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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: In-Law(s) (05/08/08)

TITLE: Father Oliver, My Brother-in-Law
By Loren T. Lowery


My wife, Laura, lay in a coma after being in a traffic accident a month ago. Alone in her room, attended by the linear green blimps of a heart monitor and the hollow wheeze of an air pump, a nurse entered to remind my visiting hours were over.

Through the hallways and down the elevator, I moved outside where the twilight air was softened by an early autumn mist. The sidewalk glistened as lamplights sprung to life, one by one, along the deserted boulevard. As lanterns along a dark corridor, they seemed to beckon me to follow.

Shoulders hunched, hands in the pockets of my overcoat, I ambled down the walkway, my footsteps moving me forward, fighting my heart and mind still fiercely anchored to my wife, three floors above.

“I won’t let you go.” I muttered aloud. Yet doubt chased and bit at my heels like a pack of voracious wolves.

The continuous budding of lamplights stopped at an intersection, jumped the street and hurried on. I followed as far as the corner and walked up the steps into the Good Shepherd Episcopalian Church.

By serendipity or fate, I entered, hoping to find my wife’s older brother, Oliver - the beloved priest to over a hundred parishioners who called this ancient stone church with white steeple and red door home.

He was in his office, behind his desk. An opened book lay in a pool of light before him. He glanced up, his look a well of compassion. “No change?”

I moved to sit in the red leather chair adjacent to his desk. I shake my head, not wanting to break the quiet peace emanating in the room.

He walked to sit in the chair opposite mine, stopping only a moment to give my shoulder a gentle squeeze.

“The doctors are telling me it’s hopeless.”

He seemed to study my face for a moment and then reached over to his desk to pick up an antique glass paperweight. “Laura gave this to me after seminary,” he explained, “with a card reading Hebrews 11:1.”

I examined it quizzically and handed it back, shrugging. He smiled. “I had the same reaction.” He brought the inside of the globe into my view. “This, she said, was a meadow, clothed in tiny flowers – beauty frozen in time she called it. A supernatural reality she could only see with her heart, but hoped to see in fact nonetheless.”

He took a deep breath as if remembering something painful. “Even if Laura is my younger sister, she has always been wise beyond her years. She knew I was struggling with my faith after seminary.”

I nodded, though not entirely understanding and he continued. “Faith, she said, is like the crystal covering these tiny flowers, poured and molded over the meadow, freezing their perfection for eternity. You can’t see it, yet it preserves what you hoped for, that flawless vision God had put in your heart.

“But, to me, that vision seemed shattered. Altered, confused by all the philosophies I had studied in school. I was ready to turn away from the very belief I had pledged my life to.”

“What did you do?”

“The same thing you need to do, my friend. Restore that vision of hope. Do not listen to the doctor’s reports, but rather to your heart. Pour your faith around the hope God has placed there, just as this crystal is poured around the tiny meadow of flowers. Imprison your hope with faith.”

I took the paperweight from his hand. Tears sprang to my eyes, searching the perfection she'd found frozen in the glass. My voice faltered in its confession. “Help me, Father…restore your perfect hope in my heart.”

That early autumn night, with lamplights burning like sentinels outside the church in the cooling mist, I knelt and prayed with my brother-in-law, in his office. There my thoughts ran to the meadow with the tiny flowers flawlessly preserved in glass. There I found Laura, perfect and waiting in the crystal faith of my restored belief.

In the months that followed, however, my hope has little semblance to the reality that continues to assault my senses. Her withering limbs, her mechanical hollow breath, the linear green blimps of her monitored heart – the silence of God.

Yet, in common with her brother, I continue to pray to witness the beauty of hope - frozen in faith as Laura believed. That supernatural reality seen only with one’s heart; but confident to be seen in fact nonetheless.”

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Verna Cole Mitchell 05/15/08
This story is beautifully told of "the beauty of hope, frozen in faith." The example of the paperweight was excellent.
Joanne Sher 05/16/08
The paperweight analogy was absolutely amazing, and the second half of this piece, especially, seemed beautifully done and captivating. Lovely.
Dave Wagner05/19/08
I see what you were trying to accomplish with this piece, and I think you can consider it successful, if a little rough around the edges. Some awkward word choices throughout (attended, voracious, emanating, quizzically, semblance...) but not enough to derail. It held well through to the end. Sure are a lot of "death/tragedy" entries this week in the Masters level...

Thanks for posting it. It has strength.
Lynda Schultz 05/19/08
A beautifully done story. In a way, I'm glad it doesn't have an ending—yet! Like hope and the faith that it is wrapped in, the story continues. Well done.
Beckie Stewart05/21/08
This was beautiful and was wondering if she would live or die.
Angela M. Baker-Bridge05/21/08
Lots of description and visuals to help the reader see the settings. Personally, I would have liked to feel a little more emotion coming from both the MC and brother-in-law. Great analogy and truth. Blessings, Angel
Karen Wilber05/21/08
As always, quietly moving and profound. I also like the paperweight analogy with faith perfectly preserving the vision God puts in the heart. That's a captivating image (no pun intended). I did wonder if you meant "blips" instead of "blimps" regarding the monitor.
Joshua Janoski05/22/08
“Faith, she said, is like the crystal covering these tiny flowers, poured and molded over the meadow, freezing their perfection for eternity. You can’t see it, yet it preserves what you hoped for, that flawless vision God had put in your heart."

Wow. How beautifully put. This is an elegantly written piece. I savored every line as I read it.

I love your message and the fact that you didn't disclose whether the woman lived or died. I liked being able to picture my own ending.