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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Oops (01/14/10)

TITLE: The Snowball Effect
By Susan Gurney


The first flakes of snow had begun falling at midnight. When Angie arrived at The Little Chapel of the Eternal Gospel to dust pews, at least four inches blanketed everything. A group of boys, excited to have a “snow day” off from school, were busy rolling a ball of snow across the church lawn. By the time Angie stamped the snow from her boots, she could see the boys pushing the growing snowball into the neighboring yard.

As she entered the sanctuary Mrs. Beck called, “Oh, Angie, it is so good to see you. I have something sad to report. We must pray for poor Beatrice. She has terrible hives. Itching all over, I’m afraid! When I called her this morning to ask how I should decorate the communion table, she was in misery!”

“Oh,” said Angie, “I wonder what caused that?”

“Well, she says it must be the new laundry soap she used last week. But you know what I think? I think it’s that husband of hers. Sometimes I think he drives poor Beatrice to distraction…if you know what I mean… Oops! Did I say that? Anyway, I offered to call the prayer chain with her need, but she said “No”. But since I knew you’d be here, I thought if you knew about it you’d pray for her.”


When Angie left “Little Chapel” the snow had stopped. She could see the same group of boys over a block away, still pushing the now giant snowball. Angie walked briskly home, thinking about poor Beatrice Chalmers. She certainly had her crosses to bear… Maybe it would be good to call her friend, Janie, with the prayer request.

“Janie, please pray for Beatrice. Mrs. Beck told me that she has some sort of skin condition. I think it must be the shingles. Poor Beatrice! Her husband is so mean to her sometimes…I wonder what he’s done this time that’s upset her so?”

“You don’t suppose he’s been stepping out on her, Angie? --Oops! Did I say that? Surely Mr. Chalmers wouldn’t do a thing like that!”

“I should hope not! Well, I’d better go. Don’t forget to pray!”

“I certainly won’t!”

A few minutes later Janie Finn was on the phone to her good friend, Mildred. “Oh, Millie, you simply must pray for Beatrice. She has the shingles something terrible and it’s all because of that awful husband of hers. He’s been seeing another woman on the side, and it’s making Beatrice a nervous wreck. You don’t suppose it’s that new woman that just started attending “Little Chapel”, do you? --Oops! Did I say that? Hmmm… You don’t happen to know that new woman’s name, do you?”

After a long silence Millie said, “I have no idea.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter. Just pray, Millie, OK? Maybe you could pass on the request, too?”

“I’ll pray for the Chalmers, but I don’t think I’ll pass on the request to anyone else. I don’t want to offend you, Janie, but what you’re telling me sounds a lot like gossip. Did you get this information from Mrs. Chalmers?”

“…No, but believe me, I got it from a very reliable source! Well, if you don’t want to pass on the prayer request, that’s fine, I’ll just call someone else to pray. The more the better when it comes to prayer, I’ve always said.”

As the sun set that afternoon Pastor Jones stepped into the frigid air and turned to lock the door of “Little Chapel”. “What a day”, he thought to himself. He had just got off the phone with the weeping Mrs. Chalmers, after having a long, uncomfortable talk with Mr. Chalmers. It seems that it was all over church--if not all over town--that Mrs. Chalmers had the shingles from being upset over Mr. Chalmers having an affair with a new woman in the congregation. It appeared that the truth was far simpler: Mrs. Chalmers had hives from using new laundry soap. The downside: the Chalmers were through with “church” in general, and with “Little Chapel”, for sure.

“Hello, Mister!” called a boy from the church yard. He leaned tiredly against a snowball nearly ten foot tall. “See this. We wanted to make the world’s biggest snowman, but it’s just one big ‘Oops’. It’s too tall for us to finish.”

“Well, son, it’s a fine big snowball, anyway. We’ll just keep it here on display in the yard of The Little Chapel of the Eternal Gossip!”

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This article has been read 1179 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lisa Tyre01/23/10
I enjoyed your story very much. It was great use of the word "oops" and very believable, unfortunately.
Noel Mitaxa 01/24/10
Very clever and challenging, for we never pray for those we gossip about, and never gossip about those we pray for. Well written.
Janice Fitzpatrick01/25/10
Well done. Clever way of packing one big oops too many of us have given in to, and then we end up making a huge mess. Humorous piece and the dialogue is realistic. Nice job!!:0)
Allen Stark01/25/10
Nice use of the growing snowball to parallel the growing gossip and its use to help foreshadow the details and ending.
Chely Roach01/25/10
Ah, yes, how often this actually happens. Well written, and a great take on the topic. Well done!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 01/25/10
I often think the prayer chain in my church is often used for gossip. What a wonderful reminder for prayer chains everywhere. Your story had a great moral without being too preachy. Good job.
Dr. Sharon Schuetz01/26/10
This is an awesome way to deal with a very real subject. Excellent.
Edmond Ng 01/26/10
Accidental speech is a crime! Prayer chains is a good practice without the wrong information. However, once a wrong information starts, it can snowball into a size beyond repair. The danger of gossips that lead people away from the church and sometimes from the Lord! May we hold fast our tongues to tame it always (James 3:1-18)! Nice approach on the topic with a message that tells it all.
Lyn Churchyard01/26/10
What a good take on the topic. it reminded me a little of Chinese Whispers. Sadly, gossip often takes over from prayers. Well done.
Barbara Lynn Culler01/26/10
I really like the way you parralled the snowball, to the snowballing gossip.
Patricia Herchenroether01/26/10
Very clever! A well-written analogy, and, unfortunately, true about the damage gossip can cause.
Carole Robishaw 01/26/10
Too bad there aren't more like Millie, unwilling to pass on the gossip.
God job, well written.
Carol Slider 01/26/10
A very unique and effective take on the topic! How insidious is gossip--the snowball grows when we don't even consciously intend it. Well done!
Glynis Becker01/27/10
What a commentary this is! How often do we try to get away with gossiping using prayer? Enjoyable piece with a fantastic reminder to keep our mouths shut more often :)
Bryan Ridenour01/27/10
This was really good. Gossip add the snowball have an unmistakable tie. Very well done!
Jan Ackerson 01/27/10
Let me add my "well done!" to all of the previous comments!
c clemons01/27/10
I like the message of the story, just not everyone saying "oops, did I say that?" that did not ring true to me. Overall good job.
Eileen Knowles01/27/10
Very well told! Good reminder of the fine line between gossip and sincere care. Enjoyed it!
Julie Seeto01/28/10
Well written and great message.
Carol Penhorwood 01/28/10
Congratulations on winning 2nd place! Loved this piece! Should be entered in church papers everywhere!
Helen Dowd01/28/10
Hi "Old Friend." I didn't know you wrote on FW. And CONGRATULATIONS for your Second Place Win. You deserved it. This story is a great lesson, and well named. We all need to be careful of the Snowball Effect of gossip...Helen
Sharlyn Guthrie01/28/10
Great job! Congratulations on your EC!
Connie Dixon01/28/10
Prayer chain gone awry! Love the parallel of the two separate story lines. This is way too true. Congratulations! (loved it!)
Charla Diehl 01/29/10
Congratulations on your winning placements with this very true-to-life story. Too bad the tongue is so hard to tame--but thank God for the "Millie's" among us.
Your writing flowed at a nice pace and held my interest from start to finish. Great job.
Helen Dowd07/15/10
Well, I didn't realize that my good friend Susan Gurney was a writer in FaithWriters! I just read your very good story, "The Snowball Effect." What a good object lesson for us all. How gossip can turn so easily into "The Snowball Effect."...Thanks for sharing. And I shall add you to my list of "Trackers." Helen