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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Home Group (11/29/07)

TITLE: Perfect Leader
By Joanney Uthe


“They’ll be here in half an hour. You take Emily to the sitter’s and I’ll clean up dinner. We have just enough time.” Ellen made a mental list of her preparations for their first meeting as Life Group leaders. House cleaned – check. Music selected – check. Lesson prepared – check -- and divided into just enough time for each section. No more of this getting off on tangents and going overtime. It’s not that Bob and Gina weren’t great small group leaders, but there were some things that needed to improve.

“Mommy, I don’t feel ......” Little Emily’s dinner immerged all over the freshly mopped floor. So much for her perfectly cleaned house.

“I’ll clean this up, you see to her.” Don’s reassuring voice took control.

Why isn’t tonight going as planned? I had this vision that things were going to be perfect with Don and I as Life Group leaders. Where did I go wrong? Ellen tried to focus on her daughter’s needs, but her thoughts were elsewhere. Ellen finally got Emily settled into bed in clean pajamas just as the doorbell rang. It was time.

Ellen walked into the living area of her house and was mortified to see the dinner dishes and food still on the table; and worse – Sandy was clearing the table. “Oh, Sandy, you really don’t have to do this. I’m so sorry to have left this mess.”

“I don’t mind. You had much more important things to worry about. Have you heard from Kate? Do you know how she’s doing with the relationship issue?”

“No, I haven’t.” Ellen had forgotten all about praying for Kate, or any of the other members of her group. As a group member, that was one of her responsibilities. As a group leader, it was mandatory. So far she was not doing so well as a group leader.

After Don started the group with prayer, and Ellen pushed the button on the remote control to play the preprogrammed songs on the CD and fished in her pile for the lyrics. No lyrics. One more check in the “worst group leader ever” column. The music began and Ellen realized that she had programmed the wrong songs. She fretted about it, but she didn’t say anything. What would they think if they knew how much she had totally messed up?

When the lesson talked about the importance of fellowship, Heidi joined in. “That is what I love about this group. I can be real here. I can put my hurts and pains and imperfections on the table and you guys love me more because of it. If I did that at work or with most of my other friends, I’d have a very lonely life.”

“I know what you mean, Heidi. I feel that way even with my family. This group is more my family than my parents and siblings because you accept me in spite of my shortcomings. I don’t have that elsewhere.” Kate’s mourning her family relations was obvious in her teary voice.

“Ellen, you are okay? I sense something going on with you.”

Emily’s cry broke the silence that followed Sandy’s question. Don jumped up and offered to take care of Emily. “Satan’s not going to use her to let you avoid the question,” he half joked as he left the room.

Ellen looked at her friends. In the two years she’d been part of this group, she had never really shared deeper than superficial prayer requests, yet they all shared their hearts with her. They saw her as the strong one, or did they? Perhaps they knew a strength in being able to share that she did not have.

I am that strength.

The floodgates of Ellen’s emotions burst open as she confessed to her friends and her God the pride that she had been harvesting all week. She had prepared the lesson without once praying for God’s guidance. She had envied the relationships within the group and only now realized why she didn’t feel as connected as the rest. She had never taken off her mask of perfection and allowed herself to be real with her group or with God. For the first time, Ellen was thankful that the group went off on a tangent and focused on the need of one of the members. Because tonight, she was that member and it changed her relationship with God and with each member of her group.

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This article has been read 854 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Laury Hubrich 12/07/07
This was a very true-to-life entry. Very good on describing what a home group meeting can be like.
william price12/09/07
Honest writing. Great job, I could identify with your MC. God bless.
Joanne Sher 12/09/07
Your last paragraph, especially, is quite poignant. A very good read.
Dee Yoder 12/09/07
How can we support each other and pray for each other's troubles if we don't open up and be honest? A good story with realistic dialogue and characters.
Jan Ackerson 12/09/07
Your protagonist was flawed, but we are on her side--you've done a great job of writing her and the conflict of this story.

FYI--"emerged", not "immerged".

I love the irony in the title.
Laurie Walker12/10/07
There is something about this that reminds me of looking at the sliver in one person's eye while ignoring the giant 2x4 in your own. Very well put together. I'd love to see this expanded. You have several good messages being subtely told here.
Brenda Welc12/12/07
A great reminder that we cannot do it without God. Great writing!
Sara Harricharan 12/12/07
Wow. She sure laid the pressure on for perfection here. You captured this very well. The last paragraph really packs the punch. This was great!
Temple Miller12/12/07
You've created a bit of all our us in Ellen. Great story.
Tim Pickl12/12/07
God's 'perfect' ways are so much higher than our 'perfect' ways! It's always amazing to me how He works everything together for good.
Patty Wysong12/12/07
Very Authentic--the characterization and the dialog. The lesson was there, without preaching, and it had a great flow to it. Great job!
LaNaye Perkins12/12/07
The voice of this piece, and the message you give us is wonderful. There is such truth and wisdom in this story. Well done.
Sharlyn Guthrie12/12/07
I agree with the others, but especially like the final two sentences. We are too often scripted in what we say and do. "Going off on a tangent" isn't always a bad thing.
Dianne Janak12/12/07
I really loved the MC in this, because we have all been there, but probably not as honest about it..that spirit of pride is ugly and so human... great writing... good title... Dianne