The Bell-ringer at Marsh

When we moved to Indiana, I had to get used to a whole bunch of new stores. Instead of Chief, my old favorite grocery store, we had Lance’s, Marsh and a Super WalMart. Now, most of the time (probably too much of the time), I do my grocery shopping at WalMart. The prices are generally better, and they have a big selection. Plus, there are a lot of things there to look at. But if I have to pick another store, I pick Marsh (despite the crazy lady who chased me in her car there one day, but that’s another story).

Anyway. I digress. I have been stopping more at Marsh recently because it is closer to home and because the sheer number of WalMart receipts in the envelope last month sort of appalled even me. Retirement looms. I need to be more careful. And of course it is the season for Salvation Army bell-ringers.

Did you know that some people have to ring the bell for the Salvation Army as community service? I read that in the paper somewhere. The kettles are locked and collected. The Salvation Army says they are grateful for the help. But still, it’s not usually what you think of in a bell-ringer.

I always try to give something to bell-ringers anyway. My husband says I would give the shirt off my back, which might have once been true, but we do most of our shopping on our credit card so that we have one bill, and I often go into stores anymore without carrying any cash, so I don’t give to the bell-ringers like I used to. I just always want to.

Anyway. I stopped at Marsh after school one day for a couple of things, and there was this boy there, ringing the bell. I say boy, but now that I am middle-aged, that is really relative. He’s younger than me. Maybe my kids’ age? Maybe younger. I don’t know. Anyway, he was there ringing the bell, and he smiled at me as I entered the store. Actually he was smiling anyway, but he spoke to me, and I didn’t see him speak to anyone else.

“Pretty nice day for bell-ringing,” he said.

“Yep.” I smiled at him. December in Indiana has been unusually warm.

Other shoppers walked by, but none of them looked his way.

When I was doing my shopping, I was thinking about the news article, you know? I was wondering why someone that young would be out there ringing the bell for the Salvation Army when most people his age would be at school or at work. Was he doing community service? What had he done? But I didn’t really believe that that was why he was out there. His eyes were too nice. There was just something about them… He looked so happy. So peaceful. And as if he could see right into my heart.

Maybe I should back up. It seems to me that God has been trying to get my attention lately, and it appears that I haven’t been doing a very good job of listening. Recently, I have been hearing a lot of that “still, small voice” thing that I am sure nobody else has heard.

It’s like this. I have been worried about retirement and money, basically because I will be the cause of a large part of the money drain (the RA meds, you know). Last Saturday, my son said, “Mom, you and Dad will still have enough, more than we bring home working, in fact. Quit your whining.”

Enter the still small Voice, which says, “You might as well give Me the money anyway. It was never yours in the first place.”

I hadn’t realized, actually, that I was holding ON to the money, but evidently….otherwise, why would I have been worried? I didn’t mean to do that. I mean, I know God’s in control. I….asked for forgiveness. And some help.

Then I had lunch yesterday with two women whom I am sure God put in my life for a reason. We were talking about the book THE RED TENT, which tells the story of Dinah in Genesis 34, and one of my friends asked me why I didn’t like it. I told her it portrayed Joseph in the Old Testament as less than honorable, and it seems to me that it was his honor, exactly, that pleased God and got him in the position that he was in in Egypt. We progressed on to Jacob and I think it was Simeon and Levi who were involved in that massacre because of their sister, Dinah. I thought Jacob should have made his sons honor their word.

Duh! I am plenty old enough to know that kids, especially adult kids, do not always do what they should no matter how hard their parents wish for it!

Following that line of reasoning, though, we went on to Jacob. I suppose that Jacob can’t be blamed totally for the way he was. He was sort of sly, actually. It used to bother me that I am named after his mother, Rebekah, because she tricked her husband and connived so that Joseph could get what God had said he could have in the first place. It used to bother me because I used to think that Rebekah should have done more listening instead of trying to get things in her own way. But, um…evidently there is a reason that I am named after her.

My friend Martha brought up what she likes to call “God’s Hall of Fame” in Hebrews 11 that lists the people of faith in the Old Testament, but truthfully, some of that has always puzzled me as well. I mean, Lot is listed, not there, but in 2 Peter 2:7. He took the best land from Abraham when Abraham didn’t have to give him any. And it says that Lot was grieved by the sins of the people of Sodom. Really? Then why didn’t he just move? I mean, those people were nomads, after all.

Same thing about Jacob. Like I said, I think he was sly. Yet God named a whole nation after him! It seems to me that he made a mess with his wives and his kids, and yet…there he is in that “Hall of Fame.” I know God looks on the heart, but then why do we hear about all the bad things Jacob did?

My friend Martha listened. She’s good at that. Then she said, “I think he’s in there because God looks at the whole person. The whole attitude. Sort of apart from the screw-ups.”

Why did I hear a still, small Voice saying, “Just like He does for you?”

After lunch, I needed just a few groceries, and I was near WalMart, so I headed that way. But you can imagine how the parking lot looked at this time of year. I opted to turn around and head for Marsh. The parking lot there was also crowded, but relatively speaking, it was nearly empty.

Yesterday in Indiana was pretty rainy. Soggy, actually. But at the time I went to Marsh, it had stopped for a few minutes. And there, cheerfully ringing his bell, was the same young man I had seen a few weeks earlier. With the same smile. Wasn’t his community service done yet? And again, he spoke to me out of all the shoppers who entered the store.

“Sure am glad it stopped raining for a few minutes,” he said.

I nodded. Actually, I am sure that we could use the precipitation, but a little sunshine would be nice. Still, you can’t have everything.

And I went on into the store, which really wasn’t all that crowded (comparatively). When I came out, the young man’s smile followed me to the car. He waved as he called out to me, “Have a joyous Christmas, ma’am!”

I have been trying, like I wrote yesterday, to remember the joy of salvation, and the young man’s comment brought me back to that. I would, I thought. And thank you. But I didn’t say anything to him. I just smiled.

Which brings me to today. The hubby and I went to Big Lots because I wanted a little radio for the kitchen. I had been looking, but I hadn’t found anything that I wanted or was willing to pay the price for. Like I said, we are practicing for retirement. I mentioned to the hubby that the friends I had lunched with yesterday were good at finding bargains.

“You know, ” I said, “there’s no shame in shopping here, or even in the mission store. I used to do those things when we were first married, but somehow I got out of the habit…”

“Well,” my husband said, “we have an image to uphold here.”

We do, sort of, because supervisors do have an image, like teachers and doctors and pastors. But in a flash when he said that, I remembered that when we first moved to Indiana, one of his employees had come by the house and, after looking it over, said, “Now that’s a supervisor’s house!” (That was a comment on my husband’s predecessor.)

I should tell you that we live in a little house. It’s not new, and it’s not really fancy. But that comment was what my husband meant when he mentioned the image.

Ouch.

Again I heard the still, small, Voice:”Don’t you want MY image?

I do. I really do. And as hard as it is to say, I had thought that in some respects I was moving that way. But the still, small Voice was right. I have liked our image. Now it’s time to pick what I want more.

Back to the bell-ringer. I know, I know. It’s just my imagination that he talked just to me, that his smile seemed to look right into my heart. Or is it? Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so, some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” I didn’t exactly entertain the bell-ringer. But still, it just seems like he was an angel, there just for me.

And after all, it’s almost Christmas. Regardless of what time of year you think Christ was really born, still His angels are around all the time. Maybe more so now since people seem more open. Did God send this one for me, on a sort of “community service” venture to get my attention? Gosh I hope so.

And Father? Abba?

Now I’m listening.

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