Sunday, August 2, 2015

EPIC: Week 6, Epilogue

Image result for i love to tell the story hymn
The final chapter of God’s Story, Your Story by Max Lucado is titled “You Will Finally Graduate.”  Throughout my career as an educator, I’ve attended many graduations, so this is a metaphor that resonates with me.  There were my own graduations—8th grade, high school, college, and graduate degrees.  There were the 14 years of annual graduation ceremonies at Carlisle High School for students I had taught.  Then came the 14 years of graduations at Northern Illinois University (3 ceremonies each year) watching students wearing powder blue cowls accepting their master’s and doctoral degrees.  And at each and every one, some speaker or another would tell the audience to note that their programs referred to the ceremony as “commencement”—a beginning.   Emphasizing this point, many graduates received a copy of Dr. Suess’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! among  their graduation gifts.  Max Lucado makes a similar point—the end of our life on earth marks the commencement of eternal life in heaven—that we will graduate.  Yet for all the students in all my classes over the years, not all graduated; some were drop-outs, some didn’t complete all their coursework, and some were ABD (all but dissertation)—they didn’t complete the requirements for graduation.

What are the requirements for God’s “graduation”?  It’s not about putting in “seat time” or earning “credits.”  As Paul points out, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2: 8-9).  Yet James tells us that faith requires a response in how we live our lives: “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17).   Jesus defines the action that accompanies faith by quoting Deuteronomy  6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22: 36-40).  What does the Lord require of you?  “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
Walking humbly with God; knowing His story and making His story our own, reflecting the power of God’s story in the lives of individual lives within the body of Christ.  Sharing His story (and ours) with others reveals the transforming power of our Savior.  Such is the purpose of, a web site that carries individual stories of Christian belief and where you can share your “His story is my story”  to inspire others to find their role in God’s epic story so that they can know and join in the grand epic and “graduate” with us.


This is a blog post I wrote on my personal blog on May 21st of this year, right after Libby graduated from Miami University...

Alpha and Omega

"Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.  Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." - Isaiah 43:18-19
"I am the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." - Revelation 22: 13
     It's funny that May, a season of new life and an abundance of spring growth, should be punctuated by graduations, which seem like endings.   Tearful goodbyes, reflective speeches, scrapbooks full of memories, and wistful songs permeate the occasion.  High schools and beloved universities become alma maters, and students become alumni.  Fight songs are played one last time while best friends sway and sing,  already missing each other.  
     My husband and I sat in the stands (in the rain) of Yager Stadium at Miami University last weekend, watching our daughter and friends end their four years together, hardly believing that this era was closing.  How could the end come this fast?  It seemed like yesterday that we were moving her and Hannah into Tappan Hall, and a couple of the girls in her corridor came to her room bearing bags of "puppy chow" to share.  One of them, Katie, said her mom told her it would be a good way to make friends.  Well, right she was!  Those girls, and four others, became Libby and Hannah's best friends, guardian angels, and lifesavers at Miami.  They ended up living together again in Scott Hall the following year, and continued to live together in an apartment on Sycamore Street for their junior and senior years.  How could it be that all that was over?
      But then, at the apartment after the ceremony, one of the girls said she heard someone say that graduation wasn't the end of those friendships, it was just the beginning, and I started thinking about that.  Well, of course!  God has designed everything in our lives to be new beginnings.  Jesus made sure of that.  When everyone at the cross thought that an ending had occurred, Jesus knew it was just the beginning of something greater.  Gold DOES stay.  While graduations mean things are changing (and that can be hard), they don't mean the end.  They mark a beginning.   God has already started working in all those kids' lives to bring about a future of great things.  Those friendships will strengthen and grow and will continue to thrive.  We already know they will all gather again for two weddings in June (wonderful celebrations of beginnings), and they are planning to continue the tradition of Friends' Thanksgiving (a gathering my friends and I started in college and continue to this day - the Miami kids joined us for the last three years).  I'm sure they will plan many reunions. They may be going their separate ways soon, but they will continue to add new dimensions to their friendships because of their future experiences.  Because of God's promises, the circle is unbroken and our endings are beginnings.  What a wonderful assurance!

I love this quote because many times we DO get caught up in endings, but God is already creating a new beginning:

"And because it's all that we can see, the ending becomes an end in itself when directly ahead of us new beginnings are being forged and fresh byways are being laid out from the very ending we're caught up in." - Craig D. Lounsbrough

    My year was full of endings and beginnings: Katie leaving home to start college at OSU, Libby's college graduation, wedding, and move to Columbus, and putting our house on the market to downsize into a condominium in Landen.  Whew!  They were all happy things, though, so I can celebrate them all. 

   The bigger challenge is when endings and beginnings are more difficult: a divorce, loss of a job, a wayward child, a betrayal,  an illness or death.  God, though, has his children in the palm of his hands, and as He turns the pages of His Story with those hands, we are with Him.  We are part of the Story and all it has to tell.  Our challenge is to tell that Story to others.  To give those who have not heard the story or who have not accepted it yet a new beginning.  A better plot.  Go tell it on the mountain!

Epilogue Discussion Questions

1. Summarize your thoughts on what John Eldredge describes as the Three Eternal Truths:

 A. Things are not what they seem.
 B. We are at war.
 C. You have a crucial role to play.

2. As an actor in an epic story, to play your part well, you must know your role.  

* What, as a young boy or girl, did you once dream or hope your role would be?
* Consider the characters you love in Scripture—what is it about them and their role in the epic story that you would love to believe is true of you?

3. After reading  Finding Your Role, write a prayer, asking God to give clarity to your life purpose and calling.

Something to Ponder

Now that you’re aware of the power of a person’s story, begin to ask those closest to you to share their story with you.  Take time just to listen and ask questions, to understand their story.

Thank you, everyone, for participating in the first ever online class at LPC!  We've enjoyed reading your comments, encouragements, insights, and stories.  We'd love to gather again for a face-to-face meeting on Sunday, August 9th, at 12:30 p.m. in Room 305.  If you can't join us, consider writing us an e-mail about anything you'd like to share.  We'd love to hear any feedback about what you got out of the study, your online experience, or anything else!


  1. As a child, I never imagined myself with a heroic part to play. But I did have a dream once that has stuck with me. I was helping the pastor somehow (this was back when Bill Cain was pastor) by pushing what looked like a hospital book cart around the hallways of the Church (dreams are wierd!) The Church was a medievel looking building. But there was an evil fog in one area and I took my sword and I knew that it was not me that vanquished the smoke, but it was God. But He used me to do it. And after the smoke was gone, there was a hall that was brand new and I had never been down it. The dream was so real and seemed significant and I have never forgotten it. It's a bit strange and I don't understand it, but it seemed like I had a part to play, and it was very exciting to think maybe God COULD use me in some significant way! I loved the quote from Frederick Buechner in Finding Your Role, “the place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Wow!
    Lord, here I am, send me! I know He is preparing me for my role, or maybe I am already in my role. That's okay too. I pray that I am faithful and play my part well, whether it is something that seems big or something that seems small. I have a feeling that either one is significant.

    1. Wow--what a powerful reflection! Church as a hospital--a metaphor I've often heard since church is a place where sinners are healed. A brand new hall--Jesus's promise to make all things new. Knowing that you are a great prayer warrior (the sword is prayer?), I have no doubt that you have already played a mighty role (there are NO small roles in God's epic story) in many lives!

  2. "Things are not what they seem." Ahhh, that's a hard, profound statement. Hard, because we live in a post-enlightenment age, so dependent on tangible proof, science, and "seeing is believing." Profound, because signs are all around us -- the caterpillar that turns into a butterfly (!), winters where things appear dead and then spring to life, string theory, black holes, incomprehensible sizes in the universe, both small and large. I love the idea that God has left us hints, but that now we are only looking through a glass darkly. I am excited about what must be in store after this one, glorious, wild world we have gotten to see. I trust the Author of it, whatever it may be. Jane

  3. Tom Way- Consider the characters you love in Scripture—what is it about them and their role in the epic story that you would love to believe is true of you?

    Enoch is my favorite character. (Genesis 5:21-24) Not much is known of Enoch. He is just a name in a long line of a family tree from Adam to Noah. But Enoch is special, he never died. "By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” (Hebrews 11:5)

    Such an unassuming character all we know about him is he walked with God. The best I can do is take an occasional stroll. Oh to be like him.

    1. I love that, Tom - "the best I can do is take an occasional stroll" - I feel like that too, but I bet Enoch didn't think he walked with God as much as he would like either. I have two favorite characters - Caleb and Gideon. I always admired Caleb's courage to stand for God with Joshua against all the others. But I have to say, I identify more with Gideon, who asked God twice to confirm his commands and then even though he obeyed, he did it at night when no one was looking.

  4. The wonder of the Genesis genealogy is not only the length of life within each generation-including Enoch's 365 years and his son Methuselah's 969 years--but the transmission of faith across those generations. Perhaps one key role we all have in God's epic story is assuring that the story continues to the next generation.

    1. One of things I loved about Libby and Jamie's wedding was exactly that, Nina - an overwhelming sense that a transmission of faith across generations was happening. God was so strongly present at their marriage ceremony!

  5. So true, Nina. I have often thought of the generations before me who brought the Christian message into my life. My mother, her mother, those pioneer women who transmitted their faith. It happened on my father's side, too. I would love to sit down at the table with those ancestors to discuss the thread that goes way back. Although they could not have known what was in store in the 21st century, they are a part of what now goes into the future. Jane

  6. The thoughts Holly wrote about endings and beginnings resonated with me
    in light of the last chapter of Epic. My husband retired in January of this year
    and that was an ending that marked a new beginning in our lives.

    We are chronologically in our last act and we feel humbled and blessed to be here - thankful for this new span of time (whatever it may be) to fulfill what will be next.

    And what will that be?

    The work/child-raising years were full, yet very structured and time was the
    scarce commodity. In the retirement years, time is the luxury and gift, but our prayer right now is to use this last portion of life wisely. As believers, we “turn to Jesus” (Eldredge page 101) God and the Holy Spirit to show us the way - “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk ye in it.” Isaiah 30:21.

    I cannot imagine what the lessons and mission are for this portion of life, but I am certain who can show us the way. And I am thankful for those who shared their stories during this course, and who, through the sharing, have encouraged me on my way.

    I am especially grateful to Holly and Nina for being our generous and talented guides.

    Blessings and peace to you all. In gratitude.

    1. Sometimes it's even harder to feel productive, useful, and purposeful when you have more time! I experience that in the summers. I can imagine that retirement can be challenging in that regard. Your prayers, though, are surely heard. What an exciting time!

      I am thankful for your stories and input, too, Jeri. Thank you so much for participating in this class!! Blessings and peace to you, too!

    2. Jeri, I treasure the opportunity God gave me to get to know you and pieces of your story over the past 6 weeks. Having retired a year ago (for the second time--the first time didn't stick), I have found great joy in having more time to participate in and contribute to life at church. I feel especially blessed with opportunities to share that work across generations--like working with Holly on this class!

    3. Holly and Nina, I am thankful for you both as well and all the thoughtful work you put into making this class a success!


  7. I'm a sower, we plant the Seeds; I am an artist, we write the Words.

    Find-out where we went on our journey far, far away, like the synonyMOUSE metaphors which shall creeep stealthily across thy brain bringing U.S. together.

    And see if you cannot 'read-between-the-lines' -or- VERBUM SAT SAPIENTI (Latin: words to the wise): here's summore symbiotically-explosive-coolness done in four, sardonic satires when we passed-away:

    Here's what the prolific, exquisite GODy sed: 'the more you shall honor Me, the more I shall bless you' -the Infant Jesus of Prague.

    Go git'm, girl. You're incredible.
    See you Upstairs...