Into the Wind

Here are two important items I want my friends to know:

First, the next gathering of the Jake Colsen Book Club will be next Saturday, August 20, at 1:00 pm PDT. I know that’s a bit early in Australia and a bit late for Europe, but I’ve got people from both asking to be included. So, we’re trying a different time. It will stream live on my Wayne Jacobsen Author page on Facebook, but if you want to be in the Zoom room and part of the discussion, email me so I can send you the link.  We’ll be looking at Chapter Five: Love with a Hook, how religious people often put demands and expectations on love, which make it something other than the love God has for us. How do we live authentic lives in a world that often punishes honesty and vulnerability?

Second, I want to invite you to a retreat in Westcliffe, Colorado the weekend of August 26-29, to spend the weekend with Sara and me as we begin this next phase of our lives. For those who have been listening to Redeeming Love at The God Journey, you know the incredible journey we’ve been on these past four months, with the enemy’s attempts to twist Sara’s trauma to destroy her, then, failing that, set out to destroy our marriage. The first five weeks were the most excruciating season of my life, but in the last eleven weeks, I’ve had a ringside seat to watch the most incredible miracle I’ve ever seen in Father resurrecting our love and resolving the trauma that has preyed on Sara since she was four years old.

I told you this would change the trajectory of my life, though I had no idea what that meant when I said it, and to be honest, I still don’t. But, Sara has wanted to go on an adventure, embrace her newfound innocence and explore God’s work in her in this phase of our life. So, we’ve sold our home, something we’ve talked about doing for a long time, even before this trauma hit. We will live out of the apartment Sara rented for the time being and explore the world with an RV we have purchased and our two big dogs—Zoey and Abby. We’re calling it our Return to Innocence Tour, and we’re going to kick it off with a gathering in Westcliffe, CO, where we have been offered a ranch in the Rockies as a place to invite our friends to come and be with us for the weekend.

The camp only holds about thirty, and it’s coming up very quickly, so you’ll need to sign up with me if you want to come. The cost is $100 per night per person, which includes meals. We’ll start on Friday night and stay over until Monday. You’re welcome to join us for all that or leave on Sunday if you need to. Anyone who feels so stirred is welcome to join us. We have no plans for the weekend other than to be with each other and before the Lord together to see how he might enlighten and encourage all of our journeys. It will be a place to be loved and be refreshed in this wondrous love, which he has invited us to share with him. (If you are flying, Colorado Springs is the closest airport, but you can use Denver (usually much cheaper) and have about a three-hour drive to the ranch.)

After the retreat, Sara and I are going “into the wind” for a season. We’re not setting up an itinerary but will allow the Spirit to blow us as we sense he desires. We are going to celebrate this phase of our journey with some sightseeing, meeting with people along the way who want to interact with us, and taking some time in some beautiful spaces to work on the book I’ve been writing. We’re not going to be in a hurry, and we’re not going to plan very far ahead. After Westcliffe, we will spend some time in Denver with our son, probably head to Wyoming to spend a few days with Kyle and Jess, and then turn east and see where the wind takes us. I have some folks in Michigan and Indiana I’d planned on visiting before the days of my unforeseen circumstances began, so we’re going to aim that way, but only God knows if we end up that far or even get to go beyond that.

Please let me know if you’re in those areas and want to connect with us should we pass through. We will update people with our progress as we go on my Wayne Jacobsen Author Facebook Page and this blog as well as the spontaneous opportunities that might await as we travel. And if we can’t make it to your place, maybe you can meet us somewhere where we are. Come sit with us under the awning of the RV and share God’s goodness.

Plans now include returning in November for some surgical procedures Sara and I need to attend to before striking out again as the Spirit might lead. We really have no plans other than those. We know God is inviting us to an uncertain journey, where we flow with his Spirit rather than fit him around our schedules. Even that was tested in the last few days. On the day our house was sold, another home appeared on the market, just what Sara and I had been looking for. We put in an offer, but when the owners countered back, we both had concluded that as wonderful as it was, the process of buying it now was a distraction from the freedom God wanted us to revel in. So, for the first time in 44 years, Sara and I will not own any real estate on the planet, and we’ll be free to go wherever Father might send us for as long as he might want us there. I’m still amazed at how easy it was to let that home go when we knew God was inviting us on an uncertain adventure and that we didn’t need to nail down a new home before we left.

Two days later, someone sent me a quote of mine from a few years back: “If you’re looking for certainty, you’re living in the wrong kingdom.”

It’s fun when your own words come back to encourage you. We are grateful that at this season of our lives, we can spend some quality time together and discover who God wants us to meet and encourage along the way.

Perhaps even you!

 

When God Seems Boring…

I had this email exchange a few months back with a friend in Nigeria who hit a dry patch in his journey. I’m sure he’s not alone in this struggle or his questions, so I thought I’d share that conversation here:

I’m going through a crisis in my life right now, and I would have to admit that it’s tearing me apart and turning my world upside down. I have never felt so lost.

In the past, I used to wonder why people didn’t just have a relationship with God and why they always said he wasn’t conversing with them. I would usually respond, “You don’t know what you’re doing. Just sit there and read the Bible. That’s what relationship with him is.”

Recently I started to discover that reading the Bible and spending time in God’s presence may not be what relationship with Jesus is all about. I used to feel like he doesn’t love me anymore because of my past mistakes. But recently I’m learning to trust his love for me. I’m handing my weaknesses over to him so he can help me with his strength. Thanks to your series Embracing His Glory, I’m learning to see how powerless I am towards sin and how deeply I need his hand to transform me to the person he desires.

I’m not proud of my decline in my relationship with him. In the past few weeks, my quiet time has been of less interest to me.  Sometimes I get back on my feet and so enjoy it. Other times, I just fall asleep from beginning to end. I feel God’s sadness, trust me, and I’m so angry at myself for making him feel that way.

When I was 16, I would always carry my Bible and buy new notes and write down whatever God was teaching me. I always looked forward to my quiet time and would read the Bible every day. Unfortunately, my parents became so legalistic you would wonder if they were modern Pharisees. They loved God, but they feared him more. Initially I wasn’t affected by this new turn they had taken, but it later did. They brought in rules that began to kill my relationship with him. Rather than something I enjoyed, my quiet time became something I had to do to earn God’s blessings or  to be safe.

That lifestyle haunts me now. So when I sit for my quiet time to read the Scriptures, it’s a rule for me, not something I love and enjoy anymore. I told God I just want him back in my life. Why do I find it difficult to enjoy my time with God? Why do I find it difficult to spend time with the Bible and just pause to listen to him at his feet?

My response:

A lot of things could contribute to this. Keep this in mind, though—God invites us to walk with him out of endearment, not obligation. It sounds like your devotional times became an obligation, and that will always kill them. God wants to walk with you through life, not become an obligation to be satisfied three times a day.

As I read this, it sounded like you ended up with a relationship with your Bible and your quiet time, and those aren’t as exciting now. Perhaps, God has let those dry up so that you could lean into a relationship with him that is close and endearing. Don’t think something is wrong because those times have grown tedious. It doesn’t mean God is boring; it just means you’ve outgrown the form you’d been using. It’s just like going to grade school. It was challenging when you were there, but you would be bored if you went back today. That doesn’t make it wrong, just that you’ve grown beyond it.

I suspect God is stirring something new in you, He’s inviting you into a different journey, and you’re still trying to resurrect the old journey, or at least feel bad that it doesn’t happen the same way. Loving God isn’t complicated. Inviting Jesus to walk with us isn’t fulfilled by doing something three times daily. The Bible is a magnificent resource for discovering who God is and how his purpose unfolds in the Creation. But Jesus left us his Spirit to guide us into all truth, not a book. I think all of this is shifting in you, which may be disorienting for a season. This could be God’s doing to set you free to enjoy him, rather than his life in you being a chore.

Relax. Enjoy what you see of him each day. Read the Scriptures as he draws you to them. Speak to him all the time about your joys, worries, concerns, and need for insight. Watch as his truth surface in you, even at times you’d least expect it.

He responded to my email a few days later:

Oh my God! This cleared the doubt I had left in my heart. Wow!

The day I sent that email to you, I spoke with a friend and she was going through the same struggle that I was. So, I shared your response with her and she felt God had just confirmed what we are learning in the last few days through your words.

It was only a few days ago that I sat to read the Bible very early in morning and I whispered these words in my heart to God: “Father, I’m tired of everything. I know the Bible so well, but I don’t know you as I desire to. I’m so far from who you are. Please help me to behold you as you really are.” As soon as I had whispered that to him, something happened. It’s as if everything in the Bible was pointing to Jesus. I sat to read John, not hoping for anything at all: I just wanted to behold Jesus, though I didn’t know how.

Honestly, I remember hearing you on your podcast correcting someone who referred to the Bible as the ‘Word of God.’ You gently told him, “Scripture holds God’s words, but only Jesus is the Word of God.” I disagreed with you. How could Scripture not be the Word of God? Now, some years later, here I am, crossing my legs with a sigh: “Wayne is correct.”

Even my walk with Jesus didn’t begin that way and yet it only took a few years before I found myself depending on the Bible for almost everything. It was my guide. If I didn’t read it for three days, I would feel so bad. I would feel that I hadn’t touched God’s word for a while. I know it’s healthy to read the Scriptures as God unveils himself, but that wasn’t the case then.

Since my friend and I are on a similar journey, this is about the two of us. She and I are starting to follow Jesus anew, this time as the Word of God, the One God is speaking to us. More important, we are so grateful to find that Father confirms the truth of himself that he is unveiling to us. We are glad to know we aren’t going crazy.

When God seems boring, I’m sure it isn’t him at all. He’s incredibly endearing, hilarious, insightful, and gracious. Every day with him is an adventure, and when he seems boring to me, it usually means I’ve lost sight of him and am just mindlessly going through the motions of superficial, religious activities. It’s one thing to read He Loves Me and be touched by it, and quite another to spend the day with Sara and me and discover who I am. God wants us to know him; the Bible is a poor substitute for that knowing.

If you, too, are hungry for him, keep looking for him. Scripture won’t be enough. Church attendance won’t be enough. Even fellowship with good friends won’t be enough. He wants you to know him, see him, and feel him surge in your heart as you negotiate your day.

As someone told me a couple of weeks ago, “It’s not your piety he loves; it’s you!”

And if you want help sorting out how the Scriptures fit more effectively into a relational journey, you can check out the free video series, The Jesus Lens.

The Unintended Consequences of Well-Meaning Prayers

(First, a personal note:  It finally caught up to me. I’m blaming my visit to Disneyland last week to celebrate a granddaughter’s graduation from middle school though I don’t know for sure if that’s where I got it. But early Monday morning, I came down with symptoms of COVID-19, and a test later that day confirmed it. I’m doing OK for the most part, except for an extremely painful sore throat and being forced into quarantine away from those I love.)

If you’ve been listening to the podcasts at The God Journey, you’ll know that the last three months have been quite a ride—from the brink of despair to the heights of great joy. If you’re missing that story, you can hear the first two of seven podcasts under the label: “Redeeming Love.” It’s the story of the enemy’s attempts to destroy our marriage to God’s victory over a trauma we didn’t even realize Sara had in her past. The first one aired on July 8, titled, The Unforeseen Circumstances, and the second is called What Sara Faced. The rest will follow on subsequent Fridays.

At the lowest point in this story, a close friend of mine saw how much pain I was in and held it with me. That night in a dream, he saw Jesus sitting on a park bench, so he went and sat with him. He then asked Jesus if there was anything he could do to take my pain away.

Jesus turned toward him and answered, “I can’t take his pain away without taking away his love for Sara.”

He shared that with me the next day, and I immediately knew it was a prayer I didn’t want Jesus to answer. If I were in excruciating pain because of my love, I would rather endure the pain than lose the love. And it made me think of other prayers I have prayed, not realizing the result I wanted may be at the expense of some greater good I wanted even more.

We want pain to go away; Jesus wants love to triumph. We rarely recognize the cost involved in the things we ask of him. While we seek comfort, he’s drawing us into the truth that will be our ultimate joy. That’s why if you only seek comfort in this broken world, don’t expect that it will lead you to God’s fullness. Some of his greatest gifts reveal themselves in our moments of pain and vulnerability.

Fortunately,  Jesus didn’t take my pain away and instead used it to re-shape my heart with what I needed to walk a different road he was asking of me. You can hear that in the podcasts as well. All of that has led Sara and me to far more spacious places of freedom and love than I could ever have imagined.

Paul was right, “momentary, light affliction” can work in us “an eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17). No, it didn’t feel light or momentary at the time, but given what it has produced and who it helped rescue from the darkness overwhelming her heart, it seems so now. Who would have thought that those days of agony would bring such incredible healing and redemption?

I will never view prayer quite the same way again.

On an unrelated note, the next gathering of the Jake Colsen Book Club will be held Sunday, July 24 at 1:00 pm PDT. You’ll have to work that out in your time zone. We will cover Chapter 4 on why accountability is a horrible tool for discipleship and transformation. You can get a link to the Zoom Room by emailing Wayne and asking for it.

 

 

Love Seasoned over a Lifetime

A good friend of mine, Jack Gray, passed away last week. That’s him with his wife Margaret alongside Sara and me when we first met them in 2004. Many have heard me talk about Jack over the years. He was born in Scotland, served as a missionary surgeon in the Congo at the time of the revolution, and then lived out much of the rest of his life in New Zealand. I had numerous opportunities to correspond with him as well as visit him twice.

Though I came to know Jack late in his life, his life, character, and passion deeply inspired the trajectory of my own journey. He was a man of profound wisdom, gracious generosity, and a joyful spirit that touched many worldwide. I miss knowing he is in the world, but grateful that he has reached the gateway for the most incredible adventure any of us could take—an eternity in the presence of the Jesus he loved and a reuniting with his beloved wife. He was a remarkable gift, and it is all the better for having had him among us.

Advancing age tests the mettle of a person. Some grow more loving and tender, while others become more fearful and angry. When Dave Coleman was a hospice chaplain, he told me it was his experience that 80% of Christians were afraid or anxious about facing death. I have had three close friends and “older brothers” pass away in the last eighteen months. In their 80s and 90s, they were all men whom Father’s love had sweetened over many, many decades. It’s impressive to see what living at rest in the love of Jesus does to someone’s character over time and how it is reflected with such tenderness and confidence at the end of their days.

Jack turned ninety-nine this past February. He recorded this video a couple of weeks before he died last week. It reveals those things most in his heart as the veil between this life and the next grew thinner.

JackGray.mov

(If the video doesn’t play, click on this link: https://vimeo.com/727491540)

After his days in Africa, Jack began to find his rest in the Father’s love. He was expelled from the country during the revolution and told me he was home in Scotland in deep depression because he had failed God. “How had you failed God?” I asked, incredulous at the thought. He said because God sent him there, his faith was not strong enough to stop the revolution that got him expelled. In time, he came to see how that thinking was wrong in so many ways and thus began his encounter with a Father’s love that transformed him over a lifetime.

Jack was one of the heroes of the faith, and his life touched many people as a surgeon, hospital administrator, friend, and passionate follower of Jesus.

I have another video I’d like to share. It came to me on the same day that Jack’s did. This is from Ukraine and it’s by a man whose family I met and whose fellowship I enjoyed when I was in Kenya in 2019. Here’s that video, which shows how they are coping with this conflict by serving others. I hope these days of war and torment will spark a similar journey in them to discover a Father bigger than their expectations and a love more significant than their unanswered questions. I pray they, too, will be able to grasp how wide and deep the Father’s love is for them even in such horrific days.

God can hold us in any storm and help us endure the most excruciating trial until his glory comes—whether in this life or as we pass on to the next.

_______________

If you want to listen to two podcasts that I recorded with Jack Gray, you can do so from our archives at The God Journey.

If you want to help Misha and his team in Ukraine, you can pray for them and help by raising funds as they coordinate relief efforts for travel, housing, food, and basic necessities. You can help them at the Reliant fund:  https://reliant.org/ukraine.relief.fund

 

 

Where Love Thrives

Love can only thrive where truth reigns.

Thirty-five years ago, Sara and I had some friends over for dinner. At the end of the evening, as we walked with them to their car, the husband pulled me aside to tell me something. “Do you know that you talked about yourself all night and what you’re excited about but never once asked about what I’m doing?”

I was embarrassed beyond words, but fortunately, I didn’t retreat to my defenses. I thought through the night and realized to my horror that he was right. I told him he was right and how sorry I was to be so focused on myself.

As painful as it was to hear, his comments were a wonderful gift to me and changed my awareness of others in every conversation I’ve had since. He didn’t have to tell me that, and he took a great risk in doing so. He could have just let the relationship whither in my selfishness, but he loved me enough to tell me the truth and let me see his disappointment. It not only gave me the opportunity to change but deepened our relationship.

Many Christians I’ve met over the years fall into the mistaken notion that in relationships “nice is better than honest” and are afraid to be genuine for fear of whatever backlash may result. There’s often good reason for that in a conformity-based culture where those in authority respond in abusive and hurtful ways toward anyone who dares to disagree with them. Perhaps that’s why so many people are always saying what they think the other person wants to hear instead of being honest.

Without genuineness and vulnerability, however, relationships stay superficial and become fraught with tension. You’ll find yourself avoiding people you haven’t been honest with, perhaps even blaming them for your fear of what truth might uncover. And it’s true that not everyone is worthy of your honesty or deserves access to your heart especially if they crush it with their own selfishness.

But the real power of relationships and the environment that nurtures them comes where people are vulnerable and genuine. Brokenness and fear grow in the darkness, healing and joy do so in the light. That’s why Paul wrote, “… speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Growth only happens where what’s true can be expressed in gracious and tender affection.  I know that’s almost a lost art in the 21st Century, but it’s worth recovering. Affection will die when people care more about ‘getting along’ than they do engaging in honest conversations.

So, it behooves us all to learn to be genuine in our engagements with people, and for us to learn how to be a soft place for the vulnerability of others. Sure, it’s a risk, every time, but without it, you’ll never discover the depth, beauty, and power that arises from being heart-felt relationships. You can start in small ways with people you trust to hold your honesty well, even if they may not see eye-to-eye with you. That way you can discover who is safe for such conversations, and I suspect there are far more of those than your fears want you to believe.

IN OTHER NEWS…

The Jake Colsen Book Club

The next meeting of the Jake Colsen Book Club to explore the content of So You Don’t Want to Go To Church Anymore will meet this Saturday, July 2, at 1:00 pm PDT.  The third chapter deals with Christian education and how it indoctrinates us into behavioral conformity as the process for discipleship when it is precisely the opposite of that. Growing in the life of Jesus is a transformational reality inside his affection, which explains why our attempts at self-effort conformity always fall short.

We stream these live on my Facebook Author Page for those who don’t want to be in the Zoom discussion. If you want to be in the conversation, please email me one week before each session, and I’ll send you the link you need to join us. There will always be reminders on my blog a few days before our scheduled time. You can subscribe to the blog at the top right of my blog pages.

The links change with every session and you have to get the current link by emailing me before the Zoom session begins.  You’re welcome to join us for all the sessions or only for the chapters that most interest you. You’ll need to sign up each time to have a spot in the Zoom room.

 

Kenya

Some of the children and their new dormitories at Forkland School

Three months ago 300 children were suddenly abandoned at the Forkland School we have supported for many years. It is an impoverished community with lots of drug and alcohol abuse. We helped them when a flood ruined their cistern by digging them a new well. Gratefully, it hit a huge water source that enabled them to supply the community with free water as well as bottle it for resale to support the school.

A few months back, we helped them buy the land next door, which the state required them to do to keep caring for the number of students they had. Then a couple of months ago these children were abandoned on their doorstep. We helped feed them for a few months before they were required to build dormitories. Due to the generosity of one man, we built dormitories and a dining hall for their use.

However, expenses for the care, feeding, and education of those children total about $6500 per month.  We did not want to get caught in an ongoing expense here, so we appealed to them to look for a more effective solution. They presented us with a proposal to add $75,000 to the grain enterprise we set up with those we work with in the area as a way to generate that revenue every month going forward. We could use some help to offset that cost to help these orphaned children have a hope and future.

As always, every dollar you send us gets to the people in Kenya, and all contributions are tax-deductible in the US. We do not take out any administrative or money transfer feesPlease see our Donation Page at Lifestream. Just designate “Kenya” in the “Note” of your donation, or email us and let us know your gift is for Kenya. You can also Venmo contributions to @LifestreamMinistries (or use the QR Code at left). Finally, we also still take checks mailed to Lifestream Ministries • 1560 Newbury Rd Ste 1  •  Newbury Park, CA 91320. Or, if you prefer, we can take your donation over the phone at (805) 498-7774.

 

Let Me Read to You

People are constantly asking me if any of my books are available in audio format. Many of them are and, except for The Shack, I’m the one doing the reading. So, if you want me to read one of my books to you, you can order from the links below:

 

 

The Revelational Adventure

Every day I wake up to the amazing adventure of walking with God through whatever might unfold in my day. Sometimes that is full of joy and wonder; at other times, it’s an unforeseen calamity that challenges me to the core of my being. Following him, as best I see him each day, is the only way I know to navigate life. Keeping an eye out for his fingerprints in what’s happening around me, recognizing his impulse in my heart, or discovering a new thought playing with my mind, opens doors into options I’d never considered before and sets my heart at rest in events I don’t control.

So, it pains me when people talk of following God as a painful chore to keep from getting into trouble with him. That’s not how Christ lived, nor does it fit the character of the Father he described to us. He wants his joy to be in us so our joy can be full. Our God lives to his pleasure, and he wants to show us how we can live in the fullness of ours when it is untwisted from the lies of darkness. This is a journey into the life that really is life, unraveling the chaos and brokenness of this fallen world and giving us access to a life of love, rest, and play inside a growing friendship with the God who created you. It is the best way to live even through life’s worst moments.

I no longer have to sort out “the big picture” or try to “wrap my head around some strategy.” I can simply seek and follow, one step at a time, and find myself coming out in more spacious places of his grace and wisdom. That’s the revelational adventure—learning to recognize what new insight he’s giving me and believing his ways are valid.

Over the past few weeks, Kyle and I have been talking about this process on The God Journey podcast. We don’t explore this subject every week, but we are painting a picture of what it means to follow him. Even when he asks us to “lay down our lives,” it is for our joy as much as his. Selfishness is a barrier to living free, but only he can show us how our sacrifice can fit into his purpose of bringing light into the world.

Following the slightest nudge he gives us carries us into the life of his Spirit blowing all around us. Without that, we are pulled by the gravity of chaos into the weeds of frustration, hopelessness, and misery. When you feel the darkness spreading its clutches over you, remember that God has a way for you to rise out of it and catch the wind, just like a kite soaring skyward. This is the transformation that living loved offers us. Don’t miss it.

If you want a further explanation of how we can live more attuned to him, here are the first four podcasts we’ve done as part of this series.

  • Transformation #1:  Windblown – Recognizing how the chaos of this age is constantly trying to drag us into the darkness while his Spirit keeps inviting us to live above the chaos going on around us with the lightness of his joy and power.
  • Transformation #2: Reveal – This journey does not begin with doing what we think is best for God but in his revelation to our hearts of his love, wisdom, and strength. “What is God showing me today of himself?” “What wisdom is he putting in my way to guide me today?” or “Who is he giving me to love today?” become the most critical questions to pose to him each day as we sensitize our hearts to how he might answer them.
  • Transformation #3: Ponder – When we think God reveals something to us, how can we know it’s him? Pondering the growing revelations with him, Scripture, other brothers and sisters, and seeing how they sort out in our circumstances, is an important part of the process of internal transformation. Pondering anchors his revelation in our hearts and minds, helps us discern what’s real and not real, and lets us see the possibilities he holds in his heart.
  • Transformation #4: Believe – As we affirm what God is revealing to us, he is winning us into his trust. Believing what he shows us and becoming convinced of his character toward us is what lifts us into the reality of his life that he wants for us. Believing is not another religious work he demands of us; it’s the fruit of recognizing him in our lives and growing to know that his ways are always best for us.

We are drawing a chart as we unpack this journey and you can see it below. Father, Son, and Spirit are in the upper left, and we are at the lower left as we’ve been twisted by the brokenness of this age. We have no hope of untwisting ourselves enough to soar in his Spirit, so God initiates that process with us by revealing himself to us in bits and pieces as we look to him throughout our days. Belief takes root in our hearts as we recognize what he is showing us and ponder it. That’s what allows us to catch the wind of the Spirit as he draws us into his reality and the promises of glory, purpose, truth, fruitfulness, fulfillment, etc.

Without that, the gravity of our brokenness will continue to hold us in the weeds, where darkness, futility, fear, anger, frustration, and scarcity define our lives. God wants to lift us out of the weeds and draws us into the unfolding revelation of his Spirit. That comes from hearing and believing what he shows us is true. It can really be that simple.

There’s so much more we will add here in the weeks ahead on the podcast. I know charts can make things appear to be too mechanical for something genuinely organic. So, please don’t get lost in the diagram or try to implement it with human effort. Let it help you imagine what’s going on in your heart and mind as God makes himself known and then invites us on an adventure with him that will allow you to live in the flow of the Spirit instead of being shipwrecked by our demands and struggles. God knows what’s best for us in every situation and wants to help us recognize what he’s revealing in our hearts, and then we’ll be free to believe him enough to watch his glory unfold in us. Learning to live in this freedom is a lifetime process that starts slowly as it finds traction in how we think. Then, look out.

 

We will continue to explore other facets of this revelational adventure in the weeks ahead. Since you’ve heard it over the years, I know some of you don’t regularly check in with the God Journey much anymore. But you might want to check back in for these episodes. I’m excited to see how this framework has encouraged others to a more relational approach to their faith. It also expresses well how I am learning to follow him. I hope it helps you too. This approach is also finding its way into the sequel I’m writing to So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore.

 

Some Book News

The Jake Colsen Book Club

First, the second installment of the Jake Colsen Book Club, to explore the content of So You Don’t Want to Go To Church Anymore, will meet this weekend on Saturday, June 18, at 4:00 pm PDT. I loved the conversation around the first chapter, which you can see here if you missed it.

The second chapter deals with frustration, disillusionment, and emptiness and how God can use those feelings to draw us onto a different path that will produce the fruit we hunger for in our walk with him.  We stream these live on my Facebook Author Page for those who don’t want to be in the Zoom discussion. If you want to be in the conversation, please email me one week before each session, and I’ll send you a link to join us. There will always be reminders on my blog a few days before our scheduled time. You can subscribe to the blog at the top right of my blog pages.

Chapter two shows just how much we try to hide from the frustrations that God uses to invite us down more fruitful paths. Sometimes, we are afraid to question the things about life in God because we’ve found security in our illusions. Being dis-illusioned is often the first step to seeing God as he is and ourselves as we truly are in his presence.

The Jake Colsen Book Club uses a different link for each session, and you’re welcome to join us for all the sessions or only for the chapters that most interest you. You’ll need to sign up each time to have a spot in the Zoom room.  

 

Deep Trace

A year ago, I introduced you to Tessa van Wade’s first book, Out of the Shadows. What a great summer read!  If you haven’t read it yet, now might be a good time because in a few months, the second book in the series, Deep Trace, will release.

Sara and I got to read that story last summer as it was being finalized. I can’t tell you how much Deep Trace not only touched my heart but also mirrored my own story at the time. Remy continues her battle against the lies, even by members of her own family, to discredit and marginalize her. The powerful forces that seek to kill her only challenge her to dig deeper to find out who she really is against the differing voices that want to control her. It’s a page-turning story that wrestles with such big-ticket items as personal identity and purpose, culture and conflict, taking thoughts captive and embracing what’s true even if it’s uncomfortable.

Why am I telling you now?  So that, if you haven’t read the first one, you will get started so you’re ready for book 2 in the Valieri series when it arrives.  Those who have already read book one have been waiting for some time for the story to continue. Here’s what I wrote in my endorsement for Tessa’s book:  “Intimate as well as epic. Tessa Van Wade has crafted a compelling adventure of a young woman’s search for her soul while on the run from those who must destroy her to save themselves. Only the fate of the world hangs in the balance. Entertaining and eye-opening.”

I’ll let you know when the next book comes out and share with you some of the endorsements we’ve already received.  For now, you will do well to read the first book, and perhaps connect with its author, Tessa Van Wade on her blog, Instagram feed, or on her new podcast with husband Ben, The Tessa Van Wade Show.  I’ve known Tessa for almost 40 years and appreciate the journey she is on, what she encourages in others, and her gifts as a budding young author. I hope you’ll give her a chance.

Life at Father’s Pace

Three years ago, in the woods of western Virginia, I heard a man say, “Life moves at the speed of relationships.”  I immediately resonated with that. My life has traveled mainly at the speed of achievement. Get that book done, that podcast produced, or that trip scheduled. Of course, I made time for relationships around that, but I moved at a breakneck speed throughout most of my life. Though I’ve been comfortable with it, I know not everyone around me has.

A few weeks ago,  as I happened to be pulling some weeds in Sara’s garden, I hurriedly reached for a weed that was just a tad out of reach. I didn’t realize that, however, until I lost my balance in the reach and had to move my foot to keep from falling. When I did, I stepped on one of her flowers and crushed it. Internally, I felt like I had crushed something in Sara’s heart. No, I didn’t mean to, and indeed, Sara wouldn’t have compared that flower to her heart, but that’s what I felt when I looked down at the dying iris.

“You need to slow down.” The words crossed my mind instantly. The message was clear to me. My rapid pace is crushing something in Sara. Since then, “Life moves at the speed of Sara” has become part of my vocabulary. And it applies to everything I do, from driving to preparing dinner to my conversations with her and others. At first, it felt painful. I even do it when Sara isn’t with me because I want to practice for when she is.

And you know what I’ve discovered? I actually like living at a slower pace. I trip on stairs less often, make fewer mistakes, and am more attuned to what’s happening around me or someone else might be feeling near me. Dare I say it? It’s made me more sensitive to God’s ebb and flow in my life. Who would have thought?\

Last week on the podcast, Kyle and I discussed how we can run so fast through life that we don’t allow Jesus to catch up with us. I’ve long thought people who keep busy all the time are running from something inside, afraid some pain or loneliness might catch up with them. I know I did some of that in my younger days.

Then last week, as I prayed with some people, this subject came up again. Someone expressed it this way, “Maybe we could live at the speed of Father.”

Ding! Ding! Ding!  

Jesus did. He only did the things he saw the Father doing or said the things he heard the Father saying. (John 5:19)

That thought has wandered to many places in my thinking. I’ve had so many people tell me they don’t ever hear or see God, and I’ve been through seasons of that myself. But could that be because we tend to move ahead of him, racing through life? We beg him to do what we want instead of slowing our pace to recognize what he’s already doing? To see someone, you must be behind them, moving at their pace. Maybe the next time someone tells me they can’t see God, I might remind them that they might slow down and let him get ahead of them. You can’t follow from the front. Maybe that’s what it means to wait on God; it’s allowing him to catch up to us and move in front so we can see him and embrace his work.

I’m going to be exploring this for some time. Is that why we’re told to wait upon the Lord? It’s not an exercise in patience but a reality. Our human tendency is to race about in fear and anxiety, which puts us way ahead of God’s pace. That’s why he seems so slow to us or so hidden. He’s not on that frequency. His work is much more deliberate, incubated in love, not fear, in trust, not anxiety. He’s also doing real work inside while we try to plater cosmetic fixes on the outside.

There’s no doubt in my mind that this will change me.

Remember the poem I ran on this blog a couple of weeks ago, Allowing My Past Catch up to Me? Maybe it’s not just the traumas of our pasts that we’re outrunning; perhaps it’s also the love of God, or maybe the treasure of his wisdom. If we don’t slow down to the Father’s pace, we will keep missing the incredible roads he wants to invite us down. Is that why he speaks in a whisper and sows his fingerprints so subtly into our days. Slowing down enough to recognize him is part of learning to navigate our lives at his pace instead of the frantic anxiety of our flesh.

That’s why we’re told to be still and know that he is God (Psalm 46:10, or to find those “unforced rhythms of grace.” (Luke 11, The Message) Slow down; take a deep breath now and then and learn to quiet the pace of your mind and heart. Then, it won’t be so difficult to know what he is doing in you.

That’s where I’m growing right now, and I already love its fruit growing in my heart.

____________________

The Jake Colsen Book Club

We began our Jake Colsen Book Club last weekend to explore the content of So You Don’t Want to Go To Church AnymoreYou can see the recording of that conversation here. We’ll be covering chapter 2 on Saturday, June 18, at 4 pm PDT. We will bounce them around so that people in different parts of the world can join us. The first one was weighted toward Europe and Africa; the second toward Australia, New Zealand, and Asia.

We stream them live on my Facebook Author Page for those who don’t want to be in the Zoom discussion. If you want to be in the conversation, please email me one week before each session, and I’ll send you a link to join us. There will always be reminders on my a few days before our scheduled time. You can subscribe to the blog at the top right of my blog pages. The Jake Colsen Book Club will use a different link each time, and you’re welcome to join us for all the sessions or only for the chapters that most interest you.

The Jake Colsen Book Club

This book has helped thousands of people gain a different perspective about our human effort to replicate Jesus’ church and discovered that some of the rumblings in their heart weren’t as crazy as they might have first thought.  It has also gotten people thrown out of Bible college for reading it, been the source of much pain for pastors who didn’t appreciate its message, and has been the subject of countless emails. Here’s one I got the other day:
Hey, I just realized how wordy this email has become, but thanks for your gracious endurance if you’ve continued to read this far, lol . . . . I love your idea of a “book club” regarding your latest installment to Jake’s Story unfolding . . . I’d definitely be interested in joining in that discovery if it ever presents itself.  Yours and Dave’s online chapters is what brought a lot of language to what the Father was unfolding in my life back then years ago. I think I still have the chapters printed out in a 3-ring binder somewhere with all my scribbles in the margins, That time period brings such a smile to my heart and face just thinking back on it now . . . even though it was extremely tumultuous in our relationships here as well.
And a few days later, I got this text:

I’ve been reading So You Dont Want to Go to Church Anymore, I came across the “what do we do with the kids” part. And John asked if the kids knew how to use a fork. That part! I can’t even begin to tell you how much it did my heart good. I literally wept tears of relief. I find myself holding such ridiculously high standards for myself. Even though I know I’ll never attain them. So thank you! Thank you for sharing/collaborating with this book!

As many of you know, I’ve begun writing the sequel to this book, tentatively titled, So You Really Want to Follow Jesus. As I’ve been re-reading the first book, which I hadn’t done in 17 years, I got excited about that content and thought how fun it would be to take it by chapter and go through it with some people. When I suggested it on my podcast, many of you responded with the desire to join us.

So, I guess it’s time to start the Jake Colsen Book Club. We’re going to work through So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore chapter by chapter in a series of Zoom sessions where you can share your insights or ask questions.

Now, setting a time for this is almost impossible with readers in Europe, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand who said they’d like to join in as well.  So, we’re going to bounce the time and dates around to make it easier for people in different time zones to join us. We are going to record the video, so if you can’t join us, you can watch it later and add your comments.  I’ve set the first two so people can plan accordingly and make adjustments as we move forward.

  • Chapter 1 – Sunday, June 5 at 10:30-11:30 am Pacific Daylight Time. (Please sort out what that means in your own time zone.)
  • Chapter 2 – Saturday, June 18 at 4:00-5:00 pm Pacific Daylight Time.

If you’d like to join me in the Zoom room for the discussion email me at waynej@lifestream.org and I will send you the link to join us.  For those who just want to watch, I’ll be streaming it from my Wayne Jacobsen Author Page on Facebook.  I’ll also post the link on my blog that morning for those who want to join in at the last minute.

Having done these a few hundred times, here are some guidelines that will help our conversation work best for everyone:

  1. If possible, use earphones or even a headset with microphone. It keeps background noise to a minimum. Also, mute yourself when not talking.
  2. Make sure you’re in a quiet setting with printers, vacuum cleaners, etc. turned off. Make sure dogs and kids are cared for away from where you are.
  3. Share the space. Feel free to jump in and share your thought or question, but then give others a chance too.  We don’t want 2 or 3 people to dominate the whole time.
  4. Please don’t try to “fix” people by giving advice. Advice is best served inside a relationship and when it is solicited.  It is often better to ask questions or make observations rather than to tell someone what they should do.
  5. We expect this time to have some awkward moments, so don’t panic in the silences. The best questions/comments often come out of an awkward pause.
  6. When you talk the first time, please tell us who you are and where you’re from, so people have context. And, it’s ok to make up a name and a location.
  7. We’re keeping this to one hour, so please don’t wait until the last minute or you may miss your chance.
  8. We consider this a public platform, so by participating you agree to have this stream online, and the recording released thereafter.

Let me know if you want to join me in the Zoom Room.

The Tide Has Turned

I’ve not talked about this a lot on my blog, but I have on recent episodes of The God Journey.  Six weeks ago, when I arrived home from my trip to the Carolinas, I stumbled into a tragic situation that completely took me by surprise. It was catastrophic and I told listeners of the podcast that I would be taking some time away from my regular responsibilities to give God the maximum space to sort this out. That needed to happen in me as well as others involved in the circumstance. I’m not relating the specifics of what I faced because the story affects other people, and it is their story to tell, not mine.

During this time, I took great encouragement from Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1:8-11:

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

I have never been in such pain or despair. I wept countless tears in agony and sorry. It would not be an understatement to say I despaired of life itself. I took great comfort in remembering that Jesus “during his time on earth offers himself to God with loud cries and tears offered himself to God.” (Hebrews 5:7) I understood completely.

I was powerless in the face of lies the enemy had sowed among some people I care about, and had those circumstances stood, they would have threatened everything about my future. I could only pour out my heart to God for weeks, hoping that he had a resolution I couldn’t see. Early on, I called some close friends to have them stand and watch with me to see what Father might be saying or doing. Though I got great counsel, insight, and encouragement, the circumstances continued to worsen. At times God would breathe hope in my heart, “This is not what it appears to be,” but I could only seem to grasp that hope for brief moments. I was afraid to believe those thoughts were his when I could have so easily interpreted my hopes as God’s voice.

A couple of weeks ago, the tide began to turn, and in recent days all has changed dramatically for the good. Light has appeared in the darkness. Lies have given way to truth, and love has been renewed in a most gracious way. What was painful before is playful now. In the last six days, I have moved from circumstances that had been excruciatingly painful through the first five weeks to excruciatingly beautiful over the weekend. Now, the excruciating is gone entirely, and I am at rest in the beauty and his salvation.

I know this whole ordeal lasted only six weeks, but these days have been hard, painful, and seemed far longer. It came on so suddenly and the shock and pain were so great that every day seemed like a week.  I am so glad to say now that I have survived the most challenging stretch of my journey to date. Everything I have experienced in him over the last thirty years was critical to have in my heart during these days. I am so grateful for what he has taught me about entrusting myself to his love instead of trying to fix it with my own wisdom and power.

He has done exceedingly abundantly above what I could have imagined even a couple of weeks ago. I have appreciated the space many of you have given me by not making demands on my time so that I could give my full attention to what lay before me. During this time Jesus proved to be all the refuge I needed when I was living beyond my limits and overwhelmed with pain. As I look back now, I see more clearly how he was there, even when my agony obscured my vision. In the first days, God spoke to my heart and said this circumstance will decisively change the trajectory of my life, but it will lead to more beautiful spaces.  I had no idea what he meant by that, but when I believed it my heart was at rest even in the horror of that situation. However, when my heart strayed from it, the loss would overwhelm me again.

I’m not sure what all of that means yet but I know I’ve been changed by this, and I’m sure in more ways than I yet see. These events and his grace in them will reshape the trajectory of my heart and my mission until the end of my days, and how I love hurting people even when I’m bearing the brunt of it.  Today, my heart is full of joy and gratefulness with a song in my heart and a settledness in my spirit that God’s pleasure is unfolding.  There is still much to be done for his healing to be complete, but the outcome now seems inevitable, and I can fully give myself to the process.

I am as delighted today as I was in despair a couple of weeks ago. I hope someday I’ll be able to share some of the details of all of this if it becomes appropriate. In the end, I can say, I have experienced the most striking demonstration of his love I’ve ever seen for all of us involved. I’ve learned so much about the way he works and how love can have its way even against the wicked schemes of darkness.

I will always be immeasurably grateful for those who prayed for me and sent Scriptures and words of encouragement, even though you had no idea what I was dealing with. So many people stood with me, hoped with me, wept with me, and now share my joy at the fruit of his work. I will be turning back to those things Father has asked me to put into the world in the days ahead.  We are back doing podcasts already. Soon I’ll continue writing on the sequel to So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore. I’ll also be rescheduling the trips I had to cancel and see where else Father might want me to go to encourage the hearts of others in the next season. Those conversations will be incredibly different now.

Thank you for your kindness and patience to me during this time.

Allowing My Past to Catch up to Me

On last week’s podcast and today’s at The God Journey, Kyle and I talk about dealing with the long-term effects of unresolved childhood trauma. On my recent trip to North Carolina, a good friend of mine, Dana Andrechyn, shared with me a poem she wrote that captures so well what it is like to run from the pain of the past and then finally find just the right time and space for Jesus to bring healing to your broken heart.

I love this poem. We talk about it more on today’s podcast. I also wanted to print it here for those that wanted a copy.

Allowing My Past to Catch Up to Me

To be out on the open water at sunset
facing backward, shore fading
like the past that I left behind,
we set our present course
into the beauty of the end of the day…
Our speed is slow and gentle enough
to allow my past to catch up to me
its drama unfolding as if it were yesterday—
and instead of looking away, I fixed my gaze there.
(for so long I have just wanted to leave it buried.
but the grave can’t hold living things.)
Set in the midst of the beauty of the setting sun,
and its safe embrace, a softness rises in me
laced with tears, washing my face, my soul
as I remembered the girl I left behind so long ago.
Left her standing there, hands full
of hunger, ache, resentment, shame, loneliness—
hidden from all eyes, especially mine.
To forget her would heal me, I thought,
but the neglect of my own little soul was
just another arrow of abandonment,
piercing my present and my hunger.
But here, now, in this beauty I scoop her up
onto the seat next to me—wrapping my arms around her,
giving her the gift of her voice—her pain, her anger, her tears.
Feeling her youth and the shattering of her innocence.
Remembering how we had to survive by fortressing,
with grit and hardness—armoring up.
We were never thrown a life-line
as we tried to keep our head above water
as best we could.
Today, I pulled her out of those waters
into the lap of my soul and I mothered her.
Saw her. Held her. Held me.
Disarmed.

Dana Andrechyn, July 2020

© Copyright 2022 by Dana Andrechyn.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Control Is an Illusion

You never know how even the most casual comment can profoundly impact the trajectory of someone’s journey.

In the early 2000s, I visited a fellowship in Nottingham, England, on a couple of occasions within a few years. I remember those visits with a smile and enjoyed the pastor and his family where Sara and I stayed. I hadn’t heard from them since until this email showed up in my inbox last week. I’m sure I must have taught some wonderful things when I was there, but what God seemed to find most valuable was a simple comment I made in passing.  I’ll let Gary tell you about it:

Your visits to us all those years ago fundamentally altered the spiritual direction of travel for our family and for the church. My family remembers you fondly. Being a Vineyard church, our relationship with God was ministry-led.

However, your presence shifted us towards an authentic personal journey with God-experienced in community. I remember profoundly you looking at my well-organized calendar and saying, “You do know that control is an illusion, don’t you?”

In light of that, I wanted to let you know that I have written a book summarising my spiritual journey. It’s where I arrived after all those years. The title is Control, the Illusion, and the Lie: The illusion is that you can have control and the lie is that you need it.

It’s a personal spiritual growth book for people to join me on the journey, arising from a fresh view of the beatitudes. My writing may not be the best, but I am a message carrier which I believe I have achieved in the book.

I have used some of the material with a friend who does research for an international computer company. At the time, he was undergoing some top-flight psychotherapy that these companies provide for their executives. On sharing some of the material with his psychotherapist, the therapist said, “this is great. Can I use it?”

God works in mysterious ways.

That he does.

I love his story, and if you’ve read much of my stuff, you know how passionate I am that the love of the Father displaces our need to feel in control of our circumstances. There is no more frustrated person than the one trying to white-knuckle their way through difficult times rather than letting God guide them through them. Thinking we can control what happens to us is an illusion, and learning to live in his unfolding reality is much better than trying to get him to do what we want. Recognizing our powerlessness is a doorway into living lightly and freely in the world, and seeing God’s glory unfold.

His book is a wonderfully simple read with a profound message that will change the way you live in the world and leave you ever-more free to embrace him and his glory as it unfolds in you. This is one powerful thought I got from Gary’s book:

In circumstances when we feel powerless, we don’t have to give in or give up; we give way to what the Father has in mind. 

Order it in the US from Amazon.    —    Order it from Amazon.uk

When Serving Turns to Exploitation

I’m going to lift a quote from an email I wrote to my webmaster the other day about some changes being made for one of the platforms we use to get out information.

“It seems all these platforms start to serve a need people have, then end up exploiting people to fill a need they have.”

As soon as I typed it, I realized how ubiquitous that is to almost everything human, from business to bureaucracy, websites, and even religious institutions.

Almost all start to address a critical need. Facebook, at its beginning, provided a unique tool to keep family, friends, former classmates, and colleagues updated on each other’s personal lives. It was great to see pictures of grandkids, college roommates, and vistas from all over the world. Then, they monetized it, and instead of serving me the things I want to see and read, they twisted it with all kinds of algorithms, advertising, and hoops to jump through that don’t serve me well; they serve Facebook.

I’ve noticed that with websites as well. I’ll be reading something I’m interested in, and almost immediately, a pop-up window will obscure my reading and beg me to sign up for their newsletter or offer me a free “gift” if I give them my email address. We’ve been blessed not to do that at Lifestream or The God Journey because we haven’t needed to monetize it. We offer our content free and figure if people want to sign up for notifications or download a free audio or book, they can do it without harvesting their data for our purposes.

Monetizing the kingdom alters its nature and its message.

Hasn’t that happened in religious institutions? Many start with a genuine desire to serve people. Over time, however, the success of the program becomes more important than helping people with their needs. The mission shifts. It’s no longer what we can give to you; it is what we need from you for the ministry to survive. Instead of feeling served, you feel exploited, even if “for your own good,” as some say.

“That’s just sound business practice,” others might argue.

Precisely. That is my point. Mammon or kingdom. Only if you trust Father to provide for you can you give as freely to others as he has given to you.

The Gospel is a gift!  It’s always a gift. When it ceases to be a gift, it ceases to be the Gospel. Monetizing it changes its nature. I wrote an article about this years ago, mentioning the power of Alcoholics Anonymous. It has altered the lives of millions of people. Why does it stay so pure to its mission? Because it has remained free. It is a decentralized organization that continues to inspire those who’ve been helped to willingly help others without cost. There are no membership dues, no staff to pay, and no books to purchase. It’s people helping people—willingly, graciously, and freely.

I wonder what the life of Jesus would look like today if the Gospel had never been organized and monetized for the benefit of a few at the expense of the many.

 

 

Kenya Update: Gratefulness

I got some delightful news from the people we’ve been helping recently in Forkland and Bungoma in Kenya.  I wanted to share it with you. This young man above narrates a brief video below of thanksgiving for the school supplies purchased for the students at Forkland and the 300 youth who were abandoned there a month ago in a time of extreme poverty and need.

Construction has started for this inundation of orphans they were not expecting.  Here’s how Michael described it:

On behalf of the Forkland village rehabilitation center, God heard the strong cry of suffering from these innocent kids who could not help themselves. I believe this big number of children from the entire village has brought great transformation after the quick intervention to answer their prayers. We have worked tirelessly to make sure that the funds we receive from this wonderful family along with prayers to use it wisely. It can directly fit the program as planned.

Although the cost of metal and other items have risen, it has not affected our budget. We handed over the funds to the engineer and the water company and we are not handling the money anymore except for the feeding program, school fees for the children, and other needs (books, pens, uniforms, etc.) We gave the first priority to the children both primary and secondary, and also the teenage mothers under the guidance and counseling of the caretakers.

The engineer has assured within two months the children will have housing. So we thank God so much for this miracle that the Lord has provided to save these children. We are joining the children in prayers and standing with them.

In Bungoma. the children saw the truck enter the compound. They were joyous and sang praises to the Lord through the dust and noise of the drilling (pictured left). They found an abundance of water after penetration through the rock for two days. The company is still working to put everything in order and very soon we shall be harvesting plenty water for the children and for the community. The community also is happy and thanks God for the water.  Every day they do come for a while and see what is taking place wow. This is amazing.

You will be updated on the progress.

They also sent along this video of one of the students expressing his gratitude for their supplies. You may want to turn on closed captioning to help understand him through his rich accent.

Of course, the need won’t end there. So, if any of you want to help with the continuing needs in Kenya, we are still collecting money to send their way. As always, every dollar you send us gets to the people in Kenya, and all contributions are tax-deductible in the US. We do not take out any administrative or money transfer feesPlease see our Donation Page at Lifestream. Just designate “Kenya” in the “Note” of your donation, or email us and let us know your gift is for Kenya. You can also Venmo contributions to @LifestreamMinistries or mail a check to Lifestream Ministries • 1560 Newbury Rd Ste 1  •  Newbury Park, CA 91320. Or, if you prefer, we can take your donation over the phone at (805) 498-7774.

What Is He Showing You?

My friend, Luis, shared with me a dream he had where he and Jesus were sitting on a park bench. Jesus asked him why Jonah did what he did. After Luis offered some of his thoughts, he finally turned the question back to Jesus. “Because he made it about himself.”

Those words have reverberated in my heart ever since, at just the right moments.  In the difficult circumstance in which I find myself now, it is so easy to crash into the weeds of my grief and sorrow that are so self-focused. I hear his thought cross my mind when I do, “Don’t make it about yourself.”

Those words are like an updraft I talked about in our last podcast, Transformation 1: Windblown. The chaos of a fallen creation and the self-centeredness of our flesh are the gravity that draws us into darkness. I can feel it now in my sorrow. There’s an agony and distress that holds space for God’s work in my life and in the life of those I love, and there’s self-focused anguish that drives me into despair and overwhelming pain.  “Don’t make it about yourself” have been words of life that lift me from the darkness of hopelessness and bear me upward into the realm of his Spirit.

And what’s even stranger. While I need those words about not making it about myself, I can see circumstances where Jesus would be speaking just the opposite to someone else. That would be especially true for those who hide their inner pain by serving everyone else around them.  Jesus might say to them, “Don’t focus on others just now; we need to focus on you.” He may be wanting them to learn self-compassion for him to heal wounds they’ve long neglected.

That’s why following principles, even Godly ones, is not the same as following Jesus. It’s easy to sort through many principles, find the one we like, and implement it hoping it will fix our pain. However, until we know what he’s doing in us and follow him, we become the victims of our own limited wisdom. As we recognize the nudges that draw us into his work rather than fall victim to our wisdom, we can soar above the weeds into the wind of his Spirit. (For more on that analogy, listen to the podcast linked  above.)

Throughout most of my life, I was told that if I followed Jesus, he would bless me. Of course, that’s true, but most of us assumed or were taught that his blessing would fix all of our challenging circumstances, meet our needs, and answer our unselfish prayers. It doesn’t take long to figure out he doesn’t work that way, and that mistake can lead us to doubt his character or question our performance.—two terrible outcomes for the journey he invites us down.

Following Jesus does not save us from the chaos of a broken creation. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us that the sun and rain come upon the just and the unjust. He also told us not to consider those who died in the tower’s collapse at Siloam were any more deserving of death than those who escaped. God’s goodness and the world’s chaos fall on those who follow him and those who don’t. His blessing allows us to navigate the chaos that would allow his glory to be more fully formed in us and make us more compassionate for hurting people.

Live by the Spirit, and you can soar with him through the most brutal events life can hurl you. Fight for your way, and you’ll crash into the weeds, angry and disillusioned.

I was with a friend recently going through a stressful time with challenges and uncertainties in his circumstances. As I often do, I asked them what Jesus was showing him?

As most respond, he told me he was praying the answer would show up and trying to apply some Scriptural lessons he had learned.

“But what is Jesus revealing to you about this particular circumstance and how he wants you to go through it?” I asked again.

“I haven’t heard anything from him,” he answered awkwardly.

It’s a conversation I have too frequently. At the heart of the Gospel is this reality: God is coming to find you and invite you into a relationship with him to reveal his glory to you and then through you. That’s the trajectory of a transforming life. Somehow, we’ve traded the incredible adventure of following his ever-present direction for desperate prayers that often go unanswered or cling to our own best wisdom as we apply the Scriptures we think will work for us. On our best day, those won’t be enough.

We need insight from him that shows us a way through the chaos to the life he has for us. It reminds me of something someone said on a podcast with me about dealing with darkness. When the night begins to surround us, it’s easy to chase after the light hoping to catch it.  Think of trying to do that with a sunset. You can pursue the sun westward all you want, but you’ll never catch it. The fastest way through the darkness is to turn east and run toward the rising sun you can’t see yet. Jesus is the only one that can show you how to do that.

So, when the world’s chaos crashes against you with all its fury, don’t think “escape at all costs.” Instead, look to the One who wants to deliver you from its clutches and shape the trajectory of your life through it to his greater glory.

Find that thought he’s giving you that draws you out of the chaos and follow it to the rising sun in the eastern sky.

He’s Got This!

I’m going to let Hilda write my blog today. I received this email from her a few days ago:

I really enjoyed the Urban Mystic podcast you were on. So much of what you said made me sit back quietly and ponder on the ideas. One of those things was “God being on the other side of my brokenness.” It resonates so well with me as this realization is what also changed my life.

I love how Jesus grabbed Peter “at once” when he started to sink. (Matthew 14:31). The accuser’s voice always demands that I reach “perfection” first before receiving God’s approval. What a paradigm shift it is when you realize “He’s got me,” and loves me first. The accuser’s voice does not equal God’s voice.

Thank you for continuously sharing with us your journey with a loving Father. So many times, your voice has helped me to fight the accuser’s voice in some dark moments. I believe this is God’s work and I also know that your sharing words contribute to God’s glory in my life.

The reality of having a performance-driven first part of my life is that I so often find myself a few steps ahead of prayer and ultimately out of sync with Jesus. More than once, I’ve found myself chasing after my well-trained, self-reliant tactics. But, Jesus settled me once again and His words in John 15:5 take on an eternal life-giving meaning: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

When I live in that space of confidence—that God is working through the painful circumstances of my life—I live more at rest than when anxiety takes over, and I think I have to “do something” to fix things. I love coming back to that place of recognizing how powerless I am without him, and though he doesn’t always do things the way I want, he has a plan that will work all things for his good and purpose, which will also be to my ultimate blessing.

He’s got this!  It may not look like it. Everything in you might be raging with fear, but he is already on the other side of your pain, inviting you into his rest and joy.

__________________

By the way, the Urban Mystic podcast mentioned above is one of the best interviews I’ve ever been part of because of the depth of the questions being asked by my two South African hosts.  It allowed me to unpack my journey in a way I’ve never done before, especially how God continued to draw me into the reality of his revelations at crucial points in my journey. If you haven’t heard it yet, you might want to listen to it.

 

 

In the Jaws of Destruction

I was invited to come to Ukraine in 2018 to help people explore the content of He Loves Me, which had earlier been translated into Russian. What a wonderful people and beautiful country! The picture above is off of the cover of a book they gave me in appreciation for my time there. It celebrated the beauty of their country, which has now been destroyed by Russian military aggression. It is estimated that nearly 3,000 Ukrainians have been killed, including over 200 children. Almost three million have fled the country as refugees.

I’ve continued to get updates from those inside and hold the tragedies they experience every day in my heart. No one thought the Ukrainians could hold out this long against Russia’s might. I also hear from my Russian friends who lament this disaster as well.  This is on Putin, not his people. Here’s a look at the inside. It is painful to read but good for our hearts to recognize the profound suffering that others are going through in the world because of greed and human contests for power.  Some of the information below is a few weeks old. I’ve been too preoccupied to work out a blog about it, but I want you to hear what I’m hearing from those inside Ukraine.

Irpin, the city where we had the conference you attended, has been all over the news. Irpin, is considered an evangelical center for all of Ukraine due to the conference centers and seminaries located there.  I heard the place where we gathered was destroyed. It is highly likely considering what the Russians did to the city.

I have known Valeri since 2007 when he passed from his old life as a drug addict and hooligan to his brand-new life in Christ.  He has been a part of rescuing hundreds of men and women from addiction into freedom in Christ. Now he is rescuing hundreds of people from the danger and horror of war. He is currently on another dangerous mission. He is one of many that we know risking their lives to bring people to safety.

Last night a rocket flew into the house of my friend and pastor in Kharkiv and did not explode. The rocket broke through the roof and on the second floor broke up into three parts. The explosive unit fell on the first floor where Serhiy was with deacons and brothers from the church. There were six of them. The power of this missile would have been so great that half of the street would be destroyed by the explosion. Sergei lives on the outskirts of the city. There are only private houses. There are no military or civilian facilities. The shot was intended to kill civilians.

You know from the news about the crimes of the Russian Nazis. Unfortunately, they are committing more and more crimes every day. This only confirms that they did not come to deliver us. They came to destroy us only because we are Ukrainians and because we are a free nation. Russian slaves can’t stand it.

Yesterday my cousin, who lives in Zaporizhzhia, told me about the death of several pastors. They accompanied the humanitarian cargo to the occupied towns of Zaporizhzhia region. They were shot dead. Yesterday our brother in Christ, the father of 6 children was buried. He was killed by Russians. He was a bus driver who evacuated civilians.

In the occupied territories, Russians kidnap people, torture and rape women and girls, and shoot civilians. There are hundreds and possibly thousands of these cases. Our soldiers are buried with great honors in the cities of Ukraine. They are real heroes of Ukraine and the world because they have fought against the evil of the world.

The 45th day of the war lasts. In the early days, the brain refused to accept the fact that Russia had deployed a full-scale war against Ukraine. Now it is only capturing new, scary information that on;y makes the soul ache and the eyes cry. Why have hundreds of children, women, and the elderly in Ukraine become martyrs? Why were they ruthlessly tortured by young people from Russia? Is it a crime to be Ukrainian? How can this happen in the 21st century?

How do children whose parents were tortured in front of their eyes, supposed to live now? How do women who were collectively raped by Russian forces supposed to live? How about those who were forcibly deported to Russia and sent to Siberia as slaves? How, how, how? We hear these questions from Ukrainians every day.

A mother and a 9-year-old boy fled from Gostomel (a city near Kyiv). Their car was shot. The woman died; the boy was later rescued. Here is a letter the boy wrote to his mother after her death: “Mom, this letter is a gift from me to you on March 8! If you think you raised me in vain, you are wrong. Thank you for the best nine years of my life! Thank you for the childhood! You are the best mother in the world! I will never forget you! I wish you happiness in heaven! I wish you to go to paradise. See you in paradise!”

Today we took Galina to Poland from near Kharkiv. She is 78 years old. This woman is a friend of my parents. She was with us for three days. She was injured after the explosions.  “It was very early. I was still asleep when the explosions erupted. The glass in the doors and windows flew out. I didn’t even have time to shout “Lord.” I lay under the bed and asked the Lord to take me to Himself as soon as possible.” This morning she prayed, “Thank you, Lord, for this heavenly home. I was very comfortable here. You understand that after the bombing, for Galina, our ordinary house seemed heavenly. We are glad that we can share a piece of God’s love with those who have suffered from the war. Right now, sevenpeople are living in our house.

In the midst of this, they keep praying every day that the war will end, and yet it drags on day after day with no sign of stopping:

I wish this letter on “War” to be the last one. Thousands of prayers were said in our hearts. Every hour, and even every minute, we await the announcement of the end of this terrible war. We know that you and millions of Christians around the world are praying for an end to the war in Ukraine. We are sincerely grateful to you for sharing our pain with us and all Ukrainians. This pain tears our souls apart. We feel helpless.  Pray for our spirit. Sometimes we feel broken, depressed, and powerless. In every conversation we want to support others, and sometimes we need support.

My heart goes out to them. How often do we lift our prayers with loud cries and tears to God, knowing that what we ask for is only to stop the suffering and pain? What do we do with prayers that go unanswered? Could God stop the war today?  Sure he could. Why doesn’t he?  That’s the question people want answered when they cry out from their pain and want God to fix it.

But God is not the one causing the war, and part of his purpose in redemption lets the chaos of evil seem to win for a season. It’s not because we don’t pray hard enough or aren’t sincere enough.  It has to do with God’s greater purpose in a world that yet needs to be redeemed back to the Father. Somehow the chaos would grow greater if God just fixed everything according to our need for peace and security. He is about far more significant matters, and instead of begging him to do what we want, we’ll find more wisdom and direction by noticing the wind of the Spirit that blows through our circumstances and learning to ride it. He is the Master at bringing great triumph out of horrendous tragedies.

We can pray for the war to end, but we might find greater wisdom and peace waking each day and asking what it is that God is giving us today? What does he want me to know? Who is he giving me to love? How does he want to make himself known in my pain?  The insights gained from those questions will allow you to rise above your circumstances and find peace in your heart regardless of the outcome.

A Miracle of the Father’s Provision

At the end of last week, I got a painful email from our friends in Kenya, reporting on the progress of the 300 children who had been abandoned by parents and other relatives on the doorstep of a school they operate in Forkland to help children who would not get an education otherwise.

This is the same school we helped a couple of years ago to drill a new well when their cistern was contaminated, hitting a deep aquifer that provides a bottled water enterprise that has helped them continue to operate. Six months ago, the government required them to buy more land because they had too many children in the school for the size of their facility, and there was available acreage nearby. Due to your generosity, we were able to provide for that purchase.

Last week, officials from Kenya’s health ministry visited after hearing about the kids camped there. There was great concern about so many children sleeping in classrooms. The officer’s advice to their management was, “If God can open a door, you have the land to put up dorms that can divide the children by age.” They are so congested in the school classrooms that there’s a great danger of disease.

Michael, our contact there, wrote, “I believe God may use the Forkland Village orphans to help our government see what is happening to our children.” While they were so thankful for those who supported this community to help run clean water free of charge to help thousands across the community, they also told us that while Forkland had been the leading community for rates of diseases in that region, since they put in the new well, no disease had been reported.”

So, they began to develop a plan for their extra land to include dormitories and a dining hall.

This is what they asked of us:

  1. Drilling a new well in Bungoma
  2. Monthly food budge
  3. Yearly school support for primary kids
  4. Four Dormitories
  5. Dining hall
  6. Kitchen and food store

Total approximately budget: $130,255

I’ll be honest, upon hearing the need, I was overwhelmed. I was already in the middle of a shocking tragedy at home when I returned from my recent trip to the Carolinas. I have decided to take a few weeks away from my regular schedule and responsibilities to give attention to some critical concerns at home. I told God I just couldn’t take this on, not now. “Would you provide for them with as little help as possible for me?”

But these are orphans, right? Abandoned in the world and in desperate need, how could we not be involved? I asked God again to provide a way without me. Two days later, Sara mentioned a friend of ours who has been incredibly helpful in Kenya before. So, I wrote him and shared this new need to see if he could perhaps pick up half the cost.

I heard back the next morning. Not knowing anything of my personal struggle, he and his wife said they wanted to cover the cost of the entire project. They transferred funds that day into our account and we quickly sent them to Kenya.

I called him up and told him how loved I felt by God in the midst of all that was swirling around me. So, this is not an appeal for funds; it’s a celebration of the Lord’s provision for these young children. I’m sure there will be further needs ahead, and I’m grateful for those of you who continue to give, large gifts and small, to help people who are starving on the far side of the world. And people have helped us from all over—Europe, Africa, Australia, joining those in North America.

So grateful. So, so grateful.

Of course, the need won’t end there. So, if any of you want to help with the continuing needs in Kenya, we are still collecting money to send their way. As always, every dollar you send us gets to the people in Kenya, and all contributions are tax-deductible in the US. We do not take out any administrative or money transfer feesPlease see our Donation Page at Lifestream. Just designate “Kenya” in the “Note” of your donation, or email us and let us know your gift is for Kenya. You can also Venmo contributions to @LifestreamMinistries or mail a check to Lifestream Ministries • 1560 Newbury Rd Ste 1  •  Newbury Park, CA 91320. Or, if you prefer, we can take your donation over the phone at (805) 498-7774.

Kenya, and the Beauty of Silence

I almost want to apologize for the picture at the top of this blog. I know these pictures are used gratuitously to make people feel guilty and give to overseas mission outreaches. I’ve never done that, and that’s not why I use it here. This is one of the orphans we are helping at the Forkland School, one of 300 abandoned there by parents who could no longer care for them due to alcoholism and the deepening drought. It’s a heart-breaker for sure, and I wanted you to hold in your heart a bit of that pain with me. Whether you are able to express generosity here through some excess finances or prayer, both are needed.

We were able to send some money along to help them at this time, though they will need more. The need is ongoing, and they are requesting another well in Bungoma that will help that community get through this drought. but there is joy and gratefulness because of those who were able to help them. You can watch this video of Michael celebrating with the children. (43 seconds)

And I thought I’d leave you with this quote I had in my inbox the other day that I find significant.

The tongue is our most powerful weapon of manipulation. A frantic stream of words flows from us because we are in a constant process of adjusting our public image. We fear so deeply what we think other people see in us that we talk in order to straighten out their understanding. If I have done some wrong thing (or even some right thing that I think you may misunderstand) and discover that you know about it, I will be very tempted to help you understand my action.

Silence is one of the deepest disciplines of the spirit simply because it puts the stopper on all self-justification. One of the fruits of silence is the freedom to let God be our justifier. We don’t need to straighten others out.

Source: Richard J. Foster, Seeking the Kingdom

We waste so much time making sure someone doesn’t say anything bad about us. It wastes so much time trying to correct the manipulation and lies of others. These are far better left in Jesus’ hands and we get on with just living as authentic a life as we can and don’t worry about those who seek to be destructive. As Dallas Willard said toward the end of his life, “I am learning the discipline of not always having to have the last word.” It’s a great freedom. Let Jesus have the last word and invite him to shape this in your heart; he’s the only one who can.

Finally, if you want to help the children in Kenya, we are still collecting money to send their way. As always, every dollar you send us gets to the people in Kenya, and all contributions are tax-deductible in the US. We do not take out any administrative or money transfer fees. Please see our Donation Page at Lifestream. Just designate “Kenya” in the “Note” of your donation, or email us and let us know your gift is for Kenya. You can also Venmo contributions to @LifestreamMinistries or mail a check to Lifestream Ministries • 1560 Newbury Rd Ste 1  •  Newbury Park, CA 91320. Or, if you prefer, we can take your donation over the phone at (805) 498-7774.

Generosity as Justice

I’m on my way to Charlotte this morning for time with God’s people in the area—some have been dear friends for years, and others I’ll be meeting for the first time. I’m so looking forward to this trip. I was going to post a blog about our day-long conversation this coming Saturday about learning to ride the wind of the Spirit as Jesus talked to Nicodemus about in John 3. LINK

I love this new framework that is helping people see more clearly how God deals with them in their own hearts and minds. I love talking about it and am enjoying the process of putting it into a new book I’m writing. Kyle and I will also start covering that framework in a series of occasional podcasts at The God Journey; the first one will air on April 8.

Instead of talking about that, however, I want to share a painful email I read on the way to the airport this morning. It’s another need in Kenya—300 children abandoned or have fled on their own to the Forkland School because their parents can no longer feed them. I’ll let Michael tell you about it below.

But before I do, I found the timing of this interesting. Just yesterday, I was praying with a group of people, and God led us to pray about injustice in the world. We saw it not only in the obvious ways of judicial corruption, the preference our world gives to the wealthy, or the Russian invasion of Ukraine but also in how lack of resources around the world promotes injustice as well. The following letter is a case in point.

Life isn’t fair; suffering often comes to those who are least able to deal with it. The only way I know to compensate for this kind of injustice is through the generosity of those who have more toward those in the world who have less. That’s why I’ve enjoyed what God has asked us to in a small corner of the world. We have been in touch with a group of Kenyans there for more than a decade who have the same heart for my Father that I do, living in a land of great need. Over and over again, many of you have joined us in rescuing orphans or building an economy among tribes whose nomadic way of life was destroyed by a prolonged drought.

Three hundred abandoned children have shown up at the Forkland School. We helped rescue them from contamination in their drinking water and recently purchased land to come into conformity with new laws. Now, they have been overrun with children they can’t care for—

Wayne and Sara, I know you are out taking the message of Christ, and  encouraging the brothers and sisters with the good news. We seek your prayers to see if God can open a group of people who would be willing to help us. We our level best to make sure that we help where necessary but we are overwhelmed and cannot hold our tears tack. Two years of climate change and drought is sweeping through our community. Sometimes we think that northern parts only is where people are startving but now this challenge is affecting our region where 75% of people depend on farming.

I cannot have full food in my plate while my neighbor or an orphan staying next to me who has gone three days without eating. Those who are starvng come and sit at my door with shame at having brought their children because they are dying. This is happening at my home in Bungoma. My wife and I have no way to escape this. Some wells have dried up and might might bring diseases such as typhoid and cholera. The children walk over four kilometers to get water for washing utensils and for bathing in jerrican as you see in the attached picture. So it is our prayer that if God will open the door and have somebody help us to drill and get a hand pump for water.

I want to thank God so much for the Lifestream team for what you did in Forkland for helping this community with water from the Forkland project. You have done much for the Kenyan family and innocent children by investing your life and resources for the people you do not know.  We cannot forget what you did here and that legacy will never be removed in the heart of people and also it will be a reminder in the eyes of God forever. Many lives has been rescued from deaths and calamities. Thousand of people there have been transformed both spiritual, socially and physically all over the northern parts. We are not doing this for our own glory, benefits or pleasure, but we are doing this with the fearless mind of God.  We are like  a drop of ink in the ocean but we are just doing this by the grace of God because we know that in this life we are the stranger we need to put our treasure where moth and rust can not destroy.

When we share this long story we don’t glorify you or anybody else but we just acknowledge for what the Lord has done through all of us to accomplish his will. Jesus knew that it is not by our ability but by the grace which He will give us to help us in the time of need. So, by the grace of God we can love, not by our ability but his. All of your messages have really encouraged us to depend totally on him.

Over 300 children have run from the community; they came groups after groups. Some slept two days without eating; all of these children are between 7 and 16. Many have alcoholic parenst and had dropped out of school because of  fees. Some do forced labor making alcohol in order to be given food, and some girls endured sexual abuse with big men who defiled them, infecting them with HIV and AIDs.

Thomas has acted alongside with community health workers and volunteers to help them with medication and counseling. The big numbers are orphans because there parents died because of HIV and were rejected by there relatives. Many of these children they have only clothes. They don’t have shoes, blanket, mattress or other basic needs. The community elders have said that those children need to remain here for some time, as the church find the solution for them.

We have an urgent need for food, clothing, mattresses, shoes, and medication for 301 children (201 boys and 100 girls) The total need right now is $9,580.

It seems the needs in Kenya are unending, but it hurts my heart to think of 300 children living in fear, alone, without parental support, and starving. If you want to help them, we are collecting some money to send their way. As always, every dollar you send us gets to the people in Kenya, and all contributions are tax-deductible in the US. We do not take out any administrative or money transfer fees. Please see our Donation Page at Lifestream. Just designate “Kenya” in the “Note” of your donation, or email us and let us know your gift is for Kenya. You can also Venmo contributions to @LifestreamMinistries or mail a check to Lifestream Ministries • 1560 Newbury Rd Ste 1  •  Newbury Park, CA 91320. Or, if you prefer, we can take your donation over the phone at (805) 498-7774.

Thank you for helping us help them.

A Difficult But Joyful Task

Sara and I are taking this week off for a trip to Colorado, including some time with our son. And, as soon as I get back, I’ll be headed into the Carolinas for a couple of weeks. On Saturday, April 2, I’m going to host a day-long conversation at a farm near Lake Wylie, SC for those who want to explore what it means to ride the wind of the Spirit above the most distressing circumstances in our life. You can get more details about that and my other stops here. Also, watch for upcoming trips to Austin, TX, into the upper midwest, and possibly into New England.

Before I go, however, let me leave you with this…

Bob Prater, Arnita Taylor, and I, coauthors of A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation, just completed another six-week workshop for a college trying to take a reasoned and compassionate approach to racism on campus. We help them explore the issues affecting their campus and what they can do to help remedy the legitimate concerns. I wish you could have heard the stories of a Palestinian mom who was delighted when her daughter had the white skin color of her American father, so she wouldn’t have to face the same judgments and insensitive comments she has faced. One young woman told of how her parents made her brother lay down on the car’s floorboard in certain situations because he took after the native American side of the family, while she didn’t have to because she looked white. Regretfully, skin tone influences how people are perceived.

I know some of you have not appreciated some of my postings on the racial divide. I hear from a few of you. Some have called me a Marxist (I’m clearly not), others a leftist (nope, not that either), or that I think most police are corrupt (again, not true) simply because I express a concern for the racial inequities that still exist in our culture. Two years ago, our society was primed to have a healing conversation about race after George Floyd’s murder. Unfortunately, our political realities made a constructive dialogue impossible for the broader culture. People only hardened into their previously held perspectives. Admittedly, it is a difficult discussion to have since extremist groups have so polarized it on both sides. I feel bad for those who only see this issue in terms of political power and not compassion for fellow humans whose skin tone adversely affects their ability to live freely and gain equal opportunity in our culture.

It doesn’t look like there’s a political answer here that will fly these days, but that doesn’t mean we as individuals can’t open our hearts a bit wider, engage in one-on-one conversations that can move the needle, and encourage conversations of healing among the people we influence.

Words like equity, fragility, and privilege can trigger strong reactions. But my heart is encouraged by those who look like me who are taking a longer look and discovering there is something to be explored beyond the agendas of those on the extremes. For those of us in the dominant culture, we can listen to those with darker skin tones and understand how that is treated in our broader culture. We can steward the advantages we have to ensure that others have the same opportunities that we have. I am far more excited about those of you who are engaging in this conversation than I am discouraged by those who resist it.

I want to share two emails with you I received about our book and the discussions around it. One is from a medical doctor and what he is learning:

I am very grateful for you and how you have influenced my spiritual journey. The God Journey podcasts, your books, and getting to experience Israel with you and a wonderful group of new friends. All of these have touched me in profound ways. The book on polarization you wrote with Arnita and Bob- ‘A Language of Healing..,” really challenged my thinking. Last year after George Floyd was killed, I decided to take a few minutes with my black patients during the end of their appointment and ask them how they were doing in light of what had happened. It was difficult to do given the schedule and how I can easily get behind. But it was worth it. I probably listened to about 25 or so patients and it was remarkable that nearly all of them had personal stories about their negative experiences with law enforcement or one of their family members. My goal was to listen and learn. I don’t think I would have even thought of doing this had it not been for reading your book. So thank you for being a part of this project.

If we can just begin to listen and care for those adversely impacted by the inequities in our culture, some incredible things can happen.

The other is an exchange I had with a woman in Wisconsin after hearing the last Zoom session I did with Bob Prater and Arnita Taylor a year or so ago. Arnita mentioned one of the questions she likes to ask people who want to discuss race with her is, “How are you stewarding your privilege?” Their response to the question gives her insight into the potential direction and value of an ongoing conversation.

Could help me to understand what it means to steward my white privilege?  I am looking at identifying the many ways I have white privilege which in itself eye opening. I am having difficulty understanding how I would steward those privileges. I feel as if I am getting into the weeds with this. Could you help me to understand?

Here is my response:  

“What a great question! Learning to steward our privilege is a learning experience. First, we’ve got to recognize we have one. Then, instead of feeling guilty, we steward it by helping marginalized groups have the same privilege we enjoy. How we do that depends on who we are and what influence we have. It may be as simple as an encouraging word or a cup of cold water or venturing the difficult communication with someone who is being racially dismissive.

“What it means for each of us has to be discovered, not explained. Ask Father about it. Ask him to show you as your life unfolds during the day. Build some relationships with marginalized people and ask them for ideas that they think would be helpful coming from you.

I love that you’re exploring this. You’ll learn lots.”

She responded:

I can do that. Ask him to show me and watch for things to unfold. I also really love what you said here, “Build some relationships with marginalized people and ask them for ideas that they think would be helpful coming from you.” Especially the part of asking someone for ideas that they think would be helpful coming from me. That really fits, because I don’t know. If I pretend to know I’ll really be in the weeds slopping around.  Asking someone for ideas that they think would be helpful speaks of adventure and discovery.

I wrote a long list of my white privilege. Some of them blew my mind. The more I wrote the more I uncovered. Sure, I’m not done with that list, but it’s a start. I’ve got to say I did cry through part of the process. Not sure if it’s guilt or sorrow. Whatever it is I’m going to trust it. I can feel him in this with me, so I’m going to trust the tears.

I love that she thought through how her whiter skin has opened doors for her that others might not have the same access because of their skin tone. Proximity, courage, compassion, and integrity on the part of people like us are so vital if we’re going to make a dent in the racial angst of our culture since our political leaders are too polarizing to do anything about it themselves.

The Best Conversation I’ve Ever Had…

I couldn’t fit it all in the title, but this is the best recorded conversation about my spiritual journey that I’ve ever had. I’ve been waiting to share it with you since we recorded it in late November. It just dropped this past Friday, and I’m so excited that others can now hear it.

Tim and Steve, both from South Africa (though one is now living in the Netherlands), asked if they could record a podcast with me about my spiritual journey for their podcast, The Urban Mystic. When I appear on podcasts other than my own, I let my hosts control where the conversation will go. What made this conversation so fascinating were the questions they kept asking that continued to drill down on how my relationship with God had developed over the trajectory of my life. They get into heart issues and how I recognized God opening new doors into his reality. They also wanted to parse out the lessons that would be most helpful to the listener in identifying how God is building a relationship with them.

When we finished recording, I sat back in my desk chair, a bit overwhelmed by what we had talked about and so excited that it was recorded. This is the message I most want to leave in the world. I have no idea why it took them so long to post it, and I was so grateful to see it appear last week.

Here’s how they described it on their podcast:

Here is another bonus episode for you of quality conversation with a wise and humble guest, Wayne Jacobsen. Wayne generously gave us an hour and a half of his time to explore his experience, his thinking and current work and life. Wayne leads us to “new spiritual trailheads” as he works with “hungry people” – hungry people who are interested and yearning for engagement with God. It is a conversation which covers more than 40 years of life history; so a rich and insightful tapestry.

It actually covers more than 60 years, and you can listen to it on Podbean or Apple Podcasts.

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In Other News:

We have found someone who will begin to carry on The Breath of Fresh Air emails encouragements that we’ve been sending out. Traci had been selecting those quotes for the past eighteen months, and now a friend from Texas, who shall remain nameless, wanted to pick up the mantle for the next season. So it will take us a bit to get restarted, but for those of you who have signed up, you’ll be receiving the thrice-weekly email to encourage you on your own journey.

Also, it looks like there will be some travel ahead. This month Sara and I will be in Colorado Springs to visit our son and make some personal connections. There’s no gathering planned yet, but we could do one on Sunday afternoon/evening if there’s any interest. Next month, I’ll be in Greenville, SC, Charlotte, NC, and some of the surrounding area. I’m also looking at some trips that may take me into Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, New England, Texas (Austin), and Virginia again. Keep an eye on the Travel Page or sign up for Travel Notifications if a trip comes together near you.

No Better Place to Be

There’s probably not a week that goes by or a trip I take where these two questions don’t come up. This email asked them as succinctly and clearly as they’ve ever been asked. I thought some of you might also be interested in the answers. I hope that someday I’ll be able to travel somewhere and not have these questions come up. Religion has put so much fear into humanity that we miss the more critical things Scripture teaches us—that the Father behind all this is incredibly trustworthy to sort out all things with love and justice we can’t even imagine.

The message of salvation is that there is no safer place for us to be than in the palm of his hand, yielding to his desires for us.

If God loves people so much, then why does He not stop horrible things from happening to them? As for this first question, I am mostly at peace in my heart. Scriptures, the voice of the Holy Spirit, your writings and podcasts—all of these things have played a huge role in helping me understand that horrible things happen to people as a result of living in a fallen world, not because God sits by and “allows” them. In my own experience, I’ve seen what God is able to accomplish in us through these difficulties that probably would not be accomplished any other way. I still hurt for people who have experienced more pain, abuse, and heartache than I could ever imagine. But the Holy Spirit helps to direct my thoughts on these things now, even though my human ability to understand is limited.

That’s a timeless question and difficult to answer. We’re trying to put human-sized brains into a God-sized reality. There’s something about the gravity of pain in our world that draws people to him, and there’s something about free will on a planet he gave us that makes us victims of the free will of others. It is the source of evil in the world, and evil does have consequences even for innocent victims. And some people bear a disproportionate weight of that pain. We are assured that his love is bigger than anything this world can deal out to us and that he can work good out of very tragic events, until the end when the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God! What a great day that will be when Jesus gets the last word on everyone and everything. He just hasn’t had it yet.

In the meantime, when you know others who suffer more deeply than you do, don’t seek an answer in trying to figure out if they have deserved this in some way. Instead, find a way for you to lighten their load, salve their pain, and provide for them. Handle your struggles inside his love and help others with their suffering by inviting them inside your love. That’s all we know, but it’s enough to get up today and go out and love in the world.

I’m confident enough in God’s love and character now that I don’t let it eat away at me. In fact, I’m able to hold it fearlessly before the Lord and ask Him to help me understand. But I’d still really like to hear your thoughts on it. It’s one of the things my husband says drove him to question, and ultimately walk away from, God. If God loves people so much, how can He send people to hell who have never even been given the chance to accept or reject Christ? People in remote places who’ve never heard even the name Jesus, as well as people in populated places who have experienced so much pain (abuse, neglect, etc.) that they have absolutely no frame of reference to connect with a loving God. See, when I encounter this pain, I am almost in a panic to get out there and spread the love of Jesus, so people can know how real it is. But then I become completely overwhelmed by the sheer number of people in need of this. And that’s when I’m faced with this question. There are so many people. Will Jesus make Himself known to every person somehow, in some way?

Your question is based on a number of assumptions that I am not convinced are true.

(a) God doesn’t send people to hell. He is doing everything he can to rescue people out of it. Hell is not God’s punishment; it is the culmination of sin’s destructive power. He’s the rescuer in the story, not the punisher.

(b) Who knows how many are lost to destruction, and how many turn their hearts to him in the face of death? I’ve seen and read countless stories of people turning to him at their last breath. So, we just don’t know how many he gets to redeem even at the very end.

(c) With a loving and just God, I’m sure everyone will have their chance however God makes himself known to them. I don’t think it is up to us, but at the same time letting his light shine through us to others opens a wider door for them to come to know him. So, we’re part of it, just not the whole part, or even the biggest part. I also know that sharing God with the world through our panicked fear will not win them anyway to his heart. Notice that Jesus didn’t do anything like that when he was here. He stayed in one relatively small area, sharing with those God had given him. Those at rest in his love and confident in his work are in the best place to present the Gospel to others around them.

And (d) as to the existence of hell itself, I don’t claim to have the after-life all sorted out anymore. The Scriptures on heaven and hell are some of the most difficult to interpret, and while some of them seem to contradict each other, I know that can’t be true. I believe Scripture is describing a reality too marvelous for us to understand from our limited perspective here. So we see hints of the joys of eternity and the consequences of sin’s devastation. But I wonder if heaven is really about mansions and streets of gold and if hell is a place of eternal torment for unregenerate humanity. Revelation calls it a “second death.” Could it be where the devil and his host are contained and others consumed? I don’t think Scripture is crystal clear on any of that.

What I have come to know through the Scripture is a Father wise and gracious enough that I can entrust all to him. He is so incredibly loving, so full of wisdom and righteousness, and so committed to justice that when we finally see how it all plays out, we will turn to each other and say, “Wasn’t that the most incredible way he could have done it? We’ll see he was loving and just all in a way we would never conceive. Every factor was accounted for, and he has proved himself to be the God above all Gods, abounding in lovingkindness that mercy and endures forever.”

That really is enough for me to lay all these questions and all the others I have in his hands. He is the potter after all, and we are the clay. He’s promised us enough wisdom and grace to navigate each day’s challenges, but not to answer all our fears and curiosities about the future.

The more we know him as the Father he is, the less any unanswered question will disrupt us.

Voices from Ukraine

My post yesterday brought a load of response from people in the know about what the Ukrainians are facing and how you can best help them.  Check the comments in my previous blog if you want to hear about other places you can send funds.

First, this is from Timmy, the friend who coordinated my trip to Ukraine in 2018. He has been engaged with the people there for over twenty-six years:

Reliant, is sending 100% of all donations to Ukraine. I am one of two people giving primary oversight to the fund. We help with evacuations, lodging, and food for refugees, but also are helping with people who are sheltering in place. We also put resources into the hands of people who are ministering and caring for people on the frontlines. Because there are so many needs and the resources have a limit, we are trying to first care well for people within our relational circles. So far, we can still get funds to people in Ukraine immediately. Here is the link to help:  https://reliant.org/ukraine.relief.fund

He is in touch with many people throughout Ukraine and this is his summary:

It is horrific beyond words. What is shown on the news is sanitized. It is gut-wrenching to have thousands of people that you know, and hundreds of close friends in some kind of unimaginable crisis. In this day and age, we are getting real time information of friends who are in bomb shelters hearing missiles overhead and constant air raids, ones who are trying to flee and cannot get on the train or a bridge is blown out and they have to find a new a way in their car.

Thousands of people we know are hiding in bomb shelters, are living in constant danger, and many are frantically trying to flee the country. Putin has uprooted and destroyed the lives of tens of millions of people, and their suffering is immeasurable. Words cannot express how gut wrenching and heart breaking it is to know the horrors which our friends and all the people of Ukraine are experiencing.

One dear friend who was at the conference with you, sat on the border for 80 hours cramped in a cold car with his family. He is glad to have made it out, but his parents and his sister’s family are hunkered down in Kyiv amidst constant shelling, and he asks “but what now? What will we do?” Another family you know dhas had some shelling where they live in the West, but they look at what is happening with the war and prepare for the worst, while caring for as many as they can that have fled Kyiv and cities east of them.

I could go on and on with the horrible information we receive hour after hour.  Close to forty–eight million people’s lives have been completely uprooted and changed forever in the past week. We care about them and we deeply love them. We are praying and we are doing all we can to help them by raising funds, and coordinating relief to meet their needs for travel, housing, food, and basic necessities. You can help them at the Reliant fund:  https://reliant.org/ukraine.relief.fund

This email came in today from one of the Ukrainian families I met there who live in the western side of Ukraine. This is :

It is the 8th day of the war. It seems to us that this is the 8th week. Half an hour ago I talked to my brother-in-law, who is the pastor of the church in Kharkiv. His family is now in Poland, and he himself remained in Kharkiv. It has been heavily bombed. People are dying. A man and a woman died today on the way to the maternity hospital. She was to give birth to twins. The children were saved by doctors, but they are orphans from birth.

Many people are hiding from the bombing of Russian planes at subway stations. Alexander said that this is a poignant spectacle. The whole floor of the station is filled with people sitting, lying down, eating … People are upset and depressed. Putin and his demons continue to convince their people that the Ukrainian military is doing this.

Yesterday, I asked the Lord how much more we have to endure and I understood the following. We must endure this terrible war until the full enlightenment of all the people of Ukraine and all Western countries comes. Many Ukrainians before this war sympathized with Putin and Russia. In a few days the situation changed dramatically.

Western countries flirted with Putin, and used him as a prostitute to satisfy their business interests. We hope that the whole civilized world has seen. Of course, the enlightenment of the Russians is yet to come, but I hope that we will no longer have to endure the bombing because of them. Only God can give them insight.

This day passed quietly for our region. We continue to help refugees reach the borders, looking for those who can accept them in Europe. Today, the military in the city was provided with water and food. We pray unceasingly and believe that the Lord will give us victory.

Our whole family, church and Ukraine are infinitely grateful to you for your prayers and all your help.

Help for Ukraine

The picture above was taken at a gathering I was part of outside Kyiv in Ukraine in 2018. I find my heart grieving every day for this war and what it may mean for them and their families. I’ve written about them before and in response I’ve got a lot of questions as to the current events there. Many have asked me if I’ve heard from my connections in Ukraine since all of this happened.  I have not. I’m sure they have more important things on their hands.

It is a horrible thing to watch every night on the news the destruction of this country by a dictator that is willing to destroy so many lives and so much property for his political ambitions. It has been difficult to watch western leaders take so long to take this threat seriously and to help the Ukrainian people. I know nothing more than what you’re seeing in the news. I have marveled at the bravery of Ukraine’s president and the people who are standing for their freedom at great personal risk and cost. We are seeing the best and worst of humanity in one event.

I don’t know how to pray here, except with groaning too deep for words and in the Spirit. I want his glory to be revealed even in the atrocities fallen humanity creates for others. It is our long history of humanity that the strongman forces his will on the weaker. It happens all the time in our world, not just in wars by megalomaniacs, but in the abuse, exploitation, theft and murder that goes on every day all over the world. Thus, it will be until the Creator of all brings this world to conclusion. Who knows, but that this may be the start of a final chapter in earth’s history? Or maybe not! Maybe it’s just yet another bully causing mayhem for others. It has made my heart cry out even more for the end of days and the coming of the true King of the earth.

Others asked if I know of ways to help.  I do not have any direct ways myself, but an LA Times article this week shared a list of links from California organizations that are helping there.  I’m also including them below if you’re interested in helping financially. I’m not vouching for any of these organizations, how how much administrative fees they take out before getting your gift to Ukraine, but here are some ways to help:

https://www.rsukraine.org/ Revived Soldiers Ukraine. This organization funds medication and medical supplies for field and army hospitals at the front lines of eastern Ukraine.

https://internationalmedicalcorps.org/updates/we-are-helping-people-affected-by-conflict-in-ukraine/ International Medical Corps. The Los Angeles-based organization provides emergency relief to those struck by conflict, disaster and disease.

https://www.directrelief.org/ Direct Relief. The Santa Barbara-based organization distributes donated medicine and medical supplies.

https://novaukraine.org/ Nova Ukraine has several humanitarian efforts, including Heart2Heart, which assembles and delivers aid packages to Ukraine.

https://hromada.us/anhelyk/ Hromada. This San Francisco-based organization runs a charity, the Anhelyk Foundation, that supports the children of families whose parents died in the fighting in eastern Ukraine.

https://www.icrc.org/en/where-we-work/europe-central-asia/ukraine International Committee of the Red Cross. The Red Cross humanitarian work aims to help people rebuild their lives and cope with the wider consequences of conflict.

https://www.unicef.org/appeals UNICEF. UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children appeal helps provide conflict- and disaster-affected children with access to water, sanitation, nutrition, health and safety services.

https://www.care.org/?_ga=2.184369062.1254726457.1645744339-2081229836.1645744339  CARE is an international organization that fights global poverty with emergency response and long-term development projects.