Sunday, July 19, 2015

EPIC: Act Three

We just returned from a week on the beach in Florida with my family to celebrate Mom and Dad's 50th anniversary.  Our week together seemed to reflect this chapter's themes.  First, the glory of nature...
The ocean's vastness, beauty, and power always brings to mind God's creativity and majesty.  From the shore birds running along the sand to dolphin fins emerging above the water to the steady strength of the surf, God's creation is humbling.  It is both peaceful and powerful - reflections of God's own image.

Holly Mueller's photo.

Next, the legacy of love...

This coming August, my mom and dad will have been married for 50 years.  That's a long time.  No one arranged their marriage or forced them into it.  They chose each other, and because they were intentional, faithful, and devoted to their marriage, it has lasted.  My husband, Ed, and I are so fortunate to both have parents in long-lasting marriages.  They've provided a legacy and promise that love lasts when built on a firm foundation, and now we've been married for 26 years.  Thank God we live in a country and time when we could choose our spouses and that we serve a God that gives us a framework for marriage.

All those years, though, pale in comparison to the infinity of time God has loved us.

Last, even though we experience and practice Earthly love, we fall short and need a Savior...

We had a great time at the beach and had fun with each other, but that week has come and gone, ending the second of the two major celebrations this summer that have been in planning for almost a year (the first was the marriage of our oldest daughter to Jamie, her college sweetheart).  Time is so fleeting.  It seems to go by faster the older I get.

God, though, is forever, and we certainly fall short of loving Him.  We also fall short of loving each other as perfectly as we should - we can be selfish and short-tempered. We complain and get lazy. We are easily distracted and caught up in trivial things. We're easily stressed and fatigued. We're rebellious. Eldredge says, "At the point of our deepest betrayal, when we had run our farthest from him and gotten so lost we could never find our way home, God came and died to rescue us.  You have never been loved like this.  He has come to save you in every way a person can be saved.  That is God's heart toward you."  Wow.  Thank you, God, for providing us people to love here in this temporary world.  Our spouses, family, and friends make it a joyful place to live.  My heart has been full as I celebrated a wedding and an anniversary, but I know this heart is only a tiny fraction of the heart you have for us.  Thank you for giving us free will, and when we fall short, thank you for forgiving us.

Thank you for your beautiful creation, having the free will to love each other and you, and being our rescuer when we fail.


In The Story of God, the Story of Us, Sean Gladding tells the epic biblical story as it may have been told before the Bible was a book—as an oral tradition imparted by wise elders.  The following excerpts gleaned and edited from his chapter “Catastrophe,” illuminate what John Eldridge describes as the Battle for the Heart.  

The story begins with a lie: “You will be like God.”  The tempter taps into our deepest anxiety as humans: that what I have and who I am is not enough.  So Adam and Eve exercised the freedom God had given them and disobeyed God’s prohibition.  How could they take what was prohibited when they were surrounded by so much that was freely given? What are we capable of doing when we think we do not have enough?  When we think we are not enough? Adam and Eve—and we--make an ethical determination, deciding for ourselves, independently of God, what it is good for us to do.  Like Adam and Eve, when confronted with our disobedience, when caught sinning, instead of taking responsibility for our own actions, we try to blame someone else.  Self-protection becomes our first concern; trust evaporates.  Yet, just as God called out to Adam and Eve, God calls to us. We, like them, may try to hide, to isolate ourselves, to be alone with our sin and shame, but God is constantly seeking the lost.  God asks “Where are you?” not out of anger, but in a gracious invitation to once more make us vulnerable—before God, before each other. It is an invitation to speak the truth about our sin, an invitation to be found. From the very beginning of our story, God extends grace to us.  God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.  We cannot deal with our sin, but God can, will, and does.

The “Catastrophe” story leaves us with questions: questions that I invite you to ponder with me .

What lies am I all too willing to believe?

     That the old GE slogan (“Progress is our most important product”) is correct.

     That my sins are not so bad—not like murder or theft—totally ignoring  1 Timothy 1:15.

Why do I not trust God to determine what is good for me?

     Because I like the feeling of being in control, even though I know I’m not.

     Because God’s definition of “good” isn’t the same as the world’s definition.

How shall I answer when God calls out “Where are you?”

     To be honest, on too many days  the answer would be “Hang on, I’ll be there when I finish this important task.”

     On my worst days, my response would be “So NOW you want to know—when I’ve been wondering lately where YOU are!”

     But the best days are when I reply “Right here—ready to follow you.”

Discussion Questions—Epic Act Three (Video includes ACT TWO since last week I accidentally embedded just the preview to the video and couldn't fix it while I was in Florida!)

John Eldredge describes creation in a panorama of wonders. 

1. What in creation takes your breath away? How would you describe it to someone?
2. Lingering in the thought of Creation, what does Eden tell you about God, his desire for man, and the life we were meant to live?
3. Have you thought about “original glory” before? What does the idea stir in you?

Essential to “original glory” is the capacity to love. And with the incredible dignity of that gift, came the freedom to reject—not love—God.  

4. Why did God give you a free will?
5. To what or to whom have you given your heart in the past? To whom or to what have you most recently given it?

The Evil One hates God, hates anything that reminds him of the glory of God . . . wherever it exists. Unable to overthrow the Mighty One, he turned his sight on those who bore God’s image.

6. What lies does Satan tell us?

Deceived by Satan’s lies, we turn our backs on God, relying on our selves. The challenge God faces is rescuing a people who have no idea how captive they are; no real idea how desperate they are.

7. When have you felt in need of rescue? When has life become overwhelming?  Is it hard to ask for help? Why?


Creation is a glorious event we all too often rush through. But we must linger on the wonder and beauty of the world and life God intended for us to enjoy. Recall moments when you saw glimmers of the life that God intended for you. How has God acted as savior, beginning to restore your true identity to its original glory?


  1. #1
    Lots of things in creation take my breath away like the emergence of a leaf on a branch. Who designed that and how come it only lasts for a season?
    Or the human body and the intricacies of physical form, heart, soul, and mind.
    Or how about the wind? Where does it start and end?
    I have learned that God displays his Glory and revelation of who he is in his creations. Not just the big creations but even down to the blade of grass that seems to grow faster than the rest.
    With the leaves I remember that there is a time for everything and that God is constantly making me new and bidding me growth. I also remember that I can not do this alone.
    With the intricacies of us I am reminded of the great care, thought and love put into the creation of me and every part of me is made in his perfect purpose. It also reminds me how incredibly vast and mysterious our Father is.
    And the wind... Can we say omnipresence? Always was, always is, and always will be.

    1. I remember in junior high we hosted a Malaysian student for a long weekend. She had never seen the leaves change and thought it was so unbelievable. We take the beauty of nature for granted sometimes and forget that everything is such a miracle!

    2. I take it for granted way to much!

  2. Question 1:
    Have you ever had one of those moments when you're so overwhelmed by a sight or concept in nature that you have to recede from it or be too overcome? I can remember as a child looking up into the stars and, for a fleeting moment, sensing their number and distance. My brain couldn't hold that thought longer than a second! I deliberately looked away to save my small mind. Every once in a while I get one of those glimpses into what I think are what Eldredge calls "original glory," and I think I know why they don't last. God's creation is so amazing that we couldn't go on with our lives if we paused to appreciate it at every turn. So in the midst of our busy lives I'm grateful for the little nudges that are a taste of the huge ones. In our new home here in Florida, I am appreciating what, for me, are new and phenomenal examples of God's imagination: sandhill cranes that proudly saunter right through our neighborhood, the bird-of-paradise flower that's saturated with color and has a unique shape, the little lizard that runs across the sidewalk, the cloudless sky so blue and clear, the sun dipping below the horizon of the Gulf of Mexico -- our Father is such an artist and gift-giver! I like Eldredge's comments on pages 45 and 46. We are truly born into an astonishing world. If we hadn't seen it with our own eyes, we wouldn't believe it! Jane M.

    1. Isn't it marvelous to see the smallest flower that has been so intricately handcrafted? There are so many things that "declare the Glory of God"! But the "original glory" of mankind is a concept I have never thought about - we hear way more about "original sin" (and maybe rightly so, since that is what has put us in this predicament). But as John Eldredge said, we all know that we were made to be something more than we are. The REALLY exciting thing is that someday we will be!

    2. Jane, your thought about the total glory of creation being too much for human eyes to truly see really struck me. I thought of the verse "Now we see in a mirror dimly . . ." As John's Revelation indicates, I'm thinking/wondering that the promise of heaven includes endless time to see and wonder at the original and eternal glory of God.

    3. Jane, I had a similar experience the first time I saw the Grand Canyon. The expanse was SO large I could not comprehend what I was seeing. I was in total sensory overload. That sensation was fleeting but I never will forget it. I find myself longing for that feeling again. Why can't I find it? The Canyon so large yet it is just a grain of sand among the enormity of God's creation. Surely I can't find that moment again.
      Tom Way

    4. Mom - yes! I know that feeling - so fleeting. I, too, get it sometimes when I look up at the stars. So vast and beautiful. I love your point about why we only grasp it momentarily and occasionally. God's mind and creation are really too big for us to comprehend. It's exciting to think about living in that original glory again someday.

    5. You know, it occurs to me - God's creation is so wonderful now, so breathtaking - and yet the Bible says that all creation is groaning for things to be put right again - what will it be like when He restores all things?! Will the trees look different? Will nature interact with us on another level? I can't even imagine!

    6. Karen, I love that! Oh to imagine the imagery of Gods Glory in its true and right form... I can't wait. These are the things that make us longing for home.

  3. When I first read this chapter, I read it immediately after reading Act 2. It affected me in a way I did not expect. I cried and cried - like John cried and cried in Revelation because no one could be found worthy to break the seal to the deed of the Earth and save us all. Then the Lamb was found - the Lion of the tribe of Judah! It breaks my heart that people I love are deceived and don't know it! It breaks my heart that people that I don't even know are deceived and don't know it. And it humbles me so much to realize how many times I am deceived and don't know it - but I have the Holy Spirit, so hopefully, if I'm paying attention at all, He lets me know that I am being deceived and I can say, "Oh, Yeah! I just need to trust God." But again, the trouble is that I don't always WANT to be rescued. And the world in general is totally deceived - and do not know why they long for something better. In the Narnia movie "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader", Prince Caspian is giving the crew a pep talk before they face the horrible evil that has invaded Narnia, and he says, "...remember all the lost souls we have come to save!" To me, this is the point of this story - why have I fallen into this story? Is it because I need to be "strong and courageous" and fight the evil one for the souls of those who are being deceived? Jesus has ransomed us! I have known the Gospel for many years, but I am seeing it in a different way. I am seeing it more as a whole story and seeing it for the love story that it is. And maybe seeing my role a little more clearly.

    1. Karen
      Such a lovely post. Reminds me of Frost's poem;
      "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,I took the one less traveled by,And that has made all the difference.

      Such a blessing you have discovered your role.
      Never be thirsty!
      Tom Way

    2. Wow, Karen - this post is so powerful and heartfelt. I hear your passion for Jesus!

    3. Karen, in a way, your thoughts about your role in the epic story mirror the Great Commission to go forth and make disciples--to love everyone by sharing the Truth with them (think Truth Project!).

    4. Karen thanks for sharing this: “I am seeing it (the Gospel) in a different way. I am seeing it more as a whole story
      and seeing it for the love story that it is.” The breakthrough you have had is inspiring because it is evidence of God
      at work in your life. For me, those ‘aha moments’ are manifestations of His great love (‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’)
      and are so encouraging.

      I also resonate with Jane’s post about the immense beauty of creation as a gift. Yesterday my husband and
      I rode our bicycles on a beautiful portion of the bike trail that is flanked by fields of tall corn swaying in the breeze.
      Above was the best summer-blue sky painted with flourishes of clouds. Being out in nature in that way ‘restores my soul’
      and, again, is such a gift.

      And, finally, I love the line by Eldredge, “We are haunted by Eden. It finds its way into nearly every story.” I enjoyed his
      examples and quotes from ‘epic’ stories in literature that mirror ‘the greatest story.’ Fascinating!


  4. Jeri,
    Your feelings of encouragement in the light of God's great love, your description of your bike ride, and the enjoyment of epic stories reflecting the promise of Eden are all testimonies to your joy of being a Christ follower!

  5. The question I would like to address is number 7. Yes I have felt the need to be rescued and that life is overwhelming. I thought I was on top of everything. I managed to get through the death of my sister. She was only 23 and left behind 3 small children. My younger brother suffered a stroke at 26 which left in a wheelchair for the next 23 years with very little verbal skills. I was a nurse I could handle things and then my youngest child fell from a bicycle receive fatal injuries and died two days later while I held his hand. Parents are not suppose to outlive their children. I believe 3 to 4 years passed before my heart accepted his death. I thought subconsciously I would wake up this was a very bad dream. He was only 20 but had an amazing believe in our heavenly Father. Everyone he met was treated as his best friend, and a classmate told her mother he was the nicest boy at school. But I kept hearing him tell me about the time ( 6 months earlier) when he visited his football coach who had lost his son the year before. He was upset because the coach was so angry at God and not planning on celebrating Christmas that year. Ed said to me "Doesn't he know that Andy is with Jesus mom." Wow! he told me exactly how strong his faith was. In my lowest hours I kept hearing " I'm happy mom I'm with Jesus." I also had dreams that kept telling me the same thing, don't be sad I'm with God. I saw our heavenly Father in the multitude of people (angels) he sent to us. And my nursing experience helped me forgive the people who said hurtful things. I believe only those who have suffered the loss of a child can fully understand this particular grief. It is hard to ask for help because most think people will get over the loss in a few weeks. Little do they know that you never get over the loss only learn how to live with it. Since our loss I have tried to reach out to other grieving parents when it is appropriate. I really appreciated the multitude of bereaved parents who reached out to us. My faith and the knowledge that Ed's life was only supposed to be 20 years gets me through daily living. I hope this may be helpful to someone because I felt called to give this response.

    1. Bound as we are in this world of time, the death of a loved one, especially a child, is so hard to bear. (I know.) We know God has an eternal perspective and that He has promised to wipe away every tear (Rev. 21:3), yet the tears we shed now are real.
      We take pride in being in control--being able to handle whatever life brings. But we are not in control, nor does God expect or want us to be in control. Giving Him control over our lives and the lives of the people we love is so very difficult. Yet He persists in calling to us, wanting to comfort us and asking us to trust Him.