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

The Stuff List

Maybe a short example from The Year of Living Biblically will help to clarify, and perhaps justify some of my previous raving about this book (and at the same time, it may offer some food for though in its own right).

On Day 270 of his journey of following the Bible as literally as possible, A. J. Jacobs tackles 1 Corinthians 13:4-5: "love keeps no record of wrongs." In this case, he has to tackle things quite literally, because he violates this commandment quite literally. He keeps, as he humbly confesses, a file on his Palm Pilot innocently labelled "stuff," where he keeps a running record of times when he remembered something correctly and his wife remembered it wrong. Apparently his wife is always accusing him of having a poor memory, to which he responds that he has a decent enough memory and that she remembers things wrong a lot, too. But when she asks for an example he can never think of one-- hence the mnemonic list of "stuff" his wife got wrong. The story of the only time he ever put his list "into action," during an unsavory dispute over "who left the microwave door open," was quite hilarious and involved him sneaking into the bathroom to consult his list in secrecy (Julie, until Day 270, knew nothing about "the list"). He reemerged with an example of a time she locked the keys in the car.

Freely admitting the irony of needing to consult a list to prove he has a good memory, he also freely admits that this is probably the exact thing Paul was preaching against in 1 Corinthians. So in keeping with his "literalist" project, Jacobs deletes the stuff list, but not before showing it to his wife, who just laughs at him: "How could I be angry?" she says, "It's just so heartbreaking that you need this."

And as I'm reading, I'm laughing, too; but I'm also convicted about my own "stuff" list. It's not on my Palm Pilot, perhaps, and maybe not as literal as his, nor as specific to marital disputes, but I know about that "list" that I keep filed away somewhere in the corner of my heart, that record of times I was in the right and "they" were in the wrong. And I realize that, for all the seriousness with which I take the Pauline authorship and canonical authority of 1 Corinthians 13, I have yet to wipe that record completely clean.

If only it were as easy as clicking the delete button.

Jacobs says this about following 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 as literally as possible: "I know it may seem like a small thing, but the 'Stuff' incident made me realize my worldview is too much about quantification. It consists of thousands of little ledgers. ... When I forgive, I file away the other person's wrongs for possible future use. It's forgiveness with an asterisk."

Wow. May God grant his church a reading of the Bible so literal that we discover what it really is to love without the asterisk.

Who died and left you judge?

I've blogged before about how I don't really watch TV anymore, which I only mention here to explain why, on a recent flight to Alberta, I spent almost the full four hours staring blankly at that tiny little screen on the back of the seat in front of me. I just wanted to see what's been happening in TV land since I last watched.

So I watched a show about some dancers who think they can dance, but find out from three well-dressed and articulate judges who know better, that they really can't in the end.

A show where people who sing ballads or juggle flaming chainsaws or some such stand under the scrutiny of their fellow Americans so that three discerning judges can tell them if their nation has any talent after all.

And a show about some people who think they know what to wear, but find out from well-meaning experts that, when it's all said and done, they don't really.

And I have to say: four hours later, I left the plane feeling really judged. Really. I can't dance anywhere near as well as the worst of those dancers who thought they could; and if they can't then where does that leave me? And I sing way worse than that guy who just got "x"ed off the stage; and if he sucks, then how long would I have lasted? I thought I knew what to wear, too, but now I'm not so sure, because I sure don't dress as sharp as that guy. And, of course, I use none of the gadgets, products, services or media that any of those 30-second narratives peppered between shows kept insisting I needed if I wanted to fit in.

For a fleeting flashback of a moment, I felt like I was in junior high all over again, standing, like I always did, in the wrong jeans with the wrong coloured school bag on the wrong side of the hall. I almost slunk off the plane.

But today, having recovered from all the gawking and name calling and finger-pointing, I'm left wondering: does our media-bombarded world walk collectively under a looming shadow of judgment like this all the time? Is this why shows like these are so popular after all, because they confirm for us what we always suspected about ourselves anyways: no one's good enough, but if I'm not, then at least I know they aren't either.

Do we judge because we feel judged?

But I'm also wondering about Romans 8:34. There Paul asks a question I always thought was little more than a rhetorical lead-in to the gospel, but after four hours of reality TV I'm hearing with new ears.

"Who is the one who condemns?"

Because if "reality TV" is a glimpse of anything real at all, then it's a glimpse of that system of social condemnation that we all participate in, and stand under, and perpetuate, and that is, perhaps, as old as civilization itself.

And that's where Paul's answer shines out as the Good News it really is. There really is only one who's in any position to condemn, because only he stands apart from this whole system of social condemnation, and thus is himself the only Righteous Judge: Christ Jesus.

And as Paul reminds us, the Good News is that this Judge has already passed his judgement on us. The verdict is delivered: in the cross we are found guilty of the worst godlessness and at the same time loved beyond all reckoning ("Forgive them Father they know not what they do" is a judgment on our ignorance as much as it is a plea for our forgiveness.) And in his resurrection victory over sin and death, Jesus judges all our hypocrisies and self-judgments and condemnation of others as the idolatrous systems of human power that they really are, unable to speak the final word on the value of human life.

In that perfect judgment he sets us free from the glare of those televised judges who stare us down from their benches on national TV, or where ever else their eyes are watching. He sets us finally free to love our neighbours as ourselves, knowing that we ourselves have already been judged and claimed by the love of God, and no power on heaven or earth can speak a word of judgment to the contrary.

Happy Birthday Mr. Hopkins

Today is Gerard Manley Hopkins's birthday. I've written before about my deep appreciation for the poetry of this Jesuit priest: like a pint of Guinness for the soul, maybe.

He has this short poem called "Pied Beauty." Maybe the only poem where you could say something like "I read it with the ears of my eyes, and my heart heard what my imagination saw..." and not feel totally ridiculous.

See for yourself:

Pied Beauty
Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spáre, strange;
Whatever is fickle, frecklèd (who knows how?)
With swíft, slów; sweet, sóur; adázzle, dím;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is pást change:
Práise hím.

Not that I feel I ever could, or should add anything to that, but I while ago I wrote a little ditty based on the themes of this poem. It's really not much, but in celebration of the 166th birthday of my favorite poet, I thought I'd share it here. It goes like this:

And while I'm at it, I thought I'd re-post a song I'd posted before based on another Hopkins poem: Windhover.

And while I'm still at it, here's a poem I wrote about 6 years ago or so, in response to his beautiful and arresting sonnet #45, "I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day."


O! to be pierced in the soul with words, their nails burning.
Pierced hands and feet, pinned body driven down against the thought,
the bright stab of the shining logos touching to the very heart
and letting flow the mingled blood and water of my yearning.
Encompassing my brow within the twisted knot of thorny verse
to beat, break, bruise but balm my crown, let stream the wish,
your ringing, swinging phrase at once can flay and salve my flesh,
and lift against my lips a vinegar to slake and hone my thirst.

See! There! Look! Led by the heart, you've held me by the ear
brought to the root of the triumphant tree on gleaming wings.
Ah! There! In the bubble of my passion, in you passion, springs
as flotsam in the flowing fountain of His passion, pure
haloes, light, and streaming blood, doves, bells, stars and other holy things:
To praise the Word that that was the first, my broken word now sings.

Back (with a Book, a Flick and a Song (or two))

My hiatus from blogging ends today. Back at the end of June, the blog-well had almost run dry altogether, so in the last few weeks away from my posting post, I've spent some time deliberately doing other things: reading some books, watching some movies, listening to some fresh music, and generally letting the water come back up. I'm just about ready to start putting the bucket down again, but I thought, for today, I might start by sharing some of the other things I've been up to in the in-between-time.

Read a good book: The Year of Living Biblically
This book is a gem of a read, and I would enthusiastically recommend it to anyone, but especially to Christians who've grown up with phrases like "inerrant" and "authoritative" tinting their faith-coloured glasses, and want to see the Good Book through an unexpectedly fresh lens. A. J. Jacobs is a self described agnostic (he's actually Jewish, though he says he's "Jewish the way the Olive Garden is an 'Italian' restaurant"); he's also a witty and insightful writer interested in issues related to religious fundamentalism and its impact on culture. The premise of his book: to spend a year following the 1700 or so commands in the Bible as literally as possible, including the most obscure ones like not wearing mixed-fibre clothing, letting his clothing be always white, not taking a mother bird along with the egg, and playing a ten-stringed lyre. He writes about the Bible with an honesty, humility, affection, sense of humour and self-awareness that a good number of "Christian" books I've read never achieve, for all their Evangelical "high view of Scripture". And along the way, the fresh insights and spiritual discoveries he makes-- about this beautiful and baffling Book that has so shaped my life as a Christian-- are sometimes arresting, often challenging and quite refreshing (even the times he left me wanting to scream: "no, you just don't get it!", it was a refreshing impulse).

Saw a summer flick: Inception
I saw the trailer for this movie when I was on holidays, and right away I thought: that looks like my kind of movie. It's the first movie in a long time whose release date I've marked on the calendar. It didn't disappoint-- or mostly didn't disappoint. Thematically, there's a lot less going on there than the premise might have made possible. A "dream thief" who specializes in infiltrating the dreams of others to steal their thoughts is hired to reverse the process and plant a thought in another man's mind through a risky procedure known as "inception." With a plot like that, I actually expected a more Salvador Dali-esque exploration of the human psyche than I got. But, if not quite so surreal as Dali, the movie is at least M. C. Escher-esque, with its contorted dreams-within-dreams-within-dreams and its labyrinthine convolutions of time and space. And as an action movie, it's original and unexpectedly riveting. (While this is not normally pointed out for special mention in a review, I also want to add that the sound production on this movie was exceptional, drawing you into the action almost like an additional character.)

Listened to an inspiring song (or Two): Ending is Beginning (Downhere)
I saw this CD in the library about a month ago, when I was there helping my kids get some reading material. The founding members of Downhere, I knew, were Briercrest alumni, and though I'd never heard them before, I'd heard a lot about them in my time studying there, and thought I'd give it a try. It's been getting a lot of play time over the last month. Eclectic musical styles, hopeful but honest lyrics, engaging songwriting with creative arrangements and top-notch production: it's a CD that rewards repeated listens. And then there's lines like these:
I'm so far from what I want to be / Oh I really am my own worst enemy / Please don't let me get the better of me / Take this earthly thing and make it finally something heavenly
It's justice and mercy the old dichotomies / all along the front lines of my heart / in both doubt and belief /the sinner and the saint, the old arch enemies / all at war in me