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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "Make Hay While the Sun Shines" (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (03/06/08)

TITLE: Steps
By Gerald Shuler


Unbearable pain kept the old woman stooped as she hobbled across the busy street. A car honked and swerved but she didn’t seem to notice. Her gaze was fastened at the top step of the beautiful church on the other side. She grimaced at the sight of so many steps to climb.

Her unsteady legs shook worse than usual but she forced herself to reach the street curb and then, finally, the first step of the magnificent building. She paused to lean on the railing and catch her breath. Then, step by agonizing step, she continued her journey toward the top. A massive door opened and just inside stood two men. Perhaps they would know.

“Sir, could you tell me where I can find Jesus?”

Both greeters looked at her and the younger one smiled. With a twinkle in his eye, he said lightly “You came to the right place for that, ma’am.” He started to reach out, intending to help her into the church. The other greeter, older and obviously in charge, grabbed the boy’s hand and prevented him. He gave the boy a stern look of disapproval and squeezed lightly to let the kid know he had almost made a mistake. Only then did he release the boy’s hand from his grip.

“I’m sorry, madam, but we have a dress code here and, well, quite frankly…”

The old woman looked down at the tattered clothing she wore. It was all she owned. She looked into the eyes of the older gentleman but saw only coldness. The boy, though, still had his twinkle, slightly dimmed by what he had just heard but still recognizable as a twinkle. She would plead her case with him.

“I'm sorry I'm not dressed better and I know I need a bath, but…” She could see the older man bristling. “I was told this is where I could meet Jesus.” Her eyes carried more sorrow and loneliness than the young teen had ever witnessed. He tried again to reach for her arm but, once again, was stopped by the older man.

“You’ll need to move on. This church has a standard to uphold.” It was the cold man again.

“Can’t I please come in, just for a moment?” The old woman was determined. “I’ll not get in the way and I promise I’ll leave just as soon as I’ve met Jesus.”

“Look lady…” The cold man got even colder. “Go clean up and then come back next Sunday. The service is about to begin and you are keeping us from greeting others.”

Slowly, shakily, the tired old woman turned to leave and the teen saw tears streaming down the crevices of her weathered, leathery cheeks. The cold man reached out his hand to some other properly dressed patron of the big beautiful church. Sadly, the old woman noticed how much warmer the cold man seemed to be for the right people. She decided to look for Jesus elsewhere…

…if she could just make it back down that long row of steps. She simply must sit and rest before she tried.


After the services were over several people actually left the church without noticing the grungy old lady crumpled at the top of the steps. Police reports would have little to say about the un-named vagrant that had wandered onto the church steps and died of natural causes. Nobody would ever know of the old lady’s urgent desire to meet Jesus.

Well, that’s not entirely true. One young teenaged greeter would always know and because he knew, he would, for the rest of his life, be changed. He had missed this opportunity but, God willing, he would never miss another.


The old woman stood at the bottom of the grandest steps she had ever seen. With awe and eager anticipation she started up the steps, amazed at the painless ease with which she managed them. Her eyes, though, were focused intently at the top of the golden steps. A man stood there with arms open wide and the warmest of smiles on his face. He encouraged her each step of the way and His love seemed to be engulfing her. This must be…

“Well done, Opal. I’m so glad you met Me in time.” He put His arms around her, wrapping her in a beautiful white robe. She felt so… clean. He motioned toward the door to Opal’s mansion. “Opal, enter into My eternal rest.”

Opal wept for joy.

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This article has been read 1235 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jack Taylor 03/13/08
Thanks for pulling my heart upwards and expressing so eloquently the importance of reaching each of the least of these. Well done.
Verna Cole Mitchell 03/14/08
I liked the contrast of the steps and of the different welcomes in your story, but what really struck me the most was how Jesus knew her name. This excellent story has a very important message.
Mo 03/15/08
The first & especially the second section were sad, but the third made it all right! Great lesson, for the older, the younger, & the "vagrants".
Deborah Engle 03/16/08
How effectively you have demonstrated this proverb! Sometimes we find it so easy to excuse our lack of concern, but we need to remember the results can be tragic. I'm glad that wasn't the case in this well-written story.
Lyn Churchyard03/18/08
Gerald, this was beautiful! At first I thought it was a modern day version of the woman Jesus healed on the Sabbath and right up until she died, I was waiting for Jesus to intervene. He did! But not the way I was expecting. Perfect example of the topic. I loved the finish; it brought tears to my eyes. Well done!
Patty Wysong03/18/08
What a vivid reminder to us that we need to be sharing Jesus with all that we can. Well done!!
Joy Faire Stewart03/18/08
Beautiful story and well written. This would be perfect to use as a devotional.
Shelley Ledfors 03/19/08
This is so incredibly beautiful! What a wonderful job you did of bringing us right into the story. Truly lovely.
Jan Ackerson 03/19/08
Very moving, awesomely written.
Mandy White03/19/08
Beautiful job! Thanks for sharing this.
Joshua Janoski03/19/08
Wow. This story was so beautiful and sad at the same time. I can't imagine what kind of impact this has had on you Gerald. After experiencing something like this, it would be very hard to let another witnessing opportunity slip by. Good for you trying to help the poor woman out, despite your opposition.

I would hope that I would never find myself acting like the older greeter. I worry for him, because his soul could be in danger for turning people away like that. Whatever happened to helping out the least of these?

If you want to stress the importance of witnessing while you have the chance, then this is the story to have people read.

Superb job!

K. J. Cash03/19/08
I thought the story was going to be about the parable of the wedding party, but in her spirit she was clothed in humilty--a clean sparkling garment.

Good way to communicate that we can't miss our opportunities. Not only on target for the theme of the week, but it also fits another proverb "don't judge a book by it's cover". You're so clever Gerald!!
Debbie Wistrom03/19/08
Oh! Yeah for God and yeah for Opal. I feel that we may have a placer with this one. Thanks for a moving story, one of my favorites!
Loren T. Lowery03/19/08
What a brave testamony, convicting in its authenticity and convincing its sincerity. I liked the analogy of the steps as well. Great job!.
Sara Harricharan 03/19/08
This gave me goosebumps! Wow. So sad here, but the ending did have happy notes and joyfulness. This is really good, one of my favorites this week. I felt so bad for Opal and that church greeter who turned her away. You said this was a true story? This was good-nice job! ^_^
Sara Harricharan 03/20/08
***Congrats on your highly commended!*** This was such a good piece! ^_^
Joanne Sher 03/20/08
Absolutely excellent, Gerry. The atmosphere, the characterization, the story, truly masterful. Congratulations on your highly commended.
Sheri Gordon03/20/08
Congratulations on your Highly Commended. This is beautiful, and very well written. Nice job with the topic.
Catrina Bradley 03/24/08
Great writing and a heartbreaking truth. Thank you for sharing this! And congrats on being Highly Commended!
Chely Roach03/24/08
This was SO beautiful...I am speechless.
Jan Ackerson 04/26/08
Gerald, I'm going to feature this moving story on the Front Page Showcase for the week of May 12. Look for it on the FaithWriters home page, and congratulations!
Debbie Wistrom05/13/08
I got to read this agian, YEA! Congratulation on your showcase. So glad for a chance for more people to read this moving story.
Lynn Jacky 05/14/08
Hi - Wow! This is a very special story - well written, I enjoyed it. congratulations and thank you.
Joshua Janoski05/15/08
This is my favorite of all your entries so far, Gerald. So happy to see it being showcased this week. :)
Joanne Sher 05/16/08
Amazing (again - or is that still?) and SO deserving of the showcase. I was blessed and convicted as I read this. Thanks you.
Dixie Phillips05/16/08
Such an amazing story.... Inspiration oozed in every paragraph.... I went from wanting to slug the cold-hearted people to applauding when Jesus called her name....

Loved that her name was a jewel... seem to give it a little "double meaning...."

It's a gem... (in more ways than one...)I can see why it has gotten so much recognition.