Our town voted in beer and wine sales a couple of months ago. I really don’t have any problem with folks drinking. Not everyone is an alcoholic like me. Some people never have any problem with it and it really enhances their lives. My 19 years of sobriety have thankfully brought me to a place that wine has become no more than a condiment for me. I have it in the house and add the red to stews and the sherry to cream sauces. I have come to this place totally through the grace of God. I am profoundly grateful because I know it’s not this easy for others.
The Mansion drug and alcohol rehab center for women has a great location here in Winnsboro. It’s across the street from the Presbyterian Church so they just walk over for bible study every Monday. Better yet, it’s within walking distance of a few stores. This is major because a lot of the graduates don’t have a car. They move into Hall C, which is their transitional living, where they live and can walk to work. There’s a Brookshire’s grocery store within walking distance and Brookshire’s has been great about hiring the graduates. They live in transitional housing, walk to work, save for a car and eventually move out to live on their own.
Right now we have three graduates from the program working at Brookshire’s. They are wonderful employers and we’re all grateful they are so willing to hire graduates. But eventually even the best Christian businesses yield to economics.
So no one was very surprised when Brookshire's geared up to sell beer and wine. One of the grads posted to facebook that she was watching them move in the huge pallets of beer and wine. She works in the deli and wherever her gaze lands it’s on beer. She sees it all day long.
You couldn’t ask for temptation to arrive in a more powerful package.
Last Thursday at our weekly prayer group someone brought this up. It was easy enough to add a prayer for the graduates working at Brookshire’s. But Leeann went a step further.
“You know what would be cool would be to get stickers with a picture of Jesus on it and stick them to the beer and wine displays. That way whenever Brandi looked at the beer she would also see a picture of Jesus.” Leeann is one of my new friends whose imagination never fails to find a friend in me. The third leader of our weekly prayer, Peggy, cheered us on as we explored and expanded the idea.
We didn’t have any stickers of Jesus. But we did have Post-it notes. The three of us headed out to Brookshire’s after prayer was over. I am always reminded of the three witches in Macbeth when Peggy, LeeAnn and I get together with an idea. You can just hear “Double, double, toil and trouble” in the background. And the theme music from “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”
The first thing we did at Brookshire’s was quietly approach the graduates while they worked and tell them what we intended to do. I went around and surreptitiously stuck Post-its to all the price cards on the shelves. I personally think the Post-its were a better option than pictures of Jesus. No one but us would know their significance and they’re generic enough that neither the store nor the suppliers would think them intrusive enough to remove them. The main thing was for the graduates to know whenever they saw the stickers that we were praying for them. We will pray for them to have the strength to resist whatever temptation the sight of the beer offered them. It’s a two-pronged approach: I pray for them on my end. They see the Post-its on their end and know someone is praying for them.
You can do this yourself. And you don’t even have to use a Post-it. I have another underground prayer activity that you can use. In fact, it’s so underground that no one but you will know what’s going on.
A couple of years ago on Christmas Eve, Emily and I realized that we had finished all our Christmas shopping. It was done. There was nothing left to do. OK, we got a little bored.
I suggested we go to Walmart to gloat. Yes, we started out with just about the least noble of reasons. Just to gloat. To bathe ourselves in self-satisfaction. To remind ourselves that we were better than the other poor souls in the store who didn’t manage their lives as well as we did. But somewhere in the parking lot everything changed.
Emily gets overwhelmed by crowds, especially the kind you see on Christmas Eve or the day before school starts. So whenever she is about to enter a busy store she usually runs through a couple of serenity prayers and a St Francis (“Make me an instrument of your peace….”) before she even gets out of the car. This gave me an idea.
We decided to take her St Francis prayer and actually become “Instruments of Peace”. Now, lest you picture us in long denim skirts with bibles in our fists, let me assure you this technique is so subversive, so underground, that you could never know what we are doing just by looking at us. Nobody has a clue that we are praying while we walk through the store. It felt a lot like being a spy. We had so much fun that we’ve done it occasionally ever since.
I take the beer aisle and the infants department on Christmas Eve. She takes the shoe department the night before school. (Let me tell you, there is no scarier sight on the planet than the shoe department at Target the night before the first day of school.) We pray that everyone we see will have a peace-filled day, we pray for the folks who think they don’t have enough of whatever it is they think they should have. We pray for the families who might argue in front of their children or stab each other behind their backs. We pray for the people who don’t have money or jobs. We pray for the unemployed, the overworked and the underpaid.
The absolute beauty of prayer is that you can do it any way you want. And praying silently in a busy store isn’t going to hurt anyone. And it might even work. We will never know if it does. We trust and we pray.
You can do this yourself. And not even I will know. Only God. Prayer is sneaky that way.