Archives For imagine

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.

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.

Fuel for the Imagination

Erik Cooper —  July 29, 2009 — 4 Comments

If hope is the message of the church, why are we so often lacking in imagination?

Continue Reading...

Poverty sucks.  It didn’t take me too long to determine that.  Bet you don’t disagree either, even if you’ve never touched it, tasted it, or smelled it for yourself.  As I walked the streets of Las Delicious, a small shanty-town community in La Ceiba, Honduras, the reality of what I knew existed was literally all around me.  It’s almost as if my brain instinctively compartmentalized, packaging up the things it could process and eliminating the pieces it didn’t know what to do with.  No one should live like this…dirt floors, cardboard box walls, scraping for food, families of six all sleeping in a room smaller than my master bedroom closet.  But it wasn’t the lack of money or resources that bothered me most.

Hope had left the building.  There was none.  Nowhere to be seen.  When these little kids…kids with names and faces and eyes I could stare deeply into…when they look into their future, they see nothing.  Nothing.  There is no vision of better circumstances, of greater opportunity.  There’s no encouragement to discover the fullness of the “Imago Deo,” or image of God that is imprinted into their very being.  Creativity is smothered by lack of vision, and the untapped creative potential in these little faces was the hardest thing for me to digest.  They live in the slums, they are the slums, and they will always be the slums.  That is a recipe for hopelessness.  And that, my friends, is the worst of injustices.

How do we make that right?  I guess that’s the million dollar question.  I think it starts somewhere inside of me, with the realization that I actually have something of value to offer.  Money?  Sure.  Resources are imperative to solving this crisis.  But perhaps the single greatest thing we can offer another human being is hope.  That obviously starts with Jesus Christ.  But encapsulated in that is an opportunity and responsibility for me to help someone else look into their future and see what God originally intended.  To pull back the weeds, clear a pathway, remove the rubble that keeps them from seeing God’s vision for their lives.  I can do that in Honduras.  And we will.  But I can also do that in the lives of those I encounter every single day.  Will we?

The Night Before CityCom

Erik Cooper —  February 28, 2009 — 1 Comment

Trying to put into words what I feel tonight, just 12 hours before the official start of City Community Church.  Today was rather surreal, last minute details, loading the truck, special setup times and music rehearsal.  I’m not sure the reality of it all has hit me yet.  Just thought I’d try and capture a few random thoughts in the moment.

I’m overwhelmed at the love and faithfulness of our team…some we’ve known for years, and others we’ve just met along this new leg of the journey.  My kids seem really excited, wired even tonight.  I think they’re ready to get back into some sense of normalcy (although they might be terribly mistaken about anything normal on the horizon).  It was nice to have a break from the Sunday to Sunday routine, but I think we’re all ready to get back in the swing of things.

Believing for a great start tomorrow.  Nathan’s kicking off our very first series: “Imagine.”  Don’t know what to expect, but I have this great sense that if we just stay focused on creating encouraging and challenging God-environments, we will somehow be able to create a place that is essential to people’s lives.  Only time will tell, and tomorrow is just step one on the journey.  Ready or not here we come.