Being Open

I am married to a duck hunter. When we married 16 years ago, he was not a duck hunter. Today he is. His friends took him hunting a year ago and he was open to the new experience. To say that he enjoyed it is an understatement. This guy dove in like a duck and has not stopped flying since. All year long, Amazon Prime has swiftly delivered much needed “supplies” for the hunts. Our garage has slowly filled up with duck decoys, duck calls, duck decoys and a lot of camo things. It now looks like an Academy supply warehouse.

For the past five mornings, I have been on a duck hunting date with my guy. I was open to this new date experience. At five o’clock we rise, he makes me hot tea and we go duck hunting. Actually…I hang out in the truck and he hunts. From the truck, I have had the privilege of watching the sunrise. Each morning it has been breath taking. Each morning it has been different. Each morning has been a new experience.

Duck hunting has given my guy a hobby…a much needed hobby. Going hunting has pulled me out of my normal morning routine and shown me a beautiful new day, every day.

As we lean into the New Year, we are called to being open. Just as every sunrise is different, every year is different. We cannot anticipate or know what lies ahead. There is no need for anxiety or fear because God travels with us.

We do know that each day will begin with a sunrise and end with a sunset. Each day God will be co-creating with us to show the world how to love one another. If we are willing to being open to something new, our breath will be taken away and we will discover new experiences.

What new experiences are you open to this year? What is God asking you to leave behind so that you can live with an attitude of being open?

For I’m going to do a brand-new thing. See, I have already begun! Don’t you see it? I will make a road through the wilderness of the world for my people to go home, and create rivers for them in the desert!  Isaiah 43:19

Happy New Year from Happy Tents,

Meredith Bell

Just Imagine

My daughter loves to play dress up. Just this weekend, she was dressing up and making me guess who she was pretending to be. She would say, “Gabriel talked to me and now I have a baby, who am I?” To me she looked like my daughter in high heels holding a baby doll with a shawl wrapped around her. To her, she was Mary holding baby Jesus.

Using our imaginations can be lots of fun…even for adults. Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

The power of imagination is the ultimate creative power. One dramatic example of the power of vivid imagination is that of Air Force Colonel George Hall. He was a POW locked in the dark box of a North Vietnamese prison for seven grueling years. Every day Hall played a full game of golf in his imagination. One week after he was released from his POW camp he entered the Greater New Orleans Open and shot a 76.

There is a popular Christmas song called, “Mary did you know” that you have probably heard before. It is a beautiful song that taps in to our imaginations. Did Mary know that Jesus would walk on water, heal the blind, raise the dead? Did Mary know that she was holding the great I Am?

From scripture we know that Mary must have known that her encounter with the Holy Spirit was unusual and a gift from God by the way she responds with her song of praise. It is evident that Mary knew God and God knew Mary. She shares that her soul praises the Lord and her spirit rejoices. She feels blessed and chosen. Even though she may not understand her small part in God’s big plan, she certainly understands God’s mercy and God’s active role in her life and the world. Her song is a beautiful account that answers the question to the song, “Mary did you know?” In my imagination she answers back, “I did personally know God and that was all that I needed.”

As we continue to approach the manger this week, how can we tap into our imaginations to experience the birth of Jesus in a new way?  What sounds come to mind when we think of the angels?  What smells come to mind when we think of the stable?  What do we see in the twinkling stars and in Mary’s arms?  What feelings like joy or peace do you feel? Imagine being there and witnessing such a beautiful moment in our world that would change the world forever.

I imagine you still have a to-do list to take care of this week.  Add some imagination time to your list.  You could even play dress-up! Your errands will be a lot more fun and it may be just what you need to help your soul prepare for Christmas.

 Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” Luke 1:46

Merry Christmas,

Meredith Bell

The Christmas Bat

No matter how much you prepare or plan, the Christmas season always brings its own surprises.  Jesus’ mother Mary certainly was surprise as was her friend Elizabeth on that first Christmas.  The surprises make memories (and in Mary’s case transformed the world!).

How you handle surprises is what is important.  We had an unexpected guest in our tent recently.  I decided to handle it with humor.  Below is an amateur poem about the visit.  Enjoy!

THE CHRISTMAS BAT

‘Twas the FIRST OF DECEMBER and all through the house not a creature was stirring…except for something that looked like a mouse.

Stockings (still needed to be) hung by the chimney with care because St. Nicolas would soon be there.

The children were nestled and all snug in their beds as the agenda of the day began dancing in Mamma’s head. When the alarm clock made such a clatter, I sprang from my bed and discovered the CHRISTMAS BAT (on the kitchen floor) and could not be madder.

Away from the kitchen I flew like a flash, torn open the doors and with a broom prepared to smash.

The light in the room illuminated the object below and it was indeed a little black CHRISTMAS BAT just saying HELLO!

When what to my wondering eyes should appear but small little feet, two wings and pointy ears. More rapid than eagles I shouted out names “Oh Jesus! Dear God! Oh, where is STEVEN! Go Sam (the dog) fetch the bat (duck)…why are you acting so tame?” To the top of the ceiling to the top of the shelves, the bat dashed away, dashed away, dashed away and…disappeared just like Santa’s elves.

FOUR NIGHTS LATER as I was turning around, that little CHRISTMAS BAT came back to town. He was still dressed all in fur from his head to his foot and he made five laps around the living room as I sat by the chimney soot.

He was loudly ECHOLOCATING trying to find a way out and all I could do was yell, “Steven! Get the Bat!” with a shout!

With a wink of his eye and a twist of his head, Steven soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread. He spoke not a word but went straight to his work, grabbed lots of blankets and turned with a jerk, and put on gloves, a hat and long sleeve clothes, and giving a nod, out the door that CHRISTMAS BAT goes.

He slammed the door shut and gave the dog, Sam, a little whistle and they talked about how that CHRISTMAS BAT flew like a missile. But I heard him exclaim, ere he walked out of sight.

Merry Christmas, CHRISTMAS BAT, and to all…good night!

From our Tent to Yours,

Meredith Bell

Coupons

I am over coupons.  I just don’t see the point.  I never have.  (This may just sound like a frustrated Facebook message, but stick with me.) Just this week, I was making a purchase that totaled ninety dollars.  My friend asked if I wanted to use a coupon and the total dropped to forty dollars!  I recently bought a gift for my mother for her birthday.  After it was wrapped and on the way to her house, I received a coupon in my email box offering fifty percent off my purchase.  If I would have had the coupon, I would have saved fifty dollars!  A college student was busy at my office clipping coupons.  He proudly informed me that he could save eighty dollars with his coupons! (But he had to buy what they wanted him to buy.)

And let’s not mention those pesky little “thank you” cards from the grocery stores…all of them.  What is the point of those? They get my personal information and in exchange, I have the privilege of digging in my purse for that tiny little card once again.  I always frantically search for it because without it, I will have a significant mark up on my bill.  For me, those tiny pesky little “thank you” cards create nothing but noise and business…two things I work hard to avoid.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we weren’t forced to participate in this system?  What if items just cost the same no matter what?

All of this made me realize and understand why thousands and thousands of people followed Jesus around from town to town while he was on Earth.  Everywhere he went, people were following him.  There are many reasons why, but I believe that people discovered a different way of being through him.  They too were living in a society where markups were normal and the rules constantly changed.  They were unable to get ahead of the system that worked to keep them on edge, hopeless and confused.  Before they met Jesus, they couldn’t even begin to think that there was another way to live.  After they met him, they knew there was another way to live and they wanted it badly.

Aren’t we glad that have an alternative way of living with Jesus today.  Jesus does not work through a coupon system. There are no coupon deals with Jesus that you have to be on a mailing list to receive.  Jesus doesn’t set a limit on how many fruits-of-the-spirits you can have unless you have a coupon for more.  There are not any fifty-percent off of confession-experience-deals where you only have to confess half of the things you have done wrong. Jesus wants all of our lives (the good and the bad) and will give us everything (a full life) in return.

The Jesus system is simply built on grace.  It doesn’t matter when you come to know him, we all get the same deal.  There are no coupons to clip or search for online.  There is not a Black Friday or a Cyber Monday, because everyday there is grace and forgiveness.  Every day we have all that we need.  Everyday we can talk unlimited through prayer.  No contracts.  No hidden fees.  No lines.  No wifi necessary.

Open hearts and open minds to possibilities beyond our imaginations…that’s all Christ needs from you and me.  He already took care of the rest.  I am over useless systems (I am sure there are many others that I don’t recognize in my life) and coupons…my time is too precious and so is Jesus.

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6 to 7

From Our Happy Tent to Yours,

Meredith Bell

Jesus and the Cheetahs

Be the One

After church one Sunday a few years ago, my husband asked our five-year-old daughter what she learned in Sunday school. She said that she learned about Jesus and the cheetahs. The theologian in him was immediately curious because he was not familiar with that story in the Bible. He asked for more information and she told him the whole story. Then he listened closely to her lesson.

Jesus and the Cheetahs

Once upon a time, Jesus was walking down the road. There were ten cheetahs that came to him. They were sick. (In Sunday school we put dots all over our clothes with cotton balls and baby powder. We looked like cheetahs. It was fun.) Jesus made the cheetahs better, but only one cheetah said “Thank you.”

Eventually my husband got it…she was talking about Jesus and the Lepers not CHEETAHS!  We always get a good belly laugh from her version of the story especially since I was her Sunday school teacher that day!!

There is also a lot to truth to her story. There are a lot of cheaters in this story. Nine to be exact. In Luke, we learn that Jesus encountered ten lepers on his way to Jerusalem who begged him for mercy and healing. He did exactly what they asked. They were healed and they had their lives back. They could return to society, their families, and their careers. He had given them all that they could dream of having and more. Out of the ten healed lepers, only one returned to thank him. Only one.

This Thanksgiving we have the opportunity to be the one that returned to give thanks. Think about all the people in your life that have made your life better this year. Be the one to thank them.  People like your doctor who helped you stay healthy, your friend that remembered your birthday, your co-worker who helped you meet your deadline, or your neighbor who pulls your trash bins back to your fence after they are empty. Be the one to thank them. Think about the people you see each week at the grocery store, school, bank, gas station or in your neighborhood. Be the one to thank them.  Recall how they helped you have a better day or a better life. Be the one to thank them.

Since Thanksgiving is on our minds, our family took a moment after dinner this week to make a list of all the people we want to thank. We signed a cards and wrote a notes together. We had fun talking about why we wanted to thank someone.  What is a creative way your family can give thanks?

When we bow our heads and give thanks to God with our family on Thursday, we will also be giving thanks for all the people God sent us this year to make our lives better. If we don’t take time to pause and give thanks, aren’t we really only cheating ourselves?

One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”  Luke 17:15-19

Happy Thanksgiving from our tent to yours!

Meredith Bell

Creating Enviroments

During the day, I usually leave my tent for a while.  (Even if there is still laundry to do or dishes to wash…that cycle really never ends does it?)  Most days I make my way to my office and ministry with young college students.  And while I am there, I have an opportunity to create a space.  I also have a choice in the type of space to create.  From what I have learned so far from young college students, they are always receiving information.  Social media is their first choice for information and from there the list includes friends, professors and parents or family.  They have a lot of information coming from many directions just like all of us do.  So when, these inspiring students come through the doors of this ministry the environment is important.

Working under the assumption that we are all co-creators with God, my goal is to work closely with God to design a spiritual space.  A space that feels different from the world.  A space that is full of encouragement.  A space where you can feel God’s presence.  A space to recharge.

Here are a few ways that I try my best to create such an environment.  And the truth is, you can also create similar environments around you in your own tent or where you spend your time during the day.

  • Create a space for dialogue (coming together to come up with a new solution) and not just discussion (where everyone presents their opinion and defends it).  Most of the time we discuss topics.  If we stretch and engage in dialogue about something, it creates new life.
  • Speak positive words to one another.  Every time students leave the building, I yell out “I love you and I am proud of you,” even if I do not know them well.  Why?  Simply because there are a lot of other words they will hear in their day that will be negative and pull them down.
  • Talk about Jesus!  We talk about a lot of things in our days…what we want for lunch, what we are doing, how our family is doing, what we want for dinner…but how much do we actually talk about Jesus?  Jesus is who walks with us daily and makes life and eternal life possible.  Talking about Jesus reminds us that Jesus is at the center of all we do.
  • Pray.  I am in constant prayer with God for little things and big things.  I ask God to give me the right words.  I ask for guidance from the Holy Spirit to show me the way forward.  I pray for blessings on those who I meet.  I give thanks for the support for the ministry and investment in students.  I just pray.  And it works.

When we are intentional about creating Godly space around us, we discover a deeper connection with the people and the world around us.  We also gain a sense of the sacredness that surrounds us all.

Treat others just as you want to be treated. Luke 6:31

Enjoy your weekend!

Meredith Bell

Mr. Charlie

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in church with my daughters.  One on each side.  During the beginning of the service, I noticed a man sitting by himself on the other side of the church.  It was Mr. Charlie.  His precious wife had died a few months before in the spring.  I whispered to my daughters that we were going to move during the first song and sit with Mr. Charlie.  We have been sitting with him in church every Sunday since then.  Each Sunday we sing songs together, pray together and hear God’s word as it is read over us.  An “Amen” is shouted out now and then.  We have a great time worshipping God together.

Today, before I left to have lunch with my daughters at school.  I picked up the phone and called Mr. Charlie.  I invited him to join us for lunch at school.  Twenty minutes later we were having a good time driving to pick up lunch before we arrived at the school.  The smile on my daughter’s faces when they saw Mr. Charlie was priceless.  Hugs were exchanged and we had a great time right in the middle of the noisy and busy cafeteria.

Right in the middle of our noisy, busy lives there are people and moments that God blesses.  There are people  that God needs us to bless.  There are moments that God does not want us to miss.  When we experience God’s people and God’s moments, life makes sense.  The Kingdom of God is easy to see all around us.

Mr. Charlie talks and talks about how we are a blessing to him and how we are an answer to his prayers.  My response is often that it is easy to be an answer to someone’s prayer when you love them.  But what he doesn’t know is that he is a blessing to us as well.  An answer to our prayers.

For 90 years, Mr. Charlie has lived on this earth as a faithful follower of Christ.  He has served his country, enjoyed marriage, raised children, made friends, invested in his community, lived in different towns, completed a successful career and more.  Mr. Charlie is an answer to our prayers.  He is full of wisdom.  His faith is alive and easy to see.  He laughs easily.  He is just the kind of friend we need in our busy and noisy lives.  He reminds us that life is good and God is great.

In your busy and noisy lives today, I hope God’s sends you someone to share this life with where you are an answer to their prayers and they are an answer to your prayers.  Keep your eyes open, they are all around.  If you already have that someone, give them a call and take them to lunch.  Food tastes better when a friend and God are at the table.

A body is made up of many parts, and each of them has its own use. That’s how it is with us. There are many of us, but we each are part of the body of Christ, as well as part of one another. Romans 12:4-5

From our Happy Tent to yours,

Meredith Bell

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