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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Worship (corporate) (10/04/07)

TITLE: The Special
By George Parler


The sunrays danced through swaying trees on this beautiful, crisp winter morning. Just enough snow had fallen during the night to grace the beauty of everything. Perhaps another Sunday morning in the country; or was it?

Cars pulled in front of the church, as everyone hurried to the warmth inside. The young pastor, Harry Sutton, stood on the church steps greeting the church family as they entered.

“Look at him, Martha. Standing out in the cold greetin’ folks. What’s he thinking?”

“Now, Poppa, what on earth is wrong with that? I think it’s very thoughtful. This is his first Sunday as our new pastor; he’s just trying to make a good impression.”

“Thoughtful? If he’d a given any thought about it, he would be on the other side of the door where it’s warm to do all that howdy mumbo-jumbo. He’s too young to be a preacher, I tell you. He’s probably got a bunch of bratty kids to boot.”

“John Michael Jacobs, that’ll be just about enough of that. Now get out of the car and come open my door.”

As John and Martha approached the steps of the church they were greeted by a smile and a handshake from Harry.

“Brother John and Sister Martha, wonderful to see you this morning.”

“Why I’m impressed, Reverend Sutton. How did you know our names?” Martha beamed.

“I must confess it wasn’t a word from heaven, just the church directory. It has everyone’s picture along with their names.” Harry laughed.

“I’d be mighty impressed if we could get inside where it’s warm. We’re old; you know? That makes us prone to pneumonia, frostbite and such.” John grumbled.

“Don’t mind him, Reverend Sutton, he hasn’t been regular lately and that makes him like an old hound dog without teeth. All bark and no bite.” Martha giggled.

“WOMAN, what are you doing? You don’t tell folks my business, especially that sort of business.” John growled.

“Going to be a great service today, Brother Jacobs.” Harry reached out, shaking John’s hand again trying to ease the tension.

“Yeah well, let me go sit before some new folks get our place on our pew.”

This church family stood, singing from their hymnals. The stained glass windows came alive as voices sang praise to the One who created the sun that shown through, bathing their faces in its glow. Except for John, who stood there as he has since his granddaughter passed away with a failing heart. In all the praise surrounding him he was empty. His religion had become his solitude apart from the intimacy he once knew with God. ‘A man should never outlive his grandchild’, were his last words directly to God.

As the final hymn was completed, Harry stood at the podium with his usual smile. “Greetings saints. At this time I would like to introduce to you our five-year-old daughter, Rebecca, who I refer to as Pumpkin. I’ve asked her to sing something special for our new church family.”

“I knew it”, John muttered. “First Sunday and he’s already lettin’ his youngun take over the church.”

Suddenly John held his breath as he watched little Rebecca step up to the side of the podium. She wore a scarf over her head as it made her feel better with not having any hair because of her obvious treatments. Standing there in her beautiful white dress, she smiled as her eyes scanned the congregation until she saw the hurt in John’s eyes.

Harry played the piano as his little Pumpkin began to sing, ‘It Is Well With My Soul’. Every heart was touched as her tender voice filled the chapel. The congregation could not help themselves as they joined her in the chorus. Suddenly it was as angels had joined the choir of the saints as the melody swelled in waves of glorious worship. With one voice they all worshipped; except for John. His tears bathed his face; wanting to look away but his melting heart would not let him.

As the church continued to sing, Pumpkin left the podium; walking down the aisle stopping at John’s feet. Pulling on his shirtsleeve, John sat down in the pew. Still he wanted to look away, but couldn’t. Pumpkin wrapped her arms around John’s neck. A tender hug emptied a heart filled with bitterness through a river of tears, as the church rang with the words, ‘It is well, it is well, . . with . . . my soul’.

*‘It Is Well With My Soul’, Written by Horatio G. Spafford, 1873. Composed by Phillip Bliss, 1876.

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This article has been read 1045 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Joanne Sher 10/11/07
Excellent job of characterization, and of the change, especially, in John. When I read this the first time, I wondered if the two scenes were too different to mesh - but now I'm convinced they were just right. You absolutely excelled at showing the miracle of John's transformation. Wonderful.
Sheri Gordon10/11/07
What a beautiful story. "It Is Well With My Soul" is one of my favorite songs -- and you brought tears to my eyes picturing this little girl singing. Nice job with the topic.
julie wood10/11/07
I really enjoyed this story! Terrific dialogue--I could just hear that feisty elderly couple. The tragic nature of what lay behind John's crankiness caught me by surprise, but is also beautifully described--as is his reaction to the little girl up front. Very moving!
Lynda Schultz 10/12/07
Beautiful story. Great character development and "voice." Good job.
Janice Cartwright10/12/07
Really heartwarming and good characterization. I've known some Johns and they usually turn out to be teddy bears once God melts the crusty outside.
Donald Ford10/15/07
What are you trying for here, some sort of record? Go ahead and add my name to the list of those who were choking back tears with this one. Well done!
Laury Hubrich 10/15/07
Wow! It is a tear jerker.
Debbie Roome 10/15/07
Lovely reminder that we must never take people at face value but rather try and understand the reason for their behaviour.
Marilyn Schnepp 10/16/07
Lovely, touching, memorable and a blessing to read. A fine job of portraying the topic of "worship". Kudos!
Jan Ackerson 10/16/07
Awwwwwww...pulled on the ol' heartstrings with this one, and it takes some doing, as my heartstrings are pretty tough. Good job.
Karen Wilber10/16/07
I had trouble reading through the tears after "She wore a scarf over her head..." You really made me care about John. This one got me. Glad I didn't miss it.
Betty Castleberry10/16/07
Well the least you could do is post a tissue alert. This is so touching. I loved it, even though my mascara is ruined and I have to leave for Bible study in a few minutes. Very well done.
Sharlyn Guthrie10/17/07
This story had it all -humor, charm, drama, and emotion. Very well done.
Joy Faire Stewart10/18/07
One of my favorite for the week. Love the lyrical writing...descriptions are crisp.