Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Outlandish (05/19/11)
TITLE: Righteous Love
By Jessica Turner-Stotz
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He cleared his throat, glancing once again at the typed pages laid out on the music stand in front of him. "Good Morning," Jim boomed, "Let us open in prayer."
Just before he closed his eyes, he noticed a shift from the unfamiliar girl in the corner. Without meaning to, his attention jumped to her, and saw that she had bent forward in anticipation of his prayer, the purple and blues of her strikingly, vibrant hair falling forward to form a psychedelic veil. He noticed also a dark tattoo, inked deep black on her pale arm.
Restless bodies snapped him back to the congregation as a whole. His cheeks burned with embarrassment. Shaking his head of the weird vision to his right, He turned fully to the Lord, trying to block out the unwanted girl. However, she still nagged at him, even as he opened his heart to God, letting familiar words soothe his uneasiness as they flowed over him and his flock. I will not let her distract me, he thought to himself. There’s no need to pay attention to someone so flamboyant. He felt much better upon opening his eyes and purposely angling his body away from that side of the church.
"If you’d like, open your bibles to the book of Romans so we can examine together what the Lord has to say about God’s righteousness." Pastor Jim encouraged. "Verse 23 in Chapter 3 talks of a righteousness from God that ‘comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.’ There is no distinction between believers’ uprightness, for we ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’"
It struck him then, and his judgment of the odd girl shamed him. He reached for his water, taking a tiny sip while furtively letting his eyes move back to the right, front row. Almost choking, he plopped the cup back down on the stand, drops of water shooting out to dot his notes with tear like stains. She was gone.
No one else had seemed to have noticed her or his obvious discomfort. He had no choice but to continue on with his message, hoping that he would be able to find her after church, to welcome her in a more receiving manner than his initial thoughts might have allowed him. It wasn’t right to assume that a crazy looking individual, tattooed and pierced, dyed and hidden in quirky clothes, could not be a follower of Jesus Christ. Silently, he asked for forgiveness, hoping that God would give him another chance at being open and loving, to treat every person he came in to contact with as Jesus would have treated them.
At the end of his closing prayer, he opened his eyes as the congregation began to shuffle from their seats and mill about, once again hoping the girl would have reappeared in her seat.
A man now sat there instead. He was a man of average height, with thick brown hair and smooth, olive skin. He was not looking directly at Jim, but looking slightly behind the pulpit, where a simple cross hung, in remembrance of Jesus’ love and sacrifice for all mankind. As recognition seeped into the pastor’s soul, the man’s eyes turned to His, and they were the most beautiful eyes he had ever seen. He realized then, that they were the same eyes the girl had, had, warm, but stained with sadness. "Would you not welcome me in your church, because I don’t look like I belong?" Those words echoed inside Jim as tears began to stream down his face. "Love them all Jim, as I have loved you." He lifted his hands, a hole in each, and held them out to the pastor.
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