Kenya Update: Gratefulness

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

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

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

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

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

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

You will be updated on the progress.

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

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

What Is He Showing You?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He’s Got This!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

__________________

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

 

 

In the Jaws of Destruction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Miracle of the Father’s Provision

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

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

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

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

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

This is what they asked of us:

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

Total approximately budget: $130,255

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

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

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

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

So grateful. So, so grateful.

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

Kenya, and the Beauty of Silence

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Richard J. Foster, Seeking the Kingdom

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

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

Generosity as Justice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for helping us help them.

A Difficult But Joyful Task

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is my response:  

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

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

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

She responded:

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

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

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

The Best Conversation I’ve Ever Had…

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

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

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

Here’s how they described it on their podcast:

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

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

____________

In Other News:

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

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

No Better Place to Be

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voices from Ukraine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Help for Ukraine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not Everyone Has to Understand You

In interacting with some people about my last post on All Heaven Applauds, I realized I had left out something that’s incredibly important that will help you deal with people who lie about you to discredit you.  I’ve added it to the original post, but I also wanted to call attention to it here as well for those who already read the original post.

After learning to forgive, this may be the toughest one. Just remember, these are not things you can do on your own, but as we take our pain and grief to Father, he can teach us how to genuinely walk in these realties. It will take time to find real freedom here, just continue to give him access to your heart and your feelings as his love overwhelms the pain and leads you to the joy he has for you in spite of it.

Fifth, find comfort in being misunderstood. If you want to walk this journey, you can’t correct everyone’s lies. This is hard because religion taught us we are validated by other people’s perceptions of us. That’s a lie too! You don’t have to try to convince people of what’s true. Doing so will drive you nuts. People who traffic in falsehoods are not interested in understanding you or accurately representing your motives. They enjoy their attempts to diminish you and you’ll only give them more ammunition to twist into false accusations. Find your peace in the fact that God knows the truth and that he will eventually get the last word on every lie.  The misunderstandings of others are part of their journey. There may be a time to confront, but God will show you when and how, even though the outcomes will rarely be what you hope.

When you have the freedom to embrace the love of people who truly care about you, you’ll worry less about the judgments of those who do not.

All Heaven Applauds

Have you ever been the victim of a well-placed lie? Did it cost you valuable relationships because someone spread rumors about you that others believed were true? 

If you have, you’re not alone. Treachery and deceit are an ever-present undercurrent of the human story. Some people think nothing of fabricating stories, exaggerating details, and spreading rumors to get what they want. I know many people who have been shattered by it, and once a lie takes hold, there’s no way to dislodge it from people who need the lie to be true.

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. The Bible is full of stories where lying and deception are tools to grasp power, hide jealousy, steal, or aggrieve themselves of some perceived injustice. They care little for the lives and relationships they damage in the process as long as they get the outcome they want. 

I get emails like the one below almost every week. This one is from a couple who were recently excluded from the congregation they had been a key part of for decades. To cover up his own failures, the pastor spread lies about them. I know many of you will be able to relate to their story.

We are definitely on a new adventure while still trying to heal from a devastating church break.  We lost so many friends and were shunned/excommunicated from those we thought of as family.  Because we live in a small town, we are constantly confronted with people from our old congregation, so we can only avoid the inevitable for so long.  Today, while at a coffee shop with my homeschooler, the wife of one of the elders who has played a huge role in the division at the church and in the attack on my husband tapped me on the shoulder and asked me how I was with a big smile.  

Of course, being caught off guard, I said “fine.” I felt physically nauseous. I just don’t know how to process this.  I feel like she was the “bigger person” in coming up to me.  Folks who have not experienced this type of betrayal have all kinds of advice for us and have told us that we just need to forgive and move on.  I’m tired of pretending like sin did not happen.  It did.  When I got in the car, I just started to cry.  It feels like we’ve been through something traumatic and people purposefully ignore it because they don’t want to be involved or they don’t want to think less of the pastor/leadership. I know something like this does not compare to physically losing a family member, etc. but it kind of feels like I lost a child or my husband and all people want to talk to me about is the weather, refusing to acknowledge this loss.

There’s nothing more painful than being the sacrificial victim your “friends” used to protect themselves. I’ve seen it too many times and have felt that sting myself. And there’s nothing more condescendingly painful than when those who spread lies about you approach you in that faked-up, lovey-dovey way so they can avoid any acknowledgment of the hurt they either caused or supported. I had a former colleague who was especially good at that. “Let’s just pretend we love each other after I stabbed you in the back.

Unfortunately, that is the nature of our religious landscape, and it can do far more damage in small-town America, where you can’t hide from your persecutors. I wish I had an easy answer for people like this, but I don’t know that there is one. The pain you feel from people’s judgments and their pretenses are not personal, though admittedly it feels like it is. Those on the side of abuse want “things” to get back to “normal” as soon as possible. Their smiles might be genuine to them, but they will always appear fake because it comes by denying what they did. And, yes, it is incredibly difficult for those whose lives were upended and reputations destroyed by that abuse to find a way forward with people who won’t acknowledge it.

If you’re looking to follow Jesus, you are constantly swimming upstream, which rarely leads to blissful, calm circumstances. Religious people are the worst at shooting their wounded after they’ve done the wounding. But that doesn’t mean you have to be their victim or join the charade to look loving. I encourage people to find a way into the gentle honesty Jesus can give us for people who have wronged us. That doesn’t come easily, but over time Jesus can heal the darkness.

How do you get there?

First, realize that God is still inviting you on a journey that is still full of his life. Though you had dreams destroyed or relationships altered, he has unlimited options to take you on a journey that will absorb the pain and use it to make you more dependent on him and more compassionate toward others. Stewing in bitterness will not help.

Second, find a way to count it as joy. Yes, this is tough, but it is precisely what Jesus told us to do when we find ourselves the victim of deceit and betrayal:

“Count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort, and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens – give a cheer, even! – for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.” (Matthew 5:11-12 MSG) 

Those are the words of One who endured lying and exclusion in far worse ways than we ever will. Someone gave me that Scripture after the first time a good friend lied about me to separate me from a fellowship I’d served for fifteen years. Standing up for what’s true will often cost you dearly with those only looking for comfort.

Why does heaven applaud? Because you got your guts ripped out? Of course not. Heaven applauds when truth wins out over expedience when people would rather do what’s right than compromise their hearts to maintain an image. You’ll find freedom when you can live for something more significant than doing what comes easy.

Third, realize that when you are sacrificed on the altar of someone’s anger or jealousy, God will be opening new doors to be at work in you and to make you a safe place for others. Those who have healed in betrayal will be far less dangerous in the world, and they will be an oasis to those who will find themselves in it one day.

Fourth, lean into forgiveness. This is hard and will only truly come when you know that you are not their victim. The prayer Jesus prayed from the cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do,” is the goal. It’s the most amazing prayer in Scripture. Jesus prayed it over those who lied about him to win his execution and now mocked him in the midst of his pain. Surely they knew what they were doing, didn’t they? Jesus looks deeper. They had no idea why they were doing such things. Why were they so afraid that they had to kill God’s Son to satisfy it? That, they didn’t know. The people that lie about us know that they are lying, but they often don’t understand what insecurity, trauma, or jealousy is at work to make them do it. When you love enough not to second-guess their motives, you will find the freedom to pray this prayer and mean it.

Fifth, find comfort in being misunderstood. If you want to walk this journey, you can’t correct everyone’s lies. This is hard because religion taught us we are validated by other people’s perceptions of us. That’s a lie too! You don’t have to try to convince people of what’s true. Doing so, will drive you nuts. People who traffic in falsehoods are not interested in understanding you or accurately representing your motives. They enjoy their attempts to diminish you and you’ll only give them more ammunition to twist into false accusations. Find your peace in the fact that God knows the truth and that he will eventually get the last word on every lie.  The misunderstandings of others are part of their journey. There may be a time to confront, but God will show you when and how, even though the outcomes will rarely be what you hope.

You don’t have to rush any of this. Let the pain work in your heart. Let the tears flow. His grace is at work in our sobs and grief, dislodging your spirit from the tyranny of self and inviting you so much deeper into his love and life. Let God show you how to walk through those moments and how he wants to rearrange your heart in the process. Let him destroy your need for the affirmation of others, and you’ll be a better gift in his hands for others. Embrace the pain and rejection, but most importantly, embrace him in it. He will bring healing to you in so many ways, and then you’ll know how to love others well and be an oasis for the pain that fills the world.

You have lost much, but there is so much more to gain. And, yes, it does take a while, but as the healing begins to set you free, you’ll find words to offer those who were part of the pain. You won’t have to ignore it or deflect from it. In his time, you’ll find the grace to smile and small talk again, knowing you are no longer their victim. And you will see ways to be gently honest in a way that invites them to life instead of using them to salve your wounds. By then, it won’t be about you anymore; it will be about them and finding a way to love them in their lostness.

Gentle honesty can look like, “It’s good to see you again, but you know our hearts still grieve over some of the things you were a part of. I hope we get a chance to let Jesus bring healing there someday.” At the right time, with the right heart, that can open doors for someone else to recognize how they passed on pain. But be warned, it may also make them angry, but at least they won’t be pretending anymore.

It’s not easy living in love in a world where treachery gets people exactly what they think they want. Just remember, it’s only temporary. One day Jesus will get the last word on everyone and every event. He doesn’t have it yet, but the truth will win out in the end.

Russians and Ukrainians in Dark Days

I was in Russia in 2012 and in Ukraine in the summer of 2018. Since a few of my books have been translated into Russian, I have connections on both sides of the escalating tensions in that part of the world. Sadly, the greed and insecurities of our world leaders continue to force the everyday citizenry into wars they wouldn’t choose for themselves. That’s the price of human “kings,” according to Samuel, when Israel demanded one of their own. They will take your stuff, send your sons to war and take your daughters captive. It continues to happen in our sad, sad world.

This is the email sent me from someone who received it from a friend in Russia:

Thank you so much for Wayne Jacobsen’s book, He Loves Me. This book is one of my favorites. I was able to find one hard copy at one of the Christian online stores, read it myself, and was very inspired. I shared my copy of the paper book with another person. We are learning to live in the Love of the Father. We are earning to live sharing the organic nature of the Kingdom of God, but there’s still so much we are trying to learn. We want to have like-minded people, but so far it hasn’t worked out so well. It feels as if we are all alone against the great raging waves. But God is always with us!

And this was recently sent out from a family (pictured above) that I spent time with a few years ago in Ukraine as they face an uncertain future.

Our family has never been held hostage. But now it feels as if we have been captured by terrorists. Daily news of new meetings, talks, and attempts world leaders make to pull Ukraine out of the threat of imminent war, confirm that we are on the brink of an abyss. Even though Russia’s war against Ukraine has been going on for 8 years now. We know that many people do not want to hear about it. Some Christians argue that “this is all simply politics, and we must be above that and build the Kingdom of God.” So you can say until the war comes to your home. Then it becomes clear that behind our “spirituality” often hides indifference to other people’s grief and an uncontrollable desire to maintain comfort at any cost.

However, for our country, war is a bitter and painful reality. And for our family, this has been ou daily service for the last 8 years. Are we afraid? Of course. News dishearten. During a war, people are terrible, cruel, and ruthless. Will the war reach our homes? Will we hear explosions and see blood and death with our own eyes? Will we have the courage to go through this? Uncertainty scares…

Are we angry? Yes. Two World Wars passed throughout the territory of Ukraine. And for the third time, Putin’s Russia is ready to drown Ukraine in blood. We remember the days of the Soviet Union. Putin seeks to restore this terrible country, the times of Stalin and the KGB. Millions of people were persecuted, tortured, and went missing. Thousands of Christians were persecuted and gave their lives for Christ.

What encourages us?  Firstly, the Lord Himself! He is the only Guarantor of our salvation! We are grateful to all countries for any kind help, although we do not rely on the United States, NATO or Europe. We hear His voice through the Word, in our minds, from other Christians, which calms us and gives us hope. We cling to Him and trust Him as children.

Secondly, the prayers of millions of Christians around the world. You are an incredibly strong support for us. Thank you for your heartfelt words, your prayers and your tears. We feel as if we’re a part of God’s great army, which stands in prayer on the borders of Ukraine. We encourage others and help the families of fallen soldiers and the families of the military. Moreover, we are preparing to accept refugees into our home. Our relatives from Kharkiv and a pastor from Kyiv have already asked us to accept their wives and children when the hostilities begin. We ask the Lord to for wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit in this difficult time and about the salvation of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians and Russians who are in fear.

I love the grace and courage they are finding in this situation amidst the heartbeat of their deep concern. It is easy to see this conflict in terms of geopolitical realities and forget the price paid by individuals and families in both of these countries. My personal connections give me a deeper investment in events that go on half a world away, and perhaps it can inspire your prayers for them as well during these difficult days.

Brothers and sisters of Ukraine and Russia, our hearts are with you and our prayers hold you before the One who will get the last word on everything, even the chaos of our broken world. Often it is with groanings too deep for words, but please know you are not alone.

“Jesus, may your kingdom come; your will be done, here on earth as it is in heaven. Lord Jesus come now to the people of Russia and Ukraine. Let your glory rise in your people there and shine out of them with your glory against the darkness. Hold their hearts close to yours in your love, and let your love flow through them to those terrified around them. Give them the courage to navigate whatever circumstances befall them with your insight and your wisdom, deliver them from evil, and renew them in your goodness. Amen.”

A Word of Thanks from Kenya

Last month, we were asked to help once again in Kenya with their continued drought, which has worsened this year. In response to their request for $14,000, you gave over $17,000 to help them. They have just returned from distributing the food and supplies to the aged and nursing mothers, which the picture above depicts.

Here’s what they wrote me just a few minutes ago:

Dear brother Wayne,  receive wonderful greetings in the mighty name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We would like to send our gratitude to the entire team over there for the great love and concern towards our families here. We have completed the distribution in every area we mentioned before.

It was a touching journey.

In northern parts,  we hired the motorcycle to distribute food to the homes of the aged who were unable to come and who had no road which the truck could pass. This food has opened a door for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to go forth and many people received Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. We went with a group of volunteers, to help with the work.

Actually, two years ago the climate changed, and it has affected their crops. Almost the entire community is starving due to the drought.  So it is our prayer that the donation of food can continue,  as we believe God will provide for us

Below is the message to the entire team over there who has stood with us:

Thank you for your quick response and for sacrificial support of stretching your hand towards the need of our brothers and sisters who are in hard times.

May the grace of God fill every area of your life. The Bible says that whoever gives to those who were in need lends God. Let God bless you and provide for you in any area of life. We know since the pandemic strike the world, many people all over the world have been affected in other ways. Climate change has also contributed much. You have touched thousands of lives and given hope to the voiceless. Sometimes we feel even shame to ask but because of the grace and love which God has put in your life. You have not counted how many times we have requested the support.

The gift you have given has changed and transformed many lives. This time the situation of drought has affected almost the entire country. In some areas people go 3 to 4 days without eating. I believe this season God will make a way for them to go through. Continue praying for us this season, and the families who didn’t get any of the first shipment. We could use an additional of 235 bags of maize and 40 bags of beans for an additonal $9500.  

Yours,

Michael and Thomas

If you would like to help, you can still contribute to help them get through to July.

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

Beloved Through the Year in Germany

I just received a copy of my new devotional, Live Loved Free Full, in its German translation—Geliebt durchs Jahr, which I think translates to Beloved Throughout the Year. This is the sixth book Glory-World Medien has published of mine, and you can see them all at the bottom of the page for this one.

This is a translation of the description of the book on their website:

Wayne Jacobsen’s book “Beloved!” (He Loves Me) quickly became a bestseller after it was published in 2008. As a result, many have understood and experienced for the first time what God’s love is, how deep it goes and how much it can transform our lives.

With “Beloved throughout the year” there is now practically a sequel in which the author has incorporated his experiences of the last few years; this time not as a non-fiction book, but as a collection of practical suggestions for a life as a lover.

These suggestions want to pull our heart into God’s reality every day and help us to see our world through his eyes, to absorb his impulses and to master our days with all their challenges out of his wisdom.

When Jesus spoke of giving us abundant life, He wasn’t primarily concerned with pain-free circumstances and material blessings. He spoke of an inner life so rich and genuine that it can carry us through life’s difficulties.

This book will help us to do that. A loved, free and fulfilled life is the result of a growing connection with God on a heart level. Let his love be your daily reality, learn to absorb his impulses and experience his peace permeating your life in every situation!

This is a daily devotional with an encouraging thought on how to lean into Father’s love instead of navigating life on your own. If you haven’t read the book yet, here’s the reading for today—February 16.

February 16 – You Are His Delight

I was reading Song of Songs a few weeks ago. I wondered if the bridegroom’s delight over his lover is like Jesus’s delight in his Church. I know how I feel when I’ve been gone from Sara for a few days—the ache in my heart just to be near her again and hold her in my arms. Could this be how God feels about me?

I’ve concluded that what it means to come to be his delight is that God feels for me similarly to what I feel for Sara. His, however, is a billion times greater than mine. He is God and, after all, he has more love in his heart than I can possibly fathom.

And if I really knew he delighted in me like that, wouldn’t it be so much easier to rest in his certain arms, even in the places where I’m most broken and helpless?

I am at my best when I am at rest in his love, and less so when I’m anxious about how he feels about me. If you only knew he looked at you with delight, how much would that change how you go through this day?

You’ve captured my heart, dear friend. You looked at me, and I fell in love.
One look my way and I was hopelessly in love!
Song of Solomon 4:8–15 (MSG)

When you think of living to please the Lord, does it sound more like an arduous chore or an outrageous invitation to live in his pleasure? For most of my life it has been the first, but I think I had that wrong. God lives in the fullness of his pleasure and wants us to join him there as we also discover the fullness of ours. If you want to explore some of my recent insights on this that is once again altering the trajectory of my life in Christ, you can listen to last week’s podcast, Living to Pleasure.

If you’re interested in copies of Live Loved Full Free, you can order the German translation here or the original English version here. A French version is in process as well. I’m so grateful for all the hard work others put in to make these books available beyond the English-speaking world.

As for other translations of my books and articles in other languages, you can find them here. I’ve been fortunate to have some of my things translated into Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, South Korean, Spanish, Swahili, and Tamil. And of course The Shack has been translated in nearly 50 languages around the world, but that one is easier to find.

 

Recognizing the Seasons

First, a word about my last blog about the call of the Bride. I didn’t want to say much about it there; I just wanted it to hang out there to see how it resonated with others. I’ve appreciated hearing that so many others have sensed a similar call in their hearts.

That blog post was simply writing down what had happened in my heart in the middle of the night. I was awakened out of a sound sleep on Thursday night outside Nashville with this prayer coursing through my body—”The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.'” I repeated it over and over, and as I held that before Father, other Scriptures came to my mind, that seemed to fit that call in my heart. My heart has been captured by similar prayers in the five days since.

I honestly don’t know what it means. I don’t think it is just about the Second Coming of Jesus. If we want him to come eventually, we will want him to come now to make his glory known in the real circumstances of life—into our doubts and fears, sufferings and temptations, and hopes and dreams. It’s the constant draw of the heart to the groom, not because he doesn’t already live in our hearts. He does. It’s a call to let that love be closer and let his glory be more evident.

And, I think it is a bit of a dog whistle to the Bride around the world. Some have already sensed that drawing in their heart. Others are finding it put words to something they’ve been sensing but hadn’t fully surfaced yet. What would happen if the pulse of that call would rise from millions of hearts around the world and held it before God, “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come'”? No, that won’t induce the Second Coming, but we may see his glory rise in the world around us.

But, here’s the real reason for this blog:

For the past eighteen months, many of you have received a thrice-weekly email called Breath of Fresh Air with a quote from one of my various publications or podcasts. I hear every week from people how those brief quotes have come at just the right moment to encourage people or give them insight into the situations they are facing. For others, they’ve been great reminders to tune their heart to Father’s love and life.

If you have enjoyed those, you have Traci Shyer of Pennsylvania to thank for them. She put all of those together as her way to share the life of Jesus in the world. She also did Instagram memes three days a week, such as the one above. A couple of weeks ago, she informed me that this season of her life is over. New work responsibilities and Father’s shifting call in her own heart are taking her on to other things.

So, thank you, Traci, for how much love and light you’ve shared in the world and how it has enriched so many others. I’ve told her how much I have loved the quotes she’s chosen and that artistic flare she has put to them. Even more, I appreciated her honesty with me when she knew it was time to lay it down. Everything in our hearts is for a season, and saying, “I’m done,” is every bit as important as her originally saying, “I will.” We really don’t have the freedom to say yes to something if we also don’t have the freedom to say “No, Thanks,” or know when our time doing it is done. Nothing in our lives is meant to go on past the vision God gives us for it.

We still have a backlog of her work, so this will continue a while longer. If, however, this is going to continue down the road, God will have someone else whom he would inspire to do something similar with their own creativity and passion. So, if you read this and think, “Hey!  I’d love to do that,” please let me know and we can talk about it.

If not, then we may recycle the quotes or simply let this lie and look for other ways Father might have to encourage. I honestly don’t feel this is something that has to continue indefinitely, so I’m not trying to recruit anyone. I’m just putting the invitation into the wind to see if anyone else feels a nudge. All it involves is picking out some short quotes from Lifestream or The God Journey and finding a decorative way to send them out via our mailing list or social media.

Seriously, no pressure; it’s just an offer.

If you want to learn more about how to recognize God’s work in the shifting seasons of our circumstances or in God opening new doors of opportunity, you might find In Season, Embracing Father’s Process for Fruitfulness, a helpful tool.

The Call of the Bride

“Listen! My beloved!
Behold, he is coming,
Climbing on the mountains,
Leaping on the hills!”
Song of Songs 2:8 

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!”
Revelation 22:17

Lift up your heads, O gates,
And be lifted up, O ancient doors,
That the King of glory may come in!
Psalm. 24:7 

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!”
Revelation 22:17

Let the sea roar and all it contains,
The world and those who dwell in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands;
Let the mountains sing together for joy
Before the LORD;

For he is coming to judge the earth;
He will judge the world with righteousness,
And the peoples with equity. (Psalm 98:7-9)

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!” (Rev. 22:17)

“And his winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Luke 3:17)

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!” (Rev. 22:17)

Jesus said, “Look, I am coming soon! ” (Revelation 22:12)

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!” (Revelation 22:17)

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me. (Revelation 3:20)

And the Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.”

And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; and the one who wishes to take the water of life without cost. (Revelation. 22:17)  

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!”
Revelation 22:17

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” 

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:20)

Relationships that Matter

This morning, I’m at the airport, ready to catch a flight to cold and rainy Nashville. I had to postpone this trip from January because of some COVID concerns, and it’s a good thing we did. That weekend they had a massive snowstorm that shut down the city. This time, it is hopefully just rain. I’ll be with some new people on this trip, a younger community of people exploring what life in Christ can be. I know little about them, but I’m excited to meet some new friends. In addition, I have some old friends there, too, who are finding time to hang out with me.

I leave with an overwhelmingly grateful heart. Yesterday, I asked Sara how we were doing on contributions for the new need in Kenya. They wanted to know if we could find $14,110 to help buy food for nursing moms, seniors, and others suffering in the ever-deepening drought in the north of Kenya. You responded with $17,300 in just a few days. I always find myself surprised and overjoyed at how quickly people respond and with more than I would think.

Over the past few years, your generosity has helped hundreds of thousands of people in that region find relief from hunger, and be exposed to the Gospel. Their thanksgiving for physical substance and spiritual nurture is so amazing to hear. Thank you for standing with them in this critical hour of need. If you still want to give to them, I’m sure more needs will come. These people in the tribal regions are in desperate straits. From the bottom of my heart, thank you, thank you, thank you.

I’ve also heard from my friends in Ukraine over my recent post about the tensions there and the heart they carry in these threatening times. You can read one response in the comments on that blog.

I wish all the people I know could know all the other people I know. You would all be so enriched!  I just don’t know how to pull that off. For me, those relationships are not only nearby but stretch all across the world. We just spent the weekend with some close friends visiting from Ohio who were with me on an Israel trip five years ago. That led to a few others from that trip getting together over the weekend for fellowship, some friendly bocce ball, and a football game or two. My friend Luis also stopped by to share some of Sunday with us. I love the nourishment of heart and spirit that great relationships offer.

I’ve often said it, relationships make us rich. I look back over my life and am so grateful for all the people Jesus has connected me to in the world. Some are on magnificent journeys of learning to live in the Fahter’s affection, while many others have yet to begin that journey. Each one is a rich treasure when they let you in on the reality of who they are, warts and all. None of us are perfect and relationships can go through awkward moments of pain and miscommunication. But if people can respond with honesty, love, tenderness, and generosity, there’s no brokenness that can’t be healed, no failure that can’t be mended.

I just got off the phone with someone today who is experiencing real hurt in his family. I could feel his pain, not for himself, but for those he loves who only know how to lie, gossip, manipulate, and get angry when their manipulations don’t work. Many people protect themselves from relationships because of hurts just like this. They figure it’s better to live isolated than risk the pain of judgment and rejection.

I disagree, of course. Yes, I’ve had relationships go wrong, too. Who hasn’t? Yes, they hurt, especially when people aren’t open to honest, compassionate dialogue to get past the inevitable bumps in the road. However, if you let those people win, you’ll rob yourself of the friendships God has for you. Lean into those relationships where you know you are loved, where people celebrate who you are even in your struggles, and see the value of tenderness and forgiveness. Lean away from relationships filled with anger, gossip, threats, and ultimatums. Don’t argue with them or even retaliate with anger. If they judge you without listening to your side of the story, they don’t truly care about you anyway. You don’t have to let destructive people have free access to your heart.

Paul told us to warn a divisive person two times, and after that, have nothing more to do with them. You can’t change people so damaged by trauma, jealousy, or their need to control others, until they are ready to take an honest look at themselves. But that doesn’t mean you have to hate them. You can love them from afar, pray for God’s grace to touch them whenever they cross your mind, and be ready should they ever open their hearts to genuine reconciliation.

It is dysfunctional to keep seeking the love of people who are manipulative and dishonest. Leave them to God to see what he might do to invite them to healing. Good relationships don’t require perfection, just a measure of grace that seeks peace instead of conflict. Give your heart to those who treat it well and learn to treat others the way you would want them to treat you. Healthy relationships aren’t rocket science. You know those relationships that nurture your soul, encouraging you to a wiser and lighter heart. And you know those that weigh you down with demands and distortions that shred your soul.

Lean into the former and out of the latter and you’ll find that relationships will make you rich, too.

A Heavy Heart for my Friends in Ukraine

In September of 2018, I was invited to Ukraine and met many incredible, passionate believers there. When I see Ukraine in the news, I don’t think of a country over there somewhere; I think of those people I got to know during those few days.

I sat with them at meals, worshiped with them in the woods, walked in beautiful parks, and celebrated their homeland and their passion for Jesus. Their lives will change drastically in the next few days if Russia invades. They could be at war or captives to a Communist regime once again. It is easy for us to think of this conflict in terms of states and political gamesmanship among world leaders. But it affects people that I know and love.

When you hear about Ukraine these days, please don’t see them simply as a country. These are brothers and sisters with the same hopes, dreams, and aspirations that you and I have.

That’s why Jesus reminded us to love in the singular: “Love one another.”  That’s how God loves, not the whole of humanity but each one individual. He says he loves us all because he loves us each.

Love the Ukrainians today, even though you’ve never met them as individual people and families just like you treasure here. And, please, pray for them.

And see those suffering in Kenya the same way, not with guilt or shame that we have it so good, but with the intense love that the Creator has for his people and the suffering they endure in this fallen world.

 

Drought Once Again Ravages Northern Kenya

For those of you new to Lifestream, we have been engaged with a group of people in Kenya since Wayne visited them in 2010 in Kitale. In addition to their own needs, they have been helping tribes in North Pokot through a prolonged drought that has destroyed their way of life. We sent nearly $2.5 million worth of relief and development there over the past 11 years with amazing results, not only for the Gospel but also to give hope and a future to hundreds of thousands of people. All that has come from the generous contributions of those whom Lifestream and The God Journey have touched. Your generosity has overwhelmed us on many occasions.

Unfortunately, they are in need once again.

I have just received word from our friends in Kenya that drought conditions have savagely returned to North Pokot and Turkana in Northern Kenya, leading to the death of cattle, crops, and even wildlife. It is devastating. This is the email I receive this week:

Dear Brother Wayne

Thank you for standing with us in prayers. Many crops especially in the Northern regions, were totally affected by the draught, almost three quarters of the counties, people are totally affected.  But the worst counties are Baringo, Marsabit, Turkana, and all North Pokot regions. The cattle are being swept by draught, camels, and goats and also part of Mount Elgon and our neighboring village called Bosinia slum is becoming worse.

You can not hold the tears when you see what is taking place, almost hundreds of thousands are in bad conditions and affected by hunger. Even we have received the call from North Pokot Kase village (where you drilled water). The situation is much worse. Even they have started eating bush roots, which are bitter. We have heard they have sent some people coming on foot to Kitale to see how we can help the elderly, breastfeeding moms, and the children. They are on the way to seek our help.

If God provides we can give them 300 bags of maize and 50 bags of beans,  this we really rescue them for three months, including other areas like Bosinia and Mount Elgon too

Yours,

Brother Michael and Thomas

A recent PBS news report on the current crisis summarizes it this way: “The worst drought in decades is gripping eastern Africa — parching landscapes, killing livestock and creating a humanitarian crisis. Driven by climate change, it’s also leading to civil strife, as shepherding communities battle each other for scarce resources.”

In further conversations with my contacts in Kenya, they have asked if we could provide $14,000 to help those starving. If they can get more, they will also help in Turkana, where God has recently opened door to help others as they spread the Gospel. Sara and I will be giving personally to this, and I want to invite you to join us if you can.

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

 

“You Won’t Find Me Here”

I love how God works to invite us into his reality, even over the course of years of frustration and pain. I get emails like this because something I wrote or said plays into it, but I am more excited about how Father finds us and draws us into his life, even if it takes years.

I’m 57 years old writing from Australia. Two years ago my wife bumped into an old friend with whom I had shared many hours of conversation about our disillusionment and eventual exit out of the institutional church. Many years had gone by since last seeing this friend and she invited him over. We talked at length and he left me a copy of your book So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore. I had long stopped reading any Christian material for reasons which will become clearer later, My faith was intact, but events of the past had left me disillusioned, suspicious, and very cynical. I also observed that it was a fictional story and I felt indifferent about it at best.

Soon after, on a Sunday night in August 2019, I went to bed and started to read. I was intrigued, the conversations were not what I was expecting. I was being drawn in as familiar insights and conclusions I had come to myself out of deep frustration years ago were being plainly identified and openly discussed. We had been involved in some Pentecostal churches including a split, starting a new one with fellow survivors and I had also started theological college training. Life was meant to come together here with a sense of purpose and meaning, In reality, it led to total disappointment, Something in all of this felt wrong, God was missing! The contrived efforts to hide or ignore this were hard to watch. It felt hollow and empty, and I grew increasingly disillusioned with all of it.

I dreaded Sundays and it took me days to recover. I questioned how do people keep doing this and not ask “is this it?” And here I am training to be a part of this! I had been craving a deeper relationship with God, but by the mid-nineties, I was so depressed and mentally drained I left my theological degree 2/3rd’s through. Further adding to the confusion was this thought about my church, so loud and persistent it was almost audible. It was simply “you won’t find me here”. I found this both puzzling and disturbing as I had neither the confidence nor the courage to understand this because I thought it had to be wrong. If this was God then I can’t do it anymore, I had to move on for the sake of my family and sanity. Feeling an outcast and shattered that this was where the journey ended, I shoved my faith in the basement of my mind and walked away, I was done

Fast Forward to 2019, and a family crisis that involved false accusations against me just as I began to read your book. In a matter of seconds, I had gone from looking at spiritual issues I had tucked away for years, to a sudden explosion of conflict, and the realization that my life might be over. Everything unraveled; I went into shock physically shaking, my mind dissolved into chaos. I felt utter despair.

Then, other thoughts came. You know what’s going on here. Look at what you were reading. This is no coincidence; it’s a counter move, an attack. It felt evil, but I so did not want to go there, no way! Next, I became suddenly aware of this intense feeling of the presence of God physically around me. I knew it was him, I recognized it immediately, it was unmistakable and that seriously pissed me off too! like it just added to the torment.

The next day the accusation was withdrawn, but my mind had exploded and I was numb. I hated the idea of making this a spiritual issue, all that familiar cringe-worthy religious terminology made me want to reach for a bucket, I had been there 25 years ago and that road led to pain and disappointment. God’s Spirit though was undeniably and tangibly on me now. Why? And what’s so important about that book?

I returned to the book and read on. What unfolded through the pages had taken so many things I had known and suspected to be true, and it all clicked perfectly into place. I just kept repeating over and over “I knew this!” God had been telling me all those years ago as I recalled the words “you won’t find me here”.

Your book opened and validated something birthed in my spirit 25 years ago that God had begun, but my mind had no self-belief or confidence that I could possibly be hearing God correctly. Institutionally and culturally conditioned from my earliest years the frustration and disappointment of not finding intimacy with God were inevitable. They won’t give intimacy because they can’t! It was such a relief to know I had heard right! Unfortunately, it took me 25 years to find out.

So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore opened up the possibility that God can be known outside of the narrow religious framework I had known since a child. I realized I had always found it hard to trust God, particularly as “Father”. Due to my disfigured image of him, I really didn’t believe he could love me. The doorway into living loved and actually relaxing in the Father’s affection where trust is built on the truth of his character healed a deep emptiness I’d always carried. Realizing God is love, that it flows from him and is not contingent upon my or anyone’s approval lifted a huge weight off me.

Then it got even better. because it’s his love that drives transformation not the straight jacket of religious conformity. I found by resting in His presence I knew He was no longer a distant abstract concept – this was a game-changer.

That presence of the Spirit I felt that night has never left. It’s still tangibly here now as I write. While the last 2 1/2 years have been amazing, they have also been painfully challenging since I needed lots of healing. I spend a lot of time just sitting in His presence soaking Him up, sometimes saying very little, words often get in the way. I had always been an analytical thinker, but this was different. It was like the background landscape of my mind was being redrawn and colored in differently, making some old familiar thoughts look stupid. It’s generated a whole new stream of dialogue as the truth of love, trust, acceptance and no separation took hold. This felt relational, someone who was there even in the pain, not an abstract concept or distant angry deity.

I wanted to tell you that I’m so appreciative of what God does through you Wayne, it’s like you help people find the connection point that eludes them, then step back out of the way and let God do His thing. The significance of this cannot be underestimated, the airwaves, the internet, are awash with all kinds of truth peddlers, many using similar relational language, but much of it appears to be a cosmetic makeover of a well-run system underneath. I know attending a gathering is not the issue, but many people have been blinded by the veil of religion oblivious to the God who is right in front of them. It takes a lot of honest courage to break the persuasive bonds of religion, particularly when it’s subtle and appears logically true with historical tradition and numbers on their side.

Even 25 years ago I wondered how many believers on life support would survive if the machine were turned off. It is why your books, Lifestream and The God Journey continue to be such an important resource. Finding the beginning of the trail and starting down the path often lacks any outside assurance or validation, with so few cheerleaders. Thanks again Wayne, I read He Loves Me, Finding Church, and Beyond Sundays, All incredibly helpful, but also critical in reaching those like myself who just needed to find the connection or even the permission to believe the voice of dissatisfaction, just maybe the Father drawing them to himself.

The God Journey podcast, past, and present, has been such an encouragement, I have loved the conversations you’ve had with Kyle over the last year, particularly the subterranean move that’s going around the world giving an increasing sense that God is up to something quite different and possibly unprecedented. This is not just thanks from us but also an encouragement that what you do continues to make a significant real difference around the world.

Two and a half years down the trail the connection is real and just keeps growing regardless of circumstances.

I thought his story might encourage many of you, too.  Yes, there is lots of pain behind his story—years of frustration and disillusionment.

Of course, I don’t think my book did all of that. In stories like this, I’m convinced that something I wrote or said only serves to tap a deep well that has already been bubbling up unseen for some, and it isn’t going to be denied. Any number of other books or conversations could have been the catalyst for Father to satisfy that hunger. It’s significant, too, that the offer of a book also coincided with a crisis, which opened the door to some fresh thinking.  That is often true for many people. Sometimes we get stuck in comfortable, though fruitless, patterns, and only when life deals us a severe blow are we disoriented enough to look over where Jesus has been all along.

Then, the glory comes. In the midst of pain and crisis—Presence! If this man’s life is like mine, I doubt that’s the first time Father has made himself known. It’s just that our heart and head weren’t in a space to be able to recognize him and respond, especially if we’ve been shackled by the lies of religious performance.  But now, a different journey unfolds where we can walk with him through the things that concern us and find what we’ve always been seeking.

I hate that it took twenty-five years for this man, but it may be a reminder to us to not give up on our hunger because we’ve been disappointed in the short run. Can you hold your hunger to know him long enough for him to do the work to fulfill it?  For most of us, it won’t take twenty-five years, especially if we stay on the hunt—always watching to see where Father’s fingerprints are making his presence known. But even when it takes that long, the fruit of it is no less sweet as you can read above. We may think that’s a lot of wasted time, but I suspect that Father was working all along to prepare a heart ready to know him.

Even in a paralyzing crisis, he could recognize the challenge of darkness to distract him yet again from the work of Jesus. But this time, it didn’t succeed. He saw the threat alongside a new door that was opening and chose the door instead. I love that!

God wants us all to find him in his fullness. If what you’re doing isn’t working, consider that you may not be looking yet where he actually is.  Keep your heart open.  He’ll win this in you, too!

Living on the Edges

Sean Kennedy, an author, and friend from the UK, wrote me about my most recent podcast with Mary, a new believer finding her legs on a relational journey against the religious voices that want to draw her into the captivity of guilt and obligation. He wrote about living on the edges in a way I hadn’t heard before, and it made a lot of sense to me. With his permission, let me share it with you:

A couple of things Mary said reminded me that the only place we can truly walk in freedom is on the edge. Jesus was hugely relational and yet at the same time an edge person. He was always working relationally, but he did so outside the institutions or at least on the edge of them. He taught in the synagogue occasionally and ate with the teachers of the law. But mostly he taught outside the synagogue in the homes and villages and fields where the ordinary people lived and worked. He was critical of power, yet when invited he met and ate and talked with the powerful. He also hung out on the edge with the sick, the foreigner, the sinner and those society disapproved of. His position on the edge helped him see things as they really were. Wayne and Kyle you have become edge guys. You’ve done your time on the inside of the institution, to see that it is usually an unhealthy dysfunctional place to be.  What I think is incredible is that Mary is managing so early to stay on the edge and not get sucked in.

When we are sucked into the center of an institution there we are in many ways at our most blind. Only when we live and work on the edge can we see more clearly. By all means go to a congregation if Jesus leads you, but stay on the edge with one foot inside it and one on the outside. On the inside we risk getting infected by groupthink and all sorts of religious oughts, shoulds and musts and becoming slaves of the institution. Only on the edge can we have a wider perspective.

We can see more clearly what is going on both the inside (good and bad) and on the outside. Only on the edge can we also see God’s invitations coming from surprising and interesting new directions. Amazingly I think Mary is somehow realizing this and resisting the temptations of being an insider. It is so tempting when we are invited in to become a member of the institution – and especially when we have a particular talent the institution recognizes in us. It’s not necessarily wrong, and may be an important part of our journey so long as we realize it is only for a season. It can become dangerous when we settle down and make the institution our home. And when we do spend a season on the inside it is especially important we make friends both with those on the edge of it and those on the outside of it so they can help us see what is wrong about the inside. Only then can we become a positive force for change whether it be on the inside or outside.)

I love his thoughts here. The people I see thriving in their relationship with God in these tumultuous times are those who aren’t committed to a specific kind of groupthink but are learning to follow the voice of the Shepherd. No one or no group has it all right. That’s as true of spiritual truth as it is cultural engagement. If you can’t see the strengths and weaknesses of whatever group you consider yourself a part of, you probably don’t spend enough time with people who think differently. That’s also true if you never see validity in the concerns of those outside your group. None of us knows all we need to know; thus, seeing others who disagree with us as evil will only lead us astray. That’s how the world seeks to manipulate us, even that worldly spirit among followers of Christ.

The truth is we’re all a bit flawed, and Jesus is still taking shape in us. Humility will go a long way to help us discern truth from lies. If you are not seeing Jesus point out the illusions in your journey from time to time, it might be because you’re not listening. You seek comfort in people telling you what you want to hear, not what you need to know. Only by hearing the voice of our Shepherd can we know what’s real and what isn’t.

The people living most redemptively in the world live on the edges, as Sean described. Isn’t that why Jesus challenged his disciples to be in the world and not of it? One thing that will help you do that is to live on the edges of groups with whom you identify. Don’t get in the center where it’s easy to be blinded; keep others outside of it in your eye line. When you have compassion for them, too, you are in a better position to discern what is true. God’s way may not be the one that I think serves me best. We are citizens of a kingdom that transcends politics, ethnicity, theology, and personal preference.

This reminds me of a story about Joshua on his way to Jericho in Joshua 5. He came upon a mighty man with a drawn sword standing in his path. Startled, Joshua challenges him most likely with all the hubris of a man on a mission for God, “Are you for us or our enemies?” 

“Neither,” the man replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”  

It’s a silly question to ask God or his hosts if they are on our side in whatever battle we’ve engaged. It’s far more important for us to be on his. Even if we think our struggle is as clear-cut as the battle Joshua was about to engage in, we dare not think our side is always right, or we’ll end up mired in human thinking.

Jesus told his followers to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves. That warning has never been more timely. There’s no way we can do that without an attentive ear to our Shepherd and a more expansive view of the world than what any media can feed us.

A Difficult Day Ahead

Today I say my final goodbye to Dave Coleman, a close friend for over thirty years. I wrote about him and our work together in a previous blog when he passed away. His family has asked me to facilitate the celebration of his life at a memorial service today, and I have no idea how I’m going to get through it.

Death is only painful on this side of the door. On the other side, Dave has already discovered what it means to be face-to-face with Jesus, and he is enjoying the reality of what we can only glimpse from the shadowlands here that we live in. On this side, those who knew him will miss him deeply, his smile, wisdom, and tenderness. I already do. I don’t know how I’m going to get through this service.

In preparing my remarks, I remembered the last email I got from Dave. It showed up late this fall quite unexpectedly one morning and it was simply a prayer—a profound one at that! He had been walking with me through a harrowing situation that involved some people I love deeply.

Here’s what he wrote:

 May the Father, who is rich in mercy, speak kindly to your heart and comfort you with the thought that the only way out of this is to lay it at the foot of the cross…. with the prayer, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”  Do not allow your accusers to stifle in any way your message of God’s love. Just allow this experience to increase your urgency and your compassion and above all to deepen your dependency on His grace.

Dave had known many similar experiences in his own life. The path he commends here is one he has walked many times. Forgive from the depth of your heart, but also don’t let your accusers prevail. Get to the cross and the power Jesus demonstrated there. Forgive like he forgave and then let the pain and loss only invite you deeper into grace and to the great need for more of it in the world.

Amen, Dave. Amen