Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Happy (07/12/07)
TITLE: Life as a Tree
By Sharlyn Guthrie
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“What’s up?” His group of friends known as “the gang” pressed in further.
Gabe spoke in low tones. “My house. Today. After practice.”
“Oh yeah? What for?” The others exchanged knowing grins and glances.
“Danielle went out with Kyle Friday night. They really went at it…you know, as in all the way.” Muffled laughter fluttered through the group.
“Tell me something I don’t know,” Toby replied, rolling his eyes at Kyle.
“He got it all on video. And we’re gonna watch.”
“That’s disgusting!” Toby recoiled at the thought.
“You won’t say that once you see it. Be there.”
“Forget it.” Toby replied. “Count me out this time.”
If Toby thought the matter was settled, he thought again when he reached the school parking lot.
“Listen, man, you’re either with us or against us.” Gabe stood blocking the driver’s door of Toby’s car. “We’re not goin’ down because some goody two shoes decides to rat us out. Only way we know to keep that from happening is if you come along. Besides, you won’t want to miss the fun.” The others guffawed as they lined up along his car, arms crossed across their chests.
Toby’s heart beat wildly. He felt threatened, and yet he had never been so angry. Indignant, he spat. “You guys are pathetic. And I used to think you were cool. Now get out of my way.” He kicked gravel, causing them to scatter, then lurched for the door and sped off.
Toby prayed as he drove, ignoring the continuous ringing of his cell phone. When he finally listened to the messages left by his supposed friends he was sickened by their mocking tone and foul language. “God, protect me,” he prayed. “These enemies of yours are no friends of mine. Help me stay strong.”
Tara was surprised to find Toby at her door. He usually called before dropping in on his girlfriend. Nevertheless she listened, horrified, as he filled her in on the day’s events.
“Tara,” he continued, searching her deep green eyes. “Remember the youth retreat we attended last month?” Tara nodded. “God really spoke to me there. I’ve been reading my Bible every day since and I can’t get enough. I think God wants me to serve Him…full time, I mean. I’m telling you now because I might not be so much fun to be with any more. “The gang” will make my life miserable and, most likely, yours too.”
She stared silently at the floor.
“But there’s more, Tara. I’ll be going to Bible college after I graduate. I won’t blame you if you show me the door.”
and he meditates on it day and night.
“Oh Toby, that’s what I want, too. I want to do things God’s way. Good riddance to a bunch of guys who think using girls makes them cool.”
Toby’s heart overflowed with gratitude and relief.
Although distanced from the popular crowd, Toby found he didn’t lack for friends. Tara stood by him, enrolling in the same Bible college as he following graduation. As they grounded themselves in God’s Word their friendship flourished. So did their love for Jesus Christ.
Toby and Tara’s wedding was a joyful celebration of love and commitment before family and friends. During Toby’s seminary years Tara worked hard so Toby could concentrate on his studies. After seminary Toby accepted a youth pastor position. He loved discovering fresh ways of encouraging teens to pursue a relationship with Jesus Christ. God soon blessed the devoted couple with a beautiful baby boy.
Still, Toby and Tara have weathered their share of droughts and storms. They grieved through three miscarriages. Tara’s parents divorced. Toby sometimes encounters resistance among church members and disappointing choices made by his teens. Each trial makes them cling more tightly to Jesus, their vine.
Toby lives modestly and righteously, depending on God to meet his family’s needs. But Tara’s gentle touch and their son’s laughter at the end of each day remind him what true prosperity is. He is a happy man.
Psalm 1:1-3(The Holman Christian Standard Bible)
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