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.

Chrismas Eve Children's Homily

We're home now from a really uplifting Christmas Eve service at the FreeWay, where I had the honor of giving the children's sermon. Because terra incognita will probably be on pause until the new year, I thought I'd post my notes from the talk I gave, to give you something to read between now and then. We'd invited children to come dressed in their PJs, and had a bunch of big old pillows for them to sit on at the front during the service, so as you read, try to imagine me sitting on the floor with about fifteen or so children, all in their PJs and humming with all the excitement of Christmas eve.

Talk to you-- or blog to you (with you? at you?) in the New Year.

Luke 2:10: A Message from Heaven

Can I tell you about a time me and my family went to Disney World? While we were all standing in line to get some pizza, I happened to look up in the sky, and I saw this sort of thin looking cloud that looked like a long, white pencil stroke.

And as I watched it for a minute, I realized that in a way, it sort of was a big white pencil stroke. Because it was an airplane with a stream of cloud coming off behind it, and this airplane was flying all zig-zaggy so that the cloud would spell out letters in the sky. And while I watched, it formed a big “J” and then an “E” and then an “S” (it was a long line up to get pizza).

Anyone want to guess what the plane was spelling? [take responses] It was spelling: Jesus Loves You.

We were in Disney World, of course, so I don’t know who else noticed the writing in the sky that day, but that pilot sure wanted the world to know that Jesus loves us. But I’m wondering: if an angel from heaven were to write a message in the sky tonight, what do you think he (or she) would write? [Take responses.]

Those are all good ideas, but I think his message would be: “Don’t be afraid.” Do you know why? Because just about every angel that ever speaks in the Bible starts by saying: “Don’t be afraid.”

Like: there’s a story about a servant girl called Hagar, who was forced to have her master’s baby, but then, when the baby’s born, the master’s wife (who was the one who forced her to have the baby in the first place) she got so mad that she sent her out into the desert to die. And when she’s out there all alone, an angel comes to her. And the very first thing the angel says is: “Don’t be afraid, Hagar.”

And there’s another story about a prophet called Daniel, who’s been having nightmares about the future. Well, they’re so terrifying that he starts to pray really hard for God to help him, and after three weeks of this, an angel finally comes to him and the first thing the angel says is: “Don’t be afraid, Daniel.”

And of course, it’s Christmas Eve, right? And there’re lots of angels in the Christmas stories, aren’t there? But if you read closely you’ll see that every one of them, before they say anything else, they say, “Don’t be afraid.”

Like, there was this priest named Zechariah, and an angel met him in the temple to tell him that he was going to have a son called John the Baptist. But when Zechariah saw the angel he was so scared he could hardly speak, so the angel said: “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah.”

And then there was this humble maiden called Mary, and when an angel came to tell her that she was going to be the mother of Jesus, the very first thing he said was: “Don’t be afraid, Mary.”

And when Mary’s fiancé Joseph found out that she had a little baby growing inside her, but he wasn’t the Daddy, he thought: If I marry her now, I’ll bring shame on my whole family, but if I don’t marry her, I’ll bring shame on her... what should I do? But then an angel came to him in a dream and said: “Don’t be afraid, Joseph.”

And then, on the night when Jesus was born, the Bible says there were shepherds guarding their sheep out in the fields at night, and the angel of the Lord appeared to them, and it says: suddenly the brilliant light of God’s pure holiness and his perfect love was burning all around them—so bright that it stung their eyes, and they had to hide their faces from it—and they fell on their knees totally, and completely undone.

And anyone want to guess what the angel said?

“Don’t be afraid.”

The angel said, “I have a message straight from heaven tonight. You don’t have to be afraid. Because tonight a savior is born, and now, in him, God’s making peace with his world.”

So, I think that if an angel from heaven were going to write a message in the sky tonight, it would be: “Don’t be afraid."

But I wonder why? Why do you think angels keep telling us folk here on earth not to be afraid?

I think part of it has to do with the fact that... well there’s something about God—the real, true, living God?—there’s something about him that can be kind of scary to us. Like those shepherds, falling on their faces when the glory of the Lord shone round about them? I mean: when they saw how pure and holy God was, they were afraid, because they looked kinda shabby next to that—and when they felt how perfectly and completely God loved—they were afraid—because they looked kinda small and selfish next to that—and when they heard how beautiful heavenly worship sounded—they were afraid—because they thought, if we were to sing along, it would sound like nails on a chalkboard next to that.

But the very first thing God says to them, through his angel, is: “Don’t be afraid.”

And what he means is: “Don’t be afraid of me.

“Because I love you. And the thing is—anything between you and me that might have made it scary for you to be in my presence—well I love you way too much for that to stand between us. I don’t want you to feel like you’re being called to the principal’s office every time I speak your name. That’s not love. So I’ve come to you in Jesus to make peace—and in Jesus, I’m going change whatever might have made me scary to you—your shabbiness or your selfishness or your brokenness—I’m going to replace that with my holiness, and my goodness, and my love. So you don’t have to be afraid of me, anymore.

But there’s more to it than that. Because, well, life with God can feel kinda scary sometimes, but you know what’s even more scary: life without God. I mean, sometimes people feel like they’re all alone in the whole wide world and no one knows what it’s like to be them. And that can be a scary feeling. And sometimes people think about the future and they have no clue whatsoever if things are going to turn out okay. And that’s scary. And sometimes people feel like everyone’s turned their back on them and no one loves them.

And that’s really scary.

So that night, when God’s angels started writing God’s message in the sky, the first thing they said was: “Don’t be afraid. You’re not alone in the dark.

Because tonight, this very night, God himself has come into the world as a little human baby, to show you: God himself is with you in the whole wide world; God himself knows what it’s like to be you; God himself will turn things out okay in the end; God himself loves you.

So don’t be afraid. And that’s good news.

It may be tonight, on Christmas Eve and all, you’re not feeling too afraid. Or maybe you are. I don’t know. But I know that this is God’s message for to you tonight: “Don’t be afraid. Because in Jesus I am making peace between heaven and earth at last.” And like one of the writers in the Bible says it in a different place: “If God is for us, who can be against us.” Or, tonight, let’s it like this: “if the Most High God in Heaven has showed us tonight he loves us perfectly in Jesus Christ—well what is there left to be afraid of?”