Archives For death

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.

Dealing with Death

Erik Cooper —  January 19, 2011 — 3 Comments

Some days weigh a lot.

Yesterday definitely needed Weight Watchers, Biggest Loser, or some other soon to quit New Year’s resolution.

At 1:56PM I received an automated call from my kids’ school principal. A seventh grade girl, who undoubtedly passes my daughter countless times in the hallway each and every day, had unexpectedly and mysteriously died. Home sick with what must have seemed like a simple fever, her parents found her unresponsive.

She never woke up.

Gone.

What?

Why?

Shocked parents left to relive that last meaningful interaction with their little princess. A school full of devastated students forced to carry a burden their emotional muscles aren’t ready for. What do you do with death? Especially when the one that died was only 12 years old?

Everything that’s in me wants to explain it. And even though we don’t know this family personally, my kids will be expecting something brilliant from me. I need to find that ideal Scripture about perfect peace or eternal life that will deaden the sting or bring logical understanding into the confusion. That’s what pastor-dads do, right?

Actually, yes. We desperately need the illuminating truth and perspective of Scripture. But sometimes we use quick explanations, even accurate Biblical ones, to dodge the reality and avoid the pain. We think we’re doing a good thing, but maybe we need to take a closer look.

Do you know what Jesus did when His friend Lazarus died? Jesus. Son of God. The One with all the answers. How did he respond?

He cried.

He wept.

He fully embraced the pain and emotion. He stepped into it raw, authentic, and whole.

And maybe that’s what we need to do first. Resist quick answers. Swallow the cliches. Just feel the pain of our broken humanity. Fully. Together.

And experience the presence of Jesus, who knows our every sorrow, walking right there with us, too.

Please pray for the Acton family today, as they find themselves traveling a road no parent should ever have to walk.

Buddhist Christianity

Erik Cooper —  March 10, 2010 — 3 Comments

Like most of humanity, I watched the globally anticipated Tiger Woods apology press conference a few short weeks ago.  Never in history had a sports icon demanded such non-athletic attention (Wall Street trading actually slowed notably during his 14-minute statement!).  Unbelievable.

Many of you may have been surprised to hear Tiger’s Buddhist profession and his admission that he’d lost his way as it pertained to his faith.  But through a little research and a few conversations with people much smarter than me (those aren’t usually too hard to find), I’ve uncovered something:

I am a Christian that sometimes lives like a Buddhist.

Yep.  You can unsubscribe now, or you can hang with me (I’m hoping to eradicate some potential heresy, not promote it).  You just may find some of yourself in this, too.

By it’s own admission, Buddhism seeks to eradicate want, to achieve nirvana through freedom from all appetites. According to Buddhism, the only way to live well is to kill desire (and Tiger Woods has some misguided impulses he undoubtedly would like to bury).

As a Believer in Christ, I completely understand that perspective.  At my core, I’m broken and sinful. My motivations are self-oriented, and my life prone to inexplicable evil (I hope I never lose sight of that reality). But Jesus didn’t come just to kill my sin, He came to resurrect in me a new life.

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” -Galatians 2:20 NLT

Some Christians are half-dead. Like Buddhists, they become focused solely on the eradication of their desires, and they never truly embrace the gift of resurrected life that Christ offers.  Efforts center on control and quickly spiral into a cesspool of religious death.  These people become like walking zombies, spiritual corpses with only a grotesque illusion of life.

Jesus didn’t come to suppress your desires, He came to redeem them. Yes, He calls us to die (“My old self has been crucified with Christ”).  But through that death He offers us life (“It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me”).

Real life.  His life.

Does your life reflect a focus on death or life?  Jesus didn’t stay in the tomb. I don’t want to live there either.

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.

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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