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Book Release!!

It is with great joy that I announce the launch of my newest book, The Mystery, the Way, and the Journey: Walking into the Darkness of the Unknown. This book started off as a personal project before morphing into a MA thesis and then into a book. I pray that you all will enjoy the content as I feel that the message is crucial for today’s Jesus followers.

We live in a time of certainty and extremes where questions must be answered and spiritual salvation is centered on a single moment. By drawing on the writings of St. Maximos the Confessor (580–662 CE), this book seeks to introduce the reader to a new, albeit old, way of following Jesus of Nazareth into the darkness of the unknown by embracing the mystery of uncertainty as a way of life in which each person’s journey is different. Interwoven together, the concepts of the Mystery, the Way, and the Journey provide a way forward through the uncertainty of the future by following the path set forth by the ancient church while understanding that we are part of something bigger and older than modern American Christianity.

“In a world where faith has been defined as facts and arriving at a destination, Josh Hopping gives us the option to pursue truth and stay on a journey with the Triune God. If you are tired of easy answers and want to learn how to live in the mystery of walking with Jesus, then this is the book for you.”

–Ramon Mayo, author of Reclaiming Diversity

“There has been, in the last few decades, a growing restlessness and unease within the conservative evangelical tribe with the excessive simplicity of how the faith journey is understood and interpreted, and the corresponding and addictive need for absolute certainty that is constrictive and suffocating. Many of the more curious, thoughtful, and creative people within such a small womb are feeling the birth pangs and emerging into a fuller vision of life–such is the maturing beauty of Joshua Hopping. . . . It is best when reading a good book to step beyond merely reading for information and allow the book to be a midwife of transformation. Certainly, Joshua’s book can do this if read in the spirit in which it was written. I highly recommend multiple meditative reads of this pure diamond of a book.”

–Ron Dart, Department of Political Studies, Philosophy, and Religious Studies, University of the Fraser Valley, Abbotsford, British Columbia

What did America look like before Columbus?

What did America look like before Columbus? Was the land wild and untamed or were the indigenous people farmers and city builders?

These are the question Charles Mann seeks to answer in his book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. For century the common myth is that South and North America was a wild land with very few people. Archaeology discoveries, however, disprove this theory and show that 1/5 of the people alive in the 16th century lived in the Americas (i.e. there was close to 100 million people in the Americas with the world population being about 500 million).

Sadly, disease and sickness (e.g. smallpox) brought over by Europeans killed large numbers of the indigenous people. In some places, 90% to 95% of the indigenous people died within a hundred years of Columbus’ first trip. This massive depopulation led to a restructuring of tribal cities, governments, farms, etc. It also allowed the Europeans to enter and settle the land without much resistance (though there was some, of course).  

This isn’t a slam against the Europeans. Disease, viruses, and the like don’t care who you are; they are just bugs that seek to kill and harm.

The importance of this book is that it seeks to tell a better story of the indigenous people of the Americas. History as taught in the USA tends to be very much Eurocentric with very little space or time given to the indigenous people of the land. While I understand the desire to tell the history of Europe, I also think it is important to tell the story of the indigenous people. I am a byproduct of both worlds with European and indigenous blood flowing through my veins. As such, I want to know the history of both of my people. Which is why I picked up Mann’s book. =D

No matter who you are, I think you will enjoy this book.


History, Myths, and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees

James Mooney (from

In reading various books on the history of the Cherokee people I kept hearing one name mentioned repeatedly: James Mooney. So, I bought his book. =)

Mooney was a first-generation Irish American who grew up on the stories of the old country. As a teenage in the mid-1800’s he started to memorize the names of all the Native American tribes in the North America. This led to a job with the newly formed Bureau of American Ethnology. From that point one Mooney would dedicate his life to recording the stories of the Cherokees and other Native American tribes across the country.

His first book, The Sacred Formulas of the Cherokee, was published in 1891. Nine years later in 1900 his masterpiece Myths of the Cherokee was released. The first half of this book is devoted to telling the history of the Cherokees from their first contact with European explorers in the 1500’s to the end of the nineteenth century.

In order to gain the information necessary for these books, Mooney spent years living among the Cherokees. Most of the time he was in North Carolina and Georgia among the Eastern Band of Cherokees, which were those people who remained in the ancestral land after the Trail of Tears (1838-1839). However, he did make a few visits to Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma (then Indian Territory) to collaborate the stories he was hearing in the east.

On a personal level, it was awesome to hear the stories my ancestors would have told each other. Stories about creation, the animals, and the land. In researching my family, I discovered that my great-great-great grandfather Zachariah T. Langley would have been in and around the area Mooney was in the 1880s. Both he and his son, John W.D. Langley, was listed on the Eastern Band’s rolls during this time before moving to Oklahoma in 1890. Most of Zachary’s family, including his mother, would stay in the east among the Eastern Band.

The tribe was introduced to Christian in the early 1800’s. Recognizing the shifting cultural tide, the tribal leaders invited the Moravian Church to start a school within the nation. This opened the door to other groups, most of which were helpful to the Cherokee Nation as a whole. As in, several Christian pastors fought for the tribe against the US Government during the 1830s when the government was forcing them to move west. Though it would be remiss of me if I didn’t note that there were other Christian leaders who were not so kind to the Cherokees. History, like today, is a mixed bag of good and evil.

John W.D. Langley and family

As a side note, I think it is really cool that the Moravian were the first group to engage the Cherokee people. My own personal faith journey was impacted by the history and writings of the Moravian as longtime readers of this site will no doubt know. Though I have yet to personal meet anyone who journeys within that stream of the faith, they have left an impact upon my soul.

In the interest of time I will end this review. It is enough to say that I am incredible thankful for James Mooney’s foresight to record the stories of my people. I am also grateful to the elders of the tribe who told the stories to him. It is a blessing to be able to read these stories over a hundred years later.

Grace and peace.

The Vibe or Spirit of the Land

“You can feel the youthfulness of the land. It’s like a child full of energy and unpredictability.”

Those were my words as we walked through the woods a stone throw from the Sawtooth Wilderness. The two of us had left the trail a while back and were picking our way along a ridge north of Pettit Lake. Our conversation during this hike was wide ranging, but the land was front and center for most of it.

Though it is easy to miss, the land around us has a vibe or spirit that telegraphs its character to those who listen. The Sawtooth Mountains, for example, sends a vibe of youthful energy. It is a young range with unpredictable mood swings – going from burning hot days to freezing cold nights to perhaps a lightening storm or two.

The Ozark mountains where I spend my childhood telegraphs a different vibe. They are an old range full of history and stories. Every nook and hollow within the range has a story to tell. The few times I’ve visited the Appalachian Mountains I’ve felt a similar vibe though I have not had the honor of listening to their voices as much as I would like.

Years ago when I first came to Idaho I worked in the high mountain deserts in the far south-west of the state. Deep canyons cut through the deserts like wrinkles on an aged face. The desert is a shy place, hiding its secrets from visitors. Only those who slow down and watch are given a glimpse into the deep mysteries of the desert.

Cities and town also give off their own vibes. Each one as unique as the people who dwell within their boundaries.

It is easy to miss these signs – to simply go about living on top of the land without thinking about it. The Creator, however, crafted each stone, blade of grass, tree, and dirt particle. As such it beholds us to stop and listen to the spirit of the land in which we reside. They have stories to tell us if only we pause.

Connecting With the Soul of the Reader

Every author’s dream is to craft something that connects with the soul of the reader, transporting them into a realm beyond the black and white letters on the page. This type of experience is rare – for both the author and the reader.

Hence why it is so powerful when it happens.

This past Monday I had the honor of experiencing such an event for the first time as an author. I was sharing a chapter from my newest book with a local writers group when the air in the room began to change. The emotions and atmosphere shifted, moving the five of us on to a different plane of existence.

It was quite simply amazing and humbling.

wow…. perhaps one day I will be able to share this chapter with you all (hopefully in the form of a new book!!). In the meantime, thanks again for your support and prayers. May blessings pour down on you all. =)

Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling

Born in Florence at the beginning of the Italian Renaissance on March 6, 1475 when “Mercury and Venus were in the house of Jupiter,” [1] Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni seemed destined to become a famous in the arts. And as fortune had it, he was able to study at the famed Garden of San Marco started by the famous patron of the arts, Lorenzo de’ Medici.[2] Michelangelo’s skill as a sculptor soon became apparent with him creating “two extraordinary bas-reliefs, the Madonna of the Steps and the Battle of the Centaurs”[3] by the age of fifteen or sixteen as noted by Thomas Cahill. However it wasn’t sculpting that would propel him into the realm of the uber famous, but rather it would be his skill with a paint brush that would set him apart. The canvas for his art, as the fates would have it, was a box-shaped chapel in Rome whose foundation was laid a mere two years before his birth.[4]

The journey from sculptor to painter was not an easy one for Michelangelo. Rather it was a journey full of political upheavals, family drama, personal rivalry, and four long years perched on a scaffold bend backward staring at a ceiling. In his book Michelangelo & the Pope’s Ceiling, Ross King weaves these complex issues together into a single story showing how Pope Julius II pushed Michelangelo beyond his comfort zone and into the history books.

Like most people I had heard about Michelangelo’s paintings on the vault of the Sistine Chapel and even seen replicates of famed Creation of Adam fresco. However my knowledge of these amazing paintings did not extent beyond simply recognizing their existence in the world. King’s book was a ray of sunlight into the darkness of my ignorance, bringing with it the understanding that the context surrounding the creation of a piece of art is just as important as the piece itself. This realization may sound simple as it is a common method of exegesis for literature, especially the Scriptures. Yet I must admit that before reading King’s book I had never considered studying the cultural and history context of a piece of art.

Though it was not the topic of the book, King did provide some crucial information about the cultural and political context of the Protestant Reformation. Pope Julius II steadfast focus on recovering control over the Papal States, for example, was new information previously unknown to me. Similar to some of the cardinals of the day, I was “thunderstruck” that the “vicar of Christ” would personally “lead an army into battle.” [5] Add sexual misdeeds to this tragedy misinterpretation of the role of the church in the world and it is no small wonder that Martin Luther would say that “Rome was the seat of the devil and the pope worse than the Ottoman sultan.”[6]

In closing I have to admit that while Ross King’s book Michelangelo & the Pope’s Ceiling was outside my typical reading patterns, it proved itself to be a valuable text. Ross King does a great job painting a picture of why Michelangelo is considered one of the great Renaissance painters and sculptors. Somehow this gentleman managed to capture the “expressive possibilities of the human form” [7] in a way that no one else had ever done before while working in an unfamiliar medium in the midst of a city full of political upheaval and human indecency. Writer and Episcopal priest Ian Cron once stated that “artists help people to see or hear beyond the immediate to the eternal.”[8] Perhaps this is why Sir Joshua Reynolds described Michelangelo’s work on the Sistine Chapel as “the language of the Gods”[9]

End Notes

[1] Ross King. Michelangelo & the Pope’s Ceiling (New York: Walker & Company, 2003), 1.

[2] Ross King. Michelangelo & the Pope’s Ceiling, 2.

[3] Thomas Cahill. Heretics and Heroes: How Renaissance Artists and Reformation Priests Created Our World (New York: Nan A. Talese, 2013), 111.

[4] “Sistine Chapel,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, accessed December 19, 2017,

[5] Ross King. Michelangelo & the Pope’s Ceiling, 34.

[6] Ross King. Michelangelo & the Pope’s Ceilingg, 217.

[7] Ross King. Michelangelo & the Pope’s Ceiling, 299.

[8] Ian Morgan Cron. Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2013), 110.

[9] Ross King. Michelangelo & the Pope’s Ceiling, 313.

Experience vs. Theology: A False Dichotomy

Imagine that I never talked to my wife of 16-years. No sharing of dreams, passions, likes or dislikes. Nothing.

Knowing that talking could lead to miscommunication, I, instead, choose to  experience her presence through snuggling up next to her or simply by being in the same room. After all, I reason, experiencing her presence is more life changing than any conversation could be.

Or so goes the common thought when it comes to God. Over and over again well-intention people pit experience against theology with a bias towards one or the other. To do this is to reduce the fullness of God, placing him inside a self-defined box where he ceases to be who he really is.

Theology, contrary to popular culture, isn’t having information about God or holding to the right doctrine. Simply put, theology is the study of God – meaning that we are dong theology every time we think about Jesus, talk about Jesus, read the Scriptures, ponder the deep meanings of life, etc.  Stanley Grenz & John Franke defined theology in their book Beyond Foundationalism as the “ongoing conversation among those whom the God of the Bible has encountered in Jesus Christ.” Accordingly I love theology as it brings me closer to Jesus while also giving me a glimpse into the different facets of him.

Experience, similar to theology, is another way of knowing God. Which is to say that it is a way for us to emotionally encounter the living God who actively seeks us out. Experience in this way is more than simply having a charismatic phenomena happen in, through or around you. Sadly, though, I would have to say that charismatic phenomena is what most people think about just like folks tend to reduce “theology” into “doctrine.”

In returning to our analogy, reducing God to an experience would be akin to  snuggling up with your spouse while never talking to them. While snuggling up with them is great, it doesn’t capture the fullness of who that person is as you would never hear their dreams, passions, hearts, or concerns. Similarly if you just talked to your spouse while never snuggling with them, you would lose a portion of who they were as skin to skin contact brings an intimacy that can never be replaced by conversation.

This is why I am a HUGE proponent of embracing both experience and theology. I want to know Jesus in all his glory – meaning that I want to both experience his presence as well as hear his thoughts.

To think back over my life is to note that I have been dramatically changed by encounters with God through both physical experiences and theology.  For every charismatic phenomena I’ve experienced or every sweet time of just being in his presences, there is an equally powerful encounter with God through a theological chat with a friend or via an amazing book.

The way I live my life – the way I see the world – the way I talk to my children – the manner in which I treat my wife – the way I approach my work – everything I do is influenced by the memorial stones of experience and theology. I cannot and will not separate experience and theology. They are two wings of a plane that work together to give flight to that which should never fly.

The fact that we are even having this conversation about experience and theology is amazing thing. The ancient world, as noted by N.T. Wright in Paul and the Faithfulness of God, did not separate action (experience) and belief (theology) as they saw the two explicitly intertwined.  The idea that we fallible humans can somehow can stand above the fray of life and come up with the “correct” view of God is a modernist bound-set reductionary concept.

We can no more separate our experiences from our theology or our theology from our experience than we can  turn lead into gold. The ancient world was correct in that the two concepts are intertwined to the point that they almost become one.

As such, I would say a better way forward would be to embrace the mystery of the entanglement between experience and theology. Let us do both with an eye towards walking with Jesus into the unknown of the future.

“A true seeking after God results from an experience of God which one falls in love with for no reason other than finding God irresistibly lovable. In this way the lovers of God are the ones who are the most passionately in search of God” -Peter Rollins, How (Not) to Speak of God