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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Music (03/08/07)

TITLE: Misplaced Musician
By Joanne Sher


"What are we doing here? Why have we been abandoned like this?"

The middle-aged man sighed and lowered his body until he was sitting against a poplar tree, staring out into the Kebar River of Babylon, the land of his captivity.

It had been at least a dozen years since Ollam had felt like singing God's praises. Yet, he hadn't stopped completely. Partly out of habit, and partly due to demand from his captors, he'd played his songs on occasion, the wonderful songs of praise his ancestors had composed. He could hardly help it. He was a temple musician, and though the temple was out of his reach, the songs still haunted him.

How he loved those songs, those psalms of praise of the homeland he hadn't seen in years, and of the God who had sent them to this terrible place. The wonderful songs written by great men of his faith: Moses, David, Asaph, the sons of Korah. But whenever he sang them, his heart ached. Each year, he would sing them less and less.

Singing songs of the temple, of Zion, of his Lord, was like being dragged from Judah all over again. The pain, twelve years old, returned fresh, and any wounds that may have been partially healed opened once again.

Just the other day, a Babylonian official had ordered him to play his harp and sing one of the songs of ascents. He knew the official was mocking him, but he also knew the punishment for disobeying. The words, and the melody, were still burned in his memory.

May the Lord bless you from Zion all the days of your life;
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem,
and may you live to see your children's children.

It had taken all of Ollam's willpower to keep his composure during the performance. When the official started harassing him, however, he could handle it no longer. Turning his head, he'd cried like a baby. The official had laughed and dismissed him.

Ollam looked out at the Kebar. The river was at flood stage and was rushing by violently, hitting the rocks along it with fervor. Such a contrast to the waters of his favorite psalm, as much as Babylon was to Judah. He opened the knapsack beside him and pulled out his harp. His voice and fingers joined in harmony.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul.

Throwing down his harp, he buried his head in his hands and wept.

"Where are they, Lord? Where are the still waters, the green pastures? Where is my restored soul?"

Leaning against the tree, Ollam slowly rose. He reached down for his harp and examined it.

"I just can't do it anymore, Lord."

Raising the harp over his head, he felt it hit a branch of the tree he'd been leaning on. He gently maneuvered the branch through the harp's strings until it was a good half-cubit down. Letting go, he looked out on the river and wept.

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!"
How can we sing the songs of the LORD
while in a foreign land?


References in order, from NIV:
Psalm 128:5-6
Psalm 23:1-2
Psalm 137:1-4

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This article has been read 1244 times
Member Comments
Member Date
julie wood03/15/07
This portrayal of a Bible character made him and his situation come alive! I could feel with him through the vivid descriptions. Great title as well--I was drawn in both by its alliteration and by curiosity over how the musician was "misplaced."
Sharlyn Guthrie03/15/07
I like your take on this story. It's right on topic, and vey well-written, too.
Julie Arduini03/16/07
After reading this I realize how we take praise for granted and should be much more active with it! This was very well done, felt like I was right there.
Julie Ruspoli03/16/07
What an interesting story, and a Bible lesson all in one. Very nicely done! Great Job!
Marilyn Schnepp 03/16/07
The Title tells the story itself - and this is well written, and tells the story of how "it must have been"; sad, but a great re-telling of the story in parable fashion. Enjoyed the read immensely!
Pat Guy 03/17/07
Wow! This had me enthtalled! I'll have to check those verses to get a feel for what was going on!

This is soooooo very good and it's very great work.

I LOVED it! GREAT job!
Lynda Schultz 03/17/07
After I read this, I thought: "Obvious choice for this theme, so why didn't I think of it?" It was a great choice and you handled it beautifully. Congratulations a winner in my book.
Leigh MacKelvey03/17/07

This is a shoe-in. I was struck by the comparison of the violent river/Babylon versus the peace of his homeland. Excellant imagery done with a subtle touch.
Writing like this is inspired.
Jan Ackerson 03/19/07
Absolutely beautiful, and I really like the alliteration in the title, too.
Laurie Glass 03/19/07
I'd be too chicken to try something like this, but you clearly know how it's done. Great job. :)
T. F. Chezum03/19/07
I liked everything about this from the title through the end. Definitely one of my favorites this week. Great job.
Joanney Uthe03/19/07
I enjoyed this peak into the life of a captive musician. You did a great job capturing his emotions and his desire not to sing, yet his need to sing those same songs.
Myrna Noyes03/20/07
What a creative and perfectly on-target piece! I love the way you brought this psalm to life with your wonderful phrasing! Great writing! :)
Verna Cole Mitchell 03/20/07
How well you illustrated the verses in the Bible. I felt the emotion clear to my heart. I hope this is a winner because it's a winner to me.
Jacquelyn Horne03/20/07
What a beautiful rendition of this old Bible tale. Good job. You had all my attention.
Jen Davis03/21/07
Joanne, you have really done a great job with this piece. The writing is very good. This sentence moved me: "Where are they, Lord? Where are the still waters, the green pastures? Where is my restored soul?" Very, very nicely done.
Loren T. Lowery03/21/07
You do have a gift for historical writing. You set the scene, knew the background and brought the Psalms to life. More importantly, you understood and conveyed the meaning. Bravo!
LaNaye Perkins03/21/07
I love the way you wrote this. Such a good job, I really loved it.
Betty Castleberry03/21/07
I think all of the things that describe this wonderful piece have already been said. If I could add one thing, it would be this...I hope it does very well, because I think it deserves to.
Linda Watson Owen03/21/07
Absolutely beautiful! I'm so glad I read this wonderful piece! You have put such skill and sensitivity into this evocative story! Excellent!