Right Place

Every church that I have attended had a children’s Bible school. For a week every day, I would drop off my girls so they could learn more about God. This was a long way from how I was brought up, and they actually liked to go. My experience as a child, on the other hand, with anything church related, felt like surgery without anesthesia.

We were attending a pretty large church, and they spared no expense. All week they kept encouraging the kids to bring friends. At the end of every session, they made a point to bring out this gigantic plastic bag filled with paper. The more friends a kid brought, the more entries were put in for a prize.

All week, they continually mentioned that they would be giving away an Apple iPod on the final day. This was one of the very first models on the market in the early 2000s.

They gave away smaller rewards daily with the constant reminder that on Friday, all names that had been put in the bag all week would have the potential to win.

On the evening before the final day, my oldest daughter, who was nine years old, told me she wanted to bring a friend.

“I want to win the iPod.”

I remember thinking, you will have one entry after this whole week, and you think you can win that? Kids were hauling in strangers off the street to walk away with it.

I didn’t say that, but I told her I would ask her friend’s mom if she could come along the next day.

She explained that it was the only thing that had appealed to her, and she didn’t want anything else.

Every day I had sat upstairs in a waiting room reading while they attended. That particular day I decided to sit in the balcony to hear and see what they were being taught.

They were all given coins to go to a make-shift store to buy candy or other fun things. Like I said, my fire and brimstone upbringing was nothing like this Willy Wonka atmosphere.

They dismissed the kids by age. I watched her and her friend leave to spend their pretend money.

The sanctuary began to fill up as the time to end neared. She wasn’t back, which didn’t surprise me because it’s not in her nature to spend what she has been given quickly. She likes to consider and contemplate her choices. And then ponder some more.

“Okay, so we are going to do some other drawings before the big one we have been telling you about. We are going to wait until everyone gets back here for that.”

This massive bag looked like it was holding shredded pieces of paper. It was full of names, and I saw a lot of hopeful faces. They started giving away items working their way up to what all of them were eyeing.

Where are they? Her younger sister and her friend were already seated. I leaned over the railing, trying to see the back door.

I saw the children’s pastor scanning the room, trying to determine if all the kids were back. I looked at the clock, and they should have been done, but apparently, they were still hardcore shopping.

“We are going to do the final prize drawing, and if we call a name and that person isn’t here, we will pick another.” Some kids had already left.

I leaned over more trying to see where she was. What was taking this child so long?

I saw him reach in and pull out the tiniest strip.

I looked at him and back again to the door.

He said her name.

He repeated it. I knew I couldn’t get down the stairs quick enough to grab her. So I tried to get his attention from the balcony so he would know she was still in the building, but he could not see me.

He kept looking at all the faces for hers. Because I helped in the children’s ministry, he knew her and me.

He repeated her name.

You have got to be kidding me! What was she doing? This is why they say we get grey hair.

Suddenly she materialized at the door.

He spoke her name, and I could tell by the look on her face that she was unsure what was happening.

She froze in place like she thought she was in trouble for being late.

Her friend realized the meaning and said,

“He said your name! You won!”

Because she wasn’t moving, the pastor started walking toward her.

“You won the iPod.”

I saw the smile spread across her face as the realization sunk in that she wasn’t going to be rebuked but be rewarded.

Into her hands went the grand prize.

We took it to the store later because we had no idea how to use it. After a quick crash course, she was happily listening to music.

A month later, I took them to the state fair. One of the tv stations was doing a giveaway of another version of the iPod, more of a compact one. When you have two kids, everything has to be even. Or at least that was my philosophy.

This time, I was the only one who could throw an entry in because you had to be over eighteen. I scribbled my information on the pink slip and placed it in this metal tumbler with a large handle. There was a little wait until they were going to make the announcement.

I asked the girls,

“Are we in agreement that it’s ours?”

I was attempting to apply this from the book of Mathew:

When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. (Message)

I was always trying to have them move through life with a simple reliance on God for whatever they wanted.

They said they believed with me for the win.

The canister was spun, and I saw the paper taken out. It was weirdly folded like in accordion style, and I instantly determined by how it looked that it wasn’t mine. Some people think if they shape their entry a certain way, it will make it more susceptible to be plucked up. I folded mine in half, and there was no way it was me.

The lady reading it unraveled it like a scroll and stated that someone from my city had won. What an extraordinary coincidence! I was possibly going to see someone that lived by me.

I said to the girls, “I wonder if I know this person?”

I had mentally abandoned the tiny bit of faith I had moments ago.

When she read my name, I was in absolute shock. I looked at them, and they both lit up.

I handed it right over to my younger daughter. The miracle of winning two of them just weeks apart was a reminder of this in Mark 11:24:

I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. (NLT)

I don’t even know if my prayer counted, but I think theirs did. Someone out of the three of us didn’t waver.

Or, this was true:

I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”(Matthew 17:20, NLT)

Why is it so easy to forget the hand of God at work in our lives? We pray, the answer shows up, and then we go on to worry about the following situation.

In both of these instances, the end result was not life or death, and they were each given something that would brighten their days. So if you are under the impression like I used to be, that God only helps if circumstances are critical, then think again. He handed out two iPods, so what else can be done?

I have found that what we think about ourselves determines the strength of our beliefs. If you feel you are unworthy, then you are. And you will get back according to that mindset. If you think you lack confidence, then you do, and your results will reflect that.

What does God think of you? In Ephesians 2:10 it says,

For we are God’s masterpiece. (NLT)

So if you walked into a museum, your picture would be the most important one in the whole place and super expensive. So if you feel undeserving, that is not God’s view of you. That has been something either put on you by others, or you have taken it upon yourself as accurate. It’s an illusion. And it needs to be healed and changed so your prayer life and relationship with God can excel.

You aren’t supposed to cower and come like a scolded child, hoping that you will be heard.

In Hebrews 4:16 it says:

So let us step boldly to the throne of grace, where we can find mercy and grace to help when we need it most. (Voice)

Heaven is waiting for you to take on your actual persona. You were created to be a powerful force and vessel that God can operate through to change the world around you for the better of all.

And once you surrender your made-up faulty image for God’s view of you, life will become more enjoyable, you will achieve more, and you will be effortlessly led with perfect timing to the right place.

(The grand prize that is now in her box of memories kept forever…)

Masterpiece

“Up you go,” he said with a sadistic tone.

He had no idea my fear of heights, and he couldn’t see from where he stood that various areas on my body were beginning to break out in a sweat. The machine whined as I ascended to the vaulted ceiling of the main lobby. I was hoping my spirit would just keep on going up and out of the building rather than face what was coming next.

Clutched in my damp hand was the project that I had spent hours laboring over the entire weekend. The previous Friday our class had been assigned the task of creating a structure that would support an egg from breaking when dropped from a high place. We were given a box of toothpicks, a rubber band and were told we had to supply our own glue to hold it all together.

It was my senior year of college, and I had procrastinated taking an art class.  I was months away from obtaining my Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, and the class was a requirement for graduating. Because of my dislike of the subject and my lack of skill, I had waited a bit too long.  All of the other art courses had filled, so I was left to join one that combined art with physics.  A deadly combination for a person who is not gifted in either arena.

As I was hoisted upward on a cherry picker in the middle of the campus main hall,  I was expected to free my creation to see how it fared when smashing into the ground.  I was being graded on function as well as a beautiful design.  Neither of those would have described the piece of junk I was about to heft over the ledge to its demise.  I found myself mentally apologizing to the egg that was about to be sacrificed in the ordeal.

“Let it go!” He shouted up at me.

I looked down to see that a crowd had gathered.  It was bad enough that I had to do this in front of my classmates but the entire school had turned out for cheap entertainment.

My index and middle fingertips were numb from burning myself on the hot glue gun I had used.  It looked like I had spent a total of five minutes working on it, when in reality it had sucked up all of my time from Friday evening onward. When my alarm sounded Monday morning I would have rather made a trip to the dentist for a root canal.

I dangled the object of my disdain and dropped it. I watched as it rocketed to the ground picking up momentum along the way.  It bounced and rolled.  That part actually went how I had envisioned. One of the instructors bent over to examine the white oval that hung suspended in the middle with the rubber band.

“It barely cracked, but it still broke.  Bring her down!”

If the egg had survived the fall I would have been guaranteed an A.  Because it had a hairline crack, the teacher was gracious enough to give me a C.

“Nice try,” he said with a quick smile as if to say: Let’s move on to better talent. 

Up next was an Art major.  Of course, she had done what we all should have thought to do.  She had spent hours breaking her toothpicks into small pieces that she glued together.  It was a massive looking hairball that when she let it go, it floated to the ground and the egg never budged.  She had thrown in the rubber band just because she had to.

Both of the instructors applauded and smiled as if she had just presented them with the Mona Lisa while the rest of us non-art majors stood around feeling inadequate.

That was only our first project of many.  Going forward another element of misery was added into the  mix.  For every assignment we did, we were required to get up in front of the class with our final product and explain why we had designed it the way we did.

This caused me many problems.  For one, I had no confidence in what I was building.  Second, I am artistically challenged. And, I had no explanation for the monstrosities I was turning out. I didn’t even know what to say about how messed up it looked.  To make matters more complicated, there were two instructors in charge instead of one. We had to win them both over to get a good grade.

No project was without its oddity.  We were given random materials that made absolutely no sense to work with.  For example, I was given different shaped boxes and told to build something that would show how a person’s life would evolve from childhood to death.  The best I could do was glue them all together and paint the last box black and call it a day. I could tell by their furrowed eyebrows they weren’t impressed, but for some unknown reason, my C average was holding tight.  Angels and unknown forces must have been at work.

The only project I ever felt somewhat good about was a bridge I made from red solo cups.  On the day I was to turn it in, I slammed it in my car door on the way out of the parking lot.  My excuse was not accepted, and I saw them fighting off annoyance.

At one point, a girl who was as anxiety riddled over the class as I was, got up to present. I witnessed the two professors rip her to shreds.  They mocked her, told her it was a piece of useless work and excused her abruptly.  One of them laughed as he used his pen to mark down her grade on his sheet.  I saw her face turn various colors before she fled the room crying.

That was the day that I decided not to care anymore.  I knew I wasn’t any good, and I knew I could work myself to a frazzle and never achieve above average.  I made the decision to formulate the best story I could about what I was showing to the two.  If they believed my tall tale, then maybe my grade would improve, otherwise, I wasn’t going to put my heart into any of it anymore.

The next day in class as we spent our time constructing, the girl who had been publicly demeaned came to me and said,

“I just wanted to come back and say goodbye to you.  You were always so nice to me.  I am dropping this class.”

“You can’t,” I said.  “You won’t graduate.”  I wasn’t the only one who had waited too long.

“I don’t care.  I am not going to let them do that to me again.”

“Just stay and get through it,” I said.  “It isn’t worth quitting now.”

She insisted on leaving and wouldn’t listen.  Although it sounded tempting to depart, I wanted to graduate that spring.  I was tired of school, so I had to get past these two clowns to do so.

The only way out was to get weird and fake my way through.  I also decided to turn a blind eye to the artists who were planning on making a career in the field. I had to nod and smile at their work and remember to not compare anything I did with what they were doing.  I solely relied on my story telling abilities to convince the instructors of the greatness of my work.

I saw the magic of this happen instantly on the next project.  Standing in front of the firing squad, I made up the biggest fabrication I could come up with.  I went into great detail as to why I chose colors, patterns and layout. At the final word, I swallowed hard wondering when I was going to be reprimanded for a job poorly done.  Instead, they started arguing with each other.

“I like what she did with that side of it.  It really represents life in true form.”

“That isn’t what she meant to do. She did that as an abstraction. It is to symbolize life not show it in its true form.”
I ended up sitting down as they yelled at each other over my creation that I had no clue what it even represented. This repeated itself time and again.  I would sell them hogwash, they would argue, and I would then be out of the limelight.  This is how I survived the course and earned a B.  I guess my degree in psychology was the right direction to go since I was so good at using it to change their behavior toward me.

Many years afterward, I was talking to my mom about how much I hated that class.

She said, “I thought it was good for you.”

“What?!  Why?  They were mean to the students.”

“It took away your fear of public speaking.  When will you ever be heckled by an audience?  It took away your anxiety about getting up to talk.”

She had a point.  And, it made me realize something else as well.  When I decided to not worry over every single detail, I did better.  I still did the best I could, but I relaxed. I allowed my imagination to take over to the point that I actually enjoyed the mess I was making.  I also quit comparing myself to the award winners. I became my own individual instead of a competitor.

We are called to a divine path that our Creator has crafted just for each and every one of us.  If only we would let it unfold as it should without looking to the right or the left to see what everyone else is up to.  Put forth your best where you are, don’t quit when it seems too tough, and know that according to Ephesians 2:10, you are God’s masterpiece.

 

 

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