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

random reads

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

Screwtape Proposes a Toast, C. S. Lewis

The Halloween Files (Part VIII): On Trick-or-Treating

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As regular readers of this blog will know, the last few weeks at terra incognita have been devoted to theologically decoding the themes of Halloween.  Halloween came on faster than I could write, so there are a few "Halloween Files" that will have to wait until next year, but one of the big issues we didn't tackle in this series is the supposed pagan origins of the festival.  As it turns out, the "Is Halloween pagan?" question is more complicated than a 500-word blog post could adequately cover anyway.  For those who want some further reading to help them settle the issue, let me recommend the following.

Here's an article about Halloween's Christian (yes, Christian) connections.

And here's my old friend Richard Beck with a psychological defense of Halloween (again I need to credit Beck with having inspired this series here at terra incognita).

And here's Steve Bell on "keeping Christ in Halloween."

I'll keep the jury sequestered on this one and let you make up your own mind.  But since your door will be ringing with cries for treats and threats of tricks in only a few hours, let me try to decode one last Halloween tradition here:  the "trick-or-treater."

Because when you strip away the pillow-cases full of candy, the symbolic narrative of trick-or-treating is as potent as it is old:  a spirit-being (who may in fact be a neighbour in disguise, but there's no way of knowing for certain) comes to your door begging hospitality and threatening mischief if it's withheld.  That is, after all, what's echoing (albeit faintly) under that mask-muffled cry:  Show hospitality (treat), or suffer the consequences (trick).

As a symbolic narrative, this story is old enough to be archetypal: a spirit-being-in-disguise came calling for hospitality, and finding none, exacted reprisal.   Just read the prologue to Beauty and the Beast, or the myth of Baucis and Philemon (in Ovid's Metamorphosis), or the story of Abraham and the destruction of Sodom (in Genesis 18-19).

What these stories all point out is that, in the ancient world at least, there was a spiritual dimension to hospitality.  It's why Abraham was so quick to welcome his guests under the Oaks of Mamre (Genesis 18), and why Lot's house, alone, was spared when the Lord went looking for ten righteous men in Sodom (Genesis 19).  Because graciously and generously welcoming the stranger was once a moral act, and poor hospitality was once a deep spiritual failing.

Trick-or-treating may or may not have descended from old Celtic rituals designed to appease the spirit-beings on the night when the veil between "their world" and "ours" was at its thinnest.  The jury's still out.  But where ever it came from, it is a vestige from a time gone by when we recognized hospitality as a profoundly spiritual act.  As such, it serves as a playful reminder to our world, where we have (for all intents and purposes) closed our minds to the possibility of spirit-beings, and are increasingly closing our doors to strangers:  there is something spiritual going on when we practice genuine hospitality.

And if you're still with me, then let me point you in two equal and opposite directions for reflection this Halloween night.

On the one hand, notice that the "symbolic logic" of trick-or-treating is based on the threat of retribution and the hope of appeasement: appease the spirit world or suffer its vengeance.  In this, its "inner symbolism" is decidedly pagan, whether it came from ancient Ireland or not.  It's based on the idea that "the gods" (or in this case, their cleverly-costumed representatives) threaten terrible tricks unless they are dully treated.  And in pointing that out, I hope you'll understand what I mean when I say that through the Cross, Jesus has actually unmasked the "trick-or-treating god" for us.  In biblical language:  the divine wrath is satisfied, once for all in Jesus, who is the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

And if that seems like a bit of a theological leap (from trick-or-treating to the atonement), then let me give you the other hand.  Hospitality is still a spiritual act.  As a Christian and a pastor, I believe that the church is called to extend God's hospitality to the stranger and the outsider in our midst.  In material and spiritual ways, we're called to share with others the hospitality that we've experienced in Jesus Christ, when God invited us to his table, spiritually homeless sinners though we were. 

And  if you'll listen for it, you may hear that call echoing in the background tonight, when those masked gremlins and other assorted strangers stand outside your door, crying out for a treat.  If you'll listen for it, you may hear God say what he said in Hebrews 13:2, all over again:  "Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it."

Happy Halloween, everybody!

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