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.

Suffer the Singles to Come to Me (On Singleness and Celibacy, Part IV)

There’s a very famous passage in the Gospel of Matthew where the crowds are bringing their toddlers to Jesus and the disciples try to prevent them from doing so. If you’ve read it before you’ll know that Jesus becomes quite indignant with his disciples and tells them to “Suffer the little children come to me” (Matthew 19:14, KJV), because “the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.”

It’s famous, of course, because the Lord is clearly validating children here in a way that would have been, at the very least, counter cultural to his original listeners, but resonates deeply with our culture, where (unlike the ancients) we tend to put children on a pedestal and idealize childhood. For us, there are probably fewer images more lovely than the one of the Lord tenderly blessing a handful of playful children—our children—as a quintessential expression of his ministry. Of course, we assume, as we drive our kids hither and thither from soccer practice to piano lessons to playgrounds and back, making no end of sacrifices for their well-being—of course Jesus cares as much about children as we do—of course he was willing to put as much on the line for them as we are.

And he is; don’t get me wrong.

Children will always have a special place in his heart—though not because of their perceived innocence and child-like wonderment (as we might assume)—but more because of their vulnerability, weakness, and (at least in his culture) their low status on the social totem pole. Nevertheless, Jesus clearly loves children, and enjoins his followers to do the same.

A while back I was reading Matthew 19, though, and I noticed for the first time that this passage comes immediately after Jesus’s radical teaching on divorce and remarriage in Matthew 19:1-12, where he tells us that God’s intention was that marriage should be a permanent, exclusive union between a man and a woman (19:9).

I noticed this, and for the first time it occurred to me to wonder why the disciples don’t want the children to be brought to Jesus for a blessing in 19:13.

What if it’s because they learned the lesson of Matthew 19:1-12 too well? What if Matthew 19:13-15 is Jesus’s step to correct a pendulum that had swung too far the other way?

What I mean is this: in Matthew 19:10, when they hear Jesus’s firm stance on the permanency of marriage, the disciples say, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife it is better not to marry.”

The logic here is not completely clear to me, but it seems they’ve added it up and have decided that if marriage “can’t be escaped," we ought not to jump into it in the first place.

And what’s stunning to me, is that in Matthew 19:11, Jesus doesn’t tell them they’re wrong. He simply says, “Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those for whom it has been given; and the one who can accept it should.”

If you read it very closely, Jesus seems to be agreeing with the disciple’s conclusion (that it’s better not to marry), but also wisely acknowledging that most can’t walk that path. So he offers marriage as a concession to those for whom “becoming a eunuch for the sake of the Kingdom” is just too strenuous of a path. Paul is probably taking his cue from the Lord Jesus when he does a similar thing himself in 1 Corinthians 7:1-7.

There are probably other ways to take Matthew 19:11-12, but if this reading is correct, it would certainly explain the “let the little children come to me” fiasco in Matthew 19:13ff. Because if you were a disciple that day and you had heard Jesus say that marriage is a concession for those who can’t walk the path of celibacy, but if you can handle singleness you ought to … you could be excused, I think, if you figured that Jesus had actually, in that teaching, minimized the importance of family life altogether. And it would be at least understandable if, the next time you saw a bunch of families bringing their children to Jesus for a blessing, you tried to prevent it.

Surely the Jesus who said what he said about marriage in verse 11 and 12, would not want to be bothered with a bunch of children in verse 13, right?

Well: wrong (see verse 14-15), but I can understand why you’d think that.

Because the New Testament consistently and clearly discusses singleness with very high esteem—as an ideal way to serve the Lord—and it often talks about marriage as though it were a necessary concession for the “not yet” era of the Kingdom of God, a concession which will become obsolete once the “already” has come in all its fullness. There will be, after all, no marriage at the resurrection (Matthew 22:30), and those who can live into that reality already, on this side of the resurrection, Jesus seems to be saying, should do so.

(You might quote Ephesians 6, and say, doesn’t Ephesians 5:22-33 put as high a value on marriage as you possibly can, making it symbolic of the union between Christ and the church? But that verse actually proves too much, in a way. If marriage is a symbol of the union between Christ and his church, then at the eschaton, when that union is perfect and complete, marriage will have served its purpose and will no longer be needed.)

All this brings us back Matthew 19:13-15. Whatever else Jesus was doing by blessing those little children that day, he was certainly also preventing us from taking the above logic too far, too soon.

“Even though the institution of marriage has a shelf-life,” he seems to be saying, “and even though singleness is a good way to follow me, even so, till that day when the Kingdom has arrived in all its fullness, there is still a place, now, for married life, and families, and children. So let the little children come to me, and do not prevent them. For the Kingdom of God belongs to them (as much as it does to single people).”

On this reading Matthew 19:13-15 is not so much an unmitigated endorsement of all things children, and a summons to the church to focus on the family above all else. It is, instead, a boundary marker, preventing the church from swimming too far out, so to speak, into the sea of “singleness and celibacy.”

Put less metaphorically: Matthew 19:13-15 is there to bring marriage and family, up to, and on par with, singleness as a viable way of following Jesus. So that the church doesn’t fall into the trap of thinking that the singles are the red-ribbon-Christians and the marrieds are the “also-rans.”

If I’m on to anything here, I gotta say that this is not a problem than needs correcting in the modern North-American Church—the problem of elevating singleness and denigrating marriage, I mean. As I have argued in previous posts in this series, the modern North American church tends to elevate marriage as the ideal and barely even acknowledges that singleness is a thing (except as a problem to be “fixed” by marriage).

If Matthew 19:13-15 was there to correct the over-swing of the pendulum towards singleness, in Jesus's day, Matthew 19:11-12, is here to correct the over-swing of the pendulum to the other side, in our day.

But my point here is not to pit one of these two paths against the other, singleness or marriage; it’s just to illustrate that Jesus seems to think that both are necessary, and a church that really wanted to experience the life of the Kingdom would value, celebrate and encourage both.

Because God’s ultimate goal is not “married-Christians.” His ultimate goal is fully-devoted disciples. Marriage is one way to experience and live out one’s discipleship, of course; but so is singleness. And a church that really understood what it meant to bring their children—and their marriages—and their families—to Jesus, would make sure their single people were also there, receiving their blessing too, and discovering that the Kingdom of God belongs as much to them as it does anyone else who finds themselves at his side.