Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: SURPRISE (07/25/19)
- TITLE: The Biggest Surprise of My Life - From My Sister
By Mariane Holbrook
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At Halloween, we egged houses, tossed rolls of toilet tissue over the tall branches of maple trees and let the air out of several tires but that was mild compared to the pranks committed by my sister.
"Bertie,"(short for Bertha) was three years older than I and the single biggest influence in my life. Early on, she assumed the role of my mentor, protector, and disciplinarian, and I became her willing disciple and cohort.
Bertie taught me how to pocket our Sunday School offerings in order to gamble at the Popcorn Shop, a popular hang-out for kids and teenagers. She was a master at those 10-cent punch-out cards where a winning number would earn you a large Hershey bar, a bag of popcorn, a bottle of Coca Cola or any number of goodies. Her dresser drawer was full of her winnings to which I had full access (and which produced a record number of tooth cavities).
At church, sitting in our favorite back pew, we used our pencils to fill in the notes of the hymn books, and draw faces on the backs of the offering envelopes. Our parents, sitting in the second pew from the front, were unaware of our back row mischief-making.
Raised in a godly home with five other kids, Bertie and I dutifully knelt in our living room every week for family prayers, huddling close together to play tic-tac-toe on a small pad and pencil we kept hidden under the upholstered chair cushion.
Every Sunday, our family attended all four services at church. Still, our parents knew that each of their children had to make their own decision to follow Christ and just going to church regularly was not enough.
When they asked me if I had invited Jesus into my heart, my usual response was,
"When Bertie does, then I will." I wasn't eager to give up my sinful habit of gambling at the Popcorn Shop if I became a Christian. I was sure Bertie would never stop gambling and walk down the center aisle of our small church in front of God and everybody to confess her sins, so I felt safe in my response.
When Bertie was 15 years old and I was 12, we attended every service of the week-long revival at church along with the rest of our family. The revival speaker was our cousin, an ordained minister with very persuasive speaking skills. He described the burning fires of hell so vividly and strong that Bertie and I sniffed the air, convinced we could smell smoke.
Suddenly, the unthinkable happened. I was unprepared for the surprise Bertie was about to unload on me. Without warning, she leaped from our pew and rushed down the center aisle straight to the altar, leaving me wide-eyed, distraught and confused.
"How could she do such a thing without talking to me first?" I wondered. I panicked and felt faint.
The other kids in our pew knew of my promise to be saved when or if Bertie ever made that decision. They began poking each other and giggling at my predicament.
As the congregation was singing all 4 stanzas of "Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, Calling, O sinner, come home," I could see Daddy whisper to Mother and then make his way through the pew, back toward me.
Instantly, I slipped through the sanctuary door to the foyer and flew downstairs to the ladies' bathroom to hide. I knew Daddy wouldn't, for reasons of impropriety, come inside a woman's bathroom to look for me, no matter the urgency.
I could hear him walking from classroom to classroom so I locked the stall door and crouched on top of the toilet tank so he couldn't see my feet if he peeked under the locked door.
But he didn't come in and I finally heard his footsteps as he climbed the stairs back up to the foyer.
When I arrived home after church, everyone was congratulating Bertie over her commitment to follow Jesus. Daddy didn't pounce on me as I feared and in time, after seeing the dramatic change in Bertie, I knelt one day between Mother and Daddy beside our living room couch and gave my heart to Jesus.
Then I willingly ceased my wicked, sinful gambling at the Popcorn Shop.
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