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.

Polishing Up My Proverbs 16 Crown of Glory (Part IV): A Biblical Theory of Aging

It turns out that no one really knows why we age, exactly. To be clear: growing old is simply a matter of the chronological passage of time. That much is understood. But why we age—why, that is, our bodies should change, and especially, deteriorate as we grow old, why skin should lose its elasticity and eyesight its precision, why muscles should lose their tone and bones their density and mental processes their alacrity—medical science does not have an especially penetrating explanation for this.

In the words of that old Iron Maiden song (yes, Iron Maiden; kids, back in my day, the rockers were also the philosophers...): “There’s a time to live, but isn’t it strange that as soon as we’re born we’re dying.”

But why?

Why shouldn’t our cells be able to reproduce indefinitely? Why shouldn’t bones continually maintain their density, or muscles their tone? Why shouldn’t accumulated experience just keep sharpening our mental processes without end or limit?

Science can’t say, exactly.

At least, according to Doctor Andrew Weil, one of America’s leading gerontologists, science can’t. To be sure, there are theories. In his book, Healthy Aging, Dr. Weil surveys some of the best.

There’s the “Genetic Loss” theory of aging, for instance. Apparently, every time your cells reproduce, they lose tiny bits of genetic material from their DNA (humans lose approximately 0.6% of their heart muscle DNA each year, for instance). Over time, this gradual loss of DNA shows up in our bodies as, well, saggy skin, noodly muscles, brittle bones, and so on. On this theory, as best as I can tell, aging is kind of like a prolonged genetic mutation.

Then there’s the “Telomere Theory”. Telomoeres are the end bits of our chromosomes, and their job is to keep said chromosomes from genetically “fraying” (they’ve been compared to the plastic cap on the end of your shoelace). Telomeres have a tendency to shorten over time; and when they grow too short, they activate a mechanism that prevents further cell multiplication. Well: nothing says “old pair of shoes” worse than when the shoe-laces are all frayed.

The theory I found most interesting, however, is the “Reproductive-Cell Cycle” theory. The idea here is that, early on in life, our bodies naturally produce reproductive hormones designed to promote cell growth and ensure, especially, that we reach the age of sexual reproduction; but later in life, in a futile attempt to maintain sexual reproduction past our prime, these same hormones become disregulated and start to drive senescence instead (senescence is the fancy word for the way your body falls apart as you get old). In short: it’s our sex drive, actually, that’s killing us.

Well; I’m light-years from being an expert on any of this, but that was my lay-man’s understanding of Dr. Weil’s book.

And I’m not sharing any of this to be morbid. Or flippant. It’s just, in a previous post I spoke about the reverence the Bible has for old age, and how it tries to encourage the same in us; and it’s just possible my post may have elicited some knowing smiles or downright scoffs from readers who, like me, have passed a 40-something-eth birthday and are noticing for the first time that their bodies just won’t do what they used to do, and have begun to do all sorts of things they never did before, instead.

Reverence for old-age indeed!

So, any thorough theology of aging will eventually have to come to terms with the hard truth that, just because Proverbs 16 calls my quickly-graying hair a crown of glory, that doesn’t change the fact that the hair’s still grey. And thinning. And the fellow it’s crowning feels somewhat less glorious than he did back when he was 20-something and full of vim and vinegar.

When we do come to terms with this truth—the fact that old age involves loss and deterioration as much as it does growth and gain—we discover the flip-side of the Bible’s teaching on the matter. Regardless how medical science may try to explain the phenomenon, biblically speaking, aging is not only a gift from God, it is also a divine limit placed on us by God.

The definitive text on this one is Genesis 6:3, where God, in response to the seemingly endless proliferation of human sin, says this: “My Spirit will not contend with human beings forever, for they are mortal. Their days shall be a hundred and twenty years.” Here, I think, we have the first solid theological word on the aging process. Cells lose their genetic material over time, telomeres shorten and chromosomes fray, reproductive hormones eventually begin to wear down the very organisms they once helped to sexually reproduce, because God, in his wisdom, knew that we needed to have limits placed on us. And he saw what we might become without them.

In another definitive text, Psalm 90:10 underscores this basic idea. The context is again a reflection on God’s right response to human sin, and it says, “Our days may come to seventy years, or perhaps eighty if strength endures, but the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass and we fly away.”

The Bible seems quite convinced on this one. God in his wisdom has placed an upper limit on the length of the human life-span. And spiritually speaking, healthy aging is about learning to live well, fully and wisely and contentedly, within those limits. For lack of a better image, aging is about the joy of colouring inside the lines of the human life-span.

It is interesting, of course, to speculate on the meaning of the Resurrection within this theological framework. Because all genuinely Christian theology must end, eventually, with Christ; and the promise of the empty tomb is in fact a resurrected body where, presumably, cells reduplicate without genetic loss and God binds up the fraying telomeres of the broken-hearted. But that is far more speculative than I wish to get today, except, perhaps, to say this: if the promise of the Gospel is indeed eternal life in Jesus Christ, then for Christians, it would seem, Christ himself actually replaces aging as God's divine limitation on human life.

Food for thought.

But while that simmers on the back-burner, let me just make my main point one more time. Biblically speaking, graceful aging—Proverbs-16-glory-crowned aging, that is—begins when we accept the reality of aging not simply as a divine gift to us, but also as a divine limitation placed on us.

Of course, for the wise, those two things aren’t really all that different, in the end.

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