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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Lifeguard (11/09/06)

TITLE: Poised in the wilderness
By Helen Paynter


Poised in the wilderness

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Taking the lifeguard job, I mean. I saw the advert in the Caesarea Chronicle: Lifeguard wanted, Transjordan side, no experience necessary. Generous salary and three week’s holiday plus high holy days. Apply to Simeon ben Samuel, Ministry of Public Safety, Sanhedrin.

Well, I was pretty fed up of my work as carpenter. I mean when did a carpenter ever make a difference to the world? So I applied, and got the job. They kitted me out with a swimming cap with the Sanhedrin stripe and built-in phylacteries and sent me out to save people.

For the first few months it was pretty boring. I’d go days without seeing a soul. I guess that’s why they call it the wilderness. Once or twice I got to rescue a goat that had fallen in. But not a sniff at saving a person.

Then one day this bloke appeared. A real rough-looking character, he was. Wild, if you know what I mean. Long, matted hair; rough sackcloth clothes that looked as if they’d been made from camel hair; a course leather belt; and a fire in his eyes. I wouldn’t have liked to get on the wrong side of him.

And he started shouting. Out there, in middle of nowhere, shouting. I was on my guard. Mad as he clearly was, perhaps he’d fall in and need rescuing. Perhaps, at last, I had the chance to make a difference.

But then a crowd started collecting. They sat and listened to the madman. John, I think they called him. And they treated me like some sort of usher. Where are the public conveniences? Where can we buy bread and fish? Couldn’t they see my lifeguard uniform?

Anyway, this John character kept talking about God, and approaching judgment. And about someone coming, more important than him. And the crowd listened and nodded. And then, suddenly, they all started wading into the river.

‘Whoa!’ I wanted to shout. ‘I can’t save all of you at once. Swim if you must, but in an orderly fashion, please.’ But they weren’t listening to anyone except John. And in they waded, with this curious light in their eyes, like they were doing something really amazing.

John stood in the middle of the river, and one by one, he pushed them under the water.

‘Now that’s really dangerous,’ I wanted to say. ‘You know the rules. No running. No diving. No ducking.’

But, in all honesty, I can’t say anyone needed saving. Under the water they went, up they came again – water streaming off their faces and sins draining into the river.

All except one man. I could tell he was different from the rest, I don’t know why. He dressed like the others. He queued quietly with the others. But he had a quality, a translucency that was curiously compelling. I watched in fascination as he came to the front of the queue.

John saw that he was different, too. He turned quite white and started to shake. ‘I can’t baptise you!’ he said. ‘You should baptise me!’

But the man gently shook his head and murmured some words I couldn’t catch. And with less than his usual composure, John pushed him under the water like the others.

Weird, though. When he came up, there was this enormous clap of thunder. And the man stood, for a moment, like a child receiving a blessing from his father.

Things quietened down over the next few weeks, and the crowds gradually died away. I later heard that John had been arrested and that the other man was gathering crowds now. Strange, that one had grown less as the other grew greater.

I never did get a chance to save anyone. No-one comes out here any more. Still, I’m glad I didn’t stay a carpenter. When did a carpenter ever make a difference?

I hear there’s a lifeguard job going on the Sea of Galilee. I think I’ll apply. Maybe there’ll be lives to save there. Knowing my luck, though, someone’ll start a trend of walking on the water.

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This article has been read 1427 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 11/16/06
Oh, I love the voice of this narrator! Several laugh-out-loud moments in this wry piece. Perfect ending sentence, too! Extremely creative, all around.
Sue Dent11/16/06
Oh, I never can wait to see the spin you put on things. You so aptly described this scene. John the wild man!!!! "You should baptize me!" I just loved the way you entertwined the lifesaver theme. Indeed, a carpenter make a difference!!!! They just keep getting better!
Joanne Sher 11/17/06
I love the humor that permeates this piece. Your narrator's voice is so compelling and definitely kept my interest. What a great approach, and very creative. I LOVED the line about "water streaming off their faces and sins draining into the river" - yet, I wondered how the narrator would have figured that out, from what he knew. It seemed, at least to me, to be a thought this particular character wouldn't have had. Regardless, I really enjoyed this story - so many layers to it!
Lynda Schultz 11/17/06
Great stuff here! In my humble opinion, this deserves to be a winner.
Verna Cole Mitchell 11/18/06
Truly "masterfully" written--a real pleasure to read!
Venice Kichura11/19/06
Very creative take on a beloved Biblical account of our Savior's baptism. Great job!
Amy Michelle Wiley 11/20/06
I love it, love it, love it! I agree about the narrator commenting on the sins washing away being a little out of character, but this was great!
Donna Haug11/20/06
I read this earlier and loved it ... "I can’t save all of you at once. Swim if you must, but in an orderly fashion, please.’ But they weren’t listening to anyone except John." Terrific. Grabbed my attention and had me chuckling all the way through.
Shari Armstrong 11/20/06
Loved it!!! Very unique take on it :)
Donna Powers 11/20/06
An excellent story and I was amused by the ending. A very good adaptation of a familiar story. Thanks for sharing it
Betty Castleberry11/20/06
I really enjoyed reading this. It's unique, and well-written, too. Very well done.
Jen Davis11/20/06
A very unique and interesting take on the topic. The humor was great throughout the piece. Not only was it a fun read, it was also very well written. Nice work!
Allison Egley 11/21/06
Hehe This was great. I knew I would love it from the first line: "It seemed like a good idea at the time." Seems like many great stories start with that line.
Shanti Singh11/22/06
I loved this story. It kept my attention all the way through. Very creative!
Maxx .11/22/06
Knew this was a keeper from the first line. Great fun piece. Excellent addition to the fare this week! You'll score well!
Val Clark11/24/06
I loved the voice on this one. You really made the scene come alive. A well deserved placing. yeggy
Debbie OConnor11/24/06
Loved this entry, Helen! Kudos on the creative angle and great writing.