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.

Meeting Mr. and Mrs. Prophesy (The Meaning of Marriage, Part III)

Sitting in the dentist’s chair while your teeth are being cleaned isn’t the best of places to start expounding on the meaning of marriage anyway, but even so, this one caught me a bit off guard.

It was a new dental clinic for me—we’d only recently moved to the community—so the dental hygienist and I were just getting to know one another.  Mostly, of course, I was getting to know her.  It was, after all, hard for me to do much of the talking, what with that spotlight in my eyes and my tongue pushed back by a dental mirror; but no matter, she was valiantly keeping up enough conversation for the both of us. 

“What did I do?”

Between rinses I explained I was a pastor.  This intrigued her, and she shared some of her perspectives on the church. 

“Did I do weddings?”  My tongue held back by the dental implements again, I did my best to indicate I did.

And before I knew it, my newly-acquainted dental hygienist was sharing the story of her first marriage that didn’t make it, and why it failed—not sharing any details unbecoming a professional, to be sure, but certainly more than I was expecting.  And then she described her new partner, and how different he was from her first.

Between rinses I said something or other about her “new husband ” before propping my mouth open again for inspection.

“Oh, we’re not married,” she said, peering in.  And then quietly, but more resolutely, she added, “I don’t need a piece of paper to prove I’m committed to this relationship.”

Like I say, the dentist’s chair isn’t the best place to start in on a theology of marriage; and she was scraping my teeth with steel at the time, so I didn’t feel much able to contradict her, even if I’d wanted to.  But if I could have spoken freely, I probably would have said something like:  “I agree with you that marriage is far more than just a piece of paper… it’s certainly more than that …  but still, it’s not less than that, is it?”

And then, if we were sitting over coffee, maybe, and we’d gotten to know one another better than you can, really, in a dentist chair, and she’d asked me: “Well then, theologically speaking, what is marriage?” (Because, after all, aren’t these the kind of questions everyone asks over coffee?)  I would have said: “Well, as a Christian, I believe that marriage is a kind of prophecy.”

This might catch both of us off guard—Christian marriage is a kind of prophecy—so I’d hasten to explain. In the Bible, when the prophets want to talk about God’s love for his people, his faithfulness to them and his determination to stick with them through thick or thin—with them as a people, mind you, not as individuals—one of the regular images they use is of a husband’s faithful love for his wife.   In Jeremiah it says it like this:  “Return to me, says the Lord, for I am married to you..”  In Isaiah it says it like this: “Your Maker is your husband, the Lord of Hosts is his name.”  And, of course, the whole entire book of Hosea is built around this picture.  The Lord is, spiritually speaking, betrothed to his people.

This prophetic tradition, of using marriage imagery to describe God’s love for his people, gets picked up and amplified in the New Testament, where one of the central images is the Great Wedding Feast at the End of the Age, when Jesus returns and is intimately united with his people.  Jesus uses it in his teaching, asking us to imagine the Kingdom of Heaven like a King who gives a wedding feast for his son.  Paul uses it, like when he tells the Corinthian Church that he has promised them to “one bridegroom” and will do all he can to present them to him, holy and pure.  And of course, the great, final crescendo of the Good Book uses it, when John of Patmos hears the angels in the Book of Revelation say:  “Let us rejoice and give him glory, for the Wedding of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready!”

In the Scriptures then, the exclusive, permanent, faithful covenant bond between husband and wife is actually a sort of prophetic object lesson for that final day.  Prophetic, in that, whenever we glimpse a man and a woman sticking by each other for better or for worse, it points beyond itself, to God’s greater, higher, purer determination to stick by us for better or for worse.  And prophetic too, in that, as imperfect and human as the marriage covenant is, it is still, at its best, a reminder of the coming consummation of all things, when the faithful in Christ will take their place in the Wedding Banquet of the Lamb, and God’s covenant love will reign beautifully and fully in every heart.
In their daily, mundane, earthy growing together in covenant love, the married couple is actually, biblically, a prophetic couple, reminding us, even if incompletely, of what is (God’s covenant love) and what is yet to be (the consummation of all things in Christ).

I’m not really sure what my dental hygienist would have said to all that, if I’d managed to squeeze it out between rinsings, but more and more these days I think Christian husbands and wives would do well to regain the prophetic aspect of a godly marriage, and with it a conscious awareness that their life together can, at its best, bear witness to something true about God’s heart for us.  

If we did, I think we would not only find deeper, more profound meaning in our daily decisions to make it work when making it work takes all we’ve got, but more than that, we’d find ourselves with a prophetic word to speak to the broader culture.  Because this is about a different way of being as much as it is about a different perspective on marriage; it's about being "us" centred and focused on the "yet to come," in a world that is increasingly self-centred and focused on the instant gratification of the here and now.