Archive for the ‘Books’ Category
ad·ven·ture [ad-ven-cher]: noun, (verb ad·ven·tured, ad·ven·tur·ing).
- An exciting or very unusual experience.
- Participation in exciting undertakings or enterprises: the spirit of adventure.
Here’s a sweet intro for my weekend post: today Rebekah and I received our invitation for the July 6th festivities in Midland, Michigan, a love-feast featuring our son, Andrew, and his betrothed, Alicia.
This weekend they’re together again in Kiev, Ukraine, where Alicia is finishing up four years teaching music in an international school. I’m looking forward to hearing about their Saturday visit to Chernobyl, the infamous site of the catastrophic 1986 nuclear meltdown disaster.
But there are so many adventures to tell we’ll likely never get caught up. Alicia signs every email “Alicia Pashby, Music Enthusiast and Travel Addict;” it’s one of the reasons – many – that we know she and Andrew are perfect for each other. We don’t have to hear about all the adventures; it’s enough to know they are out there, together, engaging the adventure that is the gift of life with the enthusiasm and passion we were all created to enjoy.
ADVENTURE: And it never gets old. In fact, going on 34 years into our marriage adventure, Rebekah and I are just as excited and full with anticipation as the day we cranked up our “I think I can; I think I can” Chevette and drove off to our first adventure together for my senior year at Stetson University.
Adventure? You bet. Here’s the definition again: “an exciting or very unusual experience; participation in exciting undertakings or enterprises: the spirit of adventure.” Being a preacher’s husband is and always has been all of the above, and then some.
Being a follower of Jesus comes loaded with the same quality of exhilaration. Every day is a new opportunity to live an enthusiastic demonstration of the New and Living Way. That’s one more reason we’re so thrilled that Andrew and Alicia are beginning to live this adventure together. Their natural enthusiasm for life coupled with their sincere commitment to follow Jesus adds up to a recipe for fullness and serendipity beyond anything most people ever imagine!
PROMISED LAND: Last January Rebekah and I stood on Mount Nebo and looked into The Promised Land. It was the same view Moses had when God showed him everything… and then broke the news that Moses, personally, wasn’t going to get to go in.
There it was, The Promised Land, spread before us like an invitation. And here the future is – every day – spread before each one of us like an invitation.
I think about that moment sometimes, when I wonder what God has in store for today, for tomorrow, for next week and for next year. And I’m always (mostly) excited and ready to move into the Promised Land and to follow Jesus with passion and with joy.
That’s the exact image I have for Andrew and Alicia. Standing there on Mount Nebo together, hand in hand, looking out into the future, committed to the promises but wondering exactly what those promises are going to look like, as they go forward – in the strength of believing – to posses the land.
My God is faithful - DEREK
Friday afternoon I enjoyed a very productive conversation with my marketing contact at Upper Room Books in Nashville.
We talked about a wide range of topics, including the life and death struggle most publishing houses are engaged in for survival. The problem is not that people have stopped reading… but the fact that they have stopped being interested in paying for what they read!
The most helpful part of our conversation had to do with the idea of branding. “What,” she asked me, “do you want people to think of when they see or hear the name ‘Derek Maul?’”
MEANING: It’s a great question, and I understand how the idea of branding could make all the difference when it comes to surviving as a writer. What we’re talking about, essentially, is the difference between numbers and meaning.
It’s encouraging to know, for example, that as of 10:00 AM EST on April 5, 2013, 318 people have signed up as “followers” of this blog (followers receive every new post, by email, without having to sign in), and it’s also nice to know that an additional 260 people visited my site during the day…
However, unless those 500-plus individuals understand my essential message (the consistent thread that should run through just about everything I post) then they (and by “they”, I mean you) are less likely to rush over to The Upper Room Bookstore and purchase any of my books… or invite me to speak at the next event… or re-post anything I write… or forward it to their friends.
“You need to build a base,” my marketing friend said, “a core group of people who will not only buy your books, but who will encourage their friends to buy them too.”
IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU (The Reader): Personally, I believe my “brand” is fairly clear. But what I think is less important than what you – the reader – understands. So the question remains: does the “Derek Maul brand” communicate to those of you who read this page?
Does it? I’d honestly like to know. So please do me this favor: watch this (less than 2-mins) short video – A Conversation About Branding, and then answer the question (see if you can spot the error, when I was thinking about the next sentence and used the wrong word!).
This conversation is important, I believe, because if writers like me don’t manage to get a better handle on what we can do to communicate our core message, then – soon – there won’t be any more books by writers like me.
MY BRAND: Here’s the “Derek Maul” brand from my perspective. I’m passionate about encouraging more people (me included) to “Live like we mean it; because God certainly meant it when we were created.”
- When people read Derek Maul, meet Derek Maul, see a video of Derek Maul, or listen to Derek Maul speak, I want the message of abundant life to be obvious; that’s identity.
- When people think/hear/see/read “live like we mean it” or “the life-charged life,” then I want “Derek Maul” to come to mind; that’s brand.
I’m convinced this is a message worth promoting, worth sharing with the world… worth “branding.” - DEREK
Thursday has dawned wet, drizzly and dark gray; rain light enough to still walk the dog but heavy enough to make me wish I hadn’t. Hence the wet-dog towel rub down wrestling event. Scout found the whole experience invigorating, and I have to admit she fluffs up nicely.
But this is the perfect writing day. Rain; coffee; more rain to come; more coffee to come.
NEW WORK: Yesterday afternoon, reading in the big leather chair in the “tea-room,” I finally got unstuck from page one of my new project, First Thessalonians, C.S. Lewis, and more coffee.
The C.S. Lewis was for my evening Men’s Room small group, but it’s impossible for me to read Lewis and not be inspired to take my thinking to a deeper level. So once again, and this is typically the case, good writing finds itself rooted in great reading.
It all came together for me during conversation at church in the evening. We were discussing a passage from Lewis’s The Problem of Pain (chapter 3) – here’s a sample:
“When we want to be something other than the thing God wants us to be, we must be wanting what, in fact, will not make us happy…”
Most of the guys offered helpful thoughts about the reading, and we talked about the ongoing war between what Lewis refers to as “our natural self” and “The Christian way.” (Mere Christianity).
Then I shared with my friends about my afternoon’s work. “What I wanted to do was to go to the driving range and hit some golf balls,” I said. “I wanted to take a nap. I wanted to watch the Fox Soccer Channel. I wanted to eat a stuffed-crust pizza and watch a good movie. But, instead, what I did was to find a comfortable chair, pour myself a cup of coffee, and read an entire book of the New Testament, twice, prayerfully and carefully.”
HOLY SPIRIT INFILTRATION: What I wanted would not have made me happy. However, by following the leading of the Spirit and actively engaging both God and God’s Word, I eventually found myself deeply satisfied and completely content.
At one point I paused from my reading/thinking/praying and enjoyed a reflective moment where I was able to stand apart from myself and observe. And what I saw was a poignant reminder of the exact principle C.S. Lewis had articulated so well.
By the time I had completed my Bible reading I felt an emerging clarity (and energy) regarding the direction of my new project. What’s happening, I believe, is a Holy Spirit infiltration. God is prompting my creativity, and my new work will move forward only to the extent that I invite the Author of Creation into the process.
Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe on me, even though they die, will live. and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)
- Crowds of people…
- triumphant music…
- joyful singing…
- festive atmosphere…
- a challenging, hope-filled message…
But that was yesterday. What about today? My book Reaching Toward Easter concludes with an Easter Monday chapter that’s designed to keep the momentum of Easter Sunday rolling into the day-to-day experience of being an active Follower of the Way of Jesus.
That’s where the idea of “The Eighth day of Creation” comes from. Easter ushers in the beginning point of resurrection-powered re-creation. We have the opportunity to be truly alive in the fullest sense of “the life-charged life” only because of Jesus.
So there’s the “pre-Easter creation,” and then there’s the “New Creation,’ in and because of Jesus. Which creation are we going to live into from this point forward?
“If we leave the church [yesterday] as confirmed Eighth-Day believers, then what we’re really doing is signing up to join Jesus in the re-creation business.” (p. 136)
SO-WHAT? In her Easter message at First Presbyterian Church, Rebekah put it something like this. “The details in the Gospel accounts may vary, but everyone agrees that something remarkable happened, something amazing, and that the tomb was empty; the fact of resurrection completely transformed the followers of Jesus” (link to the Easter Sermon Podcast here)
Simply put, that’s the “So-What?” question in front of us this morning. Is the same enthusiasm, wonder, excitement, passion and sense of celebration we experienced at church on Easter morning going to animate the way that we live forward from this point on?
“Once Resurrection Day initiated the new order Jesus moved on, because in part-two of the plan the responsibility passed to, and remains with, his followers.” (p. 136)
So I’d like this short blog-post to leave us with the following thought; it’s the way Reaching Toward Easter concluded: “We’re no longer spectators. We’re now participants in the new creation. If our journey through Lent together has prepared us for anything, then I pray it has prepared us for this.”
We’re no longer spectators. We’re now participants in the new creation. If our journey through lent together has prepared us for anything, then I pray it has prepared us for this.
The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the king of Israel!” (John 12)
I love the enthusiasm, the air of celebration, the sense of spontaneity I love the idea of Jesus riding into the city in an act of simple, beautiful, eloquent subversion. And I am drawn to the unspoken dark undertone of the knowledge of the coming of The Last Supper, Good Friday, and the crisis of The Cross.
All the emotion of Holy Week seems to lie just beneath the surface of Palm Sunday’s promise. And that is especially true at my church, because today’s worship services are both led by our chancel choir, telling the story of The Passion through music and word.
If Lent is an extended special discipline, designed to prepare ourselves for a more deliberate spiritual journey, then Holy Week is potentially a microcosm of those 40-days, a spiritual training mini-camp if you will.
In other words, this coming week offers each one of us a unique opportunity for profound spiritual growth.
I’ll see you in church! But stay tuned to this space, we’ll walk through this week together, day by day.
Peace, blessings, and celebration! – DEREK
We do not merely want to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words – to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it. (C.S. Lewis – The Weight of Glory)
I’ve explored this theme myself (10 Life-Charged Words), but Lewis manages to get to the heart of it here. I believe his words help me understand just why I am so captivated by great art, great music, great writing, great preaching, great conversation. And it also helps explain why seeing something “live” is always 1,000% better than viewing or listening to a recording.
You see, beauty isn’t something we simply look at; at its best beauty is something we want to crawl into, to wrap ourselves in; beauty is something we inhabit.
BEAUTY & GOD: It’s my conviction that we’re really entering into God when we engage creativity. There are literally hundreds of descriptive names for God, but the one that always strikes me as most complete is “Creator.” God is the genesis of creation, the genius that gives birth to art, the life that animates beauty, the vitality that sustains creation.
When we are creative, then, even in the smallest way, we are honoring the image of God that resides at the core of our nature.
So I’ll turn this conversation back on Lewis, and suggest that the “beauty” of his deep and creative mind serves as a vehicle to teach us something about the nature of God. Lewis would quickly point out that the beauty we experience on Earth is only a shadow, a glimpse of the deep and overwhelming beauty that is the nature of God and the reality of “heaven.”
But I would have to counter that, through writing such as that of C.S. Lewis, the crack is a little wider, the light a little brighter, and the clarity of the truth about God that much more pure, and deep, and inviting.
In truth, and in promise - DEREK
Today’s post is a little different. What I’m sharing is – essentially – a short chapter from my 2012 book Reaching Toward Easter: devotions for Lent (day 37). Also, don’t forget to click here for today’s “Wednesday video-post.” – DEREK
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” (John 18:36)
“I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:15-17)
SCRIPTURE = TRUTH = STRENGTH: These two scriptures scripture worked their way into my brain one morning as I drove away from the airport. I got up extra early to take our daughter and her husband over to Tampa International so they could board their flight back to Connecticut and home.
Sometimes, back when Naomi and her brother Andrew were growing up, I really did pray that God would somehow insulate my children from the world. Like Jesus, I wasn’t asking God to whisk them away so much as I was asking God to “protect them from the evil one.”
To be honest, civil liberties and freedom of choice were not exactly #1 on my list; I was more than willing for God to bend the rules and intervene – with or without my children’s consent. “Just get them grown, Lord,” was our constant refrain.
FREE WILL: But there remains that element of choice – even during those turbulent formational years. And choice is still a daily option. Intellectually, I understand that being “sanctified in the truth” is not anything that can be imposed externally…
“Here, let me sanctify you in the truth – hold still, it’s not going to hurt…” It simply doesn’t work that way. But, emotionally, I wanted God to skip the free will part and simply ride herd until the job was done.
Instead, and with faith, we had to watch and pray – in much the same way that God watches over God’s children – and we all have to do our very best to make sure that the truth is evident and authentic and accessible. Freedom is a necessary building block to wholeness.
- Guidance? Yes.
- Example? Most important.
- Teaching? Imperative.
But the moment we take away freedom, we also take away the possibility of legitimate growth.
Years of pain and struggle and heartbreak have now yielded to joy. Andrew and Naomi are both young adults, and our children are making the kind of positive choices that we would have imposed on them as teens without regard to their free will (and, believe me, I would have, if I had the power of God). Instead, by respecting their freedom, we allowed them to emerge from their growing understanding of truth and develop the strength of character that defines them today.
Jesus pointed to God’s word as truth. The power of evil is resourceful; but God’s Word is a sword more than equal to the task. It is imperative that we immerse ourselves in truth so we are more than ready to take out stand when the time comes.
How can scripture be your word of truth today? – DEREK
Saturday morning I enjoyed the privilege of being invited as “Guest Lecturer” in a college classroom. The class, taught by my friend Linda Lacomb-Williams, is listed in the catalog as a seminar in “Exploring Women’s Issues in Literature.”
Linda said I could talk about writing, and pretty-much anything else I wanted to.
LIVE AUDIENCE: Here’s what’s interesting. I planned to follow essentially the same outline that I had used with high-school kids at The Great American Teach-In. However, before ten minutes had gone by, the presentation changed entirely.
It changed because (if you’re willing to make eye-contact, ask a couple of good questions, and actually engage the audience) speaking in front of a “live” group of people is a living, interactive, organic experience.
These women were grown-ups, people with families, jobs, bills, complex relationships, and pressures to go along with their hopes and dreams of continuing their education.
And so, by the time I was just a few minutes into my 70-minute lecture, I realized that I was there to talk about three simple concepts.
- The first was this, “Today I plan to encourage you to Think Differently.”
- Next was an old favorite of mine, “Live like You Mean It.“
- Finally, I told the women that I wanted them to “Stay Awake.“
WORK in PROGRESS: What’s cool is how the outline presented itself as I was talking. We identified the key points as they emerged, then I had the students write them down. They wrote them down for my benefit just as much as theirs because I didn’t know what they were until I said them.
Several times I said, “What was that last point I made?” and, “Aha! So that’s what we’ve been talking about!” Believe me, I’m not exaggerating.
And I’m pretty sure I now have a good idea regarding the direction my new book needs to be headed. Like I said when I launched this blog just a couple of years ago, “What you’re reading when you come to The Life-Charged Life is nothing any more refined than Derek Maul thinking out loud.”
What some people call writing I call, “Trying my darndest to corral all my divergent thinking and condense it into manageable bundles of sentences.”
Writing is always such a thrilling adventure!
his morning I’m taking a break from the grandparent anecdotes to share a link to my SPIRIT-FM 90.5 interview that ran Tuesday morning from 11:34 through noon (to listen, click on this link).
I was nervous about the airing for a number of reasons. First, 26-minutes is a long time to be on the radio. Next, several thousand people were likely listening. Finally, the interview was 100% “off-the-cuff” (and – as you can see – my sleeves were partially rolled up!).
Fortunately, David Henry decided it was OK to play quietly in his playpen during my time-slot. So I did get to listen without interruption. But I paced obsessively. I had a hot cup of tea in one hand that I never touched, and I must have lapped the sofa in the family room a minimum fifty times.
CONTENT: The main body of the interview was about my new-ish book 10 Life-charged Words. I answered a series of questions about men’s spirituality, the content of the book, and the role of Christian men in contemporary culture.
Then, a couple of minutes from the end, I was given the opportunity to talk about my Advent book, In My Heart I Carry A Star: stories for Advent.
All in all, I am more than pleased. Most importantly, I didn’t bomb. Then, a good number of times, I actually said something quite interesting. Not too many hesitations, very little “blah, blah, blah,” only the occasional appearance of a “you know,” and not one “foot in mouth” moment.
- Give the interview a listen (I really believe you’ll enjoy).
- Write a comment – at the radio site – so the folk at SPIRIT-FM will know that people actually listened. Who knows, maybe one day they’ll ask me back.
Peace and blessings – DEREK
As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:15)
Today, traditionally, is preparation day here at Maul Hall. Some years ago, due to overlapping commitments, we celebrated our family feast on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. The reasons may have gone away, but the tradition continues. Consequently, we have one more day to get ready for tomorrow’s deluge of family, friends, and gratitude.
Tuesday I drove to Orlando to pick up three of our nieces for the coveted, “Aunt Bekah Work-Camp” experience. This year Sarah got to join her older cousins and pitched in like a trooper. It’s a mixture, of course, of fun and helping-out, and it’s a joy to have the girls on board.
MORE LOANER KIDS! Then, to give the festive atmosphere more variety, Micah and Liam Black spent the afternoon with us too. So, while the girls cleaned windows and polished silver, Rebekah offered a marbles workshop, consulted in block-building, and supervised some kind of a NASCAR event in the back hallway. I was in charge of golf in the garden, snacks, and then (wish I’d thought of this earlier) raking in the side yard.
But it was my morning experience that gave me pause. I’ll share more about this when the project comes on-line, but the short-story is I had an opportunity to share an important message with the community and I fear that I fell far short.
NEWS: Let me explain. The Osprey Observer newspaper is running an article on my new-ish book, 10 Life-Charged Words: real faith for men (Upper Room Books, 2012). The editor asked me to come in for a video interview to support the story. The video is supposed to be about what it’s like to be a “local author.”
The videographer, Don Ashley, does excellent work, and he obviously knows what he’s doing. But I felt my presentation was stuck in a stiff, “preachy” mode, and the last thing I want to do is to come off as one more overly pious Christian putting another brick in the growing wall between this broken world and the Good News that will heal.
We’ll just have to see how it looks when he’s finished editing.
JOY: I guess what’s good is how conscious I’m becoming of the need to articulate the truth about what it means to follow Jesus. Today, the official THANKSGIVING DAY, I’m grateful for so much, and it’s all because of God’s great mercy, grace and love.