A few weeks ago, author Chris Martin invited bloggers to review his book I Was There. As an incentive to review his work, he was offering to give each reviewer a free e-book. At the time, I thought, “Hey, this dude seems alright. I want to give his book a try.” So, I shot him an email wherein I went full Katniss (“I VOLUNTEER!!”) partly because I generally enjoy helping others, but mostly because FREE BOOK. That same day, lo, his e-book was in my inbox.
To be perfectly honest, the book surprised me. It was fresh and exciting, and it gave me a deeper understanding of the Bible. Martin writes Biblical stories from the first person perspective. So, you don’t watch as Abraham leads his son up the hill. You are in Abraham’s head. You are taking that walk with him. You are privy to his thoughts and fears and prayers. It is such a simple change, but it is so powerful!
In fact, I brought my phone into my Sunday school classroom the Sunday after I received I Was There and read the story about Abraham and Isaac to my students. They loved it. I asked them what they thought and one boy said, “I wish the Bible was more like this. I feel closer to them [Abraham and Isaac].”
So, I had an idea. As a writer, I might be a bit partial, but I believe that to understand something, it helps to write about it. I looked at my class of budding teenagers and said, “How would you feel if we did the same thing that Chris Martin has done? We can pick a story and write it from the perspective of the person who lived it.”
I asked for a thumbs-up, thumbs-down vote. I told them that it didn’t matter to me, that it was just an idea. We could run with it or drop it. I received a unanimous thumbs up!
And, so, for the past few weeks, I have ended my lesson twenty minutes early so that my kids can have writing time. It is great for me, because I don’t have to keep them occupied for the full hour. But, more importantly, this activity is giving them a better understanding of the Biblical stories they have chosen. Definite win-win.
Martin also does something in his stories that I really appreciate. He doesn’t begin with, “My name is Abraham and God told me to . . . ” Instead, he begins in such a way that it takes time to discover who the story is about. I love this, because it turns each story into somewhat of a puzzle. What’s more, it also helps you relate to the characters. In my advanced fiction class, we talked about short story authors who never give their characters names. My instructor pointed out that if you don’t name a character, the reader can easily become that character, especially if it is written in first person. It is a tactic that pulls the reader in deeper and helps him/her relate on a new level. Martin achieves this by not divulging who the story is about until it is necessary. Even then, he doesn’t tell you. He shows you.
I highly suggest that you purchase I Was There. It’s only $2.99 for the e-book and the paperback is $7.99. Those are fair prices. With each story, Martin includes the scriptural references as well. I like to read Martin’s story, then read from the Bible with a newer understanding of the person’s perspective. It works for me!