Monday, April 30, 2012

Disney Magic!

The Disney Magic at Castaway Cay
This morning we floated back into Port Canaveral and started the re-entry process into regular life. We enjoyed a spectacular experience on board the Disney Magic, but it is most certainly time to ease back into the routine of writing, making our own beds, cooking our own food and eating at the kitchen counter.
I’ve started with this photograph from “Castaway Cay” yesterday afternoon, just to give some sense of the scale of the vessel we floated around on for five days. I have amazing photographs aplenty, so I’ll use today’s post to simply offer a taste of how it was like to sail as a family.
Dinner around the table together was always a treat (David is there. you just can't see him!)
EFFICIENCY: Wednesday our party of 12 made it on-board and into our first buffet line before 1:00. If there’s anything Disney know how to do well then it’s move masses of people without the chaos that often goes along with crowds.
Then it was an afternoon of exploring, getting our bearings, and settling into our surprisingly spacious cabins, and enjoying our  ”sit-down and be served” evening meal. My brother Geoff was the lead planner for this family voyage and – even though we were all terribly sad he wasn’t able to live long enough to make the trip – Geoff’s stamp was in the details and we toasted his memory at our first dinner.
Walking photography tour of Key West
SCHEDULE: Thursday we explored Key West, Friday was our day “At Sea,” Saturday we tied up at Nassau in the rain, and Sunday we did the same at the Disney island, Castaway Cay.
Over the next few days I’ll be telling some great stories from the cruise, along with including several spectacular photographs each day.
I’m looking forward to sharing - DEREK

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

three photographs and an "ah-ha"

View from the parking garage, TPA
So much to do in the next 24-hours… but then we’ll be cruising, literally, with no alternative but to relax. I’m just going to have to make my list and go through today like a writing machine. Consequently – and no offense to my most excellent readers – I’m resorting to the tried-and-true “Three Photographs” formula for today’s post.
# 1 – PURE SUNSET: I’ll start at the end because this is the photograph I’d like as today’s lead. After dinner (see below) we rushed to Tampa International Airport (otherwise known as “Andrew’s second home”) to collect him once again. This time his route from Italy went like this: Pisa… Munich… Kiev… Munich… D.C…. Tampa. Yes, everyone knows that Kiev is on a direct route from Pisa to Tampa!
So I dropped Rebekah off at arrivals and put the car on the roof just in time to catch the Sun as it disappeared into the Gulf of Mexico. I’ve discussed in this space before why I always park on the roof. Check out the sunset if you’re ever tempted to park on levels 2-8 again.
Lacey, Rebekah, David, Craig, Naomi...
# 2 – DINNER: When Naomi is home it’s always, “Daddy, can ________ come to dinner?” and, “Daddy can you cook my favorite _______?” and, “Daddy can we use the _____?” (fortunately, that’s where the similarities to high-school stop!) This time the answers were:
  • “Lacey,”
  • “spaghetti,” and
  • “State Farm still has you blacklisted so Craig’s going to have to drive….”
Of course we love having Naomi’s friends over, and I don’t need any excuse to cook something extra special.
Hospitality is a privilege, and it is such a treat to enjoy deep, meaningful conversation with young people. We covered family, hopes and dreams, joys, careers, and matters of faith.
David, contemplating his toes
# 3 – DAVID HENRY: What, you thought maybe I’d skip the grandson? I don’t think so! He’s six months old now and this is only the third time I’ve seen him. Thanksgiving, my brother’s memorial and now for the family cruise.
I’m trying to use images that are not posed. I took a series of shots trying to get him to smile at me and some of them were great. Then he looked away, considered his toes, and paid no attention to the guy with the camera. He’s a little fuzzy, but I love the image.
THAT’s IT: The best moments are unrehearsed. And that’s my thought for today, before I rush into news articles and columns and All-Pro-Dad lists. We can try, try, try to get things right; we can set up the backdrop and coach the pose and wait for “the moment;” but it’s typically when our guard is down that serendipity tends to break in.
Always something to learn
My prayer is that this week is full of such moments for all of us; that we let our guard down and open our hearts; that we provide the space for God to break in; that we set the stage – yes – but then give the magic time to settle in.
This time tomorrow we’ll be on our way to the Disney Boat. Blogs may or may not post. But I promise I’ll be taking notes along the way - DEREK

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monday theology - it's the first day of the rest of your life...

Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits – Psalm 103
Two of my favorite smiles
I’LL BE THE FIRST TO ADMIT I’ve been a little bit paparazzi-esque as a photographer over the past 24-hours. All grand-baby slanted; all opportunistic. Not a single picture taken with my fancy-dancy Nikon D3100; every image captured on the iPhone 4.
I couldn’t help myself. I mean, what can you do when you see a mug like this?
Good photographs, and I’ve said this a dozen times, stand on the story they tell well before any level of aesthetic. And this one tells it well.
We were down on the blanket, playing with some toys that are so cool I might be looking for some in my Christmas stocking this December. Then David and Naomi were doing this balance thing where he holds on to her fingers and pretends he’s standing. Finally he topples, his mom catches him, and they both look over at me at the moment I find the trigger and take the shot.
JOY! I’ve used this word before to describe Naomi, and I’ll use it again because I’m convinced it’s part of why she’s already such a great mother and why David is probably going to learn to engage life with the same kind of passion. My word is “ebullient.”
Latin ebullient-, ebulliens, present participle of ebullire to bubble out…
"Hi, Grandaddy!"
Naomi has an appreciation for life that animates not only her but the space she occupies. David can’t help but get the message. It’s the kind of enthusiasm that you can’t miss.
My brother Geoff, just a few weeks before he died, responded to someone’s suggestion that he, “Live each day like it were your last.” “Last days typically don’t go so well,” he pointed out; “I plan to live each day more like it’s my first….”
That’s how our grandson David approaches things. But it’s not surprising because everything really is brand new and exciting. Naomi has the same kind of approach.
THEOLOGY OF POSSIBILITY: There’s something to be learned here:
  • Every day, a new beginning.
  • Every relationship, a fresh start.
  • Every experience, an opportunity to walk in with eyes open wide in wonder.
  • Every moment, a new creation in God’s dynamic love.
This should be a fun week! - DEREK
Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for the springing fresh from the word

Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall, on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God's recreation of the new day

Sunday, April 22, 2012

it's another new day; I choose life

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life… - Deuteronomy 30:19-20
David doing the airport dance
I was up late last night (beyond midnight) picking up Naomi, Craig, and our grandson David from the airport.  And then I’m up very early this morning (5:30) in order to be ready for Praise Band practice before the early service at First Presbyterian Church of Brandon.
It occurred to me that both ends of the equation had – have – everything to do with choosing life.
Every day, in both the exciting events and the routine happenings, there is always this opportunity to make the choice to “hold fast” to God, to “love God,” and to “listen to God’s voice.”
Because, as the passage concludes, “The Lord is [my] life.”
It’s Sunday morning. What better thought and intention to begin the day with; what better response than to head on into church for worship.
I’ll see you there - DEREK

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Rebekah's Dog and Theology

Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have! – Matthew 6:22-23
Scout Labradoodle, this weekend
SECRET of CONTENTMENT:Sometimes, when life is exceptionally complicated, I take a long look at Scout (Rebekah’s 75-pound, galumphing labradoodle) and wonder about what makes her life so blissfully content.
It’s no secret, of course; Scout’s contentment is all about faith, belief, and trust. Scout is absolutely confident in her belief that Rebekah and I love her and that we will take care of her. Scout’s contentment is rooted in her trust.
One of my favorite unattributed sayings is this one – or my version of it: “My goal in life is to be as good a man as my dog thinks I am.”
That’s a cute idea, it’s a “bumper-sticker” quality sentiment that makes us smile. But, truth is, such confidence works to the benefit of both ends of the equation. When other people believe in us there is a corollary positive effect that actually makes a difference in who we are – even if that “person” is a dog.
GOD: It made me think about how generously and unequivocally God believes in me. Only with God it’s not that the Creator of the Universe believes in me despite myself – God believes in me because of myself. God knows me, at the root of my being, and God still considered my being worth dying for; God considers my life worth living for.
That’s an amazing concept. We all understand how we are lifted, buoyed up, by the blind confidence of a dog who doesn’t know any better. Then how much more should we be lifted up by the eyes-wide-open belief of God, who knows everything and yet considers me – and you – worth the investment of life itself in order to facilitate relationship!
The wonder is not that I believe in God so much as it is that God believes in me!
Worship at First Presbyterian Church of Brandon
WORSHIP: Interestingly – and I admit I am thinking out loud here (my blog is typically stream of consciousness, unedited) – when I think about it I’m quite certain that I show up at Church to worship each Sunday morning (and via my devotional time every day) as much because God believes in me as that I believe in God.
My secret to contentment has always been predicated on my trust in God, my absolute buy-in to the fact of God’s loving faithfulness. But, in thinking about it this morning, I have to say that my trust is amplified to the extent that I accept and act on the wonder of God’s belief in me, and God’s expectation that my living must move beyond worship and into the realm of living faith out loud.
God believes in me!
This is the life-charged life. Not only that I believe in God, but that God believes in me. How else could we possibly respond other than in grateful service, characterized by love, happiness, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? (Galatians 5:22-23)
JESUS (Matt 6:25-33) – “If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.
“Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.
“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with gettingso you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.” Matthew 6:25-33

Friday, April 20, 2012

health care reform... and real people...

Benefit Dinner for Judeo Christian Health Clinic
With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? – Micah 6:6-8
We all must have heard a thousand arguments on the “Health Care Issue.” Philosophical arguments, political arguments, social arguments, constitutional arguments, religious arguments, fiscal arguments, moral arguments…. There’s a lot of heat generated in these exchanges, a lot of passion, a lot of indignation, a lot of prejudice.
Instead of arguing ad nauseam I’d recommend a field trip, and maybe some active listening to the personal stories of some of the real people who are impacted by the decisions we make in the marbled halls of Washington, from our State Capitols, and via the manner in which we order our values.
My friend David Childs - showing his heart
BENEFIT: Yesterday evening I heard a few more stories at the 40th anniversary Testimonial Dinner  for the Judeo Christian Health Clinic in Tampa. It was one of those formal “Gala” events, and Higgins Hall was packed with many hundreds of influential and compassionate donors.
My church – First Presbyterian Church of Brandon – is a big supporter of our local Brandon Outreach Clinic. In fact, we sponsored a huge dinner and auction benefit just a couple of months ago. But we still had a table at the Tampa event because the Judeo Christian Health Clinic is not only the largest and most comprehensive free medical facility in the Southeastern United States, it also grew out of the ministry of St. John Presbyterian Church, where our parish-associate pastor Earl Smith served for a decade before joining us last year.
So true...
THE STORY: Clinics such as these don’t make political speeches or pronounce social judgments… they simply apply faith-based love and compassion to the major screw-ups our world makes and do their best to mend the broken people.
And, believe me, there are a lot of broken people out there. And, contrary to myth, the vast majority of patients seen at clinics such as this are know as “the medically indigent,” or “the working poor.” These are folk who work hard, pay taxes and try to stay ahead of the bills, but can’t even begin to afford heath insurance. The Judeo Christian Health Clinic saw 35,000 such patients in 2011.
MISSION: The clinic’s mission statement is based on the Micah 6:8 passage I quoted already:
In the belief that we should do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God, the Judeo Christian Health Clinic provides free, quality, timely, and compassionate health care to medically indigent residents of the Tampa Bay Area who have no other resources for their health care needs.
“Our opportunity,” reported Dr. Sylvia Campbell, president of the board of directors, is to stay the tears of others….”
When clients receive care, and when that care is not bundled with crippling financial hardship and when recovery is not compromised by the insistent badgering of collection agencies, Campbell said that, quite often, “Patients can hardly believe it.”
Bad photo - but look at the glowing heart I'm wearing. Care and compassion is a God thing...
Hardly believe it? Hardly believe that such compassion exists in this world? Hardly believe that they can go about the business of healing without fear? Hardly believe that the word “Free” doesn’t have to come with any conditions, or stigma?
I can hardly believe that any resident of this Great Nation ever has to worry about the cost of care. The clinic can’t do this alone; neither I, or you, or any of us. But TOGETHER… Ah, now we’re talking.
Peace, and because of Love – DEREK

Thursday, April 19, 2012

my guitar and my life-song

1976 Ovation Balladeer
 Praise God with a blast on the trumpet, praise by strumming soft strings; Praise him with castanets and dance, praise him with banjo and flute; Praise him with cymbals and a big bass drum, praise him with fiddles and mandolin. Let every living, breathing creature praise God!  Hallelujah! -Psalm 150 – The Message
Generally, I’m not the extravagant type.But it would be very easy for me to break ranks with my sensible side and begin to collect guitars. I love the way they sound, I love the way they look, I love the way they feel.
Once in a while, I find myself scrolling through guitar-store websites and imagining a couple of rare specimens hanging on the wall of my study, or I duck into The Guitar Center in Tampa for an hour, or visit the bookstore to leaf through a glossy coffee-table volume of museum quality instruments.
Visiting Seattle, we spent an afternoon in Paul Allen’s astounding guitar museum opposite the Space Needle. Oh, what I could do with a few billion spare dollars….
T3 Taylor - just looking....
JUST LOOKING: During a recent speaking trip to California I enjoyed a tour of the Taylor Guitar factory in San Diego, and now my dream is to pick out my own piece of wood at one end of the facility and hand-walk my custom T3 semi-hollow-body through the shop.
I’ve even crunched the numbers occasionally. You know, just to dream. But then a day like yesterday comes along where I filled BOTH our vehicles at the gas station, and – $123 later – reality sets back in.
But I’m not guitar poor. I’m more guitar greedy. We have three wonderful instruments, and I even know how to play them.
Still making beautiful music
HISTORY: My Ovation Balladeer (circa 1976) is loaded with the most emotional mileage, and it still sings with a pure voice. In 1977, when Rebekah and I first started dating, I would write songs for her and play them on a beat-up nylon-stringed classical guitar. It was part of the falling-in-love process, and led to what still ranks as probably my best Christmas present ever.
At Columbia Seminary (Decatur, GA) Rebekah had a professor who owned a beautiful Ovation acoustic guitar. She noticed it in his office and asked about the brand. Then, after we married in the summer of 1979, Dr. Pete told Rebekah he probably wasn’t playing enough and offered to sell it to her for $300.
Believe me, when you’re in seminary and newly married, $300 is about as reachable as the moon. But Rebekah solicited the help of her entire family, kept the project a secret, and surprised me with the phenomenal “from the heart” gift our first Christmas.
Rebekah's parlor classic
MUSIC: It was an amazing gift on many levels. I still play my Balladeer several times a week, and I still sing Rebekah love songs, but most of all – hanging on the wall above my computer – the guitar reminds me that such a fine instrument is designed to be played, and it’s always a tragic waste for anything created with a purpose to just sit, gathering dust.
Sometimes, when I am tired, overwhelmed or discouraged, I think about archiving my gifts and just coasting for a while. But that would be more than a shame, it would be a crime against Creation. Because I have a purpose and God has a plan.
We all have so much to contribute and this world is such a needy place. My purpose – and yours – always involves allowing the Creator to make beautiful music with my/our life-song. We are exclusive and carefully crafted one-of-a-kind designs.
Playing my Ovation electric-acoustic
For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.- Psalm 139: 13-16