Mike Cope's blog

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Check out this wonderful slide presentation about Islam, provided by Monte Cox, director of Harding's Center for World Missions.

Speaking of home . . . the "Today Show" this morning had a travel expert on suggesting that one way to save money is to just take a vacation in your own hometown. He said that he and his family did that. Instead of going to Vermont, they stayed at home: in NYC. So they did simple, hometown things like going to world-class museums, plays, etc. Do people like him not realize that NOT EVERYONE LIVES IN NYC!

You can't go home again. So many years ago when I read Thomas Wolfe's book I had no idea how true it is. Home changes. And you change. That hit me at the Tulsa workshop as I saw so many people from Neosho and from Searcy. I'm not really welcome at the church where I grew up. Of course, there is another church that was planted several years ago where my parents attend. We're welcomed there, and I enjoy speaking when we go home for holidays. And there are still other people at the other church that I care about and hear about. But it's strange to not be welcome in the church building that was build by my paternal grandfather (a carpenter). Same with Searcy. After attending Harding University (in Searcy and Memphis) for seven years and after preaching for the College Church for seven more years, I last spoke at Harding in 1991. Of course, there are still lots of friends there. And I have a great appreciation for the good things that are happening there (especially concerning mission teams, both international and domestic urban, that are being formed and sent out--really amazing stuff!). But it's still strange to have insiders tell me that they've been told I can't speak there. (I'm not alone. Two preacher buddies of mine recently complained to me that they've been told the same thing--that they can't speak there--even though the school recruits heavily at their large churches.) Part of me wants to scream: "That's not fair! That's the church I grew up in. I love the people there. That's the school I attended. I care deeply about the people there." But Wolfe was right (in one sense). You can't go home again. In some ways, this is a result of decisions I've made. Others probably believe some of the same things, but have chosen not to say them publicly. I didn't have to say those things. I didn't have to edit Wineskins with Rubel the last dozen years. And undoubtedly I've shown lack of wisdom and compassion at times. I'm growing . . . . (Part of maturing in Christ is learning to love and pray for the people who don't agree with you--from the "left" or the "right.") For this I AM thankful: that even though you can't exactly go home again, there is a part of home you can return to. There are all those loving people in Neosho and in Searcy. There are all those people in both places who molded my life, who blessed me (I blogged recently about some of them at Harding), who encouraged my life. There are all those wonderful things for the way of Christ that have been done and are still being done in both places. Life is partly about learning to love the homes you've left behind, learning to appreciate the home where you are, and longing for the home whose builder and maker is God.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Up early to get ready for a funeral. Rolling around in my mind this insight: "Middle age is when you choose your cereal for the fiber, not the toy." I'm trying to remember how long it's been since I looked to see what toy was in a box of cereal. As a kid, that was the whole deal. Who cares if the cereal would be turned down by a goat -- as long as it has an ACTION FIGURE or a COOL STICKER or even a BASEBALL CARD? Who cares if it has the nutritional value of lint? I think I'll adopt that as a motto for the rest of the week: Choose cereal for the toy! All the blogging I can do for now. Need to prepare for the funeral . . . right after downing my Fiber One cereal.

Monday, March 29, 2004

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end." Almost everything enjoyable eventually comes to an end. Vacations hit a screeching halt, friends and family have to return home (as my mom, dad, and two nieces have to in a few minutes), spring break passes. Looks fade. Bodies slowly waste away. Children grow up. But God's love never ceases. His love is stubborn, persistent, enduring. Nothing in all creation can separate us from it. O love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee. I give thee back the life I owe, That in thine ocean depths its flow, May richer, fuller be.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Back from the Tulsa workshop. I was sitting in the little Eagle jet at DFW at 8:45, waiting to pull away from the jetbridge. I was on the phone to Christopher, who was doing a play-by-play of the Texas game. They told us to turn cell phones off. Problem: we were down one point and there were 15 seconds left. It called for urgent measures. I hid the phone. Good news: somehow the pilots managed to continue to communicate with the tower. Bad news: the Horns got beat. My brief stay at the Tulsa workshop was great. Great to see family: Mom, Dad, two nieces, two uncles. Lots of old friends from Searcy and Memphis days. Tomorrow: Midland for soccer.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Off to the Tulsa workshop, where I'll speak twice tomorrow. Marvin Phillips was kind enough to let me bail out of my Saturday class to get back for a soccer tournament in Midland. This is also the weekend of THE SHOWER. So my mom and dad and two nieces will be among those who'll be here for the weekend. They'll be at Tulsa, too, but then will drive on down. Am I really old enough to have a son getting married?

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Enjoy this paragraph from a chapter by Henri Nouwen entitled "Control Your Own Drawbridge." It is important for you to control your own drawbridge. There must be times when you keep your bridge drawn and have the opportunity to be alone or only with those to whom you feel close. Never allow yourself to become public property, where anyone can walk in and out at will. You might think that you are being generous in giving access to anyone who wants to enter or leave, but you will soon find yourself losing your soul.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Baseball has begun. The smell of freshly-oiled gloves. The feel of a new Rawlings baseball. The wheezing of my asthma and the running nose of my allergies at night. The sounds echoing in my mind as I fall asleep: "Coach, can I pitch?" "Coach, how come this practice field doesn't have a bathroom?" The soreness of middle-aged arms from throwing batting practice or trying to hit too many deep fly balls. It doesn't get any better than this!!

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Chris and I just finished updating our Sports Illustrates NCAA brackets. You've got to love it. Down to the Sweet Sixteen and there's still a 10 ranking (Nevada), a 9 ranking (UAB), an 8 ranking (Alabama), a 7 ranking (Xavier), and a 6 ranking (Vanderbilt). Also, it's official. We're Longhorns fans. Go Texas!

Saturday, March 20, 2004

A night to eat steak and watch the NCAA play-offs with my boys. Tonight, life is very, very good.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Once again last night I came home from an elders' meeting saying to Diane, "I ought to have to pay to be there." To be someplace so full of prayer, pastoral care, and encouragement is a huge blessing in my life. One of my elders, John Willis, writes a daily meditation from scripture. Here is the one from this morning: The author of Psalm 31 concludes this poem in verses 21-24 by calling on fellow followers of God to love God for all he has done and to be courageous in troublesome times: "Blessed be the Lord, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was beset as a city under siege. I had said in my alarm, 'I am driven far from your sight.' But you heard my supplications when I cried to you for help. Love the Lord, all you his saints. The Lord preserves the faithful, but abundantly repays the one who acts haughtily. Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord." 1. The psalmist is deeply impacted by Yahweh's "steadfast love," to which he refers three times in this psalm (verses 7, 16, 21). Human love tends to be fleeting, like a morning cloud or dew that is here for a brief time and then vanishes (Hosea 6:4); but God's love is tenacious; God's love is there for us when we succeed and when we fail to serve God faithfully. Praise God for his steadfast love, which he showers on us daily. 2. When trials come and enemies multiply, it seems we are far from God--and we panic, at least in our hearts. Recall Psalm 22:1-2 and Jesus's quotation of this on the cross in Matthew 27:46. Yet, even when we think all is lost, God hears our cries and comes to help. 3. How can on but "love" a God who is so merciful and kind and generous? In fact, loving God lies at the very hub of everything godly and everything Christian--Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Matthew 22:34-40. 4. There is a sense in which humankind may be divided into two groups: the "faithful" and the "arrogant" or "haughty." The basic characteristic of the former is that they depend on God completely for everything and are deeply grateful for all God is and does. The basic characteristic of the latter is that they feel they can confront, deal with, and solve all life's problems by their own wisdom and power. May God give us the wisdom to put our whole trust in him--see verses 5 and 14. 5. The charge God gave Joshua and the Israelites as they prepared to enter the promised land and fight against the nations living there and conquer them and settle in their new land was: "Be strong and very courageous"--Joshua 1:6, 7, 9, 18. The composer of Psalm 31 concludes this psalm by encouraging fellow believers to do the same as they faced every challenge in life. May God help us to be strong and very courageous--and to wait on the Lord.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

As I near the graduation of Son One from ACU, I'm thinking back to my own four years of college. Recently I wrote about how influential Jim Woodroof and Terry Smith were in my life. But there were others . . . . Jerry Jones. The man who taught me my earliest lessons about preaching. (I don't blame him for my excesses!) But beyond that, the man who filled me with a passion for preaching. And even beyond that, the man who drew me into his life. It wasn't always serious stuff. Often it was playing ping-pong. Or jogging 5 miles at night. But he wove a love of Christ into all of that fun. He never could figure out why I wore my hair on my shoulders, but he'd joke about it and move on. One of my most vivid memories of my years at Harding was the night the two of us stood in his front yard and prayed after jogging. He prayed for my life of ministry and for my upcoming wedding. It's a quarter of a century later, and I still remember that prayer. And there was Neale Pryor. One of the best teachers I've ever had in my life. He was funny, kind, and full of knowledge. Sitting in his Hebrew prophets class (and several others) was a joy. I remember waking up in the mornings excited to know that I'd be going. I still can't open up Amos or Micah without hearing his voice. (Several years later when I was preaching at the College Church, he and Treva drew Matt into their lives -- so he blessed me once again!) And there was Cliff Ganus. What a Christian college president should be. He never looked past people. He knew the name of everyone who worked for him at the university and cared about each one of them. While he couldn't name every student, it was still evident that he loved every last one. Powerful preacher. Insightful historian. Amazing athlete. (One of my favorite memories of Dr. Ganus -- sorry, still can't call him "Cliff" even after being his preacher for seven years! -- was in the summer of 2000. We went to live in Uganda for a month following Matt's graduation. Turned out Dr. Ganus, now Harding's Chancellor, was there for about the same length of time. One day when Diane and I were going out to a village without the boys, Dr. Ganus sat down at the Source cafe with Matt for a couple hours, telling stories, asking about his life, and encouraging him. Maybe that will one day prove to be the most significant part of that whole trip! Tom Eddins. He was the young guy on the Bible faculty when I was there. His dry wit and his cynicism -- to say nothing of his brilliance! -- drew me in. Little did I know at the time that he'd become one of my closest friends during the College Church years, 1984-91. (And speaking of dry wit, there was Bob Helstein, my wonderful German teacher.) Jack McKinney was my Greek teacher. I had seven years of Greek (counting graduate school), and Jack is the one who launched me on that journey. Whether it was sailing through Johannine material or plowing through Blass/Debrunner/Funk, he helped me fall in love with the study of scripture in the original language. And, of course, Jimmy Allen. He took me verse-by-verse through Romans and Corinthians. And his fervor for being God's man made an impression that went way beyond those semester classes. An amazing man, really. Someone said he's the Billy Graham of the Church of Christ. I don't know about that. But I know this: he could take the ball to the hoop (and you didn't want to wait on him to call a foul!) and he could convict of sin and he could encourage young preachers. There were other men and women, of course. But these are some of the men who helped shape my life from 1974-78. How about you? Who are the people who helped mold you?

Monday, March 15, 2004

Two wonderful rites of Spring. . . . First, THE MOWING OF THE BASEBALL PRACTICE FIELD. Yes, Steve and Josh Hare and Christopher and I got out there with mowers, weedeater, and trash bags to get the field ready for 5:30 this afternoon. (My other son, former co-owner of the Matt and Chad Lawn Service, was out of town for spring break.) In a few hours I'll be summoning all my coaching experience and yelling this piece of advice: "Don't throw the ball when no one is looking!!" Second, the posting of the NCAA brackets. Our problem right now is that we don't really have a team. For many years, it was North Carolina. (The first church I went to out of seminary was in Wilmington, home of Michael Jordan, whom we met in the parking lot of the mall one day.) After that it was the Razorbacks. But who now? Texas Tech? Nope. Texas? In football, for sure, but haven't really been able to get into Longhorn hoops. Duke? Well, possibly. But there's still that lingering rivalry from our UNC days. Maybe we'll just root for the underdogs. Go Liberty! Valparaiso! Texas-San Antonio! Princeton (special OT rules: highest average SAT scores advances)!

Friday, March 12, 2004

RATTLESNAKE FAJITAS AND THE ATKINS DIET I have fixed a wide variety of fajitas including dove fajitas, quail fajitas, and sandhill crane fajitas. But this morning's Abilene newspaper has a recipe for rattlesnake fajitas. Only in Texas . . . . And while on food . . . I spent a day in Ft. Worth this week and was amazed at the influence of the Atkins diet. Tom Thumb was advertising their low carb section. Del Frisco (think: expensive slabs of steak) was promoting their Atkins-friendly selection. In Central Market -- the mecca of grocery shopping! -- right in the middle of their amazing bakery with the smells of incredible loaves of bread all around -- there was a sad little display for "low carb bread." Probably some blog readers are giving it a try. Good on ya. For a short-term kick, maybe it works. But isn't there a reason to be suspicious of a diet that cuts back on bread and fruit? As I think of what the staples are around the world, those have to be high on the list. Cut out bread, fruit, and wine, and much of the world starves. (I'm trying to imagine telling the people in the villages we've visited in Uganda that they need to cut out bread and fruit.) I wonder if we're always looking for some new gimmick in diet in our country (it was low-fat a decade ago) because we don't have the discipline to do this: eat less and exercise more. In a land of excess, we don't like balance. We need some balance on the whole weight thing. Yes, as a country we need to lose weight. Our children are getting heavier each decade. Again: eat less (especially of junk food) and exercise more. This just in: apparently not many calories are burned sitting in front of a screen with a Play Station. But it would be nice if we'd also quit obsessing so much about weight. In the leisure of middle-class and upper-class America, we have the privilege of obsessing on the body beautiful. People hate their bodies because they're a few pounds overweight. Young women feel like they have to get boob jobs so their bodies curve like on the magazine covers. A formula for better health: eat less, exercise more, obsess less, be with good friends more. Plus rattlesnake fajitas. And, of course, guacamole.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

This little clip from a recent Steve Rushin editorial in SI will explain a lot about many of us: Some minds are steel traps. My mind is a lint trap, retaining only useless fluff, so that I know why .406 is important, but not why 1066 is. If you were to remove, with a flourish, the top of my head--like the silver dome from a serving tray--what you'd find underneath is potluck: batting averages, song lyrics, palindromes, advertising jingles, trivia questions, jersey numbers and movie dialogue. They're all strewn about the ransacked room of my brain . . . . I can't tell you the atomic number of magnesium, but I can tell you the uniform number of Manny Saguillen (35), who hasn't played big league baseball in 24 years. The only poetry I've committed to memory is a Hormel hot-dog jingle from the Metrodome that goes, "Great for lunch, great for dinner, You will be a wiener winner. . . ." My brain, in short, has made bad choices, and those choices now define me thusly: Can't quote Kerouac, can quote Caddyshack.

Just finished speaking at the funeral for Carolyn Salmon. What an amazing woman -- someone who's definitely in my Hebrews 11. When her husband left her, she moved to Abilene in 1974 with her six children. In the Highland family, she raised them, knowing there were people like Wally Bullington who would be role models for her kids. This woman was an encouraging machine. She often said, "I'm the most blessed person in the world." She rejected the way of bitterness. She constantly told people how much she loved them, how deeply she admired them, how often she prayed for them. After the funeral, one young mother told me that just recently Carolyn saw her 11-year-old at a basketball game, called her over, hugged her and told her how impressed she was with her. This mother choked back tears as she told me that her daughter will never forget it. And she did this all the time! The Monday before she died, she dropped by McDonald's to tell the women she met there each week that she couldn't stay but she just wanted them to know she loved them. Years ago someone wrote a history of the Highland Church and called it FROM ROOTS TO WINGS. If it's updated, I want to see a whole chapter in there on Carolyn!

Monday, March 08, 2004

Good news: McDonald's is no longer going to be Super Sizing their soft drinks and french fries. Now . . . how about credit card companies that will quit encouraging people to get into debt over their eyeballs? or automobile manufacturers who'll quit making machines that get under 10 mpg just because people like to drive tanks? or convenience stores who'll quit selling cold beer? or Wal-Marts who'll quit abandoning buildings just because they want something new and bigger? or businesses who'll stop advertising "nothing down" and "easy payments"? I know, I know, I need some time off. I'm getting testy.

Two words that fit together so well: SPRING and BREAK.

Friday, March 05, 2004

As the father of an 11-year-old son, I love this column by humorist Bruce Cameron. (He kindly gave me permission to print it on the blog. But please note the copyright and subscription information.) Someone once asked me, "if you could be any person in the world, who would it be?" To which I responded without hesitation, "my eleven-year-old son." My boy's life is one where the less pleasant elements of reality rarely intrude. His eyes unfocused, his mouth emitting sound effects, he drifts around in serene oblivion, almost never concerned about anything. Last Saturday I interrupted his reverie and asked him to check to see if the mail had arrived. He responded agreeably enough, though it took several reminders before he actually was out the door. I went to the window to observe his progress. He made a strong start, striding purposefully toward the mailbox at the end of our driveway. Then something caught his eye and he stopped, frowning. He bent over and picked it up: a stick. It fit into his hand like a Colt pistol, and he swiveled, eyeing the trees for enemies. He spotted a couple and dove for cover, firing as he rolled. Airplanes swooped down and he switched to ground-to-air mode, jubilating when the missiles hit their targets. He spoke into his radio and did something to his forehead, probably putting on his night vision goggles. I lost sight of him as he snaked around the corner of the house. Half an hour later he tromped in, exuberant over his military victory. I stopped him in the hallway. "Did you get the mail?" He stared at me blankly, and I wondered whether he even knew who I was. "You were going out to get the mail," I reminded him. His focus cleared. "Oh, yeah." "Did you get it?" His expression indicated he wasn't sure. "Why don't you try again," I suggested. Back out the door. I winced as he glanced at a tree branch, but he didn't appear tempted. His eyes acquired radar lock on the mailbox, and I sighed in relief. Lying next to the mailbox was a football which had drifted there at the end of a neighborhood game a few weeks ago. He scooped the ball up in his arms and swerved, dodging tackles. Touchdown! I put my hands on my hips and watched him toss the ball into the air, calling for a fair catch. First down. He took the ball, fading back, out of the pocket and in trouble. I shook my head as I was treated to the spectacle of my son sacking himself for an eight-yard loss. He jumped up and shook his finger, urging his blockers to stop the blitz. They seemed to heed his admonitions*on the next play he rolled left and threw right, a fantastic pass which found him wide open thirty yards downfield. He trotted into the end zone and gave the crowd a mile-high salute. When I checked back at half-time to see who was winning, mankind was on the brink. The football was jammed up inside his shirt, and he was struggling forward on his knees, looking like a soldier crawling through the desert. He had pulled the lawn mower out of the garage, and as he fell toward it, gasping, he pulled the sacred pigskin from his shirt and, with the last reserves of his strength, touched it to the engine. He died, but civilization was saved by his heroic efforts. No word on whether, with this triumph, mail would be delivered. I met him at the door, pierced through his fog, and asked him to get the mail. He agreed in such as fashion as to indicate this was the first he'd heard of the subject. There was a skip in his step as he headed down he driveway, and he was making so much progress so quickly I felt my hopes growing, particularly when he reached out and actually touched the mailbox. Alas, he was only stopping to talk to it. Conferring in low tones, he nodded, squinting into the distance. He raised the mail flag, igniting the retrorockets strapped to his back. He throttled to full power and then dropped the flag, firing off into space with his arms outstretched like Superman. He was nowhere in sight when, half an hour later, I went out to get the mail. Write to the author at bruce@wbrucecameron.com For reprint permission, including web sites, please write me at Bruce@wbrucecameron.com This newsletter may be distributed freely via e-mail but you MUST include the following subscription and copyright information: The Cameron Column, A Free Internet Newsletter Copyright W. Bruce Cameron 2004 http://www.wbrucecameron.com/

Nothing restores my soul like beauty. Like just this morning . . . . I was driving down Judge Ely. There was the abandoned Skinny's building, and the building United abandoned years ago (now occupied by "Healing Hands"), and the new billboard sign obscenely large enough for Dyess pilots to read, and the long field full of trash, and the soon-to-be-abandoned Wal-Mart building, and the strip-mall next to Wal-Mart that will undoubtedly be abandoned when Wal-Mart pulls out, and the convenience store in front of Wal-Mart that will probably also shut down, and the abandoned Luby's building. Ah, beauty in the mornin'.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Wondering about the ugly baby Satan is holding in "The Passion"? Here's Mel Gibson's answer.

Wonderful trip back from Nashville: missed plane, broken plane, delayed plane, closed airport (Abilene International), etc. Nashville has been my "second home" these past dozen years. I've been there so many times for Wineskins editorial meetings and now for Zoe planning sessions. So many people at Woodmont Hills and Otter Creek that I love. So many good memories of speaking at Jubilee from 1989 (I gave the first keynote the first year) to 2000 (the last year of Jubilee). One oddity: I've never set foot on David Lipscomb campus. Not opposed to it. Just never invited. But, alas, the last thing I need is more traveling!

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

I'm not generally a "Christian concert" guy. But last night -- Bebo Norman, Amy Grant, and Mercy Me -- well, that's as good as I hope to see any time soon . . . unless Steven Curtis Chapman and Sarah Lynn go on tour together. (Non-Highland readers won't know that Sarah Lynn is the young woman who used to lead our praise nights.) Amy Grant said she knew everyone would want her to sing the old songs, and then proceeded to sing her new ones. Where was "Sing Your Praise to the Lord" and "Father's Eyes"? I guess she's been singing them for a quarter of a century, though. May be time for a rest. Loved hearing my three favorite "Mercy Me" songs: "Word of God Speak," "The Love of God," and, of course, "I Can Only Imagine."

Monday, March 01, 2004

I'm pretty sure that yesterday I preached the worst sermon I've preached in a long time. And it's also been a long time since so many people responded in person or by e-mail to say they had been helped by a message. Now there's a kicker. It's almost as if the impact of God's Word doesn't depend on the effectiveness of the speaker. It's as if the Word itself is able to "penetrate even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow." Go figure. . . . The stuff they never tell you in seminary.