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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Hard and Soft (04/23/09)

TITLE: Upon Mount Nebo
By Seema Bagai


Just after sunrise I set out to climb the mountain. Everyone knew I was leaving, yet they were silent as I set out. I could feel their eyes upon me as I departed the camp. Iím sure many of them are wondering if I will make it to the top. Most of them were just babies the last time I completed a long climb. The ascent was simple. It was returning to the catastrophe in the camp that was problematic. We almost lost everyone, but fortunately, the Lord was compassionate and forgave them when I asked.

My gait is still smooth and my steps slow yet precise. The ground beneath my feet is solid. A gentle breeze washes over my wrinkled face and through my silver hair. In the distance, I can hear the quailsí faint songs. I keep a firm grip on my staff and lean on it as I walk. I would much rather not be making this journey, but it is what the Lord has commanded.

People my age would say climbing a mountain is tough. I have done it before and found it is not difficult. Public speaking, now that is challenging. I remember the first time I had to give a speech I was so terrified nothing came out of my mouth. Fortunately, my brother was there to speak on my behalf. It took a long time for me to muster the courage to speak up, but once I did, it was easy.

The tough part was trying to make others listen. Frogs, hail, locusts, blood, nothing convinced Pharaoh to let us leave. Even the darkness did not deter him. No matter what I said or did, his stubborn resolve grew until I was convinced his heart was made of stone and not flesh. Only after the firstborn died did he yield to the Lordís demand to release us from slavery. The escape was difficult, but the Lord made a clear path for us.

After we left, the people were happy for a while. Then they started grumbling and complaining. They wanted water and meat. Over and over again, I took their requests to Him. Each time, He yielded and provided what they desired. I donít think I would have been that patient. In fact, eventually I became frustrated with their complaints and made a large mistake. Over the years, I hoped the Lord would be sympathetic toward me, but His resolve has been firm.

The sun is now high overhead. My sandals crunch rhythmically in the dirt as I walk. Iíve done a lot of walking over the years and am in decent shape. Scarcely out of breath, I complete the easy climb. At the top, I stop and sit down on a large, flat rock. I squint in the intense sunlight and rub my eyes.

This is the moment I have waited for and anticipated for years. My heart thumps with excitement. The land stretches out as far as I can see. The place He has promised. The land flowing with milk and honey. It is more beautiful than I imagined. But, this is as close as I will come. My eyes grow damp. For a moment, I expect the Lord to relent, to allow me to join the people as they cross the Jordan River and take possession of the land. The thought passes as the weight of my sin presses upon me.

Looking down at the valley below, I think of the others. Yesterday, I blessed each tribe. I sang them the song He taught me. I love all of them greatly. They are blessed by the Lord and will prosper. Yet, I know they are going to have many tough days ahead of them. The Lord is softhearted, but stringent. As they enter the land, I pray they will always have yielding, obedient hearts.

The air becomes chilly as the sun sinks behind the horizon. As darkness falls, I gaze at the promised land until it disappears. My breathing becomes softer as I close my eyes. Lord, it is time for your servant to rest.

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Marilyn Schnepp 05/02/09
I loved it! Of course, IF I didn't know my Bible, I wouldn't have a clue as to Who, What, Where or When this wonderful event took place. To a non-Christian or non-Bible reader - this wonderful story of Moses' life would be like reading Greek. Topic-wise, you hit the nail on the head. Moses had a hard "row to hoe" - but he was softhearted toward God's people. (most of the time). I really enjoyed the read...and the ending was beaeutiful. Very touching. Nice Job!
Myrna Noyes05/04/09
I recently read the biblical account of Moses' climb up the mountain to his rest! It is a story of both the grace and justice of God: Moses was allowed to view the Promised Land, but he still had to die without entering it. However, he was allowed to enter the even greater Promised Land above! You did a nice job of bringing this event to life! :)
Shelley Ledfors 05/04/09
A wonderfully creative take on the topic, and a piece full of meaning to Christians / those of us who know the biblical account. Very nice.
Karlene Jacobsen05/05/09
This first attempt at first person was well executed. I liked how you told, without telling, who your MC is.
Lollie Hofer05/06/09
Even though I knew where this story was leading, it didn't take away from the intrigue at all. I loved the last line - it was a powerfully strong statement from a man of strong faith. Well done from beginning to end.
Joanne Sher 05/13/09
Powerful, Seema. Very good job of showing Moses' contemplations as he approached that mountain for the last time. I'd never thought of him being on that very same mountain before. I also REALLY love that last paragraph, and the last line especially.

I hope this isn't the last time you write in first person, OR a Biblical fiction. Very nicely done.