Saturday, October 18, 2008

God's Voice in the Mountains -- Derek Maul

"You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace, the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands." Isaiah 55:12
(Photo - Cindy Sproles)

My wife and I just rolled back into our driveway after spending a week together in the mountains of North Carolina.

The occasion was Soulfeast 2008, a conference sponsored by the folk at Upper Room Ministries. I had been invited to teach and Rebekah came along to enjoy a week of study leave and reflection.

We used the Lake Junaluska retreat center in Maggie Valley, west of Ashville, where the week's events played out against a spectacular backdrop of mountains and lake. Over five hundred participants
traveled from all over the United States, representing a dozen Christian denominations; but we all had one thing in common – an intention to grow closer to God and to learn more about The Way.

Nobody used the term "The Way," at Soulfeast, but – in a day and age where so many Christians take such pains to point out what makes their particular doctrine "right" and that of others so wrong – I am
increasingly drawn to events where our common desire to follow Jesus brings us together.

Back when the stories recorded in the book of Acts played out and the early church was born, Christians were widely known as "Followers of The Way." I've always liked that designation, and have returned from the mountains more convinced than ever that I want people to see me, hear me, read me, watch me live… and say, "There goes a follower of The Way."

Language scholars tell me that the syllables that make up my name, "der-ek", can be combined to form the Hebrew phrase, "The Way." The truth resident in that overlap of language and meaning gives me (as my wife might say) "chilly bumps".

For my part I taught a three day workshop on spiritual journey, using my book "Get Real". Then I had a lot of fun with a one-hour lecture on "How to survive December and arrive at Christmas with your faith
intact." My new book (In My Heart I Carry A Star: Stories for Advent)had just been released, so I shared a series of those stories, alternately making the audience laugh and myself cry.

By the end of the week, the conference had served up spiritual refreshment and the opportunity to worship and relax with Rebekah. Andunity, too; unity in faith with other followers of The Way.

It was a God thing; I'm convinced of it - because unity is why he came.

The Upperroom Bookstore

DEREK MAUL is the author of Get Real, A Spiritual Journey for Men and a columnist for the Tampa Tribune.

His second book, My Heart I Carry A Star: Stories for Advent" is available now.