There's a Trick of the Light I'm Learning to Do

This is a collection of songs I wrote and recorded in January - March, 2020 while on sabbatical from ministry. They each deal with a different aspect or expression of the Gospel. Click on the image above to listen.

Three Hands Clapping

This is my latest recording project (released May 27, 2019). It is a double album of 22 songs, which very roughly track the story of my life... a sort of musical autobiography, so to speak. Click the album image to listen.

Ghost Notes

Ghost Notes
A collections of original songs I wrote in 2015, and recorded with the FreeWay Musical Collective. Click the album image to listen.


Recorded in 2014, these songs are sort of a chronicle of my journey through a pastoral burn-out last winter. They deal with themes of mental-health, spiritual burn-out and depression, but also with the inexorable presence of God in the midst of darkness. Click the album art to download.


click image to download
"soundings" is a collection of songs I recorded in September/October of 2013. Dealing with themes of hope, ache, trust and spiritual loss, the songs on this album express various facets of my journey with God.


Click to download.
"Bridges" is a collection of original songs I wrote in the summer of 2011, during a soul-searching trip I took out to Alberta; a sort of long twilight in the dark night of the soul. I share it here in hopes these musical reflections on my own spiritual journey might be an encouragement to others: the sun does rise, blood-red but beautiful.


Prayers, poems and songs (2005-2009). Click to download
"echoes" is a collection of songs I wrote during my time studying at Briercrest Seminary (2004-2009). It's called "echoes" partly because these songs are "echoes" of times spent with God from my songwriting past, but also because there are musical "echoes" of hymns, songs or poems sprinkled throughout the album. Listen closely and you'll hear them.


This collection of mostly blues/rock/folk inspired songs was recorded in the spring and summer of 2015. I call it "accidentals" because all of the songs on this project were tunes I have had kicking around in my notebooks for many years but had never found a "home" for on previous albums. You can click the image to download the whole album.

blogs I follow

Readings, 2020

Readings, 2020
Paradise Lost, John Milton

Adorning the Dark, Andrew Peterson

The Soul of Shame, Curt Thompson

Cure for the Common Life, Max Lucado

Halos and Avatars, Craig Detweiller, ed.

Fool's Talk, Os Guinness

Brendan, Frederick Buechner

The Screwtape Letters

Surprised by Joy, C. S. Lewis

The Pilgrim's Regress, C. S. Lewis

Becoming Whole, Brian Finkert and Kelly Kapic

Real Sex, Lauren Winner

Out of the Silent Planet, C. S. Lewis

Voyage to Venus, C. S. Lewis

That Hideous Strength, C. S. Lewis

Till We Have Faces, C. S. Lewis

random reads

A Lesson from St Valentine

I went through a phase where I was really intrigued with the lives of the saints. I'm not big-C Catholic, of course, but the strange mix of legend and biography, adventure and romance, faith and fiction that is the church's hagiography fascinated me. St. Patrick lighting the paschal fire on Slane hill, St. Brendan saying the mass to the fish in his little skiff on the Atlantic, St. Francis preaching the gospel to his "brother birds": there's some really mysterious and magnificent stuff in there.

I'm saying this because today is the Feast of St. Valentine; or, as we would say in our iconoclastic tradition of Hallmarkangelicalism: Valentine's Day.

There are actually a few saints by the name of Valentinus, but there's general agreement that the Valentinus of Valentine's Day fame was martyred under Emperor Claudius II. A number of stories surrounding Valentine might explain how his name became synonymous with waxy chocolate hearts and timid 3rd Grade card-exchanges. While in prison he sent notes of encouragement and love to his parishioners. He also restored sight to the blind daughter of his jailer, who would later fall in love with him. As legend has it, his last note to her before his execution was signed: "From your Valentine."

But there's one story in this strange mix of legend and history that has always stuck with me. They say that Valentine was martyred because Emperor Claudius had made it illegal for soldiers in his Imperial army to marry. Apparently Claudius was having a tough time recruiting males. Believing it was because married men were reluctant to leave their wives and families, he annulled all marriages and engagements in Rome. Valentine continued to perform Christian marriages in secret, convinced that there was a Lord of marriage whose authority transcended the Emperor's. He was caught, and brought before the Emperor. When he refused to renounce his Faith in the true Lord of marriage, Valentine was condemned to be executed by clubbing, stoning and beheading.

Now here's a little Valentine's Day chocolate food for thought: Valentine died convinced that marriage is not just an end in itself. He was not martyred for marriage, he was martyred for Christ. He stood before Claudius convinced that Christian marriage served a living Lord whose redemptive reign could not be renounced. Marriage is but one of the many human goods that God has given us to bear witness to His loving lordship in Christ.

I'm not big-C Catholic. But in the Evangelical tradition I call home, I think we might learn a small lesson from St. Valentine. Because here the family is an institution of special focus; and I sometimes wonder if, in all our focus on marriage, we inadvertently make it an end in itself. Do we stand convinced that our marriages have meaning-- not because they satisfy our romantic desires-- not because they fulfill our domestic needs-- not because they make us happy-- but because they bear witness to the loving lordship of Christ? Some of the stronger Evangelical rhetoric I've heard defending marriage has seemed more about what's politically or socially expedient than about the good news of Jesus.

The word martyr itself means "a witness." As I reflect on the martyrdom Valentine, I wonder: what would my marriage look like if it were transformed by a spirit of martyrdom-- if I could see my life together with my wife as bearing loving witness to the redemptive reign of Jesus?


Jon Coutts said...

wow, that last part: yeah.