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.

An Ancient Path for a Modern World (VI): Spiritual Reading

The other day a group of us from the FreeWay were sitting around talking, and the topic of “books that were part of my spiritual formation” came up. No one used that phrase, exactly; we were just sharing the most influential Christian books we’ve read. C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters was high on most people’s lists, along with Mere Christianity. J. I. Packer’s Knowing God got a nod, as did Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ. My own list included both How Should We Then Live, and He is There and He is Not Silent by Francis Schaeffer. It struck me, as we talked, that almost everyone one had a book or two (or in my case, many) that God used at just the right time, in just the right way in our lives, to shape our thinking, our feeling, our being in Christ.

Over the last month or so I have been going through some of the “more obscure but still spiritual vital” disciplines of the Christian life here at terra incognita. We’ve looked at silence, solitude, breathing, fasting, journaling each in turn. However, after that evening swapping book titles with some brothers and sisters in the Lord, it occurred to me that, though it’s not often thought of as a spiritual discipline, reading good Christian literature—and by good I mean both well-written and spiritually edifying—is and has long been a formative practice of the faith.

Anyone who has ever stumbled their way into a Christian classic like The Confessions, for instance, or a contemporary classic like The Screwtape Letters, or more weighty stuff like The Cost of Discipleship, or even more pop-y fair like The Sacred Romance, and closed the book changed, will know that it’s not just because I’m a former English Teacher that I’ve listed Christian reading as a spiritual discipline. It’s because there is something profoundly formative about opening both your heart and mind together, to receive the musings or the insights or the teachings or the story of another Christian who is perhaps further along the road than you, or travelling a slightly different path, but still walking with the same Lord. All sorts of studies have been conducted to demonstrate the positive psychological effects of reading generally; Christian reading has all these benefits with the added benefit of a beautiful, focused, extended conversation about God, and the things of God that can move at whatever pace we choose and can be shared with others and yet is still deeply personal and intimate.

Like I say, Christians have long known that spiritual reading is a practice to be encouraged in the life of a disciple. In 1750, for instance, John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, published a thirty-volume set of Christian classics called A Christian Library, which he encouraged all good Methodists to read, and expected all his preachers to know. The Christian Library was a wide-ranging collection of Christian literature that Wesley had gathered together from all corners of the Christian world. It included works by the ancient fathers, all the way up to his contemporaries like Jonathan Edwards. Wesley, it seems, recognized that a steady fare of good Christian literature is vital for a thriving Christian soul, that if a Christian really wants to expand their spiritual horizons, conversations with spiritual friends who have gone before, conversations outside and beyond our immediate circle of spiritual experience, conversations that can only happen between the pages of a book, were necessary.

Spiritual Reading is an especially difficult discipline top maintain amid the frenzy of the modern age. On the one hand, the time for reading, and especially time for reading the slowly-digested stuff that is really going to nourish the soul, is hard to come by. To work through Wesley’s Christian Library today seems an onerous task, even for a voracious reader like myself. But on the other hand, good—in every sense of that word: well-written, soul-nourishing, spiritually deep and theologically rich—good literature is harder and harder to come by. If I wanted to be a humbug, I might raise against popular Christian publishing some of the same critiques you hear raised against contemporary Christian music: that it’s repetitive and superficial and lacks substance and creativity.

But I don’t want to be a humbug; and that’s not really a true statement anyways. The fact is, there is good work still being produced and published, maybe more and better than ever. It’s just not getting the same shelf space as the pop, the fluff or the trivia at the local bookstore.

The other fact is, even if another word never gets put to pen, still we have a lifetime’s worth of Christian classics already to choose from. If you’re wondering where to start, might I suggest these, from my own list of books that left a spiritual impression on my Christian formation (in no specific order):

1. Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis
2. Jesus and the Victory of God, N. T. Wright
3. The Sacred Romance, John Eldridge and Brent Curtis
4. Loving God, Chuck Colson
5. Worship, Community and the Trinue God of Grace, James Torrance
6. The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis
7. Paradise Lost, John Milton
8. He is There and He is Not Silent, Francis Schaeffer
9. Life Together, Dietrich Bonheoffer
10. The Cross of Christ, John Stott
11. Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton
12. Naming the Powers/Unmasking the Powers, Walter Wink
13. The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence
14. How Should We Then Live, Francis Schaeffer
15. The Confessions, Augustine
16. Knowing God, J. I. Packer
17. The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonheoffer
18. The Everlasting Man, G. K. Chesterton
19. The Resurrection of the Son of God, N. T. Wright
20. Walking on Water, Madeline L’Engle

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