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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Fulfillment (04/06/06)

TITLE: Altar
By Ann Grover
04/13/06


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I crumpled the week-old sales flyer and touched a match to it. For a moment, the modelís face in an advertisement smiled at me before her blushing radiance blackened and curled into ash. I wondered briefly how long her all-day make-up would last if she were the one having to burn the debris from a cut-down tree.

I fed dry twigs and leaves to the fire, adding larger branches as the flames took hold.

Sitting on the tree stump, I watched the dancing ruffles of flame, smoke twirling and rising in the early morning stillness. As the green wood started to hiss and groan, so did my own murmuring thoughts, a sighing sibilance within that began to gather strength.

Where had gone the dreams Iíd had, for an normal life, a life in which I might beam my lip-glossed smile blissfully through each day, hanging out brilliant whites on the clothes line, confident that they outshone my neighboursí. I had planned to greet each crisis with graceful aplomb, whether it be the wrong coloured curtains arriving for the kitchen or the escalating cost of milk.

It was not to be. Instead, disease prowled and lurked. It stole time and treasure, diverting energy into survival instead of living, bleeding the life out of loving. The pleasures of mundane inconveniences and luxurious, routine days of domesticity didnít happen.

It seemed that time and time again, I had arrived at the front of the line, only to discover that God was out of hope and dreams, and the wicket was closed indefinitely.

The tree had been cut during winterís last snow, and now fledgling buds briefly unfurled in the heat, wilted, and turned to cinder; they hadnít been given a chance to thrive, just like my own dreams and hopes, stunted and dried up. I watched warily for wayward sparks that could ignite the nearby hillside, and knew my own heart was threatening to ignite in a blaze of discontent and disappointment. The wind blew acrid smoke into my face, and I breathed in the bitter fumes stubbornly, revelling in the pain, smoldering anger glowing within.

What kind of womanhood was this? What kind of life was it that had denied me an able-bodied husband and provider, and sent me out here to wield an axe and shovel instead? Why was I expected to wear the pants and the apron? This was not fulfillment.

I heaped more wood on the fire, tugging at the unwieldy branches, irritated with my own weakness. I snatched up small, dry stuff, throwing it on the fire with frustration. I felt something pierce my palm Ė a thorn Ė and I stopped to pull it out. Suddenly, the moment became suspended in time, hushed, silent.

I thought of other thorns. Of Anotherís palm.

Holiness surged from the cold ground and through my muddied rubber boots.

I waited.

A Voice spoke from the flamesÖ my own burning bush.

You have demanded that I fulfill your dreams, dreams and aspirations that you have appropriated for yourself. I am the Giver of Dreams.

The wind shifted and my eyes stung, from the smoke or the sting of truth, I didnít know.

I want your willingness to fulfill My will. Itís not for Me to fulfill yours.

The flames became flames again, and the smoke returned to smoke.

The dreams and desires I had grasped so tightly were laid on the pyre in front of me, and I watched them scorch and swirl on the upward draft. In turn, I was engulfed in eddying smoke and saw myself rising as an offering to the Father, to do as He asked, not ministering in misery, but acting in love, choosing to live extraordinarily in my un-chosen ordinary life. A boxed mix promise of satisfaction guaranteed was not going to bring fulfillment, however much I might wish it to be so.

By dayís end, I smelled like something dead, and I realized that it was the cremated remains of my will. Soot rouged my cheeks, and my brow was anointed by a smudge of ash.

The late afternoon sun sank to the horizon, and a chill descended. I huddled on the stump, wrapping my arms around myself to keep warm as the fire died. Yet, the heart of the fire pulsated, and the embers beckoned.

Take the coal.

Here I am.


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This article has been read 5485 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Debbie OConnor04/13/06
A beautiful description of a realistic encounter with God. The message was strong. Thanks.
Marie Hearty 04/13/06
A wonderful story. Thanks for writing it as this is something that I am going through in my life right now. God bless you.
Sally Hanan04/13/06
Excellent writing. You wove the two truths of reality v.God's voice into this so beautifully ... I still don't know how you did it so well.
Crista Darr04/14/06
Great, powerful piece of writing. Very well done!
Amy Michelle Wiley 04/14/06
Beautiful. Well done.
Suzanne R04/15/06
Phew - powerful! The message is EXCELLENT.

The way you use words is art itself ... here is one I enjoyed: "... a sighing sibilance within that began to gather strength". There were many more too.

The symbolism is magnificent.

This is my favourite of all the pieces I've read thus far ... for what my opinion is worth ;-) WELL DONE!
Lynda Schultz 04/15/06
What remains to be said but, AMEN! Wonderful.
Marilyn Schnepp 04/15/06
This is the type of writing one would expect from the Masters...and indeed it fulfilled my expectations, and Then Some! I am speechless with accolades for the Author of this awesome work of art. Indeed a Masterpiece. Thank you.
Venice Kichura04/15/06
Beautifully written!
Linda Germain 04/15/06
When a writer brings me to tears, I know the message is well worth reading again. This is stunning! I would guess you have touched a tender place in more than one. A+
Pat Guy 04/17/06
Wow! One of those that needs no words.
dub W04/17/06
Writing in first person is very difficult - how to avoid the repetative "I". Your theme and story are wonderful, work on correcting the syntax and you have a winner.
Jan Ackerson 04/17/06
From the perfect title to the last word, this is just perfection. I'm absolutely in awe.
Teri Wilson04/17/06
This piece is outstanding. Congrats!
Debbie Sickler04/17/06
I loved this line: "...and now fledgling buds briefly unfurled in the heat, wilted, and turned to cinder; they hadnít been given a chance to thrive, just like my..." and also the line about the pants and the apron, as well as many others. This was truly written masterfully. Great job as usual Ann. Congratulations.
Jean Elizabeth 04/17/06
Extraordinary. What a beautiful way of portraying the painful "death to self" that all who follow Christ must go through. Well done!
Karen Ward04/18/06
What more can be said? This is wonderful writing and an excellent message. Well done!
Beth Muehlhausen04/18/06
Oh my....wonderful! I loved the part about "I am the Giver of Dreams." Very skillfully done.
Garnet Miller 04/18/06
Beautiful message. How many of these "God encounters" have we missed over the years because we were not paying attention to the Teacher? Thank you for sharing this life altering story of a life molded to His will in love.
Helen Paynter04/20/06
well-deserved win, congratulations
Corinne Smelker 04/20/06
Ann, as a judge for the week of Fulfillment, I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your piece - it was fantastic, and I don't mind telling you scored (in a tie) first place with me!
Suzanne R04/20/06
I already told you in an earlier comment that this was my favourite of all the pieces ... and I guess there are many who would say that too. Now I just want to add two comments. As I puff out my chest a little, I'll say, "I told you so!" And of course, the second comment is a hearty CONGRATULATIONS!
Shelley Snyder04/20/06
What an excellent and powerful story! Congrats on first place!
Doug Jenkins04/20/06
If one would wonder what a first place entry might look like, their search need go no further than here.

An engulfing poetic narrative that will burn in my memory for a long time to come.

Great Job on a bar well set!

Doug
Linda Watson Owen04/23/06
Ann, I'm late getting a comment on this remarkable piece, but I wanted to be sure to add my congratulations too. This is written so beautifully and is stunningly gripping. What a deep and unforgetable story! Thank you for this inspiring winning entry!!
Val Clark04/26/06
A beautifully written piece of work that expresses a depth of life experience and an awesome encounter with God without being maudlin or cheesy. Well done and congratulations. Yeggy
Rita Garcia07/01/06
Again! CONGRATULATIONS! Your writing inspires me!
Maxx .07/01/06
I was a judge the week this piece won ... and again during the BoB judging. So I was doubly blessed. Great messages, great characters, great scenes. You done good! Congrats! :-)
David Story07/02/06
Okay, that's it - I'm adding you to my Author Tracker list.
Not only is this an outstanding story but what a great lesson for us all. Your will Lord, not mine.
Thanks and again, congratulations.
Kimberly Jones07/07/06
Thank you for this testimony. I feel so much better facing the road I am facing. I am getting confirmation from God's servants. Thank you.
joy clarkson07/08/06
I see myself in your story...you've said so beautifully all I couldn't express. you've given the message so clearly.
Bonnie Derksen07/12/06
Congratulations on your double BoB wins. I relate to the appropriation of dreams, the demand they be fulfilled and the disappointment when life ends up looking so different. My entry for this week had been of a similar journey. I'm just new at these weekly challenges but God established victory in my heart through the surrendered pen, nonetheless. You are on my "Track This Author" list. Thanks for the double blessing for me this morning.
Tracy Patrowicz08/02/06
Absolutely all the right words...I found myself in your story and I embraced the chance to feel all of the emotion that flew from your fingertips...thank you! A job well done.
Kevin Kindrick08/28/06
This is a great piece - a wonderful combination of detail, believability, and message. I simply have one comment of fact correction. Newspaper sales flyers (I've learned from experience) do NOT burn - no matter how long a match or lighter is held to them. This discovery made for a long night of camping. LOL.
Anyhoo, thanks so much for sharing this.

God bless,

Kevin
Lisa Spence01/29/07
Reading this was a great start to a beautiful day! great job
k brown04/02/07
This is the first article I have read since joining the site. I love your expression of words. I smiled at your analogy of the fire to the burning bush. Very thoughtful piece of writing.

God Bless.
David (The Goliath Assassin)05/22/07
Definitely worthy of an award. Good Job!
Dan Blankenship06/13/08
Excellent work.
Marijo Phelps09/17/08
Beyond comment - we all have so much to learn and grow and you have captured the heart and yours here.