Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Keeping the Journey in Clear Focus

December update:
I pray that Advent is beginning to work it's focus of expectation on all your hearts. Don't forget to engage December as active, full-time Jesus-followers. That way Christmas will be in sharper focus and you won't miss the coming of the King!
- DEREK


This page is  shifting focus to that of "place-holder and welcome." Simply put, the majority of people go directly to my daily blog @ www.DerekMaulonthehalfshell.blogspot.com or my website @www.derekmaul.com.


So it doesn't make sense to blog here, unless there are direct questions and comments about "The Unmaking of a Part-Time Christian". The book's facebook page is still active, and I'll certainly respond to people reading the book who come to this page, but I'm not going to try to make regular entries here any more.
  • Connect to my blog
  • "Like" the facebook page
  • Direct others to this page
  • Visit my website at derekmaul.com
  • Check out my author page at Amazon...
And be blessed. Follow through on rejecting the status of part-time Christian. And by all means include me in your ongoing conversation.

PEACE - Derek

Monday, November 29, 2010

Welcome to the challenge of living faith out loud!

This page is - as of today, November 29 - shifting focus to that of "place-holder and welcome." Simply put, the majority of people go directly to my daily blog @ www.DerekMaulonthehalfshell.blogspot.com or my website @ www.derekmaul.com.

So it doesn't make sense to blog here, unless there are direct questions and comments about "The Unmaking of a Part-Time Christian". The book's facebook page is still active, and I'll certainly respond to people reading the book who come to this page, but I'm not going to try to make regular entries here any more.
  • Connect to my blog
  • "Like" the facebook page
  • Direct others to this page
  • Visit my website at derekmaul.com
  • Check out my author page at Amazon...
And be blessed. Follow through on rejecting the status of part-time Christian. And by all means include me in your ongoing conversation.

PEACE - Derek


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Kindle-ing Logos

I want to put in a word, this morning, for the word. For The Word. Logos.

The ancient Greeks used "logos" for speech, order, reason and discourse. Aristotle put several key ideas together and used logos to cover the general discipline of reasoned conversation and intelligent dialogue. The Christian writer John finessed the concept to that of God speaking all things into being, and went on to describe Jesus as the physical embodiment or "incarnation" of logos - Christ The Living Word.

The Word, LOGOS, for Jesus followers in the 21st Century, and for me in particular, means "the animating truth" - it means the fact of God speaking life into all of Creation.
  • In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Jesus is light. The Word brings light and life. And, while God is certainly not limited to the kind of truth which can be comprehended via spoken or written language, so much of the truth that penetrates all the way into my soul tends to come at me via text.

So this is one reason why I'm so excited about my new toy! Rebekah and Andrew (along with help from Naomi and Craig, long-distance) took me out to dinner last night and presented me with a "Kindle" book-reader.

They had preloaded it, thoughtfully, with a couple of my titles. And I must admit it still gives me a tingle of excitement to see my work available in any new format.

Then, in the mail, I received my copies of the Guideposts annual Christmas book "The Heart of Christmas". I have a couple of stories in the 2010 edition.

And so today I'm recommending that we soak ourselves in Logos. I'm suggesting some extra time spent in communion with truth via the written word. Get into some Bible! Swim in the life-charged wonder of "it is written."

... I want to put in a word, this morning, for the word. For The Word. Logos.
- DEREK

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

META-NATURAL

Once in a while I'm able to place an article that takes a key idea or principle from The unmaking of a Part-Time Christian. This week the following article appeared in FOCUS magazine in Central Florida. It's a good one to share with friends who are maybe struggling with the idea of God, miracles, and why so much in faith is difficult to understand.




http://issuu.com/focusmag/docs/plantcity09-11/101

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Do Not Be Afraid of the Omelet!

Typically, I won't just paste in a post from my other blog in this space. But I'm liking this message for The unmaking of a Part Time Christian. I believe it's one to pass around.
- DEREK

First, a disclaimer. This is not my omelet! First off, it's far too neatly made. Then, most importantly, it's almost impossible to photograph an omelet you are cooking, serving and also involved in eating - there's simply no time!

OKay; here's the set up: Men's Bible Study, Wednesday evening; pre-class talking; exchanging stories, checking in. I'm telling a couple of the guys about the awesome omelets I cooked for dinner.

So Chris, in all seriousness, asks: "So what's the secret? How do you make a good omelet. I can never do it."

Me - in all seriousness: "Don't be afraid of the omelet!"

Chris: "What?"

Me: "What I mean is, just go for it. The moment you begin to worry about texture, evenness, technique etc., then the omelet will not/cannot work! Prepare your ingredients ahead, get the pan hot, make sure it's not going to stick, and then treat the omelet like a big scrambled egg. Once you get it going, throw in all the good stuff you have prepared ahead of time, fold it over when it's 75% done, and don't overdo the cheese."

The way to cook a good omelet, I was trying to explain, is all in the commitment. Or, as Yoda would say, "Cook the omelet or cook the omelet not. There is no try; only do or do not."

The conversation actually comments well on the scripture in Philippians 4 that we've been studying. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

The principle is to proceed, always moving forward, without allowing anxiety to take a foothold. Living a victorious life is not about God making things easy, about putting more "Ws" in the win column, or about achieving technically perfect results. The victory is in the journey, the placing of one foot in front of the other, in a belief that borders on naiveté, in serving with faithfulness and in the sure knowledge of God's love.

Don't worry! Trust in God! You make sure to take care of the fundamentals (daily devotions, constant prayer, a spirit of thanksgiving, being active in a community of faith, serving others etc...), so throw it all in the pan, keep everything moving, for goodness sake don't get stuck, and live your faith out loud already!

... And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

- AMEN to that!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Thanks... "maybe": well-placed book review turns out to be a mixed blessing...

  • It's one thing to write a potentially cutting edge book.
  • Then it's a huge step to snag the interest of a publisher and to see the manuscript come into print.
  • But it's something else entirely to present the finished product to people outside the immediate circle of close friends and family, for the book to sell more than a handful of copies, and for the great ideas that launched the book in the first place to be exposed to anyone at all. You know what they say about a tree falling in the woods....
So I was very excited to hear that a major denominational news journal planned to run a full-page review of "The Unmaking of a Part-Time Christian."

You can't buy that kind of exposure. Well, my publisher can't buy that kind of exposure! Upper Room Books are great, but they simply don't have the resources.

Yesterday afternoon the magazine I'd been waiting for - The Presbyterian Outlook - arrived in my mailbox. I couldn't wait to find the review and there it was; a full page, thorough, well written and pretty-much 100% positive!

BUT... and this is a big but... there at the top of the page, the prominent 48-point bold-face headline had the title of my book wrong! Good grief, who could possibly screw up the title of the book under review???!!!

Don't make the mistake of blaming the book-review writer. This had to be editorial. Copy or page-design. I've had that happen to me in the Tampa Tribune, and everyone thinks it's the writer. Fact is, most errors are introduced after the article leaves the writer's desk.

Oh well... You win some... Regardless, here's the review. Read it, it's actually pretty good.
- DEREK

by Derek Maul; Nashville: Upper Room Books, 2009.
reviewed by Judith Fulp-Eickstead

Derek Maul, award-winning columnist for the Tampa Tribune, issues an invitation to anyone looking for a deeper level of commitment to Jesus Christ in a culture where “doing just enough to get by defines life for too many people and in too many contexts” (p. 17). The book consists of stories of people and communities who have transcended that "clock in-clock out" mentality to exhibit authentic discipleship. Maul shares transformative elements of his own faith journey, which includes experiences in a variety of church and para-church organizations, and experience as a young adult in a controlling religious organization led him to conclude that “religion based on fear is contrary to the invitation to follow Jesus, and I believe such a path serves to kill faith in many vulnerable followers who are manipulated and deceived” (p. 51).

As Maul reflects on the church, he cites many of the same problems other authors have pointed out, such as the fear of change and the tendency to venerate tradition and even habit. He recalls the often quoted seven deadly words, “We’ve never done it that way before,” and in response offers seven life-giving words, “I can do all things through Christ.” That reliance on Christ is the focus of the full-time faith Maul advocates throughout the book. He recalls conversations from a class of energized young adults who are able to be truthful about their doubts and unbelief on their shared path of discipleship, invites us to be “flies on the wall” at a senior banquet where parents and youth share meaningful memories and real faith. The author points us to Christ, who meets us wherever we are on our pilgrim journey and invites us to the next step. This kind of authentic faith cannot be made into a formula and is not easy to define. But it is the essence of what it means to be “emergent,” says Maul.

I would have liked more reflection on what it means to be an “emergent church,” especially within the larger culture of the Presbyterian Church, and too often the book follows well-worn paths, such as the section on the Bible as "guide book."

Maul offers a challenge, however, to “live as if you mean it,” and engage in a journey that challenges our perspective and sets us on a deliberate path of pilgrimage. The challenge is best met, according to Maul, with the support of other Christians in faith communities, in intentional small groups, and in our own families. Having real conversations about authentic faith and a shared prayer life with a consistent group of companions is a source of encouragement and accountability. But the call to engage goes far beyond such intimate circles. We are ultimately called to engage a broken world with God’s promises and God’s purpose — relationship, restoration, and reconciliation. This book is very accessible and could serve as an excellent resource for small groups or adult education classes, with Scripture, prayers, and thought-provoking questions at the end of each chapter.

JUDITH FULP-EICKSTEAD is associate pastor, Trinity Church, Arlington Va.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Live Like We Mean It!

I'd like to pick up on a quote from my most recent post to this blog - "In this moment, anything is possible"....

It's a great concept. I used the phrase to describe a pivotal point in the history of the United States. But, in and through Jesus, it's true every single day.

Sometimes we engage situations that are - by definition - life changing; I'm talking about things such as beginning a new job, taking marriage vows, the birth of a new child, paying off a huge debt, becoming a committed Jesus-follower for the first time. It's fairly easy to see how such pivotal experiences set up the potentiality for new possibilities.

But what I'm talking about today is the vast and largely untapped potential vested in each and every moment of our day-to-day lives!

ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!
  • Too many people let even the big opportunities pass by, and they miss out on what is possible even in face of a huge change; instead of moving forward, they let the old patterns continue to hem in their lives... That's tragic on so many levels.
  • But we don't have to wait for The New Year... or Moving to a new town... Joining another church... Starting a different job... BECAUSE THE MOMENT IS NOW!!!
This is the heart of "Live like we mean it". Because God is inviting us to New Life. Today. Right now. Every "right now".

Because of Jesus, in THIS moment, anything is possible!
- DEREK

Thursday, October 21, 2010

In this moment... anything is possible!

This is not the easiest blog to keep up! The page was established to go along with my third book "The Unmaking of a Part-Time Christian." The idea was for an interactive blog, where book readers would come to share their thoughts about faith, and where the author (that's me) would respond, facilitate conversation, and generally engage in dialog with readers.

Nice idea, but it hasn't happened. Almost no-one has come to the page in response to the prompts inside and on the back cover of my book. So... what to do? Here the page sits, and it does generate some occasional traffic.

I was thinking about this just a couple of days ago at Appomattox, the site of the final series of battles and maneuvers that marked the end of America's Civil War. I was wondering about what message to share on this blog - and it has to be different, not the same as my daily musings at A life Examined....

Appomattox was a chance to begin over. In fact, the terms Grant offered Lee were amazingly generous. Soldiers from the North shared food and supplies with Confederates. President Lincoln looked for unity and forgiveness and reconciliation. There didn't have to be any more hate...

But once the ball got rolling, and Lincoln was assassinated, and the tendency of people to act selfishly kicked in, and politics began to have their way, well, things didn't go so much as planned at the outset of peace.

Look at the photograph! Imagine that road, lined with 6,000 Union soldiers. Now see if you can add in 28,000 Confederates, marching along to lay down their weapons and their ammunition and their battle-flags. Now see if you can visualize General Chamberlain as he orders his men, "Present.... arms!" And 6,000 Yankees lift their weapons in respect to the defeated Southerners.

In that moment, anything was possible.

Isn't it like that when we chose to follow Jesus? We limp into the presence of God, defeated and desperate. Then, instead of contempt, Jesus lifts us up! Our spirits are restored and - in that moment - anything is possible...

So why do we back away from reconciliation and continue to isolate ourselves? Why do we continue to limp along like we have no resources at our disposal? Why don't we live in the fullness and the joy of the renewed relationship? Why are we afraid to change?

These are some of the questions we must face if we are to move away from a part-time faith and into Real Life With Christ.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The view from the mountain...

Mount Washington, New Hampshire! There's nothing like being on top of the world! Mount Washington advertises "The World's Worst Weather!" - but the experience was well worth the sudden plummet to around 12 degrees F. The views were spectacular and the clarity was other-worldly.

Mountain top experiences are wonderful, but then we get to live back down in the valley most of the time. The key is to understand that God is as much a part of our day-to-day lives as he is in those amazing moments of clarity and perspective.

So today I'm looking up at the mountain (from the deck of our vacation condo). I can't see near as much as I did yesterday, but I'm resting with confidence in the knowledge that everything God showed me on the mountain is still 100% true. Maybe even more so, because day I'm living in the truth of yesterday's mountaintop experience.

Peace and blessings - DEREK

Monday, October 4, 2010

Monday Morning Inspiration for my Holy and Faithful Friends....

Both my Sunday morning class and my Sunday evening small group are in the process of reading Paul's Letter to the Colossians. I especially love the opening greeting. "To the holy and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ at Colosse: Grace and Peace to you from God our Father."

When I first said, "Wouldn't it be cool if the Apostle Paul walked in here and said, Good morning, holy and faithful friends," there was a general murmur of dissent. More than one of of my Sunday morning group said there was no way they could be accurately described as holy.

I appreciate the humility, but fact is most of us misunderstand the meaning of the word holy. Holy simply means to "set apart" for something special. So, this week, I asked for some examples of how my friends had responded to the imperative to be holy... to walk in the fact of their holiness... to act and interact proactively in a faithful response... to live as if being holy was a fait accompli....

They shared some remarkable stories. So this week, for "homework", I have asked everyone to keep the image of "holy and faithful" front and center in their consciousness. Because there is a lot of power in proactive belief. Seeing ourselves - positively - as people both commissioned and equipped to be holy and faithful will likely produce observable results.

And it doesn't matter what we're up to, who we're with, and what circumstances are at play. Our mission is still the same, simple and clear cut. Live in the truth of our salvation. We have been commissioned to participate in "Kingdom Life". Kingdom living necessarily involves walking in the light as children of the light.

It's Monday morning, holy and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ: Grace and Peace to you from God our Father.

- DEREK

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Morning has broken/ is breaking

Good morning! First, if you haven't read my previous post, then scroll down and do that - I believe it's worth the read.

Second, simply a prayer for today:

Morning has broken (will soon be breaking, at this writing) like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing
Praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the Word...

I like it when my mornings spring fresh from LOGOS. New and full with promise because the Creator of all life has spoken promise into my new day.

This is both the promise and my prayer - that the emerging experience that is Thursday, September 30, 2010 will be a God-saturated, Grace-charged day.

Amen

Thursday, September 23, 2010

On the road with some awesome Baptists!












This week's post is a simple look at this past weekend in the Atlanta area. I enjoyed the privilege of an invitation to speak at the First Baptist Church of Decatur.

I was given the opportunity to share a few words at each worship service, I taught Sunday school, and then I led a men's mini-retreat during the afternoon.

Events like this always serve to encourage, inspire and animate me! They bring home the fact that this idea of honing our discipleship, and being deliberate in our commitment to follow Jesus, is a very real concern and an ongoing goal for many Christians, all around the world.

Any time I am able to be a part of the process of encouragement for others, then the opportunity is worth the time and travel. And always, and without exception, I receive as much if not more inspiration than the participants who are gracious enough to listen to me speak.

Of particular note from my weekend with the Decatur Baptists is the fact that the lead pastor, Julie Pennington-Russell, reminded me so much of my wife - Rebekah. Her experience, pastoring the large and influential Southern Baptist congregation, has likewise been fruitful and full with abundant blessings. I especially enjoyed getting to know her husband, Tim.

So, here are a few images from the weekend. It is always my joy to serve The Church in any way that I can. I'd love to spend some time with your congregation, to visit with you and to share the increasingly clear message that God has placed on my heart.

Peace - DEREK

Saturday, September 18, 2010

On the Road Again...

Free Internet access at Tampa International Airport! One of the many benefits of possibly the best organized travel terminus on the planet. There's a lot about living in the Tampa area I'm not too jazzed about - but it's a great place to live if you need to travel.

And travel is happening a lot, nowadays. I often open speaking engagements by pointing out that it's interesting how so many people think I can speak in public just because I penned a few books. I go on to joke that I only accept the invitation as a public service - designed to disabuse them of their false assumptions...

The truth - hopefully - is that I really can get up in front of a large group of people and be both interesting and inspirational at the same time. At least that's what I keep telling myself! Fact is, after years in the classroom, working with severely emotionally disturbed children (grades 6-8 the last few years), a room full of adults who actually want to be there is significantly less than intimidating.

This week's event should be a great experience! I'm flying to Atlanta (take-off in 40 minutes) to spend all day Sunday with the First Baptist Church of Decatur. I'll be meeting with some of the leaders this evening, then speaking six times tomorrow!

Yes, that's six. A five minute testimony at both worship services, 40 minutes with combined adult Sunday-school, then the men's retreat after lunch. Two 45-minute lectures followed by break-out groups, then a 30-minute conclusion/wrap up.

I'm excited about the opportunity, and I've been saturating myself in writing and general preparation for the past few days. The content will be organized around "GET REAL: a spiritual journey for men", my first book. The event is titled "Faith in 4-D: living like we mean it."

I'm advancing the foundational proposition that following Jesus is "about the ending of half-measures." God has in mind for us to live with passion and purpose and meaning. Jesus is the way and - most certainly - the life.

So please pray for me this weekend, and for the good folk at Decatur Baptist.... Grace and peace - DEREK

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Getting the message across...

This evening (Saturday) I've spent several hours preparing the message I intend to share at Trinity Presbyterian Church of Seven Springs.

I feel good about the content. But the exercise has given me a renewed sense of admiration for preachers who create new material every weekend... and even more admiration for those preachers who do that plus make the message interesting, inspirational and instructive.

Rebekah especially. She never fails to encourage me, to make me laugh, to bring home incisive truth, and to teach me something about faith in a new way. Her messages are not only relevant, but loaded with good news. Her passion is authentic and compelling. She believes with her whole heart, and she puts her whole heart into the message.

So my main focus tomorrow is going to be to make sure that I remember to bring some enthusiasm into the pulpit. I know that my writing is - typically - loaded with much more than just words. So I pray that I manage to bring that kind of applied joy to what I say when I open my mouth.

I am convinced that the core message I need to get across - wherever and whenever I speak - is the amazing opportunity that we have, as believers, to live the kind of life we've always wanted to. Jesus is the key. He has given is the word of life - our opportunity is to live it in a way that communicates the truth of God's generous love.

Monday, September 6, 2010

From the Hummingbird















I'm still not sure if most visitors here are unique, of fans of "A life Examined", just seeing what else I've got! Regardless, I believe this post is worth a look. It's certainly on track with the central theme of "The Unmaking of a Part-Time Christian".

From Earlier: Good morning! Because of the unprecedented response to yesterday's post, I'm going to start by encouraging you to go back and read "Messy - Impractical - Loved" if you missed the story previously.

This morning is the most beautiful Black Mountain First day in September. Cool temperatures, clear skies, generous light. I have spent the past hour sitting, patiently, on the front porch with my camera, waiting for a repeat performance by the hummingbirds who entertained so generously during breakfast.

Every movement of my camera, however, startles the birds and they zoom off to circle the neighborhood frenetically, eying me with suspicion before initiating a new landing pattern only to abort at the last possible moment.

Eventually - about fifteen minutes ago - my patience paid off, and I was able to snap a few close-ups. But I like the above image best; wings in motion, poised just so, the moment of decision still in balance: "Do I feed, or do I continue the dance?"

It's a good question.

Sometimes the dance is enough. Sometimes the periphery is the appropriate place to be. Sometimes all we have in us is the ability to circle, curious, watching and waiting.

But eventually we must take in nourishment. Or we begin to lose the strength even to seek. So we take a deep breath, we approach the source of all life, and we drink the sweet refreshing nectar...

Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:13-14)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Lifting my eyes up to the hills...

















This week I've been involved in a "study retreat" with my wife, Rebekah. We headed to the Appalachian Mountains to do some restoration work, spiritually and mentally (although I'm not sure any more where one ends and the other begins!).

It's been a great week, and we capped it off today by driving the Blue Ridge Parkway for 75 miles. The experience was a wonder overload! We enjoyed sunshine, rain, misty views, clear views, and everything in between.

At first I was disappointed by the rain and clouds. But then, stopping at our first overlook, I realized I was able to see things in the muted light that I would have missed in the stark contrast of bright sun and shadow. A clear day can erase definition off the face of the mountain, so all you can see is a wash of light.

I could see layers and depth through the light drizzle. I could appreciate the "blue" of the blue ridge. I was able to witness a more nuanced Appalachia than I ever had before.

I was, to be honest, blessed by what I had not wanted to see.

Once again, God used my eyes and my ability to observe, to teach me something about the spiritual life. My retreat wasn't over today - it has really just got going.

Peace - always - DEREK

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Monday replete with Glory and Light
















This is not the best example of photography I've ever produced - but often the picture that supports a story is better than one that's, well, just a pretty picture. Besides, I don't walk the dog with my Nikon hanging around my neck - so the cell phone camera has to make do.

But God provided an awesome light show this morning. I got up before the sun, and Scout and I had made it to an adjacent neighborhood by the time the first rays crept over the top of the trees to the east. At that precise moment, I felt a light rain and also a faint glow, as if I was inside something translucent. So I looked around and there, in the southwest, a beautiful rainbow appeared as if to say, "Good morning, this is going to be a day full with glory and light."

Of course, every day has that illuminating potential, but the idea certainly gains a little more traction when it is spoken by a rainbow.

Look at the picture, and you can see that it is still very dark in the west. But - and this is a theological truth too - it's always light somewhere, and the first trickle of it spilled over the curve of the earth to simply dance with the early morning rain.

This morning it's easy to imagine being a rainbow. When I allow the penetrating light of the eternal to penetrate my spirit, then there's always the possibility that I may present like a rainbow.

The original promise of the rainbow, spoken by God after Noah and his Ark finally made it back to dry land, was a promise to NOT DO something.

The promise of the rainbow I witnessed this morning, spoken into my life with great clarity, is God's promise to be proactive, to actually DO something beautiful through me. I have been called to live as if what I prayed and sung and taught in church yesterday is actually true. I have been called to shimmer, as that light passes through me. I have been called to live.

Love and blessings, always - DEREK

Friday, August 13, 2010

An Invitation to Radical Potentiality












I don't, typically, post duplicate messages in this space. But today my regular blog entry is exactly appropriate for the ongoing "Unmaking of a Part-Time Christian" discussion.

Here it is. If you've already read this on my other sites, sorry to waste your click! But if you're new to my blog and want something along these lines every day, then stop by again, or go to A Life Examined on a daily basis.

God's Peace - DEREK

"An Invitation to Radical Potentiality"

I've always liked gates... doors... roads that wind... pathways that meander... windows big enough to climb through. I have photographed "openings" - almost unconsciously - for years, never really thinking about why.

I was reminded of this the other day, going through some photographs with Rebekah's sister, Rachel. Last year our "Italy Adventure" had overlapped with Rachel and Tom's trip for a few hours and we'd enjoyed lunch together in Pisa. Rachel was looking at the powerpoint presentation I'd shared with some friends at church.

Two photographs grabbed my attention. The first is pasted above, at the opening to this post. The medieval town of Monteriggioni sits on a Tuscan hillside a few miles north of Sienna. Looking up, from the road, the traveler can see one of the arched entrances to the town - a pinhole view into the city.

Later, exploring the walled settlement, I took this view, looking out and across the Tuscan vista. It's the same aperture, but a radically different view.

Then, and this is my divergency for you, my inability - or maybe unwillingness - to think exclusively according to a linear model, one of my favorite scriptures about what it means to be "saved" jumped into my mind. Here it is, then I'll try to discuss why I think it's profound!

"I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:9-10 - read the whole chapter, it's awesome!)

I love the image of Jesus as a transitional platform: "I am the gate." Jesus moves, so comfortably, beyond the role of simply drawn person and into the more abstract function of catalyst. Jesus is describing himself as a kind of portal through which people can pass - and it seems as though they can come and go at will.

I believe this is an important concept when we think about what Jesus is really getting at when he uses the word "saved." The biblical uses of the word are much deeper, richer and more multi-layered than the one-dimensional, flat invitation... threat... ticket-to-heaven... say-the-magic-words mantras chanted by so many modern-day practitioners of my-way-or-the-highway religion.

The invitation of Jesus is to step into a new world. Faith in those terms is like moving from the walled-city and into the amazing landscape of unlimited possibility - of abundance; or, as in one of my favorite translations, "The life that is really life." and "More and better life than they ever dreamed of" (The Message).

Maybe that's where this fascination for windows and doors and gates and winding paths comes from. I believe God is speaking to me, constantly reminding me that being a disciple - a pilgrim - is more than a window of possibility; that - through Jesus - faith is an invitation to radical potentiality.

It's Friday. And, as always, this is a great day to be alive!
- DEREK


Monday, August 9, 2010

Jesus Followers Shimmer

"Full-time Christians don't sit on their hands; they shine. Disciples don't turn people way from following Jesus; they naturally invite others to join the party by virtue of the luminous manner in which they live. Pilgrims in progress don't just walk in the light, they reflect it. Jesus followers shimmer..."

This quote - from page 132 - really grabbed me today. "Christians" spend so much time and effort staking out positions... and standing against people we believe are wrong... and making sure the world knows exactly what we're against - that we forget to simply shimmer in the light.

Jesus followers shimmer!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Video series to support book

NASHVILLE - Upper Room Books marketing division took a big step into new territory recently when they commissioned a series of five short videos to support Derek Maul's third book, "The Unmaking of a Part Time Christian". The videos, shot in Maul's home town of Brandon, Florida, are designed to introduce five key concepts from the 2009 work.

The 90-second videos were shot in high Definition by former Channel 10 news cameraman John Barlow, a member of First Presbyterian Church. While acting is not Maul's most fluid forte, the messages are well staged and to the point.

The first video is "Who is in control of the words and images that flood your mind every day". Click here to view, take a look, and then pass the link around to friends, family, and church members.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Answers to real questions. Q & A with the author...

Today's blog is actually an "in real time" answer to some questions that have come out of a small group from the Trinity Christian Church, meeting in Mechanicsville, Virginia. The group has formed in order to support and encourage one-another in their journey as faithful followers of Jesus. They chose "The unmaking of a Part-Time Christian" as a resource to help the group get going.

I'll post their questions and then my answers, one at a time:

Opening from the group leader: "This past Thursday we had our 2nd group discussion on The Unmaking of a Part-time Christian. Had several attending that were not able to attend the first go round. Had a great time of fellowship and discussion.... We even had a neighbor from across the street... We invited him to join us next time.

Question # 1: "PILGRIMAGE"... One couple has the vision of the actualPilgrims when discussing the word and thoughts of pilgrimage; it's a negative connotation. What other word or suggestion can you give regarding your thoughts behind pilgrimage and its meaning and perhaps use another word to get across your thoughts?

Answer: My working title for the book was "Pilgrim in Progress." I still believe it's better than "The Unmaking...."! It's a reminder of the famous "Pilgrim's Progress" - the book by John Bunyan that detailed the faith journey of one man, "Christian." I see myself as a pilgrim, a pilgrim making tentative progress; I'm a guy on a journey through life and I'm constantly constantly working on my relationship with God. So another good word is "journey". Jesus is my guide, so in a sense I'm already home. But - as I say in the book - I'm a long way east of Eden and I'm traveling forward, back to the Garden.

Question # 2: "Prayer w/o ceasing... This was a big topic and was troubling for several to grasp hold of. The main question was how in todays world do we do that? We talked and I offered how prayer can look different for everyone and that for me its actively being aware of striving to be Christ like in your daily life.

Answer: for me, this is all about initial trajectory. First thing in the morning, being deliberate about seeking God's presence - just inviting God to be part of the day. Or, as I said in one of the new Upper room videos, "Inviting Jesus to a seat at the table of our consciousness." This sets the table, as it were, for the rest of the day. With practice (practicing the presence of God), God begins to occupy a sub-strata of our conscious selves. If we are deliberate for - say - seven days, talking time to pray once an hour, or every thirty minutes... then God begins to be more of a natural reflex than an awkward afterthought. We won't find ourselves "praying without ceasing" unless we're first prepared to invest some concentrated effort to establish new patterns. God won't force the issue - but my experience is that God is more than willing to hang around once the door has been opened, with intention... Praying without ceasing is a posture, an open door, an invitation - it's a learned response where sensing God's presence is more natural and turning to God is more reflexive. Prayer without ceasing means that God is invited, always...present, constantly... in our minds, as a matter of course... in our thoughts... more often than before.

Question # 3: Page 31: Thoughts on renewal were talked about. SoI wonder if you might comment on any of this and Ill share with the group?

Answer: I believe that renewal is also well defined as "sprucing up", "renovation", "remodeling." We've been in this house now for 14 years. We cleaned the kitchen pretty-much every day. Once every week or so it got a more serious scouring. Then, after 3 years and then again after 10 years, we did things like paint the cabinets, replace the counter top, put new knobs and handles, add bead-board to the wall, install a new oven... etc. All that was great - restoration, remodeling, cleaning, freshening up. But then, this time last year, it was time for some radical intervention. We removed the cabinets, tore down the walls, raised the ceiling, pulled up the floor, and started from scratch.

For my spiritual journey, there's a need of daily work, weekly scouring, seasonal sprucing up, occasional remodeling, and - like it or not - even (maybe once a decade or so) some demolition and reconstruction.

Here's a picture of the new kitchen. Just for a visual!


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Encounter God's Word for yourself!

For me - no devotional exercise isn't complete until I encounter God's word for myself. That's where my daily posting - @ A Life Examined - comes in. Writing forces me to invite God into my own experience, rather than limiting the discipline to reading about someone else's faith.

Don't misunderstand, reading about other people's journey is an inspiration and an encouragement - but at some point in the day I simply have to stop, meditate, read, pray, and invite the Holy Spirit to be my personal guide.

It's a journey that we're all more than capable of taking, one small step at a time.
- DEREK

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mission Statement from Paul

This is my writing mission statement:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
(Philippians 4:4-9)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Spreading the word

Well, after a quiet start at the end of last year, several efforts are now under way to get the word out regarding "The Unmaking of a Part-Time Christian."

First was a very good article in "The United Methodist Reporter", presented as a Q&A with yours truly. I kind of rambled in the interview, but the reporter - Mary Jacobs - was able to pull things around nicely when she wrote up the story.

Her article was titled "Embracing Full Time Faith". You can read it by clicking here.

Then - this week - there is an excellent banner ad for the book on the front page of the Religion News Service website - religionnews.com - we're hoping that stirs up a little interest.

But the most ambitious project is a series of short (one-minute videos) featuring key points from the book. I'm certainly not a great actor... but some of the bits manage to capture a little of what we're trying to communicate. I'm not sure yet exactly how they're going to be distributed, but the plan is to get them "out there" via U-tube, vimeo and press releases.

Here's one - still in its rough form - but it gives the general idea - VIDEO

Lots to be excited about - much still to pray about. As always I appreciate your support and covet your prayers. DEREK

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Let's talk about this!

I talked to a man the other day about checking in with this web-page. He's an enthusiastic Christian, a huge fan of "The Unmaking of a Part-Time Christian", and also very savvy about technology.

  • "So have you ever followed the invitation (it's ALL OVER the book!) and checked in at the blog to share some of your thoughts?" I asked.
  • "Never in a million years!" he replied.

Which begs the question, "Why". or, "Why not?"

It's an interesting phenomenon, but he told me he felt intimidated by the idea of sharing anything about his own spiritual journey on an open forum. I countered that it's not much of an open forum if only a handful of people ever come to visit! But his point was well taken. Fact is, this hesitant, challenging, often hit or miss path to spiritual maturity is deeply personal. It's one thing to spill your guts to a friend, or at a small-group meeting in the context of church... but this is the www.

So I'll continue to post occasional updates on this space (around once a week or so), but I won't hold my breath for more than a smattering of comments.

Instead, why don't you visit DerekMaul.com, and find out how you can arrange for me to visit your church or conference so we can talk together in person, as part of a retreat, or from the safety of your pew!

This remains an important conversation. God be with you as you journey on this spiritual way.
- DEREK

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Living Like We Mean It

Yesterday was the most fun playing golf I've had in a long time. Which was curious, considering how hot it was out there. But I was relaxed, I struck the ball well, the guys I played with were good company, and I finished with an awesome par save from deep trouble well off the fairway.

My putting was several shades of awful! But I made up for it by scrambling. I also put a ball in the lake on two holes on the back nine, resulting in a couple of sevens.

But my best moment was on the #1 handicap hole, where I left my drive in the rough adjacent to a sand trap. I had to stand, too close to the ball, perched on the edge and with my heels hanging over the bunker. Somehow I managed to launch a six-iron around 170 yards; it landed close to the pin and my birdie putt stopped about three-inches short.

I believe the way I play golf is a decent metaphor for my life. My "success" is best measured in terms of the integrity of the process, my "might as well enjoy this" attitude, the fact that I'm genuinely thankful for all the opportunities I have, and a growing commitment to apply the principles of faith to absolutely everything I do.

It doesn't really matter if a shoot under 80... or if I leave 50% of my putts well short... or if I hit a boat-load of awesome drives. And - likewise - it doesn't matter if my books sell thousands of copies... or I ever win another AMY... or if I'm invited to speak at choice events.

I like the admonition in First Thessalonians:"May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it."

Being sanctified is living like we mean it - because God does; it's taking each day and embracing whatever we're up to as another opportunity to live as if we really are redeemed people; it's being thankful and forgiven and blessed, and it's engaging life in the fact of those dramatic truths.

My 87 was pretty darned good for an infrequent golfer. But I wouldn't have had a better day - couldn't have - even if I'd shot 70. The way I play is the way I live - it's process-oriented, not results-oriented. I am faithful because God is faithful, and I'm enjoying the journey.

I really am a pilgrim on this amazing road. And I really am making progress.
Grace and Peace - DEREK

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hustle - the can't miss ingredient for full-time faith

It occurred to me recently that I almost never write about sports. Which is curious considering my virtual obsession with all things games when I was a child. I played everything I could and every game I could get in on. If a ball was involved, I was there.

Fortunately for me, it turned out that I had decent hand-eye coordination and a lot of speed. By the time I was a teenager I was a shoe-in for "first team" in every game my school sponsored. Soccer in the fall (that was "autumn" in England), field-hockey in the spring, cricket in the summer. I was also the "star" of high school track and field. I set scoring records in cricket and speed standards in track that held up for years.

Maybe that's why I've held off on sports metaphors for the most part since I've been a writer. I've always found the "Guys need sports stories or they won't listen in church" idea insulting to the intelligence and spiritual aptitude of men. A lot of the "locker room for Jesus" back-slapping, towel-snapping, football-as-religion talk tends to be chauvinistic, and feeds seamlessly into our cultural predilection toward sexist male-dominant religion.

But the other day - reading about yet another Tampa Bay baseball win - I read a comment by Rays manager Joe Maddon that fits beautifully with my thinking about "Living as if we mean it."

The game was another 1-run victory, squeezed out of a contest that could have gone either way. The result was achieved by pure grit. One of the Rays had put the team in position to win by hustling an in-field single, picking up an extra base on a hit-and-run, and then sliding face-first into home on a sacrifice bunt.

"It takes no talent whatsoever to hustle," Maddon said. "There's no kind of ability involved in hustling."

So here's my VERY RARE sports illustration. Most of the time our commitment to a full, rich, complete life - living like we mean it - is 90% hustle. It doesn't take any talent to live that way. It's not as if God has gifted some of us with a natural proclivity to enjoy life and "too bad about the rest of you."

No - if I'm living like I mean it today, it's because I got up this morning hustling. It doesn't take talent - it takes faithfulness and commitment. We can all be there.

Let's do it!

- DEREK

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

An answer to the fragmented life

I listened in on some helpful conversation this Sunday, teaching a three week class on "The Unmaking of a Part-Time Christian."

We explored the essential concept of the book, which is "Live as if we mean it, because God most certainly does." The conversation moved around the feeling that our life here in North America is very much fragmented - chopped up into bits that often don't even overlap. We wear so many hats and then become confused as to who we're even supposed to be much of the time. The result is tension, inconsistency, and a severe lack of effectiveness in terms of living any kind of a convincing Christian witness.

What God wants for us is unity. God wants us to be and act as God's children 100% of the time. There's never any doubt as to who we are or how we're supposed to be because everything funnels through the filter of Jesus.

I like the way Paul writes about life in 1 Timothy. Here's a key verse.

[You] are to do good, be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for [your]selves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that [you] may take hold of the life that really is life. (1 Timothy 6:19)

Or, as I wrote in my daily blog this morning: "THE LIFE THAT REALLY IS LIFE SPEAKS FOR ITSELF".

Click on "comment" below, and let me know what you're thinking.
- Peace and blessings - DEREK

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Let's Get Serious!

There's a hopeful sense of emergent interest budding around the United States in response to "The Unmaking of a Part Time Christian". Here and there, small pockets of thoughtful pilgrims are reading, talking and gathering together to get some conversation going about what it means to be a Jesus-follower in this 21st Century.

Sales are still - best I can determine - just a trickle. But, every time I get out and speak about the book, there's an enthusiastic response that - I believe - is speaking to the heart of a serious issue that is at the heart of the stagnation so many main-line Christian churches are experiencing here in North America.

And that issue is a failure to fully engage the message of Jesus and a reluctance to allow the Living Word to transform our lives and to disturb us in ways that lead to the counter-cultural witness the must define a Follower of the Way in 20th Century America.

So here's the challenge, in this short blog post for this week. Every time you read one chapter of "The unmaking of a Part-Time Christian" do this: Ask God to speak to your heart and then implement one noticeable change in your life in response to the words you just read.

Better yet, do this with some other disciples. Add accountability to the process. Then see how God will transform you, your spiritual life, and the world around you.

Many blessings, as you continue on the journey - DEREK

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Words... or Words to Live By?

A few weeks ago, "The Unmaking of a Part-Time Christian" debuted as a facebook page. Now, pretty much every day, I'll post a random thought or a paragraph from the book.

I've received a lot of positive feedback from "visitors". But the most valuable part of the exercise has been the devotional experience I have via selecting the passage.

Today, for example, I read most of the "Subversive for Jesus" chapter before selecting the following vignette: "If there's one model both Rebekah and I have constantly fought to disprove, it's the idea that faith should in any way be formulaic, stereotypical, one-size-fits-all, or easy to define. God, it turns out, is much harder to pin down than that..." (p. 86

The effect is a kind of forced rethink. I mean, how can I post something that strongly worded without taking a look at how such a statement fits in my life? Is it all rhetoric... or do I actually live the words I write?

I believe it's an important question to ask when we're reading anything "inspirational" - and most especially the Bible. Words? Or Words to Live By?

Blessings on your journey - always - DEREK

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Audio of Sunday's message

If you've landed on this site and would like to get a feel for what happens when the put a writer in front of a live microphone, then click on the link below. I was invited to speak at the Spring Hill United Methodist Church "Men's Emphasis Sunday" this past weekend, and was privileged to be able to share my message with over 800 people.

The segment runs around 25 minutes, followed by a hymn and a (short but worth listening to) benediction.

Peace - DEREK

Link to Derek Maul speaking at Spring Hill United Methodist Church

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Tell a new story. Well, live it first!

This weekend I'm bringing the "keynote" to several hundred men at the Spring Hill United Methodist Church outside of Tampa.

In preparing the message, I've realized two things. First, while they want me to talk about "GET REAL; a spiritual journey for men", a lot of the stories that come to mind are from "The Unmaking of a part-Time Christian". The second observation is this: Even more of my stories are new; they're not in any book and there's a good chance they never will be.

So what's going on? Well, that's best explained in terms of a letter I received from a young man who had been challenged profoundly when he read GET REAL. He wrote a long letter to me that was full of good stuff. But one line he used will never leave me. "The stories I was telling were getting old..." he said.

I'm not sure that I can think of a better way to express the truth about what happens when we allow our relationship with God to grow stagnant. The old stories are great, and we should tell them again from time to time. But God wants to do a new thing in my life and yours, and God pretty much wants to do it every day.

That's what's going on this weekend with the stories I'll be sharing at Spring Hill UMC. God is doing a new thing; God wants to do a new thing in each of our lives; God does not want you to rely on those stories from the past.

If this was a benediction - and it sounds like one coming in to this paragraph - I'd say this. "Go into this new day with the reality of possibility strong in your spirit. Talk with God, give this day over to Glory. Live a new story."
- Amen - DEREK