The Master Artist

by Crystal Bowman

Almost everyone has a favorite color. Mine is yellow, but I also like blue. I love the yellow sun, yellow canaries, and yellow dandelions dotting summer lawns. I enjoy going to the beach to see the vast blue sky and various shades of blue and turquoise in the ocean. I’m not sure why those colors appeal to me—they just do.

What amazes me is that God is the only one who could think of all the different colors. What is even more amazing is they have been in existence since the beginning of time. The sun is yellow, the grass is green, and the sky is blue. It has always been that way, and it will always be that way. I smile when I think how God put orange feet on a duck. I wonder what He was thinking when He chose brilliant splashes of red, yellow, and blue for the feathers on a macaw. And what about patterns? Orange and black tiger strips, spotted leopards, and the unique geometric pattern on a tall giraffe—how did God come up with those ideas?

For centuries, skilled artists have created beautiful paintings to capture the beauty of God’s creation. Though the works of Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh are stunning, they don’t measure up to the work of the Master Artist—the One who made it all. 

In Psalm 19:1 (NIV) David praises God as he recognizes God’s artistry: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” In Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NIV) Solomon writes, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” And in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul reminds believers that evidence of God’s existence is all around us. In Romans 1:20 (NIV) he writes, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

How can anyone deny the existence of God when they see the artistry of His colorful and majestic creation?  Who put purple in the mountains? Who put the swirls of blue, yellow, and green in the Northern Lights? Who made oranges orange, peaches peach, and strawberries red? It’s God—who boldly reveals Himself in creation—so that we can clearly see evidence of His existence.

Our human minds will never grasp the magnitude of God’s creative and artistic abilities. The beauty of a rainbow, the majesty of a sunset, and the splendor of a crimson rose reveal God’s greatness. They were created for our pleasure and for His glory. We don’t have to explain it—we just need to enjoy it!

“Lord You are the one who made the sky, the earth, the sea, and everything in the world.” Acts 4:24 ICB

This article is brought to you by the Advance Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Crystal Bowman is a bestselling, award-winning author of more than 100 books including, Our Daily Bread for Kids. She and her husband have three married children and eight huggable grandchildren.

When a child’s grandparent or great-grandparent is afflicted with dementia, it’s difficult to explain the disease in a way that helps the child understand why the person they love is not the same. I Love You to the Stars–When Grandma Forgets, Love Remembersis a picture book inspired by a true story to help young children understand that even though Grandma is acting differently, she still loves them–to the stars!

Join the conversation. What is your favorite of God’s creation?


Walk the Walk

by Starr Ayers

In the late 60s, my husband-to-be was sent to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio for six-and-a-half weeks of basic training. One of the first on-base civilians he came in contact with—close contact—was the dreaded and merciless barber.

Within moments of surrendering himself to the seat-of-honor, the chilling buzz of clippers traveled from the nape of his neck to the crown of his head, leaving his auburn locks in a heap beside his feet. The military goal to foster a team mentality for my future husband had been met; he blended in.

The military induction haircut serves practical and psychological purposes. Besides reducing the risks of disease or injury, the close haircut also strips recruits of their individuality.

After boot camp, I rode to the airport with my boyfriend’s parents to meet him. As the plane taxied toward the terminal and came to a stop, we waited to see our newly inducted airman exit the plane and walk across the tarmac. As soldiers descended the steps, reality set in. They all looked the same. How would I know which man was mine?

But then … his feet hit the tarmac. I recognized him immediately. I knew him by his walk. His stride differed from the rest of the men dressed in blue. There was no mistaking it; my soldier boy was home.

Scripture mentions another man recognized by his walk. Many versions of Genesis 5:24 state, “Enoch walked with God.” Another translation says Enoch walked “in close fellowship”with God” (NLT). The remainder of the verse reads, “then he was no more, because God took him away” (NIV).

Enoch joins Elijah as one of only two people mentioned in Scripture who bypassed death and was miraculously transported to Heaven. Although his 365-year walk on earth receives only a brief mention (Gen. 5:23), Enoch’s walk captured the attention of God, and the result was extraordinary.

Although we understand what the phrase “he was no more” meant for Enoch, what does it mean for us as we walk in obedience to God?

Jesus says that we are to be in the world but not of the world (John 17:14, 15). Believers aren’t called to immerse ourselves in the world’s values or chase after earthly pleasures. We are chosen and set apart by God.

Do we walk the walk?

When my future husband’s feet hit the tarmac, his walk captured my attention. He did not blend in, and I knew he was mine.

Does the world know by our walk that we belong to Jesus? Let’s live so distinctively that others no longer see us but see our Father in Heaven. Above all, let’s walk the walk that captures God’s attention. One by which he will declare: You are mine!

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 NIV

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Starr Ayers is a third-generation artist, an award-winning author, Word Weaver, Jesus follower, incurable night owl, java junkie, rainbow chaser, Bible study leader, retreat speaker, and an avid iPhone photographer. She’s authored two time-slip novels, For the Love of Emma and Emma’s Quest, and recently co-authored Room at the Table: Stories of Encouragement from Special Needs Families with Stephanie Pavlantos. She can be reached at or through her Bringing Life into Focus website

Join the conversation: What do you think is the most important characteristic of an effective walk?

How to Find Joy in the Manure Pile of Life

by Cheri Cowell

[Cast] all you anxiety on Him, because He cares for you…After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 1 Peter 5: 7, 10

Once upon a time, there were twin five-year-old boys, one a pessimist and the other an optimist. Wondering how two boys who seemed so alike could be so different, their parents took them to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist took the pessimist to a room piled high with new toys, expecting the boy to be thrilled, but instead, he burst into tears.

Puzzled, the psychiatrist asked, “Don’t you want to play with these toys?”

“Yes,” the little boy bawled, “but if I did, I’d only break them.”

Next, the psychiatrist took the optimist to a room piled high with horse manure. The boy yelped with delight, clambered to the top of the pile, and joyfully dug out scoop after scoop, tossing the manure into the air with glee. “What on earth are you doing?” the psychiatrist asked.

“Well,” said the boy, beaming, “There’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!”

Most of us are not consistently in one camp or the other, but we’d probably be hard-pressed to say we’d look for that pony when surrounded by manure. Yet, even when that might not be our first instinct, we can learn to look for joy when life delivers us more manure than flowers and mulch.

The manure pile of life can be difficult to handle on a day-to-day basis, because if we don’t regularly shovel it out, it can continue to pile up and eventually bury us. Just like housekeeping, if I don’t tidy my home regularly, I soon find I must take a full day to do what would have only taken a few minutes or so on several days.

So, take inventory at the end of each day. Do you need to do some shoveling? God wants to relieve us of our manure piles. The Bible calls them cares. 1 Peter 5:7 tells us, “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” God longs to take our cares from us, and in return, he will give us rest. When my mind reels as I try to sleep, that is a sure sign that I need to cast my cares on Him. After all, He is so much better at shoveling my manure than I ever will be.

But then there are times when it’s not a daily accumulation of manure, but a sudden avalanche of manure. We lose a job, there are more bills than income, a dreaded diagnosis is learned, or a wayward child or grandchild has us on our knees. At these times, we don’t want to look for the pony (and if we did, then we wouldn’t have a grasp on reality).

The same principles that allowed us to shovel that manure daily—casting our cares—allow us to survive the avalanche when it comes. Again, this is where reading a verse in context comes into play. In verses 8-9, we learn that the devil is prowling around looking for a way to bury us under a pile of manure (literally devour us, it says).

So, how do we protect ourselves? Peter encourages us to “stand strong” because we are not alone in this fight. Christians all over the world are enduring suffering. The practical application of this principle is to take our eyes off ourselves and find someone to help. Someone else needs a listening ear. Someone else needs to know they are not alone. When I do this, my manure pile doesn’t look so big. It doesn’t smell as bad as before because I just sat with someone whose pile really stunk.

Continuing with verses 10 and 11 is where God does what only He can do—turn the bad into something good. So, after I’ve cast my cares, turned my focus towards others, and stood firm for a while, I’m now ready to grab that shovel and start digging—because with God, there may be a pony in there somewhere!

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: As an author and sidewalk theologian, Cheri Cowell writes and speaks from a refreshing vulnerability about her own struggles with the deep questions of faith. A graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary, she shares her passion to help others apply biblical principles to the sidewalk issues of life.

Cheri is also a publisher (owner of EABooks) and writing coach. She is passionate about helping others see God’s Word come alive, and she is excited to expand that mission by helping fellow authors take advantage of the new publishing trends. For a list of where you can meet or hear Cheri, or to learn about publishing your own books visit

Cheri Cowell is the author of Direction: Discernment for the Decisions of Your Life and Parables and Word Pictures Bible study in the Following God series.

Join the conversation: Have you had to shovel any manure lately?

Prayer Priority

by Carla Wicks

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:3 NIV

Some translations of Psalm 5:3 end with “eagerly watch.” In Scripture, the word watch means to keep faith with Christ in the events of daily life.

My pastor, Robert Morris of Gateway Church, recently asked the following question during a sermon, “Is prayer your last resort or first action?” That small question got me thinking. I have had seasons of life when I have prayed under both of those conditions. I can remember one crisis after another where I did everything I could to no avail, yet there was not a good outcome. I might have sometimes made things even worse in the process.

Can I get a witness? When I was at my wit’s end, I sent up a prayer: HELP! I needed a miracle. And I found that God answered. Why had I thought I could do what only He could do?

The back-and-forth nature of my prayer and quiet time changed when I decided to prioritize my relationship with the Lord. Once I disciplined myself to make a specific time for prayer, it changed from being my last resort to (more frequently) my first action.

Scripture will direct us to a place of knowing that God is wooing and wanting us to inquire of Him constantly. In our daily devotion time, we find that He wants the best for our lives. In this quiet time, we learn that He wants and longs to talk with us.

Reading the Word, for me, is experiencing pure truth, and it resonates with my spirit. His Word is alive, and it satisfies where nothing else can.

My relationship with the Lord is action. Just like I’ve set a regular routine for my nutritional supplements, so too is my time for heavenly conversation.  I realized a relationship with the Lord means constant communication and learning to listen to Him speak to me as well. It is not all about me and my one-sided talking. I need and desire Him to talk too.

It thrills my heart to speak to the Lord and hear with my mind and heart when He speaks back in what I call “whispers.” This part of my prayer time is powerful and purposeful. It is the best! And it can be for you too.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Carla is a USAF Veteran, retired Dental Hygienist, Gold Star Mother and homeschool parent. Her new book, That Still, Small Whisper, teaches others how to identify “whisperings” from the Lord. She wants to grow a world-wide community of Whisperers. Her most recent works include a self-published novel, “Summer at Eagle Crest Drive”, and she co-authored “The Potluck Club-the play”.

Join the conversation. Are you communicating to God or conversing with Him? Do you seek the Lord first or run to Him as a last resort?

Journey of Two Grandmothers

by Patti Richter

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles. 2 Corinthians 1:3 – 4 NIV

I sat up late one evening after hearing that my 90-year-old grandmother had been placed on life-support. From hundreds of miles away, all I could do was pray.

I’ve lived far from extended family for all my married life. I relied on church friends and neighbors to fill in for family, especially during the years my husband and I were raising our three children.

One church friend introduced us to his grandmother, Faye, who lived near our home and gladly stepped in to become our kids’ babysitter. On her baking days, Faye made extra zucchini muffins or cinnamon rolls to share with us. She also surprised us with her handiwork—potholders, colorful blankets, and other special pieces she crocheted.

Faye lost her husband during those years, so she appreciated our attention to her as well. I took her to the grocery store or bank when needed. Often, while driving to her house, I thought of my own widowed grandmothers far away, and I asked the Lord to watch over them and supply their needs.

Faye eventually moved across town to be closer to her family, and we later moved to another state. She wrote letters to us regularly, even after a broken hip kept her in a rehab facility. But when her letters quit coming, I called her grandson, who said Faye mostly slept each day now, though at times she would perk up and show a good appetite.

Days after making that call to check on Faye, my mother had called to let me know about my grandmother. She had explained that Grandma had been hospitalized after falling on a rain-slicked parking lot, and then fell again after trying to get up from the hospital bed without asking for assistance. Now unconscious, my grandmother needed a ventilator to breathe. Of further concern, my father faced giving his consent to honor Grandma’s pre-written directive to remove any life-support.

So, while my husband and children went to bed, I sat down on the family-room sofa. I asked the Lord to take my grandmother if the time was right, or else revive her before my father needed to act. But I did not expect God to answer me so quickly!

After my prayer, a scene played before my eyes like a wide-awake dream. Someone came walking from the left, as if on a dark stage: It was Grandma. Then, from the right, someone else approached: Faye! The two women, strangers to each other but both dear to me, met in the center of my sight and then turned to walk away from me, together—until out of view. This brief vision amazed me, and I went to bed with great peace.

The next morning, I left home and dropped my son off at school before going to help coordinate a morning event at our church. With no cell phone in those days, I hurried home afterward to check my phone for messages. There were two.

First, I listened to my mother’s message telling me that my grandmother was gone. However, with relief in her voice, she said Grandma had first begun breathing on her own without the ventilator and several hours later died peacefully.

As I stood with the phone in my hand for a while to absorb that news, I remembered to check the second message. Then I listened as Faye’s grandson shared the news that our dear friend had also passed peacefully away.

As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you. Isaiah 66:13 NIV

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Patti Richter lives in north Georgia with her husband, Jim. She is a freelance journalist and long-time faith columnist at with more than four hundred published articles.

Patti is the co-author of the award-winning Signs of His Presence—Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of Suffering. It is the story of Luann Mire, whose godly husband was blindsided by an indictment due to a former employer’s tax fraud. The resulting prison sentence and restitution took the once joyful couple into a long season of suffering as they fought judicial tyranny. Helpless to change her situation, Luann endured a painful examination of her life and found God faithful to His promises.

Join the conversation: Has God ever given you reassurance and peace in a given situation? Please share!

It Is Finished! Or Is It?

by Stacy Sanchez

Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. John 12:24 NIV

Have you ever noticed that, with God, when something is supposed to be finished—gone, dead, and buried—it usually isn’t?

God’s kingdom is upside-down and backward to our human sensibilities. In His wisdom, when something dies, new life should burst forth and begin again.

My four children learned that lesson for themselves when they received a butterfly terrarium one Easter. With great anticipation, their little faces pressed against the glass as we diligently monitored our pupas in hope of witnessing butterflies emerge from their chrysalis.

The three-week wait became too much for my seven-year-old daughter to bear. Frustrated, she threw up her hands and said, “Heck with it. They’re dead!” and stormed out of the room.

I’m sure you know how this story ends. The butterflies proved her wrong. What my daughter thought was dead, broke through to become a gorgeous kaleidoscope of Painted Ladies. I spared her the words, “I told you so.”

In John 12:24, Jesus taught that a seed must first die before it can grow and bear fruit. How can something grow if it dies? That’s weird. That’s God’s upside-down kingdom for you.

We’ve all had people we loved who have died. The pain is gut-wrenching. What about the death of a dream, a friendship, a marriage, or a career? These losses can be soul-shattering. As a pastor, I’ve seen people walk away from the Lord because life was too painful and didn’t look like they had planned.

Why would God put a dream in my heart just to see it die?

Is the dream, friendship, career dead? Or, like caterpillars, is God’s inner work in us hidden and we are being slowly changed until the time is right for rebirth?

He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breathenter you, and you will come to life….’” Ezekiel 37:3-5 NIV   

Just a thought, but maybe what must die is our ego. Ouch! Like the seed in Jesus’s parable, our idea of what things should look like may also need to fall to the ground, die, and be reborn.

Have you ever noticed a pattern God used before launching people into ministry? He first took them into the desert. For example: Moses, Joseph, Jacob, David, Paul, and even Jesus were all led into the desert before God could use them for His purpose. Why?

I believe God chose the hot, dry, barren wilderness to bring His servants to the place where they would become desperate for Him. Desperation is where the ego goes to die. Only when they were at the end of themselves and clinging to God for their very existence, could He breathe new life—His dreams and purposes—into their dry bones. The leaders God brought into the desert always left changed for the better.

Have you had something in your life die? A dream? A ministry? A purpose? Hope?

Me too. I’m sorry.

Death is painful, no matter what kind. Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense. We may never know the answer to our cries of “Why, God?” But Jesus shows us that in His kingdom, new life will come from death and a divine purpose will come from the pain.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Stacy Sanchez and her husband, John have been married for over 35 years. She is a mother of 4, step-mother, the fun, “Best Aunt Ever” to many, and (a very young) grandmother of nine grandcherubs. Stacy is a pastor, author, and speaker. Her passions include baseball (Go Yankees!), the beach, and Bible study. She loves teaching Christians about the Jewish roots of their faith, as well as helping to empower women to become all that God has created them to be. When not teaching or writing, you will find Stacy and John on the beach, at a baseball game, or playing with their grandchildren. Look for her new devotional book “Diamond Dust: Lessons from the Ball Field” to be published soon.

Join the conversation: Have you had a hope or dream that died, but then God brought it to life again?

The Other Disciple

by Sheri Schofield

Have you ever noticed how much we rely on artists to interpret Scripture for us? For example, we’ve all seen pictures of Mary riding into Bethlehem on the back of a donkey with Joseph leading it.

Reality check: Mary was very pregnant. Pregnant women should never ride horses or donkeys because it can induce labor.

As I illustrated my children’s book on salvation, I had to think through the Bible stories a little more deeply. Mary and Joseph were not taking a quick trip to Bethlehem and planning to return to Nazareth. No. They were moving. The trip was 90 miles. They would have taken wood for fires, cooking pots, water jars, food, bedding, hay for the animals, clothing, and Joseph’s tools for carpentry, for starters. They would have needed a cart, probably an ox cart. They would not have traveled alone. In those days, they would have joined others for protection from bandits.

So, you see, our cherished Bible pictures are not always accurate. I was determined to provide illustrations which showed truth, because that makes a difference in how we understand the Bible.

One day I needed to illustrate the road to Emmaus. Two disciples, Cleopas and “another disciple”, were traveling from Jerusalem to their home in Emmaus. They were in turmoil over what had happened that weekend. Jesus was crucified. Yes, they agreed on that. But did Jesus rise from the dead? One disciple was adamant Jesus was still dead. The other insisted he was alive.

Jesus joined them, probably wearing the typical headgear of the day. They didn’t recognize him, for reasons we do not know. He told them of the resurrection prophecies. They invited him into their home for a meal. As he blessed the food for them, they suddenly recognized the Lord, who promptly disappeared.

Famous paintings always showed Jesus with two men. But was that true? Who really was that other disciple?

I went back to the stories of the crucifixion. John 19:25 it tells us Mary, the wife of Cleophas stood at the cross with Jesus’ mother and Mary Magdalene. Some Mark 16:1 commentaries suggest one of the women at the empty tomb of Jesus may have been Mary the wife of Cleophas. Three women are named: Mary, Jesus’ mother, plus Mary (probably the wife of Cleophas) and Salome (probably Mary’s sister) went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body and wrap it in spices. The angel told them, “Jesus is not here. He is risen!”

Would Cleophas have left his wife in Jerusalem? No! She would have traveled that road home with him. Mary had already heard about the resurrection. But Cleophas doubted her report. Thomas was not the only doubting disciple!

Some Bible scholars have noted that Jesus made sure the women who stood at his cross were the first to know of his resurrection. Announcements to the men came later.

Once I was sure of the facts, I illustrated the story of the Road to Emmaus with Mary the wife of Cleophas as the other disciple.

Jesus valued women. He treasured those who stood at his cross as he suffered and died for the sins of the world. Of his twelve disciples, only one man, John, stood with the women.

Jesus took note.

Are you serving Jesus without notice or appreciation by others? Jesus values our gifts, our sacrifices for his sake. He is still taking note, and that is enough for me. I serve the King of kings. He sees me.

Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do,
you will have no reward from your Father in heaven … But when you give to the needy, do not
let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then
your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Matthew 6:1, 3, 4 (NIV).

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Sheri Schofield, award-winning author and Bible teacher, has added a new way to share faith in Jesus: Her latest book, Before You Find Me, is a contemporary romantic suspense featuring a strong Christian who faces a crisis that tests her courage. Tara, a freshman at West Texas A&M whose parents are dead, learns that her younger sister witnessed a murder. To protect her siblings, she must spirit them out of Texas before the murderer learns there was a witness to his act. Tara has one day in which to act. Can she do it? She remembers a family ranch in Montana…and Ben, the boy next-door, who captured her heart once. Will he still be there? Will he help her protect her family now? This book entertains while it presents godly responses to danger and struggles. Sometimes fiction can draw people closer to God when they will not be drawn by nonfiction. Before You Find Me is available at

Join the conversation: Have you ever felt undervalued in your service to the Lord?

Come to the Garden

by Cheri Cowell

For the past month, I’ve been working in the garden. A neighbor down the street offered mulch if we’d come to get it from her driveway. After the project, the bed looked so pretty with the new mulch, but my azaleas, hydrangeas, orchids, and gardenias weren’t blooming yet.

I wanted flowers blooming that day, but I needed to wait. Just like my garden, I’ve come through a dark, cold, and bleak winter. With the first hint of spring, I need to weed and prepare my beds, but I want flowers now. The Lord says, “Wait.” Flowers will come, but not yet. The truth is my flowering plants don’t bloom on new growth, only on the old. That means the plants needed to go through the cold and harsh winter to be ready to produce flowers in the spring.

One of my favorite hymns, In the Garden, was written in 1913 by Austin Miles and is based upon John 20:16-18. Mary had come for the unpleasant task of anointing the body. She’d come to the garden alone, while the dew was still on the roses.

Three days prior, a horrific storm had pelted the landscape, and nothing looked the same. The cold, harsh winter appeared to be there still, but hints of Spring abounded. Yet, Mary couldn’t see it. Over the last three days, weeds had no doubt grown thick in her mind. The weeds of fear, confusion, despair, and hopelessness had taken root.

So, Mary came alone to the one place she knew she could think clearly, by her Master’s side. Yet, even by His side Mary was so tangled in her weeds that when the angels spoke to her, she asked about the weeds. “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 

Have you felt those same weeds choking your vision? Have you gone through a dark winter and cannot see any signs of Spring? Have you come to the side of Jesus and still can’t see clearly?

When the Risen Christ stood beside her, Mary couldn’t see Him. I used to think I would’ve seen Him, until I realized I miss Him every day. I miss Him sending me His love and comfort. I miss Him whispering in my ear which step I’m to take, and I, like Mary, focus on the weeds instead of the flowers. The questions I ask are wrong because I cannot see the Lord right in front of me.

Then Jesus spoke her name, “Mary.” At that glorious moment, the weeds vanished. Her name never sounded so sweet. And the voice she heard falling on her ear, The Son of God discloses.

Why did Jesus appear to Mary and not the others? Could it be that Mary tarried there? Mary stayed in the garden; she didn’t run. She didn’t hide. She didn’t go off to make things happen or figure it out. I’d stay in the garden with Him. ‘Tho the night around me be falling…

As the hymn and God’s Word mingled together in my mind, I realized I needed to get my life’s garden ready for spring. Maybe you are with me in this. We must do some weeding and remove doubt, confusion, despair, and hopelessness. How? We come to the garden alone, not because we are alone there—but we come to prepare the beds by asking questions even while realizing that most of our questions are weed-focused. God understands, but He tells us to keep asking, to stay in the garden. Again, why?

Because you and I know that eventually, our eyes will be opened, and Jesus will call our name. There in that sacred place, the flowers will bloom. We must tarry there, not because God needs us to, but because it is the only way to hear His voice and learn His ways. There in the garden He walks with me. And He talks with me. And He tells me I am His own. And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known…

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Cheri Cowell is the author of Direction: Discernment for the Decisions of Your Life and Parables and Word Pictures Bible study in the Following God series.

Join the conversation: When was the last time you “stayed in the garden”?

Thank a Veteran

by Fran Sandin

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13 ESV

My husband, Jim, and I had been married for one year when he completed his medical internship and involuntarily joined the military service. He chose the Air Force. We bought furniture, and I had stitched the last curtain for our modest house on the AF base, when he received orders to leave for Southeast Asia. He was ultimately assigned as the medical officer for an engineering squadron in Cam Ranh Bay, South Viet Nam.

Before the days of convenient videos and cell phones, we communicated by letters and cassette tapes that took forever to send and receive. I sent homemade cookies that arrived as crumbs but were eaten anyway. It was a long year, but we were so thankful God brought Jim home.

My brief two-year experience as a military wife caused me to consider the significance of Memorial Day, a federal holiday that has been observed annually for 154 years in honor of the U.S. Armed Forces personnel who have died in service to our country. Many wives, mothers, and other family members were not as fortunate as I.

An even greater appreciation of the impact of war occurred when in 2004, Jim and I were invited to join the World War II Veteran’s Committee on a European trip to commemorate D-Day. While there we heard an elderly glider pilot tell his story. On June 5th, the night before the American Forces landed at Normandy, six British Halifax bombers, each towing a Horsa glider, left from England. They flew over the English Channel through thick cloud cover in the dark at 7,000 feet toward France. The goal was to capture and secure the Pegasus Bridge and the Ranville Bridge to prevent German counterattacks during Operation Overlord.

The glider pilot said they didn’t know exactly where they were, but at 6,000 feet and the estimated time, the gliders were cut loose. Dark clouds suddenly parted and a full moon shined on the silver Caen Canal, and the Pegasus Bridge. The first three gliders landed near the bridge; the British 6th Airborne Division quickly emerged to strategically take control the area as the Americans were landing on the beaches. Amazing. Only God could have opened those clouds at just the right time. The Ranville Bridge was also seized and protected.

Our tour continued to the beautiful Normandy Memorial site. The wife of a WWII survivor, with an American flag draped over her shoulder, sang acapella “Amazing Grace” and then “God Bless America.” Tears flowed as we viewed 9,000 white crosses, each representing a young man in his late teens or early twenties who fought gallantly for America’s freedom. I was reminded of the verse: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends (John 15: 13 ESV).

Commentator Paul Harvey once said, “The free are never out of debt to the brave.”Without their sacrifice, we would not have the freedom to vote and other freedoms we enjoy today. Let us thank God and then thank a veteran on this day of remembrance.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Fran Sandin is a retired nurse, organist, mother, and grandmother living in Greenville, Texas. She and her husband, Jim, have traveled to many countries and states. Her latest book, Hope on the Way, Devotions to Go– contains 52 devotionals for those who love to combine faith and adventure. Visit her website to order with a click on the home page fransandin.comHope on the Way has been nominated by Joy and Company in Arlington, Texas, for the Henri Award (for outstanding Christian Literature) both in the Devotional and Christian Living sections.

Join the conversation: Who would you like to thank on this Memorial Day?


by Dr. Sharon Norris Elliott

Unfortunately, from time to time, we hear of churches splitting. One group is ticked off by what another group has done, the older folks like hymns while the younger folks like praise choruses, or the pastor makes a decision that sends a faction into a tizzy. This shameful phenomenon is nothing new; we’ve been separating almost as long as we’ve been the church. According to an internet article entitled “Christian Denominations: The History and Evolution of Christian Denominations and Faith Groups,” author Mary Fairchild says:

“There are numerous ways to dissect the many Christian faith groups. They can be separated into fundamentalist or conservative, mainline, and liberal groups. They can be characterized by theological belief systems such as Calvinism and Arminianism. And lastly… Christians can be categorized into a vast number of denominations.”

Yes, the Eastern Orthodox folks broke away from the Roman Catholic Church. Then the Protestant Reformation came along and the Lutherans started. The Methodists separated from them and the Baptists separated from them and on and on it goes. I’m sure the people who orchestrated each split felt they had sound reasons to do so, but any way you cut it (no pun intended), the final outcome was division.

Just before Jesus went to the Cross, He prayed for us. One of the key points He made to the Father was about unity. He prayed:

“Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are… I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” John 17:11, 20-23 (NKJ, emphasis added).

Look at that: five times Jesus emphasized His desire for our unity with one another and with Him and His Father. This is important stuff.

I’ve seen the beginnings of what unity looks like here on earth. Instead of splitting, my church merged with another church. Folks from the two congregations are getting to know one another, and we’re looking forward to growing together as believers and to working together as a family in the Lord’s vineyard. I consider this to be one small example of what Heaven’s going to be like. John saw it in the Revelation:

“…the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb… And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation…” Revelation 5:8-9 (NKJ).

Do you see that? Jesus has redeemed folks “out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” There will be no denominational flag-waving marches in Glory. Jesus’ blood unites all believers. We might as well get used to it down here because we’ll all be in Heaven together – forever.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: “Live significantly!” That’s the inspiring message of Sharon Norris Elliott, award-winning author, editor, agent, engaging speaker, and licensed minister. Author of 15 books, and associated with several prestigious organizations such as AWSA, ACE, and, Sharon is also co-director of the WCCW conference. She is founder/CEO of AuthorizeMe® Consulting, Coaching, & Editing Firm and Literary Agency.

Sharon’s latest release, Didn’t See That Coming: When How They’re Living is Not How You Raised Them does its best to encourage parents of adult children when those grown folks make announcements about lifestyle choices that throw those parents for a real loop. Through introducing “care-frontation,” Dr. Elliott eases parents into the conversations they’d like to have with their adult kids. This book is heartfelt, timely, and scripturally sound.

Join the conversation: Has division in the church impacted you personally?