Friday, the third day of Lent: I'm back home today, having wrapped up my visit at The Upper Room in Nashville Thursday afternoon. We crammed a lot of work into my short visit, and my head is still spinning. It's going to take a few days to thoroughly process all the details we talked about.
I'm getting going this morning with a quote from an upcoming article I prepared for the United Methodist Florida Annual Conference Newsletter (No, I'm not "scooping" my own work - it's just a concept I want to use as a jumping off point for today's post). The quote is a statement made by Florida United Methodist Foundation President Wi-Lee Tan, during an interview for my upcoming story on Africa University.
The hope is in the stories. Ultimately ministry is captured in the stories of lives transformed, of communities transformed, and of societies transformed. It’s about the leaven in the bread. One person can make a difference.
STORIES for LUNCH: And so yesterday, over a casual lunch at a Nashville eatery, I listened to the stories that help define my new friends - Tom, Philip, Matthew, John, Andrew, Dusty and Kyle. Two are in their 20's, three in their 30's and two in their 60's.
The context was this ongoing - and critically important - conversation I'm involved in regarding what it means to be a vital, active, Christian man in the Twenty-first Century.
Lunch was set up by Tom Albin, the Dean of the Chapel at The Upper Room. Tom has been gracious enough to host me in his home this week, and we've spent several hours talking - like we were old friends - about matters of faith and spirituality. I'd been back at the Upper Room during the morning for some video-taping and he wanted to facilitate some dialog about what's going on with Christian men.
Most of the stories are too personal to share with you here. But one recurring theme stood out, and that was the crying need in 21st Century North America for men to create safe spaces where they can not only share their stories but also ask hard questions.
ANSWERS: "But what if we don't know the answers?" one of the young men asked. He's pulling together a group of ten guys for a start-up group; most of them are "Culturally Christian" but have no active relationship with either God or church.
"You want to be a group that is defined by its relationship to God's Word," I said. "I suggest that your focus as a group be the seeking of truth, not answers. You're going to discover a more beautiful relationship with God as you develop a deeper relationship to God's Word. You're going to find that you love one-another more to the extent that you are honest and transparent. And you're going grow in grace as you begin to put your commitment to follow Jesus into action and live like disciples."
ONE STORY: The young man who is starting a group had recently been set free from some destructive patterns that threatened his life, his livelihood and his marriage. The group he'd been in played a huge role in his healing. Then, when he decided to launch a new men's group, he searched the Internet for resources.
"What kept coming up was your name," he said, "and your book, GET REAL: a spiritual journey for men."
So - around four weeks ago - the young man purchased a copy of GET REAL. He then asked his father-in-law if he'd heard anything about it.
"Well, yes;" his father-in-law responded, "that's one of the books we publish at The Upper Room. In fact, I just invited Derek Maul to come to Nashville for a few days. Would you like to meet him?"
SERENDIPITY: You can't make this stuff up! One person's story is all it takes. Ministry is the story of lives transformed. The hope is in the stories.
Hope... Peace... and Promise - DEREK
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” - Jeremiah 29:11-13