Bye John

Bye John


It was just last Saturday, a week ago, that I visited my longtime friend, Ray Willkie.  It was for the last time in this life… 


He and I and his wife, Sue visited for a good period of time, but not too long, since it is not good to wear sick people down with too much talking.  However, we spoke of some old time events, like the time we were on a golf trip to Terre Haute, Indiana and we were doing some shopping in a golf store.  My rain suit had “shrunk” and I decided I needed to purchase another one.  I could not find one to fit, so a nice girl who also plays golf that we knew who worked there volunteered to “measure” me for a rain suit.  Ray and the guys with us had never heard of such a thing as being measured for a rain suit.  However my legs are short and I have a hard time finding pants for my 28” inseam.  Apparently it took longer to get measured for the rain suit than my buddies expected, so I got a good kidding about it, even there with the girl present, and she piped, up to tell them that it was no business of theirs what we were doing at that eventJJ


We always were joking about things like that.  Ray, was sometimes known to voice some prejudicial feelings and we sometimes bantered that around a little bit, with my disagreeing with him and telling him how much I personally loved black people.  One time I facilitated the event of his feeling a black girl who was a waitress for us arm muscles.  I doubt I could convince Michelle Obama on that one thoughJJ  Really, deep down, he had a kind heart, although he sometimes tried to be the tough guy around his peers.  It was for Ray and I that I invented the game, “6 Par.”  You can read of that game on my blog site at


Ray knew I used to be a pastor, and asked me to pray for him after he found out he had cancer.  I and David Jones prayed for him and anointed him with oil and asked for his healing.  I feel he was given several more months to live.  He regularly asked me to pray for him when I visited.  I was happy to do so.  The time before last, I spoke to Ray about the resurrection and gave him some audio CDs of Ray Stedman speaking about the resurrection from the passages around 1 Corinthians 15.  I do not know if he felt like listening to them or not… 


In our last prayer together, I mentioned how God can do anything he wants, to heal, or to allow one to die, and I asked Ray if he was OK with that.  He said he was OK…  When I left, I did not hear his words exactly, (I am hard of hearing), but Sue, his wife, spoke up to tell me Ray was saying something.  I looked back at Ray lying on his hospital bed set up in their home, and Ray lifted his hand up and waved, “Bye John.”  I said “Bye Ray, I will see you later.”  I briefly wondered if that would be in this life.  Ray died this past week.  I will not see him again in this life.


Now what?


What happens when one is fully conscious, intelligently speaking, reasoning, and aware mentally, and the body shuts down?  No one has yet found physical evidence of this Spirit of awareness that seems to be a part of, but not all of us as human beings.


Some say the Spirit goes up, some say it goes down.  Some say one goes immediately into heaven, some say there is a period of sleep.  Some say one suffers in Purgatory for their sins until cleansed of unrighteousness, and others say it is 100% Grace by which people are saved.  Some say people go to hell to suffer forever and ever more…. Some say only a few are saved, even though they would also say Jesus draws all men unto himself.  Some say all will eventually be saved…..  Some say there is no God, and none are saved and death is the end.  The End….


I know enough of fire and ice to “prove” from certain Scriptures most any of those views, excepting the no God view…  I will pass on that… and pass on “proving” anything, for that matter.  Except to still wonder….


Where is Ray’s Spirit?  Where is Ray?


Perhaps a better question would be for us, the living.  Where is our Spirit? Where are we? Where am I in relationship to life and eternity?  Where are you?


Bye now, see you later…


John Cooper

Tuscaloosa, AL

My Brother in an Urn

My Brother in an Urn

My Brother, David Cooper, died yesterday, March 30th, 2012.
He was nearly 4 years younger than I, and the closest sibling I have in age. I remember we would play together in the fields and woods of our family farm in Illinois… David was much bigger than I, standing over 6 feet tall, taking more after the McCulley (my mother’s) side of our family. He was a hard worker, and very strong. He is the one who called me a book worm. I would read and he would do outdoor activities to a greater extent than I, although I also did outdoor activities. He, as a young man, became involved in what the majority of Evangelicals call a cult, the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I, as a young man, also became a member of what some Evangelical types also would call a cult, the Worldwide Church of God, a Sabbath observing and Pre-Millennial religious sect which has since become Evangelical in their belief systems.
David was dedicated to his belief system, traveling to various locations, including Mexico, where his Spanish speaking skills could be used to further his organization’s goals. He also had a kind heart, although apparently a weak one. He would nearly every day help put my Uncle, Bill McCulley, (suffering from end stages of Alzheimer’s) to bed and assisting my aunt, Joan McCulley, in various ways in taking care of him.
Most of the time, I attend a 6 AM Friday men’s prayer group at Grace Church, a nondenominational church that I now attend. That Friday morning, before I knew of David’s death, while he was still on life support before they would attempt to take him out of the induced coma he was in, several of us in the prayer group prayed for David.
One of my friends, a conservative Evangelical type, well meaning as he was, asked me, “Does David know the Lord?” Sensing what he meant, I told him that David would say he did, however he was a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I well knew that some Evangelical types do not believe other religious types will experience Salvation and Eternal Life. Anyway, this person and several others in the room offered up prayers in his behalf. I truly thank them and thank everyone in the community and the church I attend for their support.
I have written a previous essay, on this blog site, entitled, “My Brother in a Box”. It is with regret, I write another essay, “My Brother in an Urn.” David choose to be cremated. His remains will be placed in and Urn, not in a box, as was my infant brother, Paul. They burn people in China too, there is no place to bury 1.6 Billion people all over the place. Cremation is becoming more common here in the United States also.
Did David know the Lord? I even had another well meaning friend email me and express condolences, asking the same question, “Did he know the Lord?” I realize these individuals are well meaning, and meant no harm, but to me, that question is like the question, “Have you stopped beating your wife yet? It is a hard one to answer Yes, I have stopped beating her, or no, I have not stopped beating her, what does one say? the question is full of assumptions…
May I ask, Did my infant brother Paul, know the Lord? Do aborted fetuses know the Lord? Did other individuals, billions of them, before and after Christ, know the Lord?
I think a better question to ask is, “Does the Lord know David? Does the Lord know you?
To this question I can issue an definitive answer, although this answer will also be argued by certain conservative Evangelical types… The answer, and the Good News of the Gospel of Peace is, Yes, the Lord knows you, the Lord knows every sparrow that falls to the earth. God is Good… Not only that, but we can rest in the fact that God loves the whole world, and all, including sparrows, (, and humans, that are in it. We can remember that as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive, although some will also argue with that. I am reminded as I write of a friend, who took minor issue with the last article I wrote too, where I quoted the Lord, Jesus, and Jesus’ statement “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God…” That is just not what this means, according to this individual, unless we are speaking of, I suppose, if I interpreted him correctly, unless of course this person who is a peacemaker knows the Lord…. I might add that there were no “Christians” in the audience of Ca. 5,000 on the plain where Jesus said this….
Does the Lord know you?
I used to believe, after leaving the Roman Catholic Church, in observing the Sabbath, which by the way is from Friday at dusk until Saturday at dusk, in areas of the earth where it can be observed, that is….
I am reminded of a Scripture,
And the Lord said to Moses, “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you.’ ” (Exodus 31:12-13, ESV)
You may know….
I, the Lord sanctify you….

To me, if we keep the Spirit of the Sabbath, we will above all, above all the things we can do, the things we think we know, rest in the saving work of Jesus, which is NOT of our own doing…. We rest, He does… He is the one that Sanctifies every man, all this said, by the way, centuries before anyone “knew the Lord” They did know however, that it is the Lord that sanctifies, not our own efforts, not our own supposed knowledge of the Lord. Above all, they were to know it.
Who can know an infinite, all wise, all knowing, all powerful, God who is everywhere, in all things, in you, in me, and who knows even the sparrow who falls to the earth, anyway? Our knowledge, my knowledge, of the Lord, and I believe my two friends (I am reminded of Job), knowledge of the Lord, is not very much compared with the Lord who knows us… It is the faith of the Lord, the faith of Jesus, who saves us and provides all that we need, life, food, clothing, and death when appropriate. The Lord knows….
Therefore, I do not attempt to sit in judgment of my brothers, David and Paul. It is not my job. I do rest in the finished work of the Lord. Jesus said, “It is finished.” We are coming upon the time of the year we need to reflect on that, the finished work of the Lord, that is.
The Lord knows David, the Lord knows Paul, the Lord knows you! this is a part of the Gospel of Peace… I would be happy to share it with you someday… Now that the Lord does all these things and we can rest in his works already done, why not accept the Lord as he draws us to him?
I truly believe, no one is lost, until they gaze into the irresistible Grace filled eyes of Jesus, and reject his love. I can only hope that very few will reject him, but all will increase in knowledge of the Lord forever and ever….

Grace and Peace,

John Cooper

My Brother in a Box

My Brother in a Box

Recent happenings in the Evangelical world and the world as a whole have piqued my thinking to write about my brother, whom the last I knew, was in a box.

I quote from another of my brothers, Joe Cooper, who wrote in his book “Cooper History”, the following:

” If Lawrence Bernice Cooper had any honors, it would be that he sired eleven children.  they are Faith (b. 10/22/1946, d. 11/15/1946), Hope (b. 10/22/1946, d. 10/22/1946 – born dead), John Anthony (b. 1/15/1949), David Allen (b. 7/11/1952), Joseph Ray (b. 4/1/1956), Jannelle [sp] Marie (b. 6/28/1957), Marita Carol (b. 10/31/1960), Angela May (b. 11/26/1962), Paula Florence (b. 7/21/1965), Paul Lawrence (b. 7/21/1965, d. 4/30/1966).  As can be seen, Lawrence and Charity had two sets of twins.  Only one (Paula) survived.  At nine months of age, the lastborn, Paul, contracted quick pneumonia and died in a Terra Haute hospital.  It was an extremely sad time for the family.  Joe remembers how his father sat at his place at the end of the table and cried uncontrollably while he tried to talk to Myrtle Taylor.  Myrtle tried to console him but only time could do that.  Joe remembers Lawrence telling her as he sobbed, “I would rather have lost my whole farm than to have lost Paul.”  Myrtle responded by saying, “Oh now Lawrence, you would not!”  Lawrence thereupon replied, “Oh yes I would!  I would rather have lost my whole farm than to have lost Paul!”  Joe remembers to this day the agony and pain and misery in his father’s face.  It was the only time he saw him cry.

But pain was also felt when his first children were born.  They too were twins.  The date was October 22, 1946.  Charity screamed and yelled at thirty-year-old Lawrence to get her to the hospital.  Dad rushed her to the hospital and in the process collided with a city bus.  Hope was born dead.  Faith lived only three weeks.

But for those children who survived – perhaps that is the measure of Lawrence’s success in the world.  He worked hard in an effort to provide.  Not only did he farm his acreage, he also helped area farmers as a farmhand and grain hauler.  He was also an excellent gardener, raising more than enough for the family.”

I can add a little to that story my brother, Joe, may not know about….  I was the one at about 17 years old who drove my mother and brother, Paul, to the doctor when my mother first realized his sickness was serious.  I remember my father, Lawrence, telling me between the time Paul died and before his funeral, that my father had carried his son, Paul, my brother, out of the hospital that night in a little box.  My dad said in a chocking voice, “that is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life”….  I can remember now, that at my brother Paul’s funeral, it was the saddest thing I had experienced in my life at that time.  It was not an open casket funeral, to my recollection…

The last I remember, my brother Paul was still in that little box……

I think what prompts me to write about this is the virulent disagreement among some Christians concerning Rob Bell’s book, “Love Wins”.  In the book Rob Bell offers hope for humanity, that all is not lost, that in the end, Love Wins.  Only a few will “go to hell”  and hell is not permanent, and other such thoughts that to some smack of the label, “Universalism”, perhaps first attributed to the early Christian father, Origen.  The criticism and controversy began even before the critics actually read the book…  The mere thought of the labels “Universalism”, and “Post-Mortem Evangelism”, and other such labels that have been applied to some Christians for centuries, seem to have brought this criticism out quickly.

May I ask, Is Evangelical Christianity locked up cognitively in a box?

Although Love Wins is written from a populist style, not a scholarly genre, can we as Christians, and others who have different belief systems at least imagine that God could even think this way?

Mr. Bell claims in his book that he is not a Universalist, and his reasoning is essentially, as I understand it, that man, given free will, will of necessity have a free will choice to reject God.  The vast majority, however, will be won over by God’s love in the end.

I could write in detail and bring up scriptures that support Mr. Bell’s viewpoints, and well as other scriptures that seem to disagree, but predominately, my viewpoint is the same as Rob Bell’s.

I will only refer to some of the scriptures I am thinking of and quote them from memory to avoid bogging down this article for now:

“As in Adam, all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive.”

“All things in heaven and earth, and under the earth will be put under His feet.”

“At the name of Jesus, every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess”

And, concerning Hell lasting forever, “death and hell will be cast into the grave”

“there shall be no more tears”

There are many, many others…..

I have discussed lately some of these Scriptures with my Evangelical brothers in Christ….  Some of them have said, and will say, “no, that is not what those scriptures mean”  Some have even been provoked by even thinking such thoughts…  Good!

Let’s all, including myself, get our minds out of the box we are in…..  Can we imagine that God might even change His mind, and so to speak reprogram the future, in view of our willingness to think of all the good things He could possibly do, as the God of possibilities?  Can we think of some good news, not bad news?

Can we think of a God who comes to judge, opening up the book of life, and will predominately judge almost everyone, excepting those who reject his goodness, Not Guilty!?

Can we think of this God, who scours the universe, and the those cast into the sea, perhaps the sea of Japan, and those beheaded and the head cast to pigs to eat, the body thrown into the river, the women and men impaled upon a stake, herded into a barn to be set on fire, fed to lions in the Roman Coliseum, or, even my brother, Paul, put into a box and buried before he ever had an opportunity to hear the Gospel (Good News, I might add), and either accept or reject Jesus?  Or, how about those aborted, or born dead?  How about those before the cross?  I am reminded of Isaiah 45, that one of my close Evangelical friends thankfully brought to my attention which also confirms that “every knee will bow and every tongue will swear”….Among other wonderful concepts of the Goodness of God portrayed by the prophet, Isaiah…..

Well, what about my brother, Paul, will he, or won’t he?

Will he be in hell forever?

I was thinking of this quote from C.S. Lewis:

“Do you mean then that Hell – all that infinite empty town – is down in some little crack like this?”


“Yes. All Hell is smaller than one pebble of your earthly world: but it is smaller than one atom of this world, the Real World [Heaven]. Look at yon butterfly. If it swallowed all Hell, Hell would not be big enough to do it any harm or to have any taste.”


“It seems big enough when you’re in it, Sir.”


“And yet all loneliness, angers, hatreds, envies and itchings that it contains, if rolled up into one single experience and put into the scale against the least moment of the joy that is felt by the least in Heaven, would have no weight that could be registered at all. Bad cannot succeed in being bad as good is good. If all Hell’s miseries together entered the consciousness of yon wee yellow bird on the bough there, they would be swallowed up without trace, as if one drop of ink had been dropped into that Great Ocean to which your terrestrial Pacific itself is only a molecule.”

– The Great Divorce


To me, although not exactly the orthodox view of hell after Dante, this seems more like what I believe the Holy Spirit I personally believe I know would think about hell, if hell is not annihilation……  However, not having perfect knowledge, I yield to God’s Truth, whatever it is…

To me, to go to hell must be a choice, and to reject God who loves us must be a choice….  I believe hell is a choice we ourselves make, a choice we choose to live in now, and a choice we choose to inhabit if hell were to last through eternity.

Will the Scriptures be fulfilled by every knee bowing and every tongue confessing that Jesus is Lord, by force?  Or, will it be willing Love for Jesus, our Savior, once we see Him in the light of His glory?  Does Love win?  Or, does it not?

Which is it?

I am not God, and whatever it is, I Love God and believe He is just…

If I had my preference, I would like to see my brother, Paul, out of the box, again….  That would make my father happy too, and wipe away every tear from his eyes, forever….  unless he too is consigned to hell, as some who knew him believe….. (I do not.)  Will a father ever forget the ones he loves?  Will a Father ever forget the ones he loves?

If I had my preference, I would rather see some of my Evangelical Christian friends out of the box, again….  cognitively speaking…

I would like to see the whole world out of the box….  That would make me happy, and I really believe that would make my Father happy too!

For all, who have loved, and lost, let us hope together…  God is Good…


Grace & Peace,

John Cooper