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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.

Why Resolutions Fail

Erik Cooper —  January 12, 2011 — 1 Comment

Let’s face it, most of our New Year’s resolutions have the staying power of a Pauly Shore movie.  Some of us have already quit. The rest of us are seriously thinking about it. Stats say only 8% will survive.

The noble promises of painting something new and beautiful on the blank canvas of a New Year make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but they’re rarely matched by a true inward transformation. So they shrivel and die on the guilt-ridden pile of unsustainability (usually around January 30).  Maybe next year.

If we made socially honest New Year’s resolutions, the list would probably look something like this:

In 2011 I resolve to…

  1. Buy Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace book and put it on my coffee table
  2. Attach the LA Fitness membership card to my keychain (and show it for free chick-fil-a sandwiches on Wednesdays!)
  3. Fan more socially conscious Facebook pages (social networking has made it so easy to seem like I care)
  4. Retweet more spiritually sounding Twitter follows (Rick Warren is a solid retweet. So is Mark Batterson.)
  5. Write “stop drinking so much” on the pages of my personal journal
  6. Fill out all the columns on my online budget form (and maybe next year I’ll even find the resolve to implement it)
  7. Write more endearing, vulnerable blog posts about helping my wife more with the laundry

Let’s face it, we love the outward overture. The declaration. The noble desire. The appearance of change.

Rarely are we willing to pay the cost that leads to true transformation.

In Matthew 3, John the Baptist had a few strong words for some people who thought noble overtures trumped transformational reality:

“Brood of snakes! What do you think you’re doing slithering down here to the river? Do you think a little water on your snakeskins is going to make any difference? It’s your life that must change, not your skin!” -Mat. 3:7-8 MSG

It’s your life that must change, not your skin.

Yet we continue to sprinkle little droplets of resolutions on the surface, expecting them to clean up messes that are hidden deep down inside. It just doesn’t work.

Beyond simple behavior change resolutions, what needs to be transformed at the core of your life in 2011?  That’s the only kind of change that has any kind of staying power.  And here’s the bonus: If you’re willing, Jesus is just waiting to do the work in you.

“[Jesus] will ignite the kingdom life within you, a fire within you, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out.” – Matthew 3:11 MSG

And that’s a change that will last past next Tuesday.

American Idol?

Erik Cooper —  December 9, 2009 — 2 Comments

This question plagues me: do our churches better reflect Jesus’ perspective on His Kingdom, or our culture’s infrastructure of corporate America and organizational control?

I’m an organizational thinker by nature.  So before you assume I’m an anti-establishment, VW van-driving, dope-smoking peacenik, you should know I highly value an intentional approach to everything I do (heck, even Jesus had the crowd of 5,000 sit down in groups of 50 before He miraculously fed them with the 5 loaves and 2 fish).  Structure isn’t our enemy, but I do wonder if it’s become our idol.

Check out a few of the things Jesus said His Kingdom is like:

  1. A small seed that is planted and grows into a large tree (Mark 4:30-32)
  2. A hidden treasure that must be searched for and found (Matthew 13:44)
  3. Yeast that’s kneaded methodically into bread-dough (Luke 13:20)

Interestingly enough, He never referred to His Kingdom as any of the following:

  1. A Fortune 500 company (although Jesus was hardly unintentional with His actions)
  2. An educational institution (although Jesus definitely was a teacher)
  3. An NFL franchise (although Jesus is undoubtedly an Indianapolis Colts fan)

God values order and intentionality, but sometimes I wonder if we’ve built structure as a cheap substitute to the messy work of getting personally involved in other people’s lives. Organization centralizes power, makes it easier to point to what I “own” or can take credit for, gives us a system to push people into.  And the dirty little secret, makes it possible to collect the money (you were already thinking it, I might as well say it).

Or maybe it’s even simpler than that.  Maybe it’s just because that’s what we see around us, because that’s how “our world” works.  And it’s easier to respond with what we know, what our culture and history tells us, than to search out what God really desires.

I don’t know if I’m right.  Just something I’m wrestling with.  Have we missed the mark, or is this just a case of unnecessarily taking easy pot-shots at the American church?  What do you think?

85 Beautiful Cents

Erik Cooper —  August 13, 2009 — 4 Comments

Our amazing volunteer bookkeeper came by the office today and told me what may perhaps become my favorite story since the launch of City Community Church (and that’s saying something).  This past weekend as the team was counting the offering, she found a dirty little plastic bag with 85 cents in it.  Not three shiny quarters and a new nickel, but lots of filthy pennies, nickles, and dimes.  The coins were so dirty she had to soak them in Pepsi to try and clean them off before adding them to the weekly deposit.

Now there’s no way to know who put those in there (if you’re reading this and it’s you, and I totally have it wrong, my apologies).  But one of the things I’ve loved so much about this church right in the heart of downtown Indy is that we literally have homeless guys sitting next to millionaires each week.  I just have this picture of one of our homeless friends spending days collecting those coins from storm grates, sidewalks, and gutters around the downtown streets, wrapping them carefully in a recycled plastic bag, and eagerly bringing them to church this past Sunday.  Who knows?

But I do know that every penny matters to God because it’s never about the money, it’s about what the money represents in our lives.  And just like Jesus’ encounter with the poor widow who put her last pennies in the Temple box (Mark 12:41-43), these 85 beautiful cents mean as much to Him as if it were a million dollar gift.  That’s cool.

Only In You

Erik Cooper —  February 2, 2009 — Leave a comment

“I have no interest in what you have – only in you.” (2 Cor. 12:15 MSG)

How do we get our lives to this point?  In a world of social networking where all relationships seem to be leveraged for some personal purpose, how do we build lives, how do we build churches, that are led void of self-gain?  We all need each other (it’s part of God’s design), but even in a place of spiritual leadership I notice how easy it is to become engulfed in what I need others to bring to the organization or movement I’m leading.  Musical talent.  Artistry.  Organizational skills.  Money (hey, let’s be honest).  People can easily become commodities, and if we’re not careful, we begin to lead out of what we need from people, rather than what we can do for people.

Leveraging people’s gifts, talents, and resources for God’s purposes is part of the reality and the beauty of the church.  But if we only build into relationships for what we will get in return, it doesn’t take long for that emptiness to show itself.  The apostle Paul (who penned the opening words of this post) wasn’t driven by what he needed from people.  He didn’t coddle them to keep them happy.  He didn’t use their gifts for his personal gain.  He led out of conviction, passion, and obedience, and the results have shown themselves in generation after generation for the last 2,000 years.

Just food for thought…how do you see people?