Congratulations to the following writers for their winning submissions in the SCWC's February online writing challenge.
1st place: Debra Gray-Elliott, "Mama Loved the Roses"
2nd place: Suzanne D. Nichols, "The Essentials of Life"
3rd place: Harry Moritz, "Love is"
The challenge? To write about love in any style of writing (a short story, an essay, a poem, a prayer, a devotion--anything!). The results? You sent us some wonderful submissions, making it hard to choose our final winners.
We're so pleased with the creations given to us by Debra, Suzanne, and Harry. We hope you enjoy them as well.
"Mama Loved the Roses"
by Debra Gray-Elliott
My mama loved two things in her life: Elvis Presley and roses.
Every time I hear the song ‘Mama Liked the Roses' sung by Elvis, my mind wanders back to sweet childhood memories and my mama.
I can still hear my mother’s thick Southern drawl float through the brambles of her rose garden. "Darlin', keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden where the flowers are dead."
I didn't understand what my mother meant until she was gone.
I inherited her sense for beauty, but not her green thumb. I didn’t step inside her garden
gates after she died. It was too painful to watch the beautiful roses bloom after Mama passed away. Her beautiful roses wilted and withered away like love in the winter and the beautiful rose garden stood barren and isolated, just like me.
When she died, her roses died and so did the love in my heart. It had withered like her beautiful roses. My heart became a stone garden that could not be penetrated. I could not stand to look at another rose. I went into her garden and pulled every single rose bush up by hand. The thorns pierced my hands and droplets of blood fell onto the dried, cracked ground. I reached the last of the withered rose bushes when a cool breeze began to whisper: Darlin, keep love in your heart... I stopped in my tracks.
Mama? I called out to the wind. No answer. I continued to tear the last rose bush from its roots. The wind got stronger, swirling crimson and gold leaves around my feet. Goosebumps popped out on my arms. Darlin, keep love in your heart... My heart leapt out of my chest. Mama! I once again called out to the rustling wind. Once again, no reply. I knew my mind must be playing tricks. Nobody was there except me, a bunch of dead rosebushes, and the wind. I gathered the dead rosebushes, placed them in Mama’s rickety, wooden wheelbarrow, and walked toward the gate. Before I could lift the latch, I heard Mama’s voice again. Darlin, keep love in your heart... What was she trying to tell me? I set the wheelbarrow down and reached for the latch. Just as my dirt-caked hand made contact, something next to the wrought iron gate caught the corner of my eye. Tiny, pink wild roses climbed the fence. I gently ran my fingers across the delicate blossoms. Their sweet scent filled the cool air. Darlin, keep love in your heart... Mama’s sweet words filled my heart. I realized that her rose garden was her special treasure and destroying it would also destroy my memories of Mama. I realized the Lord was trying to tell me something as well. It was time to replant Mama’s rose garden, and it was time for me to replant my life. I left the garden that day with a wheelbarrow filled with death and returned the next day with at least fifty roses bushes filled with life. Yellows, pinks, whites, and reds decorated my mama’s garden. I started to work, planting each new rose bush with love, careful not to damage their beautiful buds. Mama’s sweet voice echoed throughout the once desolate garden.
Darlin, keep love in your heart...
"The Essentials of Life"
by Suzanne D. Nichols
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13 (NIV)
The Amplified Bible calls faith, hope and love “the choicest graces." All three are essential, yet the apostle Paul declares that love is the greatest of these. Faith without love is meaningless. Hope without love has no purpose. But faith strengthens and hope endures because of the power and endurance of love.
Faith and hope are linked in a divine mystery described in the first verse of Hebrews 11. Here we learn that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (KJV). Faith enables us to take uncertain steps with certainty—not because we’re sure of the way—but because we know the God who’s promises are sure. Then, step after step, faith builds upon the evidence and hope becomes anchored in God’s unfailing love.
“Hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit,” teaches Romans 5:5 (NIV). And Isaiah 40:29-31 assures us that those who place their hope and confidence in the Lord will find renewed strength and increased power in difficult times.
We cling to the truths in these verses and find comfort in God’s goodness toward us. Faith puts down roots in this evidence and hope climbs high on God’s promises. Even so, these two essentials fall short of their potential without love to sustain them; for love gives meaning to our faith and purpose to our hope.
First Corinthians 13:2 warns that even if we have a superior faith strong enough to move mountains, such a magnificent display would be pointless if not motivated by love. Abilities, knowledge, charity, and self-sacrifice without love are all meaningless offerings. But a faith motivated by love invests in the lives of others without expecting compensation or recognition.
The human spirit cannot survive without hope. But hope is not merely an inner yearning or an act of positive thinking. It is more than optimism, anticipation, or determination. Without love, vision turns plans into preoccupations and dreams into obsessions. Love gives hope its proper focus and its true purpose: to point the world to Jesus Christ—our eternal hope.
The Amplified Bible expounds on the actions of love listed in First Corinthians 13:7. These added explanations illustrate how faith and hope work with love:
“Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking out for the best in each one],” Love gives meaning to our faith—a faith that is growing and maturing.
Love “hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening].” Love gives purpose to our hope—a hope that sets our spiritual eyes on God’s promises, not on the problems of the day.
As Paul concludes the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, verses 9 through 12 stand apart as often-quoted mini-sermons with great power on their own. However, they also provide a segue to connect his lesson on love to his declaration that faith and hope will endure along with love. In these four verses, Paul illustrates from his own life that love matures our faith. and enables us to do away with childish things (v. 11) and turn away from envy, boasting, pride, rudeness, and anger (v. 5). Love and hope clear our perspectives for a future view—one where we shall know fully, even as we are fully known (v. 12).
Love brings God’s perspective to every part of our lives. In that light, we realize that the only way to truly love others is to first have His love working within us. Then, undergirded by a meaningful faith and a purposeful hope, the Holy Spirit will empower us to share the choicest graces, the essentials of life: faith, hope, and love.
by Harry Moritz
Love is a holy vestment, spun into fabric
so thin it is almost invisible,
yet a fabric so strong, not even trickling time
or potent death could tatter or remove it,
especially from memory.
Love’s garment cannot be frayed by use.
Love brings an affectionate glow
into what would otherwise be
an intolerably long, cold journey.
At times, love can also be a terrible load
as heavy to bear as a cloak of chain mail.
Bearing the burden of love
on those dreaded occasions,
when it is such a solemn weight,
makes it even more precious
when remembering better times.
When it snares the wind,
its sleeves flare like wings –
lifting your heart, your spirit, your emotions.
Love bequeaths freedom –
That of an eagle when it takes flight.