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
The response to my “This Author Needs Your Help” request (see Thursday’s post if you haven’t chimed in yet) has been extremely helpful. Lots of ideas. Lots of encouragement. Lots of thoughtful and imaginative voices.
Saturday, though, I just let it all soak in while I enjoyed a few more hours in the garden, letting the fertile soil work its way into my subconscious, waiting for some germination or pollination to burrow its way into one of my dormant brain cells (there are a huge number of largely inactive ones to choose from) to become the nucleus of something potentially transformative.
Poof, it’s gone! It’s amazing how easily 40 cubic feet or soil and other organic material can disappear into a flower bed. But I love the smell of fresh turned dirt, and there’s something about a big garden project in process that is loaded with peace and a sense of certainty.
So I guess we’re tilling the soil of a (hopefully) fertile imagination with this exercise. We’ve got the native soil, we’ve got some enriched material that’s loaded with nutrients, and then there’s even been the opportunity to mix in some – err, you know – “manure” (check out the yellow bags).
Personally, I can’t wait to see where this all leads; I’m genuinely excited about what’s next. Even though I have no idea what’s coming.
In trust, and grounded in belief – DEREK
his is how my morning started: 66-degrees and golf, with a tee-time of 7:05. How awesome is that? By the time we finished – somewhere around 11:00 – the mercury had risen to a mere 80-degrees.
I played with Tim Black, Lloyd Lasher, and Lloyd’s dad. The morning was relaxed, pleasant, and unspoiled by the bad tempers and negative attitudes that too often go hand in hand with the quality of golf that falls this far short of perfection.
I won’t pretend that my score was notably low (although 88 is decent for a once-a-month-er), but I will say that everything about the experience was most excellent.
REFLECTION: Then, somewhere around the fourth hole, my “Upper Room Daily Reflection” email came in. It was a selection of quotations, interestingly enough, from the book “10 Life-Charged Words.”
A most excellent day to each one of us - DEREK (Here’s the post from the Upper Room:)
EXCELLENCE is a life-charged word that calls to the best in us. What this world needs is an epidemic of “most excellent” followers of Jesus, those who are brilliant, outstanding, and first-rate in Christ.
More than being excellent in their relationships to one another, Christian men and women are called to model excellence in all things. What each of us needs, both as individuals and in our relationships, is a commitment to the very best — distinction, quality, and merit — in every aspect of the way that we live. - Derek Maul 10 Life-Charged Words…
From page 30 of 10 Life-Charged Words: Real Faith for Men by Derek Maul. Copyright © 2012 by Derek Maul. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Upper Room Books. Learn more about or purchase this book.
Today’s Question: In what areas of your life is God calling you to aspire to a higher level of excellence? Share your thoughts.
Today’s Scripture: Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16, NRSV)
It’s in the context of community that we find the most compelling stories, the most adept evolutions of theology, the most cogent commentary, and the most miraculous revelations of God’s incarnation in real time…
One of the common misunderstandings about writing is the notion that authors need isolation, retreats away from the action, and that we should be sequestered in order to do mysterious things like, “Find my muse.”
Creativity, according to myth, requires silence, laser-like concentration, and an environment free from busyness, noise, people, or other outside distractions. I’ve even heard writers buy in: “What I need is a few weeks of solitude to create my masterpiece.” And, “If I could just get some consistent uninterrupted time alone, then this pesky writer’s block would go away.”
Really? Write in a virtual vacuum? I don’t think so!
Now I’ll grant that a few quiet hours might help me stay a step or two ahead of the grammar police in the copy editing department (no offense), but that’s only after I’ve gone toe-to-toe with enough real life to first write something that might need a little fine-tuning.
Inventiveness has to be built on constant interaction with real life and, most importantly, interaction with honest-to-goodness people who live in honest-to-goodness community. In fact, it’s in the context of community that we find the most compelling stories, the most adept evolutions of theology, the most cogent commentary, and the most miraculous revelations of God’s incarnation in real time.
Writers like to say we are professional observers. That may well be. But it’s not enough for us to observe community; we are also called to be conscious participants and purposeful creators. We need community to sustain us, to challenge us, to encourage us, to hold us accountable, to introduce us to the real stories of real people. That’s how we learn what it means to live the gripping saga of authentic life.
Living in community means making the conscious decision—moment by moment—to follow Jesus into the crowd, and to serve the people God loves.
Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.—Acts 2:45-47
appy Monday, friends. I pray that you were refreshed and energized by your Sunday. I know I was. If you don’t attend a community of faith where refreshment and energy are a regular part of your worship experience, then please consider visiting us at First Presbyterian Church of Brandon. It really is an exceptional place!
My awesome grandson, David, has turned 10-months. And, as you can tell, he’s just about ready to take off into the realm of toddler-hood. This image, captured by his very talented mother, looks to me like a decision point. “Do I open this door into the next stage of my life? or do I sit back down again and spend a few more days/weeks as a baby?”
It’s the kind of question that comes up time and again while children are growing:
- “There’s so much to learn and discover… but life here is comfortable.”
- “Change… or stay the same?”
- “Adventure… or what I’m used to?”
- “What do I do?”
And of course David is going to move forward; he’s just too curious to do anything else. Interface; experiment; open the door; fall down; get up again; learn; question; discover….
Curiosity – and then the willingness to take a few hesitant (brand-new) steps – is one of the most important marks of growing, not only growing up but also growing forward.
PROMISE: So my second image this morning is this one from 1979. I wanted to post the photo Saturday, on our anniversary, but I couldn’t find it. Look how young! Look how 1970′s my suit is! Look how gorgeous (no surprise) Rebekah (still) is.
But I honestly love the result of the passage of time on who we are and where we are. We have learned so much since that day; and we still have so much to learn. But I love the process. I love the discovery, the interface with real life, the falling down so we can get up stronger, the questions without answers and the answers that live beyond the limits of our questions, the moving forward that characterizes the life that is truly life.
FOUNDATION for the Adventure: I’ll finish this post with a couple of pictures from Sunday morning. This is Rebekah placing the Word of God into the hands of one of our rising 2nd-grade children.
It’s the tradition of our church to give Bibles to kids entering second grade, and it’s one of Rebekah’s favorite things to do. No quick hand-shake or pat on the head from this preacher. Rebekah gives each child her full attention, and her face shines with joy as she encourages them to take this opportunity to get to know Jesus, the Living Word, through the stories in the scriptures.
I couldn’t get close enough to the children’s choir for a good photograph, but I kind of like the effect of this one, taken through the communion table and the pulpit. Those Bibles are going home with some of our children, the pulpit is where Rebekah shares the Good News, and – together – it all makes the perfect context for their enthusiastic little faces!
“Praise Ye the Lord! Hal- le – lu; Praise Ye the Lord! Hal – le – lu; Praise Ye the Lord! Hal- le – lu; Praise Ye the Lord!”
oday I’m trying to engage a “big-picture” direction in my writing. Essentially, I want to frame out a new book proposal (hopefully a 2014 publication), so the idea is to avoid thinking about several looming 500-word news and magazine deadlines and think “200-pages” for the next few hours.
Even books, however – maybe especially books – need to start with some spotlight of specific focus, and maybe this post will launch me on my way.
“BIBLE-BELIEVING” doesn’t belong to the fundamentalists! There’s a turn of phrase that I’ve heard (a lot) recently that – I believe – illustrates where I’m headed. This phrase crops up in conversation, in facebook posts, in blog entries… even in news articles. And it annoys me almost every time I hear it! It goes like this: “I attend a Bible-believing church.”
Often implied in a statement like that – especially when it’s, “NOW I attend a Bible-believing church” – is the assumption/judgement that other churches are not Bible-believing. Really?
More accurately, when someone claims that, “We’re a Bible-believing church,” what they really mean is this: “We’re the church/denomination that interprets the Bible correctly. If your theology/doctrine/understanding/conclusions are not the same as ours, then you obviously don’t really believe in the Bible.”
CONTROVERSY: Similarly, I’ve run into a lot of proof-texting recently. This is where a passage of scripture is used to prove a point, to advance an agenda, or to condemn someone else. The passage is employed in much the same way as a sledge-hammer, and wielded without regard to context. With proof-texting it’s possible to find a verse from the Bible to back up pretty much any position.
Then, when there’s some discussion, someone will say, ”If you don’t take the Bible literally in every quotation, then you don’t really believe the Bible!”
WHERE DO I STAND? First off, I’ll recommend chapter five of my new book, “10 Life-Charged Words.” The title of the chapter is “Scripture.” After you read the chapter you’ll know beyond question that I believe and live into the authority of scripture, and that scripture is a constant charge of life because, as John explains so beautifully, God’s Word comes together perfectly in Jesus:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory,the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
I don’t believe the Bible reads best as some handy-reference text – like the 3rd Grade Math book – with no-further-questions-allowed answers listed in an appendix. In my experience the Bible tends to pose more questions, and it also offers answers far outside the scope of our narrow questions.
I also believe that we are too easily satisfied with “end of discussion” answers, and that too many religious people manipulate the scriptures to more tidily fit their own narrow frame of understanding and imagination.
And, now that we’re talking about it, here are just a few of my personal observations about the Bible:
- It was written over a span of several thousand years.
- It was authored by literally scores of different people.
- It was memorized, repeated by word-of-mouth, translated, lost, rediscovered.
- Translators have added punctuation, spaced paragraphs, debated the meaning of words fallen out of use.
- It was inspired by God, yes, but it is constantly poured through the filters of culture, politics, personality, language, practice, intellectual capability, education, life circumstance etc…
- Today (as each of the past 2,000 years) the Bible is being read by people who understand through the added filters of contemporary culture, language, political pressure, denominational preference, life experience and more…
- Literally thousands of commentaries and biblical encyclopedias suggest hundreds of variations and layers of meaning.
Consequently, if we require answers that add up to a tightly codified religious law (think “Taliban”), then at least 90% of everyone else always has to be wrong! Really?
NARRATIVE: The Bible – in my ever-growing understanding – is the narrative history of how a people worked out their hesitant and inconsistent relationship to the fact of The Living God. The New Testament portion is the story of Jesus (God in the flesh), and how Christ offers a New And Living Way, and how the first Followers of the Way of Jesus began to understand that message and share it with one-another and the world.
The Bible is full with stories of success and failure, of beauty and horror, of moving toward the God of Love, and of missing the truth entirely. The Bible stories are quite honest about the constant tension between the God who loves the Children of Israel and their constant and repeated tragic mistakes.
- Does God, for example, really want Abraham to offer a human sacrifice (just like the surrounding cultures)? Or does God demonstrate clearly that The One True God sees that kind of worship as entirely unacceptable?
- Is the contrast between stoning misbehaving children to death (Old Testament) and Christ’s, “Let me take everyone’s punishment on myself…” an inconsistency, or is Christ the definitive moment in a centuries long story of discovering exactly how God chooses to relate to his children?
Questions. Always with the questions!
God speaks with power and authority through the Holy Bible. We – on the other hand – often speak via the narrow-spirited choke-hold of our personal preferences and our sad need to validate ourselves by condemning anything we don’t readily understand.
BOTTOM LINE: The Bible raises a lot of questions, and they’re not going away. But neither is Jesus going away, and Jesus is the answer to every question we can ever have….
… But let’s resist the temptation to try to tie the Lord’s hands by demanding (and then manufacturing) open and shut answers that are 100% acceptable to us.
Instead, let’s introduce the world to the Jesus who loves and accepts and redeems, and let’s saturate ourselves with God’s Word, and let’s get over the kind of arrogance (or uncertainty) that tempts us to say, “NOW I attend a Bible-believing church.”
Saturday morning the UPS truck driver bravely ignored Scout’s ferocious barking and delivered the final glossy photo book from our 2012 Middle East trip. The “family photo album” sure has come a long way over the past few years.
One friend, who has literally thousands of unsorted images on her iPhone and computer, said “I’d like to do that if it wasn’t so darned expensive.”
However, compared to the methods of yesteryear, downloading free software, building a book, and publishing it on-line is a bargain at the price.
Remember coming home from vacation with 20 rolls of film, developing it all at one time, paying $200 or more for 500 questionable prints, and then stuffing it all in a shoe-box that hasn’t seen the light of day since?
Well, each hard-cover photo album I create costs $50, more-or-less. That includes around 140 photographs, over 30 pages, flexible design options and accessibility you never get from the shoe-box somewhere in the attic!
There is, however, one catch. And it’s best illustrated in this exchange I had with another friend.
- “I did what you suggested but my photo-book turned out terrible,” she said. “They do a lousy job and I want my money back!”
- “Er… you do realize that you have to actually take good photographs to begin with?” I said.
WORLD’s RECORD: I think our family may actually hold one very amazing world’s record. I first noticed this back when the children were in elementary school and our friends kept pulling out Rebekah’s scrapbooks to check out the latest. Apparently we’re possibly the only people in the history of the world who are up-to-date on the family albums.
Every year, two or three times, spring, summer and fall, Rebekah would select the choice photographs, fix them in that year’s scrapbook, and add a few lines of description for posterity.
Later, when Andrew and Naomi were in high school, their friends would sit on the floor and pour over the images of family vacations, special events and more – the ebb and flow of day-to-day life. “I wish our mom did stuff like this,” they’d exclaim (everyone always blames the mother!).
DIGITAL AGE: Then, just before the epic three-week odyssey to Scotland to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, I purchased my first digital camera, and the “scrapbook” changed shape forever. Rebekah still puts together the occasional work of art for a specific purpose, but we now have 8-years of stunning photo-books to extend the streak.
All I have to do is make a fairly small album for the family cruise and we’ll be up-to-date again.
The result is an unbroken run of photo-documentation that covers (to date) 33-years of The Rebekah & Derek Story. We’ve done a fairly good job of writing notes to go along with the pictures, but we’ve also done our best to follow the essential principle that we want the images to be arranged in such a way that they tell the story themselves.
BOTTOM LINE: Your family story is the narrative record of your unique witness to what it means to live this life-charged life. It’s not only “a nice thing to have” for your children and their children, but it is tremendously valuable to you, because the task of understanding our own story helps us to determine not only where we are, but where we are going….
Lots more to talk about on this subject, but that’s more than enough for a Monday morning. Peace, love and blessings - DEREK
TRAVEL PHOTOS: Yesterday and today I’ve been putting the finishing touches on the photo album project that covers the Middle-East adventure Rebekah and I had in January. There is so much to include (and then so much that inevitably gets left out) that I’ve settled on a four-book set.
The general title is EPIC ADVENTURE 2012. The four books are:
- Part One: Athens and Egypt
- Part Two: Sinai and Jordan
- Part Three: Israel – Masada and The Galilee
- Part Four: Jerusalem.
Like any editing project, it’s very difficult to put a stop to the process and hit the “send” button. Did I use the exact best pictures? Are the words I chose to include the best fit? Are the facts all 100% accurate? Are there any typos (YES!!!)?
STORY-TELLING IS VISUAL: Ultimately – and this is difficult for me to accept as my primary gift is writing – my goal is for the pictures alone to tell the story. I’ve talked before in this blog about the difference between images that are merely beautiful and images that actually tell a story. Well, these books are a prime example; If I have to lean over your shoulder and explain every page, then I didn’t do such a great job with my Nikon or with my editing.
I have chosen cover images that – to my mind – are stunning. That amounts to just four covers for a most amazing trip! But at some point (today), and this is the reason I’m even sharing this story in today’s post, it has to be time to launch. Perfect or not, there’s no way we can share our epic adventure unless I’m willing to take the risk, hit “send,” and bring the project into the light.THAT’s THE WHOLE POINT: I invest a lot of effort in this “Life-Charged Life” blog, writing about what it means to live a fully engaged Christian life. I spend a lot of time on introspection, inspiration, personal growth, spiritual formation, prayer and study. I try to answer all the questions readers email and “comment.” I try to be faithful to God’s Word.
That’s nice. However, where the rubber meets the road in this “Follower of the Way of Jesus” conversation, is when we set the editing aside, take a deep breath, and hit the “send” button. I’m talking about putting ourselves out there in this broken world and actually living for Jesus. Living for others in Jesus’ name. Living the “life-Charged Life” rather than just thinking about it.
This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome. – 1 John 5:3
So that is the nature of my challenge; and my prayer is that it will also be yours. DEREK
There’s only room for so many cruise stories and so many pictures of big boats, so I think today’s post will have to be a wrap on this Disney series. I’ll make this one about people, and people were the exact reason we steamed out of Port Canaveral in the first place.
The Disney Magic Cruise was the official “60th Anniversary Celebration” for my parents, Grace and David Maul. The actual date is May 24, and we’re going to celebrate with a small family dinner at our home. I plan to write more about the providence that guided two young Londoners from the 1948 meeting where David first heard Grace lift her voice in prayer (sight unseen) to today’s extended family based here in Florida. But in this post I’m simply going to share “formal night” from the cruise.
DRESS UP: Personally, I’m not a big one for dressing up. But it is fun when we all do it together for a special occasion.
The setting was “Luminaires Restaurant,” themed from the dining scene in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, and if there’s one thing Mickey Mouse and friends do well then it’s play dress-up and put on a show. It was all “be our guest” all evening long and we had a lot of fun.
Our children, Andrew and Naomi, have always made us smile. But what a treat to enjoy this time of our lives together! They’re both so genuinely happy, and fulfilled, and overflowing with authentic life. Andrew and Naomi make this world a better place by virtue of how they live their lives, and there’s little that could make us more satisfied as parents.
GREAT-GRANDCHILDREN: For my mum and dad, on their 60th, great-grandchildren are just icing on the cake. They have three. There’s our David Henry, of course, but then my niece Hannah and her husband Drew have Haley and Hudson.
My brother Geoff, bless his heart, hit the jackpot with his grandchildren and – as you can tell just by looking – there’s a great deal of his spirit in both of them. Haley is a bona-fide princess, and Hudson is completely at ease mixing his formal tuxedo with large amounts of messy chocolate.
Hannah and Drew live in Palmetto. She is a social worker and he is finishing specialized training as a medical technician.
My brother poured himself into Haley and Hudson over the final years of his life, and while his passing left a profound vacuum, his lovingly applied presence also left a legacy that is tangible and permanent.
That same evening I convened a family gathering at a quieter location in the ship. I asked everyone to share a favorite memory of Geoff so that he would be a deliberate part of our conversation as we celebrated together. Haley honed in on a unique aspect of her grandfather’s personality when she said, “Pop-pop always told me we should have a ‘Plan-B’… and ‘Plan-C’… and ‘Plan-D’….”
MISSING PICTURE: It looks like no-one snapped a photo of Rebekah and me that evening other than the group shot above.
But I did make sure and catch this one (left) of the celebrated Diamond Anniversary Couple. We’ll make them do it again on May 24th, you can be sure.
But I can’t think of a better reason to get on a big boat, dress up, and celebrate together. Sixty years of committed, faithful love. Not 60-years of easy love; not we-never-had-to-try love; not life-is-a-bed-of-roses love. But faithful, committed love.
It’s the best love there is. - DEREK