Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Spiritual Work-Out

If you're not familiar with this blog, here's a short introduction. I tend to write these posts "stream of consciousness"; un-edited; absent of finesse. Consequently, I'll contradict myself from time to time, write things that disappoint those who want me to be more orthodox, and reveal myself as a rough-hewn work in progress. That's Okay; I'm fine with being imperfect. I'm honestly more interested with my general trajectory than in my writing "holding water" every time I post...

A few days ago I bundled up in my thickest sweater, pulled on my warmest coat, fished out a pair of gloves, and ventured out into the cold. I even donned an old tweed hat that I purchased years ago in England.

But the payoff - for getting up before light and walking three miles with an enthusiastic pooch - was huge. By the time we made it down to the 8th hole on the golf course there was enough light to catch the heavy, even frosting; the effect made the fairway and the green emit a pale, translucent, light.

I paused to read my daily Upper Room Devotional, and discovered these words from First Timothy: "Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is valuable in every way, because it promises life both for the present and for the future." -1 Timothy 4:8 (TEV)

Obviously, I've talked along this line before. But I hadn't run across Paul's particular take on the idea in his letter to Timothy, and it is helping me articulate something that's been on my mind recently in terms of contemplating the future.

Different seasons of my life have come with unique emphases. As a young person I was pretty much defined by physicality: strength, endurance, balance, speed, hand-eye coordination. Later I became more conscious of my intellect, powers of reason, clear thinking and communication; I didn't mature as a writer until I was in my forties, and then I didn't publish my first book until I was fifty because I really wasn't ready - it took that long to develop the capacity and the understanding and the insight to have anything "book-worthy" to say.

And now - approaching 54 - I am beginning to sense a spiritual coming of age that has been decades in the making. It is occurring to me that - maybe - this emergent stage of my life may be defined more by spirituality than by the physical or the intellectual.

Of course there is a lot of overlap - we are an integrated package, more complex and more interconnected than we realize. It's still important - maybe more than ever - that I take care of my body; and I am still learning how to utilize all the potential held in the phenomenal mechanism of the human brain and psyche. But I think there may be a significant shift in terms of emphasis.

I, as a created being, am constantly learning the wonders of what it means to be human. More and more I'm realizing the limitless potential vested in aligning my spirit with the care and the purposes of the Creator. That understanding effects my spirit, my intellect, my physical body... and every as-yet-unrealized aspect of my life as a Child of God existing in the borderland of both time and eternity.

Good job I'm so young yet - so much still to learn!
Love and blessings - DEREK

Monday, January 18, 2010

Why write about my pilgrimage?

This week's post harvests some of the content from the proposal I sent to my Upper Room Books editor, back at the beginning stages of this book. I was trying to lay out a general sense of direction, and clarify (for myself) exactly what I wanted to say; I was trying to convince the publication team to invest in a new idea, Those of you who have already started read might find it interesting to consider how far I eventually strayed off-message (if at all). And those of you wondering if this is the right book to read at this point in your journey will - hopefully - be inspired to take a look.

We are travelers on a spiritual journey... and our path is very seldom predictable, or a straight line with certain guaranteed, easy to follow, or “bullet point” results. “Not that I have already obtained all this…” Paul says in Philippians 3, “…I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.”

"The Unmaking of a Part-Time Christian" is part memoir and part collection of essays. My personal pilgrimage – as a regular Christian seeking to understand exactly what it means to follow Jesus in the day-to-day – works as the backdrop for a chapter by chapter exploration of real life themes; themes designed to bring biblical truths into sharp focus and practical clarity.

o Pilgrimage that means learning to listen. To listen at 6:30 AM when I’m walking my wife’s dog, Scout - and God works into my consciousness along with the rising sun; to listen in the grocery store line when a casual acquaintance opens her heart to the things of the spirit; to listen in traffic when I would rather pay attention to the distractions.

o How did God reach into my car to lift me up when I was sitting at that stop light in rush-hour traffic? Even though I was overwhelmed by pressure at work, choked by toxic fumes from the rusty 1985 Monte Carlo beside me, and assaulted by “The Fat Boys Live” at 250 decibels thanks to the SUV on my left.

o What has 18 years working with emotionally disturbed children taught me about God’s unreserved love? How have committed Christian friendships drawn me closer to Jesus? Why do I get stuck so often in my spiritual journey? How does the Holy Spirit break through?

o What is it about spiritual journaling that steers me so unerringly through my often routine day-to-day? Why am I always lifted up so powerfully when I hear the stories of other pilgrims, and when I’m invited to share in their journey? How is it that God knows me so well, and leads me to the exact scriptures I need to hear when I am wise enough to spend time in the Word?

God has the following quality of journey in mind for each unique one of us:

o Incremental... Purposeful

o connected to the heart of our day-to-day

o inexorable... beautiful... real

I am still but a pilgrim, humble in determined progress. God often teaches me through others, and when I am wise I remember to listen.

But this pilgrim path, it seems, is often jarringly at odds with the culture we inhabit. And so we search, carefully, spirits open to catch glimpses of grace. And we study, purposefully, a type of divine woodcraft, learning to identify the footprint of heaven, listening to hear the still small voice, growing accustomed to following the Savior.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Yes, it's THAT COLD here in Florida!

Just a short message today on what looks to be the last of our cold Florida mornings. In fact I took a picture of myself sporting leather jacket and scarf because I don't know when I'll have the pleasure of donning my cold-weather gear again.

This morning I've been trying to decide how frequently I'll be posting on this particular page. This blog is specific to the book "The Unmaking of a Part-Time Christian," but I also write a daily post for my regular blog "A Life Examined." Fact is, everything I write is pretty-much relevant to the discussion that drives the book - I'm thinking about what it means to be a full-time pilgrim in progress every time I sit down at the keyboard...

So I've settled on the following, tentative, schedule: I'll post here once every seven days; Monday or Tuesday at the beginning of each week. But I'll continue to post daily at "A Life Examined" (It's the link you'll find on the right had side of this page, underneath the photo that takes you to my web page (www.derekmaul.net).

I'd honestly like to be in conversation with you, so feel free to post a comment or contact me via derekmaul.net. This business of being a disciple, a pilgrim in progress, is worth talking about, worth writing about and - most of all - worth living with all of our hearts... and minds... and souls... and bodies.

Love and blessings - DEREK

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Hey, pilgrims... time to make some progress...

The first draft of the book "The Unmaking of a Part-Time Christian" included the following introduction.

Pilgrim in Progress: “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” - Philippians 3:14

Entry – PILGRIM – (noun): 1. A child of God who experiences faith as an ongoing journey. 2. A Jesus-follower on a deliberate quest for the consecrated life. 3. A purposeful traveler.

Entry – PROGRESS – (noun): 1. Movement toward a goal; advance. 2. Development or measurable growth. 3. Steady improvement. (verb): 1. To advance; proceed. 2. To advance toward a higher or better stage; improve steadily.

Entry – PILGRIM IN PROGRESS – (description): 1. A person of faith moving into the challenge of living a kingdom life. 2. A committed disciple or Jesus-follower. 3. A more tentative or peripheral Christian who is taking positive steps to move forward.

I am still but a pilgrim, humble in determined progress. God often teaches me through others, and when I am wise I remember to listen. But this pilgrim path, it seems, is often jarringly at odds with the culture we inhabit. And so I search, carefully, my spirit open to catch glimpses of grace. And I study, purposefully, a type of divine woodcraft, learning to identify the footprint of heaven, listening to hear the still small voice, growing accustomed to following the Savior.

As a fellow traveler I want to share such insight as I have into the pilgrim craft, and in putting pen to paper I intend to pursue an ongoing and candid conversation about what it means to make this kind of life-long journey. Because - and in the spirit of the disciples, Peter and John, “I simply can’t help myself!”

Remember the story at the beginning of Acts chapter four, when Peter and John were arrested by the temple authorities in Jerusalem? They were held overnight, lectured, threatened, and then warned to keep quiet about the controversial subject of Jesus.

“They called them and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; but as for us - we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.’” (Acts 4:19-20)

This book comprises a journal of what I have seen and what I have heard.

No systematic theologies, no carefully nuanced world views, no doctrinal slants, and no denominational plugs. Rather, I’m excited to be able to tell anybody willing to read or listen about what I have seen, what I have heard and what I have experienced.

  • Tales from the pilgrim way
  • Stories about following Jesus
  • First-hand accounts of God breaking into time and space
  • Narratives detailing this life-changing pathway
  • Entries from the living journal that my pilgrim life has become
  • Moments of clarity when God’s word has jumped from the ancient page and become living ink, written indelibly into my journey…

It’s the pathway Paul describes as, “The Heavenly Call..."

Friday, January 1, 2010

Starting out the New Year as full-timers!

Happy New Year, everybody - also known as the Eighth Day of Christmas. So here it is, January One, a brand spanking new year, ready to be written on by each one of us.

We spent yesterday afternoon and evening over at Joe's house in Orlando (Rebekah's plumber brother). Pretty much all Rebekah's sibs were there - Joe, Jesse, Rachel and Rebekah - the only MIA was her oldest brother, Roy. Then add an assortment of spouses, cousins and parents - and I have to say the place rocked!

Most interesting - always - was watching various uncles and cousins try to blow the rest of us up via firework mayhem. More than one explosive "got loose" and ran amok.

And there was laughter; good spirits and genuine joy. It's a real tonic to set up the beginnings of a fresh calendar in the context of such genuine love and warmth and unbounded goodwill.

We drove home fairly early because Andrew had to get up this morning in good time to make his flight:
Tampa - Charlotte - Frankfurt - Bahrain. It will be a long day and a half for him before he arrives "home" again in the Middle East Saturday evening. But is was a great visit with much joy and giving and feasting and love.

So it is a bittersweet New Year's Day. The gift this 8th day of Christmas is very much family, very much the joy of such positive relationships with our adult children, very much understanding and grasping - more than ever, the depth of the goodness that this life can be...

...But at the same time there is the difficulty involved in any letting go, any releasing into the unknown, any sense that this is all so vulnerable. Not vulnerable in its quality or in terms of tenuous relationships - but vulnerable inasmuch as we live and love in this broken world - a place in which, while we may be agents of positive change, we are at the same time are exposed to everything that defines that brokenness and need for redemption.

So travel safely Andrew; live an eloquent testimony to the veracity of the Gospel; witness to the light by living as light. And may God keep you, always, in the palm of his hand....