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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Fragrance (10/24/05)

TITLE: The Encounter . . .
By Lisa Graham


Stirring from a brief nap, the young man began staring out the window of the Greyhound bus as it rumbled along the eastern Tennessee countryside. Occupied with his own thoughts, he didn’t notice the older lady sitting across the aisle until she spoke.

“Reverend Gaston, the bus driver tells me you’re a brand new minister.”

He smiled sheepishly. “Yes, ma’am . . . Graduation Day was yesterday . . . I hope I don’t resemble a little kid posing in his father’s suit.”

She chuckled. “That definitely sums up my first impression of you!”

“I guess I don’t look very convincing.” He smiled ruefully.

“If God’s convinced, why worry about anyone else?”

Shifting uncomfortably in his seat, he said softly, “My father is a gifted speaker, but I’m not.”

“Remember this: ‘God doesn’t call the equipped . . . He equips the called!’” She extended her small hand. “Before I spout any other judgments, the very least I can do is introduce myself . . . I’m Caroline Moore.”

“It’s nice to meet you.”

“I hope you don’t mind, but I found your Bible on your seat.” She held the book to her nose. “Ah, the fragrance of fine leather . . . is it a graduation present?”

“Yes, ma’am . . . Father gave it to me before I left . . . he said I needed a new Bible for my new position.”

“Where might that be?”

“Father arranged for me to pastor a small church near Fayette. I’m on my way there now . . .”

“Young man, you’ll suffocate under the heavy expectations of others! You need to be better equipped to meet the challenges you’ll face!”

“I’m not sure I understand . . .”

She reached into her handbag and withdrew a small book. “Here’s my Bible . . . what’s the difference between mine and yours?”

“Well, it’s quite worn and used,” he said softly, and then read the words inscribed on the inside page: “To my beloved husband, Carlton, on our first Christmas together – with all my love, Caroline (1941).” He found himself handling this Bible as carefully as fine crystal.

“Does it have the fragrance of fine leather?” She folded her arms and waited.

He felt a little strange about holding her Bible to his nose, but he did as she requested. “It smells like flowers.”

“That’s probably from the gardenia sachet I carry in my purse. My Bible is deeply integrated into my life. This may sound odd, but I use my Bible so much that it even smells like me. I’ve carried it ever since Carlton brought it back home after World War II.”

“That makes sense.” He tried to return her Bible to her, but she halted him with a question.

“Did you notice the stains on the pages?”

He carefully thumbed through the darkened pages, where passages were underlined in faded ink. Some of the pages were stained to the point of being too difficult to read.

“The stains are from rainwater dripping into foxholes, mixed with the sweat and blood of a weary soldier longing for home. I’ve carried it for sixty years . . . now it’s yours.”

“No, I couldn’t possibly . . . “

“I insist,” she said, settling in her seat. “It’s served us well . . . all I ask is that you write me and let me know how things are going for you at your new church. My address is written on the inside front cover. I’ll rest now, but start reading, beginning with II Corinthians 2:14.”

He turned to the passage and read the darkened page: “But thanks be to God, Who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.” (NIV)

Gaston observed the lady as she slept. Her time-worn face, very much like the cover of the battlefield Bible, was etched with fine lines, yet there was a serene presence about her. She wasn’t consumed by worry, or burdened with heavy expectations.

The wisdom found in this Bible had comforted a man on a war-torn battlefield, and strengthened a lady through sixty years of untold challenges to her faith and life. Surely, it would help a newly-minted preacher overcome paralyzing insecurity.

Each time we encounter someone, we are presented with the opportunity to spread the “fragrance of the knowledge of Him.” Do we seize the opportunity, or do we let it slip by?

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This article has been read 1067 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Doreen Hammond10/31/05
I love this story! It is very sweet and touching. It made me stop and take a deep breath from my busy day. Thank you. Very good!

Kate Wells10/31/05
This reminded me of the Bible I inherited some years ago. It belonged to my great-grandfather and I often hold it close and smell the leather. Wonderful story...I loved it!
terri tiffany10/31/05
This was great on all points! You have believable characters, great dialogue, you filled in all the answers well to setting and how she would know him and then used the topic in a unique way!And then a great lesson!
Jan Ackerson 11/01/05
Wonderful characterization! Both of your characters are unique and likeable. Your last sentence isn't really necessary; you've given your reader a lovely lesson and you don't need to "preach it"--you did a great job of showing us.
Janice Stotz11/01/05
I loved this - thank-you! I feel the same way about my Bible. It's not fancy or made of leather, but it's my most valued possession.
Karen O'Leary11/02/05
Wonderful story with a good message. Thank kyou for sharing it.

Garnet Miller 11/02/05
You said a mouthful! Sometimes we let the opportunity slip by because we forget the signifigance one life has to God in heaven. All of heaven and the angels rejoice when a new soul finds its place in Christ. With every missed opportunity, silence is heard in heaven! Thanks. This could be used as a Sunday school story:)
Tisha Martin 11/02/05
Thanks for the wonderful picture! Made me sit back and reflect on how awesome an old Bible is, and the condition my own Bible will mean to my kids someday. Keep on writing!
dub W11/03/05
A very well composed article. The final line made this into a sermon story, which maybe it is. Thanks for posting.
Nina Phillips11/03/05
Great on all counts--bravo! Front to back, I had no problem reading your story. Inspirational. God bless ya, littlelight
B Brenton11/04/05
I really, really like it. It'll be in the winners circle, I'd say.
Marilyn Schnepp 11/04/05
Very touching story. The touch, feel and smell of a Bible is different somehow. I agree that the last paragraph could be deleted. It's a sermon, as is. Nice work
Alexandra Wilkin11/07/05
This was so well told - such clear and tender descriptions: I could smell the leather, feel the dust from the journey on my face and clearly picture the older lady and the nervous young pastor. I dont think that the last paragraph should be removed but I do think it could be re-worked slightly by making it the reflections of the young pastor, perhaps a few years into his ministry. Beautiful. God bless.
Michelle Burkhardt11/07/05
A well deserved win. Congratulations!
Deborah Porter 11/07/05
Lisa, congratulations on your 2nd place in the Editors' Choice, as well as your 1st Place in the Level 2 awards. Well done! Now it's time to move on up to Level 3! Love, Deb (Challenge Coordinator)

Crista Darr11/07/05
I love your characters! Fantastic writing.