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.

IMG_9712
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.

IMG_9711

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

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.

IMG_9553
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:

Micah and Jeanette get married #LoveWins

DSC_0527

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. – 1 John 4:7-8

DSC_0466Saturday April 8 was an exceptionally wonderful day here at Maul Hall. Rebekah and I were privileged to host the wedding for our awesome nephew, Micah, and his equally amazing bride, Jeanette.

The quiet, intimate, simple ceremony was one of those rare and memorable occasions that literally seep into the fabric of a home and set up residence in its soul. Our home has been blessed immeasurably, and we are the richer for it.

Micah – Tom and Rachel McMahan’s middle child – is the third of the ten Alexander grandchildren. He’s a brilliant mechanical engineer who makes engines faster and more powerful, and he’s done it for several car manufacturers. Recently, he helped design Ford’s winning “24 Hours of Le Mans” engine. Most importantly, however, Micah McMahan is one of the most genuine and good natured people I know.

Jeanette obviously loves Micah – which is pretty much all we need to know. But she’s also a beautiful, creative, inventive woman who uses her super-smarts to help a small brewery in Charlotte create cutting edge craft beers that consistently win all kinds of local and national accolades. She’s sensitive, full of life, loves to cook, has a generous spirit, and is the perfect compliment to Micah; we couldn’t be happier about Jeanette joining the extended family.

The quiet, intimate, simple ceremony was one of those rare and memorable occasions that literally seep into the fabric of a home and set up residence in its soul. Our home has been blessed immeasurably, and we are the richer for it.

The Ceremony:

DSC_0487The wedding was, quite simply, Micah, Jeanette and the preacher (plus of course the two dogs). I got to be here via the privilege of being the preacher’s husband. Then, as North Carolina requires one more witness, my mother walked over for the ceremony.

Saturday April 8 was as perfect a spring day as we could have hoped for, the garden was beautiful for the occasion, and Rebekah’s words about generosity in relationships could not have been more on point.

Generosity isn’t just about what we give, it’s also about the grace of allowing others to enjoy such a sweet blessing. We put one another first (that’s mutual submission), we put God first in our lives (that’s following Jesus), and we make the choice – every day – to live in the light of the Jesus quality of generous love (that’s living our faith out loud).

  • We put one another first (that’s mutual submission),
  • We put God first in our lives (that’s following Jesus),
  • We make the choice – every day – to live in the light of the Jesus quality of generous love (that’s living our faith out loud).

DSC_0539Rebekah and I feel extremely good about Micah and Jeanette. We both know and enjoy the long term benefits of that kind of generous love, because it defines our relationship; and we practice loving intentionally even more today than we did the day we were first married, almost 38 years ago.

There are a lot of photos posted here, but each one is spilling over with so much genuine joy that I honestly can’t hold back!

May we all be so blessed in our relationships; may we all live forward, from this point, with our commitments renewed, and our generous spirits activated by God’s generous grace.

In love, and because of love – DEREK

living as Children of Promise in a difficult world…

Now we too, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise. – Galatians 4:2

IMG_8856
leaving the hospital Thursday afternoon

So yesterday afternoon – in a quick update for those who are wondering – I was able to check my mum out from the hospital, and bring her back home next door. It was a long, grueling, often frustrating few days, full with tests and examinations and consultations, and the experience reminded me of A) what amazing resources, and care, and expertise we have at our disposal, and B) what an inexact science medicine is when it comes to understanding what’s going on in the human body!

The bottom line is that we now know a lot more about why my mother has not been feeling well, what to look for going forward, why going to the emergency room was exactly the right thing to do given her symptoms, and why we want to absolutely avoid being admitted to the hospital ever again if at all possible.

Faith and an easy life:

IMG_8853
my mother, more than ready to get out of there!

I also gained some more insight on how faith plays in to all this. Yes, I do believe that divine healing is something real that actually does happen in select circumstance; but – and this is an important point – we are mortal beings, we are susceptible to age and disease and decay, and our identity as Children of Promise (Galatians 4:2) is much bigger, far-reaching, challenging, and complete than good check-ups and an easy life.

In fact, I’d argue that accepting (and living into) my calling to be a disciple of Jesus is far more likely to set me up for a life of challenge than it is a life of ease.

We are Children of Promise in the sense that we are a Covenant People. Being in the hospital may be difficult and overwhelming, but the promise that we are not alone is completely secure. God does not steer us around the valley and the shadow, but God’s promise is, Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me” (Psalm 23:4).

These are words to live by; these are words to struggle by; these are words to struggle with; these are words to encourage us; these are words to give us courage.

Because what we need is not so much physical healing (even when we receive it it’s only temporary, even Lazarus died again later) what we need is courage. And courage is part of our identity as Children of Promise.

IMG_8844
Wake Med

What we need is not so much physical healing (even when we receive it it’s only temporary, even Lazarus died again later) what we need is courage. And courage is part of our identity as Children of Promise.

To live well is not to live pain free, and certainly not struggle free; to live well is to live into our identity as Children of Promise.

We are a people called to follow Jesus, called to live as God’s own children, called to represent light, and love, and hope, and grace. We are called to not only be disciples, but to look like – to be recognizable as – Children of Promise!

– DEREK

learning more about faith – on another visit to the hospital

IMG_8810
Morning in Wake Forest, NC

“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling…” – 2 Corinthians 5

IMG_8836This morning I’m back with my familiar friend, Wake Med! This time it’s with my mum. We went into the ER yesterday lunchtime, and spent the afternoon being evaluated; they decided they wanted to admit her and take a closer look. Her vascular system has been pumping steadily and generously for eighty-five and a half years, and it may be time for a tune up.

This is why it’s so good that my parents live next door, and that I have the flexibility of working from home – or wherever I happen to be. I always write about real life, and there certainly is a lot of real life happening here in this hospital. Medical centers are essentially crucibles, points of tension (and possible transformation) physically, psychologically, and spiritually.

So for my mum, this crisis was precipitated by suspicion we might be heading toward a stroke. I paid attention, got her to the ER, and now we’re consulting with a team of neurologists and cardiologists. Early intervention, and then follow up over the next week or so should add up to a positive outcome.

I’m not sharing this in order to plaster my mother’s medical history all over the Internet, but to illustrate how our entire lives are a series of challenges, points of tension, crises, interventions, and consequent outcomes.

None of us live in a bubble; not physically, not spiritually. The way we move forward is to pay attention and to respond accordingly.

I believe that this time of the year, the weeks leading up to Easter, are critically important to our spiritual prognosis. We are given this unique opportunity to walk the dusty path to Jerusalem, to invite Jesus to walk alongside us, to respond to what we learn about ourselves, and to move forward into our tomorrows with a more focused, productive, healthy, spiritual identity.

We are given this unique opportunity to walk the dusty path to Jerusalem, to invite Jesus to walk alongside us, to respond to what we learn about ourselves, and to move forward into our tomorrows with a more focused, productive, healthy, spiritual identity.

Today is Wednesday. This coming weekend, Holy Week launches with the dramatic and enthusiastic celebration of Palm Sunday. Wherever you are as regards your spiritual health, I urge you to show up at your local church, wave a palm branch, and engage the opportunity afforded with the serious intention of a disciple.

Physical; Mental; Spiritual:

The more years I have under my belt (and there are quite a lot by now), the more I realize that my spiritual life is the most important aspect of my profile. Physically I am aging; mentally I won’t be this sharp for more than another couple of decades; spiritually there is always the potential for renewal, more growth, reinvention, and moving into a more vibrant future.

Physically I am aging; mentally I won’t be this sharp for more than another couple of decades; spiritually there is always the potential for renewal, more growth, reinvention, and moving into a more vibrant future.

img_8032
author Derek Maul

It’s certainly something to think about, whatever your chronological age – and especially as we approach the celebration of Easter.

– DEREK

Living with enthusiasm and joy! (The Grandaddy Letters)

img_8262
Hide and seek with Great-grandma Grace

“Do good, be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for yourselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that you may take hold of the life that really is life.” – 1 Timothy 6

This morning I had planned to launch a potentially far-reaching conversation about Lent, but I’ve decided to wait for tomorrow morning; Sunday provides the perfect opportunity to hit “reset” spiritually, and I have a couple of questions I’d like for all of us to carry forward with us between now and Holy Week.

Today I’d like to share a few more thoughts from the week with our grandchildren. We took them back to Richmond Friday evening so I’m in a better position to reflect with a little more concentration. I’ll frame this post as one of the, “Grandaddy Letters” series that’s been running since a few months before David was born.

*************************************************

Dear David and Beks:

img_8244
we fed the birds.. now where are they?

Wow! That sure was some four days of fun we had together, wasn’t it! You’re both so bright, and happy, and inquisitive, and loving, and full of energy. I’ve got to tell you, you wore me out!

I don’t know if you realize this, but the kind of life you have – the quality of “aliveness” that just spills out from you, all over the place – does more than give your grandparents a lift, it actually regenerates us.

This is what, in the grownup world, we call a paradox. A paradox is when something looks like it should do one thing, but it turns out to do something quite the opposite. Yes, we’re tired; and, yes, we’re not so young as we used to be; but the life that flows out from you – the ebullience – gets all the way into who we are. Your life fills us up, it lifts us up, and it stays with us after you go home.

In the Bible, Jesus teaches about how people who love God and follow him are supposed to live; it turns out we’re supposed to live with the kind of light, and energy, and belief, and creativity, that we see in our beautiful grandchildren. You, David, and you, Beks, teach us about the Jesus quality of life.

img_8248So here is my word for you, dear grandchildren. Don’t ever let go of that kind of life! Don’t ever let the world around you put out the light you carry; don’t ever trade in your creativity, your inquisitive minds, and your thirst for learning.

God – who loves us so very much – put each one of us on this Earth to not only enjoy the world but to serve God by loving each other with God’s kind of love. That means you, David, and you, Beks; God has big ideas for both of you, and those ideas involve shining brightly and loving with enthusiasm.

So thanks for another great visit. We love you both, and we love your parents too. We can’t wait to see how brightly you continue to shine for God.

In love, and because of love – Your Grandaddy Derek.

(check out the before and after haircut pics!)

 

love, Legos, stories, and imagination at “Camp Grandparent”

img_8180

This has been a classic “host the grandchildren” week here at Maul-Hall. Four days in Wake Forest while their parents remodel the nursery at their church home in Richmond. I love the way our daughter Naomi is harnessing her creativity, her crafting, and her commitment to serve God in such an imaginative way.
Meanwhile, I’ve been enjoying the creativity, the imagination, and the over-the-top enthusiasm of two extremely energetic children! The challenge is to provide constant opportunity for them to remain engaged and learning, while having fun at the same time.

img_8081The challenge is to provide constant opportunity for them to remain engaged and learning, while having fun at the same time.

That’s why I love to see them involved in so much self-directed play. They build, make up stories role play, read, and invent their own games. Then there was making bread with grandmama, heading to the park with grandaddy, and – the big project of the week – putting together a 700-piece Lego rendition of Tower Bridge in London.

At five years of age, David is eager to accomplish tasks well beyond his years. So we went through the 99-page instruction guide one step at a time, and all I did was to ask questions and drop hints: “How many of those pieces do you need?” “Remember to assemble what you need before you put that part together.” “Does that look like the picture or should you try again…”

After maybe six hours over three days we were done. I love to see the concentration, the complex spatial awareness, the problem-solving, the sense of satisfaction when things fall into place, and the willingness to try difficult things.

img_8195
Volcano research

David is also a big fan of volcanoes, especially Mount St. Helens. Yesterday, while I was preparing dinner, he sat at the counter and watched the entire National Geographic special detailing the geology behind the massive 1980 explosion.

Lastly, one of my favorite things is to watch the children sitting with Rebekah and asking for, “The Old Woman Stories.” Rebekah is a master storyteller; she doesn’t just captivate the children, she draws me in too. I’m thinking I should start to record her and use the stories as the basis for a book.

The kids need some attention now, so I’ll leave you with a few photos and get on with another exiting day of grandparenting.

Peace, and more peace, on your Lenten journey – DEREK

let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!

dsc_0207
Caesar’s Head State Park

Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice!
    Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise!
 Let the fields and their crops burst out with joy!
    Let the trees of the forest sing for joy – Psalm 96

dsc_0273Where to begin? It turns out I had a lot more than a few great pictures on my Nikon, so my choice is to either share them just a few at a time over the next few days… or include a forty-image slide show at the end of this post?

I’m leaning toward sharing all the photographs today because – in the meanwhile – life is moving on right here in Wake Forest. The whole idea of this blog has always been for me to share day-by-day reflections based on real life – the epic Great Adventure that each and every day presents!

My daily posts won’t always include photos quite like these – but they will always comment on how amazing this journey is, and how faith and life constantly intersect.

Today’s images cover two categories: people, and place. Both, it turns out, were looking their best over the New Year.

The place where we were all staying was The Burge Nest, in what’s known as the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, and Caesar’s Head State Park, located in north-eastern South Carolina. The views you will see include the beautiful sunshine of December 31, and the magical vistas of low cloud cover in the early morning of January 2.

Family People:

dsc_0295
our beautiful niece, Lindsay

As for the people, you can read more about them in yesterday’s post – Alexanders Galore – and New Year’s Eve – A Time For Gathering Stones. The bottom line for Alexanders is intentionality, the idea that we have to want to be a family, and make it happen regardless.

The word “regardless” is key in my estimation. Because the idea of family may be born in blood, but it is played out in a thousand small decisions, and ultimately rests in choice.

the idea of family may be born in blood, but it is played out in a thousand small decisions, and ultimately rests in choice.

So here are the photos. Take your time and enjoy. If you want any of these photographs, shoot me an email and I’ll send you the full-sized version – these are not dense enough to work with or print.

Over the New Year, both the trees and the forests and the extended Alexander family were “singing for joy.”

Peace, love, promise, and blessings – DEREK

 

the best start to 2017 (Alexanders galore)

img_7239
(various) Alexanders galore…

Let’s hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, because the one who made the promises is reliable. – Hebrews 10:23

img_7212
just before midnight Dec 31

January 3 – I guess it’s about time to write my first post for the New Year. The Alexander family reunion up in the mountains was the perfect way to both end 2016 and begin 2017, but there was simply no opportunity for me to sit down and write.

So, now we are back home in Wake Forest, there’s a lot to share. We had fifteen of Rebekah’s immediate family most of the time, twenty for a few hours Sunday afternoon, eighteen for a memorable dinner Sunday evening.

The house we rented was spectacular. Perched literally on the top of a beautiful gorge, room for everyone, unbelievable mountain views, a huge kitchen, conversation areas all over the place, and one enormous dining room table – perfect for just being together, hanging out, and reunion-ing.

Saturday a bunch of us invaded the delightful small town of Brevard, North Carolina, and there were a few hiking expeditions; but for the most part everyone enjoyed the house, each other, and the opportunity to catch up.

That afternoon, in a quite unexpected serendipity, Rebekah’s cousins Ruth and Shafe (Charles Alexander) both showed up, along with Shafe’s wife and two of his children. Other than his mother Ellen’s funeral – five and a half years ago – I haven’t really spent any time with Shafe for several decades.

POWERFUL CONTEXT:

img_7248
Reed, Savannah, Elaine, Shafe, Ruth

It was all good; but my main focus for this post is the context that underlay absolutely everything about the weekend, and that context was – that context is – our common faith.

Sunday, it was my turn to prepare the evening meal, and I decided to bring all the ingredients not only to make my spaghetti sauce from scratch, but the pasta too. Consequently, I really needed to begin cooking around 10:30 in the morning, and that was going to make driving 20 miles to church almost impossible.

So I organized worship together as a family, assigning different parts to different people, and centered around an interactive message where I simply asked a good question that six to eight people responded to (not surprisingly), beautifully.

Here’s the scripture I read to get the ball rolling:

Brothers and sisters, we have confidence that we can enter the holy of holies by means of Jesus’ blood,  through a new and living way that he opened up for us through the curtain, which is his body, and we have a great high priest over God’s house. Therefore, let’s draw near with a genuine heart with the certainty that our faith gives us, since our hearts are sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies are washed with pure water. Let’s hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, because the one who made the promises is reliable.And let us consider each other carefully for the purpose of sparking love and good deeds. Don’t stop meeting together with other believers, which some people have gotten into the habit of doing. Instead, encourage each other, especially as you see the day drawing near.

And that is where we are as a family. We hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, because the one who is in the business of making, and keeping, the promises is beyond reliable.

Like I said, I can’t think of a better context for launching another New Year. – DEREK

(here are a few more iPhone pics. Tomorrow I should have discovered the treasures on my Nikon!)

 

New Year’s Eve – “a time for gathering stones…”

img_7140
view from the deck

There’s a season for everything
    and a time for every matter under the heavens:
     a time for giving birth and a time for dying,
    a time for planting and a time for uprooting what was planted,
     a time for killing and a time for healing,
    a time for tearing down and a time for building up,
     a time for crying and a time for laughing,
    a time for mourning and a time for dancing,
     a time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones… – Ecclesiastes 3

img_7121So this is where we will be watching the New Year come in. Oh. My. Goodness. What an amazing location. We’re overlooking a valley/gorge in northwestern South Carolina, in the mountains directly south from Hendersonville, NC.

We’re surrounded by Rebekah’s family, as four of the five siblings have made the effort to be together and simply hang out in this sprawling, spectacular, comfortable mountain home. Along with Rebekah, Rachel, Joe, and Jesse (and spouses), six of the ten cousins managed to make it, plus one fiance. So this certainly counts as an epic family gathering.

We’re taking it in turns preparing meals, there are ongoing games, there’s hiking and photography to be done, and then – most importantly – the constant hanging around the dining room table, talking, laughing, and sharing stories, sharing our lives.

img_7139Gatherings like this are all about the stories, about the celebration of life, and faith, and more. “There is a time for gathering stones…”

I could call this weekend, “Tales from the Great Adventure of our lives.” Maybe that will be the new title of this blog (I’m getting pushback on the “Thinkology” thing). But that’s for another day, sometime in the new year. For now, I’m heading back to the table so I don’t miss any more epic stories.

Stay tuned. There’s bound to be more. This life really is a Great Adventure – DEREK