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John Ortberg (@johnortberg) on the Six-Word Memoirs of Bible Characters

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Word games are fun so let’s play one today. At the beginning of John Ortberg’s new book, All the Places to Go . . . How Will You Know?: God Has Placed before You an Open Door. What Will You Do?, he proposes a game of writing the memoirs of Bible characters in six words.

Take a look at some of the clever six-word memoirs he comes up with as examples.


Book Excerpt

If you had to summarize your life in six words, what would they be?

Several years ago an online magazine asked that question. It was inspired by a possibly legendary challenge posed to Ernest Hemingway to write a six-word story that resulted in the classic “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

The magazine was flooded with so many responses that the site almost crashed, and the responses were eventually turned into a book. . . .

It is striking to think about what the characters of Scripture might write for their six-word memoirs. I think they would revolve around the intersection of the story of that person’s life with God’s story. They would all be inspired by a divine opportunity that God had set before them and the response—the yes or no—that shaped their lives.

  • Abraham: “Left Ur. Had baby. Still laughing.”
  • Jonah: “’No.’ Storm. Overboard. Whale. Regurgitated. ‘Yes.’”
  • Moses: “Burning bush. Stone tablets. Charlton Heston.”
  • Adam: “Eyes opened, but can’t find home.”
  • Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: “King was hot. Furnace was not.”
  • Noah: “Hated the rain, loved the rainbow.”
  • Esau: “At least the stew was good.”
  • Esther: “Eye candy. Mordecai handy. Israel dandy.”
  • Mary: “Manger. Pain. Joy. Cross. Pain. Joy.”
  • Prodigal Son: “Bad. Sad. Dad glad. Brother mad.”
  • Rich Young Ruler: “Jesus called. Left sad. Still rich.”
  • Zacchaeus: “Climbed sycamore tree. Short, poorer, happier.”
  • Woman caught in adultery: “Picked up man, put down stones.”
  • Good Samaritan: “I came, I saw, I stopped.”
  • Paul: “Damascus. Blind. Suffer. Write. Change world.”

“Not quite what I was planning” is the six-word memoir any of them could have written. In none of these cases would these characters have been able to predict where their lives would take them. They were interrupted. They were offered an opportunity or threatened by danger or both. This is how life works.

–John Ortberg, All the Places to Go . . . How Will You Know?, page 1.


Now, if you want to, you can write a six-word memoir of your life. Where has your life intersected with God’s story? But just for the fun of it, let’s brainstorm some six-word memoirs for Bible characters.

Come up with a six-word memoir for a Bible character to share in the comments section.


You can connect with John Ortberg on Twitter (@johnortberg) or on his website:

Be sure to check out John Ortberg’s book, All the Places to Go . . . How Will You Know?: God Has Placed before You an Open Door. What Will You Do?. (I love the Dr. Seuss-style cover.) It is available from Amazon in hardcover or Kindle editions. It is also available from in hardcover.



Order from the link below and you'll help me earn a few cents. I like the jingle of coins in my cup.

379008: All the Places to Go . . . How Will You Know? All the Places to Go . . . How Will You Know?By John Ortberg / Tyndale House

You’ve prayed so hard for God’s guidance—and now you stand before an open door. Will you stay where you are or walk through? Awakening you to divinely inspired opportunities, Ortberg encourages you to trust God as you step out in faith, walk through that door, and accomplish something that has eternal significance! 304 pages, hardcover from Tyndale.

This post is part of the Virtual Book Fair: Christian Authors A to Z. See the list of other authors featured in the Virtual Book Fair.



1 Comment

  1. Dave Roller

    April 17, 2015

    Post a Reply

    you should submit this to Six Word Saturday

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