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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Concentration (07/24/08)

TITLE: The Commendation
By Marlene Austin


Beads of perspiration dotted his skin just above his collar resembling a glistening choker; however, he knew that there would be several matriarchs in the congregation who would inform him of how cold the sanctuary had been that morning.

The congregation was still. He imagined them as garden statues. The ladies with the proclivity for cold, wearing blue, red, or white cardigans, were scattered bunches of wild flowers. He felt that pulling weeds from this garden would be ten times easier than delivering the message God had laid on his heart for this service.

“Dear hearts, we live in a day and age which grants us many blessings. Microwave ovens which heat meals in a matter of minutes; cell phones which are so portable you cannot look out in a public place without seeing someone talking into their cell phone anywhere, anytime, doing anything; computers in every business and home – connecting us to a world of thoughts in a matter of seconds. With the onslaught of these modern conveniences, comes the privilege of more time. More time to fill with more activities – tee-ball, soccer, dance classes, gymnastics, swim classes, skateboarding, extreme sports, fantasy camps, computer games. The list goes on and on. If Jesus were calling His disciples today, what excuses would He be given? ‘Wait until I have seen my child’s recital, Lord.’ ‘As soon as I see the championship game.’ How about, ‘Just let me call and reschedule some appointments, first.’”

A light scattering of timid chuckles gave him instant feedback that not many were finding his comments particularly amusing. Just as I feared, I’m stepping on too many influential leather clad toes.

“Did I say ‘blessings’? Perhaps, the more accurate term is ‘curse’. You see, dear friends, anything that keeps us from fulfilling our purpose of communing with God is a curse. Proverbs 23:7 tells us, ‘For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.’ (KJV) Philippians 4:8 tells us to think on things that are: true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report; has virtue, and praise. Christ sets the example for us. In Psalms 40:17 we are told, ‘But, I am poor and needy, yet the Lord thinketh upon me.’ (KJV) How much more should we think on Him – the one who is Holy, Mighty, Merciful, Gracious, King of Kings, Lord of Lords?”

“So, I ask, dear hearts, how are you spending your extra time? The time provided by all our ‘blessings’. The Holy Word of God tells us we should be concentrating more on Him, through His Word and about His Work. What will you do this week? Will your time result in a ‘blessing’ or a ‘curse’?”


“’Morning, Sarah. Wow, what a beautiful morning for our walk.”

“Hi, Gracie. Yeah, it’s perfect.”

After stretching their calves, the two friends began at a brisk pace. They chatted about the day ahead, their children and all the activities surrounding them, meals, and best buys.

“By the way, what did you think about Brother Mike’s sermon yesterday?” Sarah’s casual manner didn’t appear to expect an in-depth analysis; therefore, she was surprised at the lines of tension on Gracie’s brow.

“I…I…I tell ya, it bothered me, Sarah. It really bothered me.”

“You? Why you’re on every committee and collect for every worthy cause mentioned. You’re busy at the church all the time.”

“Exactly, but am I substituting ‘busy’ for really concentrating on God? I can’t remember the last time I tried to memorize scripture.”

“Well, why would you? You have a Bible and it has a Concordance.”

“But, remember what Brother Mike said, something about what is in our heart is what we think and determines who we are. How can I think God’s Word if I don’t know it?”

“Oh, come on, Gracie. You know God’s Word just fine. Hey, do you want us to pick you guys up for the tee-ball practice? We’ll be leaving about 1:30.”

“Yeah, that’ll be great. I’m running low on gas.”


The fetid odor was made more stifling by the overbearing presence.

“Oh, Dark One, I came as you bid.”

“Yes, insignificant one. You are honored with my presence. I have felt your insidious influence on the small “church” in your miniscule domain. Your efforts have been successful. I feel the presence of the Loathsome One becoming weaker. You are to be commended. Tell us of your success.”

“ The success is all yours, sire. The secret is simple, attacking their weakness – concentration.”

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This article has been read 725 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lyn Churchyard08/01/08
Oh my goodness! This was so good; so well written! You led me gently down the path and then stepped out from behind a tree and thwack let me have it right over the head (or should that be heart?). Excellent story and a timely reminder as to what we should be concentrating on. Well done!
Debra Martinez08/02/08
Fitting complement to C.S. Lewis's Screwtape Letters! Good job!
Mary Hackett08/04/08
A very interesting and absorbing lesson--thank you! One thing that might help your readers' concentration: note at the end (in italics or by leaving several spaces to separate it from the main story) the version of the Bible you're using. Personally I find it distracting when the version is included immediately with the reference. A note at the end takes care of this :) Overall a very good job!
Julie Seeto08/05/08
The ending really clinched the message - well done, very clever.
Joy Faire Stewart08/05/08
What a message! Great opening paragraph and good job with details. Also, excellent last line. I wasn't expecting it.
Helen Dowd08/06/08
I was intrigued by this story. I liked the way it was split between the thoughts of the pastor, and the reaction of the parishioners. But I was jolted by the last section. I had to read it twice, and read some of the comments (which I don't usually do until after my comment, unless I need some clarification, as I did here). Then, after reading the title again, I got it. The commendation was that the evil one's powers were weakend by the pastor's putting focus on the things that the congregation (and many people today) put first before the Lord. I am not saying this the way I want it to come out, but I hope you get the point...My Commendation to you on this good article...Helen
Joshua Janoski08/07/08
This story took several different turns, each fitting together to tell the whole of the story. Good job! Your writing continues to get stronger each time I read it.