Archives For dreaming

Ever since Michael W. Smith’s 1984 sophomore project, Michael W. Smith 2 (all the creativity was apparently used up in the songs, there was none left to title the album), I wanted to make music.

It was undoubtedly the argyles.

If music could get you a perm like that, I was all in. Sign me up! When do we start making records?


Fast forward a decade. My friend (and now CityCom co-pastor) Nathan LaGrange and I found ourselves with something fascinating.

A song.

One song.

An OK song (honestly, pretty mediocre).

We were on staff together at a large church, and one day our creativity got the best of us. So we took our passion for God and music and decided to do something with it.  Nothing life changing (at least we thought at the time).  Just a few lyrics and a simple melody line.

But that one song gave us the confidence to write a few more. And those songs helped us convince our pastor the church should do it’s first live recording.  And that recording inspired a second project.  Which built momentum for a third.  Then a fourth.

And a catalog of 70 songs later, I realized my old argyle-imprinted dream of making records had just kind of happened when I wasn’t looking.  Seven times over.

All because we wrote that first song.

I meet so many people with big dreams (heck, I still have some of my own).  But the distance between where you stand today and what you imagine for the future is a huge chasm that swallows your inertia.  Too many big reasons why you can’t. And they short circuit the little reasons why you can.

What’s your “first song?” You probably just need to go write it.

The Problem with Dreaming

Erik Cooper —  February 17, 2010 — 10 Comments

I love to see people dream.  To use their imagination.  To create things that don’t yet exist.  To watch someone rise to their passion and purpose is exhilarating, and to play even a small role in releasing that potential is intoxicating.

But what if I’m drawing that stream out of a polluted well?

One of the dangers I personally face as a spiritual leader is creating and communicating via isogesis. Now there’s a fun theological word.  Isogesis refers to starting with a specific belief, and then searching (typically Scripture) for evidence to support my already pre-determined supposition.

This can be a dangerous way to approach God because it starts with me and then makes a vain attempt to bring Him into the equation.

A lot of us dream that way, too.  And as you can see from this passage of Scripture, I can be a dangerous origin.

“What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.  And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.” (James 4:1-3 NLT)

I’m messed up. And while the things that naturally reside inside of me are undoubtedly part of my God-design, they’re also polluted with misguided motivation and selfish agendas.  With sin.  My dreams need redemption right along with the rest of me.

Jesus calls us to repentance, to realignment with Him. And not just as a one-time event, but a daily surrender.  Then my imagination begins to emerge from a healthy well.  My dreams naturally become sourced by God and I stop desperately seeking a “blessing” for things that originated with me.

So what about you?  Do you dreams emerge from The Source, or are you “isogeting?” Starting with you and desperately hoping God will come along for the ride?

Tough one for me.  But that’s the problem with dreaming.

Painter or Artist?

Erik Cooper —  November 25, 2009 — Leave a comment

My friend Davy has really impressed me over the years. When I first met him, I knew him as a stellar, young guitarist who joined the music team I was leading.  A few months later, I found out he was an absolutely fabulous singer (think Adam Lambert’s range without all the, well…disturbing stuff).

About a year into our friendship, I learned he was into graphic design.  I thought, “awe that’s nice, this kid likes to draw.”  Then a few months later he took up photography (like, from scratch…never done it before).  I was impressed.

But the world was going the way of the internet (not sure if you heard that or not), and he didn’t really know how to do web programming or development.  Until he did.  Taught himself. Did this kid ever stop?

Watching Davy helped me realize something important.  He isn’t pencil sketcher.  A painter.  A computer designer.  He doesn’t just take pictures or write web code.  He is an artist.  And he’s willing to use whatever medium presents itself to bring to life what was is really inside of him.

I want to be the same way.  But how many of us get caught up in the expression of who we are instead of, well, who we actually, really are?

A lot of people have asked me if I miss doing music full-time.  In some ways I definitely do.  Music has been a life-long passion, and the piano a technical pursuit since I was just four years old.  I was just beginning to see my dreams of songwriting and record production come to life when we stepped away to start City Community Church.  Sounds crazy.  But I’ve tried hard to define myself by what’s inside of me, not by the way it comes out.

I am a follower of Jesus Christ, and my purpose is to bring God’s Kingdom alive in the world. Today that expresses itself, not through music, but in co-leading a brand new community of believers.  Through speaking and teaching.  By writing and blogging.  Through sitting across a table from real people as they process life, what it means to genuinely encounter Jesus, and if they really buy into all that or not.

I’m not a musician or songwriter, a teacher, a writer, a pastor. That’s just what I do.  And hopefully I can effectively use those expressions to accurately bring the redemption of Christ to life in this broken world.  I want to constantly work on who I am, and who God is becoming in me. The outflow always starts from there.

What’s driving your expression? Is there any substance behind what others see?  Are you nurturing what lies under the surface?  What’s at the source?  Are you an “artist” or just a “painter?”  What defines you?

I’m a practical idealist.  A pragmatic dreamer.  It’s a blessing and a plague.  I’m full of passionate dreams, world-changing imagination, big vision – all combined with a sobering (and sometimes paralyzing) inoculation of reality.  Some days it feels like schizophrenia.

I remember the moment like it was yesterday.  I was a 2nd year music major at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, laying in the upper bunk of my dorm room in Herron Hall, staring at the textured ceiling early one morning.  I was chasing my dream, to be in the Nashville music scene, and had the educational trajectory to prove it.  Only problem: my realism gene was kicking in.

So many of my older friends were graduating (with $50k+ in debt mind you) from this prestigious school that had successfully populated so much of the Nashville music industry.  And their highly respected diplomas were leading them to wait tables at the local Chili’sBig dreams (and big debt) wrapped in a soaking wet blanket of real life.

Heck, I didn’t need to spend $50k to wait tables.  I could do that for free.  So I left Nashville and my dreams of music biz stardom and got a degree in the absolutely most practical thing I could think of: accounting (yeah…I know).  Reality swallowed and digested my ambition.

So what’s the right answer?  Live as a pragmatic realist, squashing every dose of passion with the hammer of responsibility? My grandfather did that.  Forty years in a Chicago steel mill, consistent schedule, regular paycheck, good pension.  Hard work, but safe.  Consistent.  Responsible.  I often wonder what untapped vision he surrendered to the compelling call of responsible realism. What dreams were buried with him?

What I see in my generation is quite the opposite, but maybe even more disturbing.  Lots of dreams.  Lots of visions (usually of grandeur).  Lots of imagination.  Countless choices.  Zero realism.  And so influence goes unused and imagination stays stored in a little locked cupboard full of immobilized idealism.

The expressions of these two generational perspectives may look completely different, but the symptom is the same: control.

Pragmatists choose predictability over possibility.  Idealists choose imagination over action.  Practicality eliminates the possibility of failure.  But so does just dreaming.  In both cases, we keep control of our lives, our efforts, our destinies. We call the shots.  We make the rules.  We eliminate the risk.

We write our story.

And while we continue to furiously scribble with our ink-less pen, the Creator of the Universe patiently waits for us to simply surrender ourselves to His beautiful, dream-filled, action-packed narrative.

Risky.  Unpredictable.  Costly.  But very real.

Revealing

Erik Cooper —  November 4, 2009 — 1 Comment

If I’m totally honest (and I try to be most of the time…really, I do), I spend a big chunk of my time pursuing what I naturally see inside this head of mine. I can’t help it.

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