Archives For love

It’s Valentine’s Day. The Taylor Swift lyric of holidays. Sweet. Sappy. Romantic. I think I got a cavity just writing that sentence.

Watching all the Twitter @ mention and Facebook wall post love flying around this morning (you know, those online digital expressions that have officially replaced the paper Hallmark cards and handwritten notes that are so 2003) got me thinking.

I’m a ridiculously lucky man.

Today, I woke up next to my beautiful Valentine of 15 years. We’re light years from perfect (and we know it), but our undying commitment to one another has led us on quite a journey. An adventure that now includes three little valentines and more undeserved love than we know what to do with most days. Valentine’s Day reminds me to celebrate this.

But I’m not ignorant. I also know this day threatens to swallow some of you. To remind you of what you don’t have. What you fear you may never have. Or maybe something you’ve lost.

An unexpected divorce.

Your annual tax filing status (once again) checked single.

A bouquet of flowers laid on a gravestone instead displayed in a vase on the kitchen counter.

Brokenness. Pain. Whether by poor choice or no choice of your own. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Today, as everyone else celebrates with balloons, candygrams, and romantic dinners for two, you quietly mourn.

I wish I had neat, easy answers. That Rosetta Stone Scripture that could clean it all up, snap it into focus, force it to all make sense.

But I can offer hope. Our God understands our sorrow.

“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.”
-Isaiah 53:3

So if you find Valentine’s Day more bitter than sweet, just know you’re not alone in feeling alone. Pain is far too often a real place. God didn’t design you to live there. He doesn’t want you to stay there. But if you are there today, just know that He will be right there with you.

My God is close to the brokenhearted.

The Gift of Pain

Erik Cooper —  December 8, 2010 — 2 Comments

Last night my son learned a hard lesson. Pick on a kid who’s older than you and you may get a beat down.  Or as I like to think of it, act like Cortland Finnegan and someone may go all Andre Johnson on you.

Our friends and co-pastors the LaGranges were over for dinner, and my 5 year old was vying for attention the Jersey Shore way:  outrageous acts of annoyance. That is, until 9 year old Carter took matters into his own hands with a certified, WWE, off the top rope body slam that reverberated through the upstairs floor.

Boom!

(Tears).

And I, as a loving father, did what any responsible dad would do.

I laughed.

(Well OK, I made sure his neck wasn’t broken, then I laughed…hysterically).

Because my son got TKO’d?  Nope.  Because reality was teaching him a beautiful lesson. Act like a fool, and somebody may treat you like one.  Thanks Carter.

Lately, I’ve had some days when life seems to have me in a figure-four leg lock.  And while I’m getting my face smashed into the carpet, God seems to be relaxing at the dining room table sipping His coffee, maybe even getting a good chuckle at my wrestling ineptitude.

Doesn’t He care?

Sometimes God loves me best by allowing reality to do it’s work. By letting me struggle.  By not stepping in to stop the fight.  Because the transformation brought by pain can often be a gift. A cutting away of things I wouldn’t have given up on my own.

“He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” John 15:2

Because God loves me, He won’t let me stay the way I am. Even if it hurts.

What You Don’t See

Erik Cooper —  November 30, 2010 — 1 Comment

We just received our stunning new family pictures. Not the Olan Mills tilt your head slightly to the left arms folded on the 70’s shag carpet with a fake forest on a vinyl pull-down studio photos.

Real pictures.

From our great friend and aspiring professional photographer Lois Solet.  We were absolutely blown away by what she captured.  The essence of our family completely visible in the millisecond click of a camera shutter.

Images courtesy of Lois Solet

As I scrolled through nearly 180 edited shots, I was overwhelmed by the sense of love. The joy. The potential. The life.

But then I had a momentary reality check. Like a 30 Rock Liz Lemon flashback, I remembered the totality of that two hour photoshoot in October.  I remembered what you don’t see.

My daughters arguing like Nancy Pelosi and Sarah Palin.  Me ignoring my wife’s staging request so I could update my Twitter status.  My five year old adamantly boycotting further poses like his Derek Zoolander modeling union concessions hadn’t been met. (Notice I didn’t throw my wife under the bus. She’s perfect).

All those imperfections edited out or never even captured at all. Or were they?

They more I looked, the more I realized…

These pictures aren’t beautiful because we successfully staged out all the flaws.  They’re beautiful because we’re willing (OK, at least some of the time) to admit we are flawed. Deeply flawed.

But how often do I fight the self-righteous temptation to manufacture an image that seems better than the truth? When all along, Jesus is waiting to do for us what we can never do for ourselves: Make us truly beautiful.

“God can’t stand pious poses, but he delights in genuine prayers.
-Proverbs 15:8

God, may the image of who we appear to be always reflect the true beauty of who You are in us.

PS: Thanks for the fabulous pictures and unending editing Lois. You’re a friend like very few others.

Mandy and I are heading to San Diego for a week. Our marriage crossed a fifteen year milestone this past July, and thanks to Delta bump-vouchers and an extra week in my aunt & uncle’s timeshare, our “crystal anniversary” will be properly celebrated (and nearly free of charge).

This will be the first full week we’ve spent away, just the two of us, since our honeymoon (save the hate mail ladies, I know).

I love my wife more today than ever before, but relationship thrives in pursuit. There’s always something more to learn. To share. To unmask about one another.  And nothing facilitates that more than getting out of the routine, the familiar scenery, and the expectations of life.

I’ll be checking out of the blogosphere. Sleeping until I wake up. Reading some good books. Inhaling the Southern California ocean air.  And all with the love of my life. Fifteen years and just getting started.

Fifteen Years Ago

Erik Cooper —  July 29, 2010 — 11 Comments

Fifteen years ago today, I woke up early and went for a jog.  I’m not a runner (and wasn’t then either), but it seemed to be the most logical way to unload some of the nervous energy pulsating through my veins.  After all, I was getting married in a few short hours.

It wasn’t the anxiety of losing my manly independence, or the question of whether I was committing my life to the right woman. In retrospect, I think I feared my ability to become the man she needed me to be. A husband.

I don’t know that I’ve arrived, but I do know one thing:  If I had it all to do over again, I would still choose her.

We’re far from perfect. We disagree, irritate each other, communicate poorly, act like broken humans.  All the things other married couples do.  But love is where we’ve made our home. And love miraculously devours a multitude of dysfunction and self-centeredness.

And from that love, the most beautiful things have emerged. A life, a home, three beautiful children, (a handful of irritating little dogs), and a willingness to follow the voice of God on some of the strangest and most risk-filled adventures.

After 15 years, I couldn’t love her more. Her wisdom and ingenuity.  Her faith in God (and somehow in me).  Her willingness to sit through bad action movies and (sometimes) even pretend she likes them.  Her commitment to our children.  Her ability to give up security for the sake of obedience to God’s voice.

But most of all, I’m grateful that every morning when I wake up, she still chooses to be there.

I’m the luckiest man alive.

Not just because we made it 15 years.  Because these first 15 are just a small sign of what’s yet to come.

I love you Mandy.  If I could do it all over again, I’d still choose you.

Happy anniversary.