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

That Hideous Strength, C. S. Lewis

Till We Have Faces, C. S. Lewis

random reads

Commentaries on the Book of Lamentations

Like I usually do after a preaching series at the FreeWay, I thought I'd post some information and/or reviews of some of the secondary resources I consulted in preparing my series on the Book of Lamentations.  It is a very telling thing, that, while scholarly commentaries on Lamentations were readily available, I found almost no commentaries that focused specifically on preaching Lamentations, like, perhaps, Sydney Gredainus did with Ecclesiastes (telling in so far as it illustrates some of the things I said in this series about our hesitancy to make real space for lament in our corporate worship).  That said, here are two of the main resources I worked with:

Paul R. House, Lamentations (Word Biblical Commentary Series, Thomas Nelson)
I have always appreciated the WBC series for its thorough work with the original languages and the historical provenance of the text, and for its ability to engage a wide range of critical perspectives while maintaining a clearly Evangelical hermeneutic.  Paul House's work with Lamentations in this series, it turns out, is no exception to the rule; I found his analysis insightfu and helpful.  He draws out a number of critical isues over things like authorship, genre/form, historical dating and so on.  What I didn't quite expect, having sloughed through some pretty technical stuff in the WBC in the past, was the profound pastoral sensibility with which he handled this difficult book, a sensitivity that shone especially in his thoughts on "why study Lamentations" and in his handling of the theodicy questions that echo in the background of the most difficult passages of Lamentations.

Robin Parry, Lamentations (Two Horizons Series, Eerdmans)
Robin Parry's commentary on Lamentations reflects a genuine sensitivity to the poetic form of the book (much of his translations, for instance, try to convey the acrostic "feel" of the original), and his insightful readings often draw out subtleties of the text that might otherwise have been missed. (That the word translated "The man" in 3:1 is actually ha gibor (the valiant one/warrior). Stuff like that.) His work was especially helpful for sermon prep. because, where the House commentary presented each chapter as a whole, Parry broke each chapter down into smaller units of thought that lent themselves more readily to "sermonization," and helped to parse out the inner logic of each chapter more clearly.


Learning to Lament (4)

Here's our final sermon in our series on Lamentations. It has been a challenging but rewarding job this Lent season, preparing this material.  In a few days, I hope to post some more summative thoughts on lament, it's role in the Christian life, and the Book of Lamentations specifically, but in the meantime, here's Learning to Lament #4:

Lamentations 3:40-51 "Coming Back"



Learning to Lament (3)

Lamentations 3:1-24 "Remembering the Gall"


Learning to Lament (2)

Here's the second sermon in our lenten journey with the Book of Lamentations.  I'm still working on some more extended thoughts on this beautiful, sad, haunting book, but for now, here's sermon 2:


Lamentations 2:11-22  "Poured Out"

The Five (Smooth) Rocks were also Christ

As regular visitors to terra incognita will probably have gathered, I've been spending a lot of time in 1 Samuel these days.  The other day it was Chapter 17, the most famous giant-bout in recorded history, immortalized in monumental marble masterpieces and children's coloring pages alike.  I lingered for a moment over the scene where David selects five smooth stones from the stream, and I was reminded of this post over at Richard Beck's very good blog called Experimental Theology.

The question here is quite simple: if David was indeed trusting YHWH in his square-off against Goliath, why did he take five stones.  Wouldn't one stone have been a far more dramatic gesture of faith?  Moralistic Sunday School lessons, of course have a ready, allegorical answer:  the stones are symbolic of the disciplines of the godly life (by turns, "courage, humility, prayer, effort, love of duty" (this is one I found online this morning), or "spiritual renewal, kingdom generosity, church revitalization, church planting, authentic evangelism" (this is a more elaborate (and grown up) one I found at a random on  a church website)).

But then, these "answers" just illustrate the problem. If we are indeed trusting YHWH to win the battle for us, why do we so quickly and easily point to our own efforts--our courage, our duty, our giving, our church planting-- as the deciding factor.

But here's the intriguing thing (and again, credit where credit's due: Richard Beck first put me on the scent of this trail).  In 2 Samuel 21:15-22, it describes the on-going skirmishes with the Philistines under David's rule.  Here we meet four imposingly large "descendants of Rapha in Gath":  Ishbi-Benob (Abishai, the son of Zeruiah took him out), Saph (Sibbekai, the Hushathite took him down), a "huge man with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot"  (Jonathan son of Shimeah killed him), and "the brother of Goliath the Gittite" (Elhanan Son of Jair got him (see 1 Chron 20:5)).

Of course, if one of these four sons of Rapha was the brother of Goliath, then that would make Goliath himself the fifth son of Rapha.  There were, it turns out, five giants in Gath:  Goliath and his four goliathine brothers. 

After reading 2 Samuel 21:15-22, it doesn't take much speculation (Richard Beck points out) to figure out why David would have taken five stones; it just takes some simple math.  David took five stones because there were five giants in Gath, and he was gearing up to whip the whole lot of them.  So confident was David in YHWH's salvation, that he before the battle with Goliath even began he was already looking past it to God's victory over all the giants in Gath. 

Suddenly these five stones have become a profound reminder to us, whenever we stand in Goliath's shadow, that not only does the battle belong to the Lord; so too the entire war. 

And, at the risk of wringing hermenutical blood out of exegetical stone here, they have become a little cairn, marking out the ultimate battleground of God's victory: the cross of Christ.  Because whatever else it means, a pouch-full of pebbles in a battle against a crew of gigantic Philistine champions reminds us that when God does win the victory, it will be on his impossible terms, our best efforts be damned: a smooth stone, a small still voice, a pregnant virgin, a crucified Messiah.

In 1 Corinthians 10:4, Paul reminds the Church how God saved Israel in the desert by bringing water from the Rock. "That Rock" he says, setting the precedent for all subsequent Christological readings of the Old Testament, "That Rock was Christ."  Without wanting to put words in his mouth, I would hasten to add:  "So too were the five smooth stones."

On the Naming of Kings

In a previous post, I mentioned the irony implicit in the name of Israel's first King-- Saul, the "one we asked for."  As a further thought on the naming of kings in 1 Samuel, I can't help but notice that later, when David arrives on the scene, how compelling and attractive his character is. 

In chapter 18, after his infamous melee with the giant from Gath, David comes to stay in Saul's house; and you don't have to look too closely to realize that everyone (and inparticular Saul's family) is falling in love with the guy.  First Jonathan becomes "one in spirit" with David and "loves him as himself." Then, as David's sphere of influence swells, we're told that "all Israel and Judah loved David because he led them in their campaigns."  And by the end of the chapter, Saul's daughter Michal has fallen in love wih this archtypal giant slayer.

Perhaps none of this should come as any surprise.  YHWH told Saul he would strip the kingdom from him and give it to his reyah (companion). And if we pause to remember what David's own name means, it would probably come as even less a surprise, that this charismatic and good-looking lad is literally stealing the hearts of the whole kingdom, right down to Saul's own children.

"David," of course, means "beloved."