02 December 2009

Ring a Bell

by Frank Turk

This is the first Christmas in 7 years that I don't have a retail business to run, and I'm a little grateful for it. But I was thinking today about my bookstore on Christmas Eve day a couple of years ago, and we were rockin'. I mean, best day before Christmas ever from a purely angels-get-their-wings standpoint, if you follow the cultural idiom. And I'm busy personally – helping people, encouraging them, being nice to them.

And as people are throwing money at me and I'm throwing merchandise at them – in a nice way, very jolly – these two women walk into the bookstore with a little girl. My helper greets them, and I notice them because they don’t act like middle-class people. They burp when they talk, they talk too loud, that kind of stuff.

Eventually, the wave of business subsides, and I catch a breather, and I take a walk around the store to check on the people who are still browsing – because people usually appreciate that. As I chat with the handful of people still in the store, I notice the two women and the little girl still browsing, and I ask them if they need any help. They don't, but as I trade service talk with them, I notice that they need a bath more than they need a book. They also prolly need to give up the half-pack of cigareetes they smoked driving over here, but I ignore that and move on. I've come out in public when I've been no prize, either.

So I go about my business, and one of the women comes to the desk to ask for some help, the little girl in tow. We chat some more, and the more I talk to her, the less I am impressed with her social skills, and I start to get a little antsy about her parenting skills. She's not smacking the kid around or anything, but I'm pretty sure I have never talked to my kids that way unless they were on the verge of being crucified – which is an interesting word to use there given the season, but it's the one that came to mind as I was sort of forced to eavesdrop on this slice of life. Not unless I was on the verge of crucifying them.

And I start to think to myself, "How can she not know better?" So she puts this book about Christmas on the counter along with a Bible and some other plastic junk, and I look at the Christmas book, thinking about the Sunday School lessons I had been teaching the last 3 weeks.

Because the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory – the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father. We have all received from his fullness one gracious gift after another. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came about through Jesus Christ.

No one has ever seen God. The only one, himself God, who is in closest fellowship with the Father, has made God known.

That is, God has made himself known to those of us who probably need more than a bath and to give up a half-pack of cigarettes, and know better than to talk to our children as if we were about to crucify them. The One who did crucify His one and only son has made Himself known.

I'm the one who ought to know better. Especially at Christmas.


John said...

Excellent post, Frank.

I continuously find myself being a Pharisee.

DJP said...

A new Christmas classic is born. Well-said.

Mister Bo said...

Were you able to share the Gospel with her?

David Rudd said...

good thoughts, Frank.

Brad Williams said...

You tricked me, Frank. I thought you were going to say that they put a copy of "Your Best Life Now" on the counter and your head exploded.

Your real ending was much better.

John said...

Wow, that was awesome. Says something about our culture when a complaint about Apple's deplorable service gets more comments than this post. Great reminder of the power and meaning ofthe incarnation.

Stefan Ewing said...

Thank you, Frank.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.

Stefan Ewing said...

Or ...Wonderful, Counsellor....

Rachael Starke said...

Frank, brother, you kill me.

The last time you posted something on this (10/21, which was a repost called Practical Application, which should be mandatory Pyro reading), I found myself later that morning initially shunning a gypsy as I came out of the grocery store, and the Holy Spirit pierced my heart with your words and I went back to her and gave her out of the riches in my overloaded grocery bag.

So yesterday, I'm back at the same grocery store and I see her again, this time with a plump, well-dressed toddler in a stroller, and I was angry at her for seemingly making a career out of exploiting a child to beg for stuff, and angry that I'd been suckered.

And this morning I read this. Sheesh. I repent. Again.

Jim Pemberton said...

Loving dirty, nasty, uncouth, despicable sinners isn't easy. Yet Christ did it for us with his very life, from being born in a barn to dying on a cross. We should be so blessed to be like Christ and love our fellow sinners the same.

Yet too often we turn up our noses, occasionally sticking it out to work in the local soup kitchen only to quickly retreat back to our clean homes and comfortable social circles without developing the first meaningful relationship with someone who needs to know Christ as more than the main character in an ancient story. That requires more sacrifice than we are often willing to give.

Anonymous said...

It's tidbits like this that make all the difference Frank.

It's these little glimpses that provide a context for what you write on so many other topics.

One thing you've done here, which you've often done for me, is put the gospel front and centre, in ALL of life.

Thank you.

Stefan Ewing said...

I recall our pastor's mentioning in a sermon last Christmas that shepherds were a despised group of people 2000 years ago: dirty, solitary country folk, probably lacking social skills, and undoubtedly smelly.

And yet Jesus Christ's own ancestor David—the runt of his family—had been chosen by God to be the King, and it was shepherds who were privileged by the angel of YHWH to here the announcement of the Messiah's birth.

Not to mention that He was a Nazarene tradesman, and that He and His apostles were country bumpkins from a northern hicktown.

Stefan Ewing said...

"HEAR the announcement of the Messiah's birth," not "here the announcement."

Verification word: "comatoz," as in, "I need more coffee."

Shanti said...

Yet another post I've enjoyed! Thanks for the reminder of who God is and who we are.

Stefan Ewing said...

Gee, I missed half the point in my last comment:

David, the runt of his family, was one of those despised shepherds, too; and of course, Jesus Christ was the Shepherd with a capital "S," alluding to such prophets as Jeremiah and Zechariah.

Duane & Patricia said...

Last night I took a free puppy to a young woman with 4 kids and a husband who attempted suicide last year and now cannot do anything for himself. (She cares for him at home) She lives in a dirty rundown home with newspapers for curtains. But she is a fellow believer who loves her kids and husband. She hopes the puppy will stimulate her husband more as he is slowly responding to outside stimuli. I loved her! What a blessing it was for me to meet her. There wasn't hardly anything in that home to speak of and yet she never uttered a word of complaint. The friend I was with (it was one of her puppies) didn't want to leave the puppy with her. She couldn't understand why the woman would give up her life like that! Because He gave up His life for us and left us an example. Please pray for Jennifer as I work to minister to her.

Matthew said...

I seriously dont get it.

Anyone care to elaborate?

I must be missing the point.

donsands said...

Nice testimony. Thanks for sharing that.

I like to remember, if i am able to see my self-righteousness that is, "But for God's grace there go I, and even worse."

make me humble Lord is a continual prayer in my heart daily. I long for my pride to vanish, and it shall one day because of Matt. 1:21.

"a purely angels-get-their-wings standpoint"

Very cool phrase.


Stefan Ewing said...


Frank was forced to do a gut check on his own attitude, because it flew in the face of the very Gospel that he holds so dear: Luke 5:30-32; 18:9-14.

Stefan Ewing said...

And like Jim Pemberton, that's a lesson I need to learn, too.

FX Turk said...

Matthew --

I should know better than to judge someone rather than show and tell them the Gospel.

That's not as dramatic, but obviously the drama was obscuring the point.

Stefan Ewing said...


Please forgive me for presuming to speak on your behalf.

And being the contributor of half of today's comments, I might come across like I've got this stuff downpat, but frankly, my walk doesn't match my talk.

Jon said...

Working in retail, especially video games and computer hardware it's very easy to become judgmental of not only people's appearances, but also their knowledge of the subjects I'm around everyday. I constantly find myself being judgmental or short with people who just don't see the world as I see it and may not have had the same benefits I've had growing up. Very good words sir!

Nate and Andrea said...

I hadn't really grasped the application until you commented Jon. I realized my attitude is identical to yours. Thank you for bringing conviction of sin. I will now be in the corner for the time being.