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.

inversions

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.

soundings

soundings
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.

bridges

bridges
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.

echoes

echoes
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.

Accidentals

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

random reads

The Book of Philippians (9)

Here's our next sermon on the Book of Philippians.

Philippians 4:1-9 "Practicing for Joy"


Prayers for Illumination

In my last post I mentioned prayers for illumination that I've prayed (after reading the scripture and before the sermon) that are based on, or "riffs on" specific Bible verses. The example I gave there was:

Your word, O Lord, is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path. Help us to see clearly by it today, we pray. Amen.


For the record, and in case you're a preacher and the idea of "praying the word" before "preaching the word" intrigues you, I thought I'd post a few more "prayers for illumination" I've prayed in the past at the FreeWay:

God, your word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword; we pray that it would be so here today as we turn to it now.  Amen.

God, we know that all scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, correcting, rebuking and training in righteousness. We pray that it would be so for us this morning as we look to it now. Amen.

God, just like the rain comes down from heaven and doesn't return to heaven without watering the earth and making it fruitful, so is your word which comes out from your mouth:it doesn't return to you empty but accomplishes your purposes for it. May it water our hearts today and make them fruitful for you. Amen.

God, the Psalmist said:  how sweet is your word to my mouth, sweeter than honey from the comb.  Amen. May it be so here: give us an unquenchable taste for your word, here today.  A sweet-tooth for the things of God, we pray. 

God, we know that the man or woman without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned.  We ask, Lord, that this would not be true of us today.  Give us your Spirit, so that we may understand and accept your Word and what it would say to us here.  Amen.

Praying the Word

If ever you've spent time with someone who's new to this "Faith thing," one of the questions that will often come up is: "How do you pray?" The most common response to a question like this is something along the lines of: "Praying is just talking to God, and you can talk to God just like you're talking to me now. Just talk to him." I fully understand the motive behind this kind of response. It helps people understand that the Christian God is real, and personal, and that he takes us as we are, and that he is so active in our everyday life that we can speak to him in everyday language.

I get all that and I think it is important.

But to be honest, I've always found something a bit unsatisfying about this answer. Because, really, you can't talk to God, just like you talk to a flesh-and-blood human being, and in asking the question, the "newbie" is recognizing that there is something sacred, something sacramental, something other about prayer, and I don't know that it's especially helpful to disavow them of this belief. Prayer is a sacred act and, while it's true that Jesus is always perfecting our prayers in heaven, no matter how imperfect they may be on earth, growing Christians should be maturing in their prayer life, too.

So I've been thinking about all this lately, and one of the things I keep coming back to is how seldom you hear Christians- especially "lifers"-- using the words of the scriptures to form the content of their prayers. This is, I'm becoming more and more convinced, the "lost art" of Christian prayer. Speaking the words of Scripture back to God, and letting them form the content of our prayers.

Some concrete examples may help. Let's say, for instance, I'm praying for someone in crisis. In the past my prayer might have sounded something like: Lord, we just want to pray for so-and-so that you would just help so-and-so and just give them peace about such-and-such.

These days, as I try to let the words of the scripture form the content of my prayers, I pray something like: Lord, you tell us not to be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition, to present our request to you. And you promised that when we do, that your peace, which transcends understanding, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. So that's what we're doing now: we pray for so-and-so, that the peace of Christ which transcends understanding would guard their hearts and minds...

Okay, that's maybe a wordy example, but let's say I'm praying for someone who is having trouble making some life decision. In the past I might have prayed something like: "Lord, we pray for so-and-so, that you would just help them know what they're to do about such-and-such."

These days, as I try to let the Scriptures form the content of my prayers, I find myself praying things like: Lord, you told us that if anyone lacked wisdom, they should ask you because you give generously to all without finding fault. And that's what we're doing for so-and-so, Lord: please give so-and-so wisdom about such-and-such generously, without finding fault, just like you promised to do....

A final example: when preaching, I always try to pray a short prayer for illumination between the reading of the scripture and the sermon itself. In the past these have been impromptu, wordy, drawn out and vague. These days, as I let the words of Scripture form the content of my prayers, I pray something like:  Your word, O Lord, is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path. Help us to see clearly by it today. Amen.

I could go on, because such is the breadth and depth of the Scripture's themes, that there really is no life experience we might go through that it doesn't address, and give us words to address God with in return. And that's what's happening, really, when we use the Scriptures as the content for our prayers: we're addressing God's own self with God's own words; we're entering the throne room of heaven with heaven's own "language" (so to speak) on our lips. And that's something sacred, I think.

(A final corollary of praying the scriptures I've noticed: to pray like this, I need to know what the scriptures say. To have memorized them, or, at the very least, to have internalized the gist of them so that they are on my lips, and ready to speak back to God in any given circumstance. I'm not a traditionalist, per se, and I've never decried the fact that "we don't emphasize scripture memorization anymore," like I've heard some old-timers do, but there's something to this. If I'm going to speak God's word back to him in my prayers, I need to have a heart saturated with it. And this won't happen without conscious discipline and intentional effort.)

The Book of Philippians (8)

We're still working through Philippians at the FreeWay. Here's the 8th installment in our series.

Philippians 3:12-21. Eyes on the Prize