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

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Gourmet Spirituality

This past weekend, speaking in Texas, I spent some time talking about the "Gourmet Initiative" that's going on at my house. Simply put, I'm cooking one new recipe for Rebekah each week (she gets to pick it our of a cook book). The idea is to push myself out of my cooking comfort zone.

The spiritual lessons, it turns out, are huge. It's one reason I'm using the idea of "Gourmet Living", and applying the same principles to life across the board.

I've always been a decent cook, and I've never been afraid to tinker with my recipes from meal to meal. As a result, and over the years, a lot of the distinctions between my menu items started to blur, and a kind of "generic Derek" style emerged (Yes, I noticed that generic Derek kind of rhymes!).

Consequently, I've been a stickler for following directions since I made the "one brand-new recipe from the cookbooks each week" commitment for 2010. Essentially, I want to learn new "fundamentals", to make the specific sauces that are called for, practice various techniques, take the time to use the exact herbs and spices rather than just the ones I like - that kind of thing.

Rebekah's favorite dish in the world is lasagna. So recently I tried a recipe for lasagna from scratch. I even did stuff like crush and chop fresh sweet basil leaves rather than using the dried basil from my spice rack. The entire process, from heading out to the store for ingredients to serving, took four hours. But the result was awesome!

It turns out that fresh ingredients really do make a huge difference; that using an exact amount of oregano and a precise measurement of thyme is better than my "mixed Italian spices" standby; that the correct balance of mozzarella cheese, ricotta cheese, cottage cheese and Parmesan cheese yields amazing results; that sautéing the mushrooms first will pay dividends when the dish is served....

That's "Gourmet Spirituality" in a nutshell. Faith is something I've developed over the years. I'm "pretty good" at doing this Christian thing and God has been a key element of my daily life for decades. But I seem to have been doing most of it "on the fly", using generic ingredients, happy to have enough skill to make it work but never coming close to being a threat in terms of greatness.

So I'm learning to be open to growth. Learning to build my relationship with God on fresh experiences rather than borrowed, pre-packaged, flash-frozen or canned ingredients. Learning that there is so much more to being a Follower of The Way than "Okay," "Good enough", "Adequate" and "This'll do."

The promise of following Jesus is the ending of half-measures.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A word from the hill country - a "thin place"

I'm writing from the hill country in Texas, about 90 minutes north of San Antonio. I've been one of the speakers at the Mo-Ranch Assembly Men's conference. About 450 Presbyterian men gather here every year to worship, learn, fellowship together and grow in their faith.

I enjoyed teaching, I always do, and I presented more content from The Unmaking of a Part-Time Christian than I ever have before. I sensed a very real connection between the participants and the material - as if the ideas talked about in this book resonated with their own experiences.

There was an extra amount of nodding and a few more "amens" in response to the idea that faith is much more than membership in "The Christian Club"; just one more affiliation in a long list of club memberships. I got the impression that the concept touched a nerve, and I felt the room perceptibly lean in and pay closer attention.

It's beautiful out here. Clear air, cool evenings, and a beautiful spirit that comes along with such a gathering. You can feel the devotion in the air. Men from all over Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Arkansas, all committed - at least for the weekend - to living faithful lives as disciples...

... Of course, a lot of this falls by the wayside when guys return to the routine of daily life. But this kind of experience is important because it gives them - gives all of us - a glimpse into what Kingdom life is all about.

There's a balance - always - in life between "reality" and inspiration. Sometimes it takes a little extra inspiration to get through a week of reality... which is why inspiration needs to work its way into our reality; why we shouldn't paint such a solid line between faith and our day-to-day lives.

No more part-time Christian.