“Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy” (Mark 4:16 NIV).

Margarita is my name in Spanish––for Margaret. It’s also the word for daisy in Spanish. On a spring day, I found miracle margaritas (daisies) in a most unlikely place.

Our world is a rocky place right now. It’s hard to see the bright side and the beauty of things during the Covid 19 pandemic. The suffering around the world is heartbreaking, and fear of the virus paralyzes life with lockdowns and isolation. But God gives us hope through His Word and His creation, even daisies.

One misty morning, after torrential rains, the sun peeked out and the rains ceased. My husband and I walked around our mission property to check for flooding. What we found astonished us––margaritas (daisies) flourishing in the rocks. Amidst all the rain and flooding, these beautiful flowers sprouted from a place where nothing should have grown.

When we built our house, we found discarded stones from a city street free for the taking. We snatched them up and made a lovely walk with gravel between the cracks of each stone. Over the years, they cemented into the ground. For anything to grow out of the cracks was almost impossible, yet beautiful margaritas emerged between the cracks.

The flower seeds spread with the wind and rain and fell on rocky ground. That rainy season there was flooding and devastation all around us, but we saw God’s beautiful flowers blooming in hard places.

We may face a rocky road in the next months or years. But, God can bring beauty out of hard places. Let’s plant and water in hard places, so that others will receive His Word with joy. If margaritas can bloom out of rocks, we, too, can bloom in hard places.

Peggy Cunningham

Peggy Cunningham

Peggy Cunningham and her husband are missionaries in Bolivia, South America. They work with the Quechua people and have a children’s ministry. Peggy is also an author of children’s books and devotionals. Her latest is Shape Your Soul, 31 Exercises for Faith that Moves Mountains, a women’s devotional. www.PeggyCunningham.com.




Dianne Neal Matthews

I attended my first writers conference in 1999, convinced that they’d kick me out once they discovered I had no writing talent. The third year, I gathered enough courage to schedule an appointment with the editor of a major Christian magazine to pitch a personal experience article. While the piece didn’t fit his periodical, John liked the basic story and suggested changes to make before I submitted it. I was thrilled that he didn’t just say no.

At dinner that evening someone asked if I’d had any exciting appointments. I told them about my meeting with John. Joanne shouted, “He’s looking for you!” She had just come from John’s workshop. He’d talked about a woman who had showed him an article he really liked, but he didn’t get her name. I doubted that I was the woman since I had talked with him less than two hours earlier, but Joanne was convinced, and so convincing. I wondered…

A few minutes later, John walked by. My fellow diners urged me to go after him. “There he is!” “Go talk to him!” “Yes, it’s you he’s looking for!” As John and I passed each other, we made eye contact. No sign of recognition. My heart sank, but then I decided to boldly seize the moment—for once in my life. I called his name and asked if he was looking for me. A little confused, he explained he’d been talking about a lady who showed him an article that only needed one sentence changed. He had not taken her name down, thinking she would get back to him. He said that he had been expecting to get tackled in the dining room; I told him that he almost had.

I crawled back to my table, and we all laughed about the misunderstanding. But Joanne felt horrible and I felt worse. Then I realized that editors must meet so many people at conferences––surely they don’t remember every writer who makes a fool out of herself.

In July, John notified me that my article would be in the December issue. I immediately emailed Joanne with the news: “So you were right—he was looking for me. He just didn’t know it at the time!”


Women of the BibleDianne Neal Matthews is the author of five daily devotional books including The One Year Women of the Bible and Designed for Devotion: A 365-Day Journey from Genesis to Revelation, which won a 2013 Selah Award. She also writes for websites and blogs, contributes to compilations (including Guideposts’ Mornings with Jesus), and teaches at writers’ conferences. To learn more, visit www.DianneNealMatthews.com or connect with Dianne through Facebook or Twitter.



It’s crazy-good what Americans do in July!

We wave flags. Peacefully parade in the streets. Honor the military, first responders, and civilians. Gather as families. Picnic. Cherish freedom.

As a retired military officer, I smile at our Independence Day celebrations, knowing a measure of the sacrifice in people and treasure that secured the liberties we live with today. Military, firefighters, police, and medical professionals serve in physically dangerous positions. And many in our nation sacrifice time, energy, and money to keep us free.

Like many others, I’m a patriot. I defended our Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, while serving as an active-duty military man in the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Army. I wasn’t alone. Millions of uniformed service members, not only on active duty, but in the National Guard and the Reserves, served before, with, and after me.

The Constitution and its amendments are an essential framework for peace, harmony, and equality in our nation. The freedom provided by the U.S. Constitution is limited freedom to ensure protection for its citizens and visitors. When anarchy reigns, terror is not far behind. When lawlessness abounds, the law-abiding are in danger.

As a patriot, I believe we must take action to work through our issues in an orderly fashion. Through discussion and changes in laws or procedures, we should prove ourselves to be mature individuals, serving one another while leading, teaching, guiding, protecting, and supporting each individual within freedom’s boundaries. We must create a growing and unified society which prospers for the benefit of all.

I salute those who’ve been on their knees praying that God will restore our nation to uphold the ideals that all men are created equal, that we can work out that practical application, and live in peace.

Aaron M. Zook, Jr. is a multiple-award-winning author and speaker. He’s thrilled thousands with his YA Christian mystery/adventure series about two inquisitive brothers and their dogs who solve one crisis after another around the world. Aaron is a retired U.S. Army Colonel and lives with his wife, Joyce, in Texas.




The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing (Zephaniah 3:17 ESV).

I love walking with God anywhere, but I especially like the quiet, serene walks where I’m surrounded by God’s creations. Recently, I walked and talked to God in the silence of a north-Georgia mountain path, enjoying the beauty around me. The quite enveloped me much as the foliage on the path did.

But then I paused long enough to realize that it was anything but noiseless.

Crickets chirped in the distance.

A mockingbird sang from a branch overhead.

Two squirrels chattered and scolded, undoubtedly responding to the hawk that just screeched his presence.

Frogs croaked near the edge of the babbling stream off to the left of my path.

Wind whispered through the pines, rustling the needles ever-so-gently.

A brown thrasher flitting about on top of dry leaves, shuffling them out of the way to look for worms.

And that one noise – oh, my, was it loud! Cicadas.

A quiet walk? Not so much!

The sounds of God’s creations serenaded me, bringing to mind the verse in Zephaniah, “… he will exult over you with loud singing.” His masterpieces tickled my ears with songs from their Creator.

Thank you, God, for your constant presence. Thank you for a glimpse of your love and gladness and for songs of exultation. Please help me never miss the serenade.

365 Ways to Love

Julie Lavender is a journalist, author, and former homeschooling mom of twenty-five years who holds a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education. She is married to her-high school and college sweetheart, David, a wildlife biologist, who’s spent the last thirty-seven years encouraging her to love and appreciate all of God’s creations. Julie’s parenting book, 365 Ways to Love Your Child: Turning Little Moments into Lasting Memories, releases in October.


Never a Panic in Heaven

by Janet Chester Bly

Which of these  statements do you most relate to?

What I see is all there is. I’m governed by chance, ruled by fate. Mine is a bleak, empty existence, leading nowhere. My life is governed by my good choices and happy thoughts. We’re ruled by fearsome forces who can attack at any moment. Or I believe in a loving, powerful God who has a benevolent plan for the world, and for me, and the power to see it through.

Charlie Shedd wrote, “Even when things seem to the contrary, I believe (God’s) universe and my life in it are unfolding as they should, and everything is on schedule.”

Everything’s on schedule? That smacks of a celestial plan. But, why not? We ourselves are great planners. Where did that come from, if we’re born into a chancy, random world?

A look around makes plain that God’s will is largely ignored everywhere. The result is pain and violence, mystery and confusion, atrocity and death. A sovereign planner must be greater than ambitious rulers, the torrents of nature, and plotters of evil. Otherwise, where is our hope? To whom can we appeal?

The eyes of faith can detect order breaking through even the sudden outbursts of events. There’s a flow to history. A bigger plan at play. A serious study of the Bible reveals it, with an outline of God’s divine blueprint, his design.

Everything’s on schedule. Do you believe it? Such a statement recognizes someone in control beyond ourselves and the momentary headlines.

“From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.” (Acts 17:26)

You and I have been chosen to live in such a time as this. Ask God for courage to embrace your appointed tasks each day. And when you’re troubled, say, “Even so, I trust you, Lord. This, too, is part of your plan.”

Janet Chester Bly

Janet Chester Bly

Beneath a Camperdown Elm, by Janet Chester Bly

Janet Chester Bly is a city girl with a country heart. She doesn’t corral horses or mow her own lawn. “I’m no womba woman,” she says, “but I love to write about them.” She followed her husband, award-winning western author Stephen Bly, to the Idaho mountaintop village of Winchester to write books and minister to a small church. When she lost him, she stayed. Janet has authored, and co-authored with Stephen, thirty-four contemporary and historical fiction and inspirational and family-themed nonfiction books. He also published more than 100 books of his own.

This article was adapted from her book, Awakening Your Sense of Wonder / Discovering God in the Ordinary. Her most recent release is Beneath a Camperdown Elm, Book 3, Trails of Reba Cahill contemporary western romance series, with a zing of mystery. More about Janet at www.blybooks.com.