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

Book Reviews

Book Reviews
The Shallows, Nicholas Carr
In this very readable, very thought provoking analysis of electronic communciations technology and its impact on our brains and culture, Nicholas Carr brings together media theory (think Marshall McLuhan), history (think Gutenberg) and neuroscience (think discoveries in brain plasticity) to show how computer technology is shaping us in ways of which we are only dimly aware. He argues that such technologies reduce our capacity for deep, creative and sustained linear thought (or at least have the potential to do so) and predispose us to the fragmented, the cursive and the superficial. Worth the read.

Exclusion and Embrace, Miroslav Volf

Ecstasy and Intimacy: When the Holy Spirit Meets the Human Spirit, Edith Humphrey
A fascinating and engaging introduction to spiritual theology-- or the theology of spirituality, as the case may be. This book is a very scholarly, devotional, christo-centric, ecumenical and trinitarian overview of what it means for Christians to live in the Spirit and with the Spirit within. Bracing and enlightening.

Leading with a Limp, Dan Allender

five smooth stones for pastoral work, Eugene Peterson

From Darkness to Light: How One Became a Christian in the Early Church, Anne Fields

Life in the Ancient Near East, Daniel C. Snell
Snell's Life in the Ancient Near East offers a social history of the ANE, tracing the earliest settlement of Mesopotamia, the development of agriculture, first cities, ancient economy and the emergence of empire. Bringing together a rich variety of data gleaned both from the archaeological record and extant historical texts, he tells the history of this cradle of civilization with a special eye for the "human" element - focusing on the forces and factors that would have directly affected the daily life of the various strata of society. Worth a read generally, but all the more for someone with a particular interest in the biblical stories that find their setting and draw their characters and themes from the same provenience.

The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene

Flame of Yahweh: Sexuality in the Old Testament, Richard Davidson
Davidson's Old Testament theology of human sexuality is stunning in its achievement, challenging in its content, and edifying in its conclusions. Davidson addresses every-- and I do mean every-- Old Testament text that deals (even obliquely) with human sexuality, and, through detailed exegesis, careful synthesis, and deep interaction with the scholarly research, develops a detailed picture of the Old Testament's vision for redeemed human sexuality. 700 pages of Biblical scholarship at its best.

Eaarth, Bill McKibben
Bill McKibben's Eaarth, is a call for us to wake up smell the ecological coffee...while we can still brew it. Unlike his previous work, or any writing on ecology I've yet read, however, Eaarth does not argue that catastrophe is pending. Instead, he argues that catastrophe has arrived, and that our all talk about "going green to avert disaster," "and "saving the planet" is woefully obsolete. In ecological terms, the planet as we once knew it is gone, he argues, and rather than trying to "avert" disaster, we need to start figuring out how to live in the disaster that's happened. Key themes he identifies as important for life on planet Eaarth resonnated with me as profoundly Christian ways of being (disaster or no). We must stop assuming that "bigger" is better; we must acknowledge limits on economic and technological growth; we must get reacquainted with the land; we need eschew self-sufficency and nurture community.

Love Wins, Rob Bell
So fast and furious has the furor over this book been, that any review will inevitably feel redundant or tardy. Given the crowd on the band wagon by now, I actually had no intention of hopping on myself, but my kids got it for me for Father's Day. About 15 pages in, I realized that I could probably finish it in on good push, so I got it over with. My thoughts: probably the most over-hyped book I ever read; I loved it and found it frustratingly under-developed at the same time; while he raises some important issues, his handling of them reads like a yoda-meets-Tom-Wright account of salvation; nothing C. S. Lewis hasn't already said more clearly and more cleverly; I'm glad he wrote it, and I'm glad the Evangelical world has errupted over it the way it has, and I hope a much more spirited and generous and optimistic understanding of soteriology and eschatology will infuse the evangelical church's mission as a result.

Rediscovering Paul, David Capes et. al.
Rediscovering Paul is a hepful overview of Paul's life, times and theology. While at times I felt it might have gone deeper, or expressed its ideas more clearly, it provides some interesting and inspiring insights into the man behind the letters. Among these is its discussion of the communal aspect of first century letter writing, and the influence of one's community on one's personal sense of identity, and how those issues might have played out in Paul's writings. Another challenging issue that it tackles is the whole process of letter writing in the Greco-Roman world, especially as regards the role a scribe often played in shaping the text, smoothing out the langugae or providing stock phrases, etc.

Lavondyss, Robert Holdstock
If you've read George MacDonald's Lilith, then think of Lavondyss as sort of a Lilith-for-Non-Christians. It's the convoluted labyrinth of a story about a young girl called Tallis and her adventures in a magical wood that brings the Jungian archetypes buried deep in our subconscious to life. Dense with questions about Jungian psychology, and the spiritually-thin-places of the world, and death and myth and magic and story, it's pretty tough slugging at times, but thought provoking and challenging. At times I felt like I was reading the Narnia book C. S. Lewis might have written if he had pursued the "stab of northerness" in directions other than the Christian Faith where he found it eternally satisfied.

Jesus and Money, Ben Witherington III
My friend John Vlainic once ranked Ben Witheringon as one of the strongest Biblical scholars in the Wesleyan tradtion working today. This thin but powerful volume is evidence to support such an accolade. I opened it expecting (judging by the cover) either a how-to book on Christian finances, or (judging by the other books I've read on Christ and Money) a hodge-podge of Bible verses taken out of context and mushed together as proof texts about the tithe. I got neither; instead, Ben Witherington walks slowly, thoughtful and exegetically through the breadth of Biblical teaching, with special sensitivity to the cultural context of the various texts, the tension between Old and New Testament teaching on the topic, and the differences between modern and ancient economies. If I were to recommend one book to develop a biblical theology of money, it would be this one.

The Gravedigger File, Os Guinness
My first taste of Os Guinness, and, if you don't mind a mangled metaphor, it went down like a bracing pint of... well... Guinness. Grave Digger file is sort of a "Screwtape Letters" project on a church-wide scale. In concept, the book is a series of "training files" for an undercover agent attempting to undermine and ultimately sabotage the Western Church, delivered from the pen of a seasoned saboteur to a young agent recently assigned to Los Angeles. In plot, the young agent ultimately defects, and delivers the "Gravedigger File" into the hands of a Christian, urging him to alert the Church to the operation. It is bursting with "things that make you go hmmm..." and deserves a second, careful read with pen in hand, ready to mine it for its scintillating and eminently quotable lines.

Top Ten Reasons I Listen to CBC Radio

Looking back over the last few months of blogging, I've noticed that a fair number of my posts have been inspired by something heard on CBC radio. I'm not religious about it or anything, but I do try to catch a bit of CBC each day (usually on the drive to-and-from work), and often a thought provoking interview or insightful documentary will inspire me to reflect on God, life, faith, love, words or spirituality.

I was thinking about this the other day, CBC Radio sowing the seeds of blog posts in my brain and all, and I thought I'd put together my list of the top ten reasons I listen to the CBC.

10. Quirks and Quarks (Saturdays 12:06 pm). Bob McDonald takes the most esoteric of science and makes it feel like an old buddy from elementary school. Often makes me think about how deep a role science plays in the modern act of myth-making.

9. Tapestry (Sunday 2:05 pm). This weekly "exploration of spirituality, religion and the search for meaning" assures me that Canadians are "seeking" a lot more than they let on. They're just not seeking the way the mega-church-shopping seekers that Willow Creek has sensitized us to are seeking. This program challenges me to think carefully about how Canadians in particular are seeking, and how the church might meet them in that search with the life-changing story of Jesus.

8. Talking Books. Sadly this program is no longer on the air, but I loved listening to Ian Brown's book talks. Sometimes the guests he had sounded a bit pompous, but I think that was part of the charm: they always seemed exactly like I'd expect a book club to sound. You could almost feel the itch of the cardigan or smell the orange pekoe cooling in the cup as they ranted or raved.

7. The "9.30 in Newfoundland" thing. I love this constant reminder that Canadians are citizens of a huge country. Huge. Bigger than Vancouver. Bigger than Calgary. Bigger than Toronto. So big it needs an extra half a time zone. There're people scattered all over this land mass, and there's something kinda Canadian in not wanting to offend anyone by leaving any of them out.

6. Ideas (Wednesdays at 9:05 pm). Billed as the program that "explores social issues, culture and the arts, geopolitics, history, biography, science and technology and the humanities," any time I've listened it's actually delivered pretty well on this long list of disciplines. If there are still Renaissance men (or women) alive in Canada, I know what they're doing Wednesday nights at 9.

5. The Debaters (Saturdays 11:30 am). There is something quintessentially Canadian in this show: take some legitimate political, social or cultural issue and have comedians debate it with an irreverent combination of "fact and funny." Not only does it showcase what's best about Canadian humor, but it often unmasks pretty deep issues so that we can look at their foibles in new light. And it's really funny.

4. The Vinyl Cafe (Sundays 12:05 pm). Love Stuart Mclean's stories. So does my son. Often we catch them just as we're coming home from church, and he'll sit in the car in our driveway listening intently if we get home before the story's done. This program gives me hope that Canadians will still listen patiently, delightedly and enthralled to the spoken word-- even the orally-read written word-- if those words are arranged with care, love, wisdom and wit.

3. The Age of Persuasion (Thursdays 3:30pm). Anyone who lives in a world bombarded by advertising media should catch this program once in a while to get a brief, engaging glimpse at the inner clockworks of that world. There're cogs in there you never knew existed. And Terry O'Reilly is pretty good at explaining them as he explores "the countless ways marketers permeate your life, from media, art and language, to politics, religion and fashion."

2. Jian Ghomeshi (on Q). I think Jian Ghomeshi is one of the most gracious hosts on the air today. And I make this claim especially because I have no way of quantifying it. But anyone who could handle this interview with as much poise as he did is at least in the running for the Most Gracious Host Award. Listening to him makes me think all over again about the importance of insightful, well-timed questions and thoughtful, active listening.

1. Lessons in Loving the Culture Christ Died For. In his book, The Twenty-First Century Pastor, David Fisher says that learning to love our culture with the redemptive love of a Christ-follower is vital to genuine Christian ministry. He writes, "Cultural adaptation and respect has far more to do with effective pastoral ministry than many people want to admit. We need to become experts at reading and understanding [our] cultural maps." The questions I hear being asked on CBC Radio, and the answers I hear being offered, help me draw the kind of "cultural map" Fisher's talking about here. And Christians really need this kind of a map. We need sources for doing the cartography. Because, as Fisher says in a more convicting passage later on: "Christ's church and its pastoral leaders need to follow Jesus down that hill [from which he wept over Jerusalem] towards our address. A culture-bashing Christianity does not serve well the Christ who went to a cross to die for his enemies, even the enemies of our church." As mixed up and confused as some of the stuff I hear on CBC is, it always reminds me that this is the culture that Christ died to redeem, and this is the culture that he has called me to do ministry in.


Jon Coutts said...

i listen to Q and CBC Radio 3's top 30 Canadian indie music countdowns off the itunes. i've wondered where else to dive in. now i know. thanks a lot!!!!

i agree. ditch cbc tv, but long live cbc radio!

HannahJoy said...

This post makes me smile. I'm a Radio2 listener and am often DELIGHTED by the thoughtful & intelligent hosting of Tom Allen. It's good to hear stories from cbc radio(1). Thank you for sharing.

p.s. I was reading David G's blog today and was intrigued by your blog title.