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!



Holly:

 
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!
 
Nina:
 
“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?

SOMETHING TO PONDER
 
(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!

 


38 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Discussion 1a:
    I recently attended a worship conference in which this concept entered my heart. They spoke during one of our worship services how God is creating this story despite my action or non action and that even as I sleep God will continue to write. As is his nature he was always writing, is writing and will continue to write this amazing story he has blessed us with being a part of. I find joy and yet extreme humility in knowing this. First humility, because this story, though I am in it, is not about me. Pride deceased right there. I think it is hard for me, for us to rise beyond this (although proof says it is not impossible). But once we do get passed this and actually get into the story, understanding the main character and the unhidden climax, we can settle into joy. Joy because regardless the obstacles, we know the ending and that can't be tampered with or rewrote!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is beautiful, Heather. I understand your initial reaction - WHAT?! I'M NOT IN CONTROL?! Ha. That can be daunting and even somewhat depressing to some of us, but when you really think about it, it's incredibly freeing, and like you said, JOYful. Instead of thinking of it as not GETTING to be in control, we can think about it as we don't HAVE to be control. Someone else has "got this." Hallelujah! And to think that a story is still being written while we sleep. Wow. I love that. Thank you so much for your honesty and insight, Heather!!

      Delete
    2. Knowing the climax and the ending (which has no end) DOES help in keeping a "big picture" perspective. Getting bogged down in daily details (like it's raining again today--bummer!) can be disheartening--perhaps Satan's way of challenging our faith. Part of understanding the epic story is keeping our eyes on the prize.

      Delete
    3. "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord,Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven," (Matthew 7:21) Do I really know how my ending is written?
      Tom Way

      Delete
    4. A verse to make me humble for sure. I think as long as we wake each day seeking to be in alignment with Christ that we can rely and trust that God will deal justly with us...

      Delete
    5. Heather, I have always loved that idea - if we let Him, God is writing His story in our lives. It is a comfort, a gift and a point of humility as you so wisely share.

      Jeri

      Delete
    6. Hi Jeri!
      Amen to that! Peace abounds in it!

      Delete
  4. Hi everyone!! It's Holly! I figured out a glitch. The only way for commenters to comment without a Google account is for me to add an "Anonymous" option for commenters. I went ahead and did that. Just BE SURE to include your name in your comment so we know who is commenting, like I said in the orientation meeting. You can't put your name in the drop down arrow space, so just put it within the comment. I didn't want anyone to have to create a Google account if you didn't want to. I'm very excited for great discussions this summer!! Thanks, Heather, for getting us started!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I commented above using the Anonymous option just to see if it worked. It did! :-)

      Delete
  5. So thankful for Holly and Nina and their willingness to lead this class. (And I am trying out the posting process.) Excited to participate with everyone!

    Jeri

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yay, Jeri! That will work! :-)

      Delete
    2. For most of my life I've been in a book club. Sometimes I've been in 2 at the same time, and once, in a moment of overdoing my "addiction," I was in 3! What is it about these clubs that tug at me so strongly? I believe it's the power of story, and the need to share it with others. Imagine my delight when Holly told me of the opportunity to be in an on-line equivalent of a spiritual book club! Discussing my favorite "story," the Bible, in my favorite format, with my favorite daughter! :-) My heart is full as I picture the weeks ahead unfolding, learning about your stories, sharing my own, and all of us growing in the knowledge of God's story. I think the title describes it best. It's going to be EPIC!
      Jane Maasen, Holly's mom

      Delete
    3. Tom Way
      welcome Holly's mom!! It appears the apple didn't fall far from the tree!

      Delete
    4. Glad to meet all of you and look forward to talking with you all!

      Delete
  6. Tom Way commenting on 3a.
    Not sure of the type of story my life has fallen into but I always wanted to be the main character. The hero. But I often wonder. Will I leave a legacy? Will I be remembered? Heck, will I even make a difference? I am reminded of my short theatrical high school career. Each year we would put on a musical. Sophomore/ Junior years it was fun being in the chorus but did anyone (other than my parents) even "see" me? What I difference my Senior year. Lead role, named mentioned in the newspaper review! I had arrived, I was noticed. Lasted all of day or so. No real impact here!

    Then there was the time a woman approached me in church. Said I was the reason she had come to Christ. It was all over a bible study I had taught a couple years earlier.
    Your life's story...you may never know what impact you may have on another's life story. I was fortunate.
    Never be thirsty
    Tom

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a great story, Tom! And a wonderful reminder that God's ways are not our ways--as in "the last will be first, and the first will be last" (Matthew 20:16.

      Delete
    2. "I always wanted to be the main character. The Hero." Leaving a legacy...something we all long for. Both my grandmother and one of my very best friends said, "Remember me" when they knew the end was near. How powerful, and in a way, heartbreaking. We all want to be remembered and are so fearful that we won't be. However, your last story was truly the best one. (I chuckled when you said, "I had arrived. Lasted all of a day or so" - ha, how true!) Ultimately, Jesus is the hero in our stories, right? We are messengers, beacons, His hands and feet while here on Earth. Legacies are written through showing the pathway to the real main character. The real Hero. How wonderful that you led someone there.

      Delete
    3. I'm thinking ... what a comfort, what a privilege, and what a responsibility, to be characters in the story of Jesus! Knowing that makes every moment important, not to be wasted, but to be handled with care as we move the storyline forward. One of the practices the Holy Spirit has impressed on my heart lately is to try to be silent more often, to honor the other person's place in the story and not interrupt, but listen instead. Thank you, Tom and Holly, for reminding us who the Hero is! Maybe my best place to start the practice is by listening -- and not interrupting! -- Jesus!
      Jane

      Delete
  7. During a Bible study several years ago the idea was brought up about the Bible being a love story from God. I've always loved that idea and the more I read the Bible, the more I realized it was true. But I have never really thought about the Bible being a story that contains all the elements of the other stories we love to read. I have always loved to read - sometimes reading multiple books at once because I couldn't wait until I was finished with my current book to start another one I wanted to read. I can't believe I've never realized that all the story lines are the same as the BIG story line! Isn't it amazing how God has wired us all in so many ways to see Him in everything!? I don't know how I fit into God's big story really, although I do believe that will be one of the wonderful things about heaven - I think when we get there, God will show us how we fit it and the impact we had in His story. What a joy! As for now, sometimes I feel like an "extra" in the movie...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Karen maybe that is the key...There are no "extras" in God's story. The fact that you are in it at all demonstrates your worth to the story line.
      Tom Way

      Delete
    2. So true, Tom--there are no extras in this production! In the cast of millions, it's like each of us is a "supporting actor"--you know the type: often the faithful sidekick to the hero; the one who contributes in small, but essential, ways to the journey or battle; the one who rallies others to join in the adventure.

      Delete
    3. "Isn't it amazing how God has wired us all in so many ways to see Him in everything!?" Yes!!

      Delete
    4. Karen, I agree with Tom and Nina ( and Holly!)... Once when I was receiving an orientation for my current job with children, my boss impressed upon me the importance of how I acted and responded to not only to the children but the other staff in the presence of my children. He said you would be impressed to see how closely the children will be watching you.
      I think that how you live your life is your part in the story. Being a child and watching you from afar, I know that you are a very strong and beautiful lady who without speaking a word is teaching those around you courage, strength, peace and love. You, my friend definitely have a part in Gods story.

      Delete
  8. And saying that Jesus is the hero of the story makes me think of this: "Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” A reminder
    that He is the example - 'not as I will, but as you will' - allowing God to be the Author. I find comfort and hope in Jesus' profound surrender - even when I can't manage it in my own life!

    Jeri

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I also love the humanness of that gesture and plea.

      Delete
    2. Acknowledging God as author--again the control issue. Too often I've read a wonderful book and gone to see the movie version only to find that the producer, director and actors have taken it upon themselves to change so many aspects of the original work that I loved. With the Bible as with all stories, the written version always seems to be best.

      Delete
    3. Oh, Nina, I love that! I totally agree. :-)
      Jane

      Delete