“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” Mark Twain

Fiction Fridays: "A Useful Branch"

Welcome to my contribution to Fiction Friday, hosted by Karlene at Heart and Soul. Make sure you pop down to the bottom of her post and click on "Mr. Linky" to read some of the other wonderful fiction! And don't be afraid to share your own - just link up to your own fiction in the gadget at the bottom of her post!

I wrote this entry quite a while ago (2 1/2 years ago, actually!!) for the Faithwriters' Writing Challenge. The topic was "writing." This is one that ministered (and continues to minister!) to me when I start thinking too much of applause and attention. Praying it ministers to you as well - and makes you think!

A Useful Branch

The white granules of sand burnt the bottoms of his feet. Increasing his pace to a trot, Kevin Small reached the water and knelt into the surf, a small tree branch gripped in his left hand. Slamming the makeshift spear into the water, he stared down at the end of the stick and smirked. A solid hit. He would have a real meal tonight.

Kevin soaked his feet in the ocean water a bit longer, looking out over the horizon. He tried to keep his focus on anything but what his brain was obsessing on. No such luck. He could have a brief respite, but after a minute or two the same images would whirl about in his mind until he felt like tearing his hair out.

The worst part was that Kevin knew exactly what he needed to do to calm his mind. Unfortunately, he couldn’t do it.

A few days ago, he’d been on his boat deep-sea fishing, enjoying a well-deserved respite from the hard work of ministry. A few moments of distraction and the boat capsized and broke apart, dumping all its contents, including Kevin, into the sea. He’d floated on a piece of the hull for hours, until he saw this small island. It had taken all his strength to reach the beach.

Kevin remembered an assignment he’d had in a junior high social studies class. He’d been given a list of a few dozen items and was told to pick five to be his only possessions on a desert island. If only he’d had that luxury a couple days ago; though, even then, he wasn’t sure he’d have picked a pen and a notebook.

“I’m a writer, and I can’t write. I’ve gotta get this story out of my head, or I’m gonna go crazy!”

Kevin paused, realizing he had just spoken aloud for the first time since he’d given up calling out for a rescue the previous morning. It kind of felt good; like he was no longer alone. Still, wary of the old “only crazy people talk to themselves” stereotype, he decided to frame his communication into prayer. He closed his eyes.

“Lord, You told me years ago I was to write a book for You, but I never got around to it. Well, here I am, in the middle of nowhere, and I can feel the story coming together in my head. But Father, the ideas are driving me crazy, and I have no way of writing them down. Tell me what You would have me do!”

He opened his eyes, noticing he was still standing in the water, a branch in one hand and a dead fish in the other. Kevin headed for the fire pit he’d created the day before on the sand, just off the rocky terrain of the island.

Using his best boy scout skills, he got a fire going, placing his fish on it to cook. As he waited for his dinner, he doodled designs in the sand with the branch.

You are holding the tool you need to write your book for Me.

Kevin looked down at the scribbles he’d made, noticing he’d actually written a few words.

“This stick, God? You want me to write my novel in the sand with this stick?”

Why not?

“No one will ever see it, Lord! The waves will wash it away.”

And who did you say you were writing this book for?

Kevin quickly took his dinner off the fire and gobbled it down. Walking further out onto the beach, he got down on his hands and knees and put stick to sand.

For the next two hours, Kevin knelt and wrote the first three chapters of his book, working his way around the perimeter of the island. The darkening sky broke his concentration: a look out into the ocean had him facing due west into the crisp reds, oranges and yellows of the most beautiful sunset he had ever seen.

“Oh thank you, Lord, for this beauty you have put before me. And thank you also, Father, for this wonderful opportunity to bless You, and only You, with my writing.”

The darkening skies made it impossible for Kevin to continue writing. He strolled back to the fire pit, using his branch as a walking stick, making footprints in his sandy novel as he went.

“Just for You, Lord. Just for You.”


Thanks for reading! Be sure to stop by Heart and Soul for more great fiction!


  1. What a beautiful way to illustrate the reason WHY we write, Jo! Love it.

  2. Oh, wow.

    I really needed this today, Joanne. That was so, so good.

  3. Oh yes, lead me to my desert island, Lord. I love this—and the very important reminder that, when all if said and done, the writing is for HIM.

    Thanks, Joanne.

  4. There are so many good things in this story. I could feel his frustation in not having writing tools. Your story progresses wonderfully.

    That FW topic (writing) was the second time I entered the challenge... way back then! :) I hadn't read your story, so I'm glad you posted it today!

  5. I'm SO glad you posted this - one of my favorites of yours. "Who did you say you were writing this for?" Wow. Convicting. I really need this. The "useful branch" reminds me of Moses, when God asked him "What's that in your hand?" Wondeful, Jo!

  6. Wonderful illustration, Joanne. It is also an excellent reminder that God doesn't see things as we do.

  7. You speak the truth. This is an encouragement to me. I write for Him, He decides who reads it. Thank you for the reminder.


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