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.

blogs I follow

random reads

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

That Hideous Strength, C. S. Lewis

Till We Have Faces, C. S. Lewis

Screwtape Proposes a Toast, C. S. Lewis

The Theology of Bruce Springsteen (Part 4): In the Shoes of a Stranger

One of the hidden gems on Springsteen’s classic Born to Run album is “Meeting Across the River.” The song tells the story of an amateur street thug and his friend Eddie, who are scraping together the cash for a vague and ominous-sounding meeting with a man “across the river.” From the details, we gather that the narrator is down to his last chance in the criminal underworld, that he and Eddie are in way over their heads, and that all their hopes for redemption are riding on whatever deal it is they’re planning to make with the man on the other side of the river.

What makes “Meeting Across the River” especially compelling is the fact that this story is told in the first person, through the eyes, as it were, of this third-rate hood, desperate to make it big in a world far bigger and far more dangerous than he is. The first person narrative voice creates a deep pathos and a profound empathy for the listener. When the narrator urges Eddies to stuff something in his pocket so it will look like he’s “carrying a friend,” the depth of his naivete and the strong likelihood that this meeting across the river is going to end very badly for them, creeps over us like a vague, looming shadow.

The first time I heard “Meeting Across the River,” it took a second to register for me that the “I” voice in the song was not Springsteen himself, that he was actually playing a role, singing a part. Having been raised on the intensely personal songs of the 80s, be it Glam-Metal’s odes to personal sexual prowess or U2’s spiritual ruminations about finding “what I’m looking for,” I had come to assume that whenever a singer sang in the first person like this, he must be singing about himself, expressing personal hopes and dreams, individual desires, and private disappointments. Part of what makes “Meeting Across the River” so arresting on first listen is the fact that the narrator’s voice is so convincing, so fully conceived and personal, that it takes a while to realize that you’re not really hearing the true confessions of a failed, entry-level street thing; you’re only hearing Springsteen imaging the world as one.

As a song writing technique, this art of assuming the role of a particular character and singing in his or her voice permeates Bruce Springsteen’s songbook. In “Born in the USA” he is a returning veteran of the Vietnamese war. In “Racing in the Streets” he’s a career street racer looking over his life. In “The River,” he’s a teen aged dad watching his dreams go up in smoke in the face of unemployment, adult responsibility, and the Carter recession.

It was “The River,” actually, where he first began experimenting with this approach to writing songs in a serious way. In this brief excerpt from the documentary “The Ties that Bind,” Springsteen talks about the development of first-person storytelling in his music.

“With a very specific narrative story,” he explains, “I would sing in that voice, you know, of the character. And it wasn’t necessarily me, though it was partly me, and partly other people. … ‘The River’ was my touchstone for all that writing that came later, where you simply step into a character’s shoes and try to get your listeners to walk in those shoes for a while.”

Towards the end of the above clip, he talks about the power of this kind of song writing. “You’re laying claim to [a] character’s experience, and you’re trying to do right by it as a song writer, and you’re taking the risk of singing in that voice.” Taking this risk, he says, “is the writer’s job. [It’s to] faithfully imagine the world, and other’s lives in a way that respects them … sort of honours them … and records them in your own way somewhat faithfully.”

What Springsteen is talking about here, I think, is more than just the writer’s job.  It’s the well-spring of grace and compassion in the human heart. At least: the ability to imagine the world through the eyes of another human being, and to do it in a way that respects and honours them faithfully, is essential if we are to know true compassion and extend genuine grace to others. To realize what it might mean to be a dying AIDS patient, for instance, longing for brotherhood as he waits out the sunset of his life (as Springsteen tries to do in “Philadelphia”) is to take a step towards true empathy for the lonely dying in our own lives. To realize what it might mean to be young, unemployed, and out of options (as Springsteen does in “Atlantic City”) is to plant seeds of grace in your heart for the hard decisions people in such circumstances need to make every day.

Whenever I see this “faithful imagining of the world through another man’s eyes” happen well in a Springsteen song, it occurs to me that Christians could do worse than take a cue from him on this one.  At least, it is certainly what our Lord did for us, on a cosmic scale, when he literally stepped into our shoes—the Son of God become the Son of Man—and walked in them all the way to the cross.  "We do not have saviour who is unable to empathize with us in our weakness," says the writer of Hebrews, "but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are, and yet he was without sin."  Herein lies the source and power of Christ's grace and compassion for us, that in him, God literally looked through the world through human eyes.  "For this reason," the writer of Hebrews says in a different place, "he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way, in order that he might become a faithful and merciful high priest in service to God."

And to the extent that his compassion and grace are in fact the currency of the Christian life, this ability to “step into a character’s shoes and walk in them for a while” should come as naturally to us as breathing. If it did, I expect that the “weightier matters of Law”—justice and mercy and faithfulness—would come more naturally, too. To quote a song writer that predated Springsteen by a good 750 years, the Way of Jesus is to seek “not so much to be understood, as to understand … not so much to be loved, as to love with all [our] souls.”

<< Back     -     Next >>