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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Gifts (of the Spirit or service) (11/22/07)

TITLE: An Imprinted Legacy
By Joy Faire Stewart


I hold the old Bible and see with surprise that the skin of my hands look almost as tired and worn as its cracked cover. I can see pale fingerprints worn into the rich, chocolate-brown leather of the Book. I can only hope that my ministry has made a similar imprint on the souls I have encountered over the past 46 years.

I remember the day Rachel’s eyes danced with excitement as she handed me a white tissue-wrapped box. Inside was a new Bible, with the words “JAMES P. STEELE, God’s Minister” embossed in gold letters on the cover.

She saw my happy look turn suddenly to worry. I had recently graduated from seminary, and we were watching our nickels and dimes.

“It’s been in lay-away for six months at Mr. McDaniel’s bookstore,” she whispered, and my heart swelled with love.

Within days of my graduation, I received a letter from the First Congregational Church of Taylorsville. They were without a pastor—would we come? So, with our new son and our few belongings, we moved to the beautiful mountains of northwest Georgia.

The community welcomed us with a potluck supper and helped us move into our new home. We loved the old farmhouse with its hardwood floors and wraparound porch. Morning-glory vines gracefully climbed a trellis near the back door.

Across the clay road from the house stood the church, and all 14 pews were filled that first Sunday morning as I stepped into the pulpit. I felt perspiration running down my sides. Rachel had washed, starched and ironed my shirt last night. I pressed my arms to my sides and hoped she wouldn’t be embarrassed.

I looked down at my open Bible and began to read:

“...and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!”

Shaky nerves and a stained shirt no longer mattered as the Holy Spirit took control, and I became the vessel God intended me to be. When the altar call was given, three souls in faded cotton clothes came forward to accept the gift of a new life.

There were joyous times—weddings in the church, souls growing close to God, families reunited, answered prayers, neighbors helping one another. And God blessed Rachel and me with two more sons.

There were sorrowful times as well—sickness, loss of loved ones, sons and daughters leaving to serve our country.

The years passed quickly, like pages turning in the wind. Sometimes my mom would phone and say, “James, stop what you’re doing and read Psalms 118.” Each time she called with her new favorite scripture, I made a small notation in my Bible.

One day I saw my Bible with new eyes. It had become tattered with age and use. Years of underlining and highlighting scriptures, writing notes in the margins, and taping loose pages had taken a toll. It was time to retire the Bible Rachel had given me to the bookshelf.

New Bibles were bought over the years, but I never took the time to have them embossed. As they became worn, they too, were retired to the bookshelf.

Books are fragile, and so are we.

As I wrote at my desk one fall evening, fighting a mysterious fatigue that had plagued me all day, I noticed a dull ache in my elbow, and then a flurry of sharp pains radiating from my chest and down my arm. In the hospital, Dr. Malone, confirmed it—I had suffered a heart attack.

“Your next heart attack could be fatal,” the doctor said sternly, as Rachel held my hand tightly.


Yesterday, as I sat in my favorite chair in our cozy family room, Rachel and our sons—now grown with families of their own—joined me in a little celebration.

I took the tattered Bibles from the bookshelf. As I handed each of our sons one of the old Bibles, I said, “My prayer is that you will seek in these pages the gifts that God has chosen especially for you.”

The last Bible, the most tattered of all, I placed in Rachel’s hands. Time had not faded the gold embossing, “JAMES P. STEELE, God’s Minister.”

Romans 10:14-15 (KJV)
(Direct Quote)

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This article has been read 907 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 11/29/07
What a precious story!

A few little grammar glitches--the verb tense in the first sentence comes to mind--but all in all this was a moving piece, which successfully captures an entire ministry in just a few words, and by "showing, not telling." Super accomplishment.
Lisa Graham11/29/07
What a beautifully written piece! You did a great job in seamlessly weaving the various tenses as the main character began the story by telling of his life in the present - "I hold the old Bible and see with surprise that the skin of my hands look almost as tired and worn as its cracked cover," the history of how he received the Bible and then you brought the story full circle as he shared of God's ministry and the personal investment of himself. Skillful use of synonyms to reinforce the message - imprint, impact, legacy, etc. Great story, masterfully done!
Judy Burford11/30/07
What a moving story. Sometimes we forget that our pastor's wife is as much a minister as he is. Thanks for the reminder.
Laury Hubrich 12/01/07
This was wonderful! Wow! I have a friend that's giving one of her marked up/full of notes Bible to her niece for Christmas. Very good Saturday morning reading!
Emily Gibson12/01/07
This is one of my favorites that I've read so far. Well worn Bibles compared with the loving hands that hold them--wonderful image!
LauraLee Shaw12/03/07
This entire story is masterfully written. The opening paragraph is my favorite, though. Comparing the imprints on the Bible to the wrinkling of the skin as well as the marks made on the life of others. wow! Just incredible.
Dee Yoder 12/04/07
Well-described and characterized testimony of a good life. I like the passage of time and the way the minister's work and family grew and changed.
Shelley Ledfors 12/04/07
I love your descriptions of the hands compared to the Bible and so much more. What a wonderful story and message!
Temple Miller12/04/07
A beautiful duality: the bibles and the love story. Loved it.
Patty Wysong12/04/07
Well, after that, I need a tissue! Great job! I loved the comparison of the hands and his Bible, of the imprints on the Bible and on lives. Beautiful. The passage of time flowed seamlessly, too. Great job!
william price12/04/07
Very moving, touching and well delivered. Super description and use of the Bible. God bless.
Joanne Sher 12/04/07
Absolutely beautiful descriptions. I am amazed at how much you can get into 750 words. Wonderful.
Verna Cole Mitchell 12/05/07
Excellent imagery, message, and creativity. I enjoyed this very much.
Sara Harricharan 12/05/07
I liked the flashbacks and ending with the bible it made it more real. This was a nice, encouraging piece.
LaNaye Perkins12/05/07
I have felt the same way about all my worn out Bibles. In fact, I just recently passed one of my old Bibles down to one of my sons. Your story blessed me so much. Well done.
Betty Castleberry12/05/07
I love this warm and comforting story. It's very well written, and the ending iss perfect.