Sunday, June 28, 2015

Epic Prologue - Week 1

EPIC syllabus

Text: Epic: The Story God Is Telling

June 28—Joining together in an epic journey
Week of June 28--Prologue , p. 1-16
Week of July 5:--Act One: Eternal Love, p. 17-27
Week of July 12:--Act Two: The Entrance of Evil, p. 28-40
Week of July 19:--Act Three: The Battle for the Heart, p. 41-72
Week of July 27:--Act Four: The Kingdom Restored, p. 73-98
Week of August 2--Epilogue: The Road Before Us, p. 99-104
August 9—Sharing our stories, Making God’s Story our own

Welcome to LPC's first online class based on Epic: The Story God is Telling by John Eldredge!  Each Sunday morning Nina and Holly and will write a personal story or reflection, and then they will pose an assignment which will include reading a chapter and choosing all or some questions to ponder and discuss. The questions each week will be inspired/adapted/used from the Epic Study Guide. Links to videos or other media may be included.  Please post your own comment(s) and reply to at least three other participants.  The success of this class depends on the discussions.  Revisit the blog throughout the week in order to read other class members' comments and replies.  Let's begin!


Story has played an integral part of my life since I was a little girl.  My mom and dad sang, told, and read me stories.  I loved to read when I was little, imagining I was Laura Ingalls Wilder, Nancy Drew, and Fern.  I attended Sunday school and heard all the Bible stories.  I wrote a book about horses when I was in 6th grade and devoured the Black Stallion series.  I still remember visits to the library and book mobile with fondness. I was an English Literature major in college and now teach language arts to fifth and sixth graders.  I LOVE a good story, and devour many books a year, from picture books to novels, fantasy to historical fiction, every format and genre. 
At Miami University, I was a resident assistant, and one of our jobs was to sit bell desk in the lobby of the dorm.  I had time there, when I wasn't greeting or assisting people, to do homework, which for me was reading the many novels that were assigned for my major.  I remember the residents of my hall asking, "Do you REALLY read all those books?!"  Yes!!  I did!! I still do. I encourage my students to do the same.  I challenge them to read 50 books during the school year, and many exceed that challenge.  We also write stories and study mentor texts in order to try out various writing techniques, voice, and point of view.  We study characters, conflict, and theme.  When I read Epic: The Story God is Telling, I was captivated by the idea that I, too, am part of a story.  I am a main character.  I have a place in the narrative.  My life is not random or out of control; it is carefully crafted by a master Author.
Several years ago, I read Thomas C. Foster's How To Read Literature Like a Professor.  Like Eldredge, he claims that there is basically only one story, and it's told again and again. I teach a JOURNEY unit to my fifth graders that includes the basic tenets of classic journey stories from Foster's book (I've also added a couple).  I teach them that every journey story has a quester, a reason to go on a journey, a place to go, fellow journeymen, obstacles, a discovery of the REAL quest, and a transformation of the quester.   Like a journey story's protagonist, we are on a journey of our own.  The journey is not the objective, though, and we don't always start out looking for the right thing.  We are born with a spiritual yearning, and we all ask universal questions.  The task is to find our real purpose and the reason why we are here.  Eldredge points us to the real quest: "Jack will come to rescue Rose. William Wallace will rise up to rescue Scotland. Luke Skywalker will rescue the princess and then the free peoples of the universe. Nemo's father rescues him. Nathaniel rescues beautiful Cora - not just once, but twice. Neo breaks the power of the Matrix and sets a captive world free. Aslan comes to rescue Narnia. I could name a thousand more. Why does every great story have a rescue? Because yours does." 
Eldredge agrees that there is only one story, but unlike Foster, he points to Christ's story as the original one. 
We base all our stories on the story of Christ because it echoes in our soul.  We feel the need to tell it again and again.  We are part of the larger story, and it can not exist without us.  Likewise, we need the larger story in order to live fully.  How's that for a sense of purpose?  We have a role to play in the plot pyramid, and I particularly like the one I included above because the denouement has an arrow.  It never ends...
I look forward to this journey we are going to take together these next several weeks.  I'm glad you are my fellow journeymen/women.  Get ready for some obstacles, some discoveries, and a story arc that will keep you turning the pages!
“I will open my mouth in parables.” Psalm 78:2

“If we ever did find the secret to our lives, the secret to the universe, it would come to us first as a story.” John Eldredge, Epic, p.13.

I am a compulsive reader of stories—there, I’ve admitted it! From being told bedtime fairy tales and fables, to reading Golden Books, to “chapter books” without pictures, to required reading as an English major, I have spent countless hours of my life with my nose in a book.  Fiction, nonfiction—it doesn’t matter; there’s just something about a story that captures my full attention. So intense is my identification with the characters and plot of whatever book I’m reading, I often find myself laughing at comical plot twists or crying at tragic turns of events. Family will tell you that when I’m immersed in a book, no amount of noise disrupts my reading; only waving a hand between my eyes and the page can divert my concentration.

While my fascination with story may be extreme, I don’t think it’s unusual. My experience as an educator tells me that story is a powerful method of teaching and learning for all ages—pre-school through graduate school. It’s the primary tool Jesus used in His teaching.  Parables fill so many pages of the gospels.  No abstract philosophical treatises. No presentations of scientific evidence.  But instead, narratives that evoke memories, that relate to common events, that have a beginning, a middle and an end. The prodigal son, the good Samaritan, the rich fool, the great banquet—a lesson worth learning embedded in each one.

Actually, as I remember the Bible in 90 Days experience (my experience took more than 90 days!), the whole of God’s word is full of stories—Noah, Joseph and the amazing technicolor dreamcoat, Jonah, Daniel in the lion’s den, David and Goliath.  Maybe, as John Eldredge suggests, each Biblical story and parable is but a part of a larger, sweeping epic story, grander than War and Peace, Dr. Zhivago, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy combined.
The idea that I am part of such a story is intriguing, frightening, and heartening all at once.  What an adventure the next several weeks promise as I join you in pondering how this story gives meaning to our lives!

Discussion questions Prologue week 1
1. John writes “life is a story.” 
   a. Have you viewed life (YOUR life) as an unfolding story?
   b. What conclusions have you jumped to regarding God and His heart towards you that may be the result of you not knowing the full story?

2. John asserts that in the modern world, “we’ve pretty much given up on trying to find any larger story in which to live.”
   a. How would looking at life as a great Story change the way you live?
   b. What questions might it answer for you?
   c. What deep desires of your heart might the Larger Story explain?
   d. Does it affect your understanding of Christianity?

3. If our lives are a story, what kind of story have you fallen into? (Romance? Comedy? Sci-fi? Adventure? Thriller?)
   a. Is it the kind of tale you have hoped for or dreamed of living? 
   b. What part of your story has caused you to lose heart?

(You may choose to post thoughts or ruminate privately)

What’s your story? If you want to understand your own life, you must understand your story.  The things that have happened in the past have shaped you into the person you are now. Over the coming weeks, we’re going to ask you to write out your story.  This is huge! It will give you so much understanding of yourself, God’s hand in your life, the enemy’s assault on you, and of your role in God’s larger story. Think about these things: How would you tell your story? What would you include? What’s shaped you, made you who you are today? Where in the story arc are you?

Enter your comments and replies to comments below.  We look forward to reading your thoughts!