Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: The Kingdom of God (03/12/09)
TITLE: Father Alvins Ashes
By Anita van der Elst
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Brad and I had another fight. Heās depressed over losing his job. I tell him the bottleās not going to hire him. So many pressures, bills, expectations. Where are the answers?
Went to church yesterday. The fire seems to have gone out. Pastor says, āRead the Bible more. Work harder. Be more submissive. BLAH-blah-BLAH-blah-blah.ā The words donāt make sense, Iām too tired to work harder and Iām already covered with footprints.
Feeling a spark of hope. The Kingdom of God, the website said, is this community in the Oregon backwoods. Away from the worldās evil and lifeās stress. Communicate with God. Connect with family. Told Brad, if anything can help our marriage, maybe this is it.
Weāre here. Welcomed by Father Alvināgray-haired, fiery blue eyes that hold you in an almost unbreakable gaze. Canāt remember everyoneās names or comprehend the family structure. But Father Alvin says no worries. All will become clear.
Staying with two other families in a four-room cabin. Little privacy but also little housework. Several kids. Having none of my own yet, I enjoy interacting with these.
Father Alvin took our luggage. Wearing our own clothing is too divisive. Everyone wears baggy bib overalls. But they are clean.
No time to journal. Work is unending. This place is completely self-sustaining. Even has a generator for electric lights. But not all of us are hooked up. Father Alvin says we have to earn it. Iām confused on that. Father Alvin says he will know when weāve earned it. Weāre responsible just to do the jobs heās assigned us. Bradās at the dairy, milking cows. By hand! Funny when I think how his fingers used to manipulate computer keys. My back aches from weed pulling. Iām the executive assistant to the green beans.
Snuck out to my favorite rock in the back forty to journal. Pretty chilly out here. Father Alvin has no use for creative expression. No books allowed either, not even the Bible. Says he is the only one who can understand Godās words and we need him to interpret that. Doesnāt sound right to me. Iāve tried obeying Father Alvin in everything; havenāt journaled all these months. I still donāt have peace. No solutions to our problems. Instead of leaving the stress behind, we brought it with us. And somehow I feel used and betrayed.
Wonder if my face is as sooty as Bradās and the others. Sitting here on āmyā rock wondering what will happen to us now. One of the sisters thinks the fire started in Father Alvinās bedroom. Falling asleep smoking his cigar. Sheād found ashes in his bed once when it was her turn to clean his house. What happened to the no smoking rule? The fire spread so fast. All the cabinsāgone. No phone to call for help. Too far for the fire department to get here quick enough. Where is the Kingdom of God now? Even without the fire, my sense is that it isnāt here after all.
Brad and I have been in this motel for two weeks. He found a job at a dairy a couple miles away. Our little nest egg is almost gone so thank God for that. Had enough to pay for gas to get us this far and about a monthās rent and food.
This afternoon I sat in the Laundromat watching our overalls tumble. Felt as cold and empty as those charred cabins at Father Alvinās, started crying. This woman reading on a bench nearby came and sat next to me. Asked me what was wrong. I donāt usually open up so quickly but there was a peace about her. Told her how we thought we found the Kingdom of God, but now thereās nothing left except for Father Alvinās ashes. She opened up her book. One I havenāt read in nine months. She showed me something I hadnāt noticed before.
āNow when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, āThe kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, āSee here!ā or āSee there!ā For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.ā
Iām hoping this is the truth weāve been looking for. I want to understand it better. The woman, Nancy, invited me to her home for a Bible study with some other women. I think Iāll go. Wonder if thereās a Bible study for Brad.
Luke 17:20-21 New King James Version (NKJV)
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