Here is the picture that was supposed to go out with a Christmas letter. It's from our trip to Estes Park last summer. So "Merry Christmas from the Copes" (either very belatedly or very early). I've been working with a lot of old pictures, getting a presentation ready for a family gig. Here is my beloved's high school graduation picture (posted withOUT permission): And here she is a couple weeks ago in Kauai. (Time has been very kind to her.) - - - - Someone told me they heard people discussing my blog on an Abilene radio station earlier this week--people speculating as to why I pulled last Saturday's post. I'll drop it back on later. But I wanted OUT of that discussion. At least I didn't want some Abilene residents' first exposure to my blog to be over that discussion that began in the comments section (while I was out of town doing a very difficult graveside service). - - - - Tomorrow I'm preaching from Matthew 6 on the Lord's Prayer, which we have prayed almost every Sunday since 1995. The buzz over "The Prayer of Jabez" has died down, it seems. But right in the midst of that Buzz, James Mulholland wrote a book which begins by contrasting the prayer of Jabez with the Lord's Prayer. Here's what Eugene Peterson said about Mulholland's Praying Like Jesus: The Lord's Prayer in a Culture of Prosperity: "An astonishing number of Americans these days are being taught a prayer that is little more than being selfish on their knees. When they stand up and go about their work, they are more selfish than ever. James Mulholland will have none of it. With urgency and clarity he sends us straight to the Prayer of Jesus, the prayer that clears the air of all illusions so that we can breathe pure Spirit." Here is some of what Mulholland wrote: "Across America, hundreds of pastors are being pulled aside by excited church members who are saying, 'You have to pray this prayer. It's changed my life.' Such a testimony is hard to dispute, especially when it is a prayer that includes the requests 'bless me, enlarge my territory, keep your hand on me, and keep me from pain.' In a materialistic, self-centered culture, such a prayer will always be attractive. Many pastors will embrace this prayer wholeheartedly. They will incorporate it into worship and preach a sermon series on each phrase. They will give copies of The Prayer of Jabez to their entire congregation. They will ignore the warnings of the author that his book was not intended to justify selfishness. They will encourage their church members to begin every morning with this prayer. Unfortunately, they won't reflect on the dangers of teaching self-centered people to begin each day with the chant, 'Bless me!' They won't worry about the compromises inherent in a marriage of prayer and prosperity. They won't consider the consequences of making prayer into a device for getting what we want. In the midst of this frenzy of egotism, they will overlook the obvious--the Prayer of Jabez isn't the prayer Jesus taught us to pray. Indeed, in significant ways the Prayer of Jabez is counter to the heart of the gospel and the priorities of Jesus. It represents the advancement of self and the resistance to self-denial Jesus confronted in his day and God continues to challenge within Christianity. And, although Mr. Wilkinson has tried to redeem the words of Jabez, he has only succeeded in fanning into flame the embers of a prosperity theology many had hoped was finally dying. He forgot the reason Jesus didn't teach his disciples the Prayer of Jabez. Jabez got it wrong. In fairness to Jabez and to the Bible, neither suggest his prayer should be the model for others. This honor is reserved for another short prayer located in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. It is the prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray. We call this prayer 'The Lord's Prayer,' though I prefer to call it the Prayer of Jesus." Well, I won't be picking on Jabez tomorrow. But I will be trying to help us imagine that counter-cultural world of this prayer--a world where the dominion of God has broken through, where his reign comes crashing through into our lives. - - - - [Added at noon] - There is an AP article all over the internet today about the work my brother and my sister-in-law are doing to help bring an extremely sick orphan to the States from Vietnam. You can read about it here, for example.