- Lawrence "Chunk" Cohen
i'm not one to determine whether an event, day, year, etc. was good or bad through reflection. if i don't automatically have an emphatic answer to "how was your day/year/the party/dinner/whatever?" then it was probably fine. nothing to complain about. nothing to rave about.
while this is a good thing, i believe, in keeping me from getting discouraged or riding crests of emotionalism, it also can minimize events in my memory that should be reflected upon with more effort. so, with 2008 coming to a close, i'll try to recount some of the major events that transpired.
in february, grammy (my mom's mom) passed away. she lived a long, full life and was a believer in Jesus Christ, so it was a sweet time of remembrance for my fam. we laughed, cried, and laughed some more. i was thinking the other day that even though she had SO many kids, grand kids, and great grand kids we probably all have memories and stories about her that are unique to each one of us. i got to ride in a hot air balloon with her several years ago, complete with crash landing! i also had the privilege, at the funeral, of reading something my brother wrote which summed up several memories that everyone in the family could relate to. beyond that privilege, i got to celebrate and proclaim that grammy was in heaven because of grace through faith in Jesus, not because she was a really cool grandmother.
in march, i got to travel to muzquiz, mexico on a mission trip with some of our high school students. half of our group stayed in the states to do construction, while i went with the other half into mexico to help an organization called "share God's love with all" do some block party evangelism. i'm always surprised by how much spanish comes back to me when several in our group don't know any at all!
in april, i went to visit my brother and his fam in tennessee. while there i drove up and previewed southern baptist theological seminary in louisville, ky. i liked it a lot. don't know if i'm headed there any time soon, though, or even at all.
2008 marked the first year in several that we took our high school students to a "camp" camp rather than a "resort" camp. i wasn't sure how they would respond, but the feedback was really great.
in july i was blessed to go back to africa for the second straight year. this year we went to northern, south africa. i had never been to south africa, but i knew from the many stories i've heard that our trip was not the normal experience. we were in northern south africa, ministering to a coal mine and the surrounding community. usually, teams stay in the jo-burg area ministering in schools, prisons, and squatter camps. last year, in kenya, i was convicted and reminded of the simple elements of the Gospel. this year, in south africa, i started out with that mindset and had a great time ministering, laughing, eating, sharing, singing, etc. like i always do on mission trips. ministry is SO good with others, even when it's hard. i hope you experience that as often as you can.
august is marked by the departure of my bff. my good friend, randy and his awesome wife, jen, moved to dallas so he could attend dallas theological seminary. randy's family and my family both joined houston northwest church back in 1991. we've been friends ever since and both joined the church staff after college. it's weird that we're not 15 feet away from each other every day, but he's in a better place, i guess!
august was also when i started an 11 week series on exodus for the high school students. i REALLY enjoyed studying parts of exodus and seeing God point to His ultimate plan of salvation and reconciliation through Christ, the perfect passover, the complete manna, and the fulfillment of the law.
ike came to visit in september. messed up a lot of stuff. nothing really that affected me, except delaying my vacation to tennessee by two days... jerk. had a good time in tennesse, as always. spent some of the time at my aunt and uncle's place outside of wartburg. more on that here.
most recently, december has been a time of seeing old friends, visiting family i haven't seen in a long while, and trying to reflect on the real meaning, power, and impact of christmas. i also applied and was accepted to southwestern baptist theological seminary.
so, those were some of the major events of 2008. obviously, a lot more happened. there were ups, downs, highs, and lows. losses, gains, laughs, and tears. i've said goodbye to some great people and made some great new friends.
later, '08. see ya in a hundred years!
i finished my christmas series for the high school students this past sunday, and i tried to wrap my mind around the unfolding (on earth!) of God's plan for redemption.
as john the baptist first "prophesied" about the Messiah with a leap in his mother's womb ... the way was starting to be prepared.
as mary praised God for making good on His promise to Abraham after nearly 2000 years ... the people would SEE God's faithfulness.
as zacharias welcomed the "Sunrise from on high" that malachi prophesied over 400 years previous ... the waiting was coming to an end.
while a roman leader revamped the tax system, sending joseph home ... he unwittingly fulfilled a Messianic prophecy.
and as a bloody, crying baby breathed His first breaths ... salvation, hope, redemption, and reconciliation, having stepped out of heaven, was born on earth.
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
i have applied and officially been accepted to southwestern baptist theological seminary. for now, i'll be taking classes while still living/working here in houston.
i am anxious because i haven't been a student in 8 years... and i haven't been a good student in more years than that!
not sure where this road will lead, but i'll try to keep you posted.
today, december 15, is my birthday. other notable folks who share my b-day:
Dr. Tom King: Ministry/Counseling Pastor at HNW Church
*sorry, bigger picture could not be procured.
Tim Conway: one of the funniest people of all time
Don Johnson: star of Miami Vice (who, ironically, played a cop named Larry Wilson on an episode of The Streets of San Francisco)
Adam Brody: apparently some funny guy from the O.C.
Helen Slater: super girl, duh.
Dan Sheffield: long time faithful student worker and friend.
(no image available)
And, of course, Blake Roberts: golden child of the Bill & Jill Roberts clan
*this looks enough like Blake Roberts to pass, seriously
give it up for danger mouse.... (and penfold)
IT'S SNOWING HERE IN HOUSTON!
yesterday, the high was in the 70s.
al gore couldn't be reached for comment.
so my brother writes this mammoth Christmas letter every year, updating friends and relatives on the things that have happened since the previous letter. it's a great way to catch people up on the milestones and anecdotes from their lives and to express gratitude for God's provision and grace, etc. there's always a cute pic of my nieces in some Christmas-y scenario that they get to dress up and pose for in october or something.
it's great. it's also reminder #638 that i need a life. heh. my year-in-review could fit in a twitter or a facebook status. i joked this year with my mom about writing a "jeremy addendum" and having my brother slip it in with his letter. i'da foot some of the postage with him. maybe next year...
UPDATE: i was just trying to be silly with this post, not ungrateful. a lot has happened this year and i've been blessed beyond measure. perhaps i'll recap 2008 just before 2009 hits...
we have too many books... in the world. too many being published ... WAY too many being written. don't get me wrong. i'm not looking for burnings or even bannings, necessarily.
heck, my brother writes and i want everyone to buy and read his book when it comes out. but a quick trip to any bookstore will prove that people have too much to say and many aren't really saying anything.
on a recent trip to the Lifeway store in the woodlands (where i want everyone to shop, cuz my dad works there) i perused several books while looking for potential resources to use in our student ministry. the books on dating/relationships/purity are the ones that really got me. they spend chapter after chapter suggesting different practices that can be put into place, explaining certain dangers, mindsets, temptations, etc. the better ones give scripture to support their perspectives and to explain biblical standards. but they all fall short of being the definitive guide to dating/relationships/purity. they all, in the end, say something like this "these are all good practices and safeguards to consider, but, ultimately, you'll have to discern for yourself on some things where to draw the line."
that's it? your huge book with all these tips, hints, and guidelines concludes by telling me to figure it out on my own under the conviction of the Holy Spirit? novel concept!
i realize this may be a crazy pov. i'm just ranting. this isn't a well thought out attack on all things written, so just go with it. (it seemed legit when i got on my soapbox that day in Lifeway.)
i know that books are good. reading is good. learning is good.
maybe the problem was created by readers, rather than authors. we want formulas and easy to follow steps to cure our diet problems, answer our dating questions, and solve our church growth issues. it's probably oversimplified and myopic to suggest the Bible for all of these dilemmas. or is it?
my problem isn't with books explaining certain diets, exercise regimens, or even suggesting habits for believers to implement and pursue. my problem is with authors and readers who suggest any book (other than the Bible) is the end-all-be-all answer or standard for any given problem.
oh really? THIS book gets it right? that's why so many were written before it and so many will be written after it? oh, ok. i see. this method is more complete. more thorough. more current. less this, more that ...
flavor of the month. Savior of the minute. band aids on gunshot wounds.
What has been is what will be,and what has been done is what will be done,and there is nothing new under the sun. Ecclesiastes 1:9
our search for the newest, shiniest, best, fastest, safest, etc. in all the wrong places has led "writers" to offer us page after page after page after page of suggestion, theory, and endless references to those who have gone before us, pondered and written. maybe it's just to further dialogue. maybe it's just to illuminate good things. maybe i should shut up, now! i like to write. i like to suggest things. i like to theorize.
i just think we have too many books.
this is a list of recent and not-so-recent things i've observed that made me think "are you kidding me?! what were they thinking?!" in no particular order:
-ABC cancels Pushing Daisies. this is one of my favorite shows. and i watch a LOT of shows. the american tv audience is stupid (my blog, my opinion). reminds me of FOX's ridiculous canceling of one of the greatest shows i've ever seen. "PD" wasn't exactly one of the greatest shows i've ever seen, but still a stupid move.
-the Snuggie infomercial loses me at 1:05. it looks so warm, comfy, and natural until i see it in the stands at the game. it looks like a family of monks or de-hooded jawas mixed in with all the normal people. to paraphrase brian regan, "ain't gonna move a lot of [Snuggies] this way."
-DIRECTV had me mildly entertained with their recreations of classic movie scenes to hawk their wares until they used the little girl from the Poltergeist movies who died (before the third movie was even released) at the age of 12. blech. who were the ad wizards that ok'd that? what was craig t. thinking? coach must be strapped for cash. whatever the case, it turned me way off.
-the BIG XII conference is apparently the only BCS conference with a championship game that does NOT defer to head-to-head games when two teams are so closely ranked in the polls. (of course, they are reassessing the system, now!) don't get me started, don't EVEN get me started...
disclaimer: i sometimes feel like chris farley doing the chris farley show when it comes to writing about a theological or religious topic. ("remember that one time... that was awesome.") there are so many brilliant people out there writing, preaching, and living much more profound truths than i feel like i can bring to the table. and with nothing new under the sun, i humbly submit my two cents:
i'm no expert. i'm no veteran. but i have seen a lot of students come through my church's student ministry. as i seek to minister to these students, i am often burdened with the "state of the union" at different times. today while praying for the high school students, i was stricken with this thought, "we are not ok."
i know in general that "sin" is the leading cause of faithlessness in the world, but i also know that sin dresses up in different costumes and pitches different gimmicks to different peoples at different times in different cultures.
as i stand before 110-125 high school students each week staring numbly back at me as the Gospel (no matter how ineptly) is proclaimed, i try to discern the cause of their apathy. i think a leading factor for our demographic of students is an overwhelming sense that they are ok. they have the clothes they want = they are ok. they are fed = they are ok. they earn good grades and feel successful = they are ok. they make bad grades and don't care = they are ok. they are wont to their comfortable lives = they are ok. and i know i'm not innocent of these accusations. so i'll continue with "we" ...
beloved, we are NOT ok. we are fat, lazy, conceited, arrogant, selfish, rude, inconsiderate, and stricken with a false sense of entitlement. the age old feeling that we are ok blinds us to our need for a savior. if we are ok, we don't need a Messiah. if we are ok ... we are good enough ... we lack not.
but, i repeat, we are not ok. we are not good enough. when not being ok becomes ok, the cross is minimized to just ok. i try to remind myself and the believers that i teach that we never stop needing Jesus. salvation does not remove our need for Jesus. i've written this before, and i'll say it again: we are in constant desperation for Christ ... even after trusting in Him for salvation.
if we lose sight of that, we believe we're ok. and if we're ok, we don't need Jesus. we can make it on our own. all i see in Scripture is that we cannot make it on our own. that we can do nothing without Christ. that no one is righteous. that any good thing coming from us is from Him.
why is that so hard to remember? what creeps into our minds and hearts and convinces us that we are good? that we are ok?
i would proffer the following:
(i hesitate to type this because as a wise friend has noted, once you type something, "it's out there." and i could get roasted because of inexperience but what the heck, my two readers are polite enough!)
i don't know how to parent a child so i can't judge, but i have to believe it's hard for a child that is raised thinking they deserve the world, gets everything they could possibly want, and lacks nothing to recognize that something is missing. i wonder how to raise a child in an encouraging environment and provide for their needs and still help them understand that they're not ok apart from Christ.
i think teaching and explaining Spiritual things from day one points to that end, but the world and, specifically, many of the students we are reaching were not taught those things from day one. we're battling a generation of participation trophy-my super sweet 16-i want a golden goose right now-be the best you-self entitlement junkies and it's hard. it's frustrating.
oprah has us believing in a lower case answer. politicians have us trusting in a lower case hope. we suck on our self sufficiency like a long outgrown pacifier and believe, no matter how bad the world gets, that we're ok. and our "ok-ness" is strangling our passion for Christ. it's discouraging and distracting the faithful few. it's blemishing our witness to a lost and dying world. it is not ok.
if you made it this far, i'd like to say that i hope this rant made sense to you. i feel like i may have detoured through a few soapboxes. i don't know that i've written anything to encourage you, for which i apologize. i only hope i've written honestly and truthfully from my heart. and if you're with me, help me spread the word: we're not ok.