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

That Hideous Strength, C. S. Lewis

Till We Have Faces, C. S. Lewis

random reads

A View of the World from Gravity Falls, Part IV: Jesus and the Participatory Fandom

Last week, Alex Hirsch, the creative mind behind the Gravity Falls series, did an AMA on Reddit in the persona of Bill Cipher.

I wouldn’t have even known what sentence meant a year ago, let alone the significance of the event, except that I have three kids at home I can consult to keep from being a total internet ignoramus. 

Reddit is a social media site that allows users to post content to categories of interest (known as “subreddits”), and vote other users’ submissions “up” or “down,” determining their position in the feed (in any given subreddit, more popular posts appear higher and less popular posts appear lower).  An AMA (Ask Me Anything) is a subreddit—a special interest page—where users can invite and answer questions from other reddit users about, well, anything.  Astronaut Chris Haddfield has done an Ask Me Anything on Reddit, as have Madonna, Woody Harelson, David Copperfield, Al Gore, Bill Gates, and, like I say, Alex Hirsh, the creator of Gravity Falls.

Piqued curiosity can be settled in one fell swoop by visiting the sureddit in question, here.  

Alex Hirsch has done AMAs on Reddit before, but in this particular AMA he answered the “anythings” he was asked in the persona of Bill Cipher, the arch-villain of the Gravity Falls series, whose true nature, identity, background and motives have generated no end of speculation on the internet.   The uninitiated can find out more about Bill over at the Gravity Falls Wiki (see here), along with a virtual Encyclopedia Britannica’s worth of info on the Gravity Falls universe.  For those in the know, an AMA with Bill Cipher was a pretty big deal, inasmuch as he ostensibly gave away all sorts of clues about what’s to come on future episodes, and generally added gasoline to the bonfire of theories blazing about Gravity Falls.  You can see one enthusiastic reviewer’s analysis of the event here, on one of the many Youtube channels devoted (in both senses of that word) to the show:



And if this hasn’t yet satisfied your curiosity about all things Gravity Falls, you can also visit the show’s official YouTube channel, “The Mystery of Gravity Falls.”  Or you could browse the veritable library’s worth of fan fiction—amateur short fiction written by fans, cast with characters and set in the universe of the show—over at https://www.fanfiction.net/cartoon/Gravity-Falls/.  Of course, if you’re really old school, you can check out the Gravity Falls Facebook wall, or simply visit one of the thousands of fan blogs about the show (of which, I suppose, this blog is one).

But don’t do any of that until I make my point here.  Because I’m not just trying to be an internet tour guide for all things Gravity Falls today, I’m trying to draw attention to a fascinating, and, I think, important cultural shift that occurred sometime between my childhood and the childhood of my kids.

When I was a kid, being a fan of something was, primarily, an act of reception.  That is to say, you received, passively, if enthusiastically whatever it was, the object of your fanaticism: the show, the movie, the book, the comic or what have you.  To be sure, there were ways to engage actively as a fan back then—you could play at being Spider-man, for instance, or purchase books about the Star Wars movies, let’s say; you could buy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toys or argue with your friends over who’d win in a fight between Vader and Spock—but all this active engagement happened externally to the creative sphere of the thing in question.  It was engagement, but it wasn't creative participation

This is the crucial difference, and the reason I’m blogging about it today.  Because whatever else the glut of internet access points to the universe of Gravity Falls signifies, I think it points out how being a fan of something in the internet age is much more a participatory act than it has ever been before.  A fan-hosted YouTube channel attempting to decipher all the mysteries of Gravity Falls, fan-produced fiction expanding the world of the show, fan-edited wikis, an AMA on Reddit—these things are more than simply active engagement.  Inasmuch as they exist in and contribute to the same sphere of influence that the show itself inhabits (namely, the World Wide Inter-Web), they are, in fact, a kind of creative participation in the Gravity Falls Story.

If this cultural shift in what it means to be “a fan” of something—from active engagement with to creative participation in—is making sense to you, then let me wonder out loud if the up-and-coming generation, my kids’ generation, that is, aren't being conditioned to evaluate things—stories, ideas, concepts,  Truth—based not simply on rational criteria, or even on intuitive “gut-level” reactions, but on the degree to which they allow creative participation in the story telling, the idea generating, the conceptualizing, and so on.  While staunch modernists may balk at such a slippery statement, let me put it like this:  I wonder if, for “kids these days,” those things are “truest” which offer us something we can collaboratively participate in, rather than simply accept, receive, assent to or consume.

That was genuine wondering.  I’m not sure if this is how the up-and-coming generation will, in fact, make epistemological evaluations.  I have my hunches, but they’re just that: hunches. 

But even on the basis of a hunch, let me offer two inter-locking points as we continue our theological analysis of Gravity Falls.  First: in the modern era, much hay was made out of the deeply rational co-inherence of the Christian Faith—it is, in fact, a very satisfying way of looking at the world, logically speaking.  And in the post-modern era, much was made of its aesthetic qualities—it is a lovely story to live by.  But in the era of the social network—the era that gave us Gravity Falls, and the kids who enjoy it—in this era, what will shine especially is Christianity’s participatory nature.

The Christian Faith is not just a Truth we are invited to accept or assent to, or consume.  It is a Living Story we are invited collaboratively to participate in: to find our lives by losing them in this beautiful, compelling, logical, but especially collaborative life with the Creator.

And even on the chance that I might be on to something here, let me offer the second point.  Ministries that seek genuinely to introduce young people to Jesus—the kids of the kids of the boomers—kids like my son and daughters, that is—kids of the as-yet unnamed post-postmodern era—will do well to find ways to show them and remind them, and convince them, that Christianity is not just a truth to be believed, it is a Story to be lived.

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