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

The meaning of worship, the meaning of life

Most Christians would agree that worship is right at the heart of a thriving life with God.  One old description of the Faith says it’s the very reason we were made: “To know God and Glorify Him forever.”

What Christians don’t tend to agree on, however, is what worship actually is.  If you were to ask a bunch of Christians to define worship, you’d probably get a range of answers.  Some would  talk about singing songs about how much they love Jesus.  Some would talk about taking part in the traditional ceremonies of the Church, like communion and baptism.  Some would describe the feelings of awe they get when they’re out in God’s creation.

So what actually is worship?

Maybe it would help if we looked at some key passages in the Bible where people actually are worshiping God, to see if we can’t detect a pattern in what’s happening.

One of the central stories in the Bible, for instance, is about how God rescued the People of Israel when they were slaves in Egypt.  Right at the start of the story, it says that God heard the people groaning in slavery, so he sends Moses to tell them that he’s going to help.  And in Exodus 4:31, it says that when the people heard that the Lord was going to help them, they bowed their heads and worshiped.

God acts, and the People respond.

In another place, after King Solomon built the Lord’s Temple and was consecrating it to the Lord, it says that the fire came down from heaven and the glory of the Lord filled the Temple, so that the priests couldn’t go in. And then it says this “When all the people saw the fire and the glory of the Lord on the temple, they bowed down and worshiped.”

Again: God acts, the people respond.

The same pattern is there in the New Testament.  In the Gospel of Luke it tells how Peter met Jesus for the first time.  Peter’s been fishing all night but caught nothing.  Along comes Jesus, who tells Peter to cast his net into the deep water, and when he does, the catch of fish is so huge that they need another boat to help them bring it in.  And then it says, when the Peter saw it, he fell on his knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord, I’m a sinful man.”

Or how about this one.  After Jesus’ resurrection, Doubting Thomas is ... well ... doubting.  And the Resurrected Jesus appears to him and tells him to put his fingers in his wounds.  And when Thomas sees the nail-holes of the cross, he says, with a voice of awed worship: “My Lord and My God.”

This pattern is consistent throughout the Bible.  It always starts with God showing himself in the life of his people.  And the people see God at work.  And then they respond accordingly.

Sometimes we call this the “Revelation-and-response” pattern in worship.  Worship does not begin with us; Worship is what happens when God reveals himself to us in some way, and evokes a response from us that is appropriate to the revelation.

This revelation can happen in all sorts of ways: hearing the Story of Jesus and realizing how much God loves us; reading something in the Bible that puts its finger smack dab on something we’re going through right now; working among the poor and the marginalized and discovering the presence of Jesus there; being reminded of the awesomeness of the Creator by experiencing the beauty of his creation.

God can and does reveal himself to us through all these things and more.  But the key is that worship happens when God shows himself in our lives, and then we respond in ways that his revelation evokes in us.

It may mean raising our hands and singing our hearts out.  It may sitting in overwhelmed silence.  It may mean weeping because we realize something’s not right between us and God.  It may even mean a drastic overhaul of our lives.

But however it happens, in that response to God, we’ll be discovering the meaning of life.


Through the Roof, a devotional thought

A simple thought hit me the other day when I was reading the story in Mark 2, about the guys who lowered their paralytic friend through the roof of the house where Jesus was because they couldn't get through the crowds.  These guys were ready to do whatever it takes to get their friend to Jesus.  It talks about them digging through the roof (so, roofing in 1 Century Israel was, admittedly, a bit easier to dig through than the shingles on my house, but still, it was hardly an easy job), and then lowering the guy down on his mat (They must have had to haul him, mat and all, up to the roof in the first place, another labor of love).  

The question that emerges for me from this story is, simply: "What stops you from 'getting the guy to Jesus,' Dale?  Because it didn't seem like these friends of the paralytic were about to let anything stop them."  

And while I'm mulling that one over, a beautiful, but kind of difficult thing stands out to me.  It says: "When he saw their faith, Jesus told the man:  'Your sins are forgiven.'"  This is remarkable because of what it doesn't say.  A salvation-by-faith-alone Evangelical like me, if I were writing it down, I'd have said, "When Jesus saw his faith" (i.e. the faith of the man needing healing); but it doesn't: it says their faith.  This may include the faith of the paralytic, but it also includes the faith of the guys getting him to Jesus.  

Are you saying, Mark, that Jesus 'saved' this man from his desperate condition, because the community around him (as represented by the four friends) were so convinced you would, that they'd do anything to get him to you?  If that is what Mark's saying, then you can't help but wonder: What might Jesus start doing in our communities, if we were filled with similar faith: a faith that says, "Nothing matters more than 'getting the guy to Jesus,' and anything might happen, if we do."?

Books Read, 2016

Normally in January, I take some time to look back over my previous year in books, and identify some of the highlights, some of the low-points and some of the contenders for best-read of the year.  This last year, however, I started working on my D.Min studies at Northeastern Seminary, which meant, among other things, my reading list for the year almost tripled.  Because of this, it's a bit of an onerous task to narrow it all down to a few "best-of" picks, or to haiku my way through the whole list, like I did back in 2014.

That said, I've decided this year simply to post the whole list of books read in 2016, with a simple 10-point rating scale and no further comment.  For those interested, here are all the books that entered my brain through my eyes this year (in chronological order).

Spiritual Friendship, Wesley Hill

The Road to Missional: Journey to the Center of the Church, Michael Frost

Replenish:  Leading from a Healthy Soul, Lance Witt

The Giant Slayer, Iain Lawrence

Courage and Calling:  Embracing Your God-given Potential, Gordon Smith

A Time for a Change?  Revisioning Your Call, James Hightower

The Way of the Seal:  Think Like an Elite Warrior to Lead and Succeed, Mark Divine

What Makes Love Last?  How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal,  John Gottman

Ten Lessons to Transform Your Marriage, John Gottman

Personality Type in Congregations:  How to Work with Others More Effectively, Lynne Baab

Your Personality and the Spiritual Life, Reginald Johnson

Discover Your Conflict Management Style,  Speed B. Leas

Rest in the Storm:  Self-Care Strategies for Clergy and other Caregivers, Kirk Jones

Pentecostal Healing:  Models in Theology and Practice, Kimberly Alexander

Crucial Conversations:  Tools for Talking when the Stakes are High, Kerry Patterson

Over Sea, Under Stone,  Susan Cooper

The Dark is Rising, Susan Cooper

Healing, Francis McNutt

Power Healing, John Wimber

The Healing Light, Agnes Sanford

The Magician's Nephew, C.S. Lewis

Miracles:  The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts, Craig Keener

Healing in the History of Christianity, Amanda Porterfield

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis

The God You Have:  Politics, Religion and the First Commandment, Patrick Miller

Deep Memory, Exuberant Hope, Walter Brueggemann

The Horse and His Boy, C. S. Lewis

Discovering John:  Content, Interpretation, Reception, Ruth Edwards

Interpreting the Gospel of John:  A Practical Guide, Gary Burge

Biblical Ethics and Social Change, Stephen Mott

Complete Your Dissertation in Two Semesters or Less, Evelyn Ogden

Prince Caspian, C. S. Lewis

Sabbath Keeping:  Finding Freedom in the Rhythms of Rest, Lynne M. Baab

Solidarity Ethics:  Transformation in a Globalized World, Rebecca Todd Peters

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C. S. Lewis

The Cross and Gendercide:  A Theological Response to Violence against Women, Elizabeth Gerhardt

Signature Sins:  Taming Our Wayward Hearts, Michael Mangis

The Silver Chair, C. S. Lewis

The Last Battle, C. S. Lewis


On knowing what you're about, a devotional thought

There's a small, almost throw-away line in Mark 1:37-38 that speaks deeply to the life of a servant of Jesus, I think. Jesus has been up all night healing the sick and casting out demons. They've brought their wounded to him where he was staying at Simon Peter's house, and from the sounds of things, there were many.

 They crowded the door, is how Mark says it.

 So in the morning, he's exhausted (I'm assuming), and heads of to a quiet place to regroup (I figure), and when his disciples come looking for him, he says, "It's time to move on." And here's the part that speaks to the heart. Because there's much, much more to be done here. Sicknesses to heal, blind eyes to open, demons to throw down for the ten-count here. And Jesus is leaving. In Luke's telling of this part of Jesus's story he draws out the struggle: "The crowds begged him not to go." But Jesus says, "I've got other cities I need to preach in, for this is the reason I came."

Every servant of Jesus (pastoral or lay, vocational or not) is going to see far more Kingdom work that needs doing, than they themselves can possibly do. Wrestle all night with anti-Kingdom demons, and there will still be crowds needing healing, crowding the door come morning. If it was true for the Son of God incarnate, how much more true for his disciples? And yet Jesus--and I can only imagine how wrenching it must have been for him--left those crowds to preach elsewhere. He knew what he was about, and why, in particular, the Father had sent him--what, in particular his Kingdom mission was--and this became the compass point for his life, allowing him to navigate his way through the sometimes overwhelming demands of ministry.

 I am learning, or trying hard to learn, from the Master's example here: to be clear on "the reason for which Jesus came into my life. Because the ability to say, with gracious humility and transparent honesty, "this is the reason he sent me," allows us also to say the much harder thing: "that's not the reason he sent me." And the freedom from self-Messiahship, and Christian-super-heroism and needing-to-be-everything-to-everyone we will find in Jesus when we can say that, I think, is a path to re-claimed joy in ministry and renewed passion for serving Him.

The Immediacy of the Gospel, a devotional thought

There's a simple word that shows up with unusual frequency in the opening chapters of the Gospel of Mark. In Greek it's euthus, which means, "immediately," or "right away." Jesus came up out of the baptism water "immediately," the Spirit led him into the desert to be tempted "immediately," the first disciples left their fishing nets to follow him "immediately." It actually appears 5 times in the first 21 verses alone (about once every 4 verses), and 42 times in the entire book (which is about 10 more times than all the other Gospels combined).

Jesus' Gospel is breaking over Mark's world with breathless urgency, and in his telling of the tales, the immediacy of the events seems to get special emphasis: things happen one after the other at such break-neck speed that the next wave's upon you before you even have time to clear the foam of the last one from your eyes.

This all stood out to me the other day as I was reading through the Gospel of Mark.   It got me wondering if I share Mark's sense of urgency about the Story of Jesus. Do I feel the same immediacy and excitement and expectation about what's happening in our midst and all around us as long as Jesus is walking among us, as Mark seems to have?

Truth be told: not really.

I sort of "spiritually saunter," most of the time in my walk with Jesus; not a peaceful stroll, mind you, but a lally-gagging shuffle, sure I'll get there eventually... So I'm trying to catch a bit of Mark's spirit these days, and feel it in my core how urgent it is, what Jesus's doing immediately, here, right in front of me, in his mission to bring the Shalom of God to the world.