The Ponderosa Prize

20130916-234450.jpgIt had been a long day. My wife and I had traveled about 500 miles and decided to stop in Greenfield, Indiana for the night. After checking into our hotel and cleaning up a bit, we went looking for a place to eat. Lots to choose from, but what really sounds good? Oh, there it is; the Ponderosa Steakhouse. Yum, yum!

After trying out a couple of tables, we finally seated ourselves in a booth close to the exit. No particular reason other than it just seemed like the spot to be.

After praying over the food we were about to gather, we each grabbed a plate and started filling it with meatloaf, chicken, salad, a little fish, and a few other tasty items. On the dessert table was banana pudding, one of my favorites! I spooned out a nice portion from the corner of the pan that had not been touched; oh, happy day!

Well, as we were just about to finish, I noticed one of those “claw” machines about 10 feet from our table. You know the kind I’m talking about; the kind with different stuffed toys, animals, and…JAY CUTLER from the Chicago Bears! A doll of Jay Cutler for only 50 cents!

I can just about hear you say, “Why would a grown man want a doll of a football quarterback?” I have a couple of reasons, actually. First, I’ve been a Chicago Bears fan for about 30 years. Second, I thought it would be cool if I could actually win something from the machine. And third, if I won the doll, I’d have something to beat on while watching my team play (just in case they weren’t playing like I thought they should be).

After observing some teenagers spend a few dollars trying to hook some sort of doll (they weren’t trying for Jay), they finally clawed something and left the machine open for me to go to work. I had my two quarters in hand and my strategy in mind; ready to conquer.

I discovered it to be just a little harder than it looked. I was able to drop the claw around Jay’s neck, but I just couldn’t get him to budge. So, I decided I’d try a dollar bill, and get two more tries.

By this time I had an audience, a table of 4 somewhat elderly people, cheering me on! My wife was also encouraging me, along with one or two of the restaurant workers. My third try hooked a real trophy; a multi-colored cloth unicorn. As I removed it from the machine, I heard a lady from my cheering section comment about how much she liked the unicorn. Since I knew my wife wouldn’t want it, I walked over to the lady and gave it to her. She was ecstatic, but I still wanted that Bears doll.

Hey, what’s another dollar? Slipped in the buck, moved the claw, hit the button to drop it and started to bring the doll up when, NO! It dropped again! But it was close, and I still had one more try.

The cheering section was going wild! I felt like a contestant on “The Price Is Right”! They were cheering, coaching, holding their breath, clapping…people throughout the restaurant knew something big was happening over by the exit. Just before I made my last attempt, the lady who I gave the unicorn to came up waving a dollar bill for me. She wanted me to keep trying for the quarterback! And folks, we were just outside Indianapolis! Not exactly Bears territory!

I moved the claw and was about to drop it, when one of my encouragers hollered from his table, “Go for the legs! Go for the legs!” So you know what I did? Took the guys advice, dropped the claw on Jay’s legs, and won myself a quarterback! SWEET!

Jay Cutler cost me a buck fifty, but the experience was worth a lot more. To be surrounded by people I’d never met, cheering me on in a place I’d never been, was so invigorating! As we finally left the restaurant, my wife reminded me of what a good picture of encouragement those people were. It was like they truly wanted to see me succeed.

Wouldn’t it be something if we could be that way with each other? After all, the prize we’re all after is worth much more than even a Chicago Bears doll. How much more important is it that we cheer one another on, lift each other up, and maybe even toss a dollar or two to someone when needed?

Paul and Barnabas did that very thing. Luke wrote about their ministry: “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22 ESV)

Paul’s admonition to the Thessalonians is one for us, as well: “So encourage each other and build each other up…” (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NLT)

We may feel someone is wasting their time and resources going after some stupid looking doll. We may be right. But why not leave that issue with the One Who truly knows? Instead of figuring out everyone’s motives, let us rather see what we can do to encourage them, spurring them on to a life of greatness, of achievement, and one of obtaining the prize.

3 responses to “The Ponderosa Prize”

  1. My dad and son are experts at claw machines. AJ has so many claw stuffies I can’t count them! On another note I try to do this every week with my Kids in church. I try to give them the encouragement they need to try out a new sport, or maybe go for a part in the musical. Any kind of encouragement to anyone any age always helps. You then know that there is someone in your corner to catch you when you fail and to cheer on the sidelines when you succeed.


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