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Downtown Abbey

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In the Midst of the Storm

The Art Center is having a contest,” Sue Rhine nervously bit her lip, showing Larry the crumpled flyer. “They’re looking for a painting of the ‘Essence of Peace.’ First place is $10,000.”

Larry Rhine slowly hissed through clenched teeth and tightened jaw, “That’s stupid; how can you paint peace?” Larry had been in a funk since his parent’s fatal car crash three months before. Anger and doubt consumed him, and he blamed God.

“You’re a good painter, Larry. You have to get through this. We can’t live this way. I just thought maybe this would help,” Larry ignored Sue’s monotone whisper.

“How can I paint peace when I don’t even know what it is?” He slammed the door so hard a cup fell off the counter.

Sue’s shoulders sagged as she rested her chin on her fist; the sofa became her alter. ‘Father, Larry is in such pain. I know he still loves You. Please help him. This darkness is killing us. Please give him peace. Thank You.”

In the garage, Larry paced with a clenched fist. I don’t care what anyone says. They didn’t deserve it. They were faithful to God, and he didn’t protect them. How can I have peace if I can’t trust God with my own parents? He stopped pacing and spoke to God for the first time in months. “God, I don’t want to go to hell, so I’ll serve You, even if I can’t trust You.”

He went into the bedroom where Sue was reading her Bible. “I’ll do it.” Raising one eyebrow, he almost smiled. “Who knows, with luck, I might win.” Shrugging, he turned to leave, “Besides, we could use the money.”

Larry painted for six days. Sue was delighted. She noticed a gradual change in him since he started working. The depression cloud was dissipating; he was softening and even smiled occasionally. He was more preoccupied than usual, but at least he wasn’t brooding. Larry was always private; however, he was almost tight-lipped, hiding the canvas from Sue’s curious eyes. When he finished, he drove to the Art Center and entered it into the contest.

The following Friday night, they were to announce the winners at an open house. Larry was handsome in his tuxedo. He looked young for forty. Sue wore an exquisite blue floor-length gown with a low cut back; the pearls Larry gave her for their tenth anniversary, and matching heels. She pinned her long, blond hair in a tight bun at the nape of her neck with a pearl-studded clip.

On the way to the Art Center, Larry squeezed her hand. “God and I’ve been talking for the past few days. He used this painting to show me how to find peace. We’re going to be okay now.” This is all he said, but for Sue, it was enough.

The gallery was full of mingling art patrons. Muffled conversation filled the large room. A rotund woman in her seventies stepped to the microphone clearing her throat. Greeting the assembly, she droned on about the Arts. She was finally ready to make the anticipated announcement.

“Third place, for $1,000, goes to Geoffrey Lindale for his Morning Meadow.” Trees, flowers, and butterflies covered the canvas, tranquil in understated beauty. The peace nearly drew you into the painting. You could almost smell the flowers and feel the soft breeze coming from Morning Meadow.

“Second place, for $1,500, goes to Mitzy Douglas for her, Lion and the Lamb. The king of the jungle laid quietly, his massive head resting beside a soft, white lamb. They were nestled together in peaceful slumber, without a care in the world. Peace radiated from the near embrace of these natural enemies.

“And our $10,000, first-place winner is Larry Rhine for his, In the Midst of the Storm.” The eagle’s nest was perched on the edge of a ten-thousand-foot cliff. A storm raged, threatening to destroy everything in its path, with lightning, thunder, and treacherous winds. Two tiny eaglets slept soundly, snuggled in the soft down taken from their mother’s breast. Their parents sat close by watching over them. Oblivious to the danger around them, these eagle fledglings knew only contentment and trust.

Larry took the microphone. “God promised us that he’d never give us more than we can bear. As long as we’re in this body, we’ll always have storms; even then, our spirit can find peace. I forgot that for a while. But God reminded me he’s always there, even In the Midst of the Storm.”