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

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 V: And Nothing but the Truth

Early on in my ministry as a pastor, one of the things I really struggled with was the idea of spiritual warfare.  This is not because I doubted Peter, when he warns us that our enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour; and it’s not because I didn’t take Paul seriously, either, when he insists that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  I’d read the Book of Revelation in all seriousness.  And I’d read The Screwtape Letters with all earnest. 

But I’d also read one too many books by Frank Peretti, and I’d heard one too many episodes of Bob Larson’s Talk Back, to embrace popular evangelical teaching about “Spiritual Warfare” unreflectively.   I’d seen how speculative, fanciful, and demonstrably unbiblical some of this stuff can become; and, indeed, how manipulative and exploitative and controlling.  So I was cautious in how I spoke about spiritual warfare, and hesitant to give it much emphasis in my ministry.

And, then, by God’s grace, I came across the writings of Dr. Neil Anderson, the author of books like The Bondage Breaker and Victory over Darkness.  I don’t embrace his teaching without careful reflection, either, but I believe he’s a got some very godly, very biblical, very wise things to say on the matter, and I know that he’s helped many believers experience deeper levels of spiritual freedom in Christ. 

In The Bondage Breaker in particular, I came across something that shed clear, bright light on what spiritual warfare is really all about, and has radically transformed the way I think about it, and understand it, and approach it in my ministry.  It has to do with the difference between “power” and “truth.”

In the popular imagination, he says, spiritual warfare is a power struggle between some “demonic stronghold” and some outside agent, external to the person in bondage.  But it’s not power that sets the captive free, it’s truth.  “Living in defeat,” he writes, “believers often falsely conclude that they need power, so they look for some religious experience that promise power.  ... But the power of the Christian lies in the truth.  ... In contrast, the power of Satan is in the lie, and once you expose the lie, you break his power” (emphasis mine).

This has been a very clarifying thought for me, and theologically it resonates deeply.  In one sense, Satan is already defeated (Heb 2:14).  Through the death and resurrection of Jesus God has triumphed over him (Col  2:15).  He’s still prowling around, of course, like a roaring lion, but the true Lion of Judah has powerfully crushed his head for us.  Resisting him now is not a power struggle as much as it is a truth struggle: a struggle to appropriate and live out of this truth.

This brings us, at last, to Gravity Falls.  Because, as I’ve pointed out in previous posts, whatever else this show is about, it is very much about spiritual warfare.  It’s a secular version of it, of course, one in which all of the lines that Christians would want to draw between good and evil, light and dark, angel and demon, are pretty hazy, but still, the conflict of the show is quite literally a spiritual conflict.  From episode to episode, the Pines twins find themselves confronting no end of spectres and spirits, ghosts and ghouls, most often defeating them with secrets gleaned from that mysterious journal.

There are two characters, in particular, that exemplify this spiritual conflict.  One is a diabolically mischievous “dream demon” named Bill Cipher, and the other a phony child psychic named L’il Gideon.  We'll tackle Bill Cipher in another post; for today I’d like to talk about L’il Gideon, who is, in many ways, an easier first target in our theological analysis of the show.

We first meet L’il Gideon early on in Season 1, when his “Tent of Telepathy” rolls into town and everyone is taken in by his supernatural psychic powers.  Everyone, of course, except Dipper and Mabel Pines.  They will eventually expose him as a fraud, but not before he becomes one of Gravity Fall's central villains, Dipper’s arch-nemesis and Grunkle Stan’s greatest adversary.  As a character, his resemblance to the worst kind of televangelist, complete with flashy suit and perfectly coiffed hair, is a bit too close for comfort, and his show at the “Tent of Telepathy” is more like an old time gospel hour revival meeting than it is like anything else.  Add to this the one-eyed-inverted-star that is his insignia, and the pact he signs with Bill Cipher, and you’ve got the makings for one epic spiritual showdown.

But if there is something spiritual about Dipper and Mabel’s conflict with L’il Gideon, it’s notable to me that it’s not power that eventually defeats him.  They will try all sorts of power-plays to outwit him in the course of Season 1, but it’s not, like I say, power that wins this spiritual battle.  It’s truth.  The truth, namely, that L’il Gideon’s so-called psychic powers are really a sham, and he’s actually been spying on Gravity Falls via thousands of close-circuit tv cameras hidden around town, discovering secrets about people that he can then “discern,” “predict,” or “intuit” in his phoney-baloney psychic act.

The details aren’t especially important.  What is important is that, for all the spiritual mumbo-jumbo that L’il Gideon dabbles in, in the end it’s the truth, quite literally that wins the spiritual battle against him.

There are, like I said, many things about the spiritual conflict in Gravity Falls that Christians, biblicaly, would find difficult to swallow without a big old spoonful of sugar.   And unlike Gravity Falls, a fully biblical understanding of the Truth doesn’t, in the end, lead us to data, or evidence, or facts, or concepts, but to a Living Person, to the Christ, that is, who said he was himself the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  So there’s probably a lot Alex Hirsch and I would beg to differ on.  But in this one thing, I think, we would agree: that in the end it’s the Truth (not power) that sets us free.

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