Mike Cope's blog

Monday, May 31, 2004

The whole area of Christian participation in and support for war has been a vexing one for me. (Months ago I mentioned the compelling words of Lee Camp, a Lipscomb professor, in Mere Discipleship, a new book published by Brazos Press.) But regardless of how one comes out on that dicey issue, we have all benefitted from the courage and sacrifice of those who have fought for freedom. Part of why I have the liberty to sit at my desk today and hack away at this blog is that many have fought against what they believed were forces of evil and injustice. One of my closest friends, Dr. Charles Mattis, grew up fatherless. When he was young (four, I believe), his father was shot down in Vietnam. One doesn't have to be a huge supporter of Vietnam to appreciate the sacrifice that was made--not just by the young pilot but also by his widow and her two small children. So today I "remember" this man whom I never knew--along with lots of other men and women I never knew. And I double my prayers for the kingdom of God to continue breaking in. We pray for God's rule that will cause humans to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. We long for the time when "nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore" (Isaiah 2:4).

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Yes, yes, last night went very well. We won first place (8-4) and get to enter the area tournament as Key City team #1. This morning I was back at the field for a while helping with some cleaning to get ready for hosting tournament games. I got to clean to the best background "music" possible. We always have the best tunes there--including many of the songs nominated on this site a few days ago. But this morning I cleaned with the sound of cheers behind me. It was a game in the Challenger League. All the children playing were handicapped. Most had parents right next to them, helping them bat, assisting them as they fielded. Every time someone is announced coming up to the plate, every person in the stands cheers. Every time they swing (whether they hit it or not), everyone cheers. All right, so the game is "rigged." Everyone swings until they hit the ball. And when they hit the ball, they're going to be safe at first. There were wheelchairs flying around the bases. I spoke to one of the adults who told me that one of the girls playing had woken up early that morning and was giddy with excitement about the game. No one makes an out. No one is embarrassed. No one gets yelled at. No one gets nailed with an error. Everyone hits; everyone gets on base; everyone scores. I like this game. I think Megan (our daughter who was mentally and physically handicapped, for those blog readers who don't know us) would have enjoyed it, too.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Tonight's the night. This is game three of Baack's vs. Half Moon. The winner gets first; the loser gets second. Both will get to be in the city tournament. After that, I'll be the manager/coach for the all-star team. So potentially I could be hacking and wheezing well into July. Here's what I have to look forward to in major league all-star coaching. (I was the minor league all-star coach two years ago.) Every parent thinks their son should (1) start, (2) pitch or play shortstop, and (3) bat third. I have not yet discovered a way where all 12 can do that. I've enjoyed reading the comments from this past week. What is there about this blog that attracts so many readers with a touch of cynicism?

Thursday, May 27, 2004

This little piggy went to Central Market From this week's Time magazine: "With summer just weeks away, women are prepping their feet for open-toe season. But this year foot care may cost you an arm and a leg. 'The foot is the new face,' says Dr. Suzanne Levine, owner of the Institute Beaute, where she gives clients foot facials. The $225 treatment includes a mineral-oil-and-Epsom-salt scrub, glycolic-acid peel, intensive tissue-repair cream (applied with an ultrasound want) and callus-blasting microdermabrasion. Savvy strutters whose feet are sore from their Manolos are hobbling to doctors to get the balls of their feet injected with collagen, Restylane and Botox. The extra cushioning allows for hours of pain-free high-heel wearing. Salons too are stepping up to the plate, with fake nails for tootsies. Dashing Diva, a Manhattan-based nail boutique and spa, offers Tip-Toes, ready-to-wear nail falsies. You can order Levine's foot-facial kit . . . or, for less cash, try Burt's Bees, a foot-care kit that contains Coconut Foot Creme, a pumice stone and yellow socks to protect pampered little piggies." "The foot is the new face." Well, then. Never let the head say to the feet, "I don't need you!" I guess the Apostle Paul was just ahead of his time (1 Cor 12:21).

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

I love this footnote from Luke Timothy Johnson's Religious Experience in Earliest Christianity: "Because of the remarkable success of Christianity as a movement that eventually became the religion of the Roman Empire, it is easy to miss the outrageousness of the statements claiming, within only a few years of the death of its founder, a worldwide mission (Acts 1:8) that would make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19), not to mention its present ascendancy over the world and its role as the future of the world. . . . One of the benefits of the discovery of the writings from Qumran is that they remind us of how bizarre such claims appear when the cult in question simply disappears from history."

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Greatest classic rock ever? Tough call. But here are a few of my favs: CCR's "Down on the Corner," the Beatles' "Twist and Shout," the Eagles' "Hotel California," Steppenwolf's "Magic Carpet Ride," Three Dog Night's "Celebrate," and the Kingsmen's "Louie, Louie." How about you? Favorite classic rock song? Note to ACU grad students who read this blog: by "classic" I'm talking well before 1990. Likely before you were born! :)

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Back when Bill Clinton's sins became public fare and when several religious leaders were feasting like ravenous wolves, I heard Landon Saunders say something profound. He said he thought that the real test of a friend is this: Imagine that you have just done something unimaginable, something you deeply regret. You're lying on the ground in anguish. Then you open your eyes. Whose face would you like to see? I have so many faces in mind: Landon, Darryl, Leonard, Adam and Donna, John and Evelyn, Eddie P. and Eddie S., Terry, Dickie, Leon, Ross, Charles, James, my brother . . . . What do you think? Whose face would you like to look up and see?

Saturday, May 22, 2004

All 42 of Highland's elders have resigned and their wives have stepped in to run the church. How do I know that? A friend just contacted me from Arkansas saying that he'd heard it directly from a reliable source. That upsets me. Why wouldn't anyone tell me that happened? Here I am the minister of this church, there is a sudden coup d'etat, and no one bothers to tell me. And the worst part? It all apparently happened since Wednesday night. Sure, the eldership seemed unified and joy-filled, but they must have been hiding something from me. Either that or the rumor--reported as fact!--is untrue. But surely not. It's hard to imagine that anyone would pass along anything so preposterous. It's just easier to believe it happened but no one has told me yet. Don't you think?

Friday, May 21, 2004

Bookstores. Am I the only one who gets weirded out by walking into most Christian bookstores? It's a subculture I hardly understand. The one that I have to go to occasionally here is part Republican Party headquarters (with books about Oliver North and Dan Quayle and a lifesize poster of President Bush), part NRA promotional center, part distributor of mostly lame music, and part indoor garage sale for religious kitsch. The books? They never have anything I want. (Of course I don't go looking for one of the thousand copies of "Left Behind" series books.) No one seems to know who Luke Timothy Johnson is; nor have they heard of Walter Brueggemann. But if you want your choice of a dozen books talking about how evil Harry Potter is, you've found your mecca. But, when I enter a Barnes and Noble, it's a very different feeling. All right, so Abilene doesn't have one. But 2 hours and 10 minutes away, at the University exit off I-30 in Ft. Worth, there is one. When I walk in, I feel like I'm walking into a world of ideas. For some reason, it makes me wish I didn't hate coffee, so I could just sit with a cup of joe and a book. And the music in back? Some of the best of Christian music--but also jazz, classic rock, country, etc. Christian bookstores remind me of how easy the church can default to a shallow, world-denying position where we protect ourselves with OUR music, OUR art, OUR action figures, OUR novels. Barnes and Nobel reminds me of what a diverse, thought-filled world we live in--a world that needs the message of the gospel.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

A standing ovation for Randy Johnson, please. On behalf of all fortysomethings, I'd like to thank him for showing that we aren't yet over the hill. (I realize a case could be made that there is a slight difference between 47 and 40 or that there is a small difference between 6'10" and 5'8". Big stinkin' deal.) 27 up, 27 down for The Big Unit. I can't wait to go pitch batting practice tomorrow! Roger Clemens with a 7-0 record. Randy Johnson with a perfect game. Maybe it's time for: Nolan to come back and shoot for his 6000th strike out; Michael to return and lead the Bulls back to the playoffs; Joe Montana to show the young guns in the NFL what a QB does under pressure; Mark Spitz to jump in the pool in Athens; Diane and me to have another child so I can still coach another decade; Jack Nicklaus to win one more major. All of the above are very unlikely. One would require an act of God.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

"Eating responsibly at McDonald's is like going to a strip club for the iced tea." That's from Roger Ebert's review of Morgan Spurlock's film "Super Size Me." You know the story line by now. Spurlock conducted an "experiment" (with cameras rolling, of course). He ate three squares a day for a month--with every meal at McDonald's. He never ordered the Super Size unless he was asked. At the end of the month, his weight was up thirty pounds. His blood pressure was highly elevated, and his cholesterol spiked 65 points. In addition, he had symptoms of toxic shock to his liver. Not exactly the kind of publicity a company hopes for. We're in the low-carb craze right now. It will pass, as did the low-fat craze. Eventually the pendulum will come back to the middle and health-conscious people will shoot for the basics: better carbs, better fat, modest portions, guacamole, and regular exercise. It isn't rocket science. Once again, though, I think we should recognize that all the health stuff can become almost idolatrous. That's not to discourage anyone who is enjoying a new burst of healthier living. But it's easier to put a tape measure around the bust or waist than around the heart. What if our real obsession was spiritual transformation . . . spiritual health? Isn't it easy for us to become really lazy there--devouring snack foods loaded with fat, sugar, and salt? These old words from one of the Pastoral Epistles still have an important claim to make on our lives: "Train yourself to be godly, for physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come" (1 Tim. 4:7f). Now here's the difficult part. I'm 47. And when I was younger I imagined that I would be further along the road of spiritual formation by now than I am. I've run in marathons, eaten right (at times), and kept my weight down. But, I really thought I would be more developed spiritually by now--a person in whom love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control were the default settings. I imagined 20 years ago that by now I'd be a praying fool. 47 apparently isn't the magic age for me. Maybe it's 48 . . . .

Monday, May 17, 2004

In Jesus Through the Centuries, Jaroslav Pelikan passes along a favorite metaphor of the Church Fathers: the Gospels are a river in which an elephant can drown and a gnat can swim. Having taught "The Life and Teachings of Jesus" for several years at ACU and having just finished my first sermon series ever through John's gospel, I realize again how right they were! I think everyone has a favorite gospel. (Mine is still Luke.) I wonder what that says about us? What does it say about someone that they would choose Mt . . . or Mk . . . or Lk . . . or Jn?

Sunday, May 16, 2004

The five hottest teams in baseball are all teams I like: the Angels (go, John!), the Rangers, the Astros, Baack's and Half Moon. Baack's and Half Moon? Oh yeah, baby. The big games are tomorrow night. We're both 6-0. We start by finishing the previous game that ended in a tie, when lightning rolled in after six innings. (You may recall that that was a blessed storm for our team!) Then immediately after that game is finished, we turn around and play again. It's dumb, I know. I'm 47, and I still love it so much. I love being an influence with the boys. I love the smell of leather gloves, the ping on a well-hit line drive, the taste of ballpark hamburgers (the Key City head "chef" knows how to grill onions and jalapenos to plop on top of mine!), and the free drink or snowcone that comes at the end whether you win or lose. Two years ago my team won a lot and went to the city tournament. Last year we were the cellar dwellers. This year, we're winning again. But it doesn't really matter, does it? Aren't there more important things to teach kids than how to hit a curve and how to turn a double play? The lessons of character--taught and modeled by the coaches and parents--are lasting. For better . . . or for worse.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Someone passed on to me a blooper from a church in Arizona. They were using their church bulletin to encourage people to attend the Pepperdine lectureship. They listed all the theme speakers, spelling all of them correctly except for one of my buddies. They meant to print Rubel Shelly, but it came out Rebel Shelly. And this is from his friends!!

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Who can understand the mind of a terrorist--especially one who has decided that his terrorism is a favor to God? Some terrorists bomb and behead. Those are the ones we hear most about. But there are other terrorists who seek to destroy reputations, who are masters of cut-and-paste gossip, who major in minors -- and who think they're doing God a huge favor. They're going to save the church. Save the brotherhood. Save the Christian university. So they shoot poisonous e-mails. They create websites. They castigate and warn. They sign petitions. They rally the forces. They undermine reputations. The Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) have some interesting thoughts on measuring such people. Those thoughts center on "healthy teaching" (translated "sound doctrine" in older versions), which is gospel-formed teaching that produces gospel-formed lives. With such people, it can be enlightening to learn from their children and grandchildren what life at home was like. Instead of "healthy teaching," it is often a kind of teaching that "spreads like gangrene" (2 Tim. 2:17). Often their kids had to suffer under their explosive anger, their hypocrisy, and their twisted thinking. The amazing thing is that fairly reasonable people listen to them! Sometimes, they'll listen over a cup of coffee and come away saying, "You know, he seems like a nice guy." Everyone is a nice guy over a cup of coffee! (Especially if you bought the coffee.) Spiritual terrorists need to be muffled and ignored. They need to be prayed for. But they cannot help chart the future course of kingdom-minded churches and universities!

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

A dad's reflections. Matt's been blessed with some nice honors. (To fast forward past parental bragging, go to next paragraph.) This weekend he received the ACU "honor man" award, and the Lemoine Lewis Alpha Chi award (for a 4.0 average). But much of his character was molded by a frail younger sister who never spoke a full sentence. In his first years, he often waited for his turn while we cared for Megan. He dealt with the embarrassment of being at restaurants when she was loud--to say nothing of her propensity for throwing food that she didn't want. And yet in her life and death, he experienced what we did: a profound sense of the meaning of the kingdom. As we count down to the wedding (one month and one day), of all the things I could say about my future daughter-in-law, this is perhaps the most insightful: Megan would have absolutely loved her! In Christopher De Vinck's incredible book The Power of the Powerless, he writes about his mentally-handicapped brother, Oliver. He tells about two girls he brought home with him. (Trust me, had Megan lived longer, Jenna would have been just like the second girl in the story.) When I was in my early twenties I met a girl and I fell in love. After a few months I brought her home for dinner to meet my family. After the introductions, the small talk, my mother went to the kitchen to check the meal, and I asked the girl, "Would you like to see Oliver?" for I had, of course, told her about my brother. "No," she answered. She did not want to see him. It was as if she slapped me in the face, yet I just said something polite and walked to the dining room. Soon after, I met Roe, Rosemary, a dark-haired, dark-eyed, lovely girl. She asked me the names of my brothers and sisters. She bought me a copy of The Little Prince. She loved children. I thought she was wonderful. I brought her home after a few months to meet my family. The introductions. The small talk. We ate dinner; then it was time for me to feed Oliver. I walked into the kitchen, reached for the red bowl and the egg and the cereal and the milk and the banana and prepared Oliver's meal. Then, I remember, I sheepishly asked Roe if she'd like to come upstairs and see Oliver. "Sure," she said, and up the stairs we went. I sat at Oliver's bedside as Roe stood and watched over my shoulder. I gave him his first spoonful, his second. "Can I do that?" Roe asked. "Can I do that?" she asked with ease, with freedom, with compassion, so I gave her the bowl, and she fed Oliver one spoonful at a time. The power of the powerless. Which girl would you marry? Today Roe and I have three children. The post is already long today. So why quit now? . . . This story makes me really thankful today, on my 26th anniversary, for the love of my life. When I first saw her in the fall of 1976, I melted before that beautiful face, those Caribbean-blue eyes, the Farrah Fawcett hair, and a smile that made you glad you're alive just to see it. But who knows what lurks behind such a beautiful exterior? In this case, time has proven that behind all that beauty is a woman of great strength, great courage, and great faith. I just came across something I wrote from Africa a year or two ago. (Stop reading here if your tolerance for middle-schoolish romance prose is low today.) I sit here at an isolated balcony table at Gately of Jinja, surrounded by African beauty: Lake Victoria, surging trees, secretary birds, full-bloomed flowers, an azure sky, and colorful bushes. Plus, there is an easy wind off the lake. The moment is nearly perfect, as I prepare for the East Africa Men's Retreat. But not quite perfect. For I'm nine time zones away from Diane. Humor is only half funny if she isn't there to laugh. Beauty is a bit unformed if she isn't around to enjoy it. Her blue eyes are the prism through which all beauty and joy come fully alive for me. Tomorrow, I promise to return to my normal mindless observations about world issues like guacamole and little league baseball.

Monday, May 10, 2004

I'm trying to imagine a better recruiting tool for terrorists than the photos from the prison in Iraq. An angry young Moslem male is teetering on what to do with his anger and resentment. Then he sees this: the conquerors humiliating fellow Moslems with acts that are inhumane and obscene. It validates everything that he supposes, doesn't it? Is it possible that what these soldiers have done will do more to recruit terrorists than anything that's ever happened before? Osama couldn't have imagined better free publicity. It's a reminder that our hope is not in the governments and armies of humans; it is rather in the kingdom of God that continues to break through by the Risen One.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

The beauty here amazes me once again. Last summer when we visited the Grand Canyon, there was a dad there--probably about my age--who sat on a bench reading the Business Section of USA Today while his family soaked in the sights. I don't ever want to be that guy! Last night in the Tippenses' back yard, we watched deer feed with mountains, the Pacific, and a full moon as the backdrop. I've found that everyone is nourished back toward health by being either in the mountains or on the beach. For me it's the former; for Diane it's the latter. Here (in Malibu) you have both!

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Time for the Pepperdine pilgrimage. It's a rough gig that someone has to do! I appreciate all the good work that my buddy Mark Love has done to make the ACU lectureship an attractive option. But no matter what he does, he can't offer Malibu: the mountains, the salty breeze, the view of Catalina, the Pacific . . . . Usually, there are two things I do each day I'm there: take a walk at the Serra Retreat Center (where you can walk the Stations of the Cross) and eat at John's Gardens. (This is where a few years ago we watched paparazzi stalk Pamela Anderson Lee, trying to snap a few photos.) I've gone every year, every single year, since the mid-80s. It's been a place of spiritual refreshment, fresh seafood, and reconnection with buddies. What more could you ask? It's also been a place where I've always enjoyed speaking. My first keynote speech was Wednesday evening in 1987, and my opening night keynote was in 1989 (at the ripe age of 32). For the last several years I've shared an afternoon class with the Zoe singers. I love this partnership with Brandon and Gang. This year, I'm cutting my trip short. Won't even get to speak in class on Friday. I have to return for ACU's graduation dinner. Again I ask: Can Diane and I really have a child who's old enough to graduate? and to marry? And to head off to Baylor Med School? We're much too young for that, aren't we? I think it's the little league coaching that's fooling me about this age thing.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Most of us don't like paradox and tension. We like our theology nice and clean. We like to know who's in and who's out. Growing up, it was easy. You had to have the RIGHT position on baptism: the right amount of water, the right age (accountability), the right reason ("for remission of sins" -- usually nothing mentioned about "to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit"), and the right prerequisites (hear, believe, repent, and confess). You also had to have the right understanding of the church (date of origin, organization, etc.), the right kind of worship (five "acts" involving weekly communion, and acappella singing), and so on. Readers of this blog who aren't from the Churches of Christ won't understand all that. But trust me, you have your own version! The borders were clear. We were right; others were wrong. Now, I don't believe that. I don't believe people are lost just because they don't share my understanding of various passages. We are saved by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus -- not by our ability to exegete texts. Thank God for that! No wonder so many people went to their deathbeds worried about going to hell. So some have assumed I don't believe in baptism any longer. Far from it. I love the things written in a recent booklet from ACU Press by Jeff Childers and in a recent book by John Mark Hicks and Greg Taylor. But here's the catch: I don't think you have to agree with me on everything in order to follow Jesus. He is clearly working in the lives of people who drastically disagree with what I believe on some issues. I'm not an agnostic about their faith, either. I'm not saying, "Well, maybe God will be merciful on others." Nope. I'm saying, "These are my brothers and sisters in Jesus." People in whom the fruit of the Holy Spirit is clearly being produced. We have some differences of opinion--even on things that are very important to me--but we are part of the one body of Christ. It is the height of arrogance (often fueled by fear) to believe that WE got it right and in order to follow him you must follow US.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Last night, the two undefeated teams played the late game in our little league. At the end of six innings, it was tied 3-3. The rules say you keep going--as long as you don't start an inning until after 10:00. Problem: I was now out of pitchers. (They only get six innings each week.) So far this year I only have two pitchers. I used up the first on Thursday night when he pitched a 3-0 shutout. And the second one had just finished all his innings for the week. Bigger problem: the other team (who hadn't played any other full games this week) still had plenty of pitching left. And then the lightening moved in. The umpires postponed the game until another time. And whenever the game continues, my first pitcher will again be eligible! And suddenly my boys realized there are some advantages for playing for a preacher.