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

Church Bells

A few weeks ago, Steven and I went hiking.  We hiked through the Hot Springs National Park .  The day of our hike, we woke up at the Spring Street Inn, enjoyed a delicious breakfast (one of those meals you can truly eat ALL of it because you know every calorie would be burned off…joy!), stepped across the street from the B&B, and began our hike. We just walked.

After a steep 2 mile climb at the beginning of our 16 mile hike, I needed to take a break.  I just sat on the ground.  When you are hiking it is amazing what feels good and comfortable…the ground.  (I made a mental note to myself to tell my trainer that we needed to work on conditioning my body to do more than a 30 minute workout.) While we were catching our breath and laughing at what we were doing, we heard a familiar noise…church bells.  They chimed over the town and through the trees with the breeze.  The sound of the bells brought a sense of calmness to us while we rested early in the morning.  It was just a moment that seemed to give purpose and peace to the day. God was with us.

181332664_d72575531c_bHistorically, church bells have been used to gather worshipers together for a church service.  One small village I visited during college in Costa Rica still used their church bells for this purpose.  When the pastor was in town, the bells rang to let the people know to come to the service.  Services were not always on Sundays.  When I was a chaplain in a hospital, bells chimed twice a day through the halls.  Their purpose was to encourage the hospital staff to pause and offer prayer for those in their care.

On our hiking day, the church bells calmed my soul.  They reminded me that I was not alone.  They gave me a chance to give thanks for a day to explore God’s natural sanctuary.  They called me back from my distractions into what is truly important…time with God and my husband.  They reminded me that 3 people were hiking that day even though we could only see each other.

Since then, I still hear the bells.  They are not as loud at home, but they are still there.  When I start my day on the wrong side of the bed, God and I meet again when I think of those bells.  Then my day gets a lot better.

I wonder what you use each day to connect your agenda for the day with God’s presence?  Prayer, service, scripture, a cup of coffee?  What are your church bells?  They can be so subtle and quiet that they are hard to hear when we are busy or in a hurry.  But I guess being busy and in a hurry is not what God wants us to be doing anyways.

When we started hiking again (up another incline…ugh), I was still struck by how the church bells connected to my soul.  I shared it with Steven.  And then I said, “Hey, those church bells…that’s our song! We are the Bells!!”  We are on this journey together.  Glad you are with us too!

Meredith Bell


Inside Out

Our value is more than what others see

Today I learned about a woman who lived along the Cane River in Louisiana on the Melrose Plantation.  Clementine Hunter was a farm laborer and never learned to read or write.   She lived from January 1887-Janurary 1988.  When she turned 50 years old, she decided she would paint.  Her paintings reflected the life of the plantation.  She is well known today for her work as an American Folk Artist.

The guide who shared her life with me made one comment that has stayed with me.  She shared that the reason Clementine Hunter’s paintings were so famous is because she painted from the inside; from the inside of her heart and from the inside the culture of the Creole people on the plantation.  From the inside she shared her experience of the world in her own way through painting.

We may often spend more time than necessary tending to our outsides.  Clothes. Hair. Makeup. Image.  But what about the inside?  Patience.  Acceptance.  Listening.  Prayer. Love. These are the things that really matter.  Connecting with God and others really matters.  Who we are on the inside is what we are called to show the outside.

It is good to pause now and then to take an assessment of our spiritual life on the inside.  When we stay busy and distracted by calendar items that are necessary but not life giving, we can easily silence our inner voice or inner thoughts that are inviting us to connect ourselves with our God.  When we go along enough days only living from the surface of our selves, we begin to believe that that is all there is to life, when in fact there is so much more.  What has been stirring in your heart lately?

Clementine Hunter found purpose and power in turning inside out.  I imagine we can do the same when we stop listening to outside voices and start listening to the God who dwells in all of us on the inside.

If you insist on saving our life, you will lose it.  Only those who throw away their lives for my sake and for the sake of the Good News will ever know what it means to really live.  Mark 8:35

Meredith Bell

Learning from Ducks

What Not to Forget When Making Plans

We can make our plans, but the Lord directs our steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

I love this passage from Proverbs 16:9. It gives me comfort and peace when life is uncertain – when things are a bit out of control. Right now our family is in the process of moving. We are transitioning out of an area where we have lived for 13 years. My prayer every day is, “Lord, direct our steps.” And I truly believe God is doing just that.

Back in the Fall I was outside raking leaves in our front yard when I felt a presence. Something was walking to2879431360_d4d96e8fea_bwards me – some things! I quickly looked up to from my perfect pile of Southern Red Oak leaves to see the vile villains with whom I was about to engage in battle, but all I saw were three ducks who had taken notice of my labors (it feels good to be noticed). I thought they were coming for a friendly visit, but they had ulterior motives. They were walking up my street in front of my home for only one reason – smushed acorns! You see, a street runs right in front of our home, and as I raked, acorns rolled into the street. Then cars drove by (some way too fast – so slow down!) and smushed the acorns. Then the ducks waddled into action to nibble the deliciously smushed acorn tid-bits. These ducks knew exactly what to do (eat smushed acorns) and when to do it (right after the acorns I’d raked into the street had been smushed by my neighbor’s fast-moving car).

The question is, “Do we?”. Do we know what to do and when to do it? I believe we can, but it’s neither easy nor normal. We all have plans and agendas (and pursuing these plans and agendas is how we spend much of our time and energy), but there is One who directs our steps. Our plans and agendas may or may not come to pass, but can we trust the One who directs our steps? It seems we have a lot to learn from ducks!

Steven Bell


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