celebrating 65 years of faith and commitment!

celebrating 65 years of faith and commitment!

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. – Colossians 3:12-14

Sixty-five years ago today, in the quiet town of Rayleigh, about 40-miles to the east of London in the county of Essex, Grace Ellen Watts Kemp married David Frederick Maul. The couple honeymooned in the Wye Valley, then immediately occupied a small flat on the waterfront in Folkestone, Kent, overlooking the English Channel.

Then, before the ink had even dried from their signatures on that first lease, they joined Folkestone Baptist Church, living the Good News, worshipping God, encouraging others, supporting the ministry, and participating without wavering for the next 28 years.

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celebrating together!

Over the six and a half decades (to date) of their marriage, my parents have lived as eloquent and faithful witnesses to the promises they made all those years ago in the Rayleigh Baptist Church.

One of the key reasons this particular marriage has worked so well is – I believe – the fact that my mum and dad have always lived out their commitment in the context of not only their personal faith, but the community of faith.

We can have the loftiest ideas, ideals, principles, plans, and intentions, but we were designed by our Creator to be beings who are defined by relationship – relationship to one another, and relationship with God. We need – and our relationships need – the prayers, the love, the support, the encouragement, and the accountability of the Body of Christ.

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So the most happiest of anniversaries to you, Grace and David Maul; may your marriage continue to both inspire and encourage the rest of us along the way. And, it is also my prayer that more people will understand the necessary relationship between a marriage that works and an unwavering commitment to follow the Living Way of Jesus.

In love, and because of love – DEREK

sharing our faith is a beautiful thing #RealMenConnect

img_8032Here’s something fun I have to share today. This morning I was blessed to be able to do a guest spot with a #1 rated podcast; I enjoyed the experience, I really like the host, and I’m seriously stoked.

I’ll share a link to the content when it’s posted – most likely a few weeks from now. But for today I’ll write about my impressions.

The podcast – Real Men Connect – is hosted by Dr. Joe Martin. Joe is passionate about seeing men connect both as brothers and as disciples of Jesus. It’s the kind of enthusiasm that translates well to the podcast format, keeping both the guest and the audience engaged.

Dr. Martin’s approach obviously communicates well, because Real Men Connect is now the top-rated podcast on iTunes for Christian men. That’s exciting for me because I have often prayed for the opportunity to get into this conversation at a national level.

Authenticity:

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Dr. Joe Martin

I often say that authenticity is the best possible communication tool we have at our disposal, and Joe is very much a “what you see is what you get” kind of a guy. We connected well from the outset, and because of that it was easy for me to respond to his excellent questions.

Specifically – and based on a recent article I wrote for All-Pro-Dad – Dr. Joe wanted to talk about how parents can have patience with their children. My first thought was, “good luck with that!” but then I remembered what I’d written, and realized that – having taught exceptional education as well as raising two amazing young adults – I actually do have some insight to share.

If you want to read the article at All Pro Dad, here’s the link: How to Have Patience With Your Kids. But our conversation was much more wide ranging. In fact, the key idea is something that we all need to take to heart: “Patience provides a place where hope can take root and grow.” That’s a good word not just for Christian men, or for dads, but for every last one of us.

I don’t want to give too much away from the podcast, but I’ll share one more thought that came up during our conversation. We were talking about the inclination men tend to have toward impatience, knee-jerk reaction, yell now think later, and going on the offensive prematurely.

“As Christian men in North America,” I said, “we like to put on the Armor of God (and strut around in it), but too often we’re so-so when it comes to the Fruit of the Spirit.”

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” – Galatians 5:22-23

God won’t magically give us patience we don’t have. But God will come alongside us, and equip us, and give us strength, and guide us, and back us up, as we make the decision to be the kind of people who put into practice the life that Christ teaches. That’s discipleship, and it’s something we can’t even begin to achieve on our own.

Under those conditions, Christ-like patience will be just the beginning of our witness.

We need the love of God, the friendship of Jesus, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit – and we need one another too.

– DEREK 

Come and See!

Come and See!

The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”

When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”

They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”

“Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” – John 1:35-39

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Introducing new members at WFPC

Good grief! Yesterday was a Sunday that left me breathless. From playing guitar with pastor John and receiving a large group of new members at 9:00 worship, to seeing a group of young people commit themselves to follow Jesus at 11:15, to driving to Rocky Mount to do my “presbytery photographer” thing in the afternoon, to covering James Taylor’s “Shower the People” at the youth dinner-theater and auction in the evening.

What it all added up to was – is – life, irrepressible life that leaves us both energized and exhausted at the same time. Sometimes, living the good story lends itself to contemplation, quietness, reflection, and stillness… but yesterday was most certainly not one of those days!

If you are one of those people who leaves your spirituality on the back burner, and who believes there are dozens of more interesting or rewarding things to do on a Sunday that make church an increasingly unlikely choice, then I have to say, simply, “Come and see.”

“Come and see,” is the essential Jesus brand of sharing the good news. The most effective way to communicate just how life-changing it is to follow Jesus is to live out the truth in a way that stands as an open invitation.

Authenticity:

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WFPC this Sunday – not a stock image!

Back in Florida I interviewed literally hundreds of preachers for a long-running series that ran in The Tampa Tribune. I researched one ministry ahead of my appointment with the minister, and the website was full with images featuring large crowds, a modern worship facility, families, young adults, a dynamic praise band, and more.

We met in the preacher’s home, and when I pressed him he finally admitted all the photographs on his website were stock images he’d found online. In actuality the church had eleven members (six were his family), eight to ten in attendance, no property, no band, and no real plan.

It turns out this man was more interested in drumming up donations than actually building the Kingdom of God.

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Rebekah charging the young people to follow Jesus

But Jesus wants us to become so filled up with his life that it spills out of us as a natural invitation to know God. This is what we’re interested in at Wake Forest Presbyterian Church; this is what drives everything that we do; this is why I can confidently say, “Come and see.”

There is a reason there is this “buzz” of excitement in the building every Sunday morning. It’s because commitment to – and participation in – this kind of faith community always leads to a deeper walk with God, a more abundant, transformational, experience of day-to day-life, and a satisfaction it’s impossible to understand in any other context.

Come and see – DEREK

 

Life in Six Snapshots…

IMG_9690This morning I’m simply sharing six snapshots (say that six times, fast!) from the past few days.

# 1: First – right – is Rebekah preparing this morning’s message for Wake Forest Presbyterian Church. She works on her sermon all week long, off and on, but typically brings everything together Saturday. I love the atmosphere of our home when we’re both writing, both engaged with the scriptures, both bringing all our creativity, imagination, and passion to bear on the task of communicating the amazing Good News about Jesus.

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Rebekah with Donna Pace

# 2: Next, our friend (and WFPC member) Donna came by to take a look at our home. She and her late husband had lived here sometime back in the 1990’s. The brick house in the trees – deep in the cul-de-sac – became a significantly important home in their story, and she hadn’t seen the place since they moved out.

We had previously told her about some of the changes we’re making to the property, and she came to visit harboring some initial trepidation. But much to our relief she fell in love with everything we have done. Fact is, the idea – and the risk – of change always evokes hesitancy; but once progress, and imagination, and creativity, and the imperative of new life begin to set the tone, we invariably realize how beneficial – and necessary – reformation can be.

once progress, and imagination, and creativity, and the imperative of new life begin to set the tone, we invariably realize how beneficial – and necessary – reformation can be.

IMG_9681# 3: We have finally turned the corner towards early summer here in Wake Forest, and the sidewalks are getting crowded out by fresh growth. The walk into downtown is getting warmer, yes, but it’s getting more beautiful too. The colors are stunning, and all creation seems intent on blooming its heart out. Scout Labradoodle is slowing down, and she doesn’t like to walk so far now; but it’s more than worth a little sweat to see what’s blooming in everyone’s gardens.

# 4: Scoutie (below) spends most of her time now flat out on the floor – but near enough to the front windows to bark enthusiastically in the direction of anyone who ventures within range. The sun late afternoon sun slants in through and between the trees, and I love the way the light bathes our home.

Light and life are deep-rooted themes here in Maul Hall, and I believe that both are not only powerful metaphors for God, but also compelling evidences.

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late afternoon light

I understand God as actually inhabiting light, and as generating life to the extent that the Creator’s imaginative and sustaining impulse is present wherever, and whenever, there is even the smallest sign.

# 5 and # 6: I’ve pasted the other images for today in the slides below. Light bathes the living room, Maul-Hall at dusk, oak-leaf hydrangea making its move in the garden…

Life is full of stop-motion moments like this. We just need to slow down, and we need to pay attention, and we need to be grateful – DEREK

grace and redemption leave no room for judgment…

The Unmaking of a Part Time ChristianFor in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love. – Galatians 5:6

Today I’m thinking about our relationship to God as people who are redeemed, forgiven, welcomed, accepted, and covered by the reach of God’s amazing, invitational, and generous grace.

This was what we talked about at this morning’s meeting of the Saturday morning men’s covenant group. The group – which has now grown from the initial three to the eleven men who attended today – is studying one of my favorite books. The Unmaking of a Part-Time Christian (Upper Room Books) is a collection of stories and meditations exploring the difference between church membership and a commitment to follow Jesus as a disciple.

Judge or Redeemer?

This week’s chapter, titled “Judge or Redeemer” explored some of the pitfalls of building a religion around judgment, finger-pointing, and condemnation. Too many “Christians” focus on what’s wrong with everyone else, rather than standing in humble gratitude that – because of Jesus – even they are welcomed with open arms.

That’s right, I said “even they.” It doesn’t matter what our sin is, what our accomplishments are, what denomination we associate with, whether we were sprinkled or immersed, how precisely accurate our doctrine is, or where we fall in relation to a whole catalog of debatable issues, each one of us will stand before God on equal footing, and we will stand with confidence because of Jesus.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. – Romans 8:1-4

Oh, but don’t we still love so much to be “right,” and to point out where others have gone astray? So we talked about this a lot, and we all shared how much it means to us to understand the scope of God’s grace and to know – personally – that we are forgiven and free.

“We’re all broken,” Ed pointed out; “we all need mercy and forgiveness and grace.”

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image found on-line

“It’s like this,” I said, grabbing an illustration out of the air that seemed to work at the time. “Imagine a child standing in the kitchen with the shattered remains of a teapot all over the floor. I guess we could respond by berating the child harshly, pointing out every broken piece, criticizing their teapot handling technique, raking them over the coals, telling them repeatedly what a terrible person they are for messing up – and then angrily denounce them for their carelessness and disregard of property. We could go over everything they did leading up to moment the pot broke, and decide exactly which error, which abomination, which sin was the most egregious….

Or – alternatively – we could put our arms around the child and say, “I love you;” and then we could say, “let’s see what we can do to make this right.”

Let’s Make This Right…

God has given us what we need to make this right. We can celebrate God’s generous love and grace, we can invite others to share in this joy, and we can live humbly as forgiven people.

It’s not any specific behavior, or adherence to a particular doctrine, or religious ritual, or repetition of the right magic phrase that grants us the honor of a relationship with God – No, it’s Jesus who makes redemption possible. This privilege is ours to accept, or to reject.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that – through him, the world might be saved. – John 3:17

The invitation is on the table – DEREK 

politics is no longer important – the critical issue in D.C. is character

May integrity and uprightness protect me,
    because my hope, Lord, is in you. – Psalm 25:21

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Derek Maul writes from North Carolina

One of the primary ways I manage to write inspirationally is to keep my heart open to be inspired myself. Reading scripture; listening to life; paying attention to the beauty that surrounds me; listening to music; listening to Rebekah’s messages; reading books, meditations, devotions, and more.

This morning I perused the WFPC “Leaflets” – the weekly newsletter our church circulates every Friday. In it my friend Ray had written this week’s “Officer’s Column,” and he was reflecting on the dynamic, nonstop, irrepressible sense of life that defines our faith community.

Ray mentioned – with enthusiasm – this year’s confirmation class, drawing an important line of connection between the principles, ideals, and vision that gave birth to America, and the critically important work WFPC is doing with children, youth, and families. Here’s a segment from Ray’s letter:

200 years ago the Founding Fathers had this group in mind when they determined the future of the U.S. was dependent on “virtuous people,” describing character and service. In fact, Ben Franklin wrote that nothing is more important than to train youth in wisdom and virtue and added, “…talents for the education of youth are the gift of God…” The Founding Fathers would be pleased with the advisors, mentors and teachers of the Confirmation Class. (WFPC elder Ray Evans)

I’ll write more on the confirmation process after these young people make their public commitment to follow Jesus this Sunday. But this morning I’m thinking about the fact that “the future of this great country is dependent on virtuous people.”

Virtue:

I’m all for the separation of church and state, and I believe America needs to be governed by people of all perspectives and persuasions when it comes to faith, but there is absolutely no substitute for virtue, and character, and integrity, and honesty, and trustworthiness, and incorruptibility… and – to use an extraordinarily powerful word that doesn’t get much mileage nowadays – uprightness.

Uprightness, America! That’s what we need to be talking about.

Let’s not use a litmus test based on political leanings, or social standing, or denominational affiliation, or race, or ethnic background, or “what will you do for me once you’re in power?” Instead, let’s dig a deep moat around the U.S. Capitol and White House, and only let people in via a door marked “Uprightness.”

Granted, politics has been fraught with hypocrisy and corruption and graft and immorality and more since – and including – the Founders back in 1776. But that doesn’t mean we have to like it, or excuse it, or stand for it today!

In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. – Titus 2:7-8

Pardon me for sounding idealistic. But isn’t it about time we were? And in’t it past time to place the future of our nation in the hands of women and men who are rooted in virtue, practiced in integrity, and committed to moral uprightness?

I believe it’s a question we must pay attention to – DEREK

our lives tell the story

our lives tell the story

“Am I a Jew?” Pilate retorted. “Your own people and their leading priests brought you to me for trial. Why? What have you done?”

“My kingdom,” said Jesus, “doesn’t consist of what you see around you. If it did, my followers would fight so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. But I’m not that kind of king, not the world’s kind of king.”

Then Pilate said, “So, are you a king or not?”

Jesus answered, “You tell me. Because I am King, I was born and entered the world so that I could witness to the truth. Everyone who cares for truth, who has any feeling for the truth, recognizes my voice.” – John 18:35-37

Every Wednesday evening, my men’s covenant group is always – without fail – a significant blessing. Our time is a great mixture of insightful Bible-study, great conversation, heart-level sharing, listening, support, encouragement, and – most importantly – simply being together.

I leave our church not only full, and inspired, but thoughtful. Stuff we talk about takes up residence in the “mulling” portion of my brain (btw, if your brain doesn’t have a designated mulling slot, then you should definitely get one), and percolates – usually for several days.

This week we talked about trouble, difficulty, challenge, and tragedy. We used the Old Testament story of Joseph as our scripture reference, and our conversation circled around what story we tell about the gospel via the way that we respond.

PASSION = INVITATION

unnamed (4)-001I used this image – from the pastors’ conference I spoke at a couple of weeks ago – because of what’s on the screen behind me. It’s not the most flattering photograph ever taken of yours truly, but I love the words, “Your passion is an invitation…”

What I was talking about was the fact that people can read between the lines, not only when we talk, but as we live – especially as we live. If we have no evident passion for the good news about Jesus, then it really doesn’t come across as good news, does it? Our lives tell the story. Our lives become the most eloquent invitation that we can offer.

Fact is, we don’t chose whether or not to be witnesses. “It’s not my spiritual gift; I’ll leave that up to those who feel called to be a witness…” Nope, sorry, that’s not how it works. We are living witnesses to the faith we profess. The question is not if we are communicating about Jesus, the question is what story is it that we are telling?

  • The question is not if we are communicating about Jesus, the question is what story is it that we are telling?

One question we talked about Wednesday was living with courage. But this is something we seem to have all backwards in our popular culture. Aggression, fighting back, responding in kind when we are berated, returning evil for evil… these are all advertised – and modeled in the shows and movies we watch – as acts of courage. Christians get sucked into this too: “believers” are often hostile to those they disagree with; lawsuits are filed within churches; there are multiple splits and schisms; bad behavior is parsed as defending truth (who’s truth?)….

Bullying, hate, vitriol, fighting… these are not acts of courage. Jesus said this, just before he allowed them to nail him to a wooden cross: “My kingdom doesn’t consist of what you see around you. If it did, my followers would fight so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. But I’m not that kind of king, not the world’s kind of king” (John 18:36).

Jesus – “I am not that kind of king.”

This is one of those “no-brainer” statements that I’ve used many times before, but I’m going yo say it anyway. Jesus is our model; following Jesus means being imitators of God. Yet, so much of the time, Christians do the opposite: Instead of remaking ourselves in the image of Christ, we try to reinvent Jesus in the image of us.

and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children… – Ephesians 4:31-5:1

Courageous men and women of the light follow Jesus. We do tell a story in the way that we live and how we respond to the challenges we face – so let’s get the story right! – DEREK

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talking about discipleship

how a great dinner party is like church…

how a great dinner party is like church…

Jesus – “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” – John 13:34-35

I have often wondered why I enjoy dinner parties so much – especially when they are at our home. You have to make the house look nice ahead of time, and then there’s all that food prep, plus the task of cleaning the kitchen afterwards often carries over to the following day. It’s a lot of work.

Yet, serving good food, then sitting around the table with friends enjoying great conversation, is absolutely one of the best possible ways to spend an evening that I know.

Maybe it’s the all-inclusive theme of nourishment? Nourishing our bodies; nourishing our spirits; nourishing our relationships. Fact is, we were created specifically for the purpose of enjoying community – communion both with God and with one another. Being together, breaking bread in community, is always a spiritual experience. It’s a spiritual experience any where, any time.

I love the way Peterson paraphrases Christ’s words about this – “And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there” (Matthew 18:20).

Monday night’s gathering included three newly elected WFPC church officers and their spouses. Jon and Tony will be serving as elders, and Joy is a new deacon. They just finished eight weeks of training with Rebekah, and will be ordained May 28.

Leadership:

Rebekah’s theory of leadership development centers around the principle of building community. We are invited to know one another, to share our stories, to love each other, to pray for each other, to grow in faith together, and to do the work of The Church from the context of a mutual love for Jesus, and a shared ministry.

This is not the same as agreeing about everything, sharing the same political views, thinking in lockstep, or rubber-stamping all the pastor’s ideas. Building community means:

  • doing life together;
  • understanding that we all follow the same Lord;
  • sharing a commitment to encourage one another along the path;
  • praying together;
  • learning together;
  • loving unconditionally;
  • celebrating together… holding one another up when there is grief to bear;
  • being willing to struggle together;
  • honoring those who see things from different perspectives;
  • sharing our hopes and dreams as well as our fears and doubts;
  • living our faith – not anonymously but out loud.

Breaking bread together is what the church looks like. Having people around our table for dinner is not only a manifestation of the Body of Christ, it’s part of what it takes to be the church.

Being the Body of Christ is a one hundred percent investment; 24-7; 7-52. If church is only something you do when you’re at 12605 Capital Blvd, or when you’re “on the clock,” then it likely never really was church to begin with.

So…

So there I go, beginning with a post about a dinner party and ending by talking about how we build community and grow together as the Body of Christ!

But I don’t think I diverged at all. I believe that if The Church (our church, your church, any church) is going to be relevant at all over the next few decades, then it has to more completely define itself – redefine itself if necessary – in terms of intentional community.

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With Rebekah at WPC

Jesus was as clear about this as he was about anything: “The world is going to be convinced of the truth about me – my life, my words, my invitation to know God – only to the extent that you all (y’all – the church) demonstrate authentic love – in effect modeling my love as a vibrant community, an invitation, a living testimony to grace” (John 13 – author paraphrase).

Why don’t you come and see?

In love, and most certainly because of love – DEREK

do we dare to enter the Promised Land?

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 For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. – Ephesians 3:14-17

If you read this space often you know that occasionally (around every six weeks) I feature a link to a message from Wake Forest Presbyterian Church. Sometimes it’s because the sermon is so inspiring I just had to share; sometimes it’s because – even though we never collaborate – the content adds perfectly to the conversation I’m having on this page; sometimes it’s because the preaching communicates far beyond what I could manage here, no matter how well I might write.

Then, sometimes (and this was the case Sunday May 14) it’s all three, and I am simply doing a public service by encouraging you to take a few minutes to listen!

Looking into the Promised Land!

Chrome Legacy Window 5152017 31136 PMThe title of Sunday’s sermon was “A Prayer for Wake Forest Presbyterian Church” – but the content is timely, and applicable, and crucial to absolutely any faith community, anywhere, at any time.

The theme paralleled the main idea from the blog I had posted that very morning (“The Leaves of the Tree are for the Healing of the Nations“); the setting was Moses looking out over the Promised Land (I had just shared some slides of that very view at church Friday evening); then Rebekah’s level of vitality and engagement while preaching this week, as well as her storytelling, was at its very best.

If you’re someone who has lost enthusiasm for church, or who subscribes to the false narrative that Presbyterians don’t have any passion for Jesus, or who isn’t exposed to great preaching very often, then you owe it to yourself – and your faith – to check out this message (it starts around time stamp 10:00 on the link).

How Wide and How Deep:

Chrome Legacy Window 5162017 90122 AMUsually I can do a fair job of keeping the lid on my emotions at church (I really don’t like to have to dab my eyes or to deal with wet cheeks in public); but Rebekah’s story about “The Young Mothers’ Class” was so poignant, and the way it all came together at the end of the sermon so breathtakingly inspiring, that I had to work hard not to leak any more than just a little.

But it’s okay, God is continually challenging me to get over myself, and I am always moved by the power of a great story. Fact is, we all need to take a few bricks out of the walls we build around ourselves, and especially to dismantle the barriers we place between the deeper parts of our emotional core and the reach of God’s love. Sometimes conviction can leave us vulnerable, and feeling less in control.

But we belong to God, and this important truth sets up the second part of the reading from Ephesians: 

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (18-19).

How can we possibly grasp how wide and long and high and deep Christ’s love is if we don’t let God in? How can we be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God if we keep ourselves closed so tightly?

Do we really want to be the kind of disciples Jesus invites us to be? Do we really want to be the kind of churches Jesus is calling us to be? Do we really want to be filled to the measure of all fullness? Do we have any interest in entering the Promised Land?

If so, then we’re going to have to disassemble our defenses and trust God; we’re going to have to believe; we’re going to have to live our faith like we mean it…

(If you’d like to listen to the message, click here)

portraits around Mother’s Day

portraits around Mother’s Day

The Lord bless you
    and keep you;
 the Lord make his face shine on you
    and be gracious to you;
 the Lord turn his face toward you
    and give you peace. – Numbers 6:24-26

For our family, Mother’s Day turns out to be one more excuse to get together and celebrate life. Of course, it helps to have a handy assortment of mothers available, and I was pleased to be able to rustle up three generations for the perfunctory photo shoot. Then, adding our granddaughter Beks to the mix, that’s four generations of girls.

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Karen “PhD” Tharrington with Rebekah

At church, the day also turned the spotlight on those celebrating their graduation. One notable exception to the “I’m heading off to college” crowd was our friend Karen, who recently completed seven years of hard work to earn her PhD.

Everyone is excited when they get to graduate, but I believe Karen likely raised the bar to a new level! Rebekah and I stopped by her “PhDone” party Saturday evening, hoping for some of the brilliance and creativity to rub off on us. Listening to Rebekah’s sermon the next morning (see tomorrow’s post), I’m certain that a lot of it did!

It is, as I have written many times, a remarkable blessing to have my parents living so close. I don’t have to send flowers by FedEx, I can just walk next door. I don’t have to leave for the weekend to cook my mum a Mother’s Day dinner, we can just invite them over.

Additionally, Naomi and the children drove down from Richmond in time for church at Wake Forest Presbyterian, so our family dinner was the quality of busy, noisy, love-charged experience that nourishes both our bodies and our souls.

Often, I have to pinch myself to check that I am still living in reality! I’m so unbelievably blessed, and I don’t take this privilege lightly.

IMG_9652Life is not always easy – I understand that, nor is it always convenient, or pain-free, or necessarily fair; but there are moments – like this weekend on Mother’s Day – where the balance tips so markedly that it’s hard to remember how often there are times of struggle too.

It’s like one of our elders said Sunday, following such a great morning of love, encouragement, affirmation, and inspiration at WFPC – a celebration of abundant life that was spilling out into the community as everyone went their separate ways: “What a great morning! I think this is exactly what our founding fathers had in mind all those years ago. This is America at its best.”

To be sure, this is a Great Adventure; and it is so good, so very good, to reflect on how exceedingly wonderful life can be, and to be grateful.

In love, and because of love – DEREK

Enjoy these few Portraits around Mother’s Day: