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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Evangelism (11/01/07)

TITLE: Flames
By Jan Ackerson


There once was a man with a curious condition. Occasionally, without any warning, his head would burst impressively into flames. This was most inconvenient, but mitigated by the fact that the fire did not burn him, although he felt uncomfortably warm.

As a result of his startling condition, the man lost first his job (in a marshmallow factory), then his wife (prone to blisters), and finally his house (a log cabin). The unfortunate fellow took to the streets, where he sought refuge in the corners of buildings constructed of steel and concrete.

When an episode of conflagration drew unwanted attention, the man would slip away to another area of the city. Thus it was that he found himself one day, his scalp smoking, crouching in the shadows across the street from a wondrous sight.

The mansion was beautiful. On its spacious lawn a fountain of crystal water flowed, with a merrily gurgling geyser. Oftentimes during the day, water rose up from the ground and moistened the grass, so that a fine mist shimmered in the air.

People came often to the mansion, dressed in bathing attire, and the man could hear them splashing in a pool that was tantalizingly out of sight.

How the man longed to dip his smoldering head into the refreshing fountain! Boldly, he stepped forward, hoping that one of the happy people would beckon to him. But although many glanced his way, no invitation came. Some people even quickened their steps, opening the mansion doors and hurrying inside.

Dejected, he slid down against the concrete exterior of an office building. Perhaps an hour went by when two things happened at once. He heard footsteps very near, and as he turned to see who was approaching, flames engulfed his head.

“I may be the only dowser you’ll ever know,” said an earnest-looking young man in a swimming suit. He uncapped a water bottle and poured it over his own blond hair. “See how it’s done?” Looking extremely satisfied, the young man crossed the street and re-entered the mansion.

The man clapped his burning head with his hands until the flames were extinguished. Blowing on his fingers, he sighed and glanced across the street. The geyser was no longer gushing, but several smaller sprays were spurting in a syncopated, liquid dance.

He returned frequently to that watery mansion, and observed the comings and goings of the swimmers so often that he gave them nicknames. It was a pleasant diversion from his scorching troubles.

One morning he saw that Cell Phone Woman had paused on her way out of the mansion to make a call. So fascinated was the man with his observation that he did not even notice he was currently burning. Cell Phone Woman was pointing to him and speaking with animation.

The call complete, she snapped her phone shut and crossed the street, draped in a dripping towel. “I’ve been speaking to the Water Commissioner,” she said. “I’ve asked him to send someone to extinguish you. Don’t worry—help is on the way!” She very carefully patted the burning man’s hand.

The man extinguished his head and sat down to rest.

A few days passed, and the man was surprised to see someone rush across the street during a fiery episode. It was Purple Swimsuit Guy, carrying a pamphlet which he gingerly handed over.

“This should help you, buddy—it’s a list of great quotations about putting out fires. Oh, and look, there’s a diagram, see? Four steps for extinguishing flames.” He stared at the man’s blazing head. “Still burning, huh? Seriously, dude, follow these four steps, you should be cool in no time.”

Finally, frustrated by the unapproachable mansion, the man decided to move on. He was gathering his meager belongings when Red-Haired Girl tapped him on the shoulder.

“Hey,” she said. “I’ve been watching you. I know someone who can help. Can I tell you about him?”

Speechless, the man nodded.

“He invented this hat—it’s got a self-renewing, built-in sprinkling system. Want to meet him?”

“I can’t afford—“

“Don’t worry about it! It’s free!” Red-Haired Girl offered the man her hand. “Let’s go see him, okay?”

“But—why would he give me one? I don’t deserve it.” The man hung his head, which burst into flames.

Red-Haired Girl quickly upended her water bottle on the fire. “He won’t care about that. Please—come with me?”

She brushed back her hair, and the man could see the scars of old burns, long healed.

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This article has been read 1985 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Verna Cole Mitchell 11/08/07
How wonderfully you showed evangelism without a single "spiritual" word! This is an excellent analogy.
Lynda Schultz 11/08/07
Very creative. I can see the illustrations that will go with it already. Nice.
Peter Stone11/10/07
Wow, I'm speechless. This article is so deep on so many levels. A non-Christian with deep hurts who sees a church that does not reach out to him, but tries to give him quick patch ups without inviting him into their contented lives. I was so glad when finally at the end someone was willing to get involved in his life and introduce him to Christ.
Debbie Roome 11/12/07
Sheri Gordon11/12/07
Wow. What an imagination. This is an incredible take on the topic. (And very well written.)
Patty Wysong11/12/07
Super-duper!! I could see it all happen. I loved the details you put in to show each person could have easily helped, but didn't. This one carried a punch with it! (ouch.) Great job!! Hugs!
Jan Ross11/12/07
I'm speechless! Brilliant, magnificent, and incredible are just three words that come to mind. I am in awe of your imagination! What a gift...wow!
william price11/12/07
Great, just great. Beyond kool and creative. God bless.
Dee Yoder 11/13/07
Man oh man, did you ever nail this topic, and so subtly and yet vividly, too. This is one of the most creative entries I've ever read. Excellent-one of the best ever.
Betty Castleberry11/13/07
I don't know whether to laugh or cry. (That's a HUGE compliment). This was wonderful.
Leigh MacKelvey11/13/07
How do you do it? And everytime! I wish I knew how you come up with this stuff!
Brillaint, Masterful, excellant, and all those words!
Laury Hubrich 11/13/07
I absolutely love analogies and this one was even sprinkled with times for giggling:) Wonderful job -- as always!
LauraLee Shaw11/13/07
I am captivated by your analogy, as well as your ability to put it in a way my "common brain" can grasp. Masterfully written.
Kristen Hester11/13/07
Excellent analogy. You really made us feel for the guy. I was so frustrated by those who reached out--but not enough. Then I was convicted. I'm thankful for the red hair girl. Good job.
Beth LaBuff 11/14/07
Wow! I loved it. You were not only out of the box, but you left the building with this one Jan. You gotta love the red-haired girl. Excellent!!
Terry R A Eissfeldt 11/14/07
Brilliant - on any and all levels.
Sara Harricharan 11/14/07
Entertaining and creative-just as I was hoping. I loved this touch with the flaming head. This was so real, I felt as if I could've been the red-headed girl watching this whole sad story unfold. The bit of humor with the marshmallow factory was just priceless.
Lisa Holloway11/15/07
Nicely done and very creative. Congratulations!
Sara Harricharan 11/15/07
Sheri Gordon11/15/07
Congratulations on another excellent piece. I should have known this was yours -- another way out of the box piece. Your creativity is amazing.
Joanne Sher 11/15/07
Jan, I just HAVE to tell you how much I absolutely loved this piece. It was hysterical, deep, convicting, and an absolutely amazing read. So much depth. Congratulations isn't enough.
Rachel Burkum11/15/07
Congratulations on your 1st place!
Therese Witkus11/15/07
Oh Jan, you are amazing! The Spirit speaks through you and you are gifted abundantly. The story is simply outstanding! Creativity is flowing in you and nurturing your readers.
Pam Carlson-Hetland11/15/07
I certainly can't say anything that someone else hasn't already complimented you on. This is just marvelous and so very deserving of 1st place. Many congrats!
Paula Titus 11/15/07
Congratulations! I am speechless. I hope I can be half the writer you are some day.
Ann Renae Hair11/15/07
What is interesting to me is that the one who had "been there" was the one who helped the most. (I am experiencing this in my life now. Everyone is helpful, but a few know exactly what I need.) Ditto on ALL the rave reviews and congrats! You are inspiring.
Pat Guy 11/15/07
Just had to see what everyone was talking about ... and I now I see why.

Once again you carry us along as we float above this world on your words. We are suspended in time as we read.

Great job Jan. Congratulations.
Mariane Holbrook 11/15/07
This just blew me away! You are the absolute best!
Angela M. Baker-Bridge11/15/07
Outstanding, thought-provoking, convicting... a contender for 2008 Best of the Best!
Kimberly Lane11/16/07
This is wonderful!
Janice Cartwright11/16/07
What is so amazing about this story is that even knowing it was allegory every time the man's scalp caught fire I found myself reaching for my head in empathy. I could almost feel the smoulder. And how vividly you brought out the message - why in the world to we beat all around the bush instead of just pouring the water of Jesus' love on those who are burning for it? I won't forget this one, probably ever.
Anne Linington11/16/07
Jan, I checked out your profile, as you often rate si highly in the challenge competitions. Are yo any close to getting published? Thanks too for your imput on my articles.
Sharon Henderson11/16/07
Your EC is very well deserved on this piece. Congratulations.
Janice Fitzpatrick11/20/07
Oh Jan, this is so awesome! How the Lord surely annointed this piece Jan! I was engrossed, moved and humored. The ending was great. I love your descriptions and your nicknames were accurate.:0) Wow! Congrats on winning 1st place hon. Keep on being used by the Spirit-Praise the Lord. Janice:0)
Marita Thelander 02/14/08
O.K. I'm hooked. Can I follow you wherever you go? Seriously, I appreciate all you contribute to FW.

Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 10/23/13
Oh wow! What a powerful piece. This brought tears to my eyes. You're right this type of writing is difficult and I wonder if not everyone gets it, but you do it so masterfully. I think it would become your favorite genre!