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

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 Fine Art of Listening

I've been thinking a bit about about this comedy routine by Brian Regan I saw a couple of months ago.

Funny and incisive.


In his book Humiliation of the Word, Jaques Ellul suggests that it's only through the concrete act of listening (as opposed to merely seeing) that humans find themselves situated in the universe of truth, for "nothing beside language can establish the order of truth." In this sense, listening-- real active, receptive listening--is one of the most spiritually profound acts we can do.

Spiritually profound, and entirely counter-intuitive.

More intuitive is the impatient waiting for the other's lips to stop moving. "You? ME! See the difference?" Because to listen-- to listen well-- means assuming an entirely receptive posture, a posture of not-knowing, of genuine curiosity and generosity and self-awareness-- it means refusing to use others' stories as merely means to our own ends.

All of this, again, is counter intuitive; but it's there, in this risky openness to the other, that we find ourselves "truthing one another," as St. Paul put it for the Ephesians. And in that truthing, I think, there is the potential for real healing and spiritual growth together as Christian community.


Jon Coutts said...

Oh that bit by Brian Regan is priceless. I don't know if it is just a hazard of ministry or not (which by definition involves a lot of listening, and welcomes people to talk about themselves) but I have had times where I've wondered what ever happened to people ASKING rather than TELLING.

I'd heard about that Jacques Ellul book and was intrigued. Are you reading it? I think you have it right that this listening has to lead to truthing. It has to do so to get to the redemptive potential of the gospel of reconciliation.

But for so many of us (and I'll include myself of course), listening is a neglected art, the lack of which hurts us as much as those we never listen to.

This reminds me of something I read recently from another contemporary philosopher, Slavoj Zizek (who was in turn borrowing from Derrida). He was reflecting on the cultural fallout of 9/11 and talked about humble entry into true dialogue as the one hope for justice in our global village. He quoted Derrida, who said: "Evil resides (also) in the innocent gaze itself which perceives Evil all around."

I think Derrida and Zizek have important words for our time, but to imply that hope for justice and communion resides in our humble listening is to say too much. Like you said here, it has to lead to truth, through real truthing, as you put it.(I'm not trying to give a shameless plug here Dale, but if you want you can find this under the slavoj zizek tag on my blog.)

Fantastic stuff Dale. Amazing how comedians have such an ability to preach at times. I sometimes wonder whether many pastors have tried so hard to captivate and entertain like comedians that they've sacrificed their truthing stage to tell a few warm illustrations and jokes, thus giving all the ground to the comedians, who not only entertain but, in that relatively safe venue where you can say pretty much anything, also manage to "truth" us precisely where we need it most, and might otherwise be too offended to listen.

Unknown said...

Thanks to Jon I too listened and read your piece. I've met too few people who ask lots of questions rather than tell you lots of stuff. I've also noticed a very small minority of people who hide behind question asking so you don't get too close to their lives. I notice many times where i must discipline myself to listen and keep on listening to others. So many things block listening: selfishness, busyness, boredom (some aren't easy to listen to), trains of thought (both profound and useless), etc. And how about listening to God? Some say listen to God solely in the Bible but listen to my slant on it only. Others say listen to Him in quietness and contemplation. I guess the point is to truly listen. Thank you for this.