A Legacy

Last Saturday, I attended the service of a dear friend and mentor.  Some people called him a mystic among us.  Today, I hope you inspired by his words…his legacy.

My Legacy

The Sunday School teacher asked, “What legacy do you leave your family? Sons? their wives, and your great-grandchildren?” Here are some of my thoughts on the matter.

With respect to BEING:

  • An example of a man of transparent integrity: true blue; real. What you see is what you get. The opposite of phony. I see this as God’s design for humanity.
  • An example of a man of love: love of kin, love of “The Great Mystery” of life, and love for all humans I encounter. This is love as unbending commitment to the well-being of every one; while holding all in warm regard; a love not necessarily connected with liking people. I see this as Jesus’ understanding of love.
  • An example of one who looks steadily in the eyes of all I meet, communicating openness and acceptance. I understand this to be “The Way” of Jesus and his followers, and may be labeled “utmost hospitality.”
  • An example of a man who lives the call to silence: at moments each day to cease the rush, to turn off the mental chatter, to learn to “hear” the “voice” of “The Mystery” that speaks in our thoughts; and to hear so clearly, so discernibly, that the “Great Yes” of faith wells up within: “Yes” to “The Mystery”, “Yes” to grace, and “Yes” to fulfillment and an abundant life. I believe this will not happen in the noise and speed of modern life unless we attend the silences and heed the messages of the “Still Small Voice.” So my legacy is: if we do observe the silences, religion will again make sense, and “The Other” will communicate with us in ways that produce love, compassion, justice, kindness and hospitality. This I see as “spiritual” life.
  • An example of a man who follows 1-4 above so diligently and consistently that a new care for the earth, its people, and its resources is established and maintained; soon; since our window of survival seems to me to be steadily closing. This is the life of a caretaker of God’s creation.

With respect to DOING:

That I leave as a pastor, churchman, servant, preacher, husband, daddy, grandfather, engineer, kinsman, educator, citizen and friend.

With respect to GROWING:

That I hope to leave as one who is going on toward a perfection that will never be completed in this life, a perfection measured by “Holy Mystery” alone, which will continue to re-visit me, and nudge me on, as long as sentience and faith remain.

This is my legacy, as of 7-10-13; for today…

The final chapter of

Summa Junior—Stated Briefly by

Rev. Wallace Chappell

1920-2016

One Fish At a Time

I started fishing in the early 1980’s around the age of three or four.  My first memory of fishing is riding with my father in a fishing trawler.  (It is just an inner tube with a fancy cover and a small motor.)  With me on his lap, we would slowly cruise around and try to catch fish in the lake.  I am not a big fan of fishing.  It is a little bit boring to me (it was then and it is now).  But I love the image of fishing.  Solitude, simplicity and peaceful fishing.

This week, I was blessed to read Psalm 37:5.  It says, “Commit everything you do to the Lord, TRUST him, and he will help you.”  All week long the word TRUST has been my focus word.  I had to TRUST God that a project would be completed on time.  I had to TRUST that my idea for others was the right decision.  I had to TRUST that my children would be cared for in their new school.  TRUST has always been a challenge for me.  I think this is because I usually don’t TRUST like I fish.

When I fish, I have one pole, one hook and one worm.  I drop the hook under the surfa28477023670_18621f58fbce of the water and wait.  I may or may not catch a fish.  I may or may not catch the fish that I was trying to catch.  But whatever happens, all I can do is show up prepared, bait my hook and TRUST that the fish will eat the hook.  TRUSTing also means I will be at peace with the results because I am giving up control.  When I try to be in control instead of TRUSTing, it is as if I am fishing with a net instead of a hook.  With a net, I can throw it out wide knowing that I will catch at least one fish and probably a whole lot more than I even tried to catch.  But then I have to deal with everything else I catch including somethings that I didn’t want.

Our God is a one hook, one fish kind of God.  God desires us to TRUST God and God will help us. (Who does’t need a little help?)  It’s simple (and yet we make it sooooo complicated).  One minute at a time.  One hour at a time.  One day at a time. One week at a time.  God wants us to TRUST God.  We are called to focus on one hook and one fish at a time instead getting caught up in murky water full of the mistakes of our past or our unknown futures.

As children are going back to school and teachers are heading back into the classrooms.  As college students are packing their cars to start a new semester.  As projects are approaching their deadlines.  As bills are due.  As marriages are trying to grow deeper.  As life changes…let’s ask God to help us and TRUST in each moment that God will.  We serve a God who gives us just enough manna for one day.  We serve a God who is the bread of life and satisfies us each day.  If we deeply believe in our God as our provider, then our lives and actions need to reflect the TRUST that we say we have in our God.

Waiting for Me to work, with your eyes on Me, is evidence that you really do trust Me. Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

I hope you catch some God-filled moments this week!

Meredith Bell

 

Secret Space

I heard a prayer this week from a friend.  He prayed that God would meet us in that secret space within us.  That space where there are only two invitations available.  One to God and one to you.  He went on to say that we needed God to meet us there because there are some things we need to talk with God about and we also needed to be reminded of how much we are loved, accepted and complete in God.  Wow!  Isn’t that a cool space?

It made me think of the best vacation I ever went on in college.  My last Spring Break of college, I flew to Ireland and toured the country for a week.  A friend of mine was in a work-abroad program in Dublin, Ireland.  I knew that if I could get to Ireland, I would have a place to stay in Dublin.  Before I left, I talked two brothers into joining me on this trip.  I invited them by saying, “Hey…for Spring Break, I think we should fly to Ireland, stay in hostels, drink beer and kiss the Blarney Stone.  Do you have a better plan than that?”  Of course they didn’t!  So they were in on the trip!

We flew to Ireland on a Sunday.  It was their first trip out of the country and our general excitement was high.  The trip exceeded our expectations.  It was the week of St. Patrick’s Day.  It was like the whole country was celebrating that we were on Spring Break too!  Nuns were dressed in green habits, the whole city was decorated in green and orange, people were celebrating and it felt like we had discovered the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  Then we rented a car!  That was the best decision. (Whoever rented the car to us must have been a bit crazy…giving four American college students a car in a foreign country is a bit risky!)  We drove all over the southern part of Ireland touring the Waterford factory, kissing stones, visiting pubs, touring castles, listening to U2 and sleeping in hostels. When we flew home on Saturday, smiles were plastered on our faces.  It was amazing!

The secret space is like the best vacation you have ever been on.  (Or maybe it is even better than that!)  We can go to that space anytime and anywhere.  It is free.  It is filled with joy, comfort, encouragement, support, answers, fresh perspective, forgiveness, grace, love, peace, hope, direction, and so much more.  When you leave your time with God in that secret space, a smile will be on your face.

More than a smile, you will see your life through a different lens.  God’s lens.  You will remember what God has called you to do.  Our visits to our secret, sacred space with God keep us going along this journey of life.

Then Solomon, and the whole assembly with him, went to the high place that was at Gibeon; for God’s tent of meeting, which Moses the servant of the Lord had made in the wilderness, was there. 2 Chronicles 1:3

Enjoy your vacation to your secret space with God!  Send me a postcard!

Meredith Bell

Summer: A Time with Nature

When I was growing up, Memorial Day weekend began our annual pilgrimage to the Lake House.  My mother would pick us up on Friday (the last day of school) with the car packed to the brim.  We would drive to the grocery store and buy more than enough food for our family of six.  (“Lake food” was real junk food…Little Debbies, fruit roll-ups, moon-pies and more).  For twenty minutes, we traveled from our town to the Lake House.  That drive felt like a cleansing.  For the next 3 months, we were free.  Free from school, free from schedules, free from problems and responsibilities.  The recitals were over.  The last spelling test was history.  Life was good.  My wardrobe at the lake included swimsuits and a lifejacket.  I remember even sleeping in my swimsuit on some nights.

More than anything, those months and years spent on the lake taught me that I am a part of nature.  I am part of something bigger than myself.  I spent many more hours outside than inside.  Watching rain come over the lake let me know it was a good time to take a nap.  Stepping on a sticker taught me to walk more carefully.  Watching waves crash against my favorite rocks showed me that somethings in life never stop.  They were there before I was born and they will be there afterwards.  Watching the stars twinkle outside my bedroom from my bunk bed gave me deep peace.  I was connected to the world around me.

So many of our problems these days come from the idea that we are not connected to anyone or anything.  We feel autonomous.  Even more, we feel that the purpose of the world is to serve us.  This is a slippery slope to travel.  Before too long our consumerism creates more waste than our Earth can handle.  Our schedules are unachievable and cause more stress in ourselves and our families.  Our relationship with our spiritual lives is strained simply because it is difficult to hear God speak when our life is so busy and loud.  Maybe it is time to remember who we are in relationship to nature.  Nature has the ability to teach us just how connected we are to creation.  In fact, each one of us is a little creation made to care for the Earth around us.

Memorial Day weekend is a great time to remember.  We remember those who gave their lives for us so that we may live out our days in freedom.  We remember how precious life is.  We remember that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves.  It is also a great time to stop all the hustle and bustle of our lives and decide how we want to spend our summer days.  Do we want them filled with memories or schedules?  Do we plan to stay in the house or get outside?  Are there people we want to connect with because we have time to do it?

Imagine packing up your car for your summer pilgrimage (“Lake food” included!!).  Who’s going with you and where are you going?  What needs to be on your itinerary so that you have time with nature and with God?  How can you make this summer less about you and more about nature?  Let’s pack up the car, the backpacks, the water bottles and get outdoors.  Even a walk around your neighborhood is a big step in the right direction.  And if you need a little reminder about how connected we are to God’s creation and nature, take a look at this talk by Louie Giglio.  It’s amazing!

There is one God, the Father,
    by whom all things were created,
    and for whom we live.
And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ,
    through whom all things were created,
    and through whom we live. 1 Corinthians 8:6

Happy Memorial Day!

Meredith Bell

Compassion

This week my heart broke when I heard someone say that they do not have anything to look forward to when they wake up in the morning.  It broke again when I visited with someone looking for a job and they just aren’t having any luck.  And then again when I heard about a struggling friendship that has been hijacked by jealously and competition.  These moments were personally difficult for me because I knew that my words would not “fix” the suffering.  Since I could not “fix” things, I stayed frustrated.  Then I went downhill from there…my frustration led to impatience to irritation to defeat.  It wasn’t a very nice day.

Jesus said, “I have compassion for these people.” (Matthew 15:32) Compassion. That is another way to look at life’s struggles.  Compassion is something that we can offer in the midst of difficult times to others.  Compassion is full of mercy, understanding, presence and comfort.  It is easy to communicate compassion through texts, calls, lunch dates, surprise visits, cards, and hugs.  Compassion is how God draws people closer to him through us.

It is clear to me that Jesus did not come and live among us to train us to “fix” things.  There are just some things that cannot be fixed.  Maybe he knew that.  Instead he came to show us how to live with compassion (among other things).  He knew that there are days when circumstances cannot be “fixed”.  On those days, he taught us to look beyond the surface and discover how to comfort the true pain a person feels.  When we connect with another person on a deeper level (a spiritual level), we can unwrap the gift of compassion.

As you travel through your week, explore compassion in your life.  When have you received the gift of compassion and who needs to receive the gift of compassion from you?  Invite everyone in your tent to join you on this path.  You will be blessed and be a blessing to others.

“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”  Carl W. Buechner

Shalom,

Meredith Bell

A Change In Perspective

This week, I was with a counselor friend and she shared a great tool to use when making decisions.  It went like this:

Try this process the next time you are making a big decision.  Close your eyes and imagine yourself in your favorite chair.  Take notice of all that is around you and the smells.  Now think of the decision you have to make.  It may feel big and heavy.  Next, imagine yourself sitting in the same chair with the same smells 20 years down the road.  What does the decision you have to make look like from that point?  Stretch out a few more years.  Try 40 years away, what does the decision look like from your older self in the same favorite chair? By simply changing your perspective, you can find peace in the decisions you make in your life.

Thinking about my older self reminded me of a poem that I heard while in college.  It is a great poem about perspective.  I hope it helps you and those around you to enjoy life even more.  The poem is called, “I Would Pick More Daisies.”

Shalom,

Meredith Bell

I Would Pick More Daisies

When asked “How would you have lived your life differently if you had a chance?” Nadine Stair, an 85-year-old woman, from Louisville, Kentucky, provided these poetic words as her response…

23497741820_98bdd4aa62If I had my life to live over again,
I’d dare to make more mistakes next time.
I’d relax.
I’d limber up.
I’d be sillier than I’ve been this trip.
I would take fewer things seriously.
I would take more chances,
I would eat more ice cream and less beans.

I would, perhaps, have more actual troubles but fewer imaginary ones.
you see, I’m one of those people who was sensible and sane,
hour after hour,
day after day.

Oh, I’ve had my moments.
If I had to do it over again,
I’d have more of them.
In fact, I’d try to have nothing else- just moments,
one after another, instead of living so many years ahead of each day.

I’ve been one of those persons who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot-water bottle, a raincoat, and a parachute.
If I could do it again, I would travel lighter than I have.

If I had to live my life over,
I would start barefoot earlier in the spring
and stay that way later in the fall.
I would go to more dances,
I would ride more merry-go-rounds,
I would pick more daisies.

– Nadine Stair

Stars

Some people are scared of heights.  Some people are scared of spiders.  I am scared of space (the universe).   One time we were visiting a science museum and we watched an IMAX movie about space.  I had to get up and leave after a star was born.  (Of course my excuse was that I needed more popcorn.)   I had to leave because I could not believe what I was seeing.  The size and scope of space does not fit into my categories, my paradigms.  It is too big…too different…too vast.

This week, I heard a great story on NPR about how our understanding of space has evolved over time. Nicolaus Copernicus (d.1543) claimed that the center of the universe was the Sun instead of the Earth.  Edwin Hubble (d. 1953) discovered more galaxies like the Milky Way.  News sources today share that Stephen Hawking plans to send postage-stamp-size probes into our solar system to make way for Interstellar travel.  Wow!  Not only are we NOT the center of the universe, but we are only tiny specs in the universe.

When things do not fit into my categories or my paradigms my natural response is to walk away (or use my “need more popcorn” excuse) simply because it scares me. Life is comfortable when our world and events fit into our categories and paradigms.  We have a (false) sense of control.  But when our world and events do not fit into what we determine as “normal” or “right”, we get uncomfortable.

A funny thing about being uncomfortable…God is there.  In that space between being comfortable and changing paradigms, God rushes in and molds us into something new.  We are just like a new star that is born in God’s universe.  In our new birth, God can use us.  Our focus is moved away from ourselves and back on God’s work in the world around us.  Right where it should be.

Saint Anselm of Canterbury (d.1109) believed that God is a being than which nothing greater can be thought. He proved that God exists simply by arguing that God is the essence of every thought because God is the creator of all things…including thoughts.  Basically, God does not fit into categories or paradigms either and the more we move away from our need for such things, the closer we move toward God.

As families, what would this world look like if we walked towards thoughts, events and people that scare us instead of away? I imagine there will be a lot of bright lights that look like stars shining out of our homes.

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.  Genesis 1:1-2

Shalom,

Meredith Bell

 

Write it Down

It happened to me yesterday talking to my mom.  While she was talking, I remembered something to tell her.  When she finished talking, I had completely forgotten what it was that I wanted to say.  I waited a minute thinking it would come back to me and it didn’t.  I still don’t remember.  Ugh!  I have witnessed this in many people before, but I never expected it would be happening to me.  (Please, don’t share about other things like this that are waiting on the horizon.)

This happens with me in my relationship with God too.  I forget what God said to me during a prayer. I forget how God guided me during the day by the time I go to sleep.  I forget an important part of a sermon (sorry Steven!).  I forget an adorable thing a child says to me or an important thing a friend says to encourage me.  I simply forget way to many important things.

The solution…write it down.  I love the little “Field Notes” that are small and fit inside my purse that capture my thoughts before I forget.  I love to buy pretty journals to carry in my car to capture my God sightings.  I love to text someone about something that just happened with God.  I also use my notes on my phone.  All of these small tools help me to write it down.

The blessing…when I take time to write it down, I am able to enjoy it later when I read over my words.  God is so active in our days.  When we take time write it down, we are reminded that we are not alone. We are not alone on the good days or on the bad days.  We are never alone.  Mother Theresa put it beautifully when she said, “I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.”

Find a good place to write your God moments, prayer time insights and devotional thoughts down this week.  Encourage everyone in your tent to do the same.  At the end of the week, share what you wrote and where you saw God.  It is a gift to yourself and a gift to those you love.

Happy writing!

Meredith Bell

From the Pit

Years ago a friend asked me to describe my relationship with God and I quickly responded that I felt like I was in a Pit all alone.  God wasn’t there.  Luckily my friend did not run out of the room and down the street screaming.  My friend did not really say much because there was not much to say.  When you are in the Pit, you just want someone to sit beside you and not try to “fix it.”  The Pit feels heavy, lonely and scary.

One gift the Pit offers is time.  Lots of time.  Time to be.  Time to think.  Time to rest.  It also offers space to talk with God.  Jonah offers us an example of praying to God from a Pit…the belly of a whale.  In Jonah’s prayer he says, “I called out to the Lord in my distress, and he answered me. From the belly of the underworld I cried out for help; you have heard my voice.”  Somewhere in the midst of prayer, loneliness and fear something starts to happen.  The Pit begins to offer clarity, purpose and hope.  Jonah was vomited (gross) out of his Pit on to the shore. Clarity, purpose and hope.  Samuel Shoemaker, a great Episcopalian priest, once said, “Prayer may not change things for you, but it for sure changes you for things.”

Someone around you is probably experiencing life in the Pit this week (or month…or year).  It may be someone you live with in your tent or it may be you.  Someone you know is in the Pit.  Here is what you do for the Pit dwellers …. give them space, keep them fed and practice patience.  Sometimes life is just hard and God seems far far away (even though God is right there all the time). When life is hard, we need people around us that will not run out of the room and down the street.  We need friends who will just sit beside us until the experience passes.

When it passes, Pit dwellers become new creations.  Just like butterflies struggle to come out of their cocoons, we struggle to come out of the Pits of life.  The results are well worth the journey.

Shalom,

Meredith

Lent: Pride

Welcome to Lent!  (That phrase would be a cute door mat this time of year wouldn’t it??)  On Tuesday, I hope you let the good times roll and enjoyed some King Cake.  On Wednesday, I hope you closed your eyes as your pastor or priest imposed a cross made from ashes on your forehead.  A beautiful symbol of the darkness of our sin made into a cross that represents hope.  This Lent, let’s explore some silent habits that we may want to sweep out of our tents before Easter arrives.

Pride. It is a character trait that is either good or bad. It is good in the sense of taking care of your home or how you wear your clothes. It is bad when it leads to arrogance or the feeling of superiority. It is good if it leads you to successful achievements and bad if it leads you to achievements that control your treatment of others.

In 1 Chronicles 21:1-17, King David let his pride turn from good to bad. He stepped away from God, just to experience what it might feel like to be God. His request to know the strength of his kingdom could have been innocent if it wasn’t covered with his pride. He wanted to know simply because he wanted to feel the power he possessed. This request led him back to God who showed his power and mercy.

Carl Jung says, “Through pride we are ever deceiving ourselves. But deep down below the surface of the average conscience a still, small voice says to us, something is out of tune.” Lent is a season for us to find that something (or somethings) that are out of tune. It is a season where we feel God’s judgment and God’s mercy. It is a season that leads us to the cross to remind us of the power of repentance and forgiveness.

How has your pride led you away from God recently? How is pride effecting your relationships with those you love the most (those in your tent)?  As you turn back to God, what changes do you feel need to be made?

Shalom,

Meredith

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