THE POWER OF LESS – PART II

Greetings. It was several days ago that we left the opening post on The Power of Less. I appreciate your interest and contacts and have been pouring through the article from Real Simple to draw forth several angles which seem to fit into the culture I live in here in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. 

You may recall that I had taken a swipe at suggesting we are all given to the practice of distraction. There are a lot of reasons to blame for our pursuing distractions, especially those which call us away from the pursuit of simplicity. Distraction is antithetical to Simplicity or anything else we pursue that is helpful when living life. Stop for a moment here to identify two or three juicy distractions in your own life. Got um? Okay, here’s the thing.

Distractions consume most Americans and while many may not admit to that statement, take a listen to Dr. Randy Paterson from his book; 

How To Be Miserable. “We are fueled by this impulse to overcommit so much that we get together and talk about how busy we are!” That statement, set by itself, is hilarious even though it is also pathetic. I know this first hand, or, maybe I should say; second hand as my wife Lynda, at some point not long ago began protesting against my busy schedule by saying, “I don’t need to see your schedule to know you’re busy.” I’ll get back to where that ended up in another blog post

Distraction of course, draws us toward the insignificant at the expense of the significant. And the insignificance, once given enough of one’s time, will run us head on into Indifference. 

There are about seven definitions for indifference. They run from apathetic to neutral. I mean, I can be neutral about two shirts I’m thinking about purchasing because that is insignificant. However, if I am all in on the Power of Less, I can’t appeal to neutrality. I’m either in or I’m not. And by the way, deconstructing pieces and parts of your current life, will in fact, always be challenged by someone or something else clamoring for your time. Psychologist Beth Kurland; “It’s as if each of us has a container within us that can only hold so much…..How full is my container?” Well that’sthe question isn’t it?

Toward the conclusion of Part I of this post on The Power Of Less, I noted that the title itself; “Almost sounds Biblical doesn’t it?” For me it does and I locate that feeling from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew chapters five through seven. You should take a couple of minutes now to read chapter 6:19-33. Jesus goes on a riff about a number of things you and I seem to be worried about. Things like: food, and fashion, and fitness, and finances, and the future. What would an itinerant sojourner from two thousand years ago know about those things then? Take a couple of minutes now and read his thoughts in Matthew 6:19-33 on the matter of simplicity.

The Power Of Less isn’t merely about cleaning out a bedroom closet or a kitchen pantry on the road to simplicity. You and I are far more complex than that. You and I are Mind, Body, Soul, and Spirit. The Power Of Less may begin with some changes in our current environment but as we contemplate that simple act, the heart of the matter works to pull us deeper into something more significant, more meaning filled, nothing less than The Power Of Life itself. 

Hey, next time, let’s continue to have a conversation that has the depth to change each of us. Talk Ain’t Cheap! 

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. Leave a comment and let’s start a connection with one another. 

MC 

THE POWER OF LESS

I picked up a magazine last month called Real Simple. I had seen RS before at one of my writing hot spots and had taken the time to read several articles. My recall was that I appreciated the writers and was impressed at how their craft drew in the reader by encouraging her or him to consider how one’s life could be made better through practicing the art of simplicity. 

On the front cover of this particular edition, in dark bold letters, was a statement we have over the last several years become accustomed to seeing; The Power of Less. I am a sucker for statements embedded with contrast. They make you think and sometimes, if what they are sharing with you seems engaging and possible, they may convince you to present a card with the magazine at the check out counter.

On the side bar just to the right of the cover page the RS folks continued to ask for my consideration about such things as; Unloading StressHaving Less Stuff, and Declutter Your Thoughts.

Now RS is obviously good at reeling potential readers in for a look but let’s be honest, while what they offer is in my opinion Real it surely ain’t Simple. Dropping stress, giving away your stuff, or reframing your thoughts absolutely needs to be attempted by all of us during specific intervals in our lives. But how many among us, in this American Age of Distraction, are up for the challenge? 

You’ve probably noticed that there’s a lot going on in our lives. Just inside of the area of technology, we sense, “wait that’s not what I want to say”. We love our gadgets and, wait that’s not always true. We are controlled by, we are owned by, we are enslaved by technology. Without the latest tech instrument coming down the pike we are convinced we will be left behind, relegated to the boonies, off the grid. What drives this fear into us? 

Ingela Ratledge Amundson in her article, The More of Less, cites author Greg McKeown. “Over the past 10 years we’ve moved from connectivity to hyperconnectivity. Once you put a supercomputer in every person’s pocket, you’re going to get what we have now: It’s so hard to say no to nonessential distractions and relatively harder to say yes to what are actually the most important interactions and people in our life.”

I deeply appreciate McKeown’s point here. As I continue to bring together my first book – Participation – Engaging The People In Your Life, it is most encouraging to see how many millions of Americans have become interested in just that; participating by interacting with others whom they are walking through life with. Throughout the next couple of months, in this BIog, we will be highlighting a number of items centered around what it means, why it’s critical, how it’s done; this whole wonderful opportunity to get outside of self and into life lived in the company of others. 

Now, back to The Power of Less for a couple of observations to conclude this first of a two part post.

First, to change anything requires us at the baseline to embrace new habits. We have, in these past several decades become a nation of people living lives of distraction. That is to say, distraction compels us away from change. While we may know this in the recesses of our heart and soul, we seldom seem to be able to have an open conversation about it in public with others. While pursuing the habit of deconstructing ones life of “stuff”, why not share with a friend how you have struggled with distraction to accomplish this goal. Two for the price of One! You can do it!!

Second, is simple. But not Real Simple. You and I are living our life right now mostly separated physically from one another. It seems to me, that makes this time while sheltering in place, a grand opportunity for us to fill our hours with a habit that can only bring to us newness of life. The Power of Less, is a part of living a new life as it cleanses the old away like a distant memory. Almost sounds Biblical doesn’t it? 

Join me for Part II next week. And please shoot me a comment  and let’s begin a conversation around ways to discard the distractions in our lives.

MC 

Judges, Jeopardy and Joining the Cause

I had hoped to write on my blog about last months court hearing and update on the court date our family and friends went through on March 12th. The second defendant in the killing of my son Bryan Cooke and the shooting of me, appeared in court to face a plea deal of Voluntary Manslaughter. Unfortunately I am still trying to make sense of the Judge’s confusing sentencing. While I asked the State of South Carolina represented by the Ninth Circuit Solicitor’s Office to give me an explanation immediately following the sentencing on March 12th, I have heard NOTHING a month later… crickets? Not surprising, and I am sending a second request by mail to see what, if anything the Solicitors office discovered on our behalf??

It was the day following our court hearing that Coronavirus seemed to finally invade our lives in earnest. Discouragement followed by even more discouragement. How have you been weathering this worldwide pandemic here’s several questions to open this blog with which have impacted all of us at some level of concern this past month.

1st – Have you been reading about how to keep yourself safe from contracting the Coronavirus?

2nd – Have you been watching the 24/7 channels where you can get what they all refer to as Breaking News about Covid-19?

3rd – Have you come to agree that sheltering in place does save lives?

4th – Have you been frightened (at some level) by what you see and hear of this Pandemic?

For most of us, the unknown can, at times, create anxiety.

Self preservation can be a good thing. Two years ago I was hell bent on preserving my own life when an 18 year old fired four shots from a .40 caliber pistol four feet away from my body. Surviving became the only thing I could think of to act on. It reminds me of the hoarders we’ve been reading about. Perhaps you have run into one at the local grocer these past several weeks. Hoarders often find themselves in what can only be described as a sort of pretend survival mode.

Then there are people who are far more drawn to the activity of acquiring information today which, given new circumstances about this contagion, can change markedly by tomorrow.
“Well” you say, of course the info can change but is it really “IT” (the Breaking News) that is changing or is it “US” who are not changing. In a country initially asked to self quarantine, we’ve now been told to shelter in place, orders to hopefully save others and hopefully ourselves from contamination. An order focused on reducing the curve.

I can’t believe I am writing and posting a blog about this. The vast majority of us awaken to a surreal world which is anything but a pretend world. While it’s hard to shake, we all know it is real in spite of the talking heads who can’t control their own conspiracy theories devoid of reality.

When I use the word world here I am envisioning you and me because in times like this, surviving here and now seems primary if in fact the World is to survive. Seriously, what can we do in our smaller, lower case worlds that we have yet to do out of inconvenience?

We Americans, who have lived lives of convenience for all these many years we’ve been in the World (at least this American has), now confront an internal existential threat to ourselves; can we suffer through the inconvenience this Pandemic requires of us?

I want to say, “we’ll see”, but right now that’s not at all helpful given the increasing number of human beings who are testing positive each day and the human beings who are dying because we live in a world that was in many ways unprepared for this disease.

Now, you and me, WE, have to change our lower case world. And that, is becoming increasingly necessary if survival is going to be our goal, a goal worth sacrificing for everyone.

MC

Two Years Later

Fifty Three days into 2020 and I feel and find my way moving forward. I hope you too are sensing that this year can be special as you make the decisions to grow healthier in a holistic way by paying attention to the journey you have chosen. 

Tomorrow, February 23, 2020 will be exactly two years since Bryan and I were shot by a couple of young men who were looking for…..looking for…..looking for…..God knows what. And whatever their intention beyond armed robbery, they left my son Bryan lifeless and me with four bullet holes in my body with little hope of surviving. 

Thanks to an awesome Trauma Emergency Team under the direction of Dr. Douglass Norcross at the Medical University of South Carolina, I physically survived and am alive today to tell the story not only about the event itself but the aftermath of ongoing recovery which continues 729 days since the shooting.

People tell me that Friday, February 23, 2018 was not my day to die. But they cannot with certainty tell me the reason why. In the New Testament of the Christian Bible we are told in Hebrews 9:27 It is appointed unto man, once to die. We’ve all figured that out but how we die and when we die remains forever hidden from us  this side of heaven.

Guns and violence are a common occurrence in America. According to everytownresearch.org, each day in our country 100 Americans are killed by guns and 200 are shot and wounded. Fifty eight percent of adults, or someone they care for, have experienced gun violence in their lifetime. I have kept up with these statistic on gun violence ever since the shootings At Sandy Hook. I never imagined I would become a statistic inside of this topic. But now that both Bryan and I are statistics, it seems my responsibility to add to the truth of just how violent this type of assault on human beings actually is.

I hope to engage on this subject through a couple of posts blended in with of course other topical matters each month on my blog. For now, today, just one day in the life of Mike Cooke, I wanted you, my friends to know a little bit about tomorrow, because tomorrow @ Life Community is a day to remember my son and to thank our friends who have stood with us through this tragedy.

The courage to move forward through even the difficulty of grief and suffering is not only a matter of our will, but it is as well a matter of ones will being acted upon by Grace. I like to think of grace as a fascinating relational concept which originated with the God who is more deeply in love with us than we have imagined. It is a lot like oxygen. We didn’t invent it, but we’ll need it if we’re going to go on living. And that, by the way, would be exactly what Bryan would want you and me to be doing.

If you knew Bryan at all, you know that he held on to life through his trust in his God. I’ll highlight more in upcoming posts of how Bryan did this in his day to day living in spite of how that day turned out. He inspired me and I know hearing more of his story, his struggles, and his life will do the same for you.

I also want to share more about the community which has surrounded our family. They have been under us, ahead of us, behind us and within us when the ambushes of grief and trauma attack. Community isn’t what most people have in mind. Community is where people really matter and others take the time even when it isn’t convenient to be present. Those stories need to be told as well, and  will be in future blog posts.

I’ve said enough for now. I‘m about to get ready to go meet some family and friends to share today with. To find strength in our relationships as together we remember the life of Bryan Cooke which is someone worth talking about inside of this community that he helped put together.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I would love to hear any and all thoughts and comments you may have. And if you have tomorrow morning free why not drop by Life Community Church at 10:15 and join us in celebration of Bryan, We’re at the Musical Theater Center @ 547 Long Point Rd. in Mt. Pleasant, 29464.

MC  

THE END IS NEAR!

In about 5 hours and 50 minutes, the clock at Times Square, in the city of New York will begin its annual countdown to midnight and herald in the New Year of 2020.

Each year when Lynda and I settle in to watch the celebration, and fireworks, and bedlam in the streets of New York. We reminisce a little about what was and hope for what can be. As the evening moves on, one of us is always yelling at the other to wake up, and whoever had nodded off always says; I wasn’t sleeping.

We usually make it through (at least one of us does). And for a lot of us who are dreamers, those of us who use our imagination, New Years Eve becomes a night of looking forward to what will be.

There’s a verse in the New Testament where Paul is writing a letter to some friends living in the city of Corinth. His letter is to encourage them by sharing this statement: If anyone is in Christ the old has gone, the new is here.

I would venture to say that these 13 words, over the last two millennia, have become a truth for countless people regardless of their situation in life. For us today there is no better time to hear and embrace words filled with hope for tomorrow, next week, next year. We get to make something with what we’ve been given. What will we do with that when tomorrow draws us into 2020?

Lynda and I have been talking a lot about what’s ahead for us. And, by extension, for Life Community. This week I ran across this quote from the news journalist on CBS, Scott Pelley in his new book; Truth Worth Telling:

Don’t ask the meaning of life. Life is asking the meaning of you.

That line, at first glance, seems to be personal, but the more you read it, with eyes wide open, it may begin to give you the sense that life is awaiting an answer, that life is pulling you into herself to become what only you can give her.

I’m looking forward to this evening as I hope for a New Year to embrace. I bet you are as well. Together let’s move forward tomorrow by living the rest of our life like no one else on this planet can. Let’s be who we were made to be.

The End Is Near, in just hours we’ll say goodby to 2019. Enjoy the evening, don’t get too crazy, and shoot me a comment on the content of this post.

ON BEING THANKFUL

Here’s a short Thanksgiving post to all of you who visit my Blog. It comes from my heart so don’t say anything to hurt me okay. But, please, by all means, comment or add to this mini post your thoughts on not just this holiday but giving thanks for life in general.

There are many things like events, toys, opportunities, etc., etc., which we find ourselves thankful for on a daily basis. We know that we have a feedback loop which dumps that awesome chemical serotonin into our brain creating feelings of happiness when we’ve experienced something that makes us happy. We know this because this has happened at times to all of us. Like right now you might be feeling a sense of goodwill because Mike is taking time out of his Thanksgiving holiday to say to me he is thankful for me.

Well, you’d be right, I am taking time to do just that, but the point isn’t just to say to you how grateful I am to have you in my life.

The point is to say how your being in my life has changed me, challenged me, taught me, encouraged me, supported me, inspired me………. I could go on and on, but this is a mini blog today!

You people – you individually have spoken into my life through your own lives what it literally means to be alive and to embrace life day by day with thanksgiving.

That’s it. You have been a part of making me, ME! And for that contribution from you I say to myself, to my God, and to each of you 

THANK YOU!!

God’s peace,

MC 

Day 682

Sorry for the absence but these last 5 weeks have been consumed by preparation for a long awaited court date. As many of you know, our family has spent most of the last 682 days crawling forward as we continue to seek answers to the shooting death of our son Bryan. The journey is far from over, but next week, we have an opportunity to face the confessed gunman. Imagine what that might be like? A good piece of our time has been spent preparing ourselves for Wednesday, November 13, 2019. It will be Day 682 of our tragedy. Though it’s just one day it seems to encompass an entire lifetime.

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to speak at New Song Church over on Daniel Island. Inside of that message I placed this reminder from Jesus which John, the Gospel writer included in his book. It was a reminder to me and those who had gathered that morning to hear our story. Perhaps it is familiar to you or maybe you have never heard it until today. 

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

That first statement has been born out by all of us to be absolutely true. No one gets a pass on trouble. In fact, you and I at times seem to be experts at creating trouble in our own lives, our own family, and our own relationships.

I have returned to that verse time and time again because I am fascinated by that exclamation point which follows the word heart because it engenders this thought of hope. I was having lunch just the other day with my favorite Millennial Landis, who opened up a conversation about that word hope. In our back and forth on the matter we asked this question out loud; What would life be without hope

For me, I believe that Jesus’ thought process here in these two statements are critical to a life well lived in spite of trouble or tragedy or loss. During my own journey (which has never been just my own journey because so many of you guys have walked with me), I have listened and learned a truth about life I had never appreciated. 

The truth about loss is the truth about love because suffering is the test of love. Until you lose someone you will never know fully how much you loved them. 

I’m going to shut up for today and as always I hope you might have some thoughts yourself specific to this post. If so let’s start our own conversation. You never know who we might impact!

MC

DON’T ASK HOW, ASK WHY, AND HERE’S WHY

Recently I read this powerfully compelling quote in the book The Divine Dance by Rohr and Morrell;

The greatest dis-ease facing humanity right now is our profound and painful sense of disconnection.

I appreciate these two authors stepping up to make such a bold statement. I get this sense that most people might push back against R&M’s thought here. But, what we are seeing today is that R&M are not alone in their point, many others, in fact a host of others are writing, podcasting, and speaking about the disconnect and divisiveness in this country between you and me, us and them. 

I’ve read a number of articles which blame technology. No doubt, technology has thankfully, in many ways, had a positive impact on our lives. The time it has saved us however, seems to have been reinvested back into technology. In the article out of the University of Wisconsin; The Growing Obsession with Technology, Professor Michael Bugeja argues for creating a daily balance between our technological use and our face to face time with human beings like friends, family, co-workers, and class mates. There may be nothing like it in our day that draws us away into distraction and therefore disconnection from people. That can change, time can be redeemed, the addiction can be overcome, yet we should be careful not to begin with pursuing HOW to do this ahead of understanding WHY we have done this.

WHY questions tend to be more personal and therefore many will do what they can to not “go there”. When we ask ourselves why, we seek an answer which can only be answered by WHO we are, or more to the point, WHO we have become. WHO questions, more often than not, drive us deeper into reflection. WHO are we becoming? Is it possible that many in the Global West have become addicted to their technologies?

Justin Whitmel Earley has written a new book entitled The Common Rule. Its focus point is about developing habits of purpose for an age of distraction. He notes that the modern world we live in is itself a powerful habit forming machine. I don’t think any of us would deny that, and thus we need people like JWE to help us renew and restore what may have been lost to us. 

We’ll come back in a couple of days to explore more deeply where this series of posts are headed and why that’s a good thing for all of us. But for now, I’d like to challenge you to answer this meaning filled question; What stories and Whose stories are influencing your life? 

When we locate our answers, perhaps we should ask as well; Whose story is my life influencing?

Time to close for now but I ran across this awhile back;  Learn first about you or you will bore others!

WHO YOU ARE IS – Unique, Unlimited, Unparalleled, and Unfinished.

Have a great weekend and send me a comment. I welcome your thoughts

MC

The Pace and Space of our Lives (Part 3)

This is the third and final post inside of the mini series; The Pace and Space of our Lives. We are seeking to open a door to a conversation around this idea that the Pace of our lives has begun to greatly influence the Space in our lives. 

If you are feeling as if you are moving at the speed of light some days perhaps that is a warning that your current speed of life, at times is impossible to maintain. If we cannot maintain then we need help, we need maintenance as it were to recalibrate the pace of living.

In the past couple of years I have had many, many conversations with friends who admit they are way out over their skis in specific areas of life and don’t know how to throttle back. So it seems to me, that in this case, our Pace becomes an arbiter of or to our Space – the parts of our lives we are or are not paying attention to. 

James K. A. Smith in his fine book You Are What You Love writes – “If you are what you love, and if love is a virtue, then love is a habit. This means that our most fundamental orientation to the world (our primarySpace) is shaped by imitation and practice.”

When Smith speaks of love here, he is not speaking of love in the emotive or romantic sense many of us may be thinking of. What I understand Smith to be saying here is that if you are truly going to give your life tolove, you will immediately set your Pace of each day so that you can move from love as a noun into love as a verb. When we act upon that which moves us toward others we should quite naturally begin to see a new rhythm (Pace) in our living.

Smith also notes that; “The center of gravity of the human person is located not in the intellect but in the heart. Why? Because the heart is the existential chamber of our love”

Thus the author of Proverbs cautions us with these words; Above all else guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.” 

So, here’s why the Pace (daily rhythm) and the Space (what matters) in your life and mine deserves an ongoing conversation. Oh, and by the way, we practice this all the time with the trivial distractions of life. How can we begin to apply that to the deeper interior matters of life? 

Who has an idea, who has a thought, who cares that life can and does get stolen from us each day? I have a few that we will begin unpacking in the next post later this week. In the meantime, seek truth and inspire change. Your life was created to breathe life into others. Let’s go do it!

MC

The Pace and Space of our Lives (Part 2)

It seems as if there are spaces in all of our lives that we are for one reason or another unwilling to consider for upgrades. The writer Parker Palmer challenges us to ask this question; “Is the life I am living the same life that wants to live in me?” Never heard it quite put in that cadence but it certainly captured my attention.  

I used to think that the older you get the more settled or set in your ways you became. However, the last two generations have disabused me of this idea. While they are not old enough yet to be stuck in their ways they nevertheless seem to be more fluid and less static in how they live their lives. I realize they have their faults just as each growing generation has. But one of them, for now, doesn’t seem to be…………….

The older I become the more I choose to connect with 20’s, 30’s, and 40 year olds to see and hear how and why they have become WHO they have become. What are they embracing, what are they (at least for now) rejecting? Anyway, curious minds want to know so…………………….

Several days ago I posted Part 1 of The Pace and Space of our Lives where I asked readers to consider (I love that word consider as It gives us an option) Stopping, Slowing down,  Rethinking, and Renewing. Each step is equally critical to the process. And by the way, I am not selling a process here, I am simply engaging in a conversation. It’s a significant conversation which suggests to you and me that there is a way to see life differently – a new way to Be Alive.

I pastor a church, Life Community, where we run along a pathway which tells us that Conversations can lead to Connections which can lead us into Community. For us and for many others, being in community is how one finds real life, how one becomes human. It’s a reality as old as time, and yet seems missing in many people’s live today.

Fredrick Beuchner notes: 

You can survive on your own

You can become strong on your own

You can prevail on your own

But, you cannot become a human on your own

Into your life and mine has crept this pervasive lifestyle of constant distraction. Matthew Kelly in his excellent book, The Rhythm of Life reminds us all that; Everything is a choice.This is life’s greatest truth and its hardest lesson.

Do you have an hour next week to Stop, Slow Down, Rethink your journey, and allow Renewal to begin it’s process inside of you. 

I bet you do and you’ll be surprised to find that others you already know are walking this path as well. 

So what do you think? Is there room for new direction, for newness in life? Love to hear some feedback. Post a comment and let’s begin the Conversation!

Check back in for the conclusion in the third part of The Pace and Space of our Lives early next week.

MC