Search Results for: breath of fresh air

Did You Enjoy Your Breath of Fresh Air This Week?

Last week we began a new service here at Lifestream. We started a three-day-a-week email to encourage people to take a beat and reflect on some aspect of God’s work in them and the world around them.

A lady in Pennsylvania is selecting quotations from my various books, podcasts, blog posts, and articles I’ve written over the years that can encourage your journey today. Honestly, many of those quotes I don’t remember writing or saying and I’ve enjoyed having them in my inbox as well.

If you received the email pictured above in your email today, then you are all set to receive them. Please feel free to share them with others by email, blogs, or social media. You do not need our permission. We want them to be windblown as far across the world as Father desires.

We sent them to everyone for the first week with the option to add them to your account. However, if you didn’t click on the link to update your preferences to include A Breath of Fresh Air, you would not have received one today. Instead, you would have received a final notice to sign up for A Breath of Fresh Air, if you want. Click on the link and follow the instructions to update your preferences. Find the “A Breath of Fresh Air” box and click on it. That’s it!  You can, of course, change your preferences any time by clicking on the link at the very bottom of those emails.

I’m sorry for the extra hassle. We did it this way so we wouldn’t fill up the inbox of anyone who did not want them. If you’re on our Lifestream Update list and did NOT sign up for this new service, you received an email today with a link to help you update your preferences. I wish I could provide that link here, but you have to respond from that email.

If you didn’t receive any last week, then you’re not on our mailing list.  If you’d like to be, you can sign up here and check the box for A Breath of Fresh Air.  (Regretfully, this list of blog subscribers is not the same as our Lifestream Update list. I wish we could combine them, but they are managed in two different ways.)

If you want to subscribe to this blog, make sure you include your email address in the box at the upper right of any blog post at Lifestream.org.

And if you’re not sure what we’re talking about, here are the emails we sent out this past week:

 

A Breath of Fresh Air

From the smokey haze of California, a breath of fresh air sounds pretty awesome.  To draw a deep, clean breath can clear the mind, and exhaling can refocus our spirit.

“I can’t breathe,” has become a too-often used refrain this year whether it’s black men under the knee of a racist police officer, a patient gasping for air with the COVID-19 pandemic, or the horrible fires and resulting smoke we’ve had recently on our West Coast. There is nothing more powerless than the feeling that you can’t get a breath and are suffocating in the overwhelming circumstances of life.  I’ve had bouts of asthma, been in smoke-filled rooms,  and had the wind knocked out of me several times.  There’s nothing like being able to take a deep breath when you haven’t been able to for a while.

When people write to me, that’s how they often refer to something they have read or heard me say. Others, from warmer climates, will refer to it as a cup of cold water.  I love hearing how something I’ve put out there has invited someone into a more refreshing place spiritually and allows them to catch their breath again inside their own relationship with Jesus.  So, we’re making some changes here at Lifestream to help people have access to that kind of information.

First, we’re going to send out email encouragements three times a week from the resources here and at the God Journey, just like the one above. We’re calling them A Breath of Fresh Air.  They won’t always be as artistic, but on Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday mornings, you will find one in your inbox if you want.  They’ll be brief, just a chance to pause a beat and be encouraged in your journey. I’m going to send them to everyone on our Lifestream Update list for the first week, so people can decide if they would like to get them. If that’s too much email for you, do nothing. They will stop after next Thursday. If you want it, however, you will need to add it to your email preferences at MailChimp.  There will be a link in those three emails to make it easy for you to do that.

If you aren’t already subscribed to Lifestream updates, sign up here.  That is a different list than those who subscribe to my blog and are receiving this email.  How do you know if you’re on the other list too?  If you get one this Sunday, use the link above to sign up.

Embracing His Glory - Audio SeriesSecond, we have put the Embracing His Glory recordings from the God Journey on its own Lifestream page. Like Transitions and The Jesus Lens, this will be a major tool to help people explore their own journey. Specifically, Embracing His Glory gives people language and perspective to recognize how Jesus shapes his glory in us.  We’ve released them on the podcast for the past 14 weeks, but are now including them here. It describes in better terms than I’ve had before how learning to live in the Father’s affection has been transforming me and allowing me to live more deeply in his reality.  This has been my journey for the past 26 years—letting Jesus poke holes in my illusions and finding the confidence in his love to walk away from them and to embrace what’s really true—about him, ourselves, the circumstances we’re in, and with people around us.  So many people who have heard them have written to tell me how much they have been a blessing to them.

Finally, we’re adding a whole new section to the Lifestream website. I was talking to a friend recently about Lifestream and, knowing she is a branding expert, I asked her if there were any glaring weaknesses to this site that we could improve on. She had read and listened to almost everything at Lifestream and told me how deeply it had impacted her.  “Your site is a gold mine, with so much free stuff to access.”  But she added that it was difficult to access.  “I’m probably one of only about twelve people on the planet that would take the time to drill down through everything you have there.”

So, she asked me to consider arranging that material into five key questions that I’m asked a lot and point people to the best resources that would help them answer those questions.  I will share more about this feature in the future, but if you go to Lifestream.org, you’ll notice the new banner at the top of the page, helping people find the resources here that most interests them.

Here are the five new Lifestreams that people can use to help them mine the content on this website.  Under each heading, you’ll find the articles, books, podcasts, and recordings that we think will most help people answer those questions in their own journey.

Each of these pages will offer you a host of resources to help you and Jesus sort through these questions in ways that can enhance your journey. You can quickly get some things to think about or dive deeper into an extensive study that could change the trajectory of your life. There are months and months of resources here that can help you find the fullness of his life and freedom.  That’s my hope and prayer for all of it.

Check it out.  Let me know if it is helpful to you.

It’s Time to Take Wing, Again!

I doubt few people enjoyed the COVID stay-at-home orders more than I did. After twenty-five years of constant travel, it was a joy to be home with Sara for such a prolonged period as well as to work on some projects that were on my heart—the My Friend Luis podcast, a new daily devotional Live Loved Free Full, the A Breath of Fresh Air encouragements, and The Jesus Story, an adaptation of The Jesus Lens for kids. I’ve had numerous incredible engagements via Zoom with individuals and small groups for prayer, discovery, and insight into Father’s work in the world.  It has been both a restful and a fruitful season, and my heart has been re-shaped in so many ways and re-staged for what’s ahead.

The God Journey continued to allow me to explore many of the themes that continue to grow in my heart and mind—helping people live loved, recognizing and responding to Father’s work in their own hearts to overturn their illusions so they can more freely walk in his love and discover the joy of laying down their lives in a hostile world.

Now, I sense it’s time to take wing again, literally, traveling to places where God wants me to encourage his people to lean into his glory. As we come to rely on his love, it will allow us to see the truth of what’s going on inside of us and around us so that we can be part of his unfolding glory in the world and love well those he’s inviting us to engage.  So, this fall, I’ll begin traveling for a season as I sense God leading me to serve his purpose in the world.

In the last few months, I’ve sensed a freshening wind of the Spirit to help a new generation experience the joy of living outside the bondage of religious obligation and shame, to discover how to be sensitive to God’s Spirit and direction in the real circumstances of everyday life. I want to continue to have conversations that matter with people who care, whether that be in homes, outdoors, retreat centers, fellowship halls, or other places we can gather. I don’t do a lot of that by teaching seminars but by hanging out over a few days with people who want to explore what it means to walk alongside the Risen Christ.

God’s glory is rising again in those who wish to live untainted by religious obligation and free to follow the Lamb wherever he goes. While this will engage a younger generation, I’m also excited about exploring how more seasoned saints can be cheerleaders in this process by encouraging younger ones without seeking to control or monetize what God is doing. How can we be in tune with God’s work in the world and embrace the divine community God is stitching together around us?

I have a host of pre-COVID invitations, but I’m laying those aside to see what fresh direction God has for days to come. So, don’t assume I’ll follow up on an old invitation. If you even have an inkling that God might want to put something together where you live, please get in touch with me so we can pray and listen. Some of the places God wants me to go involve younger people who have never planned this kind of thing before and might be afraid to do it. Be courageous, and see what God might do.

What does it take for me to come? Not much! We simply need a shared sense that God has something in mind where you are, a place to hang out with people for a few days, and a pocket of people there who want to explore together what it means to live in love, at rest, and at play in the Father’s presence as we follow his leading. I have always traveled at my own expense, so finances are never an issue. If people inviting me can help share in those expenses, that’s always a bonus. If not, Father has other ways to provide for what he wants to do.

I have a few things to take care of at home this summer, but toward the end of August and beyond, I’m going to see where Father wants to take me.  First, I’m going to circle back to a few invitations I had to cancel when the pandemic hit and see if there’s still a desire for me to come.  I’m looking at you, Michigan, Wichita, Miami, and Oklahoma City.  Beyond that, I already have fresh invitations to Virginia and Maryland when I start traveling again.

If you’re in those areas, or someplace altogether different, with a desire on your heart to get some people together and explore the life lived in love and at the pleasure and power of his Spirit, let me know. And, if you want to connect with me if I’m ever in your area, you can sign up for Travel Notifications here. You’ll receive an email if I’m coming within a couple of hundred miles of where you live.

The people I’ve met around the world have greatly enriched my life and my journey. I learn so much from other people’s stories and the struggles they have endured. I’m looking forward to seeing what this next chapter looks like and how God’s glory will continue to rise in the world.

A Life-Long Companion

I am grateful to those of you who have taken the time to review my new book on Amazon.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I hope they are helpful on people finding this book as an encouragement to the Spirit’s work in them. You have no idea how much those reviews help to launch this book into the wind. If you’re enjoying it and haven’t reviewed it yet, please consider doing so. Even a sentence or two is incredibly helpful.

While Amazon has the Kindle version for order, they are still listing the hardback book as “Unavailable.”  It’s crazy!  We shipped books to them weeks ago and have confirmation of them having been received. We have called them and written them and they still have not found the glitch that makes it seem the book is not available.  I’m so sorry for their incompetence. Don’t despair, though, we have plenty available for immediate shipping at Lifestream.  (For international orders, please email Jessica for a quote before ordering because our shipping calculator does not work for foreign destinations.) And if you want to hear more about the book, I was a guest last week on the AdventureLife podcast with Will Ratliff where we talk about the book.

I got my favorite review of this book a couple of weeks ago via text in the middle of playing a round of golf.  It was from my thirteen-year-old granddaughter.  “I was reading your book yesterday it is very good.” To hear her unbidden call it ‘very good.” warmed my heart. Let’s just say reading isn’t high on her list of favorite activities. What it lacks in eloquence, it makes up for in heart. I dedicated this book to my three grandchildren because in many ways I wrote it for them. As I was working on it, I hoped this would become a treasured companion for their life-long journeys—a loving grandpa whispering in their ear the things that he thinks matter most.

If it would touch them, I’m sure it would touch many more—parents, children, grandmas, and grandpas. By the reviews people have been posting and the emails I’ve received from those reading it, it has hit its mark.

Sara and I read my January 31 devotional last night. Many have written me to tell me it is one of their favorites. It is one of mine too. Those are the thoughts that draw me into a better relational space that makes me aware of God’s presence and his activity around me. That’s what my hope was in putting this devotional together, and I’m so glad to hear from those of you who are already finding it a welcome companion on your journey.

Here are some of the reviews from Amazon.  It blesses my heart to see how others are being touched by this book.

Jonathan

I first found Wayne Jacobsen through his Lifestream website many years ago when I was going through a difficult time in my spiritual journey. I have read many of his books, blog posts and listened to many episodes of his podcast over the years, and I was very excited when I found out he was creating a daily devotional! I got the Kindle version as soon as I heard it was available, and while daily devotionals were created to be read one day at a time, I haven’t been able to keep myself from reading ahead, and I am currently a month ahead of where I am supposed to be in the book, but I don’t care! With every devotional, I feel myself growing closer to God as I am made more aware of how much he loves me, and how I often forget that I am one of his beloved, loved greatly by him, just because he loves me, not because of anything I ever did or could do to earn his love. Returning to my first love is such a great experience, I am looking forward to reading through this devotional, and then starting over again to read through it multiple times this year!

 

MA Brown

I’ve been reading and listening to Wayne for almost twelve years now, and I love these little snippets of the wisdom he’s gained on his journey to live every moment in Father’s affection. They’re great reminders to me… I hope that they’re just what you need to breathe hope and peace into your heart and mind, especially in these challenging times. More than that, I hope that you will decide to go deeper into Wayne’s journey through the rest of his books. I’m grateful for his company on my journey–I bet you will be, too.

 

Timmy

This is a daily devotional book, but you cannot stop at just one. They are so inspiring. I have learned from Wayne’s journey with Father though his books, blog, and podcasts for more than ten years. The truths that Wayne shares have greatly impacted my relationship with God. I am so thankful to have his rich and wise insights in a daily format that will remind me and encourage me to go ever deeper in living in the reality of my Heavenly Father’s love for me.

 

Janelle

You know that feeling that you have on a busy day, when you get to take a break with a cup of your favorite beverage and just sit and take some time to recharge your batteries? Well, the entries in this book remind me of that. In a busy world loaded with hectic schedules, exhausting demands on our time and attention, and relationships that are floundering where we wish them to be flourishing, the contents in this book offer an oasis to visit. The truths portrayed energize you to take that next step forward in hope. We are meant to thrive, not just survive. Learning to live loved equals a security we all long for, an ever-growing sense of belonging that cannot be found reliably anywhere else. In these pages you will find much to point you in that direction and encourage you along the way.

 

Dianne

Generally, devotional books focus on what we have done or haven’t done, what we should do or shouldn’t do. We read them as an obligation because we “should” in order to “be better” Christian. This book is different. It is a pleasure and a joy to read because each reading gives us a different view of God’s love for us. No guilt. No shame. Just God’s love for you; unending and unconditional. You’ll probably finish this book in way less than a year because once you start reading, you’ll forget to stop at the end of each entry. You’ll find the readings so encouraging, so inspirational, so comforting that you will keep reading, one after another. What better way to begin (or end) each day than with a reminder of how much Father God loves you.

 

1thing

Open this book to any day of the year and you’ll be glad you did. Wayne is my Reminder-in-Chief—pastorally and kindly calling me back to live loved. This devotional is like having a daily cuppa with a dear friend who truly cares about your soul and wants to help you live freely. A beautiful gift to yourself…and others!

 

Lisa

How refreshing to have a devotional tool that focuses on the Father’s love, his affection and desire for me, rather than what’s wrong or needs fixed. The encouragement and peace this engenders is stealth spiritual warfare. Learning to live loved, is turning on the light to remove darkness, rather than trying to remove darkness to get the light in. We didn’t prepare for Jesus to come…. He came to prepare us to be loved.

 

Patricia

I’ve been on a “living loved” journey for over 3 years now and I can say Wayne Jacobsen’s books, podcasts and now this devotional have helped me grow even deeper in my love relationship with my Papa (I’m also a huge fan of the “Shack” book he co-wrote and I watch the movie every New Year’s Eve! This has been a huge game changer for me as I believe “we were created to live loved”; it is what our soul longs for and can only be satisfied by living in the Father’s affection every day! Every day there is a short, but perfect to the point thought to help you stay there!

 

Madison

I have read most of Wayne’s books and they have been a breath of fresh air on my faith journey. This is a great devotional, one that you will not feel guilty about later for not keeping up with like most that I have tried in the past. You will want to skip ahead in your daily readings or just randomly search for one because his words are such an encouragement, that point you straight to Jesus and the heart of the Father.

 

Marti 

This devotional is fresh and full of life. I highly recommend this book for the person who wants to deep in their relationship with God out of love rather than discipline.

 

Cheryl

This devotional is unlike any other, deeply profound – allowing the heart to shift from a place of anxiety, performance and striving and into a place of trust, delight, enjoyment and love. 

 

A-MS

This is the kind of devotional that will leave you feeling like you’ve been invited into a warm hug from Father and will leave you wanting to know what the next day’s reading has to say. These daily devotionals encourage us to seek for a deeper relationship with Father, and to go on a journey with Him that is our own journey, not a carbon copy of someone else’s. I’m looking forward to spending the next year being reminded every day of Father’s love, freedom and fullness of life that He has for me as I read through this book.

 

Will 

I thought I knew about God’s love until I read the writings of Wayne Jacobsen. He has a way of drawing you into an understanding of Father’s love like no other. This book is no exception. If you’ve ever doubted God’s love or how He could love you, read this book and you will see. It’s not about what you do or what you’ve done, but about what He’s done and who He is. 

 

Monica

The richness in this book is like a Thanksgiving feast. There is so much depth in these pages and beautiful glimpses of Father and his love. I ride a high for the rest of the day after reading in it. I see him in my life a little bit clearer and rest a little deeper! 

 

Bill

In this book it feels like Wayne opened all of his personal journals and shared with us the best of the best of his thoughts. I agree with some others who say they cannot stop at the reading for the current day. I just want to keep reading! Each day is simple, but profound. Please purchase one of these `labors of love` for yourself, and some for those you love!

 

David

I’m convinced you can’t find better things to read, anywhere! The way things are explained makes such perfect sense, my heart cannot deny,,, and neither does it want to.

Order your copy today.

Don’t Let Fear Determine Your Path

I got a text recently from someone about an exchange we had six years before.

You may never know what these words you said to me in 2014 have meant to me. There is so much pressure living in the “Bible belt” but I think I finally realize through this pandemic and having time to be away from it all that my relationship with Jesus can grow without that pressure. Fellowship can be sitting with a friend having coffee and challenging each other. I don’t have to sit in a group or be forced to be part of a small group I’m not comfortable around. Thank you so much for your books, podcasts, Breath of Fresh Air. You have provided a window of light to me and helped reveal truth.

Looking back, I found our original exchange to help me sort out exactly what she was talking about.

I am not even sure I know how to put into words the things going through my heart and mind right now. The Jake book has been a glimmer of light to me as well as soaking up all the podcasts from the God Journey and Lifestream. I don’t know what to say about my “church”. I still go but I’m tired of the pressure to serve, the pressure to join a life group, the pressure that if you don’t go on a foreign mission trip every year you aren’t doing what you should.

I chose this group originally because I felt there was authenticity, now it seems like it is all about entertainment, they had Jack Sparrow and Elsa and Anna wandering around there last week. Yet, when my life was tough and things were scary for a few months, no one cared. Our motto is ” changing the way you think about church” I used to think we were so different. Now, I feel that if Jesus were here sitting in our midst he would be sad. I don’t think this Is what He wanted or intended.

We don’t know where the money we give goes. We don’t know the church’s budget. A select group of elders makes all the decisions. They are the only ones who know what is in the bank. I don’t know anymore. My relationship with God is suffering. I’m disillusioned. Saddened. Disheartened. And really don’t know where to go from here anymore.

My response to her had been brief, so it was so good to hear how such simple words had changed the trajectory of her faith—

Follow your heart.  I suspect you already know how God is leading you but you are afraid to follow.  I appreciate the things that you’re seeing.  Pressure is not godly nor is fear.  I pray you’ll have the courage to follow what he has put in your heart and find yourself in more spacious places of his working.

That’s true of most people I meet. They seem to be confused, but when you listen behind their words, it’s evident that they already know how Jesus is leading them. They have just talked themselves out of it because of what other, perhaps even well-meaning Christians are pressuring them to do. They worry about how others will judge them than simply following the gentle nudge the Spirit has put in their heart.

God’s leading is not that difficult to know; it’s just challenging to trust that it’s him, especially when he’s leading you away from those things you were taught to rely on. Fear will never lead you to what’s best, and it will distort your perception of God and his whispers into your heart.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid of making a mistake, of facing the disapproval of people you love, or that God wouldn’t be there to help you beyond your own efforts?  That is often the path that will lead you to more light and freedom.

At Peace No Matter What

Someone sent my own quote back to me a few days ago, telling me how much it had encouraged them.  This thought always draws my heart back to a better place, as well. Our world is a mess, no doubt about it. I wish there had been no virus, that our country wasn’t so polarized after the election, and that we could really treat all human beings equally regardless of their skin color. I’m sorry that people lose their jobs, get troubling diagnoses from their doctor, or have to deal with broken relationships with people they love.

I heard a quote this morning that is similar: “You can’t change how the story begins, but you can change how it ends.” It was mistakenly attributed to C. S. Lewis, though it isn’t in any of his writings. Still, it invites us to focus on the places where we can make a difference instead of leaving us in the despair of victimhood. We can’t do anything about what has happened to us in the past, but God is with us today and can teach us to trust his love in a way that will change the course of our lives.

When we stop fighting the reality of our circumstances, then we’re in a place to discover his peace in the midst of them and his grace to let him change us or the circumstances we face. That’s where I have hope, on what God might do today as I put my hand in his and follow him; however, he leads.

The person who sent this quote back to me also shared how that is living out in them.

Just wanted to thank you so very much for A Breath of Fresh Air. It has been refreshing to go back and listen to some of the older podcasts. I have enjoyed you and Brad being together and all the great laughing you two did together.

Also just wanted to tell you how much I am enjoying and learning from the podcasts you and Kyle do together. They have been uplifting and such great teachable moments.

Of course, I love all the podcasts when you have guests and just when it is you. The insight God has given you and the way you share your life, perspectives, and teachings about the Bible has been very life-changing to me, i.e. Jesus Lens, Transitions, all the books and all the rest, have helped me be able to move on after so many years of negativity and control to a much more peaceful, love and grace-based faith and love for God and that He loves me so deeply. I can’t wait until your new devotional book comes out!

Hope you and your family have a blessed holiday season during this pandemic!

Others have told me that the quotes we’re sending out are drawing them back to discover the resources they come from. I like that they are not getting lost. If you want to hear the podcast that the quote above came from, you can listen here: Giving Up the Burden to Convince Others.

And I love the movement she describes from “negativity and control to a more peaceful, love and grace-based faith.” That’s my journey, too, which allows me to embrace whatever today is inside my confidence that God will get me through this too.  I no longer look back at my past, frustrated by what has been, nor look too far ahead and worry about what might be.

I find his grace sufficient to whatever I have to face today and know that living there will prepare me best for whatever is coming down the road.

___________________________

You can find out more about my newest book, Live Loved Free Full here.  And, if you don’t receive our periodic Breath of Fresh Air, you can sign up by clicking on the link and checking the appropriate box.

Follow His Path Not the Crowd

Someone sent my own quote back to me from one my office sent out last month, with these words:  “Thank you so much for these ‘Breath of Fresh Air’ inspirational messages! The name is perfect, and the messages are greatly needed and much appreciated in these crazy, hectic, troubling times.”

Following Jesus and seeking the approval of the crowd are two divergent paths. Last week, it was a bit concerning to see how some people responded on my Facebook page to my blog about the upcoming election. More people took a purely partisan perspective than I would have hoped, even accusing me of various perspectives I don’t hold or trying to shame me back into the evangelical political fold.

If you haven’t noticed by now, I don’t write what I do to gain more audience share. This website would be very different if I wrote for others’ approval or to build my audience. I don’t know why my heart beats with a different cadence than other people I love seem to hear, but I write because I think something needs to be said that I’m not reading elsewhere. I’m careful about that, too. When something is on my heart that I know will challenge others, I share it with those I know who listen to Father before writing. That still doesn’t mean I always get it right, but it does mean I’m willing to put some different thoughts out there and interact with those who want to give it some honest consideration.

People can disagree without being unloving. We dare not let the world carve up Christ-followers into political factions that the world uses to gain power and financial advantage. I find both sides of that divide to be inherently dishonest and manipulative. Why would we let them become a litmus test for another’s passion for Jesus? Jesus warned us that some would exclude us and lie about us to make us their enemy. He also challenged us never to let them become our enemy.  Love is still the only environment in which his light and life flow into the world.

We only grow where we perceive things that are different than we already think. When something challenges my point of view, I listen more closely to see if I detect the breath of the Spirit. Of course, not everything does, but I’ll miss those that do if I only listen to what I already know.

Don’t worry. No matter how this election turns out, God is bigger still. He has a plan unfolding on the earth, and as part of that, he is gathering his sheep not as a powerful political force but as those who reveal his glory in the world. Often in history, his people are more effective when they are powerless in the world’s ways and strong in his. We’ll never figure out what that is in advance, but he does have a path for you to follow, and trying to be popular won’t allow you to see it. You’ll then be left to do what you think is best, and that’s not a healthy road for any of us. In your interactions with others, always be authentic, but also be gracious and generous to people who see differently than you do.

___________

Note:  If you’re not receiving these thrice-weekly quotations, you can do so by signing up for A Breath of Fresh Air. You’ll also find a different set of quotes three other days of the week on my Instagram and Facebook author page.  You can subscribe to my Instagram feed here or find me there as wayneatlifestream, or “like” my Facebook Author page to receive them.

 

Putting Some Encouragement Into Your Day

I’ve never had so much fun recycling. We do it, of course. We live in California, and you can’t take everything to landfills. We recycle everything we can, including banana peels, which go back to making compost for Sara’s garden.

But my own writings? It really hadn’t occurred to me even a few weeks ago until a series of God-ordained events and conversations helped me discover a way to do that.  A few weeks ago, we debuted A Breath of Fresh Air, taking short quotes from my past articles, blogs, books, and podcasts and mailing them out three times a week to those who wanted a bit of encouragement. The response has been overwhelming, not just with people subscribing but with the timeliness of those quotes with events in many of your lives. If you’re not on our email list, you can sign up here.

Last week we began posting different quotes on my Instagram account on three different days of the week. The same woman who has been selecting quotes for A Breath of Fresh Air has been putting some art to them as another way to put some wonderful things into the air.  You can see three examples in the graphic above. We’re trying to work out the process to have them cross-post on my Facebook Author page but haven’t fully sorted that out yet.  Hopefully, it will do so tomorrow. If not, you can subscribe to my Instagram feed here or find me there as wayneatlifestream.

Finally, I’m just completing a daily devotional we hope to fast-track for the end of the year. We’re calling it Live Loved, Full & Free. A college person we had worked for me a few years back went through my Living Loved articles and my blog posts and put them into 365 short, daily readings. I love how she broke those down into individual thoughts and tied them together in a way that can enhance the daily trajectory of a life wanting to follow Jesus.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been working through that material, updating it and adding some new insights in hopes of getting it in print by the end of the year.  I’ve had this in my files for a few years, but I haven’t moved on them because I didn’t have a sense that the time was right. Now, I know that it is, just by how much re-reading some of them has refocused and reinvigorated my own journey.

Some of my best thoughts over the past couple of decades have gone into my semi-regular blog posts, but I’ve always lamented how quickly blog posts vanish into the ether. Blogs have no endurance; books do.  I can’t wait to share some of these re-purposed encouragements to a more vibrant journey.

I’m really grateful that others have encouraged me to cull through the vast content on this website and find ways to let it live again in the hearts of people who will find it valuable.

 

 

 

I Love How This Book Encourages So Many

One of the great joys I have every day is opening my email. Yes, there is lots of pain in there as people are struggling with the brokenness of the world and how much religious obligation has twisted their view of God and themselves. But there’s also lots of joy in it as people have been encouraged to take the road less traveled, away from the dictates of a religion to a vibrant connection with God and a growing trust in his love for the Father.

I’ve gotten two recently from those who have been especially touched by what we affectionately call The Jake Book—So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore. I realize between the lines here are also some of those great seasons of pain and frustration trying to fit their spiritual passion into a religious box that is far too small to contain it. But when people let me know that the gravity of life and freedom in Jesus has become more powerful than the pull of obligation, it makes my heart happy.  Here are two examples:

I cannot identify one particular thing that led me down the path of this journey that my wife and I are currently on with Jesus, but I do wish to acknowledge that a book that you wrote, So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore? played a significant part in turning my life around. I was looking through a bunch of discounted books at a local bookstore a number of years ago and the title caught my eye. I have not been the same since I read it, mostly because it served as an encouragement to explore my questions about Church congregations and ministry as one serving as a clergy person, specifically as a chaplain for a Church-based retirement community and now as a hospice chaplain for a secular organization. I was a pastor for 15 years before entering the chaplaincy and did not find the pastorate to be something that encouraged my relationship with Christ. I found that I had to look beyond the “organized church” to find that.

I am thankful for your encouragement on this journey which has not been particularly easy, but has made my 60’s the best part of my life so far. I have been recovering from surgery this week and enjoyed listening to The Jesus Lens which has encouraged me to return to Scripture in a new way. I wish you well on your trip to Richmond this week.

And I sure agree with him that the 60s have been the best part of my life so far. That’s what Paul had in mind when he wrote, “from glory to ever-increasing glory…” he’s transforming us. There are lots of struggles in this journey, even in your 60s, but the freedom within and the growing connection to Jesus makes each decade better than the last.

And then, there’s  this one:

After 5 years in the church, I began to be worn out by the sermons of submission to the pastor, which makes them dependent on the pastor and not on God. They carry out activities, which not only have nothing to do with the Lord’s work but keeps them away from true communion with Him.

When I read your book, it was like a breath of fresh air. I realized that I was not crazy, and that freed me from doubts I had. Your book not only shed light on some of the shortcomings of the institution in which I have been for five years now but it also allows me to understand some of the mistakes I make in my quest for fellowship with Father. For example, John says to Jake: “Until you find out how to trust God for every detail of your life, you will constantly seek to control others for the things you think you need.”

This book is like a double-edged knife for me. It reveals the imperfections of the institution and of the men, but it also allows me to see the slags in me and to ask the Lord Jesus to show me what to do. God knows why He allowed your book to come into my hands. I am very grateful for that. It’s a blessing for me.

I am 70 years old and I arrived at Christianity in 1988, 31 years ago. It is true that all things have become new. The character of John impresses me, which child of God would not be like him? He reminds me of what our Lord said to Nicodemus in John 3: 8: “The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the noise, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with every man who is born of the Spirit.”

What a superb lesson of faith in God, who creates in us the will and the doing, also creates the circumstances and the situations; and He will put the words useful in our mouth for the one to whom he sends us. For me, I will wish to be a John whom God sends where He wants. I’d also like to have a John who would appear in my life when God knows I need him.

Your book is good for me and I thank God for allowing this.

And I love what he wrote about not just seeing the abuses of others that have reflected poorly in human institutions, but those things in us that contributed to it all.  In the end, his church is not an institution to be managed, but a growing family in the earth to be enjoyed.

 

 

 

Get Your Free Book

Just a reminder that from now until January 31, we are sending out a free copy of In Season to everyone who places an order at Lifestream as our gift. And if you order a copy of In Season, you’ll get two for the price of one. This is only for US addresses, since shipping is so costly overseas, but if we can fit it into an overseas order without having to send another package, we’ll include one there too.

I was reminded of this in a message from a friend from Ohio today.  Harvey wrote:

I’m investing in another read of In Season… What a breath of fresh air! I’m savoring instead of devouring it this time! The second time around I think I’m getting more out of it.. Thank you for the gift! It is ringing so true to the changing seasons in me ! Helping me relax into His ongoing purposes in me today.

This book takes me back to my roots.  I learned to walk with God in a  vineyard and the lessons of John 15 have shaped my life since. What does it mean to abide in Christ and how does that lead us to fruitfulness and fulfillment?  And how does Jesus work in different ways in the different seasons of our lives? This is not a set of principles to follow, but help recognize the different ways his Spirit works in us depending on what we’re going through at the moment.

This is one of my favorite books. I’m always blessed to hear when others are drawing life from it as well.

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Five Hundred Episodes of The God Journey

 

Last week I taped the 500th episode of The God Journey with my former co-host, Brad Cummings joining me again.  It will air this Friday morning.  (We actually taped the 501st one as well, since we couldn’t stop talking!)

 
When we began over ten years ago, I would never have guessed our little radio show on the Internet would have survived this long or would have touched the people it has touched.  On Facebook last week I asked those who wanted to celebrate this journey with us, to either post or send me thoughts about what this podcast has meant to them and their journey. I’ve been overwhelmed by the responses.

I’ll share many of those below, but before I do, I want to share what this podcast has meant to me. Through this podcast my friendship with Brad grew and it provided an environment for my own discovery and growth as we talked about things neither of us had contemplated before. It also put me in touch with thousands of people all over the world who are on some incredible journeys, with a passion and depth in God’s life that has enriched my own relationship with him. It’s still a bit weird meeting new people who know everything about me and my family. I forget just how much of our personal lives have found their way onto that podcast, and how much that has encouraged others. 

I’m amazed at all the people who listen, many from the very beginning and even more in awe that some people today still go back through the archive and have listened to all of them over the past year.  We will talk more about this on the podcast this week, but no one is more amazed than I am at where this little podcast has gone and the lives it has encouraged and connected. I continue to meet people around the world who first connected on the forum, blog, or Facebook page of this podcast and ended up in close, personal friendships.  I am grateful for the ways you engage each other, how you’ve shared the podcasts and books with your friends. This was the audience that launched The Shack, when no one else even had the book. Who knew at the time it would sell over 24 million copies worldwide and now being turned into a movie? 

I am so grateful to all who wrote and share their thoughts. We probably have been encouraged way more than we’ve encouraged others. If you’d like to add your thoughts you can do so in the comment section below.  
Now here is what some of you said about The God Journey podcast.

Claudia:  Changed.  My.  Life.

Traci: Having a couple of guys talk about freedom, life, and grace in a way that stirs the depths of your heart and soul – how do I put it into words? The beginning of understanding “he loves me and he is especially fond of me.” It was life changing.

Rick: Thanks guys, your Podcasts really helped me leave a restricted mess called religion.

David: They are a breath of fresh air in a world of stale ideas.

 

From Chris:  Thank you so much for sharing the awesome truths about our Father’s intense love and affection for us!!  I have been digesting and meditating on these truths the last few years and God has brought so much freedom and joy to my life.  I spent the first 20 years of my Christian life nearly killing myself trying to gain God’s acceptance and approval through my performance. However, I am so thankful that for the last three years He has lead me to Bible teachers like you guys that teach the truth of our God.  These truths have been like refreshing water and a healing ointment to my soul.

From Greg in NY:  Thanks for doing so many. They are an encouragement to me, and so many more. Since we first learned of your writings back in … maybe 2002? When you were writing “the Jake book” chapter by chapter online…. you (both) have been an encouragement to me to continue to listen to, follow, and want to really know Father, who loves me more than I can truly understand. And I’ve found equal encouragement in listening to your words and conversations, which echo those that God has been whispering in my own heard and mind.  My first thought when I read your post was to share our new song, This Journey, because it celebrates what this journey has meant to us. 

Jarred: I’m not your target audience by any means, as I’m 20 years old and have virtually no church background. Just wanted you to know that I really enjoy your podcast.  I particularly enjoy your discussions about relationships, and your ideas seem to coincide with the ones I’ve built over the past two years. To keep the story short, I moved out of my parents place and moved in with my best friend’s family. I already had a very close relationship with my friend, but what caught me off guard was how out of nowhere I began to build a relationship with his father (who also listens to this podcast). We just started talking, and somehow it grew into an authentic, loving relationship with no authority; just conversation.  I’ve been thinking about this more lately, but I really feel that genuine relationships with God at the center bloom naturally. Forcing it, especially in the way religious organizations seem to, leads to an insincere relationship where barriers, such as authority or conformity, prevent individuals from connecting. How can someone be the treasure they were created to be? I’m sure this is something you’ve already explored.

‪Karine:  I’ve been listening for a number of years and the podcasts have been such a support though many difficult times can’t thank the lord enough for you both and the commitment to doing this.

Kim:  Oh my goodness…the podcasts were my lifeline, as far as having someone who understood, for months after leaving the institutional world we’d been part of for 32 years! I knew God had led us out, and you, Wayne, He loves Me, and the podcasts really helped confirm and affirm the journey we knew it was time for us to begin. He Loves Me, changed my life, actually! Note to Brad Cummings: Your laughter!!! Oh my, how I miss the sound of it!! Hope you are doing lots of it these days! Enjoy you both and the encouragement you’ve been. Can’t wait to hear number 500…Live loved!!

Shari: I’m just so grateful for your podcasts over the years. It really does help to hear another voice echo what Father puts on my heart about fellowship and church. It’s easy to fall back into wanting the social life created within an institution but that comes with so much restriction and falseness. I love to live free in Fathers love and your podcasts remind me to stay the course. Friends are fewer but they are truer.

Scott:  A friend recommended So You Don’t Want to go to Church Anymore? And that led to the podcast which led to The Misunderstood God book which led to being the heretic that a lot of my Christian friends think I am now. Thanks a lot! No really, I’m not kidding. I really enjoyed the podcast when it was you and Brad, but I think I’m getting more out of it now

Chris:   This podcast has meant so much to me. “An ever expanding conversation” is a good way to describe it. I’m so thankful to God for bringing voices like yours into my life and freeing me from religious thinking at such an early part of my walk. Thanks for the conversations!

Terri: I quit my job at the local church back in ’05, hoping there was a better way, but feeling as if I’d ruined everything. You guys convinced me otherwise. At your encouragement, I spent the next two years in the Gospels getting to know Jesus, and oh my word! The last 10 years have been nothing short of spectacular. Thanks for being there and inviting us into love with Dad.

Dawnna:  I can echo many of the comments about The God Journey being a lifeline. I didn’t have a clue the depths of my hunger in wanting to know the love of Father and the church Jesus is building until I started listening to the podcasts. You set my heart on fire. And it all started with your opening lines “living outside the box of religious performance and inside the Father’s affection”. That’s all it took to launch me on my journey. Thank you for being the vehicle in which God called me to open my eyes to see Him more intimately. I will always be eternally grateful.

Ashley: The podcast, in addition to the website resources, has been an amazing support in my journey to getting to know my Father for who he really is. So grateful for the perspective shifts you and your guests provide in my thinking about how to live this out every day.

Doug: Wayne and Brad, this may be after you tape, but the podcast has certainly been used in my journey to freedom from the shoulds and into the freedom of living adventurously expectant in the love of Papa.

Hayley:  I LOVE your podcasts! Happy 500th taping!

Jerrine: So grateful for your podcasts and encouragement to live loved.

Pat: Your podcast has been an encouragement and a sane voice of the faith.

Bob: I found the God Journey just as the Pharisees’ showed their true selves where I attended and was an usher, worship team singer, and men’s group breakfast cook. Since I left, not one man from there has called me for golf, beers, hanging out. But Wayne and Brad showed me a new path, a new journey if you will. Now when I am asked if I go to church, I say “I am on a God Journey”. And the conversation begins.
Randy: I have really enjoyed The God Journey. Thanks to Wayne and Brad for taking the time to show us Jesus all these years.

Timothy: I just want to thank you both SO MUCH for having taken the time for these podcasts over the years. They have helped me immensely in my walk and relationship, through some VERY difficult times.  In addition they have been a big help in connecting with the body worldwide in a very real way. 

Kedish: This podcast has encouraged me a lot and is helping me also to be in the Journey of learning to know our Father’s heart (to rest in His love) away from religion and the system in the world. I really enjoyed it God bless you brothers.

 

John: What I have learned? I have learned that God loves me not for what I could be, might be , or when I get my crap together or performance of likeability or spelling  in an email….. He Love Me in all my mess and doubt and pain and brokenness. He Loves Me one hundred percent NOW. Just as I AM ….  My question is not to you, but to my Papa.. “How Deep Is Your Love?”

 

Ken: I believe I have been following Wayne for twenty years now.  Just when I was about to go full tilt house church out of frustration with the typical congregation model Wayne’s word of caution helped me avoid another cul-de-sac , and am now gratefully disillusioned .. the ping-pong that Wayne and Brad provided weekly was extremely helpful to know others were on similar journeys and the grace at which you both allowed another season of life to not derail your friendship was priceless. Glad you get to record a 500th podcast together.. Looking forward to the laughter and the serious .. you both do that so well.

Liz:  I’ve really enjoyed hearing what I believe the Lord has been speaking to me for the last thirty yrs, confirmed in so many lives in so many different places around the world. It’s always encouraging to hear of others experiences and perspectives. I love the fact that we are all works in progress and Father is not in the cloning business. It’s all about our love relationship with Him, which in turn enables us to truly relate to each other in love. Jesus is indeed building His church and there is not an ounce of religious ambition, obligation or conformity anywhere to be seen—just real people, free to be honest about where we’re at, encouraging and being encouraged as we learn to live in the Father’s love and view life and each other from this perspective.

Charlie:  You guys have brought such a fresh blend of personality and life to a subject I had only previously known as cold and uninviting. Both of your work is very much appreciated, we all need more people like you guys! I feel like in my time listening along, that I have gone from walking to running and have grown immensely. The training wheels are off and the rush of riding absolutely free is beyond description! Thank you for your courage and determination to stay true to the course, and for offering such a life-giving resource for free. You have shown us all truly what life with God all about and that this life is worth living!!

Kevin: I remember listening to you guys some years ago. I was at the gym and your were discussing if penal substitution was good or bad-now I didn’t know what that was but thought it was something quite different if you get my drift!

Tracy: Hearing your perspectives (even when they differ) has been life changing for me! Thank you for providing a safe place to ask big questions, and know in a deeper way just how much God loves me.

Heather:  The podcast really helped me sort through all the emotions of leaving the institution. It was comforting and encouraging to hear that others had similar incidents and feelings.

If you’d like to add your thoughts, you may do so in the comment section below…

Man’s Schemes and God’s Invitation – One Couple’s Journey

I’m going to let you read over my shoulder again, this time through a recent email exchange over a couple of months with a couple in Canada. Their story represents what so many go through in this incredible process of moving outside the confines of religion and connecting again with the freshness of relationship with Jesus that they had before. They express so well the challenges and questions that many face in this process. They wanted their story to encourage others and when you see what their hearts hunger for at the end, I’m sure it will. I realize the choices God is asking you to make might be very different, but learning to follow him freely is critical to us growing in his life:

We’re in a real transition right now. Our pastor has asked us to become members and has offered us ministry positions. At first the thought of it all excited us, and we must admit we were flattered and felt important. With still many questions and doubts we agreed believing this must be God’s will for us, certainly He would want us to be in ministry, wouldn’t He?

Well, we are not becoming members in fact we believe that God may be calling us out of that place all together. As you may guess our Pastor is not happy and fully intends to hold us to our word and what he thinks God wants for us! We did agree to becoming members and it was implied that we would accept those ministry positions, but now we believe that would be so wrong for us and would possibly even be a trap for us that we would have great difficulty getting out of, or maybe even destroy us. We have repented for our spoken words, we have sincerely asked for our forgiveness from those who heard us speak those words. Isn’t that enough? God has let us know, that we are forgiven, fully pardoned. Doesn’t God’s word overrule all others?

My response: No one who knows God and how he works would ever ask you NOT to follow your heart as you seek him. This man sounds like a real manipulator and has no power to hold you to a commitment you have since reconsidered. While we should never treat our word lightly, when we have made a commitment we realize to be in error, we are free to retract it and follow what God has put on your heart. Not taking a ministry position is like breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend. It only takes one vote not two. If it is not on your heart, follow God wherever he leads you.

I believe we may have made those decisions out of our deep desire to fit in and to be accepted. Isn’t typical that if we do not go along with what others want we no longer fit in and are no longer accepted? All of the sudden friends have a strange distance. Maybe that’s because they were never genuine friendships to begin with? Was it always about the ministry and building it rather than loving people? Why is our Pastor so disappointed? Someone even said that he was devastated? What? We didn’t die, we just don’t agree with the plans that he has for us.

My response: You have to realize that most religious institutions are about fitting in and going along. That’s what gains approval. Conversely, people who don’t do what they are told are often ‘punished’ by distance and exclusion. People will accuse them of being independent and rebellious. That’s what makes environments like this so destructive. Friendships only work as long as people are committed to the same task. It is really very sad. And your pastor’s ‘devastation’ is just another tool to manipulate you, like a young child pouting when they don’t get their way. Don’t think you have to satiate that attitude.

We hope that we will accept and love those we may leave behind, but the question is will they do the same for us? Will they even think even for a moment that there is something wrong with their system or will we just be written off as drifters, unsubmitted, uncommitted, or will they say, “ah, we don’t need them any way”? They would be absolutely right to think that they don’t need us! In fact, who they need is God! That is maybe the biggest part of the problem! We seem to depend on man and our man-made systems rather than to depend on the living God, our Provider, Deliverer, Redeemer, Source, Inspiration, Healer, Friend, Compass, Guide, Counselor, King, Our Father! That is who I need. Lord grant us the courage and faith to say, “Though none go with me still I will follow, I have stood alone, everyone abandoned me, but I was not alone for You stood with me, You strengthened and comforted me!

My response: You’re right! Others may exclude you, but that might also change in the future. Sometimes the people, who most punish us for getting out, are secretly hoping we’ll find life and grace outside. It is likely they are miserable too, but feel they have to stay in there. Don’t feel you have to convince or prove anything to anyone. Just do quietly and gracefully what God has asked you to do, keeping your heart open to all, but never forcing yourself on them. In time you will come to know who your real friends are there, and what others God might bring into your life.

It has been about two weeks since we informed the pastor and some other friends that we would no longer be attending their fellowship. It wasn’t well received. In fact some people think that we are deeply deceived. But to us it feels like a real load off! It just feels right! About a year ago we really believed that God was calling us out but we were disobedient! We buckled to pressure from our pastor. He was so strong that we wondered if we were hearing God. We talked to another pastor who didn’t know us, or our pastor, and he even said we should submit to our pastor and stay. Wow! We thought we were wrong so we stayed another year. During that year the quiet persistence of God did not go away, we could find no peace in staying no matter how hard we tried to press in, no matter what attractive ministry positions were given us.

So, here we are and I must admit that it’s a little scary, but we are in no hurry to seek out a new place to go. We are really grateful for the kind words of one friend who advised us to take our time and reacquaint ourselves with God. That confirmed what we were already sensing. We desperately need to get reacquainted with Him again, the business of ministry and programs seems to have stolen something from us. Lately I have just been singing out to God “I miss you!”

I would like to encourage others to follow their hearts! Others may not agree or understand but it’s only in His will that we are free! Thank God for His forgiveness of our mistakes and that He gave us another opportunity for freedom. God is very, very patient with us, but if we don’t listen, after a time our hearts could become hardened to His voice and our opportunity missed.

We are so grateful to have been able to have access to your web sites. It all came at a time when we were struggling with the decision that we have found very little support or understanding. You are a breath of fresh air!

And the moral of the story is simple: Follow the Lamb wherever he leads you. If he asks you to stay where you are, stay! If he is calling you out to know him in a deeper way, then go. But do not do what you do to gain the approval of friends or those who think themselves leaders, which will only lead to confusion and emptiness. Jesus can be trusted! That’s the great truth religion must obscure. You need us! You must follow us! You will whither up and die without us. Not true. Jesus can be trusted. He can gather his flock and lead them to safe pasture. (Ezekiel 34).

You Won’t Want to Miss This

I don’t expect my closest friends to listen to all 781 of the podcasts I’ve recorded, or even most of them. I don’t expect them to listen week after week, and I find it awkward when someone apologizes to me for not keeping up with the podcasts. Most people over our fifteen-year run listen for a few months or years to find the trailhead of their own God Journey and then move on to other things. I’m fine with that. I do this podcast because I enjoy the conversations I stumble into, not as an obligation for people to keep up with but bless people in whatever season they find themselves.

That said, however, I don’t want anyone to miss the most recent one. It’s called Becoming One with Love and shares the journey of a good friend of mine from South Africa, Stephan Vosloo. If you’ve been on a journey of living loved for a while, you especially will want to hear from a brother who has discovered some really remarkable things about the joy of others-centered living and learning to love himself in his own brokenness and others in theirs. No, he hasn’t arrived and he will be the first to say he has a long way to go but this is a breath-taking view from his vantage point on the trail.

We couldn’t if it all into one podcast, so this Friday morning another piece of that conversation will air on The God Journey.  You won’t want to miss that either.

Though the podcasts are always listed in the upper left of the Lifestream.org page, I rarely refer to a podcast in the blog here. To do so says I think something significant is going on here. I came away from my conversation with Stephan refreshed, encouraged, and challenged in some specific areas of my own journey. It’s like God opened a door to a new field of his love I’d yet discovered.  Judging by the email I’ve received and the conversations I’ve had since airing the first part of our conversation, I know I’m not alone.

I’m not going to say much else, other than you will most likely thank me if you can take the time to listen to it.

When You Don’t Get the Miracle You Want, Part 12

This is the last posting of our continuing story of Alan and Lynn that began as In the Shadow of Death. Despite their best theological certainty that God would heal her, Lynn passed away from metastasized breast cancer. Alan is left to deal not only with his grief, but also with his view of a God he was certain would heal her.

You can read from the beginning starting here.

From Alan, July 31, 2019 (96 days after first email):

This has been a series of awful days as far as the devastation of grief is concerned. The reality of Lynn being dead is so horrific. I am quickly losing hope and lacking any reason to have it. God is silent. I am all alone in this world. People respond, “Oh, Alan, you’re not alone.” But I realized the other day that I do not know anyone in Lynn’s and my peer group that has ever lost a spouse. Many of them have lost a parent or friend but no spouses. I’m glad for them. I would not wish this on anyone. But at the end of the day, no one knows what to say.

Hope is non-existent.

I have been listening to some of your messages online trying to convince myself that God is not punishing me. Then my mind goes to all the ways I was unfaithful to the precious gifts God gave me. I never committed adultery with another woman, but in my position as a part-time disc jockey at a big country music station, I had myriad opportunities to flirt with women who called in to my show and flirted with me. I have done and thought and fantasized things that said, “Father God, I do not appreciate this precious woman.” Things that I looked at online were a disgrace to my wife.

So, here I am. Harvest time for Alan. Wife dead. God knows all of these things, and I feel that I am reaping corruption that comes from sowing to the flesh.

Your message is “living loved.” How can he “interact with me as His beloved,” and sit by in silence as my wife dies? Knowing He could have healed her in this realm with a breath or a word or a thought and yet when I poured my heart out in prayer, when Lynn poured hers out in prayer, He essentially said, “No.” How is that love at any level? Are we as believers – as his children – only to expect that he’ll be there to help us pick up the pieces when life crashes, but not to intervene to keep things from shattering?

Why did the apostles say to pray? We have a God, a Father. Isn’t there some benefit associated with that that unbelievers do not have? God let Lynn die. He took her. Yes, she is blessed beyond measure and likely not even aware of my pain. But he could have healed her here; he didn’t. I’m left in an avalanche of empty, lonely searing pain. I try to pray for others who are going through battles with cancer, and I wonder what is the use?

The other day I was listening to a teaching and how God delivered Israel from Egypt after 400 years of bondage. 400 years! What about those who lived and died and essentially had their cries for freedom ignored during all those years? At the end of the day, God is sovereign and will do what He wants when He wants, and we are best served by living with no expectation of answered prayer. We can only hope that we don’t end up too broken. My mistake was having too much hope and faith.

Paul went through tribulation. The apostles died horrific deaths. Where is the hope, the evidence in this life that having a Heavenly Father is even real? When does my mourning turn to joy? When will He give me gladness for sorrow? Lynn loved God and trusted Him, and I am confident even in her pain and death, she never had these cynicisms that I have. Her heart was never tainted with what she didn’t understand nor with the questions that I had. She often told me in frustration to trust God when I would be at a crossroads. But, it seems that we are just to shut up and try to be obedient and never get our hopes up even though we are supposed to have faith to please Him.

Wishing I could tell her “Happy Birthday” again in this life,

My response

I know, Alan, and my heart breaks for you this morning.

The first year of grief is always the most painful—first birthday, first anniversary, first holidays, first vacation, all the things you do the first time without her will feel hollow and horrible. Grief comes in waves. That’s why you’ll have good days, where you think you might be getting beyond it, and then WHAM! A special day, a memory, a place you both thought special, or a random rush of pain will cross your path, and the grief rushes back in. Take hope in this, the painful days will, in time, grow less intense and less often, and the better days of celebrating the love you shared will grow more frequent, sweeter, and more prolonged.

The only way through this is through it. Great wisdom, eh? As much as you might want to run from it, embrace it. One person said when the darkness overwhelms you don’t chase the sunset because you’ll never catch it. The fastest way to the light is to head toward the sunrise, away from the setting sun and the light will yet appear again, sooner if you head east than if you chase it hopelessly to the west.

How I wish you could just grieve on the days that seem so dark and invite your loving Father into that grief! Instead, what you believe about God takes you to a different place. Instead of having God as a comforting presence inside your pain, you beat yourself up for every bad thing you’ve ever done or mistakes you’ve ever made. Do you really think God would kill your wife to punish you for something you did wrong? Do you really think God would say, “You looked at another woman years ago, so I gave your wife cancer?”

Is that how you interpret sowing and reaping, that reaping is God giving you a penalty for some weakness or failure? Can you appreciate that when your mind goes into that dark hole, it will seem as if God is silent, even when he is not? His beckoning to you with great compassion is drowned out by the way you view him.

I can assure you the God who loves you was not silent through any of this. Unheard, maybe, because some things you’ve believed about him made it difficult to sense what he was saying to you, especially in the crisis you were in. In the flood of great waters, we can lose sight of who he is because we are so focused on our disappointment or feeling betrayed. I’ve tried to reflect some of what he has been speaking to you in my words through these many emails, and you have recognized that at times. He has been there with you. My words have just been imperfect reflections of the deeper love and wisdom in his heart for you. That’s why I struggle so against religious thinking that puts God on the other side of our pain, as the cause of it whether it be through punishment or “allowing it” through a lack of concern. I reject both of those.

You were not the cause of Lynn’s cancer; this is not punishment from him. Jesus took all of that for us. If he’s still punishing you for your mistakes or imperfections, then Christ died in vain. Sowing and reaping are not about punishment for past actions, but the simple consequences we face for the choices we make. Sow generosity, reap generosity. Sow indulgence, reap emptiness and pain.

I pray you can come to see God as the one who loves you more than anyone on this planet ever has or ever will. I want you to see Jesus as the loving Shepherd teaching us to live in the increasing freedom of the Father’s reality and growing us out of the places we got stuck and twisted. None of our failures surprise him, and none of them cut us off from his love. All of us can go back in our lives and pick out every mistake, bad thought, sinful action, or indulgence and think any of them exclude us from his love and care, but it still isn’t true. He’s the only one that can shape the trajectory of our lives and draw us out of the darkness and into the light. We won’t hear him do that if he’s condemning us for the darkness.

He celebrates our progress toward the light, not holding our past mistakes against us. How could we grow if he did? Ask him to help you let go of the past, not the good parts, but the mistakes and failures. You are his child—today! He is the rescuer in your story. No, that rescue did not include Lynn’s healing in this world to our great disappointment, but she has it now in another. And now he wants to rescue you through the grief and reveal himself to you in ways you’ve never imagined.

Don’t stay in the past, focused on your failures. Wake up every morning in the fresh mercy of a loving Father. Follow him each day in the simple things he nudges your heart towards. He will lead you beyond the grief to all that he still has planned for you in your days on this earth. Let who he really is sink in past your disillusionment with him. You are being dis-illusioned. You had illusions about God that were never going to serve you well. He wants you to know him as he really is, and that is far better than either of us could conceive.

So, lean into love, Alan. It will be there for you every day. He’s closer than we know. Ask him to open the eyes of your heart to what is true of him, and for the God of all comfort to hold you in those moments you despair of life, just like Paul did (2 Corinthians 1).

I’m praying, too, Alan. I think you’re making significant progress, but I know that may be tough to see from where you sit, especially today.

———————————————————–

This is the last blog I’m going to do in this series. Alan and I have continued to be in touch, and I see signs of new life springing up in him as he continues to move forward. What’s more important is that he does, too. Here are a couple of snippets he sent me toward the end of August.

… I had a cool moment yesterday as I was going through some of her CDs and found the original one where I first heard you. You were in Wisconsin talking about living loved, and it is terrific. I’m listening to it multiple times, which seems to be a habit I’ve developed of late – listening to teachings that minister to me over and over.

… I am in a weird place. I am still grieving hard for my sweet bride. But I feel like God is putting me back together. A friend spoke to me and said that they felt like God was showing them that I am like a big tree that has had the bark blown off, and that has been nearly obliterated. But there is still a deep root. And that root is springing forth new life, and the tree will grow again. I don’t know, but I am thankful more and more for Lynn and her strong, steadfast faith.

If there’s a significant development here that extends the story, I will add it in a future blog. But I think Alan is finding his footing again and it will just take time for the grief of Lynn’s passing to be overwhelmed by the new creation that will continue to spring up in Alan’s journey. I want to thank “Alan” for giving me permission to share his emails, and thus his vulnerability and pain, with all of us. There were some raw moments in there that were real, and I know they resonated with many of you as you sort out God’s goodness in the face of him not doing what you thought love, or your theological convictions, would compel him to do. Our best intentions and misguided expectations can so easily block out our ability to sense his presence and see his fingerprints unfold in our days.

Every week my inbox is full of people facing horrible tragedies, and it is also filled with lots of stories of people who have been through those tragedies and come out on the other side more alive in Christ than ever and more transformed to embrace who God really is. Finding our security in his love, especially when the foundations of our lives are shaken, is quite a process. Pain has a way of dulling our spiritual senses, but God’s Spirit is even better at helping us embrace reality and find that God is bigger than our disappointments in him.

Dave Coleman, my co-author on So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore, often tells me that he thinks 90% of Christians live with an undercurrent of anger towards God for not answering their prayers. Many have lost children, spouses, marriages, businesses, or friends in sickness, accidents, betrayal, or just unforeseen circumstances that sidetrack our joys or hopes.

The only absolute reality is that we are deeply loved by the God who made us and he wants to be inside the most brutal moments of our lives with us, helping us resolve our pain and draw closer to him. To do that, it will help if we lean on him at such times and not push him away by our false judgments about him or his motives toward us. He can handle our honesty, our disappointments, and our fears and walk us out to a place of freedom. That’s not a given, however. Brutal times can make us defensive, bitter, and isolated, or they can open our hearts to compassion, humility, and transformation.

I don’t believe God causes sickness and disease or withholds healing to make us better people, to punish us for our past mistakes, or to teach us much-needed lessons. He doesn’t have to. This broken Creation causes pain enough for all of us in various seasons. How we navigate them inside his care is way more important than trying to figure out why they happen, or why he doesn’t fix them the way we want.

I have been overwhelmed with email, blog comments, and FB postings that many of you have shared as this story has touched something in your own journey. I do think we’d be better off if we talked openly about these things—prayer, healing, death, disappointments. And our own mortality. Growth comes in such exchanges.

On this side of the Resurrection, we are all mortal. Until Jesus comes again, you and everyone you know will die. That’s how we get from this realm into the next. Death is so excruciating for those it leaves behind because of the vacuum it creates when their love and presence departs.

We forget, however, that for those who die in Christ, it is just the beginning of the greatest adventure ever into the unrestrained depths of God’s love!

In the Shadow of Death, Part 5

This is a continuing email exchange between Wayne and a man who is struggling with healing, faith, love, trust, and mortality as his wife appears to be dying from metastasized breast cancer in the face of a promise they both held in their hearts for her healing.

You can read from the beginning starting here.

From Alan on May 21, 2019 (25 days after his first email):

Thank you for words of life. They are truly helping me. I read them and peace just “happens,” and for that, I am most grateful.

The past few days have been interesting. I have convinced myself at times that the reason she is “lingering” is that God is healing her. I realize that He can heal her in a millisecond, but it helps me to think that He is putting her back into a state of complete health.

I do wonder what in the world is going on? But, as you said, God is doing something. Maybe someday He will make it all clear, or maybe not.

I guess one just has to decide whether or not they truly believe that God is good. While all the pain, frustration, and lack of explanations are real, they do not knock us off the rock upon which we are standing that is labeled, “God is good.”

I think I mentioned to you that I struggle with all the affirmative Scriptures – “If any two of you agree” “Anything you ask in my name” “By His stripes we are healed” that somehow wind up with caveats or disclaimers like, “If it is His will” that are not included in the particular Scripture. It’s like God gets let off the hook because we do not understand the true meaning of a verse or its context, or we have not exegeted it properly.

I’m not trying to be irreverent or ugly toward God in expressing this frustration; it’s just a real issue at this time. May I let you in on something: Years ago, I believe that while having a conversation with the Lord as I was driving, He revealed to me why Jesus was beaten. You see, neither Leviticus nor any of the other books that outline the specific instructions God Himself gave regarding the Day of Atonement—wherein the sins of God’s people were dealt with for another season—say anything about beating the sacrifice. On the contrary, the sacrifice was to be without blemish.

So why was the Lamb of God beaten? Obviously, you know the answer that is in Isaiah 53–“by His stripes, we are healed.” Peter also mentions this wonderful truth. I believe that Jesus could have said to Pilate, “You can crucify me, but you are definitely not whipping me,” and sin would still have been cleansed. It is so clear to me that He allowed Himself, the Lamb of God, to go through that horrific beating so that we can be healed. So, that we as His beloved children can know Him as “I am the God that heals you.”

I believe that the Holy Spirit said to me as I was driving, “People get healed the same way they get saved or born-again: “You have to believe.” Just as if we confess with our mouths, the Lord Jesus, and if we believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead (Romans 10), we shall be saved. I believe that this is how we receive the reality of “by His stripes, we are healed.” Not everyone is saved because not everyone believes. Not everyone is healed, because not everyone believes. (Not saying that in any condemning way whatsoever).

On my ministry website, I have an entire podcast about Isaiah 53 and all that Christ endured for us that is in addition to our salvation. I relate this to you so you can know that this is the belief that I had going into this cancer-journey with Lynn when she was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer three days before Christmas, 2014. To be completely transparent, now I have to re-think what I believe. Maybe it was not the Holy Spirit whispering to me what I thought was Him teaching me about healing.

Lynn has beaten the odds repeatedly. From a “2-3 month” death sentence that has turned into four years and five months and who knows how much longer, to the “She has 2-3 days to live” death sentence that the hospice folks pronounced at the beginning of February when we called them in. My sister gave me Psalm 107:20 back in January 2015 – “He sent his word and healed them, and rescued them from the grave,” as a verse to hold onto when this all began. She is a fighter, but more than that, God has allowed her to live. I am very grateful for that and don’t want to seem ungrateful because I am having a crisis in an area of my faith.

Wayne, during a Sunday morning worship time a few years ago, God showed me a cave in a vision. In that vision, death appeared and tried to walk out of the cave, and God punched him right in the face, and he fled back into the darkness of the cave. Lynn reminded me of that vision a couple of months ago, when I voiced some trepidation about the diagnosis of having tumors in one’s brain. She asked me if I really believed what I have been saying I believe for several years? (Wives are good at putting us on the spot like that).

I wanted you to know that I have invested a lot of my personal, strongly-held beliefs in His appropriating healing for us through the Lamb of God’s having been beaten for our healing. Do I stop believing that? Do I stop preaching that? I know that His ways are higher than ours and that it is dangerous to develop a theology on personal experience, but I want so much for it “to work” and to be able to say, “Yes! By His stripes, she has been healed!! It works! It’s true!”

I don’t want to have to say, “Well, I guess I was wrong,” or “God is sovereign, and He knows what is best.” Of course, He is and does.

I am determined that He is good. My life’s mission that He gave to me is to share the eternal, passionate, unconditional love of God. But, most sincerely and transparently that I can be, I confess to you that this is the hardest thing I have ever been through. I don’t understand it. I don’t like it. It sucks!!!!!!!!!

I love Lynn more than I can even begin to say. Yet it jolts me that so much of my thoughts and fear of being without her is filled with selfishness. “Alan’s beliefs.” “Alan’s faith tested.” “What is Alan going to do without his Lynn?”

We have settled into the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs. It’s either God does a miracle, or she steps into Heaven. Each further decline brings a fresh tsunami of tears and waves of that selfish fear. In between those times, I hold her as best as her frail body will allow, tell her not to fear, and say, “I’ve walked you to the door of the other side. You can step through whenever you are ready. I will be ok.” (I also said, “Tell Jesus I said hey,” which made her smile a little.)

Again, as you have said, she is either not quite ready to go, or the healing is about to explode here on earth.

Before I could finish my response, Alan wrote again one day later:

I was with Lynn today as her breath became labored and then went away.

I believe the Lord let me know when she was close to crossing to the other side, so as I have before, I took her hand and said, “I’m taking you to the door, don’t be afraid, just step through.”

It took her a while after that, but then I saw in the Spirit that she was actually stepping over a stream to the other side into the loving arms of Jesus. She was so covered that I could not see her, just Him holding her, enveloping her with His love. (She has been wearing socks for weeks, and in my vision, I saw someone remove her socks, and she was so thrilled to be barefoot. Someone told her it was ok to splash in the stream, and she was having a fun time before she stepped to Jesus).

Wayne, I’m more devastated than I can say – Scripture says we became one flesh—my heart has been violently ripped in two.

But I am also happy she is no longer in pain, and that she is in Heaven, cancer-free. I asked her to wait for me, to look for me, and to tell Jesus I said, “Hey.”

Now, what do I do?

My response:

I have some things that might help in response to your past two emails, but now there is nothing to say except I am so, so sorry that you did not get the miracle you wanted and have lost your Lynn. This news was a stab in my heart, even though I didn’t know Lynn. I feel like I’ve gotten to know you both over the last few weeks. My heart breaks for you and your pain in this, albeit temporary, separation from Lynn. I can’t imagine losing Sara at this stage of our journey, but even if I did, I know nothing takes our Father by surprise.

And, the strange thing about the death of a loved one is that she’s in such a space of unfathomable love in the presence of Jesus and his Father without all the distractions of flesh and distrust. You, however, are left here without her. A part of your heart has been ripped out, most certainly though it is best to have her safely home if the miracle you wanted wasn’t to be.

Somehow his purpose in this life was fulfilled in Lynn, even as Father still has things in mind for you. The loss is part of it, but God has a purpose for you in still being here. You don’t have to figure out what it is now or in any future time; it will unfold. Now is the time to grieve, to embrace God in the pain of your loss, to let him over time fill the space your wife vacated. That happens with loads of tears, and they are not proof of your lack of faith. Hold your heart before the Father. I will be praying for you, too.

From Alan on May 25, 2019 (29 days after his first email):

I am broken like a smashed vase. The reality that Lynn will never, ever be in our home again, will never be there waiting when I get home is unbearable. I realized that I have had someone to talk to every day for over 30 years, and now I am all alone. Nothing that mattered to us as a couple matters now. She’s gone. Forever. I don’t even really know what promise I have of being reunited with her in Heaven.

Lynn said she’d look for me, but now that she is in the other realm, is she finding out that is not the way it will work? I’m so overwhelmed by the permanence of death and even the suddenness of her being gone. We had a five-month runway before she was flying into eternity, and I knew her death was possible, even probable in spite of my attempt to have faith and believe for her healing here on earth. But, it feels so sudden. She’s gone. Forever. Gone. And I am feeling without hope.

My response:

I’m sorry, so sorry that you lost Lynn, and all the pain you’re going through now is a normal part of the fog grief. Invite God into this season. This is where faith really has to count, not when we get what we want, but when we don’t. I’ve known many to stand where you now stand, with all the pain and disillusionment you’re feeling, and God got them through it, and they found their way to the heights of joy even here in this world. You will never get over the loss of Lynn, but you will get on to other experiences with God, your children, and your friends.

Joy will come in the morning. It will take some time, though. Don’t despise the hurt, because it only marks the depth of your love. But don’t get stuck there either, or her memory will only bring pain and despair, and you’ll lose the ability to celebrate what you had for as long as you had her.

I have no doubt you will see her again, that the separation here is temporary and that we will see and know those we have loved in this life, most especially the one with whom we have been united in body and spirit. Fear not, my friend; she is not gone forever. She isn’t even gone now. Every treasured experience you had with her, every bit of wisdom she added to your life, every place where you were loved, lives on inside of you. You’re a different person because of her. You will always be.

Given the last email you wrote to me before her death, I knew this would be really difficult for you because it isn’t just the death of your wife, but the destruction of a theological conviction you had, that if you could “have faith and believe for healing here on earth,” she would be healed. If that is true (and I am confident it is not), then either God failed you, or you failed Lynn by not having enough faith. Either will only cause you unreconcilable pain because they are built on a false theological premise. We will talk about healing, prayers, and faith later. I had hoped to write you back about it all before Lynn died but did not get a chance to do so. I will someday, but that certainly is what’s most important now.

Just hold in your heart the possibility that your doctrine of healing may not be complete, and that God didn’t fail you, nor did you fail Lynn. This was obviously her time, and that time is coming for all of us. Her death is not the failure of your faith, but the culmination of it. God with us, even in the darkest moments of human existence, where we face full-on the futility of this age. Death is still our enemy. It is God’s enemy, too. He didn’t create us to be torn away from those we love, but that is the price of redemption. Sin had to die so that we could embrace the fullness of eternal life. It’s so rarely true that couples die together.

You will survive this and even thrive in the life Father still has ahead for you. Trust that the Jesus you’ve known all your life will fulfill your heart in ways you cannot conceive. Don’t focus too much on the questions that plague you. Just wait until his glory comes. Grieve with the Father whose heart even hurts more than youea at the toll this fallen world has taken from you. Find him there and what he does in you will become a great comfort to others. Even Paul despaired of life in a crushing experience he speaks of in II Corinthians 1. He could only make sense of it knowing the comfort they would receive in it would make them more comforting to others who traverse the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

You have my prayers and love. I’m happy to do whatever I can to hold your heart in the presence of the Father. He’s big enough to get you through this. But for now, it just hurts. I get it. Let it hurt. Don’t run from the pain; run to him in it.

To be continued…

We’ll switch the headline here, but the story continues. Read part 6 here:

Part 6:  When You Don’t Get The Miracle You Want…

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When Spring Arrives Overnight

May 3 does seem a bit late for spring to arrive. But we were in upstate New York after a brutal winter. Four days before we were watching snow flurries.  A day before Sara and I had taken a walk and commented on the dark, grey trees that lined the horizon. It was May, and there was not even a hint of green among the trees.

The next morning, however, as we drove Sara to the airport to begin her journey home, we were amazed how spring had arrived overnight. All the trees had popped and the, fresh green leaves of new growth shaded the country side in a beautiful shade of spring.  The rest of my time there, I got to watch spring wash over a region that had waited way too long for its arrival.

It reminded of an email I’d received a few months ago, of another spring arriving on a desperate soul.

About a year ago, I was struggling with a profound sense of feeling spiritually dead. We were attending a small “Bible believing” church and I was bored with the preaching and even more burned out from “serving.” I figured it was from a prideful heart and not “being in the Word enough” so I began diligently reading the Bible which led to questions, which led to searching and eventually back to Jesus. He guided me toward a number of resources out there, which of course I was told not to trust because these people didn’t have “sound doctrine”.  It’s a cliché but the only way I can describe it was escaping the matrix.

My husband and I were in agony about “leaving the church” and our pastor gave us the warning about following sinful desires of our heart, but we bravely and as quietly as we could stopped going. After that I found your ministry and wow! What a joy it was for us! My husband found himself saying, “I actually find myself loving people again.” I feel as if like you, we went through a pharisectomy. We very much miss the friends and community that was the best byproduct of our Sundays, but we are becoming more intentional about loving people in our neighborhood and really loving our children.

I know not all Christians experience the conservative legalism we did and God doesn’t have a prescription for His church.  Who knows where the Spirit will lead us, but I’m actually happy again and I used to think being happy meant I was somehow being sinful. When I ponder on God, I no longer feel this terrible conflict or confusion about His character, I only feel His affection and freedom.

What a story! I love to hear when people awaken out of the dreary despair of religious performance. Starting your pharisectomy is a lot like waking up to spring. To hear she’s “finding myself loving people again” and to “actually be happy again,” fills my heart with joy.

Of course we know that spring doesn’t really arrive overnight. Long before those trees burst into color on May 3, the sap was already running to the far corners of each branch and stem. One day, we could finally see it, but the process had been going on for a long time. I love that the Spirit was already drawing her into those realities before she and her husband found their way there and that anything I said had only helped affirm what God had already put in their hearts.

So if you find yourself today stuck in your own winter of your own spiritual discontent, don’t give up hope. The hunger Father has placed in you is doing its work. Just because you can’t see it yet, doesn’t mean he isn’t stirring things deep within your soul. One day it will pop out and your pursuit and patience will all be worth it.  This is in his hands more than yours. Ask him to help you relax in the moment as your own spring approaches. (If you want more detail about this process, it is the theme of my book about the vineyard:  In Season:).

It’s never easy to push away from religious performance, especially when others warn us not to and our friends no longer trust us. But it’s the road worth taking and you’ll never regret finding love and joy again.  If we could only learn to lean out of those things that make us restless, exhausted, anxious, or obligated to someone else’s expectations, and lean into those things that express love, hope, rest, and joy, we would find the journey far more engaging.

The sudden burst of spring, took my breath away. Hearing stories like this lady’s does, too. Can you imagine what it will be like when we awaken from this corrupt age into the full glory of what it means to be God’s children in a new heaven and a new earth?

 

 

 

Finding God’s Grace when Tragedy Strikes

It is so easy to find God in the midst of life’s joys. Finding him in the midst of our pain is another and perhaps no pain is deeper than the loss of a child. Two new books speak directly into this arena by people who know it all too well. These stories just don’t wallow in the tragedy but unpack for the reader how to triumph in the midst of loss, pain and disappointment. You will be touched by both of these and learn how to handle your own tragic circumstances inside the affection of a gracious Father.

hillsTo Be Continued by Allen and Tammy Hill
(Paperback, 295 pages, self-published)

Allen and Tammy’s only child was murdered in the Virginia Teach shootings nine years ago this month. This is the story of Rachel’s life, that horrific day, and living in its aftermath of her loss, learning to lean into God’s love and even forgive the perpetrator of her death. Both The Shack and He Loves Me play into this story in a critical way, through which I came to know the Hill’s and have been friends with them over the past eight years.  I can vouch for the fact that they genuinely live in the freedom and grace they write about in their story.

The subtitle of the book is, “The life of Rachel Hill, and God’s grace to our family in the Virginia Tech tragedy.” And what a story it is! Rachel was a freshman at Tech, a talented and passionate young woman who was life was cut short. She was also a passionate follower of Jesus and you’ll see how her journal encouraged their own journeys in dealing with the pain. In so many ways, and through so many people, God wrapped his arms around the Hills and have not only worked great healing in their hearts, but made them lights to others as well. This is a raw story of, honestly and lovingly told. You will be inspired by their words and touched by the magnificence of God’s grace at the depth of human pain.

They came to discover that their hopes and dreams did not die that day, but that life was “to be continued”. In time God helped them discover how to enjoy life again and not be ruled by tragedy and grief.

Click here for a compelling interview with excellent Allen that aired on ESPN 950 in Richmond, VA, which aired last week on the 9th anniversary of the tragedy.

You can order this book from Amazon, or get one free by sending your address to them by email.  Or if you’d like to order one by mail, or even help them with a gift so they can keep making these books available, you can write them at:

Allen and Tammy Hill
P.O. Box 1685
Glen Allen, VA 23060

 

 

wtsWhen Tragedy Strikes by Laura Diehl
(Paperback, 295 pages, Morgan James Publishing)

This book is not just a story of a parent’s loss; it also offers hope and instruction as to how we can find God in the midst of our most tragic circumstances and let him teach us how to live beyond them.  The book’s subtitle is, “Rebuilding your life with hope and healing after the death of your child.”

Laura and Dave lost their daughter, Becca, six months short of her 30th birthday to a heart condition. She was married with a nine-year-old daughter when complications set in and despite their prayers, Becca died. Shocked and broken, with pain that made her feel as if she couldn’t breath at times, Laura found that God was big enough for this, too.  This is the raw account of her journey from deep darkness back into light and life. Now she wants to extend a helping hand to others who find themselves in the midst of unanticipated tragedies as well.

Laura has lived all of this and doesn’t offer cheap cliche’s or pat answers, but honest and real encouragement and instruction as to how invite God into our deepest pain and find healing an life beyond it. If you’ve been through this kind of pain, or want to learn how to better help others going through it, this book will help you.

Here’s what I wrote for the jacket of her book:

If you have suffered great tragedy and struggle to connect with God in your grief and disappointment, When Tragedy Strikes was written for you. Laura Diehl knows the unfathomable pain of losing a child in tragic circumstances, and through the grief and pain finding her footing in the love of an affectionate Father. As she describes her own journey with honesty, compassion, and wisdom she will help you process your own journey and find a glorious hope beyond your darkest days.

 

It’s What You’ve Been Given, Not What You Lost

Last week Sara and I went to see the new Narnia movie, The Voyage of The Dawn Treader. The book it is based on is my favorite in the series, especially for Reepicheep’s humorous, sometimes reckless, but indomitable spirit. I was looking forward to this movie and overall I was not disappointed. It’s beautifully shot, the new Eustace actor is perfect for the role, and I love it when Aslan sneaks into camera range. Much of this movie I really enjoyed, but like the others in this series there’s something about it that doesn’t quite draw me in as deeply as I wish it would. They still come off a bit stiff, the special effects forced, and without the heart I found in these books. I guess the movies of “The Lord of the Rings” set the bar pretty high for me. Still, it’s well worth seeing.

Toward the end of the movie as the main characters stand at the edge of Aslan’s country contemplating whether to go further, or stay in their respective worlds. At that point King Caspian offers a breath-taking observation, “I’ve spent too long wanting what was taken from me and not what I was given.” It hit me smack between the eyes. There are two ways to live in this world, either being thankful for what God has given you, or growing in bitter frustration at what you’ve lost.

We’ve all lost stuff living in this darkened world. Some lose their innocence through abuse, a place in ministry because of betrayal, a part in business because of a dishonest colleague, a marriage because of unfaithfulness, or a hundred other things. The enemy thrives in our world to steal, to kill, and to destroy and can seem to find no end of humans who will cooperate with him in that passion. None of us our immune and thus our lives have painful moments as well as joyful ones.

Focus on what you’ve lost in this world and you’ll become a bitter person, driven to destroy others in your misguided attempt to get what’s fair. Focus on what you’ve been given by God, however, and you’ll understand the true joys of heaven. Maybe some of us we have wasted so much time and energy focusing on what we’ve lost, that we’ve lost sight of the gifts he has given us. If Jesus’ life taught us anything it’s that there is still much life, grace, and love even where others seek to exclude us, lie about us, and persecute us.

When you focus on what God has given rather than the things you’ve lost, you can know great joy and gratitude even in the painful realities of the age we live in. God is the redeeming influence in your life, not the destructive one. Those who seek your destruction are pawns in the hands of a diabolical enemy. As painful as they can make our lives, God is bigger still. He can even turn our losses in this age into a treasures far greater by making himself known in the midst of our pain and disappointment.

True treasure is not in the material things of this age anyway. I don’t understand people who use material reward as the bottom line for their actions. Last week the sports writers in our country were incredulous that a baseball pitcher gave up an offer from the New York Yankees to play for another team at $40 million dollars less than the Yankees offered him. The lead story here for everyone was what he gave up. People thought he was stupid for not taking every dime off the table that he could have. Their compass is only set by maximizing income. The pitcher was more concerned about being on a team he would enjoy playing for. Lost in the story was that he was offered $100 million to play for the team that he wanted to play with. Sure he could have had more, but there are lots of things that aren’t worth trading your pwesonal well-being to have.

Just how much money does it take to be happy anyway? A recent study in the U.S. said that it’s about $75,000.00. As people’s income rises to that point their personal sense of happiness increases. They don’t have to worry about the necessities and have enough left over to enjoy. But the study also showed that happiness decreased as income increased beyond $75,000. I thought that was fascinating. More money doesn’t make people happy. Above $75,000 the stress of protecting it, keeping it, managing it, and the complication it brings into real relationships became destructive to the well-being of the people who have it. I know that’s hard to believe. Most in our culture believe that the more money they can get their hands on will only add to their joy. It is not true. Money is not what really matters in life.

I have found a fresh joy in no longer whining about the things I’ve lost. Life in this age is filled with loss. Like King Caspian, I want to enjoy the things God has given which do not rust away and cannot be stolen by the enemy or his pawns.

Back and Gone Again

Sara and I just finished one of our best vacations ever, enjoying the island of Hawaii with our daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren. We spent a lot of time just to rest, refresh and recreate together. We enjoyed hanging out with the family and playing with the grandgirls while we snorkeled, played on the beach, read and ate. It was fabulous. And while we were there I got to experience two of the most awe-inspiring moments of my life in God’s creation.

One evening my daughter, son-in-law and I went snorkeling in Keahou Bay with 12-14 foot-long manta rays. We held onto a bar that projected lights into the ocean, which drew plankton. The plankton were like a buffet line for the manta rays as they came to feed. We were out there for over an hour as these gentle giants would glide through the ocean, curving, swerving and flipping over right next to us. They would approach with their huge mouths extended to sweep in the plankton and then curve right along your chest, at times even bumping into us. It was breath-taking to be so close to something so large and so wild.

On another night Sara and I took a light plane flight over to the volcanic region of the island. It turned out to be what the pilot called his best flight ever. We looked down the throat of the caldera, to three hundred feet below the surface, to molten magma bubbling and spewing up from the earth’s core. Then a few miles later we found a break out in the lava tube that spilled lava down the hillside in rivers of fire. We circled it for a long time and watched the newest land on earth being created.

But now we’re back home, at least for a few days. We apologize for any inconvenience caused by our office being closed the last couple of weeks, but we are catching up. And, since Brad is in Nashville Sara joined me for the next podcast, which will air this Friday. Also, Forbes finally did the article about THE SHACK, though its focus was more than disappointing.

On Thursday, I’m off to Tulsa and Edmund, OK to see what God has in mind with believers there. I’m teaching at a Because of Jesus Fearless conference Friday and Saturday in Oklahoma, a fellowship in Tulsa Sunday morning and a Livin’ Loved conference in Edmund on Monday and Tuesday nights. (You can use this link, but you need to type in ‘waynejacobsen’ for the password.) After that it is on to Oregon, Colorado and Michigan in July and possibly Toronto and Maine in August.

And somewhere through all of that I hope to get some more writing done.

Transition to Relationship

I got a beautiful email last week and wanted to share it. I do so well aware that it could be easily misunderstood. This sister is in the early stages of moving from the stale emptiness of religion into a fresh and vibrant relationship with Jesus. God is revealing himself to her. Recently God began to open her eyes to one of the ways in which he works. I love it and resonate with the content of this exchange. This is God’s heart for her, her husband and many others.

However, I don’t want you to be put off by the form in which she shared it. She shares it as a conversation between her and God. I do believe he speaks like this, but people who don’t understand may feel that God never speaks to them this directly. I doubt it was a voice she heard externally, nor a conversation quite this way. When God reveals himself to us, he spills into our consciousness with insights that we then put to words. I think it is absolutely fair to characterize it as a conversation as our sister has below, but it could mislead others who think that engaging God happens quite this way.

So don’t focus on the form, focus on the substance of what’s shared below. I think it will encourage you too, especially those who are in the middle of this process:

I have really been praying a lot lately about the decision to leave church and how it has meant being misunderstood by so many people. So as I sat there I started asking why the journey out of (organize religion) needs to be a lonely one, I don’t always get an answer but the freedom to ask Him for some kind of insight has made me feel more like His child and less like an acquaintance.

With that one question I opened up Pandora’s box so to speak. I’m getting better at hearing that still small voice in my heart and it seems that sometimes the Father especially loves to have our ear. Immediately I felt like He was asking me if I really wanted to know Him. Of course I said yes! So he gently reminded me that there is a lot of him to know and that to know him is to know Truth. He IS truth. So much of what we have been taught is not the truth about Him, as if any religion could contain the One who breathed out the stars. “It’s so hard for you to see me through the deception that swirls around you like snow in January“. Instantly I got this image in my mind of a snow globe with the little plastic snow flakes floating slowly down. If we take a big step back from the noise of religion all the deception will fall away and what is left standing will be the Truth. “This is the beginning of really seeing Me”.

I also felt Him say that religion encourages us to live in our heads but to see Him we need to live on our hearts. So hard to do when you’ve been hurt I thought. “Children are all created to live in their hearts. Look at how easily they love and accept. But every time someone hurts you, you pack up a box…maybe trust or courage and you move it upstairs…from your heart to your head. After a while you’re living in your head and my voice gets far away.

So how do I fix that?” I asked. “You don’t” was the instant reply “I do. I move the boxes downstairs one at a time so you begin to live out of your heart again.

” So how do I let that happen? How do I know it’s you?”

I will begin to move boxes downstairs one by one. As I help you unpack it you will begin to recognize ways in which I am teaching you to trust me. As you start to recognize each lesson you will also see more and more of me in it.”

As He spoke to my heart is was as if my spirit recognized the Truth and freedom and love in His words and my skin even felt tingly. It was as though He was infusing me with the strength to believe something that would require me to turn away from so much of what I had been taught for so long. I felt such hope and peace even in the face of going on in this without the support of our Christian friends. I know it has been hard for my husband as he is very hurt that people he believed to be close to us have walked away. I asked God to help him see this wonderful Truth and to help him to hear His voice more and more like I was beginning to. ” What should he be doing to hear your voice?”

What does your husband know about a father/son relationship?

Well, I know his dad is a workaholic and so he learned very young that to earn his father’s attention and approval he had to work…for…it….. Ohhhhhhhhh”

What am I asking him to do right now?

“Nothing. He has walked away from all the ministries he was in and now even church. He doing nothing right now”

And because the doing and the relationship were so inextricably tied together it means the relationship he thought he had with me has been taken away and he just can’t see me very well right now. It’s like the shadow of me that he had in his peripheral vision is gone. But that’s OK. He’s where I need him to be because I am about to replace that deceptive shadow of a relationship with something far better.

“So that can apply to almost all of us. What we learned from our parents or other significant people about what a parent/child relationship is has distorted our concept of what our relationship with you can be?”

Exactly. And that is why so many of your friends have reacted so strongly. What you are suggesting goes against everything they have been taught about maintaining a relationship with me. If they stop the doing they won’t be able to see what they think is me anymore.

The way He spoke with such compassion and tenderness about His children that are still living deceived was so beautiful. Immediately I felt my defensiveness fade away and I began to see them as He sees them.

For so long I never knew that He wanted to interact with us in such a personal and direct way. Imagine, my Creator conversing with me like an old friend. So many people think that we have to talk to God like he is the untouchable King and we are the unworthy slaves. But He calls us His children…His friends. I understand what so many have expressed. Now that I know the depth of relationship with Him outside of religion I will NEVER go back.

Don’t get caught up on the form of this sharing. There is a lot of wisdom and God’s heart in the content of it. I hope it helps you respond to him as well.

The Power of Living In Love

By Wayne Jacobsen
BodyLife • June 2008

Life has taken some crazy turns for me since the last one I wrote in September. I will still continue to do these from time to time, but they will not be often or regular. This one is a bit different as well. Here are three related snapshots of what it means to live in the love of God.

Live Where Love Leads You

So, I ended up with a publishing company. I’m not sure how it happened. I was helping a friend with a book he had written. I helped rewrite some of it with another friend, then represented it to the publishing industry. I wasn’t a very good agent. I couldn’t find anyone in the industry who thought it was worth publishing. So the author, another friend, and I decided to publish it on our own.

And we did. Then The Shack started climbing the best-seller lists and other companies wanted to buy it from us. To our surprise one of the largest publishers in the world approached us to enter a partnership with them, not only to help us get The Shack to a larger audience but also help with my books and others we think are worthy of publishing in years ahead. They bought into the vision of what we were doing and thought there was a significant space in the reading public for that vision.

So we formed a partnership with the Hachette Book Group, where we maintain our unique identity as Windblown Media. We can do just as much publishing with them as we want to, and yet are not obligated to put everything we do through the Hachette machine. They made it clear all along that they wanted to help us not hinder us. And while we were working things out with them, The Shack rose to the very top of the New York Times Best Seller List.

How did all this happen? Believe me, we have had some amazing laughter about it all. No one saw this coming and yet simply responding to him each day has brought us into a place we could not have conceived or conspired to get to.

But that’s true about everything I’m involved in at the moment. Nothing I’m doing today, I set out purposely to accomplish. My plans for my life were very different than how things have turned out. Funny how that is! As a twenty-two year-old, freshly graduated from college, and newly married I had so many dreams and visions of the things I thought God wanted me to accomplish. I had confused my ego with his calling, my dreams for his and had assumed I knew what outcomes God had in mind. My first twenty years on that course proved horribly frustrating as I could not convince God to honor my agenda. The last 14 years have been filled with ever increasing joy and gratefulness as God’s purposes have overrun my own. And in every way he did something immeasurably beyond anything I could have asked or imagined.

BridgeBuilders began because God asked us to go love people at my children’s public school. That one decision started a chain of events that has allowed me to sit in rooms at the most incredible gatherings of deeply conflicted people and help bring about peace. Lifestream started as a way to encourage people to experience a closer walk with Jesus and more relational engagements with others. That led to books, travel and website resources. Windblown Media resulted from simply helping a friend to tell a story God had put on his heart.

Perhaps being fruitful isn’t a matter of starting something, following a five-year plan, and achieving it. Perhaps it is a matter of simply being able to respond to the people and situations around us with his love in our heart and his voice in our ear. For most of my life I have drawn too direct a line between what I think God wants and what I must do to get it. It seems Jesus warned us about that: If you try to save your life you’ll lose it. If you try to be first you’ll end up last.

He only asked us to love, one day at a time, whoever is before us in whatever circumstance we meet them. Everything else he wants to do will flow from that simple reality.

We have filled the world with ministries people have started to accomplish some great thing for God. Many of them never go anywhere. There are a lot of people who come to Hollywood to be a chaplain to the stars. They set up a ministry, beg for money to fund it, and then try to find a way to connect with those people. We do the same with missions and youth ministries. Start a program, fund it, then try and try to get people to take advantage of it.

What if we just started loving the people God puts before us each day, can you imagine what would spill out of that in terms of opportunity, ministry and even growing fellowship?

I think we have it all backwards. Jesus didn’t ask us to start ministries. He didn’t ask us to accomplish great things. He simply asked us to love others the same way we are loved by him and that will be enough for the whole world to know that we belong to him and that they can too.

People ask me all the time how they can start a house church or connect with other brothers and sisters on a similar journey in their region. Many are frustrated at past attempts that haven’t worked out. While I think we can take advantage of Internet forums, email lists and directories to see if we can find people in our area growing in the same realities, that may not be the best way. I now encourage people just to listen to Father every day and live in love toward the people right in front of you. This has worked for Sara and me in our two recent moves and has brought a wealth of relationships locally that have just grown out of taking an interest in the people around us and discovering others who are passionate for the God we love. We don’t have to start or join anything for that, unless of course he asks us to.

I am more convinced than ever that every thing God wants to do in the world will flow from us learning to live in his love and listening to him as we walk through life. This allows the opportunities in our lives to grow organically, rather than through the artificial means of organizing, promoting, and manipulating others. That may be why he told us his new command would simply be to love like we’ve been loved.

I Couldn’t Let You Go Through This Alone

Adapted from the Lifestream Blog

This may just be the essence of community: “I couldn’t let you go through this alone”. The first time I heard those words it was from a good friend who walked beside me through the most painful experience of my life. We had shared some wonderful times together, but then he withdrew for a season from our relationship. I was so blessed when we reconnected in the midst of my trial. One day I asked him why he had disappeared for so long. His answer? “I could see that you were going to get hurt badly and I just couldn’t bear to watch it.” I understood his comment. He had been through something similar and I knew how painful it was for him to walk with me through mine. I laughed, “But you’re here now at the worst of it.”

“I know,” he grimaced. “I couldn’t let you go through this alone.”

I don’t know a better definition for community. It isn’t always fun and games. Love will also not let people go through their darkest days alone. As painful as it may be to watch people we care about suffer, love won’t let us be anywhere else.

I was reminded of that recently as I read Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom. It’s an old book I’ve wanted to read for a long time. It’s about a professor dying of ALS, and a former student who shows up for the last chapter of his life. It offers lessons from the brink of death and many of them are breathtaking. Even though this man was not a passionate believer, he’d come to believe some things that are pretty consistent with the life of Jesus:

“So many people walk around with meaningless life, they seem half a sleep, even when they are busy doing things, they think they are important, this is because they are chasing the wrong things, the way you get meaning in your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you and devote yourself to something that gives you purpose and meaning.”

And this: “Love wins. Love always wins.”

I loved this book, enjoyed the lessons, but was most touched by this former student who would come and spend every Tuesday with his former professor in the last stages of his disease. He learned a lot, but also gave a lot – friendship on the brink of death.

At my brother’s funeral a number of years ago one of his best friends stood up at his funeral and said that he couldn’t bear to visit my brother as he suffered the final stages of multiple sclerosis. He wanted to remember him as he was, not in his weakened condition. When he was needed the most he couldn’t bear to go. How sad!

The meaning of compassion is right in the word itself: “come to passion”. Passion in the old English meant suffering. Thus compassion means “to run to suffering” – to be there at the worst moment because someone we love needs us. I love that. A good picture of this are the 9/11 rescue workers who were running into the World Trade Center when everyone else was trying to run out. Compassion means being there when it’s incredibly difficult, not because we enjoy the circumstances, but because we love the person in them.

No one enjoys walking people through dark valleys or through painful reactions, but love says, I’ll be there for you. I may not know what to do or what to say. But I just can’t let you go through this alone!

A Plea for Love From the Sudan

By Michele Perry

Michele Perry was born in Florida with only one leg. After getting involved in the house church movement for some years, she sensed God calling her two years ago to the Sudan to care for children orphaned by violence. She rented a home and started taking in children. She now has 80 children she cares for around the clock and another 150 who come to her school each day. She also has an infectious passion for all things Jesus. You can find out more at: Iris-Sudan.org. After she read a copy of So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore she wrote me this email. Please hear her words. They are as direct from our Father’s heart as anything you’ll read:

My day got interrupted with your book! A long-time friend told me I should download it, which I did in the London airport on my way home back to the bush of Southern Sudan. Three weeks later I got caught up in your story and my tissue box became my friend. I am a simple little white, city girl from Florida who is now in Sudan taking in orphaned children.

I was really relieved when Jesus called me to move to Sudan out of the west. When I got here I realized it was ten times more religious than anything I have ever seen. Leaders who actually know Jesus estimate maybe only three percent of people here actually know Jesus, really. The spirit of religion is so strong it feels choking at times – totally empowered by a spirit of fear. It is only Jesus as He truly is and His life that will draw them. He is the only one that can fix this mess.

When I was in the simple church movement I came to realize I was training people how to plant churches so nicely they could do it with out God. We were reproducing another box in which we were trying to contain God and saying that our box was better than the other boxes. Now, after nearing two years in the war torn bush of central Africa I don’t really give a rip whether it is house church or legacy church or cell church or open church, a sitting room, a sanctuary or a stadium – if people are growing in Jesus, walking in love with one another and being the face of His love to the world around them.

I don’t want to have to figure out whether I should embrace, conform, reform or vacate the system. I don’t have the time. Other things are too precious. I just want to do what He is doing and love people. I don’t want to debate what is the right way to have church, because it all can become a box and a prison if not filled with His life. Why can’t we all just focus on Him and fall in love with Him and love the people around us?

I don’t want to figure it all out – I can’t. I was just holding a dying woman in my arms in the hospital here whose family will not feed her or help her because the stench of rotting flesh is too bad and she soils herself and people are arguing if they should meet in homes or buildings. Last week a blind woman saw, this week a woman lay dying in my arms. I cannot figure it out. I don’t even want to try anymore. If I can’t embrace His mystery and love Him beyond my little understanding, I will limit the place I give to His majesty to be revealed in and through my life.

Meet under a tree, rent a cathedral, go on a hike with your family- but love people – learn about love.

Learn of him.

Live in him.

Have an encounter in him.

Live in encounter with him.

Be his encounter to those around you.

That’s what he said to me last night. Can’t we just do that? I don’t have any answers or anything except a heart cry to love each person he sets in front of me and stay in his presence because I love Him more than I love anything. He is my life.

Thank you for describing the One I love more than life, so beautifully and accurately. It means a lot. I met him face to face when I was seven and He walked into my room. I have read or heard very few who actually describe the One who captured my heart as a little girl.

You have!

* * * * * *

Jesus couldn’t have said it with any greater simplicity or clarity: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

Would we dare to believe that his instructions would really be all that we need to accomplish his purpose in the earth, influence the culture the way he desires, find freedom from our own failures and bondages, and find the fellowship that would most glorify him in the earth? I do.

The reason we don’t experience his fullnes in our unfolding lives is because we live as if we are not loved. Fearful he won’t take care of us, we believe the lie that says God only helps those who help themselves. The most important thing we can discover is that the God of the Ages wants nothing more than for you to know him as the Abba – the tender Father who wants to sweep you up in his arms and transform you by winning you to the simple reality that no one loves you more than he does.

This is not just an intellectual conclusion; it is a revelation at the core of our being. Ask him to give you that. Pray that he will show you with ever-increasing clarity how much affection he has for you. Only then can life truly unfold!


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Learning to Follow Jesus In Europe

What a whirlwind through Europe! I’ve barely had time to keep up with email, much less post any blogs. But yesterday I arrived in the Irish countryside, and a day or so just to rest and catch up before others soon come to town. Over the next week a number of people from all over the world are coming to Ireland to spend time with each other and time with an amazing group of Irish believers in and around Dublin who have shared relational community for nearly 30 years. I hope to blog a bit about this if I have time, and if not I’ll fill folks in on future podcasts at The God Journey.

One of the joys of this trip, too, is that I’ve had a lot of wireless connections, so that Sara and me have had regular video chats via Skype. And last night I got to talk to and see y daughter and granddaughter as well. Wonderful! But right now, I’m sitting in my upstairs room in the countryside with a lovely view of green gardens and trees all around. It is quite peaceful and I’ve had a blessed morning connecting with Jesus, catching my breath and working on some backlogged computer things. And how I’ve needed that this morning!

The last week is a bit of a blur. Sometimes I cram too much into my schedule and last week might have been a good example. I was a night in London before coming down for three days in Bournemouth. Then I flew to Holland for two quick days and then back to Bournemouth for two more. Each day has been quite full whether I’ve been sharing with people, doing a bit of touring, or connecting to planes and trains. That’s me above on Wednesday morning seeing a bit of Amsterdam before flying back to the UK. Fred, a wonderful brother showed me the city. We even got a chance to take a boat through the canals and catch the beauty and flavor of the city. The day before I’d toured an old fortress in the Dutch countryside with some other people I met here. I even got to play around of golf in England. And all of that was filled with conversations about Jesus and his work in our lives. It’s all been grand, but it has finally caught up to me.

I have met with folks form all over the continuum of spiritual journeys, from those who wanted to defend their systems, to those freshly disillusioned, to those who are well on this journey learning to live deeply in God without all the bondage of religious obligation. I’ve enjoyed everyone I’ve met and we’ve wandered into some fascinating and sometimes hilarious conversations.

One of the themes that has been consistent in this trip that Jesus wants to show each of us how to follow him and disconnect our dependency of following another man’s methods or models. Whenever we are following a strategy, we are not following him. Whenever we look for someone else to tell us what we should be doing, we are not following him. When we try to implement a model of discipleship or church life, we are not following him. It’s not at the example and words of others can’t be helpful in sorting out our own journey, but they dare not become a substitute for the gift he has given us all to love him, listen to him, and to follow the Lamb wherever he goes.

But we do have 1800 years of Christian religious history that argues against that hope and freedom, convincing people to passively follow another, instead of learning to listen and follow him! Nothing more divides between religion and reality, than whether Jesus is the one we’re following, or whether we’re trying to find his life in an institution or another human being.

I pray you have an increasing hope in his ability to teach you how to follow him and to live deeply in his life while he takes shape in you!

The Call of the Shepherd

The Call of the Shepherd

As put into words by Wayne Jacobsen 

BodyLife • May 2004

[I appreciate that the form of this piece can lend itself to misinterpretation. By putting it in the first person I am not claiming to quote Jesus directly or giving a prophecy. I simply wrote down as best I could the voice that rings in my heart. Much of the language here is drawn from Scripture (cf. Ezekiel 34, Micah 5, Matthew 9:35-38,11:25-30, John 10) as it speaks of God’s heart for his people.]

Do you remember the first day you knew that I loved you? Do you remember how clean you felt and how light your heart was? The air seemed clearer, the colors of my creation brighter. You felt as if you had stumbled out of a dark, dirty cave and plunged headlong into a clean, cool stream. You drank in the reality of my presence and splashed with delight in my goodness.

In that moment nothing else mattered. You knew at the very core of your being that I was real, that I had great affection for you. Even in the face of dire circumstances, you were convinced that there was nothing we couldn’t walk through together. My love not only overwhelmed you, it also overflowed you with grace for others, even those who had wronged you. You woke up every morning in eager anticipation of what I’d show you that day. You delighted yourself in me as I delighted myself in you and each day became an adventure together.

Wouldn’t you like to come back to that space? That’s not just where I wanted you to start. It was where I wanted you to live every day.

Harassed and Helpless

I know things got complicated. I didn’t fix everything you wanted me to fix and I know that shook your confidence in me. Others told you that you weren’t working hard enough so you concluded that the success of our relationship was hinged on your effort and wisdom. When anything went wrong you either blamed me for not loving you or yourself for not trying hard enough. Both were dead ends and the life we shared eventually faded into confusion and guilt.

But I never gave up on you. I knew your best efforts would not be enough, which is why I already satisfied in myself everything you thought the Father might require of you. Your righteousness is in me and guilt never has a place in our relationship. And I know I disappointed your expectations, but that was only because I had better things in mind for you. I work through times of pain as well as times of joy.

I know you thought I had lost sight of you, but I never had. It was you who lost sight of me. I know right where you are and every place you have wandered because I followed you there. I have continued to call your name and invite you into the life that really is life. But so many other things drowned out my voice, activities you thought would bring me closer to you and the busyness you got caught in hoping to hide your emptiness. Even when I tried to scoop you up in my arms, you recoiled, not recognizing my hand and I held back, letting you have the distance you thought you needed.

I’m still here ready for you to fall into my arms. I want you to see through the illusion of your own efforts to produce my work in your life, or in the lives of others. I will teach you how to trust my purpose in you so that even times of trouble will not destroy our friendship. Come, my Beloved, let me wash over you again like a cool fountain, cleansing all that has hurt and confused you. Let us start anew and I will show you just how much I love you and that all I ever wanted from you was you!

A Shepherd Like No Other

Did I not tell you that I would take care of you – that I would lead you into safe pastures and refresh you with living water? Did I not tell you that I had rejected the shepherds who wanted to use my flock for their own purpose battering and plundering them for their own gain?

You need no other shepherd but me. I will lead you into rich pastures and watch over you so that you will never need to be afraid again. I am not going to exploit you, for I am the shepherd who gives his life for the sheep. I did not run in the face of my own death, but embraced the shame because I wanted to open the way for us to be together.

No one on this planet ever has or ever will love you like I do. The great lie is that I cannot be trusted with your life. Oh, but I can! I will take care of you and teach you to follow me so that you can know the fullness of my life. I will hold you close to my heart as we walk through the days ahead. Even in the face of pain and death, I will ensure that nothing will take you out of my hand. I will draw you to myself, wipe every tear from your eyes and through it all transform you into the person I created you to be.

I know you haven’t always seen that, nor yielded to me so that I could do it. You wandered in places where you got hurt and sought out easy answers that could not work. I have not been the source of your pain, but the one who has offered you healing. All the while I wanted to teach you how I work. I do not put band-aids over your life so it will look better but seek to heal you at the deepest places. It is not something that you can do, but it is something that you can thwart if you won’t let me teach you how to yield to my wisdom and power. You have nothing to fear. Your entire life is in my hands and my hands are sure.

No More Strangers

My sheep know my voice. I call you by name and point the way for you to go, but you have found the voice of strangers to be more certain than my own. Those who take turns pretending to be the shepherd have destroyed your confidence in my ability to lead you. Wanting you to be dependent on them, they told you to follow them because they knew what would be best for you.

Many of them even meant well, but the end result was always the same. They could not lead you to life because life is only in me. They had no way of knowing where I wanted to lead you and they were blinded to my working by their own plans to do what they thought were great things for me.

And you followed them, only to be abused and exploited. It was their vision they served and not mine. Yes, I saw your pain when they turned on you for asking honest questions and cut you off when you sought to follow me instead of them. I know how deeply it hurts to be betrayed by those you thought loved you. I never wanted you to trust them more than me. I never asked you to follow any man or woman. They’re the ones who asked you to do that.

I know many of you thought they were helping you, but in the end they only led you astray. They bullied you with their imagined authority and bloodied you with guilt and calls to loyalty. But you knew better, didn’t you? Often I warned you and your heart was unsettled in the things they told you. You overrode my warnings because you didn’t think yourself mature enough to question people like them. At such times you were looking to yourself and not to me. I am strong enough to lead you in my life, even beyond your doubts and insecurities.

Anyone who knows me will teach you to follow me. They will not use you to build their ministry or to line their pockets. They will give freely, always pointing you to the only shepherd that matters – me! They will encourage you to trust my love for you and will teach you to follow me even when you’re uncertain. They know it is better for you to learn to follow me and make a mistake than think yourself secure in any program they could devise.

Are you tired of listening to the voice of strangers? I want to teach you how to know my voice again. I have others that will help you learn but listen only to those that point you to me, not the ones who would gather you to themselves. You can trust me to make clear to you everything that I want you to know and everything that I call you to do. If you don’t hear my voice in what others say do not feel any obligation to follow their counsel or their instruction. You are only truly safe in me.

Listen

Can you hear me calling you in the deepest chambers of your heart and mind? I am not loud and boisterous. I will not compete with the clamor of the world nor the busyness of your agenda. I gently call you by name, hold you close to my heart and invite you to follow me.

If my voice seems only to drift by for a moment and then fades into the harried pace of life, it is because your ears are better tuned to other things. I only seem more distant when you trust your own wisdom instead of mine. Often I have shown you the way I want you to go but instead of simply following, you looked at the challenges that stood in your way and convinced yourself that it wasn’t me at all. I do not take the path of least resistance, but neither do I send you where I will not go with you. One day you will know that your safety is not in pleasant circumstances, but in being with me.

If you have forgotten how to listen, just ask me and I will show you. It is not as hard as you think. I simply want you to draw near to me and once again let your heart be mine alone. The more you grow in knowing my love for you, the easier it will be to recognize my gentle prodding. I am greater than any doubt that troubles you or any voice that seeks to steer you another way. I will help you recognize my presence in all you do. I will show you how to live as a father or mother, child or student, employer or employee, neighbor or friend. Don’t separate me to a separate spiritual part of your life, I want to make all of your life spiritual and all of it full in me.

You Won’t Be Alone

I know that the closer you follow me the lonelier it seems. You even think at times that I have abandoned you and you withdraw into your own fears. But even there I am with you, calling you outside yourself to come into the freedom of being my child and to join your hearts with others in my flock who live for no other.

You’ve been called arrogant, independent and unsubmitted, not by those who knew my heart, but by those who wanted you to conform to their way of doing things. They can’t see the body beyond their own way of organizing. If you only knew how many people I have scattered all over the world, you would know that you’re not alone.

Some of those live just down the block from you or work alongside you. I know that you don’t know them yet but you do understand the passion that courses through their veins and their desire to connect with people who share it. I am the shepherd of all my sheep and I am not only inviting you to follow me as an individual, I am gathering my flock together from the ends of the earth – not in human systems devouring your time and energy, but in the joy of healthy friendships. No man will own it and no system will replicate what I am building between my people. Resist the temptation to follow models devised by men that will always fail.

I will knit you into relationships with people near you and even some far away so that you can enjoy the richness of my flock. Don’t try to make it happen on your own. Just live with your eye on me everyday and soon you will find people around you who follow the same Shepherd you follow.

But first I want your heart to be mine. If you try to use others in the body to get what you do not find in me, it will only ruin the relationships. I want to teach you how to share my life together, each one receiving from my hand and sharing freely with the others without demanding anything in return. As you love that way you will find that life among my people is not cumbersome, but of great joy. You will go away from encounters more aware of who I am and less focused on your needs and weaknesses.

Wherever I Lead

What do I need from you? I need a willing heart that will simply follow me wherever I choose to take you. I don’t need great talent, great wisdom or great abilities, just a yielded life willing to learn how to trust me beyond your wisdom and your fears.

I want you to abandon your agenda, for it will only distract you from what I want to do in you. Even the best of intentions can lead you to desire the wrong things and following the wrong path. If you only knew the plans I have for you with a future and a hope that far outweighs your own agenda, you would abandon yours in an instant.

Don’t try to save yourself for you will only get in deeper trouble. Stop. Take a deep breath and yield to my arms. Pause before me and listen until you hear that voice that says, “This is the way I want you to go.” Don’t worry about whether or not it makes sense to you. I’ve been here before and you have not. I know the way through your doubts and pain to greater transformation and freedom.

Wake up each day and lay your agenda aside. Live in the moment looking for my hand and listening to my voice. Don’t live in the past by copying what you’ve done before. Don’t try to secure the future with programs and models that only offer false security.

Lay down even your dreams for ministry. You have confused your dreams with mine and trying to fulfill them in your own effort will only frustrate you. If they are only your dreams you won’t want them and those that are mine I will bring to pass in a way that you cannot even imagine yet. Most of what you call ministry has more to do with human aspiration than it does the life of my kingdom. Your pursuit of ministry instead of me will be a barrier not a blessing. Let me teach you all over again, how much I love the broken-hearted, the wounded and the oppressed and how I set them free.

To The Heights

I can keep following you and rescuing you out of all the places you get stuck, or you can turn around and follow me and I will lead you to the heights of my glory. I am the way to Father’s fullness and I want nothing more than to take you there.

Let me scoop you up in my arms and carry you along as I show you the wonders of my Father’s kingdom. Tune your ears to my voice and look to me in everything you do. There is no situation that I can’t lead you through and no promise that I cannot fulfill in you. Trust my voice more than your own and yield to my hand as I shape you into the person I created you to be.

There is nothing you can do to earn this. It is beyond your ability, but it is not beyond mine. I am able to make you stand and establish you in my gospel. I am able to make all grace abound to you so that in all things at all times you will have all that you need. I am able to guard all that you have entrusted to me and able to help you at your weakest moment. And I am able to keep you from falling and present you before God’s glorious presence, without fault and with great joy! (Rom. 14:4; 16:25-26, 2 Cor. 9:8, 2 Tim 1:12, Heb. 5:2; Jude 24-25)

I am calling my flock back to me from all the places it has been scattered. I will take you to the heights of my glory, where you can delight in the greenest of pastures and drink the purest water. You will never need to be afraid again for you will know how much I love you and how safe you are in my hand. There is no God beside me, and no life apart from mine.

Come, my Beloved, your time is now. Draw near to me. Take my hand and I will show you all that I hold in my heart for you and you will discover the unmitigated joy of living in my rest.


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The Same Old Story

hot_air_balloons_0The Same Old Story

By Wayne Jacobsen

BodyLife • January 2000

How quickly the Galatians had lost sight of it! According to Paul, they had had a clear revelation of the crucified Christ and the glory it produced. They had experienced a work of the Spirit that had captured their heart and had swept them to the heights of what it meant to know Jesus.

But in less than a decade, they had traded the fresh wind of God’s Spirit, for the predictable, but empty, patterns of trying to live in God’s life by their own efforts.

In one of the first letters he wrote to any of the churches, Paul was beside himself. He was in obvious anguish when he wrote them, for he knew too well what had lured them earthward again—the need to boast in their own efforts rather than to trust God’s ability to work in them. He knew how seductive it was for them to work hard for God and how exhilarating it would be for them to feel as if they had earned God’s blessing by their diligence.

He had already been down that road, remember, and knew too well that it always produced the opposite of what it promised. Instead of drawing them closer to God, it only obscured their view of him and left them mired in a host of activities and routines that only offered a form of Godliness, but denied the real power of it.

How often that story has been repeated among God’s people in the 2,000 years since. It’s even been repeated in my own life numerous times. For the most part, I’m not even aware when I’m settling out of the winds aloft to tether my craft to my way to more earthly ways of doing things, because my desire to live in God hasn’t changed. It’s just that I opt for ways that look more predictable and more in my control. I seem to only to notice after I’m good and stuck, longing for the freedom to soar with God that I have long since given up.

Regrettably the Galatians’ story proved to be more parable in Christian history than anomaly. Like them, we often need to be encouraged regularly away from the apparent safety of the moorings of the rules and routines with which we become so familiar, so that we can be carried again wherever the winds of God’s Spirit desires to take us.

Taking Flight

It has been five years now since Father delivered Sara and I from the role I thought I had to play in managing the spiritual life of a group of people. We began as a small group of people who just wanted to learn how to love God together. As we incorporated more programs to meet the needs of a growing congregation, our attention to God’s voice faded. We ended up with a large machine that required constant maintenance and where it became far easier to battle over competing agendas than to love each other from the heart.

In the separation we found more pain than we ever thought we could endure, but found more freedom than we ever knew we were allowed to embrace. It has been a wild ride since we cut the tethers that had held us down, and have come to discover that we are not alone. Over these five years we have met people from all over the world with similar journey and nearly identical hungers to know God in his life and fullness.

The conversations we’ve had have encouraged us and helped us see just what our Father is doing in these days. God is calling people away from the safety of those things they can control, to allow him to lead them to his fullness. But that process is never easy and in fact can be filled with great pain.

I wish there were a way to gather all of you next month for a week of being God’s people together. I know how incredibly encouraged you would be to see what God is doing in people all over the world. Father is opening the eyes of many people to see the futility of trying to replicate his life by our own efforts. You would be so encouraged to hear other people tell your same story and know that God really is who he claims to be and that life as his people can be filled with joy instead of pain, freedom instead of conformity, and encouragement instead of confrontation.

It would be just a small taste of what I get to experience as God allows me to meet with pockets of people all over who are struggling with the emptiness of religion and the questions and accusations they get from others who don’t underhand their actions.

I hope we can put together some gatherings like that this year, but in the meantime I want to share with you the common threads in this age-old story, and some of the lessons others seem to be learning. I think you’ll discover that your story may well be part of one far larger and far older than you may have known.

When Your Eyes Open?

It’s not that we didn’t try to find a way to make organized religion a tool for our passion to know God and help others know him. Many of us shared in leadership under one title or another, or at least gave countless hours and significant dollars trying to make the best of it. That was until we began to see some things we hadn’t noticed before.

Here the details vary somewhat. For some they discovered that their honest attempts to follow the voice of Jesus made the others around them nervous or even hostile. What began as a joyful discovery of God’s life together, quickly turned into a source of great pain as others rejected their insights or probing questions and sought to silence them or get them to leave.

For others, they found that the mere invitation to conform to the programs of religion couldn’t heal their brokenness. When they cried out for help, people became uncomfortable with their pain and pushed them aside. Instead of comforting those in pain, they often accused them of not doing enough right or for not having enough faith.

Still others, in a growing revelation begin to recognize that all the activities and traditions are not helping them either to know God any more deeply, nor to see his presence transform the inner conflicts and temptations they faced.

In almost all these cases, the initial discovery came with great excitement. Certain others would be as excited as they were with God’s working, they shared freely their hopes, suggestions for change, or even their disappointment and pain. It didn’t take long to see that others didn’t share their enthusiasm. Instead they found that their insights or struggles caused even close friends to question their passion for Jesus, their submittedness in the body of Christ or, in worst cases, even their sanity.

Cutting the Ropes

That which tethers us to our own human efforts are not easily cut. Few people I know ever intended to leave the system they were in, hoping rather to be a catalyst for change with in it. But when they met the powers of institutionalism which prefer procedure and rules over the breath of the Spirit they were shocked at how easily those who were formerly friends and colleagues would turn on them.

Here is a critical juncture. Will we risk our comfort to follow what we know in our hearts to be true? Many don’t make it past this point, preferring to co-exist in silence rather than pursue their passion. I understand why people do that, but also know that he miss out on a journey whose joys far outweigh its risks and its cost.

Those who do go on, meet resistance on virtually every front. Accused of being independent, unsubmitted, or spiritually confused, they find their own self-doubts adding to the chorus. “What if I am nuts?” “Who am I to question what has been in existence for so long and seems to bless so many people?”

But Father’s leading plays out in the deepest places of our hearts. Usually these people are not convinced they are right and that all others are wrong, but finally realize that they want only to follow God’s leading as best they understand it. But pressing ahead isn’t easy. As their eyes continue to open they see how the system is used to manipulate people and reward a select view. They see how people God cares for deeply are hurt, excluded or neglected. They see that those who have been lulled to complacency by tradition and religious activities are missing out on the greatest joys of walking with the Living God. And for many they just can’t keep quiet.

The Need to Convince

No doubt this is where the process gets most painful for everyone. Because the struggle to follow our conscience ensues without a lot of external affirmation, we find ourselves having to defend our actions. We hope others will still trust that we love God and will allow us the journey, but it is not so.

Nothing threatens systems of conformity more than those who begin to live in the freedom that Jesus purchased for us. Those who challenge the validity of the routines and traditions are often isolated and excluded. Mostly this is done through gossip by ‘leaders’ who think they protect God’s work by discrediting other believers.

Regretfully some of us fall into the trap of bolstering our confidence by striking back. We too point out their faults, rail against the abuses and gossip about those who we find opposing us. That isn’t always wrong. Jesus may want us to confront openly the failures of institutionalized Christianity, but we need to be sure.

More often, our reactions come from our insecurities and wanting to defend our reputations. We don’t want people to misunderstand us nor distort the passions of our heart. We speak up hopeful that others will listen. They rarely do. We think they will be easily convinced if they just have the right information. But the sad fact is that many people find more comfort in staying tethered to someone’s program rather than to soar on the heights of trusting God.

Though God may call us to speak up in truth, he never makes us responsible to convince others. I have long since realized that people won’t see the fallacy and pain of institutionalized religion until God himself shows it to them. Sadly, that often only comes in moments of great pain where God allows the institution to fail us, so that we can see our trust has been vested in the wrong place.

We have to remember that those who don’t see it yet, are not usually complicit in the destruction it causes. I’m convinced that the real danger of religion is that it takes our best motives for God’s life and turns them against ourselves and others. All the proof I need is seeing how people caught up in religion can harshly treat others who disagree with them.

Where to From Here?

Many people I know are right here in the story. They have seen something they cannot deny and are willing to follow God’s leading no matter what the cost. But how he seems to be leading them is very different.

Some stay right where they are, learning how to live in God’s freedom even among those who are caught up in religion. They disregard the guilt-inducing sermons and glean what encourages their relationship to Jesus. Not wanting to waste time maintaining machinery, nor needing the notoriety of a title, they decline invitations to participate in leadership positions that are invariably offered. This will work as long as God calls them to it, but it is certainly not for everyone. They can find their motives questioned for not helping out or conforming enough, and few can resist for long the hypnotic complacency that religion tries to trade for our radical passion for Jesus.

Others find themselves out of the system entirely. Many are forced to leave by outright request or by never-ceasing gossip; others simply are unwilling to be a partner any longer in the damaging environment. This time can be incredibly painful and you’ll find that people with whom you’ve had life-long friendships will no longer acknowledge you or seek out your company.

But what do we do for fellowship now? Some try other local congregations hoping to find one that is more focused on Jesus and less tainted by organized religion, but that doesn’t work for many.

The temptation is to distance ourselves entirely from other believers and think we can make it on our own. While God may call us ‘outside the camp’ for a period of time to reorder his place in our lives and to reinstill a hunger to find genuine and healthy relationships to his people, his passion is to reconcile people together and place before his son a bride fit for him. That process may take longer than you want it to, just because you may not be able to find others who want to meet regularly to encourage each other in Christ. But let it have its end.

Freedom to Fly Higher

That needn’t concern you unnecessarily. What is certain is that whatever ways we find to be the church with other believers, is initiated by Jesus himself, the head of the church. He knows how, when and where to connect you with other people. Some are finding each other through internet resources and are willing to travel periodically to find meaningful fellowship. Others find spontaneous encounters or simply fellowship with good friends to be a starting point. Where people are free to love Jesus passionately, the bride will emerge.

Personally, I’m thrilled to find believers who want to be God’s church together. They want to learn how to listen to him together, to encourage one another on the journey and to care for each other through the twists and turns of life.

Without the trappings of religion, however, that takes a firm choice on our part and a willingness to invest time in other believers. I don’t know how Jesus will produce that in you, but isn’t it thrilling to see the number of people seeking out home-based church life? It’s not easy and we may have to re-learn how we think about God and his people, but the freedom it gives us to share life with each other relationally instead of organizationally is incredible.

The temptation all of us face, however, is to abuse this new-found freedom as an excuse for the flesh to reassert control of our lives. He sets us free from guilt and manipulation so that we can know him better, become more like him, and reflect his glory in the world—to believer and unbeliever alike. We can’t make that happen by our own efforts; but we can choose to draw near to him daily, hear his passion for our lives, and follow him wherever he leads us.

Recently I heard someone in a clerical collar express his outrage on TV at those who question organized religion. “What would you prefer disorganized religion?”

It’s a cute comment, but truly misses the point. The problem is not that our religion is organized, but that it is religion at all. Religion is managed spirituality—an attempt to make people feel better about themselves without helping them discover the reality of their own friendship with the Living God. It is man’s attempt to do God’s work.

It will forever keep you tethered to your own best efforts when Father wants you to ride freely on the wind of the Spirit.


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