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The Preacher's Husband

notes from a clergy-hubby

Tag Archives: Preacher

I love taking pictures of people having their picture taken!

– Photos taken, by me, during Rebekah’s official “staff-photo” shoot yesterday.

Ah, it’s “Picture Directory” time again. People have been in and out of the church all day every day this week, sticking their heads in the preacher’s office, chatting up and down the halls, pretty-much grinding day-to-day operations to a halt. But it’s all good, because when else can Rebekah fit in dozens of quality pastoral visits per day for an entire week?

So 3:00 was our turn in front of the camera. A few people asked us why Andrew and Naomi weren’t going to be in the picture with us! Seriously? They haven’t lived here in years! Then a few others said they don’t like doing these directories because their mug-shots always look so different from the time before….

"The Preacher" circa 1997

Personally, I think we all look just fine. This will be the third go-round at this church and the first since the kids left home. But I’m OK with the passage of time. We are who we are, and there are plenty of younger families in the church now who have joined since the last directory was produced.

So I stole a few “behind the scenes” photographs while Rebekah was having her staff head-shot taken. Then I pulled out some pics from when we first moved here (see left). In my humble opinion, The Preacher continues to look better every year.

My favorite preacher!

And, if aging a decade and a half at First Presbyterian of Brandon adds up to:

  • Increasing in beauty…
  • 15 years of additional wisdom…
  • Finely tuned preaching skills…
  • Developing a cutting-edge staff…
  • Plus all this experience as senior pastor at a vibrant faith community…

…Then I’d have to say, “Bring on the next decade, because the best is yet to come!”

I’m looking forward to it – and to the next church picture directory – DEREK

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Children leafing through their new treasures while one more comes forward

Sometime, being “The Preacher’s Husband” means being ready to respond to requests (made during the first hymn) such as, “Derek! My camera is at the bottom of my purse – I think – under the desk back in my office. Can you get some pictures of the kids getting their Bibles?”

And so it’s walk – with dignity – out of the sanctuary; run – as fast as I can – to Rebekah’s office; dig – frantically – for the camera; run – super-fast – down the hall again; ease into church – casually – trying not to pant loudly from being out of breath; take a few photos – unobtrusively; return to seat – gratefully.

"God's Word for you!" This is good stuff!

Of course I should have been prepared and with my own camera, because it was Christian Education Rally Day after all, and it’s no secret that handing out Bibles to the rising 2nd-graders is just about Rebekah’s most favorite thing in the whole church calendar. But I’ve been trying hard not to be “The Paparazzi” or, as our son Andrew says with characteristic lack of political correctness, “Dad, when are you going to stop being a Japanese tourist all the time?”

However, and I know you’re wondering, I did manage to get a few good pics. It really is a wonderful moment when a bunch of seven-year-olds come forward, one at a time, and stand mesmerized as Rebekah offers each individual child their own special word of encouragement before handing them the life-charged text.

Sam Sutherland encouraging the children to be "Imitators of Christ"

Later, Sam Sutherland did his classic Children’s-Moment story about “The Tater Family”, sharing with the kids how important it is – if we’re going to be any kind of a Tater at all, to be an “Imi-Tater” of Christ.

Sam’s other characters – and he bought in the vegetables to go along with the story – were “Dick-Tater”, “Agi-Tater”, “Common-Tater”,”Spec-Tater” and – if all else fails – “Be a Sweet-Tater.”

His text was Ephesians 5:1 – “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children, and walk in the way of love.”

Good words for this Monday morning, I’d say – DEREK

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Nice form, Gerard....

I’ve been thinking about the most basic, essential important duty of “The Preacher’s Husband.” The question – not so much a question as an observation – came up today when I was playing golf with my friend, Gerard (see, there he is, exhibiting unique golf skills just this morning). Gerard is on the way to becoming a “clergy-hubby” by virtue of his wife’s progress through candidacy (with the Presbyterian Church) and seminary at Asbury on Orlando (MDivon the cards for next May).

Peg is second career, they’ve been part of a variety of churches over the years before finally realizing that they were Presbyterian (!!), and Gerard already has experience as an elder. So we were talking about the whole gig, as it were, and he was saying stuff like, “I’m not sure I could keep my mouth shut,” and I was saying stuff like, “You won’t be a regular church member anymore,” and “Your entire ministry focus is going to shift.”

Because this Preacher’s Husband stuff is all about, in my mind, just the one thing. And the one thing is to create an environment at home that’s supporting, nurturing, loving and relaxing for “The Preacher;” to give her a place where she can experience restoration and replenishment, so she can do the preacher thing without picking up additional stress she doesn’t need.

Not that anyone needs stress, it’s just that I see my job as giving her a safe place, an anchor, a rock where she can tie up and just feel the love.

The Great Adventure

“If you can do that,” I told him, “and give her a home where she feels loved and safe and completely nurtured and supported in the strongest way possible… then you will be the best kind of clergy-hubby there is….”

That’s all – DEREK

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"The Preacher" in Charleston last week

There’s a chapter in my new book, “REACHING TOWARD EASTER” (Upper Room Books – September 2011), where I ask the following rhetorical question: “What do Rebekah (my wife), Naomi (my daughter) and Scout (Rebekah’s fuzzy, galumphing, 75 pound labradoodle) have in common? Warning, this is a hard one.” (pictures lined up to the right…)

Here’s how it goes from there:

First off, they’re all girls! Right… but that was the easy answer.

"The Daughter" last week

The characteristic I’m getting at would actually be fairly obvious if you knew them. They all have a pure, “What you see is what you get” approach to life. Put another way, there’s not an ounce of pretense among them.

This means they don’t play games (well, Scout likes to play “tug the rope”, and “chase the dog if you ever want to see your wallet alive again”, and Naomi’s pretty good at pool – but that’s not the kind of game-playing I’m talking about).

What I’m talking about is their “lack of duplicity” quality.

"The Labradoodle" this afternoon!

It’s a “Let’s not waste time with airs and political correctness” approach to life. It’s all about their “Cut to the chase why don’t we?” response to most everything (Okay, Scout likes to play chase but that’s something else too).

It’s a kind of purity, but not really – maybe more like the gift of living without half-measures or enjoying relationships without the cloudiness of compromise; it’s resisting the urge to allow cynicism any room at all.

It’s about authenticity. It’s about being real.

The above is one more reason I’m excited that “The Preacher’s Husband” is – soon – going to be a Grandaddy! If my theory holds, and this “Authenticity” principle gets concentrated more and more the further down the food chain it goes (you know, like mercury in a tuna-fish), then the much-anticipated debut of David Henry Campbell into this world is going to involve one extremely “shoot-from-the-hip” child who will be something to behold… and experience!

And – get this – his Grandmother is a Preacher!

THIS WEEK, “The Preacher” is in Connecticut, helping to put together the nursery for David Henry’s arrival in October. I’m getting a lot done in terms of writing, but it is so much better to be together. Rebekah and I have been married almost 32 years, and we enjoy each other’s company as much today – if not more so – as when we first met.

I know some guys who like to get some time away from their wives. “I get to do stuff I can’t get away with otherwise!” one told me. Well I’ve got to be honest, I can’t think of anything from this week I wouldn’t be comfortable with Rebekah knowing about (with the possible exception of that entire pizza I ate last night!). I’m keeping the kitchen spotless, I’m making the bed every morning, I’m on top of the laundry, I plan on vacuuming Friday, and even Scout is going to be fluffed up and pristine when Rebekah’s plane gets in Friday night.

But you know what? It all feels fairly pointless when Rebekah’s not here to share it with me.

That’s life here in The Preacher’s house. It’s just better to be together.

Rebekah, Derek, Naomi (David Henry), Craig

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"ROAD TRIP"!!!!

“The Preacher” is leaving town for a few days of R-&-R with “The Preacher’s Husband.” It doesn’t matter how wonderful your church is, how much you love the super-cool people who worship there, or what very-important event may be coming up…, it’s more than critical that the preacher get out of Dodge once in a while.

I was thinking about that a couple of weeks ago, in the middle of an interview with a local minister for a newspaper story I was writing. “Last week was the first time I’ve gone on vacation and missed a Sunday in six years,” he said. Like I was supposed to be some kind of a good thing.

It was early in the conversation and at that point I hadn’t yet told him that I’m married to a pastor. Sometimes it doesn’t come up at all because I can sense intuitively that it will simply spoil the interview.

But the moment he said, “Last week was the first time I’ve gone on vacation and missed a Sunday in six years,” I knew the one I needed to be talking with was his wife. I wanted to ask her what in the world was she doing?

“Good grief, woman!” I’d say. “Did nobody tell you the part about saving the preacher’s sanity once in a while? Too many of them are like my brother-in-law’s Boston terrier: they keep running until they pass out and it’s up to someone they love to make sure they stop at least long enough to get rehydrated and rested up…”

It’s one of the things Rebekah and I have done well –

  • We’re always good about making sure that she takes her day off every week
  • We’ve been careful to establish clear boundaries between work and personal time
  • We realized early on that a refreshed preacher is a more effective preacher
  • We almost always take 100% of her vacation time (we often take much of it in one block and miss three consecutive Sundays)
  • We understand clearly that no pastor is God’s gift for everything and everyone… that micromanagement means you really don’t trust your people… and that acting like it’s all about the preacher and the preacher is indispensable is an extreme arrogance.

What tends to happen when those things are clearly defined is that the congregation not only respects the preacher’s need for space, they tend to guard it, too. It’s win-win.

But I very much believe it’s the responsibility of the preacher’s spouse, clergy-hubby or otherwise, to make sure that there’s not only encouragement for rest and refreshment but creative planning at home.

Away from it all....

I’m not saying Rebekah’s anything like that Boston terrier – I just understand that I need to do anything and everything I possibly can to provide sanctuary and rest. I take my lead from the story of Ruth and Boaz:

“You are the relative who is supposed to take care of me. So spread the edge of your cover over me.” (Ruth 3:9)

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Rebekah at the church door, greeting the Zane family

Quite often, being a clergy-hubby is a spectator event! Fact is, I love to see my preacher-wife “in action.” I think it’s similar to how Rebekah used to describe watching me play soccer. “Derek moves like poetry,” “she’d say. Well, she does too.

Sometimes I’ll stand near the church door when she’s greeting people as they leave after worship. There’s a fluidity and a genuine grace to her interactions that’s fascinating to watch. She engages each individual as if they’re the only person in the world for that moment. She pulls this off with 100% authenticity, and for those brief moments they truly are the only thing in her consciousness. Children… adults… visitors… long-time members… infants; no-one gets missed and no-one feels short-changed.

I remember one Sunday after communion, where the “Hug the preacher” line seemed especially long. One young mother ushered her four-year-old toward the side entrance (like Presbyterians do when they want to beat the Baptists to lunch!). Their conversation went something like this:

Mother: “Let’s go, we have to meet Daddy!”

Child: “But I have a question for pastor Rebekah.”

Mother: “Okay… (sigh)…”

Wait. Shuffle forward. Roll eyes. Shuffle forward again. Speak with the other people in line. Smile. Shuffle forward. Wait. Eventually they make it to the door.

Mother: “Rebekah, Ralphie has a question for you.”

The Preacher (hoping it’s not a doctrinal stumper, planted by Ralphie’s mother): “Ask away, Ralphie, I love four-year-old questions!”

Ralphie: “PastorRebekah-pastorRebekah!!! What kind of juice do we have at communion?”

The Preacher (relieved): “I think I know the answer to that one, Ralphie. I believe we serve Welch’s Grape Juice.”

Ralphie’s eyes opened as wide as could be, and he turned to his mother with a huge smile across his face and his arms spread wide, palms up: “You see,” he said loudly. “I told you we serve The Good Stuff at this church!”

And we do. Every Sunday at worship, and pretty-much every day between Sundays, there’s something inspirational and encouraging going on. It’s all good stuff, all the time around here!

But – most of all – the good stuff is served up by my awesome wife, “The Preacher”. And all I have to do sometimes is to stand in the background and just watch her interact with the people she loves so dearly, so honestly, and with such tender grace.

– DEREK

Rebekah speaking at fpcBrandon

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Rebekah Maul: "The Preacher"

Since I moved this blog over to WordPress we’ve picked up some new subscribers. So – once in a while – I’ll be posting some entries from the original Preacher’s Husband blog to catch everyone up to speed! Here’s a definitive post from earlier this year – it’s actually an article I wrote for FOCUS Magazine.

Choosing Who to Follow: Two years ago I started my first blog. The eponymous site is an on-line journal, where people look over my shoulder and read what’s going on with my life.

I’ve posted over 600 entries to date, around five new items per week. The experiment has generated some interest, somewhere around 3,000 hits every month. You can check it out if you’re interested, just log in via DerekMaul.com and click on “The Life-Charged Life.”

My blog features great photographs, plus some of my best writing – the same kind of content presented on this page. But it’s a journal, so most people don’t even bother to take the first look. The sites people go to in droves tend to feature scandal, controversy, juicy gossip, famous people or writing of more topical interest.

Well I’m not that interested in negatives. But it does make sense to write about topics that generate attention. So I scratched my head and came up with a subject I’m well qualified to address but may well raise a few eyebrows. The new blog is called, “The Preacher’s Husband.”

Bingo! I had more hits in the first couple of days than I’d hoped for in a month.” It turns out that people are interested in what it means for a guy to be married to the pastor of a church.

To tell the truth, I’d like to have known the answer to that question back when Rebekah and I started dating. But, occasional incidents of prejudicial thinking and lapses into male chauvinism aside, the overwhelming weight of my experience has been positive. I’ve been married to a preacher for close to three decades – and I have the stories to prove it!

No stereotype: Probably the best thing about the preacher’s husband gig is the absence of stereotypical expectations. Simply put, people don’t have preconceptions regarding what I’m supposed to do: there is no well-worn path to follow.

We may be in Twenty-first Century, but I still talk with minister’s wives who say they’re expected to, “Play the piano, teach Sunday-school, run the women’s group, clean the church kitchen, organize Vacation Bible School and be their husband’s secretary.”

Not so for yours truly – because nobody knows quite what to expect from the preacher’s husband. True, I am excluded from invitations directed to “ministers and their wives”, but the beauty of not occupying a culturally pre-assigned role is the freedom it gives me to simply follow Jesus.

My mother-in-law, Nell Alexander, gave me this advice when Rebekah was called to her first church. “Derek: love the Lord, love the preacher, love the people. If you get that right, everything else should fall into place.”

The other thing she said was, “If the preacher brings home extra folk for dinner unannounced, you can always cope by cooking extra biscuits.”

My freedom has given me pause. So much of what we do in life, cradle to grave, happens under the unyielding scrutiny of social norms. Many of these standards have less to do with what is “right”, or “Christian” than they have to do with what has become de rigueur for North American culture.

That’s why neither my wife nor I complain about the challenges of our non-standard life. Everything we’ve done, from my years as stay-at-home dad to her position as senior pastor at a vibrant church, has been free from the strictures of cultural stereotype.

The apostle Paul put it this way: “If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations?” (Colossians 2:20).

It’s always a good question.

– DEREK

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