Overcoming Selective Perception – Where National Geographic’s Camera Got It Right But The Comment Got It Wrong

Jennifer and I often find ourselves driving down a road that we’ve traveled thousands of times (literally), when we notice a new house, an old building gone, or a large change in the landscape.

“Woah, I never noticed that!”

The more frequent the road for us, the more startling the change to us. Sometimes we just look at each other, incredulous.

“How are we so blind that we didn’t notice that?

Just this week, one of us (I won’t say who) noticed that an entire nursing home, complete with out buildings and an admin wing, had been torn down.

For eight months.

If you’re chuckling right now, it means you’ve had similar experiences, which means none of us are alone in this condition.

This same effect, however, can also play out on much more meaningful subjects.


A National Geographic photo posted on their Instagram account this morning is a prime example:


I felt compelled to comment:

@find_ch forget climate change; what about the immediate caustic effects of those walking through it?

@wiccat Agree to you!!

@wiccat thanks for the kind comment. I think sometimes we can get so caught up in generalizations, especially if they suit our own ambitions, that we fail to notice (or comment on) the thing that’s staring us right in the face. This is a perfect example. The climate’s changing? OK, the jury’s still out even as to why. But right now, I see a beautiful girl who’s walking through carcinogenic smoke—and that’s not the lead line? [sigh]

Exclusive perception.

We tend to see what we want to see. The object of our passion becomes the blinders to our perception by distorting reality. We don’t notice the obvious because in our own distorted reality, the obvious thing literally isn’t there. We’re induced into a state of virtual blindness.

We need healing.

Usually this comes in the form of a good coach (some who “sees” more than we do), an epiphany from God (a revelation found in spiritual awakening), or a jarring life experience that snaps us out of our stupor (a visit to Cambodia, let’s say).

Such “wake up calls” help us then divest ourselves from a singular passion and reinvest in a passion that is itself inclusive—that has many passions within it. But, since we can’t be poly-sighted in every scenario, we must make a values call by becoming passionate about the right issues.

What are the right issues, you ask? Aren’t those utterly subjective?

The right issues are those that always place the needs of hurting people, all people, above politics and policy, no matter how revered. A politic that itself has missed the care of a person is a flawed politic, and therefore a flawed virtue. Because the needs of hurting people are always the right issue to champion.

There is no more noble cause, no more clearer lens through which to view the world, than to empathize with another individual and meet their need. It is precisely what King Jesus did for humanity, and it’s the lifestyle lens that helps us overcome bureaucracy with benevolence.

The only set of flawless virtues that I know of are not those of any present nation or civil contract; though there are plenty of good working models, even the best is far from adequate. For even a system that proves idealistic for one people group turns out to be hostile for another, since there is nothing in civil contract that can inherently transform the condition of the human heart.

The kingdom lens.

The values of the kingdom of God are universal (they are best for all mankind, everywhere, regardless of race or culture), they are eternal (they have everlasting effects on the individual), and they are inherited (not earned, but gifted, sometimes even to those who aren’t aware of the Gift Giver—such is the largess of grace). The kingdom is in fact the superior and supreme ideology and methodology in serving humans out of our collective depravity.

It’s how we see.

It’s how we perceive.

When our passion becomes Jesus, our values become kingdom ones, and our empathy becomes action. Because, for the first time, we don’t see a mission. We don’t see a cause or a campaign.

We see a face.


“But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.”

James the Just

How I Use (And Don’t Use) Social Media

Before social media became a thing, we had email chat rooms, brought to you by America Online. I still remember my dad using a “street address and mail box” analogy to help me understand what a URL and @ symbol were, all to the static-laden interlude between hitting “connect” and hearing the famous words of one of my wife’s favorite movies.

(Bet that voice actor wishes he had taken the royalty option instead of the studio fee).

Where I once felt the rush of talking to an AOL user in a chat room, I now freely post text and images of my life before the better part of 2 billion people.

What happened?

Like everything, technology moves forward, which means feasibility, accessibility and integration does too. In short, things just get easier and more interesting.

After a few years of playing with all of the connectivity apps out there, here are the ones I use daily and why.


Instagram is my go-to social media app for me. It’s what I like. Promoting family, adventure, music, life. It encapsulates the essence of a picture being worth a thousand words, and shamelessly ignores the trappings that have made Facebook the mess it is today.

Since 65% of humans are visual learners, its a seamless way to capitalize on our natural predisposition. I can scroll through dozens of images in a minute, learning what my friends or favorite retailers are doing, leave a comment if I want, or just double-tap the image (“like”) to let them know I was here.

Posting a picture a day has become a habit I love, because it forces me to look at my day with extreme visual appreciation. It’s helped me be intentional with valuing my contexts, and therefore, it’s made me a more appreciative person. And it’s brought me closer to considering other people’s joys and heartaches. It’s the closest thing I can handle to having God’s timeless and instant access to all of humanity.


Twitter used to be my go-to platform (which now auto-populates from my Instagram posts, accounting for 90% of my Twitter activity). Twitter was especially attractive to me as I tired of Facebook’s decay to non-user commercialism and the irrational commentary from people who felt everyone should read their obscure opinions (which added little value to society). Twitter has, in large part, salvaged that, though it’s recent popularity in commenting on TV drama and pop culture is wearing on me (thus why I follow so few people).

The limitation to 140 characters means intelligent humans must be thoughtful about anything we say, and likewise limits the praising or ranting abilities of anyone commenting back. This makes for short, cunning dialog that doesn’t require much time. And even if someone says something unintelligent, they can’t say it for very long.


The only thing I use Facebook for anymore is posting links to what you’re reading right now. If I didn’t get thousands of click-throughs every week because of it, I wouldn’t bother. But enough people still faithfully use Facebook to make meaningful connections that I recognize the value of publicizing my work there.

Facebook was a great idea, but between the maintenance it required (friend request management, comments, private messages, and the incessant app-blocking if you don’t want your page to look like a billboard for FarmVille), as well as the presumed familiarity if you’re a public figure, turned me off to the site’s time-sucking irrationality. I once had a Facebook follower get mad at me because I failed to write him when his wife died suddenly. I was genuinely grieved for this poor man, but astonished that Facebook had elevated presumptive intimacy to such extraordinary levels.

Everything Else

While there are plenty of other cool apps out there, most either seem like repeats (Google+ repeating Facebook) or irrelevant (LinkedIn, since I don’t need any more work, and don’t want to be linked anymore than I already am). The only other platform I tend to spend a lot of time cultivating is this one right here: my blog. I’ve made it a point to always respond to every comment.

In the end, my advice is to find one or two platforms that inspire you to be a better person without enticing you to disengage from the world around you, trading reality for life-lived-from-a-screen. Social media is a powerful tool, and it’s uses are only in their infancy, but tools should never trump people.

Live life with your eyes open, looking straight ahead, knowing that the most valuable connections are made with the people right in from of you.


Thumbtacks That Matters

In the heat of personal criticism, have you ever crossed your arms and concluded, “Their opinion just doesn’t matter”?

I have.

The rub is that – while we hate to admit it – opinions do matter. In fact, they matter a great deal.

Saying someone’s opinion doesn’t matter, whether it’s of you, of something you’ve done, or of something people expect you to do, is tantamount to saying a thumbtack inside the bottom of your shoe doesn’t matter. You can dismiss it all you like, but eventually that little prick is going to demand that you deal with it.

Lately, however, I’ve been noticing that it’s not so much what opinion I’m considering, but whose opinion I’m considering.

I care a great deal about what God thinks about me. In fact, I dare say his is the only opinion that matters.

But then failing to mention that I care a great deal about my wife’s opinion of me would be irresponsible. She sees me through mature eyes on my best days and my worst.

Then there’s my children. They see me through far more innocent eyes, which causes me to consider their opinion of me with humble fear, lest I betray it.

With all the outside eyes on me as a Christian, however, there has been a noticeable shift. I was talking this over yesterday with my friend, partner, boss, and Pastor, Kirk Gilchrist.

For most Christians raised in first-world environments, I think it’s safe to assume that we traditionally care a great deal about what other Christians think about us. At least we pastors do. That’s why so much of our lives are spent mulling over complaints, criticisms and critiques. Pastors, for example, are the only breed of leaders I know who feel personally responsible when people that hate them leave their organization. Any CEO would be grateful for said member’s departure (probably taking some joy in firing them), whereas a pastor endures deep, inner turmoil over it for weeks, if not months and years.

And yet, first-world, Christian Pastors and their congregants – and I realize I’m speaking broadly with tremendous room for exceptions – tend to be an odd bunch who “have each others’ backs” when their respective congregations are fledgling and small, but turn on one another the moment any level of success is attained. I should know: I’ve been living in and around pastors and churches at various levels of “success” my entire life, just as I am a pastor in a church. Nor am I immune to the shortcomings. Just this morning I read an article on the successes of a ministry that got its start by – in my mind – “stealing” some of my resources. Instantly the Holy Spirit set upon me in tremendous love, asking, “Is it your ministry or mine? And does it advance my Kingdom, or are you upset that it didn’t advance yours?”

Perhaps it’s maturity. Perhaps it’s a lack of grace. But the people whose opinions that matter to me the most is shifting.

From Christians to not-Christians.

Brad Ringer of Pure for God Ministries was teaching in one of our discipleship classes a number of years ago and challenged the students to substitute the generic terms for “unsaved people” with what Jesus himself referenced as “those who are perishing.”

“When I say someone is ‘lost,’ how do they appear to you?” Brad asked. The students thought about it, as did I. Only a vague, meandering, bumbling subject presented itself, one which I reflexively associated with Christian-speak and my proverbial “mission field.”

“But if I tell you this same person is ‘perishing,’ what do you see?”

The students started chiming in with words like dying, suffering, at wit’s end, poor, hopeless, and destitute.

It’s those people, those who are perishing, whose opinions matter the most to me right now.

While the religious, Christian opinions that currently surround me and my office are those of disputing pet doctrines, jealousies, and endless semantics – all of which I expect will always be near if other leaders’ lives throughout history are to be any harbinger – it’s how the perishing world sees me that is slowly moving to the forefront of my heart-view.

I’m craving interaction with perishing people more and more. And as much as I’m desperate to see them come to know Jesus, I’m curious to know just what they see in me. Because someone who is truly perishing cares not about my affiliations, my successes or my doctrines. They only care about surviving. And I’m either someone who can help them swim to the life boat, or I’m someone who is complacent enough to be numb to the fact that they’re drowning all-the-while insisting they admit that I’m a good swimmer.

My father, Peter, sent me a quote this week by the late John Wesley, notable preacher, revivalist, and theologian:

You have nothing to do but to save souls. Therefore spend and be spent in this work. And go not only to those that need you, but to those that need you most. It is not your business to preach so many times, and to take care of this or that society; but to save as many souls as you can; to bring as many sinners as you possibly can to repentance.

Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergymen or laymen, they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the Kingdom of Heaven upon Earth.

Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.

When I have money, I get rid of it quickly, lest it find a way into my heart.

When you set yourself on fire, people love to come and see you burn.

-John Wesley

It is the pricks of the perishing that I desire to be my most constant reminders of the need for divine conduct.


Pictures of History


I often wonder what history would have looked like if every era had DSLR cameras.

Can you imagine pictures and video of David and his Mighty Men? Forget 300, this was God’s version. Same would go for The Passion.

Or what about Vikings crossing the Atlantic? Time elapse videos of DaVinci’s murals complete with behind the scenes interviews? Live concert tours of Bach? Shakespeare? Or how did those pyramids really get built?

If their people had cameras, what era, moment, or personality would you like to see?

I guess this one why I’m so blessed by Jennifer’s work, with this two pics she took yesterday as examples. I’d like to think that if Jesus tarries in His return, and somehow our digital files and printed paper survive, I want future generations to remember the value and beauty of people. They’re what matter most. ch:




I worked out for the second time last night. I almost threw up. I’m no longer at a place where my squirrel-like metabolism affords me the choice of whether I work out or not: I have to work out.

Some people there where working out because their doctor told them to or else they’d die. That’s a pretty powerful motivator. Others because they’re clearly cross training for some Olympic sport.

But I wager that no one there last night saw “going to the gym” as their ultimate goal.

Professional athletes train for one purpose:

To win.

Good business people are constantly assessing their role in a simple formula:

Create a good or service that benefits people and generates positive cash flow.

Diligent students want to graduate with honors; successful musicians want to have people pay to hear them play; writers want their words in as many hands as possible.

Goals are not only a noble pursuit, they help us stay focused. They anchor us with stability in the midst of personal shaking; they give us a clear path forward when we’re presented ulterior options – options which would undermine success.

As a Christian, what are your goals?

I find much of what’s presented to us, much of what’s expected, to be well meaning but tepid, good natured but nauseating, and having some level of virtue but ultimately emasculating.

Is my sole pursuit as a Believer in Christ simply to read my Bible until I know more than someone else, or pray until others notice God hovering over me, or be such a good husband that other wives point me out to their husbands, or such a good father that other families’ kids would prefer living in my house, or tithe so faithfully and fully that most church salaries and projects are covered by my giving?

Such goals sound silly. Yet those are all very real conversations I’ve counseled people through – our been counseled through myself.

A noble vision without heaven’s backing becomes a fruitless pursuit.

So how do we attract the eyes of heaven?

116,229 people live in my Jefferson County, NY. Last night, our church board sat around and discussed a simple yet profound truth: what we’re stewarding now is incredible, but it’s nothing compared with where we need to go. This is a great corporate vision, yet I was struck on a personal level.

What am I doing to personally notify, navigate, and nurture those 116,229 people into a relationship with Jesus? What are my wife and I doing? My children?

How many of the 116,229 are the Hopper’s goal? Our part may be to reach 23, yours is 54, but the Bride is commissioned with reaching all of them, nothing less. And I’m a part of the Bride.

If heaven considers me a successful Christian, a Christian that has a goal, how does it measure me?

My findings suggest it’s by how much my value of people provokes active compassion, especially toward those living the furthest from his grace.

Do not confuse disciplines and goals. No good athlete looks at the weight machine and says, “I want to do more reps than anyone in the world.” They say, “I need to condition myself to go out there and win.”

Don’t confuse your Christian disciplines with your heaven-backed goals. All the “gym time” in the world won’t touch a single life if you don’t get out there on the field and start playing to win.

Ah, there goes another one. 116,228 and counting. ch:


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.


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: