Intro to Biblical Storytelling (Part 2)

Martha Garmon:

BiblicalStorytellingIn our last installment, we learned:

Biblical storytelling is a spiritual discipline that entails first committing to the deep memory a narrative text of the Old or New Testament and then engaging with it in a lively telling as a sacred event that binds teller and listeners in community (Definition by Network of Biblical Storytellers International).

We talked about reasons for biblical storytelling today:

  1. Storytelling is how the Israelites transmitted their history
  2. Only kings or priests would have had access to the written word
  3. Even the scrolls would have been difficult to read
  4. Paul’s letters were transcribed and then “performed” orally
  5. God commands us to learn the Scriptures and share with our children

Did you read your story every day? Three times? Great, you’ve already begun to learn your story.

Did you print out your story without verse numbers and double-spaced? Great!

Now, in Part 2, let’s talk about the next step in learning your story. When you look at your story printed on the page, are you confident you can learn it? Why not? It still looks like a big chunk of text, right? Let me show you some easy and creative ways to tackle the problem and tell a great story!

Mark 4:35-41 (NRSV)

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the board, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

elephant_smI used to teach piano lessons. When my students first received a piece of music to learn, some of them would moan about how hard it was going to be to learn this new piece. I would ask them, “How do you eat an elephant?” After they stopped giggling I would tell them that the answer: “One bite at a time.” If we look at the story as a whole, it can seem insurmountable. So, the first thing we have to do is to take it in bite-sized pieces.

We need to break it up:

  1. So it doesn’t look like a huge gray block
  2. So we can see the structure of the text
  3. So we can see how the parts relate to one another

Each of you may divide your text differently. That’s OK. The point is to make it manageable. Each block should be only one to three sentences. Generally, you will break it into “episodes” or places where the action changes.

In the Mark passage:

Scene 1 –  Jesus wants to go to the other side, so they get in the boat

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the board, just as he was. Other boats were with him.

Scene 2 – A storm comes up and the disciples panic

A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

Scene 3 – Jesus calms the storm

He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.

Scene 4 – Jesus rebukes the disciples and they are in awe

He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

This doesn’t look as insurmountable. These smaller bites are more accessible. Now, take your story and break it into episodes or scenes.

Now you have a series of episodes, how do you remember the order of the episodes? A good way to remember your scenes, or episodes, is to make a storyboard or a “filmstrip.” No drawing skills required. Use clip art or pictures from the Internet or clip pictures out of magazines. You can even draw stick men. For fun, take a minute and check out the website Draw a Stick Man. Do you remember what that story was about?

The point is to have a picture in your mind of what each episode looks like. Make one “picture” per episode. No one else is going to see this storyboard unless you share it. So don’t worry if you haven’t been gifted with drawing skills, this is for your reference only. I used Microsoft Word to make a storyboard for the story in Mark:

 

GarmonDrawing

Now it’s your turn! Take a few minutes and sketch out a storyboard for your story.

Once you have your filmstrip/storyboard, the next step in learning your story is to start saying it one line at a time, over and over. Do this by episode.

On that day, when evening had come,
on that day, when evening had come
he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”
he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”

One episode at a time . . .

And leaving the crowd behind,
And leaving the crowd behind
they took him with them in the boat, just as he was.
they took him with them in the boat, just as he was
And leaving the crowd behind they took him with them in the boat, just as he was
Other boats were with him.
Other boats were with him.
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”
And leaving the crowd behind they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him.

Before we finish, I’m want to give you a couple of other ideas to help learn Scripture by heart. Most of these are more useful for just one or two verses, but some are flexible enough to help you learn your whole story.

smartphoneThere are apps for your smartphone or tablet you can use (ranging in cost from free to $2.99) I find that these apps tend to use techniques similar to what we learned as children and are not as effective for storytelling, but they are another resource:

  • Memorize Anything – record the passage and listen to your recording – different levels cause the recording to fade out so you can say it aloud without help
  • Remember Me – various memory quizzes and stores your memorized verses and posts your learned verses for review
  • Logos 6 – built-in Scripture memorization tool

Other ways to use your smartphone:

  • Take screen shots of the Bible app on your phone and set it as your lock screen. Every time you open up your phone you will see your verse and be reminded to say it
  • Set it as your wake-up message on your phone so it’s the first thing you see (or hear) when you wake up
  • Set reminders throughout the day to remind you to say your story
  • Post it to Facebook or Tweet a verse. Typing it out will help you to remember it

Use music to help you learn Scripture. Most of these are more useful for shorter passages rather than storytelling, but again another resource:

The Verses Project
The Rizers
Seeds Family Worship – kid-friendly
G.T. and The Halo Express – kids
Make up your own songs

The apps and songs are good resources for shorter passages and helping others, especially children, to learn Scripture. However, back to storytelling techniques – this week remember to:

  1. Read/Tell your story out loud at least three times each day
  2. Listen, visualize, and connect with the story as you read
  3. Meditate on the story
  4. Divide your story into episodes
  5. Make a filmstrip/storyboard for your story
  6. Start repeating the story over and over by episode. Work on one episode at a time.

Stay tuned! In Part 3, we will discuss ways to dig even deeper into the story.

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