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

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

random reads

Creative Being (III): Poetry and the Christian Life

In The Contemplative Pastor, Eugene Peterson makes an off-hand observation about the intuitive connection between pastoral work and poetry. “Is it not significant,” he asks rhetorically, “that the biblical prophets and psalmists were all poets? It is a continuing curiosity that so many pastors, whose work integrates the prophetic and psalmic (preaching and praying), are indifferent to poets. In reading poets, I find congenial allies in the world of words. In writing poems, I find myself practicing my pastoral craft in a biblical way.”

Emphasis added; because I also write poetry, and have experienced something profoundly biblical, too, in this careful quest for just the right words and those loving efforts to arrange them just so.

Incidentally, I have also noticed the same indifference to poetry among many contemporary pastors. Most of the pastors who raised me, spiritually speaking, were no-nonsense farmers putting it plainly in the pulpit, or former intervarsity jocks reliving their glory days, adept at squeezing the 23rd Psalm into three preachable points perhaps, but uninterested in letting the weight of those words settle with any ambiguity: even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death ...

In Subversive Spirituality, Peterson returns to this thought, in an effort to explain why the Book of Revelation was written as a poem and not (contrary to the suppositions of the Left-Behinders) as an Apocalypse Survival Manual. It’s because “a poet uses words primarily not to explain something,” he argues, “but to make something. Poet (poetes) means ‘maker.’ Poetry is not the language of objective explanation but the language of imagination. It makes an image of reality in such a way as to invite our participation in it.

Emphasis added again; this time because I want to linger over the stuff that makes poetry unique as a form of human expression. It is not simply descriptive speech, but creative speech (Peterson’s right, by the way: the etymology of poem takes us back to the Greek, poiein, “to make or create”). Inasmuch as the language of poetry does this—invites our active, imaginative participation in the hitherto unseen quality of a thing, creating new worlds of possibility and potential—to the extent that Peterson is right and poetry is not “an examination of happens but an immersion in what happens”—to the degree that poetry was the preferred mode of expression of the psalmists and the prophets for a reason—there is, I think, something essentially and necessarily poetic about Christian Spirituality.

Now: before you head off to Starbucks with your moleskin notebook to scratch out your feelings in verse over a steaming Grande Pike, let me clarify. I am not saying that Christians must necessarily write poems, or read them. Nor am I saying that poets make better Christians. I do think Christians could do worse than to read a poem every now and then; I do think it could hardly hurt for every Christian to try their hand at verse once in a while; and I do think the church would be a better place if more Christians felt it in their soul what it means to say something like: “the Holy Ghost over the bent world broods with warm breast and with, ah! bright wings.” But that’s the former English teacher in me talking, not the pastor.

What the pastor in me is saying is that when we experience genuine Christian spirituality we are, in fact, experiencing that creative quality of the word that all authentic poetry is grasping after. As we earnestly, fully and wholeheartedly pursue what it means to be a man or a woman made in the image of God remade in the Image of Christ, the Word made flesh, we are doing something inherently poetic, even if we never find the perfect rhyme for silver.

I don’t mean this abstractly, either; I mean it very concretely. Because all Christian Spirituality begins, actually, with prayer. I realize, of course, that almost no statement about Christian Spirituality is uncontroversial.  Theologically I should have said it starts with Christ, revealed by the Spirit and attested to in the Scriptures, but the beginning of our active participation in these things is experienced through prayer. 

Prayer is the essential and necessary activity of Christian Spirituality. And whatever else prayer is—it’s more than this, to be sure, but it is hardly less than this—prayer is poetry.

Again: in saying this I do not mean that our prayers should rhyme, or alliterate, or employ iambic tetrameter. If so, "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep" would be a masterpiece of Christian prayer and Dr. Seuss the Most Spiritual Man of All. What I am trying to do here is just bring together the fact that poetry really does invite our active participation in the reality it bespeaks, and the fact that Christian prayer not only invites this, too, but actually answers the invitation.

In praying "Thy will be done, thy kingdom come," we are also participating in the will of the Father and tasting the coming of his Kingdom. On a more immediate level: when we pray for grace, truth, help, hope, sustenance, healing, restoration, the peace of Christ that transcends all understanding, we discover ourselves actively participating in these things as the Holy Spirit realizes them in our lives.

Theologians refer to this as the “efficacy of prayer,” that fact that prayer effects the things we pray for. But today I want to call it the “poetry of prayer,” the fact that the words we speak in prayer spiritually immerse us in what we are praying about.  And the faithful Christian in prayer, even if she doesn't know Gerard Manley Hopkins from Adam, still, in those whispered words that the heart alone understands, to a loving Father by a Spirit who intercedes on her behalf with groans that words alone could never express, she is breathing out poetry of the purest kind, and discovering, I think, the reason poetry was given us in the first place.

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