Archives For discipleship

My Baby Girl Is Twelve

Erik Cooper —  February 9, 2011 — 4 Comments

Today my baby girl turns 12. Twelve.

Donuts come in dozens. So do roses. And now I guess years are packaging that way, too. Who knew?

To top it off, Mandy and I have officially become those parents. You know, the ones who spout annoying, clichéd sayings like “when did she ever get that old?” and “how did the years pass so quickly?” and “it seems like just yesterday we were bringing her home from the hospital.”

Don’t you hate those people?

(I’m sorry. It just happens like unwanted belly fat and male pattern baldness. Involuntary.)

Yet there she is, in all her emerging womanhood. Emma now shares shoes with her mom. She reads books with no pictures. She (occasionally) even talks to her dad about issues bigger than Justin Beiber and iCarly. She’s like a caterpillar in the early stages of pushing through its cocoon.

It’s beautifully scary.

So this year we’re launching an experiment. A year long intentional effort (that I honestly hope mom and dad have the courage to complete).

The entire year between Emma’s 12th and 13th birthdays is our gift (along with a few tangibles for dinner tonight, don’t worry we’re not crazy). Twelve months of exposure to new thoughts. Specific time set aside to write and dialog about those ideas with Mandy, me, and mentors we trust. A year of brand new experiences. A open window into the world. God’s world.

  • Relationships (and yes, the dreaded sex word).
  • Injustice and global responsibility.
  • Money and how we should think about it.
  • Scripture and what it means to work it into our lives.
  • A trip to an impoverished country.
  • Maybe even a physical challenge (a 5K or a biking event if dad can get motivated).

I’ll keep you posted here on our progress (the successes and challenges).

Our job as parents is to build our kids’ muscles. To help them see the world as God sees it. To get them leaning into their heavenly Father fully despite our own tendency to be such broken examples of who He really is (and trust me, even carrying the “pastor” label, we’re as flawed as they come).

So that when their cocoons fully open, they can fly.

Happy birthday baby girl! Here’s to a great year. To flying. Faster. Higher. Straighter. Closer to the Father.

With His heart in you.

All my love…daddy.

I was a sheltered kid. I admit it.

The 10 years between my little brother and I meant we really grew up like only children.  Get good grades. Practice the piano. Invest in our local church. Those were my responsibilities. And I was good at them.

So when my wife and I first got married, my 21 year old resume of domestic experience was extremely limited (as in missing). Not only did I not do anything about the piles of laundry on the family room floor, I literally didn’t even see them.

You mean your underwear drawer doesn’t just magically refill itself? Does the federal government know about this?

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I had never learned to take responsibility for these things. Can’t blame mom (because she reads these posts). I was just oblivious.

And that’s the way a lot of us treat church. Yep, I’m connecting these dots.

Every week we sit by, talk to, smile at, sing with, even volunteer alongside people. Lots of them.

But it’s safe to say very few of us ever look around the auditorium and think, “hmmmmm, I should take responsibility for that guy.  Maybe I should personally invest in helping him develop his connection to God. What do I have to offer?”

(so yes, in this analogy the people are like the underwear…roll with me)

Nope.  We may consider things like, “Hey, I should get him in that class.” Or “I should introduce them to the pastor.” Or “I should give her a copy of that book.” (Or most likely, “where should we go for lunch today?”).

And just like me, we step over the pile of unfolded laundry and find our spot on the comfy couch to watch the ballgame.

Blind.

Oblivious.

Because it’s never been our responsibility, we literally don’t even see it.

But what if I told you one of the best ways to grow your own relationship with God is to take personal responsibility for helping someone else grow theirs?

What if we stopped waiting for a better class, a better book, or a better sermon, rolled up our sleeves, and got personally involved in someone else’s life?

What if we stopped waiting for “mom” to take care of the piles of unfolded laundry all around us?

What if we started being the church to one another?

Listen to the latest City Community Church message on the subject:

The Story of Two: You Feed Them

Peacefully Destabilizing

Erik Cooper —  December 2, 2009 — 2 Comments

“Jesus told them, ‘you’re all going to feel that your world is falling apart and that it’s my fault.'” (Mark 14:27 MSG)

Ever feel that way?  Like the closer you get to God, the more chaos it brings? Not exactly a great church-marketing strategy.  But the reality is our western, capitalistic church mindset wrongly equates God’s peace with ease, and His blessing with comfort, wealth, and the fulfillment of our personal, self-promoting dreams and desires.

The closer Jesus got to fulfilling his ultimate purpose, the less circumstances made sense to those around Him. And we see this reality unfold with uncomfortable clarity through Jesus’ disciples.

These men invested three years following this fascinating, controversial figure.  He added purpose to their normal, everyday lives, set them up with a new life trajectory, with meaning.  And then just as it seemed all their visions and desires were about to be fulfilled, He’s arrested, tried, and crucified. He died.

Chaos. And it almost seemed as if that’s what He wanted, like He willfully allowed it to happen (um, because He did).

Jesus rocks our worldview. He shakes our assumptions and perspectives to the core.  We like power, control, comfort, predictability. Yet we find following Jesus (really following Him, not just making Him part of your culture or weekly schedule or to-do list check-off) requires us to give all that away.  He replaces it with indescribable peace, joy, and purpose, but the cost is everything.  Everything.

And most days I’m just not willing to pay it. Just being honest.

Have I just brought Jesus into the dialog to make my love of self more palatable, justifiable, culturally acceptable, easier to swallow? Or am I really willing to give up control, power, perspectives, my way of seeing the world?

Following Jesus is the most peacefully destabilizing decision you will ever make. He will undoubtedly make you feel like your world is falling apart, and that it’s all His fault.  And although something in you is begging to run away, to keep control, to stay in power, there’s another part of you that longs for the adventure, that wants desperately to surrender to His game plan, that knows stepping into the uncontrollable chaos is actually the way to real life.

Death.  Always a great way to start a blog when you want to build readership.  Bet you’ll be quick to forward this link to all your friends.  No better way to get invited to a party than to start throwing the death word around.

Yesterday was Easter, so I thought it would be good to dedicate my early morning to re-reading the Resurrection Story.  But it wasn’t only the empty tomb that grabbed my attention.  The last chapter of the Gospel of John tells the story of Jesus conversation with his disciple Peter (if you don’t know the story, Peter had just vehemently and publicly denied knowing Jesus the morning of His death).

So Peter and Jesus were chatting, making things right, when Jesus said something that seems rather strange:  “I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” (John 21:18).

Huh?  But then the Bible explains itself:

“Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, ‘Follow me!'”

The kind of death?  By which He would glorify God?  I thought this was Easter?  Pastels.  Bunnies.  Eggs.  Death?  Why does it always require death to glorify God?

As much as we talk about the unconditional love of Christ, there should never be any doubt – accepting that love is free, a gift, but that’s just the beginning of a journeyThe cost of following Christ, truly following Christ, is high.  All but one of Jesus’ disciples was killed, the other exiled to live alone on an island.  Do we really understand what Jesus asks of us?

Death.  Dying.  To Self.  To our perspectives.  To our kingdoms.  To our plans for our lives.  To our safety.  Our comfort.  Our selfishness.

Death.  Only death brings life…real life.

Cliff Diving

Erik Cooper —  March 20, 2009 — Leave a comment

I’m afraid of heights.  I get dizzy.  The world starts spinning.  Even hanging Christmas lights on a six foot house ladder makes me woozy.  Yeah…I definitely hate heights.

Unfortunately, following Jesus is more like cliff-diving than smooth-sailing.  We’re naturally wired to find balance…to find stability…to find calm (at least most of us…some of you are weirdos), but I have news for you if you’re a Christ-follower:  get ready to jump.  And once you’ve found the courage to jump once, get ready to jump again.

You see, God’s calling is to radical discipleship, not a safe, country-club, Christianity-as-a-subset-of-the-American-dream kind of discipleship.  We’re called to see life through His lens, and I’m learning that God’s perspective usually requires reckless abandon.  Sorry.  I don’t naturally like it either.

So if you want to follow Christ…I mean really follow Christ, get ready to risk.  And once you’ve found the courage to do it once, get ready to do it again.  If you’re searching for flat and easy terrain, this might not be for you.  But if you want to find life…real life…life at its fullest, swallow hard, fight the butterflies, nudge your toes right up to the edge, and embrace the free-fall.

Oh yeah, and when you’ve finally found the courage to leap, don’t get too proud of yourself. Suit up and get ready to do it again.  God is forever calling us further and further into Himself, and each part of the journey requires risking more and more of what we know.  It’s a wild ride, but this self-prescribed seeker of safety is finding there’s absolutely no greater way to live.