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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Outstanding (04/21/11)

TITLE: Precipice
By Cheryl von Drehle


Ocean fog dampens my kitchen window, creeps into my heart, and chills my spirit. The pink dun notice that froze to my fingers as I trudged back from my mailbox this morning started this bleak mood. Debt, debt, debt…that’s all you hear about these days. I have $8,000 accumulated credit card debt, $140,000 outstanding balance on mortgaged property now worth $102,000, and $45,000 still owing on my Volvo.

But I pay my debts…mostly. Yes, this morning’s mail reminded me I’m $7500 behind on my college loans. But that was from years ago when I was so enthusiastic about studying to become an oceanographer … really sad that I ended up working the counter at Macy’s. So what do they expect? Everyone knows a store clerk earns way less than a scientist. And, of course, I have to take advantage of the generous employee’s discount; that’s the only benefit that makes this lousy job worth it.

But as I said, I pay my debts. Not like my neighbor, for example. Mary was just telling me yesterday that the bank sent them a foreclosure notice last month, and now she and her husband are going to file for bankruptcy! I guess her husband wasn’t able to go back to work after that automobile accident. Still, that seems pretty irresponsible. At least if I’m going to acquire debt, I’m going to pay it off myself.

And, talking about debt…my brother called last week. Seems their outstanding bills are finally catching up with them too. After his wife had complications with her last pregnancy and then needed surgery, they accumulated about $45,000 worth of medical bills their insurance won’t cover. I feel bad for them, but honestly, Larry wanted to borrow money from me to pay their electric bill. Aren’t there government agencies to help with that sort of thing? I pay my own debts…so should everyone else. I almost told him they should have thought about all the possibilities before they had three kids, but who am I to judge?

I am just such a firm believer in Romans 13:8: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” What else could that mean but to accept our own responsibilities?

And then that still small voice whispers in the ear of my soul: “My daughter, I loved you enough to pay the debt you can never pay yourself. I paid your debt with my life.” Yes, Jesus, that is true. Thank you for paying my debt…a much bigger debt than the bills I fret about.

I glance out my window again, and see that the fog is beginning to lift. The chill begins to give way. The whisper continues, “Now take the log out of your own eye….” Through the mist I see Mary standing on her front porch across the street, her thin arms wrapped around her trying to stay warm. I say a silent prayer for her family as I reach for the phone to call my brother.

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This article has been read 401 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Debra Hindman04/29/11
I found my eyes welling up as I read your story! Well done.
Sydney Avey04/30/11
You've presented complex emotions -- pride, self-sufficiency, judgement and fear in a way we can all relate to. The story resolves in a believable way. When we respond to the still small voice, God softens our hearts.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 05/03/11
First, I loved that you didn't go with the typical definition of outstanding. It's wonderful to read a fresh take on the topic.

You also managed to send a great message without being preachy. And you related to this reader. I remember when at the ageof 23, after working since I was 12, I had saved enough money to buy a house for my daughter and me. My grandmother seriously believed I should buy my older brother a house before I bought mine. I was willing to help my brother with free babysitting and any other way I could but a house?

Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Your message is right on, we don't ever want to be selfish, but it is important to pay our debts (if my brother had done that he could have bought his own house.) This piece is outstanding!
Caitlin Dea05/04/11
great piece! How appropriate for the world we live in today. The Lord gives you enough for yourself and others. Great way to express this theme.
Debra Hindman05/05/11
Congratulations, Cheryl, on your First Place entry for Outstanding!
Sydney Avey05/05/11
Cngratulations sis!
diana kay05/05/11
congrats on first place. I could really feel the fog and the little details about her wanting to be an oceanography really painted the picture.
Julie Andre 05/12/11
WOW! Great descriptions. I was in the kitchen too with you watching the fog. Very impressive. Thanks for the inspiration.