Do you find as you're putting the Luke stories into music that thinking about the stories and writing the songs brings head into heart?

It does. And for me, it comes out with words. The music is the hard part. What happens is the informed part of your head—the knowledge, the facts—keeps asking, "what do the facts mean?" and for me, the facts always relate to my heart. Imagination is this bridge between your head and your heart. It's the pathway that the Holy Spirit crosses back and forth on.

I always think of the shema from Deuteronomy 6 that talks about loving God with all your heart, mind, soul, and spirit. It begins with shema, which means "hear" or "listen." You really start listening to the text . . . and I think that's what jazz people do. Jazz people listen in different ways. You guys listen in a whole different way than we listen. That's something that I don't think I would have gotten unless I knew Kirk [Whalum] personally.

Did you feel that this point of time was specifically right for the Biblical Imagination series? Has this idea been coming for a long time?

I've been doing it in one way or another for a very long time. I'm the Wednesday night Bible study guy at our church. We'd done Luke over a very long period of time, and so Luke just sort of naturally happened. I'd just written a book on slavery and a big part of Luke's story is that I think he was a slave, so I was kind of geared up information-wise. I started hearing Luke. For me, there comes this point when you get saturated enough with a text that you begin to hear it. I can hear Luke's voice; I can hear John's voice. I can't do it with Mark yet, and I don't know if I'll ever do it with Matthew. I can hear Luke's voice when I read the text. I hear the inflection; I hear what's important to him. Of course, that's my imagination—that's not an absolute thing. What may be important to me may not be as emphatic to you when you listen to it.

But it's also because you've done all of the background work.

Exactly. That's the informed part.

I liked in your introduction when you were talking about the different words for "amazement," and you were saying that rather than asking yourself, sort of beating yourself over the head with "why am I not amazed?" it's more of an invitation to join Luke and say, "isn't Christ amazing?"

Yeah, and I think in a way that was also a very Catholic thing to do. I know that Brennan Manning always takes it outside of the condemnation thing. I grew up Southern Baptist and we're really good with guilt and condemnation . . . but we're really guilty enough as it is. I think I'm learning to rephrase my questions, not "why am I not amazed?" but "Lord, by your grace, by your hesed, give me that amazement back," and I think He does.

I also liked when you talked about hesed, how it's linked to the Hebrew word for "stork."

Yes, because who's the best mother? The stork!

That's so cool.

Who's the worst mother? The ostrich, because she steps on her eggs. I think it's interesting that God would use a word like that to define himself. Hasida is stork and hesed is mercy—very closely related, and in fact, identical in their consonants. It's the feminine side of God.