Fiction writing follows a rather rigid formula called the “story arc.” Here’s how Nancy Lynn McLane plots it:

      1. Defining event: must be something the character cares about

      2. Raise the stakes: the call to action; the character tries to resist

      3. Rising action: pulls the character into the activities

      4. No turning back: must resolve problem; can’t get around it

      5. Exceptional event: character is over his/her head, although actions may appear successful

      6. Dark moment: all seems lost or moral dilemma demands a choice; character must sacrifice

      7. Climax/resolution: the final confrontation: problem/obstacle is overcome or resolved; loose ends tied up.

Real life often follows that very same pattern. We see it the life of Bible characters.

Moses’ “defining event” was seeing a fellow Israelite being abused by an Egyptian slave master. Joseph had an amazing dream. Jesus’ disciples were called to follow Him.

We see God “raise the stakes” with Moses as, forty years later, He confronts the exiled shepherd with the burning bush—to which Moses resists with a multitude of excuses. Joseph is over-powered and sold into slavery. The disciples leave their fishing nets and tax collecting business behind.

“Rising action” occurs as Moses finally agrees to go before the mighty Pharaoh and demand, “Set my people free.” Joseph is put to work in Potifer’s Egyptian household. Jesus commissions the disciples to share the good news of the coming kingdom.

Now there’s “no turning back.” Once you’ve stood before Pharaoh and thrown down the gauntlet—actually, the rod which turns into a snake—you’re committed. Joseph is thrown in jail with no hope of returning to his home. And the disciples, especially Peter, has vowed to die for Jesus.

The Nile turning to blood, along with nine other supernatural plagues, are certainly “exceptional” events—way beyond Moses’ abilities. God provides Joseph with additional dreams that he hopes will win his release. And Jesus’ miraculous transformation before Peter, James and John definitely qualifies!

Then comes the “dark moment”! Moses and the Israelites are released from captivity, only to find themselves between a rock and two hard places: a sea and the Egyptian army sent to destroy them. The released jail mate, doesn’t bother to tell the Pharaoh about Joseph’s prophetic powers and he remains in jail And, of course, Jesus is crucified and His disciples scattered.

But there’s always a dramatic “climax/resolution.” (God is such a drama king!) The Red Sea opens up. Joseph is released and appointed second in command of Egypt. And Jesus rises from the dead! Now that’s climatic!

So where are you in your life story’s story arc? Trust that the plot will play out with God’s climax/resolution.

Copyright © 2011 James N. Watkins

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In an action/adventure film, the hero never defuses the bomb with one hour to spare. Not even one minute. It’s always less than one second! (And, of course, the agonizing decision as to whether to cut the red or blue wire.)

That’s just good script writing. Ratchet up the conflict to the breaking point, then resolve the imminent, inevitable disaster with just a split second remaining. Or, in the case of Speed, resolve the conflict (hero, heroine and passengers are safely off the bomb-laden bus) and then throw in an entirely new conflict (heroine is now strapped into bomb-laden vest)!

God, the “author and finisher of our faith,” is the ultimate script writer!

Gideon’s “army” of three hundred men takes on the enemy army of 100 thousand—with pots, torches and trumpets.

The Israelites don’t simply stroll out of Egypt. They’re trapped between the Egyptian army and the Red Sea.

The three Hebrew young men don’t talk their way out of the fiery furnace. Daniel doesn’t have his sentence of the lion’s den appealed. They’re all tossed right in.

Jesus ignores Mary and Martha’s plea to heal their brother. When Jesus finally arrives, Lazarus has been dead and buried for four days.

With dramatic flair, Gideon triumphs. The Israelites walk through the Red Sea on dry land while the Egyptian army drowns. Daniel and his friends miraculously survive their sentences, while their enemies are tossed to the lions and furnace. Lazarus walks out of the tomb.

What drama are you facing? Does a resolution of the conflict seem impossible? Keep in mind that God loves drama. Just before Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, He explains the reason for His last-second resolutions of conflict: to “see the glory of God” (John 11:40).

And, like Speed, the resolution may be followed by an even greater conflict. (Right now, I feel as if I’m strapped in a bomb-laden vest with the timer reading 00:00:01. Thanks for your prayers!)

But through it all, believers are promised to see God’s glory! In fiction and scriptwriting it’s called Deus ex machina—god out of the machine—a miraculous conflict resolution that can only be explained by, well, a miracle from God. God is such a “drama king.”

So, after we have done our best to defuse life’s challenges, try to ignore that ticking sound and pray for a dramatic, divine ending.

Click for God is such a drama king: part 2

Copyright © 2011 James N. Watkins. All rights reserved

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God is such a “drama king” Part 2

Photo from Speed

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I have in my right hand, direct from my home office in Corn Borer, Indiana, today’s category:

Seriously, though, I did try to give up dark chocolate for the 40-plus days leading up to Easter. It was an agonizing 40 minutes! This year, I’m attempting to give up something even more near and dear to me: fear.

As a self-employed freelance writer, speaker, editor and college instructor, fear has been a constant companion. In Freelance Land, it’s always “feast or famine”! So, while fear is an occupational hazard, Jesus claims it’s a spiritual hazard. Twenty-one times, the Gospels record Jesus telling His followers to “not be afraid” or “not fear” or “have courage” or “take heart” or “be of good cheer.” Twenty-one times! The “Greatest Commandment” to love God and our neighbors only gets eight mentions. So, by numbers alone, “fear not” is also a pretty great commandment.

Fear indicates I’m not trusting God

Jesus teaches:

      “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them” (Matthew 5:28-32).

Fear requires as much effort as trust

Fear is an emotional black hole that attempts to not only swallow up peace and joy, but energy and creativity. So, I’m trying to expend my energy on trust rather than fear, since both require the same effort.

Fear borrows trouble from tomorrow

      “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 5:34).

Tomorrow, it looks like I don’t have any paying work. Today, however, I have meaningful work. Today I have money in the bank and bills are paid. Today I’m healthy.

One of the best pieces of advice for the best-selling book Jesus Calling is to keep the door to tomorrow shut tight.

So, for Lent, I’m giving up fear. It’s going to be harder than giving up dark chocolate, but I’m praying for God’s strength and grace to give it up for forty-plus days. And, hopefully, make it a life-long lifestyle.

Copyright © 2010 James N. Watkins. All rights reserved

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‘Upgrading’ Hope&Humor

March 24th, 2014 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

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Happy anniversary!

On April 12, I’ll celebrate 17 years online. Over three million guests from over 120 countries have accessed over 350 articles, book excerpts, cartoons, original music and videos.

However, 17 years in Internet time is 17 million years! So, it’s time to “upgrade” to a new look and platform. My current site looks like a scene from “Hoarders,” so hopefully this format will be easier to navigate with everything easy to find and always up to date. And you can now comment on each post and page. (Right now, I’ve updated and posted the 50 most popular pages from the last several years. Some pages did seem 17 million years old!)

Help spread the encouraging word

You can help spread the hope and humor by telling your online friends about www.jameswatkins.com (same address as before), post a recommendation on Facebook and Twitter, as well as following new posts every Monday, Wednesday and Friday with the RSS feed to the right. And if you find any glitches, leave a comment and I’ll fix it right away.

You can also click to provide a tax-deductible donation to the cause of hope and humor.

Thanks for seventeen years of following hope and humor!

“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well” (3 John 2).
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