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

random reads

Will One Thing, a song

Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish existential philosopher, wrote an essay back in the 1840s about spiritual simplicity called, "Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing." Rob Bell riffed on this idea-- that the path to spiritual maturity lies in spiritual simplicity-- in his Nooma video "Shells." I riffed on the idea in this song, "Will One Thing." I wrote it a while back, but this is a brand new arrangement and recording. Enjoy.


[listen]


Purity of heart is to will one thing
Want one thing, need one thing
Purify my will that I may seek one thing
Let that thing be you

Wandering the heat of the desert sun
Parched for you till my course is run
Slaking my thirst with a stone beneath my tongue
Until I’m quenched in you

A servant of two masters, trading one for another
Not knowing what I am after, loving one despising the other
Purity of heart is to seek one thing
Let that thing be you


You have set eternity in my heart,
Burning there in the secret part
You have set me seeking right from the start
Let me seek for you

A servant of two masters, trading one for another
Not knowing what I am after, loving one despising the other
Purity of heart is to seek one thing
Let that thing be you

When Shasta meets Narnia and the World meets the Way

There's a scene in the third Narnia book, The Horse and His Boy, that has always sort of spoken to me. 

To set the stage, let me explain that Shasta is a young orphan boy who grew up in Calormen, a proud and cruel Empire across the desert south of Narnia.  All his life he has believed he's the only son of a hard-handed fisherman named Arsheesh.  At the start of the story, however, he happens to meet Bree, a talking horse from Narnia who was raised in captivity in Calormen.  Bree points out to Shasta that he is obviously northern-born, too, and convinces him help him escape to Narnia.

Tashbaan is the capital city of the Calormene Empire, and they must pass through it on their way across the desert and home to Narnia.  Shasta, you must remember as you read this scene, has grown up surrounded by the sombre and arrogant Calormenes, and is completely acculturated to their ways.  Aside from Bree, he has never encountered a true Narnian before.  But while they are wending their way through the crowded, labyrinthine streets of Tashbaan, this happens:

It was in a splendid street very near the top of the city (the Tisroc's palace was the only thing above it) that the most disastrous of these stoppages occurred.

"Way! Way! Way!" came the voice. "Way for the Barbarian King, the guest of the Tisroc (may he live for ever)! Way for the Narnian lords."

Shasta tried to get out of the way and to make Bree go back. But no horse, not even a Talking Horse from Narnia, backs easily. And a woman with a very edgy basket in her hands, who was just behind Shasta, pushed the basket hard against his shoulders, and said, "Now then! Who are you shoving!" And then someone else jostled him from the side and in the confusion of the moment he lost hold of Bree. And then the whole crowd behind him became so stiffened and packed tight that he couldn't move at all. So he found himself, unintentionally, in the first row and had a fine sight of the party that was coming down the street.

It was quite unlike any other party they had seen that day. The crier who went before it shouting "Way, way!" was the only Calormene in it. And there was no litter; everyone was on foot. There were about half a dozen men and Shasta had never seen anyone like them before. For one thing, they were all as fair-skinned as himself, and most of them had fair hair. And they were not dressed like men of Calormen. Most of them had legs bare to the kneee. Their tunics were of fine, bright, hardy colours -woodland green, or gay yellow, or fresh blue. Instead of turbans they wore steel or silver caps, some of them set with jewels, and one with little wings on each side of it. A few were bare-headed. The swords at their sides were long and straight, not curved like Calormene scimitars. And instead of being grave and mysterious like most Calormenes, they walked with a swing and let their arms and shoulders free, and chatted and laughed. One was whistling. You could see that they were ready to be friends with anyone who was friendly and didn't give a fig for anyone who wasn't. Shasta thought he had never seen anything so lovely in his life.

A bit of background might help here.  In C. S. Lewis' books, Narnia (and the North) is, in a general way, symbolic of the Life of Faith-- the Christian Life, the Christian Community, the Christian Church.  Tashbaan, by contrast, grave and noble and mysterious as it is, is roughly speaking a symbol of the World.  Shasta, as a refugee from the World, is encountering here, for the first time, authentic Christians living in authentic Christian community.

And now, hopefully, you'll understand you why this description of Shasta's first encounter with the "Narnian Lords" is so compelling to me.  The bright colours and sparkling joy, the easy gait and springing step, free camaraderie and open-armed peace with the world that radiates from this band of brothers and sisters is one of the most poetic pictures of Christian community I know of. 

A friend once said, in passing, that he felt Christians should be the most interesting people in the world.  I've mulled that over a lot since then. He wasn't speaking about holiness, per se, when he said that, or Bible knowledge, or any of the typical stuff we associate with the Christian life.  He just meant that, if we really are the Redeemed of the Lord--set free from the power of sin and death and experiencing the on-going renewal of the Image of God in us--if all that's really true, our lives ought to be more fully engaged, more filled with wonder and creativity, more curious about the Creator's world, more free with our friendship and more spendthrift with our love than any other way of living on offer.

We ought to be moving through this world together like a band of Narnian Lords through the crowds of Tashbaan.  And if we did, I think, more than just Shasta would be left wondering if they'd ever seen anything so lovely.

A Father's Prayer (a poem)

Be Thou her beauty
     (O Lord of my heart)
be graceful and radiant
      in every part.
While the world tries to teach her
      to trade it for lies
may naught be so fair
      as your light in her eyes.

taken/blessed/broken/given, a song

In Life of the Beloved, Henri Nouwen uses the communion table as the central image for the Christian life. In the same way that the Communion Bread-- which is the Body of Christ-- is taken and blessed by the minister, then broken and given to feed the faithful, so too Christians-- who are the Body of Christ--are taken and blessed by God, then broken and given to feed the world. I have always loved this image and it has become a central theme for my understanding of Holy Communion.

I wrote this song a number of years ago, but re-recorded last fall. It sort of riffs on this idea from Nouwen. I hope it takes you and blesses you this morning.


Taken/Blessed/Broken/Given


[listen]

Song for the road, give us a song for the pilgrimage
A song of healing and hope
Fill our mouths with a song for the journey
And we’ll sing it wherever we go

Chorus:
Let our lives be taken and blessed and broken and given
Like the bread that came from heaven above
Taken and blessed and broken and given, Lord
Teach these clumsy hands how to love

Dream for the road, give us a dream for the pilgrimage
A dream of healing and hope
Be our guide and our destination
And we’ll follow where ever you go

Bridge:
This bread is my Body, broken for you
This cup which I pour out is poured out
To make your lives new
Now you are my Body, alive with my grace
Go now, I'm sending you out there
To show the World my face

Chorus:
Let our lives be taken and blessed and broken and given
Like the bread that came from heaven above
Taken and blessed and broken and given, Lord
Teach these clumsy hands how to love

Snake, a poem

A snake lives
beneath the hedge on the path
to my girl's bus stop.

Often I just catch him,
shining tail tucking up
beneath the leaves as we round the bend,

though once or twice I've seen him stretched out
green and black in all his glory
across the morning-warming concrete of the walk,
too languid and too cool
to coil for cover.

And often I feel the lightning
thrill of ancient enmity when I do,
the sprouting Seed of Eve
surging suddenly in my heart:
were it not for the awful thought
of his lithe body writhing,
twisting terrified about
my heel in his death throes,
I would crush his head.

Rarely but sometimes I catch myself.

And the memory of another bruised heel,
dusty and ancient and bleeding long ago
quiets the urge in me:
this too is nephesh, it seems to say,
dust-born at the Word of the Creator.
And anyways: look at those
bright black eyes,
shrewd and burning and beautiful
with all the secret wisdom of the earth.

Brendan's Song

This song is based on a prayer attributed to the Irish Saint, Brendan the Navigator. You can find out more information about Brendan and the inspiration for the song, here.

In the meantime, happy listening.

[listen]

O King of Mysteries, shall I abandon
My home, my country, my land
Shall I place myself at the mercies
That flow from your mighty hand
Without a shield without a sword
I'm giving back all that you gave
Christ will you keep me, Christ will you guard me
Alone on the wild white waves?
Christ will you guide, Christ will you guard me
Christ will you lead, Christ will you save
Christ will you hold, Christ will you ward me
Will you help me alone on the wild white waves?

O King of Mysteries shall I surrender
With streaming tears staining my cheeks
Shall I leave the prints of my prayer
With my knees in the sand of the beach
Confessing my sins, confessing my failures
To him who conquered the grave
Christ will you keep me, Christ will you guard me
Alone on the wild white waves?
Christ will you guide, Christ will you guard me
Christ will you lead, Christ will you save
Christ will you hold, Christ will you ward me
Will you help me alone on the wild white waves?

King of Mysteries, shall I then suffer
The battering wounds of the sea?
Shall I cross the sparkling ocean
Will you steer my vessel for me?
My wandering heart is quiet within me
My heart no longer will rave
Christ will you keep me, Christ will you guard me
Alone on the wild white waves?
Christ will you guide, Christ will you guard me
Christ will you lead, Christ will you save
Christ will you hold, Christ will you ward me
Will you help me alone on the wild white waves?

White Rider, a song

I wrote this song a bunch of years ago. It seemed like a good idea at the time, though these days it feels, perhaps a bit intense, lyrically speaking. But then, it's pretty much taken straight out of the Book of Revelation. I recorded this particular arrangement last fall; I was happy with how the solo turned out. I thought I'd post it today in case you're tired of coming here looking for new material and going away empty handed. Cheers.


[listen]