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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: At the Pulpit (11/15/07)

TITLE: God Only Knows
By Deborah Engle


Lost in thought, Ol’ Abner sat at his desk. Over the years, he had been continually surprised by the people God called to His service, but this he knew - if God’s hand was on a little one, it was already decided. Sometimes you can tell. Sometimes you just know. But sometimes, you never could have guessed.

Without really seeing anythng, his gaze went to the office window where children played in the park across the street. He often got to witness them in action when they thought no one was watching, and oh, the things he had seen! Some of those boys were just full of meanness, but there were plenty of girls, too, who could be as ornery as a mongrel dog.

A flash of red caught his eye and he followed the movement to see a new boy running and taunting Janelle. The little stranger was clutching a red and pink striped backpack and Janelle clearly was not happy about it. With her long dark braids flying behind and her freckled face becoming brighter by the second, she chased him while loudly demanding, “Give it back, or you’ll be sorry!” Little Stranger stopped running and began swinging the bag in a circle above his head as he called out, “You little pip-squeak, you’ll never get it”. Janelle didn’t take kindly to that, and planted a well-placed kick to the shin, followed by a solid punch to the gut. Thinking better of his “stand and taunt” approach, the boy started out running again, with Janelle on his heels.

Shaking his head and chuckling a bit in spite of himself, Abner sat back in his chair. Those kids brought to mind another couple of young’uns from years ago. All summer Calvin took great pleasure in tormenting Norman every time they crossed paths until one day something happened that Calvin hadn’t reckoned on. Norman’s big sister, Coralie, came upon them just as Calvin was walking away with Norman’s new plane. Oh, Abner could still see it! Coralie was madder than a mama bear! She took him by surprise and before she let him up, she had blackened both his eyes and delivered a few well-chosen words. She then rose, retrieved Norman’s plane, and stomped off. Calvin still got himself in lots of trouble, but he never bothered Norman again! Nobody would have guessed then that one day Calvin and Coralie would be married. Even more amazing was that Calvin had gone to seminary and entered the ministry. What a team they must be!

Slowly Abner pushed himself away from the old oak desk and stretched his stiff legs. It was time to be getting home. Tomorrow would be a big day, and he wanted to be ready for it.

Night passed quickly and the hustle and bustle of the morning soon gave way to the excitement of this special worship service. For the last time, Ol’ Abner approached the pulpit. His job today was to welcome the new pastor, his own replacement. His weary body was ready for some rest, but this was one obligation he wouldn’t leave for someone else.

“It is with much joy that we welcome one of our own, Calvin King, as our new pastor. We watched him and his wife Coralie grow up here. There are several in this congregation who remember the struggles Calvin dealt with as a young man but God’s hand was upon him. Like the rest of us, he had to reach the point of surrender before he was able to conquer the challenges he faced, and he did that at this altar. Now he stands at the pulpit, ready to lead this congregation. He’s been gone several years, so let’s help him and his family feel at home now...”

After the service, Abner, Calvin and Coralie greeted people by the door. Janelle, dressed all in pink, smiled sweetly as she walked by. Turning back to greet the next person, he saw a suspiciously familiar figure approaching, favoring one leg and sporting a right good shiner. Little Stranger had come to church.

“Oh, I‘m glad you turned up.” Stepping forward, Calvin laid his hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Brother Abner,” he said, “this is our oldest, Nicholas.”

With an astonished smile, Abner greeted the boy and thought, “Well, I just wonder what God has planned this time.”

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This article has been read 723 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Debi Derrick11/23/07
Thank goodness God does know and sees things in us that no one else can see. This article is a blessing.
Laury Hubrich 11/23/07
Funny turn of events there at the end:) Thank you so much for sharing!
Jan Ackerson 11/28/07
I like the mood of tender reminiscence here.
Temple Miller11/28/07
I loved the voices you gave the characters. You captured their dialect and made it easy to distinguish them. Lovely story.
Verna Cole Mitchell 11/28/07
I enjoyed this story so much. I fell in love with Abner and his memories. Your ending was just right.
LaNaye Perkins11/28/07
This was a delightful read. I loved the whole story! Well done.
Seema Bagai 06/25/08
I really liked the premise of this piece. For me, it seemed difficult to read. I felt like I was plodding through each paragraph. Perhaps if you begin with the action of the kids fighting it will draw in the readers. The ending was good and wrapped up the story nicely.
Betty Castleberry06/25/08
Oh, I love the twist at the end. Very well done.
Loren T. Lowery06/25/08
I absolutely loved your opening paragrap, it hold so many truths and the message your article delivers at the end can't be denied.
Sherry Castelluccio 06/25/08
Cute story. I was a bit distracted with Janelle and the stranger. I wasn't sure if the story was going to be about Calvin or the fighting twosome. I loved how you tied it all together at the end. I wonder how many pastors got their start fighting on the playground?
Catrina Bradley 06/25/08
Superb ending! Love the double twist. (And a flashback to boot!) :)
Pat Guy 06/25/08
LOVED the ending! And the flowing mood ... and the POV. You captured these VERY well.
Cassie Memmer06/25/08
The ending was a surprize to me! The story seemed so serious and then all of a sudden ended on a light-hearted note. Great job! Kept me interested all the way through and I really enjoyed it!