Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Preachers and a Healthy (redemptive) Lifestyle

Question: What is the pastor's husband uniquely qualified to say in most gatherings of ecclesiastical bodies?
Answer; "My preacher is cuter than your preacher..."

Imagine delivering a line like that at a gathering of Roman Catholic Priests? Or, say, the annual assembly of the PCA or a meeting of the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church? I'm not saying something like that couldn't be said about a member of a boys-only club; I'm just thinking it might be a little awkward.

Anyway, that's the background for the following paragraph in my My eponymous blog (Derek Maul) .
  • Today's story is very simple. I am blessed in many ways, but - walking Rebekah out to the car this morning as she headed in to work - I couldn't help but notice how beautiful she is. I said "Stop! I want to take your photograph. You are so lovely this morning I want to capture the moment." So I pulled out my BlackBerry and clicked (You can read the entire entry by clicking on the link).
Healthy for Jesus!
The above is kind of a round-about intro into a few thoughts about clergy health. I believe that one essential responsibility for us (as representatives of what it means to live a "Kingdom Live") is to demonstrate a redemptive, healthy lifestyle.

Don't worry, I'm not confusing stewardship of the Temple of the Holy Spirit with being pretty. But I am very much aware of the tendency of professional clergy to neglect foundational concepts such a healthy diet and regular exercise.

Rebekah and I have two things going for us in this regard:
  1. The preacher's 50th birthday present - a huge, galumphing labradoodle - is now our personal trainer...
  2. The Preacher's Husband - yours truly - has been experimenting with a concept I'm calling "The Gourmet Initiative". 

If you're interested, stay tuned. I'll be sharing information aplenty about both of the above. Just think "Gourmet Living" and read John 10:10. "I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of..."

Insert photo of the Preacher with her personal trainer (and gourmet chef) here:

Monday, December 27, 2010

Love The Church Staff!

Christmas Brunch with The Black family - foreground - and my parents...   Last night I was in conversation with some old friends who have been active in church all their lives. They live in another city, and currently attend a "non-denominational" fellowship.

They seemed amazed when we shared the story of our associate pastor's big Christmas surprise.

"He was at your house Christmas morning?" they questioned. I'm not sure, but I think their mouths were hanging open just a little.

"Tim and Kelly always come over for Christmas brunch," Rebekah said. "They bring their boys, we exchange presents...."

She stopped, realizing how often churches experience conflict in their pastoral staff: Preachers who can't work together, petty jealousies, personality conflicts, sabotage, territorial disputes, heavy-handed supervision, taking sides, church splits....

"We just love each other," Rebekah said. "Tim's like a brother."

Love is all we need:
Six and a half years ago, when our church was searching for an addition to the pastoral staff, I was just as interested in the potential spouse. I lobbied hard for calling a pastor who's husband - or wife - loved Jesus, loved the preacher, and loved the church.

Because it's bunk when they say, "A candidate's husband or wife should not be a factor when calling a minister...." Like it or not, it matters hugely! Churches need pastors with committed family support and they need a spouse who feels called 100%. That doesn't mean "two for the price of one", so much as it means "one with the heart of two."

Consequently, while it's awesome that Rebekah loves Tim, it's a wonderful gift from God that I love Kelly too.

Advent Conspiracy:
That's why this year's Advent Conspiracy worked out so well. Kelly had been thinking about getting Tim a new guitar pretty much all year long; she stuffed the occasional $5 bill in an envelope just to see what might happen. It's tough to pull surprises when your husband pays the bills.

By the fall she had enough to think about shopping. That's where I came in. We started looking, pulled in a few more contributing gifters, and the plot moved into high gear. One day Kelly and I managed to sneak off while Tim was stuck at a multi-hour beach wedding and we got the job done.

That was before Thanksgiving, so the guitar (and hard shell case) remained in my care until Tim and Kelly (Micah and Liam in tow) showed up for Christmas brunch.

We pulled it off! Tim was in shock. Score for us!

  • God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. (1 John 4:16-21)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sometimes God enters me through my tears

Photo: The Preacher and the Other Preacher (Rebekah Maul and Tim Black)

Sometimes the preacher can't make it, and it's important that somebody represent the church....
Sometimes the associate pastor can't go either...
Sometimes The Preacher's Husband gets to be emissary.

In the Presbyterian Church we have a nifty connectional system - the "Presbytery" functions as our regional body (around 80-plus churches in the Tampa Bay area). Consequently, I know  a number of the preachers fairly well. That's why, when both Rebekah and Tim were committed to two funeral services at home today, I put on my dark suit, drove to Forest Hills Presbyterian Church in Tampa, and attended Bekah Miller's memorial service on behalf of the pastors at fpcBrandon.

What a terrible tragedy... Bekah - a school psychology post-graduate degree candidate at FSU - died this past weekend of a pulmonary embolism. She was 24-years old, active in sports, home for the holidays, and in robust health.

So I stood in the long line and spoke with her father, Rev Craig Miller. Craig is senior pastor at Forest Hills.

"Craig," I said, hugging him briefly then holding on to his arm. "I'm here on behalf of Rebekah and Tim. We are so sorry. I..." (and I reached as deep as I could go, but to no avail) "... I have nothing that I can possibly say...."


"Thank you," Craig responded. "So many people feel obliged to say something, even if they have nothing to say. I'm glad you understand that there's really no need... Your presence is what matters."

Tears: And of course then the tears well up. I'm such a softie! But maybe not so much a softie as someone who is becoming increasingly familiar with stripping my soul bare. I really do understand this wall that so many men build around their authentic selves; they build the wall because once the shell is removed then the soul is - well - all there for all to see. And you (I) feel so vulnerable.

But this is what I believe (and please understand that I'm not only naturally suspicious of gratuitous emotion but I guard against the mistake of routinely confusing it with God.) I believe that the Holy Spirit does some of God's best work when we are broken down. Not "broken"; not "down"; but disassembled, broken down in terms of deconstructing the barriers we have erected.

So, yes, my eyes most certainly filled with tears. Not running over so much as full, But you know what? Water is a good conductor of Spirit! Think baptism. Think of the fact that we are, I'm estimating, 70% or more water ourselves. God enters me via my tears.

"Look to God's word for strength and comfort," one preacher said before a Bible reading. That's good so far as it goes. But I say this, "Look not only for comfort but also for explanation." Scripture is quite prepared to handle that question as well.

Craig Miller finished his daughter's eulogy by asking all of us to follow through on our intention when we say things like, "Is there anything I can do?" "Yes," he said, "there is. If you want to do something for us, then honor Bekah's sense of justice and sense of fairness, her refusal to write people off; her unwillingness to be so quick to judge. She wrote this on her facebook page, 'The greatest lesson we can learn is how to love, and how to be loved...'"

Like I keep saying, this Preacher's Husband gig is a privilege - a difficult one, and it is a severe joy.

Photo - left: The Celtic Cross on the island of Iona, Scotland.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Servant's Heart

I'm starting with this photograph from last night's party at our house (Maul Hall). I had to balance my camera on the piano, set the timer, and run into the edge of the picture! But I love it because these friends make everything else possible and we love them all so much. We meet with our small-group (covenant group) every Sunday evening; the encouragement, prayers and accountability we share with these amazing friends always fills us with hope and strength and peace and purpose. They are, quite literally, the presence of Christ for Derek and Rebekah.

But, wow, what a weekend! Life at our church is busy all the time - we're an active, life-infused, live-faith-out-loud kind of a congregation - but these past few days have been full to the max.

A lot of the preacher-stuff is visible: Christmas parties and worship and Christmas parties and teaching and Christmas parties and music and Christmas parties and such. Did I mention the Christmas parties? But then there's the deep layer of pastoral care and administration and leadership that can leave the preacher exhausted and spent.

Four deaths. Four memorial services in four days. The first was yesterday, Sunday afternoon at the church. Liver disease at 47; cancer at 65; an unexpected death at 40; then the daughter of a preacher friend, a tragic passing at just 24. Rebekah is preaching at three of the four services (she never, ever does a "cookie-cutter" memorial). But more than that it's the grief, the processing of death with the families, the raw emotions and the overwhelming details.

THE PASTOR'S HUSBAND'S JOB: When you're married to the preacher, and especially when something tragic happens (and by definition tragedy always comes without warning) there can quickly be a bunch of people at your house. It doesn't matter if you're the pastor's wife or the pastor's husband, you're going to find yourself in the kitchen serving hot tea and offering to fix whoever a plate of food.

It's not about if it's convenient, or if the family sitting in your living room is hungry, or prefers coffee, or if you even have anything other than peanut butter and a bag of chips... It's about serving, it's about loving people, and most of all it's about being the presence of Christ with and for somebody else.

So here's the point of today's post. Being a preacher's spouse must - at its core - be all about following Jesus with passion, about living faith out loud, and about an ongoing commitment to be the presence of Christ as an active witness to love - in every aspect of our life. As the pastor's husband I am part of a ministry team, and my number one role is to serve.

My wife's role as senior pastor at an active Presbyterian church is not just an interesting job choice; it's definitive and life-transforming. I'm in this up to my eye-balls.

This life is an amazing privilege, a tremendous responsibility, and a constant source of joy.
Thank God we have our small group!

Love and blessings - DEREK -

  • My prayer for the preacher: "I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus... And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1: 3-5, 9-11)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Who wears the pants? (did somebody really say that...)

So much for only one post per week! But we're new here, and the blog launch (see previous post) generated more interest than I had expected.

A little history: (photo: Rebekah greeting at the church door)

Today's story is a classic from way back. But it concerns what's at the heart of most of the opposition faced by men who are married to women in ministry. I'm talking about male chauvinism, not reasonable theology. It's an important story because that is exactly what people who are against women in the pulpit always fall back on: bad theology combined with cultural chauvinism.

My wife and I were newly married and chatting with a group of students on campus. The topic of careers came up and I said I was excited about spending a couple of years in Atlanta while Rebekah competed her masters in divinity at Columbia.

One young man was evidently struggling to make faith in Christ fit neatly with the chauvinism that defined much of his life experience. He poked a bony finger in my chest and demanded to know how Rebekah and I planned to divvy up authority in our young family.

"So who's going to be wearing the pants in your family?" he asked. "Just who will be the head of your household? Or should you get your wife's permission before you answer?"

The question wasn't as difficult as he imagined. "God is the head of our home," I replied. "But now I'm curious, tell me about yours..." (GET REAL" p 21)

Joshua answered the question this way: "How if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve...; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord" (Josh. 24:15)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Welcome to this new (once-a-week) blog

Not a "Preacher's Wife": These are the once-a-week musings of a preacher's husband: (You didn't ask, but I'm going to tell anyway)
Derek Maul is married to a "successful" Presbyterian minister. He thinks that, after over 28 years in church leadership together, there may well be a couple of stories worth sharing... :-)
- Picture: The Preacher's husband and the preacher, on vacation, Fall 2010

Probably the last thing I need to do right now is add to my work load. But this week I was dismayed to read - in a major denominational magazine no less - the following statement: "Although there are a lot of women pastors in the mainline denominations today, I was not able to find an active blog written by a pastor’s husband..."

Well search no more, Ms. Faith-based Journalist! As of today you can come right here to find out all you want to know about what it means to be a pastor's husband in 21st Century America.

So what is this blog going to be like? Short answer... we'll find out as we go along. But I can promise the following:
  1. Regular - once a week - entries
  2. All faith-based content (Being the preacher's husband is about following Jesus)
  3. Unvarnished truth (I'm a newspaper writer, I know the truth is always more interesting than anything people make up!)
  4. Humor (Let's fact it, church can be very funny!)
  5. Inspiration
  6. Good quality writing
Intro: If you're interested, here are some of the relevant "Preacher's Husband" basics:
  • My wife, Rebekah Maul, has been an ordained Presbyterian minister for over 28 years.
  • Rebekah was trained at Columbia Theological Seminary and then served 14 years as associate pastor at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Pensacola, Florida (1982-1996) before being called as pastor here at First Presbyterian Church of Brandon, Florida.
  • First Brandon has a little more than 500 members and 350-400 in average attendance.
  • Rebekah has an amazing staff, including the best associate pastor (Tim Black) in the denomination.
My life - as a preacher's spouse - has looked like this:
  • My most important role was - and is - doing my best to keep the preacher happy, healthy and balanced. It helps that she's awesome.
  • My mother-in-law (also a clergy spouse) told me my job was three-pronged. "Love the Lord, love the preacher, love the church."
  • Rebekah and I have raised two wonderful children together.
  • The absence of stereotypes (what does a church expect when the preacher's spouse isn't a preacher's wife?) has freed me up to simply follow Jesus.
As for my career, here are the basics:
  • The first leg involved 18 years teaching exceptional education in public schools. Eventually it was time to do something else, so I turned my hand to freelance writing.
  • I have a few regular print gigs, writing for a variety of newspapers and magazines.
  • I write on-line for the Florida United Methodist News-service, Family First, and All Pro Dad. Additionally, I pick up one-off assignments where I can.
  • I've authored three books and two study-guides for Upper Room Books (book #4 is in production).
  • Then - and this is often the most rewarding - I'm doing a lot of speaking. Since my first book went to print I've had the privilege of traveling all over the United States to share about faith and my commitment to "Live like we mean in".
Let me know if this blog interests you.
Let me know if you're clergy, clergy spouse, or just interested....?

Grace and Peace - DEREK