Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: At the Pulpit (11/15/07)
TITLE: From God's Heart to My Hands
By Marty Wellington
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Josiah took me in, trimming all the dead wood from my limbs. He set me up in his barn among the milking cows and plough horses—protected and warm. When Josiah began to work, his touch was gentle and thoughtful. I felt honored by his attention.
Many months throughout that long winter, Josiah chipped and carved. I remember his large hands wrapped around his chisel and the bang bang bang of the hammer against my side.
When spring arrived on the mountain, I was a new being. I had an ornate scroll design around the bottom of my trunk, with hidden symbols of Josiah’s faith. A slanted top hat donned my trunk. He also carved a curious saying onto one side: But the Word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the Word which by the gospel is preached unto you. I Peter 1:25 (KJV) I heard him recite this saying over and over again as he carved it into my being. What could it mean? Who was this Lord he always talked about?
When the carving was done, Josiah rubbed and rubbed with an abrasive paper up and down and all around and gingerly within the crevices of the newly created markings. It tickled. It made Josiah sneeze. If I could have, I would have laughed.
A new journey started one frosty March morning just as the first crocus stretched their sleepy blue petals heavenward. I was soaking in the last bits of linseed oil, when Josiah came into the barn after his morning chores.
“Well, my little friend. Today’s the day we’ve both been waiting for.”
What could he mean?
Josiah whistled as he readied his horse and wagon for the journey into town. It wasn’t long before I was hefted up into the wagon, wrapped in warm blankets and secured with rope. Down the mountainside, we bumped and rattled nearly all day.
“My, my, Josiah. What a masterpiece. God has certainly gifted you with a craft for woodworking. Our church is honored by your gift.”
“Thank you Reverend. From God’s heart to my hands, I knew this little tree had a special purpose.”
Reverend Willoughby circled the pedestal, examining every inch, reading the verses inscribed upon it. His fingers caressed the silky wood, rubbed smooth by Josiah’s touch. A single tear escaped his eye and plopped upon the pulpit, mixing with the linseed oil and the Creator’s oak.
“Will you join me in prayer, Josiah?”
“Our Most Heavenly Father, thank you for Josiah, the skill of his hands and for this beautiful new pulpit that will grace our church for years to come. We ask you to bless the words that are spoken here. May the preaching from this pulpit go forth with authority and love—a powerful reminder of Your great mercy. And, may its creation be a silent reminder to all of us of how You perfect and shape us for Your special purposes. Praise you, Lord. Amen.”
And so it was from year to year and decade to decade, I found myself at the center of a wondrous life full of heartaches and much joy.
There was absent-minded Carl the young boy assigned to clean the rectory one summer as punishment for smoking in the outhouse. I remember choking on dust that hot summer.
Reverend Gray, who spent hours on his knees, rested his head on my scrollwork. His tears seeped into the cracks around my base.
Penelope Woodhouse, who practiced her organ every Saturday night, played music destined for the heavens.
I sighed with delight at the memory of the rector’s housekeeper who rubbed my carvings to a brilliant sheen. The familiar aroma of furniture polish surrounded me with a warm glow.
Reverend Willoughby’s prayer had been answered. Preachers had pounded my top hat in exhilaration as they proclaimed God’s word. Congregants had stuttered, at my pedestal, in search of their faith. Mischievous little boys had defaced my shelves. So many had surrounded me over the years, but none as special as Josiah, the simple farmer who blessed me with purpose.
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