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Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: Encouragement (02/23/12)

TITLE: God's Economy: Doom-Turned-Joy
By Beth Muehlhausen
03/01/12
~8th Place


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Archie lived alone in a pastoral valley that had been carved over time by the winding course of his beloved Pigeon River. On summer evenings after work, he hiked the riverís dense shorelines and fished for channel catfish or rock bass. Deep-throated frogs provided musical accompaniment, and he often saw raccoons hunting crawfish in the shallows. When he returned home for a simple dinner of fish and fried potatoes, he often spotted deer visiting the salt block behind his modest house situated amidst a dense walnut forest.

However, when the long evening shadows pressed down and in, Archie longed for human interaction. In those moments he lit a candle and watched the flame dance out of the corner of his eye while reading a well-worn Book of Prayers that had belonged to his grandfather. Sometimes after he went to bed, the screech owls talked to him from the walnut branches hanging over his house, assuring him that he was truly not alone. However, they were not the company he craved.

In the everyday world of work and activity, Archie loved people, and his personality magnetized individuals of all ages. Old men invited him to sporting events; their wives eagerly fed him apple pie and coffee. His thirty-something peers sought his easy company and included him in their everyday lives. Archieís natural rapport with babies and young children earned him a nickname: ďthe child whisperer.Ē Although well liked by those of both genders, he had never married. Why? This question echoed deep in Archieís heart. Sometimes others wondered, too. Still others knew him as a man after Godís own heart, and trusted the Lordís leading in his singleness.

Although his homestead at the base of a forested hill seemed serene and peaceful, after a number of years it only magnified Archieís loneliness and isolation. Although Archie loved others sacrificially, he felt exiled to a hermitís reclusive life. His inner world began to erode. What had begun as sweet privacy took on a cloak of withdrawn desolation. Illusive, hard-to-diagnose physical symptoms sapped his energy, and depression pummeled his soul. So many things in his life were very, very good and right, and yet subliminally, something was also terribly, tragically wrong.

Faithful friends rallied around Archie to provide strong support - evidence of their committed relational investment. Some were brothers in faith willing to share their wordless presence while working with Archie in his mechanic shop. Others visited in the evening hours to engage in verbal marathons regarding matters of the deep heart.

Separately and jointly these saints joined Archie in crying out to the Lord. Together with their friend they sought His mercy, waited on Him, trusted Him, prayed to Him, and exercised their faith in Him. Archieís pastor also joined him early each morning to pray and beseech the Lordís presence and blessing on the day. Archie was definitely not alone - no longer so deeply and terribly without. In some seemingly distant and yet very personal and present soul-spot, he knew he was slowly healing.

Gradually the weather cooled and the walnut leaves began to fall. The tree hovering above Archieís house rained showers of green-hulled nuts that bounced off the roof and nestled in the grass where they gradually turned brown and then black. The riverís current slowed, and the days grew shorter.

Each evening Archie filled his freestanding wood stove with hand-split logs. While rocking back and forth in his grandfatherís antique rocking chair, he read his Prayer Book and watched a flickering fire from the corner of his eye. He thanked God for His faithfulness and the friends He had provided. He clung to their faith in him and their faith in God, and rested in hope.

Blazing flames of compassion and mutual faith simultaneously burned in the hearts of Archieís friends Ė flames ignited and fueled by divine love. Paradoxically, through sharing Archieís painful journey, they were also blessed. Each person walking alongside Archie was mystically - but certainly and powerfully - inspired, strengthened, upheld, and encouraged by the Lord.

This was a case of Christian advocacy at its best. The Spirit of the King breathed life and hope into His own as they shared challenges and lived out their faith in Him. Godís economy defined Archieís legacy of gloom-turned-joy: corporate worship come full circle.

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Member Comments
Member Date
CD Swanson 03/01/12
Wow - powerful story. This was a well written piece. A clever use of presenting the topic. Concluded strongly. Nicely done. Thank you.

God Bless~
Linda Goergen03/02/12
Oh wow, this was masterfully written! I loved everything about it from the detailed imagery to the empathy it evoked for Archie, to the powerful message! Kudos!
Tracy Nunes 03/05/12
Beautiful! I found myself wanting to sit and have a chat with Archie.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 03/08/12
Wow this is powerful. I could relate to the MC on many levels. The animals being my friends and the deep feeling of loneliness. You offer me hope.
CD Swanson 03/08/12
Congratulations! God Bless~
Danielle King 03/08/12
Congratulations Beth. This is simply beautiful. The imagery, the feelings it evoked and the message of healing. I love the way you write!