Archives For Jeremy Copeland

Good Grief

November 22, 2021 — Leave a comment

Charlie Brown used to say it all the time. It was a sort of exasperated, frustrated response to whatever difficulty he was facing that day. But for me, I’ve been thinking about the seeming oxymoron a lot lately just at face value. Good grief. Good being the adjective describing Grief. Does that even make sense? Is grief good?

It’s been a season of grieving for me. In October 2021 we brought an end to the gathering of our church. After 13+ years of ministry through this particular community and hundreds of people who passed through, bringing this to an end was one of the hardest decisions of my life. I labored over that decision for months. I struggled through what it would mean for those who called STORYCHURCH home. I grieved to know that there are dreams we have / had for this community that we won’t get to see happen. I struggled to think about what it would mean for my family and for our future. Breaking the news to my kids was some of the most difficult parenting I’ve ever done. For my family, it’s been our identity together, our ministry, our purpose, our family and our friends. It’s been familiar, it’s meant stability and security. There was a lot to grieve. But with barely 24 hours after our final service, our grief was just beginning.

The next day an unexpected grief hit home. Our family dog Holly collapsed on that Monday and it set off a series of events that would ultimately lead to putting her down before the week was over. To say we grieved is an understatement. We ached. We cried as a family like I don’t think we’ve ever cried before. I spent just about every waking moment with her. I even slept on the couch next to her to help her through the night. Making the decision to say goodbye to her was agonizing. I dug her grave, I held her as she went off to sleep for the last time, and then I buried her.

There’s a strange connection I feel between me, my dog, and my dad. Five years ago I lost my dad to cancer. This time of year always reminds me of him. His birthday, and the anniversary of his death are in November. The reason we got a black lab years ago was because it reminded me of my dad. He had at least a few black labs himself. Holly was with me during the season that dad was going down hill fast. Holly sat with me (sometimes on me) during that time as if she knew I needed her to be with me. Sitting with her in her final days brought back specific memories of sitting with my dad in his final days as well.

So I’ve been doing a lot of grieving lately. And in the midst of it all, I have to admit – there’s Good in the Grief. I almost don’t want to admit that. There’s a passage from the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes that has always kind of bothered me. It’s only recently started to make a little more sense to me. It says:

It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, because that is the end of every man, and the living takes it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for when a face is sad a heart may be happy. The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning while the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure.

Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 (NASB)

What I’ve been learning in this season is that there’s something deeply true about the proverb above. Grief is somehow a sign of true life. We grieve when someone or something we love is lost. And it’s that love that is exploding out in tears and in sorrow. And when we grieve together, there’s a deepening of love happening — not just toward that which is lost, but toward those with whom we share the loss. The deeper the love, the deeper the grief maybe. The gifts we’ve received in the midst of our grief are surprising. We’ve had the opportunity to express our love and gratitude for our church, for our dog, for each other. We’ve been fully present in these moments. Present with each other. Not distracted by appointments and notifications and mindless scrolling. Our grief has allowed us to express our limits. Our frailty. Our humanity. It’s forced us to reach for each other, to reach toward heaven. In the house of mourning there’s clarity. Clarity about what matters most to us. About who matters most to us. And in the house of mourning there is love. Deep, expressive love.

So maybe Charlie Brown is on to something. Maybe there’s Good in the Grief. That’s not to say we’re glad it happened. That’s not to say we prefer their loss over their presence. But there’s a surprising amount of gifts that are showing up in my grief in this season. Gifts I couldn’t have received in a house of feasting. Gifts that are helping me to heal and to keep moving forward. And for that, I’m grateful for the grief.


Here it is, the moment none of you have been waiting for. My complete list of books I read in 2020. In order, they are:

  1. How the Bible Actually Works – Peter Enns
  2. Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen – Dan Heath
  3. Thou Shalt Not Be a Jerk: A Christian’s Guide to Engaging Politics – Eugene Cho
  4. The Motive: Why So Many Leaders Abdicate Their Most Important Responsibilities – Patrick Lencioni
  5. Driving Mr. Yogi: Yogi Berra, Ron Guidry, and Baseball’s Greatest Gift – Harvey Araton
  6. Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates
  7. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
  8. Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins
  9. Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins
  10. Relational Intelligence: The People Skills You Need for the Life of Purpose You Want – Dharius Daniels
  11. The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers – Maxwell King
  12. The Wax Pack: On the Open Road in Search of Baseball’s Afterlife – Brad Balukjian
  13. America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privelege, and the Bridge to a New America – Jim Wallis
  14. Ghost Boys – Jewell Parker Rhodes
  15. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes – Suzanne Collins
  16. Everything is Spiritual: Who We Are and What We’re Doing Here – Rob Bell
  17. The Bourne Legacy – Eric Van Lustbader
  18. The Bourne Betrayal – Eric Van Lustbader
  19. The Bourne Sanction – Eric Van Lustbader
  20. Better Decisions, Fewer Regrets – Andy Stanley

The most surprising thing about my list this year is the number of fiction books on here – at least eight depending on what you count. I’ll chalk that up to COVID. There was plenty of reason in this last year to try and disappear into some stories.

There’s a mix of important books and fun books here. I finally read the Hunger Games series, mostly because my daughters were reading them. I also had fun with the Bourne series, although it got repetitive and old and while there are multiple more books in the series I probably won’t read them.

Probably the highlight of the year for me was Rob Bell’s book. I’ve been a long time reader / listener / watcher of Bell and have never missed one of his books. This one hit me at a really specific time and I felt like it was just what I needed in this season. I’ve come back to hit a few times throughout the year.

How about you? What did you read? What should I read in the year to come?

As always, you can find my books and connect with me over on Goodreads. Here’s the same list over there.


How can this be happening? It’s the question many of us are asking as another story surfaces of a black man being murdered by white aggressors.

Racism is alive and well. It wasn’t abolished alongside slavery or with the civil rights movement. It doesn’t stay on the fringes or in secret meetings. It lives and breathes in the everyday systems and structures of our country. For many in the white community, this time particularly feels like a wake up call. It’s a moment of utter shock. And it should be. But for those in minority (especially black) communities, this is not a new phenomenon. Ask the families of Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Sandra Brown, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Michael Brown, Alton Sterling (and many others). And now, in just the last few weeks we can add Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd to the list that no one wants to be on. The shock that we are feeling reveals that we have been unaware of realities that exist outside of our experience.

I don’t have the answers. I don’t know how we fix this. But I do know this – we have a responsibility to move beyond hashtags. We can’t just be shocked. We can’t just post our outrage. We must do more.

For me, that begins with educating ourselves. A number of years ago I realized I had a real gap in my knowledge when it came to issues of race. As a white man, race was an issue I had the luxury to ignore. The world I had known had always leaned in my direction. I was completely unaware of systemic racism. I had no idea about prisons for profit and mass incarceration and voter suppression. I didn’t know that bird watching was enough to make someone afraid enough to call the police. I didn’t know that black mothers and fathers have “the talk” with their children that has nothing to do with birds and bees, but rather with badges and batons.

But not knowing is not ok anymore. So let this moment move you. Let it anger you. Let it shock you. But please, let it change you. You and I have contributed to a system that allows this to happen. We are not innocent bystanders. We have been unaware long enough.

Below is a list of books I’ve read over the last few years. You don’t have to use my list, but please start to learn. Start to listen.


So my blog has basically devolved into one post a year – this one right here. Enjoy this year’s version of the books that shaped me over the last 12 months.

  1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – Rowling
  2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – Rowling
  3. How to be Filled with the Holy Spirit – Tozer
  4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – Rowling
  5. The Holy Spirit: An Introduction – Bevere
  6. Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit – Chan
  7. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – Rowling
  8. The God I Never Knew: How Real Friendship with the Holy Spirit Can Change Your Life – Morris
  9. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Rowling
  10. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – Rowling
  11. Servolution: Starting a Church Revolution through Serving – Rizzo
  12. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Rowling
  13. Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action – Sinek
  14. Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God: The Scandalous Truth of the Very Good News – Zahnd
  15. The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction – Earley
  16. I’m Fascinated by Sacrifice Flies: Inside the Game We All Love – Kurkjian
  17. The Last Arrow: Save Nothing for the Next Life – McManus
  18. Man’s Search for Meaning – Frankl
  19. The Life-Giving Leader: Learning to Lead from Your Truest Self – Reagin
  20. Reading Romans Backwards: A Gospel of Peace in the Midst of Empire – McKnight
  21. Talking to Strangers: What we Should Know about the People We Don’t Know – Gladwell
  22. Excellence Wins: A No-Nonsense Guide to Becoming the Best in a World of Compromise – Schulze
  23. Divine Direction: 7 Decisions That Will Change Your Life – Groeschel
  24. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future – Thiel
  25. Faith for Exiles: Five Ways to Help Young Christians Be Resilient, Follow Jesus, and Live Differently in Digital Babylon – Kinnaman
  26. Telling God’s Story: A Parents’ Guide to Teaching the Bible – Enns

The first part of this year I was doing a deep dive on the Holy Spirit. I really loved stretching and learning things that weren’t a part of my experience growing up. In some ways, I find it almost too perfect that I was also reading Harry Potter throughout that time. There’s something great about what fantasy does to us. Narnia, Middle Earth, Hogwarts… these fictional places open us up to the places where heaven and earth intertwine and make it possible for us to accept a God we can’t always understand.

In terms of cultural importance, I think Malcolm Gladwell’s book on Talking to Strangers was one of the most important books I read this year. He powerfully describes the mistakes we all make when passing judgment on people we meet and urges us to question our assumptions in a helpful way.

At any rate, as always you can follow me over on Goodreads if you’d like and see what I’m reading and interested in reading. See you next year!


These are the books that I read throughout the year in 2018. If you like to read and want to interact over books, you should join me over on Goodreads.

  1. Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future – Vance
  2. The High Definition Leader: Building Multiethnic Churches in a Multiethnic World – Gray
  3. Dream With Me – John Perkins
  4. Empowering Leadership: How a Leadership Development Culture Builds Better Leaders Faster – Fletcher
  5. The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups – Coyle
  6. Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen – Miller
  7. The Matheny Manifesto: A Young Manager’s Old School Views on Success in Sports and Life – Matheny
  8. Onward: How Starbucks Fought for It’s Life Without Losing Its Soul – Schultz
  9. The Phenomenon: Pressure, the Yips, and the Pitch that Changed My Life – Ankiel
  10. A Dirty Job – Moore
  11. Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church – Rachel Held Evans
  12. Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet – Itzler
  13. Paul: A Biography – NT Wright
  14. Ninety Percent Mental: An All-Star Player Turned Mental Skills Coach Reveals the Hidden Game of Baseball – Tewksbury
  15. The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in its Proper Place – Crouch
  16. The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row – Anthony Ray Hinton
  17. I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness – Brown
  18. Smart Money Smart Kids: Raising the Next Generation to Win with Money – Ramsey , Cruze
  19. The Idiot – Dostoevsky
  20. Capital Gaines: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff – Chip Gaines
  21. Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose – Hsieh
  22. Everybody, Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People – Goff
  23. The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth – Heuertz
  24. Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code: Seven Keys to Unleashing Vision and Inspiration – Chand
  25. Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World – Stanley
  26. How to Break Growth Barriers: Revise Your Role, Release Your People, and Capture Overlooked Opportunities for Your Church – George, Bird
  27. A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society – Peterson
  28. The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery – Cron
  29. From This Day Forward: Five Commitments to Fail-Proof Your Marriage – Groeschel
  30. I Declare War: Four Keys to Winning the Battle with Yourself – Lusko

Maybe you’re wondering about my favorite? It’s hard to say. I would say that the most impactful, meaningful book for me personally was Eugene Peterson’s “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.” Eugene Peterson died this year but left an incredible dent on the world through his quiet, faithful life. I loved learning from his experience.

As always, I’d love suggestions for 2019!Facebooktwitterpinterestmail

I set some pretty lofty goals for myself in 2018. Lofty enough that I knew that for them to happen, I was going to have to be disciplined. Everything was going to have to go right and I wasn’t going to be able to get lazy or distracted. Well, I don’t know that I got lazy, but certainly other things happened that disrupted my plans. For instance, I set a goal and planned to run 750 miles in 2018. For me, that was a TON. It was going to be at least double what I had done before. I thought that I had a good plan in place. But then life changed. Less than a month after the start of the year we added a not-yet two year old to our family through fostering. I also began working outside of the home more, spending more time in the car, and leaving the house earlier to get my daughter to school. All that said, I ended up running over 560 miles. For me, a HUGE achievement. And truthfully, the pace I ended the year on over the last two months is exactly what it will take to actually reach that 750 plateau in 2019.

Similarly I set a goal to read 40 books. My usual pace is two a month – 24 for the year. I knew it would be a push for me but I set the goal and planned to figure it out through a combination of audio books, kindle, and old fashioned paper. Reading for me goes through phases. There are some phases where I read in a sprint. I can finish 4-5 books in a month. Other times, I can let one book drag for 6 weeks or so. All in all, I finished 30 books this year. Well short of my goal. But on the other hand, I can’t remember a time when I read 30 books in a single year.

So a few takeaways for me:

  1. Every goal needs a plan for accomplishing that goal.
  2. Every plan will have to be adapted. Plan to change the plan. There’s always going to be a sickness, an injury, a change of routine. How will we accomplish the goals even though the circumstances change?
  3. Celebrate the reach. While I didn’t reach the goal, I reached farther than I ever had before. That’s worth celebrating.


DSC0991629703894408_2934faf6a0_k(pictured: our moving crew, then and just last week for the 10 year reunion tour!)

A decade. Wow. 10 years ago today we packed it all up, pulled out of our driveway in Southern California and left everything we ever knew to go on the adventure we call Story Church. My daughters were 4 years old and 7 months old. My son was still just a dream. We had NO IDEA what we were doing or what we were getting ourselves into. We had some financial support, some prayer support — but not enough of either. I so quickly realized I was in over my head that I started reading voraciously. Church planting books, entrepreneurship books, leadership books. It was such a surreal time. There were so many dreams and ideas of church in my head but nothing in reality. The steps between dreaming it up and seeing it happen were so uncertain.

When I think back and try to feel or remember that time I can definitely recall lots of uncertainty, a feeling of “this is crazy!” But there was excitement. I knew we were walking in faith. It was a courageous moment. In the face of fear and the unknown, we were doing it. We had resigned a steady job and paycheck. We left family and friends and support systems behind. We only knew one person in the entire state of North Carolina. Every interaction we had was a hopeful connection.Every trip to the mailbox was expectant (did someone remember us today and send us a letter or…. Money?!?!). Every prayer was faith-filled. Some were desperate prayers.

The truth is, sometimes I really miss those first years. Today our lives are different. It doesn’t feel like we are hoping to survive anymore. We’re established. We have a wide circle of friends and contacts here. There’s a church, with a building, filled with stuff. We have a board and a staff, ministries, a Dream Team of volunteers. We have traditions. But make no mistake, this church was birthed through courage and faith. I’m so proud of that fact. We’re not yet everything I dreamed of — and that’s ok. The road has been longer and more difficult than I ever could have imagined. But’s it’s been the adventure of a lifetime. I’m so grateful for how God has provided. He’s never failed us. These ten years have been hard. painful at times. Lonely. Filled with insecurity and self-doubt. There’s been loss, failure, stress, depression even. But God hasn’t let us go. We are more blessed today than ever.

It’s impossible to imagine where the next ten years will lead us, just like I never could have imagined how these last ten years would unfold. But I’m confident that some things will forever be true: God will be faithful. He will provide. He won’t abandon us or forget us. A life of courage and faith is better than one without.Facebooktwitterpinterestmail

Black History Month

February 12, 2018 — Leave a comment

I grew up in a small community in southern CA. It was mostly white with a growing hispanic population as well. There were very few black families. I don’t know specific demographics, but if I had to guess I would put the number well south of 1% of our city.

Today I live in a city without a majority population. It’s roughly 45% white and 43% black with a collection of other ethnicities as well. I absolutely love it. I love that my daily interactions in the world are always going to include people different than me.

That being said, I’m fairly ignorant when it comes to Black History. It wasn’t exactly a topic we spent a lot of time on in my city growing up. In fact, there were very few voices in my life from people of color at all (if any?). So one of my goals the last couple of years has been to really grow in this area of my life and one of the best ways I know to do that is through reading. So here’s some of the authors I’ve been reading the last couple of years. I’d encourage you to check some of these out!

  • Rod Hairston – Cover Her (Rod’s a friend, a pastor and a real mentor to me)
  • Derwin Gray – HD Leader (former NFL player turned pastor)
  • Archbishop Desmond Tutu – The Book of Joy (the funniest Archbishop you’ll ever read)
  • Lisa Sharon Harper – The Very Good Gospel (holy smokes. Incredible.)
  • John Perkins – Dream With Me (a legend in the civil rights movement)
  • Tony Dungy – Uncommon Marriage (NFL guy, commentator with an incredible ministry to dads)
  • Michelle Alexander – The New Jim Crow (One of the most important books in the world right now, in my opinion)


Well, after a whopping 2 blog posts in 2017, here’s my first of 2018 – an annual tradition for me of posting the books I’ve read in the prior year.

  1. Dare to Serve – Bachelder
  2. Art of Neighboring – Pathak
  3. Jesus Feminist – Bessey
  4. The Sabbath: It’s meaning for Modern Man – Heschel
  5. The Power of Your Words – Morris
  6. Open (Audio) – Agassi
  7. The Worship Pastor – Hicks
  8. What is the Bible? – Bell
  9. Bonhoeffer (Audio) – Metaxas
  10. Love is an Orientation – Marin
  11. Originals: How Nonconformists Move the World – Grant
  12. How’s Your Soul? – Smith
  13. Where Nobody Knows Your Name: Life in the Minor Leagues (Audio) – Feinstein
  14. Macbeth – Shakespeare
  15. Leading on Empty – Cordeiro
  16. Uncommon Marriage – Dungy
  17. Born Standing Up (Audio) – Martin
  18. Shoe Dog: A memoir by the creator of Nike (Audio) – Knight
  19. The Book of Joy – Dalai Lama & Desmond Tutu
  20. Living in the Light – Piper
  21. Finding God in the Waves (Audio) – McHargue
  22. Steve Jobs (Audio) – Isaacson
  23. The Storyteller’s Secret (Audio) – Gallo
  24. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry (Audio) – Tyson
  25. The Soul of Shame: Retelling the stories we believe about ourselves – Thompson
  26. The Everything Store (Audio) – Stone
  27. Meet Generation Z – White
  28. Braving the Wilderness (Audio) – Brown

This was the year of the audiobook for me. I spend a lot of time in the car apparently (and I did a lot of housework painting and installing floors!), so listening to books became a great option for me. I can’t imagine listening to books that I would really want to read carefully or take notes in, but listening to biographies or just good stories seems like a pretty good fit.

I had a goal to read more biographies this year and that ended up being the highlight for me this year. I was fascinated by Andre Agassi’s story, of Bonhoeffer, Steve Jobs, Phil Knight, Steve Martin and Jeff Bezos.

I think one of the more significant books of the year for me was “The Book of Joy.” It was fascinating to read about the secret to a joyful life from two old spiritual giants. Their friendship and joy despite (maybe because of?) their hard lives was profoundly impacting for me.

Did you read any of these? What was your favorite book of 2017? What would you recommend I read next?Facebooktwitterpinterestmail

These are just a few random things that have become a part of my life and have helped me, so I thought I’d share them with you:

1. Slack – This is an app that runs my work life communication. I can’t imagine doing what I do without it now. It has virtually eliminated email between me and my team. It’s where we share ideas, plan things together and touch base on everything from the major to the minor. We can share documents, links, photos and more.

2. A treadmill – It was this time last year that we made the big purchase. Every once in a while I’ll still go outside and run but then I remember why a treadmill is so nice. Mainly, I don’t hurt as bad. My joints and my feet thank me. I get to watch Netflix to forget that I’m running, and I get to dress the same every time – no special arctic running gear necessary. I don’t run for the joy of it like some crazy people, I run to be healthy. So anything I can do to turn a discipline into something more enjoyable is worth it to me.

3. VidAngel – Well, this app is currently not available because of some legal issues. But if it ever comes back, it’s something you should know about. It allowed us to “rent” movies via streaming for $1 each. Before watching users got the chance to filter anything they wanted to filter out of the movie. It really helped to be able to feel good about what I was showing my kids, but I appreciated the filtering option for me as well.

4. The 5 year journal – I heard about the idea of a 5 year journal on a podcast. I’ve never been able to keep the habit of journaling, mostly because I felt this pressure to write a lot. This journal has a few lines per entry. It’s a place to capture a quick thought about the day, about something I learned, a prayer, etc. I’ve found that writing in it at the end of a day works best for me. I still don’t do it every day, but it’s more than ever. And the cool thing is that you keep using the same journal for five years, so at some point I’ll start seeing past entries and what was happening in prior years on that same day. Pretty cool. (The one I purchased is by Levenger and is linked above.)

5. Podcasts – I know, it’s not anything new. But I don’t know that I understand people who don’t use these as a primary way of learning and growth. Last year I added a few that were more storytelling than anything else. I binged my way through Serial, as well as Revisionist History. But my regulars include the Relevant podcast, the Andy Stanley Leadership podcast, the Craig Groeschel Leadership podcast, The Matt Keller Leadership Channel.Facebooktwitterpinterestmail