About MY WORK
- SONGWRITING: I have been writing and performing music for over 40 years. I have written hundreds of songs, and recorded two fully-produced custom albums of original Christian music in 1978 and 1989. Recently, I have completed writing a 12-song concept album of remixed and original hymns, psalm songs, and spiritual music for the church that I hope to record. I have also written a 12-song (8 original, 4 remix hymns) concept performance piece for Advent called "Come to the Light," a four-movement song cycle with a dramatic monologue by Mary on the night of the flight to Egypt. It was performed for Advent 2014, and will be performed again this year. I will eventually record the music. I am motivated musically to conceive and create musical concepts with strong spiritual concepts or narratives.
- WRITING: I currently focus on Christian nonfiction writing in the areas of family and parenting. My personal blog at PiecesofClay.com focuses on theology, biblical exegesis, and the Christian life. I am also writing fiction/fantasy for several high-concept illustrated children’s book ideas. I have been published, and have self-published, four Christian nonfiction books that have sold cumulatively in excess of 100,000 copies. I am currently developing new and shorter books for Whole Heart Press, the publishing focus of Whole Heart Ministries, as well as editing others and writing for ministry blogs.
- SONGWRITING: I write music because I feel compelled to do. I was shaped musically first by folk and pop music of the 60s, and then by the singer-songwriter model of the 70s. I was involved in CCM in the early years but was not able to create a sustainable music career before I went to seminary to train for ministry. Since then, I have been influenced by Michael Card, Rich Mullins, Chris Rice, Andrew Peterson, and other acoustic Christian artists. For the past several years, I have focused more on contemporary sacred music, finding old hymn lyrics to reset acoustically, expressing psalms in music, and writing music for liturgical worship. Music, though it has never been a serious vocational pursuit, has been a constant in my life for 40 years.
- WRITING: I write both persuasively and creatively. For persuasive writing, I have things to say and points to make, so I write Christian nonfiction, whether in books or in blogs. I am passionate about the art and craft of writing, and the power and beauty of words, so I am also an avid editor and rewriter. For creative writing, I have stories and narratives I want to share, so I come up with imaginative concepts to express through story and illustration. I also experiment in poetry of a variety of forms. I write, not because I want to be a writer, but because I am a writer.
About my Faith
I grew up in a Fundamentalist, Reformed, Dispensational, KJV Only, Independent Presbyterian church. Thankfully, I was not really a believer then so its hodgepodge of systematics and patriotism had little impact on my future Christian identity. I became a believer in college through the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ, and joined their staff for two years upon graduation. After leaving staff, pursuing an independent Christian music ministry in the late seventies, going to seminary in the early eighties, and many years of ministry and study, I am now a nonconformist but classical evangelical “on the Canterbury trail.” Sally and I married in 1981 and have served Christ in full time ministry for going on forty years, the last 22 years in our own nonprofit Christian home and parenting ministry (wholeheart.org). We also homeschooled our four children K-12 because we felt it allowed us the best opportunity and the freedom to influence and disciple our children for Christ (I wrote a book about our home-centered educational model, still in print after 21 years), who are all arts-driven believers as writers, musicians, film-makers, and speakers. I am comfortable with my Christian skin now, but I’m still learning how to live out what God has put into me over the decades that I have followed and trusted Him, whether as a man, husband, father, minister of the Word, or as an artist and writer.
As a Christian artist, I don't like the term “faith-based” art because it suggests a particular goal, usually a very limited and dogmatic one. I prefer the idea of “faith-shaped” art that is an organic, natural expression of the artist's life and heart. Rather than the faith-based goal of safety and conformity within “acceptable” Christian cultural expectations and teachings, the goal of faith-shaped art is personal and artistic authenticity, vulnerability, and risk. It is about being human, made in the image of God with an imagination to see the world of spiritual reality, and letting art express that experience. I believe that good art—songwriting and writing for me—are windows through which one sees and shows unseen spiritual realities and truths within the experience of being human. I wrote this poem to capture and express that idea:
PANES OF GRACE
Windows made of ink and light
Of color, note, and line
Dim glass portals fixed within
This mortal frame of time
On panes of grace we trace the fragile
Shades of His design
Creator God, created and creation
Hints of places just beyond our grasping
Guided by the artist’s hands
We ‘verse the vale of time
Seeing through the artist’s heart
We hold the hope divine
The biggest problem facing Christian artists today?
I’m mostly interested in Christian arts, by which I mean arts expressed out of the faith life of believers (faith-shaped art). In that arts scene, I’m concerned that the freedom of artistic expression has been overrun in the evangelical culture by commercialism. In music, CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) has become little more than a sales channel for new music for modern church worship leaders. It is predominantly band-driven, rather than artist-driven, which has influenced a generation of church worship that is modeled after rock concerts, and a generation of Christians driven by consumerism. In film, the “faith-based” movement largely panders to that same audience with poorly written, produced, and acted films that tend to be vehicles for Christian dogma and lifestyles, rather than explorations and stories of life through the lens of faith. In writing, the shrinking world of Christian publishing is increasingly dependent on that same audience, so it relies heavily on big names and big topics, with decreasing willingness to take risks on new authors or new ideas. Christian fiction is predominantly derivative, formulaic, and serialized to maximize sales to a largely undiscriminating audience of Christianized consumers.
Though I am firmly evangelical, I believe the American evangelical movement has lost its way and created its own problems. While Fundamentalism separated from culture so as not to be changed by it, Evangelicalism rightly engaged with culture in order to change it. However, Evangelicalism in the last generation has crossed that cultural line of “in not of” engagement, has been changed by the culture it intended to change, and now is a struggling movement. I believe it will turn around and find its roots again, but the next 20-40 years will be critical to that process. I believe a recovery and renaissance of the Christian imagination and faith-shaped arts will play a key role in restoring the soul of Evangelicalism. I also believe the liturgical tradition will play a key role in that process by restoring historical traditions and the language of orthodox Christianity that has been diluted and often lost in enculturated Christian worship. I believe Anselm Society, and other groups and movements like it, will play a strategic role in leading the evangelical movement back to its roots. A large part of that process will be head-change through sound ideological and theological writing and speaking, but I am convinced that the real impetus for a turn-around will require heart-change that will come mostly through a restoration of Christian arts expressed within and through the liturgical tradition.