It has been absolutely awesome to be back in our home church again! The atmosphere in worship at First Presbyterian is so affirming, and encouraging and (I believe this is the word for the whole experience) GENUINE….
I know it’s easy to quote songs instead of actually writing, but this old chorus jumped into my mind when thinking about Sundays at fpcBrandon, “There’s a sweet, sweet Spirit in this place; and I know that it’s the Spirit of the Lord. There are sweet expressions on each face; and I know that it’s the presence of the Lord…”
But it’s not the syrupy kind of sweetness. It’s the love kind of sweetness. Maybe the song would be more representative of my experience if it read, “There’s a genuine love that fills this place; and I know that it’s the love that comes from God. I see peace and healing in each face; and I know that it’s the present grace of God…”
Yay Monday! I’ve said before how Sunday with my church family makes Monday not only possible but – in truth – a life-charged blessing. Well double the effect of that principle when there’s a small-group gathering Sunday evening. During the summer our POGs group (Parents of Grads) meet more informally and in homes rather than at church. Yesterday evening we swarmed the Dales’ new home again, did the usual covered dish, and caught up with joys and needs.
There are 19 of us (18 at the Dale’s yesterday) and that number represents eleven family units and 24 children. Plus we’re beginning to add some grandchildren (just a trickle right now but you know that’s going to change!).
One family in our group is dealing with some gut-wrenching hurt that is quite literally too much to carry on their own. Small groups provide the opportunity to – physically and spiritually – be there for one-another.
I already had a partial “heads-up” about what was going on when the evening began, so I started our conversation with this short story from my week: The day I found out about the situation I immediately prayed for my friends and their son. In doing so I felt an unusual surge of connectivity with the Spirit – so I prayed through and then beyond the standard, “God bless so-and-so.”
My prayer quickly evolved into a more intimate interaction that worked its way into both my conscious self and much deeper places I cannot calibrate. After that it didn’t seem right to leave my friends’ daughter out of the conversation so I prayed for her too.
Naturally, I thought about the fact that all the members of my small group have children, and the Spirit led my prayers through every family in the circle.
- I prayed for the men, specifically and by name;
- I prayed for their wives in the same manner;
- I prayed for each of the children in my friends’ families, and I surprised myself by remembering all of their names and life circumstances easily.
- I prayed – with care and with different emphases depending on the individual on my heart in each moment – for ten married couples, one single person, and 24 young-adult children.
I make a point of spending time in prayer each and every morning; it’s how I start my day. Typically I’ve already been in some level of conversation with God before Scout and I even set out on our walk. But the experience is never rote or repetitive and I’m open to the direction God wants to take. This time my prayer became a deep, serious conversation that lasted 45 minutes and affected everything else about the balance of my day.
Sharing my story set off a chain-reaction of similar testimonies to how God has been working in and through our lives this summer. And by the time our friends were ready to share their burden with the entire group we did so in the context of a shared faith story that was – already – the Present Grace of God.
That’s life with my church family here in my home-town. Where:
- All the men are good
- All the women are full of grace
- And all of the children are (loved) above average.
Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at https://www.amazon.com/Derek-Maul/e/B001JS9WC4), and there’s always something new in the works.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.
Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men’s Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.