Twenty Years Have Passed

I recently connected with a number of friends I had lost touch with after high school.

It’s difficult to believe, but 20 years have passed since I lived in the Chattanooga area in a little neighborhood called Mill Run, nestled neatly in a partial of land located directly behind my Alma Mater.

Chattanooga, Tennessee, downtown city skyline.

Chattanooga, Tennessee, downtown city skyline.

I loved that neighborhood, the place we called home during my high school years, the covered bridge you had to cross to get to the school, and the rich memories I have of my childhood there.

I loved it, and I left it.

There’s a Darrell Scott song that says,

“It’s been fifteen years since I left home
Said good luck to every seed I’d sown
Gave it my best, then I left it alone
I hope they’re doing all right”

In my case, it’s been 20 years, but the words of the song ring true just the same. It was almost as if I took the first available train out of Chattanooga and, with my well-wishes, left it alone.

Perhaps that’s why this fall, when I had the privilege of helping coordinate our 20 year high school reunion, it was accompanied by a flood of emotions. It’s hard to describe the mixture of joy and regret, excitement and anxiety, and deep reflection that accompanies a 20 year reunion in your childhood town.

I know many who don’t like the idea of reconnecting with people you haven’t seen in 20 years. I get that. To varying degrees, we were all pretty foolish in high school. But I found this reunion very beneficial. My wife put it well, “It was very different from the 10 year… It seemed like everyone was very comfortable and not trying to impress each other.”

The fact is, there’s a lot of water under the bridge that leads back to our high school. Twenty years is a long time. Life has beat us all up a bit, and we’ve lived long enough to experience some major failures of our own. We’ve fallen on our faces many times, and we’re more aware of our need for grace (and hopefully more gracious as a result).

One of my friends from elementary school recently posted this on FaceBook:

“I am going to church today. My deepest prayer is that God will send wisdom and peace to me and bless my wife and children. I will pray, I will sing, and I will listen. May the Lord have mercy on me for all that I have done that is so wrong. Bless all of you.”

This note is one of my favorite notes that I’ve ever read on social media. I’m confident my friend will receive mercy from God.

Mercy is not getting what you deserve.

Grace is getting the favor you don’t deserve.

Both mercy and grace are available to everyone who calls on the Lord, even after 20 years of straying (or more).

As long as you have breath in your lungs, it’s never too late to turn to the LORD. “While you are among the living, you have hope!” (Ecclesiastes 9:4).

God’s self-revelation of Himself is as a merciful and gracious God: “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6).

He is full of tenderness and compassion toward you: “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13-14).

If you come to Him, and pour our your heart to Him, He will hear your cry and respond with grace and mercy: “He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry” (Isaiah 30:19).

You have not outlived God’s mercy.

Twenty years may have passed, and that is a long time; but God can make everything new.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:1-5)

New eBook // What Thirty-Somethings Need to Hear: When Age Meets Grace

Navigating through the changing seasons of life is not a simple task.

As the years pile up on us, we can easily find ourselves overwhelmed by it all. Responsibilities increase. Demands on our time and energy increase. Coming face-to-face with the harsh realities of life in a broken world, we can wake up wondering how we’re going to make it.

Book Cover Amazon

Yet, the God of all grace has mercy available for every season. The God of all encouragement has words of comfort and strength for those wrestling with weariness, dealing with discouragement, contending with comparison, and simply searching for meaning in the midst of the mundane.

I’m excited to announce the publication of a book called What Thirty-Somethings Need to Hear, designed to help us re-kindle the wonder of grace in our hearts even as we age (the eBook is available now on Amazon).

If you are currently in the throes of your thirties, searching for encouragement as you are heading into your thirties, or simply reflecting back on this unique season of life, this eBook is for you.

Here’s what others are saying about What Thirty-Somethings Need to Hear: When Age Meets Grace:

“For many of us, the thirties have been filled will mundane tasks, working hard, and caring for family. There’s nothing glamorous about it and we’ve lost some of the excitement of “what’s next?!” that we had in our twenties. Craig Cooper gets it and he has a good word for those of us in the trenches—God is with us and grace abounds. What Thirty-Somethings Need to Hear reminds us that there is hope for the weary, tired, and even bored as Craig shines light on our great God and Savior. This book is indeed what we all need to hear.
TRILLIA NEWBELL
Author of Fear and Faith (2015) and United (2014)

“The thirties are a time where personal responsibility is at an all time high, margin is at a low, and novelty of the twenties is long past in the rear view mirror. Its been true for me. Craig Cooper understands the disillusionment of the thirties, but his wisdom doesn’t stop there. Craig models in his life and in his writings an anchoring beyond himself and a compelling hope in God’s grace. What Thirty Somethings Need to Hear is a refreshing read and even anticorrosive agent to cynicism, resignation, frustration, and disillusionment that we all feel. Read and recover your thirties.”
BRANDON ADDISON
Pastor Fellowship South Nashville
Founding Member New Nashville

“We have so many voices in our culture telling us what we should value and who we should become. What this book does so well is let Jesus answer and define those pressing questions by viewing them through the lens of Scripture rather than the eyes of the world. Craig has been able to communicate a voice of Biblical truth that is louder and much more persuasive than anything in our culture. And its a voice worth listening to.”
JOHN HAMSTRA
Lead Pastor, Mercy Hill Church
Munster, IN

“What Thirty Somethings Need to Hear will challenge you to be still, to listen for God’s voice, and to thrive in what are some of the most rewarding years of your life.”
CHAD NIKAZY
Blogger at Trifatherhood.com

Come up for air and breath again as you read What Thirty-Somethings Need to Hear: When Age Meets Grace. Refreshment awaits you. Grace awaits you. Mercy awaits you.

The book is available now for Kindle on Amazon. Just click here to get your copy. 

What 30 Somethings Need to Hear: Embrace the Mess!

Embrace the Mess

This post is for all my 30-Something friends who have small children frolicking around their sometimes frenetic homes.

Embrace and Enjoy this Season

Life is messy. Add kids (or multiple kids) to the mix and it only gets messier. Children are resourceful, creative, and experimental. They are full of energy, imagination, and life. They are a JOY!! And… they are messy.

With the God-given natural desire for order (1 Cor. 14:33) in the heart of a parent, the regular rhythm of free-play giving way to obligatory “clean-up” times can be monotonous and, at times, maddening.

That’s when we need to remember that most important truth that our children are a GIFT from God (See Psalm 127:3-5). By any stretch, our time with them is short, and the moments we have every day are a blessing for us to embrace.

Encouragement from an Obscure Passage

I can remember reading through Proverbs 14 a few years ago and being encouraged in this regard by an obscure passage:

“Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean,
but abundant crops come by the strength of an ox.” (Proverbs 14:4)

Obviously, this passage is speaking about oxen. If you have no oxen, your manger will always be clean. But as Derek Kidner has written, this passage “has many applications to personal, institutional and spiritual life.” I think it can serve us as parents.

It’s so easy to focus on all the messes that are around us: Clothes and shoes laying all over the floor, books not put away neatly in their shelves, toys scattered across the rooms of our already cluttered lives, dirty bathrooms, dirty dishes, and disheveled rooms.

But, really, would you trade the kisses, the hugs, the moments of ministry, and the warm embraces for a clean and quiet home? I wouldn’t.

I love the way Dennis and Barbara Rainey have put it:

“One day–sooner than we think–those muddy footprints, those marks on the wall, the spilled red Kool-Aid stains and piles of dirty diapers will be the things of the past that we miss. The late-night study sessions, the teen-age drama, watching your son drive away while you quietly pray for his safety, and the soul-searching conversations will be over. As James reminds us, even these moments will be gone like a mist (James 4:14). The house will be quiet. And we will hope for a phone call from those children we don’t see as often as we’d like. We cannot look past the blessing of the parenting years and the unparalleled privilege we have as parents to show our children they are our blessings.” (quoted in A Parent Privilege, by Steve Wright with Chris Graves, pages 69-70)

That’s a great quote for the fridge. What a helpful perspective! At the heart of it all, our children are a blessing and not a bother. God, give us grace to maintain this perspective and relate to our kids in this way!

If you, like me, are in the season of small children, let’s embrace our kids and embrace the mess. One day, sooner than we know it, we will miss having to clean up after these little blessings. Let’s enjoy it now!