Wednesday, February 27, 2013

I'll never know unless I open my heart

There is no distinction between Jew and Greek, because the same Lord is Lord of all, who gives richly to all who call on him.  All who call on the Lord’s name will be saved. So how can they call on someone they don’t have faith in? And how can they have faith in someone they haven’t heard of? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the good news. (Romans 10:12-15)
"Still" from today's video
“Still” from today’s video
Today marks week #5 of my “video-post” experiment, so that’s where I’m putting my focus. If you’re one of those people who – thus far – have avoided clicking on the “video-blog” link, then please give it a quick look today.
I’m not trying to pretend I’m not a writer, because writing is my primary gift and will always be the defining element of this blog. That said, I’d really like to talk with you once in a while. But I’m limiting these videos – by design – to once-a-week and (give or take 30-seconds) 2-minutes in length.
TODAY’S CHALLENGE: This morning I’m sharing the story featured for today in my Lenten devotional book, Reaching Toward Easter. Lent, like a microcosm of all that it means to follow Jesus, is a journey between where we are at this moment and the transformational experience of Easter resurrection.
DSC_0002Each step of the journey, each new day, is loaded with the potential for growth. If I live with my eyes and my ears open, then I can be more clearly attuned to the voice of the Spirit of God. What is God planning to teach me today? I’ll never know if I don’t open my heart.
Click here for today’s video-post. Then – if you’re also reading Reaching Toward Easter - let me know if you picked up the small error I made telling the story on camera.
Love, peace, and God’s rich blessings – DEREK

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Pinterest, the new baby, poverty, photography, and lots of hope

IIMG_3545‘m trying hard this morning not to make this post look like a page from “Pinterest.” Seriously, folks, I’m not about to turn into one of those “how to” or “follow these simple steps” arts and crafts bloggers. Rebekah’s doing something super-cool for Naomi and Craig’s new baby; I’m writing about it; end of story.
Essentially, Rebekah and our daughter, Naomi, were talking about the new baby’s room and the ideas just started flying. Before I knew it Rebekah had driven over to Joanne Fabrics and our dining room turned into manufacturing central for a “no holds barred” custom crib-set.
I sent Naomi the above photo of the work in progress. She quickly posted the image on her facebook page, and within minutes Rebekah had become a minor Internet celebrity with comments like this under the picture: “Love the colors/patterns! Is there anything Rebekah Maul isn’t good at? So lovely and talented, and world’s best grandma– she has it all going for her!”
IMG_3541I’VE BEEN “PINKED!” No argument here about having it all going for her; Rebekah rocks. But there seems to be no way I’ll ever contain this tidal wave of pink. The “craft room” apparently isn’t big enough; so now there’s a sewing machine on the dining room table, an ironing board in front of one of the bookcases, and various piles of fabric, batting, ribbon and “notions” strategically placed around the house.
And so, Rebekah Mae Campbell, not only are you loved and anticipated, but you’re already spoiled. You will be welcomed with a festival of pink, turquoise, lime-green and polka-dots. Maybe it’s all part of the long-term plan to keep your brother out of your room?
children on our visit to "Garbage City." Cairo
children on our visit to “Garbage City.” Cairo
STARTLING STATISTICS: On the day that Rebekah Mae makes her debut in pink (around June 20, 2013), somewhere in the neighborhood of 360,000 other babies will be born worldwide. That’s 250 every minute.
There’s not going to be much in the way of exquisitely decorated, pink quilted bedrooms for the vast majority of those babies. At least 80% will be born into families making less than the equivalent of $10 per day. And today, Tuesday February 26, because of poverty and other preventable causes, 21,000 children will die.
DSC_0036HOPE: The good news is that Rebekah Mae is being born into a family where she will be taught compassion to go along with her privilege, generosity that will flow out of the abundance, love to propel her into action, faithful stewardship to make the most of her blessings, courage to fight ignorance, and freedom of spirit to release the heart of goodness her parents already own and are cultivating in her brother, David.
And all that spells hope for the other 359,999 children who are going to share Rebekah Mae’s birthday, and who will need her generosity, her courage, and her heart.
DSC_0030In the meanwhile, our dear future granddaughter, rest well and continue to flourish. And you might want to get yourself some good sunglasses before your mama brings you home and puts you right in the middle all that fluorescent pink.
Lovingly, your Grandaddy Derek

Monday, February 25, 2013

Kicking Monday's Patootie

"borrowed" from the web
image “borrowed” from the web
img-thing‘ve never understood the widespread aversion to Mondays. But I do understand that the phenomenon is quite real.
Statistics show that more suicides occur on Mondays, that more sick days are taken on Mondays, that more break-ups happen on Mondays, and that work-related productivity is markedly low.
I even read one article referencing research that concludes: “Mondays are even more depressing that we thought. On average we don’t crack our first smile until 11:16 am.”
Various interventions are recommended to deal with the problem, including this gem of advice from a British newspaper. “According to the study, the best way to beat those Monday blues is by indulging in activities like watching television, having sex, online shopping, buying chocolate or make-up, or planning a holiday.”
Believe me, we can do better than that!
CURE: I could go on, but I don’t think any of us needs any additional information to bolster the “Mondays are uniformly regarded as difficult” premise we’re discussing.
What does warrant some consideration, however, is my alternate contention that “Monday Rocks!” Fact is, today has the potential to be consistently awesome and – in truth – Monday presents us with a unique opportunity to invite others into the awesomeness that is “The Life-Charged Life.
I’ll try to write short version of how I’m thinking, and it’s all based on my weekend reading of the entire Gospel of Mark.
SCRIPTURE: Here’s one passage (Mark 6) that – I believe – brings this conversation together. It comes from the beginning of chapter six:
[Jesus] left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
The key ideas are, “[They] were astounded!” and “They took offense at him.”
COUNTERCULTURAL: The word “astounded” comes up all the time during Mark’s account of Jesus. Jesus said things and did things that totally knocked people’s socks off.
  • Jesus entered a world where power was defined by brute force and leadership by coercion. His response? He offered power in weakness and became a servant leader.
  • Jesus was born in a culture where human misery was attributed to the gods’ displeasure, and – in response – he offered a God of compassion who literally touched the untouchable.
  • Jesus moved in a religious milieu where adherents sought to earn divine favor by slavishly observing harsh rules and judging one-another without mercy. But he said “If you feel burdened by guilt and religious requirements, come to me; I’ll give you rest for your troubled souls.”
  • Jesus shared his wisdom in the local synagogue, where leaders routinely put others down, and tried to make themselves look important. The people couldn’t help but notice the contrast, “They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1)….
  • Jesus was/is at large in a world that is defined by such negative ideas as “Monday Sucks,” and “Why bother….” But – instead – Jesus offers “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you” (Mark 5:19).
Point being, Jesus turns things upside down. The Jesus Way consistently leaves the world astounded. When the world gets astounded, and then turned upside down, the world often takes offense.
KICK MONDAY’s DERRIERE: My conclusion, then, is to invite Jesus to turn our Mondays upside down. Jesus, in partnership with you, is more than willing to kick Monday’s patootie – and then take on the rest of the week too.
In Confidence – DEREK

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Member or disciple? Your answer determines if your church lives... or expires

viewerLET-F-Sriday evening I enjoyed the privilege of spending a few hours with around 40 men from Holy Innocents Episcopal Church here in Valrico. We enjoyed some great conversation, some really good barbecue, gathered for “the program,” and then hung around talking for another half hour at the end.
The program was me. The rector, Father Doug, asked me to talk for an hour about what it takes for men to shift their focus from being church members to owning their identity as disciples of Jesus.
MEMBERSHIP Vs DISCIPLESHIP: I’m always a little bit surprised at how this kind of event animates me. But I guess that’s what happens when you actually implement a personal mission statement. It’s one thing to come up with a few guiding principles, but it’s something else entirely to follow through and actually live a mission statement out loud.
  • Membership is all about numbers, I told them, it’s about counting. Whereas discipleship is about being, about being transformed, and about living as Followers of The Way of Jesus.
FUNDAMENTALISM? After my presentation was over I sat behind the book table and talked with a number of the men. One expressed concern about how we communicate (or not) the Good News beyond our doors. He said he wasn’t a fan of “witnessing,” and doing things like handing out tracts at airports, but that churches that do those things seem to have no trouble filling their parking lots on a Sunday.
I reminded him that fundamentalism in all religions tends to attract numbers. But it’s not the hard-line doctrine that draws people in, it’s the passion, the commitment, the enthusiasm, the unwavering conviction, and the personal invitations.
“Compromising God’s message via fundamentalism won’t keep our churches alive,” I said. “But, what will make us thrive is to embrace every day in such a way that our very lives tell the truth about the Gospel of Love.
“The most compelling witness any one of us has is authenticity,” I continued. “However, simply being on the church roles doesn’t mean that my life is defined by authentic faith; I must become a sold out disciple, I must be a passionate follower of The Way of Jesus.”
LIVE FAITH OUT LOUD: In other words, it’s not about what we say we believe; it’s about how we live what we believe. My “personal mission statement” will do nothing to advance the Kingdom of God until I begin to live it out loud.
This is the “so-what,” both of my mission statement and the end of my talk yesterday evening. If you are not “Exhibit A” when it comes to a Gospel message that’s literally transformational, then why would anyone want to come to your church? What are you inviting them to church for, small-talk and free coffee?
If you are not “Exhibit A” when it comes to a Gospel message that’s literally transformational, then why would anyone want to come to your church? What are you inviting them to church for, small-talk and free coffee?
Come on, we can do better than that!
LIVING TESTIMONY: Fact is, each one of us is a living testimony to something. We’re either a testimony to the transformational love and mercy of God through the saving grace of Jesus… or we’re a living testimony to the fact that the Gospel really doesn’t offer anything that might disturb our status quo.
So which answer is the truth for you?

Friday, February 22, 2013

meta-comentary: a post about posting

DSC_0018For the second time this week, I’m sharing some comments about writing. I guess this makes today’s blog entry a meta-post; an example of meta-commentary, of writing about writing or communicating about communication.
What I’m really interested in, beyond the writing part, is the larger idea of communication. That’s the primary reason I’ve started my Wednesday video-blog. Because my personal mission is not so much to be a great writer as it is to be an effective communicator.
MISSION: And so, in the “thinking out loud” modus operandi of this “Life-Charged Life” blog, now would be as good a time as any to attempt to articulate a personal mission statement. To be honest, I can’t believe I haven’t done this before. It could well become the heart of my next book.
Right off, I’m drawn to the mission statement of the Presbyterian church where Rebekah serves as senior pastor. I’ll quote it in passing, but it’s more specifically a corporate vision, and I’m looking to come up with something unique and personal.
To Share the Love of God by Serving within our church, community, and beyond, and to develop and empower passionate followers of Jesus Christ.(First Presbyterian Church of Brandon, Florida, mission statement)
Then there’s the sub-heading for this blog; “A journal of living-like-we-mean-it.” I really like the core idea, but “Live Like I Mean It” falls short in terms of enough information. I’m not discarding this as an option, but it needs to be more complete.
EVALUATION: I’m going to ask (and then answer) myself some questions that should help:
  1. Who am I? I am a child of God; I’m a citizen of the world; I’m a husband and a father.
  2. Where am I… what is my context? I’m the quintessential baby-boomer, living in the complex and constantly changing culture of the USA.
  3. What are my unique gifts? I know how to tell stories; I can put ideas into words in a way that helps other people to see clearly, and to understand themselves and their faith in new ways; I can translate faith, assurance, and emotion into words and phrases; I’m a thinker, I can analyze; I care deeply about people; I ask great questions, and then I listen; I can speak in public; I take photographs that tell stories (largely because I have learned to see so clearly).
  4. What is my purpose? I believe that the reason God has equipped me with these gifts and placed me here is to speak encouragement, inspiration, grace, and love into the lives of two sets of people: First, Followers of The Way of Jesus; Then, those who don’t yet believe because they’ve never really heard the truth about the Gospel of Love.
SUM IT ALL UP: That’s enough to go on. Now I should be able to sum it all up in one pithy phrase, or short paragraph.
MaulOKay, here goes; The Mission of Derek Maul is…:
To use my unique gifts to speak encouragement, inspiration, grace, mercy, and love into this culture; to communicate in such a way that the truth about the Gospel of Love is clearly understood; and to live so that my life and my relationships stand as a compelling living witness to “the life that is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:19).