October 2007

I was eating lunch with a friend (who had also been a pastor before changing jobs) a few years ago and made the comment that I thought church had become far more complicated than God ever intended when the early church began in the book of Acts. In those early days I doubt believers were too caught up in the whole idea of what we’re going to do next week to keep the momentum going from this week. Or, how do we get those first time guests to come back again? I also doubt they got caught up in the whole competitive thing of trying to out program the church down the street.

So why are we so consumed with our performance as churches? When did we become more concerned with our position in the market place and our unique features as a church rather than celebrating what Christ has done and is doing in our lives? How did our machinery get to be so big and complicated that it has become more of our focus than equipping the people to do the work of ministry?


…more coming soon!


Last night my older brother was in town — the one who shoots the dorky home videos complete with his on-air style commentary — and he decided it was time to show us some classic Cork family Christmas footage. I have to admit I wasn’t looking forward to enduring the combination of embarrassing imagery and motion sickness (my brother doesn’t have much of a steady hand when it comes to videography). However, in spite of bad hair and dated fashion I found myself enjoying the reliving of rich moments from the Christmas of 1994.

That particular Christmas Jacque and I were leading Christmas Eve worship at a young church we were a part of and all three of our children played key roles in the service. So last night we saw a 7 year old Aimee, minus her 2 front teeth reading a rather lengthy Christmas story, a 9 year old Ryan singing Silent Night (his first public solo) with a very high voice. We also enjoyed hearing Jessica play flute on Away in a Manger, which was a duet with me on trumpet. This was especially entertaining because of the looks Jessica shot me when I made mistakes — she still gives those same looks.

We also watched the entire Cork family in gift-opening action Christmas morning, and then around the dinner table that afternoon. As I watched our dad praying before Christmas dinner I was reminded of the open heart surgery he had undergone just weeks before and how thankful we were to have him with us then, and still today nearly 13 years later. I was reminded of how much our children have changed since then yet how similar they remain.

At that moldable time in their lives we poured as much of ourselves into them as possible. We exposed them to things we felt were important, involved them in a variety of experiences, including being in front of people as they were that Christmas Eve in ‘94. Why? Because our job was to prepare them for the future. Now that they’re old enough to make their own choices and involve themselves in the things they find most appropriate, all three of them continue to place ministry related service as a priority in their lives. It’s what they saw modeled as they were growing up so it just comes naturally to them.

I’m sorry if this trip down memory lane was boring, but my heart got pretty full last night as I reflected on family life, and I couldn’t help myself.

I came across this photo this morning. It was taken at the Presbyterian Church in Malibu shortly after the church burned this week. What an unbelievable photograph. It says so much on so many levels, I don’t even know where to begin. WOW. It’s interesting that as I was looking at this photo a song began playing on my computer (I keep iTunes open most of the day with songs just playing randomly – and I have a lot of random music) called Come See by Michael W. Smith. What an amazing backdrop to this photo — some of the lyrics are:

Come see, Come see with spirit eyes
Come see, The door is open
Come near, Come weary and ashamed
Come near, His arms are open, His arms are open

What an incredible invitation to come to the table, all who are weary, broken, caught in the rubble of life, those who have lost everything or those who have plenty. Come near – His arms are open.

It was on the treadmill surrounded by scores of other sweaty people at the gym when it struck me so strongly for the first time. I’m not sure why it took so many years after it was released to become meaningful but it did. Jacque and I had recently been through a major loss and we were in terrific emotional pain. I was probably at my most cynical point during this particular point in the process and that night at the gym this song began playing on my iPod:

You could say I lost my faith in science and progress
You could say I lost my belief in the holy church
You could say I lost my sense of direction
You could say all of this and worse but

If I ever lose my faith in you
There’d be nothing left for me to do

For me, that time on the treadmill listening to Sting was an amazing worship experience. God moved on my spirit and I realized that I was far from actually losing my faith in God. In other things yes, but not God. I would never want anyone to believe that when I stepped off the treadmill the pain was gone, the grieving was over and my cynical attitudes were completely transformed because it didn’t happen that way. But what began that night was a renewal. A renewal triggered by music.

Some will perhaps argue this with me, and that’s fine but God used Sting to minister to me that night, and many times and through many so-called non-Christians since then. Who am I to question who God uses? How He works? The moment I begin to do that is the moment, it seems I begin to lose my faith.

So can you worship God through so called non-Christian music? (if there is such a thing) Does God work through artists like Sting? What are your thoughts? What are your stories?

I’m not sure why they call them fortune cookies. I’ve never made a fortune from any “wisdom” inside (although one time it said, “You will make a fortune with your friend”), I’ve never felt fortunate after reading one or eating one, and none of mine have ever come true, much less been very enlightening. However, in spite of al this I think I’ve always cracked open the cookie and read the so-called fortune. Only one time was I ever totally disappointed and that’s because there was no fortune. I’m not talking about a blank piece of paper or a statement that wasn’t really a fortune. I’m talking an empty container. I felt betrayed and almost like I had to look over my shoulder the rest of the day, fearful that some kind of mis-fortune might be coming my way.

The fortune cookie ritual is pretty fascinating when you think about it. They don’t necessarily taste good nor do their fortunes provide us with anything of value yet when they’re brought to the table they’re cracked open with a certain measure of anticipation. Then almost ceremonially people around the table read their fortunes to each other and share a moment together. The last time I went through this process with some friends I ended up having the best statement.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.

Now, regardless of your definition of darkness and light this is a true statement and on that day I can honestly say it’s the first fortune cookie that ever provided me with an inspiring or encouraging word. I’m sure it helped that the whole darkness and light thing is a Biblical concept. This little fortune challenged me to ask myself how I was bringing light into the world and driving out darkness. I still don’t think I’d call that a fortune but at least I felt like I got something out of the deal other than an unsatisfying cookie, which by the way was also better than normal.

So I ask you, what are you doing to drive out the darkness in your corner of the world? How are you being light? Let me hear from you.

I was sitting across the lunch table from my wife a few days ago when I told her. I hadn’t planned on telling her it just sort of came out. It’s not that I was ashamed or embarrassed it’s more that I thought I knew what she would think when I told her I was starting a blog. See, I’ve made some pretty bold statements in the past (which is pretty normal for me) about blogging and bloggers. Nothing terribly derogatory but more along the lines of, “who has time to sit and rant incessantly about whatever happens to be on their minds, and who else has time to read those rants and write rants of their own in response — I just don’t get it.”

Well, the truth is I’m still not sure I get it, but I’m very intrigued by a process that encourages dialogue. I don’t consider myself to be a writer although for most of my adult life I’ve dreamed of being an author. Several years ago I was actually published (you can Google my name and probably find the book if you’re that interested) but I don’t consider that to be the kind of book that makes me an author. I guess in recent weeks and months I’ve just decided that I have some thoughts I need to put in writing. And maybe in time I will write some things that others will want to read, possibly even enjoy reading and become engaged enough (or enraged enough) to post a comment.

So, when I told my wife her response surprised me. She thought it was a great idea (provided I didn’t become obsessive about it) and encouraged me to take the plunge. Okay, maybe she had a few reservations but I think she’s looking forward to reading some of what I have to say. Quite frankly, so am I.

My postings will mostly be focused on whatever is top of mind in the areas of christianity, worship, church, music, and maybe some other stuff thrown in because I feel it’s worthy of discussion. I guess you could say it’s sort of a stream of consciousness kind of thing. My goals are simple: to share my thoughts in a way that compels others to respond, to expand my own level of thinking and understanding, and maybe meet some new people along the way. I hope you’ll come along and share some thoughts of your own.