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Ronnie and the Runaway Pony

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Ronnie and the Runaway Pony

Ronnie squeezed against the barn wall and tried to stop trembling. He could hear his uncle's angry shouts coming from the other side of the barn mingled with the excited barking of old Sandy. "That silly dog," Ronnie muttered. "If Uncle Pete kicks him he will come yelping to me. Then Uncle Pete will know where I am, and I'll get another beating." With an uneasy frown Ronnie looked around for a better hiding place.

A sudden roar from his uncle and a sharp yelp from Sandy gave wings to Ronnie's feet. Yanking open the barn door he dashed up the stairs to the hay loft. With his heart pounding, Ronnie crawled way behind the piled up hay and listened to the sounds in the yard below. To his dismay, he heard the scratching of Sandy's paws on the stairs. Whimpering, the small yellow dog crowded down beside Ronnie and began to lick the ugly bruises on his leg. "Sorry, little guy. You should know by now that it is best to stay away from Uncle Pete when he is roaring drunk."

"So you are up there!" came his uncle's voice from the foot of the stairs. "You'll get the worst whipping of your life if that water bucket isn't filled and in the kitchen by the time I get back. You hear?"

Ronnie heaved a sigh of relief as he heard the barn door slam shut. In a few minutes his uncle drove off. Ronnie stood up. "Come on, Sandy, guess we are safe for now. Uncle Pete must have remembered his bad heart and decided not to climb the stairs."

With Sandy close at his heels, Ronnie got the water bucket, filled it, and carried it to the kitchen. His Aunt Lena looked up from the potatoes she was peeling. "Well," she grumbled, "it's about time you brought that water!" Then eyeing him sharply, she continued, "Seems to me that all that Bible learning you've been getting at Sunday School hasn't made you remember your chores any better."

"I'm sorry, Aunt Lena," said Ronnie. "I'll try and do better."

As he turned away his heart was heavy. It was six months since his parents had been killed in a car accident. Ronnie still had dreams in which he was back with his parents. Often, on waking up and realizing it was only a dream, Rommie was unable to eat his breakfast. This made Aunt Lena very mad at him. Ronnie felt sure his aunt and uncle didn't want to be bothered with him. He had been very unhappy until a few weeks ago when he received the Lord Jesus as his Saviour through the help of his Sunday School teacher. Since that time he had tried to do what was right. But according to what Aunt Lena had just said, he hadn't succeeded very well. So Ronnie decided to ask Miss Campbell about it.

The next Sunday, when their class was settled down, Ronnie put up his hand. "Miss Campbell," he asked, "How can I stop being a Christian?"

"What do you mean, Ronnie?" Miss Campbell looked puzzled.

"Well, I thought Christians only do good things. But I still forget to wipe my feet which makes Aunt Lena cross. Sometimes I skip some chores which makes Uncle very angry. Yesterday my aunt said that all my Bible learning wasn't doing me much good. So, I thought I'd better stop."

"Stop what?" asked Miss Campbell.

"Stop being a Christian," sighed Ronnie as he added, "I thought that Christians were good all the time, but I'm not."

"You must not stop," Miss Campbell said gently, "Remember that verse from John 3:16 that you memorized? It says , that whoever believes in Jesus has everlasting life. Class, what does everlasting life mean?"

"It means that we will live forever and ever," the children answered in unison.

Ronnie nodded. "Yes I remember now. But how do I stop doing bad things?"

"Perhaps, Ronnie, you are not eating the daily food provided for us in God's Word. If we read the Bible and memorize verses from it, and obey it, it will help us do right. But most of all we need to remember that when we take Jesus as our Saviour we become His children, and Jesus will help us walk the Christian way if we ask Him to."

Eddie, a chubby boy sitting next to Ronnie said, "Miss Campbell, I know that verse about confessing our sins. May I say it now?"

"Yes Eddie," Miss Campbell said.

Ronnie listened closely as Eddie repeated 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

"Does it mean we should tell Jesus what we have done wrong and we will be saved again?" Ronnie asked.

"No, it's like this Ronnie." Miss Campbell's voice was kind. "When you were born you became the son of your parents. And even though you sometimes did wrong, you were still their son. So now that you belong to Jesus you must go to Him at once and tell Him you are sorry if you do wrong. Ask Him to forgive you and He will do so."

When Miss Campbell asked Ronnie if he had a Bible, he said, "There is one in my trunk but it is too big to carry with me."

"I have one at home I will bring to you. I'll also mark some verses for you to learn that will help you." Miss Campbell told him.

"I'm sure glad Jesus helps us do right," the boy beside Ronnie murmured. "It's tough trying to do it on your own."

Ronnie said goodbye to Miss Campbell. He felt certain now that remembering to ask Jesus to help himeach day he would be able to please his aunt and uncle more. Maybe they would even get to love him like his parents had.

That evening Miss Campbell stopped in for a few minutes to give Ronnie the Bible she had promised him. "Think of the Bible as a letter from your best friend, Ronnie," she said. "Jesus is the very best friend we could ever have."

When he was ready for bed Ronnie took the Bible and memorized the three verses Miss Campbell had marked. They were Psalm 119:11, "Your Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against You." Psalm 119:105, "Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path." The third one was 1 John 1:9 which Eddie had repeated in class. Before going to sleep Ronnie knelt down by his bed and asked Jesus to forgive his sins. He asked Him to help him live like a Christian should so his aunt and uncle would be saved too. "I'm so glad You are my best friend, Lord Jesus," he whispered as he fell asleep.

The next few days things went better for Ronnie. Each morning he asked Jesus to help him remember all of his chores and in this way he escaped strappings.

Then one morning a man came riding into the yard leading a brown pony. Ronnie, watching from his room upstairs, saw the rider dismount and hand the pony's lead rope to Uncle Pete. But something was wrong! Ronnie could hear his uncle yelling, and by the way he was waving his arms around Ronnie knew he was in a rage. He slipped down the stairs and out around the corner of the house where he could hear and see what was going on.

"Does this look like a plough horse?" Uncle Pete roared. "I ordered a plough horse, I tell you. You can take this pony right back where you got it."

"I'm afraid I can't do that," the man answered. "You will have to keep him until the next shipment goes through."

"You mean I'll have to feed him for a month or two? I'll do no such thing," Uncle Pete stormed.

"You had better," the man replied calmly. "Feed him and return him in good condition if you want your money back."

When the man left, Uncle Pete called, "Ronnie, come here. Now!"

Ronnie didn't know if he should risk going near his uncle when he was in such a bad mood. "Dear Jesus help me," he prayed in his heart. Then running from his hiding place he called, "I'm coming Uncle Pete."

"Here," his uncle said, handing him the rope, "Take this pony to the barn. Feed and water him. Until I can get rid of him he is your responsibility."

"Yes, Uncle Pete." Ronnie's heart was throbbing with joy and excitement as he asked, "What is his name?"

His uncle grunted in disgust as he looked down at the papers in his hand. "It says here his name is Prince." Then seeing Ronnie's beaming face he added, "And don't you get any ideas about keeping him." His voice was angry as he turned away.

That afternoon Ronnie hurried with his chores. Then he brought out the brown pony. His uncle had told him to exercise the pony everyday. "This is one chore I won't forget," Ronnie murmured patting Prince gently on the nose. Just then an airplane roared low overhead and Prince reared up in fear. The next minute he was galloping across the field with Sandy at his heels. "Come back, Prince, come back," Ronnie cried, pounding after the frightened pony. But it wasn't until the pony reached the far edge of the field that he finally stopped and let Ronnie take hold of his rope.

When they got back to the barn Uncle Pete was waiting for them. He was frowning. "So," he growled, "He not only gave me a no-good pony, but a runaway one at that."

"Bu... but it was the plane that scared him, Uncle. He won't do it again."

"Oh yes he will," Uncle Pete declared bluntly. "Once a runaway, always a runaway. Just wait until I see that horse dealer again!"

In the days that followed Ronnie was kept busy doing his chores and spending time with Prince. He felt sure he could help the pony lose much of his fear by talking gently to him.

"Go on home, I don't need you!"

One afternoon, Ronnie took Prince for a walk across the field. As he neared the woods he heard someone coming toward him through the bush. The next instant a boy about his own size stepped into the open. "Hi," Ronnie said, "Who are you?"

"I am Andy, and I've come to live with my Uncle and Aunt Dawson, over there." The boy pointed to a house across the field. "Hey," he said, taking a good look at Ronnie, "Aren't you the boy who lives with that old Pete Baxter?" When Ronnie nodded, Andy continued, "I saw you get a thrashing one day when I was in my tree house here. Why don't you run away?"

Ronnie shook his head. "I wanted to before. But since I got saved I have been trying to live like Jesus wants me to so that my uncle and aunt will get saved too."

Andy looked puzzled for a minute. Then his face broke into a wide teasing grin."Hey what's with you anyway? You sound like a preacher or a Sunday School teacher."

"Well," Ronnie smiled, "I would like to be a preacher some day and I do go to Sunday School. It's great. Don't you go?"

"Naw," Andy said as he threw himself on the grass beside Ronnie. "Tell me about your pony. He sure is cool. Is he your own?"

"No," Ronnie said, explaining about the mix up.

"If he were mine." Andy declared, "I wouldn't let my Uncle George send him back. I would cry or starve myself and my uncle would soon give in."

Ronnie shook his head. "Uncle Pete sure wouldn't. He already told me not to get any ideas about keeping Prince."

"Why do you live with your uncle?" Andy asked.

Ronnie told him about his parents' deaths. Then he said, "What about your parents Andy? Are they still living?"

Andy looked down and his voice was tight as he said, "They are divorced, and both married again. But they don't want to be bothered with me, so I live with my Aunt Min and Uncle George."

Andy said no more and the boys returned to the topic of the pony. Ronnie told him what Uncle Pete had said about runaway ponies never changing. Andy was interested and said he was sure Uncle Pete was mistaken.

Suddenly he jumped up and running towards Prince he called back. "I'll test him for you." Putting two fingers in his mouth he blew a sharp, shrill whistle. Like a shot from a gun the pony was off across the field, the boys racing after him.

"You're mean, I hate you," Ronnie burst out furiously as he ran. "Go on home, I don't need you."

Andy's feet slowed. "I'm sorry," he said. "I... I... didn't mean... I didn't think... I..."

Ronnie paid no attention to Andy's voice fading in the distance. On and on he ran. At the far end of the field Prince finally stopped. Ronnie stroked the pony, talking softly to him and soon had him quieted. But Ronnie himself was far from quiet. Anger churned inside him, and he thought with fear of what his uncle would do if he saw him bringing Prince home so late. He wished he could climb on his pony's back, but he had no way of getting up there. He hurried home as fast as he could and was glad to find his uncle still away.

Ronnie did his chores quickly and went up to his room right after supper. Taking up his Bible his eyes fell on the words of Ephesians 4:32, "And be kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ has forgiven you." The words seemed to leap out at him from the page. Ronnie drew in his breath sharply as he read the verse again. It was one of the verses Miss Campbell had given him to memorize. He had memorized it too. "A lot of good that will do if I don't put it into practice," he muttered. "I sure blew it with Andy." Ronnie got into bed without praying. But he tossed and turned and could not go to sleep. At last, getting out of bed, he knelt down and told the Lord Jesus all about it. "I forgive Andy and I'll tell him I'm sorry tomorrow." Then as peace filled his heart he fell asleep.

The next morning Ronnie went across the field to see Andy. "I came to say I'm sorry," he told Andy. "I know you didn't mean to do Prince any harm."

"Is he alright?" Andy said anxiously.

"He's okay," Ronnie assured him, "and I got home before uncle so that was okay too." Ronnie couldn't stay but he promised to meet Andy the next day, and let him really get to be friends with Prince.

All during the following days Ronnie tried hard to get his chores done up on time. Each day he asked Jesus to help him do well. One afternoon Andy said, "Ronnie, there is something I don't understand. What made you stop being mad at me for scaring Prince, 'cause you were awfully mad, you know?"

"Yes, I was mad at you," Ronnie told him. "It was a verse I learned in Sunday School that made me change."

"What verse?" Andy was curious.

Ronnie repeated the verse in Ephesians 4:32 and then said, "God tells us to forgive one another just like Jesus has forgiven us. And that is a whole lot... it sure is."
"You mean God has forgiven you?" asked Andy. "What bad things did you do?"

"Lots of things," Ronnie answered. "Like hating my uncle, skipping some chores, grumbling and lots more. But Jesus has forgiven them all and that is why I have forgiven you." Andy looked thoughtful for a minute. Then with a shrug he turned away. Ronnie didn't say any more.

One sunny day Andy found Ronnie reading his Bible. Ronnie was so engrossed in the story he didn't want to stop. "Just listen to this, Andy," he said. "It's a story about a guy called Daniel who was thrown into a den of lions. And guess what?" Ronnie's eyes were sparkling.

"I suppose those lions just tore him to pieces," Andy offered.

"No, they didn't because God sent an angel to shut the mouths of the lions. They didn't even touch Daniel all night long. Wasn't that something?"

"Sure was," Andy agreed. "But why was this guy thrown in with the lions in the first place?"

"Just because he prayed to God and wouldn't bow down to the King's statue," Ronnie said.

When Ronnie had told Andy the rest of the story, Andy asked, "Is it true?"

"Of course it's true. See! It's right here in the Bible. You believe the Bible don't you?"

Andy nodded. "Guess so. Though I don't have one and I didn't know it had such good stories in it. I think I'll ask Uncle George to get me one. He'll do it if I just fuss a bit," Andy finished with a grin. True to his word Andy soon had a Bible of his own, and the boys took turns hunting up interesting stories to read.

As the days passed Ronnie noticed a change in Aunt Lena. She praised him when she saw how carefully he did his work. She didn't mock him any more. And often she questioned him about the stories he had read that day from the Bible.

Ronnie and Andy both learned to ride Prince. Sometimes they took turns and at other times they would ride together. Prince still wanted to run away at any loud noise but the boys thought they had a way to stop him. When the pony reared up, ready to run, whoever was holding the reins would pull back with all his strength, while the other one patted the pony gently and talked soothingly to him. It worked most of the time unless the boys were taken off guard.

Andy continued to read the Bible with Ronnie, but he didn't seem interested in being saved. This troubled Ronnie and he asked Miss Campbell what he should do about it.

"Just keep on being a friend and showing him the Christian way. God will talk to Andy," Miss Campbell assured him.

Time was running out. Soon the horse trader would be coming for Prince. The boys thought of all kinds of impossible schemes to keep the pony. But Ronnie knew they were useless as far as his uncle was concerned.

Andy groaned, "Ive lost it!"

One warm sunny day the boys decided to go fishing farther upstream than they had yet gone. They hoped to catch some larger fish there. They were leading Prince through the thick underbrush along the river bank when the sky began to darken. "Look!" Ronnie said pointing to a black cloud overhead, "A storm is coming. We better go back." Just then came an ear-splitting crack of thunder. Prince reared back pulling the bridle out of Andy's hands. Andy made a wild running jump for the rope but he was too late. The frightened pony was already galloping off toward home.

"Oh rats," Andy groaned picking himself up and brushing sand off a skinned knee.

"Are you hurt?" Ronnie's voice was anxious.

"It's nothing," Andy answered. Taking out his handkerchief he tied it around his hurt knee. "I'm sorry Prince got away. I should have held him better. Now we'll have to walk and by the look of the sky we're going to get wet."

"We sure are," Ronnie agreed. "Come on, let's go."

The boys hurried along as fast as they could with Sandy behind them. Soon the rain was coming down in torrents. When they reached Andy's little sheltered tree house on the edge of the woods they climbed into it. They huddled close together glad to get some protection from the downpour.

Then Andy began digging into one pocket after the other. There was a worried frown wrinkling his forehead.

"What are you looking for?" Ronnie asked.

Andy hesitated. "If I tell you, you'll get mad at me."

"Tell me anyway," Ronnie urged.

"Well," Andy began slowly, "When we were in your uncle's shed this morning I saw this neat fishing lure hanging on the wall. So I... I... borrowed it to try it out."

"Oh, Andy! You know what a temper my uncle has. Maybe I can get home in time to put it back without him missing it."

"But that's the trouble," Andy groaned. "I've lost it, I've lost it! It must have fallen out of my pocket when I pulled out my hanky."

Andy looked miserable. "I'm sorry Ronnie. Please forgive me."

"I forgive you," Ronnie told him, "But let's hurry so I can get Prince into the barn before uncle gets home. At least Prince has learned to run home when he's scared. In spite of the drenching rain they left the tree house and hurried home. They found Prince standing in the shelter of the barn and quickly got him into his stall. Ronnie began to rub him down.

"Do you want me to stay until your uncle comes?" Andy shivered as he spoke.

Ronnie wasn't sure if the shiver was from the cold or the thought of Uncle Pete. "You'd better go home," Ronnie told him. "If he's been drinking I'll wait until tomorrow before I tell him." Andy hesitated, he started to say something, then he turned and ran home.

The next morning Ronnie told his uncle about the lost lure. Uncle Pete's face got red as he made an angry grab for Ronnie. Backing away quickly, Ronnie stumbled and fell. Uncle Pete caught him by the arm and pulled him to his feet. "Now you listen to me," he said firmly. "I told you not to touch my fishing tackle. I..." Suddenly he stopped and pointed to Ronnie's hand. "Look, your hand is bleeding. You must have cut it on that piece of tin when you fell. Go and get your aunt to fix it. Then get down to the river and find that lure... or else!"

The boys ran most of the way and hunted in all the places they had been the day before, but without success. They were about to give up when Ronnie saw something glittering on a low berry bush. He made a grab for it and held it up with a shout. "That's it," Andy cried. "Boy am I glad you found it." On their way home Andy suddenly asked, "Are you going to Sunday School tomorrow?"

Ronnie nodded. "Yeh why?"

"I... I... guess I'll go with you if that's okay."

"Sure thing," Ronnie grinned. "It's super okay."

When Ronnie gave the lure to his uncle he just grunted and said, "No allowance for you for two weeks boy."

Ronnie didn't mind for there was a deep spring of happiness bubbling up inside him. At last Andy was going with him to Sunday School! "Help Andy to get saved tomorrow," Ronnie prayed.

At Sunday School Andy listened closely to Miss Campbell as she told how "...the Lord Jesus died in our place. He bore all the punishment for our sin. Now He is preparing a wonderful place in heaven for us. But first we must ask Him to come into our heart and be our Saviour.

Beside him Ronnie felt Andy move uneasily. Then with a sudden jerk Andy stood to his feet. "Can I do it right now?" he asked.

"Yes, Andy, you can," Miss Campbell smiled. "Children, all bow your heads and close your eyes. Andy, if you know you are a sinner, and you want to take Jesus now as your Saviour, just tell Him that."

"Dear Jesus," Andy prayed, "Please forgive the wrong things I have done. Come into my heart, save me and make me good." Andy waited a moment and them he said, "Thank you."

After class Miss Campbell explained things more clearly to Andy and Ronnie, and gave them some helpful papers to read.

On their way home Ronnie asked Andy, "What made you decide to be a Christian?"

"It was the way you forgive me so quickly. And because you took all the blame for the lost lure. I knew I couldn't do that. Not with that uncle of yours."

"Aw, Uncle Pete isn't so bad anymore, except when he's been drinking. And Aunt Lena is much nicer lately. Maybe they're just getting used to having a kid around," Ronnie finished with a grin.

"Has your uncle changed his mind about Prince? Do you think you will get to keep him?"

"Not a chance," Ronnie answered as he said goodbye.

Next afternoon Ronnie was working in the barn when Andy came in and handed him some money. "That's your two weeks allowance from your uncle."

Andy laughed at the surprised look on Ronnie's face. "How did you... what did you do?" Ronnie stammered.

"I told him I took the lure and that you had nothing to do with it. I figured since I am a Christian now that Jesus would help me, and He did!"

"Weren't you scared?"

"You bet I was, but I did it anyway. That's one thing I've learned from Prince."

"What do you mean?"

"The other day I knew I should stay and tell your uncle I'd lost the lure, but I was scared. So I just ran home... like Prince does. It makes a big difference when you have Jesus to help you face up to things."

It was a few days later that Ronnie ran over to Andy's and told him the horse trader was arriving the following day. That evening the boys went for a long ride. Andy was very quiet and after it was over he said a quick goodbye and went off home. "Guess he is going to miss Prince just like I will," Ronnie thought as he watched him go.

Early the next morning the trader was talking to Uncle Pete when Ronnie was surprised to see Andy and his Uncle George coming into the yard. After greeting everyone Uncle George said that he had a suggestion. "This next school term these boys will have a long walk to that new school. How about if I buy Prince and they ride him to school? They can each take a week feeding him and looking after him."

"How do you mean, look after him?" Uncle Pete growled.

"Feed him and stable him. It would still be cheaper than driving a car twice a day," Uncle George replied. Ronnie was holding his breath. He looked at Andy who had a big grin on his face.

"Car nothing!" Uncle Pete grumbled. "The walk will do him good."

"Five miles?" Andy exclaimed. "How would Ronnie get all his chores done?"

Uncle Pete glared at Andy. But after a few moments of consideration he agreed by saying, "I suppose he had better keep on with the chores since we have gone to the trouble of teaching him."

The boys raced to the barn shouting back, "Thank you, thank you!"

"Do you mind," Andy panted, "Uncle George owning Prince?"

"Mind nothing! It's far better to have your uncle own him instead of that trader. Besides I get to keep him every second week!" Ronnie said. "Tell me, did you have to fuss and cry to get your uncle to buy Prince?"

Andy replied, "I was going to. Then I remembered that I belonged to Jesus now. So I asked Him to help me, and I talked to my uncle without any fussing. I told him we could go to school together and share in taking care of Prince."

"And what happened next?" Ronnie asked."

"Uncle said, yes, because he was so glad to have me ask without fussing. He said he was glad I had you for a friend. So I told him about my best friend of all - Jesus. Uncle didn't say much, but he wasn't angry," Andy replied. Ronnie was so happy that he started singing a song from Sunday School. "What a friend we have in Jesus. All our sins and griefs to bear..." Andy joined in with the words he knew. Climbing on Prince, and still singing, the boys rode off across the fields.

What two things are important for a new Christian to do each day?

Who is the Christian's best friend?

Do we lose our salvation each time we sin?

How do we receive forgiveness for our sins?

When someone is mean to us, what should we do?

What are we kept from by hiding God's Word in our heart?

         - by Edna Menzies

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