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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Encouragement (among believers) (11/08/07)

TITLE: Background Music
By Jan Ackerson



I glance across the table at my beautiful daughter, all grown up. Meggie is witty and intelligent; nevertheless, I’m beating her at Trivial Pursuit. She is considering her response to “What pasta dish’s name translates into English as ‘little turnips?’” when the phone rings. Feeling smug because I know the answer, I listen to Meggie with one ear while in the other, a stranger’s voice disassembles my world.

“Mrs. Anderson, this is Dr. Carlson’s office. The radiologist found some suspicious shadows on your mammogram. We’d like you to repeat it as soon as possible.”

I don’t want to worry Meggie—she is oblivious to the crashing and clanging in my brain. Forcing calm into my voice, I make the necessary arrangements and return to the game.

“Well, that stinks,” I say in a practiced understatement. I move my piece to a “History” space. “I have to reschedule a mammogram.”

We are a family not given to outward displays of emotion. “Everything okay, mom?” We make eye contact, quickly broken.

“Oh sure, just a problem with the film.” We finish the game without mentioning the phone call again. Meanwhile, fragments of my future rise up and float in the air, tantalizingly out of reach: Meggie’s upcoming wedding…grandchildren…Brad’s and my 30th anniversary.

Over the next week, I go to work, I prepare meals, I play with the cat. The background music for each of these activities is a constant hum: cancer cancer cancer. Normally a woman of words, I seem to have lost them all at every level but the most superficial. At the deepest level of my spirit, where prayer resides, only one word remains. Please

I am driving home from work a few days after the second mammogram, with please filling the interior of the car. The radio is tuned to my usual Christian station, but I’m not listening—the pleases are too loud and distracting. But suddenly a voice breaks through.

“Here’s today’s word of encouragement. It’s Isaiah 41:10, going out on the airwaves to someone who needs it—‘So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.’ Now we’ve got Michael W. Smith…”

And that’s all it takes. The cries of please swirl one final time around the car, contract together, and whoosh back into my heart, which splashes over with praise. Father, whatever the outcome, I will praise You. Whatever. It’s really okay. I’ll be okay.


Every now and then, I let my mom win at Trivial Pursuit. It makes her ridiculously happy, and it’s easy enough to pretend not to know an answer or two.

When the phone rang during our most recent game, I could tell immediately that something was wrong. But Mom pretended it was nothing, so I played along.

Repeat mammograms happen all the time, right?

But my first thought was about the wedding—if Mom has cancer, who will help me with the wedding?

In my defense, I prayed hard for two weeks, while we waited for the results.

One afternoon, while I baked cookies, a voice from the radio touched me. It was that deep-voiced guy who starts off the afternoon show, and I’m pretty sure he was talking to me. The verse started out with ‘Do not fear, for I am with you…’

I took a deep breath. Our family would get through this.


At station WMLE, Doug Roberts sits at his console and looks over the afternoon’s playlist. In his earpiece, he can hear the last measures of a Third Day song, so he prepares to send a commercial for a supermarket over the airwaves. As his fingers play over the knobs, he spots his Bible, open to the chapter he read before going on-air. At a nudge of his spirit he opens his mic. Third Day fades and Doug speaks in his deepest radio voice.

“Here’s today’s word of encouragement. It’s Isaiah 41:10, going out on the airwaves to someone who needs it…”

The musical intro begins, and Doug turns down the volume to his earpiece and leans back in his chair. He has three minutes before the flurry of activity will begin again. “This is a weird kind of ministry,” he thinks. “I wonder if anybody was really encouraged by that. Guess I’ll never know…” He takes a gulp of coffee and locates the next song.

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This article has been read 1460 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Sheri Gordon11/15/07
I really like the format of this -- showing how each players' thoughts and actions work in harmony for one story. Actually, for one moment.

I like the way you took a familiar "encouragement" situation -- cancer scare -- and presented it from a fresh perspective.

Nice job with the topic.
Lynda Schultz 11/15/07
Great approach and a great reminder to even be an encouragement in a "vacuum" — you just never know. Good work.
Seema Bagai 11/15/07
Great piece. I liked how you told it from three perspectives.

You also selected one of my favorite Bible verses for this story. Thanks for the encouragement.
william price11/15/07
I love and greatly appreciate creative approaches to presenting God's messages. Super job. God bless.
Joanne Sher 11/16/07
Love the approach of this - it's amazing what God can use in so many hearts. Love the conversational tone - perfect, and yet so unique for each character. Excellent.
Karen Wilber11/17/07
I love the way you did this with 3 voices. I can even see this staged as a drama piece in worship. Very creative and cool approach.
Peter Stone11/18/07
What a beautiful, encouraging story. I especially loved the shifts from character to character, and how the same passage ministered to both mother and daughter.
Beth LaBuff 11/18/07
Love the multiple facets of this! I think this is exactly how the Lord works. The verse is perfect and a good remember for us to be faithful because we don't know who may be encouraged. This is wonderfully created and written. Thanks!
Betty Castleberry11/18/07
Very creative, and so well told. I like the 3 different points of view.
Deborah Engle 11/18/07
Well written piece. I enjoyed reading this very creative approach.
Janice Cartwright11/18/07
This hit me in my spirit tonight. So in line with our walk with God. He really does these little miracles for us. For me tonight it was a single sunflower near the restaurant where we ate. All the other blossoms on the plant were dried husks, but just this one still had on its happy face. And then... your story!
Paula Titus 11/19/07
I have been on the recieving end of that horrid 'waiting time' associated with cancer. You captured the emotions beautifully.
Patty Wysong11/19/07
The three POVs was great--I loved hearing both sides of Mom and Daughter, and it added a chuckle in the midst of it. Great job. Hugs.
Laury Hubrich 11/19/07
This is wonderful! I would love to read the rest of the story for surely there is more:) I like the intertwining of the characters, even the radio announcer had his say. Great job!
Dee Yoder 11/21/07
What a unique way to write about this topic. But it's true; the radio can be a really good way to be encouraged. Alone time, music, a voice to prompt your thinking, and God to direct the program. Perfect.
Pam Carlson-Hetland11/21/07
So often we need encouragement and get it from an unexpected source. So often we are prompted to say or do something that we didn't expect to do. God arranges it all. It happened to me just yesterday when the young man who fit me for new glasses leaned over and said, "I don't know why I'm telling you this, but I just get the impression you need to take some time for yourself." What an absolutely wonderful story of how God provides for us and uses us. Excellent!
Sara Harricharan 11/21/07
I liked this. My favorite piece was the daughter's POV. It was so real. I liked the title and how it played out. Very good.
Loren T. Lowery11/21/07
I absolutely love this piece. Those little nudges from the Holy Spirit to do something and we don't know why...and yet out there somewhere, the reason is waiting our obdient prompting. Did I mention I really liked this, loved it in fact!
LaNaye Perkins11/21/07
Fantastic writing here. I just love this story.
william price11/22/07
Congrats, Jan. Another super entry. God bless.
Sharlyn Guthrie11/22/07
I like the three perspectives you showed here. Wonderful writing once again.
Chrissi Dunn11/24/07
This article gave encouragement to me as a believer. Sometimes we think we aren't touching many lives with our faith and words, but
Chrissi Dunn11/24/07
(oops)God knows who has been encouraged by our words.
Temple Miller11/28/07
Beautiful story with a great message. I enjoyed the combination of the two views.
Lynn Jacky 04/03/08
HI Jan: Had to read another, wonderful story. If this is true Wow! - Our God is amazing He always send us His Word when we need it the most. Thank you for sharing.
Excellent writing.