Award-winning author and pastor B.F. Randall makes it a regular practice to take his horses out and camp or head out on his motorcycle in order to spend focused time with God. During one of these retreats, he focused on the book of James. The first verse inspired “Between the Lightning and the Thunder,” a fictional exploration of James’ and Jesus’ brotherly relationship.
James 1:1 begins with an introduction: “James, a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
“It occurred to me that that is probably the most powerful statement of faith in all of the Bible,” Randall said. “It doesn’t take a lot of faith when you see a God divide the waters or raise the dead.
“But imagine if that was your brother or sister,” he continued. “[James] knew God like nobody else. He fought for the covers with God. He shared his family with Jesus Christ and he knew Him like no man ever knew Him — as a brother.”
Weaving a story
This revelation led to writing the fictional account of James’ and Jesus’ relationship in “Between the Lightning and the Thunder,” a book that attempts to answer the question, “What would it take for you to see your brother as God?”
Because Randall has served as a pastor and chaplain for years, he has an extensive resource library. He used his dog-eared collection to its fullest and supplemented it with well-documented research on the internet to make “Between the Lightning and the Thunder” as historically and Biblically accurate as possible.
Part of this research was to read James as the letter it was written to be – without chapters, verses and subject headings. He insisted that “it makes a world of difference in how you see, not only what is being said, but who’s saying it.”
Randall doesn’t consider the book of James a book but regards it as the letter it was written to be.
He suggested, “When I get a letter from someone, that’s personal. That’s to me. I relate to [books and letters] differently.”
When Randall read James through this lens, he was “able to take his boots off and put on a pair of sandals — and try to walk in his footsteps.”
Writing a fictional work about biblical characters isn’t easy. Because Randall wrote from James’ point of view, he had to put himself in James’ mindset. He had to imagine the emotions, thoughts and actions that James could have experienced.
“For James to say that he is the servant of God is expected because he was raised in a Jewish home,” he said. “[But to add] ‘my Lord, Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God,’ he’s actually saying that his brother is God. Wow! What could have brought him to that place?”
This same man who grew up deeming Jesus as simply a brother who was nothing special eventually became the head of the Jerusalem church, the leader of the Christian movement in the city where his brother was crucified.
“I still can’t get my head around that,” Randall said.
“Between the Lightning and the Thunder” details what could have happened during the days between Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection – and what brought James to believe Jesus to be the Messiah. The account weaves flashbacks of Jesus’ and James’ childhood in with James’ life during those three terrifying days when no one understood why Jesus was crucified and what was going to happen next.
Randall’s goal for writing “Between the Lightning and the Thunder” is to have the reader read the book of James with a new perspective. Since the book’s release, he has gotten a lot of feedback from readers who said that it made them think about the Scriptures differently.
However, Randall reports one account that stands out.
“It was an individual who said, ‘I have read the Bible since I was a child. I’ve been in churches all my life. But this is the first time that I realized that these aren’t characters like in a play. These are real people, and it changed the way I read the Bible and the way I think about who’s writing.’”
This is why Randall wrote “Between the Lightning and the Thunder” — to provide something entertaining but also thought-provoking and inspiring.
“That’s big to me — that my fiction book will bring somebody to a place where they read the truth of the Bible in a way that’s more personal and more enlightening to them.”
To learn more about Randall and sign up to get the first chapter of “Between the Lightning and the Thunder” for free, go to www.bfrandall.com.