The Fate of the Epic Hero

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Like a true journey of discovery, we do not know what is around the next bend. Often our way is obscured from view. All we can do is simply take the next step, in hope, in faith, that with the following forward thrust, all will be well. Yet we should not neglect the journey, for our quest is not only about the destination. What happens along the road could make all the difference. It may shape the future of more than ourselves.

In many works of literature, we see the importance of the journey. This trek into the unknown is a metaphor for self-discovery.

It is the fate of the Epic Hero.

What defines an epic hero is that he must leave home, travel into the unknown, descend into darkness (death), be transformed (reborn), and ultimately return home a different man. A good example of an epic hero is Bilbo Baggins in J.R.R. Tolkien’s, The Hobbit.

Bilbo is the reluctant adventurer, forced upon a journey in which he must face many hardships. As he enters into the Mines of Moria, and then again, into the evil forest of Mirkwood, he descends into darkness, and in the depths of his fearsome trial, he finds his true self. Something inside of him has changed. He is now (reborn) an authentic hero; he fulfills his quest, survives battle, and returns home a different person than when he left (There and Back Again).

Throughout THE STONE OF EBENEZER, we experience the journey as we look with different eyes.

We follow the young Hebrew, Nagad, as he fights for his nation. We trek after the Philistines as we see a vision of their quest. And we follow the Seat of Yahweh, the Ark of the Covenant as it, too, is forced to wander.

In each case, something important is about to happen. The journey for each ripples through the saga to impact the destiny of those that will shortly follow. Come along on this epic quest as our hero journeys toward self-discovery and, ultimately, helps decide the fate of a nation.

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Nagad watched as a third of the army turned and marched slowly away, their backs to their destination. Another path would have to be forged through the wilderness, another trek over the mountains. Their journey would be more difficult, their fate a different path than the remaining host. Fortunately, the priests with their sacred burden had made it beyond the flood before the torrent raged. The seat of God would continue on as planned. And the host of men would follow, a holy battalion on its way to its own destiny, unknowing the distant course that would be their doom.

Nagad glanced over at Orach, “Will the others make it in time?”

“They will find their own path and they will come when they come.”

“Those hills are difficult. It will be a challenge for so many to travel the mountain path. I am glad we are on this side of the stream. I do not envy their journey. I will not feel at ease ‘til we get to Eben-Ezer. I fear our delay will have dire consequences.”

“It is the journey, Na’ar, that is important. For with each step we are a little closer to finding ourselves. When we arrive, it is over and self-discovery is at an end. Yes, Na’ar, it is the journey that is important. Which path we are given is up to God.” (Pg. 30)

~ Susan51JU0NxzPNL

Read the exciting first book in the Trilogy of Kings Saga, THE STONE OF EBENEZER.

A nation falters, an enemy approaching; can one man overcome his past to lead his people back to God?

“An amazing, vivid account of biblical events is historically accurate where God’s judgments, treacherous journeys, blood battles and even romance come alive to the reader in this skillfully written epic story.” −Rev. Judith Wiegman

Grand Prize Winner in the New Look Writing Contest January 2015.

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A Three-fold Struggle: Symbolic Significance in a Story

In literature, a motif is a recurring element that has symbolic significance in a story. Through its repetition, a motif can help produce other narrative aspects such as theme or mood. In THE STONE OF EBENEZER, we see Nature coping with the same 51JU0NxzPNLcrisis that our main character must face—it represents the contrast between the world God created and the world marred by man.

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As they journeyed through the mountain pass, the cavalcade crested yet another hill. Below lay a lush valley full of orchards. The sweet fragrance of apple blossoms rose to meet them. A gentle breeze lifted pale pink petals into the air, twirling blossoms around the party, teasing the men until the flowers showered down like snow upon the mountain.

Now that is a pretty sight, thought Nagad as he took in a deep breath, savoring the smell of peace and beauty. And he wondered at the contrast between this loveliness and the horror of battle. How could the two reside in the same realm? Truly, Yahweh had created the world in beauty. Man it was who marred the land with war, tearing the very foundation of the earth asunder with the rampage of contention and rage. Yet the quest toward battle continued ever onward against the backdrop of God’s landscape. (pg. 23-34)

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One of the main themes that runs through THE STONE OF EBENEZER is Revenge vs Forgiveness. The narrative speaks to the motives that drive what one does in order to come to terms with loss and trauma. Battle is used as a metaphor for personal struggle.

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Dominating the landscape, across the undulating ground, Nagad beheld various shades of yellow and crimson, short-lived flowers of summer, fluttering in the soft morning breeze. The smell of spring, of the uncertain glory, hung in the air, a variant wave of freshness faintly perceived, coming with the distant scent of apples wafting up from the golden blooms of the crown daisy. Breathing in the smell of the field, the green lap of the vernal season beckoned from sleep and issued forth a flood of memories of youth and peaceful times, of white linen robes and youthful love, and the soft laughter of a virgin.

Transfixed by the flowery field, by the scarlet crowfoot residing close to the ground, each with a single stem that terminated in one ruby flower, and the gilded display of the crown daisy towering over the crimson carpet, Nagad thought: how like a flower we are. We come forth and then we are cut down and fade; as a shadow we do flee, lost in the dark of night, and continue not. Of neither do we make much account, for neither can bear our confidence, for all wither and are gone.

“At the end of day, we shall be lifted up,” Nagad spoke under his breath as he raised his sword before his face. “Though the way be long and hard, we will endure.”

Tiphcar, as he displayed his blade before the readied troops, exclaimed in a loud voice, “New is the dawn before us! Now is the hour that the Lord will be glorified! If God be for us, who can stand against us!”

And there, between Mizpah and Shen, the Philistines came rushing toward them in great number, hastening unto their own fate. The vision of the heavily armored and highly trained Philistines moving forward in tight formation sent fear into the hearts of the Hebrew lines. Yet, through the knee-high stems of the crown daisy, trudging through the bushy display of glorious yellow heads, the Israelites marched onward, increasing their pace until they surged forth in swiftness of speed.

Across the expanse they sprung, as lodestones drawn by an unseen attraction, which urged them onward. Colliding, the opposing lines recoiled, the violent concussion of the forceful impact sending men back a step in a carom of clashing colors. Trampled underfoot by the myriad of sandaled feet, by the forward thrust of the rushing troops, the scarlet flowers were soon crushed and covered in the crimson stream of life’s hemal nectar. As a wave strikes a boat amidships, the soldiers dashed against each other dealing deadly blow upon deadly blow. In contention they strove to obtain what the other possessed, but which only one could hold. (pg. 255-256)

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In this scene, flowers are used to illustrate the drama of the battlefield, foreshadowing what is to come for the men fighting upon plain. Another motif is weather—the weather of the world—literally and figuratively—reflects the action and tension within the story. As nations erupt, so too, the sky ruptures in conflict.

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Thunder sounded overhead as lightning streaked across the darkening sky. Rain came down in sheets, driven with great force by the west wind, as the thundercloud burst open, the heavens rent, suddenly violent, issuing forth a forcible storm. The silent expanse of nature, whose bowels gave way, ruptured with tumultuous agitation, the dreadful fury of the tempest amid fitful bursts of wind.

The road became impassible as the route quickly turned into a sea of mud. The Ark threatened to topple as the soldiers fought to keep their footing on the slippery roadway. A breach in the lines formed as the company stood leaning into the wind, fixed firm against the storm, yet no progress made toward their destination. Bludgeoned by sound, the roar of the driving rain and wind, accompanied by the crash of thunder, obstructed the exchange of words.

“Sar, dark is coming on fast, and we are surrounded by the tormented terrain,” yelled out Phicol. “We will never reach Ekron by nightfall. The way is too difficult.”

With sound radiating through time, notes rising then lost to decay, Caphtor retorted above the thunder’s bend with dreadful voice uttering violent denunciations, oracles severe, as the storm grew more feral. The internal pressure of nature mounted a crack of thunder as though the fissure of doom rent forth with a terrible fulmination, accompanied by the intense display of light, discharging upon the atmosphere with violent exertion. Unable to control the instinct, soldiers dropped where they were, ducking with arms raised to protect their eyes from the dreadful display.

“Sar,” called out Phicol.

“Fall out,” bellowed Caphtor. “We go no farther; make ready camp.”

Amidst a thicket of storax trees, the company of men set up camp with great difficulty. Tents were torn by the terrible tempest, supplies flung about in harried havoc, the battle for dominance over the tent spike continued into the darkness. The rush of the angry wind continued through the night as the sky flew apart and then collided with a loud explosion that shook the foundations of the earth. (pg. 176-177)

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It is a three-fold struggle:

The conflict is an immortal struggle—a world ruled by the gods

The Philistine god—Baal vs the Hebrew God—Yahweh

A national struggle

The Philistine nation vs The Israelite nation

A personal struggle

The Philistine soldier Ekwesh vs the Hebrew soldier Nagad

The battle is brutal; the way is tough. We all face battles in this life, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual, and these battles are brutal, even as the conflicts are within THE STONE OF EBENEZER. And like our hero, we must push through the fight. This is the true sense of an epic journey, a journey that leads toward resolution.

May all your trials bring you to a place of peace.

~ Susan

Living Hope ~

As another September 11 rolls around, I find myself in an all too familiar situation. Heartache follows me with each passing year. Restless sleep interrupted by wakefulness, punctuated by dreams that leave me wholly spent and overwhelmed with sadness. It has been eleven years. You would think that this would be easier, but it isn’t. The trauma of that terrible day plagues me still. I imagine, it always will.

Yet, as I was reading in the book of Genesis, I found myself comforted by these words:

“And I will put enmity

Between your seed and her Seed;

He shall bruise your head,

And you shall bruise His heel.”

~Genesis 3:15

Here Adam and Eve have just committed the first sin, a sin that brought on the fall of the human race. As God pronounces the curse placed upon the serpent, He tells the Enemy that He will send one who is from the seed of woman, and though the serpent will bruise His heel, this One will bruise his head. This is the first promise of the Messiah, the Savior, from the seed of Mary, who in His death and resurrection, broke that power of sin and death that the curse brought to mankind.

Then God takes it a step further, as a loving Father:

“Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.”  ~ Genesis 3:21

Even though Adam and Eve have made this terrible mistake, even though they have disobeyed the Lord, He made them clothes to cover their nakedness. How wonderful to know that we have a God that cares enough for us to cover us in our nakedness. And though we fail, He takes us as we are and cares for us, supports us, and clothes us.

As we face hard times, as loss and sorrow enter our lives, it is good to know we have a Lord who has planned for our future. From the very beginning, He has provided for us a way of escape. And though at times we are overwhelmed, we know we have a Living Hope. For our Savior conquered death so that we are redeemed from the penalty of our broken oath.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”   ~ 1 Peter 1:3

As the Lord promises not to give us more than we can bear, He also promises to give us a way of escape. (1 Corinthians 10:13) How beautiful to behold the love the Master, who bears our burdens with us, who weeps in our sorrow. With arms uplifted we rejoice in His loving kindness, for His works are good. And in the arms of Jesus hope is restored.

~ Susan

Judge Not?

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“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” ~ Mathew 7:1-2

Are we to judge? Are we not called upon daily to make judgments? Do we not have to decide what is sinful and what is right? How else would we know which path to take, or which people to spend time with? We have to make judgments in order to make right decisions.

We can know a person by the fruit that they produce (Mathew 7:16) for even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right. (Proverbs 20:11)

What then did Jesus mean when He said, “Do not judge?” Are we to never make judgments or form opinions? Of course not.

We must look further than the first few words of Mathew 7. For it does not say that we should never judge, but that we must remember that when making judgments of others we are setting the standard by which we too will be judged, so judge fairly.

We must all be accountable for our actions. A society would quickly crumble into anarchy without judgment and the law. Judgment must be made before forgiveness can be enacted. So without judgement there would be no mercy, no grace, no forgiveness.

Forming opinions should not be done harshly or in haste, without allowance to circumstances. Our judgments should not be based on our fears, hurts, past experiences, but on the facts alone.

“‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.” ~ Leviticus 19:15

“Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.”       ~ John 7:24

It is said that you cannot judge someone else unless you have walked a mile in his shoes, but even then, you do not have his feet, so your vantage point is askew. Truly no one can judge the actions of another, for we cannot fully understand his motives.

“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”  ~ Romans 14:1-4

It seems to me that we are all walking a difficult path in this world. We are all making a journey on our own road, the one appointed to us by God. We walk in the light that is given to us, and that Light is only for our next step. How then can we clearly see our brother’s path whose light shines only before his feet? There is no way we can rightly view his journey from our vantage point even as they cannot see ours.

So when you make judgments or form opinions on how someone else is doing, be careful, for God gives us this warning: that with whatever measure, with whatever standard we hold up to someone else, that too is the standard that God will hold us to. So if you desire your Heavenly Father to judge you with mercy and love, then we ought to also judge our brethren with the same measure.

“Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,

and every tongue shall confess to God.”

So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.”   ~ Romans 14:10-13

~ Susan