Deeper Knowing

From the backseat, “Mom, have you ever seen a ghost? Because my friend has. But I haven’t.” I knew that Halloween must be around the corner since we are talking about ghosts. I answered, “Maybe.” “Either you have or you haven’t Mom. You can’t maybe see a ghost.”

Then I shared the story about when my grandmother died. She was the first person in my life that I deeply loved to die. I was by her bed in the hospital when she died. It was a deeply moving experience in many ways.

My grandmother was a cowgirl and a rancher. She always talked about the rain. Either the tanks were too dry or too full. Either the wheat was too wet or too dry. The letters she wrote to me in college (way before email was created) always contained a rain report. In the months leading up to her death, we didn’t have enough rain for the ranch. The moment she died, the rains began. We all knew that she must have told God to send rain to the ranch immediately.

The rain continued for days. It was a light drizzle most of the time. The night after she died I was unable to sleep. Instead, I decided to walk to my aunt’s house deep in the night in the drizzling rain. When I arrived at her home, I was not surprised to see her house lights glowing. She could not sleep either. Surprised to see me, she suggested that we walk to my grandmother’s house. Walking in the rain through our sleeping town calmed our souls.

When we arrived, my grandfather was sleeping. Quietly we settled into the familiar house and it was then that I finally fell asleep. It was also then when I saw my first ghost. I use the term “ghost” lightly. What I actually saw or deeply felt was my grandmother’s presence so strongly that I could actually see her as I drifted off to sleep. I experienced a deep knowing that she was no longer here but still with us.

From the backseat, “Mom, you saw a ghost!” This news has been shared with many people since this car conversation. I always want to explain the situation, but I usually never have time. But I have learned to embrace the moments of deeper knowing because in those moments we find peace and purpose.

For years I practiced journaling, Intensive Journaling to be specific. This style of journaling is an open door to journey deep within oneself to connect to the deeper knowing that is within each of us. This deeper knowing has many names such as “spirit,” “intuition,” “nudges,” and “hunches.” These days, I find myself living from that place of deep knowing. Beneath the busy calendar that I keep lately, there is a deeper knowing. A deeper knowing that lives below labels, updates, trends or agendas.

Share your story of deeper knowing with someone.  How does it speak to your life today?

The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”

Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”  1 Samuel 3:10

From our Happy Tent to yours,

Meredith Bell

Use It or Loose It

About five months ago I started running again. I didn’t think much about it. I just put on my tennis shoes one morning and ran for a while. It felt right. Since I was about to go over-the-hill in age, my body simply decided to USE IT OR LOOSE IT.

An article in the New York Post from 2014 showed the results of a study about gift cards. Since 2008 there is over 44 billion dollars left on unused gift cards. I am sure it is even higher now, three years later. That is a lot of USE IT OR LOOSE IT money hiding in our junk drawers, wallets and cars.

Living a life of faith may also be a USE IT OR LOOSE IT process. (Can we loose faith?…that would be a good conversation to have with someone this weekend.) When we engage ourselves in spiritual practices we engage our faith. It grows. It feels right. It awakens us to something more. We discover that we are living in the flow of the Holy Spirit. When we miss opportunities to experience our faith, it may feel dormant and the result is restlessness in our souls.

So here are some USE IT practices that help us in our tent and lives…maybe they will help you too. And we would love to hear what is working for you.

  • Turn Up The Music: It is easier to wake up in the morning when some good music is inviting you to open your eyes and see the beauty of a new day.  Inspiring music in the car between appointments can also give you a spiritual break.
  • Engage Your Brain: Read something that teaches you something new about God, faith, salvation, Christ, healthy habits, church or scripture. Sit in on a theology lecture. Visit with your pastor about the sermon during the week. Ask your friends what they are reading.  Check out Perkins School of Laity Week
  • Get Outside: 80 degrees in January sounds crazy, unless it is the perfect temperature for swinging in your favorite swing or taking a walk. Go enjoy some vitamin D!
  • Discover Spiritual Practices: There are so many spiritual practices to explore. God is easy to be with through practices. Discover them and use them as a family and individually.  Here is my favorite book for spiritual disciplines.

There is a lot of wisdom in USE IT OR LOOSE IT thinking. When we apply it to our faith lives, we may discover some important parts of our faith have been hiding deep in our lives (like our junk drawers). It’s a good weekend to connect to your spiritual self…that part of you is life giving!

I pray that Christ will live in your hearts by faith and that your life will be strong in love and be built on love.  Ephesians 3:17

From our Happy Tent to Yours,

Meredith Bell

Three Pieces A Day Rule

We have one happy, happy camper in our tent this week. The candy rule is gone and the “candy queen” is so happy. There is candy all over our house. Some of it is in the obvious places and some of it is tucked away in little corners, under blankets, and in drawers. It is everywhere and our happy camper has taken inventory and knows the location of every piece. Candy is available 24/7 in our home and life is good for a little girl.

Because we are kind, loving parents, we let the “candy queen” enjoy a few days of bliss. She even enjoyed some for breakfast a few mornings along with her protein plate. But then the time came to reintroduce the rules. “Okay, now that you have enjoyed lots of candy, we are going to go back to three pieces a day.” We expected shock, surprise or rebellion. Instead we simply got an “Okay.” Well that was easy!

There is a gift hidden in rules. They make us feel safe, secure, cared for and balanced. When we have rules that guide our choices and lives, we are able to relax within their boundaries. The big decisions have already be taken care of so we can just enjoy life within the boundaries.

There once was a psychological study of children playing on a playground by a school that I learned about recently. One group of children were encouraged to go and play on a playground without a fence. Instead of playing and exploring, this group chose to just play by the entrance into school.  They didn’t feel safe enough to play on the playground. Another group of children were given the same instructions and same choice. The difference was that a fence had been installed around the play equipment. The second group played on the monkey bars and slid down the slide. The take away was that the children felt more safe with the fence and were able to relax and play together.

Our creator gives us fences (or rules) to live within simply because we are loved.  They are not intended to restrict us, punish us or frustrate us.  They are intended to remind us that we are safe, secure, and loved.  Rules for life help us draw closer to God by making space in our lives for God.  They offer us balance in the pressures of life and light in darkness.  We may go through times in life where we are like the “candy queen”…we have more than we could ever need and life feels blissful.  But then, we may feel that we have lost direction or purpose in life.  We know then that it is time to go back to “three-pieces-a-day”.  And when God calls us back to our center, we experience God’s grace. Another day and another chance to live life through God’s eyes instead of our own.

Explore your rules this week or create some.  What is your rule of life?  Share them with someone close to you.  You might find that you will enjoy God’s playground even more with a fence around it.

For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

                                                                                                  2 Corinthians 3:17

From our Happy Tent to yours,

Meredith Bell

P.S. If you want to explore a rule of life more, check out Crafting a Rule of Life.

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

A Wife

A few years ago, my husband wrote a book about blessing his wife.  I am still amazed that he would write such a book to bless me and other marriages.  Ever since then, I have been considering doing the same.  Getting started has been the trouble.

The role of a wife is a big role.  Society makes this role challenging by portraying wives through shows like “The Real House Wives” or defining a wife as a ball-and-chain.  One archaic definition of a wife goes so far as to say “a woman, especially an old or uneducated one”…really?  Our culture encourages us to fill our days with efforts that produce a perfect meal, body, children and attitude so that we can fulfill the role of a wife the right way.  (Sigh)

Luckily, our faith has another definition.  My favorite is the way women are defined through the Bible as ezers.  Carolyn Curtis James writes about the Hebrew translation of helper in a number of her books.  She defines women as ezers who are more than helpers for men, they are image bearers of God in the world around them.  This is a definition that I can wrap my mind around.  Our Bible is full of truth that guides us in relationships.  Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

The role of a wife in this world is more than grocery lists, laundry, carpool, errands and overbooked schedules.  The role of a wife is to reflect God’s image in our marriage, families and our communities.  We are called to love, nurture, comfort, create, share, inspire, guide and share grace.  We start with our partner by building a life together.  Through the relationship, families and futures are built.  Our task is to keep faith alive in our hearts and in our homes so that it will be passed on to the next group of amazing wives who come behind us in the next generation.  When this is our true purpose, the to-do lists seem less important don’t they?

This week, let’s take a closer look at our calendars.  Is there enough room in our days to spend time with our spouse just to remind him that he is loved and cherished?  Is there enough room in our days to recharge our spiritual lives?  Is there enough time spent seeking God’s guidance?  With God’s grace…we can learn the ways of Christ.

From our 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

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

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

Halloween Worms

Last Halloween, I had the most fun!  Night crawlers (fishing worms) had been living in our refrigerator for a while.  There was not a fishing trip planned for the near future.  When my husband and friends headed out the door to begin the trick-or-treat ritual, he yelled over his shoulder, “Why don’t you give away the worms!”  Then he laughed and walked out.

I was very tired of looking at the worms every morning to get the milk, every time I needed to make a sandwich and every evening when it was time to start dinner.  (I wondered if anyone else had worms in their fridge. Probably not.)  Once he left the house, I thought, “Maybe I should give them away…why not?”

That is when the fun began.  When children came to our door, my friend and me would ask them if they wanted a TRICK-or-treat.  Most of them said a treat, but there were a few curious ones that said a trick.  284902228_adb44d6bf7_bThat is when I handed them a worm with a piece of candy.  A real wiggly worm.  Screams were heard.  Laughter was everywhere.  Some worms were dropped.  Some became new pets.  Some moms came back very upset and gave the worms back.  That made ME laugh.  Up and down the sidewalk, the news spread about the worms.  We became famous.  The best quote was from a 6-year-old boy.  He said, “I heard you are giv’in away worms…there is something WRONG with this house!”  He will probably be a preacher some day.

I have no idea who started the tradition of trick-or-treating on Halloween night.  But it is a great idea.  With all the stuff we have in our homes (that we look at every day) there is probably some stuff we could give away.  Once it is out of the house, we don’t have to worry about it any more.  On Halloween night, as you enjoy giving candy away, think about other things you could give away after Halloween.

Simplicity is a spiritual discipline. The more stuff we have the less we feel we need God.  Possessions, over-loaded schedules, un-reachable expectations and clutter all serve as barriers to the relationship God wants us to have with God and others.  What can you give away this week? What possession or ideas are you holding on to that need to go out the door.  Take a leap of faith and experience something new…freedom from your burdens.

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him forward.” They called the blind man, “Be encouraged! Get up! He’s calling you.” Throwing his coat to the side, he jumped up and came to Jesus.  Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you? The blind man said, “Teacher, I want to see.”  Jesus said, “Go, your faith has healed you.” At once he was able to see, and he began to follow Jesus on the way. Mark 10:49-52

And if you want to have some real fun this Halloween, add some worms to you candy give-away.  It will be your best Halloween ever!

Meredith Bell

Room to Breathe

Do you ever feel that you just need room to breathe?  Room to catch your breath?  Room to remember that you are a living being wanting to experience life instead of just floating through it?  I am always impressed with the birds that live outside my bedroom window.  They are the first to celebrate the dawn and the best at thanking God for a brand new day.  They get it.

A few weeks ago, I picked up a book that I have had for a while and began reading it.  A Hidden Wholeness is an insightful book by Parker Palmer.  I know I am late to the party concerning this book, but I believe the timing is right for me.  I have been struck by the light he shines on the need for our souls to speak and be heard.  One of my favorite quotes from the book is:

The soul is generous: it takes in the needs of the world.  The soul is wise: it suffers without shutting down.  The soul is hopeful: it engages the world in ways that keep opening our hearts.  The soul is creative: it finds its way between realities that might defeat us and fantasies that are mere escapes.  All we need to do is to bring down the wall that separates us from our own souls and deprives the world of the soul’s regenerative powers.  

Over 7 years ago, I was pregnant with my second child.  I was overwhelmed by work, marriage, being a mother and life in general.  I had not heard from my soul in a long time.  It was then that I discovered spiritual direction.  During my first meeting with my spiritual director, I experienced hope.  Hope that I could undo what I had made of my life.  Hope that my life could be lived with a deeper, spiritual purpose.  I have also found this experience in small groups.  In his book, Parker Palmer explains how groups can be helpful to soul work.  Soul work in groups changes lives.

15423756317_267e87ac3c_bIf you are seeking to live more like the birds of the air that celebrate each day, then I encourage you to find space in your days to listen to your soul.  Find a group to help you or meet with a spiritual director.  The Holy Spirit is within each of us and guides us.  Sometimes we simply need to take a breath, clear our heads and listen.  What happens then?  You watch as you are taken to places and experiences you could never imagine yourself.  It’s even better!

Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark. Rabindranath Tagore

Meredith Bell

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