Tales from the Great Adventure

a journal of living-like-we-mean-it, by Derek Maul

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? – Romans 8:31

One of the wonderful things about being part of a dynamic faith community like our church is the amazing diversity we experience. People, ideas, background, politics, experiences, ages – we’re all over the place, yet united in the context of Christ’s love.

Today, in a poignant reminder of who we are as a body, Don – one of my good friends and member of my Wednesday Bible study – reached the end of his long life… at the same time we are up to our eyeballs in very young children, and in the middle of an enthusiastic Vacation Bible School.

The beauty and symmetry of the juxtaposition illustrates the completeness of our life of faith. Last night the children yelled out in unison, “IF GOD IS FOR US THEN WHO CAN BE AGAINST US?” Then, just as loudly, “WOW, GOD!!”

That is the theme that defines the lives of faithful people like my friend Don Steele, who knows – and has always known – without a doubt that, “Nothing can separate us from God’s love!” (Romans 8:39)

My point this morning is that this journey we’re on is all about light and life! Even in death, light and life – and new life in Christ – is front and center. This is what faith is all about; it’s about living purposefully as new creations, from the exuberance of Vacation Bible School through to maturity, and old age, and eventually eternity.

I love the affirmation in the carol – “Life and light to all he brings – risen with healing in his wings.”

Keep singing, beautiful Vacation Bible  School children, let it resound! And Godspeed to you, my friend, Don, shine on.

– DEREK

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VBS Night 3 – WFPC

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” – Matthew 19:14

So this is all I have to share today. One simple photograph. But it’s enough. Fact is it’s more than enough. And it doesn’t only apply to the chronologically young. You see, we’re all welcome; we’re all God’s children. And Jesus says, categorically, unequivocally, “Don’t put anything in the way.”

The invitation is clear, and it comes without qualification. “Come. All are welcome. Don’t hinder the children – God’s children of all ages (and that means you). Don’t get in the way of anyone who wants to be with Jesus.”

I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39

– DEREK

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Praising God. My grands – David and Beks – and friends….

 

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. – Ephesians 2:10

So this week is Vacation Bible School at our church: VBS at WFPC. The theme is “Maker Fun Factory: created by God, built for a purpose.” One day in and it’s already an outstanding success. There’s so much energy here we could probably sell some of it back to the grid.

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Angie and Zach

Of course, when you fill the Christian Life Center with 150-plus kids and close to 100 volunteers, then pretty much anything that happens is going to be wonderful!

And, to make things extra-special for our family, we have David and Beks (aka the grands) all week, adding their unique mixture of ebullience and noise to the mix. (in fact, they’re running around like wild things right now, “Grandaddy, are you finished yet?” as I’m trying to write!).

The amount of talent we have at our church is phenomenal. The children’s ministry team could have their own television show they’re that entertaining! Katherine (director of children, family, and youth ministries), her program assistants (Amy and Janet), Angie (who lights up the stage as host, MC, and energy source), and dozens of other key players (including Zach, who plays a convincing “nutty professor”).

IMG_0562This is the community in action; it’s inspiring, encouraging, and a powerful witness of love. I’ll likely report more on this at the end of the week. In the meanwhile, please pray that light and life will continue to animate our campus, and seep out into the word.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. – Ephesians 2:10

In love, and because of love – DEREK

IMG_0188-001As promised I’m wrapping the Bermuda cruise with one more post. This report covers some of the time we spent relaxing on board the ship.

While I enjoy the shore excursions, and especially the opportunity to learn about the history and the culture of new places, the key element of cruising for me is the long day at sea, with no obligation other than making it to the dining room at the appointed time for dinner.

Finding the best spot on the deck for a long reading session while looking out at the ever changing seascape. Dressing for a formal dinner and then walking the promenade deck to watch the sun dip into a liquid horizon. Taking a late night walk before bed to drink in the fresh salt air blowing hard off the port bow.

IMG_0186I enjoy the languid pace of sea days. It was only a five-day cruise, but it’s easy to lose yourself in the easy pacing of life – a Bermuda Triangle of another sort, disappearing into the kind of twilight zone where you wake up in the middle of a Jimmy Buffet song.

So here are the remaining share-worthy photographs: Rebekah being blatantly gorgeous; the two of us walking the promenade; the 65th wedding anniversary couple; formal dining; fun at the art auction; windblown on the upper decks. If you’re looking for some relaxation, you really can’t beat it.

When we arrived back in Baltimore I kind of wanted to hit the snooze button and do it all over again… and again…. and again….

Grateful, and enjoying this good life – DEREK

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth!
    Serve the Lord with gladness!
    Come before him with shouts of joy!
Know that the Lord is God—
    he made us; we belong to him.
    We are his people,
    the sheep of his own pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
    enter his courts with praise!
    Thank him! Bless his name!
Because the Lord is good,
    his loyal love lasts forever;
    his faithfulness lasts generation after generation. – Psalm 100

I’ve got to tell you, I’m excited about going to church today!

Last week we worshiped as a family in the state park in north Georgia. It was a powerful experience, especially sharing communion – being the Body of Christ and a family at the same time. The previous week it was just the four of us – Rebekah, me, and my parents – having church together in our cabin on the cruise.

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But I’m super-stoked to be back in Wake Forest, listening to Rebekah preach again, and doing church with the beautiful saints and disciples at WFPC. Worship is always special, but worship with a community of people we love so much is better still.

Please consider this:

I don’t know who is – or will be – reading this post today. Some of you are folk I know, but the majority of you are people I have never met. Regardless of the level of intimacy we share, I’d like to take privilege in this moment, and speak seriously into your life as a child of God. What I want to say is this:

  • Please don’t take your connection to the Body of Christ lightly.
  • Please don’t get into the habit of being dismissive, or “take it of leave it” in response to church.
  • Please don’t miss the amazing blessing of being part of a congregation that is alive with the Spirit of God.
  • Please don’t go another week without recommitting yourself to following Jesus in the context of a community of faith.

There is something uniquely powerful and dynamic about gathering together for public worship that I don’t want you to miss. I believe church is good for the soul, and – just as importantly – I believe your soul is good for the church.

I believe church is good for the soul, and – just as importantly – I believe your soul is good for the church.

My Invitation to Prayer:

It’s my turn to assist in worship this morning, so to help me make my point I’m going to share the opening prayer I prepared for the 11:15 service in Wake Forest. I’m quite confident no more than a handful of attendees will read this before worship; but, if you’re one who does, simply consider yourself part of the prayer.

Creator God, imaginative author and visionary architect of this most extravagantly beautiful world, we approach you with awe and with respect; we sing your praises with enthusiasm and with joy; we receive your love with humble minds and with grateful hearts.

We are invited into your presence here in this sanctuary; and it is here also that we are confronted by your truth. We learn and we grow, and we are sent from this place to serve you, and to love your creation with the same kind of passion with which you love us.

May your presence descend on us in this hour like a cloud of pure love. May your joy so fill us that we cannot contain it. May your word fill us with motivation to live our faith without reservation. May this service of worship honor you in every way…

Amen!

My prayer is that everyone who reads this post will respond positively to my challenge to be faithful in worship – DEREK

This evening I’m sharing the third of four posts covering our recent cruise.

Bermuda is a small island, shaped like a fish-hook, just a tiny dot in the North Atlantic Ocean, located over 600 miles from the closest land. So, determined to see as much as possible, Rebekah and I opted for the day-long tour.

The Tour:

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Our guide did an excellent job of sharing a mixture of history, geography, politics, and a snapshot of life around the island. We visited a lighthouse, explored a pristine beach, and had just a little time to explore both towns – St. George and Hamilton, all while traversing almost every mile of Bermuda in the minibus.

Bermuda really is a beautiful place. The lagoon that surrounds the island (see “Deep Calls to Deep“), the views from the higher elevations, the beaches, the picturesque community of St. George.

But this post is simply a vehicle for sharing some spectacular photographs. Begin by clicking on any picture below, then scroll through to enjoy the amazing scenery.

Thanks for stopping by – especially if this is your first visit to this page. I’ll finish up the cruise with a final post probably tomorrow evening.

After that I’ll continue my daily journal, around the topics of Life, Faith, Passion, and Gratitude.

I hope to see you there – DEREK

 

“Everybody who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise builder who built a house on bedrock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the wind blew and beat against that house. It didn’t fall because it was firmly set on bedrock. But everybody who hears these words of mine and doesn’t put them into practice will be like a fool who built a house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the wind blew and beat against that house. It fell and was completely destroyed.” – Matthew 7:24-27

IMG_0517This morning – in a small, developing community just a few steps from downtown Wake Forest – Rebekah and I joined in the dedication of WFPC‘s latest Habitat for Humanity build. Officially, we’re still on vacation today, but Rebekah didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to represent our church.

Wake Forest Presbyterian is a part of Habitat’s “Northern Wake County Coalition,” a group of around 15 area churches working together to facilitate not just places to live, but responsible, community-oriented, home ownership. It’s part of a multi-faceted mission commitment we have that actively works to build the Kingdom of God, including:

  • feeding the hungry (via a handful of different ministries),
  • housing the homeless,
  • preventing homelessness,
  • and – via Habitat – building viable community.

I believe it’s critically important that we tackle issues collectively – as The Body of Christ – that no one church can hope to do alone. It’s not just the pooling of resources, but the coming together, the fellowship, the sense of common calling, the all important witness of our support and encouragement and love to and for one another.

DSC_0787To that end, we – the Presbyterians – are working with local Methodists, Lutherans, Catholics, Episcopalians, Baptists, and a variety of non-denominational congregations.

In the process, two important things are being strengthened: social justice and the kingdom of God. I guess I could have just written, The Kingdom of God, because if the kingdom is being advanced, then by definition social justice must be one of the results.

The Wise Build on the Rock:

DSC_0804Rebekah was asked to lay out a theological foundation for the question, Why do we build? “And I’d like that in three to five minutes,” said Rick Beech (Habitat’s vice-president for Faith Relations) when he asked her to speak.

Rebekah used the “house on the rock” passage, and spoke about the strong foundation of building in the context of faith and community – and she pulled it off in close to four minutes. Of course she did what she does best, which is to engage people’s attention, draw them into Jesus, and teach them something about discipleship, all while making them smile.

If you are not familiar with the work of Habitat for Humanity, then check out their local link – HabitatWake.org.

Meanwhile, here are a few photos from the dedication. You can tell that it’s a beautiful home, just right for a teacher and her daughter. Yes, that’s right, Habitat’s home owners tend to be responsible, hard-working, community-minded people. Support of this work strengthens everyone in our community, not just the family moving in.

Consider getting involved yourself, and check out your local chapter.

Peace, and more – DEREK

 

 

 

Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls;
All Your waves and billows have gone over me.
The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime,
And in the night His song shall be with me—
A prayer to the God of my life. – Psalm 42:7-8

On our recent cruise to Bermuda, Rebekah and I “went dark” for a few days, intentionally staying off the phone, the Internet, the blog, Facebook, and every other distraction from the reason we were out there, floating around on the giant buffet. The idea was to renew, refresh, recalibrate, restore, and regenerate. We didn’t quite achieve all that, but we did give it our best try!

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Now we’re home again I’d like to share some posts about the cruise, and paste in some of the amazing images I captured. The problem is, there’s so much to think about and share from life as it happens right now! So I guess I’m going to have to squeeze in some extra posts. So hold on, keep your eyes open, and try to keep up!

BERMUDA: Bermuda lies 665 miles east and a little south of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. We steamed into the Royal Naval Dockyard around lunchtime on our second full day, and were immediately impressed by the azure blues of the sea and the beauty of the island.

Hanging off the rail on the promenade deck as we drew close, I could see some unusually fast-moving sails in the distance. The vessels obviously weren’t motorboats, but they seemed to be crossing the bay too rapidly for sail.

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When we got closer to one of the yachts I could see close to 20 crew and a New Zealand flag. Later I learned the America’s Cup trials are being held in Bermuda this month! I saw some of the high-tech racing craft moored on the shoreline in Hamilton.

That evening, after a delightful dinner in the main dinning room, Rebekah and I boarded a glass-bottomed sightseeing boat for a twilight tour that took us around Bermuda and into the lagoon that protects the island from the open Atlantic.

Looking under the boat was cool, but it was more interesting on deck; we watched the sun go down, the colors in the sky come out, and the magical, silvery, luminescent blue of the lagoon.

You can tell from the pictures how captivating Bermuda can be. There’s a gentle, invitational restfulness about the island that seemed to be whispering, “You’re here to relax and to recharge; this is just the place; why don’t you stay for the summer…?”

Well of course we didn’t; but I can look at these photographs, and I can make my way back to the water. “Deep calls to deep,” the scriptures say, and of that I have no doubt.

IMG_0126By the time we arrived back to our cruise ship it was past dark. Our small boat was packed with people, but we were completely quiet as we absorbed the beauty and the tranquility of the bay.

Something was calling to us, and in an unmistakable clear voice. I wonder how many recognized the voice of the Creator?

“Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; All Your waves and billows have gone over me…” – Psalm 42:7

– DEREK

 

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our amazing children, with their spouses, and our grands…

“Love is patient, love is kind…” – 1 Corinthians 13

As we wrap up family reunion week, one image stands out to me that I just keep thinking about, and that is what spectacular human beings our children have turned out to be!

Andrew and Naomi are not only kind, genuine, good people of character, but they are followers of Jesus who keep their faith front and center in all that they do.  They work hard, they love life, they live like they mean it, they pour everything into their relationships, they make the most of the opportunities they have, and they value excellence – Andrew always brings creativity and commitment to all that he does, and Naomi applies imagination, faithfulness, and dedication to everything from making her home with Craig to raising a family.

IMG_0237-001Then – and this struck me one day this week when I saw them together – Andrew and Naomi work hard at honoring the gift of life and taking care of themselves; both of our children are lean, strong, purposefully active, and physically fit.

Finally, and this leads in to Part Two of today’s post, we don’t have two children anymore, we have four, and the same words of pride and affirmation apply to Craig and Alicia, the wonderful people our children married.

Happy 10th Anniversary!

Ten years ago today, in front of a couple of hundred enthusiastic witnesses at First Presbyterian Church in Brandon, our beautiful daughter Naomi married Craig Campbell, her best friend and the great love of her life.

There are several reasons we can celebrate these ten years today, and not look back (as so many young couples do) with sadness and regret – and I want to write about just a few of these this morning. So this is a short 10th Anniversary letter to my children.

Dear Naomi and Craig:

Happy anniversary!

You already understand that it’s not simply a fortunate circumstance that today is happy. There is no luck, good fortune, chance, stardust, happenstance, or magic in a great marriage. If you’re among those couples taking stock after ten years and realizing how blessed and happy you are, then there are a few key facts that got you there… and even more truths that you will need to reference if you intend to be this joyful after twenty-five.

  1. Intention: The first is that word, “intend.” The best marriages are framed by intention. Intention means that you don’t just “hope for the best,” instead, you deliberately move forward, together, in a purposeful partnership.
  2. Commitment: Having intended, such intention is honored in terms of commitment. The application of commitment, not “how I feel today” is the cornerstone of real love.
  3. Faith is a kind of glue that holds things together. Not only faith in the decision you made to make that initial commitment ten years ago, but faith in the substance – the truth – of love, faith that love is something real, and solid, and worth fighting for. Faith, too, in the God who not only created us, but who perfected love (in Jesus), and who continues to teach us how to love (through Jesus).
  4. It’s not about the children! You got this far because – even though you have the most amazing children – you understand that this marriage is about Naomi and Craig, not David and Beks, and that the very best you can do for your children – always – is to love one another with increasing strength, and commitment, and creativity.
  5. Faithfulness is not only a physical fidelity, it means incorporating trust, and authenticity, and honesty into the deepest places you inhabit. So I’m encouraging you to allow yourselves to be vulnerable, to love even more completely and without reservation.
  6. Community: You are celebrating your tenth because you understand that you are a part of something bigger than just two kids falling in love in 2006. You will have such great stories to tell at your twenty-fifth for the same reasons: Your family of four; our family of eight; the greater family we’ve been celebrating all week; your church; the community of faith; the communion of the saints….

So here you are, and these words from my favorite biblical writer, Paul, are just as important looking forward as they are looking back: Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (1 Corinthians 13).

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I pray – we pray – that this next decade will be not only challenging, but full of deepening, and strengthening, and evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in all that you are.

– In love, and because of love – Dad/Daddy/Derek

 

Do not remember the former things,
    or consider the things of old.
 I am about to do a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert. – Isaiah 43:18-19

IMG_0285Probably the best moments of this family gathering have been the spontaneous, unplanned, serendipitous, seemingly incidental encounters – like:

  • When you look up and see a child standing on the porch posing for some ballet rehearsal that’s only going in inside of her head;
  • When you realize you and your beautiful wife are the only two people in the town square (we were the only thing going on in Elberton that day!);
  • When you observe a grown woman lean her head on her dad’s shoulder;
  • When you witness a newly minted four-year-old stare in wonder at her own luminescent creation from the craft table;
  • When you look out at the lake from the screened porch and decide you want to build a house right there.

So Wednesday in and around our cabin, saying goodbye to the early departures, watching the rain splash into the lake, then taking a slow stroll and a long lunch in downtown Elberton with Rebekah, the day finally consolidated the gentle rhythms of languid vacation days. Too bad we have to return home so soon.

IMG_0499It is beautiful here, and quiet, and the pace is just right. I believe – to a certain extent – that this is exactly what God intends for us. God is pleased when we pause, and when we listen, and when we notice what is happening around us, and when we celebrate the wonder that is life, and newness, and promise, and when we live into the hope that defines us.

 I am about to do a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

That’s all. It’s another grateful day in the neighborhood – DEREK

 

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