Mike Cope's blog

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Highland Church is in a horrible place for traditional Abilene "church growth." We're not near ACU, and we aren't in the growing area of Abilene. There are so many new stores and restaurants: Books-a-Million (hurrah! a legitimate bookstore in Abilene!), Red Robin, Jason's Deli, and a hundred other places on the South/Southwest side of town. But around Highland, there is nothing new. We are not in the right part of town. Location, location, location. But I'm so thankful we're here. I'm so thankful that we didn't move down to 707 years ago when it was considered. Because God is opening so many doors. I'm so thankful because of W. She lived across the street from our building and now, a few years after her baptism, is a vital part of this church. Though W. is mentally disabled, she is right at the center of this church. She arrives early on Sunday mornings to get coffee ready for her class. She greets everyone as they enter the building. She laughs (loudly!) at my jokes . . . and at other times. She "amens" loudly at the end of prayers. She is a truly amazing woman who is on fire for Jesus. I'm so thankful because of the Colonial Apartments. God put this vision in Maria's heart a few years ago, and now there is this partnership between Highland and the Colonial Apartments that only God could have brought about. If you haven't ever seen the Colonial Christmas Pageant at Highland (which this year is expanded to the Freedom Fellowship neighborhood), don't miss it on December 4. I'm so thankful because of the huge number of neighborhood people who are eating here at the Oasis meals on Wednesday nights. We started these meals as a chance for us to be together before the 7:00 assembly and classes. But apparently God had other plans, because there are as many nonmembers as members eating. It's a different environment, maybe not quite as relaxed as chatting with friends, but what an opportunity! (I know one reader of this blog who had an amazing opportunity to minister last week . . . if maybe she'll just share with us . . .) I'm thankful because some of the people I saw bringing sacks of groceries to the front of their church Sunday morning to share with others in need are people who at times need the church's assistance in making ends meet. Location, location, location. Ah, to be located in the middle of something God is doing. - - - - In case I don't blog tomorrow, please have a wonderful day. "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thess. 5:16-18). - - - - It was so good to see Matt and Sarah Lynn Sunday morning. The church that they planted in Eugene, Oregon, is doing well. Their group wanted to pick one of the most unchurched places in the country and they found it. I wonder if the people going there have any idea that they have one of the most gifted worship leaders (SL) anywhere? - - - - I guess this will be our first Thanksgiving without Matt since he was born in 1982. Ah, the wonder of sharing your married children! For 27 years we've alternated holiday trips between Ohio and Missouri. How has that worked for others of you? Any other holiday sharing going on out there?


  • We tried the alternating thing, but gave up several year's ago. There is no better place to be than Heidi's aunt Rena's house on Thanksgiving. Five generations of family that will end up being around 60 in attendance. The house gets very full, but we love it. The ultimate for the parents is when their kids reach the age of maturity....when they can venture upstairs in this great old house, only to be seen when food or drink is required. I'm not really sure what they do up there, but it was a happy day when they could become one of the upstairs kids. Sometime after lunch, a Casey's General Store run with all the kids for candy has been added to the tradition by this in-law....I know how to ingratiate myself with in-laws (the bottle wine that I bring from wherever my recent travels have been also helps with the Great Aunties...don't tell HU..they might quick taking my gifts if they knew about this!)

    This year we will be making a big adjustment though. Uncle Ivan, the grumpy, lovable, all-sacrificing, gentle spirit that has helped host this annual dinner for Rena's family for at least 30+ years, passed away last January. It will be very different without him, and I am prayerful for Heidi as this man was very much like a father to her, more so than her natural father. She will have a huge hole in her heart today and tomorrow as we make our final plans for the trip to Aunt Rena's.

    Thanks to all for listening.

    By Blogger Paul W, at 11/23/2005 04:28:00 AM  

  • I can't imagine not alternating holidays. It gives kids connections with both families. At times it's been inconvenient, but the only alternative is to cut out one family. And no family is that dysfunctional. Is it? We've had double the fun!

    By Blogger Emily, at 11/23/2005 04:47:00 AM  

  • Learning to be the people of God in your neighborhood is great. I'm not surprised that God has given the church great opportunities.

    By Blogger Brady, at 11/23/2005 04:49:00 AM  

  • Alternating holidays doesn't seem like it's as big of a deal this year. It's my first "major" holiday without my Mom. I imagined that it would be hard, but it's tougher than I imagined.


    By Blogger Ed Harrell, at 11/23/2005 05:10:00 AM  

  • We alternate "Thanksmas" and "Christmas" each year, and flip-flop the families the following year. We will have been married 15 years in January, so we've been at this that long.

    I was just wondering a couple days ago what it will be like when we don't do that any more. I have a lot of energy around having Christmas morning at our house, but I usually acquiesce to my wife's desire to have lots of family around. We delayed our trip one year so we could have Christmas morning at home, and my wife was MISERABLE!

    By Blogger MichaelPolutta, at 11/23/2005 06:10:00 AM  

  • We live too far away from each side of the family to have the luxury of alternating. But when we did live close by, there was a distinct preference for my mom's house. It was the fun place, and the place with the best food.

    We've tried to expand our Thanksgiving to include other families... that's happened a few times. This year we're in a new location and it will be a small immediate family affair, just the 2 of us and our 4 still-at-home kids.

    By Blogger Karen, at 11/23/2005 06:24:00 AM  

  • Mike, you will appreciate this. We are not yet to the point of having a son-in-law so we don't deal with the question. However, our daughter has already figured it out. Since she is an only child, she said she will go with her husband to visit his family for holidays, and bring her parents with her! We'll see.

    By Blogger P Watson, at 11/23/2005 06:35:00 AM  

  • Our holiday is taking a slightly different twist. This is the first time I'm not having turkey dinner prepared by the generation older than me or by me. Not visiting with my siblings or in-laws. My daughter-in law-is doing the honors at their house. We'll join in with some of her family. She is allowing me to help by bringing a pie. I pray that I can be a very good mother-in-law.

    By Blogger Sarah_RN, at 11/23/2005 06:57:00 AM  

  • This will be a first for us this year, Mike. Our Meredith is now married and won't be with us for the first time in her life. She and her husband have to work. At Christmas, they'll be with his family. So it's off to Searcy without them. I love Thanksgiving, but this year will be the first without Meredith and without my mother. Bittersweet trip. Have a great holiday, Mike. Give our love to Diane and your family.

    By Blogger drjimwhite, at 11/23/2005 07:26:00 AM  

  • Mike, the College Church in Fresno has gone through similar times. Should we move north where the growth is or should we stay where we were planted? Praise God that we've stayed put and found so much more service here than there. There is more work here and less money and isn't that great???

    Another reason I believe He has us here is the potential for working together with other local churches. There is a Presbyterian group right around the corner and a Mennonite assembly down the street. What might happen if we all got together and served as one? I pray that one day soon we'll find out.

    By Blogger Thurman8er, at 11/23/2005 07:57:00 AM  

  • Deserpate times call for measures. 3 years ago we deteremined that all the running from here to there was too much for those of us on my mother's side of the family. So we determined that we would stop getting together on Thanksgiving day and also having an additional Christmas gathering. People weren't able to come and it was getting depressing for folks to be missing out. So we have claimed the Saturday after Thanksgiving for this side of the family. We celebrate BIG. We have Thanksgiving and Christmas all in one HUGE day. It's so awesome. Everyone is able to come and we have so much fun. Everyone comes and stays all day! We start with appetizers at 11am and the last guests leave about 9pm. No one is in a rush to go somewhere else. We've opened up our house as the new traditional place for this event for 40+ cousins, inlaws, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. One of my favorite things to do is sneak off at some point during the day and set at the top of my staircase. No one sees me there, but I can close my eyes and focus on all the joy I can hear in my house. Laughter, chatter and love abounds. We still have the get togethers with all the other family on the traditional days, but this idea of the Saturday after Thanksgiving has worked out beautifully for us and has cut down on the running around a smig.

    By Blogger Snapshot, at 11/23/2005 08:25:00 AM  

  • I admire the Highland Church in Abilene for staying put and ministering to the neighborhood. Please pray that the Highland Street Church in Memphis will do the same. Moving to a new neighborhood or bigger building isn't always the best idea. The church is needed at its current location. Funny thing, the ministers and elders have told us several times that God has opened a door for us to buy this or that property but something comes up and the door closes. Maybe it's God closing the door and telling us to stay put!

    By Blogger JMH, at 11/23/2005 08:35:00 AM  

  • We are in a trial-and-error period right now. With the addition of our son this year, this kind of changes holidays for us. Used to, we would just take these as they come each year and see what would work out best for everyone's schedules.

    On Thanksgiving, my husband is a supervisor with Homeland Security so he works on Thanksgiving - it doesn't fall on is day off. He could take off because he has seniority; but holidays are great extra income for us because he gets paid for the holiday; and then he gets paid for working the holiday plus holiday pay for working the holiday! So, this is the second year that I am cooking and his mother and sisters are coming here. My brother we never know about unless he shows up. So, this year, we invited my parents over to join us - and then we'll have plenty of food if my brother decides to join us. My family lives here and my husband's family only lives a couple of hours away. So even with Kevin's parents being divorced; they are both in the same city, so at Christmas Day and the following day we will go there and divide our time between families.

    What I am really excited about this year is that when I grew up my grandmother's family had big reunions during the holiday season. Once her and her brothers and sisters had all passed on, the reunions faded away. My dad and his cousins decided to revive the reunions this year- and they will be the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I am looking forward to that and hopefully, many more!

    I wish you and everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!

    By Blogger Melanie Morales, at 11/23/2005 10:30:00 AM  

  • Oh yeah. I know about alternating. Hurrah for a quietThanksgiving that will soon be over - and for Christmas soon to come. It's our year, you know. God be with you.

    By Blogger Coping, at 11/23/2005 10:53:00 AM  

  • This is the first Thanksgiving ever without my 17 year old daughter. She is in Uganda with the Ankole Mission Team. We will miss her so much. I don't know how parents of missionaries do it year after year. That is true sacrifice. One good thing about it--she has now narrowed her choices of vocation--it will not be teaching second grade!!

    By Blogger jlane, at 11/23/2005 10:53:00 AM  

  • Thanksgiving Day is my favorite holiday of all. Christmas without the stress of present-buying. Both of our sons will be absent from the family table. College son has gone to visit married son out in LA. We won't be with married son & darling d-i-l at Christmas either. Can't think about it too much or I'll get a little blue. However, am so thankful to God that he has blessed me with sons who love Him, are healthy, are capable, & who call their mom on Holidays & regular days!

    By Blogger annie, at 11/23/2005 10:55:00 AM  

  • Here's what you do: Marry a guy whose parents live in Alaska. Decide to live in Texas. The holiday thing will never be an issue because they live so far away. You can almost pretend they don't exist. This worked well for us for a number of years. Until they divorced and one of them moved in with us. But that's another blog for another day.

    By Blogger Deana Nall, at 11/23/2005 12:08:00 PM  

  • Eugene, Oregon is one of the most unchurched cities in one of the most unchurched states in the Union. I'm glad somebody's doing well with a church there.

    Here's a Thanksgiving Poem if anybody's interested:


    By Blogger Rick, at 11/23/2005 02:54:00 PM  

  • Mike, can you send me some contact info for Matt and Sarah? We worked for five years in Eugene, Oregon and know of a group of believers meeting there trying to be in the middle of God's work. Our friends in Eugene would love to be acquainted with others working towards the same goal.


    By Blogger Randy, at 11/23/2005 03:02:00 PM  

  • Mike -

    I know I'm really late in adding my comment here for today, but that's because I've been gone all day working on church related (Tammany Oaks in Mandeville) and hurricane related things that needed to be done.

    I just want to ask all of you who happen to read this comment to pray for us. For me and my husband, Tom, here in "Katrina Zone," and for all of the other thousands and thousands here, too, because things here, for a lot of us, are just getting worse and worse with the ever widening ripples of loss and hardship that no one outside of this area can even begin to imagine.

    I had planned for today - a glorious cool fall day here - to be spent preparing my beloved husband a Thanksgiving meal for the two of us for tomorrow, but, instead, have had to be out all day taking care of church things and hurricane related things.

    My husband, who is no exception to the rule around here, left home YESTERDAY morning at 5:30 a.m. and hasn't been home since. Worse - due to yet ANOTHER (of many) employee leaving his employ at the newspaper in Picayune, Mississippi, just up the road, late this afternoon, he will not be able to come home until maybe 1 a.m. TOMORROW - Thanksgiving Day - having had NO - NONE - sleep since 5:30 a.m. Tuesday morning.

    Please, please, remember ALL of those thousands and thousands of people down here in "Katrina Zone" whose lives have been turned upside down to the extent that nothing, and I do mean nothing, is any more normal, nor will it be for a long, long time.

    We need your prayers to hold on, to keep going, to keep trying to shine as God's beacons to those in even more distress than we, and to know that in the end, God will keep us all safe in His care until that day of His return for us all on this earth.

    That is my thanksgiving prayer for tonight and I ask all of you who will to pray it with me.

    By Blogger Dee O'Neil Andrews, at 11/23/2005 06:00:00 PM  

  • Dee, thanks for your comment and the reminder to continue praying for rebuilding after Katrina. I guess the Holidays will be different in many ways for you this year.

    We are having an unusual week having come off a long trip today rather than just starting one! We had an added bonus of a pre-Thanksgiving visit to Oklahoma for a wedding.

    Today we arrived in Mississippi to celebrate with my family before heading back home to Tennessee on Saturday.

    At the moment I am just so thankful to be out of that van with my three children!!

    By Blogger Amy, at 11/23/2005 07:55:00 PM  

  • My brother spoke at the youth-led Oasis devo tonight in his yearly "gig". He did a great job, of course. It was funny, though, because during the singing before he spoke, I looked over and there he was sitting in "your" chair, looking just like I have seen you look many times in worship before. Then I come read your blog, and you post the same verse that he spoke from tonight. It's just too funny. :)

    P.S. My family has done the alternating thing ever since I can remember. We do Thanksgiving with Mom's side and Christmas with Dad's, and the next year we switch. Only we're now on the third year in a row to have Thankgiving with Mom's side since we had to flip last year due to my grandmother's death right around Thanksgiving. Pray for my family tomorrow. It will probably be a hard day to not have my grandmother at the Thanksgiving table this year.

    Send my love to Diane and Chris!

    By Blogger Heather A, at 11/23/2005 10:53:00 PM  

  • California every other year for Christman. We had to buy a third ticket this year. The trip is now officially expensive. My inlaws are here in town, but gas is also expensive.

    By Blogger Byron, at 11/24/2005 08:38:00 PM  

  • Thanks for the dinner gigs that you guys do for your neighborhood. I didn't know you guys did that.

    I love that neighborhood. I lived in it for 5 years (around Russel & Santos).

    Keep serving them. Thanks

    By Blogger Agent B, at 11/26/2005 05:56:00 PM  

  • Re: Location, Location, Location

    Perhaps... It's gonna be great after all. Abilene is a SMALL place and the commute from anywhere to anywhere is pretty laughable... Not near ACU... yeah there are ALOT of christians at ACU, but then you would be preaching to the choir? Not a bad thing, but is that really "growing" or just rearranging? Hmmm... Have you considered an Alpha course?

    By Blogger Jill, at 11/27/2005 08:30:00 AM  

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