My son Gilbert was eight years old and had been in Cub Scouts only a short
time. During one of his meetings he was handed a sheet of paper, a block of
wood and four tires and told to return home and give all to "dad." That was
not an easy task for Gilbert to do. Dad was not receptive to doing things
with his son. But Gilbert tried.

Dad read the paper and scoffed at the idea of making a pine wood derby car
with his young, eager son. The block of wood remained untouched as the weeks

Finally, mom stepped in to see if I could figure this all out. The project
began. Having no carpentry skills, I decided it would be best if I simply
read the directions and let Gilbert do the work. And he did. I read aloud
the measurements, the rules of what we could do and what we couldn't do.
Within days his block of wood was turning into a pinewood derby car. A
little lopsided, but looking great (at least through the eyes of mom).

Gilbert had not seen any of the other kids cars and was feeling pretty proud
of his "Blue Lightning," the pride that comes with knowing you did something
on your own. Then the big night came. With his blue pinewood derby in his
hand and pride in his heart we headed to the big race.

Once there my little one's pride turned to humility. Gilbert's car was
obviously the only car made entirely on his own. All the other cars were a
father-son partnership, with cool paint jobs and sleek body styles made for
speed. A few of the boys giggled as they looked at Gilbert's, lopsided,
wobbly, unattractive vehicle. To add to the humility Gilbert was the only
boy without a man at his side. A couple of the boys who were from single
parent homes at least had an uncle or grandfather by their side, Gilbert had

As the race began it was done in elimination fashion. You kept racing as
long as you were the winner. One by one the cars raced down the finely
sanded ramp. Finally it was between Gilbert and the sleekest, fastest
looking car there. As the last race was about to begin, my wide eyed, shy
eight year old ask if they could stop the race for a minute, because he
wanted to pray. The race stopped. Gilbert hit his knees clutching his funny
looking block of wood between his hands. With a wrinkled brow he set to
converse with his Father. He prayed in earnest for a very long minute and a
half. Then he stood, smile on his face and announced, "Okay, I am ready."

As the crowd cheered, a boy named Tommy stood with his father as their car
sped down the ramp. Gilbert stood with his Father within his heart and
watched his block of wood wobble down the ramp with surprisingly great speed
and rushed over the finish line a fraction of a second before Tommy's car.
Gilbert leaped into the air with a loud "Thank you" as the crowd roared in

The Scout Master came up to Gilbert with microphone in hand and asked the
obvious question, "So you prayed to win, huh, Gilbert?"

To which my young son answered, "Oh, no sir. That wouldn't be fair to ask
God to help you beat someone else. I just asked Him to make it so I don't
cry when I lose."

Children seem to have a wisdom far beyond us. Gilbert didn't ask God to win
the race, he didn't ask God to fix the outcome, Gilbert asked God to give
him strength in the outcome. When Gilbert first saw the other cars he didn't
cry out to God, "No fair, they had a fathers help." No, he went to his
Father for strength. Perhaps we spend too much of our prayer time asking God
to rig the race, to make us number one, or too much time asking God to
remove us from the struggle, when we should be seeking God's strength to get
through the struggle.

Gilbert's simple prayer spoke volumes to those present that night. He never
doubted that God would indeed answer his request. He didn't pray to win,
thus hurt someone else, he prayed that God supply the grace to lose with
dignity. Gilbert, by his stopping the race to speak to his Father also
showed the crowd that he wasn't there without a "dad," but his Father was
most definitely there with him. Yes, Gilbert walked away a winner that
night, with his Father at his side.