Thinking Out Loud

December 24, 2017

Noisy Night. Chaotic Night. All is Alarm. All is Fright.

Rob Lacey was an actor and street performer in England who performed in inner-city London and Manchester, and wrote a book called The Street Bible which was a kind of “highlights reel” of all 66 Biblical books and later became published in America as The Word on The Street. Before passing away all too soon he also wrote a more complete free-style paraphrase of a harmonization of the synoptic gospels that was published in both countries as The Liberator.

Because my wife had taken the time to type out the text for a Christmas Eve service we did, I wanted to include them here for all to read. She made some minor edits to it, and the poem is of other origin, which I can’t trace right now. Remember, this was written for inner-city youth in urban centers in the UK and makes no pretense to be an actual translation.


So how’d it happen? Baby Jesus. The Liberator? You ready for this?

I’ll tell you: his mum, Mary, is engaged to Joe. They’d not had sex yet, but – weird! She’s pregnant! Courtesy of the Holy Spirit.

Focus on Joe. A good guy, trying to do the right thing and he’s desperate to keep this news quiet. The locals would come down so hard on her. He’s working out how best to deliver the “sorry, but it’s off” speech – without the gossip grapevine crashing from overload.

He’s smashing the billiard balls of his best options around his brain, well into the early hours. Finally he drops off and God downloads a dream: An angel saying:

“Joe Davidson, don’t you chicken out of making Mary your wife. I’ll tell you why. ‘Cause it’s the Holy Spirit’s baby. She’ll have a boy, and you’ll put the name Jesus down on the birth certificate. Why “Jesus”? ‘Cause it means Liberator and that’s what he’s going to do for all his people…. liberate them from all the mess they’ve gotten themselves into.”

Joe wakes up and, yes, realizes it was all a dream. But he follows his Angel Orders to the letter and the wedding’s back on as soon as the baby’s born. Joe makes sure the birth certificate reads, “First name: Jesus.”

Meanwhile, in the depths of the Roman Empire, he-who-must-be-obeyed, Augustus Caesar, announces the Big Count. Caesar, the Big Cheeser, wants accurate population stats across the empire. Everyone is expected to trek back to their hometown for the registration.

So Joe Davidson sets off on the 130 km trip down the map, crosses the border and arrives in Bethlehem, Davidstown, in the south. He takes his fiancee Mary, who’s pregnant and showing. Three, four, maybe five days later they arrive and realize someone else is about to cross a border and arrive in Bethlehem.

Crisis! Her waters break! “No vacancy” signs in every B&B window. Decision. Mary has a ‘home birth’ in a livestock shed. She wraps strips of cloth round the baby and uses an animal feeding trough as a cot.

Noisy night, chaotic night
All is alarm, all is fright
Rounded virgin, now mother to child
Wholly infant, so other, so wild
Awake at an unearthly hour
Awake at an unearthly hour

Pull back to the fields outside the overpacked town, focus in on a local Sheep Security Team sitting through their night shift.

One of God’s angels turns up, with brilliant supernatural special FX packing the fields with God’s radiance. The guys are scared stupid.

The angel delivers his standard, “Don’t panic” line then hits them with, “I’ve got great news, great news to bring a smile to every shape of face on the planet. Mark the date in your diaries. Today over in Davidstown there’s a new baby born. Not just any baby – The Baby! The Boss, Liberator God himself, turning up for you in baby shape. You’ll know which baby – he’ll be wrapped up snug and lying in a feeding trough that’s caked with old animal grub.”

Cued to make their entrance on the last line of the breaking news, the whole angel choir turn up and blast out the song:

“Celebrate! Elevate! And on planet Earth, serenity. In your earthly home, shalom for all who have known God’s smile.”

Once the angel choir scoots back up the Heavenly HQ, the Sheep Security Team come out with, “Let’s check it out”. “Yeah, let’s hit the town.” “Search the whole of Bethlehem for this baby.” “God’s put us in the picture – let’s go!”

They leg it and, sure enough, they track down Mary and Joe, then find the baby in his makeshift cot. The next days they fill the pubs with echoes of what they’d been told about this baby. The public pulse is breakneck pace as “Liberator Talk” bounces round the walls of the town. The reactions range from amazed to – well, amazed.

The Sheep Security Team go back to work, talking up God for letting them in on the whole adventure.

And Mary’s reaction? She’s quietly storing away all of this in a safe place in her heart, bringing memories out when ever she has some space to wonder.

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December 25, 2013

Christmas Story, Rough Edges and All

Rob Lacey was an actor and street performer in England who performed in inner-city London and Manchester, and wrote a book called The Street Bible which was a kind of “highlights reel” of all 66 Biblical books and later became published in America as The Word on The Street. Before passing away all too soon he also wrote a more complete free-style paraphrase of a harmonization of the synoptic gospels that was published in both countries as The Liberator.

Because my wife had taken the time to type out the text for a Christmas Eve service we did, I wanted to include them here for all to read. She made some minor edits to it, and the poem is of other origin, which I can’t trace right now. Remember, this was written for inner-city youth in urban centers in the UK and makes no pretense to be an actual translation.


So how’d it happen? Baby Jesus. The Liberator? You ready for this?

I’ll tell you: his mum, Mary, is engaged to Joe. They’d not had sex yet, but – weird! She’s pregnant! Courtesy of the Holy Spirit.

Focus on Joe. A good guy, trying to do the right thing and he’s desperate to keep this news quiet. The locals would come down so hard on her. He’s working out how best to deliver the “sorry, but it’s off” speech – without the gossip grapevine crashing from overload.

He’s smashing the billiard balls of his best options around his brain, well into the early hours. Finally he drops off and God downloads a dream: An angel saying:

“Joe Davidson, don’t you chicken out of making Mary your wife. I’ll tell you why. ‘Cause it’s the Holy Spirit’s baby. She’ll have a boy, and you’ll put the name Jesus down on the birth certificate. Why “Jesus”? ‘Cause it means Liberator and that’s what he’s going to do for all his people…. liberate them from all the mess they’ve gotten themselves into.”

Joe wakes up and, yes, realizes it was all a dream. But he follows his Angel Orders to the letter and the wedding’s back on as soon as the baby’s born. Joe makes sure the birth certificate reads, “First name: Jesus.”

Meanwhile, in the depths of the Roman Empire, he-who-must-be-obeyed, Augustus Caesar, announces the Big Count. Caesar, the Big Cheeser, wants accurate population stats across the empire. Everyone is expected to trek back to their hometown for the registration.

So Joe Davidson sets off on the 130 km trip down the map, crosses the border and arrives in Bethlehem, Davidstown, in the south. He takes his fiancee Mary, who’s pregnant and showing. Three, four, maybe five days later they arrive and realize someone else is about to cross a border and arrive in Bethlehem.

Crisis! Her waters break! “No vacancy” signs in every B&B window. Decision. Mary has a ‘home birth’ in a livestock shed. She wraps strips of cloth round the baby and uses an animal feeding trough as a cot.

Noisy night, chaotic night
All is alarm, all is fright
Rounded virgin, now mother to child
Wholly infant, so other, so wild
Awake at an unearthly hour
Awake at an unearthly hour

Pull back to the fields outside the overpacked town, focus in on a local Sheep Security Team sitting through their night shift.

One of God’s angels turns up, with brilliant supernatural special FX packing the fields with God’s radiance. The guys are scared stupid.

The angel delivers his standard, “Don’t panic” line then hits them with, “I’ve got great news, great news to bring a smile to every shape of face on the planet. Mark the date in your diaries. Today over in Davidstown there’s a new baby born. Not just any baby – The Baby! The Boss, Liberator God himself, turning up for you in baby shape. You’ll know which baby – he’ll be wrapped up snug and lying in a feeding trough that’s caked with old animal grub.”

Cued to make their entrance on the last line of the breaking news, the whole angel choir turn up and blast out the song:

“Celebrate! Elevate! And on planet Earth, serenity. In your earthly home, shalom for all who have known God’s smile.”

Once the angel choir scoots back up the Heavenly HQ, the Sheep Security Team come out with, “Let’s check it out”. “Yeah, let’s hit the town.” “Search the whole of Bethlehem for this baby.” “God’s put us in the picture – let’s go!”

They leg it and, sure enough, they track down Mary and Joe, then find the baby in his makeshift cot. The next days they fill the pubs with echoes of what they’d been told about this baby. The public pulse is breakneck pace as “Liberator Talk” bounces round the walls of the town. The reactions range from amazed to – well, amazed.

The Sheep Security Team go back to work, talking up God for letting them in on the whole adventure.

And Mary’s reaction? She’s quietly storing away all of this in a safe place in her heart, bringing memories out when ever she has some space to wonder.

December 25, 2010

Christmas Narrative, Street Bible Style

Rob Lacey was an actor and street performer in England who performed in inner-city London and Manchester, and wrote a book called The Street Bible which was a kind of “highlights reel” of all 66 Biblical books and later became published in America as The Word on The Street.   Before passing away all too soon he also wrote a more complete free-style paraphrase of a harmonization of the synoptic gospels that was published in both countries as The Liberator.

Because my wife had taken the time to type out the text for a Christmas Eve service we did, I wanted to include them here for all to read.   She made some minor edits to it, and the poem is of other origin, which I can’t trace right now.   Remember, this was written for inner-city youth in urban centers in the UK and makes no pretense to be an actual translation.


So how’d it happen?  Baby Jesus.  The Liberator?  You ready for this?

I’ll tell you:  his mum, Mary, is engaged to Joe.  They’d not had sex yet, but – weird!  She’s pregnant!  Courtesy of the Holy Spirit.

Focus on Joe.  A good guy, trying to do the right thing and he’s desperate to keep this news quiet.  The locals would come down so hard on her.  He’s working out how best to deliver the “sorry, but it’s off” speech – without the gossip grapevine crashing from overload.

He’s smashing the billiard balls of his best options around his brain, well into the early hours.  Finally he drops off and God downloads a dream:  An angel saying:

“Joe Davidson, don’t you chicken out of making Mary your wife.  I’ll tell you why.  ‘Cause it’s the Holy Spirit’s baby.  She’ll have a boy, and you’ll put the name Jesus down on the birth certificate.  Why “Jesus”?  ‘Cause it means Liberator and that’s what he’s going to do for all his people…. liberate them from all the mess they’ve gotten themselves into.”

Joe wakes up and, yes, realizes it was all a dream.  But he follows his Angel Orders to the letter and the wedding’s back on as soon as the baby’s born.  Joe makes sure the birth certificate reads, “First name:  Jesus.”

Meanwhile, in the depths of the Roman Empire, he-who-must-be-obeyed, Augustus Caesar, announces the Big Count.  Caesar, the Big Cheeser, wants accurate population stats across the empire.  Everyone is expected to trek back to their hometown for the registration.

So Joe Davidson sets off on the 130 km trip down the map, crosses the border and arrives in Bethlehem, Davidstown, in the south.  He takes his fiancee Mary, who’s pregnant and showing.  Three, four, maybe five days later they arrive and realize someone else is about to cross a border and arrive in Bethlehem.

Crisis!  Her waters break!  “No vacancy” signs in every B&B window.  Decision.  Mary has a ‘home birth’ in a livestock shed.  She wraps strips of cloth round the baby and uses an animal feeding trough as a cot.

Noisy night, chaotic night
All is alarm, all is fright
Rounded virgin, now mother to child
Wholly infant, so other, so wild
Awake at an unearthly hour
Awake at an unearthly hour

Pull back to the fields outside the overpacked town, focus in on a local Sheep Security Team sitting through their night shift.

One of God’s angels turns up, with brilliant supernatural special FX packing the fields with God’s radiance.  The guys are scared stupid.

The angel delivers his standard, “Don’t panic” line then hits them with, “I’ve got great news, great news to bring a smile to every shape of face on the planet.  Mark the date in your diaries.  Today over in Davidstown there’s a new baby born.  Not just any baby – The Baby!  The Boss, Liberator God himself, turning up for you in baby shape.  You’ll know which baby – he’ll be wrapped up snug and lying in a feeding trough that’s caked with old animal grub.”

Cued to make their entrance on the last line of the breaking news, the whole angel choir turn up and blast out the song:

“Celebrate!  Elevate!  And on planet Earth, serenity.  In your earthly home, shalom for all who have known God’s smile.”

Once the angel choir scoots back up the Heavenly HQ, the Sheep Security Team come out with, “Let’s check it out”.  “Yeah, let’s hit the town.”  “Search the whole of Bethlehem for this baby.”  “God’s put us in the picture – let’s go!”

They leg it and, sure enough, they track down Mary and Joe, then find the baby in his makeshift cot.  The next days they fill the pubs with echoes of what they’d been told about this baby.  The public pulse is breakneck pace as “Liberator Talk” bounces round the walls of the town.  The reactions range from amazed to – well, amazed.

The Sheep Security Team go back to work, talking up God for letting them in on the whole adventure.

And Mary’s reaction?  She’s quietly storing away all of this in a safe place in her heart, bringing memories out when ever she has some space to wonder.

November 19, 2009

The Word on the Street

I originally blogged this back in April of 2008, when this blog was hosted at e4God.com, but after speaking with someone today about Rob Lacey’s Street Bible and The Liberator, I thought I’d take one more run at this topic while you can still buy copies of both in remainder bins at Christian bookstores.

Ever since my parents gave me a copy of Get Smart, a youth edition of Living Proverbs (forerunner to The Living Bible) and the related Reach Out New Testament, I’ve been a huge fan of Bible paraphrases that arrest you in your tracks, bring the story to life, and say old things in new ways. (Note: Technically The Message is not a paraphrase, but a loose translation, since Peterson worked from original languages.  Not to mention that linguists don’t really buy in on the paraphrase terminology at all.)

My current favorites are the two works by Rob Lacey: The Liberator (synoptic gospels) and The Street Bible (highlights from all 66 books, published in the U.S. as The Word on the Street.)  Rob once said that if a regular Bible is “the movie,” his Street Bible is the “coming attractions trailer.”  Sadly, the world lost Rob to cancer several years ago.  He was only 43.

Books like these don’t pretend to be all things to all people. They usually are written for a specific culture living in a specific place at a specific time. I’m told that Rob had in mind inner city youth in major UK cities like London and Manchester. (Fortunately, living in Canada we get a lot of British Television, so many of the figures of speech were known to us. The U.S. edition — which someone at Zondervan actually consulted me about before publishing — has explanations printed sideways in the margins.)

More recently, a friend from New Zealand introduced us to Chris Grantham writer of The Kiwi Bible (gospel story) and the newer The Kiwi Bible: Some of the Early Stuff (brief sections from the Old Testament). While I’m not part of the NZ audience this is intended for, I’ve found things in these versions that I missed in the more traditional ones. I’ve also seen the Australian Bible Society’s The Aussie Bible. (If you’re one of our Canadian readers, you can get both Kiwi books at our book store. Elsewhere in the world check out www.kiwibible.co.nz )

Here’s a Kiwi rendering of Psalm 23. Enjoy.

My Best Mate
(by Dave)

God’s my best mate, I’ll do all right for sure.
He gives me a breather when I need it,
He knows just the best place for a cool, refreshing quiet one.
When I’m feeling really knackered, he picks me up.
He’s got me heading down the right track, he knows what’s best.
Even when life totally sucks, no worries — you’re right there with me. I reckon that’s real cool. You know just what it takes to keep me going.
You put on a fantastic feed for me, right in front of my enemies, complete with an awesome relax-making massage. I’m stoked!
I reckon all your love and good stuff will be my lot from now till when I cark it. I’ll sure be living in your outfit forever — and then some.

May 31, 2009

Jonah: Preferring Prophesying To The Converted

Filed under: bible, Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:33 pm

This week in our family Bible study we studied the story of Jonah.   Since this is very familiar territory, we were looking for new insights into the story.    We came up with a few, with a little help from the ESV Study Bible.

JonahintheWhale_Rue

Chapter One
There is a great deal of bigotry that plays into this story, but not in the way we often think.   We tend to assume that Jonah simply didn’t like the people of Nineveh and simply didn’t want to go on that basis.   But it’s more accurate to say that Jonah was afraid of the success of his mission.    Do we do that?

  • What if that terrible family down the street become Christians and start going to our church?
  • What if that guy where I work became a believer and started expecting me to mentor him in his faith journey?
  • What if so-and-so in our extended family got serious about reading the Bible and started asking me why, if I’m also a Christ-follower, have I done some of the things I’ve done?
  • What if those poor people I prayed with downtown and left my phone number expect us to help them out?
  • What if all the people who put up their hands at the movie our church showed start coming ever week… there would be more of them than us?
  • Everybody knows the terrible things that _____ did; now that he’s been a believer for two years, is he going to expect a leadership position?
  • That’s the woman who hit our car in the parking lot last Christmas.   What’s she doing at our small group meeting?

Chapter Two
The ESV Study describes the four chapters of Jonah as containing seven episodes, with the first three paralleling the second three.   Jonah speaks to two similar audiences in the story.  The crew on the boat heading for Tarshish were each praying to their own God, but then after Jonah explained to them what was causing the terrible storm, they prayed to Jonah’s God.   Success!   Just as he will experience in Nineveh. His ministry as a prophet was constantly bearing fruit.   But inside the great fish, Jonah’s prayer is mostly thankfulness for his own safety and deliverance.   There’s no mention of the sailors or the people who he was originally sent to.   A rather egocentric prophet, don’t you think?

Chapter Three
Jonah shows up several days (or weeks) late for his assignment and delivers his message, albeit halfheartedly.    Today we have preachers who read powerful scriptures and then deliver messages containing great truths — even if ‘borrowed’ from the internet — and yet don’t realize the power of the Word they are handling.    It’s just a job.    The people of Ninevah may matter to God but don’t matter to Jonah.  He’s apparently quite disappointed that God doesn’t destroy the city.

Chapter Four
Maybe God will destroy the city after all.   He’s already changed his mind once.   So instead of taking the first train, boat or great fish out of town, Jonah hangs around to see if anything develops.    The closing phrase of the story shows how out-to-lunch his priorities are, as God’s final appeal is basically, “If I destroy the city, think of all the animals that would perish.”  Since Jonah has a thing for houseplants, God figures he’ll appeal to Jonah’s sense of nature.   Not a good ending for Jonah really.    Final score:  Ship passengers and crew – 1; People of Nineveh – 1;  Jonah – 0.

We ended our week reading the story from The Street Bible by Rob Lacey, known in North America as The Word on The Street. He devotes almost half of his writing to Chapter Four.    Maybe someone should re-tell this story for kids, using the last chapter as the basis for the story, and then recreate the opening scenes backwards in light of the closing.    Call it “Jonah and the Plant;” or “Jonah and the Worm.”   Or instead of pitching this story for kids, it should really be part of Church Leadership Lessons 101.

Graphic: Stephen Rue, Jonah in the Whale, oil on canvas, 26.25″x25″, 2006; from the website Artist Trust.   Say what you will about Jonah, packing the waterproof matches was good foresight.

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