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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Garden (09/07/06)

TITLE: Weeds
By PF Davids
09/10/06


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Sweat dripped off the end of Barrett’s nose, falling toward the already damp soil beneath him. The air was hot, the work unceasing, but he wouldn’t give up until the middle-aged man next to him did. Barrett Green refused to get outworked by some goody-two-shoe Pastor.

Green glanced at his watch then wiped his shirtsleeve across his forehead. 134 minutes and counting, then he’d have met the conditions of his probation and be free from this workaholic.

“How’re you doing, Barrett?” asked Pastor James, noticing the brief pause.

“Jus’ fine,” he panted.

“Okay,” accepted the pastor, turning back to his work. “Let me know if you need a break.”

“Not likely,” mumbled Green.

James heard the comment and looked up. “There’s no shame in that, Barrett. You’ve worked pretty hard this week, and we’ve been hauling rock all day. Just because we’re only weeding now doesn’t make your body any less tired.”

Green knew that for sure. Every muscle in his body ached, spasms occasionally shooting up his arms. Gang-bangers didn’t usually work this hard…but neither did pastors, or so he thought. He would never admit it, but the Bible-thumper was outworking him.

“Whose idea was it to make a garden behind your church anyway?”

James laughed. “Me, but it’s not just a garden. It will be a place for people to get closer to God.”

“More than in church?” The idea seemed odd, but Barrett hadn’t set foot in a church in his life.

“Not more, just different. God’s hand is so evident in nature that being surrounded by it makes us more aware of Him.”

Barrett shrugged, not sure how to respond. “I guess,” he said, starting to weed again.

Pastor James didn’t want to let it go, though. “Take the weeds as an example.”

“God’s in weeds?”

James laughed. “Let me back up. The soil is fertile, something will grow there.”

“Sure,” said Barrett, not sure where he was going.

“The question is just what’s it going to be? Grass, weeds, or flowers?”

“I’m lookin’ at a lot of weeds.”

The pastor’s eyes twinkled. “That’s because growing weeds is easy. For years, no one took the time to work this field, so the weeds spread over and choked out the grass and flowers that used to be here.”

Barrett’s eyebrow’s rose, “It looked like an empty field you guys never done nothing with.”

James shook his head sadly, “No, when I was a kid, it was a vibrant garden. Reds, blues, yellows, pinks, you name it. Flowers dangled from trellises, and sweet aromas enveloped you.”

Barrett looked around, trying to picture it. Failing.

“It’s hard to see, but amazing transformations can be wrought for a little effort.”

“Or a lot.”

James clapped his hands, laughing. “So true! It’s never too late to change though.”

Green eyed the pastor suspiciously then toed the ground. “You ain’t talking about weeds no more.”

“Not really,” he admitted.

“Let’s just weed, my time’s almost up.”

James shrugged, “Okay.”

The pair returned to work, but Barrett was troubled, imagining a tightening web of weeds growing around his heart. Each crime he’d committed, every person he’d hurt, was another weed. There were a lot. Green had given up hopes of ever changing. His was a life on the street, a hard life. There was no other way…and yet he couldn’t help looking at the hard-working pastor next to him and wonder what made them so different.

Barrett’s pace slowed, growing despondent under the weight of his past…and his present. James looked over a couple times, but remained silent. Green started speaking twice, but stopped and returned to his task, the drops of sweat occasionally mingling with silent tears. He fought it.

Gang-bangers don’t cry.

By day’s end both had dirt-caked bodies, but were finished. Barrett was feeling better, putting his feelings behind him.

“That was a full day’s work,” said James.

“You look terrible!” teased Barrett.

James laughed. “Yep, but it will wash and look like it never happened.”

Barrett stopped short, the guilt surging back. “The stuff I’ve done, it’s a weed that’s killing me, ain’t it?”

“It doesn’t have to.”

“You talkin’ about the dude up there?” Barrett asked, pointing at the cross atop the church.

“We all need someone to help us pull our weeds. Can I tell you about Him?”

Barrett nodded as the tears began flowing. Wrapping a fatherly arm around him, James led him slowly up the church stairs as the shadow of the cross covered them.


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This article has been read 543 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Rachel Burkum09/14/06
A very touching story. Thank you for sharing.
Could just be personal preference, but usually I see names kept the same throughout a piece - it was a little odd reading 'Barrett' one line, then 'Green' the next.
I liked the line, “You talkin’ about the dude up there?” :) You captured the sincere tone of someone who doesn't know.
Good job!
Judy Burford09/15/06
I really liked your "as we go" testimony. Everything we do each day should be like that -- relate it all to Jesus.
Jan Ross09/16/06
Very heart-warming story. A couple things that made me stop and go back to reread -- the change in the names threw me off and stopped the flow of the story. Another thing (personal pet-peeve) is any reference to the Lord should be capitalized. Although I cringe when someone refers to Him as "the Man upstairs" or "the Dude", I feel it should be capitalized as it is a direct reference to the Lord. Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed your story! Great job! :)
Marilyn Schnepp 09/16/06
A couple of suggestions here; I had to go back to see what Barrett's name was when you used "Green eyed"...took time away from reading. Then, even though I don't exactly like God being referred to as a Dude..I believe it should be capatalized; in respect. But otherwise the story was a very delightful read. Great ending. Nicely done.
Donna Haug09/16/06
I liked the fact that the pastor was a hard working guy who earned the respect of the criminal before sharing Christ. Very effective. Good story.
geoff anderson09/17/06
Well done. Excellent dialogue, which leads us through the conviction of a professional criminal as though it is a normal and natural occurrence. And to James it probably is!

I've never been fond of gardening myself. I enjoy the harvesting and picking but have never taken to the hard labour involved beforehand. In reading your article, my back was aching and I could feel the sweat dripping, that's how realistic it was!

I'm sure it's a difference between the English and American approach to spirituality that makes me say that I wouldn't have gone all the way with Green, not to such a blatant outpouring of self awareness and repentance. 'The stuff I've done, it's a weed that's killing me ain't it?' is perhaps explaining the parable rather than letting it speak for itself, which is what Jesus tended to do.
It might therefore have been effective to have Green make those grunts and other non-committal expressions which you include to show that he's heard what James said, that the seeds have been sown. And then maybe for him simply to offer to help keep the garden free of weeds, 'since I've put all this work in!'
James uses the garden's weeds as a metaphor for sin, and I think it would be a better STORY for Green to stay within the metaphor.
Whether it would be as powerful evangelistically would probably depend on the target audience.
As I said earlier, it would be less consistent, probably, with your own experience of how God works. You possibly have someone repenting in tears in your church every Sunday, and I do concede that that is bound to affect how one would approach such a story as this. However, I hope you don't mind me offering an alternative approach.

The line 'It's hard to see...' needs a speech tag. At first I thought it was Green speaking, and such confusion spoils the flow.

The two men could still go into church under the shadow of the cross, which is such a striking finish. The whole piece is strikingly written and will probably score well.