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TO BE OR NOT TO BE... A BLOG

Wednesday
Sep022015

Final Reflections… The Traveling Vagabond  

 

Today we will end our era of being vagabonds, as we will arrive in Orlando Florida to a furnished apartment to begin a new life.  Tomorrow I will start as the National Director of Church Strengthening at Converge, and Terri will start looking for our new home.  Levi will start online school and in the near future he will check out School of Rock of Orlando.

As short as two weeks ago we had no idea where we were going to spend the rest of our lives.  32 days ago we left our Vegas home being absolutely clueless as to where God was taking us.  60 days ago I was training my replacement, tearfully saying goodbye to The Crossing Staff, all of which I have grown to love dearly and deeply.  90 days ago I stood on the stage of Fuller with great excitement receiving my diploma for my doctorate, yet a bit anxious as I had no idea where life was taking me. Nine months ago, I sent out my first resume.

What a wild and crazy ride.

I would like to close this era with some reflections I picked up on the way.  It is not all inclusive, rather a handful of things that come to mind:

  • God is good, even if I was still a traveling vagabond – I am at a different place in my life now.  In the past I would have said that God was good all the time, but in truth my identity was deeply tied into my work, ministry and success.  If things were not going well I found myself mad at God.  Truly putting your identity in Christ changes that.
  • Embrace every moment – In my younger years, I would have squandered a season like this by being tied up in knots with worry and anxiety.  Truly embracing Matthew 6 “Do not worry about tomorrow” was a freedom I have learned to take to a higher level.  This new found freedom of saying no to fear, turned what could have been miserable season into one of the best times in my life.  Each day was a new adventure and turned out to be better than any vacation in the past I spent months planning for!
  • Remain consistently faithful – Integrity is the only way to go.  I remained faithful to my previous ministry, faithful to my search, faithful to my family, faithful to growing in my self identity, faithful in friendships and of course faithful to God.  There were many times that the temptation was raging to take an opposite course. It might have felt good in the moment to allow negative emotions boil up and out, but I have learned that it would be a miserable existence.  It is important to note, I am not talking about bottling up negative emotions and putting on a brave face.  God does not call us to that and besides, it never works.  Instead I mean, truly believe God is in control and He has got all of the twist and turns figured out.  If I truly believe that, then it becomes easy to be faithful in the moment. 
  • ·      Ask God to orchestrate the desires of your heart – From Psalms 37:4 I have a new prayer that I am praying every day: Lord orchestrate the desires of my heart, and then give me the desires of my heart.  I had another job opportunity this month that would have fit perfectly to my goals.  The location, the pay, the specific role – it would have been great in that it was everything I wanted.  As I began to pray Psalms 37:4, God began showing me that what I thought I wanted, was not what I really wanted.  This happened to me over and over again.  He gave me every desire of my heart, thus I am so happy. Ironically though, it was not what I set out for, as I did not know at first to desire these things. 
  • Friendships and family are really important – Fear drives a person to isolation. Pride makes a man think he has to handle something on his own.  To counter fear and pride, I learned to love and lean upon my friends and family in a much deeper way.  During this season that should have been divisive: my marriage is stronger, my sons and I are closer, I have deepened friendships and I have reunited with many older friendships. 
  • Be an encourager along the way – As a time that naturally leads one to be needy (I was a vagabond after all!) God led me to speak into the lives of other people.  Some I have known for years, some I met along the journey who became new friends.  Some I met as a divine appointment and may never meet again.  By taking the focus off myself I not only got to continue in ministry, but the back draft is that I too become encouraged.
  • God has a lot of cool tricks up His sleeve – Yes, the most obvious is giving me a dream job that I did not even know could exist.  That, though, is only one example.  When you look for God along the way you really discover that He is at work in every twist and turn.  It has been so energizing to see God do cool little miracles all along the way.  I pray that I always walk with my eyes wide open.

 

This ends the Traveling Vagabond blogs, but it does not end my era of blogging.

I am thinking of focusing on three areas: Key principles from books I have been reading, insights from scripture, and wisdom I have gained from doing ministry – what do you think? 

Tuesday
Aug182015

The Traveling Vagabond Gets a Job!!!

I know I took a break from posting, but trust me when I say God has been up to a whole lot with the Hopler fam!

It is with great honor that I announce that Terri, Levi and I will be moving to Orlando, Florida as I serve as the National Director of Church Strengthening for the Converge Network!!!

Converge has 1254 churches across the nation.  They are a forward thinking movement whose vision statement is: Starting and Strengthening churches together worldwide.  My position will be focusing on the strengthening part of the vision.

I will have the privilege of serving district leaders and churches in coaching, helping to rethink strategy, to journey with those who are stuck in ministry, encouraging, setting up national and regional seminars and pastoring pastors.   In short, this is a dream ministry for me.

We will live in Orlando Florida, close to Disney and the beach.  Yes we will have a guest room :-)  

This season has been crazy to be certain, but it has been good.  The Crossing has been quite good to us during our 3 ½ years serving as well as the transition.  As I blogged earlier, we have deeply held onto Jesus' words for the last few months of Matthew 6, ““That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life… Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need”  and Psalms 37 “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart… Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him”

Even if we did not get this dream position, God will still have been good.  It is just cool to be a part of His Kingdom plan

Thanks for all of your prayers and support!

 

Thursday
Aug062015

Freed... The Traveling Vagabond – Day 14 & 15 

TRANSITIONS

Making Sense of Life’s Changes

Strategies for coping with the difficult, painful and confusing times in your life

By William Bridges

 

I have been working through this book called Transitions.  A lot of powerful stuff.  Below are some thoughts from the book with a bit of my commentary:

  • When I hold onto something less tightly, I free myself too.”  God has done a lot of identity change in my life is the last five or six years.  Some of that season involved breaking of the old, which is quite painful.  Some of it is living in nowhere land, which is quite confusing.  At last, some rich nuggets emerge, which is quite cool.  If there ever comes a time of “arriving”, I will let you know – as I am not there yet J
  • Change, especially in these complex times, can seem like “launching out from a riverside dock to cross to a landing on the other shore—only to discover in midstream that the landing is no longer there”  I think many of us can relate to this.
  • Transitions “begin” with an ending (i.e. marriage is the end of singleness; a promotion is the end of a former job, routine and friendships, etc.).” I suppose I knew this, but I am learning that it is healthy to mourn what has ended.  I cant move onto the new until I have properly mourned the loss of the old.
  • To employ a metaphor, we want to get across the street ASAP, we cannot fathom that there would be any usefulness in the middle of the street”    Much of my life I have raced across the street.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a guy who loves to self evaluate and self examine, but I like to do it on one side of the street or the other.  This season I am learning the discipline of being ok with the middle of the street (for a season anyway)
  • The neutral zone is meant to be a moratorium from the conventional activity of our everyday existence. It is a gift—a space—for doing important inner business, the kind that leads to extraordinary kinds of personal and God-awareness.”   I am discovering that the season is a wonderful gift, not a curse.

During major transitions in your life – do you see a curse or a gift? 

 

Tuesday
Aug042015

Bending Without Breaking... The Traveling Vagabond – Day 13

I have learned more about flexibility in during this season in my life than ever before.  Being flexible is NOT a passive activity.  You can fight change and the resistance will cause a whole lot of unnecessary pain and stress. If you become too stiff you will breakdown as change pushes on you with it’s powerful force. On the flip side, if you are passive you simply become complacent, even selfish as you are overly dependent upon the generosity of others. A passive person is like Jello, not a whole lot you can do with it.

As you know, I am working on the discipline of going with the flow during this season while engaging with what God has to show me in any given moment.  In Jeremiah 18 we learn that God is the potter and we are to be the moldable clay.  It is not easy to be stretched, reshaped, spun on a wheel and then thrown in the furnace to become the art the Great Artist desires.

This trip alone has taught me a lot about flexibility.  I have never traveled without a lot of fore planning.  A trip like this should have taken months to have planned out.  Yet I only had a real rough sketch for a few weeks.  Finalized it a day before we left and even then it has changed drastically several times.  All the while we are having the time of our lives and God is showing more in this season that I have ever seen before!

Our plan today WAS to go to Denver to visit the music scene and explore.  Yet I got concerned that I needed to head further east to break up the driving more.  So I stared at a US map and prayed, “God, give us a cool place to replace Denver with, only further east.”  Now for those of you who live in the middle of the country I am sure there are is a TON to see other than cornfields, I just have no idea what that would be.  Then I noticed on the map in Missouri Mark Twain National Forest.  Now, Levi and I did not want to go to a National Forest, but I had to wonder, why did they call it Mark Twain.  Levi has loved literature of all forms since a young child, and has read pretty much all of the great works (Shakespeare, Poe, Thoreau and so on)  He also loves Mark Twain.  After a bit of research we learned that Mark Twain was born and raised in Hannibal Missouri and the town has tons of activities dedicated to him.  So off to Hannibal we go!  Now the old me might have been a lot more stressed about all of this, but being flexible has been a blast.  A similar cool story is why we have changed out Nashville for the Rock n Roll hall of fame in Cleveland and a really really cool story as to why we are headed to Virginia earlier than the thought!

I don’t claim that the lifestyle I am living now is to be a permanent one.  I pray that I don’t have to be this flexible all the time!  Yet I am learning so much about listening to the voice of God and staying in sync with Him for the journey 

Monday
Aug032015

Whisper... The Traveling Vagabond – Day 12 

“He calmed the storm to a whisper” Psalm 107:29

 

Yesterday Levi and I added an extra hour on our route so we can go through the Colorado mountains.  Simply breathtaking.  I have heard of it’s beauty, but what I experienced was beyond what I had imagined.  I think God was having the time of His life when He was creating what we now call Colorado.

What to know a bit of irony in this?  The one day we have to really experience this drive, it pours down rain much of the time.  There were times that I just knew what I was looking at had to be amazing, yet the view was limited due to the fog and clouds.  Therefore you can argue that I missed out and was cheated, my once chance was taken from me.

What I discovered, though, was a different kind of beauty.  Watching the clouds dance around the mountains and watching the variations of light on the mountainside as we twist and turned around the sharp bends had it’s own beauty.  Imagining coal minors 100 years ago navigating narrow paths with sharp drop offs in such weather, gave me an appreciation for the price that was paid generations ago.  I could go on, but the point is that even in the midst of turmoil, beauty is to be found.

My dear friend Michelle sent me this verse today: “He calmed the storm to a whisper” Psalm 107:29  The verse accompanied an article, in which there was a quote from a sailor. “every sailor knows that there will be storms. You just learn what to do when the storm hits. In a severe storm, there is only one thing to do and only one way to survive. You have to put the ship in a certain position and keep her there.”

There is an old quote from Charles Swindoll, “The longer I love, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life….I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you...we are in charge of our attitudes.”

Your ship will hit a storm.  Some storms will be bigger than imaginable.  The question is, will you still be able to find the beauty in life?

Saturday
Aug012015

Unlearn…… The Traveling Vagabond – Day 11

I love being a dad.  I love spending time with my boys and serving as their Life Coach.  Sure, there are times when being a disciplinarian is necessary, but when you are a good life coach you teach them to wise thinkers and leaders.  You teach the to learn, to unlearn and then to relearn.  So many people are at odds with their teens.  I am privileged to be my son’s life guides and help them to learn to be good decision makers.

This is one of the reasons I am loving this trip so much.  I get 10 days of hanging with, exploring with, listening to and even learning from Levi.  He is a great young man, truly and out of the box thinker.  I believe he has a lot to contribute to this world.

Sometimes the most spiritual things I can do for my sons is to just get out of their way!  Part of leading them to manhood is to allow them to grow and even fail.  In fact I think one of the biggest tragedies I see in todays parenting is being so overprotective, the child is robbed of the privilege of learning from his / her failures.

I am reminded of the writings of Richard Rohr, “We do not “make” or “create” our souls; we just “grow” them up.  We are clumsy stewards of our own souls.  We are charged to awaken, and much of the work of spirituality is leaning how to stay out of the way of this rather natural growing and awakening.  We need to unlearn a lot, it seems, to get back to that foundational live which is hidden in God (Col 3:3)”

Rohr also writes, “The human ego prefers anything, just about anything, to falling or changing or dying.  The ego is the part of you that loves the status quo, even when it is not working.  It attaches to past and present and fears the future”

All of my family, each in their own unique way are in massive transition.  We each have things to learn and things to unlearn.  We need to learn from our past and be willing to risk, which means be willing to fail.

Life is a crazy wild adventure.  For me the sanity of it all is found in my security in God.

 

Travel Schedule

Today we will spend the day in Mesa Verde National Park.  It protects some of the best preserved Ancestral Puebloan archeological sites in the United States

Saturday
Aug012015

New Beginnings… The Traveling Vagabond – Day 10 

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;

    his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;

    great is your faithfulness.

 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,

    “therefore I will hope in him.”

Lamentations 3:22-24 (ESV)

 

Today Levi and I hit the open road.  We are going on a father/ son journey across the country to make memories that will last a lifetime.  It is a real gift that we can do this.

 Terri and Caleb are in Virginia and Monday they will fly out to the Dominican Republic.  We started doing missions in a squatters community in Bani about 15 years ago.  Quickly Pastor Esdras, his wife Ellen and their three children became close friends.  Here we were from a very wealthy county in Maryland and they were amongst the poor, yet our relationship grew so close that we did not even notice the difference.  Esdras and I became peers, Ellen and Terri became pastor wives buddies and our kids really love each other.  For $130 each way we discovered we can fly Terri and Caleb to hang out with them (Terri for a week and a half, Caleb for almost three weeks)

Transition seasons are unique.  Our flesh wants fear to guide such a time, especially when we have no idea where we will end up.  Believe me, we wake up everyday with that temptation

Instead, we are trying to ask, what can we uniquely do in this season that we could not do any other time.  Hence the cross country trip and the DR trip.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;

    his mercies never come to an end;

How can you not love a God like this?  This is what we miss when we turn our eyes inward.  God is constant, He does not change.  He really really loves His children and His Grace is endless

they are new every morning;

    great is your faithfulness.

When you wake up every morning, we need to meditate on this verse.  It is a day and a season of new beginnings

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,

    “therefore I will hope in him.”

God is everything we need.  Let us be like the psalmist, to learn to be satisfied only in Him.

 

Travel Schedule

Hit the open road at 9 am

Lunch in Flagstaff – our family has some great memories there, so it will be a real treat for Levi and I

End up in Cortez Co where we will rest in preparation for Messa Verde National Park in the morning.  

Thursday
Jul302015

Miracles… The Traveling Vagabond – Day 9

As you have figured out by now, I am choosing to take a simplistic approach to this season.  No bold claims, no self pity, no fear.

What I am finding fascinating about simplicity is the number of miracles I am seeing.  I think they have always been there, more often than I know, it us just that simplicity allows my ears to draw closer to the heartbeat of God.  Most of it is too small to mention, I would not want someone to belittle the gifts God is giving me.   Many of them might seem as nothing but mere coincidences.

Yet, I know what I was praying and I know what happened to my heart at the time – I would know that God would have just delivered me a small miracle. 

You want to know what is really cool though?  I think that when a follower of God is a bit started by His works, He chuckles.