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

random reads

The Halloween Files (Part II): The Modern Living Room and the Age-Old Denial of Death

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Time was the modern-day "living room" was called the "parlour."  The word derives from the French word parler (to speak) and pointed to the fact that once upon a time this room was reserved for entertaining on only the most formal of occasions.  Here we kept the most valuable of our furnishings and the most ornate of our domestic status symbols, in a kind of sacred space within the home that was set aside for momentous events and special visitations.

Like births, and wedding receptions, and funerals.

Yes, funerals.   The word "parlour," and the memory that once we hosted funerals in the living-room, actually lives on in our modern euphemism for the local mortuary.  These days funerals happen in "funeral parlors," but time was the funeral--at least the open casket and the viewing and the reception parts of the funeral--time was this happened in our own parlors. 

The “funeral home” used to be our own home.

Because once upon a time dealing with death was an integral part of life, and by necessity we made space for it in our day-to-day.  Like Psychologist Richard Beck puts it, "We used to live with the dead.  We were born in our homes and we died in our homes.  The wake was in the home, and our dead bodies were viewed in the parlor of the home."

Of course, we don't call the parlour a parlour anymore, anymore than we use it for wakes and funerals.  Today professionals deal with death for us, in professionalized space out of sight and out of mind, and, what with all that valuable real-estate taking up space in the home, we've reclaimed the room that once served this purpose.  Today it's called "the living room" (perhaps aptly), and the memory that it was once used for dying, too, is all but gone.

This isn't the only way we deny death in our world.

We used to worship alongside the dead, for instance.  The churchyard was a cemetery, and once a week you had to walk by that sombre memento mori on your way to meet with the Lord of Life.  Time was. 

Richard Beck points out how now a-days, cemeteries are kept on the metropolitan outskirts, not at the centre of public life, and since no one wants to drive past a field full of morbid-looking tombstones, we've replaced all those solemn monuments with ground-level grave-markers so the fact that it is a cemetery can be kept strictly on a need-to-know basis.  A modern cemetery looks more like a serene city park than real graveyard.

I think there is something almost pathological in our modern world’s efforts to push death to the edges of our awareness and to professionalize and de-sacralise our encounters with it.  In general, I would argue that making peace with the reality of death is a vital step towards spiritual maturity, and that the denial of death leads to spiritual emptiness.  This is part of what Thoreau was getting at, I think, when he said that “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”  Quiet desperation hums almost audibly in the heart that refuses even to look at death.

But there’s more: because as a follower of the Risen Jesus, I believe both that death has been drained of its despair, but also that the inevitable fact of death can, and should, and does point us to our Maker and the offer of life he makes us in Jesus Christ (so death, defeated, is made to pay tribute to its Conqueror, Jesus Christ).  But in a world that refuses even to look at death, the news of its defeat will fall on deaf ears.

Which brings me at last to the point of today’s post.  Because in 22 days our culture will celebrate a community-wide ceremony that asks us all to take a good hard look at death, if only for one night of the year.  Or at least it used to ask us to.  It came knocking on your door asking for a treat, of all things.  And even today, the vestiges of that ceremony—plastic tombstones and rubber skeletons and all—are still hung up on display, a Made in China memento mori, but a memento mori nonetheless.

And it seems to me, thinking about Halloween theologically this month, and all, that there’s something going on here that the Gospel can, and should lay hold of.   Because the truth is, in Jesus Christ we need neither deny death nor to despair in it.  And as the quiet desperation of a death-denying culture is given voice, (mask-muffled voice, to be sure, but voice nonetheless) on this one "All’s Hallowed" night of the year—whatever else is going on October 31—we're being given the opportunity to remember and proclaim the sure saying that we live by:  “Death has been swallowed up in Victory.”

Thanks be to God, who gives us victory through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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