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.

What No One Yet has Said About the Triumph of Love

In case you've been living in the evangelical world's version of a sensory deprivation tank in Siberia and somehow missed it, let me catch you up to speed. Recently, the popular and/or controversial pastor of a mega-church in Michigan published a book about Heaven and Hell that made big waves in the sea of all-things-evangelical. Actually, it was the pre-game show that really made the wave: a 3 minute advert for his book, which he posted on the Internet, in which he hinted that he would be giving some non-traditional answers to some hard questions about the doctrine of hell, about which some self-appointed watch dogs over at a blog called "The Gospel Coalition" cried universalist! and heretic!, and after which Harper Collins bumped the book's release date up by two weeks.

Here's the video:

Just how big a wave did it make? To compare: if you google Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict's most recent publication, you'll garner around 668,000 hits. A google of this pastor's Love Wins will earn you 606,000 hits. So the literary crest he's carving, it would seem, is at least as big as the Pope's. Heck: even CBC News, that pillar of secular liberalism, caught wind of it and figured it was worth a mention, though their story reads like a third-grader's account of the theory of relativity, for all the sensitivity to the real issues it shows (read the article here).

Bloggers better than I have taken more pains than I to review, dissect, respond and otherwise put their theological surfboard to the wave. I'd suggest you start here; then read this nuanced deconstruction of some of the theological terms being used in the debate; and then read this 10-part series by Steve Holmes, lecturer at St. Mary's College, St. Andrews Scotland. He offers, by all accounts, the most thorough and theologically erudite analysis of the book you'll find on the web.

Of course, after Don Miller published this scintillating review, it seemed like there was simply nothing left to say.

But there is something I haven't yet heard anyone say, and it stands out glaringly to me, so I'll offer it here.

The crisis over this book, such as it is, is not really a crisis about the doctrines of Heaven and Hell at all. It is more a crisis, I think, of ecclesiology. The problem that the guys who have come out swinging really have with this Michiagan pastor is not that he may hold untraditional views on the afterlife. By most accounts, he isn't saying anything that hasn't been said before; and to be sure, pastors who have called themselves Christian have said far more radical things than him, with impunity as far as the likes of the Gospel Coalition are concerned.

Their real problem is that "he's one of us" (so to speak), or at least in lots of other ways he sure sounds like it. He talks evangelical Jesus talk like "one of us." He's published by reputable evangelical publishers like "one of us." He calls himself evangelical, like "one of us." He upholds the Lordship of Jesus in old fashioned ways, like "one of us." If he were just a "flaky" "liberal" pastor, they could dismiss him and be done with it. And it's no coincidence that many conservatives with the hardest cores have tried to stick the anathema of "liberalism" on him in disingenuous ways, because if he were simply a "liberal" they would have just cause to turn down his application to the club without even considering it.

But he's evangelical. And because Evangelicalism is such a loosely defined tribe, a tribe where inclusion is based on whether or or not your "version" of the Gospel is like mine, or you "feel" like me when you talk about the Bible, or you "sound" like me when you pray, or sing, or wax theological, a tribe where membership is more often based on our self-identification as evangelical and, for all our talk about Sola Scriptura, authority is more often based on worldly measures of popularity (who has the biggest church, the best-selling book, the most popular broadcast, the most endorsements from other self-appointed leaders of the movement)... because evangelicalism has no Magisterium other than blog stats and book sales... because we suffer this crisis of ecclesiology, self-appointed Gospel Coalitions and self-described Christian Hedonists feel it is necessary to guard the ford, ready to execute any brother who can't pronounce Shibboleth. (And as an aside, this is why the uproar over Rick Warren's invitation to the Desiring God Conference last year was so significant-- it illustrates the same crisis in ecclesiology-- an "evangelical leader" had invited someone we weren't quite sure about to the party).

Let me try saying it this way: "Heretic" and "Orthodox" are as much ecclesiological designations as they are theological. To be orthodox is to be in keeping with the received teaching of the Church-- and to be a heretic is to be contrary to the received teaching of the Church. But the crisis is that there is no Church, as such, in Evangelicalism. There are only churches. There is no legitimate, single "body" which uniformly "receives" teaching; there are only bodies-- Zondervan and the EFC and the good folks at Christianity Today and the Gospel Coalition and the Billy Graham Association and Big Idea (until Hollywood bought them) and Vineyard (well, we'll sing their songs but we're not so sure about their methods) and so on.

In an ecclesiologically fragmented universe like this, anyone who doesn't agree with me is a heretic and anyone who does is orthodox, and it's not just my right, it's my duty to personally defend my "truth" against your "error"; and since we'll never get to sit together at the next Ecumenical Synod, the easiest way to do so is to lash out (in ways that are by turns pompous, stingy, dismissive and silly).

I haven't read Love Wins, and probably won't; I have read Stan Grenz's Beyond Foundationalism, which is perhaps a more helpful book anyways, in that it helps us to understand the interplay between the community, theology, Scripture, tradition, Church and truth that's at work here. But thinking about all this, and looking for something to say about it that 606,000 posts haven't yet touched on, I want to ask: what if, instead of 606,000 passionate posts about the controversy over Love Wins, we devoted that much web-space to equally passionate discussions about the crisis in Evangelical ecclesiology that the Love Wins controversy has simply brought to light?

Perhaps then the energy spent on self-righteously denouncing a "suspected heretic" (who, as far as I can tell, is no heretic at all) might be spent instead on making Ephesians 4:1-6 our reality as evangelicals.