“FOR THE MAJORITY of my life, I blocked out the painful memories of my childhood. Having been so young when everything happened, there seemed to be added confusion to an already foggy reality. I was born into a small family, the smallest of my clan. Our clan was the smallest in the tribe of Judah. My father had always struggled to get by; he was not a man of education or religious status. He found his place in the fields with what few sheep our family had. My mother was a very quiet and modest woman, from what I was told. She died only hours after I was born. As a child, my closest friends were the sheep in our flock. Because we had no family around Bethlehem where we lived, I accompanied my father wherever he led our flock and found my home as an ever-changing scene. The roof over my head was a sea of stars, the bed beneath me an ever-new pasture. I found my place, unlike many other Jewish children, seeing firsthand the vastness of the God of our forefathers. Even as a child, I was awed by God’s favor over our land and its people. My young heart cherished miracles such as wells, bursting forth with water in the desert, which provided for our flocks. At night we would sit around the fire and my father would expound on the stories of Moses and our forefathers. He shared about the faith of Abraham and the wisdom of Joseph. As we traveled from pasture to pasture, land to land, he would tell stories of the great battles and miracles that took place on the land beneath our feet. I was captivated by the bravery of David and his courage as he survived in the same wilderness we traveled and were so familiar with. As a child, I felt connected to my heritage; I was treading the same paths as our patriarchs, crossing the same ground as our great kings. It was an experience that breathed life into my youthful heart and sparked a fire in my soul that I could not understand. All my father’s stories shared one simple truth: that I was my Maker’s masterpiece.” (Excerpt from of A Shepherd’s Tale, by Evan Bolton)
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Last Christmas our son, Evan, surprised us with the first copy of a “secretly” written and self-published book, A Shepherd’s Tale. As we read it from cover to cover we were awed and wonderfully blessed by the creative and insightful words that flowed from his “pen”. A Shepherd’s Tale is a spiritually rich piece of historical fiction that centers around, and captures the reality of, the Nativity story from an entirely fresh perspective. It is truly a captivating tale that brings the reality of the birth of Christ to life as well as offering a realistic depiction of the nomadic life of a shepherd in Israel during the time of Christ.
I’d like to commend this book to the followers of this blog as a wonderful addition to the celebration of the birth of Christ during this holiday season. It is a very readable and engaging story, about thirty pages long, that is an inspiring read for either your personal or family’s enjoyment. It would also make a nice gift to share with others at this time of year.
One of the best blessings for those who purchase a copy of this book is that not only will it be a special gift to them and their family, but it will also serve to bless some needy children in an underprivileged part of this world through the ministry of mission:soccer. As was shared in an earlier post, mission:soccer is a non-profit missions organization started by our son, Evan, this past year. He is dedicating the proceeds of A Shepherd’s Tale to go to the work of mission:soccer. So a small investment in a blessing for you and your family will also mean a great investment in the lives of some poor and needy children in this world. (To learn more about the vision and work of mission:soccer you can visit the website here.)
To finish with, I am including the “Author’s Note” found in the beginning of A Shepherd’s Tale to give some further insight into Evan’s heart and thoughts concerning this writing. At the end of this post will be the link to where it can be purchased if you would like to pursue it further. I trust that you will be blessed by these words…
I HAVE FOUND, at least in my own life, that many Bible stories I have heard from my childhood become predictable and far too familiar. I often pass over treasures hidden within the text because they are stories I have heard and read countless times. It is a sad reality, but far too often I miss a deeper message being spoken and I pass over a beautiful picture being painted upon the pages of scripture. The Bible says that “all scripture is God breathed”. The Bible is more than words and stories expressed through the pens of men, they are breathed from the depths of God’s heart. The same God who said “let there be light”, creating beauty and order out of a world that was once formless and void. Every letter, dash, word, phrase and story contains an intricate and beautiful look into the heart of God, ever-revealing his plan and purpose for us, his beloved creation.
In addition to being familiar with stories, we tend to overlook the cultural and historical context that they were written in. The Bible was written to a specific people, living in a different time, emerged in a foreign culture to ours, living in a historical setting much different to the one today. Many subtle hints and clues contained within the writings of the Bible go unnoticed and unappreciated by its readers because we do not live with the same historical and cultural understanding. However, when we look at the scriptures through the lens in which they were written, we begin to see the vastness of the story being told. It is a story and a reality that stretches beyond the black ink canvassing the white page, and opens ones heart to the depths of God’s love. We begin to see the intention and purpose of God, seeing His fingerprints upon ever area of our lives. The heartbeat of this living and breathing God is felt as we lay our ear upon the beating chest of the scriptures, closing our eyes and getting lost in the rhythm of the words and the comfort of the accounts. They speak to the depths of our being and become a beckoning call, calling out from death, the intention and purpose for which we were made. The scriptures pierce our hearts and breathe life into our lungs. They contain power, hope and the promise of a Savior who will restore and redeem all things. That is beautiful.
The nativity story, for so long, had just been another story. It was one I was for too familiar with. Not that I didn’t appreciate the message or the significance of the birth of Jesus, but it was simply a story I had always known. I knew the story of the angel appearing to Mary and Joseph and their journey to Bethlehem to fulfill the Roman census. I recalled the story of finding no room in any of the inns, and having to spend the first Christmas in a stable. I was familiar with the visits from shepherds and wise men. It was a story we had read and heard every year. We sang songs and did little skits about it. It was a story that was familiar, and that’s not a bad thing. It was a story I loved, and one I appreciated.
It wasn’t until a few years ago when I was looking more into Jewish culture and the historical setting of Jesus’ time that I truly saw the Nativity story in a new light. I saw the role of the Shepherds in a way I had never before, and saw the significance of their presence in the story. It wasn’t by accident that they were chosen to be witnesses to the birth of the Savior. There truly wasn’t a more fit group of people to do so. Their lives, and the stories they had lived preceding that night outside Bethlehem, had prepared their hearts. They were able to receive this “New Born King” in a way that no other Jew could have. It was from their mouths that the great news was spread throughout the countryside as they traveled with their sheep from town to town and pasture to pasture. It was a proclamation that resided within the core of their identity. It was a truth they could never forget. A WORD came and dwelt in the midst of their hearts, a WORD that captivated their souls and directed their steps from that day forward.
The shepherd’s story has captured my heart, and made the Christmas story all the more real and personal to me. I hope that my creative expression of this story speaks to you in the same way as it has to me. And I pray that a deeper and richer appreciation for our Savior, Jesus, will overcome your heart.
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If you are interested in the web page where A Shepherd’s Tale may be purchased, you may follow this link.
Many blessings to you and your family this Christmas season as we contemplate and celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, the Great Shepherd of the sheep.
Grace and peace in Him,