Tuesday, January 31, 2017

On the Eve of Power: A Prayer

Father,
I’m supposed to preach tomorrow…about your power
The power that comes when we tarry – seeking Your face
        acknowledging our helplessness, sinfulness
            and utter inadequacy
Your Word and works declare, even shout
            this power, this spirit indwells me
    but there’s something more… “it shall come upon you”
            something from without, invading within
Changing forever the source and direction
          of what drives me
And tomorrow I stand before your precious people
Confidently confessing for all to see
            the reality, immanence and relevance
Of your power…for us today – right now
     come hell or high water
            come addiction, depression and personal failure
An overcoming power
    when my loved ones get sick and even die
    when my children stray and fall
    when the chaos of the moment
            drains out any vision for the future
    when my own flesh leads an open rebellion
         against the new creation that I’ve become in Christ
    when I’m misunderstood, misrepresented
            and even betrayed

That’s right Lord, I’m gonna stand up there
       under the mantle of man’s ordination
              vast years of my pastoral training and profession
  with what sometimes seems like – very little overcoming faith
       but loads of religious experience
       and testify to the POWER, Your power, the power of God
Divine power, creative power, resurrecting power, healing power, saving power, delivering power, transforming power, overcoming, devil-stomping, faith enhancing, limitless power!
I’ll wave my hands expressively and shout,
“It’s in me!  It’s in you!  It’s in this church!
It’s real and here right now, for any and every situation!”

Just one hitch, Jesus, I don’t feel very powerful tonight
            I have recollections of yesterday and long ago
When your power in me
            imparted transformation and faith
Somewhere in the journey…too often self-absorbed
     I stretched out my hand,
             touching a glory meant only for you
Proud, careless, foolish, naïve, immature, undisciplined
            all the above
My need for validation exposed me
            to the pressures and pulls of this world
        and Delilah cut my hair and Philistines plucked my eyes

But when I cried, “Lord, have mercy! Great is Your faithfulness!”
Your healing grace restored my sight, the joy of my salvation
             and with that my strength
So tomorrow I will without shame proclaim…
“Not by might, not by power
                  but by my Spirit, says the Lord”
And if you don’t do something, Father
            in my life, in our church, in our land
We don’t have the power…to get it done

Lord, light the fire again
            start tonight, ignite in me afresh
                    then through your presence and your power
Release in your people the passion of Pentecost
Make it so, dear God – for Jesus sake.  Amen!


02/14/98, Revised, 1/31/17  -  Mark D. Cooke

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The View

The View

I have gazed upon snow covered Rockies
I have been awed by Ecuadorian volcanoes and Incan highways
Peered out over African plains and the running waters of the Nile
Looked up in wonder at Persian Gulf skyscrapers
Pondered from a plane window the Manhattan skyline below
And from a New Jersey dock, taken back by Lady Liberty
Captured the summer haze of a Canadian horizon from a peak in Maine
Looked out a Toronto hotel window at a Winter Wonderland
Watched fish swimming beneath a canoe in a crystal pond
Watched fish swimming while beneath the blue waters of the Caribbean
Passed miles and miles of sugar cane plantations on an island nation
Passed miles and miles of farmland in too many states to count
Stood amazed midst ancient ruins of a Roman Spain
Reflected on my Celtic roots while traipsing the Scottish Highlands
Stood by the ancient, stone altar in Columba's cave
Paused in contemplative stillness by a California sunset 
Seen great works of art in world renown galleries and museums
Walked gravelly paths in majestic, urban parks
Walked gravelly paths down in the coal mines of Wales
Gazed out over the waves back towards Charleston from Portugal
Ran along the coastal cliffs of Peru with the Pacific far below
Prayerfully meandered through countless magnificent cathedrals
Photographed grand palaces from London to The Hague to Calcutta
Been mesmerized by multicolored fields of tulips from a Dutch train
Had a 360 degree glimpse of five states high in the Appalachians
Been overwhelmed by millions in the streets during Ethiopia's Epiphany
Left breathless by the Chilean Andes and Brazilian beaches
Had the colors of Fall foliage leave me in tears
And everywhere the people of God of every language, color, and class
But Jane, the view that I love and cherish most of all is you
11-30-16

Friday, December 4, 2015

Advent 2015

Advent 2015

there’s a darkness spreading over our land
       a specter creeping into every facet of our lives
confusion, anxiety, fear, and lunacy
      weave together a bizarre narrative
            promulgated by an endless cadre of talking heads,
he is she, she is he, boy is girl, girl is boy
      husband and husband, the law of the land
            inclusion the new normal, unless there’s dissent
growing violence in the name of religion or race
      madness only eclipsed by the murder of our innocent
civility trampled, vulgarity worshipped
      indecency celebrated, perversion embraced
             timeless truths condemned, foundations abandoned  
what can the righteous do, Lord?
who will stand; who will speak?
where do we stand; where do we speak?
        our feeling of helplessness seemingly suffocates
           “The LORD reigns, let the nations tremble.”
we declare it in our houses of worship
       while the daily assaults seek to disconnect
someone please light a candle, shine some light
      a grating voice, singing in the fog, sounds of Bob Dylan
           “everything is broken”, everyone is broken
and the media arrogantly proclaims
         “God can’t fix this.”
“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel.”


mark d. cooke, 12-4-15

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Funeral That Became a Wedding with Addendum

As I was running this morning, listening to a Misty Edwards’ worship album (music that always creates a thin place for me between heaven and earth), I began to pray for Renee Boutan’s family.
Reflecting on her father preaching, standing high above us, within the sacred walls of St. Philip’s, I saw that he was there in a similar thin place, his deep grief and sorrow pulling him down to the earthbound gathering below – we who strangely hold on to this fleeting, temporal domain, when the invisible, eternal realm is the greater reality – while the Word and the Spirit drew him to that place of incomprehensible joy, love and peace.

Suddenly my running route fades from my sight, and I glimpse through the veil to Heaven’s Throne Room. Renee is standing before the throne dressed in a simple, elegant wedding gown, her head bowed, and her face covered with a lovely, laced veil.
Jesus is sitting on His throne, but as he gazes upon Renee, he rises and makes his way down golden steps, until he is standing before her. He gently raises her head, lifts the veil, kisses her on the forehead and says, “Welcome my daughter, my sister, my bride. You are altogether beautiful, my darling, and there is no blemish in you.”
Renee, glowing with a joy and beauty unknown in the shadowlands, gazes into His eyes and simply replies, “I am my beloved’s and you are mine. Your banner over me is love.”
Jesus turns to the heavenly throng, a number that no man can number of every nation, tribe and tongue, “Welcome my love, Renee, to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” At that moment comes a roar, the sound of many waters, as all of heaven welcomes the lovely, fair princess.

The Lord then looks down, and there, through the thin place, stands Renee’s father, mid-sermon. Jesus, now the officiant, asks, “Who gives this bride to be married?”
Marc’s spirit replies, “Her mother and I do.” All the while, his message, his stories, his reflections roll over us, like the father of the bride handing his daughter to another.
Once again Jesus addresses him, “There is no grief so deep that I am not deeper still. Go now; draw from my well of love, joy and peace. Comfort your wife, your family, and my people, and remind them that I am coming soon.
“You have spoken wisely in calling all to not speak of Renee in the past tense, for she is ever with me, full of my life and glory. The brevity of her earthly visitation is forever a picture of how short the time is for all who await my advent.”

The scene shifts, while my feet pound the asphalt and Misty Edwards sings, “Because life, life is a vapor; but the brevity is what makes it a treasure. So feel it all like a love letter to the One you will live with forever. His eye is on the sparrow; His eye is on you.” And I remember the last time I saw Renee that wasn’t in a hospital room.
Several weeks before her passing, I had gone out to the farm to pray with her and her mother, Trish. Renee, fighting for life with the pallor of death on her face, was planting a flower in the middle of the pasture.

Recalling that moment, I now see Renee walking hand in hand with Jesus in a glorious field of flowers, the variety and beauty beyond any breathless vista of southern France. In place of the veil, a wreath of lavender now crowns Renee’s long, flowing hair, and both are barefoot.
She looks up into Jesus’s face and softly says, “When?”
The one who knows all things knows that she means, “When are you returning? When is the consummation of the ages? When is our family reunion? When will all be made whole? When is the final, great wedding?”
He looks at her with delight, smiles and replies, “Soon, my daughter, my sister, my fair one. Soon.”

Addendum…
Several days later, again running and praying, this time with Kari Jobe playing on my iPod, I begin to pray specifically for Renee’s older brother, who had, the night before, posted a brief word of sorrow on Facebook.
“Lord, how do I pray for Christian? Do you have a word for him?” Instantly my mind and spirit slipped into vision.
I am back before the Throne in Heaven looking at Renee and Jesus, just as before, but now the scene widens to a panoramic view.
Christian is standing beside Jesus in his new suit but no shoes, and his sweet wife is beside Renee, a lovely Matron of Honor, with both of their boys (with silk, ring pillows in hand) clinging to her legs. To Christian’s right, as far as the eye can see, is a line of groomsmen, young men, boys and old. To Mattie’s left is a similar line of maids of honor, young women and little girls. The mother of the bride is just behind them in front of the heavenly host.
Jesus looks at Christian and addresses him, “Renee is safe and whole, forever in my care. You have loved her well. You are a worthy best man.” Then to Mattie, “Renee has chosen to honor you, my daughter, our sister and friend.”
Before Christian or Mattie could ask, Jesus waves toward the myriad of people lined on both sides. “These young ladies and girls are her countless peers and lives that have been forever touched by your sister’s sacrificial love and contagious faith. The men are worshippers, prophets and preachers (past, present and future) that incessantly bear witness to a life totally devoted to my Gospel and Kingdom, for she has overcome by my blood and the word of her testimony.
“Now go, my son, and live your life not in the shadow of Renee’s death but in the eternal light of her forever life. Love your wife, shepherd your family, raise your sons with my truth and grace, continue to carry her torch of my mercy and love, and be vigilant, for I am coming soon.”

The heavenly throng then shouts, “Hallelujah! Maranatha!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Throne of God

The Throne of God

the trees creak and moan
       the rustling leaves sound like angelic music
black birds soar and glide on mighty currents
       swaying limbs bow before the Lord of the Dance
the dogwoods have faded – azaleas soon to follow
       everywhere behind the camouflage of spring
                   the choral cries of feathered creatures
                   hovering over all
a vast canopy of Carolina blue
       in my mind i go back to something ageless, ancient
                   a place that calls to me – draws me
                   a deep, eternal, internal beckoning.
the pull of my earthly homeland
            pales before this celestial longing.
still the natural gives me murky reflections
            of what is to come.
rows and rows of man’s brick and mortar,
            the appearance of permanence
                               that will in a moment crumble
much like my own earthly tent
boys on bicycles and butterflies in bushes
    shadow – substance  -  temporal – eternal
yesterday – the boy was me
today – the butterfly calls to my aging frame
            of new creations.
tomorrow – no more dimly lit mirrors
now – I stare at the heavens
            and with all creations declaring His praises
i behold the Throne of God. 
                                                  mark d. cooke, 04/01/1997

The Throne of God II

“I saw the Throne room!”  i sensed the awe in her voice
as man’s technology conveyed her words                                 
            from Raleigh to my study
The Throne room … seen through the eyes of the Spirit
where the temporal gives way
            to a far more permanent yet invisible realm
a mere glimpse to shatter all earthly care
            have I not captured
                        shadows of its image with the naked eye?
is this possible?  all around an autumn blaze
            declare the craftsmanship of Creator Spirit
                        brooding over His dominion
the anticipation of a world aflame with that same Spirit
    every tree a reflection of the one tree
    every stream pointing to the River
    every blade of grass crying out
                        “I will fade, but His word endures…”
animal sounds, insect vibrations
the restless noises of man in motion
in totality there emanates a message
“Something is coming!  Something is coming!     
  Something is coming!”
there is a destination to all of this
            a deep blue October sky
                        a phone call from a friend
reflections in the Book,
            words from anointed messengers
all beckoning me to prophesy to the wind
            “Come breath of God!  Give us life.  
Prepare us to see… the Throne of God.”                                                                                         

                                                                              mark d. cooke 10/30/1997

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Funeral that Became a Wedding

The Funeral that Became a Wedding

As I was running this morning, listening to a Misty Edwards’ worship album (music that always creates a thin place for me between heaven and earth), I began to pray for Renee Boutan’s family.
Reflecting on her father preaching, standing high above us, within the sacred walls of St. Philip’s, I saw that he was there in a similar thin place, his deep grief and sorrow pulling him down to the earthbound gathering below – we who strangely hold on to this fleeting, temporal domain, when the invisible, eternal realm is the greater reality – while the Word and the Spirit drew him to that place of incomprehensible joy, love and peace.

Suddenly my running route fades from my sight, and I glimpse through the veil to Heaven’s Throne Room. Renee is standing before the throne dressed in a simple, elegant wedding gown, her head bowed, and her face covered with a lovely, laced veil.
Jesus is sitting on His throne, but as he gazes upon Renee, he rises and makes his way down golden steps, until he is standing before her. He gently raises her head, lifts the veil, kisses her on the forehead and says, “Welcome my daughter, my sister, my bride. You are altogether beautiful, my darling, and there is no blemish in you.”
Renee, glowing with a joy and beauty unknown in the shadowlands, gazes into His eyes and simply replies, “I am my beloved’s and you are mine. Your banner over me is love.”
Jesus turns to the heavenly throng, a number that no man can number of every nation, tribe and tongue, “Welcome my love, Renee, to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” At that moment comes a roar, the sound of many waters, as all of heaven welcomes the lovely, fair princess.

The Lord then looks down, and there, through the thin place, stands Renee’s father, mid-sermon. Jesus, now the officiant, asks, “Who gives this bride to be married?”
Marc’s spirit replies, “Her mother and I do.” All the while, his message, his stories, his reflections roll over us, like the father of the bride handing his daughter to another.
Once again Jesus addresses him, “There is no grief so deep that I am not deeper still. Go now; draw from my well of love, joy and peace. Comfort your wife, your family, and my people, and remind them that I am coming soon.
“You have spoken wisely in calling all to not speak of Renee in the past tense, for she is ever with me, full of my life and glory. The brevity of her earthly visitation is forever a picture of how short the time is for all who await my advent.”

The scene shifts, while my feet pound the asphalt and Misty Edwards sings, “Because life, life is a vapor; but the brevity is what makes it a treasure. So feel it all like a love letter to the One you will live with forever. His eye is on the sparrow; His eye is on you.” And I remember the last time I saw Renee that wasn't in a hospital room.
Several weeks before her passing, I had gone out to the farm to pray with her and her mother, Trish. Renee, fighting for life with the pallor of death on her face, was planting a flower in the middle of the pasture.

Recalling that moment, I now see Renee walking hand in hand with Jesus in a glorious field of flowers, the variety and beauty beyond any breathless vista of southern France. In place of the veil, a wreath of lavender now crowns Renee's long, flowing hair, and both are barefoot.
She looks up into Jesus’s face and softly says, “When?”
The one who knows all things knows that she means, “When are you returning? When is the consummation of the ages? When is our family reunion? When will all be made whole? When is the final, great wedding?”
He looks at her with delight, smiles and replies, “Soon, my daughter, my sister, my fair one. Soon.”

mark d. cooke, 7-11-15



Friday, June 26, 2015

A Mother Emmanuel Moment

The other night (June 24th) I joined many other believers (several hundred) at Marion Square for a Prayer Vigil for the families of the Mother Emmanuel Nine, for our city, state & nation.
It was a sweet and powerful event filled with strong, Gospel words from Philip Pinckney, a relative of Clementa Pinckney, a Citadel grad and a young minister, along with joyful singing and uplifting prayers. People of every race and background (many not Christians) were gathered, and the entire atmosphere was filled with encouragement and love.
Around 9:00 pm, we began to make our way towards Mother Emmanuel AME, the police having blocked the streets for us, and God, unbeknownst to me, was about to shift the focus, with this simple minister right in the middle.
Pastors were leading the way, while everyone was singing, and we merged with the multi-colored host already at the church. The next moment I and several others were in front of Emmanuel facing the crowd, when the young man leading us in song says, “Now, a few people are going to say some things.”
Not knowing that I was on God’s agenda, I began to pray, “Do I have something to say, if so, what?” Then I heard that still, small voice, “Repent of your racism.” I waited, wrestled and prayed.
They called the brother to my left, who exhorted the crowd, calling all to embrace the “sound of heaven coming down.” They called the guy to my right, who proclaimed a grace filled word of the Kingdom. While he was speaking, his wife leaned over and said, “You’re next.” Then there I was standing alone before the throng, “from every language tribe and tongue.”
To the best of my recollection, these were my words…
“I am a son of this city, and I grew up insulated and ignorant. I went to a segregated church and didn’t know a black classmate until the 6th grade.
I didn’t know what racism was, or that I was a racist, but I stand before you now (speaking especially to my black brothers and sisters), repenting and asking your forgiveness, for I have come to know that all races are equally precious in the Kingdom of God.
This is a critical, historic hour in our city and our nation; I believe it may be the African American moment, for you hold the key.
Underneath the pain, hurt, and injustices, we need your gift of forgiveness. Repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation are the only way forward towards a true awakening and move of God, and you are the key.
I do not want to be your white brother; I do not want you to be my black brother or sister. I desire to simply be your brother.
I stand here now, first for myself, but may it also be for my white brothers and sisters, repenting of my sin.
Will you forgive me?”
When I stopped there was a moment of silence, then a dear sister in Christ (I must say black for this telling) ran up and embraced me with the words, “I forgive you!” This was followed by one after another, and cheers, and shouts, “We forgive you!”

While this may have been the beginning of a new day for me and God’s people, and surely one small step among many, I had never felt more clean and whole in all my life.