All my life I’ve been an evangelical.  And we’re known for talking and expounding the Scripture.  But we’re not really known necessarily for letting the Scripture speak to us—just Scripture.  I think that’s what really came through to me when researching for The Path to Celtic Prayer … how little we read the Bible.  

Let’s switch gears and talk about another of your books, The Singer, which was first published in the mid ‘70s.  What inspired you to write this retelling of Christ's story?

There were several things that happened.  At the time, I was trying to plant a church and believe me, that is hard work.  There was lots of criticism, lots of pain.  And I found myself in need of a lot of Jesus at one point.  Another part of it was that I’d been having a large-scale reaction to Jesus Christ Superstar or Godspell which were very popular musicals in the ’60 and ‘70s.  And finally it seemed to me that I kept trying to say to God, “I love Jesus, but these musicals really don’t do him very well.”  They weren’t a good picture of who he was.  And it seemed to me that I heard God say, “Well, maybe you ought to write something.”  And so I thought about it a long time, and one morning at about 2:00 a.m. I was awakened from my sleep and I walked down to my study and typed the first line:  “When he awoke, the song was there.”

Oddly, it was happening to me when I awoke.  The song was there!  I just wrote it down.  And then I wrote a few more pages and went back to sleep.  A few nights later, I had the same experience.  And this continued until the storyline became set, and it began to take over.  I tried to portray Jesus as I believed the New Testament would.  As a healer, but more than that.  As a Savior, but more than that.  As the Son of God, but more than that.  It’s written with a lot of sense or largesse about the greatness of Christ, and yet the word Christ never comes up in the book.  The word Jesus is never used.  And the word God is only used once or twice.  God is called “Earthmaker” in my account.  And so I really think it was just taking the Gospel and putting it in new clothes that made it so popular. 

It doesn’t take place in modern day.  And in fact, I did my own early illustrations and often drew the characters nude as a Renaissance painter might of done it.  Nothing lewd there, but I do often think clothes indicate a period somehow.  Once people are in clothes, they suddenly look as if they belong in some era.  But the illustrations eventually were redone in a more Medieval setting.  And I like that.  It’s clear that the Singer is a man for all seasons, but the drawings in the book have to do with a more Medieval approach.

Since The Singer is now a classic, I’m sure you have some stories of how it has impacted lives over the years.  Any that have stood out to you?

The one thing that always amazed me is when someone would say, “I’ve come to understand my calling in Christ after reading the book.”  Or, “I actually came to know Christ because of The Singer, and I accepted him as my Savior because of it.”  And oddly, the people I heard from the most were Jewish.  I think it’s because the word Christ isn’t used.  They didn’t have to overcome that, because if you see the word Christ and you’re a Jew you just back up.  And since it wasn’t there, I think they got into the narrative before they realized it was about Christ.   

Did The Singer raise a few eyebrows at the time of its release or was it controversial like the The Shack has been recently?