Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Beginning and End (04/16/09)
TITLE: Dinner and Dessert
By Sharon Laughter
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Julia startled at the thought that had suddenly invaded her mind. In front of her, the stoplight seemed to throb. When it finally blinked to green, the car’s horn behind her burped, protesting an imagined hesitation.
"Beginning life as a parent ends life as you know it. When you marry, single life is over. One job ends, another begins. Winter ends, spring begins. After dinner comes dessert."
“Oh, wow,” Julia gasped, driving on. “Lord, I never thought of it that way. I’ve been so sad, I could only see the end.” She pulled into the college parking lot and guided her Escort toward a stall. She parked and slumped against the seat. “My drive ended, now my speech begins,” she observed. “I get it.”
She strained across the backseat for her briefcase. “I’m sorry Lord, I’ve short changed you,” the forty-year old missionary repented. As she climbed out of the car, Julia realized the students now filing toward the lecture hall were eager to learn about life on the mission field. They probably expected accounts of dramatic tribal conversions and confrontations with native shamans and their demons. She hoped they would not be disappointed today.
Several minutes later, Julia urged her legs up the stairs to the stage. She grasped the microphone from its stand, and studied the faces of the twenty-somethings staring back. She loved them so, and their zeal to do great things for God.
“Jesus is Lord of all – would you agree?” Julia announced, popping her blue eyes open wide. Heads bobbed in assent across the auditorium.
“Let’s think about that for a moment. Ladies, remember back to junior high when Sammy Smooth asked you to the dance? You were thrilled. Then, two weeks later you thought life was over when he dumped you for Darla Dimples.” Snickers skipped across the room like rocks on a pond.
Julia swept a weathered hand through the air. “I think I can presume that your boyfriend today is not Sammy Smooth, but rather Harry Handsome!” Loud guffaws erupted from several of the young men delighted at their elevated status.
“I submit to you, that it was not the end!” Julia continued, while marching toward the edge of the platform. She lowered her head in thought, wincing at her own memories and willing her eyes not to betray the storm within.
“Good things happen,” she finally stated. “ We come to church and praise God for what He’s done. But when was the last time you saw anyone running down the aisle, flailing arms all over yelling, ‘Praise the LORD!’ My boyfriend dumped me! It’s a new beginning!’ Laughter rolled through the seats.
Julia raised a finger toward the ceiling and jabbed. “Or, when did you see someone jump up during testimony time and yell, ‘Yes! YES! My boss fired me. God’s moving me ON!’ Julia paused allowing time for the gaiety to subside. She leaned on the podium to relieve the sharp pains in her back and smiled.
“But, things can get bad, like with Job. Did you know Job cried out - “if only I could write a book about my complaints!” Today, after thousands of years, I can tell you to turn in your Bibles to the Book of Job!”
Several student jaws slunk in consideration. “You see? Julia queried. “The end is just a beginning. And, it can be very painful – like labor. But, there you go, a brand new beginning! Paul was the greatest missionary of all. He was in hot water all the time! But it was the beginning of salvation for the gentiles! Do not let the devil convince you all is lost if you reach some kind of an end. Satan will imprison you in that wall of pain and block you from your future and hope. We can suffer all kinds of tragedy – on the mission field and off. But let me just encourage you. The Lord IS Lord of All. And in the future, when you finish dinner, just sit and wait for awhile. It’s time for desert!”
Julia replaced the microphone on its stand and strode toward the exit to sounds of applause. She smiled. “Lord, may your truth embed itself in their hearts,” she breathed, “and mine.”
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