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!?!