Saturday, December 21, 2019

Marc Martel, The Impersonator

Marc Martel is one of those guys for whom I have the greatest of respect. He is talented beyond the level of many in the music industry and has made music with a diverse group of people. This Christmas, I am glad to see him making music with Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant. They have put together a Christmas album and are following it up with a limited tour in support of the album.

Of course, Martel has made music with many other artists including Jason Gray, Buddy Greene, Plumb, Scott Mulvahill, and Ron Block of Alison Krauss & Union Station. But beyond collaboration and Christmas music, Marc Martel was formerly the front man for CCM band downhere and leads his own Ultimate Queen Celebration, where he impersonates Freddie Mercury with great panache.

His first solo album: Impersonator contains the following title song. The entire album is filled with great original songs that speak of life on the road and the challenges of sounding like (and even looking like) another famous singer. Perhaps the most tragic song on the album is this title song. In it, he recognizes the value of impersonation but also laments that his own voice and personality gets lost in the music. And he finds himself saying that, “you would not have me any other way.” Read and listen to the words below.

Marc Martel – Impersonator

I wonder if my own eyes would recognize
Whatever I become when I live your lies
I should've made a break, for the fire escape – warning signs I didn't take
And all the things you bought – just to break

But I am the impersonator
You can be the reason for my insanity
I am the impersonator
I give you everything you want from me
Whatever makes you happy

What's done is done, this is what I become
And now you would not have me any other way – so why stay?
Let me go on, like nothing's wrong, just to keep you holding on
A flash before my eyes as I fade away – and I fade away

I am the impersonator
You can be the reason for my insanity
I am the impersonator
I give you everything you want from me
Whatever makes you happy

And so I, I put on my show with my life
I wear the weight of my disguise, to drown out the silence
So you never read the signs
I lose myself to have you, and you don't even have a clue
I am the shadow, who keeps you in the light

And I am the impersonator
You can be the reason for my insanity
I am the impersonator
I give you anything you want from me, but you know
I'll never make you happy
Whatever makes you happy.

Songwriters: John Randall Fields / Lily Kershaw / Marc Martel; © Strawberrius Music.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

In Another Light

One of the greatest songwriters of the past 50 years is Wayne Kirkpatrick. I have sung his praises before. To my knowledge he has only produced one solo album, entitled, The Maple Room, and from that album comes the song, “In Another Light.” Although the song is obviously written about a marriage relationship (“Hey, that’s my ring on your finger”), perhaps it has something to say to all of us about seeing things in another light. How often do the “shadows of our yesterday” get in the way of our love for one another? Don’t we sometimes need a new perspective that “tends to the wounds of the past” but looks beyond the wounds of the past. In marriages and other relationships there will always be “demons that rummage through the past of what” we’ve done to each other. In a highly polarized, easily wounded atmosphere, life might be better if we took a step back and looked at things in another light.

On his Facebook page, Kirkpatrick says that he has been “married since 1985 to the same girl I went to high school with and we are still rockin'!” So, despite the challenges noted in this song, he seems to know how to navigate the ups and downs of married life. Take a listen to the song and see if it rings true in one or more aspects of your own relational life.

In Another Light
Words and Music by Wayne Kirkpatrick

Standing like statues
Stubborn unmoving but breakable
You say there’s nothing wrong
But that look is so unmistakable
Angry and wounded
Well I’m sure your reasons are justified
You’re searching for changes
Oh, but there are quite a few you’ve yet to realize

And you would see things differently
If you chose to look at me
In another light
Shadows of our yesterday,
Bow to love and melt away
In another light

Changing the angle
Well baby that could be our only chance
Some new perspective on it
That tends to the wounds of our circumstance
Cause I feel like screaming
Damned if I don’t, damned if I do
Chasing those demons
That rummage through the past
Of what I’ve done to you

You would see things differently
If you chose to look at me
In another light
Shadows of our yesterday,
They bow to love and melt away
In another light

Hey, that’s my blood on your sabre
Hey, that’s my voice in your dark
Hey, that’s my ring on your finger
Hey, that’s my love in your heart
That’s my love in your heart.

You would see things differently
If you chose to look at me
In another light
Shadows of our yesterday,
Bow to love and melt away
In another light

In another light.
Yeah, in another light.
In another light.
And, in another light.

Maybe a love should be strong enough to look beyond the past.
Oh, our love should be made to last.

Thursday, October 10, 2019


For many years I have been a proponent of the BioLogos organization. They do a remarkable job of theological and scientific education. I encourage readers to take a tour of their site and read some of the many articles available. BioLogos represents an Evolutionary Creationism perspective on the origins of life. Here, in their own words is an explanation of what that means.

At BioLogos, we present the Evolutionary Creationism (EC) viewpoint on origins. Like all Christians, we fully affirm that God is the creator of all life—including human beings in his image. We fully affirm that the Bible is the inspired and authoritative word of God. We also accept the science of evolution as the best description for how God brought about the diversity of life on earth.

But while we accept the scientific evidence for evolution, BioLogos emphatically rejects Evolutionism, the atheistic worldview that so often accompanies the acceptance of biological evolution in public discussion. Evolutionism is a kind of scientism, which holds that all of reality can in principle be explained by science. In contrast, BioLogos believes that science is limited to explaining the natural world, and that supernatural events like miracles are part of reality too.

BioLogos offers an explanation of our universe that does justice to a theological understanding of a creator God, while also giving credence to the science of our day that explains much of how our world works. I know that this is a difficult area for many Christians to grasp and BioLogos has done an excellent job of walking people through the many arguments. I encourage my readers to spend time on their website and consider a viewpoint that may not be one that you hold today. There are many opinions among Christians about the nature of the origins of our universe. Let us not be afraid to consider each other’s perspective on these issues.

Beyond the BioLogos website, I would also recommend the following books:

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Uhtred, Son of Uhtred

Occasionally on this blog, I review television programs of note. When I do this, I am not endorsing the show in particular but rather speaking of a positive message within the show. One such show that I cannot endorse for all viewers is the BBC/Netflix series, The Last Kingdom (2015-2020). The show is a “blade-slinger” story set in the England of the late 800s CE and is about the conflict between the Saxon land holders and the invading Danes, Vikings, and Northmen (Norsemen) from Denmark and other points north. Uhtred is the hero (or perhaps anti-hero) of the story. He is a Saxon by birth who is born heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Bebbanburg at a time when Alfred the Great is seeking to draw together all of the Kingdoms of England under one king. Uhtred is kidnapped by the Danes and adopted into the family of Ragnar Ragnarson. Thus, Uhtred is known both as Uhtred of Bebbanburg, Uhtred Ragnarson, and simply Uhtred, Son of Uhtred and he grows to become the greatest warrior of England and supports King Alfred time and time again. But Alfred cannot quite accept that Uhtred will not accept his God and so he does not fully trust him and sometimes wishes him banished or even dead. Time and again Uhtred saves Alfred’s England, only to be mistrusted by Alfred. Season 3, Episode 10 offers brilliant dialogue emphasising darkness and light, good and evil, and the struggle of the two within the various people groups.

As King Alfred dies, Father Beocca, one of Uhtred’s most constant friends says,

“All that Alfred stood for is crumbling.
You, Uhtred, cannot be dragged into the shadows.
You must become the light….”

But as Uhtred is on trial in the open court of the palace, the following dialogue unfolds,

Beocca: Do you object to the people bearing witness to justice, Lord Aethelwold?
Aethelwold: I do not.
Lady Aelswith: Uhtred, the king swore that you were to die. Why the change in his heart?
Uhtred: Because he believed that I deserved his forgiveness.
Aelswith: Is that a boast?
Uhtred: Look to his chronicle. I am on every page.
Aelswith: That is a lie. You are not named, even once!
Uhtred: But I am there. Unwritten, Lady, but I am there! The warriors of Wessex know it. The Danes know it. And it is what the king has told me himself.
Aelswith: I have heard enough.
Uhtred: I am with him from the Somerset Marshes to Ethandun and all of the battles that have followed. We were bonded, him and I. He was the man that I could never be, nor did I wish to be. He was a man that I loved and despised but it was never less than an honor to serve him. He was my king. And he did not wish to go to his God without granting me what I have earned many times over! My freedom….

At this point, Edward, the heir to the throne of England is brought into the conversation. It is his first test as king apparent.

Uhtred: Perhaps your father chose not to announce my freedom for this very reason so that the people could witness their new king, Edward, dispensing justice. Fairly, I hope.
Beocca: Will you accept the decision of Edward Rex? I will. I give you my word….

Edward: A heathen would not be trusted completely until he had embraced Alfred's god as his own. And yet it was a heathen he did trust most. It was the word of Uhtred that he respected most. Uhtred of Bebbanburg, I find the letter written by my father to be true. Alfred's pardon does stand. You are a free man, able to choose your own path.
Beocca: May I ask, Lord Uhtred, may I ask? Now that you are a free man once more, where will your path lead? I would like to know….
Uhtred: One day, Father, I hope that my path will eventually lead north to Bebbanburg, but now, I believe I am needed here….

Then as the followers of Edward prepare for another battle with the Danes of the North,

Uhtred: All of you, hear me. Yes, it is likely that the Danes will have greater numbers, but this is a battle that we can win. Though it will take all of us, every man and every sword, and we will fight with all the guile and wit that Alfred has instilled.
Edward: God is with us.

Then, to the soldiers prepared to march into battle:

Uhtred: A letter has been sent. It speaks out to every man in the kingdom, demanding that he answers the call and joins us on the road to battle. It says that this will be a battle that will be spoken of for lifetimes to come. It is a battle that no man can ignore, no man can stand by and watch. Every man must find a weapon and every man must fight! Wessex will always be the light. And no matter how heavy our swords become, we must fight. Fight! Fight and keep on fighting until the victory is ours! We march!

The episode closes with Uhtred giving a monologue:

It will be written in the Saxon chronicle that Edward did gain a great victory over the Danes, ensuring he would become King of Wessex. But other battles lie ahead, both with the Danes and within Wessex itself. A king must decide who he can trust and who he must discard. He must understand the minds of both his enemies and his friends. He must recognize that the truth of a man lies not in the land of his birth, but in his heart. A king must be a king on his own terms. He cannot be his father. He can only be himself. The chronicle will grow. Pages will be added. But Uhtred of Bebbanburg will not be mentioned. Although I, too, was victorious. My name is Uhtred, son of Uhtred. My name is Uhtred Ragnarson. Destiny is all.[1]

Uhtred is a marvelous character created by Bernard Cornwell and adapted for this television series. He is constantly torn between being Saxon and Dane. He is honourable, honest, and loyal to any vow he swears. He is not Christian, despite being baptised twice over, yet he is more honourable and shows more Christian character than most of the Christian men of England. Many of the “good Christian” men of the kingdom are horribly broken, sinful, filled with hatred, and murderous. Uhtred, on the other hand, leads well, serves well, takes life only as necessary, and is the most valuable right-hand man to both King Alfred and King Edward. He sacrifices land, wives, children, family relationships, and wealth to justly carry out the will of Alfred. At the end of the day, all of England believes Uhtred will be eternally punished in hell because of his rejection of the Christian religion, yet he is one of the truest men of his time. His fictional life, as portrayed in this series, causes one to ask questions about what it means to be honourable, just, moral, and a person of true character. May men like him call us to our best humanity and highest calling by God.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Can't Erase It

Jars of Clay, the band from Greenville, Illinois, has a song entitled “Can’t Erase It” on the If I Left the Zoo album. The lyrics are written below. It is a song that captures the angst of trying to be one thing when we know we should be something else. Read the lyrics, listen to the song, and read some thoughts about the song below.

Can’t Erase It

Follow the crowd and love everybody now
'Cause love is the best thing for you now
But you changed your mind you let everybody down
But down is the best place for you
It's easier that way you know it's

So wrong can't embrace it
wish sometimes for any other you
But you can't erase it and you won't escape it

Don't waste your time
Your words only confine you
To all of the things you've buried now
Don't ask them why
Their wisdom will leave you blind

But blind is the best thing for you
It's easier I know, you know it's

So wrong, can't embrace it
Wish sometimes for any other you
But you can't erase it, and you won't escape it

How long will you face it
Till the weight comes crashing down on you
'Cause you can't erase it, and you won't escape it

Songwriters: Charlie Lowell / Dan Haseltine / Matt Odmark / Stephen Daniel Mason
Can't Erase It lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Capitol Christian Music Group

Dan Haseltine, in an interview once said that this song is "About fighting our deepest desire to be who we are not." Why do we have such a strong desire to be something we are not? Because we want to fit in with the majority and just like when we were in high school, we have this strong desire to fit in with the cool kids.

There are many things that can get in the way of being who God has made us to be. The majority culture says, “You don’t need God, just 'follow the crowd and love everybody.'” We hear this very regularly on our various media sources and we begin to believe that this is the way to live. But it is easy to change our mind and not really want to “love everybody.” It is truly hard to simply boost ourselves up to a level where we can love everybody. Bitterness and anger are the result. On our own we cannot love everybody.

If we follow the crowd, we are not being who we truly are. We are conforming to the image of what the crowd thinks we should be. If we follow the crowd, we will do things that we know are “so wrong” and we just won’t be able to embrace that they are right. We can’t erase the things we’ve done. We can’t escape the weight of going against God and against who he has made us to be. But there is one who can “erase it.” God says, “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool” (Isaiah 1:18). Furthermore, “… his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:11, 12). Jesus’ death on the cross was the ultimate way for him to remove the weight of sin and erase our wrong doings: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).

If we bury the wrongs, ignore the wrongs, or embrace the wrongs, the weight will crush us. Instead we must acknowledge and confess and receive release from the weight.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

The Horse and His Boy

In 2010 a band known as A Horse and His Boy released an EP entitled Trilogy. From that recording is a haunting song called “Kramer’s Wall.” Jackson Harper (formerly Seth Harper) calls himself a “scrappy Narnian” and thus identifies himself with a genre of literature and music that sees light and darkness, and right and wrong in a world of chaos and apathy. His images are highly influenced by C.S. Lewis’ writings and particularly the book that bears almost the same name as the band. He is a talented singer-songwriter from whom I hope we hear much more. I offer you the lyrics from “Kramer’s Wall” followed by my impressions from the song.

Kramer’s Wall
In the land of apathy
There’s a pretty girl who waits for me
I was standing there when she looked down
From Kramer’s Wall at the edge of town

I stayed ‘til all the rest were gone
And my pretty girl she stood alone
She wouldn’t leave, I asked her why
This my friends, was her reply

She said, shadows fly away from me
They cannot face the light you see
But if they come I’ll fight them all
So, I’m standing here on Kramer’s Wall 

What injustice had decreed
This lonely life she had to lead
I pitied her but didn’t stay
And the road I followed passed away

From that day on I had no rest
And my heart kept burning in my chest
I couldn’t stand my fatal choice
For every night I heard her voice

She said, if you are who I hope you are
You can never run too far
I will never let you fall
I’m watching you from Kramer’s Wall

I realized I would rather be
In chains with her than alone and free
She had shown the kind of love
The greatest ones had been made of

Her haunting words inside my head
Revived the heart I thought was dead
So, I took the higher call
And stood with her on Kramer’s Wall

I said, everything may come undone
The sky may fall and bring the sun
You and I are standing tall
Here on top of Kramer’s Wall

Nothing breaks a lover’s soul
Nothing makes the young grow old
Except the time that kills us all
But there is no time on Kramer’s Wall

I will never let you fall
I will stand with you on Kramer’s Wall

Music and lyrics by Seth Harper
Produced by Andrew Osenga
All rights reserved

At first glance/listen, it sounds like a simple “boy meets girl, boy ignores girl, boy can’t get girl out of his mind, boy goes back to girl, and boy pledges his love to the girl for life.” Simple enough, right? But, at second glance, there is more to this song. The girl is the real hero of the song and she is resolute in her stance against darkness. We get the impression that all of Hell could come against this woman and she would stand upon a crumbling wall until the last vestige of light was extinguished! Yet the darkness would never overcome, and the light would never be extinguished because of this valiant woman. 

The man in this song cannot escape the beauty and justice of this woman and the more he tries to walk his own path, the more she haunts and burns his heart. While others around them are lost in apathy, indecision, immorality, injustice, and indifference, the woman stands alone and draws others into her pursuit of justice and light. The man is drawn in and stands with her and then sees her for her beauty and grace. He pledges his love and the two of them now stand resolute against the apathy of the land. The two stand timelessly like Greek gods in perfect union and perfect defence, there on top of Kramer’s Wall.

Friday, August 23, 2019

The Church Planting Journey

Around 1995, a few pastors, and leaders (including myself) in my city began to meet to discuss church planting. The discussion starter was the resource kit known as The Church Planters’ Toolkit (1991) written by Robert E. Logan. We would read (and at least on one occasion watch a video) and discuss the principles within this remarkable tool. We applied these strategies and principles as we became a Church Planting Management Team and Church Planting Catalyzers. Later I spent time on the national board of Church Planting Canada with Murray Moerman and other national leaders and saw the same principles and strategies employed and encoded in the training manuals we used for planters and catalyzers. I came to realize why people were beginning to call Dr. Bob Logan the father of modern church planting.

In 2003, I left a job as a Lab Scientist to plant a network of house-churches in Calgary where I personally put into practise the strategies and principles to which I had been calling others. Planting two churches in two cities in Western Canada gave me a whole new appreciation of the complexities of planting and the need for a good coach. I took coach training from Dr. Logan and hired him as my personal coach.

Now 25 years after my introduction to Robert E. Logan and his church planting principles, I have just read The Church Planting Journey[1] which Bob says is a translation of the earlier work for a contemporary audience working in a contemporary context. I am happy to say that this pioneer still has much to add to the church planting conversation. His insights from forty years of being a practitioner, planter, teacher, professor, and learner are here in this new work. One of many examples is what Dr. Logan has to say about assessing the original vision in terms of the fit with the planter and alignment with the mission. This section will be a great help to many who wrestle with the tension of adapting as they proceed. The end of each chapter offers a place for the reader to contextualize their own vision, cultural context, and prayer life which I pray planters and catalyzers will patiently use. This book is once again set to reignite the church planting conversation and I congratulate my friend in having the foresight to see the need. May Jesus Christ richly bless the reading of this book.

[1] The Church Planting Journey, Dr. Robert E. Logan, 2019, Logan Leadership;