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

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Home for Christmas






I re-posted this story I wrote a few years ago (with a few revisions) because I felt the Father wanted me to share again. I hope you enjoy, Merry Christmas! - Jay


She peered from her dingy apartment window, wiping the frost away with the sleeve of her sweater so she could see the city streets outside her old brownstone. The light snow falling creating a clean carpet of white over the gray busy sidewalks. Sally Hamilton awaited a delivery from the local grocery store containing the simple items for her dinner tonight and her eagerness grew as each shadow passed by her window.

Over 90 and in failing health, Sally needed this Christmas to lift her spirits; she needed to come out of the shadow of grief. Just a few years earlier, Samuel her husband of many years, passed away on the eve of his favorite day—Christmas. Although this year’s Christmas Eve would be a bittersweet celebration, Sally knew it was important to embrace the holiday once more.

Sally loved her “Sammy”, so it was hard imagining celebrating tonight alone. He was so alive around Christmas and always seemed his happiest around the holidays. Every Christmas Eve he would sing, laugh—sometimes scooping her up from her chair for a dance. He would put on a Santa hat and say, “Come on sweetie, I saved a dance for my best gal!” Afterwards they would cuddle-up on the couch, sip tea, and read the story of the Savior’s birth. At midnight they would run to their small tree, and like giggling children, rip open all the gifts.

The crunch of snow and the sight of a tall figure coming down the sidewalk carrying bundles snapped her back to her vigil. Sally watched the trudging shape come up the stairs and ring the bell to her apartment. Drawing her sweater around her neck to guard against the cold, she opened the door and let the familiar face inside. It was Manny, a young man in his twenties, who had been delivering her groceries for a few months now.

“Mrs. Hamilton, how good to see you, Merry Christmas!” Manny said with a booming voice.

“Merry Christmas Manny, come in, come in.” Sally said, almost pushing him through the door with excitement and rushing to close the door behind him.

Chuckling now after being pushed around by his diminutive friend, Manny asked “Shall I carry these to the kitchen or call for security?”

“Oh, you big joker, please do, please do, Sorry… I’m so wound up; come on, this food won’t cook itself!” Sally replied.

Manny carried the bags into the narrow kitchen where Sally unpacked her goodies. She placed the small ham, a few potatoes, a can of green beans and a box of Earl Grey tea, on her small kitchen table and took a step back to look.

With a hint of tears in her eyes, Sally mused, “My Sammy sure loved his spot of tea.”

Her sorrow threatened to swallow the moment, the grief filling her mind with questions. How could she celebrate after all these years of placing Christmas in the shadows? Can she celebrate without her Sammy? She decided that she must, this Christmas seemed fresh and ready to hold close again. Besides, her heart sensed the Messiah's presence more than ever and she could always celebrate Him.

Dabbing at her eyes with her apron Sally soon looked up and asked, “Manny, would you like to have dinner with me?”

“Why, I would love to Mrs. H, thank you!” Manny replied with a huge smile.

The two of them set about fixing the meal, laughing, singing, and even enjoying a silly dance to Jingle Bell Rock playing on the radio. Soon the kitchen filled with wonderful aromas and the sounds of memories. During dinner Sally told story after story of her husband Sammy and the love he had for Jesus.

Sally sighed and Manny could see the pain of loneliness in her eyes. They were sipping their tea when Sally asked, “I’m so tired Manny, will you help me to the couch?” Manny helped the weary Mrs. Hamilton to the couch, placing a quilted pillow underneath her head. Covering Sally with a blanket, Manny then pulled a small box from his jacket and said, “It’s almost midnight Mrs. H, this is for you, Merry Christmas.”

The package wrapped with golden paper and with a bow of the purest white surprised Sally; she had never seen a more beautiful package. Taking the gift from Manny, and with childlike excitement, opened the box.  Inside was a golden key with a small note that looked like an invitation. On the 
inside of the note it read.

To: Sally Hamilton, a key to your new home.

“Manny… what does this mean?” Sally asked.

“Mrs. H, my boss didn’t want you to spend Christmas Eve alone, so he sent me to deliver something special to you.” Manny said.

“I don’t understand, your employer Mr. Reynolds, is giving me a new house? Sally asked.

Smiling now, Manny said, “No Mrs. H, I work for someone higher than Mr. Reynolds. Anyway, I’m just a messenger and I’ll be announcing your arrival there soon.”

“Manny, I still don’t…” Sally wondered out loud.

“Mrs. H, it’s time for another celebration, you have been faithful, and the Lord wants you home with Him.” Manny said.

Her eyes growing heavy, Sally whispered, “You mean, I’m going to, oh, I can’t keep my eyes open, what is happening Manny?” Sally asked.

Manny whispered, “It’s time for a homecoming Mrs. H, Sammy is saving a dance for you”

They were quiet for a few minutes when Sally softly asked, “Am I going to see my Sammy when I open my eyes Manny?”

She was already home when he answered, “Yes Sally, and so much more.”

The End

Jay Cookingham © 2015

Monday, November 6, 2017

Not giving up on hope



I’m not giving up on hope.

The recent tragedy in Sutherland Springs, Texas has threatened to rip hope from my heart but I will not give in.

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

I’m not giving up on hope…I can’t afford to. I do believe that hope is oxygen for our souls… it breathes life into the empty parts of our life on this planet. Hope helps you believe redemption is possible and that good triumphs over evil.

Dr. Martin Luther King said it this way…

“If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream.”

My response to this tragedy (and others) must supply hope. My comments, my speech, my actions, my opinion must be saturated with the hope that sheds light on truth. Hope consumes the intent of evil and in its place brings peace and the courage to fight on. Solidifying my hold on my rights will not stop the flow of violence nor will the selfish desire for my voice to be heard above the voice of others. My opinion will not change this evil, nor will ranting and raving across party or denominational lines. Only His light, only His love and forgiveness can work that miracle.

“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

If I lose hope, if I refuse to shine the light of the Gospel, if I lack the will to do good… then I give away my heart to lesser things. I must do the good the Master sends me to do and love with such ferocious passion the evil of this world gives way to its light. Hope overcomes the evil with the goodness of God.

“Don't let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” Romans 12:21

But…I’m so angry!

Be angry yes, but don’t let anger distort your vision and your heart. Get angry at evil, at injustice and the cruelty of sin. Speak up but cover and filter every word with the love of Christ. This is the way to counter evil, bringing hope and love into the fight. His love works to change hearts… starting with ours first.

“Dear Children, let us not love with word or talk but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3:18

God bless, Jay

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

God Hearted



October 14th marked the eight Iron Sharpens Iron Event I've had a privilege to speak at. Hosted by Gathering of Men Ministries in Virginia Beach, the event was attended by over 650 men...brothers who seemed ready for business.



In my session (56 guys, that's them above) there was a tremendous awareness of God's presence and His generous love for all of us. I had so much fun with these brothers and left blessed beyond words. There were a few of these men who asked for prayer from busted marriages to deeply wounded hearts...each moment became a God moment as He ministered His grace to their hearts.

This is why I love going to events like ISI, for the opportunity to fight for men's hearts and hopefully encourage them with the truth of who they are in Christ.

1 John 3:1 says this about our identity.

"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him."

A God Hearted man is a man like Jesus

Jesus was more than some nice guy going around looking to pick up some volunteer work to pad His resume. His humility should not be mistaken for a milk-toast expression of masculinity concerned about not trying to upset anything or anyone.

I see calculated fierceness in our Lord’s focus plan of redemption. His good works campaign was a battle strategy not content to stay on the front line but to embed itself deep behind enemy lines. It was a warrior’s strategy, purposely disruptive and perfectly executed to cause destruction in the enemy’s camp.


In our everyday battle we must remember who fights for us… our Messiah and He is a determined force of goodness. The will and schemes of the enemy fail when confronted by such an overwhelming force.

If you would like to listen to the session, you can here:

God Bless,
Jay








Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Steps





If you were to ask me about my core Scriptures, ones that rocked my world at an early age and embedded themselves deep into my faith, I would give you two.

First Psalm 68:6
“God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.”

In the Aramaic Bible in Plain English Translation it reads.

“God sets the only child in a house and he sends out prisoners into prosperity and the rebels will dwell in the tombs.”

Number two is Psalm 27:10.

“For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in.”

The Aramaic Bible in Plain English Translation reads.

“Because my father and mother abandoned me, and Lord Jehovah took me up.”

These two passages provided needed strength to not just endure the abusive home I was raised in but to triumph over the wounds that cruelty caused in my life. Father God took me, raised me, set my lonely heart in a family…His family. The prosperity that flowed was relational, the richness of my healing was overwhelming and the songs we sang together totally freeing.

I am a free man

Since becoming (tri-vocational) pastor 4 years ago these verses have fueled my shepherding vision, mostly without me knowing they were. During the past weekend of a leadership summit, a questioned was asked twice by our oversight team (individually and then when the whole team was together), a question that showed me how deeply embedded these Scriptures were in my heart.

The question was:

“How do you see you shepherding now in comparison to when you started 4 years ago…what has changed?”

Trying to answer that question (both times) brought tears to my eyes…all I could get out (at first) was…

“I just love them…more.”

When I first answered the call, it was from a sense that Father wanted me to serve Him in this way, for this season and there was no way I was not going to answer that call! Now, 4 years later God has embedded my heart deeply in the people I serve and I want obey Him more than ever.

I want to see the forsaken taken in; the lonely set in a family and hear former spiritual POW’s sing for joy as they walk in freedom…I hunger to be in the freedom business, just like my Abba Father.

So a tri-vocational pastor, after much prayer and counsel, (at age 61) heads off to a different promised land and quits his job of 30 years to become a full-time shepherd of the hearts he’s called to serve.

And I am crying again…

Steps are challenging but they take us places and when we follow the Master, they take us places beyond what we can imagine.

 “Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of your life shall be many. (11) I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in the right paths. (12) When you go, your steps shall not be narrowed, and when you run, you shall not stumble.” Proverbs 4:10-12

Will you join me in this…will you take the steps the Father is asking you to take and to follow His Son Jesus…wherever He leads? How can I pray for you?

Serving Him together!

Jay

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