Immortality interfacing with the everyday…

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Rebekah at the beach in the evening…

Today I’m entranced by the constant crash of waves on the shoreline. It moves my soul.

Rebekah and I talked about why I’m so attracted to the sea, and we decided it’s probably because I grew up in a coastal town. I don’t sail, I’m not a strong swimmer, and I don’t even have good sea-legs. But I do like to be close to the ocean; I like the sound of it, and the smell of salt air; I like the sense of connection where the great waters overlap the edges of the land.

It’s like watching time washing up against eternity. It’s like immortality interfacing with the everyday. It’s like one of those “thin places,” where the spiritual and the mundane are separated by the flimsiest of membranes; where God breaks into the human experience; where it is ever so easy to see clear beyond this world and into the next.

...and flying away

…and flying away

That’s probably enough to justify the new set of beach photographs, below. But first I’d like you to click on this link to my Wake Forest Today column – “More Love for North Carolina“. I share more about being here at the beach. Support the Wake Forest on-line news connection!

Here’s the lead:

As a newcomer to the Tar Heel State (having lived in Florida since 1976), I seem to be going through my first year here with my mouth hanging open, constantly exclaiming, “Would you take a look at that!”

First fall: “Spectacular!”

First hard freeze and big snow: “Unbelievable!”

First spring: “Oh. My. Goodness. This is so beautiful!”

And so it goes. I have the child’s eye of wonder, still, and I am oh so grateful not to have been contaminated too much yet by the cynicism that tends to creep into the adult experience.

This week my wonder is located on the Outer Banks… (read more…)

Now, here are the new photographs:

When books for Christian men promote politics rather than Jesus

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for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:26-29)

DSC_0518This morning Rebekah and I got up early, watched the sunrise from the deck, then headed out for breakfast and some exploring in the coastal community of Beaufort. Beaufort is a cool town.

I can easily picture myself living and writing in one of the 1760′s era homes on Front Street down by the estuary. We were there too early for anything to be open – I kind of admire that pace of life. So we found coffee, and a biscuit, and then meandered some more.

In my experience as a writer, I’ve never found much success going fast and hard and charging into things. Maybe that’s why this kind of week away is so productive. Wake up; coffee; devotional time with God; dawdle around a sleepy town; enjoy being together; wait for the words to come.

A LITTLE ABOUT MY NEW BOOK: This new book is starting to gnaw at me. That’s a good thing. Because it means I’m going to see it through.

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my possible new writing retreat in Beaufort!

I love writing; I love the entire process – even the editing. But I’m also carrying a sense of responsibility with this one: I need to write my new book in a way that enables me to connect with more people than usual; substantially more.

What I want to say is – I believe – extremely important, and if I don’t reach a wider audience then I’m concerned that more and more men will fall into the trap that’s being set by those who confuse their social/political leanings with Christianity. In consequence, men in Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Disciples of Christ, Episcopalian and other moderate denominations are studying books for men that not-so-subtly promote the core values of the Evangelical Right.

Don’t misunderstand me, I believe that there’s room in the Christian world for a broad range of social positions. However, I’m convinced that too many guys are “being sold a bill of goods” when it comes to what the New Testament teaches about “being a man.” My new project, then, aims to open a more Bible-based discussion, and to counter some of the unhealthy stereotypes that are promoted so widely, and adopted so unthinkingly.

fishing in Beaufort

fishing in Beaufort

So I would value your prayers, friends in the world of blogging; this is a story that not only needs to be told, it needs to be heard and it needs to be understood.

- DEREK

 

Beach Music (in tune with the Spirit)

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“For what can be known about God is plain… because God has shown it to [us]. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So [we] are without excuse…” (Romans 1:19-20)

STUDY LEAVE: One of my favorite “Clergy-Hubby” responsibilities is that of accompanying Rebekah when she takes a one-week study leave. Half the time she’ll go on her own – to a conference, retreat, or academic setting – but this week is one of those occasions where she’s at the beach, with a box full of books, planing calendar on one side and Bible on the other; talking with God about the coming 12-months; outlining messages and sermon series; praying for the church and its ministry.

the perfect place to stay

the perfect place to stay

As for me, the timing couldn’t be better, because I’m finally moving forward with my new book project. By this time next week I should have an annotated outline, an introduction, and at least the first chapter.

Please pray for both of us; that Rebekah’s time will be fruitful, and that I will be inspired to create the exact resource God has been waiting patiently to place in the hands of The Church, and by “The Church” I mean every faithful gathering of believers committed to becoming more intentional followers of The Living Way of Jesus.

DSC_0450THE SETTING: We couldn’t be in a more appropriate setting. Emerald Isle is part of North Carolina’s barrier island system, and the beach is pristine. Long, wide, flat stretches of walkable sand, where the Atlantic Ocean rolls in with the constant music of waves breaking on the shore, just outside the huge sliding glass doors that lead to our deck.

I’ll post a sampling of photographs from Monday evening after my signature. It’s been a while since we walked on the beach, and both of us feel overwhelmed by the combined weight of the stunning visual beauty, the sounds of the waves and the birds, the subtle taste of salt in the air, the texture of the sand, the gentle touch of the breeze; a sensory overload in perfect balance; the harmony of God’s voice in the work of his hand.

1979497_10152181955248710_4217841668353350517_n-001For both of us, our prayer is pretty much consistent: that we would walk closely enough with Jesus, and be attuned to the Spirit, in such a way that God will use the gifts he has vested in us to not only encourage others, but to equip them as they make their way along the road less traveled by, the Living Way.

 - DEREK

Monday: Living in to the Easter Story

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The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” (Luke 24:5)

I love, love, love worship with my faith community. Yes, I know that’s one of those, “everybody’s saying it” phrases the day after the big Easter celebration, but I honestly enjoy every minute with Wake Forest Presbyterian Church. The fact that somewhere around 800 folk showed up yesterday simply meant that there were more people on site at one time to share in the joy.

Rebekah – and I know no-one is surprised by this – does not let such an opportunity slip by. She shared the Good News with enthusiasm, and reminded people that making the decision to follow Jesus isn’t “pie in the sky,” but something they can get on board with right now, this very minute.

It’s a message that is fresh and new each and every Sunday of the year. New every morning!

several hundred of my new friends

several hundred of my new friends

UPPER ROOM: So I was pleased when I checked my Upper Room Daily Devotional this morning and found a contribution that I’d written (probably 18-months ago) that has been in “the pipeline” over a year. I wish they’d corrected the “Derek Maul (Florida, USA)” byline, but everything else was 100% relevant.

What I want to highlight this morning, however, is the my extended entry that appears in the “>Upper Room Blog.” Here’s a sampling, then please click on the link to read the entire entry.

Several months have passed since I wrote this meditation. Since then we have packed up our Florida home and moved to North Carolina, where my wife, Rebekah, is the new senior pastor at Wake Forest Presbyterian Church.

This is only our second move in 32 years of ministry. It was extremely difficult to leave a vibrant church where life was so evident, rich, full, and overflowing. But that’s exactly why we knew so clearly that this was the right time for a new chapter in our story.

Neither Rebekah nor I have ever felt compelled to give everything we have simply to maintain the status quo, or to comfortably cruise into the future. That’s certainly not what Jesus went to the cross for, and it’s not what it means to be a follower of the Living Way (read more…..)

I’ll wrap this morning’s post by sharing a few more pictures of “vibrant life” as we are experiencing it here in Wake Forest. Peace, Promise, Love, and Blessings – DEREK

Easter Day, re-creation, and an invitation to Act II

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Jerusalem from the Mt. of Olives

Jerusalem from the Mt. of Olives

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

I can’t think of a better Easter morning image than that of Jerusalem! I can just imagine Jesus, right after the resurrection, hiking up to the top of the Mt. of Olives (where I’m standing), looking over the city, and saying, “Everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”

And there, right in the middle of my view, I can see a splash of golden light. I know it’s the roof of the “Dome of the Rock,” but to me it speaks of the Risen Jesus, shedding light and life on those he touches, on all who recognize the vibrant beauty of his witness to the miracle of re-creation.

@[696483709:2048:Derek Maul] on Mount of OlivesRE-CREATION: Because it’s “re-creation” I’m talking about here, beyond the more contained idea of “resurrection“. New life in Christ – new life because of Jesus – goes so much farther than mere resurrection. Resurrection returns the life that was; re-creation is brand new life – it’s the kind of life that will not ever come to an end.

Death in fact becomes irrelevant in the face of the Jesus kind of life. That’s why the Jesus life can be so intimidating; so I’m-not-sure-if-I-really-want-that; so Second-week-of-creation.

That’s what new life in Christ is; that’s what Jesus ushered in that first Easter Morning. Jesus was resurrected forward into a definition of life, a quality of existence, a new creation, that had never existed before.

This is what creation was/is all about. This is what Adam and Eve walked away from when they chose to hide from God in the garden. These are the leaves of the tree for the healing of the nations (see yesterday’s post).

ACT II: I’m not going to church this morning to celebrate something so run-of-the-mill as a corpse that up and walks. No, I’m heading to Wake Forest Presbyterian Church to participate in a worship experience that acknowledges that we are all new creations, new ideas, new beings of light, new possibilities, because Jesus launched the second act of the creation story, the part that restores our relationship with God.

the choir led powerful worship

WFPC choir leading powerful worship

Now that is some exciting stuff! That’s some Good News to live into! It’s more than an empty tomb, it’s an invitation to get involved in Act II.

Won’t you join me? – DEREK

 

The Darkness of Holy Saturday, the light of a garden, and a train station

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Logan Trading Company

Logan Trading Company

Then the angel showed me the river of life-giving water, shining like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb through the middle of the city’s main street. On each side of the river is the tree of life, which produces twelve crops of fruit, bearing its fruit each month. The tree’s leaves are for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse. (Revelation 22:1-3a)

Easter Saturday is a curious 24 hours. We’ve celebrated The Last Supper; we’ve attended Good Friday observances; we’re gearing up for Easter. So what to do with today?

Often, this day is an opportunity for festive Easter-egg hunts, or family gatherings, or community-wide spring celebrations.

But for the disciples, waking up to cold reality the day after their leader and friend had been brutally tortured and killed, Saturday must have been the longest, saddest, most hopeless day of them all.

Think about it:

  • Would you have been counting down the hours till Sunday morning, confident that Jesus would conquer death, roll back the stone, and literally rock the world with the dynamic power of his life-generating love?
  • Would you have been camped out near the Garden Tomb, arriving well before dawn, sitting on folding chairs, sipping on Starbucks and waiting for the big moment?

No, of course not. Each one of us would have been defeated, downcast, ashen, depressed; running the scenarios through our minds and wondering how those last days could have played out differently, wondering how to even get through today, wondering why The Master had to die…

Probably never even thinking about his words promising to “destroy this temple and rebuild it in three days;” probably miles away from putting together the hints, and the prophesies, and the overwhelming fact that the Lord was more than just a bearer of light and life – but that he was light and life itself…

Resurrection wasn’t even imagined. What the disciples were concerned about was putting their lives back together – but even that probably took too much creative imagination. They just wanted to get through today; and they were already overwhelmed by the knowledge that each day to come was going to be a long haul too.

IMG_2948GARDEN: So Rebekah and I try to acknowledge the darkness of Holy Saturday, and one of our favorite interventions is to do something garden related. Because a garden represents life; new life; creative life; regeneration; new creation.

The narrative of the Bible begins in a garden, it reaches its ultimate tipping point in a garden, and it concludes with the river of life flowing through a garden laden with fruit trees and healing leaves.

This year we headed downtown Raleigh, to our favorite garden center. The Logan Trading Company is built in and around an old railroad station; there couldn’t be a cooler location. We purchased bird-feeders, and we put together the raw materials for “Derek’s Herb Garden.” It’s going to be a great, creative project.

IMG_2954Following Jewish burial customs, they took Jesus’ body and wrapped it, with the spices, in linen cloths. There was a garden in the place where Jesus was crucified, and in the garden was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish Preparation Day and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus in it (John 19:40-42).

In the knowledge of the truth of light, life, resurrection, and recreation – while acknowledging a hint of the memory of darkness that shadows this day – DEREK

 

 

Love Beyond Reason; Promise Beyond Understanding

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Rebekah speaking at WFPC Maunday Thursday services

Rebekah speaking at WFPC Maunday Thursday services

Today is Good Friday. It’s a day when love stepped up beyond reason, set all defenses aside, and allowed hate to nail the best hope history ever saw to a wooden scaffold.

However, rather than being ground into obscurity under the heel of fear and brutality, love transformed the crudely assembled cross from a symbol of torture and repression into the most enduring emblem of victory, promise, and redemption this world has ever known.

But that’s what Jesus was all about – what Jesus is all about. Jesus is in the business of redefinition. He redefines words such as peace, power, life, death, light, victory, healing, eternity, and love; and he stands ready to help each one of us redefine the very nature, the substance, and the promise of our lives.

WAKE FOREST TODAY COLUMN: That’s just a part of my word for Good Friday. You can read the balance of my thoughts in “Let’s Not Hop Right Over Holy Week,” this week’s local news column.

Here’s an excerpt, you can read the rest by clicking one of the links:

I understand that it’s easy to become distracted, but that’s the point of taking this kind of journey one deliberate footfall at a time. My story for the remainder of this week is going to be the story of moving from the enthusiasm I experienced on Palm Sunday to the startling celebration of Easter, without skipping the darkness of The Passion.
Fact is, if we do the “Easter-Bunny” thing and hop right over Friday’s Crucifixion, then there’s really not that much to get dressed up for on Sunday. (read more…)

Maunday Thursday: communion around the tables

Maunday Thursday: communion around the tables

Seriously, friends, let’s not do the Easter-Bunny thing and hop right over The Passion. Believe me, Easter Sunday is the story of New Creation, the narrative of re-Creation. For that to happen, first something has to die.

In the hope and promise of Easter – DEREK

God’s initiative of love, The Last Supper, and our dogwood trees

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Don’t be in debt to anyone, except for the obligation to love each other. Whoever loves another person has fulfilled the Law (Romans 13:8)

DSC_0365THE GOSPEL OF LOVE: I know we’ve talked about the subject before in this space, but there are still too many people out there (millions) who evidently need some serious coaching in terms of what it means to follow Jesus, and to live the heart of the Gospel as if The Master really meant it when he voiced the following mandate at the occasion of The Last Supper:

“I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other” (John 13:34-35).

Yet so many strident voices are fast and loose when it comes to judgement, argue every detail because they simply have to be RIGHT, and make ungrounded and arbitrary statements such as, “I go to a ‘Bible-believing church’ and you don’t.” Their read on John 13:14 goes more like this: “The world will know we are the real disciples because our doctrine (my doctrine… my church… my interpretation) is right, and other people have it all wrong.”

The Bible, however, is the narrative account of A) God’s evolving relationship with The Children of Israel; B) God’s initiative of redemptive love via the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus; and C) the beginnings of the movement of the Good News into, “Jerusalem, all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

The Bible is not the kind of document that comes with one irrefutable, correct, verifiable, conclusive, exhaustive set of commentaries; and it’s not the kind of manuscript that lends itself to tidy, flawless explanations. It’s the story of God’s reaching in through time and space, and offering healing to a broken world. That’s God’s initiative of love; that’s the work of the cross. It’s our opportunity, then, to either live into love or to reject it.

And I believe it is quite impossible to be a disciple of Jesus, a follower of The Way, and to fail to live in love.

dogwood blooms...

dogwood blooms at Maul Hall

Dear friends, let’s love each other, because love is from God, and everyone who loves is born from God and knows God. The person who doesn’t love does not know God, because God is love (1 John 4:7-8).

In love, and because of love – DEREK

(Your reward for reading this far is the following set of photographs around the outside of our home. Spring has certainly come to Wake Forest, and it wears a beautiful garment of praise.)

Easter egg hunts, grandchildren, and Italy (all this and more)

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People were bringing children to Jesus so that he would bless them. But the disciples scolded them. When Jesus saw this, he grew angry and said to them, “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. (Mark 10:13-16)

IMG_2739Now that I’m finally settled back at home, I can write the closing post from my 12-day Connecticut granddaddy odyssey.

Friday night I prepped the kids by giving them baths and getting them snug in their PJ’s; Beks was already fast asleep when their mom and dad’s car rolled into the driveway. After all that time, I was the status quo, so David’s face lit up with both delight and surprise when he recognized the familiar footfall on the stoop.

But I think it was Naomi who was the most excited. It was the first time she’d spent even a night away from Beks, and seeing the children again plugged a growing void in her heart. Italy was wonderful, but coming home was even better.

For me, one of the highlights turned out to be something I didn’t even witness first hand. It was the fact that our two children, Andrew and Naomi, voluntarily spent a week-plus together – along with their spouses – and that they had a wonderful time being a family.

Craig, Naomi, Alicia, Andrew (in Venice)

Craig, Naomi, Alicia, Andrew (in Venice)

I’ll just include the one photograph from Italy, but keeping up with their adventures via Facebook provided me with such a charge of joy that I’d often find myself grinning from ear-to-ear, just knowing they were all together.

Saturday morning we all headed over to the little Congregational Church for the Easter Egg Hunt. Cuteness reigned! We teamed up with Naomi’s friend Jen and her little girl, Kayla. Being free to roam around with my Nikon produced an entirely different set of images than the hastily snapped iPhone shots when I had them by myself!

DSC_0274So the odyssey ended and I came home. But I came home with a new relationship with my grandchildren that couldn’t have been achieved any way other than “in the trenches,” 24/7, nurtured in the complete immersion of love.

In love, and because of love – DEREK

(lots of really great pics below… especially if you like Easter egg hunts!)

When I look to the heavens (and home), the work of your hands…

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When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars that you have established;
 what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
    mortals that you care for them? (Psalm 8)

Monday morning I was back at the airport – just about 36 hours after I’d landed Saturday night. This time it was a flight to Sarasota to – finally – pick up my parents’ car, the one that had been wrecked just a few days before they moved to North Carolina.

Long story short, my plane was delayed until after the official close of business, so I asked the body shop to meet me at the airport with the car.

I expected the guy to pull up in a grey Impala then have me drive him home. But instead, right there in the loading/unloading “Arrivals” area, “Bubba” pulled up in a flatbed, rolled my parents’ vehicle onto the road, handed me the keys, then drove away! Talk about your curb-to-curb service!

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Consequently, and less than 15 minutes after touchdown in Sarasota, I was motoring north in time to make Jacksonville by 10:45. It was my sixth visit to Florida this year, and certainly my shortest to date.

I caught the sunset photo as I passed Brandon, both literally and metaphorically leaving the town behind once again in my rear-view mirror.

All I wanted to do was to get home, and as quickly as possible. I’ve been gone far too much recently.

IMG_2923The bottom line is that Rebekah and I need to be together. Every flight out of Raleigh/Durham was for a good purpose and has been a positive experience – but I seriously pray that I’m done for a while.

Today’s travel left me feeling awed, both by the beauty of this good earth and by what we are able to see when we look with creative eyes. At the same time, it left me looking forward to renewing the perspective of home, and thankful that I have such a rock-solid home with Rebekah, and with God.

There is so much to enjoy, and I am so grateful that I have the eyes, and the spirit, to see God’s grandeur and goodness in every aspect – DEREK