summer heat, good eats, and nourishment for the soul

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(Jesus said) “I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” – John 8:18-19

I don’t think I could ever be a serious heat-complainer here in North Carolina. Sure, I know the highs have been pushing 96-98 over the past few weeks (topping Florida consistently), and the humidity has made things worse; but it’s only for a couple of months, and over the course of the year we get to enjoy four beautiful, evenly balanced seasons in Wake Forest. Besides, the new HVAC system we had installed isn’t just working, it’s super-efficient too; so it’s all good.

Then there are the consolations of summer. I’m talking specifically peaches, tomatoes, watermelon, corn, and a whole variety of local fruits and vegetables. Summer is a cornucopia of yummy goodness.

IMG_4285FOOD FOR THE SOUL: I’ve mentioned before that – especially with all our young families – church tends to empty out June, July, and August. Travel, more travel, weekends at the beach or the mountains, then travel some more. But, both the men’s groups I help lead continue to meet, and our sessions provide a critically important thread of consistency.

This morning, for example, a few of us enjoyed a meaningful discussion around the question, “Who is Jesus to me?” We talked about the concept of Trinity, about how we relate to Jesus as distinct from God the Father, the difference between knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus, and even ideas such as homooúsios – ὁμοούσιος – “of one substance,” meaning that God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit are consubstantial.

This understanding emerged from the Nicene Creed (4th Century), fleshing out – so to speak – the idea that Jesus is consubstantial with the Father in divinity, and also consubstantial with us in his humanity.

FRIEND AND GUIDE: Aside from the academics, accepting Jesus as companion and guide is a critically important element of what it means to live as a 21st-Century Christian. We must not only understand who Jesus is to us and for us, but we must live into that truth. Belief leads to action, and then action reinforces belief – becoming a positive cycle of faith and practice that not only proves itself to us but that becomes a demonstration of Kingdom life to the world.

Belief leads to action, and then action reinforces belief – becoming a positive cycle of faith and practice that not only proves itself to us but that becomes a demonstration of Kingdom life to the world.

As the aphorism puts it so neatly: “Preach the Gospel daily; if necessary, use words” (a phrase often misattributed to Francis of Assisi).

IMG_3742So summer moves on; sunshine, heat, good food, and – the best nourishment of all – deepening relationships, and food (of real substance) for the soul.

Enjoy a great weekend, and check back in for something more that’s encouraging, Sunday morning – DEREK

North Carolina summer = sunshine, heat, fresh fruits and vegetables… and nourishment for the soul:

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(Jesus said) “I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” – John 8:18-19

I don’t think I could ever be a serious heat-complainer here in North Carolina. Sure, I know the highs have been pushing 96-98 over the past few weeks (topping Florida consistently), and the humidity has made things worse; but it’s only for a couple of months, and over the course of the year we get to enjoy four beautiful, evenly balanced seasons in Wake Forest. Besides, the new HVAC system we had installed isn’t just working, it’s super-efficient too; so it’s all good.

IMG_4285Then there are the consolations of summer. I’m talking specifically peaches, tomatoes, watermelon, corn, and a whole variety of local fruits and vegetables. Summer is a cornucopia of yummy goodness.

FOOD FOR THE SOUL: I’ve mentioned before that – especially with all our young families – church tends to empty out June, July, and August. Travel, more travel, weekends at the beach or the mountains, then travel some more. But, both the men’s groups I help lead continue to meet, and our sessions provide a critically important thread of consistency.

This morning, for example, a few of us enjoyed a meaningful discussion around the question, “Who is Jesus to me?” We talked about the concept of Trinity, about how we relate to Jesus as distinct from God the Father, the difference between knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus, and even ideas such as homooúsios – ὁμοούσιος – “of one substance,” meaning that God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit are consubstantial.

This understanding emerged from the Nicene Creed (4th Century), fleshing out – so to speak – the idea that Jesus is consubstantial with the Father in divinity, and also consubstantial with us in his humanity.

FRIEND AND GUIDE: Aside from the academics, accepting Jesus as companion and guide is a critically important element of what it means to live as a 21st-Century Christian. We must not only understand who Jesus is to us and for us, but we must live into that truth. Belief leads to action, and then action reinforces belief – becoming a positive cycle of faith and practice that not only proves itself to us but that becomes a demonstration of Kingdom life to the world.

Belief leads to action, and then action reinforces belief – becoming a positive cycle of faith and practice that not only proves itself to us but that becomes a demonstration of Kingdom life to the world.

As the aphorism puts it so neatly: “Preach the Gospel daily; if necessary, use words” (a phrase often misattributed to Francis of Assisi).

IMG_3742So summer moves on; sunshine, heat, good food, and – the best nourishment of all – deepening relationships, and food (of real substance) for the soul.

Enjoy a great weekend, and check back in for something more that’s encouraging, Sunday morning – DEREK

 

 

we need more “character” and less “characters” #GreatestGeneration

 And because you belong to Christ Jesus, God’s peace will stand guard over all your thoughts and feelings. His peace can do this far better than our human minds. Brothers and sisters, continue to think about what is good and worthy of praise. Think about what is true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected. – Philippians 4:7-8

IMG_4282So this week – while war, terrorism, politics, calamity, and controversy continued their loud, frenzied, over the top domination of the daily news – here on Elmwood Court my dad quietly turned 88 in an eloquent reminder that what is good, and right, and honorable, is significantly more true, and powerful, and enduring.

David Maul was born in London, England, in 1928. Not long thereafter his family moved to Rayleigh, Essex, a small town 35 miles to the east. Other than his evacuation to Mansfield during the war years, and his postwar service with the British army, dad live in Rayleigh until he married Grace Kemp in 1952 and the newlyweds moved to Folkestone (my hometown).

A little less than 30 years later my parents sailed to the United States, living in Sarasota until joining Rebekah and me here in Wake Forest in 2014. It was Raleigh to Rayleigh, in a sense, with just a handful of steps in between.

IMG_4265SO WHAT! The reason I’m writing about my dad’s 88th birthday in today’s post is that these are the stories that need to be told. Good luck to the candidates for POTUS (major parties and alternative choices alike) but let’s take a break from the overbearing made-for-television PR-fest, and take a moment to remind one another that this country… this world… our future, stands or falls on the day-by-day decisions, and character, and faith, and resolute belief in tomorrow that is represented in people like my dad, men and women who have lived an undaunted witness in an often uncertain world, and who have gifted the rest of us with both promise and peace.

IMG_4281Just a few months after this next picture was taken, Europe (and soon after the entire world) plunged into darkness, consumed by the most devastating war in human history.

It won’t be too many more years before all the stories we have from that era will be second hand. But if you take the time right now to talk with those who were there (and I highly recommend it) – those who served, or who heard the bombs drop, or saw the planes fly over, or who picked through the rubble for loved ones, maybe you will understand how important it is that we remember – and imitate – their quiet humility today.

Because this world will never know peace in response to bullying, or intimidation, or threats, or brinkmanship, or false bravado; what we need in 2016, more than ever, is humility, hard work, self-sacrifice, generosity, encouragement, grace, inclusiveness, love, and reconciliation…

In other words, more people like my dad. Happy birthday! – DEREK

 

 

let’s start a, “Let’s Listen, America!” campaign

Happy Thursday, friends! If you didn’t get the chance to look at the photography in yesterday’s post then I’d recommend taking a look. You can scroll through 28 great images that tell a good – and important – story (see “Rejecting the False Narrative…”).

Let’s Listen, America!

DSC_1399 (1)-002Today I’m interested in talking about the quality of conversation that is surrounding this unreasonably contentious, fractious, election. My point is going to be that we must have the conversation, we must listen, and it’s okay to disagree with conviction and passion… but – and this is a huge truth – it’s entirely possible to talk to one another without anger, bitterness, condescension, and enmity.

But it’s hard work to do this right. So the question is this: Are our relationships, and is our sense of community, important enough for us to do this properly?

A Real Conversation:

So here is – hopefully – a helpful example (and, yes, I do have permission to use this dialogue); I quote: “I don’t mind you using my name in the context of wanting to create open dialogue, which I feel we have achieved and done so with respect for each other – which is what I think needs to happen in America.

Our conversation – Mark and I don’t know one-another, although I think we may possibly have met at a wedding once – started, as these things often do – as a secondary or perhaps tertiary exchange on a fairly typical politically flavored Facebook thread.

Someone had posted something they’d heard second or third hand, accusing the Democratic Party of not displaying the American flag during their convention. Another person (not Mark) piggy-backed on that by writing, “Those liberal democrats don’t care about America. They are in it for themselves.” Then there was another sweeping generalization dismissing the DNC as not supporting American values, the American Constitution or individual excellence.

At first I reacted rather than responded:

Instead of either A) leaving well enough alone, or B) explaining why I felt those positions were unreasonable, I simply lobbed two small grenades – “That’s a little silly,” and “How absurd!” – and effectively invited more grenades.

That’s when I was held to account by Mark Helveston, who wrote, “Derek Maul your debating skills are off the charts. Lol Are you sticking with two word replies to avoid rebuttal?”

I suggested that Mark might get a better feel for my point of view if he checked out my recent post, “Please consider this about Trump/Clinton.” He read what I had to say and offered the following, generous, reply:

“Nice article Derek Maul. You speak a lot about God’s love which is good, but would it not concern God if a political ideology from either side drew people away from him? Does corruption not concern God? Are we as a nation doing God’s will or have we abandon his teachings for self fulfillment? I believe God does care who we pick as a leader of our nation. I’m being sincere in my reply sir and welcome your discussion.”

I appreciated Mark’s thoughtfulness and responded with this (I’ve added the paragraph divisions and a few commas for this post):

  • “Hi, Mark: I’m going to ping you back with a short reply as I have to work this morning – but I’ll probably explore your good thoughts more when I post my blog later today (I’ll just give you first name credit unless you ask for more).
  • “Usually I don’t join in comment banter, but I do say something once in a while, when either A) False information is posted that could easily have been researched and dismissed B) Entire groups of people are dissed with huge generalizations. So that accounts for my initial lack of debating cred.
  • “You make a good point when you say ideology is something God is likely interested in if it draws people away from God, and that corruption is also an issue for God. My interest as a writer/thinker is not in promoting one ideology over another but in challenging people to live as intentional disciples of Jesus.
  • “I believe that all ideologies, and forms of government, and kingdoms, and republics, and democracies of all sorts would benefit from leaders and populations living as followers of Jesus. So I’m not interested in being against Trump… or Hillary… or the other candidates, so much as interested in challenging people to live, and act, and vote as people of faith… and that must include more civility and compassion and listening to one another. OK. Enough. Like I said I may flesh this out in my next post. Peace and blessings – DEREK.”

That’s when Mark gave me permission to quote him and use his name: “I don’t mind you using my name in the context of wanting to create open dialogue, which I feel we have achieved and done so with respect for each other – which is what I think needs to happen in America. You have also made some good points and I know that understanding takes an open mind willing to listen to both sides of an issue and finding common ground to reach the desired resolution….”

Conclusion:

Thinking about this some more, the real common ground turns out not so much to be agreement as listening, and respectful dialogue. We don’t hash out solutions via rhetorical ascendency so much as through compromise and mutual understanding.

I sense that Mark likely has a deeper grasp of some of the flashpoint issues than I do; but reasonable people don’t have to prove points so much as listen to one another.

So let’s start a, “Let’s listen, America!” campaign. What happens next is up to all of us.

Peace, and I really mean that – DEREK

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I reject the false narrative of gloom: I am a witness to light and life!

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taking the bread and the wine – in unity

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. – Acts 2:46-47

I don’t intend to sound like some Pollyanna pretending we all live in Mayberry (actually, we live in Wake Forest, which is much better than Mayberry…), but I am convinced that the story that is being told about this country, and our world in general, is actually a contrived narrative:

  • Exaggerations designed to sell interest in the news;
  • distortions and embellishments to prop up ratings;
  • and – sometimes – half-truths, untruths, and fabrications cynically constructed, assembled, and distributed to manipulate public opinion and leverage fear for political gain.

Today – in 2016 – we are deep into what was described by John Naisbitt (Megatrends, 1982) as, “The Information Age – or – Information Society.” Today we are resourced, loaded, swamped, and mostly overwhelmed by a tidal wave of information and at a loss much of the time to distinguish what is factual from what is flawed.

We have to pay attention:

So I’d like to help clarify the message, and help dismiss the tall tale that is often used to divide the Christian Church, and is now being used to divide America. Because…:

  • The world is not as bad as the news merchants’ footage suggests;
  • The social fabric of the USA is not unravelling in the way the talk show hosts and the newsreels make it out to be;
  • This country is not so divided and angry as the prime-time seeking politicians want us to believe.

The story that is being told is not the story that is real. I reject the false narrative of shock media and those who seek the limelight and personal power.

One of my favorite stories in the New Testament is that of Peter and John in Acts 4. They are arrested for “disturbing the peace,” thrown in jail overnight, lectured, then released. “One last thing,” the priests tell them, “stop talking about Jesus.” The two disciples look at each other, shrug their shoulders, then say in one voice (at least that’s how I imagine it), “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:18-20).

So I invest myself in this blog, committed – daily – to telling you all exactly what I have seen, and what I have heard.

Presbytery Stories:

DSC_1116Yesterday’s meeting of the Presbytery of New Hope serves as a great example. What I saw and heard was the church being the church in unmistakably Christ-centered ways. Which is telling, because you should hear some of the tall tales some people circulate about the Presbyterian Church. But those stories are a false narrative, perpetuated by those who have some kind of an ax to grind.

So, in the same manner that I love to share stories about the life that shines so brightly at WFPC (our vibrant, strong, growing, all-about-Jesus congregation), today I want to share some of the life that’s spilling all over the place at the Presbytery of New Hope.

This is a counter-narrative to the nay-saying; not by argument but by demonstration!

DSC_1265IMAGES AND OBSERVATIONS: One of the many “free-lance” hats I wear is “Official Presbytery Photographer,” so I walk around, I listen, I observe, and I take note. Tuesday I travelled to First Presbyterian Church in Wilson early enough to document the entire day.

And this is what I witnessed: I witnessed a sanctuary full of Presbyterian preachers and elders sharing joy in their faith, expressing commitment to serve Jesus through the work of their individual congregations, coming together to accomplish the business of denominational stuff with passionate engagement, debating courses of action with love, respect, and mutual forbearance, encouraging one another, commissioning new pastors, nurturing pastors in process, demonstrating compassion and action in response to the needs of the world, and speaking prophetically to the sometimes fractured society where we live.

It was a beautiful gathering of God’s people, diverse in every conceivable manner yet united in Christ.

  • Perfect? No.
  • Redeemed? Certainly.
  • Reformed and reforming? Naturally.
  • Answering God’s call to be the passion and the presence of Jesus in this world? You’d better believe it?

DSC_1550This is “What I have seen and what I have heard;” I can’t help but tell the story. I wholeheartedly reject the false narrative of gloom, both as it applies to the church and as it pertains to the world!

If you want to see the entire story of the quarterly meeting of the Presbytery of New Hope, my slideshow will be available at the presbytery website in a few days. In the meanwhile, here are enough photographs to catch a glimpse of what I was privileged to document. Click on the first picture then use the arrow to advance. Most of the images have captions below.

In the compelling name of the Good News! – DEREK

“leaning positive” can be hard work – but we must…

If you read this blog with any regularity then you already know that I don’t lean left, and I don’t lean right; what I do instead is lean positive.

My orientation is a result of several factors (none of which are naïveté):

  1. First, it’s just my nature, I’ve been a glass half full guy all my life so far as I recall – it’s a predisposition.
  2. Also, it’s my choice. The choice thing is actually more powerful than the nature bit. This follows the principle I shared in my column on unity vs uniformity – what’s going to bring us together is not commonality so much as it is intention.
  3. Then, it’s my faith. The message of Jesus is that of reconciliation, and the invitation we’re charged with offering is one of grace, not exclusion; you can’t hold the Jesus card and not be positive – gloom-and-doom is simply not God’s way.
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Photo ABC News

So I’m a little hesitant this morning to share some honest ambivalence (ambivalence being the state of having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something or someone). I’m increasingly nonplussed in response to this 2016 POTUS race, and it has been effecting my fundamental orientation as an affirmed “positivist.”

Right now, watching the bizarre turmoil of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, following on the heels of the abject negativity of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, I find myself shaking my head in disbelief. And I choose the word “disbelief” carefully, because it’s so close to the idea of “unbelief.”

WE CAN’T AFFORD UNBELIEF: And if there’s anything we can’t afford right now it’s any more unbelief. Unbelief is the beginning of a slippery slope; because this nation, this people, this American Experiment, has been built and sustained on a quality of belief that simply does not have room for either the dark vision some are peddling, nor the sad confusion of lost trust and mixed messages that is all other politicians seem to have to offer.

So I’m holding a lot of hesitancy and disillusion at the moment. And I need to be honest about this, because it makes what I have to say next even more important. You see I still make the mistake sometimes of living as if “positive thinking,” or “looking on the sunny side,” is enough. Fact is, it’s not – positive thinking alone is nowhere near enough. What I ended up turning to instead (between the last couple of paragraphs) is exactly where I should have started, and that is the amazing resource of the scriptures, and the timeless truth of the message of Jesus.

Not belief in Hillary Clinton, not belief in Donald Trump – but belief in our country, in freedom, and in the God who gives us hope and promise.

Listen to what Paul writes to his friends in Thessaloniki, in the oldest New Testament writing that we have. “For you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness… Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.” (I’ve pasted the entire passage below my sign off.)

CHILDREN OF LIGHT!

Maybe we should say this out loud (I wish we could do it in unison, and make a mighty shout that would shake this nation!); “WE ARE CHILDREN OF LIGHT, AND CHILDREN OF THE DAY!!!!”

If you didn’t say it, here’s another opportunity: “I AM A CHILD OF GOD, A CHILD OF THE LIGHT, AND A CHILD OF THE DAY!!” Doesn’t that affirmation resonate with your spirit!

We could talk about the power that seems to literally run right through us when we read the scripture out loud. But instead of talking about it, for now let’s just try it.

Our responsibility, our opportunity, our way of living faith out loud, is to, “Therefore encourage one another and build up each other…” Or, as Peterson paraphrases the text in his book, The Message, “Speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind.”

So shine already – DEREK

“For you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:4-11

“Surely I know the plans I have for you…”

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HAPPY/SAD: As per usual, there’s a lot to write about this Monday morning. Our weekends are always full, and the past two days have been no exception.

The only context for this post is worship. At the heart of who we are, Wake Forest Presbyterian is a church organized around our commitment to come together as a community and worship God. Everything else we do proceeds from that central practice.

This week Rebekah preached on “change” (because that’s what we’re in the middle of at WFPC), and she used the classic words of Jeremiah 29:10-14 as her text:

“For surely I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.”

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Lisa, Rebekah, Amy

THE GOOD WORD: It’s a remarkable passage, becoming even more so when we understand the context; then the text reaches a still higher sense of extraordinary noteworthiness when we allow God to write the words on our hearts in such a fresh and compelling way – the way we did Sunday morning.

Rebekah addressed the difficult and almost overwhelming fact that the church said goodbye to both our director of youth ministries (Amy Donahoo) and our director of children’s ministries (Lisa Baker).

Both women have been exceptional leaders and staff members, and both were facilitating growth and transformed lives. They are simply embracing new professional opportunities (Amy and her family are staying at WFPC as “regular members”, and Lisa has been called to another church).

The best way I could describe the ministries Amy and Lisa developed would be “cutting edge.”In my entire life I have never seen such vibrant, creative, imaginative, effective, engaged work with children and youth. Our church has been, and continues to be, blessed abundantly.

In my entire life I have never seen such vibrant, creative, imaginative, effective, engaged work with children and youth. Our church has been, and continues to be, blessed abundantly.

IMG_4184HOPE AND PROMISE: However, and this is where Rebekah’s message spoke to my heart, God has nothing but newness, promise, blessing, and possibility on tap for our community.

One quote Rebekah used in her message has really stuck with me: “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future” (John F. Kennedy).

Amen, brother John! God is always sowing seeds of imagination and new life. Forward is the only way to go from here, and it is exactly because of the beautiful work that’s been accomplished by Amy and Lisa thus far that we don’t want to try to replace them with carbon copies.

“Don’t worry! You bet I’ve got plans for Wake Forest Presbyterian Church,” says the Lord. “I’ve got a trajectory in mind that is loaded with benefits and promise. You’re just now figuring out how to pray and I’m way ahead of you! In fact I’m already working on plans for what you have yet to imagine! Just look carefully, open your eyes, open your hearts, keep following Jesus, and you will see my way. You’re going to end up thanking me, because you’ll see how this has been just another step in the unfolding of my will. I’m going to bring you back into a future you didn’t even imagine was possible!” – My loose paraphrase of the Jeremiah passage.

“But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” – Jesus, Matthew 6:33

IMG_4199Just a side note to conclude. Saturday the church officers (elders and deacons) spent the day in a planning retreat. Many arrived a little downcast and troubled regarding these changes, tempted to look backwards, unsure of how to proceed. However, by the end of the day God had firmly planted a renewed vision for what is possible when we keep our eyes on Jesus. “For surely I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

In love, and because of love – DEREK

(Photos from worship, then Amy and Lisa’s goodbye reception….)

The sacred rhythms of Sunday

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Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. – Colossians 3:16

It’s Sunday morning; just about my favorite part of the week. I do love Sundays, especially getting up with the idea of heading into worship with our beautiful church family foremost in my mind; you just can’t beat it.

But it’s more than simply spending time with the members of Wake Forest Presbyterian Church, or enjoying the wonderful music, or feeling fed by the sermon, or even drinking in the presence of God; heading into worship is an intentional statement that I am purposefully aligning myself with the sacred rhythms of a balanced, spiritually attuned, life.

Heading into worship is an intentional statement that I am purposefully aligning myself with the sacred rhythms of a balanced, spiritually attuned, life.

You see, as human beings we were created for the expressed purpose of relationship with God. When we reject that proposition, or pay lip service to faith without incorporating the sacred into the breathing in and breathing out, the heartbeat of our life, then we are fundamentally out of kilter.

IMG_4160I don’t know about you, but I have learned on a consistent basis that when I rely on myself, or believe I have everything nicely figured out to the extent that God essentially drops from my active consciousness, or simply begin to cultivate a preference for a version of life that revolves around something other than God (work, recreation, self, politics, even family…) – then not only do I lose my edge, but I lose my peace, and I lose touch with the deep sense of purpose that a more fully engaged Christian walk affirms.

It’s an active process, this journey of being a disciple, a moment by moment reordering of ourselves toward God. It’s something that requires a dynamic faith community where we can be rooted. Or, as the mission statement of WFPC expresses our life together: “Rooted in Christ; growing together in faith; reaching out to others.”

How, then, can people call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” – Romans 10:14-15

And the Gospel of Love is very good news – DEREK

 

 

embracing the value of struggle in growth

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Henderson, North Carolina

 

Wow! So yesterday’s post on Trump and Clinton prompted an unprecedented volume of response. Readers seem to be genuinely motivated to think seriously about how we can engage the challenge to be more positive in the throes of such an uncivil election (see, Please consider this about Trump/Clinton).

So Friday morning, unaware of the coming tidal wave of interest, I hit “post” and immediately turned off my computer. I then met some friends from church and headed out to Henderson to play golf on the rolling hills of the beautiful country club. It wasn’t till I arrived home around 3:00 that I realized the political post was well on its way to 2,000 views.

Good People – Bad Challenging Golf:

IMG_4147I recommend golf as the perfect cleanse-the-mind intervention when life gets too jumbled – “Crazy-making” politics included. The beautiful scenery, the concentration on a little white ball, the creative challenge of hitting out of some new impossible circumstance, the unavoidable humility, the occasional success, the company of good people.

I played badly, including dumping two balls in succession into the same pond (I was so, so close…). But I absolutely loved every moment, and I managed to finish strong.

I think I enjoy golf so much exactly because it is so very difficult. I’ve said the following in several contexts recently, and in more than one way, but the heart and soul of this phrase is consistent: “Everything wonderful in my life, every episode of meaningful growth, every incremental step forward, has always come at some cost, and as a result of struggle.”

“Everything wonderful in my life, every episode of meaningful growth, every incremental step forward, has always come at some cost, and as a result of struggle.”

IMG_4157Life is difficult; that’s the opening sentence in Scott Peck’s classic book, The Road Less Traveled. But difficult is not a bad thing: struggle always has the potential to facilitate gain, and challenge prompts good in so many ways. Life is a great adventure, and we always have this choice to either embrace the possibilities or to plop back down in our easy chair and congratulate ourselves on avoiding the potential difficulty.

Now I’ve strayed well away from golf. I don’t mean to intimate that waving a six-iron at a small ball is an example of journeying the road less traveled. But I do appreciate the metaphor. I’m really talking about the difference between playing computer games on a couch and hiking the Appalachian Trail; or doing Disney versus backpacking Italy; or taking another cruise when you could be climbing Mt Sinai at dawn (illustration – nothing wrong with Disney… or computer games… or cruises!).

We have to be prepared to move out of our comfort zones, to embrace the edge of the familiar, and to live like we mean it.

– DEREK

 

 

 

Please consider this about Trump/Clinton…

stock-vector-donkey-and-elephant-symbols-political-parties-america-usa-elections-democrats-against-republicans-397735318Today’s post is a “Think Piece” on politics, and I’m hoping and praying for the opportunity to get inside the heads of as many people as possible and – maybe – influence their/your thinking.

The way my brain is ticking this morning I’m likely to get in trouble – both with my left-leaning and my right-leaning friends. But that’s okay.

Back when we lived in Tampa I was approached by “exploratory committees” representing both major parties, asking me to consider running for office. The Republicans wanted me on the school board; the Democrats wanted me in Tallahassee.

Both parties were convinced that I represented their fundamental viewpoints; in a way I did… and I still do.

Both parties were convinced that I represented their fundamental viewpoints; in a way I did… and I still do. Because it’s my conviction that each side of the aisle wants essentially the same thing, and that’s an America where everyone is valued and encouraged, where hard work and imagination are rewarded with opportunity, where we go out of our way to work together to facilitate progress, and where getting something accomplished is actually more important than being right.

So my remarks today are designed to encourage all of us to remember exactly what is important; and let’s be clear that what’s important is not the party, not the candidate, not Hillary Clinton, not Donald Trump; what’s important in the context of politics is America, and our life together – in community – as citizens of this great land – and The World.

THE CANDIDATES: Now before I talk about the people running for POTUS, I need to make a quick reference to God. You see it’s my belief that God doesn’t care two hoots about our politics. But what our Creator does care about is justice, and mercy, and people walking humbly with God.

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
    and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
    and to walk humbly with your God. – Micah 6:8

God loves Donald Trump – just as much as God loves me; and God loves Hillary Clinton – with the same passion that God loves you. And God is crazy about America – just like God loves Palestine, and Iraq, and China, and Brazil, and England. Do you want to know who is on God’s “most highly favored nation” checklist? Fact is it’s all nations, every last one of them! God loves this world so much that God gave absolutely everything to make reconciliation possible.

Do you want to know who is on God’s “most highly favored nation” checklist? Fact is it’s all nations, every last one of them!

God is not partisan! And preachers who deliver rabidly partisan prayers and speeches, preachers who suggest that God lines up on the side of one political party in opposition to another, are so far out of line they do real harm to the gospel.

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Hillary Clinton with her family

DONALD AND HILLARY: So here’s an important point. People who do not want Trump to be President have gone far and away overboard, over the top in the exclusively negative way he is portrayed, his character, his credibility, and his views. Likewise those who are committed to seeing Clinton defeated are blustering, exaggerating, twisting, fabricating, misrepresenting, and passing on a largely contrived narrative.

I admit I am not a fan of Donald Trump; and it’s true that I can’t get excited about Hillary Clinton either. But this I do know; both candidates obviously love this country, and I believe they would do all in their power to uphold the oath of office.

I’ll bet I’d probably like Donald Trump if I got to sit down and share some coffee with him, and I’m sure a similar visit with Hillary Clinton would be a treat (my wife, Rebekah, spent three hours one morning working in close quarters with George Bush on a Habitat build when he was president – everything looks different when you relate to someone as another human being…).

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Donald Trump has a very real family

But we forget – accidentally, and willfully sometimes, and with a lot of help from media – that Donald and Hillary are two human beings, loved by their families, and treasured by God.

HOW TO VOTE? Make any decision you feel is the right one when it comes to voting. Do some objective research, approach the task humbly and prayerfully,  don’t be tied to “the party line,” and then vote your conscience. I can guarantee that good people who walk closely with God, and who do their best to be conscientious and fair, will still not necessarily agree.

But for goodness sake; for the sake of this country; for the sake of other people who love you (and happen to read your social media posts occasionally); for the sake of all we value and hold dear… enough already with the barrage of invective – and especially the hateful memes! We often wonder how disaffected young men are so easily “radicalized” – but have we ever considered how readily we tend walk along that path ourselves in these contentious times…?

IMG_3973MY JOB: I’ve written commentary, opinion, and news editorials for a decade now, and I have never said, “This is how you should vote,” or “This is how I’m going to vote.” But I have said, and I will say in the future, that I want each one of us to exercise our franchise in a manner that shows respect for the freedoms so many have sacrificed to secure, and that means showing respect for the process, and that means – yes it does! – a little more respect for those who disagree with us.

In the words of Jesus, “Peace, not as the world gives” – DEREK