Stealing the Pope

We only borrowed him, really.

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…

3 Lessons from the Storm

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…

  1. 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.
  2. Fear and faith are like oil and water. They do not mix.
  3. 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.

Good stuff.



3 Loves, 1 Huge Disappointment

Watching the first week’s course was a mixed bag. First my 3 loves.

3 Favorite Quotes:

  1. The Bible wasn’t written to make you a smarter sinner. It was written to make you more like the Son.
  2. There is no growth apart from the word of God.
  3. 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 need the content in my soul.

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Take My Favorite Seminary Class With Me

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.


Sign up today and let me know on Facebook Message or email I’ll do the first class tomorrow and we can start posting our comments.


Unreal Reunion

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.

Cottonwood – will see you on Sunday!

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An Easter Confession

unnamedFor 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.

Face-Time Worship

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 2015 End of Year Letter

Emerson’s first REAL Christmas

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.

John Ortberg and I

Image processed by CodeCarvings Piczard ### FREE Community Edition ### on 2015-05-27 14:46:56Z | |

John and I, we have so much in common.

Like short names.

Anyhow I was thrilled to learn I was listed with John as recipients of an Evangelical Press award for 2015. So, here is my unashamed bragging blog…

The article states: The Evangelical Press Association is a professional association of more than 300 Christian publications and affiliates—magazines, newspapers and newsletters—and content-rich websites.

[300. You got that, right? OK, on we go.]

In addition to the Award of Excellence, Leadership Journal received nine additional awards.

Art director Doug Fleener received the award for best cover of the year (for the October 2014 issue: “One Church, Many Parts”).

[really was a cool cover]

Our website,, received an award of merit in the Christian ministry digital category.

[what, pray tell, is the ministry digital category? casting the demons out of Windows 10?]

Managing editor Drew Dyck’s interview with Max Lucado, “Leading in Prayer,” received the award for best interview of the year.

[Way to go Drew. I can’t talk to that guy]

And other awards went to:

Tony Kriz for “That Mysterious Gospel” (Biblical Exposition).

[Tony is into a cult. kidding]

Skye Jethani, Paul Pastor, Drew Dyck, and Tim Gioia for “Parse” (Blog).

Peyton Jones for “My Near Life Experience” (First-Person Article).

[Peyton is mostly dead? Interesting title]

John Ortberg for “When a Pastor Resigns Abruptly” (General Article—short).

Daniel Cooley for “Pastoral Envy” (Humorous Article).

[they keep me away from the serious stuff]

Doug Fleener and Metaleap Creative for Publication Redesign.

“It’s fun to share news like this with our readers,” said managing editor Drew Dyck. “We hope it affirms our readers in their choice of publications. We continue to work hard to provide the best journal we can for church leaders.”

You can read the full article here.


Confessions of an Idiot Pastor

Image processed by CodeCarvings Piczard ### FREE Community Edition ### on 2015-08-31 16:17:46Z | |

At times I’m an idiot pastor. Often even.

That’s OK, it helps me get published.

The latest that made Leadership Journal is here.

The quote they highlighted was: “Having watched the entire series of “24,” I first checked to make sure I didn’t have a hole in my chest. Surprisingly, I was okay.” I’m glad Leadership has kept a sense of humor. Hope you enjoy it too.