Mike Cope's blog

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Ever wondered what happened to Eddie Parish? Eddie and Judy were members at Highland, and Eddie taught in the Marriage and Family Institute at ACU. They now run the Parish Hermitage in Louisiana. As the website says: "All are welcome: The searching pilgrims of faith, the weary marriages seeking new focus and vitality... or anyone who hears the call to seek their spirit's Source. In the spiritually safe and intimate confines of the Parish Hermitage, individuals, couples, and small family groups may discover afresh the life that Jesus offers." I want to encourage you to mark this site. I have a lot of confidence in Eddie as a Christian leader and therapist. I'm especially thinking of how helpful this could be to marriages needing a fresh start!

Monday, September 29, 2003

Here's the obit for Mary Loraine Buffett (mother of Jimmy Buffett).

I've talked to several people recently who seem to have much more assurance about healing than scripture offers. I like this insight from Larry Crabb (meaningful to one who prayed for his daughter's healing and was disappointed): "How do parents of a suffering daughter cope? . . . To believe she could be healed and to pray for it, fervently, is Christian; to believe she would be healed if enough people with enough faith prayed is anti-Christian. It is the old way. It is demonic. It elevates our blessings above God's glory."

Friday, September 26, 2003

Now . . . on a bit lighter note this Friday, here's a note about a young man who had a better year of earning in 2002 than I did. Our beloved SpongeBob, maintaining his humble roots by living in a pineapple at Bikini Bottom, made $800 million last year. Will I still know about the SpongeBobs and SquarePants of the world after Christopher is grown?

Today, a quote from David Wolpe's wonderful book Making Loss Matter: "My deepest prayer to God used to be to spare me from the pains of life that I so dreaded. Now I see that that is the prayer of a child. As a man I do not pray for a life without pain. Instead I pray: 'Dear God, I know that there will be pain in my life, and sadness, and loss. Please give me the strength to create a life, together with those whom I love, where loss will not be empty, where pain will not be purposeless. Help me find the faith to make loss matter. Amen.'"

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Last Sunday night our covenant group went through an exercise to help us explore one another's early years. We completed several sentences and then shared them with everyone. One of them was this: "I grew up in a home with . . . (name common meals your family had)." Here's part of my list. I grew up in a home with fresh blueberries and blackberries; with bacon, mustard, and biscuit sandwiches; with a hot breakfast every morning; with dessert after every lunch and dinner; with fried chicken and mashed potatoes for Sunday dinner; with homemade ice cream; with bell peppers stuffed with rice and hamburger meat; with cinnamon pies; with pork chops; with squirrel and dumplings . . . . Wow, Mom--you were/are an amazing cook! Anyone hungry? Now how about you? What food can you smell from the home where you grew up? Plus, I have to run . . . . It's time to drop Chris's frozen waffle in the toaster. (His mom's a great cook, too. But with both parents working, breakfast is whatever is quick and relatively healthy. I often have a little salmon with my Fiber One cereal . . . but that doesn't seem to be catching on in my family.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

"Days pass and the years vanish and we walk sightless among miracles. Lord, fill our eyes with seeing and our minds with knowing. Let there be moments when your Presence, like lightening, illumines the darkness in which we walk. Help us to see, wherever we gaze, that the bush burns, unconsumed. And we, clay touched by God, will reach out for holiness and exclaim in wonder, 'How filled with awe is this place and we did not know it.'" Rachel Naomi Remen, My Grandfather's Blessing

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Thanks to Jeff Jenkins for this link to an article by Dan Kimball on the essence of the emerging church movement -- a movement that is seeking to turn from a consumer mentality to a missional one.

As of today, fall is here. I can feel it! Or maybe it's that I'm on the first flight out of Abilene this morning! Perhaps it's exhaustion I'm feeling. As I've read the student information sheets I asked my ACU students to fill out, I'm struck again by their responses to my question, "Who has influenced you most spiritually?" I guess it would be obvious that most would say moms and that many would say dads. But still, to read what they said reminds me again of what an amazing opportunity it is to be a parent. You might read these and imagine a bunch of spiritual over-achieving parents. But I'll bet they're just people like most of us--people who did their best, blew it quite often, and have a few regrets. But the impact on their children of their constant love and spiritual devotion (despite all of the failings) is enormous. HANG IN THERE!!

Saturday, September 20, 2003

A question we wrestled again with yesterday at a staff retreat: What is the difference between a church having a mission program and a church being missional? One group that is addressing this important question is The Gospel and Our Culture Network. (Follow the link to their publications.)

Thursday, September 18, 2003

One of my elders, John Willis, writes a daily devotional that he e-mails out. Here's the one from today: According to Ephesians 3:10, God's "mystery" "revealed" is "that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places." Paul is not talking about the church proclaiming the gospel to the world by teaching and preaching. Instead, he declares that the church is like a fishbowl which reflects God's nature, love, and purpose to the world by the love it exhibits in all its words and actions and by the unity it reflects between all human beings, whether Jew or Gentile. Markus Barth (Ephesians 1-3. The Anchor Bible 34, pages 364-365) expresses well the thought of Ephesians 3:10: "The church is not an end in itself but a functional outpost of God's kingdom. . . . In her total being, that is, as founded and ruled by the Messiah; as composed of Jews and Gentiles formerly dead in sins and divided in hostility; as a people daring to live on the basis of forgiveness; as a community boldly looking into God's face and speaking to him; as a suffering and struggling, poor and yet enriched nation--this way the church is God's display, picture window, legal 'proof' (2:7), lighthouse (5:8), for the benefit of the world. . . . As established, maintained, and set out by God, the church is an instrument through which he reveals himself. She is, in brief, by her very existence the 'revelation of God's secret in action . . . the manifestation of the wisdom of God.' . . . The function of demonstrating God's dominion and love is entrusted to the church. She is appointed and equipped to be a public exponent of grace and unity. . . . To let God's light shine--this is the servant task ascribed to the church in Eph 3:10. . . . Chapters 4-6 will describe in some detail the conduct by which the church 'without word,' i. e., by sheer good conduct, shall excel among people and powers outside the church." So, what does the world see when it looks at the church? Does it see people from all races and nations and social backgrounds loving and helping and caring for one another, and living in forgiving, forbearing, understanding unity? Or does it see people slandering one another, criticizing one another, finding fault with one another, gossiping about one another, discouraging one another, bickering and quibbling over differing worship styles, interpretations of scripture, understandings of the nature of God and Christ, long held traditions and beliefs which the Bible does not even mention, and the like? Is the world drawn to God or repulsed from God when it sees the church, which is supposed to be his lighthouse or fishbowl or picture window in the world?

As I mentioned last night, Richard Beck wrote me about research that's been done concerning theories people have about love. They found that there are basically two competing theories at work. Some are destiny theorists. They believe that there is one right person for you, and that when you find them it will be wonderful. Somewhere out there is a "soulmate." This group tends to discard romantic relationships when there are problems. Others are growth theorists. They believe that love is something that emerges over time as you work through lots of ups and downs. Research shows that they wind up much happier in their relationships. I've heard so many people over the past decade use the "soulmate" language. No wonder most of them are so frustrated in their dating lives or in their marriages. Forget Cinderella, Prince Charming, Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. Love takes time, patience, energy, commitment, and service.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

I've been reading two of Rachel Naomi Remen's wonderful books that flow out of her experience of working (as a physician) with cancer patients: KITCHEN TABLE WISDOM and MY GRANDFATHER'S BLESSINGS. Try this passage: "The life in us is diminished by judgment far more frequently than by disease. Our own self-judgment or the judgment of other people can stifle our life force, its spontaneity and natural expression. Unfortunately, judgment is commonplace. It is as rare to find someone who loves us as we are as it is to find someone who loves themselves whole. "Judgment does not only take the form of criticism. Approval is also a form of judgment. When we approve of people, we sit in judgment of them as surely as when we criticize them. Positive judgment hurts less acutely than criticism, but it is judgment all the same and we are harmed by it in far more subtle ways. To seek approval is to have no resting place, no sanctuary. Like all judgment, approval encourages a constant striving. It makes us uncertain of who we are and of our true value. This is as true of the approval we give ourselves as it is of the approval we offer others. Approval can't be trusted. It can be withdrawn at any time no matter what our track record has been. It is as nourishing of real growth as cotton candy. Yet many of us spend our lives pursuing it." So here's the question for the day: In what people you know do you have a true resting place and sanctuary?

Sunday, September 14, 2003

After worship today, Matt and I are off for a brief trip. He's letting me tag along for one of his medical school interviews. When I told my freshman Bible class that I was thinking about going but that I hated to because we'd have to miss class on Monday, they quickly reminded me that I was a father first . . . that my kids will be gone before I know it . . . that we'll have many chances for class but this might be my only chance to go on one of these interviews. I love the selfless way these 18 year olds were watching out for me! :)

Saturday, September 13, 2003

I recently got to know a young father better at the Zoe worship conference in Phoenix. I learned a lot more about his life-and-death battle with cancer. I asked him to keep me up on the journey so I'd know how to pray for him. Here is one of his recent notes (posted with his permission). Read in wonder . . . . "Recovery in the hospital went very well -- I heard myself described as a 'highly motivated' patient. I thank God for his mercy in giving me the ability to heal rapidly. One of the things I resolved, on the day I was diagnosed nearly 3 1/2 years ago, was to give him the glory, whether in life or in death. Of course, I immediately started looking for rationale to support the assertion that he would be given more glory if I lived, because I preferred living. In doing all this reflection, I seriously pondered the question, Does God get more glory through living (a triumphant, miraculous healing, for example) or through dying (a dignified, submissive passing)? I came to the conclusion that the answer was neither -- that the glory was in the struggle. (With a theology like this, no wonder I've had so many recurrences!) Anyway, if I've struggled well, I just wanted to be sure he got the credit."

Thursday, September 11, 2003

I can still remember Diane Sawyer standing in the rubble near the site of the Twin Towers two years ago this evening. She picked up some financial papers that were blowing around and said, "You know, I'll bet that 24 hours ago someone thought these papers were ultimately important. Now our priorities have changed." Thoughts turned from MAKING ALL YOU CAN to family, friends, faith, hope, and grief. I remember exactly where I was when word came that JFK had been shot in 1963 (in Mrs. Ferguson's 2nd grade at Field Elementary School in Neosho, MO) . . . and I'll never forget the morning of 9/11/01.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Bob Riley, the Republican Governor of Alabama, had a "re-conversion" experience as a Christian. This prayerful, Bible-reading Southern Baptist became convinced from scripture that Christians have a duty to help the poor and reform tax systems that are immoral. He became convinced (through the numerous passages in the Torah, the prophets, Luke, etc.) that the wealthy should use some of their abundance to provide for the poor. Of course, his proposal was defeated. It's much easier to get behind Judge Roy Moore's fight to keep a 10 Commandment monument in a prominent place. We love righteous fights that cost us nothing!

Monday, September 08, 2003

Here's a great piece from my buddy Rubel Shelly: Some travelers apparently think they are entitled to take more than the little bottles of shampoo and body lotion hotel chains provide in their rooms. Would you want some stranger's half-used bottle of either when you check into that room the next night? So take them. The cost has been factored into your room charge. But lots of those big, fluffy towels disappear too. For industry giant Holiday Inn and its 2,638 locations, that generates some pretty big numbers. According to a company spokesman, 500,000 towels disappear from their sites every year. That's half a million towels swiped annually. Can you believe it? Okay. Here's the deal. Holiday Inn has announced an amnesty program for all the folks who have picked up their big fluffies over the years. No jail time. No fines. Why, you don't even have to give the towels back! They just want to know your story — and might even give you a reward for the best one. One man who has already confessed said he took a towel from a Holiday Inn property in Monterey, Mexico. It was where he and his wife spent their honeymoon, and he took it as a memento. Incidentally, the relationship with the woman didn't last, but the towel is still holding up quite well. "This really is lighthearted," said Mark Snyder, senior vice president for the company's brand management department. "It's just a way for people to come on, tell us their story, and relieve any lingering guilt they might have about having a Holiday Inn towel in their linen closet." You know what's happening here. It's a gimmick. A way of getting the company name into news stories. A slick promotion. Guests provide their stories to the HI Web site through September. The twenty-five judged best of the lot will receive — you guessed it — a limited edition souvenir Holiday Inn towel. Aside from the creative gimmickery here, this is an illustration of a healthy principle about relationships. When you hurt someone, do something wrong, or know that a relationship is in jeopardy, be honest. Do the virtuous thing. Come clean about it. Ask forgiveness. Work at rebuilding the relationship. A co-worker, friend from church, neighbor, wife, boyfriend — maybe you have the person in mind already. It's worth the effort to clear the air. Maybe you could begin with a towel in hand. "I read this story about Holiday Inn towels, and it made me realize there's something I ought to say to you . . ."

I spoke to lots of young mothers this morning: a MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) group that meets at Highland. As I looked out at them, I felt confident I was the most rested person in the room! Families with babies and toddlers deserve our cheering, our affirmation, our encouragement . . . yes, even our help! What they're doing is central to our beliefs that the rule of God has broken in.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

I love these early Sunday mornings at the church building. No one else arrives until about 7:00. Here in Abilene, near the west end of the time zone, it's still dark until about then. It's a moment for me to be a private worshiper before I'm a public worshiper.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

"Our job is to stand with one foot on earth and one in heaven, with the double vision that is the gift of faith, and to say out of our own experience that reality is not flat but deep, not opaque but transparent, not meaningless but shot full of grace for those with the least willingness to believe it is so." - Barbara Brown Taylor

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Got stuck watching "Fox News" at the health club again this morning. (Have to get there before 5:45 to make sure CNN is on!) The thing that bothers me most about Fox is their phrase: "We report; you decide." It's the myth of objectivity. We're just reporting, and we'll let you decide. This morning the anchors presented some news involving the United Nations. After the report, one of them said, "You know I'm not much of a fan of the UN. It's just a bunch of people trying to keep their jobs." Then they cut away with the "We report; you decide" mantra. As they came back, they reported a new law in California. One of the anchors yelled, "That is so stupid!" Again, "We report; you decide." Occasionally they cut away to a radio personality in Chicago called "Man Cow," whose job it is to be as bombastic, lurid, and lecherous as possible. "We report; you decide." Can you imagine Peter Jennings or Tom Brokaw (or Matt Lauer or Katie Couric, for that matter) ending a report by saying, "That's so stupid"? Of course, other media aren't entirely objective either. Choices are made about which stories are reported, about how they are reported, and about whom to interview. But at least they're not trying to whitewash it with "We report; you decide." I heard a Greek professor once try to convince his audience that he was undoubtedly right because, as he said, "I'm just reading text." He claimed he wasn't interpreting--just reading the Bible. But of course he was interpreting! No one gets upset when you read the Bible. It's when you start to explain it that the fireworks can begin. We all bring our backgrounds, our biases, and our preferences to the table. That isn't to say we can never come to confident conclusions, but it does mean we come with humility, knowing that we aren't completely objective.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

This summer I did a lot of reading about the "emerging church" movement. I'm so encouraged by what I've been learning about it. For the most part the leaders are younger Christians who are passionate about the gospel and who are tired of the consumerism of much of the megachurch movement. Here are some themes that kept popping up: 1. A focus on beauty--in art, in nature, in humanity. 2. A focus on "the kingdom of God" rather than just on atonement. There is an emphasis on the life of Jesus (as well on as his death) and on God's larger purposes in Christ (as hinted at in Genesis 1-2). 3. A focus on community--truly entering one another's lives toward healing and holiness. 4. A focus on mission and witness--rejecting the consumerism ("Here's how we can serve all your needs") so common in megachurches. 5. A focus on justice--living right with the poor, with other nations, and with the environment. 6. A focus on simplicity. One of the leaders said a better name than "emerging church" might be "the organic church." Want to know more? You might want to start with Dan Kimball's THE EMERGING CHURCH. Mike Yaconelli's STORIES OF EMERGENCE and Robert Webber's THE YOUNGER EVANGELICALS will inspire you. And don't miss out on their guru, Brian McLaren. Start with A NEW KIND OF CHRISTIAN and THE STORY WE FIND OURSELVES IN. Then maybe move on to McLaren's MORE READY THAN YOU REALIZE (a great book on "evangelism as dance in the postmodern matrix"). For helpful websites, check out Emerging Village, Ecclesia Church, The Ooze, and Dan Kimball's Vintage Faith.