Politics Divide; Only Love Redeems

“How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust, and has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.” Psalm 40:4

Honestly, I couldn’t help it. I read this a few Sunday mornings ago, and the first thought in my head was “President Trump.” He creates more fake news than he complains about, and his pride is legendary. Even many who love President Trump will admit he’s often his own worst enemy.

He also came to mind because of all the emails, videos, and articles people have sent me lately, declaring him the hope to save Christianity in America. Many of these are embellished with supernatural dreams, angelic visitations, and direct words from God saying a vote for Trump is a vote for God and revival in America, and a vote for Biden is a vote against God’s kingdom. Without President Trump, they say, the U.S. will become a godless, communist wasteland.

People are even saying that God is telling us to distinguish between the man’s flaws and the mantle of anointing he carries from God to destroy those who oppose his people. I’ve never read such ridiculous double-talk in my life. “Don’t look at the fruits of a man’s life to gauge his measure.” We’re supposed to ignore all of that in the misguided belief that God uses him as a tool for his purposes.  These usually come with grave warnings, like, “To the degree that you judge the man, is the degree that the Lord will judge us. Don’t get in God’s way.”

I’m sorry, this does not pass the sniff test for me. None of it has Father’s fragrance about it—not what they are saying or how they are saying it. It is easy to make up dreams and visitations and pass them off as coming from God or to want something so badly you convince yourself God is telling you what you want to hear. These “warnings” have confused many because even though they have reservations about voting to re-elect the President, they don’t want to vote against God’s will.  They assume people talking to angels must be closer to God than they are. Some are even afraid that if we don’t re-elect President Trump, we invite God’s judgment on our nation.

When they ask what I think of all of this, my answer is the same. “Follow your heart, not your fears.” If you think re-electing President Trump is the right thing for our nation, then vote for him. If you can’t vote for him in good conscience because of his lack of character and lack of respect for anyone who thinks differently than he does, vote for someone else. Don’t listen to the manipulative taunts and threats of those who want to control your vote, especially if they claim to speak for God. Anyone who tells you that you will be working against God’s kingdom if you don’t vote for President Trump is a false prophet. Their motive may seem genuine, but they are genuinely deluded. And I would say the same of anyone who would tell you in God’s name to vote for Joe Biden or anyone else.

You may have good reasons to vote for Trump. You like his judicial appointments, his confrontations with China, his economic policies, and his repeal of government overreach in business regulations. I like many of those things myself. I voted for him in 2016. It was not an easy vote; I hoped the Christians supporting him would influence his behavior, and he would rise to the office. Unfortunately, he has not, and if there’s been any influence, it has run the other way. I see more of my evangelical friends becoming more like Trump when they attempt to bully others into agreeing with them. 

Many of them think we needed someone of President Trump’s abrasive personality to stand up to Democrats, the mainstream media, and the so-called “deep state.” I sense a certain delight that he is treating their “enemies’ the way they wish they could if they were not constrained (and unfortunately, they see it as a constraint) by love and grace.  That view is woefully misguided; for me, character matters even more than political platforms. Now, I wouldn’t suggest the Democrats are the paragon of virtue. Far from it, especially in light of some recent allegations about Biden’s business dealings with China. I don’t know if our cultural civility can survive another four years of bullying, mocking, and disdaining fellow Americans. He has proved to be the wrong President during this pandemic and the call for an honest conversation about racial equity in America. He delights in dividing Americans rather than appealing to our better angels.

For me, this election is bigger than whether President Donald Trump would serve my interests better than Vice President Joe Biden. Unless evangelicals have the courage to repudiate Trump’s divisive and demeaning character, they will wear his reputation around their necks for generations to come. How can they ever again speak convincingly on the importance of moral character in leadership when they dismissed it in deference to gaining the political power they wanted?

Over my lifetime, I’ve seen the people who most advance God’s kingdom hold themselves with humility, respect, and compassion, just like our Founder did. You can be firm and gracious while moving toward change without disrespecting those who disagree with you.

So, vote for him if you think he’s the best choice to represent America in the world, but don’t make the mistake of putting your hope in him to save Christianity or the nation. The same will be true if you put your hope in Vice President Biden.

God has not placed his hope in either candidate or even in our politics. His kingdom comes on the shoulders of one person—Jesus. That’s the only place your hope belongs. If you put it anywhere else, not only will you be devastated if your candidate loses, you’ll also be distracted if he wins. Sadly, you’ll find yourself invested in another kingdom. Politics divide even Christians from each other; only love can heal and redeem at the same time.

When all the votes are finally counted,  Jesus will still ask us to wake up the next day and to love one another, our enemies, as much as our friends.

Maybe we could start that today, especially if you do disagree with what I have written.

Language of Healing Live – 2 pm (PDT) Today

In a week or so, this contentious U.S. election will be over and regardless of which side wins the election, how do we recover from the polarization that has been fostered during this campaign?

That will be our topic this afternoon on another episode of Language of Healing Live at 2:00 pm PDT.  I’ll be joined by my coauthors of A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation, Bob Prater and Arnita Taylor. Paul Swearengin, the author of the edgy novel Jospeh Comes to Town and host of The Non partisan Evangelical Podcast will guide our discussion.

We will be streaming live at the Language of Healing Discussion Group on Facebook, and I will post that feed on my Wayne Jacobsen Page on Facebook as well. Language of Healing Live is a continuing series of video conversations to help people learn to live more generously in this divided world. You can view previous ones here.

Join us there live, or watch the video after, which I’ll post here when we’ve finished.

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Personal note:  If you’ve read A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation, and find it worthy to pass on to your family and friends, please consider downloading and reposting the graphic above. We are passionate in the mission to help people have a different conversation than the angry and fearful rhetoric we hear from both sides.  Thanks. 

Putting Some Encouragement Into Your Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Did You Enjoy Your Breath of Fresh Air This Week?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Breath of Fresh Air

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Busting Up Your Bias – Going Live Today at 2 pm

How do our perceptions of people groups who may be of a different color, different faith, or different sexuality affect how we relate to them? Many people can’t recognize their own biases, especially those that lead to injustice and unfairness for others. Recognizing we all have biases and learning how to manage them is an important facet to being a voice for healing in our culture.

We’re exploring how we can do that today on Language of Healing Live at 2:00 pm PDT.  I’ll be joined by my coauthors of A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation, Bob Prater and Arnita Taylor. Evan Taylor, Arnita’s oldest son, will guide our discussion today and others will join us in the Zoom room for a compelling conversation about compassion in a divided world. This conversation is drawn from Chapter 10.  This content couldn’t be more appropriate for the environment we find ourselves in today.

Language of Healing Live is a continuing series of bi-weekly video conversations to help people learn to live more generously in this divided world. You can view previous ones here.  We will be streaming live at the Language of Healing Discussion Group on Facebook, and I will attempt to post that feed on my Wayne Jacobsen Page on Facebook as well.

Join us there live, or watch the video after, which I’ll post here when we’ve finished.

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Also, Part 13 of Embracing His Glory dropped today over at The God Journey. This is a continuing series about learning to live loved and transformed by the work of Christ. If you haven’t been in on it, start at the beginning. It will make more sense. There is only one more episode coming in this series.

A Conversation We Desperately Need

One of the big themes for A Language of healing for a Polarized Nation is the importance of nuance. Political realities in our world push us toward one extreme or the other—binary thinking. It’s all or nothing! Those narratives are killing us.

Last night, I had dinner with a police friend of mine. Hearing him talk about the difficulty of doing his job today broke my heart. If there is any engagement between a person of color and a police officer, it is assumed the officer is racist even if the suspect is a danger to others around him. And, they know if something goes wrong, they will get little support from society or their superiors. Morale is at an all-time low.

I also have conversations with my African American friends and hear the fear in their voices of what could happen to their children if they engage law enforcement. I see the pain in their eyes when they recite the names of young black men and women who have been unnecessarily killed in those engagements.

And we can’t seem to find a healthy way to talk about the problem so we can fix it. Why is it that if there’s a disturbance in my neighborhood, I am reassured when a police officer rolls onto the scene, and others feel threatened, even though they’ve done nothing wrong? More importantly, how do we responsibly fix that?

That’s the conversation we need to be having as a culture—truly listening to each other’s concerns and finding the place to make substantive changes for a better society. But most people aren’t having that conversation, not if you listen to the media or to our political parties. They are caught in the throes of a presidential election, where both candidates and their supporters are using the current unrest to their political advantage even if it further divides us with fear and mistrust. Citizens are using violence on both sides without regard to law and order as we tap dance on the precipice of another civil war. 

We had no idea our country would be in such turmoil when we published A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation only a few months ago. We are grateful that many people and institutions have found our book and are using it to explore more wholesome conversations about the issues that divide us. Here’s what we got from one reader recently:

A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation is an amazing book. You not only created the best format for a multi-author book but also created a space where people can have transformative conversations. Our culture desperately needs this message. The practical steps you provided in each chapter gave me hope that change can really happen. We do not have to agree with someone to show compassion, love, and engagement.

Kyle, a reader in Colorado

Over the past few months, I’ve been involved in numerous conversations where people want to explore the nuances of our current crisis and bring people together to find solutions. I’ve done Language of Healing Live Zoom conversations to help explore those options. I’ve been asked to be a guest at many on-line book groups who are studying our book. I am convinced the vast majority of people want to have a different conversation. That’s why over the last few months Bob Prater, Arnita Taylor, and I have worked on a companion to our original book to help people conduct small group discussions about our book.

You asked us to create this resource, and today we are pleased to announce the publication of A Language of Healing Conversation Guide. This new resource will help small groups of people in neighborhoods, businesses, and schools create a safe space for people to talk with each other instead of shouting at each other. It is hot off the presses and is also available at Amazon or in discount bulk pricing at Blue Sheep Media, our publishers.

This guide can help you and people you know…

  • to speak your own language of healing in your corner of the world,
  • to reach out to people beyond our regular sphere of relationships, and
  • to think proactively about how you might respond in difficult situations to disarm the tension and build bridges of honest dialogue and compassion.

Don’t let the media or politicians control the conversation here. Find some people you know and take the risk to discuss this book with them. You’ll be surprised at how it can turn the conversation from one of rancor and fear to mutual respect and understanding.

You can order the new Conversation Guide here.

 

Perfectly in Process

Remember that song I wrote about a few weeks ago, that uplifting melody playing softly in the background of the chaos going on around us? I hope you’re still listening, leaning into its rhythm, and letting its lyrics soften your soul? The more I give place to that song in my heart, the more easily the lies and illusions that prey on my anxiety or fears dissolve into nothingness.

One of those lies I hear people often struggle with is, “I should be further along by now.”

The enemy has so many ways to accuse us, and he is most despicable when he uses our best hungers against us. Of course, we all want to be further along than we are. Don’t you wish that your motives were pure, that you always know how to respond in any situation, that your thoughts and actions were always laced with grace, and that you knew the answers to all the questions banging around your head? I know I do.

But none of that is more critical than being settled in his love and letting it have its work in you. Notice how that one little lie will immediately draw you out of that love and focus on your failures and struggles. To fall for it is to submit yourself to the law again and to feel the crushing defeat of your inability to perform to whosever expectations you hold for yourself.

His song invites us into the moment to celebrate the process of transformation he is working in each of us. Jesus had no expectations that you would be flawless today. You’re not. I’m not. Flawless is still out beyond the horizon somewhere, but that doesn’t mean you’re not perfectly in process. He already sees you as his beloved son or daughter, knowing who you are in him and what you will yet become in his love. He knows the weaknesses that still entangle you, the lies you can’t yet see through, and the choices that still draw you into the darkness. He loves you nonetheless. He looks at this day as another opportunity to walk with you into a bit more of the light of his freedom and glory.

This was always going to be a process because he delights in reshaping your heart and renewing your mind. That process unfolds best when we celebrate it, rather than give in to the frustration of battles not yet won, hopes not yet fulfilled, or brokenness not yet mended. He is already healing. He is already opening the eyes of your heart, and he is pouring his strength into you.

So your words, thoughts, and actions will not be perfect today. You’ll be weak at times, and have those awkward moments where you hunger for wisdom you don’t yet have and for justice you can’t see. But you can see him, and yourself perfectly in his process of winning you into his love and teaching you how to ride its currents through the circumstances you’re in.

“But can’t I mess up this process?” some ask. Of course. We all can and have. But Jesus is bigger than our mistakes, our delays, and even our stubbornness. If he isn’t stronger than those things, what hope have we? He understands our fits and starts, and each day is willing to begin afresh, drawing us ever more into his glory. As the saying goes, “The best time to plant an oak tree was twenty-five years ago; the next best time is to plant one today.”

Regardless of where you’ve gotten lost in days gone by, today you can quiet your heart, tune into his glorious melody, and let your life fall into its rhythms. 

Rather than berating yourself for not being further along, rejoice in how far you’ve come. Instead of being frustrated with your weakness, put your hope in his strength at work in you. Instead of regretting where you’ve missed him, be grateful for what he has shown you and what he has transformed in you. 

Relax in the process, and you’ll find yourself making better progress. 

Coming Home to the Sierras

I look forward every year to our time in the Sierras where my 95-year-old father lives. I love everything about this area—the pines and cedars, granite boulders, the blue water of an alpine lake, a starry night sky clear enough to see the Milky Way with ease, wild lupin, the crunching of dirt, pine needles, and sticks underfoot, and the scent of buckbrush wafting on a gentle breeze. My dad and I saw a deer with a young fawn the other day scurry into the trees.

No place on earth beckons my heart as much as the High Sierras.  For me, this is one of those “thin places”, where the distance between the temporal and the eternal doesn’t seem so distant, and it’s a bit easier to sense God’s presence in the Creation and my own heart.  I think clearer here, listen better here, and I’m sure that’s aided by trying not to do too much “work” here. These are our days of vacation and restoration.

We also have a lot of fun with family—long walks with Sara, a conversation with my dad, or enjoying my daughter and her family as they come up to spend a chunk of time with us.  We enjoy playing in the lake, enjoying games in the cabin, and swapping stories over dinner.

That’s why things have been quiet here and why I’m backlogged on answering emails. I’ve got little time or inclination to spend lots of time on a computer here. I did, however, just finish a re-reading of Ruth and how God does such good work out of the messes we make. God didn’t want Israel to intermarry with nonJewish people in their area. Nonetheless, they do. One man moves to Moab and his sons marry Moabite women. After a number of years, the father and both sons tragically die. Because of the faithfulness of one of those wives, Ruth,  to her widowed mother-in-law, God graciously opens a new door for her. She marries Boaz, a wealthy Israelite, and then she becomes part of the lineage of David, and ultimately of Jesus. I love that about God. He is able to work amazing triumph out of great tragedy, even those of our own making.

Here are some other things that might be of interest to you:

Language of Healing Live graphic with book cover

Tomorrow (Tuesday), I will be joining a live Zoom session tomorrow at 2:00 pm PDT with my coauthors of A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation, Bob Prater and Arnita Taylor. You won’t want to miss this one.  Lisa Vitello, an actress and facilitator of CultureBrave will guide us through a conversation about Chapter 13, Sharing the Table. Lisa hosted a release event for our new book in Los Angeles when it came out last November. What was planned as a two-hour session went on for almost six. She asked us some of the most incisive questions we’ve encountered to date. It will be a joy to speak with her again.

Language of Healing Live is a continuing series of bi-weekly video conversations to help people learn to live more generously in this divided world. You can view previous ones here.   We will be streaming live at the Language of Healing Discussion Group on Facebook, and I will attempt to post that feed on my Wayne Jacobsen Page there as well.  Join us there live, or watch the video after, which I’ll post here when we’ve finished.

Just a reminder that Part 10 of Embracing His Glory will drop tomorrow over at The God Journey. This is a continuing series about learning to live loved and transformed by the work of Christ. If you haven’t been in on it, start at the beginning. It will make more sense. That will be the last new podcast at The God Journey until I get back to the office. I hope it is helpful for you.

Finally, we are still needing some help with Kenya. The hope is to drill two more wells for two neighboring tribes to the ones we helped over the last five years.  A couple of weeks ago, I wrote in more detail about the need and why we want to help to protect the resources we’ve already provided to other tribes in the area. The picture at left shows some of them the aid we were able to immediately send them for food, medicine, and protection from the coronavirus.  We have taken in about $34,000 of the $71,000 we need to provide aid and drill the two wells there. As is our custom, Lifestream does not take out any administrative or money transfer fees. Every dollar you send us gets to Kenya, and all contributions are tax-deductible in the U.S. Please see our Donation Page at Lifestream. You can either donate with a credit card there, mail a check to Lifestream Ministries • 1560 Newbury Rd Ste 1 • Newbury Park, CA 91320, or phone us at (805) 498-7774. 

We never take for granted the people who read these posts and carry us on their hearts as we continue to do what God asks of us in the world. We are blessed by your love, sustained by your prayers, and grateful for your generosity.

Finding a Refuge in Love

I don’t think anyone has sent me flowers before.

But yesterday, I got an email from a friend in Oregon with a picture of two bouquets of roses.  Mark Warner is a former pastor and former alcoholic who knows the dark side well. His email was titled:  Why I Take Flowers to Two 95 Years Olds at the Retirement Center.

The words that followed were some of the most profound I’ve ever read in such a short reflection:

I do not do these things to fill up something lacking inside my psyche, to be nice, or to respond to the popular saying “WWJD.” I give and serve so I am not consumed by the hatred I see swirling around me and risk becoming what I see in others. 

We are in a dark time and hatred runs rampant. The image of God placed inside me will be destroyed if I give in to the darkness. Over the years, many have hated me, many times people have tried to derail my career and, at times, my life. To save my own soul I cannot give in to the hatred, to the evil.

Serving and giving is the way for me to life. Jesus said we are to love our enemies, not for a misplaced sense of revenge or to prove our own moral superiority, but so that we are not consumed by the same spirit that possesses them. For that I need His miraculous help. Then, I am able to say with Tiny Tim in Charles Dicken’s The Christmas Carol, “…may God bless us everyone.”

Love wins my friends. Every time. Especially in me.

I’ve never seen a time when fear and anger have so dominated a nation, where people strike back tit-for-tat and feel justified in attacking people they consider “the other.” This piece set my heart at rest in his love in a delightful way. We don’t have to join the fight in our world and demean others, but can yield to a grander call from a more powerful kingdom inviting us live to a different rhythm so that we will not be consumed by the evil that seeks to destroy us all.

Live loved… and then love… freely. (John 13:34-35)

Love freely and extravagantly, to people who don’t deserve it, and in places you’re not obligated to do so.

The world will change. Jesus said it would.

Cultivating Compassion – Live Today

Instead of adding more anger or fear to the turmoil of our times, what if we added more compassion? One of the attributes of a peacemaker is cultivating a compassionate heart for those who are different from us, especially those who are marginalized. Even Jesus said, that “mercy triumphs over justice.”

We’re exploring how we can do that today on Langauge of Healing Live at 2:00 pm PDT.  I’ll be joined by my coauthors of A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation, Bob Prater and, Arnita Taylor. Anna LeBaron, the author of The Polygamist’s Daughter, will guide our discussion today and others will join us in the Zoom room for a compelling conversation about compassion in a divided world. This conversation is drawn from Chapter 7 of A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation. If you can, give it a read and come join us. But either way, come join us. This should prove to be a fun and illuminating conversation.

Language of Healing Live is a continuing series of bi-weekly video conversations to help people learn to live more generously in this divided world. You can view previous ones here.  We will be streaming live at the Language of Healing Discussion Group on FaceBook, and I will attempt to post that feed on my Wayne Jacobsen Page on Facebook as well.

Join us there live, or watch the video after, which I’ll post here when we’ve finished.

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Also, Part 8 of Embracing His Glory dropped today over at The God Journey. This is a continuing series about learning to live loved and transformed by the work of Christ. If you haven’t been in on it, start at the beginning. It will make more sense.

The Song Beneath the Virus

Can you hear it? It’s the Song of the Ages, still playing beneath the virus and all that’s changed in our world. It is fresh from your Father’s heart, inviting you into his reality.

It’s not the loudest song in the wind. Fears of the virus and daily body counts will ring louder. The rancor of social hatred will drown it out, and it can easily be swallowed up by the discordant strains of fear and anger that dominate these troubled times.

But beneath it all, his song still plays, as certain as the rising sun, more triumphant than the most exquisite symphony.

You won’t be able to focus on it arguing about masks, or fretting over the next election. You won’t hear it speculating about conspiracies or putting your hope in yet-to-be-fulfilled prophecies about a coming revival. You won’t find it groping for certainty in your imagined future.

You have no idea what is to come, and neither do all those voices. The honest ones will tell you that. Your certainty now has to be in Jesus and him alone. All others are mere illusions. They may comfort for the moment, but when they fail you, how deep will that pain be? Circumstances, both favorable and unfavorable, will come and go. The only refuge is to abandon yourself to the amazing love of a gracious Father and seeing his divine purpose unfolding around you. He will never let you down.

Come away, my beloved!

There! Did you hear it?

Maybe it was just a few notes, but even a bit of it will begin to breathe hope into your exhausted heart. You’ll recognize it as the soothing melody inviting you beside his quiet waters where peace and tranquility will wash over your fear and grief. Linger there, leaning lean away from anxious thoughts and angry voices, both internal and external.

His song carries a different rhythm. He is enough. You are deeply loved. All of Creation is still in his hands.

There’s no fear or frustration in his song. Its soft and lilting tones draw you more deeply to his heart, where fear no longer thrives. It allows you to embrace a reality far more consequential than anything we see with your eyes or hear with our ears. It calms your heart with the confidence that God is big enough for this, too.

None of this has caught Jesus by surprise. He has not abandoned you to your own devices. His deliverance does not await some future day. Jesus reassured us that his Father is always working. That includes in you… today. He has a way through this for you, even if someone you love gets the virus. Even if your business does not survive. Even if, our culture comes crashing down around you. Even if this is your time to join him in a kingdom that knows no end. Even if all this goes away in the next few months. 

He has plans you haven’t begun to consider.

Come away, my beloved. 

His melody is an invitation, not a compulsion. You’ll find it more clearly in that quiet place in your soul where Jesus makes himself known. It may take a while to tune your ears again to his melody and hold it in your heart. It’s worth the time. You’ll know you’ve found it when your heart takes a deep breath and begins to find its rest in the unforced rhythms of his grace.

You can’t see that, you say? Well, you don’t have to. You only need to see him.  Take his hand and follow his lead the best you sense him today. Wake up tomorrow and find that song again.

Everything else in this world will seek to knock you off this melody, drawing you back into its clamor. You don’t have to go. You can keep coming back to the quiet waters and bathe yourself there. That’s where you’ll have the wisdom to live through each day’s challenges without fear of your imagined future. You’ll know how to respond prudently to the virus’ presence in our world, and find compassion for others around you.

When you’re at peace in turmoil, his song will flow through you, too, amplifying it in your corner of the world. Then others will find it easier to hear and perhaps find their way to his peace as well.

Once More, Into the Breach

We were given an incredible assignment by the Lord to help rescue 120,000 people from certain starvation in North Pokot. We announced a couple of months ago that we had completed that task, and the four villages were now functioning on their own with the resources we helped them develop. Over these past five years, I have been so grateful for your generosity that allowed us to do that. As we’ve shared in the past, not only have they been helped practically, but the Gospel has also flourished among them. This is due to the generosity of so many of you that have given so freely for their salvation. 

We had hoped now to move on to other things. Lifestream isn’t a missions organization that cultivates regular giving to these kinds of projects. We were acting out of love for people we knew on the other side of the globe who had desperate needs. Your generosity to help as continually overwhelmed us with gratitude, and I’ve never wanted to take advantage of it. However, I’ve been asked again if we could once more stand in the breach for a desperate people. After prayer and consultation with others, we have decided to see what God might provide for two more tribes. 

The Namaru village has 250 families in it, and the Kase village has 180 families with a total of around 2700 people. Like the other tribes we’ve helped, they have been nomadic for centuries. They settled in this area after our project began in Pokot and subsisted off a nearby river. They also responded to the Gospel earlier and have been seeking Jesus for some answer here. When their river dried up, they started walking seven miles to get water from the Ngetut and Compass/Olorwa villages. Already starving, they have returned to beg for food at harvest. These agricultural projects, however, aren’t large enough for these new tribes as well. And, having no resources to battle COVID-19, they are putting the other villages at risk. Without some kind of help, these people may destabilize what we’ve already accomplished in the region. 

They need $11,400 in immediate food and medicine. 

Someone I know, who has been deeply involved in this process, sent a gift yesterday to help us do that and a bit more. Our contacts in Kenya, Michael and Thomas, have asked if we could drill a well in each village so each would have their own water supply. Water is life in Africa. They feel this is essential to completing the work there to free the original tribes to continue their success. I told them I would ask you to see if there are enough resources from my audience to do that. Each well will cost $29,000 each. We already have a considerable sum toward the first one. We are not being asked to commit to a more extended project here as we did in the other villages, though if someone is out there that has it on their heart to do so with these families, please let me know. They would certainly welcome the help, and we would certainly set that up. 

I am asking for your help to raise an additional $40,000 to drill these two wells. I know it seems like this can go on and on as other tribes find out and want help, but we have been assured that these are the last two villages. 

As is our custom, Lifestream does not take out any administrative or money transfer fees. Every dollar you send us gets to Kenya, and all contributions are tax-deductible in the U.S. Please see our Donation Page at Lifestream. You can either donate with a credit card there, mail a check to Lifestream Ministries • 1560 Newbury Rd Ste 1 • Newbury Park, CA 91320, or phone us at (805) 498-7774. 

Thank you for your prayers about this and whatever you might be free to send to help us help them. 

 

The Rudeness of Religion

I heard this from a friend the other day and loved what it unveiled about his heart.

“I am only beginning to realize how rude my faith made me.”

I love that. As people grow more tender in his love, they begin to recognize how adherence to religion doesn’t transform us. Instead, it just reroutes our selfishness into other expressions.

Now, he and I both know that real faith doesn’t make anyone rude. False faith does, however, because it makes us feel morally superior to anyone who doesn’t work as hard at their religion as we do. It divides the world into a home team and an away team, and that almost gives us permission to treat harshly those who don’t believe or do the things we think they should.

Paul warned the Corinthians about this very thing, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”  (I Corinthians 8:1)

That’s what I love about the people I know who are being transformed by a love that rewires them from the inside. They are less rude and more forbearing, less arrogant and more humble, slower to take offense and more open to reconciliation, and they are less self-focused and more generous with others, especially the away team.

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Here are some other things going on this week that might interest you:

This Sunday, July 19, I will host another God Journey After-Show at 10:00 am PDT. This is an open conversation about our life in Jesus and some of the recent themes we’ve been exploring on the Lifestream blog and on The God Journey. If you’d like to join us in the Zoom room, you can email Wayne for a link. We’ll let in as many as we can, and the rest can stream it live on the God Journey Facebook Page.

Last Tuesday, I was part of an incredible Zoom conversation about our proclivity to tribalism and how God wants to take us beyond it, especially as it applies to the racial unrest in our culture.  It was one of a continuing series of Language of Healing Live conversations as the authors help people sort out some of the themes of our new book, A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation.

If you haven’t yet discovered my new series over at The God Journey called Embracing His Glory, I’d encourage you to check it out. I’ve done six twenty-minute reflections about how God transforms us in his love to let his glory be revealed in the world around us. I love how the Gospel of John has illuminated so much of the work God has been doing in my heart over the past twenty-five years learning to live in the Father’s love.  You can use the links below to listen in.

 

Pardon Me, Your Tribe is Showing

I will be doing a live Zoom session today at 2:00 pm PDT with my coauthors of A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation, Bob Prater and Arnita Taylor. Today’s conversation will focus on themes from Chapter 3 about the pluses and minuses of tribalism and how it affects our life.  It is so easy to think only inside of our own tribe and be oblivious to the experiences of others outside of it.

This is a continuing series of bi-weekly video conversations to help people learn to live more generously in this divided world. You can view previous ones here.   We will be streaming live at the Language of Healing Discussion Group on FaceBook, and I will attempt to post that feed on my Wayne Jacobsen Page there as well.

Join us there live, or watch the video after, which I’ll post here when we’ve finished.

Also, Part 6 of Embracing His Glory dropped today over at The God Journey. This is a continuing series about learning to live loved and transformed by the work of Christ. If you haven’t been in on it, start at the beginning. It will make more sense.

The Prayer of Faith

It is one of the great conversations I enjoy with people when I travel. What is faith, and how does it influence our prayers? Since I haven’t been traveling during this coronavirus, I thought I would respond to this email online.  First, here is the email: 

I have been pondering some of the things you have shared about prayer, and at times, it seems that your position does not make a very big space for believing in God’s doing the miraculous. You have shared that you have seen the supernatural and that those things are up to Him. I get that. But, there are so many places in Scripture that seem to intimate that we can expect answers to our prayers.

For example, James wrote, “the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.” Jesus Himself said, “greater works shall you do.” He seemed to be speaking of the miraculous. “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” John 14: 12-14.

How can a believer read the very words of Jesus and not expect to see at least a modicum of supernatural power in their lives? Maybe not rising to the level of feeding multitudes or raising a four-day dead “Lazarus” from the dead. But, I cannot help but believe that Jesus was encouraging those that believe to expect answers to their prayers, even if it means something supernatural occurring to provide that answer. Obviously, we are not God, and we are to trust Him with the outcomes, as we have discussed. Certainly, there are volumes of prayers that do not get answered in the way that we hope, with no visible evidence of the supernatural or miraculous. If trusting Him with outcomes is all we have, the question remains, “What did Jesus mean when He said that we would do greater works, and ask Him anything in His name and He would do it?”

The nuances in this discussion could fill a book or three. That’s why this is better in a conversation, where it can be specifically applied to a given prayer or circumstance. But let me try to answer with a series of bullet points that summarize how I understand these things at this stage of my journey, and let them become fodder for further dialogue.

  • God does outrageous miracles, and everything in this creation can be bent to his will, by his power, and for his glory.
  • Prayer is the delightful partnership between God and his people that can execute his purpose and glory in the earth through supernatural power. Thus, it is not us getting God to do what we think is best, but us cooperating with God as he does his work. His wisdom is way beyond ours, and he takes all things into account as he works his glory into the world. Our comfort or ease is never his priority.
  • That’s why prayer is mostly communion with him as he shapes our hearts, rather than a list of requests we want him to give us.
  • Every Scripture that talks about answered prayer, including the ones you quote, are in the context of the conditional clauses of if “we remain in him…,” or “If his words remain in us…,” or “praying in his name.” Answered prayer is not a fulfillment of our will, but the fruit of abiding deeply in him and sharing a passion for his unfolding purpose.
  • I don’t think I can do anything to make God give me what I think is best. Faith is neither convincing myself that what I want God wants, nor is it a tool to force God’s hand. Faith is the relational trust that allows me to walk through anything, knowing he will hold my heart, and give me the strength and wisdom I need. Eighty-four percent of the time, when someone did something by faith in Hebrews 11, their lives got more challenging or more uncomfortable. Their trust didn’t always help them get out of trouble but gave them the confidence to go through it.
  • I don’t think it is fair nor fruitful for us to read through Scriptures and cherry-pick the outcomes we want in a specific situation, and try to employ our “faith” to get them. What’s most important in a situation is not what makes me happy, but what Father is doing here. How is his glory unfolding?
  • Praying in faith means I engage God trusting that he is good and loving and that he knows the best of all possible outcomes for everyone involved. Faith is not something we generate internally but is the fruit of a growing relationship with him.
  • A prayer of faith will never seek to enlist God’s power to violate someone else’s will. He doesn’t do it, even for himself.
  • Praying in faith doesn’t rise out of desperation or fear, because it begins knowing that God can be trusted with everything. That doesn’t mean we can’t talk to God out of our desperation or fear, but that we wouldn’t want to assume the thing I think I need is really the thing I need.
  • So, I will always pray for healing when asked, or when it is on my heart. I make requests of him and see what he does. He often surprises me. At other times, I have a sense of the outcome God desires and can pray with great persistence and perseverance until the answer unfolds. But I can also be wrong, and I can see that in the outcome itself. Unless God shows me, that we were thwarted in some way by darkness, and thus learn a lesson from it, I’ll see the outcome as either what Father had in mind, or what he is willing to use now for his glory. I don’t retreat into a guilt-induced introspection of what I might have done wrong, or if there was some block in my “faith” that failed God.
  • I believe about 30% of the miracle stories I read in books or see on TV. I’ve been behind the scenes enough to know that TV is an illusion, and many so-called miracles are contrived or made up to “inspire” the audience. If the average person embellishes something God does to make it seem more spectacular than it was in the moment, how much more for those who are trying to grow their ministry. The danger is that it causes people to set their expectations at ridiculous levels and have to fight the frustration that God doesn’t do similar things for them.
  • I have always held a hunger in my heart to see God’s power in more prolific ways than we see today. I think part of that has to do with how focused we are on our comfort and convenience and how little we hold God’s priorities in our hearts. I also realize miracles are miracles because they are not typical; they are the exceptional moments of God unveiling himself. I enjoy them when I’m around them, though I never demand them as if they are my choice.
  • Living that way, I have seen some of those outrageous things happen and been thrilled when they do. I have also fought through the darkest tragedies and found amazing transformation in my heart as I did, without the supernatural intervention I had prayed for.

The prayer of faith is not what we’ve learned in performance-based religion. It isn’t a matter of earning God’s favor by our performance or trying to ingratiate ourselves to God to get his favor. It is the fruit of the growing awareness of God with me, working his glory into my corner of the world. He can work his triumph through apparent failures and has a plan that far exceeds mine. I love engaging him in the conversation that lets me see into that as far as my relationship today will allow me.

When I see him do something amazing in response to my prayer, I’m blown away with joy. When my greatest hopes go unfulfilled, I rest in the fact that his perspective far outweighs mine, and what might be glorious for his purpose will most often not be the thing I would first prefer. But looking back years later on so many “disappointed prayers” in my life, I can see that his purpose and plan for me exceeded anything I could see. Paul alerted us to that. When he moves differently than I want, I can trust that he is doing something exceedingly and abundantly beyond anything I could ask or even imagine. (Ephesians 3:20)

Anyway, that’s how I’m rolling with him these days.

Don’t Put Me in Your Binary Box

You will be able to understand better my blog and my podcast if you don’t assume I’m in your binary box.

I reject them all. I can think beyond the false boxes politicians, media, and sometimes friends try to put me in. I think you do, too. I helped write a book about that where one of the chapters is titled, Disarming the Binary Bomb. I’m serious about that. Binary thinking is destroying this country, and many, many friendships. Binary thinking goes like this: “there are only two options here, and if you don’t fully support mine, you are my enemy.” It is the lowest form of dialogue on the planet.

If you watch a newscast or read an article and believe everything the person says, you probably need to check yourself. Everything you get is distorted by someone’s political agenda, attempts to be true to their brand, or a desperate attempt to get clicks. Whether it’s NBC News, Time Magazine, Fox News, MSNBC, or I book I’m reading, I agree with about 30% of what I hear or see in those venues. I don’t expect them to give me the unvarnished truth. The media serve mammon, after all, and politicians, their lust for power. They are not trying to tell us what’s true; they are only serving some personal interests. The more you read from diverse sources, the easier it will be to discern what’s true.

For instance, last week on The God Journey, I talked about the popular book, White Fragility, with Arnita Taylor. There is a lot I like about this book and how it helped me through some important realities in our culture. But I didn’t like everything about it. Monday morning, a news podcast I listen to attacked the book in terms I didn’t understand. I knew they hadn’t read the book but believed what someone else said about it. I read the book and appreciated much of it. Their attempts to debunk it as “total garbage” fell on deaf ears with me. 

I didn’t read it with a guilty conscience or to feel shame for my whiteness, only because I wanted to learn better how to interact with people of various colors in my life. Does the author overstate some things? Of course, she does. What author doesn’t? Do the things she exaggerates diminish the real things she points out? Not to a thinking person! It’s really OK to interact with what you read, to let some things challenge your thinking, without having to conclude it’s either all good or all bad.

So when I get an email like the one below, please don’t assume I think about the issues like you do:

I have been listening to The God Journey for about four years. The show has always been about God’s grace, but now just because the propaganda media started a Communist campaign, suddenly, you shift fears and make The God Journey a show about how white people don’t listen to black people. Black Lives Matter is funded by the Ford Foundation and other companies through Susan Rosenberg of Thousand Currents, former convicted Weather Underground and M19 communist revolutionary that was plotting to bomb buildings. I know your heart is in the right place, but you’ve been deceived. The media has so much influence that it directed you to change your show to follow the direction of their narrative. Social Justice is a Satanic deception for a Communist agenda. And this is the only reason you’ve shifted focus onto race issues. I can’t listen to your show anymore because your guilt and shame over whiteness have turned it into one more thing that hugs the curves of today’s political agendas.

The God Journey used to be a way for me to reset my attention on Jesus, and now it’s just another narrative that RESPONDS to the mainstream LEAD. Do you know where “White Privilege” came from? I’m tired of seeing Christians buy into this SJW garbage of the world, and I really think you should know that you are making all of your recent episodes of the God Journey about this topic have really turned me off from seeking out new episodes to focus on Jesus. I RESEARCH THIS STUFF HEAVILY, and it is all COMMUNISM! The goal is to divide us and conquer our nation.

(Hint: capitalizing complete words doesn’t make anyone seem more intelligent, just a bit unhinged.)

Here’s how I’d respond:

Ah, you’re welcome to stop listening; that is your privilege.

I hope you can appreciate that we are engaged in two different conversations. One is what you describe—an all-out political battle between left and right. I know the people behind the BLM organization have admitted to having Marxist leanings, and that their mission statement denigrates the nuclear family and religious faith. I don’t buy their extremist agenda, and I have not endorsed that organization in anything I’ve said. At the same time, there is a movement of “black lives matter” in our culture that is calling attention to the fact that young, innocent men are being killed by those empowered with government authority. To draw attention to that and demand that government officials be held accountable for how they treat people of color does not make me a sympathizer to Marxist doctrine. You have to separate the two to be intellectually honest. 

Black Lives Matter, as an organization, is gaining traction because we do have racial issues in our culture that many white people prefer to ignore. I would argue letters like yours only empower the Social Justice Warriors because you refuse to acknowledge the underlying problem that does real harm to people just because of the color of their skin. The “true origins” of my podcasts about race have nothing to do with their propaganda. They have risen out of my relationships with people of color and watching how they live in a very different world than I do, or my children and grandchildren. They have touched my heart and opened my eyes to the legitimate needs here, not the contrived ones by those who seek to undermine our culture. Our society is clearly weighted toward whiteness, and people of color are increasingly frustrated that we don’t care that they suffer through circumstances far more complicated than most of us endure.

So, there is a political game going on here. You’re right about that. Both sides want to divide and conquer this nation and pull it back from its powerful ideals. But I’m not playing that game. However, I am sharing this part of my journey to show what’s going on in our culture and to find solutions that are different from what BLM advocates. I’m not trying to score political points but asking people to live more generously in the world and help disarm those who would use the disparity and desperation for nefarious means of undermining our culture. President Trump has undoubtedly turned “mainstream media” into one of the most dismissive labels people can use to ignore whatever challenges their thinking. No doubt, the “mainstream media” distorts a lot of news to its political ends, but no more than Trump or his cronies at FOX. 

That is still a tiny part of all the content of my podcast (four shows out of forty-six this year). I label them clearly so that if discussions of current events aren’t of interest to you, you can easily skip them. But why people want to do so, however, was the point of the podcast last Friday. I hope that those of us who have power in the culture will find ways to share it freely with those who have for too long been marginalized. We can disagree on this, but I hope you understand better what’s motivating me. 

My utmost passion on this page and the podcast will always be to encourage people on a Jesus journey that shows you how to live loved by the Father and be a better lover in the world. I just began sharing some of the most exciting discoveries I’ve hmade ad in over a decade. It’s called Embracing His Glory and is meant to encourage people on the journey of transformation and freedom. A new release comes each Tuesday morning, and will for a while. 

So, don’t bother inviting me into your binary box. I’m not coming to join you. I’d sure welcome you, though, whenever you’re ready to give it up. 

Language of Healing Live!

I will be doing a live Zoom session today at 2:00 pm PDT with my coauthors of A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation, Bob Prater and Arnita Taylor.  Today’s conversation will focus on themes from Chapter 2 and asks why we might want to learn to speak a language of healing into the rancor and discord we see all around us.  Now more than ever we need forces that avoid the extreme rhetoric of either side and find a more generous way to engage those around us, especially with people who view the world differently than we do.

This is a continuing series of bi-weekly video conversations to help people learn to live more generously in this divided world. You can view previous ones here.  Today’s session will be moderated by Arleana Frink Waller, the founder of ShePower Academy in Bakersfield, CA and we’ll be joined by panelists from Ohio, Indiana, Texas, and California.  We will be streaming live at the Language of Healing Discussion Group on FaceBook, and I will attempt to post that feed on my Wayne Jacobsen Page there as well.

Join there live, or watch the video after, and join us as we seek to change the conversation one person, one relationship at a time.

There Is a Better Conversation Going On

Yes, I wanted to get your attention. I don’t triple-dog-dare anyone to do anything, though I would love for you to think through the issues the author lays out in that chapter. Please don’t let the media that amplifies the most extreme voices on the left and the right rob you of the important conversations going on about the inequities of race that still persist in our society. One of the lessons we encouraged in A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation is not to compare the worst actions of those who disagree with you with the best intentions of those who do.

This is a good time for softer hearts not harder ones, for listening instead of pontificating. Underneath the diatribes in the media—social, mainstream, and Fox—people are exploring what it is to care for others beyond what we might consider as “their tribe.” White Fragility, the book I referenced above, is a difficult read if you’re white. I don’t love everything about this book, and some of her terminology can be off-putting, but hopefully, it will make you think. It helped me understand more why we have such a hard time communicating about this, and why those who look like me have a hard time talking about the issues that underlie racial inequities in our culture.

I know some of you grow tired of my musings on this. I like this space to help encourage people on their journey of leaning in more deeply to Jesus and to be less influenced by the world’s ways. Some have called me “liberal” and accused me of being a Democrat. I hope you can appreciate that I’m not playing politics here. I’m not pro-Republican or pro-Democrat, and I think both parties are out to exploit the tensions in our society for whatever political power (and money) they can hope to gain. They are both a huge part of the problem, and I don’t look for them to be the solution.

So, I reject the binary constructs that both of them try to force on us. Life is more nuanced than they lead us to believe.  I can bear witness to the injustices some people groups suffer in this world and be a voice for more understanding and compassion without endorsing all their agenda or approving of violence or looting.  I can decry racist acts when they happen, and still support the men and women in blue who put their lives on the line to make us a safer society. These are our first responders who valiantly rush into the most dangerous situations to disarm evil and protect the good and, if not, they should be held to account. Society in a fallen world cannot exist without them.

I write because I have good friends who are severely impacted by these issues, and silence is no longer an option, and hoping it will get better is not a strategy. What could be closer to Jesus’ heart than how we treat people who are different from us? Isn’t that what the Good Samaritan story was about? Our neighbor not only includes those who look like us or live in our neighborhoods but even more importantly, those who don’t.

My heart hurts when people who say they love Jesus are unaware of their blindness about racial issues.  I saw this on FaceBook from a friend who attended the same congregation with me many years ago. I would love to be with her when her eyes are open to see just how arrogant and racist these words are.

For those of you drinking the white privilege hype, don’t be ashamed of your station in your God-given life. I know of plenty of African Americans who are privileged. You see no matter what you do, it won’t be good enough. The black community has to figure out they are not slaves anymore. Their hurt runs deep. Only God can truly heal their hurt. We can empathize, we can stand by them. We can love them, we can lift them up when they are down. What we cannot do is heal them. Unfortunately, they have leaders who are self-serving and have not led them to other ways of dealing with injustice. We see the agenda of hate, it’s time for our Black Americans to quit being used. It’s up to them. Meanwhile quit the white privilege narrative. It’s just an agenda of shame. I’m not ashamed of who God made me to be. Don’t slap God in the face by now denying who you are. Quit your bitching….

Of course, she doesn’t see herself as a racist and made enough “loving statement” to keep herself deluded.  I hope people like her will listen to what is really being said by those around us in real pain. We can do better.  I’m seeing it happen all around me.  The reason I’m in this conversation is for people like those below who are finding a different way to see the world around them, and hopefully, be more redemptive in it.

From someone I haven’t met, who read my latest book:

I finished A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation. I didn’t realize how much my pride and “search for the truth”, led me to justify the sufferings of others. I felt that if I admitted white privilege/advantage, I was admitting that I was inferior and less than. I justified myself and tried to “correct the narrative”. But I had never really pondered how Jesus would walk in this time. I started to feel compassion, empathy, and no longer concerned for my own “rights”. It is eye-opening to me, how much I staked my identity on being a conservative, American, instead of a son of God, who is walking in relationship with Father. I am starting to see just how dangerous tribalism is and how harmful it is to our brothers and sisters. Unfortunately, it has taken a long time for me to see, but I am excited to see the adventures that Father and I will have together, as I participate in this process of healing.

From someone in a small mountain community in the Colorado Rockies:

I wanted to express my thanks to you, Arnita and Bob for the amazing book The Language of Healing. You all not only created the best format for a multi-author book I have encountered but created a space where people can have meaningful conversations that can transform lives. The message of the book was something we so desperately need in our culture and has only been magnified over the past few weeks. Imagine if more of us had been reaching outside “our group” and been listening to understand others over the years. These types of conversations might have led directly to the saving of people’s lives.  I am hopeful that recent tragic events will spur more of us on to form relationships with those who are different than us. And from my perspective it is on the individual and community level where real transformation will take place. Your focus on personal connection and the practical steps you provided in each chapter is what gives me the hope that change can really happen. I found the book engaging but challenging in many good ways. And where Papa has been directing my attention is on engaging and showing empathy for working class folks in my community (almost entirely white) who hold very different political, economic and racial views.

From a twenty-one-year-old woman:

The murder of George Floyd did not happen in a vacuum. Rather, the tragedy was a symptom of a much larger, multifaceted problem. I like to use a pyramid analogy to think about racism here in America. The act of murder is at the top point of the pyramid. Individual, perhaps seemingly “smaller” acts of racism lay the foundation of the pyramid. These smaller acts include implicit biases, racial slurs, stereotypes, other microaggressions, and color-blindness. These “small” acts fit into the pyramid and eventually lead to devastating, tragic, life-sucking acts such as the murder of George Floyd. The murder of George Floyd was simply a bubbling over that reveals the race culture in American that often lies beneath the surface.

The thing is, these “small” acts truly aren’t so small. Each one contributes to a negative racial culture. Each one is damaging. Furthermore, silence is also damaging. While I may not use a racial slur myself, if my friend says one, and I don’t use my agency to speak up for my black brothers and sisters, I am creating damage too. My silence implies complicity and consent.

As a white female, I am striving to do what I can to disrupt the culture of silence and to help dismantle America’s negative racial culture starting with destroying the bottom of the pyramid. If more of us can speak up, using our voices to proclaim the equal worth of every human being, I have hope that we can crush the pyramid before it reaches the top.

Finally, while I want to use my voice to speak out against all forms of racial discrimination, I also want to be an empathetic listener for my black brothers and sisters. I will never truly fathom what it is like to a black person in America. And I should never pretend to.

From an African-American mother of two young boys in the Carolinas:

Then came the riots. Pain and frustration followed. This is not the way to solve it. But I get the pain! I can see why some feel like enough is enough! But I know in my heart violence is not the answer. I know my hope is in Jesus. I can quote scriptures to back that up, but sometimes life sucks. And I’m learning to sit in the tension of the pain and tears and being honest with that, knowing that Jesus is right there with me. He’s weeping too and understands my pain.

My husband and I have had some very interesting conversations with our respective friends over the last week. They have been so draining and all consuming, but mostly positive and definitely worth it. I’m thankful that my friends have felt comfortable enough to share and want to discuss. We are doing deep. I even had one friend who said that her eyes were open to systemic racism for the first time. I’m shocked, but so grateful! I listened to more of The Language Of Healing today and it’s been so good to get back into it. I have the book and the audible version. What an on-time book! So grateful that the three of you followed the Holy Spirit’s lead to put that together. You complement each other super well and each brings something uniquely important to the table. It’s beautiful.

I’m taking a moment to share this because I want to say thank you. Thank you for being in my community. Thank you for giving me hope. That you are willing to use your leverage and possibly lose friends in order to speak up on behalf of those whose voice goes unheard. Human dignity is human dignity. Period.

We can do better than the options the media give us.  Find your way into new relationships laced with compassion and the willingness to understand. Don’t just look for voices that only confirm what you already think. Read and explore outside your comfort zone and see what Father might want to shift in your thinking. If nothing else, your comfort zone will expand, and you’ll be a safer place for people to approach.

A Fork In the Road

First, Sara and I had a great trip to Denver to be with our son and his girlfriend, Karen. We put on a lot of miles, over a thousand each way.  We took our two dogs with us in a rented RV so we could maintain our anti-COVID bubble.  It all worked out great. Well, except for being mistaken for drug mules and having our vehicle sniffed out by a drug-detecting canine. After wasting our time and theirs, they allowed us to continue.

But the real reason for this post is to alert you to our Language of Healing Live session today at 2:00 pm PDT. Vince Coakley (pictured with Wayne above), a good friend and the host of The Vince Coakley Show in Charlotte, NC and Greenville, SC will be our moderator. We will be discussing the first chapter of A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation: A Fork in the Road.

Our society is certainly at yet another fork in the road. This book was all but getting lost in the pandemic before the racial events of the last few weeks brought it center stage again. We stand at the crossroads of whether we can find more meaningful changes to set our culture on a better past with equity of justice and opportunity for all, or whether it will all quiet down again until the next incident.

I’m voting for the former, but it is not likely to happen where the extremists on both sides control the narratives. If we’re going to see lasting change we have to have a different conversation, and unfortunately, our political leaders are not showing us the way.

Let’s discuss how we can choose a better path that leads to healing rather than more division. This is the fourth in a series of A Language of Healing Live events that we are posting on FaceBook. (You can view past ones here.)

The event is now over, but you can view the YouTube recording here.

This is a propitious time for our country that can mark an upward trajectory of equal justice for all, or devolve into greater division and anger. We can all be part of a better solution.

We’re Taking a Bit of a Break

This morning we head off in our rented RV to visit our son in Denver. Road Trip!  We are doing this instead of flying so we have our own little coronavirus protective bubble as we traverse four states. So, we have a few miles to cover and a chance to visit with him. Thus, things will be mostly quiet here at Lifestream, though we have new podcasts already set up for The God Journey.

Tuesday, I began a new series I’m really excited about. It is called “Embracing His Glory.” These will be a series of 15-20 minute audio presentations of something I’ve been wanting to share for some time. About six to eight months ago in a fresh read through the book of John, I felt like something had shifted in my heart and I was reading John’s book with fresh eyes, revealing more clearly the process by which Jesus shares with us the Father’s glory. The first one went up yesterday and more will follow in the Tuesdays ahead.  I anticipate 12-13 of these. This is something I first shared publicly in Tulsa on my last stop before the coronavirus hit.

The reason I’m so excited about this is not that I finally figured something out. It’s actually just a fresh way to express what has been going on in my life the last twenty-five years as I’m learning to live loved in the world and the transformation that happens in us as we do.  It’s exactly what Paul wrote about in 2 Corinthians 3—

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

That Scripture has always intrigued me, even in the old days when I felt the journey was not so much from glory to glory, but from pit to pit—one bad experience after another with long gaps between where God’s glory would be revealed. But the last twenty-five years has been different, not that all my circumstances have been easy, far from it, but through it all the glory of God continues to unfold in my life. It wasn’t what I expected with all the bells and whistles of signs and wonders, but something deeper and far more transformative in the way I engage the world around me.  I thought I’d let you know here, in case you want to follow with me over there.

Sara and I are really looking forward to some time together on the road (sixteen hours each way) and even more so our time with Andy.  If you’ll keep the email load light for the next week, I’ll be grateful. If not, you’ll have to be patient. I’m not sure when I’ll get caught up. When I get back, my dad is having a surgical procedure, so I will be with him through that. But we’ll get back… someday!

 

Is America a Racist Country?

I woke up yesterday to this email from a really close friend: “Do you believe there is systemic racism in this country? Do you think we are a racist country? I was just curious about what you thought as I couldn’t tell from what I have listened to and what you’ve written.”

Great question, and an important one for us all to answer.

I hope those are two separate questions. As to the second one, I don’t think any country can be racist any more than it can be Christian. The country is made up of people—some are, some aren’t. As a country, we are  committed to incredibly high ideals—”liberty and justice for all!” Have we ever lived to the fullness of those ideals?  No, not yet! Do most people aspire to that reality? I think they do, but they don’t control the microphones in this country. This great melting pot has some fabulous stories where people of different ethnicities coming together for a greater common good, and some horrible examples of those ideals being betrayed by those who act with hatred against certain groups of people.

The question I’d be more prone to answering is, “Does our country have a race problem?”  I used to think it didn’t. I knew we had a disturbing past of enslaving people, but we’ve been trying to dig our way out of that and extend freedom and rights for all, even if that has often been done grudgingly. I grew up on the West coast where I was not exposed to a lot of overt racism, but I didn’t have a lot of black or hispanic friends, either. I grew up around people like me, for the most part. Over the years I’ve had friendships with people who look different from me, but they never let me in on the inequities they faced in our society. Perhaps they feared it would risk the friendship. Over the last decade or so I’ve had an expanding group of African-American and Latino friends who have let me in on the injustices they and their friends face. Some of it is low-key, but it impacts their opportunity and they definitely get the message that they are looked down on by the bulk of white culture as not-quite-equal. They see their children more at risk, and they don’t think we care.

Now, I’m convinced our society has a race problem and that many of my white friends are blind to its implications. We want to think we have reached equality, that most of these battles are behind us, that we do have equal opportunity and if “they” just worked hard enough they could have what we have.  But, that isn’t true. They don’t have the same opportunities and we have added to their burden.  We didn’t see how lynching replaced slavery as a way to instill fear and keep a culture down. We don’t see how unjust mass incarceration of black youth get them into the system to limit their opportunity and “keep them in their place.”  We think high crime in ethnic neighborhoods justifies our suspicious treatment of all blacks.  We don’t see racism around us, because it doesn’t happen to us or people we love. So, yes I am convinced there is systemic racism woven into the fabric of our culture. Most of it isn’t as overt as a racist cop killing an unarmed black man, and may even be unconscious, but it does exist. It gives people of color more to overcome to have the same opportunity the majority culture enjoys.

The reason there is such an explosion with anger now is not just because George Floyd was tragically murdered by a white cop but because his death provided a visible, undeniable image of the injustices that my friends of color and their children suffer every day in a society that is still white-preferring. This one is on video and even so, we have white people who don’t want to look at it or look for a reason that Mr. Floyd deserved it. They want it to be an isolated incident and ignore the wider issues it exposes. If we didn’t have that video, it’s very likely our justice system would have believed the police and dismissed the testimony of the onlookers. That’s been going on far too long, not only in the deaths of so many black, unarmed young men, but in the systemic racial inequity of a society that can do better.

Most white people I know wouldn’t want any of this to be true, but they have a hard time looking at our disparity and seeing it for what it is. I don’t think acknowledging white privilege is some horrible evil for which we should all feel shamed. It simply expresses the advantages we’ve had in being part of the dominant culture that prevailed in settling this country, often by violent and unjust means. They don’t want us to despise what we have; they want us to create a more level playing field so they can have the same opportunities we do.  That reality has found its way into my heart, and I hurt along with them in ways I did not used to. I want to see more what they see, understand more what they feel, and lend my voice to theirs for more just and equitable solutions. I want to speak out against injustice, against using race as a means to judge another human, against ways they are exploited or looked down upon.  If we could see the suffering our unawareness causes, we would act differently. That may be what is happening now in the protests being so diverse racially and generationally.

It has always been hard to talk about racism because we don’t use the same definitions. I hear African-Americans use the word to describe any attitude, policy, or action that diminishes them and their opportunity. White people, however, only use it to describe the worst examples like the KKK and white supremacists and can’t recognize racist tendencies in themselves or in the mechanisms of our culture. They think our racial issues were solved by the Civil War, or at least by Civil Rights legislation in the 60s.  Most of us want this to be over and believe that all are created equal and have an opportunity to succeed. That’s why when racial conflict comes up they think even mentioning racism is divisive.

Don’t make the ‘racist’ term so evil, that you can’t look for it in your own heart and mind. Racism doesn’t have to be intentional or overt; it can simply result from not seeing beyond your own interests to incorporate the interests of others as well.  Don’t take your definition of ‘racist’ by its most extreme examples. You can have friends whose skin tones are different than yours and still be blind to the racial issues our society has yet to confront and in doing so you help perpetuate a problem that needs to be fixed.

But you may have racial issues, or at least racial blindness…

  • …if you’ve never offered safe space for your black or brown friends to discuss discrimination and bias without arguing with or dismissing their experience.
  • …if you think you are “color blind” and treat all people equally.
  • …if you see a group of white kids walking through your neighborhood you smile, and see a group of black kids and wonder if they are up to no good.
  • …if you think everyone has the same opportunities you did; they only need to work harder.
  • …if you take offense to the term “white privilege” or see it as a source of guilt or shame. White privilege is the recognition that as part of a dominant culture you have had significant advantage in navigating society—white more than black, male more than female. Since you’ve always had them it is easy to understand why you don’t recognize them. Watching how people of color are treated in public environments, or how you tend to look down on people who don’t achieve as much as you do, may help you recognize it.  I don’t think people want your guilt; they are hoping you’ll learn to share those advantages with all others.
  • …if you prefer not to talk (or read) about racism because it makes you uncomfortable.
  • …if you think there are no bad cops because they are racist, afraid, or unnecessarily violent. Or, if you think all cops are racist.
  • …if you see the destructive looters or rioters as an excuse to dismiss the concerns of so many law-abiding protesters.
  • …if you tend to want to blame the victims when they are black or excuse the perpetrators if they are white.
  • …if you still believe the narrative that Colin Kaepernick was out to denigrate our flag or our military.
  • …if you get angrier when someone from a different culture cuts you off in traffic or gets the job you wanted.
  • …if you have convinced yourself that President Trump cares equally for all Americans.

And if you find vestiges of racism in your heart, what can you do?

First, learning to recognize it is a big step.  Now learn more about it, especially from those who’ve suffered from it.

Second, if you’re a person of faith, talk to God about it. Ask him to show you where it is in your heart and how he can untangle it. It will take time, but progress is a great thing.

Third, make time for relationships with people who look different than you do.  Get to know them as friends and when you do, ask them to tell you their story. You can only discriminate against people you dehumanize. Humanizing them will change you and the way you live in society.

Fourth, explore with other people ways to make our society more equitable. The challenges are huge and finding the policies to fix them won’t be easy in our polarized culture. You can however, simply start with asking, “How can I become a more generous person in the world outside my own in-group? If you need some ideas here and some concrete ways to do that, see our book, A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation. It contains specific exercises for you to engage conversations about race, as well as politics, religion, and sexuality that can close the gap on the divisiveness of our media and political leaders.

Don’t let this upheaval pass without taking stock within.  Philip, a friend of mine, posted this scene from JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. It is one of my favorites and so appropriate in the face of the pandemic and the racial concerns that now confront us:

Frodo tells Gandalf of his regret that the ring had come to him. “I wish it need not have happened in my time.”

“So do I,” Gandalf responds, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

We have not chosen to live in this time, but God has chosen us to live in it. Let’s respond in a way that puts more of Father’s glory in the world.

Going Live Today at 5:00 PDT

First, I want to let you know we have completed The Jesus Story, a twelve-week video class that I did for my grandchildren about appreciating the Bible as the treasure map that can lead us to an adventuresome life in Jesus. These twenty-minute videos are designed to help other parents and grandparents have a similar conversation with their children or grandchildren. I have so enjoyed the emails many families have sent me as to how this has sparked more Jesus-focused conversations in their home.  I love what it has done in my grandkids.

Now, the real reason for this post.  Who hasn’t been touched by the anguish in our country over the death of George Floyd. I’ve been deeply touched by the anguish and fear in the black and brown faces I see, for whom this murder was only the tip of an iceberg of injustices that they suffer daily. We’ve been here before and after days of grief our society settles back into its old form. I have white friends who either can’t or won’t wrap their hearts around the injustices that still exist in our society, either unaware they exist, or unwilling to look closer. What does encourage me this time is the number of people like me who want to understand and are now calling for change. That’s different, and it has given hope to the African-Americans I know that things will not always have to stay the way they are. I’ll write more about that later this week.

If we’re going to see lasting change we have to have a different conversation, and unfortunately our political leaders are not showing us the way. That’s why we’ve begun a series of on-line Live events to help people see how a better conversation can be had.

I’m going live 5:00 pm PDT with a conversation about Staking Out the Common Ground, that will be moderated by Josh Armstrong a facilitator of Common Ground in Bakersfield, CA. This is the third in a series of A Language of Healing Live events that we are posting on FaceBook. (You can view past ones here.) The one we did on race two weeks ago, before the murder of George Floyd, was a powerful example of how we can come together and listen to each other across racial lines. Just remember, love does not require agreement, but it does require understanding and empathy.

On today’s show I will be with my other two coauthors of A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation as well as a roomful of panelists in a Zoom session.  We will be streaming that live at the Language of Healing Discussion Group on FaceBook, and I will attempt to post that feed on my Wayne Jacobsen Page there as well.

We’ll be discussing the following questions:

  1. How can we use a language of healing to speak to the ever-widening racial divide—especially in light of the protests following the death of George Floyd.
  2. With this being a presidential election year, how can we find common ground with family and friends who view the world through a different lens?
  3. Are there strategies that we can use to bring healing to the pain that we are all experiencing?
  4. How can we intentionally pursue relationships with folks who are on the other side of the ideological aisle?

If you couldn’t join us live, the links will still work afterwards to view the recording or you can watch it here:

This is not a time for fear or for hand-wringing, but courageously becoming part of a solution in our corner of the world instead of hoping it will all just go away.

This Can’t Keep Happening

Two more horrible images of racism were added to the national lexicon of our racial divide this week. Both have made my heart hurt this week.

The first was the killing of a young, black man in Minneapolis by a policeman who persistently ground his knee into the man’s neck as he lay handcuffed and gasping for breath on the street. How in the world are people like him still on a police force in America? Who doesn’t yet know that you can’t treat another human being this way? This. Is. Reprehensible. Yes, he and his partners should have been fired, and I hope they also stand trial for murder. Another young life is lost, and I hope we all mourn this horrible tragedy and demand better from our authorities. And I really don’t want to hear from my white friends that we have to be careful and not jump to conclusions until all the facts are in. There is no possible fact that would justify what I saw in that video. None. You can be a supporter of law enforcement and call out bad police work at the same time. In fact, you have to. What happened in Minnesota is bad policing and bad humanity. It feeds the fears of so many people that our society doesn’t care when a young black man is killed or the presumption that, of course, he must have done something to deserve it. (And if you want to find out just what kind of man the victim was, you can read about George Floyd here.)

The second image came from a lady walking her dog in Central Park. Her dog was off-leash in the Ramble, which is against park rules. When she comes upon a man bird-watching, he tells her to leash her dog. As the confrontation heats up, the man records the engagement on his phone. It’s a good thing he did, too. The lady is obviously offended at has actions and demands he turns his camera off. She even moves aggressively towards him when he doesn’t obey her. He pleads with her not to come closer. She responds by telling him she is going to call the cops. He tells her to please go ahead and do so. She warns him that she will tell them an African-American man is threatening her life. He tells her to go ahead, and she does. The video causes her to lose her job, her dog, and possibly her right ever to go to Central Park again.

It’s easy to hate on the Minneapolis police and young woman. They both made horrible choices, one costing a young man his life, the other didn’t have the same grave consequences, but grows from the same root. Before we choose sides and mount our soapboxes to eloquently argue from whatever side of the racial divide we find ourselves, perhaps it would be better to pause and see if we can learn something. It would be nice if these were just the actions of a few “bad eggs,” but the incidents themselves and how our people react to them, belie an ugly underbelly of American society where all people are not yet treated equally.

When another young, black male is killed by the outrageous actions of a police detachment, can you feel, even for a moment, what that does to the mothers of young, black men all across this country? Can you imagine what a young man feels when he is put in cuffs by the police, especially if he knows he’s innocent of their presumptions? They don’t see this as a tragic accident, but the result of a systemic unfairness to people who aren’t white. Many have already taught their sons how to be compliant and nonthreatening in the face of a police presence. They know it is likely that their sons will be treated differently than a white suspect, and often to tragic ends.

The lady with the dog in Central Park may be a fine person most other days. She was simply doing what many dog-lovers do. I’ve done it. I’ve had my dogs off-leash on mountain trails so they can have a moment to run free. I only do it when no one’s around. Occasionally, however, I’ve gotten caught by an unexpected person coming up the trail. I have always apologized profusely and leashed them quickly. I’m sure she wishes she had done that now. Instead, her life has been ruined by her willingness to use her whiteness to falsely accuse another human being based on the color of his skin. Watching it escalate, my heart hurt for her. She’s in the wrong, and she knows it. To compensate, she gets all uppity about the fact that he is filming the incident. Her racism gets unmasked when she takes a superior tone with him and rushes forward to try to put him in his place. Thankfully, he doesn’t back down, and she goes from embarrassed to feeling violated with his camera, to threatening him in hopes of gaining power in a situation where she had none. 

Maybe that’s how we need to see racism. It is not only about white supremacists with hate in their hearts. Racism, at its core, is about power and what we are willing to do to gain or maintain an advantage over someone else. It subtly dehumanizes “the other” so we can treat them in whatever way is most advantageous to us. Even by making this woman a villain, we don’t have to look for the subtleties of racism in our hearts or how we might treat or perceive someone differently based on their skin color. 

After losing her job and her dog, even the man she threatened has come to her defense, saying that none of us deserve judgment for the worst moment in our life. You’ve got to love his generosity when he was being judged for no reason at all. Wouldn’t it have been incredible if this had stayed a human engagement, where she would have learned something about herself and the video would never have gone viral?

I know it is difficult for many of my friends to talk about racism. We are quick to discount race and want to pretend it had nothing to do with the incident in Minneapolis. We want to pretend we’re color blind and that society is now equitable for all. These situations unmask that lie. It isn’t race-baiting to acknowledge it, nor falling in step with the mainstream media. The African-American, Latino, and Asian friends I know tell me of the situations they are presented with frequently that I’ve never had to concern myself with. They continually deal with injustices that never make it into the news. We can do better. These kinds of tragedies have to end, and they won’t if we can’t face it, learn from it, and get to know people on the other side of the racial divide so my erroneous presumptions can be dismantled.

Last week, I was in a Zoom conversation with the coauthors of A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation and a diverse panel talking about our society’s reaction to the Ahmaud Arbery killing in Georgia. It lasted two hours as we listened to how circumstances like that affect families that aren’t part of the majority culture. I had one woman write to me afterward, sharing what she had gleaned from that conversation. 

I thought so many good points were raised as the individuals felt safe to express truths that came from deep within. It struck me when Arnita said we need to tell our children that it’s wrong to kill someone because of their skin color. Just the fact that she needed to say that speaks volumes in terms of how far we have to go. I remember one man saying that his daughter asked him why they “always have to be the ones to say, ‘Sorry’”. That one got to me. The man who expressed the idea of whites giving up power by having a black person actually occupy the leadership position and how that leads to true diversity, resonated with me. Perhaps the comment that impacted me the most was from the African-American woman who shared that she knows that hearts can change because she experienced it herself. She had wanted her sons to marry girls who looked like them, but when she got to know some of the bi-racial girls in her program, her heart changed. Wow! I wanted to thank you for your part in this movement. This work is much needed, and I hope, greatly valued!

These conversations are changing me, and I’m genuinely grateful. They are the greatest joy of my work on A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation. We wanted to put a tool in the world that would encourage people to move beyond their comfort zone and embrace those who don’t think or look like them. We’ve got to bridge the divisions in this country, especially where we can  help to create a more just society for people who are being unfairly marginalized. 

So, instead of reacting to news like this that reinforces our biases, maybe we could pause and learn how we can be a more generous person in a broken culture.

The Passion that Has Motivated My Journey

Last week I got into a bit of an email exchange with someone reading the first book I published so very long ago:

Tim: I’m reading the Naked church it’s probably an old unedited version because I printed it free off of one of your sites, and it’s in a three-ring binder large print. But it’s really hitting home where I’m at today and the people that I am encountering. I just wanted to say I’m glad you wrote it

Me: I still love much that is in that book. It’s just that so many illustrations in it are incredibly dated. But the lessons and passions in it were vital in my journey and still are! Thank you for taking the time to let me know how it is touching you.

Tim: I feel you did a fine job of stripping down the egos of title hungry men. I remember gaining a lot of insight into this years ago. It’s actually caused me to question all authority. I no longer respect the authority I once did as I see it all as a plot for power and control over others.

Me: Sadly, it often is, especially if they are building an institution or a “following” off of it. Look for those who are simply serving another person, helping them find the life in Jesus that’s real and abiding.

Tim: Easier said than done. The love of many has grown ice-cold.

Me: True, but the Spirit knows, and he can show you when you might need someone. But for the most part, you won’t. The Spirit in you will guide you.

Tim: I know that’s true I’ve been going solo for several years. But even if I die, I may never find the true expression of the church.

Me: Don’t think of a “thing;” think of the people around you that you could share the life of Jesus with. It isn’t an organization, and it’s not because people believe exactly the same things, but it is people in various stages of this journey learning to love each other and let Jesus take expression in them.

This exchange caused me to go back and retake a look at this book, reliving that part of my journey. The version of The Naked Churchon the left was the original cover published in 1987. I loved the stark black and white against the purple and red. The paragraph below reads, “Are you confused? Burned out? Devastated by the state of the church? The simple truth of God’s Word can restore your faith in Christ.” Yes, I would say that differently today, as you’ll note on the third book cover.

So, why are there three book covers here? Well, my first book sold rather poorly, but the publisher felt like perhaps the title had been too negative to connect with its audience. It was republished two years later as A Passion for God’s Presence. It was the same book inside, with a more positive approach on the outside. It didn’t sell much better, though both of those books found their way into the hands of some pretty amazing people all over the world, who have continued to share this journey with me. 

After my journey took a significant turn in the mid-1990s, I kept getting requests for the book since it was then out of print. So, I went through it again, revised it, and republished it under the original title with a purple cover. In the original book, a lot of my answers were systemic in nature. But having lived through the implosion of that system, I knew its frailties all the better. To republish it, I needed to tell more of the story, update some of its references, and offer a different set of answers that I was only beginning to live. 

Over the last few days, I read through it yet again, and my heart was touched by the same motives that caused me to write it the first time. I’m still that guy—still hungry for God’s reality, still willing to take the road less traveled, and I can say unequivocally that it has been worth every pain I’ve suffered in this journey. I have found God to be as real as I always hoped he might be, and relationships with others around the world that express what I always hoped church life could be. It all turned out so very different than I had imagined, but far more exciting and transformative than I could have conceived back then. That’s why I don’t recommend this book anymore unless people want to understand my journey better. No, I’m not going to rewrite it yet again. It will remain as a snapshot in time. Finding Church does a much better job unpacking how I see the church clothed in his glory and how others can find her too. 

But I still love the primary illustration of that book. It is drawn from Jesus’ words to the Laodicean church: “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked,” I combined that with the Hans Christian Anderson’s tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes, where the Emperor is duped into buying imaginary clothes. He’s told that only people who are unfit for the jobs can’t see them. So, of course, the Emperor thinks he must be incompetent and pretends to admire them. So does everyone else, afraid they’d be exposed as unfit for their service. Eventually, he parades naked through the capital, convinced he’s wearing the most exquisite clothes. 

Let’s pick up from what I wrote over 33 years ago: 

In the middle of the Emperor’s parade, a little child whispered what had been evident to everyone else: “But he hasn’t got anything on.”

The awkward moment that followed was brief. The townspeople knew he was right. The Emperor knew he was right. In a split second, they had to choose between the illusion they had embraced and the reality that would set them free.

Rather than ask for a real coat, however, in which he could cover his nakedness, the Emperor only pulled his imaginary robes about him and continued the pretense. For the Emperor to accept his nakedness, he had to admit to having been swindled. He couldn’t do that.

I can imagine the townspeople quickly scanning the crowd to see if anyone else would own up to what they all saw so clearly. If anyone had been brave enough, they might all have jumped in. But the risk of being thought stupid by their neighbors was too overwhelming. The moment of revelation passed quickly, and soon they were again applauding the illusion.

And I love the passions in this original book. As misguided as my answers might have been, I find those same hungers are alive in my heart today. These are the motivations that invited me away from everything I had ever known and into a kingdom that has fascinated me ever since. 

Here’s one last excerpt from that book:

Anyone who does not gush with admiration for church institutions and activities today is accused of being arrogant, rebellious, or judgmental. That’s our modern equivalent of being stupid or unfit. So, even though our Christian experience feels empty, we think we’re the only ones to feel that way. To admit this is unthinkable, so we rationalize those nagging thoughts that tell us this can’t be what God had in mind. After all, there is always more to be gained by exploiting a system than there is by exposing it.

Today we are so impressed by our own efforts that through endless hours of talk shows and endless pages of fund-raising letters, we congratulate ourselves: “Look how much we’re doing for Jesus!” When we believe this thought, the trap is fully sprung. Our visions of a powerful and relevant church, with love enough for all and selfless sacrifice for God’s kingdom, are filed away under the heading “Too Idealistic.” We settle for the status quo as if it were all God intended—like a baby crocodile born in the zoo pond.

I’m outside the pond now and enjoying the wild where Jesus is ever-more real, and life makes so much more sense, both in the fallen world where I live and in the Kingdom, which has overrun it all. Don’t be afraid to take the road less traveled. Don’t be frightened when others reject the conclusions you come to and seek to exclude you from their company. Jesus is the Head of his Church and gathers his sheep how he sees fit when they are willing to follow him, however he might lead them. She’s growing in the world with immense beauty, infiltrating every nook and cranny of the world without drawing attention to herself. 

Stop making excuses. Follow the hungers God has put in your heart, even if it appears you’re going it alone for awhile.

In time, you’ll find yourself living in the increasing fulfillment of his glory.

You’ll never regret it.