“Finding Your Way Back To God” – Phase I: Conception

1a. Jon, Kopp and meWhile “helping people find their way back to God” has long been my personal mission statement and the mission of the church I lead; the writing of the book, “Finding Your Way Back To God” began here.

You may recognize the two guys on the outside (Jon-left, me-right) but the guy in the middle was a huge help and influence in the conception of Finding Your Way Back To God. David Kopp was our friend, mentor and editor through this process. Starting about seven years ago, David would call me once or twice a year and ask, “Are you ready to write Finding Your Way Back To God?” After one false start five years ago we agreed to do start the process in 2013. This picture is of Jon, David and myself in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago after Kopp flew in to spend a couple days with us to get this book started in the right direction.

1b. 6 Awakenings...?We interviewed about twenty-five people who described their journey as “finding their way back to God” so we could hear their story and see if we could find a pattern.  We finally settled on the “5 Awakenings” as the path for someone to find their way back to God. But early on we struggled with how many awakenings and what words we should use to describe them. This is one of the early back-of-a-napkin drawings that included six awakenings and wording that is quite different than the final product.

1c 1,2,3 post its Some good friends of our parents loaned us their condo near the lakefront in Chicago for a week so we could get a lot of writing done. It worked!  Jon and I hunkered down and worked five eighteen hour days, and made a lot of progress. This is one of about ten giant post-it sheets covered with little post-its outlining the book. This post-it shows the first three chapters of the book. If you look close and have read the book, you can see that some of our ideas made the final edit and others did not. This kind of brainstorming lots of ideas made sure that we also got the best ideas. I would use this process again.

1d. manuscript notebookIt was after that week in the Chicago condo that Jon and I had a yellow notebook of more than 60,000 words titled “Finding Your Way Back To God.” This version of the book also had twenty-two chapters. We thought we were done. Wrong!  After a few more edits to make this book as readable as possible we eliminated about 15,ooo words and seven chapters. It was tough saying good-bye to all those word, stories and idea, but the book was better off for it!

A Questionable Life

Chad pic Two weeks ago in the café of the Yellow Box I had my very last conversation with Chad Cooke. It was Sunday night before the 5 pm service and we talked about basketball, faith, his girl friend Emily and the not-for-profit Charleston Hope he worked with during the Christmas season. Those were all things he loved. We talked so long I was late getting into church. I always enjoyed talking to Chad.

It was the next Tuesday before Christmas that he was playing basketball with his brother, David and friends at LifeTime Fitness where he suddenly collapsed and died. Chad was 20 years old. Chad packed more into those 20 years than most do in a lifetime.

This past Sunday I challenged people at COMMUNITY to live “questionable lives”; meaning that we should live lives so different than others that it makes them curious and ask questions about us. Our lives should evoke questions like, “Why do you serve like that?”, “Why do you love like that?”, “Why are the quality of your relationships so good?”, “Why are you so generous with your time and money?” and so on. I used Chad as a very positive example of someone who lived a questionable life.

Steve Cochran, the morning host on WGN radio attends the Yellow Box campus of COMMUNITY in Naperville and is friends with the Cooke family. Yesterday he paid a brilliant tribute to Chad that is really worth listening to: Remembering Chad Cooke.  Cochran explained  to his audience how Chad lived a life far different than most 20 year old men. It’s understandable in situations like this to exaggerate the goodness of a life to make for a good and honorable tribute. However, in Chad’s case the stories are no exaggeration.  He was a college student that challenged pastors to join him on a mission trip to Haiti. Rather than entertaining himself, he gave of his time and raised funds for Charleston Hope to make sure kid in local under-resourced neighborhoods had presents at Christmas time. After walking on and making the College of Charleston basketball team he consistently invited his teammates to the church where he was a leader. His teammates referred to him as a “man of God.” Chad would regularly have lunch with a special needs student that others ignored just to make sure he felt included. Like so many, I loved Chad, was saddened by his death but inspired by his life.  Chad makes me want to live a more questionable life!