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.

We Have Completed the Work…

It’s one of my favorite passages in Acts. Paul and Barnabas return from their first missionary journey and report back to the church in Antioch that, “they had completed the work God gave them to do.”  When does that ever happen? Our religious culture doesn’t think in terms of tasks that can be done and completed, but of creating ministry infrastructures that seek to perpetuate themselves beyond the original task. I remember the elation and sense of achievement I had as a young boy riding my father’s tractor into the barn with the last load of raisins from that year’s harvest. Finally, the crop was in; we are done!

This morning, I had that same feeling reading this long email from Michael and Thomas who have been at the forefront of this project and the conduit for over two million dollars that has flowed through Lifestream in the last thirteen years. So much has been done, so many lives saved, four tribes transformed, so many orphaned children finding their way to self-reliance as adults. And all the while, the gospel was seeding its way into the hearts of people in Kenya who had no idea Jesus existed.

Specifically, the project in Pokot was to rescue 120,000 people whose nomadic lives were being ravaged by a prolonged drought that destroyed their cattle-driven economy and by rampant disease when they settled into villages. At the outset, it was just to relieve their suffering, then it became about development to secure them a better future.  Here is their report as we’re finishing up the process of establishing viable villages with water, food, medicine, education, and business opportunities:

North Pokot Community Transformation Journey

Receive wonderful greetings in Jesus name. On behalf of the Kenyan families, we would like to take this opportunity to thank God for how far and how wide He has brought us in our relationship. It was a divine connection and through this relationship and trust it has borne the fruit of touching the lives of people. Mother Teresa said that what we are doing by touching the lives of people is like a drop of water in the ocean but the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” God sent her to the poor slums of Calcutta and she poured out her life to them with the gift of love. She touched widows , orphans, single mothers and needy families, through that love and through them she touched the world.

We may not be perfect in our daily lives, but God can be shown in our weakness to make us strong. Apostle Paul, had a thorn in his flesh and many times he asked God to remove the thorn. But the Lord told him, “my grace is sufficient to your weakness.” The grace of God helps us in our weakness.

We learned through Authentic Relationships to live in the cycle where relationships grow. Pages 81-85 about lightening the load for others, especially became part and parcel of this message. What we have learned through Lifestream materials, has helped us to change the way of living in African culture and to live in the father’s affections.

We thank God for the team who has stood a long side you in all of that moment , stretching the hand of love ,through our Kenyan families in all circumstance, whether is in ongoing needs or sudden emergencies, they have never ceased to help. We know that we are not the only ones with the need and that even in USA, you have homeless people who deserve the strong hand of help and care. And yet, you have stood with us shoulder to shoulder and hand to hand. We don’t have anything which we can pay you back, just our prayers as a sacrifice sufficient to gift.

It has been a big trust not only to us but also to God that you would send such huge support to pass through our hands to others in need. This gift was  like the time Paul collected an offering from the churches to send it to Jerusalem for those in need. We have been faithful for everything given and have never touched it for ourselves or turned the support away from what it was intended.  We thank God for giving us that concern of handling his resources in the right way.

In the five years we worked in the Northern parts, God proved faithful. Many times, he protected us from tragedy. I can remember the worst one.  We had to carry 50 volunteers in the truck to construct the school in Kasoyan/Chemnyon and we were following them back with the Land Cruiser you bought a long time ago. As we reached the cliff of the mountain the truck lost the brakes and started running fast. If it had not been for the grace of God, all families would have been lost. Even the driver could not explain what was happened when the truck was stopped by a stone turned upside down.  All people came safe.

Another tragedy God protected us from was when the truck broke down in the middle of the road. We couldn’t go forward or backward and our remained off of the road for three days without eating. Some of our volunteers were stung by scorpions, even reaching a point of death, but the Lord rescued them. Once, Thomas was hijacked and everything he had was stolen. You intervened and paid back all he had lost.  Sometimes, people could see us and try to investigate our to see if we live like rich people, but they found out we eat green vegetables and live like them. Now, they see us as simple people who don’t have anything—because we know whom we serve.

We send our gratitude to the all the families of the world who stretched their hands towards these Kenyan families. As we end up our five years contract, we regret strongly because the coronavirus has prevented your trip in July. We were ready to receive you and take you to see all the projects from Kitale, Bungoma and North Pokot. Some of those in the USA may wonder how you could send so much money to people far away and trust us to handle it with honesty. Even the people here they ask the same question.  This is not possible for man to believe but with God, all things are possible.

I didn’t search for or was guided to Lifestream for material things. I had a passion to lead more than 3 million people under the umbrella of IGEM (International Gospel Equipping Ministry). Among them were bishops, pastors and ministry leaders. Although I was leading this ministry, I felt guilty in my heart and wanted to find the truth. I was praying to God to connect me with the right gospel and the person who could help us understand his ways. After that, I found Lifestream materials and they quenched my thirst over and over.  I started circulating the materials to different groups and requested brother Wayne to send me more teaching and he send to me four books He Loves Me, Naked Church, Authentic Relationships, and So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore. These books transformed my life and I started living differently as well as training small groups. After that, I started travelling East Africa. Like the Samaritan woman, I told everyone that I have found a prophet who has told me the story of my life.

Through all of this, I never asked for any financial help, just to understand more about God. But, one day in 2007, Wayne asked about the situation in Kenya regarding post-election violence. I shared with him the terrible situation here in Kitale, Mount Elgon and many other places. He started sending $100, $200, $500, and so on, to help with the needs and through that relationship we invited him to come and share this truth to the church leaders. Eventually he came to Kitale with his friend, Kent Burgess, and our relationship started to grow.

We traveled many places—Eldoret, Butere, Mount Elgon, Bungoma and lastly we visited my family home where there was no electricity. Our life and connection was about seeking first the kingdom of God and all things would be added. Our relationship with the Lifestream family is now over thirteen years, and we can acknowledge what the Lord has done. It has amazing—starting with the Living Loved Christ Hope Centre and continuing to the gas station, grain enterprise, truck transportation, land cruiser for the mission, Forkland School and bottled water enterprise, and the North Pokot project. All of this has been done in these thirteen years. Many orphaned children have been raised and educated in this Centre. Some are still completing college and university and some have grown up and are working and now self-reliant.

As we wind up the five years in North Pokot, we can stand and say in the words of Psalm 124:1, “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side… the flood would have swallowed us.” We met with our coaches yesterday and it was good. We had a wonderful time of prayer and thanksgiving for what the Lord has done. We also prayed for Lifestream for more grace and abundancy. We thought of 2 Corinthians 9-8, how God “is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.” They also spoke against the coronavirus in the US and Europe.

The coaches met with different departments to see the achievements we’ve made and the challenges ahead, which you can see below. But the message the people of Pokot wanted to pass on to you, especially from the old people who were converted to Christianity through this project wanted you to hear this in their own language is that if you could be there personally, they would give you the Pokot seat and the tail. What that means, is that you are not American, but are now part of the Pokot families. The seat means that you have led them to God’s throne. They believe the elder is chosen by God and he is the one who gives the authority, blessings, love and kindness to human beings. The tails means they honor your God who led Lifestream to pray and support them to get water and food. Now they can settle permanently and no longer be nomadic. Also the coaches have sent to your entire team their appreciation measures to prevent the coronavirus from spreading among them.

The Five-Year Project in Pokot:

In two months the four villages will graduate. We thank you and the team for the help of our training in Isiolo. We also thank our trainer Brother Wubshet and his team for the good training and the knowledge we got from them. Through your prayers and support, we have achieved the following in these four villages:

  • Health: We have taught villages on the importance of hygiene where they have latrines, utensil rags, and dust pit, cleaning bushes around the houses and to prevent mosquitoes from hatching-hence reducing the spread of Malaria. Really this is amazing and a great transformation that this communities have experienced since the foundation of the world. Also, the hospital has played a big role in saving the lives of people who would die because of diseases and having to go long distances looking for medication.
  • Food security:We thank you brother Wayne and your team for helping with food emergency as well as monthly support for the breastfeeding mom and the old aged, we also thank you for the irrigation projects since now the community are able to produce their own food and feed their families. The land has been increased and we shall increase it in the month of June and July as we wind up the program. The committees can oversee the plantation as well as harvest including the distribution of food equally. The irrigation project is very fruitful since now the communities can produce a variety of crops. God has answered their prayers, they always dance and praising God for the provision of food through irrigation project.
  • Education:Education has become the important organ this process of transformation. We have trained them in farming, hygiene, business for self-sustainability, and the importance of taking their children to school.
  • Water:All four villages have water and fixed irrigation project, we thank you and your team for the great sacrificial to see that the communities get water and food from the irrigation project, the water is clean and suitable for human being as well as the animals, it has change the way of life for the people of North pokot- from nomadic way of life to permanent residence, hence being able to carry out development. The water is abundant, and the committee’s work is to make sure that the water serves all the people. They are able to maintain and protect it even without us and the coaches. This is so encouraging
  • Wellness/business finance:Many families have benefited from the soft business loans, and they are now able to feed their families, paying for medication and school fees for their children. We thank you for your financial support and we also thank our coaches and the committees for working closely with the community to make sure that the development is taking place. They will no longer need to depend on donations.

The Challenges That Remain

Each of the four villages you have helped have neighboring villages with great need. Disease is often rampant for lack of hygiene, and they have very little food. You know, the Pokot people believe that they cannot eat while their neighbor is watching them, so sometimes they are forced to share when they already do not have enough for themselves. Some come 10 to 20 kilometers to get water, which they give freely Thankfully our coaches and committees have been able to work with the neighboring villages to help them advocate for the government. Most have a school and hospital now, but they still to learn better hygiene.

I’m sure we’re not completely done; there will no doubt be more opportunities down the road. I am most grateful that we were able to help them solve their own problems without creating dependency on a supply line from us. They can now follow Jesus into their uncertain future and look to him for help.

“Thank you, Jesus, for all you did during this season.  Continue to show yourself strong on behalf of the people of Pokot and our friends in Kitale and Bungoma. Continue to reveal yourself as their strength, their healing, and their provider. Let them taste an increasingly rich relationship with you and your Father so that they might know his love, care and wisdom in whatever comes their way. We bless them in your name and know that you will be merciful with them.”

A Conversation about Race

Yesterday, my coauthors of A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation hosted a Zoom conversation to discuss the public reaction to the Ahmaud Arbery killing in Georgia and the racial divide it exposes. Gil Michel, a friend, CPA and an inner-city pastor in Indiana moderated our discussion with a diverse panel who braved the conversation with us. Set to go for an hour, the conversation went for two and could have gone on longer. There are some incredible moments here of pain and pleas to have the conversations that can make a difference.

You can view that conversation here if you like or watch it below. I am grateful to be in conversations like this where people can speak honestly about race and the inequities that exist in our culture, with a hope for healing the divide. To do that, however, we first have to hear each other at a heart level and understand someone’s pain, especially if it isn’t our pain. Remember, love doesn’t demand that we agree; it only demands that we understand.

It is my hope that people of faith can take the lead in a conversation like this and especially include those who can’t understand the fears and frustrations of those whose skin color makes them feel less a part of their country and less safe going about their daily lives. If you want to continue the conversation with me, you may do so in the comments below or if you want to include the other two authors, you can do so on the Language of Healing Discussion Group on Facebook.

Can’t We Have a Better Conversation?

In just a few hours, at 2:00 PDT today, I will be joining my coauthors of A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation to discuss the public reaction to the Ahmaud Arbery killing in Georgia and the racial divide it exposes. People are quick to choose sides and vilify anyone whose opinion doesn’t match their own. A Facebook post I did on it this weekend caused people to accuse me of race-baiting, being a progressive, and stupid enough to believe the mainstream media.

I was expressing my concern that a young, black man was gunned down in the street, seemingly for looking into an unoccupied home undergoing extensive remodeling. Accusations are flying everywhere, either that the young man deserved it or that the armed men were acting recklessly. It has once again fanned the flames of the racial divide in this country.

This afternoon, we’re going to discuss the racial divide in this country that is exposed in tragedies like this.  What can lower the rhetoric and actually come to some answers that will heal our wounds and treat each other with more respect?  Gil Michel, a CPA and an inner-city pastor in Indiana will moderate our conversation. We’ll also have a panel who will add their questions and insights as well.

You can watch it live, or recorded afterwards, at The Language of Healing Discussion Group on FaceBook. I’m also going to share it if I can on the Wayne Jacobsen Author Page.  Come join us if you can, and add your insights to the comment section on Facebook, or here on this blog.

Love Does Not Require Agreement

I’ve got friends on both sides of the polarizing divide in our country, some who think religious conservatives are some of the worst people on the planet and some who think it is impossible for Democrats to believe in God.  I’ve been questioned by people on both of those sides as to how I could write such a “great” book as He Loves Me and then follow it up with something as carnal as A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation.

Many seem to think God only loves the “home team” they are on and holds in contempt those on the “away team,” as they see it. The truth is, God’s love extends to us all. There is not one taste of Father’s love for me that has also not been extended to every other human on the planet. I believe a Father’s love is not the reward we receive for holding the right beliefs or following the right political agenda. Father’s love is the starting line of a glorious adventure of transformation that will allow us not only to live more freely in God’s reality, but also to love other people who need to find the starting line themselves.

The secret is, those two are not separate books about different things, but two books about the same thing. It is love we receive and then love we freely give away in the world. I loved how one lady discovered that and wrote me last week to tell me about it:

I wanted to tell you how much I appreciated the God Journey podcast last Tuesday with Vince Coakley (The Dangers of Dogma). I’m from the South and I found the conversation between the two of you so engaging for me personally, and so fitting for our nation as a whole at such a time as this!

As I was thinking back on your conversation and reflecting on the notes I took, I was struck by your statement about people who “ran up to the end of their answers and were willing to go beyond them”. I immediately thought, “That’s me. He’s talking about me!” I love having these words to help me articulate what I have experienced. And then you said something about finding the answers “beyond the ones I used to think were all I needed”. Again, I thought, “Yes, that’s what happened to me. That’s how I experienced that part of my journey towards authenticity.”

Then, I had one of those rare but profound moments when two concepts; or in this case, lessons learned from two seemingly different realms of experience suddenly converge as if they were intricately woven together all along.

I realized that what caused me to run up to the end of my answers was my desire to see my belief system through the eyes of my out-group as I wrote about in my first email to you several weeks ago. I knew that the answers that I had always leaned on were not going to stand up to the cynical doubts that drove the questions of three people in my life who all perceive Christians as hypocritical colonizers.

The more I thought about it, I saw that for me, and I’m guessing many others, there is a connection between the message of He Loves Me and the challenge presented in  A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation:

When my heart began to truly be free to live in God’s affection, I began to be more aware of a deeper love, a wider grace, and a more sincere desire to forgive. All of the sudden, I found myself loving those who represent my out-group in much the same way God loves me.

I mentioned in my first email to you that I read He Loves Me six years ago for the first time. I have been rereading it recently these last few weeks. Your words from p. 183 in Ch. 21 resonate with me so clearly now; much more so now than they did six years ago at the very beginning of my journey:

“Once we experience love as God defines it we will not be able to keep from sharing it with others as it has been shared with us. Where God is generous with you, you can be generous with others. Where God affirms your worth in him, you won’t seek a substitute from others. Where you know God overlooks your flaws, you’ll overlook them in others.”

And…

“Instead of despising people who are broken by sin you will be touched by the depth of bondage that holds them captive. You will also see better how the Father responds to them and then you will know how you can as well.”

So it became clear to me in the past couple of days that not only am I free now that I have stepped outside of the boundary of religious obligation, but I am truly free to love others in ways that I was powerless to do before. While I had recognized that my friendships with these three people inspired me to take a hard look at my values and beliefs from their perspectives, I now see that my new ability to begin living loved two and half years ago primed me for engaging with each of these individuals in the first place in ways I was previously not prepared to do. I was not conscious of it when each relationship took root, but I can see it now looking back.

That. Is. So. Cool.

Jesus said it best, “Love others as I have loved you… by this all men will know that you are my disciples.”  Without that love, no attempt to defend what’s true will matter.

Remember, loving someone doesn’t mean you’re required to agree with them, only that you’re willing to understand them.

Try it, and you’ll soon discover how you can love someone who sees the world very differently than you. It may even drive them a bit nuts!

____________________

Special Programming Notes:

This Sunday, May 17, at 1:00 pm PDT we are doing another God Journey After-Show, for those who want to discuss the content of the last two podcasts about viewing the Bible as a Treasure Map to explore, not a Moral Code to Follow. If you’d like to be in on the discussion, please listen to the two most-recent podcasts and sign-up for the After-Show and let Wayne know what your interest is in this discussion. If you just want to stream it live or watch it later, view it here.

Then

This Tuesday at 2:00 we are having another Language of Healing Live, where the co-authors will be discussing the recent shooting of a black man in Georgia and how our culture can discuss difficult issues like that without polarizing into two mutually exclusive camps. This episode of Live! will be hosted by Gil Michel, of South Bend, IN.  You can stream it live at The Language of Healing Discussion Group.

A Peek At My Email

I don’t post these emails because I like reading about myself on my blog. I’ve already read them and expressed my gratefulness to those who took the time to write me and to the Father for the way some of these things find their way into the world to encourage his people. I post these so that others who are struggling with similar things might find their way to the same resources that may be helpful to them.

From Germany: I read the book The Call of the Wild Geese in German. (Elsewhere in the world it is, So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore). I am very grateful to you for this book, which is hotly debated in Germany. Everyone makes their own decisions. It was an adventure for me and I got involved in trusting God to say: “Father, do you?” This trust that God, my heavenly Father, provides and cares for me every day. I have experienced much of what was described in your book in different church structures. I am 69 years old and have been traveling with Jesus for 20 years. This book has brought me out of my depression and pain, towards the light, towards His (God’s) love. Thank you very much.

From Latvia: I am reading your book He Loves Me. I have a big problem. With my mind I understand that God is Love, that He loves me so much that He gave me His Son Jesus. But I feel like He is distant, cold, passive, One who doesn’t want me in His presence. In my deepest part I am afraid to fall into His hands because I can’t live up to His standarts. Can you help me, please?! Is God really that nice as you describe Him? I want to know Him clearly.

My response to her:

Actually, he is way better than I can possibly describe him. Shame keeps us from him, making us feel unworthy of his presence. Religion feeds our shame as well, but Jesus took our shame away at the cross. Fall into his hands and find out just how gracious he is and how knowing him will transform you in ways you never imagined.  It’s a journey. It takes some time to get comfortable in his reality, but it is a journey well worth taking.

From Pennsylvania: “I came back to Lifestream and stumbled onto The Jesus Lens. Thank you for following the vision to record this. I am reading scripture in a whole new way and journaling more “a-ha” moments than I can recall. I’ve shared this with friends in hopes that it opens the door to future Holy Spirit guided conversations.”

From a friend I recently visited in Oklahoma and who attended a workshop Arnita and I did for A Language of Healing in a Polarized Nation:

I did something today that was out of my range just a bit but I felt like you guys encouraged us to do.  Which is I spoke to a total stranger  today who is not in my “in-group”.  I have been beyond upset over the recent shooting in Georgia of Ahmaud Arbery.  I’ve been sick at my stomach over this killing.  So I signed up to #IRunWith Maud today at our park, and when I was done there was an African American woman in the parking lot waiting for someone. I just went up to her, keeping our social distance, and I said hello and I just needed to say I am so sorry for the shooting of this young man in Georgia.  She just opened right up and although I couldn’t control my emotions, she didn’t seem to think I was weird or anything.  We had a sweet little conversation and her husband came back from his run and he was very warm and gracious just like his wife.  It was a simple moment but I just had to tell you both because you encouraged us to do this when you were here in February and I wanted to encourage you in what you are doing. You are having an impact and it’s not a small thing.  One person to another person, depolarization will happen.

I love that so much. One person, one conversation at a time, the world can become a more generous place. Most people want to find their way into a different way of communicating and caring about each other across our differences. And, if you happen across one of those occasional people who love the polarization, just excuse yourself and move on.

For those of you who are interested, next Tuesday (May 19) at 2:00 pm PDT,  I’ll be discussing the racial divide that has formed over the Artery killing in Georgia with my co-authors Arnita Taylor and Bob Prater on Language of Healing Live! We are doing a series of these conversations moderated by people who have a stake in the issues that divide us and will lead a dialog with the authors and a panel in the Zoom Room. Next week’s Live! will be hosted by Gil Michel of South Bend, IN.  We will stream live on The Language of Healing Discussion Facebook Group, and on my Facebook Author Page if you want to join us. And yes, the recording will be available afterwards as well.

I am praying that all of you are finding a way to lean into Jesus through these very strange times to set your heart at rest in his care for you, and to show you a way through it that will allow his glory to unfold.

Language of Healing Goes Live!

God was opening what could have been some incredible doors for A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation before the pandemic shut everything down. People were planning book groups, we had an opening to get this message onto college campuses, and we were asked to do workshops in churches and communities to help people explore a more generous way. So, since those opportunities are on hold and people are limited in building new relationships especially with people in their out-groups, we are taking the message on-line in a series of live conversations to explore a language of healing. Starting this Tuesday, we’ll begin an every-other-week schedule of inviting fifteen people into a conversation about some specific aspect of this book and stream it live as we do.

We have a list of guest-moderators who will put us through our paces as we explore various aspects or applications of the book. Language of Healing Live will begin at 2:00 pm Pacific Daylight Time this Tuesday, May 5.  People will be able to watch the recorded version after. Watch this page and my Facebook Author page for details as to how you can listen in live.

Our first topic will be aimed specifically at people in their late teens, twenties, and thirties and the challenges they face in navigating a polarized world. Kyle Rice of Blue Sheep Media will be our moderator and all three authors—Bob, Arnita and I—will help answer their questions. We are still looking for a few young people to join us in the Zoom room, so if you’re between the ages of 15 and 39 and who have read the book, please let me know if you’d like to apply to be on our panel.

A few other notes:

  • The Jesus Story just posted video #7 as we talk about The journey of Abraham to begin a process of redemption for fallen humanity.
  • I’ll be a guest Monday morning in a live conversation for “Grieving Parents Sharing Hope Together.” The topic will be Anger and Grief and I’ll be hosted by Laura Deihl who helps families deal with death. We will go live at 11 am PDT/2 pm EDT. You can get more information at their website, and find the show at http://www.youtube.com/gpshope.
  • Finally, tomorrow (May 1) I will air a unique podcast at The God Journey, with a woman who cheated on her husband and found the grace to own up to it and walk out of that betrayal to a journey of hope and healing for herself and the marriage. It’s a beautiful picture of how God can reach into our darkest moments and bring redemption and lead us to compassion for others. You won’t want to miss it.

Finally:

I was listening to a podcast the other day and heard this nugget:  “Love does not require agreement; it only requires understanding.” Understanding someone else is where compassion grows. You don’t have to see things the same way to care about people especially those who are still groping in the darkness.

It’s Rarely the Words…

During a trip on the East coast in 2016, I was asked to meet with a couple whose twenty-something daughter had been recently killed in a car crash. A friend of a friend asked if I could give them some time, so I met them for lunch during a free moment in my schedule. I never know what to say to people who are experiencing such loss, and though I felt like God was in the time we had, I was left to wonder just how helpful it was to them. This weekend, four years later, I received this email:

You may not remember me, but I will never forget you. I knew one day I needed to email you and thank you for taking the time to share some love with my husband and me. We were connected through a friend of a friend and met you at a restaurant on a rainy day. Our daughter had been killed in a catastrophic car accident about six months prior, and I was clinging with all I had to Jesus, my only hope. I can’t say I remember what you said that day, but it’s like the saying, “You may not remember what someone said, but you can remember how they made you feel.” You made us feel loved. You shared God’s love, and especially meaningful to me, showed my husband that men can talk about feelings and God’s love in a real way.

Much has happened since that day. Of particular note, about a month after our meeting, a woman in my Bible study suggested we study He Loves Me. You had told me it was your favorite book you ever wrote. I loved the book and bought several copies to share with friends and family. God has been so real, so good, and so over-the-top caring that he has literally blown me away!!!!! There is no doubt I would never be the person I am today without him, and I am grateful beyond words. Now I have occasionally been asked to speak to other bereaved parents. While challenging, I am willing because I want them to know God is there; he is the key and their way through the valley.

I am a little embarrassed I have not written in so long. For a while, my old laptop lost email, the only place I had your address. Since then, I have never had quite the words. I was moved today and decided there never are just the right words, just write. All I really want to say is thank you. Thank you for being “Jesus with skin on.” You are part of a raw but beautiful story. God is creating a beautiful tapestry, and I am grateful beyond words for him and his love and grateful for your threads in it.

I was deeply touched by her email this weekend, but it was more than an encouragement to me; I also hope it is an encouragement to some of you.

  • Maybe you’re in a tragedy and barely holding on to your faith. God is bigger than your pain and can triumph over any adversity.
  • Maybe you have a friend going through a painful time, and you shy away because you don’t know what to say to them. Call anyway! Words are not what matter most. 
  • Maybe you don’t know how to talk about your hurt and grief with honesty and authenticity (Yes, I’m talking to you, men.)—hang out with someone who does.
  • Maybe you are groping to find where —keep looking for all the ways he is pouring his love into your heart. 
  • Maybe you have been a thread in someone else’s tapestry, and they never got back to you. Jesus knows; let him tell you what it meant to him. 
  • Maybe someone was a thread in your tapestry, and you never got around to thanking them. Four years, or a decade or two, isn’t too late. 

You will never regret pouring a bit of his love into the world. Every drop of it pushes back against the anger and judgment that tries to rule the day.

Zooming Through the Pandemic

We certainly live in interesting times. We are experiencing a worldwide event that will shape our planet in ways we can’t even conceive yet. This pandemic has sent most of us to our homes, restricted our travel and extended family time, and put many jobs and businesses in jeopardy. The economic fall-out from this pandemic may last for decades to come.

Going into this season, I thought that self-isolation might be a time of rest for me. Not able to travel and being home here with Sara would give me time to rest and see what’s next for me. But almost immediately, other opportunities began to open up through Zoom. I had become familiar with it while we were writing A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation with Bob and Arnita, but had not had time to explore all it could do. When my grandchildren’s schools were closed, I discussed doing a workshop for them, helping them learn to appreciate and interpret the Scriptures. Before we could even start, I couldn’t be in the same room with them, so I turned to Zoom for The Jesus Story. Now we have quite a few other families going through that conversation with us. 

That helped me explore it even more, mainly because I had to use it for ongoing episodes of The God Journey. I know it’s not a perfect platform. Still, it has opened new doors for communicating with people around the world, not only for podcasts but also just to help and encourage individuals on their journeys like I did when personal visits were allowed. Now groups are asking me to meet with them on Zoom so they can ask questions and process their own journeys. We even started to experiment with an After-Show for The God Journey so that listeners could interact about a recent podcast. We had almost forty people join the last one. I am more engaged with more people than before the pandemic. Who would have thought?

Here are some of the conversations I’ve had recently that you can participate in if you like:

  • A FaceBook Live event with Rod Tucker, a pastor in an urban setting in Michigan, looking to help a group of people live and love in a needy part of town.
  • A podcast with The Fields Brothers about the transitions in my life that happened as God unhooked me from religious obligation and drew me into a greater connection with him.
  • Last week’s podcast at The God Journey was called Why Won’t God Love Me? It was a conversation I had with someone in the UK who had little sense of God’s love for them, even though they saw him love others through them. Many people related to his struggle, and last Sunday afternoon, I hosted my second God Journey After-Show. We had over 35 people join us from all over the world to share their observations and experiences. You can listen to that After-Show here.
  • And, The Jesus Story #6 aired this week, covering the Creation and Fall of humanity.

I’m sure your life has changed, too, and will continue to in ways you cannot yet conceive. I am asked a lot how I see this pandemic shaping the church or if it portends the end of this age. I don’t have a clue, and honestly, I don’t even find myself curious. The best way to be ready for anything is simply to follow the nudges he has for you today and to love the people he puts in your path. I find myself increasingly suspicious of those who prophesy apocalyptic outcomes from this pandemic with such certainty, especially when it fits so neatly into their desired outcomes. We just don’t know. Rather than try to figure it out, perhaps we could just let it unfold, finding our comfort in the God who is with us, rather than any imagined outcome we’d prefer.

God has got this. He’s got you. He’s been through this before and knows how best to help us through it. I find it far better to draw close to him each day, follow him as best I see him, and err on the side of loving others as I am loved by him. His glory will unfold even out of pain and tragedy. He continues to bring order out of the chaos of a broken world. If you start expecting a specific outcome, though, you may miss what he’s actually doing.

I pray that you, too, will find greater freedom in this season. Look for the unique ways Jesus might be guiding you in this season where your regular routines have been disrupted. 

You just might discover him in new and profound ways.

The Jesus Story #5 – The Story that Leads Us to Jesus

After talking through the life of Jesus, and how the early followers discovered what it means to let the Risen Christ live in them, we start looking back at the Bible story that leads to Jesus’ coming. This is a long story of God seeking to win people to himself as they continue to get lost in their own ambitions and would turn away from him. This video looks at the theme of that story and God seeks to win a people into his love, and the geography in which he placed them so that their only safety would be in learning to trust him.

The Jesus Story is an adaption of The Jesus Lens for my grandchildren (ages 9-15) and anyone else that cares to look over my shoulder.  I want to give them an appreciation for the Bible, that has been the most valuable book I know to help me learn to live inside the Father through the work of Jesus.   There will be thirteen episodes in this season as we cover the whole story of Scripture, which is really a story about Jesus.

You can join us live if you like on the Facebook Group we created for this little venture or follow each new video as they appear on The Jesus Story Page here on Lifestream.

(If you don’t see the video above, please click here.)

Print Out Ancient Middle Eastern Map Before Watching the Video