“One of the best aids I have come across as a tool for meditating on the life of Jesus. As a pastor, I frequently recommend it to others.”
“This book is by far one of my favorites! It puts you right in the middle of the story and you can imagine meeting Him! I love this one so much that I bought two extras to give as gifts! I keep my copy close by and use it regularly!”
-“Beloved” (Amazon reviewer)
“I love this book and have made it my morning devotional. The author makes you feel as if you are meeting Jesus in Biblical times.“
As I wrote IMAGINE, I kept thinking it was like a fine wine–gaining it’s value due to the time invested. I began playing with the idea of short sketches of people who encountered Christ. I enjoyed imagining what it would have been like to be in that person’s sandals, pondering how Jesus would have seemed to me. I would write just one vignette at a sitting, often sketching out the concept on a piece of scratch paper, later coming back to it on my computer and making my first run at putting the story into prose. Then I would let it sit awhile, coming back in a week or two to tweak and polish. Pretty soon, I had several of these in a folder and began to wonder if this could be a book some day.
Then God said, “Hey Bob, I want you and your family to go to Kenya!” Let me tell you, all thoughts of writing evaporated out the window of the airplane! Resigning, huge garage sale (I wrongly sold Lyn’s reliable sewing machine), raising financial support, loading up a 20 foot container, flying to Kenya–it was all a whirlwind of life-altering activity. Then we hit African soil and we were truly in another world. We focused on getting Lauren and Heather settled in school, while Lyn and I tackled learning Swahili for nine months.
Ironically, learning a foreign language motivated me to get back to writing. When you put yourself in another culture and really adapt to the behaviors and customs there, it is a humbling experience. Think incarnation–humbling ones-self and becoming obedient (even to death on the cross). We made so many mistakes in the language, and found ourselves struggling to find a word that would express our thoughts or needs. We felt like children again, and it was frustrating. So on Saturdays, and some early mornings, I would steal away by myself and indulge myself in my old familiar friend–the English language! Oh, what delight to switch from the awkward Tafadhali, ninahitaji msaada (Please, I need help) to:
Watch the Master in action. At a synagogue, at a funeral. At breakfast on a beach, at a dinner party with a tax collector’s questionable cronies. At night with a Pharisee, at high noon with a Samaritan woman. Jesus wanted people to know him. He threw open windows galore so that they (and we) could get an unobstructed view of his true nature (page 12).
Writing became my retreat from the humiliation of language-learning (by the way, we both got a pretty good handle on Swahili eventually, and the effort was well worth it). I can still picture in my mind writing desks and hotel rooms where I snatched an hour to sketch out another scene and imagined an encounter between Jesus and one of the privileged few who met Him
THIS BOOK NEEDS A BACKBONE
Let me say a word about the structure of IMAGINE MEETING HIM. I knew that I couldn’t just throw together twenty-one creative stories in somewhat chronological order. So I began to meditate on the bigger story told by the individual episodes. I soon knew that the flow of the book needed to follow the arc of our deepening relationship with the Master. So the book begins the way most relationships do–with the first glance (“Imagine Him Noticing You”). The friendship begins tenuously, where we wonder who this guy is and what He thinks of us. Over time the friendship deepens to where we realize He has high expectations of our relationship, such that we need to make a decision to be one of his followers or not (“Imagine Him Calling You”). Well you know the rest of the story. The friendship is tested most severely–will we stay with him, or deny? And finally, the worth of our faithfulness shows in the lasting relationship that can never be broken (“Imagine Staying with Him Forever”). Over time, I began to think of this full development as a day and a night giving way to sunrise. I think Jesus meets us in all times and seasons, day or night.
If you are a writer waiting to publish your first book, I hope you get to experience seeing the publisher’s “galley proofs” of your manuscript. It is quite a trip. I remember sitting in Heathrow airport during one of my looooong layovers there. I found a quiet end of a concourse and went over the proofs of my second book, looking for corrections, and just rejoicing at the awesome privilege of putting ideas in print for God’s glory. I thank God for the ministry of IMAGINE MEETING HIM. It was chosen by Crossings Book Club for reprint and offered through their outlets. Many have expressed to me how the vignettes brought familiar, almost tired Bible stories back to life again. I still see copies in bookshelves of friends (hopefully not dusted off just for my visit).
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE?
I have been asked a few times which story is my favorite. Is it trite to say “they’re all like my children”? Yikes. Well, two stories come to mind because of the awe I felt as they flowed onto the page. One is the encounter (A Long Hope, page 27) between the old man Simeon and the forty-day old Jesus (who I assume did not actually say anything at the time:). As I wrote, I was overpowered with what it must have felt like, after a whole life of aching for the Messiah, to realize with surprise that two poor parents are here and now carrying Him into the Temple. I tell you, chills run through my body at the impact. Simeon’s words, though few, when he held the child in his arms still affect me:
O Lord, how could I, so unworthy, have a part in such a life as this?
God has loved him; kings have produced him.
An angel named him; a virgin bore him.
Satan fears him; the world will worship him.
And I . . . I have held him.
Lord, give me that sense of holy awe at who you are.
The second story that gripped me in a way I never expected was that of Simon of Cyrene being asked to carry Jesus’ cross (Once a Cross Fell Down, page 196). He resented the duty, despised being mistaken for the criminal. But later, on the Day of Pentecost, Simon hears the gospel in his own language and the effect on him is profound:
Like warm oil on brittle skin, their familiarity softened my defensiveness. They spoke of one who had died in the city not long before. One who died out of love, willingly. It hit me with the force of a gale wind. Conviction and agony and remorse roared through my soul: It was he; the man who died was my criminal. I had helped crucify the Son of God. I had been all wrong; it was my cross I had carried!
The crushing identification of Simon with the crucified Christ explodes with theological depth: “the man who died was my criminal”! Simon owns the cross. The fact that Jesus died for me, taking the place on the cross that my sins have earned, draws out the very core of God’s good news. Brought to life in the brief encounter with a North African transient, I wept on the page as the words wrote themselves and blessed my longing soul. Jesus, I can never thank you enough for bearing the penalty of my sin and granting me eternal life.
LOVE TO HEAR FROM READERS
Once in awhile I still hear from people who have been blessed by the truths in this book. Not long ago I received this email, and it was such an encouragement to me.
WOW. That’s the only way I know to begin to describe how much I have enjoyed reading your book, “Imagine Meeting Him”. I was actually cleaning some book shelves for a friend of my mother’s in whose house I am staying, when I came across the book. I started reading, thinking I would just read one story, but I couldn’t stop. I eventually asked if I could buy the book from this friend! He gave it to me and I am still reading – because I don’t want to rush thru.
The stories I have heard and read growing up in Sunday School and church, but you have managed to tell them in a way that makes them real – makes HIM real! I feel as tho I really have seen Him or met Him. Your Reflection questions are always spot on, too! I have found myself going back to re-read a story when I was especially struck by it. So many have moved me – though I might say that a favorite is “From Anger to Wonder” because of the turmoil of my life recently.
Thank you so very much for writing this book. I thank Jesus for giving you the insight to write it – surely I am not the only one who has seen Him more clearly because of this?!
So thankful I cleaned those shelves!
In His Love – Melody
God gave me a way with words. I am just a steward of that gift, so all the credit goes to Him.
Available on Amazon. Hope you enjoy it!
Please allow me to send you some learnings which God has been giving me….