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.
Historically, 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!
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
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 towards 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!