Category Archives: Faith Reflections

Miscellaneous thoughts about faith, life, and leadership. © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Faith in the midst of “Detours, Distractions, and Bumps in the Road”

WorryJesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?  Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?  Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” (Matthew 6:25 NLT)

Life-Happens.-DetoursI noticed a post on a friends Facebook page the other day.  I was deeply saddened to know how  they are struggling with an issue that is beyond imagine.  Social media can be a place where our friends are able to share our struggles, and where today, we often seek help with our worries, anxiety, and the fears of life.

I think we all wrestle with worry, especially when things happen that we either cannot control, or when we must wrestle through situations, in order to come up with a viable solution.  “Bumps in the road” and the unexpected detours do not alone have the power to distract us. Those “alternates” are what can add interest and richness to our journey.  We often cannot choose our circumstances, nor the events life presents us, but we can choose how we will respond.  Our character is molded and our faith grows when we trust God in all circumstances.  However, when we give unchecked power to distractions and “bumps in the road,” we become frozen in fear, and we stop moving forward.

bumpsIf we allow worry and anxiety to consume us, we will most likely, miss the new possibilities inherent when problems occur. Even so, when life does happen, when trials and troubles come our way, the fear is very real and it can shut us down.  I wish it were easy to just have immense courage and trust that “God’s got this,” but the journey of faith is not an easy one.  Remember, Our Lord, the one we Christians claim we follow, his journey led to a cross and death.  Our faith is fraught with fear, ambiguity, and uncertainty.  When fear comes our way we have grace to decide to stay on the road and trust God, despite the rugged path.  In prayer and in silence, we can tap into the solace of God’s peace, when those uncertainties of anxiety arise.  Walking with Christ through the struggles of life is a wonderful journey.  Be encouraged, and enjoy the view along the way.

Dreaming: Another New Year

As you approach the end of 2017, what are the things that you look back on with great delight and joy? What are the unknown possibilities that you’re dreaming about for 2018? What baggage will you leave behind? What spiritual disciplines will you take on, which will provide you with strength, courage, and peace?

“Take Courage” – An Advent Reflection

mary_jesusMatthew 14:27
But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”
A wise spiritual director once told me, “Tension and discomfort are usually signs that change in your life is imminent.” I think she was right. The end of the year always seems to bring “change” into the forefront of our lives. As a new year emerges, companies re-align their strategies, countries install new leaders, and organizations re-think how they will operate, how they will allocate resources, and how they will function in the new year. All of those decisions impact the lives of people outside the strategic plans of large organizations.
Throughout my business career, I saw year-end changes in companies that affected so many people. In my own life, change came when it was least expected. I am sure some of you are feeling the discomfort of imminent change, whether it is the impending nationwide changes that will occur with this new White House administration, or maybe you are contemplating a new employment situation or possibly there is a change coming in your life of which, you are not even aware.
I encourage you as we enter this time of expectant waiting, to listen to the words of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, “Don’t be afraid, take courage, I am here.” God never abandons us. God is with us. God is waiting with open arms to receive the anxiety and uncertainties of our lives. Take courage.

“Wisdom” 12/1/16

fork-in-the-roadSometimes, we have to live quietly, patiently, and faithfully in the ambiguity of life and trust that God’s in charge. Other times, we must take a stand, face what is ahead, and walk toward the unknown with courage, boldness, and decisiveness and yes, even then, trust that God is in charge. Lord, give us the wisdom to know that YOU are the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, and we are the created, redeemed, and sustained.

 

Eric Cooter

“Integrity” A Civil Air Patrol Core Value

by Ch. Maj. Eric Cooter, CAP Group 5 flyingChaplain/Unit Chaplain

Merriam Webster Dictionary defines “Integrity” both as “the quality of being honest and fair,” as well as “the state of being complete or whole.”  When most of us think of integrity, the characteristics of honesty and fairness usually come to mind.  However, a life of honesty and fairness requires us to be emotionally, physically, as well as spiritually whole.  Wholeness means that we are living in a state of “not lacking or leaving out any part.”

Life’s circumstance can often leave us lacking.  When we are physically ill or we experience an injury, our entire state of wholeness shifts.  Our mental state becomes challenged, we may become despondent, and our spirit focuses on the negative. When our emotional state is challenged because of stress, we often feel that emotion in our guts or for some of us, our immune system becomes compromised and we catch a cold or some other minor illness.  When we overlook our spiritual practices, or we fail to care for our spiritual selves, we may experience the emotions of despondency, fear, or a lack of peace.

Alternatively, when we exercise and eat properly, when we take time for meditation, prayer, or other spiritual/religious practices, and when we spend quality time with friends and family, our health tends to improve, we focus more on the positive, and we feel more connected to others and the world around us.  An online Mayo Clinic article states, “Taking the path less traveled by exploring your spirituality can lead to a clearer life purpose, better personal relationships and enhanced stress management skills.”(1)

We are a whole person that cannot be divided.  We are more than mere mental and physical functions. We are intelligent, emotional, and spiritual beings, who require balance in order to be whole.   An aircraft engine requires fuel, air, and spark to run properly, and if any of those things are out of balance, the engine does not run at its optimum level.

Accomplishing our individual mission tasks and working together as a team, to insure we accomplish our team mission requires all of us to function at our optimum level.

Living the core values of CAP can be a challenge for all of us, but achieving our goals, accomplishing the mission, and living a life of “honesty and fairness,” living as a person of integrity requires each of us to be whole.  Like packing up your “mission bag” with MRE’s and water purification tablets, or conducting a pre-flight before starting the engine, begin the practice of taking care of yourself and your mission readiness.  Eat well, get plenty of rest, have fun and play, spend time with your family and friends, study and work to improve your skills, and take care of your spirit.  Pray, meditate, and consider committing to a frequent observance of the religious practices of your faith tradition.  Commit to be your whole self, your balanced self, and your best self.  Live with integrity!

(1)http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044464

Articles – “Ministry Matters”

My articles published by Ministry Matters online magazine

FRESH EXPRESSIONS: EVANGELISM FOR OUR CULTURE

By Eric Cooter

I grew up Methodist, became Baptist as a teen, wandered around the “religious cereal aisle” in my college years, and eventually in my mid-twenties, I found the ancient liturgy… read more

21ST CENTURY WELLS: CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY IN THE THIRD PLACE

By Eric Cooter
Is it possible for authentic Christian community to form in ‘unlikely venues’?” When I served as the rector in a transitional size parish it was difficult, due to the intense… read more

HOLY WEEK: STORY THROUGH LITURGY

By Eric Cooter
“Holy Week” for Christians has been and is just that, the holiest of weeks in our liturgical calendar. Through the liturgies of Holy Week, we experience a tradition that is… read more

Encouragement for Experimenters, Innovators, and Risk Takers.

1903_banner_rightGod equips each one of us for specific ministry. (I Cor. 12:12-27)  Some folks are uniquely and adequately equipped to serve as protectors of the tradition as it is, and others are gifted to experiment, innovate, and try new approaches. Others are gifted to stand in the middle holding both tradition and innovation in tension. We need more risk-takers in the church!
Consider the early innovators of science and technology, people like the Wright Brothers, who failed many times at their attempts to achieve the first manned powered flight. Now, forty-seven years after the successful Apollo 11 landing on the moon, NASA has still failed to move humans beyond Earth’s orbit, but there are some who are dreaming about traveling to Mars. Innovation requires vision, patience, and fortitude both in times of success, in the midst of failure, and after periods of many setbacks.
Experimentation is costly and it may never show measurable results. Risk-taking and experimentation requires fortitude in the midst of setbacks, doubters, and detractors. Fear can keep us from trying or sustaining something different, from dreaming new dreams, and from stepping out and taking a risk. If trepidation wins, we will never know what possibilities might have been. Innovators, experimenters, and risk-takers require encouragement and support.
So, it is easy for folks to sit on the sideline and say, “stay with it” or “buck up and keep going” or even “it is time to give up.” When you are in the middle of the storm, when all those around you have lost faith in your vision, and when behind you there lies a string of false starts, early departures, and utter failures, the choice then is this, “you can just quit, or you can keep trusting God and keep going.” The future depends on innovators and experimenters who are willing to traverse the rocky and difficult road of failure, in order to see their vision come to fruition.
By the way, the next time you hop in a Boeing 737 for that short flight to see a friend, give thanks for the patience, fortitude, and vision of two men, Orville and Wilbur Wright. They were just two guys from Ohio that many people thought were simple, crazy bicycle makers that dreamed of flying with the birds.

Space, Rockets, and Making Disciples

a-baa-rocket-failThe other night at the weekly Civil Air Patrol meeting of my local USAF auxiliary squadron, I taught a class (as I sometimes do) on Aerospace Education for a group of about 20 cadets and 5 adult officers.  For this particular class, I offered a lesson on the history of four pioneers in the science of aerospace and rocketry. I love teaching because the lessons always include more than merely sharing facts, figures, dates, and data. Many times when we teach others, it is an opportunity to inspire young people, to reach beyond what they perceive to be their own limitations.

Four aerospace scientists, Konstatin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky, Hermann Oberth, Robert H. Goddard, and Werner Von Braun were truly pioneers in the field of astrophysics, mechanics, and space flight.  Here are three interesting facts that I learned that were common among all four of them:

(1) Despite the fame and accolades given them years after their work and research had been accomplished, all of these three men were frequently challenged by their skeptics, and often ridiculed by their peers. (2) Experimentation and failure was at the heart of their work, and they never lost sight of the vision that had been given them, despite their many failed attempts, experiments, and “hair-brained” ideas. (3) Each of these leaders contributed in some way to the modern space programs we have seen make such advancements over the past five decades. The Apollo missions to the moon, the Space Shuttle program, the International Space Station and now, the eventual missions that will inevitably take us to Mars and beyond were all made possible because four men were inspired to reach for the stars.

Although our current and future space programs operate on the surety of precise measurements, proven facts, historical data, and measurable results, the path to aerospace success was not always paved with surety and precision. If not for the willingness of a few people to risk ridicule, skeptics, and failure, we would still be wondering what it would be like to set foot on our closest orbiting satellite (the Moon), rather than planning to reach our closest neighboring planet (Mars) in the next ten to fifteen years.

Why do I share this? Simply because I believe that the mission of the church requires us to take risks and to be willing to reach beyond what we perceive to be our own limitations. Jesus commissioned the church, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19) This sounds like Jesus was serious about the work he has sent his church to do, and my suspicion is that he expects us to step out of our comfort zones and go do just that; make disciples. Go!   To go and make faithful followers of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ today, we may have to take a few more risks. We may have to be willing to accept failure as a part of experimentation and ultimately, we may have to be willing to risk the skepticism and ridicule of our colleagues. The failures and experimentations, starts and stops, disappointments and hopes, are all necessary experiences of leaders who are willing to go into those places, others dare not go.

Maybe making disciples in the 21st century and beyond may have to look a whole lot less like a production operation, where our systems, processes, and ideas are rigid, well planned, and measurable. Maybe making disciples of Jesus Christ in the 21st century, a time in our culture that is changing more rapidly than any of us can imagine, may require the church to be more willing than ever before, to experiment, to fail, and to step out of the boat and trust the Spirit to lead us.  Maybe we have to listen more openly to the dreamers, to the people who have a passion for folks on the margins of the church, and maybe, just maybe we have to be willing to partner with those folks who may show up at our doors with really some “hair-brained” ideas.