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

TITLE: In and Out
By Nancy Jo Wilson


Gary stubbed his toe on a box making the pots and pans inside clang loudly, but he barely noticed. Tara, his wife, laughed, "Honey, if your head was any more in the clouds, you'd lift off."

"Hmm, oh, I'm sorry. I'm just thinking about Sunday. It's my first sermon here; everyone is going to remember it. It has to be good... really moving."

"I thought the Spirit did the moving," Tara chided playfully.

"Of course He does. You know what I mean. I can't sound like a kid just out of seminary."

"But you are a kid just out of seminary. That's why they like you. It's not your words people want, it's your heart for the Lord," she said wrapping her arms around his thin waist. "Those women claim they're going to put five pounds on you with Sunday's dinner on the grounds."

"Do you know where the box with the concordance is?"

Tara sighed, knowing that his mind was set. "Clear off the table so that you can work and I'll find the boxes with your books." After she located them, Gary moved the boxes next to the table. When the two of them finished unpacking he would have an office in the back of the parsonage, but for now the kitchen table would have to do.

Over the days, the boxes emptied and the stacks of books on the table grew. Gary devoured each text he owned, looking for any reference to his chosen scripture. When he had exhausted his cache of information, Gary started writing and rewriting his sermon. His head bent over his laptop late into the night.

Tara simply unpacked and organized around him, slightly amused at his singular focus. So while he worked, the house slowly took shape around him. Saturday night, Gary went in search of her. "I'm done, come hear it," he said, an excited gleam in his eye. As Tara sat at the table, Gary paced back and forth reading the sermon. "Well, what do you think?" he asked.

"It's exactly what you wanted," she answered.

"Maybe I should change the middle where I..." he muttered and began marking on his notes.

"Don't stay up to late," she said, kissing his forehead.

"I won't," he replied, scratching out a paragraph.

Sunday morning, the two were up early. Tara fixed a simple breakfast and they walked to the church.

"The service is going well," Gary mused as he listened to the special. "After this, it's time," he thought patting his notebook. When the special ended, he walked up to the pulpit, looked at his congregation and felt utter fear. The warm, open faces caused a knot in his stomach and he took a deep breath trying to calm himself.

"Let's pray," he said, more for himself than them. "Lord God, thank you for this first of many Sundays I'll be with these wonderful people. Please bless the words of my mouth and let the hearts of this congregation be open to your word." He finished and opened his notebook. It was empty, there were no notes. He babbled about being glad to be there as he subtly looked in each pocket and flipped through his bible. No notes anywhere. His stomach churned and started to burn up his esophagus.

'Oh Lord, help me,' he pleaded, silently. Suddenly, he was at peace. His chosen scripture came to mind and he chuckled. 'You are a faithful teacher,' he mentally praised. The sermon took shape in his mind and he began to speak.

"Let's turn to 2 Tim 4:2 (NIV) 'Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage- with great patience and careful instruction.' God often instructs me before I'm free to instruct His flock..." Twenty-three minutes later, Gary finished his sermon with prayer. He couldn't judge the effect on his congregation's heart, but knew that the Lord had spoken to him.

After the filling lunch, Gary and Tara returned home. When he entered the house, he was surprised to find it almost completely in order. He marveled that Tara had hung pictures and set out figurines. "Honey, the house looks great. You've been working really hard. Thank you," he said wandering around and appreciating the decor. Walking past the kitchen table, he saw, sitting primly, just where he'd left them, his sermon notes.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Allison Egley 11/24/07
Hehe I liked this. Obviously, the Lord didn't want him preaching his planned sermon. Great descriptions. I could see everything happening.
Elisheva Hartley11/24/07
I enjoyed reading this article - and isn't it just great when God takes over! :)
Beth LaBuff 11/24/07
Wonderful story! I know "someone" this has happened to. :) What a sweet couple you've created. Very nicely written!
Dee Yoder 11/25/07
Poor man! But the Lord used his dependence on Him to show him He could be trusted-even with this first important sermon. Good story and the characters are very nice to read about.
Joanne Sher 11/25/07
Love the interaction between the MC and his wife. A delightful story.
Sharlyn Guthrie11/26/07
Cute story, and nice interaction between husband and wife.
Kristen Hester11/27/07
Very nice. The interaction between the husband and wife was very real. I loved all your descriptions. I'm glad he learned a lesson through the little mishap. I might have panicked. Good job.