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

1 John (II)

Here's our third sermon in our series on 1 John.

1 John 2:12-17 "War of the Worlds"


The Convert or the Outsider, an Inter-faith Dialogue

I probably would have let it go, but I was reading Miroslav Volf's Exclusion and Embrace at the time, a book that bills itself as a "Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness and Reconciliation," so my sonar was perhaps more finely-tuned than usual to such "theological pings."

And what a poignant "ping" it was.  Here's the back story:  a few weeks earlier I happened to make a friend of a friend who happened to be a practicing Orthodox Jew.  We had a very rich and illuminating conversation about the parallels and differences between my work as a Christian pastor and his work in the local synagogue.  It was, I think, an example of inter-faith dialogue in the best sense of the term, and as I was leaving he said, "If you ever want to get the Jewish perspective on something, feel free to give me a call."

Flash forward a few weeks later and I'm working away on this sermon on Deuteronomy 24:17-22, which is all about our mandate as the people of God to "leave something" for the voiceless and the vulnerable. In a particular, Deuteronomy 24:17 says: "Do not deprive the foreigner or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge" (NIV) or " You shall not pervert the justice due an alien or an orphan, nor take a widow’s garment in pledge" (NASB) or "Thou shalt not pervert the judgment of the stranger, nor of the fatherless; nor take a widow's raiment to pledge" (good ol' KJV).

My Jewish friend's invitation was still ringing a bit in my ear, and, curious about his take on the passage in question, I sent him an email to take him up on his offer.  He replied very kindly with a number of interpretations from the Talmud sharing various Rabbinical reflections and applications of the text, illuminating the passage in ways I'd not yet considered.

But all the typical Christian translations of this passage use some word or other that means "the outsider" (alien, foreigner, stranger, etc.) to describe that first of the three groups of vulnerable people that deserve special consideration (so the NIV: the foreigner, the fatherless, the widow; or NASB: the alien, the widow, the orphan).  The specific Hebrew word is ger.  It's connected to a verb that means something like "to sojourn." It's used, for instance, to describe Abram when he was a sojourner (a foreigner, a "resident alien") in the land God told him to journey to, and it's used to describe Israel when they were captives in Egypt.  Hence Christians translate it as foreigner, alien, or stranger in Deuteronomy 24:17.

And here's the ping. In his response to my email, my Jewish friend included the standard Jewish translation of the verse.  In his translation, ger is translated, not as "the alien" generally but as "the convert" specifically (i.e. the non-Jew who has converted to Yahwehism).

We exchanged a few more emails about why this might be different, and he suggested that if an "outsider" was meant specifically, the term goy would have been used; and out of curiosity, I looked up the ancient Greek translation of the same verse, and they used a word that means "convert" as well; and, to be sure, the only biblical example we have of this passage being put into practice is the Book of Ruth, and there, Ruth the Moabitess is very clearly a convert to Yahwehism, besides being simply a foreigner.  So I'm not saying "convert" is necessarily a mis-translation of ger.

But the reason I'm still reflecting on this months later is because it seems to me there are profound ethical and theological implications for what we do with the ger in Deuteronomy 24. The question, as I see it, boils down to this: does God call us to take care of "the other" because they are "other" and regardless of whether or not they have made a profession of commitment to our community of Faith, or is conversion a necessary requisite for inclusion (and the hospitable helping that inclusion entails)?

Without the elaborate exposition that a careful handling of all these issues would require, let me at least suggest here that a radical inclusion-- one that translates ger as generously as possible-- is one of the themes of Jesus' preaching, who taught us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, and to discover our sonship in the kingdom by living out its radical peace-making mission in tangible and concrete ways.  In this regard, radical inclusion of the other is one of the harmony notes to the melody of the Gospel.