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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Concentration (07/24/08)

TITLE: Perfection at Play
By Ellen Dodson


When my daughter Sophia was six, we often played a concentration game called "Perfection."

“Let’s beat it this time, Mommy!” Sophia would say as we spread twenty- five assorted shapes across the carpet.

After I set the sixty-second timer, our fingers scrambled to place each different shaped peg in its corresponding mold on the plastic, vibrating box. But, as usual, with just a few pegs remaining, promising our first victory, the "tic, tic, tic" turned into a "Pop!" to end the game.

But what makes the game brilliant is that it’s fun to lose. Hearing that "Pop!" during intense concentration made me feel slightly foolish for focusing so hard, trying to beat Perfection. Even more, I loved Sophia’s laughter as all our work, those bits of plastic that consumed our attention, sprang from their molds. Whenever Sophia laughed, her long lashes swirled against her freckled cheeks and she held her calves, leaning back into the laugh.

With this joyful picture in mind, I don’t know why I often doubt that my Heavenly Father enjoys me the same way, that He delights in watching me laugh. It’s easy for me to know Him as a comforter and a disciplinarian, but as a Father happily at play with me? Mmm. Not so much.

I’m too serious. Sometimes my heart palpitates and my teeth clench at night as I over-analyze, trying to push each troublesome peg of life into what I perceive to be its proper place before the alarm clock sounds. I know I’m supposed to relax, trusting God’s perfect control and timing. But, I worry, especially about my husband, who remains distant from God, and Sophia, now nine, who enthusiastically accepted Christ last year but now expresses reservations.

Perhaps it's because I let worry darken so much of my life that I’m drawn to bright, harmonious collections, like fireworks, quilts, and kaleidoscopes. Three of my favorite quilts were given to me by my Aunt Lynn, the first person to introduce me to Christ not as the religious entity I already knew, but as the lover of my soul. My acceptance of Jesus that day at age fourteen was a step in my salvation. But, I didn’t fully experience Christ as my personal savior until He rescued me from the self-destructive rebellion of my early twenties. I want Sophia to experience a cleaner, straighter path toward Truth.

Recently, Aunt Lynn and her husband, my Uncle Dave, blessed us with a visit from South Dakota. I felt God at work when Aunt Lynn gave me a box filled with kaleidoscopes that, unbeknownst to me, she’d collected through the years. A few weeks earlier, while dusting my curio cabinet, I’d looked through my lone kaleidoscope, one my sister had given me, and wished, as I often did, that I could afford to start a collection. But, with money always tight, I returned the scope to the cabinet, resolving to finally stop hoping for something so impractical.

When guilt prompted me to ask, “Are you sure you want to do this?” Aunt Lynn said, “Don’t question it. It’s a gift. I want you to have them now so that you can enjoy them with Sophia.”

Maybe it’s because Aunt Lynn and Uncle Dave attended this past Sunday’s service with us, or maybe it’s because the youth group led worship--or maybe God only knows why--but Sophia didn’t remain seated as usual during worship. I felt the Holy Spirit’s tangible embrace as we sang Hillsong’s “Mighty to Save.” My Aunt lifted her hand in praise and wept. I squeezed the pew and held my breath, trying to resist the Spirit. But, then Sophia’s warm arm grazed mine, and her sweet voice suddenly rang out “Savior, He can move the mountains. For my God is mighty to save, He is mighty to save . . . “ Her voice in worship is as pure and as powerful as it is in laughter.

That afternoon I shared my new toys with Sophia and my husband. We each selected a kaleidoscope and peered in at a unique show of colors and shapes. The inside of my egg-shaped scope looked like the stained glass of a sanctuary. Resting in its tranquil beauty, I realized how truly “mighty” God is. If He’s intimate enough to know and fulfill the tiniest, most childlike desires of my heart, how much more must He concentrate on the greatest ones that align with His perfectly loving, redemptive plan?

*Hillsong. “Mighty to Save.” Mighty to Save. Integrity/Columbia, 2007.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Verna Cole Mitchell 08/02/08
Your heart for God shines in this devotional story. You made very clear pictures, especially, the ones of your daughter.
M. R. Davenport08/05/08
Fabulous imagery. One of the best pieces I've read. Your descriptions got a little muddled here and there (mine often do as well), but this was exceptional and I loved it.