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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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random reads

Book Reviews

Book Reviews
The Shallows, Nicholas Carr
In this very readable, very thought provoking analysis of electronic communciations technology and its impact on our brains and culture, Nicholas Carr brings together media theory (think Marshall McLuhan), history (think Gutenberg) and neuroscience (think discoveries in brain plasticity) to show how computer technology is shaping us in ways of which we are only dimly aware. He argues that such technologies reduce our capacity for deep, creative and sustained linear thought (or at least have the potential to do so) and predispose us to the fragmented, the cursive and the superficial. Worth the read.

Exclusion and Embrace, Miroslav Volf

Ecstasy and Intimacy: When the Holy Spirit Meets the Human Spirit, Edith Humphrey
A fascinating and engaging introduction to spiritual theology-- or the theology of spirituality, as the case may be. This book is a very scholarly, devotional, christo-centric, ecumenical and trinitarian overview of what it means for Christians to live in the Spirit and with the Spirit within. Bracing and enlightening.

Leading with a Limp, Dan Allender

five smooth stones for pastoral work, Eugene Peterson

From Darkness to Light: How One Became a Christian in the Early Church, Anne Fields

Life in the Ancient Near East, Daniel C. Snell
Snell's Life in the Ancient Near East offers a social history of the ANE, tracing the earliest settlement of Mesopotamia, the development of agriculture, first cities, ancient economy and the emergence of empire. Bringing together a rich variety of data gleaned both from the archaeological record and extant historical texts, he tells the history of this cradle of civilization with a special eye for the "human" element - focusing on the forces and factors that would have directly affected the daily life of the various strata of society. Worth a read generally, but all the more for someone with a particular interest in the biblical stories that find their setting and draw their characters and themes from the same provenience.

The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene

Flame of Yahweh: Sexuality in the Old Testament, Richard Davidson
Davidson's Old Testament theology of human sexuality is stunning in its achievement, challenging in its content, and edifying in its conclusions. Davidson addresses every-- and I do mean every-- Old Testament text that deals (even obliquely) with human sexuality, and, through detailed exegesis, careful synthesis, and deep interaction with the scholarly research, develops a detailed picture of the Old Testament's vision for redeemed human sexuality. 700 pages of Biblical scholarship at its best.

Eaarth, Bill McKibben
Bill McKibben's Eaarth, is a call for us to wake up smell the ecological coffee...while we can still brew it. Unlike his previous work, or any writing on ecology I've yet read, however, Eaarth does not argue that catastrophe is pending. Instead, he argues that catastrophe has arrived, and that our all talk about "going green to avert disaster," "and "saving the planet" is woefully obsolete. In ecological terms, the planet as we once knew it is gone, he argues, and rather than trying to "avert" disaster, we need to start figuring out how to live in the disaster that's happened. Key themes he identifies as important for life on planet Eaarth resonnated with me as profoundly Christian ways of being (disaster or no). We must stop assuming that "bigger" is better; we must acknowledge limits on economic and technological growth; we must get reacquainted with the land; we need eschew self-sufficency and nurture community.

Love Wins, Rob Bell
So fast and furious has the furor over this book been, that any review will inevitably feel redundant or tardy. Given the crowd on the band wagon by now, I actually had no intention of hopping on myself, but my kids got it for me for Father's Day. About 15 pages in, I realized that I could probably finish it in on good push, so I got it over with. My thoughts: probably the most over-hyped book I ever read; I loved it and found it frustratingly under-developed at the same time; while he raises some important issues, his handling of them reads like a yoda-meets-Tom-Wright account of salvation; nothing C. S. Lewis hasn't already said more clearly and more cleverly; I'm glad he wrote it, and I'm glad the Evangelical world has errupted over it the way it has, and I hope a much more spirited and generous and optimistic understanding of soteriology and eschatology will infuse the evangelical church's mission as a result.

Rediscovering Paul, David Capes et. al.
Rediscovering Paul is a hepful overview of Paul's life, times and theology. While at times I felt it might have gone deeper, or expressed its ideas more clearly, it provides some interesting and inspiring insights into the man behind the letters. Among these is its discussion of the communal aspect of first century letter writing, and the influence of one's community on one's personal sense of identity, and how those issues might have played out in Paul's writings. Another challenging issue that it tackles is the whole process of letter writing in the Greco-Roman world, especially as regards the role a scribe often played in shaping the text, smoothing out the langugae or providing stock phrases, etc.

Lavondyss, Robert Holdstock
If you've read George MacDonald's Lilith, then think of Lavondyss as sort of a Lilith-for-Non-Christians. It's the convoluted labyrinth of a story about a young girl called Tallis and her adventures in a magical wood that brings the Jungian archetypes buried deep in our subconscious to life. Dense with questions about Jungian psychology, and the spiritually-thin-places of the world, and death and myth and magic and story, it's pretty tough slugging at times, but thought provoking and challenging. At times I felt like I was reading the Narnia book C. S. Lewis might have written if he had pursued the "stab of northerness" in directions other than the Christian Faith where he found it eternally satisfied.

Jesus and Money, Ben Witherington III
My friend John Vlainic once ranked Ben Witheringon as one of the strongest Biblical scholars in the Wesleyan tradtion working today. This thin but powerful volume is evidence to support such an accolade. I opened it expecting (judging by the cover) either a how-to book on Christian finances, or (judging by the other books I've read on Christ and Money) a hodge-podge of Bible verses taken out of context and mushed together as proof texts about the tithe. I got neither; instead, Ben Witherington walks slowly, thoughtful and exegetically through the breadth of Biblical teaching, with special sensitivity to the cultural context of the various texts, the tension between Old and New Testament teaching on the topic, and the differences between modern and ancient economies. If I were to recommend one book to develop a biblical theology of money, it would be this one.

The Gravedigger File, Os Guinness
My first taste of Os Guinness, and, if you don't mind a mangled metaphor, it went down like a bracing pint of... well... Guinness. Grave Digger file is sort of a "Screwtape Letters" project on a church-wide scale. In concept, the book is a series of "training files" for an undercover agent attempting to undermine and ultimately sabotage the Western Church, delivered from the pen of a seasoned saboteur to a young agent recently assigned to Los Angeles. In plot, the young agent ultimately defects, and delivers the "Gravedigger File" into the hands of a Christian, urging him to alert the Church to the operation. It is bursting with "things that make you go hmmm..." and deserves a second, careful read with pen in hand, ready to mine it for its scintillating and eminently quotable lines.

My Evangelical 2012 in Review

Another year of news-making has come and gone.  Not to trivialize Kate Middleton's morning-sickness or anything, but as I look back over the headlines of the last 365 days, I'm thinking more about those news items that impacted the Evangelical world, and more particularly Evangelical Canada, in some way or another.  I am, of course, no pundit, so in presenting this list of the "Top Headlines of the Evangelical Year," I am not claiming any expertise on these matters; they are simply the stories that stood out to me as significant.

January 3:  Mark Driscoll publishes Real Marriage.  Nearly everything Pastor Mark says in the public sphere seems calculated to shock his listeners into sending it viral, if not by assent then at least by incredulity, so I don't want to give this tell-all "marriage manual" any more air time than absolutely necessary.  However, the publication of a very explicit and prescriptive book about the state of holy matrimony, by the self-styled guru of locker-room evangelicalism was notable to me for a number of reasons.  (Not least of which was the way it reinforced my commitment to rigorous and christocentric exegesis when it comes to teaching the Scriptures.  Esther is not a housewife's handbook, nor is the Song of Solomon simply a Christian Karma Sutra.)

January 9:  Rob Bell's final service at Mars Hill.  I followed the publication circus that was Love Wins pretty closely (see my review of the book in the sidebar), so the headline announcing Rob Bell's last service at Mars Hill stood out for me.  Whether or not Pastor Rob's decision to leave his church was really due to the fallout from his book (as some suggest), a number of things stand out to me in this dramatic conclusion to the story.  Among other things, it shows how the "culture of celebrity ministers" in the States actually has a pretty dark underbelly.  (Note how Pastor Bell was maligned almost as viciously for leaving his church as he was for publishing the book in the first place.  In celebrity culture, the once the famous have fallen from grace the only thing left to do is devour them whole.)

March 5:  Invisible Children launch Kony 2012 campaign  I have not been able to establish whether Invisible Children should be called a "Christian organization" or not.  They have certainly been accused by their detractors of being "insidiously Evangelical," though nothing in their literature or campaigns is explicitly Christian.  What stood out to me in the Kony 2012 campaign, however, is how black and white the underlying narrative they presented was, and how simplistic the solution they proposed (wear an arm band and throw up some posters).  Even if Invisible Children is not a Christian group, there are lessons for the Church here.  Solutions to world issues are seldom as simple as getting the "good guys" to stop the "bad guys."  And as a side note, we might take the whole thing as a cautionary tale, pointing out how celebrity has become the new source of moral authority in an age of viral videos (what was going to stop Kony, after all, was "fame").  Whatever else we make of the campaign, it illustrates how inconsistent and unstable this particular "source" of authority actually is.

March 21:  Canadian film-maker Kevin Miller releases Hellbound  Kevin Miller's documentary "Hellbound" explores traditional Christian perspectives on the fate of the departed from a number of angles, interviewing pastors, psychologists, theologians and historians alike.  Coming so soon after the aforementioned Love Wins debacle, and from the hands of a Canadian film-maker no less, it suggests that the question of Hell will be the hot issue (no pun intended) for Canadian Christians in the coming years.

August 16:  Dr. Gary Paterson elected new moderator of the United Church of Canada  Realizing that a two or three line mention on a list like this is hardly space enough to unpack the significance of the vote itself, I will simply state that it is extremely significant, that this year the United Church of Canada became the first Christian denomination in history to appoint a practicing homosexual as its leader.

September 27:  Rona Ambrose votes in favor of Motion 312  I mention this one if for no other reason than that it vindicates me in this blog post last month.  Rona Ambrose was the Federal Minister for the Status of Women; Motion 312 was a private member's motion introduced by Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth asking Parliament to review the Criminal Code's definition of when life begins (i.e. does it begin, like the Criminal Code states, only after the baby fully emerges from the birth canal, or does it begin at some point between conception and birth?).  The motion failed, but pro-abortion advocates slammed Ms. Ambrose for being one of the few MPs who voted in favor of it.  Of all people, they claimed, the Minister for the Status of Women ought to have known better than to risk reopening the abortion debate.  Ms. Ambrose's defense:  as Minister on the Status of Women, she felt the issue should be studied, because in some parts of the country gender-selective abortions are being used to terminate girls.

October 30:  Rachel Held Evans publishes The Year of Biblical Womanhood   There were, I am sure, more scholarly books published this year on gender issues and the Christian faith, but I note this one here because A) I suppose if there is such a thing as a yang to the yin of Mark Driscoll's Real Marriage, The Year of Biblical Womanhood would probably be it; and B) as a blogger, the fact that Ms. Held Evan's writing ministry began on the blogosphere suggests to me that there have been some pretty seismic shifts in the balance of power in the Christian publishing industry.

November 21:  The Church of England rejects female bishops  A friend pointed out to me the irony inherent in the fact that the Anglican Church could have accepted a theological canon as loose as John Shelby Spong as bishop for so long, but still vote to reject women (although, to be fair, Spong is Episcopalian, not specifically C of E).  But the point still stands: the Church of England, it seems, missed a golden opportunity to follow the gospel to some logical conclusions here. 

December 26:  President Morsi signs Egypt's Islamist constitution into law  Speaking of inherent irony, I suppose there is some small irony in the fact that Egypt's President Morsi signed the Muslim Brotherhood's Islamist Constitution into law the day after Christmas-- inasmuch as many analysts suggest that a constitution based on Sharia Law bodes very ill for the Coptic Christians in the country, and is likely to result in increased marginalization and persecution of Christians in that part of the world.  As William Dalrymple suggests, the much lauded Arab Spring is turning into a Christian Winter (and by and large the Christian West seems indifferent to the plight of their Middle Eastern Brothers and Sisters).


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