"I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands." - Psalm 143:5

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

What Church Is



This is a post from a couple of years ago, I felt nudged by the Holy Spirit to revise and repost, I hope it blesses you. - Jay

What Church Is

My church meets in a building… yep; a beautiful chapel built in 1856, but still a building with walls and everything. I know that may not be cutting edge thinking (meeting inside a structure and calling it church) but it seems to me that a lot of life (at least here in America) happens inside buildings. Oh, I do realize that just because we are meeting inside a historically old chapel (however beautiful) doesn’t define us as a church. Also, does 158 years of people gathering together, in a building, guarantee our present day “churchness? Many of you are shaking your head no… and I would agree… it’s not about the building or the history.

It’s about Jesus

I serve (happily) as one of the under shepherds (under the Chief Shepherd, Jesus), with the title of pastor, which doesn’t define me completely either. In reality, I am a joint follower of Jesus Christ with about 50 other totally needy (and beautiful) folks. We’re a mixture of introverts and extraverts, creative and linear thinkers, men, women, children, all shapes and sizes…all extremely needy individuals.

We all still need Jesus

To me that’s church, not the place, not the format, not how we do church…just people, needing Jesus together. This modern day ekklesia (assembly) is an organic expression of life with Jesus. To me, church is a group of ordinary folks trying to express what God is doing in our lives and expressing our gratefulness (corporately and individually) for that work.

We need Jesus for that

We have some in our small community needing the simplicity of sitting (even in a pew) and listening, quietly taking in truth and just as quietly, expressing what it means to them. There are others craving the dynamic give and take of interactive dialogue, with questions and thoughts expressing how His truth challenges them. Navigating these needs (and others in between) and allowing room for growth can be only accomplish by pursuing Him together…that’s where I see church happen.

We need Jesus for that

My hand is really comfortable holding a pen but my foot (although capable) is not. And walking on my hands is extremely more difficult than the normal way of walking using foot power. Yet, when a hand uses things like a foot uses and a foot uses a thing like a hand uses, things can (besides sounding like a Dr. Seuss book) get interesting. We have tried new ways to make community and church more inviting and life changing…sometimes it’s a beautiful expression and sometimes not so much. But it’s not about trying to reinvent church…the Church doesn’t need reinventing…just our view of it sometimes.

Man, do we ever need Jesus for that!

A family, an army, a bride…just a few ways Christ describes His Church, each a powerful reminder of how diverse His expressions through a body of believers can be. How do we then teach and reach each other through that diversity? Can we “conspire” (breathe together) with one another and be the Church? Is the church present in the 4 walls as well as outside them?

Yes, we need Jesus for all of that!

“He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.”  Colossians 1:18


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

UNWOUNDED




He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

It’s hard to imagine… living a life that is free from the pain of the past, to experience a thrill of joy that takes your breath away, when you discover your chains are gone.

Uncaged, unchained, unwounded.

Life on this planet makes this hard to believe. So many wounds try to define us, mar us and block any hope of life being any different.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

There are words spoken over us, spoken to us, cursed at us… their violence wounding us as we listen, tying in vain to deflect/ignore/forget them.

Then…He speaks…our Messiah, our Good Shepherd calls to us.

He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave. Psalm 107:20

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound. Isaiah 61:1

There is a state of unwounded-ness that is only found in Christ… a state of freedom that defies the logic and madness of this world.

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36

When I say unwounded I am not saying we’ve never been hurt, never been in pain, or never suffered.

What I’m saying is that Messiah can un-wound us… He can make all things new.

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17

We need His words of life to be spoken over us; we need to hear His voice over the voices of others. I would encourage you to watch this video (Voices: Lies or Truth) my daughter made (be sure to read her post). In it is a powerful message about the wounds words can cause…and the life His words can bring. It’s a little tough at the beginning and there is a pause between when the screen goes black…I urge you to press through to the end. You’ll be glad you did.





Thursday, April 13, 2017

Unrecognizable?




This is a repost (a short story) from 2014 but it conveys my heart as I immerse myself in the reason for every season of my life…His sacrifice for us. - Jay

Unrecognizable?

My neighbors shouted for me to hurry, to drop what I was doing and follow them. They ran ahead, their excited voices forcibly joining the crowd we were running towards. The last thing I heard clearly was…

He was coming…

The air was filled with dust and anger, making me uneasy and fearful; wondering if I should turn back to the safety of my home. Instead I jostled for position against the mob that lined the street. I flexed my broad shoulders and forcibly squeezed my way to the front, not caring about the bruises I gave or received. I wiped my eyes, trying to free them from the dust assaulting them. I wanted to hush the people around me, gather my bearings and find him in the crowd. I followed their pointed fingers and their jeers to the person walking down the street… he was coming.

My neighbors lied…this couldn’t be him…it was hardly a man! This was a walking, bloody mass of sorrow. Who could do that to such a man like him? It just couldn’t be him!

Could it?

I followed, weaving through the families, the merchants and soldiers, struggling to keep pace with a man weighed down by a cruel wooden beam. The pointed fingers turned to clenched fists and the anger grew into hatred, cold and brutal, such like I’ve never witnessed before. The grotesqueness of the crowd mirrored this man’s wounds… raw and unforgiving. The mob eagerly spewed insults and spit with vicious accuracy. I wondered what hurt the man more, these vile words, or the punishment covering his body.

Why would they do this to HIM?

I lost count how many, but a number of times, he fell hard on the street of stones. The blood, the pain and the weight of his burden all conspiring to trip him. The forced march continued only after the soldiers made a man, randomly plucked from the crowd, carry the heavy load for him.

My Tears became a guttural sob, the tension ramming grief down my throat. I turned my head, wanting to run away from the figure struggling to walk, even without the beam to carry. The mocking crowd shouted curses mixed with the name of Jesus…trying to blend them into one.

It just couldn’t be him…why would he let them do this to him?

On the mountain of skulls they nailed this battered pulp of a man to a cross. He looked un-human, torn, battered…and finished. He was unrecognizable…until I heard him speak.

“Father forgive them…they know not what they do!”

I was wrong all along…he was recognizable…this is who I was looking for.

HE is the Messiah…He is Jesus!


© Jay Cookingham

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Everyday Pilgrimage



I wrote this poem a few years ago during Lent, considering the pilgrimage I am on right now...I believe it fits. I hope it blesses you. - Jay

Everyday Pilgrimage

I bow my head in reverence,
not in shame.

I kneel humbly in homage,
not in fear.

What I give up in surrender
is small.

What I gain in surrender
is without measure.

Repentance sorrow is
met with mercy.

A heavy heart is caressed
with hope.

More than need or want,
is the desire for redemption

That makes an everyday pilgrimage
real in my heart.

Jay Cookingham 2010 ©

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Send Me!




Hello Everybody!

I am scheduled to speak at Iron Sharpens Iron in Clearwater Florida (April 29) hosted by Next Steps for Men ministry. I have been honored to speak at several events (this will be my seventh) and have found them to be huge in touching/encouraging/impacting the lives of men. I see myself as a missionary when I go on these events and feel blessed to represent Bridge Builders Community Church (my church) as well as Strategic Fathering Ministries when I go.

As one of the presenters (usually around 20) I have to pay my own costs to go (this keeps the cost of the event low so more men can attend), in the past this included flights, hotels and meals. Part of the cost is also the printed materials that I give away during my sessions, which I am thrilled to do.

What I'm asking (and this is hard for me) is if you would consider partnering with me and help with some of the cost involved. I am trying to raise at least 1000.00 for the conference and would appreciate any help you may be able to give.

Of course, prayer support is huge...many men come broken, hurting without hope, and to see God minister healing to them is amazing. Many prayers are needed for that work to be done and for me to be a vessel in that process.

I cannot thank you enough for all the support and love I receive from all of you.

If you write out a check, make out to BBCC (Bridge Builders Community Church) just put Jay/ISI conference as the note. Send check to:

Bridge Builders Community Church
P.O. Box 887
Hyde Park, NY 12538

Or you could use this PayPal link.

God Bless,
Jay



Thursday, December 22, 2016

Yule Better Watch Out




Traditions are grand; they encompass us with a rich blend of history and relationships. However, some can be just downright …well, silly. I did a little research about the Yule Log and found out some interesting facts, which may just surprise you. Before I get into specifics of the Yule Log itself, it seems that most of these legends started in lands where cold and ice rule the landscape for months on end. I’m only suggesting that combined with the long months in darkness, the cold can play a few games with your mind. This for me explains many of the wacky Yule time folklore stories.

From Iceland comes the disturbing tale of the giant…Yule Cat. This terrible feline is ready to make meow mix out of any lazy townsfolk, especially those who might have been less than ambitious in helping the town prepare for the long winter. Perhaps they were put in charge of the litter box, (a rather large litter box at that), and lost all motivation, who can blame them? However, slothful citizens in Iceland were not alone in their peril; it seems that poor people were also at risk to fall prey to this very picky Yule Cat. For if it found you outside with old clothes on, you were a goner as well! Poorly dressed lazy folk were a high risk target for sure.

This is the real reason all grandmothers give new socks and underwear every Christmas, its anti-Yule Cat protection for their grandkids. After all, no self-respecting Nana is going to risk losing one of her own to some oversized Garfield because of old underwear. The Yule Cat legend may also explain why the dog became man’s best friend. A family dog may eat all your food in your house but at least not members of your household.

The Yule Log originates from some ancient Scandinavian festivals and the Vikings did their bit for history by spreading it around Europe through their many raids. Can you imagine Eric the Red saying, “Here you go, we just raided your town and took all your stuff but we left you this Yule Log gig.” I think the modern day equivalent would be the holiday fruitcake, which I believe is flammable and could be used as a Yule log in a pinch, but I digress.

Tradition states that after choosing a large log in the forest, it was decorated with ribbons and carried back to the village. It was customary for anyone meeting the procession on its trip home, to raise his or her hat in respect. Why the log would need such a greeting or honor is beyond me. However, if you wanted an excuse from observing such a custom, you only needed to be a barefoot woman or have flatfeet. A 4F rating that no doubt, kept many a fine young person from serving in the Yule Log burning service corps.

Through the years the legend grew in popularity and changed a bit. It was believed by many to be unlucky to buy a Yule log. The real lucky ones were found on one's own land or from a neighbor's wood. This, for the neighbor trying to find his own Yule log, was not so lucky. People even saved a fragment from the previous year’s log to use to ignite the new one. The homeowner would keep this under the bed to keep the house safe from fire and lightning (and perhaps Yule dust bunnies). Not lighting the log on the first try was a sign of misfortune (watch out for the Yule Cat) and touching it with dirty hands was a sign of disrespect. This early version of the Duraflame log would have to burn unattended for 12 straight hours, but at least you got to eat during this time. Although people were distracted from eating their meal, since you had to carefully study the shadows cast on the wall by the Yule log fire. A “headless” shadow was not good news for the person casting the shadow. A groundhog moment like this one supposedly foretold the death of said person within the year.

Here in America we have dispelled the myths of this long ago legend by reducing the Yule log to an appearance online. You don’t have to hunt for one (except maybe for web surfing), there are no wall shadows to worry about while you are chowing down. More importantly, the internet could care less about your flatfeet.

Every Christmas I learn something new and surprising. The memories, the stories and traditions, collectively add to the discovery process I go through each year. It wasn’t always so, but God has faithfully showed me the right attitude to dive into at Christmastime.

It happened this way…

Over 2000 years ago, in a small Hebrew town, something more powerful than tradition rocked the world. Celebrating His birth does more than change the way I “do” Christmas, it transforms the way I am, the “who” I am. Because of that God injection into humanity, all the stories, memories and traditions become richer in our lives. Let’s enjoy the festivities with the focus on a Savior that came to give us so much more.

Yule love it!


“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.” Luke 1:68

Monday, November 7, 2016

All is NOT Lost




The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving. Psalm 28:7

He helps me…wow…our Father helps us!

The Hebrew word for help in this verse means to surround and protect. What better way to be surrounded than by the creator of the universe. The Aramaic Bible in Plain English puts it this way.

Lord Jehovah is my helper and my protector, for my heart is confident in him and my flesh flourishes, and with glory I shall praise him.

There have been so many temptations to rant and rave about this Presidential election, I wanted to tell you/sell you why each candidate is unworthy to hold an office, much less than the highest one in our country. I was going to complain about a nation asking for a king instead of bowing their hearts to the King of Kings. I was…but I can’t…I feel there is something far greater at stake than electing a President tomorrow.

Who will hold your heart after the election?

The answer depends on what or who we have transferred our hope to. I admit to losing hope because there was a dearth of leadership presented to us. Some have placed their hope in one of the candidates. We give our hearts so easily to other causes, to other leaders, to other hopes…and when we do…we come up empty.

And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you. Psalm 39:7

His sons and daughters have great reason to rejoice, for our hearts can be confident despite what is happening in our country, for our hope is found in Him. Hope grows in a grateful heart, hope thrives in a heart that worships the Father and hope abounds in the heart where He lives.

All is NOT loss, not on His watch.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13

Our hearts are far more important to God than the election tomorrow. If the heart of the Church is firmly in the hands of the Father, our hope will be as well. May I encourage to earnestly be praying for tomorrow? Whoever is elected, God is still sovereign, and He still holds the heart of the “king” in His hands.


And He still holds ours.