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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "Actions Speak Louder than Words" (without using the actual phrase). (02/21/08)

TITLE: Sacrifice of Praise
By Johnna Stein


She sits comfortably on the rough ground, leaning into the crook of the familiar twisted tree trunk. The shade from its billowing canopy offers relief from the scorching afternoon sun. She closes her eyes and delights in the silence. She knows better than to be out in the midday heat, but her inherent desire for solitude outweighs conventional wisdom. Here in her outdoor sanctuary she has always sought refuge from the cacophony of everyday life.

As she tilts back her head, the rays of sunlight play tricks on her eyes changing the leaves from green to silvery grey back to green again. The gnarled pattern of the olive branches overhead reminds her of the recent twist of events that prompted her to return once again to seek solace in solitude.

How can mere words express her gratitude for a life reborn? A life resurrected! Even the most eloquent orator would be challenged to find the exact words which embody the thankfulness bursting from the depths of her heart. She wants to shout with elation, but can find no words which seem worthy. How can she express all she feels to the Master without making a stuttering fool of herself? She has the nagging feeling that tonight may be her last opportunity to spend with him before the crowds close in again.

She doesn’t cope well with crowds. Never has. She feels most at home during the intimate small gatherings in the privacy of her welcoming home. She’s a listener at heart. She’s quite shy; her words are few and come with difficulty. This latest and most controversial miracle has stirred up the crowds again. All the questions and inquiries have caused her to retreat like a lone wolf without a pack. She has lost her bearings and wishes life could be simple like it was in the beginning.

It must have been about three years ago that he first started coming to break bread with them regularly and teach from the scriptures. He was all she needed; she felt complete as she listened in awe. It was the first time in her life she felt free to be who she truly was. She could rest in his presence and the pressing responsibilities of her daily drudgery grew strangely dim.

Reflecting now on those last three amazing years she realizes how dearly she loves him. Yes, she loves him. Oh, not romantic love, but agape love of which he often speaks. Yes, and because of this all-encompassing love which cuts her to the marrow, she must find the best way to communicate it to him. A hot gust of wind kicks up sand and carries with it the sweet aroma from the creamy colored flowers blossoming in the foliage above. She breathes in the familiar fragrance, feeling the hope of things yet to come. She gathers her courage and takes a step of faith toward home.

After the evening meal her heart pounds; she knows that time is running out. No words of wisdom have come to her about how to share her feelings of gratitude and adoration with him. She retreats to the kitchen to summon strength. She cannot let him leave without telling him. Tears well up as she recalls that sweet scent from the olive tree earlier that day and the courage she then felt. She will just go to him right now and say whatever comes to mind. Determinedly, she whirls around to head for the living quarters. From the corner of her eye, she catches a glimpse of their beautiful alabaster jar on the back shelf. At that moment she knows with certainty what she must do.

She plucks the jar from the shelf and moves resolutely toward her Lord, who is casually reclining next to her beloved brother Lazarus. She seems to move as in a dream and knows instinctively what to do. With her free hand she loosens her hair, shakes her head and allows her long wavy hair to cascade down to her waist. Head bowed, she kneels silently before her master. She gently pours the precious oil over his bare feet. Unseen tears of joy and gratitude blend with the perfume. Her heart overflowing, she leans in to wipe his feet with her soft dark locks.

The sweet fragrance of nard floods the home and a curtain of silence falls as the audacity of Mary’s sacrificial offering resonates in onlookers’ faces.

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This article has been read 906 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Seema Bagai 03/01/08
Beautifully written.
Debbie Wistrom03/01/08
I like your take on this story. Your setting is absolutely real to me. Thanks for this inspiring entry.
Beth LaBuff 03/01/08
Your writing is so smooth and beautiful, your words just flow. Some of your word choices and phrases are outstanding, “inherent desire for solitude outweighs conventional wisdom” and this, “Even the most eloquent orator would be challenged to find the exact words which embody the thankfulness bursting from the depths of her heart.” This statement is so perfect for what she was about to do (and should be the reaction of each of us) “How can she express all she feels to the Master without making a stuttering fool of herself?” You’ve written this Bible story very beautifully.
LauraLee Shaw03/02/08
Filled with beautiful descriptions. Anointed piece.
Jan Ackerson 03/02/08
How very, very beautiful! I've read lots of "takes" on this story at FaithWriters, but this is surely one of the loveliest.
LauraLee Shaw03/06/08
Congratulations on 7th place and your EC!!!!
Sheri Gordon03/06/08
Congratulations on your EC. This is an absolutely beautiful retelling of the Bible story. Excellent writing.
Catrina Bradley 03/06/08
Beautifully done. Congrats on your EC!
Glynis Becker03/06/08
Bravo! This is one of the most beautifully written pieces I have read-- so descriptive and it flows wonderfully. Congratulations!
Laury Hubrich 03/06/08
Beautifully written. I felt I was right there. Congratulations on a win well-deserved but more than that -- congratulations on writing such an anointed piece that will touch others and point them to Jesus!