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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Art (01/18/07)

TITLE: Altars of Rembrance
By william price


Angry black clouds unleashing sheets of slashing rain collide with wind-whipped waves. Between the furies of the two realms is a boat with tattered sails clinging to one lone mast. Ten wide-eyed passengers grip the vessel’s wooden rail with white knuckles. Their mouths are wide open, crying to a calm face resting in the center of the turmoil.

The painting hung on a wall inside a stone house on a rocky shore of the North Sea in Denmark.

“Is this where he lived?” Peter Kinnenun asked the older woman standing next to him.

“Yes, Rembrance lived alone in this house.”

“Did he paint that picture?”

“Picture? You call a masterpiece a picture?” The woman walked up to the painting and caressed the old wooden frame that held it in place. “Yes, he was a great artist.”

“Did you know him well?”

The woman slowly removed her hand from the painting and wiped a tear from her eye.

“Yes, I knew him.”

“Is this a painting of Jesus and his disciples in the storm on the Sea of Galilee?”

“No, that would have been Rembrandt. This painting, this house, on this shore is an altar. Rembrance built it himself.”

“Why would he construct a home on such a desolate shore?”

“Do you only ask questions?” The woman’s eyes were dark brown and keen.

“I believe Rembrance is my grandfather. Before my father died he told me about this place.”

“Your father, he is dead?” The woman placed her hand to her mouth.

“Yes, he died two months ago.”

“And his name would be?”

“Edward,” Peter answered.

“Edward.” The woman whispered. “And your name?”

“I am Peter.”

“Peter; that is a good name.”

“And you are?”

“Me? I’m just an old woman who looks after this place. I journey out here once a month to tidy up and pray.”

“My father said he had traced his adoption process here to Denmark and learned his father was a man named Rembrance Jeppe. He told me he came here once. It‘s exactly as he described.”

“Yes, I had heard somebody had come a few years back.” The woman walked to the front door and looked out to the sea. “And what brings you here, Peter?”

“Curiosity, mostly. I live outside Amsterdam now. I’ve been doing a lot of praying, and to be honest, I felt led to come. But I didn‘t expect to find anybody else here.”

The woman smiled. “I didn’t know anybody was coming.” She walked back inside from the door. “Rembrance prayed too. This is where he interceded for Denmark and Europe. You see that painting? Those ten people represent the countries he prayed for. And yes, that is Jesus in the center of their boat. It was a very unstable time.”

“I had heard he was a recluse.”

“No, Peter, he was an intercessor with a wife who did not share his passion for revival. There was no food or money. She felt time should have been spent praying for their home and trying to sell his paintings.”

Peter tilted his head to the left as she spoke, trying to hear what the woman was really saying.

“Do you know why he gave my father up for adoption?”

“He didn’t. She did. The foolish woman left him and gave their son up because she couldn’t care for a young child. Rembrance then moved and built this house.”

“I see.”

The woman took a deep breath. “This isn’t the only room he prayed in.” She hesitated. “He also built an altar of remembrance in the bedroom.” She nodded toward another door.

Peter walked into the room and noticed a portrait of a dark-haired man with a beautiful young woman holding a baby. Peter inspected the painting more closely. The brush strokes directed the focus of the piece to the woman’s eyes. She looked just like…

“That is where I found him.” The woman spoke slowly. “He was lying on the floor beneath that painting. I had come to check on him. I didn’t know he had painted that.”

“It’s beautiful, but father never mentioned this.”

“It wasn’t here. I had removed it. The frame needed replacing. I just re-hung it today.”

Peter looked at the painting, then back at the woman.

“Yes, that’s me holding your father. Your grandfather’s final prayer was for his family.”

“Come here, please.” Peter’s arms were outstretched.

The two tearfully embraced under the last painting of Rembrance.

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This article has been read 1146 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Pat Guy 01/25/07
I don't know why - but I loved this. It carries the reader like the waves flow to the shore. I did suspect ... but it didn't matter.

I loved it.
Laurie Glass 01/25/07
Skillfully written. Clever take on the topic. Beyond what anyone like myself would attempt, but you clearly know how to do it. Great job.
Teri Wilson01/26/07
Bravo. You have a lot of story in few words, something which is very difficult to do. I was kinda hoping the woman was a relative. I really liked your description of the painting - Jesus and the 10 people representing the countries. Inspired writing. I really enjoyed it.
Edy T Johnson 01/27/07
How did you manage to tell so much story and stay within the word limit? Just as I can get lost in a beautiful painting (one of William-Adolphe Bouguereau's works comes to mind), I found myself transported to this peculiar locale. Along with your narrator, I pondered what you presented, trying to figure out the meaning hidden in the woman's story and in the paintings.

I suspect you, dear writer, have a grander work-in-progress, and this is a synopsis meant to whet our appetites for the rest of the story. Well, I'm hooked!
Sandra Petersen 01/27/07
I loved the symbolism Rembrance painted into the masterpiece of the storm. The idea that the men in the boat were nations the artist was praying for, the perilous times. . .there are some thoughts here that are for our own time.

You developed the character of the woman, Peter's mother, very well. I thought the words you selected to show her and his gradual realization of their common bond were expertly done.

“No, Peter, he was an intercessor with a wife who did not share his passion for revival. There was no food or money. She felt time should have been spent praying for their home and trying to sell his paintings.” This piece of the dialogue touched me. How often do we think only to pray for 'me and mine' and forget the myriads of others in other nations that need our intercessory prayers for them. Great job!
Betty Castleberry01/28/07
You *must* expand this. I can see it as a full length novel. So many things hinted at here. I want to know more. Very well done.
Joanne Sher 01/28/07
This was wonderfully tactile and beautiful. You did an amazing job of developing the setting and mood of this amazing piece.
Marilyn Schnepp 01/28/07
The first chapter of a novel, right? Awesome! Loved the lead in! My first question was, "Why only 10 people in the boat?" My question was answered along with other questions in the story. Thank you! A brilliant piece of work...excuse me, of Art!
Joanney Uthe01/28/07
Great story with awesome discription. The artist's name depicts his passion well. I love the attitude of "This painting, this house, on this shore is an altar."
Myrna Noyes01/29/07
Lovely story, very well told, with a touching ending!
terri tiffany01/29/07
Wow - this is one of those stories that begs for more! You added so much mystery into it yet filled it with just the right amount of details! It was a full story in a short story! Excellent! Great fiction!
Sara Harricharan 01/29/07
I liked this very much. The story was fairly 'light' but with enough to hold my attention all the way through. I did notice that the woman didn't seem to carry that much emotion...after all those years, I kind of thought there would be a little something more...but that's just my opinion. Otherwise, I liked it :) Very well done!
Donna Powers 01/29/07
This was a lovely story with just enough detail to show us about the man and his grandmother. I loved how you slowly revealed her identity, and also how you depicted the paintings and Rembrance's character.
Marilee Alvey01/30/07
You've got a winner here! Masterfully told with suspense. Who doesn't love following someone in their quest to find out more of their roots? What a story of time wasted and lost opportunities. I must echo the rest: how did you manage to tell this tale, with dialogue, description and historical details in just 750 words or less? I can tell you are talented because none of your words is wasted. Each has a purpose. I could learn a lot from you!
Timothy Oesch01/31/07
Wow! That was an amazing story; very similar to something would expect to find in a novel. Smashing job to say the least.
Sally Hanan01/31/07
Very cleverly done, and the part I was most impressed with was your introduction followed by the jump start into the story.