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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of “A Bird in the Hand is Worth Two in the Bush” (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (01/10/08)

TITLE: Streams of Sweat
By LauraLee Shaw


Streams of sweet sweat were pouring down Richard’s forehead. He held that last note so long, I thought I was going to need oxygen myself. It had been a long while since I had seen the congregation so engaged in worship.

“That was some amazing musicianship,” a groomed thirty-something guy announced as he approached Richard and me.

“Thank you,” Richard answered, “And what’s your name?”

“Luke Jones.” He reached out to shake Richard’s hand, and then turned to shake mine. “Insightful message, Pastor.”

What charisma.

“I appreciate that, Luke. Wait, you’re the new executive pastor over at Grace Covenant.”

Richard interrupted anxiously, “Oh, wow, I just purchased your church’s choir CD. That was phenomenal.”

He beamed. “Thanks, that project has been quite successful, which has been both good and bad.”

“Oh, how’s that?” I asked.

“Good--because it’s brought in over $5,000 for missions. And bad-- because our worship pastor decided that it was time to pursue his dream of becoming a recording artist after an agent heard the CD and offered him the moon.”

Richard remarked, “Well, I guess you can’t blame him for that. There aren’t too many of us that would turn down that kind of opportunity. I wouldn’t.”

Now I was the one sweating.

Pastor Luke went on to tell of the great achievements the new artist had accomplished so far. Richard was completely enthralled. The hair on the back of my neck was screaming, so I walked away before my lips had the chance to follow.

Maybe I shouldn’t have. Richard came into my office the following week with wet beads of nervousness on his brow. I guess I was expecting him.

“I’m not sure how this happened,” Richard began to spill out. “One moment I’m talkin’ to Pastor Luke about their sound system, the next we’re discussing a job opening.” He wiped his face with his handkerchief. “I would be directing a choir with four hundred people in it, Jim. They televise in ten states. It’s like my life-long dream has just fallen into my lap. I never meant for this to happen, but now it’s right in front of me. I’m so sorry.”

My heart was torn in two. “Richard,” I uttered, “I would never try to keep you from something that you feel like the Lord is leading you to do. Just know that you will be missed terribly. There’ll be an awfully big hole.”

I did not hear from Richard for over seven months but was thrilled to receive an email from him one day. The chatter in ministry circles was that he was thriving over at Grace, so I couldn’t wait to hear the personal side of things. As I read his message, I pictured him sitting at the keyboard with perspiration gleaming from his hairless head as he typed.

Jim, I’m sorry I’ve haven’t been in touch, but it’s been a whirlwind. I can’t remember the last time I had some down time. I am meeting’d out, and sometimes I feel like we’re more of a business than a ministry. Don’t get me wrong, these people love the Lord, but it’s just different. Like, they choose my wardrobe for church services. I can’t even dress myself now? And the kids hate their youth groups. We can’t get Jason to go anymore. Susan’s not happy either. I feel like a failure. Please pray for us.
I hope your new worship guy is doing well and that he realizes how good he has it. How is everyone? Is the staff playing the fantasy basketball tournament this year? Love, Richard

My eyes began to sting, and my stomach hurt for him. A few moments later, Jeremy, our new worship pastor popped his head in my office. “Everything ok?”

“Yes, it’ll be fine, I’m sure,” I tried to convince myself. “Just concerned about an old friend. You ok?”

Jeremy was chompin’ at the bit to share some interesting news with me. “You’ll never guess who just called me.”


“It was Steven Miller, you remember the guy that left Grace Covenant to go start the big music career?”

I squirmed. “Yeeeeeah?”

“Well, apparently, he’s looking for a job, and he didn’t know that you had filled Richard’s spot since he left. He’s desperate for some, quote ‘actual income,’ end of quote. He said that the solo career thing had led to a bunch of dead ends. Sad, huh?”

The hot water began to pour from my pores. “You don’t know the half of it.”

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This article has been read 1022 times
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Sara Harricharan 01/18/08
I liked seeing this story from both sides and especially through your MC. The twist was really good and I liked the authentic feel to it. Your title fit and helped me to really picture the guy. Good job! ^_^
Kristen Hester01/18/08

I really like how you showed even in ministry we can be tempted to go after the "two birds" when the one in our hand is just fine...and what we are supposeed to have. Great illustration that shows how we always want what's just out of our reach. I liked the use of the "sweat" that was repeated througout the entire entry.

Very nice job. BRAVO!
Tim Pickl01/18/08
This one reminds me of another cliche' - "Don't sweat the small stuff" -- It's amazing how God works! This piece could be developed into a skit for church....hey--have the choir do it!?
Jan Ackerson 01/21/08
Great job!

I had to read it a few times to sort out the characters, but it didn't distract at all from your message. I like the recurring theme of sweat, too.
Beth LaBuff 01/22/08
Great and relevant illustration of the topic. It gives one much to think about. Good writing!
Debbie Roome 01/22/08
I like this. It was an unusual approach and so believable.
Gerald Shuler 01/22/08
I had almost an identical event in my own ministry. I was offered a children's ministry that included a half hour TV show.
You hit the nail on the head with this one.
Linda Watson Owen01/22/08
Yes, this is right on target for the topic! Very believable situation too! I was hanging on every word. Really sweat...er, I mean sweet entry! ;-)
Holly Westefeld01/22/08
A clever double illustration of the topic.
It brings to mind the saying, "Be careful what you pray for; you might get it."
Debbie Wistrom01/22/08
Oh the appeal what what we don't have...I felt for this pastor and his flock. Keep it up!
Betty Castleberry01/22/08
It's so true that we just don't know how good we have it. Nice job illustrating the topic. I enjoyed reading this.
Sheri Gordon01/22/08
Very good illustration, and your writing kept the story moving at a good pace.

I love that you used a ministry for this. Too often we are deceived into thinking an opportunity must be from God if it involves His work.

Nice job with the topic.
Julie Ruspoli01/22/08
Wow, this is a great message. Shows that the size of our church and position doesn't make it the best. I enjoyed reading this. Great job.
Karen Wilber01/22/08
Great application of the topic. Ya' never know how good you have it until.... Didn't expect the twist at the end - that was well done.
Loren T. Lowery01/22/08
A home run on the topic and the story line was all so real. Your use of dialogue was excellent as well as the way you lead the readers into the thoughts of your different characters. Great job!
Rita Garcia01/22/08
Great writing, great message, and great read! FANTASTIC!
Joy Faire Stewart01/22/08
I like the realistic approach to the topic and the dialogue is excellent.
Dee Yoder 01/22/08
You've captured the way we sometimes make decisions based on emotions and not God's calling. The urge to find something "better" is strong, even in church leadership. Good job on the topic.
Lisa Graham01/23/08
Excellent message, right on topic and enjoyed the writing style.
Beckie Stewart01/23/08
I liked your story and all the pain and emotion. What is sad is how true this can be.
Verna Cole Mitchell 01/23/08
Your very intereting story contained a great message and was a unique illustration for the topic.
Patty Wysong01/23/08
Super!! Bringing it all 'round full circle really drove the lesson home. Great job! :-)
Sally Hanan01/23/08
Excellently done. My favorite sentence was: The hair on the back of my neck was screaming, so I walked away before my lips had the chance to follow.
Sara Harricharan 01/24/08
***Congratulations!*** Awesome writing! ^_^
Sheri Gordon01/24/08
Congratulations on your much deserved EC. This is a great piece.
Joanne Sher 01/26/08
Wonderful descriptions and such a GREAT illustration of the proverb. A definitely deserved EC placing, Laura. Congratulations!
Peter Stone01/27/08
Well done on your EC placing!