Blue for Dad and orange for Nikolas and green for Sarah and yellow for Mom!” 

We’ve made New Year’s Eve plans with the three of them once we’re all back in Winnipeg—and hopefully we’ll be able to see Mike and Steph, too!

Until next time, happy reading, and hoping you’ve all had a very Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2011

houston, we’ve found a topic!

Feeling a little bit better this morning--I've had a sore throat for the last couple of days (typical for Christmastime, I suppose!)  Earl Grey seems to be helping!  Of course, being able to rest at home now that I've finished work for the year doesn't hurt either!

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been trying to decide on a topic to teach for our church’s adult Sunday school.  Keith Eichel asked if I’d be interested in taking some of the sessions, so I was given the month of January, and plenty of room in terms of topics and style.  For a long time I was pretty sure I was going to do something on Christian spiritual disciplines.  I started working on it back in October or November and had had a few pages written up.  But plans change.  Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline describes twelve practices through which we connect with God and one another in the Christian life: meditation, prayer, fasting and study are the Inward Disciplines.  Simplicity, solitude, submission and service make up the outward disciplines.  Confession, worship, guidance and celebration are corporate disciplines—practices which we participate in together as the body of Christ.  With only four sessions to speak, I couldn’t possibly do them all justice.  I thought of pairing some together, or simply picking four, but it simply wasn’t working.  It's an excellent book, and would make a really good small group study.  Maybe some other time.

Thankfully, there was something else in store.

I was working on study as a discipline, and then reading in the broader sense.  How do we nurture our minds?  Do we know how to do this?  How do we read well?  How important is that to cultivating a wholistic and healthy faith?  That sent me into Fee & Stuart’s book, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, a text from my freshmen class, Biblical Foundations I.  Within a few pages of reading I knew I needed to focus here: on how to read the Bible well.

So I’ve been working a lot on that, and really enjoying it.  I wrote the first session and I’m just in the middle of editing the second.  The third and fourth are still to be determined.  But it’s a good start, and I’m thankful to have settled on something.  For me that’s usually the hardest part.

Merry Christmas, dear reader!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

hobbit trailer!!

I really like that the dwarves are singing their song.  Its the same song re-arranged as a theme in the second half of the trailer.

This reminds me of the good old days of making a trip to Thunder Bay to watch the Two Towers and Return of the King on opening day—our own little there and back again adventure if ever there was one!

Here’s the official site with a larger trailer and the artwork.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


As we were getting ready for bed last night we got talking about how much stuff we have.  We’re reminded of this regularly since our main storage area also has the laundry and a shower in it—so you see these things that you don’t really use very often.  Some of it is definitely important like our winter clothes, my drum cases, and some bins of old papers and/or toys from our childhoods.  Sometimes it feels like the wall of storage is encroaching on the rest of the room!  If we were in a bigger place we’d probably have it tucked away somewhere else.  But in the same breath, we’d also have bought more stuff to fill a larger home!  Endless cycle!

One of the things I love about Sarah is that she’s so good at deciding what is important to keep and what she’ll never really use again.  She goes through her clothes on a regular basis and what she doesn’t think she’ll use anymore she gives away.  When I was a kid and a teenager Mom would do the same with me: sit me down and we’d go through the old cupboard.  Cleanse things out.  Make room for what we actually need for today.

I’m thinking of looking at spiritual disciplines as a series for Sunday school in January.  Why do we make things so confusing?  Look at this horse!  He seems pretty happy just to have food and space to run around.  Plus he's got a great view.I’ve been wanting to do something with Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline for some time now, but I’m still not sure this is the best outlet.  The chapters in Celebration are already so well arranged that I think any one of them would be hard to present in a 45-minute segment.  Also Foster highlights 12 disciplines…and I have room for maybe 4-5!  So I’d have to pick some and skip others.  Part me of just wants to hand copies of the book out: “Here.  Read this through and then come back and we’ll talk about it when you’re done.”  I wonder how’d that go over?

The Christian Discipline of simplicity is an inward reorientation which, in turn, transforms the way we go about living life.  Inward to outward, always both.  What begins inside of us will permeate our outward experiences.  Out of the heart the mouth speaks, so I’ve heard. Here’s Foster:

Contemporary culture lacks the inward reality and outward lifestyle of simplicity.  We must live in the modern world, and we are affected by its fractured and fragmented state.  We are trapped in a maze of competing attachments.  One moment we make decisions on the basis of sound reason and the next moment out of fear of what others think of us. We have no unity or focus around which our lives are oriented. …

We really must understand that the lust for affluence in contemporary society is psychotic.  We crave things we neither need nor enjoy. … We are made to feel ashamed to wear clothes or drive cars until they are warn out.  The mass media have convinced us that to be out of step with fashion is to be out of step with reality.  It is time we awaken to the fact that conformity to a sick society is to be sick. . . .We should take exception to the modern psychosis that defines people by how much they can produce or what they earn.” (Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 80-81).

Foster paints it pretty bleak, and I’m not saying that everyone is sucked into this 100%.  But it’s hard not to think of real experiences when I read this.  Especially the stuff about mass media.  It’s one of the reasons why Apple drives me nuts.  They redesign their iPods so quickly that once you buy one it’s not long before you feel that they missed out, and then you feel the need to upgrade sooner than you would really need to.  It’s the same now with Amazon’s Kindle e-book readers.  I’m sure the same thing goes for cellphones, but I don’t really know.

Simplicity.  I’d rather ignore all the rubbish of having the newest and the fastest and get my inner life straightened out first. Out of that I know I can be a better husband, a better employee, a better son, a better drummer, a better person.  The fundamental reorientation of the heart and mind, when set aright by God, can really transform our attitudes and the way we go about living day-to-day.  I’m far from this.  But Foster helps to point us in the right direction.  I’m glad for voices like his that can cut through the system and get us thinking again.

If you’re still reading this than kudos to you!  Way longer than I intended for first thing Saturday morning!  Have a great weekend.

Friday, December 09, 2011

drumming i will someday learn

Youtube can be a blessing and curse.  A blessing in that you can see some pretty neat things: amazing imaginative ideas, or newly discovered music, or something ridiculous that your friends from college posted.  Sarah finds some really great stuff in her surfing travels—nearly every other day there’s something to listen to or ponder or just laugh at.  That said, youtube can be a bit of curse too: the amount of garbage on there is pretty atrocious.  It’s as though you’ve got to wade knee-deep through the sludge to find the gems.

For me, youtube provides me with new ideas, and usually these have to do with drumming.  I can’t speak on behalf of musicians who play other instruments, but for myself I can tend to get in a rut.  A lot of this probably has to do with the fact that I’ve really played the same styles of music.  But beyond genre, there’s still a certain dynamism that can seep away as time goes on.  Like anything in life, we need to infuse fresh inspiration into the activities we love, lest they become mundane or we forget the beauty they’re capable of making.

The curse comes into play here, as well—it’s easy to watch excellent drummers and become discouraged, “I’ll never be able to do that!” (and that might very well be true, sadly…)  But that’s why I really like watching Mike Johnston’s drum lessons.  He is without question a gifted drummer, but he’s also a teacher who is inviting, down-to-earth and humble about his skills in a way that makes one think, “Hey!  I really could play this!”

I tried that tonight with this video.  It was harder than it appeared.  But it was great practice, great fun, and challenges me to take the time to play and practice more and avoid the ruts.

Be well this weekend.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

december comes

It’s been so long lately between writing these posts, and I’m not too happy about it!

Here’s a little update on what’s been happening with us, dear reader…

November and December have been filled with memories of work and family (though hopefully not indefinitely in that order!)  Sarah’s family came down for her birthday weekend in November.  It’s always a lot of fun when we all get together.  On that Sunday Auntie Laurel and Uncle Don came over too and we had a birthday party for Sarah.  I was able to find her a record player that she’d had her eye on for awhile.  Now named “Ruby”, she has only a few vinyls to play, but she’s a very happy contribution to our cozy little home.  Sarah was very excited.

Snow hasn’t flown as early as last year, considering how this was November 30, 2010:

No snow days for us this year, sadly.

We’ve been trying to set aside time in the weekends together.  A little Christmas shopping here and there.  Our warm reading by the stove.  Last Saturday we decided to try something different for breakfast: crepes!  And it was a grand success.


So that’s about all that’s new with us.  I’m also working on lessons for our Church’s adult Sunday school classes for January.  I’ve got four or five Sundays to prepare for…and I’m still undecided on topics (though, as usual, I have like 2 or 3 options and just need to settle on something!)  We’re staying home for Christmas this year, and thinking of heading to Winnipeg for New Year’s.  I’m just looking forward to time off!

Thanks for reading.  Stay warm, reader.

One last album: some pics of us at Bear Narrows at the end of autumn.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

at the gallows

Not long after he gives his mansion as a hospital for the sick the Bishop from Les Misérables feels himself called to attend to a criminal in his last moments before facing the death penalty.

He went instantly to the prison, descended to the cell of the “mountebank,” called him by name, took him by the hand, and spoke to him.  He passed the entire day with him, forgetful of food and sleep, praying to God for the soul of the condemned man, and praying the condemned man for his own.  He told him the best truths, which are also the most simple.  He was father, brother, friend; he was bishop only to bless [not to judge or condemn].  The man was on the point of dying in despair.  Death was an abyss to him.  As he stood trembling on its mournful brink, he recoiled with horror. . . . He gazed incessantly…and beheld only darkness.  The Bishop made him see light.

On the following day, when they came to fetch the unhappy wretch, the Bishop was still there…

He mounted the scaffold with him.  The sufferer, who had been so gloomy and cast down on the preceding day, was radiant.  He felt that his soul was reconciled, and he hoped in God.  The Bishop embraced him…

Here is love.  Simple.  Elegant.  Powerful.  Changing a life at its most desperate hour, on the  brink of death and the unknown.  Never should we condemn the work of simple folk who sit all night with those bound for death, or walk with them into their punishment, or pray with them at the uttermost end.  For such is the work of love. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Monseigneur Bienvenu

This past weekend I thought I’d start a new book.  I’d finished Eugene Peterson, and wanted good old fiction.  We have a variety of ‘classics’ (some better than others) on our Kindle.  I started looking through them and found Les Misérables.  Les Mis is Sarah’s favourite play, and one of her favourite stories.  I had first encountered it in the film version with Liam Neeson as Jean Valjean.  The book, of course, is much different and it starts out with a lengthy description of the Bishop Myriel, or, as the people of his mountain diocese call him, Monseigneur Bienvenu.

I think I could take a lesson or two from the good Bishop.  What’s neat about the Kindle is that you can underline things and write comments as you go.  I took note of a few favourite passages—scenes of him giving away all his money, studying away in his room, tilling his garden haphazardly, and so on.  Two scenes in particular stand out: the first occurs early on in the Bishop’s arrival to the new town.  He’s inspecting the hospital which is adjacent to his ‘palace’, and finds that it is overcrowded with the sick.  He and the hospital warden are standing together in the Bishops’ dining room when Bienvenu turns to the hospital director and asks:

     “Monsieur,” said he, “how many beds do you think this hall alone would hold?”

     “Monseigneur’s dining-room?” exclaimed the stupefied director

     The Bishop cast a glance round the apartment, and seemed to be taking measures and calculations with his eyes.

     “It would hold full twenty beds,” said he, as though speaking to himself.  Then, raising his voice:—

     “Hold, Monsieur the director of the hospital, I will tell you something.  There is evidently a mistake here.  There are thirty-six of you, in five or six small rooms.  There are three of us here, and we have room for sixty.  There is some mistake, I tell you; you have my house, and I have yours.  Give me back my house; you are at home here.”

     On the following day the thirty-six patients were installed in the Bishop’s palace, and the Bishop was settled in the hospital.

This is the first of several ways by which the Bishop sacrifices his own comforts, possessions, even his ‘rights’ (a popular topic in Canada today) for the sake of giving to his community—loving his neighbours.

Sometimes I wonder if we over-think what it might mean to help someone in need.  What do we have before us?  What actually is extra?  There’s so much we can live without, and there is so much that others are without.  It’s not complicated.  I don’t have a palace that I can give to a hospital director, but I can give in other ways.  I just need to be open to thinking about it.  Monseigneur Bienvenu, the good old Bishop, can help us to do just that.

Monday, October 24, 2011

a thanks giving

Been realizing once again how truly blessed I am.  It can be tempting to dwell on worries or frustrations—real as they might be—but their shadows shrink in the light of blessing’s reality. 

I have a warm home.  The hum of our stove heater is now added to the familiar creaks of the house: it chugs away merrily as we get ready in the mornings and settle down for sleep again.  I am the self-proclaimed king of several pillows upon our bed.  Each night I’m able to arrange them to get the ‘just right’ for that extra comfortable sleep.  The blankets have a heavy warmth to them.  Slippers are made ready nearby for cold toes in the morning.  Morning doesn’t come too soon anymore.  We’re trying to make a habit of not staying up for all hours.  No longer is morning a rush and hurry of eating, dressing, and lunch-making: there’s room now for reading and exercise and saying ‘good-morning’.  Quiet space.  Time for waking.

I have good work to do at the tree nursery.  I’ve learned so much this year being on the growing and culture-end of things.  The amount of detail and planning that goes into each of the crops is astounding.  To think that I’ve had a hand in the health and life of 12 million trees this year.  It’s humbling to recognize the responsibility, this everyday, hands-in-the-dirt kind of care and attention, that has been given both by myself and others around me.  How quickly our work can become simply a task.  A job to do.  “The old grind.”  I am reminded of my friend Scott Hoover who often prays before a meal: “Thank you for the good work you’ve given us to do.”  Good work.  I like that.

I have family.  Last night we were over at Auntie Laurel’s to celebrate her birthday.  Coffee, cake, presents, familiar faces.  Lots of laughs.  Family.  We regularly stop into Mom and Dad’s for a visit: sharing a meal, watching a show.  Sometimes we just sit and talk for a few hours.  Mom talks about her adventures with the kids she had that day.  Dad recounts the wildlife he encountered on the road.  We’re growing together: letting each other in on what’s going on with us.  Growing.  Remembering.  Sharing.  Memory-making.   

And I have a beautiful wife.  She inspires me on a regular basis to be all who I can be.  She affirms me when I doubt, she corrects me when I’m wrong, she walks with me.  It’s hard to imagine not being with her now.  We’ve made a life together, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  … “making a life”.  I like that, too.

Life truly is good.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

visual poems

When Sarah and I were at Regent this summer we had the opportunity to eat lunch with some students taking full-time studies.  Among the students we met was a man named Theran, currently working on his MCS.  As I was perusing Regent’s YouTube channel ‘underthegreenroof’, I found this video, a student video project for a class on John.  As it turns out, it was one of Theran’s class projects—a visual poem, a marriage of literary and visual media evoking metaphor.  I touched base with him and said that I wanted to share his poem on my blog.  He agreed.  So here it is, and I hope you enjoy it:

Hands from Theran Knighton-Fitt on Vimeo.

Here was his description of the project:

This was the creative project for a class on the book of John in the New Testament "John: the Life of God to the World" In the Summer Term of 2011 at Regent College in Vancouver Canada. The class was taught by Rikk E. Watts. Of the various project options I chose the one that included an academic paper and a creative project.

For my paper I looked at the idea of how water is used in John as a polyvalent symbol and how it interacts with other symbols - specifically wine and blood.

Here is the first paragraph of the paper

“In this paper I will show that John’s unique use of polyvalent symbolism effectively communicates Christ’s mysterious, all-encompassing invitation to partake of his life. I will argue that Johannine symbolism invites us into a higher story, a mystery that normal words cannot express. I will show specifically that the nature of John’s symbolic use of water shifts throughout his gospel in such a way that it becomes more inclusive and invitational as it progresses. I will also outline how the all-encompassing invitation in his water symbolism plays itself out: as its meaning shifts, as it interacts with other symbols, as it speaks to Jewish tradition, and, ultimately what the invitation means for us as we are included into the life of Christ. In Christ all things hold together and in John’s water motif we see God bringing together many things in Christ.”

As you can imagine not everything was able to be included into this visual poem that tries to express these themes. Also, being art, it takes on its own identity too and as such it is not just the video demonstration of the academic paper. However the themes all intersect and my choice to do a creative project instead of a longer paper was specifically related to the idea that I believe John's use of symbolism and imagery more effectively communicates truth than mere academic argument. So to do justice to John, one needs to think and communicate creatively…

This is one of the reasons why I find Regent’s programs so intriguing—they allow for creative projects such as these to work alongside paper-writing to create moments of reflection on faith and life. 

Be well, my friends.


Click the banner below to head over to watch Theran’s other visual poem:
“And the Whole Realm of Nature’s Mine”.

Theran Knighton-Fitt: Visual Poems

Monday, September 19, 2011

mylo xyloto

Coldplay recently posted full-length versions of new songs from their upcoming album, Mylo Xyloto.  If you’re a fan, here’s a playlist of “Paradise”, “Moving to Mars”, “Major Minus”, and “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” to whet the appetite:

The next song will start playing automatically – enjoy!

What do you think of the new sound so far?  Leave a comment below!

Thursday, September 15, 2011


It’s another reason why I love reading Eugene Peterson…

Having finished my Lewis papers and Regent reading, I’ve returned to a book by Eugene Peterson which I received as a Christmas gift last year from Mom and Dad.  It’s called Practicing Resurrection, the fifth and final book in Peterson’s series on Spiritual Theology.  If you’ve ever been to our Tuesday night hangouts with our Young Adults group, you’ll have probably heard me mention Eugene before.  He’s an incredibly down to earth man, and as a writer he’s entertaining, humorous and deep.

Here’s a snippet from Practicing Resurrection on the mystery:

Verb six: God made known.  “With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will” (Eph. 1:8-9).

We are not in the dark.  We are in on what God des.  We are not intended to be kept in a state of ignorance, asking no questions.  We are not children “to be seen and not heard.”

But—and this catches our attention—what God makes known to us is “the mystery of his will.” … ‘Mystery’ here does not refer to things kept in secret, classified information that is not accessible to people without proper clearance.  ‘Mystery’ here refers to something more like the inside story of the way God does things that bring us into the story.  This is a kind of knowledge that cannot be gained by gathering up information or picking up clues. …The way in which God makes known the mystery is ‘with all wisdom and insight.’  That is, the knowledge that God gives us comes in the form of wisdom and insight.  God does not dump information on us.  He does not ‘home school’ us in mathematics and biology.  ‘Wisdom and insight’ are knowledge lived out.

We have far too little experience of this in American [and, I would add, Canadian] schools.  Education majors in dates and figures, explanation and definitions, how things work… None of this is without usefulness.  But it has little to do with becoming a mature person, with growing up. We know a thing, a truth, a person only in relationship.  There is a great deal of impersonal knowledge available.  There is no impersonal wisdom.

We truly know something only by entering it, knowing from the inside, lovingly embracing it.  That is what wisdom is: truth assimilated and digested (Peterson, Practice Resurrection, 64-65).

Sometimes I think we make matters of faith and God so abstract—so unrelated to everyday life.  Yet Eugene helps us to keep it grounded in everyday language: in fact, the most ordinary language there is—that of relationships, family, real people, real life, real God.

Practice ResurrectionReferences:

Eugene Peterson.  Practice Resurrection: a conversation in growing up in Christ.  Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2010.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

“Quick! What’s another word for motif?”

It’s my day off, and I’m feeling pretty good about that.  Lots done this morning.  First, I was able to finish my work for my Regent class (hurray!) and get it sent off in the mail.  I know I’ve done the best I can, and I’m pretty happy with how the paper turned out.  I finally settled on writing about pilgramge motifs in two of C.S. Lewis’ books, Perelandra and The Horse and His Boy—specifically the themes of calling, struggle, and epiphany.  It made for a neat compare and contrast, and it was nice to be able to pick the topic as well. 

Perelandra and The Horse and His Boy

I was able to schedule doctor appointments for both of us—not always an easy feat in this town.  Then there was plethora of errands to run: cheques to the bank, papers to mail, and car to get gas (finally got things working at the third gas station I tried—go Safeway!), and then to GM to drop the car off for its semi-annual inspection—which sounds like some sort of army test where cars have to run a ropes course or something.  During the ride back home The Cars came on the radio—seemed somewhat fitting.

So the start of this new week is a bit of a turning point: off with my Lewis paper and onto the next class I might take, and off with summer and onto fall.  Or maybe even winter—it was only 3 degrees above today!  Last night we were at Mom and Dad’s and I remember it felt so much like Christmas, or some holiday, though I’m not sure why—just the feeling in the air.  I like winter, but sometimes it feels like a bully crowding out the other seasons on the playground. 

Ah, Sarah’s home!  Gotta go!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

september: songs and storms!


Trees are yellowing—it’s sad to say it, but it’s true.  This morning there was such a wind that I think half of them blew off the trees across our yard!  I was on the way to work, just coming down the drive to the nursery, and a big spruce broke off about half-way up the trunk and came crashing down a few yards away.  There was some storm a-brewin’!

Started doing drum lessons again after a month or so hiatus.  Good to spend the time with Kyle and looking forward to more afternoons like this one.

Sarah’s not feeling the best—sinus-related cold symptoms.  We’re doing what we can to combat it, but I just wish it’d go away.  I don’t like waking up the next morning and hearing how she had a rough night just trying to breathe.  I think we’re both looking forward to the weekend: looking to go to Winnipeg to spend it with the familia. 

Wanted to share this song.  Beth showed it to Sarah after we sent her the infamous music video of the 1990’s Billy Dean country “hit”, “Only Here for a Little While”… which is actually a very nice songif you aren’t too distracted by the sweater and mullet!

Anyway, here’s a new one that I think would be very fun to learn/play the next time we have a gig (which, funnily enough, is next month for the Second Chance Pet Network….thing.) 

You’ll have to click “Watch in YouTube” to listen to it…


Be well this weekend.

PS:  Sarah just asked me to play this one as we’re heading to bed.  Very nice.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

artist spotlight: don adams + shine

Yesterday my good Uncle Don gave me a hand moving in our new couch.  I’ll be honest…it was a heavier ordeal than I had expected!  Yet we got it done, and I’m so grateful to Don for helping me haul the old hide-a-bed out and get the new one in here: it looks great!

So this one is for Uncle Don!

Most of my favourite childhood memories are with my family.  Candlelit Christmas nights after turkey supper, Easter egg hunts in the backyard, day trips to Blue Lake with all the cousins—the good times that I’m already looking back on and fondly reminisce.  I wrote earlier about how certain songs bring me back to specific memories.  When it comes to our family gatherings, there are songs and memories all rolled into one: and it came in the form of my Uncle Don.

I can still see it now: we’re having a birthday party at Auntie’s for one of us cousins.  Presents have been torn into, cake has been devoured, the adults have moved to the couch and recliner in the living room, and a few of them (usually my Dad) has found himself a comfortable spot on floor and is slowing drifting to off.

“What about a song, Don?” Someone asks.

With a small smile my Uncle Don leaves the room and returns with an acoustic guitar.  He finds himself a sturdy seat, tunes the strings a little, sometimes mentioning a new song that he wrote just that week.  The room grows quiet as we wait together before the silence gives way to music and Uncle Don begins to sing.

Don Adams at Blue LakeSince those early days, Uncle Don has gone on to pursue his love of singing and song writing more professionally through his own studio recordings and various gigs throughout North Western Ontario.  His songs are much like those we heard on many a childhood evening: they’re about life—sometimes humorous, sometimes sad, always down to earth.  His latest studio release, Shine, reverberates with those same themes that I’ve so come to love and appreciate.

Follow the jump to hear samples and/or order Shine, Don Adams’ fifth studio release, at

Monday, August 29, 2011

the whole sweep

One of biggest changes that college wrought in me was a new perspective on my faith.  There’s this phrase C.S. Lewis uses where he thinks of our imaginations being “baptized”, that is that our faculties—our hearts, minds, spirits, what have you—are enlarged in order to better experience or understand or take in that which we were before unaware of.  My imagination was enlarged in an attempt to grapple (not fully understand mind you, but to witness and acknowledge) the vastness of God: his transcendence, his immanence, his humanity in Christ, his mystery in Spirit.  That was day 1: Theology I, actually.  And it was onward and upward from there. 

I mentioned once before that I’ve been reading Luci Shaw’s Breath for the BonesAt one point she’s talking about journal-keeping, and how when we re-read our journals it’s like taking a helicopter ride back over a landscape where before we had only walked or hiked.  At the time we saw only the particulars, the individual ups and downs of the experience.  In reflective hindsight we see the whole scope of the thing, be it a year or a decade; and we can get a sense of the lay of the land, so to speak.  Spiritually this can be really helpful, for so often in the day to day we miss out on the overall theme.  We can’t see the forest through the trees.

This idea of looking at life by the small blips or by the vast panorama can come into play in how we read the Bible.  I know for myself, one of the things which Eston encouraged in me was to read whole books in one sitting.  I seldom actually did this, but the value was not lost on me: in reading the whole of say, Ephesians, or John, we can see how the whole thing works.  Now we might not dissect and analyse the thing as we’re doing so…and that’s perfectly alright!  For that tendency to study the text should not, I think, come before first reading the text: hearing it as a Story.  Getting into the lives of the characters, seeing how they went about working out their relationships to God…how God was working out making himself known to them.  We let the text work on us.

I like how Eugene Peterson puts it in his introduction to 1 & 2 Samuel in The Message: 

The biblical way is not so much to present us with a moral code and tell us “Live up to this”; nor is it to set out a system of doctrine and say, “Think like this and you will live well.”  The biblical way is to tell a story and invite us, “Live into this.  This is what it looks like to be human; this is what is involved in entering and maturing as human beings.”  We do violence to the biblical revelation when we “use” it for what we can get out of it or what we think will provide color and spice to our otherwise bland lives.  That results in a kind of “boutique spirituality”—God as decoration, God as enhancement.  The Samuel narrative will not allow that.  In the reading, as we submit our lives to what we read, we find that we are not being led to see God in our stories but to see our stories in God’s.  God is the larger context and plot in which our stories find themselves.

Such reading will necessarily be a prayerful reading—a God-listening, God-answering reading.

I love that.  And I feel drawn back into that world that I discovered in those years at Eston.  For they encouraged us in that same way…not to see God as an object to be studied, but as the Subject within whom we find love and forgiveness and wholeness again.

So, I’m on a mission to read in wholes.  And what I love is that this requires imagination-living.  Not that we’re making things up!  But we need our imaginations baptized if we’re to be able to see our day to day lives, and our day to day reading of Scripture as part of something bigger.

This morning I happened upon a video which is what first enticed me to write some of these thoughts down:

N.T.Wright "The whole sweep of Scripture" from Rodica on Vimeo.

Favourite line:  “Frequently and thoroughly!”

So may you see whatever is on your plate today as a part of the bigger story of your life.  May you know that no matter how difficult things might seem, that there is One who knows you, who feels your pain, and wants to guide you through it.  And may you read not with the intention of mining out some small particular for personal pleasure, but may you find yourself immersed in God’s goodness as you are “swept along” by the Story.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

new old hymns

   Received an unexpected gift today at work.  Rendy pulled out an album of Fernando Ortega’s music and said we could have it or pass it on to someone who might be interested in it.  I thought the name sounded familiar but couldn’t place it.  So I surfed over to his website and stumbled upon his blog.  He was reflecting on song-writing, and also on the lack of thoughtful literary artistry that seems commonplace in congregational worship music. 

   His conclusion was what really stood out to me:

I didn’t set out to write a didactic blog. I’m writing to myself. Be specific when you write songs about God. Avoid cliché. Avoid convenience. Avoid an obsession with the consumer. Avoid the temptation to make commercial success your central goal. Write with intelligence, employing all the craft, skill, and experience with which God has endowed you. (Fernando Ortega, “Come Down, O Divine Love”,

   His advice could be for any artist, not just the hymn writer.  There is a common attitude today (or perhaps it has been with us for centuries) that we create for a consumer.  What will people like?  What will sell?  Those are legitimate questions, but I don’t think they should be the bottom line.  If we begin to think of money or success as an end in and of itself (an attractive one, to be sure), then I wonder if we miss the bigger picture?  To tend towards the cliché, the consumer, the commercial success at the expense of intelligence, skill, craft, mind and imagination is indeed a grievous thing.  How much more so when the Art is intended as worship?

   I was also reminded of my friend, Koko, whom I wrote about earlier.  Koko is now an urban missionary in Victoria, where one of his projects is writing hymns to go along with liturgy at his Anglican church, The Table.  I think Koko embodies the attitude that Ortega is getting at in his blog.  I wonder what the world would be like if more people avoided writing the cliché for commercial success and focused instead on bringing all of themselves into their art, seeking to point others toward beauty and truth.  I wonder if we’d be able to feel the difference in the music they’d create?  I think so.  I think it’d be really cool.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

a late summer song

Sarah brought me over to the computer yesterday to show me this song by Josh Garrels from his album Love & War & The Sea In Between. We both loved it, so I thought I'd share it with anyone out there who takes the time to read this blog (thank you!). Like my other song posts this one will now relate to a time of year, I think. So I've dubbed it the late summer song. Do enjoy!

Be well this weekend.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

home again, home again jiggidy-jig

So we have definitely turned home and are back to the swing of things at work and home.  It’s nice to be home, and we had a really great time in Vancouver.  I’m working on my papers for my Lewis class.  I have to come up with a topic for my major paper…not quite sure what I’ll do yet.

100_7786Regent was really good.  My class was fun, though it wasn’t totally what I expected.  But the college itself is fantastic.  In so many ways it reminded us of being in Eston.  The chapels at Regent were great; they were of the same spirit and fellowship that I can recall from our days at school. 

I’m also really excited about their programs, ‘cause they have a lot of variety and some really cool classes and concentrations.  We’re kind of thinking about the Interdisciplinary studies which is a part of the MCS program (Master of Christian Studies), but there is also a Christianity and the Arts concentration and a Spiritual Theology concentration which look really interesting.  When we met Eugene Peterson in Eston at Dean Pinter’s ordination he said that the Spiritual Theology program at Regent was one of the best in the world.  “The only other place you could take something like that would be in Singapore,” I remember him saying.

Peek a boo!
The Arts concentration is pretty cool, too.  They were saying that they’ve attracted a lot of arts students in the past few years.  Even though it’s still a part of the MCS degree, and not a MFA (Master of Fine Arts), students are able to explore the intersections of their faith with their art.  The program is really flexible too.  Instead of writing a thesis, a lot of students do a major project instead: like writing, performing and producing their own albums, or growing, preparing and hosting a culinary feast, to writing a fiction novel, to choreographing and dancing a flamenco routine (yes, you read that right)—and then reflecting on music, food, words and movement respectively. 

Yes, please, says I.

Anyway!  We’re still thinking through it all.  But it’s good.  I’m so glad we went and checked it out.  We met some really great people too, like Dan and Fran who we stayed with…and Luke and Mary-Grace who lived downstairs in the basement suite.  And Mike the heavy machinery construction worker who flies out to Regent from Nova Scotia to take classes whenever he can cause he “just loves it here”.  I knew it was an international grad school, but I really hadn’t realized what that meant.  There were Asians everywhere!  Or maybe that was just because we were in Vancouver…?  Yeah, probably.

So that’s the story for now.  Sarah is playing piano.  Thanks for sending us the chords for “There is a River”, Julie!  It’s so nice to hear her sing that song again.

Also.  Thank you Kathy and Beth for letting us borrow “Pushing Daisies”!  So good.  If I ever get to make my childhood Detective Agency days a reality, I’m totally becoming Emerson Cod.

Have a good one, and be well.

Oh, Pushing Daisies, why did you have to end after two seasons?? Why!?!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

vancouver bound!

Well we’re on our way out west to BC for our Regent class.  Hard to believe we’re actually making the trip.  Right now we’re at Sarah’s Aunt and Uncle’s place in Winfield, just north of Kelowna, and it smells like breakfast is just about ready.

We were counting yesterday how many alumni we’ve been able to visit so far: we had a few unexpected surprises and it’s been cool to catch up with people again.

After leaving Winnipeg and visiting Sarah’s parents and Josh, we met up with Sean Jennings and Tim Sample in Brandon.  Unfortunately, Laurie, Sean’s wife, was already on her way to Springside camp for the week (hopefully she’ll be home on our way back through)—but we had a good visit with Sean and Tim.  I hadn’t seen Sean since our wedding.  Crazy!  We went to Montana’s and talked Rob Bell and how Bible schools need to teach pastors more about organizational administration while we munched on burgers, chips and penne pasta (I ordered the latter!)

From Brandon we went to Moose Jaw for the night and stayed at Kathy Retzer’s house.  Sarah met Josh, her fiancée, and we had a few good laughs before Dave and Leanne Falk stopped in.

The next day we left Moose Jaw and headed for Brooks, AB to stay over with Leif and Cara.  On a whim, while we were in Swift Current, Sarah thought of calling up Gordon and Karla Hamilton, and Karla was home with Sophia!  So we went over to see the new little one and then drove out to where Gordon was working as job foreman on a construction project.  In typical FGBC fashion, there were a few more alumni working there as well.  Craig Knudsen and Dean Drinnan were up on the rough, and Dean even recognized us and gave us a wave.

Then it was on the road again to Brooks.  We got in for supper time and enjoyed chicken and veggie kebobs with Leif, Cara, Damien and Nikolai.  So good.  For future reference: always barbeque your chicken next to your pineapple—delish!  We hung out and played with the kids before turning in.  The next day would be our longest yet.

There were storms just past Calgary—you couldn’t even recognize the mountains through the clouds!  Thankfully no hail or strong winds.  The storm diminished once we made it into the mountains.  I just wanted to stop and watch the mountains (“watch”?  Yeah, that works…) but we’d be stopping every minute or so they were so awesome.  I love spotting little waterfalls cascading down from the snows up high.

After a lengthy drive and many adventures we found our way to Winfield! 

Now it’s time to relax…


Saturday, July 16, 2011

out of the silent planet

The second book I’m reading for my Regent class is Out of the Silent Planet.  I’ve read this one before, or, rather, it was read to a group of us in college when a small band of curious listeners would converge on Larry and Lorraine’s living room for Beth’s weekly literary reading.  The group, fittingly enough, was called Inklings.

So it’s been a good refresher to return to this first book in Lewis’ science fiction trilogy.  What strikes me the most thus far is Lewis’ ability to present fascinating ideas about reality through the mind of his main character, Dr. Elwin Ransom (a philologist whom he designed partially off of his friend, J.R.R. Tolkien!)  out of the silent planetWhat Ransom experiences through his voyages to Malacandra (what we call Mars) and his experiences thereon are nothing short of fantastic.  Along the way Lewis shares some fascinating ideas.

Here’s an example of how Lewis reimagines Space itself.  Ransom is sailing along in his space-ship and discovers that one side of the ship is always night and the other is always at “noon.”  He finds himself continually drawn to the light, for while he bathes in the glow he feels himself being changed:

There, totally immersed in a bath of pure ethereal colour and of unrelenting though unwounding brightness, stretched his full length and with eyes half closed in the strange chariot that bore them, faintly quivering, through depth after depth of tranquillity far above the reach of night, he felt his body and mind daily rubbed and scoured and filled with new vitality.…

[He] became aware of another and more spiritual cause for his progressive lightening and exultation of heart.  A nightmare, long engendered in the modern mind…that follows in the wake of science, was falling off of him.  He had read of ‘Space’: at the back of his thinking for years had lurked the dismal fancy of the black, cold vacuity, the utter deadness, which was supposed to separate the worlds.  He had not known how much it affected him till now – no that the very name ‘Space’ seemed a blasphemous libel for this empyrean ocean of radiance in which they swam.  He could not call it ‘dead’; he felt life pouring into him from it every moment…  No: Space was the wrong name.  Older thinkers had been wiser when they named it simply the heavens… (Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet, 34-35).

Soon after the crew descends upon Malacandra, and Ransom has another revelation and his earlier thoughts come to conclusion:

They were falling out of heaven, into a world.  Nothing in all his adventures bit so deeply into Ransom’s mind as this.  He wondered how he could ever have thought of planets, even of the Earth, as islands of life and reality floating in a deadly void.  Now, with a certainty which never after deserted him, he saw the planets – the ‘earths’ he called them in his thought – as mere holes or gaps in the living heaven – excluded and rejected wastes of heavy matter and murky air, formed not by addition to, but by subtraction from, the surrounding brightness.

Things do not always happen as a man would expect.  The moment of his arrival in an unknown world found Ransom wholly absorbed in a philosophical speculation. (Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet, 45).

What is love is how Lewis’ imagination finds it way onto the page.  It’s like he has his characters moving along and then has this idea about space and finds this way to have Ransom think it through in a believable way and even giving us as readers an opportunity to share in his epiphany.  Also, it’s just such a neat thought… that space is more alive than the worlds are.

Have a good one!



C.S. Lewis.  Out of the Silent Planet.  London: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

the great divorce pt.2

Back to work today.  Working straight through for eight days until we leave for Vancouver.  Can’t believe we’re actually going.  Feels very surreal.

Onward to more reading!!

Here’s another excerpt from C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce.Roger ponders C.S. Lewis... I think they would be friends.

We pick up where the shade of the intellectual man is deep in conversation with his old friend and fellow thinker; the latter has been sent to offer the invitation of the journey toward heaven to the other.

Near the end of their conversation the intellectual gets frustrated by the prospect of losing the forum for free inquiry—that is the sort of plays we make in asking questions indefinitely: challenging one another, entertaining new thoughts and philosophies; and yet ultimately coming to no real conclusions (or perhaps believing that no true conclusions can be made at all).  He is repelled by the idea that in God there are the final answers.  Check it out:

“But you must feel yourself that there is something stifling about the idea of finality?  Stagnation, my dear boy, what is more soul-destroying than stagnation?”

“You think that, because hitherto you have experienced truth only with the abstract intellect.  I will bring you where you can taste it like honey and be embraced by it as by a bridegroom.  Your thirst shall be quenched. . . .
Listen! . . . Once you were a child.  You knew what inquiry was for.  There was a time when you asked questions because you wanted answers, and were glad when you had found them.  Become that child again: even now.”

“Ah, but when I became a man I put away childish things.”

“You have gone far wrong.  Thirst was made for water; inquiry for truth.” (C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, 40-41).

This reminded me so much of my freshman worldview class with Brian Tysdal.  Brian was (and still is, I’m sure) incredibly passionate about the nature of truth. 

We usually think of truth as those objective, empirical facts.  But what if there is more to knowing truth than intellectual understanding?  It’s hard to comprehend.  And maybe that’s the point here: that by severing our intellect, our reasoning faculties, from our imagination we’ve also lost the ability to understand truth as something more than a scientific laying-bare of facts or figures.  Perhaps capital “T”, Truth, as Lewis suggests here, is something that God intends to be tasted and embraced.  Perhaps when we come to see Him face to face, tasting and embracing will better describe our experience of knowing the Truth.  This sounds like relationship language doesn’t it?

Jesus describes himself as the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6)  If a person is Truth, then that means that as I enter into relationship I enter into Truth.  Relationships involve the engagement of the whole person—including, but not limited to, the mind.  I feel that in this moment, Lewis is on to something very special: not only does he hit the nail on the head in terms of our adult understanding of truth as only abstract intellect, but he points to a deeper reality, a poetic, reality which invites the heart as well.  I want to know the One who is Truth. 

One down three to go!

One down three to go!

Jesus said, "I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him. You've even seen him!"  The Message, John 14:6-7


C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (New York, Harper Collins, 1973).

Monday, July 11, 2011

the great divorce

I’ve begun my reading for my upcoming Fiction of C.S. Lewis class, and decided to start with one of the two books that I hadn’t read before which is The Great Divorce.  It’s a short “theological fantasy” in which Lewis, as himself, boards a bus which takes its passengers to the outskirts of heaven. 

great divorceHe and his fellow passengers arrive in a forested meadow-land at the foot of a great mountain range where the promise of dawn continually teases.  From there Lewis watches as the other travellers encounter friends and family from their past who have come to guide them up into the mountain and into the Dawn.  It gives Lewis the opportunity to explore some really interesting scenarios: like a mother being upset that her son who died as a child was not sent to welcome her when her brother comes instead; or a man who is so intellectually astute that he is incapable of putting aside his curiosity in order to recognize God as Truth.  A lot of it is about how we need to put away our preoccupation with Self and instead choose to seek after God.  When we do this, we actually find ourselves, for He begins to show us how to recognize ourselves in the larger context of His love and forgiveness.

This was one of my favourite scenes.  One of the Bright Ones offers one of the Ghosts of hell to take the journey toward Heaven:

“Will you come with me to the mountains?…”

… “I am perfectly ready to consider it.  Of course I should require some assurances… I should want a guarantee that you are taking me to a place where I shall find a wider sphere of usefulness—and scope for the talents that God has given me—and an atmosphere of free inquiry—in short, all that one means by civilisation and—er—the spiritual life.”

“No,” said the other.  “I can promise you none of these things.  No sphere of usefulness: you are not needed there at al.  No scope for your talents: only forgiveness for having perverted them.  No atmosphere of inquiry, for I will bring you to a land not of questions but of answers, and you shall see the face of God.”

“Ah, but we must all interpret those beautiful words in our own way!…” (C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, 39-40).

He really doesn’t get it.  What I love about this is how Lewis reveals how self-absorbed we can be.  The man still wants to be known, respected, and worth something—but he wants it based on what he thinks he can accomplish.  It’s inherently self-pleasing.  It’s not that the desire to be understood or useful is wrong.  It’s how we seek to satisfy those longings that is often misguided: who do we look to tell us we’re useful, valuable, or correct?  This man looks to his own accomplishments and his ability to contribute to society to find his worth.  God doesn’t want that: He wants us to recognize our worth in Him.  For He truly knows us: intimately and deeply; and in Him we find our worth, for in Him we are whole, healed, and restored.  Loved.

I want to learn again how to be curious for finding the good answers, not as something that I use in order to try and make myself look good.

"Show me how you work, God; School me in your ways. Take me by the hand; lead me down the path of truth." Psalm 25:4-5a (The Message)


C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (New York, Harper Collins, 1973).