NOTE: The giveaway has now ended.
Last year, my husband and I were doing our devotions/Bible studies together for a while when my sleep schedule matched his-I am a chronic nite owl–so that we were up at the same time. One of the things I made part of studying the gospel sections was to always ask this question for each section: “What startling, shocking, or outrageous thing did Jesus say or do?” This is because like many people who have been believers and Bible readers for a long time, maybe even since childhood, we start totally taking these stories for granted. They’re old hat. They’re familiar. We know what’s coming. We have preconceptions. The sermons have covered this territory. So, just ASKING the question forced us to look at Jesus freshly–and he really is startling, really is shocking, really is surprising, really goes ahead and freaks people out. And if we took him seriously, not metaphorically or sermon-distantly, we’d be startled some, too. What Matt Mikalatos (who is more familiar to many of us for writing fiction, not non-fiction) has done with THE FIRST TIME WE SAW HIM: Awakening to the Wonder of Jesus is gracefully, gently, movingly introduce us to the shocking, startling, astonishing Jesus and all those flawed people he encountered or told parables about. Matt is sensitive in his treatment, and I actually found myself moved to tears more than once. I actually took A LONG TIME to read this. This pace doesn’t have anything to do with it being flawed or badly written. No, this is well-written and heartfelt. It had to do with how i used it: I used it as a meditational tool, a devotional. So, I read a section of story, stop. I’d read a section of his personal commentary, stop. A section of story, stop. I reread some parts I liked more than others (the prodigal, the good Samaritan, the woman with the perfume offering, the walking on water). I liked seeing these familiar accounts in unfamiliar settings. And Matt’s commentary has wisdom and heart. You can tell this is a good man who loves Jesus and loves the people who need him. New eyes–it’s a good thing. The format of the book is simple: alternating. First: Matt will retell a part of the gospels in a 21st century setting in a way that makes it immediate and accessible, not ancient and foreign. These could be our neighbors and relatives. These could be US. The prodigal is a hedonistic Hollywood party-guy whose downfall makes him long for the ranch life and generous Papa he insulted and spurned. The Good Samaritan is a modern-day Muslim man helping someone that”good” Christians passed right by with excuses many people might rationlize. The rich young ruler becomes a billionaire businessman with a void within that success and privilege cannnot fill. I don’t want to give too many examples and spoil the unfolding for you. Second: Matt moves into his own voice, commenting from his life and his ministry experiences, offering his thoughts on the things spoken of and taught in the Scriptures that he has retold. Below are examples of each: the first shows an bit of the retelling of the execution of the Christ; the second is an excerpt from the commentary on the resurrection of the young girl. His skill for fiction helps the retellings shine and his insights into the teachings help the non-fiction enlighten. His skill as a writer is evident in each part. If you feel as if you are taking the gospel stories about the scandalous one–the Scandalon–the Son of God, the Savior, the Lord of Lords and King of Kings for granted, then maybe you need to remember what it was like, back then, the first time YOU saw him. This book might help. And if you’re interested in winning a copy (and reside in the US, cause, really, the budget doesn’t want to pay for shipping out of the country), then please leave a comment and make sure you leave your moniker and way for me to reach you (ie email, but please disguise it to spare you issues, such as janedoe atsy gmail dotsy com or somesuch). Or, if you prefer to just check back to see if you’ve won, come back next weekend (not THIS coming weekend, but October 25/26) to see if you’ve won. At that point, I will need your particulars: name, address. YOu may select the Kindle version or the print version, whichever you fancy most. You have until Friday, October 24th to leave a comment to enter the giveaway. I’ll number each comment and use a random generator to select the winner. If you wish to buy your copy now, and I think you should :), here are the links: Kindle: THE FIRST TIME WE SAW HIM by Matt Mikalatos Print: THE FIRST TIME WE SAW HIM by Matt Mikalatos