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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Reader (04/15/10)

TITLE: Ezra's Words
By Melanie Kerr


I stand so silently, like the rest of the people gathered before the Water Gate, and yet my head is filled with so much noise. Resentment gnaws at me. These men, religious leaders, know nothing of farming, or ploughing and planting. Days like this, days of gentle breezes and sunshine should not see the oxen idle and the plough still – and yet they call me to stand.

He comes, this scholar, cradling a scroll, holding it like a precious child in his arms. What have I to do with books and reading? Let the priest tell me what I need to know as we drink together on a warm evening, watching the setting sun blaze in crimson streaks across a darkening sky.

He reads.

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

The words I thought so familiar don’t sound the same from his lips. He reads carefully, like a lover wooing each word, coaxing them from the page, cherishing each sound and each inflection. He knows these words, feels the texture of them on his tongue, like I feel the dryness of a seed in the palm of my hand.

He reads.

“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

No longer a lover but an executioner, he sharpens his words, grinding each to an arrow point, burnished and polished. He flexes the bow, draws back the string and lets loose his wounding words. My heart is the target. Pain floods through, ripping apart half truths and lies.

He reads.

“When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers…to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the LORD.”

Tears flow down my cheeks. Shame blossoms and blushes hot at the knowledge that I have forgotten. Truth has revealed that I did not dig the well, or plant the vineyard and the olive groves. All things were given me. Sickness swirls inside as I am confronted with the knowledge that I have forgotten the Lord, relegated Him to the sidelines of my life.

He reads.

“Fear the LORD your God, serve him only…”

I can barely hear him over the tumult of crying. These are not quiet tears, no secretive brush of the eyes with the back of a hand. Keening, loud and mournful, fills the courtyard. Soulful, haunting sobs are wrenched from every body. Tear like rain splatter the flagstones, hot and hissing. Subsiding now, grief spent, silence steals its way through the crowd.

He reads.

Just as I would sow seeds into ploughed soil, he sows his seed into my ploughed heart. Soft now, my heart stirs to grasp the words that he is reading. This is bread to my soul, satisfying and sustaining. My appetite is whetted and my spirit feeds on such a rich fare.

Now I know; now I understand what has been read to me.

Based on Nehemiah 8
Quotations from Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 10-12 and 13 New International Version © 1984

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This article has been read 861 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Marita Thelander 04/22/10
Wow. Powerful take on the topic. Good "Word".
Mona Purvis04/25/10
Love looking back at the 'Before' of the MC and then the 'After'. God's Word never goes out void and you used this foum to show that. Very well done.

Barbara Lynn Culler04/25/10
I really like the segue of "He Reads" It fits so well!
Gerald Shuler 04/25/10
Powerful style and talented writing. But, of course, that is not a rarity with your entries.

I, too, loved the "He read" build up.
Noel Mitaxa 04/26/10
I like how you have taken us with your MC as his spirit has softened to receive and respond to the scripture. Well done
Pamela Kliewer04/27/10
This is absolutely powerful! I love this:
"No longer a lover but an executioner, he sharpens his words, grinding each to an arrow point, burnished and polished. He flexes the bow, draws back the string and lets loose his wounding words. My heart is the target."

I have chills from reading this... masterful!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 04/28/10
Wow that about says it all.
Angela M. Baker-Bridge04/28/10
Beth LaBuff 04/29/10
This is so beautifully written, your word choices are excellent. Congratulations on your Editor's Choice award!
Terry R A Eissfeldt 04/29/10
Loved this
The power of the written word spoken!
Eliza Evans 04/29/10
As always, you're one of my faves. :)

What a way with words you have! Awesome.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 04/29/10
Congratulations in placing in the top 40 over-all and in the top 15 of your level and receiving an EC! Good job!
Gregory Kane05/11/10
Hearty congratulations. You certainly brought this Bible story to life.