“If you remain faithful when facing death, I will give you the crown of life.” Jesus, Rev 2:10
“Help me walk the walk.” Steve
I’ve missed the application of Rev 2:10 – it’s not just faith in persecution – something bigger is going on here.
In context the church in Smyrna is facing persecution, and in the future people will be thrown into prison. Some may die. So God is telling them to get ready now, to be faithful even to death, if that is what is coming for them.
But I believe it also applies to Macen, and Steve, and my parents – people who were faithful to God when facing death. Not persecution death, but cancer or Alzheimer’s or yet-another-stroke death. When Steve was diagnosed I asked him how I could pray for him. He asked me to “pray that I would walk the walk God has for me.” He was concerned he would get mad at God, and be a poor example for his boys still living at home. He didn’t want to die a poser, a man who could follow God in the good times, but dumped God in the hard times.
More recently I watched 17-year-old Macen walk the walk. I watched my parents do the same. It’s not just faith in the face of persecution that is going on here. It’s faith in God when God seems unfaithful. It’s knowing God is good all the time when the circumstances, which God could change, are not good. It’s walking the walk when the walk sucks, in faith that God’s walk is better than the walk we would rather be on.
So Micah and Dad had grand plans to get the Christmas letter out for Christmas this year. Micah started it, gave it to Dad, and next thing you know it was Christmas. So, in the grand Cooley tradition of late New Year’s letters, here we go.
Mama and Papa Cooley: After seven years of being portable, the church finally has a building! This is exciting for many reasons, not the least of which is that neither JO or Dan have to yell at their children to get up early to set up or stay late to tear down–which might be more exciting for Micah and Caleb than it is for anyone else. We merged with another church, oddly like what I’d assume a blended marriage to be like. So far, so good. JO is still working for Presbyterian Hospital as a Patient / Family Advocate. After 30+ years living with Dan, she knows how to keep stressed mental people content.
Megan and Jon: They had a baby, and we know it’s theirs because it likes to stay home, shuns people, and loves sleep. They are getting along very well, and it’s pretty much everything they could have hoped for. His name is Memphis, but everyone just calls him Muffins. Megan is working at Presbyterian Hospital when not with Memphis. Jon graduated with a degree in Communications from UNM in May, and continues to work in the sound industry. We thought there might be an opening taking over the DNC emails or Trump twitter accounts, but they are still waiting for the call. Whose loss?
Amanda and Jake: After a year of figuring out life with epilepsy, Amanda can drive again! This is yet another great thing for Caleb and Micah, as it means that they’re not chaperoning Amanda and her toddlers around. Emerson is now 2, Oliver 3, and they are a ton of fun when not breaking things. Also, Amanda is about to have another baby (July 2017), because you know, why not, it’s a new year. They also bought a house close to the new church with a great view for Balloon Fiesta.
Micah: graduated from UNM with a degree in English, then spent a summer at Camp Peniel, and then a couple months teaching English in Haiti. He decided not to retire in Port-au-Prince, and instead is on orders with the Air Guard for the next six months. After that, God knows. The saddest part of 2016 for Micah was when Dad borrowed his limited-edition Miata, only to be rear-ended by a drunk driver just a half-mile away and have the beautiful car totaled. We kept the gear-shift knob. Not much else was left.
andCaleb: finished at the community college, and is about to go to Moody Bible College in Chicago. His Christmas wish list was a coat, and mitts, and boots, and long underwear, and a hat, and…. Dan bribed his way to a Masters there in 2000, and Caleb’s grandma Cooley graduated from Moody in 1945, which was, I believe, a very good year.
Hoping and praying 2017 is a great year for you as well.
2017 thought: “Look for Christ and you will find him. And with him, everything else.” – CS Lewis
Saturday around 6:30 PM Micah came over and parked behind my car. I hate it when people park behind me. So, I said to myself, “self,” I said, “I’ll just take his car. The Miata is more fun anyway.”
Amanda and I were needing to leave early Sunday morning to get to Phoenix for her week at Barrows Neurological Clinic, so Jo and I thought we would slip away Saturday night for some dessert. JoLynn slid into the passenger’s seat, and I took a few minutes -maybe 20 or so – to fold myself into the driver’s side of the Miata. We went East on Cabazon, then North on Unser and into the left hand turn lane to get some after-supper ice cream at that place by Discount Tire. I was looking ahead in traffic to find a break to turn left when suddenly there was this huge crash and we took off like a rocket.
The next thing I knew there were two tires on the median, two on the road, with the bottom of the Miata scraping the curb at about 70mph. My first thought?
I didn’t just hit the curb again like I did in Shawna’s car, did I? When we finally stopped, Jo was shaking, her neck, back and foot hurting. But, do I check to see how she is doing? Do I stop and check to see how I am doing? No.
Instead I rip open my door and look at the back of the car. The trunk was shoved all the way to behind JoLynn’s seat. That was the best thing I saw all day. It wasn’t my fault!
We later found out a drunk driver came around a corner, flew up Unser, nailed us in the rear – then went across all lanes and took down a light pole – then made it up to Southern and took out another three cars.
All I know is we are all safe, Amanda and I were still able to go to Arizona the next morning, and Micah will never park behind me again.
Wreck or no wreck, healing or none, merger or not, God is good – all the time.
It’s Saturday, and we have been in the hospital since Monday waiting for seizures. Amanda is constantly hooked up to an EEG, with 28 electrode things glued to her head, limited by a 15 foot umbilical cord. Life is dull.
So, on my way back from purchasing a junior bacon cheeseburger and fries, the very last thing she remembers smelling when she had her first major seizure, i noticed the Pope in the lobby. And, i said to myself, “Self,” i said, “He looks lonely, and Amanda needs a pastoral visit, and there is no one here on the weekend to stop us.”
After the failed attempt to resurrect a seizure with a cheeseburger and fries, I zipped down six flights of stairs, and checked out the lobby. There were a few nurses wondering through, and a someone cleaning up the place. Once things looked clear, the Pope and i made our way back upstairs. People normally use the elevators here, so i figured that was safest. I was wrong.
There must have been half a dozen people staring at me on their way down, watching the Pope and i go up. I tried to look important and like i was too busy to stop. Besides, who would steal a Pope and go UPstairs? We made it unscathed.
John Paul is back down in his normal spot now – glad, i believe, to have been able to get out of the lobby for a change. Thankfully i only got a couple odd looks bringing him back home.
Still no seizures. Maybe if i brought up the baptismal font…
This week Howard Hendricks gave three terrific observations about the storm in Mark 4:35-41. It’s when Jesus told the disciples to cross the lake at night, and the storm came up, and they were afraid they would all drown, but Jesus calmed the storm. OK, here we go…
We don’t develop faith by listening to lectures (they had been listening to Christ all day). We develop faith in the laboratory of life.
Fear and faith are like oil and water. They do not mix.
When Jesus Christ — is in my boat — it will not sink. Or, another way he put it was, “When Jesus says, ‘Lets go to the other side of the lake,’ He is not saying, ‘Lets go half way across and drown.'”
Another thought from the end of the lesson: Jesus wants what is best, He knows what is best, and He will do what is best.
The Bible wasn’t written to make you a smarter sinner. It was written to make you more like the Son.
There is no growth apart from the word of God.
This book will keep you from sin – or sin will keep you from this book.
That was good stuff. But now for the disappointment.
I was disappointed these lectures were not recorded directly from the classes. They were SO GOOD! The change is a bit like my memory of watching the first, original Star Wars movie (is it #1 or #4 now? way too complicated). Everyone gasped in wonder when the light-saber came out, gasped in horror when Obi Wan died, and cheered at the end. It’s not the same now watching it with my grand-kids after hooking up the old VHS. It has the same great content, but somehow loses it’s soul in the presentation.
This course is still worth it for the content, but i miss its soul. Still, I’ll keep watching one a week this month.
I went to Dallas Theological Seminary, Western Seminary, and Moody Seminary. After taking a zillion hours due to moving and switching schools, my favorite class was…
My first class. And my first class was…
Bible Study Methods – but DTS called it Hermeneutics. That’s because they are a seminary, and the class cost $900 back in 1985. No one in there right mind would pay close to a grand for Bible Study Methods. But for Hermeneutics it was a steal. And you can get an even better deal.
And, there may be no more important class than Bible Study Methods. So Take a Class a Week for the Month of May with Me – sign up here!
This class was taught by Howard Hendricks, and I took it on Thursday nights. I was bummed, because The Cosby Show had just started, and it was really funny, and we didn’t know that we shouldn’t like him back then.
But a strange thing happened – I liked Heremeneutics even better than The Cosby Show. Thankfully, it’s still OK to like this.
The truth is – you won’t get the whole class for free – but you will get the four key lessons that all Bible Study Methods are based on. And did I mention this was my favorite class from three seminaries? And – these are the four best lessons of my favorite class.
DON’T MISS THIS!
Sign up today and let me know on Facebook Message or email firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll do the first class tomorrow and we can start posting our comments.
If you ever feel like your life is worthless, have a Reunion. A Youth Group Reunion. It’s great therapy, even if it is unreal.
Back in the 90s I was Youth Pastor for Del Norte (now New Life) Church. I was paid to organize trips to Mexico, Disneyland, Mark Matlock and Magic Mountain; to go camping and rappelling in the White Mountains and Colorado; to raft down the Salt River and study my Bible. It was a tough life.
When the kids (now all around 40!) showed up, it’s amazing what you remember. There is no telling what brings a kid back to Christ. You remember the difficult conversations, the crazy stupid things the kids got into in High School, and the crazy stupid things I did to try to help out. But now, decades later, to see young families of believers, I’m reminded, God’s Word really does work. There is a reason to be in this job – a reason besides Disneyland.
But – Disneyland was cool.
But – Disneyland was temporary cool. The reunion was a little piece of Heaven. Eternally cool. Totally unreal.
Thanks New Life / Del Norte youth for putting it all together.
For pastors like me, Easter can be too busy to worship. Well, we go to worship, lead it even, but the sit-down-get -your -personal-life-in-order-contemplative worship isn’t happening. It’s ironic, stupid even, but true. There’s extra services, extra set-up and tear-down for us portable folks, eggs to color and a special service to plan. Who has time for worship?
I stole the blog below from the department chair of Media Arts and Worship at Dallas Seminary. It was convicting for me, was hoping it could be helpful for you too.
Jesus entered the temple area and began to drive out those who were selling and buying in the temple courts. . . . and he would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts.(Mark 11:15–16, NET)
It’s the Monday before the cross. But Jesus isn’t frazzled, rushing about, desperate to get His house in order. Instead, He is calmly getting His Father’s house in order. For us. The Gentiles.
Jesus first encountered Gentiles in His home when wise men from the east arrived after a long journey by starlight to worship Him as a child. Now, in His Father’s house, those living on God’s doorstep had co-opted true worship by streamlining and commercializing the process.
Here, in the court of the Gentiles, worshipers purchased sacrificial animals without missing a beat. Facebook worship. Casual. Easy-breezy. Limp. “Friending” God doesn’t work. He requires face time.
But, then as now, time was in short supply—so those in charge of the facility (as I’m sure the spiritual bean-counters had come to regard it) created a shortcut through the court of the Gentiles lest marketplace shoppers be inconvenienced by having to walk around the temple. “Good for business,” we can hear them rationalize. “A way to consolidate commerce and communion. Besides, some of the shoppers may be seekers. A shortcut would at least get them close to the spiritual action.” But Jesus blows the whistle, stopping the hurly-burly traffic through the plaza dedicated to Gentile worship.
I feel Him tugging at my sleeve too. Because I sometimes regard worship as an interruption. Which is precisely what it is intended to be. An interruption of my soul-scorching pace. Real worship forces me to pause—to acknowledge that no amount of hurry will improve the odds that I will “win.” Speed doesn’t alter the fact that we are hurtling toward a spiritual dead end. It just gets us there faster. The velocity of authentic worship is as slow as starlight.
This Easter, let’s slow down. Let’s savor slow and contemplative worship.
—Dr. Reg Grant, Department Chair and Senior Professor of Media Arts and Worship
COOLEY CHRISTMAS LETTER 2015 – written by our son Micah
So you know how we always get me [Micah], your favorite grandson/nephew/cousin/somehow related person, to write the Christmas letter, and how it’s always stupid, and how I always procrastinate to the last minute and it winds up being a “Year in Review” letter rather than a “Christmas” letter, and how it’s always a bad idea?
We did it again.
Mama and Papa Cooley: Mama Cooley is working for the first time since having a chipmunk-cheeked baby in 1985. So, for the first time since the Reagan administration, Mama Cooley is employed as a Patient and Family Advocate at Presbyterian Hospital. No, I don’t know what that means, but she’s making more money than the rest of us. The shocker is, she somehow found gainful employment doing something other than quilting.
Papa Cooley spent most of this year doing Papa Cooley things, primarily not going on his sabbatical, because life is awful. I can’t remember if Bizarre Bible Stories 2 came out this year or last year, but go buy a copy. All the proceeds go to the Children’s Cancer Recovery Foundation. Read it in your Prius, while drinking your fair-trade coffee in your fair-wage clothing, while feeling superior to all your friends – because you are.
Megan and Jon: MEGAN IS SUPER PREGNANT. She still has like, three months or something to go, so not super super pregnant, but she’s getting there. She’s not quite to the point where you can start making fat jokes (which is by far the best part), but she’s on her way. The kid will inevitably be a boy, because that’s the way life works.
Jon is graduating next semester, right after the littlest Penner pops out, so that’s pretty much right on time. Good for him and his flawless punctuality on obtaining that degree in… something. No one gets a job in their degree anyway.
Amanda and Jake: I FINALLY GET TO WRITE A CHRISTMAS LETTER WHERE AMANDA ISN’T PREGNANT OR HAS RECENTLY GIVEN BIRTH. Unfortunately, that means I’m out of joke material. She was a gold mine for barely-appropriate-for-a-Christmas-letter humor. In August Amanda and Jake moved into our house on account of the fact that she’s having seizures now, so uh, not a lot of joke material there either. Please pray with us as she seeks a second opinion with a neurological clinic that specializes in seizures.
Fortunately, having Jake and Amanda here means we also have Emerson and Oliver in the house. Today I discovered the joy of buying a two-year-old his first lightsaber. Oliver is smashing up the house as I write. It’s hilarious. I love being an uncle. Amanda and Jake seem less enthused.
Myself and Caleb: We’re still not married, so we’re both here. With parents. Still. It’s totally gonna suck when one of us does get married, and the other one of us is written about in a lonely section, all alone, at the bottom of the annual Christmas letter.
FORTUNATELY, NOT YET. We’re both still single, alone, and crying often. It is very sad.
What isn’t sad is that I am only one class short of graduating from UNM. I also move out next month. So hey, moving out at 24 is right on time! Right? I hope you’re nodding yes, wherever you are. I know mom is.
Caleb is back in community college and then after next semester… you’re guess is as good as mine. Which is probably a guess as good as his. I’ll let you know next year in the next letter. The next six months of his life is always a surprise. He doesn’t get bored.
John 1:14 (NLT) So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. James 1:17 (NLT) Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father.
Merry Christmas! Well, Happy New Year.
Micah (and parent appropriateness editors) for all.