Josh rushed into the kitchen. “Hey mom! Derrick invited me to his birthday party on Saturday, can I go?”
“A new kid at church. The party’s at Skateworld. Can I go?”
“Sure, but don’t forget there’s an evening church service.”
“No problem. Derrick’s going too. The party’ll be over in plenty of time.”
Josh and his friends talked all week about hanging out at the skate rink. Skating and playing in the arcade were among their favorite things to do. When Josh’s mom dropped him off on Saturday, he couldn’t wait to get inside.
Josh walked into the semi-darkness of the rink. His eyes squinted as he looked for a familiar face through the colored lights cast by the spinning disco ball. Across the room he saw the waving hand of his friend, Tom. Josh smiled and started toward him when Derrick appeared on his left.
“Hi, Derrick. Happy Birthday.” Without waiting for a reply, Josh pushed his gift into Derrick’s hands and continued across the room toward Tom.
His friends were already skated up and headed out to the rink. The rhythmic pulse of the bass helped push Josh along as he put on skates and followed his friends.
As Josh skated out, he gave Tom a friendly shove. Tom fell to the floor with a smirk. Josh took off with Tom in hot pursuit. Their laughter carried even through the loud music as they raced around the rink.
The boys almost forgot why they were at Skateworld until Derrick’s mom called them all over for cake and presents. They gathered around the table and sang “Happy Birthday.” Derrick opened gifts mostly unobserved by the others.
As soon as Derrick opened the last gift, the boys took off for the rink’s arcade. They huddled around machines laughing and cheering each other on.
Josh looked up from a video game and spotted Derrick. He was sitting slouched on a bench, chin in his hands. He watched the boys playing and laughing. Alone.
Josh left his friends and skated over to Derrick. Head hung; he sat next to him. “Do you want to skate?” I wouldn’t blame him if he didn’t want anything to do with me.
Derrick looked up and broke into a smile.
Josh was glad for the smile. He socked Derrick in the arm and said, “Let’s go.” He seems like a cool guy.
After skating for a while, Josh asked, “Hey Derrick, want to go eat some more cake?” They both laughed and snuck off to find the leftovers. There they sat, talking and eating until it was time to go.
As Josh and his mom headed to church, he told her about the party.
“Mom, I feel really bad about how I acted.”
“Derrick was the guest of honor and we didn’t treat him like it. Everyone ignored him. We gave him gifts and sang “Happy Birthday,” but we didn’t make him feel special or important.”
“Well, I’m glad you know what you did was wrong. What do you do now?”
Josh dropped his head and mumbled. “Apologize and ask for his forgiveness. I’ll do it tonight in youth group.”
Janice watched Josh walk straight to Derrick when she dropped him off at youth group. She was disappointed in how he had behaved, but she was proud of him for recognizing it and wanting to make it right.
She headed into the worship service thinking about Josh. She settled in next to her husband as the music began. Janice loved music and singing.
As she sang, her eyes darted around the room, looking to see who came. Her best friend sat a couple of rows ahead of her. I need to make sure I talk to her about getting together this week for coffee.
The worship set is great tonight…I’m glad so many people came…I hope Josh and Derrick are able to work things out…I forgot to bring back the dish for Mary…
A thought stopped Janice like a tap on the shoulder. A whisper in her mind. Why are you here?
To praise God.
Am I really? I’m thinking about myself. Busy with what is going on around me. I am acting no different than my son did at Derrick’s birthday party. I showed up. I’m singing.
But, it’s empty.
My attention isn’t on God. Just like Josh’s wasn’t on Derrick.
Tears well up in Janice’s eyes. Lord, I’m sorry for showing up at your party and ignoring you.
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