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

random reads

The failure of Barak and the Assassination of Sisera-- on Violence in the Book of Judges

This idea is only half-baked, so feel free to tell me if it needs to go back into the oven for a while more-- and I know that former OT instructors of mine check in on terra incognita once in a while, so consider this an open invitation to tell me I'm out to lunch altogether... but ... I was reading the Book of Judges the other day and something sort of hit me I'd never noticed before.

First a disclaimer:  I have always found the violence in the Book of Judges unpalatable (on the one hand) and somewhat barbaric (on the other).  Only a few chapters in, for instance, we have that vivid but disturbing image of Ehud disemboweling Elgon, the King of Moab, by thrusting a dagger so deep into his belly that the fat closes around it and he's unable to draw it free.

Of course, if you read 3:22-24 closely, you'll notice a subtle, if gruesome irony in the telling of this story.  Verse 22 specifically mentions that when Ehud slew Elgon, the dagger cut so deep that his "dirt" (KJV) or "offal" (NIV) or "refuse" (NASB) spilled out.  It is, I'll admit, a strange and disturbing detail to mention.

But then in verse 24, after Ehud has made good his escape, leaving King Elgon dead in his own offal, the servants come.  Finding the doors to the chamber locked, they wait "to the point of embarrassment" for Elgon to emerge.  They assumed, the text points out carefully, that he was "relieving himself in the cool of the room."  And I call this "gruesomely ironic" because the Hebrew phrase that's used here-- they assumed Elgon was "covering his feet"-- is an euphemism for having a bowel movement (see 1 Samuel 24:3).  Indeed he was having a bowel movement, one might say, though they had no way of knowing in what particularly grisly a way his bowels had in fact been moved.

I point all this out because it suggests to me that, for all their graphic violence, these narratives have been carefully, one might say artfully honed, so that the violence, while disturbing, serves the narrative (rather than the other way around).   There is a larger purpose beyond simply thrilling or grossing-out the reader, that the violence in some way or other fits into.

Which brings me at last to the half-baked idea I'd like to share here.  Because the next story after Ehud is the one about Barak, Deborah and the assassination of Sisera (who was the General of the Cananite army). If you recall, Deborah inspires Israel to a stunning victory over the Cananites, and Sisera flees for his life.  He hides out in the tent of a Kenite woman named Jael, who, after lulling him to sleep, takes a hammer and drives a tent peg and through his temple and into the ground.  "And so Sisera died."  (Incidentally, Jael's betrayal of the code of hospitality here probably would have sent colder chills down the spine of an ancient reader than even the assassination itself).

But here's what I'm wondering about.  The Israelite general who was supposed to have led the charge against Sisera, but wouldn't until Deborah agreed to join him, was Barak (in Hebrew Bârâq). His name means "thunder-bolt" and many commenters point out the irony inherent in the fact that the Lord's "thunderbolt" was so reticent to join the battle (so Deborah's indictment of Barak in 4:9). But there may be an even deeper word-play here: in Hebrew, the phrase "into the temple (of one's head)" (bᵋraqqâh) sounds a fair bit like "barak."  Bârâq ... bᵋraqqâh ...  At least, they're enough alike to my very inexperienced Ancient Hebrew ears, that I wonder if there isn't a vivid pun going on in the telling of this assassination, too. 

The Lord's Bârâq failed to live up to his name, so Jael was forced to kill Sisera bᵋraqqâh. (If that seems like a strech, then imagine I was telling you the story of a certain figureskating feud from the 90s, but to protect the innocent, maybe, I changed the names to Nancy O'Kneel and Tonya Knee. You'd get it, wouldn't you?).

Again, I welcome input from heads better-trained in Hebrew than mine.  I admit, for instance, that the similarity is less convincing when you attach the third-person pronoun to bᵋraqqâh, which is how it actually appears in the text.  And let's be clear, Barak was still called to a pretty gruesome duty; Hebrew homophones alone can't let us off the hook when it comes to making sense of this violent war.  But if I am on to something, it would suggest that the violence here, at least, is hardly gratuitous.   The disturbing image of a Canaanite general, with a bloody tent-peg in his murdered temple, killed bᵋraqqah by the Kenite woman who had been his hostess, is meant very much to disturb us.  It is, in fact, a further indictment on Barak.  Had Bârâq lived up to his name, and joined the battle swiftly, this horrid murder bᵋraqqâh might have been avoided.

And if you're still with me, then perhaps you could wonder out loud with me a bit, here at the end.  Are there similar acts of meaningless and disturbing violence happening in our world today, that might be avoided if the People of God would but live up fully to their name?

1 comments:

Tyler Lane said...

Half baked or not, I think I see your point. I suspect you are on to something as well. The consequences for not obeying God rarely affect only us. We like to think we will be the only ones affected. (especially in such an individualistic western world) But, look at scripture.. how often is only the individual affected by his or her disobedience?

Seom good food for thought.