Archives For Austin

One Heck of a Week

Erik Cooper —  January 10, 2011 — 1 Comment

Last week was difficult, I’m not gonna lie.

The perfect blend of emotional soup.  Moments of pure elation followed by waves of fear and sadness. Like your favorite football team just took the lead on a 50 yard field goal only to lose it 53 seconds later as time expired ending their season (wait, that really happened didn’t it?).

Here’s a little recap and a few thoughts (if you’re interested):

THURSDAY:

My 5 year old son, Austin, gets a miraculous medical report.  Born with optic nerve hypoplasia, doctor’s originally warned of potential blindness or even brain development issues.  Thursday’s doctor visit confirmed the continued positive progression we’ve been seeing in his recent visual development. Both eyes have slowly corrected to 30/20, what our ophthalmologist terms “normal” visual range for his age.  We celebrated the answer to years of prayer.

(He’s keeping the glasses though. They’re just too stylish).

FRIDAY:

My wife, driving our daughter to her evening basketball practice, loses control of the car on an unsalted stretch of icy road. The front end of our little Chevy Cobalt is torn off by a swerving pickup truck, her driver side door t-boned by a 15 passenger van. Thankfully, extreme bruising and a few terrifying dreams seem to be the only residual damage (Well, besides ol’ orange. She’s driven her last mile). A few inches either way and I could easily be typing this as a single father of two.

SATURDAY:

My brother and sister in-law move to Houston, and an early morning breakfast goodbye turned a bit more emotional than we had originally planned.  We celebrate their new adventure, but already feel the painful sting of their absence. My daughter’s tears did me in, although after the previous days accident I was just grateful she was there to shed them.

So as Saturday drew to a (Colts-losing) close, this triple cocktail of human emotions had us ready to curl up under a warm blanket and hide from the world. God seemed to be so evident on Thursday. What happened?

I think there’s an unfortunate tendency to miss God in the pain of life. To think His nature is only expressed through our happily ever afters. The easily explained. The comfortable. The positive doctor’s reports.

And I think that cheapens God. Turns Him into a servant of us.

God never promised life would be without pain. Easy to explain. That your favorite team would always be ahead when the final buzzer sounds.

But He did promise He’d always be with us.  That He would never leave us or forsake us. That He would be near to the brokenhearted.

So I’m learning to see Him everywhere.  In medical healings, ugly car crashes, and sad goodbyes.

Yep, there He is.

Becoming Mike Ditka

Erik Cooper —  December 13, 2010 — 2 Comments

As a father, I’ve always thought my personality was a little Tony Dungy integrity meets Bill Belichick stoicism (Yes, two of the most prolific coaches in NFL history. This is my blog here, roll with it). But last night I embodied a bit of Mike Ditka hothead.

I yelled at my son.

Not the kind of normal, everyday, sometimes audibly-elevated verbal correction that comes with the fatherhood territory. The kind that erupts from frustration. That serves no real purpose other than a momentary release of endorphins (like I just watched the New Orleans Saints recover another onside kick to start the second half of the Super Bowl).

It was an un-proud parental moment, and one I’m intentionally sharing in public to try and make a vulnerable point.


http://flyingpigskin.com/tag/nick-thomas/

The nature of my son’s lamentable behavior is inconsequential. He was wrong.

I was wrong-er.

As the tears were drying, I had to ask him for forgiveness. And in that moment, I was reminded that my little boy doesn’t know me as pastor. He doesn’t know me as writer. He doesn’t know me as leader, or teacher, or musician.

He knows me as daddy.

A daddy that often reflects the love and life of Jesus Christ, but who sometimes shows his broken humanity.

A daddy grateful for his Father’s unending grace, the same grace he sometimes forgets to show to his own children.

A daddy who’s far from perfect, but is thankful He knows One who is.

Last night reminded of some lyrics Nathan LaGrange and I penned as a prayer for our children way back in 2002 (three years before Austin was even born). They’re still some of my favorites:

Father forgive me, even on the best of days
I am a poor reflection of Who You really are
So give me the strength to lead them through another day
And when I stumble and I fail
Keep their eyes on You

You’re not perfect. Neither am I. That’s what makes this Jesus thing such unbelievable news.

Naked

Erik Cooper —  January 20, 2010 — 7 Comments

4:32AM: I was startled from my blissful slumber to the tiny little voice of our four-year-old son standing next to our bed.  He was soaking wet, the victim of a failed attempt to get him sleeping through the night diaper-free.  Some nights he crosses that finish line.  This night, not so much.

I sent him to our bathroom, instructed him to remove the wet pajamas, and then headed off through the dark to his bedroom to retrieve some dry ones.  Just a few groggy moments later, I returned to find a skinny, soaked, and completely naked little boy shivering miserably on the freezing tile of the bathroom floor. It was pitiful.

I quickly dressed him, gathered him in my arms, and returned us both to the down-comforted warmth of my bed. Snuggled firmly between my wife, me, and our 4 pound Yorkie named Buzz, we all slowly drifted back to sleep.  All was right with the world again.

But I can’t forget the heartbreaking image I returned to find in our cold, dark bathroom that night.  It reminded me of…me.

“You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see.(Rev. 3:17-18 NLT)

We’re good at trying to clothe ourselves. We’re tough.  Rich.  Smart.  Religious.  Self-confident.  Educated.  Put together.  Relationally savvy.  Pick your preferred brand of “clothing.”

But all too often these are  just facades we manufacture to mask our need for Someone bigger than us to enter the garment-making business.  Underneath it all, we’re just as pitiful as my shivering, naked, four year old son standing on a cold tile floor in the middle of the night, waiting for Daddy to return with dry pajamas.

I wonder what God is waiting to do if we just admit it?

http://www.beyondtherisk.com

Opiate of the Masses

Erik Cooper —  October 21, 2009 — 7 Comments

It was communist leader Karl Marx that said “religion is the opiate of the masses.”  That quote used to stir such animosity in my American-Midwestern-Evangelical belief-structure.  But honestly, I believe he was right.  Before you unsubscribe, let me at least try to explain.

In the interest of that transparency and vulnerability that my buddy Nathan and I so often wax eloquence about, we’re coming off an unbelievably crappy week (yeah mom, I said crappythought about using stronger words, but I’ve already opened by agreeing with a Karl Marx quote.  I thought that was enough potential controversy for one post).  Let me see if I can quickly recount the circumstances for you and then at least attempt to make a coherent point:

TUESDAY: I have a brain MRI in attempt to explain the “abnormal” findings of an EEG.  I recently started having strange, foggy, forgetful episodes (my wife says I’m just using the diagnosis as an excuse for manly irresponsibility, but I do have a real doctor’s note) and have been diagnosed with a “risk for complex, partial and secondarily generalized seizures” (hey, why go half way?).  The good news: the MRI showed no tumor (and a functioning brainba dum dum).  The bad news: anti-seizure medication for the foreseeable future.

WEDNESDAY: My beautiful wife of 14 years has a biopsy on her thyroid gland.  Not atypical for the Midwest, she has developed multiple nodules that had to be tested for malignancy.  Twenty-five needle sticks to the neck later, we find the growths are benign (thank you God) but the test takes it’s toll (she wants to have a word with all you doctors who told her the procedure is a “piece of cake.” You should be nervous.  Yes, I’m serious).

THURSDAY: My four-year-old son Austin heads to the eye specialist for a follow up on his infant-diagnosis of optic nerve hypoplasia, an incurable underdevelopment of the optic nerves that in extreme cases can result in blindness and brain defects.  He’s fortunate in that his symptoms are mild, but this day begins long-term patch therapy and a trip to Target Optical for his first pair of glasses (he just wants to be cool like his dad).

FRIDAY: Our two year old Boston Terrier, Disney, runs across the street in front of my in-law’s house like she’s done a million times before.  Unfortunately, her timing for this innocent adventure intersects with a traveling mini-van.  Two hours later, her little body succumbs to post-surgical internal bleeding.

We’ve definitely had easier weeks, and I’m well aware that many of you have had much harder.  But I noticed something interesting in the hours and days that followed our emotional roller-coaster of experiences.  I wanted an explanation, to understand, to make sense of the events that had transpired.  I had lost control, and I wanted it back.

On my left shoulder sat the skeptic wondering “where has God gone?”  Didn’t He see what we were going through?  Didn’t He know what sacrifices we were making for Him?  How could He allow us to face such difficult circumstances?  Doesn’t He care?  How can a loving God…?  You know what I’m saying.  You’ve asked it yourself (yeah, I know).

But on my right shoulder was the whispering religious zealot.  “You’re doing such a great work for God that the Devil must be on the attack.”  Or just the opposite, “what unknown evil have you stumbled into that is causing God to punish you in this way?”  Here, have a trite quote or an easy answer to dull your pain.  God is good all the time.  Where God guides, God provides. And I bet you can think of dozens of other “knicknack sayings” aimed at eliminating the tension, deadening the pain, and avoiding the heartache that just far too often comes from living in a broken, fallen, messy, sinful world.

The reality?  We want to explain God. If I do A, He does B.  If I say this, He’ll do that.  If I…then He.  We want control, to be in charge.  Go ahead, admit it.  It’s cathartic.  But we really don’t want to serve a God like that.  A God we have figured out.  A God we can throw in our briefcase, in the diaper bag, with the golf clubs in the trunk of the car and just pull Him out when it’s raining, when we don’t understand, when we need to rub the lamp and get our three wishes.

Sometimes God is a mystery.  And we live in the constant tension of despising our lack of control and celebrating that there is a God who is willing to take it. He never said we’d always understand, but He promised to never make us walk through the heartache alone.

I don’t want a belief system – a philosophy – that gives me easy answers I can frame and hang on the mantle, an opiate created to dull my pain.  I need a Savior willing to embody my suffering, to redeem it, to shape me deeply through this far-too-often unexplainable journey, and to both weep and celebrate with me all along the way.

So far, this week’s been pretty uneventful.  I’m OK with that, too.

The Jingle

Erik Cooper —  April 13, 2009 — 2 Comments

Had to share a little video we put together promoting the City Community Church website.  We actually used a home video of my 3-year old son, Austin.  And he really did come up with this song totally on his own, which made using it even funnier (well, at least for me).  Forgive the editing.  Just a novice (me) experimenting with (and jealously envying) my buddy’s MAC.

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