Posts Tagged ‘travel’
It may be raining (without the slightest inclination of ever stopping) here in Tennessee, but it’s a good weekend and I’m in the company of good people.
I’m here at the Lakeside Resort near Smithville, with a couple of dozen men from the Blakemore United Methodist Church in Nashville, for the annual BUMMs spiritual retreat. “BUMMs” stands for Blakemore United Methodist Men.
This morning I shared the following (apocryphal) story from my childhood. “One day, in the face of mounting evidence that my high school academic career was essentially on the rocks, my mother said, ‘You’d better be careful, Derek, or one day you’ll wake up and find yourself in a roomful of bums.’ Well, gentlemen, here I am.”
PRIVILEGE: It’s a great privilege to get on an airplane, fly to another state, and drive into the hills for the solitary purpose of encouraging a group of men in their commitment as Followers of the Way of Jesus.
The person who gets encouraged the most is – typically – me. Because it’s a hard and fast principle that telling other people about what God is doing in my life serves as both an affirmation and a confirmation.
This is why I’m an enthusiastic believer in always asking the question, “Tell me what’s going on in your relationship with God?” Not what happened 20 years ago, or even last month, but tell me what’s going on right now.
Even when it’s a small story, just a momentary glimpse of God’s love in action, telling someone else about the experience always seems to open up more of God, and there’s immediately more to tell.
INTERACTIVE: The best retreats are always interactive. We may have the technology to put me in front of a camera at home and throw my image on a screen in Tennessee, but the “Derek speaking” part of this is only the smallest part of the experience. What counts is the community, person to person, the relational element of the weekend.
I see God most clearly when a man stands up to share what it means to say, “God loves me by heart,” or someone else asks the group to pray for him in an area where he is struggling, or one of the men says, “I feel connected to God because of the other men in this room….”
My role is simply to get the conversation started.
And I’m so thankful that my name continues to come up when men like the most excellent gathering of Nashville BUMMs make their plans.
Yesterday evening, Rebekah and I drove to the Tampa International Airport to meet my mum and dad. They came in on a British Airways flight from London-Gatwick, having spent a cold, rainy four-weeks with friends and relatives in the U.K.
I have to admit, after this year’s extended and seemingly endless run of muggy summer heat, there’s a lot of appeal to the idea of cold and rainy!
Regardless, it is so good to see my parents again. And, as I always park on the roof, Florida immediately put its best foot forward and welcomed them back with a spectacular show of color and the balmy evening promise of the “winter” months to come.
HOME: We drove to Sarasota across the Howard Franklin and then the Sunshine Skyway. A deep orange sun eased itself into the water with hardly a splash, the bay turned a luminous pale blue that seemed to hold its own light, and the sky displayed a brilliant array of colors well after the horizon, spinning away from the light at speeds approaching 1,000 mph, had set our course toward the night.
One benefit of always parking on the roof is that I never forget where I left the car. There’s never the wondering of, “What elevator?” “What level?” “What row?” Those are hard questions when you’re the kind of guy who sometimes doesn’t remember what car he came out in:
- “Rebekah, help, I can’t find my car anywhere!”
- “Derek, that’s because you took mine today.”
But the real reason I park on the roof is the open air, the wonder, the perspective. Sometimes I’ll arrive early just so I can walk around the perimeter and look out over the Gulf of Mexico, the bay, the city, the stadium, the highways, the shuttles taking people to and from the gates, the phenomenon that is the metroplex – the juxtaposition of steel, concrete, infrastructure, business, and teeming life…
Grateful that I have two parents, in their 80′s, who are still able to enjoy traveling; grateful for Rebekah, who thinks it’s a good time to hang out with me, no matter what the agenda; grateful that we live where we can pull off the road because we’re hungry and easily find somewhere to eat; grateful for this good life.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
It’s just another day. Gratefully - DEREK
It’s Monday morning, so I’ll post something full with love and promise. I hope you enjoy these new photographs of Andrew and Alicia.
A few days ago our soon to be daughter shared a few of the “official” engagement pictures. They were taken in Kiev when Andrew took his most recent weekend flight to the Ukraine.
Alicia’s friend, Olha Prytula, did some excellent work with the shoot. She captured the breezy sense of joy and assurance that’s turned out to be Andrew and Alicia’s definitive attribution; portraits of joy, promise and confident love.
GENUINE: I’ve made a serious study of people over the past few years, in a wide range of circumstances. As an observer and a writer I have learned a lot about how people are, how they communicate, what is just below the surface, how genuine they are – or otherwise, and how the way they present themselves lines up with who they really are.
And I have to confess, I’ve seldom seen two young people as authentic, winsome, and disarming as Andrew and Alicia are when they’re together. These pictures capture that fact remarkably well.
PRAYER: So my constant prayer, along with Rebekah’s, is one of thanksgiving and wonder. Parenting is a long and often stressful journey, full with conflicting emotions and so many dreams of what life might be like if everything goes as planned.
But we found out many years ago that our carefully constructed plans are pretty-much “out the window” the moment they are articulated. But God’s purposes are so much more imaginative, and bold, and wonderful, and so we are immeasurably thankful that we are not in control in all those ways we thought we wanted to be.
These pictures are a visual illustration of two lives, Andrew’s and Alicia’s, that have been hungry to know God more deeply and to follow Jesus more closely. We are confident that it is Providence that has brought them together. We are equally confident that Grace of will continue to lead them.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3)
Like I said, we are so grateful – DEREK
NOTE: Header image from a Naomi Campbell painting
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good….God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning. (Genesis 1:1-4, 31)
Today’s post is going to be fairly short, pointing to the beauty of creativity. I am inspired, this morning, by a photograph our daughter, Naomi, sent yesterday. It features a collection of her recent paintings, and set my mind and spirit to thinking about why I enjoy art so much.
I have this theory about art, and beauty. I believe that all beauty emanates from God, that creativity is one of the most compelling evidences that we are “created in the image of God,” and that giftedness comes from the Spirit irrespective of our beliefs about God.
CLUES to GOD: Real beauty points to divinity; it speaks for itself. Sometimes, in my assessment, art is compromised when the artist overplays the connection between their gift and their personal religious preference. It’s a mistake to limit the scope of divine creativity to the realm of Christian sentiment. I think we’ve all seen (and heard) supposed “Christian” painting and music that is so bad that it has no hint of the Lord of Creation in it.
On the other hand, listening to a gifted performance by a secular artist such as James Taylor, or Rene Fleming, appreciating a watercolor by Andrew Wyeth, or reading a great literary masterpiece by Hemingway, or Steinbeck exposes me to creativity and beauty that can only emanate from the heart of the Author of Inspiration.
FAITH-BASED: Once in a while art, beauty and faith do come together, as evidenced in work such as the music of contemporary Christian composer Chris Tomlin, the genius of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, a live performance of Bach, or the writing of Don Miller (Blue Like Jazz). It’s a thrill to encounter art that not only comes from the creative heart of God but also leads the audience into worship.
But real art, I believe, much like the compelling witness of the beauty of creation itself, is always inhabited by the Spirit of the Creator, regardless of explanation or attribution.
Here’s my caveat. It doesn’t matter who we are (some of us are talented like Naomi, some people are simply fans of beauty, and some folk can’t even match two pieces of clothing), but there’s not a person alive on Planet Earth whose work (or painting, sales job, music, carpentry, photography, relationships, writing, art appreciation, imagination, teaching, etc….) would not benefit from a living relationship with the Author of Creativity.
Because we were/are created in the image of God, Creator God. Our creativity reflects God’s image in us. And anything that we do has the potential to share a little more of the Greatest Story Ever Told.
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.
Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep. – (Psalm 36)
AS you can tell from the new header, Rebekah and I are back from our two-week retreat in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. I haven’t posted here in 16 days (partly because we disciplined ourselves to NOT work during our time away, and partly because we had no wi-fi in our mountain cabin and I’m not about to try blogging on my smart-phone!), so there is a lot to catch up on in the next week!
RE-ENTRY: Today is all about reentry into the real world. But it’s also about resting in the blessing of a great time away. So I’ll begin the process by sharing a few photos and thoughts from Appalachia.
This was the first ever family vacation for Scout Labradoodle. Once we realized the cabin was designated “pet friendly,” including her was an easy decision to make.
The “no dogs” rule on National Park trails turned out to be a disappointment, but Scout was perfectly well behaved when we had to leave her at the cabin, and she was very happy with the walks she could take. There were so many new smells for a dog to investigate, and so much to see from her vantage point on the deck behind the cabin.
MOUNTAINS: I know we’re from Florida and easy to impress, but the mountains were nothing short of spectacular. The “smoky” of the Great Smoky was evident from the get-go, and the “blue” of the Blue Ridge was captivating.
We researched (because, as Naomi would say, “That’s what Mauls do”) the area ahead of time, we read interpretive materials while we were there, and we did all of our hiking with our eyes wide open for what we could learn. In consequence, we have become great and fairly knowledgeable fans of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The stories, the history, the injustices, the natural beauty, the animals, the amazing conservation efforts, the fragility of the ecosystems….
RELATIONSHIP: Primarily, this time away was a Derek-&-Rebekah retreat. It became obvious that we needed to do something that was deliberately built around simply being together. That’s one reason we picked a place without wi-fi, and an environment that was conducive to hiking, long uninterrupted conversations, hanging around the cabin to read and drink coffee, putting together puzzles and playing marathon pool tournaments.
So we not only drank in the beauty of the Smoky Mountains, we drank in each other. We shared ideas, dreams, hopes, devotional materials, stories, good food, hours of wandering around antique shops, and as many yummy lunches of East Tennessee pulled-pork sandwiches as the budget would allow.
And we restored, replenished, rejuvenated, renovated, renewed, reconstituted, reconstructed and – above all – redeemed.
Look for more in the way of pictures, and stories, over the next few days.
As always, there is such a lot to share - DEREK
Today, Tuesday 3rd, Andrew is heading back to Italy, while Alicia is staying in Boston to finish up her masters degree.
Consequently, although there’s much to talk about, I’m going to have to move on from this magical engagement moment and move back into my more routine (if that word ever applies to the life-charged life!) posts.
So here are three of my favorite photographs from the weekend to wrap things up for right now.
The first (above) was taken at lunchtime Sunday. We attended Providence Presbyterian Church, then went to the home of friends for “wedding leftovers.” It’s a treat – after a big wedding – to spend some quiet “down time” with the family and actually get to visit. It turns out that Alicia is someone it’s worth taking the time to get to know.
The other photographs were taken Saturday, all dressed up for the big event. As you can see from the sunglasses, Andrew and Alicia have a deeply playful streak! They are so natural together, and the relationship is obviously so genuine.
My nieces made the backdrop for the picture on the bench. Jordan and Lindsay – both 17 – are extremely creative. They came early to work long and hard on decorating projects. Kudos to them.
The bottom line for today’s post is how good Rebekah and I feel about this coming marriage. It’s refreshing to see two young adults together who are so much in love, so deeply committed in terms of faith, and so much fun to be around.
I’m not kidding when I say I have four children now. Andrew, Naomi, Craig, and now Alicia. We are truly blessed.
- In love, and because of love – DEREK
Rebekah and I deliberately planned a slow road-tip to Virginia Beach because, A) We love road tripping, just the two of us in the car with some seriously loud rock-and-roll, and B) There’s always some compelling history on the way and we’d rather not blow by all the interesting sites.
Yesterday, then, was Cowpens Battlefield in the morning and then Alamance (The Regulators Battleground) in the afternoon.
COWPENS: We all know the story of Cowpens, where General Morgan finally defeated the less than honorable Banastre Tarlton. The site, which is being faithfully restored to its appearance in 1781, is a beautiful series of rolling meadows and light woodlands. Like any such engagement, the clash was an appalling and un-glamorous scene of bloody violence, where people shot and slashed at one-another until enough men were horribly wounded or dead that one side gave up and tried their best to run away.
ALAMANCE: The other story is less well-known. In 1771 a group of farmers, tired not only of increasing taxation but blatant corruption in the colonial government, assembled to demand reform. Governor Tryon assembled his militia and marched to Alamance with a simple response. “Go home or we’ll fire on you.”
Tryon bought along some cannon too, and opened fire with grape-shot before ordering the reluctant militia to fire on their neighbors. After the battle, the governor rubbed salt in the wounds by hanging several of the leaders.
The “Regulators” movement may have been quashed, but the idea of standing up for freedom would not go away.
WE TEND TO FORGET: However we feel about these terrible events, I believe it’s critically important that we know and understand these stories. We can’t ever forget. We dare not.
Always learning – it’s an important part of what it means to be alive – DEREK
No surprise, yesterday’s post picked up a lot more hits than the average day. Everyone is very excited about Andrew and Alicia’s engagement and we can’t wait to see them both Thursday evening.
Meanwhile, Rebekah and I continued our slow drive north. Monday was all rain, all the time. Torrents of if. We stayed the night just south of Valdosta and it didn’t let up until we finally broke through the clouds 50 or more miles to the north.
Tuesday our only firm destination was mid-afternoon in Baldwin, Georgia, to visit Rebekah’s uncle Charlie and her cousin Ruth. It was a refreshing change for us flatlanders to get up into the mountains. And it’s always a treat to visit with family members we don’t typically get to see.
Uncle Charlie engaged his life full-on as a Presbyterian minister, a long-term missionary to Brazil, and an innovative entrepreneur. He has some amazing stories. Not only that, but many other people have amazing stories to tell because they have been touched by Charlie’s life and ministry.
The visit made me think about the other side of this “life-charged life” equation. It’s one thing to live life without reservation, but it’s even more meaningful if we can look back and realize that we have contributed something to the stories that other people have to share.
I hope I can always remember that. Not just to live large – but to enlarge the lives of others. Now that’s living the Gospel of Love in the direction Jesus intended.
Peace and blessings – DEREK
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
So there we were, sitting around the table with some of the wonderful friends who have prayed us through so much in the parenting realm for so many years, and my phone rings. It’s Andrew.
Me: “Hi, Andrew. Mama and I are sitting here with our small group. They all want to know how you’re doing?”
Andrew: “You can tell them she said ‘Yes!’”
Me: “Hey, everyone. Andrew said to tell you Alicia said ‘YES.’”
(Note: If you’re looking for sound effects to go with this post, then imagine LOUD PANDEMONIUM BREAKS OUT right here!)
This, I have to admit, is where the writer part of me simply can’t keep up. I don’t have it. I’m a good writer, I know this, but there aren’t any words that I can type into this post that will more than roughly hone in on the emotion I felt – and Rebekah too – when Andrew passed on the marvelous news.
HISTORY: I could easily go all the way back to middle school and beyond (In fact, this story really begins in Atlanta, in Piedmont Hospital on a Father’s Day). But in the interests of time I’ll fast-forward to Bahrain, where Andrew showed up just a few weeks after a beautiful young mission school teacher named Alicia Pashby moved on to Kiev.
At the base chapel, Andrew was “adopted” by Donna and Bob Hudson (They’re an American family who had also reached out to Alicia during her stay). Before long, the Hudsons told them both they needed to meet. Andrew and Alicia, while deeply respectful of the Hudsons’ advice, did absolutely nothing. They didn’t even exchange an email.
More than a year later, Andrew moved back to Italy.
THE WHEELS WERE TURNING: In the fall of 2011, Alicia planned to attend a family wedding (second cousins) in northern Italy, somewhere near Venice. She didn’t speak Italian, she knew nobody there. And so, on a whim, Alicia sent Andrew a message. “Hi Andrew, I’m Alicia Pashby. We both know the Hudsons. Do you want to be my escort to an Italian wedding?”
Mr. Adventure said yes.
So he drove the 400-plus miles to northern Italy,”crashed’ the wedding, and introduced himself to Alicia. They pretty-much talked non-stop for 48 hours. He ended up in some of the wedding photos.
A few weeks later Andrew and Alicia met up in Vienna. Their next date was in Kiev. Then it was Tuscany; later, Milan.
Meanwhile they talked on Skype several times a week. Andrew joined Alicia’s Bible-study group and participated via Skype. It was pretty obvious to us that this relationship was not only special, but providential.
THE SHINY OBJECT: When Andrew came home for the family cruise at the end of April, he was on a quest for – in his words – a “Shiny Object.”
The result was, in a word, spectacular. Andrew has evidently cultivated some highly refined taste over the years!
BEYOND COMPRESSED CARBON: However, what has been priceless to me, and to Rebekah, has been to watch this relationship move forward in the context not only of friendship, love and affection, but of transformational faith.
By the grace of God, both Andrew and Alicia have reached this stage of their lives without compromising their foundational commitment to live as followers of The Way of Jesus. In fact, it is very much evident to those of us who love them that they are both still growing as faithful practitioners of “The Life-Charged Life.”
BLESSING: So I’ll close this most joy-filled of posts with the following blessing:
May the early sweetness of your love move naturally into the rich satisfaction that is a life-long journey. Take the challenges, the opportunities, the graces, the pitfalls, the surprises, the constant adventure… and meet it all head on with the faithfulness and commitment that characterize the kind of relationships that God uses to literally change the world for good. Love is – always – a choice; you have chosen one-another, and you have chosen well. God’s rich blessings and abundant, grace-laden, love.
- DEREK… DAD
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