Wednesday, October 31, 2012

the last post you need to read about this election

God the Father by Cima da Conegliano, c. 1515
his week, in preparation for next Tuesday’s elections, I’ve been talking with God about the details, trying to look beyond all the hype, doing my best to discern what the candidates truly value, and asking myself who among the politicians (national, regional and local) honestly plans to serve people.
Typically, the important things God shares with me concern my personal spiritual journey, my values, my family, my behavior, my witness, my relationships, my thoughts, my plans etc. But today, via some less than subtle hints, it’s evident that God believes some of the folk who stumble across this blog could benefit from hearing a word or two from “upstairs.”
This – best I can decipher – is what God said to me about the 2012 election:
First off, tell all of them this – and for goodness sake include the Romney and Obama camps if you can possibly get their attention (now lean in, and listen closely because I’m going to whisper): I’M SICK AND TIRED OF THE HYPOCRISY!!! I’m sorry, was that a little loud?” – God
“Then – and from the depths of all I have ever tried to tell this world – check out what Jesus (my son) said; it’s a no-brainer. In fact, Jesus may possibly have addressed a couple of these issues in a little thing we like to call, THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT!!! I yelled again, didn’t I…? – God
SPEED-READING JESUS: So I took a look. Like I had any choice? And, while I recommend that each one of us carefully read the entire Matthew 5-7 selection, I’ve taken the liberty to bullet-point just a few of the remarkably relevant ideas that stood out to me:
  • What God values is mercy, purity, and peace.
  • Our job is not just to offer light, but to belight.
  • First, work on your own righteousness.
  • Be reconciled with one another. Work on your personal issues. Make relationships your priority.
  • Don’t bother with promises and eloquent persuasions, what matters is simply keeping your word.
  • Love your enemies.
  • Give to the needy but be discrete.
  • Pray, pray, and then pray some more.
  • What you value tells the truth about the condition of your heart.
  • Be serious about your faith; but, please, enough with the hypocrisy.
  • If God’s kingdom is your first order of business, then the other stuff you worry about will find its proper place.
  • Don’t judge others. Just don’t.
  • Honest seekers tend to find honest answers.
  • If you want to spot a false prophet, just look at the fruit that falls off their tree.
  • It’s not about how loud you say, “Lord, Lord,” it’s about building your house (see yesterday’s post) on solid ground.
Listening to Jesus
‘NUFF SAID: There’s more I’d like to write – always, but today I simply want to turn the spotlight on the amazing (and timely) words of Jesus.
Haven’t we seen enough commercials? Do we really need to listen to any more trash talk? Instead, I’d like to recommend a careful re-reading of Christ’s message on the mountain, and then some serious time spent in prayer.
Jesus puts things in perspective; that’s why God directed me to these passages. I feel better already - DEREK

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

welcome to a life in progress

A glimpse into Maul Hall
AN INVITATION: This morning’s post pretty-much continues yesterday’s theme: Observation; life as it happens; gratitude; a peek through the keyhole and into Maul Hall.
I like to think of this blog as a real-time snapshot; more of an ongoing on-line journal than anything carefully packaged for effect. My intention is to write honestly enough that I could – possibly – one day use these writings as a resource for the next article, column, commentary or book.
And so, if you are one of those readers who looks over my shoulder from time to time as I write, or if this is your first time visiting this space, you are very welcome here, and I pray that my journey will be an encouragement to you in yours.
Sarah, Rebekah, Jared
COME ON IN: This photograph sums up the good weekend. We are so thankful that our home is a destination our nieces and nephews want to come to. We have nine in total, ranging in age from thirty-four to ten, and each one of them knows that we are a refuge where they can find nourishment and refreshment: physically, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually.
When Faith, our Virginia Beach niece, came for an extended stay in 2010, she referred to our home as “The Maul Retreat Center,” or “Camp Aunt.” Now, with our grandson David a year old, we pray that our home will always be that kind of experience for him too.
Prepping to teach a class
PERSONALITY: This next image speaks to that prayer. Because I’m convinced that a home is more than an empty shell; a house actually develops a personality and becomes the sum of all that takes place there.
Rebekah and I often sit in these chairs and engage in deep conversation about our spiritual lives; we serve visitors tea here, or coffee, and we pray for them and with them; this home is never witness to harsh words, profanity, put-downs, spiteful accusations, intimidation or violence; but – instead – Maul Hall is full with encouragement, kindness, affirmation, generosity, mercy and grace.
communication is a process
My point is that we can build our homes with bricks and mortar, and we can build them with spiritual substance too. No home is too humble to be a sanctuary built with love, and no mansion too grand to be a prison filled with discouragement and pain.
WORK-IN-PROGRESS: Finally, there’s always some kind of a project going on around here. Our lives are a work in progress; our relationship with God is a journey; our marriage requires a constant re-investment; our priorities need regular tweaking; our commitments could benefit from timely re-appraisals; the routines and patters that we fall into are always begging for a breath of new life… and so it goes.
Always a project
You will find a lot of those questions here, out in the open, in these blog postings, because I tend to think out loud all the time.
Could some of this possibly inspire you to apply the same kind of scrutiny to your own journey? I don’t know. But, regardless of where this conversation takes you, I’m glad to have you read over my shoulder once in a while. I’m an open book.
Peace on the journey – DEREK

Monday, October 29, 2012


I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation – Philippians 4:12
Another day to be grateful
ometimes I get a little push back from people who wonder if, maybe, I write too much about how good life is.
The danger (and I fully understand the logic behind this) is that I either come across like I’m bragging, or that I suggest (albeit inadvertently) there might be something wrong with those who find themselves hard pressed to come up with the level of gratitude that seems to have taken up permanent residency in my heart and soul.
But I have to be honest. All I do here in this space is to simply report the facts. Here are a few facts for our Monday morning consideration:
  • God loves me and cares about my life (and that’s true for all of us, irrespective of our willingness to accept that love).
  • After 33-years of marriage, Rebekah and I still go out of our way to treat one-another with kindness, respect, grace, mercy, patience, consideration and intentional love.
  • Our children (Andrew, Naomi, Craig, Alicia) understand and practice that same quality of love in their lives and their relationships.
  • We are part of a faith community (First Presbyterian) that is built around the idea that we have been called to demonstrate the power of such love to transform individual lives, families, and the world.
  • I love our home, I love my work, and I love the life we have made together here.
NOT ALL A BED of ROSES: But there have been “seasons” in our life together where the circumstances have been extremely difficult. Struggles raising children, chronic disease, overwhelming difficulties at work, financial stress, illness, prolonged suffering and death in the family… and more. But I can confidently say that the core elements of what continues to make me hopeful and grateful have always remained deeper, stronger, more fundamentally true, and more compelling.
the core elements of what continues to make me hopeful and grateful have always remained deeper, stronger, more fundamentally true, and more compelling.
Why? Because the truth of God’s faithful love, the practice of love in our day-to-day lives, and the transformational power of the “Love that will not let me go,” represent a reality that transcends absolutely anything else we can experience.
THE EVIDENCE: If you have trouble either believing or understanding this, then please go back and read these two posts, from March 12 and 13.
And so this morning, Monday October 29, the sun is shining and the temperatures are perfect and I’m breathing in the fresh air of peace in all that I know…
…And I am still grateful.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. – Philippians 4:12-13
My prayer is that all of us know such assurance. And it is ours, a free gift; all we have to do is receive it – DEREK

Friday, October 26, 2012

treasure and people and (really good) pies

he first year Rebekah and I were dating we agreed to put pennies, nickels, dimes and (occasionally) quarters in the brown ceramic-frog savings bank on the bookshelf in my dorm room. The idea was that if we were still dating a year later we’d empty the frog and go to dinner to celebrate the occasion.
If it turned out to be just a few dollars, the plan was to go out for a hamburger; if there was more then we’d up the class of the venue accordingly.
similar frog from ebay site
STILL STUFFING THE FROG! Sometimes, knitting together a career as a freelance writer feels a lot like stuffing a frog with nickels and dimes. You know, a few dollars here and a few dollars there and then wondering what the score might add up to at the end of each month!
I’ve already worn out the joke about the key element in the word “FREE”-lance, but the other side of that coin turns out to be all the jobs that only pay $35, $30, $25, and sometimes $50.
However, my work also happens to be priceless, because I get to meet so many good people who I would never even know if it wasn’t for the fact that I tracked them down to listen to their story.
And this is true even when I’m simply doing a “stick to the facts” news piece.
Village Inn Pie
NEWS: A couple of days ago, for example, my editor at the Osprey Observer asked me to do a short piece on the Village Inn and their holiday pies. So I contacted the regional manager for Florida – Dean LaFollette – and we ended up meeting for coffee at the Brandon location.
I didn’t ask the in-depth questions I use when I’m doing a profile piece, but we also didn’t waste our conversation on trivia. It turns out that the regional manager is a great guy who has put down roots here and believes in the community. Plus, and this always gives me hope for the world, he is genuinely excited about his product and firmly committed to the future.
When we shook hands at the close of the conversation, I knew I had made an honest and valuable connection with a good human being.
And how many dollars did I earn by the time I finished taking photographs and writing up the news story? It really doesn’t matter, does it? That’s the kind of detail that, too often, gets in the way of what matters in this life.
For where your treasure is – Jesus explained to those with the ears to hear – that’s where your heart will be also… – Matthew 6:21
“Always on the journey” – DEREK
That’s a boatload of pies!