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 Most Excellent Way: A Theological Reading of The Princess Bride


One of my favorite movies is Rob Reiner’s cult classic, The Princess Bride.  I have long held that this campy, swashbuckling fairytale, for all its silliness and slapstick, actually deals very sensitively with a distinctly biblical theme:  That love is the most excellent way (see 1 Corinthians 12:31).

If you’re unfamiliar with this 1987 masterpiece, stop what you’re doing right now and go watch it; we’ll wait.  If you’re like the members of my family, however, and you can quote long sections of the script by heart (No more rhyming now, I mean it...), allow me to connect some dots for you.

On the surface, of course, one of the main themes this film deals with is the power of True Love.   As Westley tells Princess Buttercup, “Death cannot stop True Love, all it can do is delay it for a while.”  Or, as she will tell Prince Humperdinck latter on, “Westley and I are joined by the bond of love, and you cannot track that, not with a thousand bloodhounds, and you cannot break it, not with a thousand swords.”

So far, so obvious; but there is an important motif running alongside Westley and Buttercup’s romance that brings the whole theme into sharp and profound focus, namely: the quest for excellence.  If you’re familiar with the characters, you may recall that each of them are striving for, or have achieved, superlative excellence in some field of human endeavor or other.  Buttercup’s the most beautiful girl in the land, of course, but that’s an easy one.  Prince Humperdinck is the greatest hunter ever to live (he can track a falcon on a cloudy day).   Fezzik is the strongest man alive (only Fezzik is strong enough to climb the Cliffs of Insanity).  Inigo studied all his life to become the world’s greatest swordsman (and his sword, of course is a peerless work of craftsmanship).  Vizzini is the world’s smartest man (Plato, Socrates and Aristotle are morons next to him).  Count Rugen is writing the “definitive work” on the subject of pain (and spent a lifetime perfecting the greatest torture device ever invented).  Ranged against the power of True Love, in other words, is a host of superlatives that True Love will have either to subdue (as in the case of Fezzik and  Inigo) or defeat (as in the case of Humperdinck and Rugen).  In a world suffuse with “excellence,” that is, True Love proves itself “the most excellent way.”
                   
This all ties up rather neatly, but there is a layer to this that isn’t immediately obvious, but is so important: it is not romantic love, exclusively, that is the most excellent thing.  The film, in fact, presents us with a whole range of human loves that together combine to contribute to the victory of True Love. Inigo’s filial love for his murdered father (“I loved my father, so naturally I challenged his murderer to a duel”); Fezzik’s fraternal love for his friend Inigo (“Fezzik took great care in nursing his inebriated friend to life”); and, of course, the Grandfather’s paternal love for his sick Grandson, which he demonstrates by reading the book to him in the first place.  We’re invited to connect all these loves together in the closing line of the film.  As the Grandpa's leaving, the boy asks him to come back and read the book again tomorrow, to which the the Grandpa replies, “As you wish.”  These are, of course, the same words Westley spoke to Buttercup when what he really meant was “I love you.”  "As you wish," it turns out, can apply to more than mere romantic love.

Because in The Princess Bride, the “True Love” that is the most excellent way is not simply the romantic passion that binds Westley and Buttercup together.  It is, in fact, that profound and complicated network of human affections and loyalties and commitments and longings that binds human hearts to human hearts, parent to child, friend to friend, man and wife (that most bwessed of awangments...).  Westley’s and Buttercup's romance is, of course, the centerpiece of the story, but the point is to see how their romantic love both compliments and draws life from these other, equally important kinds of love that together point out the “most excellent way.”

In his classic book The Four Loves, C. S. Lewis notes that the ancients identified at least four distinct types of human bonding that today we would call “love.”  Storge, refers to warm affection between companions and family members; Philia describes deep, spiritual love between friends; Eros describes romantic or sexual love; and Caritas (charity) describes the kind of unconditional brotherly/sisterly love that the early Christians referred to with the Greek word agape.  And it was not eros specifically that was “the most excellent way,” but agape, the Love of God which the Spirit has poured out in our hearts.

I think there is something to regain in this more wholistic vision of love; because we live in a culture where sexual love is increasingly disconnected from the other types of loving relationships it was meant to encourage and compliment and draw life from. But biblically, I think, sexual love is supposed to fit in to a larger picture of shalom-ordered living: nurtured families and wholesome friendships and vibrant communities that taken together give us a taste of True Love; and we do violence to True Love when we wrench it from that setting. Perhaps if we could put eros back in its place among the other loves, it would start pointing us again to that thing which, all by itself, it is not: the most excellent way.

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