a “foodie” makes a burger – #simplicity

IMG_2995First, a confession. I have fallen way behind on my foodie initiative, my, “One new push-the-envelope dinner each week” gift to Rebekah. Granted, I have followed through every time she’s picked out a recipe – I just have to be more proactive in the planning.

But I do have a foodie-post to share today, because we enjoyed two dining experiences this week that reminded me how a simple meal can be just as rewarding. The first is my own, and the second involved eating out.

CHEESEBURGER IN PARADISE: Friday evening, after yet another day of soaking rain, I concocted a twist on the classic American burger that could well be the best hamburger I’ve ever prepared.

IMG_2998First, it’s important to use a good quality ground beef. I go for 93%, and work in a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce for each burger, plus a dash of “Bologna aromatic herbal salt.” I use a ridged iron skillet, so the meat will drain while cooking (plus it gives the burger those really cool grill lines!).

Meanwhile, I have caramelized a tablespoon of onion and sautéed some mushrooms. Now this is the cool part: I’ve often had trouble with mushrooms sliding off the burger, so this time I placed the mushrooms and onions on just before adding the cheese (Muenster). The cheese then melted down to hold things in place beautifully.

Served on a warm potato-roll, with tomatoes and lettuce, and a side of sweet-potato fries, along with a good local beverage, Friday’s burger platter was arguably my best ever.

IMG_2949PIZZA PIZZA! Then, earlier in the week, Rebekah and went out for date-night at Crabtree Valley Mall. We enjoyed dinner at Tomato Pie, and I was pleased with the authenticity of their pizza. Those three trips to Italy have made it hard for me to see Italian-American food the same way any more, so it was refreshing to experience something so autentico delizioso.

(Tomato Pie’s cappuccino, however, fell way short of the mark. It turned out to be one shot of espresso plus hot water in a tall mug – essentially a caffè americano topped with frothed milk.)

SIMPLE GIFTS: My point this morning is that something doesn’t have to be complex to be special; it just has to be good. But isn’t that the art of living well?

IMG_1498It all comes down to the essential value of gathering whatever resources are at our disposal, being creative with what we have, doing our very best, being our very best, celebrating the gift of the occasion with people we love, and enjoying this life in a spirit of gratitude.

This kind of goodness is something we can accomplish every single day – DEREK 

let it rain


the Maul end of the cul-de-sac

Rain = Life

The story of these past few days here in North Carolina has been one of rain, clouds, rain, and more rain. We need it; when it’s too dry we worry we’ll never see it again; it’s one of the essential necessities for the presence of life; yet we complain when we don’t get it on our terms. And our terms tend to be limited to, “a couple of times a week, preferably in the night while I’m asleep, so I’m not inconvenienced.”

It’s tempting to leverage the rain as a spiritual metaphor, along the lines of how we need God for life, but too much of God makes us nervous; that we’d be much happier with God on our terms – just once or twice a week, and preferably when God isn’t going to intrude on anything else we have going on.

IMG_2984BALANCE: The idea has merit, but it falls down in terms of balance. God isn’t like the rain – God is like the rain, the sun, the fresh air, the heat, the cold, the clouds, the tempest, the splendor of the fall, and the promise of the spring. In other words, God invites us into the balance of all that nourishes, strengthens, and facilitates growth.

The passage of scripture that just jumped into my mind is this difficult quote from Jesus. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.”John 15:6. Jesus is not making a threat so much as an observation. Because, like everything else in this world, we have been created in order to grow and to bear fruit; and we won’t grow if we are not properly balanced; and we’re not properly balanced unless we are tapped into spiritual life; and we are not optimally tapped into God unless we know Jesus.

IMG_2990It’s still raining, it will likely continue to rain all weekend, and we may get buffeted by some winds. But it’s all good. I can look into the deep greens, the wet paths, and the saturated earth and I see how God wants to settle into my spirit and teach me deep truths. Likewise when the sun comes out, the temperatures drop, and the leaves begin to turn, I will feel his joy and my spirit will celebrate in gladness.

ABUNDANT LIFE: God doesn’t intend to suffocate me, hem me in, and stop me from enjoying this amazing life; quite the contrary! God wants to see the right kind of balance that produces light and growth; God’s promise is real, vibrant, fruit-bearing life. “I came so [you] can have real and eternal life, more and better life than [you] ever dreamed of” (John 10:10)

So let it rain – DEREK


ancient words, and gospel truth



Your word is a lamp to guide my feet
    and a light for my path. – Psalm 119:105

This morning I’ve been thinking about words, both ancient words and today’s words too. That’s not really surprising, considering my profession. But the thing is, words don’t belong to writers alone; we don’t own a specialized tool set. Fact is, everyone uses words, and words can mean different things depending on who is saying them, how they are delivered, the context, and a host of other variables resident in the person reading or listening; language is malleable, living, responsive, and constantly evolving.

And it’s not like the evolution of words is something we can regulate. “Evangelical,” for example – a word that used to mean living the good news of the Gospel out loud – has been co-opted by the “Religious Right,” and now has so many political connotations that I can no longer describe myself as an evangelical. Has the good news of Jesus changed? No! But the word has.

“You Keep Using That Word; I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means…” – The Princess Bride

TRUTH: So my task, as a writer, is to coax these words that we all use to cooperate in my task of communicating truth, of harnessing encouragement, of channeling passion, and of inviting people into a more complete experience of life.

IMG_2959I thought about all this earlier today, when I was sitting in the living room, sipping a mug of coffee in one of the dedicated reading spaces throughout our home. I used to joke that putting in one more bookcase is a “no-brainer” decorating solution. But then I went to a few homes where fake “bookcases” featured nothing but bookends glued to a board, and I remembered the difference between academics and aesthetics.

Rebekah, sorting through some boxes from our move two years ago, recently found some ancient volumes that have been fun to thumb through. One, a collection of hymns, was printed in 1869, others, containing the Gospels or the entire Bible, are 200 years old. Many of the words are obsolete, and the translations miss the mark in many respects. Yet what they represent – the truth about God’s initiatives of love, and the story of how people struggled with faith and eventually found a reconciled relationship with God through the saving grace of Jesus – is still fresh, and powerful, and invitational.

IMG_2953The point of words, then, is to help us to unwrap the mystery of God, to serve as a connecting point between our hearts, our minds, and our openness to a truth that resides in deeper, higher, richer places than the text itself.

For me, this distinction between truth and text actually elevates the scriptures. By recognizing what they are not, we can more fully appreciate what they are.

WORSHIP GOD, NOT WORDS ABOUT GOD: I worship God, the God revealed to me in many ways, including the following:

  • the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments,
  • the person of Jesus Christ,
  • the work of the Holy Spirit,
  • the history of believers coming together in worship and mission,
  • the compelling testimony of this good Earth and the amazing Universe,
  • the story of people today who follow Jesus,
  • the simple fact of our day-to-day lives,
  • and… the powerful celebration of community that is Wake Forest Presbyterian Church.

But I do not worship the words, or the Bible; the words simply tell the story. Jesus is The Word, everything else is just words….

IMG_2956I pray that my words will always be an encouragement to you, and an inspiration, and that they will pull the curtain back, just a little bit, so that you are drawn into the light.

In love, and because of love – DEREK

work, and the relationship between productivity and joy

DSC_1145Tuesday lunchtime I met my friend Tim for a sandwich in downtown Wake Forest. We were getting together at noon-thirty, so I planned to stop work at 12:15. It had been a fairly good writing morning, but I was getting a little bogged down and beginning to spin my wheels. So, instead of pushing it hard, pressuring myself to be more productive, then rushing to lunch, I stopped work at noon and walked the mile into town.

It’s been a wet week, so the air was thick and the trees drippy. But the temperature was down and I wasn’t in a hurry; I slowed my pace, drank deeply of the moist air, and fairly sauntered through our pleasant neighborhood then past the old homes on South Main.

“You walked, didn’t you?” Tim said when he arrived – I was relaxing on the sidewalk “street sofa” outside Over the Falls Deli. “Absolutely,” I replied, “it’s a serenity thing.”

WORK: I honestly believe that productivity and joy are closely related.

  • JOY: When I say “joy” what I mean is that refreshing rush of meaning that comes when our lives slip into the proper rhythm, when we feel in synch with the foundational cadence of the universe, when our spirits shudder a little in glad reunion with purpose, when who we are, and what we are about, rings true, when what prompts our gladness is real, and deep, and connected to the Spirit of God.
  • PRODUCTIVITY: And when I say “productivity,” I mean when what we are doing does more than complete a job, but adds meaning to the world; when we honor the image of Creator God in the creativity we apply to our task; when what we do – from writing, to washing dishes, to running a meeting, to consulting with a client – points to the ideal that God can animate every aspect of our every day.

I don’t believe that productivity is possible in its best sense without joy, and I am certain that productivity, in turn, leads to the experience of joy.

SERENITY: That’s why I have learned to disengage myself from work when it is not a joyful experience. That’s why walking to lunch, and talking the time to realign my spirit, did more for my productivity yesterday than extra time knuckled down at the keyboard.

Lunch with my friend, too, is both an experience of and a move toward, joy. We talked about work, about spiritual things, about the paths God is calling us to journey, about our families, and about our hopes and dreams.

We must find our balance if we are going to contribute anything of value to the world God is calling each one of us to serve. Whole people are not only happier in their work, they are more productive too.

THE HEART OF GOD’S WORD: This principle resides at the heart of the teachings of the Bible. In Deuteronomy 6 we find the following call to balance our soul, our mind, and our body: “Hear O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart.”

Jesus affirms the idea in Mark 12, when he was challenged to pick the “greatest” commandment. “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

IMG_1364Fact is, we’re neglecting our most potent resource if we don’t invite God into our work. Joy and productivity – inescapably bound together.

Something to think about – DEREK

good grief #beatitudes


Continuing with our weekly “Sermon on the Mount” series (typically posted Mondays, sometimes Tuesday), this weekend my discipleship class discussed Matthew 4:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Remember that we are approaching the Beatitudes not as a set of, “do this and you will be happy” instructions, but as Jesus looking out over the crowd of people (any crowd of people, it could be us) pointing out who they are – Jews and gentiles, men and women, “chosen” people and those discarded by life, the “in” crowd, and the “out” crowd; the broken, the poor in spirit, the persecuted, the grieving, the pure in heart… – and saying, “God’s kingdom is for you! You are the blessed ones!”

9y9ukGOOD GRIEF: So we talked about grief, and the conversation around the table was deeply personal. We talked about how we handle – or don’t handle – mourning, and we talked about some of the circumstances that have caused us to crumple.

We all agreed that it is only through acknowledging our pain, making ourselves vulnerable, and opening up those tender places both to God and to people who love us, that we are able to begin to engage the healing touch of God in a way that is transformational.

Not just transformational, but beautiful too. It’s not so much that we should look for grief, or that it’s a good idea to hope for brokenness… but that life by its very nature includes loss, and pain, and disappointment, and heartache, and that God – who is constantly breaking in to time and space to work in and through our lives – is not only willing to walk with us, but to facilitate growth and new life.

So we sit – there on the hillside, and here in our today – in the presence of the Master; we pour all that we are out into the space between us; and those experiences – that reality of our honest, authentic lives – become a bridge that closes the distance between our need and God’s presence.

always asking questions...

This particular beatitude is an invitation to bring it all to Jesus. We find blessing – peace, meaning, God’s healing presence – not in spite of our brokenness, but because of it.

That’s what it means to say blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

In love, and because of Jesus – DEREK

grace; generosity; encouragement – three words for the church


“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ – Matthew 25:37-40

This morning’s post moves around three ideas. The church, the mission, and our life together. That’s what a great Sunday will do!

DSC_0288THE CHURCH: Like many larger congregations, the Wake Forest Presbyterian campus includes a multi-purpose building voluminous enough to seat hundreds of people, cater “gala” events, host concerts, play indoor games, and more. Some congregations call them “the gym,” some use the term “fellowship hall,” and then “family life building” is a popular moniker.

We call ours the Christian Life Center, and yesterday – witnessing the building pulsate with every kind of life – I realized it couldn’t have a better name.

  • During the morning the CLC hosted a vibrant worship service, several Bible-study classes, and week-two of a year-long confirmation class attended by 31 8th-grade teens preparing to make a deeper commitment to follow Jesus.
  • In the afternoon the CLC was full with kids-club activities, work for the “backpack-buddies” mission, prep for welcoming four homeless families via the Wake Interfaith Hospitality Network, and the work of over 30 people involved in preparing and serving a hot meal to over 100 homeless individuals on the street. Meanwhile, in the same room where confirmation kids gathered in the morning, Rebekah spent two hours in leadership training for new elders and deacons.
  • In the evening the building was overflowing again, this time with our extremely active youth program. The kitchen was busy all day, and the entire CLC – every nook and cranny of space – overflowed with Christians practicing and demonstrating life.

IMG_2936HOMELESS: I got to go into Raleigh to serve supper. My role – in the meticulously calibrated, fine-tuned, well-oiled mission machine Sandie Buda crafts – is that of welcoming our guests, sharing a devotional thought, offering a blessing, and then simply visiting with people at the tables.

Again, like the day I rode the Greyhound bus back from Florida, all I did was listen and pray. People, real people going through difficult circumstances, people gracious enough to share a small part of their story with a stranger.

Generous with their stories, and expecting nothing in return. Nothing, that is, other than to be understood, to be taken notice of, and to be taken seriously. Of course, the problem with taking these folk seriously is that such knowledge threatens to change us… and maybe that’s not exactly what we had bargained for when we drove down into the small park that sits between the North Carolina Legislature and the governor’s mansion.

IMG_2938LIFE TOGETHER: And then, in a soul-piercing juxtaposition of events, Rebekah and I enjoyed a meal with the WFPC “koinonia” dinner group we’ve been bonding with over the summer months. There is just plain “eating together,” there’s a “dinner party,” and then there’s what can only be described as, “A SUMPTUOUS, FESTIVE FEAST!!!!”

Granted, this particular group turned out to be four couples who all share an uncommon appreciation for the “foodie” end of the eating continuum. All four of our amazing dinners together had been hosted by serious cooks.

Barbara, however, went the extra mile (or three). She pulled out her cookbooks from the years she lived in Taiwan, she dedicated the entire weekend to food preparation, then she gifted us with an authentic eight-course Chinese gourmet extravaganza. Spring Rolls; Lamb with Scallions; Minced Pigeon; SzeChun Eggplant; Double Cooked Pork; Peiking Duck; Fried Noodles; Three Treasure Soup; Mandarin Oranges. Every course was served with perfect rice, and other carefully prepared complements, even down to a real Chinese beer.

After the blessing, Barbara pointed out that – in Taiwan – a clean table-cloth at the end of a meal is considered an insult to the host. She must have planted some Chinese voodoo in my head, because I proceeded (in addition to the usual jogs and spills) to upend an entire dish of soy/sesame sauce, break a (thankfully empty) glass, and knock an open bottle of wine off the credenza!

Once again – after four wonderful dinners together as a group – the conversation, the fellowship, the laughter, the fun of being together as brothers and sisters, came together in a confluence of grace and generosity that simply blew me away.

Rebekah, Diane, Peter, Barbara, Hugh, Jim, Sue...

Rebekah, Diane, Peter, Barbara, Hugh, Jim, Sue…

MEANING: Toward the end of the evening Rebekah asked everyone at the table to come up with three words that describe what Wake Forest Presbyterian Church means to them. There were some great answers. But now I’m thinking about mine again – especially in the context of the touchstone for Christian life that WFPC is, and the light our part of the Body of Christ is to this community – and I have to say grace, generosity, and encouragement.

Grace; Generosity; Encouragement. My words for this new week – DEREK

theology from a labradoodle and inspiration from a butterfly

(Note – I’m not sure about my “Meme of the Week” experiment. This blog may not be the right place for them. An alternative is simply to post the pictures directly to Facebook, and maybe my Twitter account, then simply let this blog be a blog. Any thoughts?”)

Two Memes:


This week’s photo-messages feature a labradoodle named Scout, and a butterfly in the church garden. The photograph of Scout was taken on the front stoop, right after her visit to “The Dirty Dog Spa.” Scout, of course, could care less about how she looks, she just wants to be with her people, she wants to love and to be loved. There’s good theology in her point of view. Jesus pointed out that the only way the world is going to know that we belong to Jesus is if we love one-another with his kind of love.

That kind of commitment to the Good News has to transcend our political differences, our social disagreements, and our tragic need to be right all the time. Let’s face it, friends, none of us are right all the time – especially me. But it turns out we don’t need to be right, we just need to love one-another like Jesus.


This second image features a message about life. Not just any life, but the Jesus kind of life, living evidence that God’s promises are knitted into the DNA of creation. If you haven’t seen my post on our WFPC church garden, clock here – meeting God in the garden – and take a few moments to enjoy the photographs. It tells the story of new creation in compelling joy.

Don’t forget to go to worship today.

In love and because of love – DEREK

the restoration initiative of the gospel #armorofGod

Wake Forest Presbyterian Church

Saturday mornings I meet with a small group of men for Bible-study, mutual encouragement, prayer, and accountability. It’s called a “covenant group,” meaning we meet around a series of agreements, including confidentiality. Covenant groups are a growing emphasis at our church; WFPC offers five specifically designed for men, and close to 30 overall.

Right now we’re at the front end of a study based on Ephesians 6:10-20; this section is known as The Whole Armor of God.

Last week we talked about the setting – what was going on in Ephesus historically, and culturally, why the letter was written, what the church looked like, what kind of understanding the people of that region would have had concerning gods of all sorts, and what they knew about Jesus.

TODAY’S CONVERSATION: This week it was my turn to facilitate. We looked at the following selection, and the conversation turned around “evil.” What is evil? How have we experienced evil? What kind of power does evil hold? And what is its purpose?

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm…”

It is obvious that the writer of Ephesians wants to see people equipped to deal with evil, so I thought it would be a useful idea to have a conversation about what evil is, so we know what it is that we are talking about.

I started indirectly, by asking, What exactly is the point of Christianity? In order to answer that we went all the way back to the beginning of Genesis, and we talked about the following question: What went wrong? And – what is the fix?

  • THE FALL: What went wrong, essentially, was the relationship between God and human beings. Evil facilitated a distortion of the truth, disobedience, and then – the coup de grâce from my point of view – disassociation from God. Distortion; disobedience; disassociation; distance. Human beings hid themselves from God, distancing themselves from the most important relationship God had created for us to enjoy.
  • THE LAW: In a vain attempt to fix what was broken, law after law after law piled up, burden upon burden, until it became impossible to do anything without another indictment, another failure, another inch or two deeper into the giant hole humankind was – and still is – digging for ourselves.
  • ANOTHER WAY: The law – quite simply – is not up to the job. So Jesus came to show us another way. Because of Jesus, we – that’s you, and that’s me – can be reconciled to God. Not because Jesus makes us, or even enables us to, follow the law, but because Jesus presents us blameless.
  • RESTORATION: When Jesus said he came to complete – or to fulfill – the law, Jesus meant that he came to achieve the end that the law was working toward. That end is a restored relationships with God.

EVIL’S AGENDA: The chief end of evil, then, is to frustrate and to defeat the work of restoration. Evil would be perfectly happy if the human family followed every bizarre and sometimes contradictory “rule” outlined in the Bible, yet failed to follow Jesus and accept the gift of unconditional reconciliation with God.

The “wiles of the devil,” the “schemes” as another translation puts it, are concerned with opposing the work of the Gospel. The Gospel is the good news that, because of Jesus, we can enjoy the “new creation” privilege of a restored relationship with God.

If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! – 2 Corinthians 5:17

So the work of evil is not about throwing a wrench into “the law” – Jesus has already done that! The work of evil is to obstruct our ongoing reconciliation with God, the evidence of which is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.” – Galatians 5:22-23

Another way to say this is that evil is anti-freedom. Evil wants to keep people in bondage to anything and everything with the potential to come between them and God… and – as often as not – what keeps men and women disassociated from God is the law.

So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law. – Galatians 5:1

I believe, then, that – quite often and quite ironically – the agenda of the legalists, the proof-texters, the literalists, the “let me tell you why God hates these people” crowd, serves to work against the restoration initiative of the gospel.

won't you join the conversation?

won’t you join the conversation?

THE POINT: If the whole point of Christianity is that of fixing our broken relationship with God, and celebrating that joy by following Jesus and continuing God’s reconciling work in the world, then the conversation about defeating evil should be more a conversation about guarding our relationship with God than about subjugating ourselves to the law.

Do I hear an “Amen…?”

Luck, a hole-in-one, practice, and more frequent “God-Sightings”


Oh, how I love your law!
    I meditate on it all day long.
98 Your commands are always with me
    and make me wiser than my enemies.
99 I have more insight than all my teachers,
    for I meditate on your statutes.
100 I have more understanding than the elders,
    for I obey your precepts.
101 I have kept my feet from every evil path
    so that I might obey your word.
102 I have not departed from your laws,
    for you yourself have taught me.
103 How sweet are your words to my taste,
    sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 I gain understanding from your precepts;
    therefore I hate every wrong path. – Psalm 119

IMG_2916Thursday the rain held off long enough for me to enjoy a fun round of golf with friends from our church. With temperatures in the low 70’s, the beauty of the North Carolina landscape, and the occasional good shot, it was the perfect afternoon.

The was one moment – lasting around five seconds – when I seriously believed I was going to record a “hole-in-one.” The hole was a long par three, measuring 188 yards. I launched a 4-hybrid, and the flight of the ball never once wavered from a direct line to the pin. My ball landed on the front of the green, then rolled up toward the flag, where it rolled directly over the right half of the hole, grazing the flag stick, before coming to rest.

All three of us standing on the tee held our breath, all expecting the ball to drop. When it didn’t, someone said something about the only difference between a great shot and a hole-in-one being luck. So I thought about that, and I have to say it’s not true. Pro golfer Phil Mickelson explained it best in an interview right after he holed out on a par-three in a big PGA tournament. The exchange went something like this:

  • Interviewer: “Well, Phil, they say the only difference between a great shot – and yours was a great shot – and a hole-in-one is nothing but luck.”
  • Phil: “I hear what you’re saying, Brent. But you know what I’ve discovered?” (and here he leaned in a little toward the commentator offering the back-handed compliment). “What I’ve discovered, is that the more I practice, the better I play; and the better I play, the luckier I get.”

Phil politely put the TV commentator – who I’m guessing has never scored a hole-in-one in his life – in his place. But he also reminded me how critically important the discipline part of discipleship is if we’re ever going to be truly effective followers of the Living Way of Jesus.

GOD MOMENT: One of my favorite exercises at church is to ask people to share with the class some moment during the past week when God seemed present and active in their lives. God sightings. Nothing huge, just a simple report:

  • “I witnessed God’s hand at work in the worship service Sunday morning;”
  • “God surprised me with peace when I really needed it;”
  • “The dinner date I had with my wife had God all over it;”
  • “I talked with a friend who needed prayer, and I was able to pray for him…”

IMG_2914Three things always get to me about the way people answer this question. First, the beauty of a shared testimony. Second, how surprised people are when they realize the fact of God’s presence in everyday life. And, lastly, how many people think back over the past few days and can’t come up with a thing!

Here’s my point. People who can easily share such powerful moments, and share them on a regular basis, don’t run into God by accident. No, they routinely put themselves in a place where they are more likely to witness what God is up to, and where they are more likely to be active participants in God’s kingdom initiatives.

And that, by the way, is what “salvation” is all about. Salvation means to participate in the ongoing work of God, to be partners in God’s plan; it’s about receiving the grace that Jesus offers and then living as if a restored relationship with God actually makes a difference in our day-to-day lives.

HOLE-IN-ONE? Back to Phil Mickelson’s comment about the odds of being “lucky” increasing as a function of practice. So, what kind of spiritual practices tend to result in more “chance encounters” with God?

  • Daily prayer;
  • beginning each day in the presence of the Creator;
  • regular Bible-study;
  • singing hymns;
  • a thankful heart;
  • reaching out in love to a hurting world;
  • generosity;
  • sharing faith with those we love;
  • talking about our love for Jesus;
  • telling our story;
  • living our story;
  • serving one-another…

IMG_2918Or, saturating our moment-by-moment with the presence of God.

And that list is just for starters. In other words (everyone-who-wants-more-God-Moments-in-their-life) what I’ve discovered is that, “The more I practice, and the better I play, the luckier I get.”

Certainly something worth thinking about – DEREK


It’s a Wonderful World – “four-photo-Thursday”


 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light… 

God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. – Genesis 1:1-3, 31

There has been a huge (and positive) response to yesterday’s “Pope Francis” post. Click here if you missed it: “Yay Pope Francis! my theory on why he’s such a phenomenon.”



Today – and it’s a beautiful 63-degree mid morning right now – we going with the simple “4-photos” format:

THE MOST EXPENSIVE BEST DOG IN THE WORLD: All things considered, Scout Labradoodle is doing well in the health department. She’s happy; she’s getting into trouble (can you really be upset when a dog who had been struggling to climb three stairs gleefully now jumps onto the guest-room bed for her afternoon nap?); she’s the “poster-dog” for three hugely profitable medicines; the allergy shots seem to be working; and her “grain-free” diet not only rounds out how “special” she is, but is helping BLUE Freedom brand dog food make record profits.

This week we went directly from the doggie beauty-parlor to the vet’s office, where she held court in the waiting room while two vets, three vet-techs, and all the office assistants gathered around to admire her.

IMG_2889IT’S A WONDERFUL WORLD: Cue the iconic Louis Armstrong rendition here. No, we may not have the “fall colors” yet, but they are surely coming; Wake Forest has been enjoying refreshing temperatures, fall is in the air, and the hot summer is well and truly over.

The last few mornings, walking Scout just as the sun comes up (lead photo), the sky has had that inviting, “It’s a wonderful world, and this is going to be a beautiful day” look. Even driving around town – especially cresting the hill heading east on 98 – the vistas echo the theme.

IMG_2908TOGETHER: Every new day is a gift. Rebekah and I always begin with coffee, and sometimes breakfast, on the deck. We feel the freshness of the new day, we share a brief devotion and prayer, we talk about whatever is on our minds, and then – eventually – we pull out our smart-phone calendars and see what is going to finally draw us out of the serenity and into the rhythm of daily life.

But – of course – the devotion, and the prayer, and the enjoyment of one-another has already set the cadence, and the balance of the day proceeds out of that most important context.

This photograph shows that – sometimes – Rebekah’s work begins right there on the deck, on the phone, talking and praying with someone who needs that pastoral connection; maybe re-calibrating the morning in response; maybe sharing something as intimate as a birth, a family crisis, or even the final moments of a life; always understanding that this new day, like every day, is the most precious of gifts…

That is my “4-photo” report for today. I’ve thrown a few more into the gallery, below. May you have a day filled with God’s rich blessings and resonating with peace – DEREK