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Monuments to Me

Erik Cooper —  January 31, 2011 — 5 Comments

We humans are a screwed up bunch.

Scripture clearly states we’re created with God’s nature (Genesis 1:27). Yet we’re also cursed with our own inner Charlie Sheen (Genesis 6:5). Don’t think that tension goes unnoticed as BeyondTheRisk 2.0 goes live today.

Confession…

I write to express what God’s doing in me. To create something beautiful. To inspire action. To challenge perspective. To share something I value with you.

But I also write to please my inner narcissist. Because I want you to like me. For your approval. So you’ll make me feel valuable. So you’ll know who I am.

Just keeping it real.

Everything we create has the ability to elevate God and serve humanity, or become another monument to me.

We have to engage that tension with a lot of honest confession and repentance (and a good dose of loving community). It seems the only other option is to never create anything at all.

Where do you feel that tension?

How do you judge the quality of your day?

Light traffic on the drive into work?

A fresh pot of Verona when you hit the Starbucks drive through?

All you can eat shrimp at the Old Country Buffet?

Sipping iced tea on the Mediterranean? (Yep, that’s the Mediterranean. And those are my ridiculously white feet).

Multiple re-tweets of that pithy little quote you threw out on the social networks?

Avoidance of conflict?

A sweet Magnum P.I. marathon on Spike TV? (Man, that dude had a killer ‘stache)

Confession. I usually judge the “stellar-ness quotient” of my day by the quality of what I receive.  What I get to experience.  Collect.  Ingest.  And none of that’s difficult to understand.  What can I say, I’m human (and that means “I love me some me” thank you, Terrell Owens, for giving voice to our condition).

But what if I messed with the formula?

What if I judged the goodness of this little 24 hour gift in time by the beauty I created, instead of the quantity I consumed? By the value I gave to others, rather than what they did or didn’t give to me?  By the worth I added verses the profit I gained?

Maybe there’s a new scale? A different paradigm?  A more accurate way to assess value?

Or maybe it’s just the one Jesus showed us already?

Keep Your Hymnal

Erik Cooper —  July 28, 2010 — 4 Comments

Every two years my in-laws plan a huge family vacation. Their unmatched generosity, combined with my mother-inlaws 400,000 frequent flier miles (she travels for a living) made it possible for 11 of us to fly to Los Angeles last week for a summer getaway.

Two and half years ago my wife and I made that same cross-country flight.

Just the two of us.

In the spring of 2008, Mandy and I spent a few days at a marriage conference just north of LA, and the rest of the week exploring Hollywood, Santa Monica, Malibu, Burbank, and just enjoying one another. We ate at trendy restaurants, drove up the picturesque hills to the Griffith Observatory, even saw a taping of the Tonight Show. It was an experience we’ll never forget.

In fact, we brought those very memories with us on the plane last week (they’re one of the few things the airlines hasn’t figured out how to charge you to carry on). And for the first few days, I think we subconsciously tried to relive them. (Let’s hit that same restaurant. Do you remember that little shop? We have to go here!)

Only problem? This adventure was completely different. We stayed in Anaheim. Our kids were with us. We were a party of 11. Nothing but a few tourist stops and that circus otherwise known as Los Angeles International Airport looked anywhere near the same.

I began to realize how much of my life is spent simply trying to recreate meaningful past experiences. To regain a feeling. Recapture an emotion. Relive a memory.

It never works.

I was embodying the spirit of that old church lady that’s only willing to sing songs from the hymnal (yeah, I went there).

That’s the danger of event-driven living. We spend so much energy trying to reclaim past moments that we miss out on the new ones waiting to be created, even in the seemingly ordinary moments of everyday life. We’re oblivious to the now. Facing backwards. The future happens to us, rather than being painted with vibrant and anticipatory colors.

LA was great (thanks Dave & Candy). Both times. And this most recent visit solidified my commitment to spend my days creating new memories, not simply longing to relive past ones.

There are a lot of arrogant, isolated, self-reliant, “I’m never wrong” jerks in this world. (I contemplated stronger language, but I think you get the picture).  You’re probably visualizing a few right now.

But honestly, I think there’s a much more dangerous epidemic.

An epidemic of self-protection. A sickness that defines itself by validation from others. A disease that stifles conviction, and forces God-given potential back into the turtle shell of self-doubt.

It’s ugly.  It’s sinful.  And it’s something I battle daily in my own life.

Below is an excerpt from my personal journal. A little butt kicking I got from God last week (He wears big shoes, but I think they’re Toms. Soft soles).  A bit of a pep talk that may mean something to you, too.

6-29-2010

Stop waiting for others to define or validate you. If you blow it, blow it BIG.  And blow it based on a deep conviction you feel in your heart.  Stop waiting for a wave to ride.  Go create a wave!

Stop mentally adjusting to criticism you haven’t really heard, but imagine or anticipate. That’s CRAZY!  Put what you think out there.  If others disagree, – listen, critique, adjust if needed – but don’t hide out of fear of rejection or criticism. You’re big enough to handle that.

Listen for God’s voice, but when you hear as much as a whisper – GO!  Run!  Stop waiting for others to give you permission. Stop trying to hedge your potential for mistakes.  Stop being a slave to opinion.  Start being a true follower of Christ.

Does any of this resonate with you?  Are you ever paralyzed by the fear of screwing things up? Of facing shame from those who may see things differently?  Are you avoiding creating, injecting, speaking, writing, asking, or starting something today because you lack the courage to face the criticism if you’re wrong?

What if we feared missing a God-0pportunity more than we feared making a mistake?

We have an undeniable propensity to see the church as an entity instead of a people, an institution instead of a movement. So almost involuntarily over time, our focus turns toward acquiring and keeping resources that sustain the organization. Efforts which may or may not lead to the expansion of the Kingdom of God.

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