On the Inside

Almost nine years ago I became a mother again.  After rushing to the hospital, checking and settling in, I remember a text from my spiritual director.  She said, “Never again will you share the same heart beat or be completely spiritually connected with your daughter as you are now.” Time stopped when I read those words and all the activity in the hospital room stopped.  I turned my attention to what was happening on the inside instead of the activity on the outside.

A baby changes everything, right?  And everyone!  Our baby girl took center stage in our lives. Bottles, diapers, toys, little pink socks, more toys, car seats, dresses, strollers, and more toys all moved in with her. She still changes everything.  Except today life is filled with school, gymnastics, toys, friends, sleep-overs, piano recitals, dance recitals, more toys and theater.  (Over scheduled…I know!)

In the midst of all this (especially in the ridiculously-overly-busy month of May), I can’t help but remember that text.  It still helps me to turn my attention to what is happening on the inside, instead of the activity on the outside.  I may no longer share a heartbeat with my baby, but I know her heart well.  We are like old friends that have moved away from each other.  When we meet again, we simply pick up where we left off.  Because I know her well, it is my job to be in-tune with what is happening on the inside in the midst of the activity on the outside.  It is my job to make room for life giving moments, both personally and spiritually.

I know this, because this is how I experience God.  In my life that is often ridiculously-overly-busy, I depend on God to show me what is going on inside, instead of the activity outside both in myself and others.  I depend on God to give me peace in chaos, hope in darkness and love.  Because God shares a heart with me (and you), God shows up and gives me spiritual moments like a beautiful moon, the perfect verse from the Bible for the day, and of course encouraging words from my own mom.

Remember the story in Mark 10, when people were bringing children to Jesus so that he would bless them?The disciples scolded the children and Jesus scolded the disciples.  He even grew angry and said, “Allow the children to come to me. Don’t forbid them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children.  I assure you that whoever doesn’t welcome God’s kingdom like a child will never enter it.” Then he hugged the children and blessed them.

We are called to do the same.  We are called to create ways for children (of all ages) to have access to Jesus on the inside in the midst of the activity on the outside.  Once a connection is made with Jesus, never again will we want to stand in its way.

From our Happy Tents to yours,

Meredith Bell

Follow Your Energy

You never know when you will hear something that makes your heart smile.  I was sitting in an emergency room with a college student and visiting with the doctor.  The three of us were enjoying a conversation and then the doctor smiled and said, “Follow your energy…right?” My heart skipped a beat and I know it would have registered on an EKG machine if I was the patient.  My heart simply smiled…following your energy just makes sense.

Think about children for a minute, they simply follow their energy.  I clearly remember one Easter season when my toddler demanded that I buy some Easter candy as we were checking out of the store.  She won.  I lost.  As I was unpacking the groceries at home, she strolled into the kitchen with her Halloween basket full of Easter candy. (She still makes my heart smile.)  Before I knew it, we were going door to door and giving our neighbors chocolate Easter bunnies and saying happy Easter.  They were as surprised as I was when they opened their front doors.  She followed her energy.  All our hearts smiled.

Think about young adults (and I guess all adults for that matter) for a minute.  They seem to have more questions than answers about what major to declare, what job to pursue, who to date or what choice to make.  I clearly remember surprising my friend (who became my husband) with a cup of coffee at work one night when we were in college.  Our conversation began with a recap of our day and we shared the highlights with each other.  By the time our rather short visit ended, we had decided to get married!  Our hearts smiled!  Follow your energy!

Think about Jesus for a minute.  Remember the story of the brave woman who simply reached out and touched Jesus’ robe as he passed by and she was healed? She followed her energy and it led her to Jesus. At that very moment, Jesus recognized that power had gone out from him.  Their energy collided and a miracle happened.  Follow your energy…a miracle might be waiting!

When we are honest with ourselves, we can identify that “thing” that gives us energy in life.  That project.  That person.  That dream.  That idea.  That place.  Maybe it is time to simply follow your energy to where it leads you.  It may not make perfect sense right now, but you know you are on the right path when your heart smiles.

Now we see a reflection in a mirror; then we will see face-to-face. Now I know partially, but then I will know completely in the same way that I have been completely known.  1 Corinthians 13:12

From our Happy Tent to yours,

Meredith Bell

 

Observation Deck

A few years ago, we celebrated a family birthday in the “Big Ball” in Dallas (also known as Reunion Tower by people over 15-years-old). The night was memorable. What I remember the most was my mother’s experience on the observation deck. From that place in the tower, you can see the site where John F. Kennedy was assassinated. She stood there for a long time just looking at the street and the site where he was shot on her birthday so many years before. She was able to see the whole picture; where it happened, the shape and height of the buildings and the road that the driver took to Parkland Hospital. Just observing the site with her own eyes allowed her to see the whole experience differently.

Recently I have been on my own observation deck. I decided to take a step back from my life, work, my chores and myself to just observe all of it. My step back is more abstract than literal. I am still living in the busyness of life, but I am seeing it differently. I have noticed the simplicity that exists around me that I often miss. I actually saw the people in my life that make life easier for me such as the grocery workers, my child’s teacher and friends. The sunsets and sunrises that come every day are breathtaking. I discovered a sacred time at the end of the day as my older daughter finishes her homework before bed. While she works, we just visit about the events of our day. I have been reminded of the power of positivity. Positive words can change or redirect any conversation into something meaningful and life giving. I have become more relaxed about watching the clock and more open to unexpected meetings with friends. My observation deck has simply shown me things that I needed to see.

I believe that we have a gift of making life more complicated than God ever intended life to be lived. So much of our stress comes from ourselves. We are often unable to say “no” to things we do not need to do and “yes” to things God is calling us to do. The result is too much time spent on too many things. Life becomes shallow instead of deep and meaningful.

I invite you to walk out onto your own observation deck this week. Spend some time to simply observe life around you. What do you see? What do you say? What is going on in your family?  What is God doing around you? This little practice is sure to reveal something new.

Open my eyes to see wonderful things in your Word. Psalm 119:18

Meredith Bell

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

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

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

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

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

 

Easter: Where Two Worlds Collide

My grandmother hand painted Easter eggs.  She began the process well before Easter.  She would make a small hole in both ends of a raw egg and blow the yoke out.  After the inside of the egg was empty, she would paint beautiful designs on the eggs.  Flowers and patterns were painted with Easter colors and glittery paint.  They were beautiful and delicate.  She also loved a party and Easter was a wonderful party.  While we enjoyed a delicious lunch after church, dyed, hardboiled eggs were magically hidden around her yard. (Sometimes these eggs were found months later in the back of my closet due to a smell!) Her Easter celebrations still remain with me.

It is no surprise that I remember her on Easter.  I also remember many more who already live in eternity.  Those who once sat with me around a table to celebrate our promise of a resurrection because of Christ.  My grandfather who gave me a corsage to wear on Easter morning on my wrist.  Another grandmother took a picture of my sisters and me in her Iris garden while wearing our Easter dresses.

For me, Easter is where two worlds collide. Those who live on earth and those who live in eternity come together at the foot of the cross. There we see a glimpse of eternal life.  There we feel peace.  There we lean into hope. There we remember that all our struggles on Earth will not last forever.  There we see God’s plan unfold before us.  At the foot of the cross we rest on Easter and then we go on living as resurrected people for our remaining days.

When my grandmother was dying, I remember sitting in the hospital hallway on the floor opposite her door. Some of my family were sitting along the wall with me.  We were talking and remembering together.  We were waiting for what we knew was coming.  She was about to die.  And then I had a strange thought…I looked across from me and imagined another family waiting on the other side of the hall.  A family that was waiting to welcome my grandmother home.  A family who had once sat around a table with her on Easter.  A family who taught her to paint beautiful eggs.  A family who had been patiently waiting to be with her after a long absence.

I found comfort in that image where two worlds collide.  It was as if the promise of the cross was standing between us in the hallway.  On one side we sat experiencing the mystery of death and on the other side they sat experiencing eternal life.

As you gather around your table this Easter, I imagine there will be others there with you that you can see and some you cannot see.  Enjoy the promises of Easter.

He isn’t here, but has been raised. Remember what he told you. Luke 24:6

Happy Easter,

Meredith Bell

P.S.  One of our favorite activities in our tent at Easter is to make Resurrection Cookies.  They are simple, fun and full of meaning.  Enjoy!

 

 

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

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