man writing in notebook
3RD PLACE || 2022


by Rachel Coursen


“Moses!” My mom yelled up the stairs as I rushed through my homework. I might have forgotten to do it on Friday and Saturday, so now I had to do it in the morning. I was working on it for fifteen minutes, but, as I’m learning, you can’t take spend only fifteen minutes on something that requires an hour.

I took a deep breath and resisted the urge to roll my eyes. I gripped my pencil.

“Yes?” I answered my mom, once I was confident my voice was respectful.

“Come down here! Are you ready for church?”

My eyes popped open, and I looked down at my crinkled pajamas. I could guarantee you that I still smelled like sleep. Oh dear!


I shoved on my jeans and an acceptable shirt. I grabbed a comb and tackled the very difficult job of getting my hair in order. I can tell my mother was getting impatient. I’ll just have to miss breakfast.

I ran down the stairs and of course my sister was already there, dressed in a cute blouse and jeans that weren’t covered in mud. My mom took a look at my pants and shook her head, but I didn’t have time to change. We rushed out of the house with my dad and arrived at church.

My sister skipped off to the Sunday class for the kids. I’m twelve and could go learn with her, but I liked going with my parents.

The sanctuary smelled like my grandma’s house, a mix of lemon and lavender, and it made me feel cozy and warm.

We sat in the pews, and I waited for worship to start. I like the feeling I get when I worship. It’s in between a sleep and awareness, like when you’re just waking up from the best dream in the world, but you can’t remember it. After two songs, we sat and the rough wood of the pews against my skin reminded me to stay still.

My mind wandered because I felt bad about something this morning but wasn’t sure what. Then I remembered. It was about the after-school daycare on Friday when we were drawing, and John drew a horse that had too-floppy hair. I drew a horse because I knew mine would be better. I didn’t exactly show it off, but I held it and pretended to examine it with great detail.

Piper came over and looked at the drawing. She made a big deal of it, and everyone looked. I could tell that John felt bad when Piper told me that I was the best artist she’d ever seen. I should’ve told her that God made me that way and we’re all made with different gifts, but I didn’t say anything.

Now John is really good at baseball, but he doesn’t make me feel bad if I strike out or someone catches my ball, because it’s all for fun.

I sank lower in my seat and focused on Pastor Jeremiah. He’s tall with jet black hair and muscles that look ready to pop the buttons off his shirt. He gave up playing in the NFL to be a pastor and I respect him for that.

“This is Exodus three. There, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire, it did not burn up. So, Moses thought, I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up. When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, Moses! Moses!’ and Moses said, Here I am. Pay attention. And Moses said, Here I am. Not, Here I am, oh most extravagant bush. He’s not trying to use flowery language to express how he views what’s happening. He says, very humbly, Here I am.”

I shifted in my seat, the guilt burning in my gut and stinging like a bee. I wasn’t humble, and I hadn’t even told John, or God I was sorry.

“So, as he’s in this divine encounter, he’s not trying to point to himself, He is answering to God in humility. That’s what we should do.”

I felt a nudge. It was subtle, and if I hadn’t listened, I wouldn’t have noticed it. I blew out a breath, straightening up in the pew.

God, I thought, bowing my head, I’m sorry. I should’ve talked to you sooner about this,

and I should’ve told John that what I did was mean. But I didn’t, and, well…

I paused, gathering the right words. Help me be humble because you’re the one that made me be able to draw, and made John to play baseball, like we do. Please help me see that. Amen.

I looked up and smiled, and for the first time that weekend a weight was off my chest. I owe someone an apology.

Rachel loves to play the violin, write, read, and explore.