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.

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random reads

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

Screwtape Proposes a Toast, C. S. Lewis

The Leveling of St Paul

In 1835, the French political thinker Alex de Tocqueville published Democracy in America, his famous study of the United States. One of the intriguing observations he made about American democracy was that the same cultural values that promoted equality also ensured a kind of "middling mediocrity"-- a gravitational pull culturally towards the lowest common denominator that made it impossible for great people to be great. At its worst, he argued, democracy can devolve into a "tyranny of the majority," where society actively limits the talents of any who challenge it with greatness, trading true freedom for a kind of leveled out mediocrity because it cannot abide anything that threatens its equality.

Okay: I don't know that Alex de Tocqueville was right. And even if he was, I'm pretty sure that, this side of the Second Coming, I'd choose democratic equality over any of the alternatives that we've seen in human history.

But I was thinking about de Tocqueville the other day because I was working on a sermon, and I went to say something about "Saint Paul." Then I checked myself and changed it to plain old "Paul"-- reflected again-- made it the "Apostle Paul"-- then finally settled again on "Saint Paul."

But not without a bit of uncertainty.

You see, when I was growing up in church, you never said "Saint Paul." Or St. Luke, or St. Mark, or St. Mary. There was nothing tyrannical in this, you just never did it. And somehow, you knew you never did it. I have a few theories about why this was, but my main one is this: One of the central tenets of our theology is its conviction that we are all equal before God-- all equally have sinned and fallen short of his glory. And since calling some people "Saint" and others not might confuse this equality, we didn't do it. Paul was a sinner in as much need of God's grace as any of us, so let's not risk forgetting that by calling him Saint Paul.

But when I stared at that uncertain "Saint Paul" on my sermon page, I started wondering if we didn't risk a kind of "middling mediocrity" in our spiritual vision when we refused to call a saint a Saint. Because really, equal sinners though they were, God called and commissioned Paul in a way he didn't call or commission any of us-- and he spoke through Luke or Mark or John in a way he hasn't spoken through any of us-- and He chose Mary to be something that no other human being in the history of the planet has ever been: the mother of God Incarnate. In being so used by him for his great purposes, each of these really did discover themselves "set apart" in the very way that word "saint" signifies.

And if we acknowledge this, we have a real opportunity to rejoice in the free, unfettered grace of God, grace that can raise up the common, the lowly, the chief of sinners according to his will, and lavish an unmerited glory on them by using them uniquely in his great plan to show the world how good he is.

Thomas Howard puts it like this:

The more glorious the king, the more glorious are the titles and honours he bestows. The plumes, cockades, coronets, diadems, mantles and rosettes that deck his retinue testify to one thing alone, his own majesty and munificence. He is a very great king to have figures of such immense dignity in his train, or even better, to have raised them to such dignity. These great lords and ladies, mantled and crowned with ... honour and rank are, precisely, his vassals. This glittering array is his court!

Now I'm not suggesting here that we return to the Catholic system of canonization. Just this: if we can find the spiritual generosity to celebrate the many-layered splendor of this court of Saints, without keeping an eye on how high or low or equal our own place in it might be, then we will find ourselves truly free to worship the glorious King whose splendor it reflects.


Jon Coutts said...

yeah. i like that it takes a bunch of years of deliberation before they canonize someone though. not just whoever. right saint dale?