Going Off-Grid

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After the mad rush of getting TSR ready for print and Kindle for its September 10th release, I’m taking some time off from everything to be with the family.

If you’re the praying sort, we’d covet your prayers for a trouble free week together.

The goal is to life life intentionally in the hopes of building memories together. Distraction free, technology free, and intrusion free. While all of these can’t ever be 100% attainable, we can try.

Fly or die,

ch:

Sometimes The News Gets It Right

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The news has always been riffled with negative headlines. Because it sells. Too bad.

It’s quite depressing when you scroll through a seemingly unending list of humanity’s worst efforts — political, tyrannical, and otherwise. I check the news in some for at least twice a day, and have grown accustomed to “insulating” my heart from certain aspects of what I read.

But every now and then the news lets a piece slip through that you hope reflects the rest of humankind. You know the stories. The ones that tug on your heart and reaffirm your secret suspicions that not all humanity is attempting to dismember their neighbors.

Thank God the news got this one right (or mostly right, as Adam Owens said today on his Instagram feed).

Meet Adam and Karen Owens, a daddy and mommy that I’ve been “friends” with for over a year on Twitter and Instagram — and their amazing children. ABC has a piece up on their front page, and I’m hoping it gets a lot of traffic. Why?

I believe in promoting things that reflect Kingdom values.

I believe in admiring and elevating Godly parents.

I believe the world needs everyday heroes to shake us out of our lethargy.

I believe we need real heroes.

To Adam and Karen, they would dismiss my assertion that they’re heroes, probably because they would claim that this is how Christians should act every day. And they’re right. But that doesn’t change the fact that they are heroes — by definition, admirable examples.

I love following Adam on Instagram for one simple fact: he’s the epitome of what it means to be Christ-like. He’s a regular guy, working a regular job, dealing with his “everyday stuff” like me and anyone else, and yet choosing to faithfully support his family and glorify Jesus. That’s the Kingdom in action, and that’s the kind of example we need — faults and all — to be promoting to our teens. Heck, that’s the kind of example I need. People like this keep me going and keep me inspired. That’s the beauty of the Body of Christ, and technology allowing us to connect as the global Church.

Adam and Karen, well done. Keep going. You’re an inspiration to so many, but most importantly to your beautiful children, and to heaven itself.

Merry Christmas,

ch:

Adam’s Website: adamowens.com
Karen’s Website: gavinowens.com
Karen’s Instagram

We’ll Be Grandpas

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Grandpas.

Grandpas can do anything. Like fixing our training wheels.

They have strong, wrinkle-laiden hands.

They have great stories about the “olden days.”

Their cologne rubs off on our clothes, and their smile rubs off on our soul.

They’re stern when we break the rules, and the first to congratulate us when we respect them.

They remember where they were when news stories broke that we only read about in history books. They remember a war or two. And they visit death a little more every year as another friend dies.

Grandpas are the granular part of our foundation, the reminder that this thing has been around a lot longer than we have. And that it will still be here when they’re gone. Because before we know it, we’ll be just like them.

Strong, wrinkled hands, cologne, stories, and tools to fix training wheels.

We’ll be just like our heroes.

We’ll be Grandpas.

ch:

The Hopper Kids Videos Are Back

After inadvertently deleting the gmail account associated with The Hopper Kids’ YouTube videos a few months ago, I finally got around to creating a new channel and re-uploading the first five episodes. For those that have been relentlessly hounding me, here you go. For those that have no idea what I’m talking about, try Judah vs The Cheese Puffs for starters.

These videos are a small way that Jennifer and I get to document our childrens’ growth, and simultaneously celebrate and promote the joys of one of God’s greatest inventions: family. Not to mention have a whole lot of fun in the process.

Fans can expect the introduction of Levi Bowen Hopper (#4) into the series next.

Thanks for loving our kids and helping spread the world about how wonderful, challenging, and wild raising children was meant to be.

ch:

Just Point and Click

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Jennifer asked me to shoot a few pictures of her and Levi while it was snowing yesterday morning. She came downstairs in a beautiful black gown, and she asked me to wrap Levi up in one of her favorite blankets.

What happened next was magic.

With the snow gently falling, she and Levi posed in our front yard, supported in the background by a melancholy thicket of branches bowing under the weight of the heaven-sent dust.

All I had to do was depress the shutter.

Sometimes in life we get golden opportunities – opportunities where we couldn’t take a bad picture if we tried. But we must realize that our good fortune is actually the result of someone else’s preparation, talent, and natural gift.

Turns out Jennifer had been planning what she’d wanted for a while. She’d already thought through the wardrobe, the the need for light snow, and the locale. That combined with her natural beauty and Levi’s 10+ cuteness-factor made for a perfect storm.

Anything wonderful that befalls us is never an accident. Whether a job promotion, church growth, new friendships, a break in the monotony, or a new successful idea, we’re standing on the shoulders of others and recipients of the divine.

The sooner we realize life-gifts have very little to do with us and a whole lot more to do with others, the sooner we’ll start to trust God in his infinitely wise provision and enjoy the process of responding. Which usually is just depressing the shutter and looking on in awe. ch:

Cover design by Jennifer Hopper. Friend her on facebook.com/jenniferhopper to see the whole album.

Watson 2012

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Our final night at “Watson” – as it’s lovingly referred to by all those who attend – was both a joyous and spiritually provoking night.

Fewer audiences are as loud as those who come to Watson. The term “sheer worshipful pandemonium” comes to mind (see video). I love it.

And fewer audiences are as sincere.

Last night I changed gears about an hour before I was to speak. One of the mom’s was very humble but very bold and asked if I share Jennifer’s and my engagement story. It was during worship that the Lord made it clear that mom was spot on: God was eager for his kids to hear about singleness of heart and the perseverance it takes to truly seek God for his heartbeat.

After the meeting was over I spent another three hours praying for teens who’s lives needed a touch from the Lord. So many of the were set free; soul ties broken, deliverance, salvation, encouragement, it was glorious.

By the time I made it back to our room, my kiddos were down for the count (especially little Judah who spent two hours leaping into the deep end of the pool no fewer than 90 times).

This was a beautiful weekend all around. From spending some much needed time together as a family to watching the Holy Spirit move powerfully in the lives of those willing to be touched by his love, I chalk Watson 2012 up as a glorious success.

To all those who made it out, thank you for making some great memories with us. ch:

Who ‘Dat Is?

I arrived at church last night wearing a costume.

After landing in DC and connecting to “Sara-cruise” (as the flight attendant kept pronouncing it), we made great time from the airport and I was able to catch the last few minutes of New Life’s annual Harvest Party. Always an epic event.

My children hadn’t seen me in 6 days, and they hadn’t been informed of my surprise arrival. So I tracked each one down as they were all in different parts of the building engaged in various candy-gathering activities. And each time they looked at me, first with blank stares for about 3 seconds, shock for 2 seconds, hugs and kisses for 4 seconds, and then right back to their activities.

What was I wearing?

Street clothes and a hat.

Seeing anyone after an absence makes even the most mundane costume extravagant. At least for 5 seconds. ch:

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It’s About the People

People last forever.

Their eternal value, and location, were and still are of upmost importance to Jesus. Thus His irrefutable actions to ensure their redemption, if they so desire it.

With each passing year, this emphasis on the pricelessly incomparable worth of people promotes itself in my understanding.

It’s never about the places we travel, but the people we travel to.

It’s never about the weather we’re in, but the people in the weather.

Nor is it about the economies, languages, styles, or foods. While all noteworthy in their own way, such novelties are mere shadows of the more important form.

People.

The weight and sadness I feel of saying goodbye to people I’ve known less then 72 hours is, at times, overwhelming. And beautiful. I understand more of Jesus’ groaning, Paul’s longing, and John’s heartache.

As I snapped this picture of Alexis, one of my exuberant little YWAM students, sending a letter on to Jenny via my backpack, I was reminded again of the reason I left my family for a few days this week.

Where Alexis spends eternity matters, as do those she’s being equipped to serve with the rest if her life.

Because people are the only thing you can bring with you.

Thank you YWAM Charlotte. I love you all. ch:

The Blur Effect

Wasn’t it just July?

Probably one the most frequent conversations my wife and I have stems around the elusive, missing months.

Where did ________ go?

It’s gotten so bad that we don’t even have to say it anymore. We’ll both just feel it, look at each other, and say something like, “Yeah, I know.”

But then, when did time ever feel slow?

My knee jerk reaction was when I was in 5th grade. Long summer days. Playing outside from 7am to dusk with my buddies. Summer took half the year. Now it takes half a week.

But as I was sitting in the doctor’s office waiting room the other day, I realized there was a time ten years ago where I was bored in such a place. There wasn’t a flatscreen TV on the wall. I didn’t have an iPhone glued to my hip. Nor did I have a MacBook Pro or iPad slipped in my backpack. Just a stack of crusty, over-read magazines on a coffee table drenched with the bubonic plague.

The point is, I’ve realized it’s impossible to be bored today.

There is always something to see, read, look up, or connect to. Wi-fi, cellular, broadband. Always something to keep us distracted.

Think about it. When was the last time you were actually bored?

While every one of us in the modern age could do with a little less internet access and TV time, nostalgia could very easily jump in and say, “We must have simpler times again. Death to smartphones!”

But that’s a pretty easy copout.

The greater, more astute determination is what are you busying yourself with? Distractions of the right sort can actually keep us from pursuing the wrong course.

I want to be distracted from self-centeredness by serving my family. I want to be distracted from the mundane by living out the Gospel in front of unsaved people. I want to be so preoccupied with the creative advancement of the Kingdom that I don’t have time to fret over the failing kingdoms of man.

Working hard, staying focused, and being the consummate student are all things I was raised to do. It’s amazing how often I encounter people who are allergic to “hard work without a break.” As if their mandatory smoke break or magical vacation solve everything. Which they don’t.

It’s how you play your life that counts, not how you pause it.

So if the scenery seems blurry to you, don’t worry about the speed: the course is far more important. And the passengers.

I’m running fast with my wife and children. We’re proclaiming the Gospel with every ounce of energy we have. Every creative idea. Every mile traveled.

The key to living “at speed” is being a better savorer then a backward looker. Because while you may be traveling at a great rate of speed outside, inside the vehicle you’re at a relative “0.”

The moments we have are fleeting. Cherish them. But keep moving forward, as there are many more to come.

Let’s change the question “Where did the week go?” to “How did you live it?” ch:

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The Family Lotto

I am the luckiest man in the world. Luckiest, if you have a weak grip on reality and trust fate. Blessed, if you understand that God honors choices made in pursuit of Him, regardless of shortcomings.

But before writing on the subject of family – a fitting theme – I want to wish my father, Peter Kirk, a very happy 64th birthday. He taught me virtue, faithfulness, stewardship, and what it means to be masculine in creativity. But more, he showed me through years, not just words, what it meant to love Jesus and family selflessly.

Happy birthday, Daddy. ch:
___________________

WARNING: If you don’t believe in God, or even Providence, then this piece will irritate you.

Even deists will be irritated. If God is distant and uninterested in human affairs, do yourself a favor and stop reading.

Bye bye.

Everyone else – believers in God and divine appointments – how does your family rate in importance?

Now, family can be a touchy subject, so rating them can be difficult.

We all have “the crazies.” You know who I mean. Aunt Mary who smells of mothballs and cheese; Grandpa Sal who swears loudly at punk kids with long hair; and Uncle Frank who flirts with the bride at every wedding he attends.

But even the crazies are important to God. Important enough for Him to trust you with their bloodline, and their legacy – great or small.

So how would you rate your family’s importance in your day-to-day life?

Low? Medium? High?

No matter what your classification, let me help take it to the next level.

If God is truly intentional and deliberate, then of all the 7 billion people on the planet – or roughly 3 billion families – the one you were assigned to is pretty exclusive. Statistically speaking.

So important that 7 billion other people didn’t get your family.

But think even broader. You won the lottery with the most enormous odds of all, because you were born in this era, not in the hundreds previous. Which means your family was handpicked for you by God over thousands of years, not just from billions people.

It would seem He knows what he’s doing, and thinks you’re pretty special to handle the circumstances you were born into. Good. Bad. Or ugly.

When your parents bewilder you, your siblings frustrate you, your kids dumbfound you, and your in-laws freak you right out, remember: you won the family one-in-a-billion lotto.

Literally.

Digesting that statistic may just be the key to letting your parents awe you, your siblings encourage you, your kids bless you, and your in-laws support you.

But there’s almost no hope for smelling like mothballs and cheese. ch:

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[Photo by Joanne Nesbitt]

When Succession Becomes Legacy

On the heels of yesterday’s post about Apple’s attention to detail, came the historic business news that Steve Jobs had resigned as Apple’s CEO in a letter to his Board.

Certainly, Jobs’ hand on the helm did more for Apple than most companies could ever dream of. But I was very curious to read his entire letter, as my father always quoted King Solomon in saying, “It is more important how you leave a place than how you enter it.”

In his letter Jobs is as concise and efficient as expected, soft-spoken and honoring. But there was one section in particular that caught my eye:

As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.

And then it hit me: what’s my succession plan?

The fact is, we’re all going to be fazed out. Terminated. Pink-slipped. Whether in our job or in life, someone – or something – is going to replace us.

The question must be asked then, are we planning for it? Or when it happens, will it catch everyone off guard, including–

(You may not even be able to finish your own sentence).

Good leaders plan for their end, and position replacements accordingly. That’s just good leadership. Because you care about the people and the entities you’re leaving behind. Or else you wouldn’t have risen to that place of stewardship to begin with. (Notice I don’t place Gaddafi in either the leadership or stewardship departments).

Within the first year of our marriage I took out a life insurance policy. Whether I was replaced by another loving husband or not, as a leader I wanted the provisional need felt in my absence to be taken care of. That’s good leadership.

As a Youth Pastor, I know it’s not my call to fill that role forever, so I’m actively preparing the guy that will replace me as I move into my next season of local church leadership.

And as a Christian on the earth, one advancing the Kingdom for God’s glory, I’m training up my children in the ways they should go, believing they will do more, win more, believe more, travel more, love more, live more, and see more for Jesus than I ever could.

In light of those ideas, preparing a succession plan becomes a joy. Because I’m leaving a legacy, not a position.

Is yours in place? ch:

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Ren Faire or Bust

I love family days. And with the amount of demands we have on our family by virtue of our public roles of service, shelving well-meaning requests of our time becomes more and more of a fight every year.

But today we got one.

Knights, turkey legs, pee breaks, wenches, tomato throwing, pee breaks, face painting, sea dragon swings, pee breaks, and taking siestas in the cool of the shade. Only to take another trip to the bathroom.

Lots of memories, laughs, and photographs. But this quick one self-taken of us beside the jousting arena is somehow my favorite.

Love on your family today; they’re the only one you get. ch:

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Glorious Saturday

Saturday started with a great bromance convo with Mike Kim in his music room, covering ministry, friendship, and the future as we know it. Then we headed to Starbucks to catch up with Pastor Eric “The Coco Dragon” Peoples, where more talking on life ensued.

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At high noon the band headed for Minado in Natick, Mass where we gorged ourselves on raw fish and various other asian-cuisine-substances. Needless to say, since I was the one to introduce Denis to sushi years ago, I felt it necessary for him to experience the all-you-can-eat context; he was in his glory!

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We also met up with some of our fabulous fam, Joel & Hilary Furrow from Boston. Incredible people!

After another Starbucks run, we drove the hour back to our host church and reset the stage at CLG for today’s 3 morning services. Strings were changed, drums tuned, and yet more coffee was purchased for us, this time by rock guitarist Quinton B. (Wow, I’m going to need detox).

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Then I ate probably some of the best pizza I’ve ever had. Cooked in a 15′-deep coal oven, PePe’s is apparently quite famous, and I can see why. Manager Louis cut our 4th pie for us:

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Afterward, the guys gathered back home in the music room to review 4 new tunes Nate and Mike composed earlier this week, while the girls chatted in the living room and looked through photo albums.

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It was foody-coffeey-friendy-musicy kind of day. ch:

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