Chasing Mercy


We stood on the darkening beach at Waianae. The college students for whom I had come to lead music played and laughed in the evening Pacific breeze. Rising up from southern deeps, the blue waves blackened as the light of the sunset faded. The water grew bold whitecaps upon nearing the beach. Still, it had been a long day of work, and the people deserved a chance to play. Sand, ocean, and salt air—the poetry of elements wrought its relief upon us.

The boys waded out into the surf, inviting me along.

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On Seeing Facebook Recommend I Tag the Face of Christ


I’m scrolling

pictures on my home page,

when there He is: white,

robed, and framed, hanging

background to a casserole

scene at Aunt Dara’s.

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A Conversation with David Clifton

JDC 3 2014

David Clifton is a man from many places. Beginning his musical career as a young man in choral studies at Peterborough Cathedral north of Cambridge, he proceeded to major in ceramics and play his way through multiple international acts, opening for and sitting in with the likes of Sarah McLachlan, Steve Earle, Sheryl Crow, and Clannad. These days, he divides his time between Knoxville and London, producing records from vastly differing genres and leading music as a pastor at Apostles Anglican Church. On a beautiful evening in late June, we received the privilege of sitting with David atop an old building in downtown Knoxville, watching a coming storm light up the sky and wandering through the topics of sacred and secular arts. Tom Petty played through the background speakers, and our conversation ploughed late into the night.

FH: To start off, you’ve lived and played in sacred settings in both the United Kingdom and the States, and you’ve also toured with a number of secular artists. Sacred music, and the wire-crossing of Christianity and the arts, is very different in the two countries. To your mind, what are those differences?

DC: Well, I have to be very careful what I say, because I don’t mean to offend anyone. But, to me, everything is God’s, every sort of music. Because we’re all made in the image of God, everything has a certain degree of God within it, and God will use all sorts of music to reach out to people. The difference is, of course, if it’s sin, God can’t allow his Holy Spirit to speak to people through it. Having said that, God is faithful to his word. So that’s why, when pastors’ lives fail or worship leaders fall, and people ostracize them, the music will still bless people—because God is faithful to his word. We do our best, but we fall and fail—everyone does.

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Boys Chase Girls

“Do you chase girls around the playground?”

I playfully interviewed my seven year old son Liam and his friend Ecclesiastes. They looked down at the cafeteria room floor, nodded slowly, and between some messy slurps of ice cream they each mustered up a shy smile.

“Well, what do you do when you catch one?” I asked.
“We put them in jail,” they said boldly.
“Then what?” I asked.
“They stay in there forever!” Ecclesiastes exclaimed. Then, he paused and said quietly, “But sometimes they escape and chase us.”

I kept my laugh to myself, hoping not to embarrass them too much. Honestly—I must confess—I used to chase girls around the playground in elementary school too. And the few times I actually caught one of these splendid creatures, I didn’t know what to do.

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