TJ, wolf philosopher, and his fight with death.

I jammed my thumb nail into the orange peal and sliced it away from the flesh, with the intense purpose of taking it off in one piece. It’s a great game with oranges, but with people, it’s another story. You’re not supposed to enjoy that game, but that doesn’t stop some people from trying.

The burning of emotions.
The rawness of grief.
The eruption of rage.
The sharpness of bitterness.
The destruction of hate.
You have to travel into that world to pull the dying out.

TJ offered a piece of the bitter orange to the tall shapely brunette that sat across the table.

Lisa’s eyes found the orange and sought valiantly to find TJ’s dark brown eyes.

TJ cupped Lisa’s chin. And, with a surprising tenderness, lifted her chin so that he could see here eyes. Her hazel eyes were dark and clouded, face flushed, and trembling. “Can you please tell me what happened?”

Lisa went even quieter, retreating deeper into the prison that she kept herself in.

After a time, TJ’s words floated in like a wisp of smoke curling into a sealed room. “The orange is bitter. It will suit you right now.”

Wordlessly, Lisa, took the orange slice and bit into it. Streams of juice shot around the table. TJ didn’t move as drops traveled down his cheeks. Then, blackness enveloped the table like a thick blanket.

Lisa’s words rasped out, barely able to make it to the dark walls of her torture. “My brother’s dead. You know those meds, the ones that idiot Doctor made him take 10 years ago. Well, guess what, that delinquent Doctor took him off the meds cold turkey. It killed him”.

“Lisa, you are not alone. I know the way out of the darkness, the prison that you are in.”

And the hulking form of the black dragon raged.

Some people truly enjoy pealing the flesh off and making the trapped people suffer.
And then there are those who have the keys to that darkness, and show the suffering that they are not trapped at all.

Lisa looked into TJ’s eyes. “How can you know the way out of here. There are no windows and no doors. And there is no light to guide your path.

TJ paused. “Let me tell you a story.”

There once was a man, a good and wise man, who looked around his small little world. He saw people with minor issues having bad days. He looked further and saw more and more pain. And looked still further and found a deep and abiding pain in everyone he met. The more he looked, the more pain he saw. And his heart burst in the pain that he felt for those that he loved. “Father, is there not something that we can do?”

The father spoke. The law has been in place from the very beginning. Everyone keeps breaking the law, over and over. They have to pay me for what they have done.

“Why do they keep breaking the law?”

“They know the law, but there are not strong enough to follow it. They are in pain, and suffer so. Still, they must pay the price and suffer the consequences.”

The man looked at his father, wondering if there was some way that he could help. “Can I not pay the price for them, father?”

“You must know the price that you are paying, to the last penny. Then, be willing to pay it.”

“I can see the debt, the burden is ferocious. Every essence of my body is screaming at the very thought of it. It will take everything that I have to pay it, to the point of death.”

The father looked down on his son. “Are you willing to pay that price?”

“I am father. I am willing to die for them.”

And he did. He paid the price to his father. And he died, willingly.

Once it was paid in full, after a couple of days, an odd thing happened. The son came back to the people that he loved, holding the keys to the darkness.

TJ smiled for the first time. “It is him that I follow. It is him that I study. He is my teacher. And, these are his keys. Follow me. I know the way out.”

Freedom, Fear, or Knowledge. What’s Really Stopping You?

So many, so busy, spouting unintended cruelty with their words.

So many, so busy, tearing down others so that they can look bigger.

How can we fight such unnecessary cruelty?


Is there any value to uncovering the fears that plague you?

Is there any value to paying attention to your thoughts?

Is there any value to fighting your autopilot to learn something new?

Is there any value to uncovering and experiencing what freedom really means to you?

What should you really do?


Is there any real value of using your words to show others their untold worth?

Is there any real value of using your words to help others when they ask?

Is there any real value of using your words to build a stronger family?

Is there any real value to using your words to show others that their pain can be overcome?

What should you really do?

What’s really stopping you?

Freedom Fear and Knowledge

If you don’t step forward, you’ll always be in the same place.

If you don’t knock on the door, the answer will always be “no”.

If you don’t go after it, you’ll never have it.

If your life is based on having, you’ll always want for more.

Freedom is being who you really are, and doing what you need to do.

The application of knowledge drives away fear and uncovers freedom.


Yet we are of one body with a leader we choose to follow.

We are of one body, each with our own unique skills and experiences.

We are of one body, each with our different strengths to see what can be of value.

We are of one body, each with our different strengths to see what can be done.

Yet, how can one body survive if we are not BOTH successful?

What is really stopping us?


We need to find our freedom to do what we do best.

We need to see our fears to find our courage.

We need to build our knowledge to fight our fears.

We need to use our words to help others to fight their fears.

We need to work together to build our strengths and value.

We need to listen to each other to understand the value that others do see.

We need to work together to build our strengths and value.

Together, we are stronger.

What’s really stopping us?


Is it not-valuing our freedom?

Is it not-building our knowledge?

Is it fear?

Or, have we just stopped caring?

What’s really stopping us?

Life is too Short, Together We Can be So Much More.

I sat down quietly in the back of the crowded fellowship hall, content with my aloneness, and a hot cup of green tea. Sadness brewed inside me and I couldn’t understand why.

An older gentleman in jeans and a button down shirt, with salt and pepper hair sat down next to me and ask, “You all alone?”

Conversation started immediately, friendly, energetic, and full of wisdom. I quickly couldn’t shake the feeling that I was sitting with an angel.

Out of nowhere, the older gentleman said, “You can’t force advice on other people. They got to be looking for it. They got to ask for it. After all, that’s how God treats us.”

Suddenly, I wasn’t sad anymore. “Oh God, please help me to always look for your answers, please show me how to use that advice, and please let me ever grow closer.”

Life is too short for us to stand alone filled with hate.

Life is too short for us to stop listening to the angels that walk among us.

Life is too short, together we can be so much more.

Together we

Running all day, I expect so much.
Walking in the door, I expect so much.
Sharing my day, I expect so much.
I am lost in my thoughts and cannot break free.

Running all day, you wait for relief.
Watching me walk in, you wait for relief.
Sharing your day, you wait for relief.
You are lost in your thoughts and cannot break free.

Apart, we will never amount to more than one.
Together, we will be braided into unbreakable chains.
Apart, we will never see beyond our own noses.
Together, eternity lays out in front of us.

Together, we discover the depths of love.
Together, we throw it out onto the chaotic rivers of life.
Together, we watch it grow into a mighty stream.
Together, our love will power so much more than just one.


If You Had a Friend Who Spoke to You the Way You Speak to Yourself, Would They Still be Your Friend?

Thoughts are like the streets of a city, and you get to choose which street to drive on, even a street that’s full of pots holes and hazards.

I never pay attention to my thoughts, I walk through each day stepping from busyness to busyness. Sure I spend more time being lonely and depressed than I do being happy and fulfilled. Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?

Then a friend asked me, “If you had a friend who spoke to you the way you speak to yourself, would they still be your friend?”

Speaking to Myself

I stopped. I listened. It was hard. I couldn’t listen for long. Busyness kept distracted me.

I stopped again. I listened again. I surprised myself by checking in during the times when I was in autopilot. It was still hard.

It shouldn’t be this hard. But for me, it was. You see. It wasn’t that I couldn’t hear what my thoughts were telling me, I just didn’t want to hear them. They were a part of the fabric of my life that I had been ignoring for so long, they had blended into the background static.

Then I listened to that static, the thoughts slowly emerged. I deeply sighed.

I heard my thoughts, saw them, felt them, and I heard the words of others echoing in my head. “I can’t tell you the number of times that people come up to me and tell me that I’m a terrible writer. It’s either that, or they can’t make eye contact with me. My boss telling me to not help people. I’ve even had people refuse to talk with me again after reading what I’ve written. I’ve lost friends, and jobs. I have zero value to anyone in this world.”

That inner voice is a parrot who never stops.

A still small voice emerged. “Thoughts are like the streets of a city, and you get to choose which street to drive on, even a street that’s full of pots holes and hazards.” My thoughts were definitely running on a badly maintained road.

The still small voice led me to Ephesians 6:10-13.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord, relying on his mighty strength. Put on the whole armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the devil’s strategies. For our struggle is not against human opponents, but against rulers, authorities, cosmic powers in the darkness around us, and evil spiritual forces in the heavenly realm. For this reason, take up the whole armor of God so that you may be able to take a stand whenever evil comes. And when you have done everything you could, you will be able to stand firm.”

The Lord’s thoughts, which we have written down for us, are in a much better place.

Now I fight to take every thought captive and bring them to a better place, as measured by my heart and the bible. I choose to be a follower of Christ, and that starts with my thoughts.

I can’t tell you that’s it’s been easy, because I’d be lying. Still, since traveling on this path, I’ve had greater peace, greater happiness, and a much cleaner heart that has the ability to hear the troubles of others and help them in a meaningful way.

Isn’t that what’s life’s about? Working together to make this world a better place for everyone?

Thoughts. Step 1.


The Power of Perspective

It’s all a matter of perspective.

As I look back on my life, I realize that every time I thought that I was being rejected from something good, I discovered that I was actually being re-directed to something better. That jarred me, really made me stop and realize how much negativity and defeat my own thoughts were assaulting me with. I now know that I always have a choice of who to listen to.

Here is a video about the power of perspective.

I can choose to see my experiences from my own limited, battle weary perspective, or I can choose to see my experiences through empathetic, wise, winning, and peaceful eyes. As Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.

Who would I rather listen to? I’m still struggling to find my way. Yet there’s another here who’s overcome the world. Who would I rather listen to? Who would you rather listen to?

It’s all a matter of perspective.


Sympathetic Waterfalls or Empathetic Power

“We specially created this office to be open and inviting. All should now be imbued with a team spirit and be happy and productive. Thank you.” Guy smiled that permanent toothy grin that he held in his back pocket for “special” occasions, neatly straightened is slightly untucked button-down blue shirt into his slacks, clipped his high-end pen with the thick ergonomic grip next to his backup pen and onto his company notebook, and padded quickly and efficiently out of the packed company meeting room, never meeting another person’s eyes.

I watched him go, forcing empathy as I turned back to the last image of the 150-page PowerPoint presentation that we had just endured. National Geographic’s photograph of the Waterfall at Canyon George in Oregon with a thought attached.

Sympathic Waterfalls

Image credit:

That image feels just like this company, I mused. The quiet underpinnings of those who “knew that the boss didn’t care”, of those who hated what they saw as unfair treatment, of those sympathized with icy words, are all but waterfalls from islands of immovable rock in this company. They are dangerous obstacles, hiding hidden snares from those who had places to go. They look. They analyze. They offer endless opinions. They incessantly wine about the horror of it all. Yet, they never move, never grow beyond it, never achieve what they were meant to achieve, and always find another person that they can blame.

I cannot stand still as I do with unfeeling sympathy, or be blinded by hatred and blaming and complaining. Empathy walks in another’s shoes, understands the challenges, while not necessarily agreeing.

I must move. I must move with the currents of empathy, see through the hardened eyes of an out-of-touch boss, and discover the hidden obstacles that he too must navigate. Does that not provide me with more information to ensure a better journey? Does that not allow me to stack more skills that are available for me to use? Does that not allow me to give kindness to another, who may not deserve it, as that is how God has always treated me.

I am a follower of Christ. I must trust that the leader that I have committed to follow has already gone down this path. I must trust that He will take care of me. I must trust that He can open my eyes to new ways to travel though life’s painful and challenging current. I must trust that He will put people in my path who have the eyes to see the obstacles that I cannot see. I must trust, knowing that trust is an action, not a noun. And empathy opens my eyes, with each new step building my trust and hope.

Now, I am not a victim of an uncaring boss, am not an immovable rock of complaints about a situation that I do not like, am not a waterfall that hides snares from other travelers. I am a conduit of empathy moving to the destination where I long to reach. I am HIS follower.

TJ Cooper

Would you rather spiral up or spiral down?

The choices: Spiral up to enhanced relationships, decreased worry, decreased anxiety, and less depression. Or, spiral down into a world filled with anger, knowing that anger focused inward is depression. 

Anger is an interesting emotion. It is built into our nature, just like love. In psalm 7:11 anger is used to denote God’s displeasure with sin. However, in James 1:20 it states that the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Anger can help us to see where change is necessary. However, the stronger our anger becomes, the more we focus on protecting ourselves and the less we see any good at all. The stronger our anger becomes, the more our logic turns off because we are only focused on protecting ourselves. Therefore, intense anger hurts our abilities to come up with high-quality decisions. Intense anger simply does not bring about the changes that we long to see. It’s propose is to hurt other people and tear them apart.

The most interesting thing about anger is this. The more we feed the anger that we all naturally feel, the greater our anger will grow. Like any muscle, the more it’s used, the more it grows. And, the greater our anger grows, the more it tears our minds and our body’s apart. Causeless, excessive, or protracted anger increases our worry and anxiety and decreases our ability to have a balanced viewpoint. Worry and anxiety are killers. Intense anger does not solve our problems, or anyone else’s problems.

The bottom line is this. Choosing to let our anger grow is choosing to spiral down into a negative life. Having unchecked anger is liking drinking poison. The only thing our unchecked anger is doing is destroying ourselves. 

What can we do? Choose to change. Choose to spiral up.

Alex Korb, PHD in his book The Upward Spiral states, “It turns out that positive life changes actually cause positive neural changes—in the brain’s electrical activity, its chemical composition, even its ability to produce new neurons. These brain changes alter the tuning of your brain’s circuitry and lead to further positive life changes. For example, exercise changes the electrical activity in your brain during sleep, which then reduces anxiety, improves mood, and gives you more energy to exercise. Similarly, expressing gratitude activates serotonin production, which improves your mood and allows you to overcome bad habits, giving you more to be grateful for. Any tiny change can be just the push your brain needs to start spiraling upward.”

Therefore, instead of spewing out anger like a raging volcano … 

Why can’t we walk around where we live, and purposefully look for the good and be thankful for it?
Why can’t we find the things that we are grateful for and build on those things? 

Why can’t we use the talents that we have been gifted with and build something beautiful in our own neighborhoods?

Why can’t we be the change that we long to see? After all, that IS the example that Christ set for us.