Manger Moments

Don’t you love those moments when everything falls into place?  Sometimes it’s when you are hosting a dinner party and new friendships form.  Sometimes it’s when you finish the last chore in the yard and it just looks beautiful.  Sometimes it is when someone simply says “thank you” after noticing your small act of kindness.  There are those spiritual moments too when it feels like God is whispering “peace be still” right into your soul.  They to take your breath away.  Sometimes it is during a beautiful sunset after a long and stressful day.  Sometimes it is when the person you love most holds you just right.  Sometimes it is in the middle of worship when you feel as though God is speaking directly to you.

This Christmas, we are invited to join Mary and Joseph once again for their “manger moment.”  Their moment when everything they had experienced for the past nine months falls into place.  Their moment when their hearts are so filled with joy.  Their moment when the angels are above them, the shepherds are running to them and the stars are surrounding them.  And once again, they invite us to make their “manger moment” our moment, too.

This Christmas weekend, we hope that your days are filled with “manger moments” when everything just falls into place and God fills your heart.  Enjoy the people you love.  Enjoy unwrapping gifts and giving them. Enjoy delicious treats.  Take notice of God’s presence.  Take notice of the peace.  Take notice of tiny glimpses into eternal life.  Experience as many “manger moments” as you can for it is these moments that we come back to when the pressures of life push in on us.

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. Luke 2:16

Merry Christmas from the Bells,

Meredith and Steven

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

Make a Trade

We are busy in our tent preparing for Christmas. I am sure you are as well. Just this week my daughters rehearsed It’s a Wonderful Life for 3 nights and preformed in it as Carolers for 2 nights. Elf on the shelf has been playing with laundry. Actually, we have an Elf on the shelf family. Elfie, Elfina, little Tom and an Elf reindeer (Don’t ask!). As a team they can get into a lot of misfit in my house. They all played in the laundry one day, which meant I had a day off. They also kicked off our Advent tree. We read a scripture each morning and clip on a new ornament. Plus, this week the Tooth Fairy visited our home twice!! It has been a busy week in our home. And I forgot to mention that our two show pigs came down with pneumonia (who knew this could happen??). They are on the mend now after shots and meeting an angel who gave them the shots. (Even I know when to acknowledge my limits…giving pigs shots is not one of my talents.)

In all of the chaos that this week brought (or season brings), it makes me more determined than ever to not give in to it.  I don’t want to give into consumerism, over-booked calendar (this is where I need to work the most), or Christmas expectations and unnecessary traditions.  When I shop, I want it to be fun.  When I attend a party, I don’t want to worry about what I am missing.  When I pull out the Christmas decorations, I only want to decorate with those things that need to be in our home this year.  I am not going for perfect.  Just enough.

Here is the way I made it through this past week still intact and with Christmas spirit.

Engage Scripture–I found a this cute daily reading on Facebook this week and it has been a perfect reminder of the power baby Jesus brought with him when he was born and placed in the manger.  Read scripture every day this next week with expectant eyes.  What gift will God give you through your reading?

Listen for God’s Voice–The scripture you read will move in and out of your thoughts all day long. The voice of God will be close beside them.  We have been collecting money in a jar all year to give to someone this Christmas.  Just this week I found out who that person is through an email.  We heard God’s voice and we are so excited to give our gift.  What is God saying to you this week?  Listen.

3115751108_77b9dbd66f_bExpect Miracles–Jesus’ birth was a miracle.  John the Baptist birth was a miracle.  Zechariah (John’s father) received his voice back just in time to name John the Baptist.  That was a miracle.  There were so MANY miracles popping up around the birth of Jesus.  Guess what?  They still happen today.  I heard a young adult speak today about his recovery from being hit by a car at the age of 13.  He was asked by the audience, “What are you so proud of in your recovery?”  He quickly answered, “That I am alive!”  A miracle!

We Prepare the Way–Our task this Christmas…share the story.  Share the joy, hope and peace of the season.  Our job is to bake cookies so we can have a moment to share our faith story with the person we give the cookies to enjoy.  Our job is to serve a delicious meal so we can invited the Holy Spirit to be present at our table and breath life into our families.  Our job is to give more so that others will have the opportunity to move from poverty into stability.  Our job is to prepare the way for Christ to work in the lives of the people we meet this Christmas.

Let’s trade the crazy and the chaos of the season in for the calm presence of Christ that lives with us every minute of every day!

Meredith Bell

Holidays: Another Option

A few great book suggestions to help prepare your heart for the real reason for the holidays.

Some of you have already decorated for Christmas.  I know because you have told me.  Some of you are dreading pulling out the boxes to decorate.  I know because that is me.  All of us approach this season differently and anyway we do it it really does work.  We celebrate the birth of Jesus, we make memories, we enjoy way too much good food.  This is a great time of the year for many reasons.

As we begin the holidays, I want to suggest some great books that have helped me to approach the spiritual side of holidays as well as the festive side.  So often, the work of the holidays falls on our shoulders.  It is a blessing that we have families that depend on us.  In my experience, it doesn’t take much for me to go from fun and festive to tired and frustrated.  I have found that if I focus on the spiritual side of the holidays, my family usually falls in right behind me.  We lead and they follow.  It is another blessing of being a wife and/or mother.

Here are some book suggestions that I would suggest you pick up and read in the next few weeks…before everything else begins.  Don’t over do it.  Just one will do for this year and you can read the other one next year.  I hope they will bless you.

Christmas Is Not Your Birthday by Mike Slaughter
The Purpose of Christmas by Rick Warren
Christmas Jars by Jason F. Wright
The Journey:Walking the Road to Bethlehem by Adam Hamilton

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

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