PLOT TWIST!

When I am teaching my students about making predictions and inferences while reading, I remind them that they have to ‘update’ their thoughts as they gain new information. One of my favorite picture books to use in teaching this concept is Suddenly by Colin McNaughton  . This book is the opposite of predictable. When the

suddenly

reader tries to guess what’s going to happen next (the pig will walk out of the school house into the wolf’s clutches), something far less predictable happens (the pig returns to his school desk for money and leaves out the back door instead.) On every page, the reader is flummoxed when the plot takes a completely unexpected twist (the wolf crashed into a wall instead  of nabbing the pig at the supermarket!).

I love thinking about this in the realm of God’s work in our lives. And the Bible has so many examples of plot twists! We think we’re the only ones who get our hearts set on something and then feel disappointed when it doesn’t work out…but then get happy again when something better occurs. Well, that emotional roller coaster has been ridden for centuries!

Genesis 15-18, Matthew 1-God shows Abram the countless stars in the night sky and promises that Abram’s descendants will outnumber them. {Wow! Amazing! Thrilling!}  PLOT TWIST: Abram is nearly 100, and Sarai his wife isn’t too far behind. {Wait, what? That’s crazy! And darn near impossible!} PLOT TWIST: God did it anyway…and Jesus was born from that infinite number of Abram’s descendants.

Daniel 1-3–Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were  wholesome, Godly young men who prayed daily and didn’t defile themselves in Babylon, the land of his captivity. They were promoted in Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom. {Yay! Young Jewish men take a stand and are making positive influences! Hooray!} PLOT TWIST: King Neb threatened them with death via fiery furnace if they didn’t bow and worship the idol he made. And then he did it! He put them in a flaming furnace!!! {Whaaaaaa? That’s seriously messed up! } PLOT TWIST: God sent an angel to keep them company in the furnace…aaaaaaand when they came out, ‘the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men; the hair of their heads was not singed, their tunics[f] were not harmed, and not even the smell of fire came from them.’ (NRSV)  {Boom! Not even the smell of smoke on their clothes…and Neb had tried to extinguish their faith. } Not only that, the king made a decree guaranteeing the security of these guys.

Daniel 6-– As Daniel’s life continued, he remained honorable and trustworthy, so he continued in the service of the upcoming rulers of Babylon. In fact, he was about to be promoted into a place of great power. {So great! A Godly young man rising in the government…the world needs more of that! What an example!} PLOT TWIST: Daniel’s colleagues weren’t so fond of him, and they manipulated the king into decreeing Daniel’s daily prayers illegal. The punishment for praying to anyone except the king was being thrown to the lions. And the ignorant king went along with it.  {Whaaaaaaaaaa??? Seriously? Daniel’s the good guy…how can the king agree to such nonsense?} PLOT TWIST:  God closed the mouths of the lions…until the king’s advisors came along the next morning. The king realized the error of his ways and reinstated Daniel…and his scheming sidekicks were lion breakfast.

Acts 9–Saul was a dreaded Christian-killer. Daily, he sought worshipers of Christ to imprison and stone to death. {That’s terrible! What a ruthless, horrible man!} PLOT TWIST:  On his way to capture worshipers in Damascus, God spoke to him from heaven, questioned his motives, and blinded him for three days. {Yeah! There ya go! Get him, God!} PLOT TWIST: When Saul regained his sight, he gained a new identity…Paul, the apostle of Jesus Christ, that was largely responsible for the spread of the Gospel to Europe and Asia.  {Well, I did NOT see that coming! What a miracle! You sure did ‘get him’, God!}

And there are so many more! Reading through Joseph’s life is a tale of twisted truths and flat out lies until it’s relieving resolution.  The death of Lazarus was heartbreaking to his sisters, until they saw that Jesus could untwist Lazarus’s burial clothes and restore him to his life’s story. Zaccheus was a stinker of a little man, until Jesus untwisted those purse strings and heart strings and changed the plot of that tax collector’s story.  In the glowing stories of Ruth  and Esther , these brave women were writing their own versions of ‘herstory’, following the paths that they believed that God had planned for them, when their plots were severely twisted. Death, immigration, and conspiracy wound around the secure cords of their lives and snapped the comfort right off. But then, God restored the story. He gave them back their lives…in abundance.

How often we get caught up in the plot twists that are happening to us right now. We miss the bigger story that God has written for our lives. In each of the Bible stories above, the people were ‘minding their own business’, doing what was daily expected of them, when disaster struck. I’m sure that they questioned what was happening…especially Saul and Zaccheus who had yet to develop a connection to their Heavenly Father. But those other saints, they must have had their questions. ‘But Father, I was doing what I thought was right?’ ‘Abba, wasn’t I doing what you told me to do?’ ‘Forgive me, Father, if I misread your directions. I thought I understood.’

Just like us. We question ourselves. We question God. We question others. But what we need to realize is that it’s just a plot twist. It’s not curtain drop. We’re not at the end of our story until we die. The Author and Finisher of our faith is thoughtfully considering each event that occurs to us…and how it will ultimately accomplish our perfection and His glory. Others will ‘read’ our story and note our unfailing faith…or our faith struggles and restorations. God wants our tales to reach audiences beyond ourselves. That’s why our story goes on…after the plot is twisted.

Lamentations 3:19-26

19 The thought of my affliction and my homelessness
    is wormwood and gall!
20 My soul continually thinks of it
    and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
    to the soul that seeks him.
26 It is good that one should wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.

 

Lamentations 3v22-23 Vinyl Wall Decal 2

 

photo credit: wildeyedesigns.com

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A Lover and a Fighter

I’m more of a lover than a fighter. I’d rather snuggle than feud, smile than frown, hug than reprimand. So it’s hard when life takes a swing at me. My instinct isn’t to swing back. My instinct is to find a soft place, lie down, and wait or the trouble to pass. But sometimes, that’s not possible. Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 9.07.29 PM

I’m changing jobs this fall, which is exciting and unnerving at the same time. My wee lass will be entering kindergarten, and my little lad is rapidly turning into a larger lad. I knew all these things were coming…I knew that the school year that just ended was a transitional one, and I had braced myself for the changes that were upon us.

What I wasn’t expecting Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 9.23.26 PMwas that my best friend would be moving, my son’s new best neighborhood pal would be moving, astalwart colleague would be moving, my beloved mom would be having spinal surgery, and that I’d miss my circle of peers as much as I do. Or that summer would begin with a solid week of rain.
Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 9.05.47 PM

So, the gray clouds have settled around me much like Pigpen’s dust cloud. I don’t want any of THOSE changes to occur. I just want to be able to start my new job and get my daughter adjusted to school while my support group cheers me on. Alas, my support group is in need of their own support.

So what’s this lover of a girl to do when life starts throwing punches? Sigh…at this point, I’m gonna start swinging back.

I went out running tonight. It’s the first time in twelve years I did. Last time I ran, I blew out my knee and had to have reconstructive surgery. I’ve been scared to run since then. Until tonight. I have to do something to push away the gray clouds that linger around me. Life isn’t going to let up, so I’ve got to become tougher. I need the physical activity to release the endorphins, I need to battle the midlife bulge, and I need to push away this cloud around me. Running i a cheap (free!) outlet for my frustration. I got legs…I got a road…I’m gonna use ’em.  Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 9.29.09 PM

It was a short run, but it was a start. I took my aged dog, and she was thrilled. Half a mile, a few short walking breaks. I’m not going to add to my cloud by comparing my accomplishment with anyone else’s. It was my half-mile.

We’ll see how this goes. Running isn’t going to make any of the changes stop, but it will improve my outlook on them. It’ll be good for me physically and emotionally. It’ll give my mind a break from the tensions. It’ll help me prepare for other unexpected blows from life.

  Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 9.26.56 PM I’d rather be a cuddly, snuggly, comfortable lover,Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 9.12.36 PM

    but for now, I need to take up the fight.    

All picture credits: peanuts.com

God and Emeril

A few weeks ago, I was bemoaning a difficulty…primarily, I was dreading how long it was going to take to make life adjustments  because of said difficulty. I was in the process of praying one of those ‘let this cup pass from me (but I know I’m just going to have to drink it anyway)’ prayers, when I had this startling and amazing revelation.

God is the God of slow, deliberate changes, but he is also the God of the immediate change.

He spoke the universe into existence. BAM!  (Genesis 1) He parted the Red Sea…totally…with dry land for the Israelites to cross. BAM!  (Exodus 14) He poured out water from a rock…a big ol’ rock. BAM! (Exodus 17:1-7) One of my personal favorites: he dropped fire out right of the heavens to burn up a water-soaked alter and offering to show he was the true God. BAM! (1 Kings 18:16-39). He brought an angel into the fiery furnace to comfort Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. BAM! (Daniel 3:1-30) Angels…a whole choir of them… sang in the dark night sky when Jesus was born. BAM! (Luke 2:8-20) Jesus blessed a boy’s small lunch and fed 5,000 people with those few morsels…multiplied exponentially…and later that night, he defied the laws of physics and walked on water. BAM! BAM! (John 6:1-21) And after Jesus’ returned to heaven, God was still getting people’s attention with bright light and a voice…and the epiphanies conversion of Saul/Paul. BAM! (Acts 9:1-22)

Oh yes, there are plenty of stories in the Bible to snuggle up with when life is dragging you through a long ordeal. Stories of people who waited years to see answers to their heart-aching pleas. Stories of arduous struggles of faith and patience and long-suffering. And our God is in those stories, in every tear, in every sighed prayer.

But he’s also a God of immediate action…instant change…impressive results. BAM! What a God we serve! What is he about to do for you!?