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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Unleashing Begun

Recently I took ten pastors on our first Life Go trip. These trips are designed to build the team and develop leaders. While at Christ Community Church in Winter Haven, FL, we interacted with pastor, staff and board, attended a Celebration Recovery meeting, heard testimonies from new Christians, sat through seminars and watched a growing church work two services on Sunday morning.

One pastor wrote, "As I sat on the plane on the flight down I was blown away. More than fourteen years ago my wife and I accepted the call to pastor our church. With little more than faith and God's vision we have pressed toward the goal, steadily chipping away, making a dent in our world. I give God the praise for the miracles He has performed through us and in the lives of our church family. It has been my fervent prayer for over two years to be challenged by God and not to let complacency be the rule of my ministry. That, somehow, through someone, I might learn more to break through the barriers and not only lead more souls to Christ, but to disciple them to a thriving relationship with God. As I looked out that window and contemplated where we were going and what we were going for, I simply cried with praise and thanks for this opportunity and His answer to one of my prayers. For some time now, I have felt lost at sea with my goal in sight but not so much as a paddle with which to get there. I now have more than a paddle to stroke with; I have someone else to help get me there."

He continued, "Thank you for your help, vision, encouragement, leadership, challenge, and most of all, leading by example. I look forward to the future, tremble with excitement, and know you are going to kick my backside if I don't get going.

As I read this, I thought of the tag line we are now using--"Unleashing a Team of Energized Leaders to Multiply Life-Changing Churches".

One highlight of the trip for me was watching my dad pray over the pastors from my district. He was so excited to be well enough to participate in the activities of the weekend. As the man I love dearly prayed over pastors I am learning to love, I thought, "It just doesn't get much better than this."

Oh yes... We made him an honorary member of the ENY/NE District--certificate and ceremony!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Sometimes I’m not proud of myself. I confess that it is more fun to blog about the more positive characteristics of my life than it is about the flaws. Recently, a situation really ‘bugged’ me. It had been growing for several months and I had handled things well. But finally my frustration boiled over! I could feel my adrenaline pumping, the edge crept into my voice, my jaw tensed and all I could think of was the apparent incompetence of the one I was talking to. My voice grew a little louder---I was offended and upset. I didn’t take my rod and strike the rock but I understood why Moses did.

When something like this happens while I am trying to straighten out a Cable TV account or rectify an errant bill, I am not proud, but secretly know that I’ll never see or talk to that person again. When it’s with someone I know, it’s a little different. I’m very unhappy with myself.

Following this situation, God sat down beside me and said,

“1) You are under considerable stress. Be careful that you pace yourself.
2) You are weary. You didn’t sleep more than two hours last night and your plate has been full.
3) You are coming off of a spiritual high. You’ve led several people to Me in the past few days.
4) However, that’s no excuse and with My help you can do better.”

“Yes, Lord,” I replied, and “I am ashamed.”

Opening my devotional book the next morning, I discovered that God wasn’t through teaching me.



Keep Your Peace

Have you ever gotten into an argument before church and felt like a hypocrite during the entire service? Understand this: the Devil knows that God’s Word can only be ‘sown in peace’ (Jas 3:18), so he will do everything he can to keep you from receiving it and being blessed by it. That’s why you must do whatever it takes to keep your peace. There’s power in peace! If the Devil can’t get you upset he has no power over you. He only gains control when you ‘lose it.’ He plans to get you upset in order to steal your peace, confuse you and make you run in circles. Don’t let him.

James writes, “The wisdom that is from above is…peaceable.” In The Message Eugene Peterson paraphrases this Scripture: “Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoys its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor” (v. 17-18 TM). Notice, getting along with others can be ‘hard work’.

So next time you get worked up about some issue, ask yourself, “What’s the enemy trying to do here? If I give in to these emotions what will the result be?” When you’re stressed out you lose your joy, and when you lose your joy you lose your strength because “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Ne 8:10). So today, pray, exercise self-control, and keep your peace.


When I read this timely and powerful exhortation, I felt like a boy who had been spanked/disciplined/taken to the woodshed/put in time out. You pick the punishment you identify with.

“Oh Lord, I’m sorry. Restore my peace. Please!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Divine Appointments

The phone rang! Would I have time to talk to a couple that was experiencing marriage problems? I had spoken in their church a couple of months ago (the church did not have a pastor and they felt a connection to me). If I could do this they would appreciate it. That was the gist of the conversion.

Last Sunday evening I met them in Albany. It was my first trip to the Crossgate Mall; it was not my first trip to Ruby Tuesdays (Susan loves their salad bar). For a couple of hours I listened and shared with a delightful couple. At the end, he bowed his head and prayed the ‘sinner’s prayer’. She is close to the Kingdom. I expect a victory call from her any day.

An appointment was set! Susan and I needed someone to help with her dad on occasion, to relieve her so that she could do errands and get out of the house. Some months ago, I had advertised for an executive assistant. Lots of resumes were mailed in. I interviewed three. One of the three was well versed in elder care and dementia. I didn’t hire her for the office but miraculously had made a contact for what was on the horizon. Since then, Kim and her friend, Kim, have decided to start a business that takes care of elderly in their homes. The business has a cute name—There Is No Place Like Home. Now that we needed advice and help, Kim & Kim were coming for a visit. Kim #1 couldn’t come because her son was sick, but Kim #2 arrived.

“I used to attend the Wesleyan Church,” she said as we talked. I sensed this was another divine appointment. Life had happened to Kim, leaving her hurt and questioning. She was eager to share and told me of her years of involvement and service in our local church.

“You would like to reconnect with God, wouldn’t you?” I asked. She was ready, God was ready, and in my office they got back together.

The rest of the interview went well. Susan and I have reinforcements for our challenges. Kim has reinforcements for her challenges.

God moments! Divine appointments! I love them!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Mid-Night Musings!

It’s 4:30 a.m. and I am wide awake. I have been since 2:30 a.m. when we found my father-in-law on his bedroom floor, where he had fallen at some point on his way to the bathroom. We just brought him home from the hospital on Saturday. A week’s worth of tests brought lots of news.

Alzheimer’s, dementia, TIA’s, and a significant stroke some time in the past were part of the diagnosis. Parkinson’s and other related issues only complicated matters. 24/7 care—shouldn’t be left alone—home health care—all these bring a fresh sense of reality to this season of life. It’s a significant change for us—even more so for him. A dignified man who spent many of his years caring for others with health issues, he is now reduced to relying exclusively on others for bathing, personal hygiene, dressing, meals, and business.

Five times Susan and I have had such change in life responsibility. Three times we came home from the hospital with a little bundle of joy, full of burps, hiccups, coos and smiles. Life was never the same after they came—each one bringing something different to the family.

The fourth time was when we brought our daughter and her newborn baby home to live with us for a season. As Kathy worked on her college degree, we helped share the responsibility of that first grandchild.

And now, a father joins our household, changing our life for a season. As I’ve reflected this past week, I’ve prayed, “Lord, help us to know how to make the right medical decisions. Medicare and insurance are so complicated and life is already full. Grant us access to the right ‘counselors’ that will guide us. Lead us to the right medical personnel—home health care and other folks who know how to lift the load and make life manageable for Mr. Cooke and for Susan. Keep the tension of ongoing anxiety, perplexity and change from driving wedges between Susan and me. Grant us peace, calm and contentment with this season of our life. Help us learn so that we might use our life lessons to help others along their way. Forgive our inability to sympathize with others who have undergone life-changing experiences.”

What’s that I hear? The walker, headed for the bathroom. I’d better go make sure he gets there safely. I think I also hear chunks of my ‘comfortable life’ falling away as God keeps chiseling. He says that there is a masterpiece inside of me, and He keeps looking for it, sanding and shaping, molding and making, season by season of this sojourn called life!