So after taking a break from the FaithWriters Writing Challenge to work on other things (namely, that NOVEL I still haven't finished-ugh) I got an idea for last week's topic - At the Pulpit - and decided to enter.
Well, results were posted yesterday and my entry took FIRST! WOO-HOO!
That means I now have three entries in the running for the end of the year's Best of the Best contest, in which all of the first place winners for the year are judged and the top three receive a nice cash prize! The first year I started entering The Challenge, I had one in the running. Last year, I had two. Now I have three! And with several more weeks to go in the year (the year being July 1st through June 30th), who knows? It could be even more!
Anyway, in lieu of this weekend's Blast from the Past, I will go ahead and post my winning entry this week. Oh...and I just have to say, the best part of this whole thing is that I received personal emails from several people telling me how much this entry touched them. And that's really what it's all about. That alone has meant more to me than you can imagine and made entering last week so worth it.
Here it is:
Faith Not Forgotten
For probably the millionth time, Linda watched her father preach. He had always been a dynamic speaker, who could invoke the kind of emotion that had you holding your sides from laughter one minute and bawling like a baby the next.
Kind of like what Linda was doing now.
She swiped at a tear as the memories bombarded her mind...
Five years old... Watching Daddy behind the big wooden “Bible stand,” as she called it. Eyes fixed on his face as she listened to his animated stories about Noah and Jonah and Abraham. And Jesus, of course. And when her daddy's eye caught hers in the middle of a sermon, his face broke into a great big smile and he gave her a knowing wink. While she didn’t understand everything he said back then, what she did understand was that her daddy loved her.
Twelve years old...Arms folded across her chest, huge scowl plastered on her face, looking everywhere but at him. She hated that her dad was the pastor. Hated being called "P.K." Despised being known as, “goody-two-shoes.” She did a pretty good job of tuning him out every Sunday. Church became a time for dreaming up ways to coerce her dad into changing professions.
Linda shook her head and smiled through her tears. Man, she had been a brat. She'd deserved a lot more than the scoldings (and the razor-blade elbow pokes) she got from her mother.
Seventeen years old...Sitting in the back row, giggling with her girlfriends as they passed notes back and forth about the boys they liked and the parties they wanted to attend. Ignoring the looks from other members of the congregation. She could care less what people said about her or whether she was embarrassing her father. He’d get over it.
Twenty-five...scribbling furiously in her notebook, trying to capture every word of wisdom her father poured forth. He always had fresh and thought-provoking ways of looking at God’s Word. She never walked away from his sermons without some new insight into scripture. And she always left the santuary excited about putting her faith into practice.
Now, Linda leaned back and just listened. She’d sat through this particular message several times but somehow it managed to encourage her more and more every time she heard it.
“Always remember...God never forgets. You think what you’ve done has gone unnoticed but there is someone who is watching. God sees the work you have done and will reward you.” Her father’s voice was gentle, yet firm.
Linda closed her eyes, relishing the moment. She breathed a prayer that he would stay calm until the end but, as she feared, his tone soon transformed into loud and belligerent. By the time Linda opened her eyes, her father was looking around, eyes wild and frantic.
“Where is my water? Who forgot to bring my water?” He bellowed.
It was time.
Linda stepped out to motion for help. She caught Ann Marie’s eye and together they hurried to the front of the room and up the stairs to the podium.
Linda touched her father’s arm. “Dad? Let’s go back to your room, okay? Jeopardy will be starting soon.” She said it softly, tenderly, so as not to upset him more.
“Someone stole my water." He yanked his arm away. “And I haven’t finished the message. I have to finish so I don’t forget it. Hebrews 6:10. Hebrews 6:10.” He mumbled the verse over and over again as Linda and the nurse led him slowly down the stairs and out of the manor’s small community room.
Linda blinked back more tears and patted his back. “It was a wonderful sermon, Dad. You did great.”
Once in his room, she settled him into his favorite chair and turned on the television. She sat down on the couch and offered up a prayer of thanks for her father. His memory was fading but it seemed he would never forget his faith.
More importantly, just as her father had taught so many times, God would always remember the important work her dad had done over the years.
The truth was, her father had touched many people from behind that pulpit and had left a firm imprint of the love of Christ on thousands of hearts.
She smiled at her dad through her tears as her heart swelled. At that moment, Linda felt that the biggest imprint of all was left on hers.