Saturday, October 31, 2009

Images that articulate my life...

This morning I've continued the process of sorting and saving, scrolling through literally thousands of photographs and documents. Consequently, I've run across a few pictures I'd forgotten about, or skipped over. Some are definitely worth sharing.

This first image was taken just this past week, looking along the side yard in our garden. Those trees in the background are Amazon Rain Trees. We planted three back in 1997, and this is certainly their best time of the year.

Our garden, much like our spiritual lives is a mixture of vision, wild growth, sporadic maintenance, planning, neglect, and the generous hand of God. I've often said - and only partially joking - that church PNCs (pastor nominating committees) should never make a decision on a spiritual leader without first taking a tour of their garden. Our garden speaks volumes (including commentary on chronic back pain and age-enhanced fatigue!), and it sometimes suggests why we should probably think seriously about two other ideas: "Condominium" and "container-gardening"!

Next up is a quiet moment with Rebekah on the Gulf of Mexico. One of our favorite "restorative" recreational initiatives is to take long slow walks along the shore around sunset. This particular moment was captured out at Bradenton Beach - that's Rebekah, down by the water. When I see the edge of the ocean, I can't help but think about the way that time laps up against eternity, how the brush of immortality reaches me sometimes, and how the spiritual and the physical worlds meet with more graspable meaning....

This last is of Mozart, my faithful dog who finally passed away at 16, having willed himself to hang around a couple of extra years so he could enjoy my "work-at-home" status after I quit teaching. He died well before I started blogging, so he will be new to those of you who didn't know me then.

"Mo" taught me a lot about the redemptive power of faithful love. The brief version of his story is this: Mo came to us at four years of age, having been severely abused and neglected in his early life. We eventually taught him to trust again, and - just as soon as he understood that the nightmare was truly over - Mo said "thank-you" the only way he knew how; he loved us right back. He spent the next 12 years trying as hard as he could to make sure that we all - and me in particular - knew that he was head-over-heels, over-the-top devoted, with all the doggie-love he could muster.

It's a simple thing to love in that way. All you have to do is want the absolute best for the other in every circumstance, never ever putting yourself or your own agenda ahead. Funny thing about those who love like that - they invariably receive even more than they give...

Love - DEREK

Friday, October 30, 2009

Computer Crash!!!

But the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word - Mark 4

Yesterday, late afternoon, my "go-to" desktop computer crashed. I was working with a big chunk of photographs... things froze up... the program started running again... I continued... things froze up a second time... I continued to push... then everything went blank and I got one of those disturbing messages that used words like "corruption", "error", and "you're really stupid" (not really, but I could hear what it was thinking.

So, being a fairly "think on my feet" kind of a guy, I rebooted. That's when the message said (and I'm paraphrasing because who takes the time to write down exact words when someone is breaking up with you?), "No operating systems recognized!" So I turned everything off, at the power strip, waited a few minutes, and got the computer going again. Same thing; no suggestions; not even a reference to booting up in "safe-mode" or whatever that is!

Now I'm worried. This time, after I turn all power off, I make myself a cup of tea before re-booting. It's a (formerly) English thing; you make tea when there's a crisis. Unfortunately it didn't work and I got the same "give it up, sucker!" message on the screen.

Okay, long story short. I tried Ctrl/Alt/Delete and got back to my operating system. Yay!

But the writing is on the wall for this computer. It's a COMPAQ Presario, around 8 years old or so, and I'm spending today carefully transferring all important information and photographs to my external hard-drive. I have a good laptop (DELL XPS M1210), so all I'll need to replace the desk model is a basic system and - now that our young-adult children live a combined 10,000 miles away - it won't be getting loaded down with complex gaming programs and other stuff I'll never use.

Anyway, here's the message. Clutter eventually chokes out the important stuff. After enough time and exposure all the weeds, and the "iffy" websites, and the latent viruses, the cookies, and the complex operating requirments of distractions with little to no real value... these all choke out and overwhelm what is important.

My new computer is going to be a better reflection of my priorities. The one that crashed is probably an accurate window into my messy journey over the past almost decade. That is a thought that gives me pause...

Stay posted; I'll tell you what ends up on my desk. More and more I am an open book :-)

Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Mark 4:19-19

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Finding my "Muse"

I may be only a few minutes into the work day, but I already feel some distinct pressure to be super-productive. However, I'm completely aware of the reason why, and heads-up knowledge typically goes a long way toward disarming the problem.

Here's the reason I feel so obligated to produce: I said "No, thank-you" to an invitation to play golf this morning. That's 85-degrees, partly cloudy, inexpensive Florida golf with some very cool people. Wow! listen to me... I've almost talked myself back into playing - but with a 9:00 tee-time it's already too late!

Consequently, I feel this creeping need to accomplish something significant in the way of creativity, something that justifies my "I can't play golf because I have too much work to do" assertion. Alternatively, there is my "Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 2004" game on the computer. But, no; that would be nothing but pathetic.

But I'm genuinely curious regarding the dynamics that come into play when it comes to "getting into the groove" as a writer. It's not the same as simply showing up to work and completing assigned tasks. When I was a schoolteacher I was certainly better at my job when I was creative, but I showed up regardless; the kids came to my classroom, and later went home, nobody needed to know if I had my "A-game" going or not; and my paycheck appeared like clockwork, irrespective of my moment by moment connection to teaching greatness....

But now, poised over a keyboard with columns and chapters and interviews and features to prepare - the proverbial "finding my muse" turns out to be the difference between fortune or futility!

This summer, touring the Vatican Museum, we came across an exhibit of Renaissance sculptures. One was described as a "Muse", so I took a photograph, with the intention of possibly incorporating the image in the design scheme for my study (here it is). But you know what? It's nothing more than a picture of a piece of chiseled marble. Or, according to the compact Oxford English Dictionary, "(one) of nine goddesses who preside over the arts and sciences."

Here's where my devotional disciplines begin to make more sense in terms of my work. God, the source of all being, is described in many different ways throughout the biblical text. Most descriptive characteristics are - by definition - limiting, and difficult to ascribe to a deity not limited by time and space.

Stay with me on this: - One of the most compelling words used to help us understand God is the word "Creator." Okay, the Bible also tells me that I am made in the image of God. If that is true, then my fidelity to God's creative work is best revealed in terms of my living in the truth of that fact. To the extent that I embrace creativity, then, the image of God is revealed in and through me.

There's my muse! Living in the truth of the foundational idea that I am made in God's image. Now that is something I can latch onto. My work as a writer, then, must always begin in terms of a renewed and active relationship with God. Forget the idea of pressure to produce! All I have to do is to simply seek the presence and the blessing of my Creator.

Food for thought - and prayer - DEREK

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Life is too short to hurry

Last night was "date-night", so Rebekah and I went out to eat at the Cheesecake Factory. We've always enjoyed good Italian cuisine, but I have to admit it's been a little more fun since our visit to Tuscany this summer.

We talked, we visited with some friends at another table, we chatted with the waitress about her favorite dishes, we made our selections, I ordered a glass of wine.... Rebekah and I enjoy dinning together; we talk about everything from what's on the front page of the paper, to the creative projects we're involved in, to our children, our dreams and concerns, and subjects as mundane as the odds that the cloud system we see moving in from the west will drop any rain - it did.

Eventually our food arrived. Mine was the "Chicken Bellagio", and I told the waitress about taking the ferry over to Bellagio (pictured, to right) with Andrew in June, when we stayed at a hotel on the other side of Lake Como.

After a few minutes the manager appeared, deeply apologetic about the delay.

"What delay?" I asked, honestly confused.

"Your order took far too long to get out to you," he explained.

"You don't understand," I replied. "We just returned from Tuscany. In Italy dinner is the evening's entertainment; this food is actually forty-five minutes early! Rebekah and I are here to enjoy the evening; so don't worry, we're fine."

"Italy?" he said, with the air of an Italian restaurant manager who has never seen Europe. "That must be nice. How do we compare?"

"This is a great restaurant," I said. "But see this glass of wine? It's Chianti, of course; but you charged me $7:50 for barely half a glass. In Tuscany you can get a bottle of the best house Chianti for around five Euro!"

Now I didn't ask to see the bottle. When I did that at Macaroni Grill I had to point out that their "Chianti" was actually produced in California! But I did put the manager at ease - or at least as much as I could in the fast-paced world of American dinning where a casual visit with a customer is pretty-much impossible to pull off because someone, somewhere, was probably holding some kind of a stop-watch on the poor guy.

He really didn't get that we weren't upset about waiting for our food. We were there to enjoy the evening, but all he could see was a low score on "turning tables." A class response would have been to send out another glass of Chianti as a "thank-you" for putting his mind at ease. But I suspect he'd already been paged about something else and forgot the conversation before he had covered fifty feet.

Life is too short to be in that much of a hurry. I know that sounds like a non sequitur - but the truth is life is not so much about the checking-off as the experience; not the destination so much as the journey.

I hope it lasts, this dine-like-we're-still-in-Italy feeling. And I hope it spills over to other things, too.
  • I tell you not to worry about your life. Don't worry about having something to eat, drink, or wear. Isn't life more than food or clothing? Look at the birds in the sky! They don't plant or harvest. They don't even store grain in barns. Yet your Father in heaven takes care of them. Aren't you worth more than birds?Can worry make you live longer? Why worry about clothes? Look how the wild flowers grow. They don't work hard to make their clothes. But I tell you that Solomon with all his wealth wasn't as well clothed as one of them. God gives such beauty to everything that grows in the fields, even though it is here today and thrown into a fire tomorrow. He will surely do even more for you! Why do you have such little faith? Don't worry and ask yourselves, "Will we have anything to eat? Will we have anything to drink? Will we have any clothes to wear?" Only people who don't know God are always worrying about such things. Your Father in heaven knows that you need all of these. But more than anything else, put God's work first and do what he wants. Then the other things will be yours as well. Don't worry about tomorrow. It will take care of itself. You have enough to worry about today. Matthew 6

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Do I really want a "normal" day? Thinking out loud...

This morning I'm praying for a more "normal" day. By normal, I mean actually being able to attend to the items I had imagined attending to when I looked at my calendar last night and said: "Ah, Tuesday; I have two articles to write, an on-line class to outline, and some interviews to schedule. Then I'm taking Rebekah out for dinner then maybe a movie...."

Life, of course, is seldom that cooperative. Yes I have gone upwards of three or four weeks in succession without a deviation from the routine; and - yes - a certain amount of predictability is very helpful when staring down huge chunks of work that require concentration and planning.

But life is, by definition, a state of constant flux. Typically, what we describe as calm is really more properly stasis (a static balance between opposing forces); balance is not an "absence of hassle" quality so much as an "in order" experience. To be honest I think we are often confused about what we want.

We say we want calm when what we really need is balance. We say we want more time when what we're actually looking for is productivity. We say we want quiet when what we really mean is peace. We say we want to be rich but our souls instead are crying out for satisfaction.

There's a scripture (Psalm 118:24) that declares "This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." The being-glad part is not contingent on having the day turn out the way we think it needs to; the rejoicing is a simple response to understanding who made the day.

I like the CEV translation a lot: "This day belongs to the LORD! Let's celebrate and be glad today."

So I'm shifting my position as I "think out loud", and I'm saying that what I really want to experience today is not "normal" so much as it is peace. It turns out that I am at peace most often when I am in balance. And I am in balance when I live in the knowledge that "This day belongs to the LORD!", when I live out of the truth of that knowledge, and when I let my faith be my guide.

I'm not feeling all that erudite this morning - so I'll publish this post and let you sort it out the best you can!

Blessings, always - DEREK

Monday, October 26, 2009

Notes from the hospital

Well, this has been an interesting start to the week. My dad had a bad night in the hospital down in Sarasota, so they've ordered a bunch of new tests and I've headed down again to visit and spend some time with my mum. This time there's some internal bleeding, weakness and nausea, and they have to figure out what's going on.

These events all fit in with the conversation we had in my small group at church last night. Just about everyone there has issues of some kind with parents in crisis, personal medical concerns, and a variety of potentially overwhelming situations.

But - and this is hugely important - we were, gathered together in support and encouragement and prayer, still a group of positive, thankful, forgiven children of God who are living our sometimes difficult lives in the truth and great peace of redemptive community.

That kind of assurance is of critical importance when I'm sitting in a hospital room watching my dad deal with this seemingly endless parade of distressing medical news. Two weeks ago he was feeling fine, scheduled to go in for a heart cath, not expecting much to happen.

Today he's still in the hospital, news is not all that good, and we're all deeply concerned. The simple fact of our relationship to God, however, the Creator who loves each one of us completely, has not changed at all. Dad is God's child, as am I; it's the kind of knowledge that puts everything else into perspective.

There's a chapter in my new book that sums things up fairly well. "Life is hard: follow Jesus". Following Jesus is the only way to effectively engage the challenges we face from day to day, and that often overwhelm us.

Here's the thing. Right now I should be upset and worried and stressed. Well, I am! But all of that is still secondary to the foundational blessing of God's faithfulness and love.

For now, that has to be enough - DEREK

Sunday, October 25, 2009

We all need to get out more; intellectually and philosophically: Connecticut wrap-up

This past week seemed like a whirlwind tour - but we managed almost five full days in Connecticut with Naomi and Craig before heading back to sultry Florida for an encore of our extended summer!

What I enjoyed the best was walking around Naomi's neighborhood, shooting pool and playing ping-pong with the family, and soaking up the New England charm of their community.

Naomi works in Old Saybrook, a small town on the Long Island Sound. Rebekah went antiquing with Naomi, and we all had lunch together at a pub on the main street. The place reeks of good taste and old-world manners.

As you can guess, Naomi has made quite an impact on the understated Connecticut scene. It's easy to be noticed in New England when you eschew demure in favor of demonstrative. It's not that Naomi flouts convention so much as that she embraces - enthusiastically - a more boisterous, joyful approach to life.

She's a big success. She has the ability to put people at ease and make everyone more comfortable with themselves. She's an evangelist for fun, and I believe she's winning some converts.

Rebekah and I took one more walk around Naomi's neighborhood, picking out lots for our potential second home. You know, the one we'll be building after a few hundred thousand more people discover my books! The fall colors were spectacular. I'm including just a sampling of photos here. But it wasn't just the trees, it was hiking in fresh, cool, air; breathing deeply and tasting it all the way through to my bones; my lungs have been waiting for this since early March.

It really is easy to forget what the world looks and feels like when you don't travel. It's easy to believe everything else - and everyone else - is just like us, feels just like us, lives just like us... but of course nothing could be further from the truth.

It's the same when it comes to our points of view, our philosophies and our world views. Most of us need to get out more - intellectually!

'Nuff said. I believe the point is fairly obvious.

Happy travels! - DEREK

Friday, October 23, 2009

Children - Sometimes it's Hard to Let Go...

It's cold in Connecticut this morning. Outside the sky is overcast and a steady breeze is blowing. Some of the best looking leaves from yesterday are on the way down; I can see them dropping through the living room window; they're making a fresh carpet so it's just about impossible to tell we raked the other day.

It really is beautiful here. I've said that before, but we're only enjoying a few brief days before heading back to Florida this evening.

There's something compelling about the cycle of the seasons; the way that Fall offers a fresh mulching of leaves before the harsher Winter months; the way that dormancy guards the promise of Spring; the way the natural rhythms echo the cycle of life - vibrancy, and disappointment, and renewal, and joy, and even wilderness; the constant of hope that is the backdrop of our
experience as sentient beings.

I'm also conscious that - while we talk on the phone pretty-much every day - so much time lapses between visits. This world is so far away from Florida (and in so many ways), and the last time we saw Naomi and Craig was March, when they came to Brandon. Life happens in between; priorities and lifestyles shift - they are making their own life here; and in some respects we move - not necessarily for good or for ill - further apart. What I'm saying is that it's still hard to let go.

This morning I played in the back garden with Star, their exuberant dog of questionable lineage. Star loves the cool Fall air and throwing herself in the thick carpet of leaves.

Yesterday evening we played endless ping-pong and then pool in the new basement, holding on to the week as long as we could, going to bed late. Rebekah helped Naomi with some of the finishing touches - Naomi's remarkable art, an old cue-rack, glass door-nob coat hangers...

This is a good home. Naomi and Craig love one another. But it is so far away and I wish so deeply in my soul that they could find a community of faith like First Brandon...

Still praying; still believing - DEREK

Thursday, October 22, 2009

It's never boring around here and other musings

So here we are, three days into our adventure with Naomi and Craig. We've raked leaves, cleaned stuff, played pool, experienced some marvelous hiking, played ping-pong, gone leaf-peeping several times, watched movies together, and generally re-acquainted ourselves with the essential "NaomiCraig household experience."

Last night, we drove a good forty-five minutes to find an Applebee's restaurant!
In Brandon there's one two miles away on Hwy 60 and we have two within four miles. We also have three Chili's, at least two Ruby Tuesday locations, and one or more of every imaginable type and price-level of eatery imaginable.

I'd forgotten how rural this part of Connecticut is!

But, on balance, I'd take this kind or rural any day over our kind of Bay Area "metro-spillage" (my term).

It's not that Florida's not beautiful - it's just that we've paved over it and without regard to anything other than the bottom line for developers. Connecticut didn't just accidentally remain well cared for. It's the kind of decision communities can and do make all the time.

If we don't start making those kinds of commitments to what's left of natural Florida now then, just as soon as the construction juggernaut starts up again, we're going to roll over again because we're afraid the big investments will up and leave if we don't give them everything they want.

To be honest, I think we need to re-define what we mean by prosperity. If we believe it means "more money and less sense community responsibility..." then we'll continue down this destructive road. But if - instead - we understand prosperous in terms of stewardship rather than ownership... well, there's hope for Florida after all.

Think about it - DEREK

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Great pictures from Connecticut!

Yesterday was another good day. It involved leaf-raking (Rebekah and Craig), leaf-peeping (all of us), leaf-photography (me), and leaf-rolling (Naomi's dog, Star). The trees up here are magnificent and there's a thick carpet of golden leaves everywhere you look.

After lunch, we all went to the "Devil's Hopyard" state park about ten miles down the road, and walked a couple of miles through the woods.

So, rather than conjure words to describe how restorative it is to hike in the cool Connecticut fall with people I love, I'll simply post a few pictures.

That's Naomi, Craig, and Star (above right) at the entrance to the park. It starts with a spectacular waterfall that feeds a tranquil lake, and then opens into hundreds of acres of woodlands with several miles of trails on the rocky hillsides. Not difficult hiking, but certainly employing muscle groups not typically utilized by flat-land dwellers from Florida!

In the evening, Craig's folks (Craig and Sue and his sister, Teresa) came over for dinner. We enjoyed a relaxed evening together and Craig schooled me in ping-pong. Looks like the beginning of a long-term rivalry to me!

The best part about traveling like this is the opportunity for Rebekah and me to be together 24/7. We're fortunate enough to both have jobs where we're flexible, so we already spend more time together than the average couple. We have found that the axiom "Absence makes the heart grow fonder" is no-where near so true as this new one (I'm making it up, now): "Quantity time leads to more quality time."

I'll leave today's post with the view from the balcony outside Naomi and Craig's master-suite. This is why I have this undercurrent of an urge to move to New England. But don't worry, those of you who know us around Tampa and don't want to see us go. We can barely afford to live in Florida! But, keep buying books, and we'll at least get some vacation time in Connecticut once in a while!

Love and blessings - DEREK

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fall in Connecticut

The fall certainly is beautiful up here in Connecticut, staying at our daughter and son-in-law's slightly Bohemian artsy lair. The fall leaves are brilliant, the air is fresh, and we've already enjoyed a day of cool, clear sunshine. Their property is on the edge of some unspoiled woodlands, and the trees are magnificent.

Naomi and Craig have almost completed finishing out their basement, and the pool-table (along with a table-tennis top) was just installed this week. I'm happy to say that I can still wield a fairly effective pool cue, and the series of matches with Naomi came out close to even.

We're happy that Naomi and Craig enjoy playing games together. They're always shooting pool, hitting some ping-pong, or playing Scrabble, Monopoly, cards etc. There's an air of "we just love being together" in evidence here. The being together part is still much more important than anything else, and it's reflected in the - how shall I put this - "College-dorm chic" housekeeping style they seem to prefer.

The house, the yard, and their lives are just about bursting with what is possible. It's all, to some extent, a primordial soup of potentiality, and we can't wait to see what they end up doing with the parts once they begin to assemble them.

It's an interesting thing, to watch your children build their own lives. Part of me wants to play the part of director, full with our ideas of how to proceed. But we're not, and we won't; we're just here as spectators, a little bit anxious and a lot proud.

Bless this home, Lord. Bless Naomi and Craig and guide them in the lives they are building. We pray in confidence, because we know how much God loves them both. Amen

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Good morning, Sunshine! :-)

All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. - John 1:3-4

Our wonderful daughter, Naomi, painted this sunflower for her mother, earlier this year. I can't think of a better image to encourage all my friends on a Monday morning!

It's also a great picture because we're "up and away" on a flight to Connecticut, this morning, to see Naomi and her wonderful husband, Craig Campbell.

Cold, wet New England fall will be nothing compared to the pure sunshine of spending a few days with Naomi and Craig. My prayer is a week full with such love and light for each one of you.

Many blessings. Grace and peace - DEREK

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Debute Column in FOCUS Magazine

A few months ago I shared my disappointment that, after close to a decade, the Tampa Tribune had dropped my opinion column. I still write a weekly commentary for a small north Florida paper, but I lost my intimate week-by-week connection with the local community.

I'm glad the Tribune still runs my "community profile" pieces, but my column needed a new home. Not everyone reads my blog - I think they'd like it if they tried - so I shopped around and was very pleased to find some interest from the folk at FOCUS Magazine, a monthly news periodical based over in Plant City.

So, this week, my first - once a month - opinion column ran in FOCUS, along with a community news feature that I'll write pretty-much every issue. What makes this column of interest for today's posting is the way I lay out my "M.O." as a writer. I answer some questions about the "why" behind my writing and try to set the stage for my emphasis in the future. So I thought I'd share it with all of you today. Enjoy:

Redemption: it's not just for church anymore!
FOCUS magazine, October, 2009

A few weeks ago I was asked to sit on the stage at a theater in Brandon, where I fielded questions from the audience after a production of “Children’s Letters to God.” There were five of us, all billed as public figures willing to talk about personal faith. The others introduced themselves by occupation and community involvement. “I’m a pastor...” “I work as a teacher...” “I’m on the board of the community foundation....”

When it came my turn I said the following: “Good evening! My name is Derek Maul. My work involves listening to people and learning their stories. I collect stories; I try to understand what makes people tick. I’m especially interested in how our narrative - both personal and community – interfaces with The Greatest Story Ever Told.”

My work, indeed everything I do, is back-shadowed by faith.

Let me explain: In the world of art one interesting technique involves a deliberate “painting over” - one picture on top of the other. Here’s how it works: The artist paints a portrait or a scene. Then, after the canvas dries, another image is applied on top. When the work is completed, the effect carries an emotional impact that transcends conventional applications. The technique is potent and resonant. Sometimes the under-painting is completely obscured; sometimes it can be easily detected.

Everything that I write – books, blogs, articles, features or commentary - is back-shadowed by faith. Sometimes you can see it clearly; often it’s necessary to scratch at the surface; once in a while the story on top is absolutely all you can see. But, behind everything, my world-view is ultimately redemptive; grounded in hope and rooted in my commitment to follow Jesus.

The world we live in is dangerously broken; but I believe in the power of redemption and of grace. Consequently - rather than criticism, judgment or condemnation - commentary in this space will reflect my interest in restoration and healing.

There’s a sense in which all of creation – both human beings and the planet we live on - is loaded with a kind of anticipation; creation hoping that, one day, the people whom God created and charged with responsibility will finally “get it.” Here’s how Paul expressed the idea in Romans, chapter 8: 19-21 (CEV).
  • All creation is eagerly waiting for God to show who his children are. Meanwhile, creation is confused, but not because it wants to be confused. God made it this way in the hope that creation would be set free from decay and would share in the glorious freedom of his children.
This truth is self evident in Florida. If we abuse the earth long enough it fights back, and we all pay the price. Lost wetlands; pesticide misuse; antibiotic ridden meat; an exhausted aquifer;
erosion - this list is extensive. I’m talking redemption, people, and it’s not just for church anymore.

So here’s this month’s question. In what way is this community aligned with the impetus of redemption? In what ways do our choices as individuals, businesses and organizations bring hope and work toward a future that is good. What am I doing to facilitate wholeness, healing
and reconciliation?

Let me know what you think. I’d like to hear what you are up to.
Grace and peace – DEREK MAUL

You can reach Derek at, or visit his website at

Friday, October 16, 2009

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. - Psalm 139:14

Good news this morning regarding my dad's recovery. My mum phoned to say he had been for a walk (with assistance) down the hall and that he is looking forward to reading the newspaper and maybe doing some crossword puzzles. That and - of course - "Would you bring me a cup of tea and some toast and marmalade?"

When I left Sarasota late yesterday morning he was still in Critical Care and exhausted from lack of sleep. They were giving him another unit of blood and trying to settle his blood pressure down. There was nothing out of the ordinary (well, not if you've had your ribcage pulled apart and your heart temporarily detached from your body) just a long, tedious recovery process and a lot of extra care.

You know, our bodies really are amazing and miraculous machines. Sometimes, when I think about all the intricacies and the overlapping variables that all work together, I'm surprised it's possible to even walk across the room to pour coffee - let alone live for 80 years or more, performing complex tasks, digesting food and extracting energy, cleaning blood, processing carbohydrates, breathing, utilizing various parts of the brain, cataloging and storing information....

So, in one of those "life examined" moments, I'm renewing my commitment to take care of this amazing 175 (give or take!) pounds of flesh and blood. I've done pretty well, thus far; but - like the way I used to rely on my natural gifts to get by in school - most of my success has been the result of the basic equipment I was issued at the beginning of the game.

When I turned fifty I made some positive changes that yielded some fairly spectacular results. Now I need to make sure I'm not simply coasting on momentum.

So here's my goal for my next, annual, checkup. Simply put, my doctor is going to make some utterance of incredulity. "OMG," she'll say; "How on earth are you managing to be in such great shape?"

"It's a gift," I'll reply; "I'm just taking care of something my Father trusted me with."

The check up is scheduled for February 11, 2010.
  • Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 2you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. - 1 Corinthians 6:19