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

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.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Make America Great Again




But maybe not the way you're thinking....

Lately I have avoided most political discussions like a man wearing a paper suit avoids people with matches; such interactions get heated quickly and tend to burn someone. The media, which is harder to avoid, feeds the American public with ridiculous amounts of un-journalistic garbage, calling it news. It is no wonder we suffer from the obesity of self-interest and pride when America gladly gorges on this political junk food. Then we have the social media world, filled with its own opinionated pyrotechnics, which has frustrated me with post after post of some of the meanest rants I have ever read online.

And those were from Christians… Have we lost our minds?

No man/woman can make America great again. No candidate/Democrat/
Republican/congress/judge/army/economic package/3rd party/grass roots movement or revolution can bring greatness back to the shores of the United States. Only God can make America great.

He controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars. Daniel 2:21

And, by the way…It’s His definition of great that counts.

Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a disgrace to any people. Proverbs 14:34

If His sons and daughters want America to be great again it requires righteousness…in the way we live and in the way we love. It needs repentance and the willingness to turn back from a life that is centered on me. It’s not who I choose as my candidate that guarantees my well-being but who chooses me.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage! Psalm 33:12

Let’s turn the ballot booths into the greatest collection of prayer closets the world has ever seen… praying that God make American His again.


That sounds great to me!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Hard





Following the Messiah is anything but easy, it’s hard. It’s a walk that fills the longing in our hearts but leaves it gasping for air at other times. Following Jesus is hard because we’re human. We walk through a lost and hurting world and we can’t help but wade through the ripples/wake of their pain… their sin….and yes, our sin.

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. (14) For the gate is narrow and the way is hard (pressed like grapes) that leads (carry) to life (real, vibrant), and those who find (get it, understand) it are few. Matthew 7: 13-14 

The gate is narrow… the way is hard… how do we respond to that?

We could get hard-headed, hard-nosed, hard as nails, hard to the core, The battle for our heart is real, the enemy wants to defeat our heart…make it hard, unresponsive to the Father. We could shrink back… lose heart, choose a different way or we can choose have the Father’s heart pressed into ours.

"I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart." Jeremiah 24:7

"And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart." Ezekiel 36:26

For whatever or whoever has your heart… has you.

What we believe about our hearts matters. If it’s valuable (and it is) we’ll protect it, fight for it and worship the God who created it! The enemy wants us to believe our heart doesn’t matter to the Father, that it’s unredeemable, corrupt and beyond hope. Thankfully, the truth is miraculously more powerful, Father God restores our hearts with His.

The process of receiving a new heart is more than a transplant of values; it is a radical new way to live. It's a heart that beats with a rhythm of surrender, responding in the only way that brings life. This is huge… in order to move through a hard life without growing hard and cold, we need His heart, His Spirit breathing new life into our hearts. We need to understand our hearts in a new way. If you’re still worried about your heart listen to this…

God is greater than our hearts

“Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. (19) We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him 20in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things. (21) Beloved, if our heart condemns us not, then we have confidence toward God.” 1 John 3:18-21

If God doesn’t condemn us and our own heart doesn’t either then our faith should be off the charts! Not in us but in our heavenly Father. Our confidence is not in our own heart, but the heart of the Father in us. We can’t be passive in our repentance or in our responsibility when we sin and disobey. Will we love like Him, live like Him… no matter how difficult?

The choice is this…what heart will we accept?