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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Control (01/30/06)

TITLE: The Shield
By Beth Muehlhausen


The Shield

Evelyn sits at the dining room table with the edge of her white turtle-neck sweater pulled over her nose and mouth like a gas mask. “I will not complain…I will not badger…I will not be a controlling wife,” she mumbles into the collar.

“…. I AM your shield…take refuge in Me.”

Stale, heavy air presses from every angle, taunting her as it seeps through the sweater…into her nose…her lungs…her brain. Repulsed, she shudders. Everything in the house smells bad, even her sweater!

“Eve, precious Eve… an unseen invader threatens to control your mind and body…unless something happens…”

Evelyn grabs the tumbler of ice water beside her laptop computer and nervously rattles the cubes against the side of the glass. “Why is everything today taking so much – so much effort?” She pulls the stretched turtle-neck away from her mouth and gulps until the glass is empty, but does not feel refreshed.

“This invader will stalk…press…choke the life out of you! Say something…that is all I ask…and I will do the rest. Or else…it will take all control away from you. Trust me…. I AM your shield…take refuge in Me.”

Her head throbs. She sits sullenly in the mahogany chair, shoulders drooping. A few tears trickle down her cheeks; depression consumes her. The evening wears on.

“You’re running out of time, Evelyn! Pay attention…SAY SOMETHING. You won’t be complaining, you’ll be saving your life!”

“Lord, keep us safe. Help me…give me…courage…and…words.” She folds down her turtle-neck and faces her husband Joe, knowing that various personal challenges already seem to be consuming him. He slouches on the couch, glued to the fiction and fantasy of television.

“Think the smoky smell from the furnace is getting worse? Like lots worse?” Evelyn blurts the words like bullets. Joe’s eyes remain focused on the screen before him, and though he nods in casual agreement, she wonders if her true intent goes unrecognized.

“I am interceding, Eve…you will be alright. I AM your shield…take refuge in Me.”

Evelyn tramps upstairs to bed, her head spinning. Joe understands something is wrong with the furnace; in their thirty-five years of marriage he’s always handled such things. Can she – should she – take control of the situation herself and side-step him?

Dreams haunt each hour of the night. Evelyn and Joe both sleep fitfully, and awaken in an exhausted state. Little is said between them, but the house speaks for itself. The furnace’s muffled rumbles beneath the dining room floor irritate them both.

Around nine o’clock, the phone rings. It’s Joe, calling from work. “Are you okay, Babe?”

“Why are you asking?” Evelyn replies.

“I’ve had this tight feeling in my chest all morning, and we both know the furnace has been acting up, and it dawned on me that you might…well, I wanted to make sure you hadn’t passed out or something.”

“I AM your shield…take refuge in Me.”

“Joe, I’ve mentioned the furnace situation several times, but didn’t want to nag you.” Evelyn pauses to consider her words carefully, hoping to communicate urgency without dominating or belittling Joe. “I can hardly tolerate being in this house day after day. Something is very wrong. The air smells…putrid…it is making me emotionally 'loopy.' I have a splitting headache.”

Silence fills the phone receiver. “Call Steve…right away, this morning…maybe he can figure out what’s wrong.”

“This is the way it works. You communicate… pray… speak what is true… believe and trust…but I am the One who makes things happen in the right way and the right time.”

That afternoon their neighbor Steve, a furnace dealer, pulls up in his dirty white pick-up truck and heads to the basement. “Hummmm…cracked heat exchanger…furnace’s pushin’ contaminants,” he says, looking askance at Evelyn. “Probably carbon monoxide and other toxins are upstairs. Need a new furnace.” Steve pauses. “An angel musta kept ya from asphyxiation.” And then, with a wink, “Don’t believe in that kind of God stuff, though.”


“Yes Steve, YES! Exactly! God shielded us…and sent you!”

Steve tips his green John Deere billed cap, scratches his head, and mumbles, “You think so? Me? An angel?!” With that, he ambles upstairs and back to his truck.

Evelyn returns to the same chair as yesterday evening, holding her head in her hands. “Please, Lord…Steve…needs You…”

She wonders when the Lord will provide a chance to tell Steve about her protective and powerful God…The Shield.

“…he is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” Proverbs 30:5

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Laurie Glass 02/06/06
What a great reminder that we can trust HIM to be in control. Also, as our Shield, He protects us, as He protected Evelyn and Joe. Enjoyed this one. Very nice.
Joanne Malley02/11/06
How often we forget where our protection comes from...if we would only ask. Great reminder and good job!
Cassie Memmer02/11/06
I loved your story. This happened to us, minus any smell. (Chimney was clogged with bird's nests). For three months our daughter had migraines and nausea and I couldn't stay awake. Hubby got out every day. The repair man couldn't believe we weren't extrememly sick or worse. Why didn't we become a statistic? Because God IS our shield! Praise His Name! Great story!
Jan Ackerson 02/11/06
The voice of God recurring every so often is very effective here. Lovely.
Suzanne R02/13/06
Well done, Beth. I wondered what was coming there for a while ... an abusive husband ... but no, a wife who didn't want to be controlling. A different take on the topic, which worked well. Good job.

I have a friend who could have died in such a situation too ... but she didn't ... needed a month of daily oxygen room therapy though. So it rang true!
Betsy Tacchella02/13/06
This is a wonderful piece, Beth. A true example of how being a submissive wife works...totally dependent on the Lord to be not only our shield, but our provider, and our defense. Well written, as usual. :)
Val Clark02/17/06
Finally got to your entry, Beth! How hard it is sometimes to listen and obey! Your character's struggle, both spiritual and relational, was realistic. Her voice really rang true. A different take on control, too.