You have to go back to the beginning

African storytelling cartoon So I'm testing stories, and I'm nervous again because God's story and my friend's worldview are coming more and more into conflict.  This time, I'm worried about the piece where Mary was pregnant with Jesus through God's power.  I mean, come on.  it's weird.  And I've heard it's pretty blasphemous to people from my friend's background

So we listen to the story, and I ask.  How could God cause a woman to have a baby without a man?

And my friend says, well you have to go back to the beginning of the story.  Look how God made the world.  Look how God took David when he was just a kid, a  shepherd and made him into a king.  If God can do all of that, you have to believe that he could do this for Mary too.

Huh.  Guess this works.  Nice when theory lines up with real life.  See, Bible storying is different from telling stories from the Bible – each story is told as an episode in the bigger story of God and people.  The theory is that having this global view gets the message across more powerfully.  I guess it's true.

Want to help keep the stories coming?  I have an end of year shortfall that could delay stuff.  Click here to find out how, or comment or something, and I'll get you info.



You’re not supposed to believe that.

Simeon My friend Dennis is blogging through a Christmas reading plan.  The first section just happens to be part of the story I tested today.  So I decided to blog about that passage too.

You’d think after yesterday’s fantastic testing session, I wouldn’t be worried about today’s.  But I was.  Perversely,  I was also really bummed when only one guy came to test with me.  I figured, well, the stories are starting to conflict with their religion, so they’re not coming.  But, maybe that’s ok.  Because I’ve heard that people from this guy’s religion think that Christ followers worship three gods instead of one, that they don’t get the idea of the trinity at all, and that it offends the snot out of them.

Course, I don’t have a ton of experience with people from this group.  Good to actually talk to some and hear from them what they believe.  (This blogger thinks so too.)

We’re sitting in a smallish room, filled with books.  Since it’s just the two of us, I have a window open.  We’re at the corner of a busy street, so there’s lots of traffic.  The open window makes it noisy, but keeps it appropriate. 

So, after I putz around and procrastinate, we got into the story.

…So Mary had the baby in Bethlehem…eight days later, Joseph brought him to the place where people worship.  A man was there who had been waiting to see the promised savior.  When he saw Jesus, he took him in his arms and praised God, saying, “Now I have seen the promised savior with my own eyes.”

Why was this man waiting for the promised savior?

Well, God said that he would send him, and he always keeps his promises.  And this man was close to God.  He took Jesus in his arms and started praising God.  Praising him, Jesus.  Praising Jesus is the same as praising God.  Jesus and God, God and Jesus, they’re the same thing.  You can’t believe in God without believing in Jesus.  You can’t believe in Jesus without believing in God.

I think to myself, huh.  Might have to tweak the way we tell this one.  I’m not sure that’s what the story said.  I am positive that you are not supposed to believe what you just said.

But you do.

And when we finished with this story, you said “There’s more coming, right?”

But there are more stories coming…

Storying Going into our testing session this afternoon I was a little nervous.  Isaiah 53 is tricky to tell in story form, would the guys understand it?  This is the first story that really spells out what God did for everyone in Jesus, would the guys accept it?  Be offended? 

                After King David, the kings and the people kept disobeying God.  But, God still wanted a real friendship with them.  So, he sent his spokesman, Isaiah, with this message of hope.  .  .

We listened to the story several times.  They told it back to me,  got every last detail.  (I recorded them, I have proof!)  Then I started asking questions.  I was worried about the questions too.  Were they dumb?  Would I learn anything from the answers?

                 Why did God still want a real friendship with the people?

                He loves us.  He can’t abandon us.  Even if we don’t think about him much, he loves us.  He lets us be free, but he keeps showing us, I’m still here.

Great answers, but the guys were a little fidgety as we got to the end of the story.  They’d taken over an hour away from their shops already.  I was tempted to skip the last questions, but they could see my list, so I had to finish.  We listened to the last part again.

He will be killed, buried amongst the wealthy.  But God is going to give him life again.

How is God going to give him back his life?

Well, they buried him, so it’s not going to be on this earth that he gets his life back…I’ve never heard of someone being buried, and God…I just don’t believe it.  I’m not convinced yet.  For now, no one has ever told me that.  I’ve never seen that.  I’ve never heard that.  I can’t believe it.  But, if I hear about it, if I see it, I’ll believe it.   There are more stories coming.  They’ll tell us.



I can only answer the question,

'What am I to do?'

if I can answer the prior question

'Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?'

Alasdair McIntyre

Thanks to Sarah for sharing this quote with me

Details, details

Fmtree When crafting biblically accurate stories, the rule of thumb is to let the crafters pick which details to include.  If it's not my culture, I don't know what details will resonate, so the choice shouldn't be mine.  What clicks for me might be a yawn for them, and vice versa.

The classic example of this is from my idol (idol in a nice role modely way, not in a creepy stalkery way) Jo Shetler's book.  Here's how I remember the story going, my copy of the book is in mmmBELLYmay land, so I can't look it up.

Jo had been in the Philippines for a while, but one of her friends village was never really interested in hearing about this guy Jesus.  She kept on translating away, even the boring part at the beginning of the book by Matthew.  Have I blasphemed by saying that there's a part that's boring to me?  Come on, this is just not gripping reading to me.

But when her friend saw the boring part,  Jesus' family tree, it totally gripped him.  He could list his ancestors back for generations, that was huge in their culture.  Seeing Jesus' lineage was proof for him that Jesus was who he said he was. They copied the genealogy onto big pieces of paper and he went around showing it to people.  People were so fascinated by it that they wore the paper out, and had to recopy it over and over again.

Last week I helped with a storying group of American junior high students.  The episode that week was the first time people disobeyed God.  The storyteller and I talked about leaving this part out: "And God made clothing from animal skins for Adam and his wife."  It just kind of hangs there toward the end of the story, not connected to anything else.  I had a lovely theological reason to leave it in, but I told the storyteller that I knew the kids wouldn't make that connection. 

We left it in anyway.

In the discussion, one of the students said, "God does nice things for us even when we're bad.  He made clothes for them even though they didn't listen to him."

I've blogged about the power of this detail in mmmBELLYmay land here, my most read post.  I really didn't expect a similar response in the States, though.  Huh.  Goes to show how much I know.

More sugar bombs

I just had to quote more of this article.  You should really go read it. 

"The story God has written, this
amazing song, I believe is music that can find its home in all our

Like a song that makes some sense out of our pain and joy and
helps to answer the deepest questions about who we are.

Like the music
I love to sing while driving in my car on a sunny summer day.

Like the
songs I’ve read he sings to you and me…

“The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing…
‘At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home’…
says the LORD.' "
-Zephaniah 3:17,20"