Thursday, May 30, 2013


DSC_0006Some days, when I’m not sure what to post in my “Life-Charged Life” blog, I look to see if I’ve taken any potentially inspirational photographs over the past 24 hours. Hence the Rebekah and Scout image.
Wednesday morning, heading out to work, Rebekah paused for a little “garden meditation time,” and Scout decided the bench looked a lot better than the rough patio stones on the ground.
Rebekah’s garden bench (and you already know this if you’ve listened to her preach more than a couple of times) is where she traditionally hangs out for her “Coffee with Jesus” prior to the challenges and the distractions of the day. It’s her equivalent of my walking meditation time with Scout.
TAPS: Late morning I picked Rebekah up at church and we headed to the National Cemetery on the south side of Sarasota, to be present as final honors were spoken, “taps” were played, and the American flag was presented on behalf of our friend Gay’s recently deceased father, Rudolph Robsel; he was 94-years-old.
It was a beautiful blustery day, with colorful skies and gusting winds. The honor guard fought the breeze valiantly, folding the flag with precision, and playing taps with both strength and tenderness. Sometimes, the silence in the folding ceremony speaks as clearly as Lincoln at Gettysburg, timeless words etched on the stone pillar where we gathered before the ceremony .
Then we headed home again, pausing for a few minutes to share a cup of tea with my parents before jumping back onto the roller-coaster of daily life.
PERSPECTIVE: Today, the three events speak volumes to me. Getting the day going with Jesus; honoring the life and memory of a good man who lived well; pausing for tea with people we love….
Outside of our ongoing journey with God, our understanding of eternity, and the relationships we nurture with the people we love, the difficulties and irritations that often beset our daily routine assume their proper value.
IMG_3260Don’t store up treasures on earth! Moths and rust can destroy them, and thieves can break in and steal them. Instead, store up your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy them, and thieves cannot break in and steal them. Your heart will always be where your treasure is. (Matthew 6:19-12)
Today may you experience deep peace, rich blessings, and the ability to see God with clarity - DEREK

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

spring cleaning

look, actual grass!
look, actual grass!
Latin_We’ve been doing quite a lot of work on the house, lately; kind of an extended spring cleaning. The grass that went in four weeks ago is doing really well and – according to the instructions I’m carefully following – I get to mow it for the first time next week. It’s amazing how much better the entire place looks when you exchange dirt for a nice, hairy, green lawn.
Additionally, we pressure-washed the exterior, including porch, driveway, sidewalks and gutters. The truth is, you don’t really notice how grimy something is until after it’s cleaned. All that, plus a lot of mulch and a punch-list of minor repairs, and I don’t think the place has ever looked better.
WORTH THE EFFORT: We started this process around a month ago, and here’s what we’ve noticed. It’s not only easier to keep a house looking really nice once we make the initial effort, it actually facilitates more enjoyment across the board.
  • In my study, writing comes more naturally in a comfortable, well-organized space;
  • In the kitchen, cooking and doing dishes is less of a chore when everything looks so good;
  • It’s more peaceful to drink coffee in a clean porch;
  • And down time is more relaxing when the family room isn’t crying for someone to put stuff away.
In other words, the whole cycle of “Fall behind, feel bad about it, bust your butt playing catch up, immediately commence to let things slip, then fall behind again…” compromises not only appearance, but comfort and enjoyment too.
DSC_0005FAITH: The same principles seem to make sense when it comes to my spiritual journey, too.
Sometimes I really do need a big “catch-up” event, such as a retreat or an unusually powerful worship experience. But devotion that is practiced every day is more powerful still, and moving into closer proximity to God is not so unusual when seeking God’s presence is a regular event, and reading God’s word involves more clarity and understanding when I camp out there on a regular basis….
What I’m continually learning (across the board) is this strong relationship between intentional practice and a more vibrant experience of life. It’s the same idea when I’m gardening, taking care of our home, playing my guitar, nurturing a relationship, or being a follower of the Way of Jesus. If anything is going to mean anything at all in the long run, then what I care about is going to require investment, nurture, and daily attention.
Your teachings are wonderful,
and I respect them all.
 Understanding your word
brings light
to the minds
of ordinary people.
 I honestly want to know
everything you teach.
 Think about me and be kind,
just as you are to everyone
who loves your name.
 Keep your promise
and don’t let me stumble
or let sin control my life.
 Protect me from abuse,
so I can obey your laws.
  Smile on me, your servant,
and teach me your laws.
 When anyone disobeys you,
my eyes overflow with tears. (Psalm 119)
In this life-charged life, sometimes the process and the result can be essentially the same thing - DEREK

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

2013 Grads

Aunt Rebekah congratulating the niecers
Aunt Rebekah congratulating the niecers
This post is written for my “niecers,” Lindsay and Jordan. The rest of you are welcome to read along - DEREK
The “other side” of Memorial Day is the ubiquitous “Family Picnic.” Traditionally, the Florida arm of Rebekah’s family gathers at Joe and Cheryl’s domicile in Orlando.
The picnic typically features siblings Rebekah (Tampa), Joe (Orlando), and Jesse (Jacksonville), along with various children and assorted other relatives and friends. But the BIG DEAL this year is the “two-fer” high-school graduation; nieces Jordan and Lindsay, and the end of an era for “The Second Five.”
  • NOTE: “The Second Five” refers to the cousins. Rebekah and her sister Rachel had “The First Five” in a frenzied sequence of baby production from 1981-1986. Later, after a long pause, her brothers Jesse and Joe got on board with “The Second Five,” 1994-2003.
Rebekah and her brothers
The Second Five have always been “the little cousins.” But this year, with Jordan and Lindsay heading off to Florida Southern and UF respectively, those days are officially done. So they were showered with gifts and love and festivity and encouragement and – most of all – belief.
What I mean by “belief” is the fact that Jordan and Lindsay (and the other three) are being launched into “the world” from the context of a family ethos that understands the nature of providence. And this is the real subject of my post today: providence. What it means, and how it applies (or can apply) to our pursuit of this “Life-Charged Life.”
PROVIDENCE: “Providence” (as defined in GET REAL: a spiritual journey for men, p. 26) is: “A crossroads of sorts – that compelling place where God’s will and our choosing him work together.”
The idea of fatalism supposes that “it is written,” that what’s going to happen is – inevitably – going to happen, and there’s nothing anyone can do to effect the outcome. Whereas providence suggests a relationship between God’s intention for our lives and our obedient response, our choosing God, our saying “yes” to God’s creative plans for us.
Our great opportunity is to seize moments like that, to take Jesus at his word and to step unhesitatingly into the challenge of doing God’s will. When we do, there is no telling where he might lead us. (GET REAL: pp. 26-27)
DSC_0052Our family believes that our two beautiful high-school graduating nieces, resolute in their commitment to follow Jesus, are going to make a profound impact for good in this world, and that it is the context of faith that is going to make all the difference.
We understand very clearly that life does, and will, present huge challenges, and that there will be a steep learning curve over these next few years. Challenge is true for all of us, no matter what age we happen to be, and what context of life we are currently engaging; but the following is also – abundantly – true:
As surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.”For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silas and Timothy—was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.” For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. (2 Corinthians 1)
DSC_0033Or, as the last few verses are translated in The Message, “Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus. In him, this is what we preach and pray, the great Amen, God’s Yes and our Yes together, gloriously evident. God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting his Yes within us. By his Spirit he has stamped us with his eternal pledge—a sure beginning of what he is destined to complete.”
And that, dear niecers, is what I want you to take with you into the rest of your lives. God’s yes and our yes, together.
Love and blessings, always – Uncle Derek

Friday, May 24, 2013

beauty and tragedy

David with his Daddy, Craig. That's a picture of love and complete trust.
David with his Daddy, Craig. That’s a picture of love and complete trust.
For the second time this week, I’m plugging in a couple of family photographs to go with my morning words. As I’ve watched the deep drama of so many events play out all week long, often extremely close to home, and as I’ve read scriptures in my morning devotional times, I can’t get these images out of my mind.
Just a couple of days ago one good friend announced – with great joy – that his first grandchild had been born; just a few hours later another good friend was devastated by the news that his five-year-old granddaughter had died. Both men are members of my small group. That same day, the mother of one of our preschool children gave a kidney to her two-year-old (they are both doing well). The next day, in Pensacola, one of Andrew and Naomi’s childhood friends died suddenly, he was 30 years old.
The events of life are sometimes overwhelming; but even when tragedy seems to predominate – both on the world stage and closer to home – we still refer to our experience as “life.” This is because life is irrepressible, and because “life” is a larger concept than the mere span of years we experience here on earth.
I like the way Rebekah often phrases the idea during funerals and memorial services at our church, “Life as we experience it is not enough to explain life.” And, “We were created for eternity.”
The new baby is almost here!
The new baby is almost here!
NEW LIFE: I think it is actually very beautiful that birth so often comes along in the same moment as tragedy and grief. Both experiences are passages, book-ends of our span of time here in this particular element of time and space.
That’s why our anchoring in the firm permanence of God’s unchanging faithfulness is such a critical fixed point in the way we navigate life. People live and die; governments and institutions are absorbed into the passage of time; civilizations rise and crumble; continents shift with the Earth’s crust; stars collide; galaxies disappear into the void…
…Yet God exists, not outside but beyond the limitations of time, and space, and imagination, and expectation. I find tremendous comfort and confidence in the knowledge of such definitive stability, in a world that is always just a heartbeat or two away from another crisis.
The bottom line here is not just that I know where I stand, but that I stand with Jesus, the foundation and the fruition of God’s unswerving Covenant of Love.
The bottom line here is not just that I know where I stand, but that I stand with Jesus, the foundation and the fruition of God’s unswerving Covenant of Love.
Andrew and Alicia in Chernobyl a couple of weeks ago
Andrew and Alicia in Chernobyl a couple of weeks ago
WHAT’S NEXT? Over the next few days (and weeks, and years), each one of us is going to be witness to the marvelous unpredictability that is life.
There will be births (Rebekah Mae, to Naomi and Craig), weddings (Andrew and Alicia), and also things we can’t even imagine. Change is a constant, it’s part of who we are. That’s another reason why, in my understanding of how this constant dance of life works, fixing my anchor in the solid rock of God’s unwavering love in Jesus feeds my soul. Outside of that fixed point of pure light, there is no navigation that makes any sense.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Live as Children of the Light

Jesus said, “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God.” (Luke 11:42)
Wednesday afternoon reading material
Wednesday afternoon reading material
Over the past few weeks, discussions in my “The Men’s Room” small group have been anchored in the writings of C.S. Lewis. We also read scripture, share from our lives, and pray for one another; but the topics have all come from our C.S. Lewis “sampler,” Readings for Meditation and Reflection.
TRANSCENDENCE: One idea this week had to do with the difference between looking “at” and looking “along,” a perspective that can only be achieved by entering into an experience.
Lewis’s illustration was a beam of sunlight he had seen in a toolshed. Looking at the beam of light revealed little but the stark contrast between light and darkness (as well a a lot of dust!). However, when he stood in the light, looking along the light, Lewis could see all the way to the outside of the shed, to the leaves of the tree and beyond, and “ninety-odd million miles away, the sun.”
And so my men’s group talked about the way that “entering in” to a spiritual life with God can transcend the often poorly designed structure that is apparent from the outside. The external view often focuses on flawed human institutions, personalities, hypocrisies, legalism, religious obligations, conflicts, misunderstandings, and all the variations of interpretation when it comes to reading scriptures…
…Whereas, once we step into the light, once we set aside everything that distracts, once we come to the realization that, at the essence of faith, what we really want and need is to see Jesus, then we are no longer simply looking at the shaft of light but we have entered into the light, and the light has commenced to take up residence in the core of our nature.
BORN FROM ABOVE: When that happens, when God has been (and constantly is) so welcomed, then the imbalance that Jesus referenced (“you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God”) will begin to disappear.
However, if we fail to invite Jesus to live in us, and to transform us with his kind of life, then even the practice of justice will default to legalism and we will have missed the point.
@[696483709:2048:Derek Maul] - the precipiceTHE POINT: And the point, of course, is that Jesus invites us to participate in the ongoing work of God. That’s what the word “salvation” really means. It means that we live into the fact of God’s love for us and the fact of God’s love for this world through us. We don’t stand outside anymore, admiring the light; we step into the light, invite the light into our deepest places, and then live as Children of the Light.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness,righteousness and truth). – Ephesians 5:8-9
In love, and because of love – DEREK

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

truth in advertising - job titles

The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy. (Proverbs 12:22)
DSC_0006Yesterday I had this great conversation with the circulation folk at The Tampa Tribune. It’s renewal time and – having noticed how Rebekah and I haven’t had time to read the Sunday edition in over a year – I wanted to tweak our subscription.
The first person I spoke with didn’t have the access necessary to make the adjustment, so she asked me to hold for the next person up on the food chain. “No problem,” I said, “thanks for your help.”
About three minutes later a voice came on the phone, “Escalation desk; good afternoon, this is ‘Rita.’”
“Hello,” I replied. “But I’m not sure I heard you correctly. Did you say escalationdesk?”
“That’s right,” she said. “It’s another word for ‘supervisor.’”
“That’s awesome!” I said. “I love your job title; it’s the most accurate possible outside of, ‘The person we make customers talk with when they start to go off the deep end!‘ What percentage of the people you talk with get passed on to you because they’re irate?”
That’s when she started to giggle. “You’ve no idea how nice it is to have a pleasant conversation,” she said. “You can call back any time if you’re going to make me laugh.”
We got the subscription details sorted out easily, but it made me wonder about how cool it would be if all job titles were as accurate as “Escalation Desk.”
TRUTH: Here are a few alternate job titles that immediately come to mind (Please feel free to send me more ideas):
  • “Claim Denier” – (health benefits counselor)
  • “Travel Killjoy” – (TSA worker)
  • “Let me ignore you while I’m texting my friends” – (supermarket checkout clerk)
  • “Flim-flam artist” – (member of Congress)
  • “Director of Wishful Thinking” – (marketing specialist)
  • “Hold-button operator” – (customer service representative)
  • “Cliché expert” – (football coach)
  • “Commute disabler” – (road construction worker)
In my imaginary “accurate job-description” world, I call the phone company and they answer, “Good morning, I’m here to waste your time, fail to answer your questions, and talk you into a ‘savings-bundle’ that will turn out to increase your bill by 30%.”
When I contact my health insurance, the representative will say, “Greetings, I’m in charge of making sure we don’t pay a dime on your claim. We love collecting your high premium but we’d rather stash it in offshore accounts where our executives can enrich themselves at your expense while we deny basic services. That’s why we give you confusing information and routinely deny everything the first time it crosses our desks. Have a nice day.”
The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy. (Proverbs 12:22)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


IMG_3224It’s been a while since I last wrote an ode to coffee. Considering how much time and attention I give other passions in my life, it seems only reasonable that I mention the Magic Joe every once in a while.
A couple of weeks ago, when I was in Nashville for a men’s conference, my small group responded to the question: “Share something that you don’t think you could live without.” Being the leader, and the conference speaker, I thought I’d model something on the “less deep” end of the spectrum, to let the guys know I wasn’t expecting them to bare their souls every time they opened their mouths.
“Coffee,” I said. “I’m honestly not sure that I could maintain my quality of life if I didn’t have access to coffee every morning.”
The guys in my group nodded politely, and a few eyebrows raised. Then they proceeded, man after man, to share profound spiritual insights about their spiritual walk, their families, and their community of faith. I felt like the man who shows up at dinner in shorts and a t-shirt and everyone else is sporting their Sunday best!
DSC_0067JOE BY ANY OTHER NAME:But I really wasn’t kidding about the coffee. Java. Joe. Mocha. Mud. Brain Juice. Cup-of-jolt. Sludge. High octane. Rocket fuel. Brewtus. C8H10N4O2. I really don’t think I could be a writer without it.
That last one (if you didn’t already know) is the chemical formula for caffeine. I just threw it in the list to sound – you know – all knowledgeable and erudite; I didn’t have any idea about the formula before I looked it up a minute ago. That’s what too much caffeine will do for you.
I love regional coffees, beans harvested in places where micro-climates produce unique flavors. Columbian is my standby, but favorites also include Costa Rican, Green Mountain, Kona, Kenyan, Ethiopian, Sumatran, and that ridiculously expensive coffee from Jamaica.
I also appreciate unique preparations. Here in Tampa the Cuban Café con leche is wonderful; you can’t beat espresso and cappuccino in Italy; French Café au lait  is another favorite. In fact, take me to any local cafe in any culture and I’ll likely swoon over the way they prepare coffee.
IMG_3225That said, I can’t stand it when people spoil an otherwise solid pot of Joe with “frou-frou” flavors like French Vanilla, Almond Cream, Creamy Caramel or some such aberration. Add all the flavor you want to your own mug, but please let the community pot be coffee and nothing else!
PREPARATION AND PRESENTATION: As for preparation, I have an espresso machine but I usually drip. Percolating is great, French Press is overrated, and instant is an affront to be avoided unless there’s an emergency. Typically, I add just a little cream, and I eliminated sugar over a year ago. I take my espresso neat.
IMG_3226Finally, and this is important, coffee must be presented in some kind of a ceramic mug. The other day I stopped at Panera and asked for “a real mug.” The barista sighed heavily, rolled her eyes, and eventually found a nice drinking cup (actually, she couldn’t have been a real barista or she wouldn’t have rolled her eyes at “real mug”). That was when she asked me, “Is this for here or to go?”
I think she needed a double shot of espresso!