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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Retreat (as in quiet time away) (08/01/05)

TITLE: Fishing at the Refiner's Fire
By Val Clark


Jodie stood back to survey the little boat, fuelled up and packed with a tent, Bible, the letters, fishing rod and enough supplies for two weeks. She took a last look at her watch, dropped it into the nearby bin, and clambered aboard.

At last, it begins. Just you and me, Lord.

The pastor’s word of knowledge had been for her.

‘Sometimes the Lord chooses to heal in miraculous ways. Like the demon possessed of the New Testament or the woman with the issue of blood. Physical or psychological, He is able.’

There was scattered applause. A few sincere amens. Jodie looked down as his eyes roamed the congregation. Eye contact meant the loss of anonymity.

‘Others have to struggle with their personal demons until the day they die, for that is their refining fire. We are all broken, wounded soldiers.’

Jodie looked up. This time she couldn’t avoid his thoughtful gaze.

‘There’s one in our congregation who struggles with abandonment. God is telling you it’s time to confront this issue. You’re a very busy person, but right now there is a gap in your schedule.’

A two week gap in her impossibly busy life was rare.

‘Sure,’ her manager said, when she asked to camp on the beach of his private lake retreat.

She smiled as she tied the boat to the bollard.

Therapy, medication, reading and, more recently, Christian counseling, prayer and laying on of hands marked her struggle for wholeness. Now it was time to step back into those cracks from which the ugliness came. That place where the hurts were hiding like naughty children refusing to be prized out.

She pitched her tent on the grass above the beach.

It had come so suddenly, that first horrifying plunge into black depression. The medication which chopped off the suicidal tendencies had cruelly lopped her creativity, leaving her career in shreds. Now she survived without the meds, just.

‘You need to let the fears surface. That’s what the panic attacks are doing. Letting you know what must be dealt with.’

Oh yeah, Mr. Shrink. Have you been there?

Keeping her mind and body busy held back both the darkness and the light. She’d known that for years. That’s why, when she left home that morning, everything about her life was in order. Nothing would interrupt her thinking.

Her parents had exchanged worried glances. Jodie had tried to reassure them but struggled at the best of times to talk to them about anything. They’d abandoned her as a child. Not physically, but in all the areas that really mattered they had left it to her to make decisions. When she did they were not impressed.

‘You want to be an actress!’ Her father’s face reddened. ‘Do you know what those women have to do to get a good part? Absolutely not. I forbid it!’

Just saying ‘I forbid it’ spurred her on.

Your turn later, folks. Jodie consulted the list engraved on her mending heart.

Nick, her beloved older brother, had precedence.

She opened a canvas chair at the edge of the lake, baited and threw in a line, closed her eyes and sat back picturing Nick, carrying a hold-all, striding away from the house. No backward glance. No friendly wave. Leaving her, aged eleven, to the mercies of a physically abusive father and a powerless, disinterested mother.

Nick, I know you couldn’t stand it any more. I understand you had to find out who you were, but you could have stayed in touch. Phoned. I kept every letter inscribed Return To Sender in your beautiful handwriting. You could have invited me to your wedding. I didn’t even know you had a girlfriend, Nick. That really hurt. But I know if you invited me you’d have to invite the parents, and that would have been disastrous.

When you moved back to town your life was filled with your family and friends. There was no room for me, no matter how hard I tried to muscle in.

I began to move around with my work. The gap became a ravine. Now, when I phone you pass me straight onto your wife or your kids. That really hurts. But I understand. I forgive you. In Jesus’ name, I refuse to let your abandonment of me have a stranglehold on my life from this moment forward.

Jodie wrapped the Silver Cobbler in foil and laid it on the coals. The sun was setting as she slowly fed the letters into the fire.

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This article has been read 1328 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Anthony Tophoney08/08/05
This was touching. I'm not sure how, but I related to Jodie in some way.
Sally Hanan08/08/05
This was good. You have description, dialogue and good flow. With 750 words this needs to be a longer story to give you time to finish it well. In order to achieve that in this space, you could have cut out the parents' abandonment and focused on her brother's.
Beth Muehlhausen08/09/05
This really spoke to me, probably b/c I also have emotional abandonment issues from childhood. It seems Jodie is on a healing track, and this retreat is just one more step toward finding wholeness. Bravo for her courage and patience, and for heeding God's call: "There’s one in our congregation who struggles with abandonment. God is telling you it’s time to confront this issue. You’re a very busy person, but right now there is a gap in your schedule.’"
Debra Brand08/10/05
Good story, told well.
dub W08/12/05
Well done, some of the conflicts were not pre defined, therefore confusion, but all in all a good attempt. Thanks.
Maxx .08/13/05
Very strong writing skills here. This is a powerful setting and a well thought out scene. I think the main conflict needed to be introduced sooner and then resolved at the end. Instead we don't learn of the true issue until the last little bit. Definately great skill, though. Well refined style. :-)
Suzanne R08/14/05
I LOVE this title. And the image at the end of the nutritous and tasty fish cooking on the fire which is being fed by the tangible evidence of her bitterness, being completely obliterated, is beautiful.
Cyndie Odya-Weis08/14/05
Very nicely done! I like the refiner's fire theme- maybe would have woven it a bit more throughout- I liked the flashback style- so vivid!
Shari Armstrong 08/14/05
A very heartfelt story. I think we all have some healing to do over different things. This shows a way to start that process.
darlene hight08/15/05
I agree with the constructive comments made from other people but I also was drawn right in to the story. Could relate to her feeling. This story is one that I would take time to fine tune because it speaks to so many people and could be a tool for healing for some.
Julianne Jones08/15/05
Well done. You have managed to capture the woman's feelings and describe her battle with depression without becoming morbid. Personally I would have also liked to have seen the abandonment by her parents omitted in favour of more space being given to the final resolution, although I recognise that this 'history' makes the brother's abandonment even more of an issue. This is one piece where the word limit inhibits the story. Would love to see it extended. God Bless.