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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: New Year (05/09/05)

TITLE: My Ninevah
By Lisa McMillion


Kristen sat at the stoplight watching sleet fall diagonally against an imposing sign, trying to scratch out its copy. "Welcome to Berkley, New Year 2005." Under the gray April sky, it seemed to Kristen that no one, including herself, was properly synchronized. Not Mother Nature in her early spring confusion, not the city workers who neglected to take down the time-sensitive, tinseled greeting, not her. The traffic light changed, but little else. It hadn't been enough to be born here once, so she became born again, sinned yet again, and was born this past year a third time. Three times was enough to be born in a town like Berkley. It was as if God, himself, had taken the clay earth from this very location and formed her from it. It was as if this were all she needed to know. My Ninevah.

She remembered the latest December she had decided to seek God. It had happened at the same traffic light, local gateway to imperative places – RV dealership, pancake house, cemetery. As it belabored red, she looked to her left toward Death’s vast estate, noticing an eye-catching black headstone with the last name Grant. She was close enough to make out the poor body’s first name and birth date when it occurred to her she had just talked to him in November. Jim Grant, a friend in high school, three years her senior, was one of the few who had tried to make it with honor in his hometown. As the light gave up and succumbed to a numbing, blinking yellow, she cautiously, dreamily approached the freeway. 70 mph suddenly seemed so fast! Her mind made riddles to mock her fear: “What decreases as we increase? What numbers gain weight faster than Kristen over the holidays?” She remembered when digits on tombstones were rational: The barely relatable 190-something births, the 30’s and 40’s (poor mom and dad, getting up there!), and the very occasional 60’s and 70’s ambassadors (tragic accidents, FREAK even).

Death may have gotten her attention, but Kristen wanted more than the promise of a post-mortem dawn. This time she, along with her husband, had been attracted to Christ because of promises of NOW life. She wanted Him to come upset the procrastinate decorations the townsfolk refused to put away, terrified of ordinary days. She needed Him to turn over her critical views of who and where she was like he had the trading tables in the temple. The way the pastor explained, she now understood that mistakes and misery and His mercy and grace were inseparable. In that case, she figured He was Velcro and she, bouclé.

Kristen climbed from her car and into the house to jump on the treadmill in honor of yet another New Year’s resolution. “You’re not spending enough quality time just getting in God’s presence,” her husband had said. She clicked on the CD player after making sure a silver disc lay inside, not particularly caring what it was. Three minutes into her tempo, she realized it was one of Michael’s praise and worship selections. Ughh! How could she run to reverence? She refused to break pace, cursing at no one in particular, channeling her dismay to increase her number of footfalls. Wearing herself out, Kristen relented and listened, clapping tread in rhythm with someone else’s praises to God. They seemed genuine enough, the words the singer sang: "I'm going to praise Him, I'm going to lift Him higher." A feeling of protective weightiness replaced the feeling of pressing sadness that had taken up residence. It was a tangible presence that made her feel weak and at the same time uplifted. Minutes later, she found herself praising God along with the singer, her involuntary tears mixing with the presence of her sweat to make it look like she’d been rained upon. She remembered words her pastor had spoken: "The Joy of the Lord is your strength." She did feel stronger, despite exertion and appearance. Was the joy of the Lord something that had to be exercised-- turned on like her treadmill?

She stopped exercising and sat on the couch, turning the music off as well. She waited. "Your words have been given power… those you speak, those you sing, those you think. How will you use what I have given you?" She sat in amazement. Like a new receiver, she gloried in the signal. It was the first time she had truly heard the voice of God.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Judy Anderson05/17/05
You have a unique and creative way with words! I became a little confused and entangled in the second paragraph, but I loved so many of your lines! Great work.