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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Anatomy of a Five-Minute Bible Story

Welcome Virtual eBook Fair Goers. Don't forget to go back to the fair after reading this and enjoy a wealth of great new excerpts from great new authors.

Then, please may I invite you to the blog tour for Bethlehem's Baby. You can follow this event on Facebook too: Five Minutes for Bethlehem's Baby

Bethlehem's Baby is now available on:

And you can find out more about the Five-Minute Bible StoryTM Series on the publisher’s website:

Since the tour's already started, I thought I'd make today's post a part of the Blog Tour, and answer the question: How do you write a children's Bible story?

Do you know the parable of the guests invited to a wedding? It was made into a song, whose lines we always deliberately muddled when we were in high school:

"I cannot come to the banquet, Don't bother me now,
I have married a wife, I have bought me a cow..." 

You can guess what we did with them. Anyway, I wanted to create a story for Nazareth Neighbors where the child Jesus goes to a wedding and experiences events which inspire his later parable.

  • First I imagined a story where Jesus is taken to a wedding with his mother and father. But why are the other guests not there? And how does Jesus, as a child, find out the reason?
  • Perhaps the wedding is a high-class event and Jesus and Joseph are the "extra" guests invited because they've done a good job of carpentry recently.
  • I started the story with a wedding in Tiberias, but I needed to know if high-class, Roman-inspired weddings would fit the plot.
  • I spent a while researching customs and etiquette for the time--Manners and Customs of the Bible Lanes by Fred Wight, and a similar Shepherd's Notes book were a good place to start. Then I looked in various Bible commentaries, Bible dictionaries, some historical books on ancient Rome and Greece, and on the internet. (Google is my friend.)
  • During this process I learned that it may well have been polite to reject an invitation when it's first offered. This gives a rather different view of the parable--the odd thing is not that people said "No;" it's that they kept saying "No."
  • But how would a child guest know people had kept saying no?
  • Which inspired me to wonder, what if they said no to the child? What if the wedding is a local Galilean event? Maybe Jesus was carrying the invitations and didn't understand why everyone said no.
  • And what if, when they finally said yes, he asked his mom what would have happened if they'd kept saying no?

I'd written several first drafts of the story by now, changing it as my ideas changed, until finally it felt right. A small boy (and Jesus was once a small boy) might well be confused as he starts to learn the customs of his time and place. So the story progressed, but...

  • Do I have to explain that it's meant to relate to a parable? Would that belabor the point?
  • I decided not to, because each story had a Bible reference anyway; if people want to know they can look it up.
  • But each story ends with a prayer as well. What should I ask the children to pray about?

I ended by thanking God for inviting us to his banquet, and praying that when we hear his voice, perhaps we won't say "No."

Nazareth Neighbors is still in the editing phase, so I guess the story may yet change again. But Bethlehem's Baby is published and touring the internet, so please join me on my tour, find out more about Bethlehem, Christmas, Five-Minute stories, the Challenges of writing Bible fiction, and more...

Just click on for more info, or

join the Facebook event

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