Bible studies for writers

Bible studies for writers | Numbers 32

If you’ve ever taken a film class, you know that once you take a film class, you never view a film the same. That’s how it is for me with writing. I like to go behind the scenes and get the who, what, when, where and how of every story I read. Ok, not every story, but definitely every story of the Bible.

I tell my kids that forward thinking is one if the best ways to develop critical thinking skills. And the best way to develop critical thinking skills is to look for the 5Ws and one H before acting.

We’re in Numbers, when the Israelites are making their way to the Promised Land. So far, they’ve conquered the Canaanites, Amorites, Moabites and Midianites (that’s a lot of ites!), and now they have come to the Jordan river, the only thing (well, other than the great city of Jericho) that lies between them and the land of milk and honey.

They’re so close, they can almost taste the dates growing on the other side. Some of them are drooling, dreaming of the day when they can spend the weekend with their feet dangling from a fishing boat in the blue Mediterranean Sea, their families building sand castles on the beach. What was I talking about again? Oh, yeah. The desert side of the Jordan River.

Gad and Reuben are not dreaming about seaside huts. They’re seeing some potential right where they are. I mean, it might have desert on one side, but it’s got the whole Jordan River on the other. This place is good enough for them. It’s free. They’re already in it. Plus, it’s big enough and has all they need

But Moses is a skeptic because he’s been burned before. I mean, we can understand why – especially after he launches into a dramatic monologue of prior offenses – he might have trust issues.

But still, Moses jumps to conclusions and flies off the handle before knowing all the details. He didn’t even consider the 5Ws, much less the H.

Everything gets smoothed over eventually, thanks to the keep-calm-and-carry-on attitude of Gad and Reuben, who, as it turns out, were just doing everybody a favor.

Writing prompt: 5W1H

Are you quick to jump to conclusions? How could Moses have better handled this situation? Think of the who, what, when, where and why of a time when you overreacted and regretted it later. Now, think of how you approached it and how it worked out. Are there any issues you still need to resolve?

Want to know one of mine?

It was pizza night, and like all weird southern families, the bottle of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing was sitting prominently as the centerpiece of the kitchen table. I cringed every time I put it out because the kids were at the age when they insisted on being big enough to do it themselves but didn’t yet understand the rules of goop in glass bottles and gravity. This is before the days of the magical squeeze bottle. Actually, the squeeze bottle probably existed, but the glass bottles with the gaping mouths were half the price, probably because Hidden Valley knows you’re only going to get to use half the bottle. Only rich kids got the squeeze bottles. Beside, I wanted my kids to grow up with the common sense of knowing how to pour stuff out of bottles.

Unfortunately, they didn’t pick up on the science behind it the first, second, third, 10th or 90th time I tried to explain it to them, and as we sat down for dinner that night, I gritted through my teeth for the 91st time, “Please don’t tip the ranch bottle up all the way. It’s almost new, so it’s very full,” I said from the loving, patient mom side of my brain.

I got okays around the table, and then Jaynee made the first reach. I got up to get everyone drinks. And I trusted. I filled cups up with ice. I was still trusting. Then I turned around to see Jaynee, ranch bottle in hand – turned completely upside down – hovering over her unsuspecting, still-naked slice of pizza.

Just as I started to warn her, she began to shake it … violently.

I snapped.

“Jaynee, what did I just tell you??? What have I shown you a thousand times???

Then I grabbed that bottle and gave it one big whomp and out flowed the biggest blob of ranch dressing I’d ever seen, covering every triangular inch of that medium-sized slice of pizza.

I think Jaynee had been expecting me to help her, and when she saw that I had done the exact opposite, she made that face – the one wrinkled up, teeth-bearing, eyes shut, nose wrinkled face she makes right before she makes that shrill squeal – and bursts into tears. I couldn’t have been less sympathetic. In fact, I reveled in the moment a while, and repeated my dad’s words to my nephew after he had built Mt. Salt on top of his fresh slice of tomato, “Now, you can eat it.”

Which caused another uproar.

I let her think about the prospect for a few seconds before letting her off the hook. (Dad didn’t make Bryan eat his salty tomato, either! We’re a little twisted but not that mean.)

However, I always felt like I should have reacted a bit differently. Maybe I’d had a rotten day. Maybe something else was on my mind, but I know for sure that the “Ranch Dressing Incident” wasn’t my proudest mom moment. In fact, it’s haunted me for years (obvi), and I feared that Jaynee was scarred for life by it. So, when she was about 15, one lighthearted pizza night, I brought it up and told her I always felt bad for doing that, and I made a whole scene about it, got a little teary-eyed and everything. Perhaps, I had felt worse in my heart than it looked on the outside.

“Mom, I don’t even remember you doing that.” She kind of rolled her eyes. “But I do remember you always telling us to not turn the bottle all the way upside down. And I remember the first time you brought home the Hidden Valley Ranch squeeze bottle. I thought we were rich kids!”

I’m sure it was on sale.


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