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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Repeat (01/24/13)

TITLE: A Timely Word.
By Danielle King


St James’s Church of England Junior School was old, traditional and cosy. Each morning before lessons, the small school in the heart of the village assembled for prayers.

Jennifer, a lively girl, didn’t much care for learning. She was skilled, par excellence in performing cartwheels and back summersaults in the playground. She found the world a more interesting place when viewed from upside down.

But lessons… “Borrrring!” She’d say. “Especially arithmetic.” Rote learning times-tables was a definite no-no.

Similarly with ‘Church Teaching’ lessons, the Apostle’s Creed was learned by repetition, often without understanding of meaning or significance. As for the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Give us this day our daily bread,’ Jennifer chose to mime. She didn’t do crusts. Jennifer enjoyed after school best, playing out with the local kids.

On a lovely summer’s evening, Jennifer, with skirt tucked into regulation navy-blue knickers, was upside down, walking on her hands on the grassy river bank. Mary and Alice were skipping with ropes and the lads were acting the fool on bikes.

Suddenly Carl’s bike toppled, spilling him down the sloping embankment. Laughter erupted and the kids expected to see him scramble, red faced back up the slope. Carl didn’t show up. As the realisation hit, the youngsters raced off in all directions. A young man, alerted by the frenzied cries for help threw off his jacket and dived into the murky water. Time and again he resurfaced for air, until eventually crawling out exhausted.

Carl’s father arrived on the scene. A large man and lame, he frantically scanned the water as he floundered along the embankment, dragging the useless leg behind him. The younger man blocked his reckless attempts to hurl himself into the river.

With sweat obscuring his vision, he begged: “Our Carl… drowned? Please God. Not our Carl…” Heaving for breath, over and again he implored God to save his son.

And Jennifer, with the other kids stood helplessly by and watched.

One week later the funeral procession passed the school on its way to church. The children were lined up in the playground. There were many tears, but not Jennifer.

Mary and Alice asked if she’d like to see Carl’s flowers. After school they walked to the churchyard. As they approached, Jennifer chickened out and chose instead to swing on the iron gates while she waited for them. They returned with a very strange tale: “We saw Carl in the church,” said Mary. “He said we could take home some flowers.” Alice pulled a small posy from behind her back: “Look.”

Jennifer froze. In a split second, something inside had changed. She ran home to Mom.

Mom grew impatient when Jennifer continually refused to go upstairs alone: “You’re being silly,” she said. “There’s no such thing as a ghost.” Jennifer knew different.

“There’s the holy ghost,” she claimed. “It’s in the Apostle’s creed.”

Jennifer couldn’t break free of the disabling fear that clenched her in its teeth, in spite of mom’s assurances: “Did you ever hear of a ghost hurting anyone?” She’d say. “Think about something nice instead.”

It wasn’t easy. Jennifer could still smell the sweat dripping from Carl’s father as he limped along the river bank. She heard his strangled pleas for help. And she remembered before, standing there laughing with the others while Carl, unbeknown to them was drowning.

But she developed a method. Each time the disturbing memory intruded her consciousness, accusing, blaming her, she would shout angrily at it; command it to get out of her head. Over and over she reprimanded the oppressive thought, but it refused to budge.

And so she decided to crowd it out; replace it with something different. Neutralise it. She substituted with a psalm she’d learned at school, albeit begrudgingly--but firmly entrenched.

She recited the words in perfect rhythm, concentrating hard on each one: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want; He makes me lie down in green pastures…” There was something mystical about those words that she hadn’t noticed before; but didn’t much understand. Yet there was something appeasing too; pleasing; inspirational. She wanted more.

A fretful young girl, sitting alone tightly clutching God’s Word in her hands, repeating His promises over and over, eventually realised that the fear had fled.

A few years later Jennifer chose the 23rd psalm to be sung at her wedding. And over a lifetime has returned many times to the scriptures when life threatens to overwhelm.

But she doesn’t do cartwheels any more.

*Psalm 23:1-2 NIV

*A story based on factual events.

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This article has been read 401 times
Member Comments
Member Date
C D Swanson 01/31/13
This was a wonderful entry and it read like a chapter in a book. I loved it. Nicely done. God bless~
Virgil Youngblood 01/31/13
A fitting title, increasing tension, and a satisfying ending. Nicely done.
lynn gipson 02/02/13
Wonderful story I would love to read more about. The 23rd Psalm is one that comforts me often.

Thanks for sharing and very well done.
Allison Egley 02/02/13
Oh wow. This is great. I love that it is based on a true story. Nice job.
Loren T. Lowery02/02/13
Poignant and totally engrossing - the reader is in complete empathy with the story. The 23rd Psalms is a favorite of mine, too. Wondeful job.
Cheryl Harrison02/02/13
Your story drew me in. Truly a heartfelt message. Good job.
Noel Mitaxa 02/03/13
Wonderful character profiles and interaction. Very absorbing story.
Myrna Noyes02/04/13
What a sad and sobering story! The young girl's tension and fear came through very clearly, and I'm so glad for the positive ending! When we "hide God's Word in our hearts," He can then bring it to our minds when we need the comfort or the instruction. Good job! :)
Alicia Renkema02/06/13
I was fascinated with this story from beginning to end and found myself wanting to read more; how the MC's application of Psalm 23 continued into her marriage etc... There is intellectual repetition and spiritual repetition and your piece so poignantly talks about both with the repetition of certain creeds and prayers (though those can be meaningful) and how she eventually allowed the Lord to sow His word into His heart. Like it talks about it Colossians 3:2 when it says we are to set are mind on heavenly things and not earthly things. The beginning of the story reminded me of a collection of stories from 1924 called "Tucked in Tales" that my mother used to read to me because one of the stories was about the MC visiting the "Town of upside Down." Another things that really resonated with me in this piece was Carl's dad pacing back and forth on that bank wanting to dive in after his son pleading with God to let his son survive. I did the same thing with my father when I was 18 under very different circumstances yet with the same hollow result. I truly hope that you save a place for these wonderful characters and plot line for a continuation story one day. Tucking God's word in our heart's will always bring us peace as you so clearly show.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 02/07/13
Oh wow! What a brilliant piece of writing. I found myself chuckling in the beginning and then suddenly the story took an abrupt turn and I felt like a cold bucket of water washed over me. I think that made the sad part even more powerful.Your story mirrors real life--we are talking and laughing and in a heartbeat our world can be turned upside down, but--and this is the biggest but of all--Jesus provides a soft spot for us to land, then he picks us up, brushes off the dirt, plants a kiss on our forehead and puts us back on the bike of life with his hand forever hovering near the seat, ready to stabilize us.

Congratulations for placing 12 in level four and 13 overall!