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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Happy (07/12/07)

TITLE: Life as a Tree
By Sharlyn Guthrie


Toby Gleason turned to see a small crowd forming around his locker.

“What’s up?” His group of friends known as “the gang” pressed in further.

Gabe spoke in low tones. “My house. Today. After practice.”

“Oh yeah? What for?” The others exchanged knowing grins and glances.

“Danielle went out with Kyle Friday night. They really went at it…you know, as in all the way.” Muffled laughter fluttered through the group.

“Tell me something I don’t know,” Toby replied, rolling his eyes at Kyle.

“He got it all on video. And we’re gonna watch.”

“That’s disgusting!” Toby recoiled at the thought.

“You won’t say that once you see it. Be there.”

“Forget it.” Toby replied. “Count me out this time.”

How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked...

If Toby thought the matter was settled, he thought again when he reached the school parking lot.

“Listen, man, you’re either with us or against us.” Gabe stood blocking the driver’s door of Toby’s car. “We’re not goin’ down because some goody two shoes decides to rat us out. Only way we know to keep that from happening is if you come along. Besides, you won’t want to miss the fun.” The others guffawed as they lined up along his car, arms crossed across their chests.

Toby’s heart beat wildly. He felt threatened, and yet he had never been so angry. Indignant, he spat. “You guys are pathetic. And I used to think you were cool. Now get out of my way.” He kicked gravel, causing them to scatter, then lurched for the door and sped off.

...or take the path of sinners...

Toby prayed as he drove, ignoring the continuous ringing of his cell phone. When he finally listened to the messages left by his supposed friends he was sickened by their mocking tone and foul language. “God, protect me,” he prayed. “These enemies of yours are no friends of mine. Help me stay strong.”

...or join a group of mockers.

Tara was surprised to find Toby at her door. He usually called before dropping in on his girlfriend. Nevertheless she listened, horrified, as he filled her in on the day’s events.

“Tara,” he continued, searching her deep green eyes. “Remember the youth retreat we attended last month?” Tara nodded. “God really spoke to me there. I’ve been reading my Bible every day since and I can’t get enough. I think God wants me to serve Him…full time, I mean. I’m telling you now because I might not be so much fun to be with any more. “The gang” will make my life miserable and, most likely, yours too.”

She stared silently at the floor.

“But there’s more, Tara. I’ll be going to Bible college after I graduate. I won’t blame you if you show me the door.”

Instead, his delight is in the Lord's instruction,
and he meditates on it day and night.

“Oh Toby, that’s what I want, too. I want to do things God’s way. Good riddance to a bunch of guys who think using girls makes them cool.”

Toby’s heart overflowed with gratitude and relief.

Although distanced from the popular crowd, Toby found he didn’t lack for friends. Tara stood by him, enrolling in the same Bible college as he following graduation. As they grounded themselves in God’s Word their friendship flourished. So did their love for Jesus Christ.

He is like a tree planted beside streams of water...

Toby and Tara’s wedding was a joyful celebration of love and commitment before family and friends. During Toby’s seminary years Tara worked hard so Toby could concentrate on his studies. After seminary Toby accepted a youth pastor position. He loved discovering fresh ways of encouraging teens to pursue a relationship with Jesus Christ. God soon blessed the devoted couple with a beautiful baby boy.

...that bears its fruit in season...

Still, Toby and Tara have weathered their share of droughts and storms. They grieved through three miscarriages. Tara’s parents divorced. Toby sometimes encounters resistance among church members and disappointing choices made by his teens. Each trial makes them cling more tightly to Jesus, their vine.

...and whose leaf does not wither.

Toby lives modestly and righteously, depending on God to meet his family’s needs. But Tara’s gentle touch and their son’s laughter at the end of each day remind him what true prosperity is. He is a happy man.

Whatever he does prospers.

Psalm 1:1-3(The Holman Christian Standard Bible)

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This article has been read 997 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Dee Yoder 07/21/07
What a beautiful story and I love your format! The scriptures running through the story like a commentary on the life of a dedicated man of God are wonderful. I really like this.
Joanne Sher 07/21/07
I love the way you wove the scripture through this. I SO wish you had more words to expand on some of the later times in their lives - but that's the challenge for you! I Hope you DO expand this.
Delores Baber07/23/07
I loved the way you took Psalm 1 and turned the analogies into the story of a believer's life. Would like to see more examples like this from you. What would Psalms 51 become in your creative hand?
Trevas Walker07/23/07
This is simply awsome. Very moving and very well written. I also like the format you used, fitting the scripture in with the story.
Catrina Bradley 07/23/07
Awesome! I love Toby's strength in his faith, beautifully illustrated by the Psalm. Great job!
Joy Faire Stewart07/23/07
This is a wonderful devotional piece...can see it being used in a youth group.
David Butler07/23/07
Man! That really brings that scripture passage home to me, illustrating each phrase that way. Great writing.
Mariane Holbrook 07/23/07
This is just too good. There should be another category for this kind of writing. I don't always envy a piece but I came close on this one. I love the way you handled the Scripture, weaving it in so effectively. What a great job!
Melanie Kerr 07/24/07
An excellent read - that really brought the Bible verse to life.
Elizabeth Baize07/24/07
The fact that this is based on a true story really made it come alive to me, and your format is extremely effective. It demonstrates the truth of God's Word and the Lord's faithfulness as a person orders his daily life in accordance with Scripture.
God Bless,
Dianne Janak07/24/07
It would be fun to see a challenge week using this kind of story. Weaving a story in present day living with scriptures. Psalms and Proverbs would both work. What a great job.. I loved it.
Janice Cartwright07/31/07
The title is provocative (in a good way). One could even turn it around to read Tree of Life!! This is a truly effective way of bringing the scripture right where we live. Almost like a collection of parables to illustrate God's principles of Life. Also beautifully written.