"I'm so sorry but company policy doesn't allow any faith-based advertising in the mall," said Mandy, as she paced back and forth, tethered annoyingly close to her desk phone by its coiled cord now filled with kinks.
"Allowing your church to advertise would mean we have to grant access to all religious organizations and our shoppers might not be comfortable with that. I'm sure you can understand," Mandy continued, as she politely listened to the woman's closing argument.
"Thank you for understanding. I'm truly very sorry," said Mandy. "Yes, God Bless you, too."
Mandy pressed the illuminated button to disconnect the call and let out a long, hard exhale that could have toppled a 200-year-old Oak.
She dangled the receiver by its 3-foot cord which, by then, had shrunk to something much less. Mandy watched the handset spin faster and faster until all the kinks ceased to exist, then gently set it into its rightful place on the phone cradle.
"You ok?" came a voice through the wall.
"Yup," said Mandy without an ounce of conviction.
Soon, the voice was at Mandy's open doorway with a stack of papers requiring signatures. "Got a minute?" asked Laura.
"Sure," replied Mandy.
"We got a bunch of new event requests for December. I sorted them. These are easy...school bands, choirs, the usual," said Laura as she handed over a blue folder.
"These, you'll probably have to reject," Laura added bluntly, placing a red folder at the top of Mandy's inbox and exiting the office.
Mandy grabbed the red folder and began thumbing through the forms:
St. Elizabeth's School: Our 4th and 5th graders will do scenes from The Nativity..." Mandy flipped the page.
New Hope Fellowship: Our youth group will perform musical numbers from the Broadway show Jesus Christ Superst..." She closed the red folder and returned it to the stack.
Mandy could hardly recall rejecting a single request on the grounds of religious content when first arriving at the mall nearly five years ago. Lately, her days were riddled with them.
I'll deal with that tomorrow, thought Mandy as she walked out of the office and into the upper level of the shopping center. It was mid-morning and she relished the flurry of activity as store employees prepared for the day ahead.
"How is Nick?" asked Mandy, as she passed a handsome, middle-aged woman standing behind a case of sparkling gold and diamonds.
"Doing much better. Doctor says it was just stress," came the reply.
"Tell him I said hello!"
A few steps later and Mandy was discussing marketing strategies with a new tenant and then crowd control measures with the Chief of Security. It was a typical walk through the mall until something caught her eye on the level below. Leaning over the balcony, Mandy saw a team of installers hanging lights on the bright red and green Santa station.
"Already?" she asked herself as she opened her cell phone and verified that it was, indeed, Monday, November 7. Mandy had booked the installers months ago and, like everything else she planned for the "The Holidays", it had arrived far too quickly.
Perched at the edge of the balcony, Mandy surveyed her handiwork:
"Visit Santa Beginning November 14!" read one hanging banner.
"Spend $200 and get a free gift!" encouraged the next.
"Black Friday Doors Open at Midnight!"
Guilt pangs gripped her soul. This was the world's idea of Christmas and she had become a pawn in one of the enemy's most deceptive and successful campaigns. She gazed upon the people coming and going around her, conducting business and carrying on with commerce.
"The Lord is coming soon!" Her pastor's words abruptly intruded Mandy's thoughts. "Isn't there more time?" she wondered. The question had come to haunt her in recent years. While she didn't know if Jesus would return today, tomorrow or at any point in her lifetime, a growing sense of urgency welled up inside to make her time on Earth count.
There on that balcony, as the sounds of the world faded away, she listened carefully as God placed on her heart His continuing argument for a changed life. Her conflicted spirit, infused with a surge of power, was spinning faster and faster until suddenly the kinks simply ceased to exist. Mandy's heart came to rest in its rightful place. She knew, in that moment, it was time to leave Babylon.
Sherrie is a believer in Jesus Christ, a freelance writer, a wife and a mother. She resides with her family on the island of Oahu in Hawaii, where she was born and raised. Mary Supebedia is her beloved grandmother.