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.

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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.

The Pearl, the Treasure and a Quarter in the Snow: A Homily

Jesus said: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field.  When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.  

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.  When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”

Once when I was a kid, maybe 10 or 11 years old, I was walking home from School one day in the middle of February.  And it was cold, so I was all hunched up with my head down, which is probably why I spotted it.

It was a bright, shiny quarter in the middle of the road.

Now, I got to say, this was back in the days when a quarter was still worth something.  I mean, they still had the penny back then, and a quarter was a whole entire 25 of them.  The convenience store in town sold gummy-bears for a penny each, so, I mean: you do the math.  That was a bag of 25 sweet, chewy gummy bears just waiting to be purchased, right?

There was only one problem.  Like I say, it was in the dead of February, and that quarter was frozen into the ice.  This was in small town Alberta, so they didn’t salt the roads, and this street wasn’t used so much, so the ice was smooth and clear and hard, and you could just see that quarter there—all 25 cents worth of it—shining up at me.

But I couldn’t get at it. 

Now, I hate to say it, but that quarter became the obsession of my little 10-year-old life, and every day for the next week, I’d go home by that road to check and see if the quarter was still there.  And it always was.  We were in the middle of a cold-spell.  And it was always just out of reach.

Until one day, there was a Chinook.  A Chinook is  a really warm wind that blows in from the Rockies right in the middle of winter, and the temperature can go from 20 degrees below to 5 above in a matter of hours. 

So you probably know what I was thinking about all afternoon at school, as the snow banks outside the classroom window kept melting and melting?

That quarter.  Cause I knew that come 3:30, I’d be on my way home, 25 cents richer than I was before.  I was already imaging the 25 gooey gummy bears I was gonna buy with that 25-cent treasure.

Maybe you know how this story’s gonna end?  Because the bell rang, I dressed in my coat and boots as quick as I could and practically sprinted to the spot.  The asphalt was all shiny and wet from the Chinook, not an inch of ice in sight, and I walked out into the middle of the street and ...

My quarter was gone.

Maybe I wasn’t the only 10 year old that had his eye on it, but someone, apparently, beat me to it.

I always think of that story whenever I read that parable about the buried treasure in Matthew.  Because Jesus says that the Kingdom of Heaven—life with him as Lord, leading us and directing us and showing us how to live—Life with God in charge—is sort of like that quarter frozen in the ice.

Well not exactlyExactly what he says is: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which, when a man found it, he sold everything he had so that he could buy the field; or it’s like a merchant looking for fine pearls, and when he found one of great value, he sold everything he had so he could buy it.” 

Of course, as a 10-year-old boy, I didn’t have much to my name that I could have sold.  Even if I’d sold all my Lego sets and my video games, I’d still wouldn’t have had enough to buy that road with the frozen quarter in it.

But that’s not really Jesus’ point, anyway.  Jesus’ point is that life with him is worth everything, and whatever it takes to enter into life with him, and to hang on to life with him—it’s worth it. 

Like a treasure buried in a field, and once you know it’s there, you’ll do everything you can to get your hands on it.

Or like a quarter, frozen in the ice, for a 10 year old kid; and once you know it’s there it starts to occupy your every waking moment because you want it so much.

I’m saying this, partly because  sometimes you can be following Jesus for a long, long time, and you can sort of forget how beautiful, how precious, how valuable a thing we have in him.  I mean: the love and life and presence of God, his goodness and mercy following us all the days of our lives, the promise that we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Forget the retirement savings fund, what we may or may not have in the bank account, the 25-cent piece frozen in the road, if we’ve got that, we are rich beyond compare.

But I’m also saying it because sometimes it’s tempting to wonder if life with Jesus really is worth it?  I mean: life with Jesus as Lord sometimes means saying no to things we’d rather say yes to, or saying yes to things we’d rather say no to.  It means making the effort when it would be easier not to.  It means sacrifice sometimes, and hanging on to some things so we can let go of others.  And sometimes you can sort of wonder: is it really worth it?  Is he really worth it?

And if that’s making sense to you, then I hope you’ll get it when I say that: Life with Jesus as Lord is worth everything.  And on that day, when we stand with him in glory, and he rewards all the sacrifices and effort with a beautiful, loving, tender, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  On that day wel’ll know:  whatever it took, it was worth it.  

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