Archives For City Community Church

The Problem with Steady

Erik Cooper —  February 27, 2012 — 4 Comments

I pride myself on being steady. Consistent. Solid. I might even (reluctantly) say predictable. You’re not going to make big money placing some crazy prop bet on me.

And honestly, I’m OK with steady. The world has plenty of Nicki Minaj to go around.

So when I woke up this morning nursing a leftover jaw-ache from a night of intense teeth grinding (don’t tell my dentist), it was a not-so-sublte reminder that my monicker as “Steady Eddie” is at risk. Nothing in our life qualifies as stable right now.

  • We’re sleeping on a mattress in my in-law’s bonus room.
  • All our worldly possessions are stacked to the ceiling in a borrowed warehouse.
  • There are more complexities to the short-sale purchase of our new home than attorneys I can call in the greater Indianapolis area.
  • We have more big-energy initiatives on the table for City Community Church than I have space on my white board.

And then there’s that whole Peyton Manning/Andrew Luck saga.

Unsteady is the soup du jour. I’ve juggled so many unrelated texts, emails, and phone calls in the last week, I could use an Oompa Loompa or two (properly compensated, of course) to manage the influx.

Steady, my old friend, I miss you. Can we meet for coffee?

The great thing about steady is it keeps things from uncontrollably changing. The problem with steady is that it can keep things from changing at all. Things may never feel out of control because, frankly, not much is really happening.

The truth is usually in the tension.

Some of you run around with your hair on fire looking to create chaos in the name of momentum. You might just be foolish.

But for the rest of us, a little overnight jaw grinding might actually be what the doctor ordered (well, as long as he’s not your dentist).

Dead, dormant, or perhaps cryogenically frozen. That would probably be the best description for a very special part of me:

Songwriting.

I’ve been in Colorado Springs since Sunday night. Spent Monday in the home of one of our City Community Church overseers and his wife. Tuesday with our partners at Mission of Mercy.

But the next two days are personal. I’m here to find something I lost.

Between 2001 and 2008 songwriting was a normal outflow of my life. My buddy Nathan and I wrote songs. A lot of them. A few were even worth keeping around. Over time, a culture of songwriting actually began to emerge amongst our church community. It was a beautiful era.

But a series of painful transitions and new responsibilities have left my piano mostly untouched for the last few years. It just hasn’t felt right. So when Jared Anderson sent me a personal invite to a two-day songwriting collaborative, I immediately told him no. Didn’t even have to think about it.

“I’m a pastor now, not a musician. Those days are behind me.”

Translation:

“I don’t want to face that pain. Please leave the giant millstone tied securely to that gift.”

That was an unfortunate form of self-protection. Songwriting goes far beyond recording albums and working with record labels. It’s an unmatched form of human expression. Glenn Packiam would even call it a spiritual discipline. One I allowed to be stolen from me.

I’m here to get it back.

Today starts two days of collaborative songwriting sessions with 25 other writers from around the country. I feel incredibly vulnerable. Anxious. Rusty. And I can’t wait to see what happens.

Has pain stolen a piece of your identity? Is there a gift buried deep inside that you’ve simply stopped expressing?

Go get it back.

Is suffering God’s desire for our lives? Masochism some unlisted fruit of the spirit? The gateway to knowing God? After all, Jesus said some really disturbing things like:

“Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how.”Matthew 16:24

He was called a “man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.”Isaiah 53:3

Suffering is an undeniable part of this human journey. But is it some kind of virtue to be pursued? I’m wrestling with that.

Jesus was crucified.

Paul was shipwrecked. Put in prison.

11 of 12 disciples were martyred for their faith.

I’m no theologian, but I don’t think any of them desired their painful outcomes (Jesus Himself is seen begging the Father to find another way the night before His death).

I think they were just dead set on embracing their purpose. Their God-given identity. Who God originally designed and created them to be from the foundation of the world. As they pursued that purpose, suffering became an undeniable side-effect.

As we pursue purpose, we will face suffering.

Pursuing God’s purpose assaults our sinful self-obsession.

Embrace the suffering.

Pursuing God’s purpose engages the sinful self-obsession in those around us.

Embrace the suffering.

Pursuing God’s purpose enrages the forces of darkness at work in this world.

Embrace the suffering.

Don’t go looking for pain (that’s just a little weird). Pursue purpose. And then prepare to embrace the suffering.

What do you think? Do you agree?

NOTE: My friend and co-pastor Nathan LaGrange shared his family’s personal journey towards God’s purpose, and the pain they’ve embraced as a result, this past Sunday at City Community Church. You can hear it here.

Earlier this week I shared some thoughts on why change is so difficult for us. Our own sin and the wounds of others weigh down and swallow up the beautiful identity God originally intended for us. Then we try to fix ourselves.

I used my daughter to help illustrate this reality at City Community Church last Sunday. Her therapy starts next week.

Hope you enjoy this short clip:

Not For Sale

Erik Cooper —  January 11, 2012 — 4 Comments

Every church kid will relate.

I was terrified God was going to call me to Africa. All the real Christians went there to live in thatched huts to teach the Bible to Nationally-Geographic naked people with bones in their noses. It’s true.

And if you sat in enough church services with those sleepy 35 millimeter missionary slide presentations, you just knew you were going to end up at the altar in a mess of tears with a covenant promise and plane ticket in your hand.

After all, “dying to self” must mean doing something you hate. Right?

That’s why today is such an interesting emotional challenge for me. We put a For Sale sign in the yard. And if I’m being completely honest, we really didn’t want to. If I’m being even honest-er, we kind of hope it doesn’t sell. (Sorry Nina, but you knew that going in).

When we moved here in 2000, my oldest daughter was our only child, still unable to safely navigate the steep stairwell on her chubby little toddler legs. Next month she’s a teenager, and the warmth of this home has now embraced her two younger siblings as well. They’ve grown up here. We’ve grown up here.

This was supposed to be our forever house. Our buckle in, raise a family, pay off the mortgage kind of place. My parents and my in-laws live just minutes from our front doorstep. We feel safe here. We’ve built memories here.

Which is why I think we have to be willing to let it go.

Three years ago we started a church in downtown Indianapolis. We live 9 miles outside the city center, as far west as you can be and still call it Indy. And to be honest with you, we’ve never once felt like our location hampered our ability to do what we’re called to do.

But making our house a non-negotiable has negated our ability to follow. Surrender took the form of a black and yellow sign. It’s certainly not a hut in Africa, but right now it might as well be.

So we’re (anxiously) letting go…

Believing God’s imagination for the future is so much greater than the memories we cling to.

Assaulting our idol of control.

Knowing that God is for us! That He’s not always easy, but He is love.

Honestly hoping He lets us stay. Surrendered to whatever He decides is best.

Today I’m a little nauseous, like I’m in the back seat and someone else is driving. Grab a barf bag, because I’m pretty sure that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

“Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am.” –Matthew 16:24 MSG

Is there anything you’re holding on to a bit too tightly?