Some Possibilities in Europe

I’ll be in Europe this summer from May 15 until June 8. Some of that is personal, and some of that is available for whatever Father might have in mind.  I’ll be in the north of Europe and I have some free time between May 28 and June 2. So, if Father has something on your heart to bring some people together around living-loved or relational community and want me to join you, please let me know so we can begin to pray about it.

Also, from June 3-10 a group of believers from throughout Europe will be gathering in Sweden for a week of relaxation and fellowship. My friends from Ireland are hosting this event and a bunch of them will be joining us.  We will be in Örsa, Sweden at the Trunna Hostel and Conference Centre. Örsa is situated to the north of the city of Mora close to Lake Siljan, a beautiful part of Sweden and very popular as a holiday destination. The surrounding county of Dalarna has much to offer and is a haven for hikers and sightseers and anyone who loves the great outdoors.   It is also regarded as the cultural and historical heart of Sweden.  You can find pictures of the Trunna center at: www.trunna.se.

If you’d like to join us there, or have something else in mind for the weekend before, please let me know.

Facilitating the Conversations That Matter

A week or so ago, I wrote a blog about The Power of a Conversation. I would say that the vast majority of us have been more impacted by a meaningful conversation than listening to a lecture. I know many people see lectures as more fit for teaching, but honestly I do more effective teaching in conversations these days than I can ever fit into a presentation.

Tomorrow, I’m off for a two-week a swing through Oklahoma, featuring a wide set of conversations, some about the depth of living loved, and others about how to love well in the world.  With my latest book out, I now have a set of three books covering the best of what it means to live in the Father’s love—growing in it personally (He Loves Me), finding mutual relationships to stimulate our spiritual growth and to serve others (Finding Church), and how to live with a generous heart in a broken world (A Language of Healing for a Polarized World, which recently became available in audio.)

I received a lot of email about my post regarding conversations. This was one of my favorite because the writer asks a question many of us struggle with:

We’ve been out of the institutional church now since reading Finding Church roughly two years ago and love following the Father this way. We’ve seen such great fruit in our family’s life, as well as with teens (I’m a high school teacher), as we have them over on Fridays for an informal small group/Bible study.

We’ve also occasionally invited others (adults and families) over to our house to simply gather and we have enjoyed it.  Yet, we find it so hard not to rely on a “worship time” or a “Teaching Time.”  What I wish we could experience are the gatherings that I’ve heard you speak of: people coming together when you’re in town at a house or somewhere, but you don’t do a ‘teaching’ and yet all sorts of Spirit-inspired conversations go on amongst the people there.

We find that when we have others over, people don’t typically discuss spiritual or life issues with each other without being encouraged to do so.  Things just stay in the “how are you doing?” and “what’s going with you guys these days?” subjects.  Admittedly, even writing it makes me feel a little silly: how can I expect people to have meaningful, God-journey-related conversations without facilitating them?  But once I start facilitating, somehow it feels like I am manufacturing an event, which I have done all my life.  I suppose what inspired me about your stories of gatherings is that the Spirit seemed to simply move without some teacher-person managing it all.

Do you have any insights for me of where my wife and I might be able to see/do things differently in this?

Here’s how I answered him, if you’re having similar struggles.

I love your hunger and your honesty here.  These are great questions. I love them. But, honestly, they are not easy to answer. You already know there’s a way to do it that is life-giving and invites people in to a quality conversation, and there’s an artificial way of doing it that either intimidates people or causes them to check out.  The difference between those two is affected both by the person wanting to facilitate it and the people he’s hoping will join that conversation.  You don’t really know until you try and then it’s obvious that the offer falls flat, or it didn’t.

I struggled for a long time with this, especially when I was a pastor. When Sara and I would go out with people, we could talk sports, weather, kids, and everyone would be quite animated, but when Jesus stuff came up (if it did) the conversation got awkward and stilted.  It seemed that conversation was reserved for “church” meetings or home groups, not the fodder of normal conversation.  Still, I think this is worth working through.

The first thing I’d suggest you think about is that people have to be on a Jesus journey to have a lively conversation about it. It can’t be just a religious journey that is compartmentalized into a few hours a week. The more they have a sense of their own trajectory or growing edge, and are exploring their life and circumstances with an eye to what God is doing in them or through them, the easier this will all be to fall into the course of regular conversation. People who have a sense of God in their daily life, are seeking to hear his voice and grow in his ways, are very easy to talk to. Those whose lives are immersed in circumstances without a thought as to God’s part with them, will struggle in this conversation. I don’t look for this kind of robust conversation with people like that. I look for ways to share something from my own life that might encourage them or get them thinking, but hopefully not in a manipulative way or one that expects them to respond in a certain way.

The best conversations start spontaneously out of people sharing a meal together. It’s usually triggered when someone dares to get real and shares something from their own journey that’s meaningful and perhaps even vulnerable. It may be a request for help or prayer, or just something that’s really been weighing on them. It can also happen when someone shares an insight they had, or read something that really made them think. Then other people tag on to it and the conversation begins to go down some deeper paths. I love that best. But notice, even then, someone had the wherewithal to have something on their heart and take the risk to share it. I don’t mind being that person if it doesn’t come from someone else.

This is pretty easy when I travel, because people come ready for that kind of a conversation. They’ve read things I’ve written or heard me say things on podcasts they want to discuss or with questions they have about it. That happens whether I’m in a group or one-on-one.

Finding your way into it with more spontaneous encounters takes some doing and some sensitivity to other people in the room.  What are they ready for?  What do the relationships allow?  That’s why it may be a bit easier to facilitate a recurring group to discuss a book or do a Bible study together.  But even in those gatherings, it’s usually the vulnerable sharing that opens the door to something deeper.  And even in our past home groups, we got to the place where the conversation around the table was deeper and more relational than the study we started later. That’s when we stopped doing the study and let the better conversations around the table continue.

Let me encourage you to talk to Jesus about this, not for a plan to implement every time, but for something that might be on your heart for the next conversation you’re in.  It may be a question to ask, or a vulnerable thing you’re going through, or something you read that inspired you. At our last Christmas dinner I had a wild thought just as we were sitting down to dinner. I made a bit of a game of it, but I said no one could leave the table until they shared an experience from the past year that made them a better person. This was my kids and grandkids, so everybody was ready to jump in. I doubt I could do that at any dinner group.  But it opened up the best sharing time we’ve ever had around the table, which also included young children. Later, everyone told me after how much they appreciated it.  I did it on a whim, hoping to have a better dialog around our table. You can bet I’ll be thinking that way again next time we get together with something entirely different. I want it to be a blessing to them, not something that feels forced.

That’s why it’s important that people have some relationship first. I think people who want to intentionally share some of their journey together in a regular way, really spend the first few weeks becoming friends, if they aren’t already. Many start having meetings that tend down a religious road of sharing knowledge, rather than a relational one sharing questions and struggles. If they don’t know each other well, then the first thing is to really let people share something from their lives that isn’t too spiritual, but helps others appreciate who they are as a person.  Some may go deeper there, but it isn’t necessary to force that.  As they get closer, they will be more involved in each other’s lives and questions will flow more readily. And I think it helps if people don’t meet EVERY week. That seems to be our default, but it may be too often. When people feel obligated to attend, or not enough life has passed for there to be fresh insights and struggles, they can grow stale quickly.  Some of the best relationships I have don’t try to cross paths every week or two. Some go months between connection, but when we do, there’s no end of things to talk about.

I hope that helps. There’s no magic formula here, just people who desire rich conversations, and are sensitive to when they become forced or artificial.

The Audio Book is Now Available

We’ve had some interesting developments with A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation. For one, the audio book was released yesterday, so those of you who would prefer to have someone read it for you, here it is!  Bob Prater, Arnita Taylor, and I read our own words in the book, which really draws people into the conversation in a unique way. You can download it from Audible or Amazon.

I have loved how my work on this book has shifted so many things in my heart.  I see the fruit of it every week, including my last week in Richmond, VA. So many times this book allowed me to have conversations with parents dealing with an LGBTQ son or daughter, encouraging an African American pastor who had all but given up hope that any white people would ever care about him, and with many others simply how to live more generously in the world as God’s followers. We are called to love, not get caught up in treating people as political enemies because they hold to different views there.

Monday in Washington, DC, I met with an executive of Christian colleges and universities, whose enthusiasm for this book surprised me. She said that during the 2016 elections, animosity and fear tore apart many campuses across various interest groups. She said there was significant concern that it might repeat again this election cycle and she was excited about this book and perhaps Bob’s, Arnita’s, and my availability to help with training and consultation for administrators and student leadership groups.  So, who knows where this roller coaster might take us.

I’m home now only for a week before heading out to make a run through Oklahoma at the end of the month. Come join me if you’re close by.  I’m actually going to hold more of a workshop on Saturday, Feb 29 in Tulsa about How Will God’s Glory Fill the Earth? It combines some of the stuff from He Loves Me, with the transformations in my heart that have come from A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation.  We’ll also be doing some of that in Edmond on Feb 25-26.  Check out the Travel Schedule if you’re close enough to join us.

I Love How This Book Encourages So Many

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

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

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

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

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

And then, there’s  this one:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

The Power of a Conversation

Newsletter – February 2020

I used to love lecturing, putting together a finely-crafted talk with illustrations and Biblical insights that seemed to touch people deeply. I enjoyed the cadence of a good speech, the flows of laughter and depth of emotions the perfect illustration could elicit. How much I loved being the guy on the stage!

But somewhere, I lost my confidence in the power of a lecture. Don’t get me wrong, some useful information can be shared that way, but as a steady diet, it alone lacks the power to help people make the personal discoveries that will help them grow their relationship with God. Thus, I’m less engaged by a talking head than I used to be. I see through so much of it now, the formula that may get the speaker the response they seek, but how little impact it had on the listeners in the long-run. I even grew tired of the adoring comments people would make after, still realizing it was more about me than it was unlocking their journey.

Do you know what changed me? The power of a conversation. I’ve been in too many rooms with so many people and watched their eyes brighten with transformative discoveries. I’ve visited them later to see the fruits of transformation that rose from those discoveries and how that launched them into a greater depth of relationship with Jesus. Now I understand why so much in the Gospels didn’t orbit around sermons, but conversations Jesus had with his disciples, Nicodemus, religious leaders, a woman at a well, or lunch with Zaccheus. Where people are allowed to notice what they need to notice, question what they need to question and struggle with what they need to struggle with, that’s where real teaching happens where hearts change.

I am freshly discovering some things from the book of John that has clarified important realities in my own journey. I’m excited about sharing some of that as I travel, but every time I put that into a “sermon,” it just doesn’t fit well. When they emerge in a conversation, however, as people process their own journey, they are transformative.

As much as I love conversations, I’m often concerned that new people coming to a meeting would prefer that I “do a teaching.” At least that’s what I think they want. While visiting a group recently, we had a number of people join us who had never been in a meeting with me before. I always wonder after a few hours of conversation if they’re disappointed I didn’t “teach” more. I was grateful to get the following email after one such visit:

Thanks again for inviting me this past Sunday. I was impressed by the warm hospitality and relaxed atmosphere. I was able to share things I haven’t talked about in years… and appreciated those who shared themselves as well with the group. I came away thinking of Matthew 25 where it says, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. That is the church in a nutshell. I didn’t know what to expect going in. I came away with more than I ever imagined.

I am still processing the experience, but I at least wanted to contact you to let you know how much your invitation meant to me. As I mentioned to you Sunday, you definitely have a unique gift in the body of Christ. I am looking forward to where the journey takes me from here.

I love how he responded to that day and what he saw in it. To me, a good conversation is not just people in the same room. A good conversation has some critical components:

  • casual and relaxed enough for laughter and getting to know each other,
  • a safe place for people to be honest and not judged or given advice,
  • for God’s reality to expand our hearts,
  • and offering encouragement to people who are processing their spiritual journeys.

A few days after I got that email, I was reading John 1. John the Baptist was talking to two of his followers pointing to Jesus’ baptism. “Behold the Lamb of God!” They followed him until he turned and asked them what they were looking for. They responded by asking where he was staying. “Come along and see for yourself.”

They went with him and stayed for the day. One of those was Andrew, Peter’s brother, who immediately went to tell Peter, “We’ve found the Messiah.” That’s the power of a conversation. Others who heard Jesus teach, or watched him do miracles, still had no idea who he was.

I’m not anti-seminar or anti-sermon; I do both when I need to. But I would dare say that the work of the kingdom emerges far more easily in the simplicity and reality of a conversation than all our ceremonies or rituals can produce. And that goes on not just in meetings I’m in, but in conversations that happen before and after, over meals, or in the homes where I stay.
I got a fresh chance to reflect on that after spending three days with someone in Florida last fall. As he was driving me to my next connection he asked, “Do you know what you are? You’re a repository for thousands and thousands of conversations about the life of Jesus with people all over the world.”

I do know that. I have talked to so many people across a broad spectrum of spiritual experience–from those who’ve followed him for fifty or sixty years to those who haven’t yet decided if they want to. All of them have enriched me, and have helped me see a Father far grander than I would ever have known alone. One of the reasons I travel, podcast, and write is to share what I’ve learned with others.

It’s funny, really. I went into “ministry” thinking the thing I loved most was preparing for and teaching large groups of people. What I’ve discovered since is that those things don’t hold a candle to sitting and talking with people, helping them process their journeys and experience the life this incredible Father wants to pour into them. Those conversations are the best, and I want to help others discover how they can be a catalyst for those conversations where they are.

How can you facilitate those kinds of conversations yourself? Be careful not to put people on the spot. Avoid anything that feels forced or artificial. Don’t suddenly ask people you don’t know well, “What are you hearing from God these days,” or “How is the Jesus journey going?” What you can do is take an interest in people—what they’re thinking about or what they’re going through. Jesus has a way of popping up in such moments quite naturally if the time is right. Be vulnerable first, sharing something you’re learning or what challenges you. Your honesty and sincerity can open a door for others to share if they want to. If not, look to be an encouragement to them in some way.

Finding your way into safe, honest, and vulnerable conversations about how Jesus is making himself known takes a lot of time and a whole lot of relationship. Relax. Have fun with it. Build friendships first instead of targeting people or making them your project. Love will allow conversations to flow naturally.

There’s nothing better than the power of a conversation, whether it’s with one person, two or three, or a few dozen. I’ve even had conversations with 800 people at once, though that does take an extra measure of grace. That way, people are learning in their time, not trying to incorporate something I’m learning into their journey.

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If you’d like to join me somewhere for a conversation, here are the travel dates I’ve already scheduled for 2020. There will be more as the year unfolds, but if you’re nearby come and join us.  You can check my Travel Page for details on any of these, and if you want to be notified by email whenever I’m coming to your area you can sign up on our email list and include your address. That way you’ll receive a notice whenever I’m visiting within 200 miles of you.

  • Richmond, VA. – Feb 5-10
  • Enid, OK  – February 20-22
  • Norman, OK – February 23
  • Edmond, OK – February 24-26 – A workshop on A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation
  • Tulsa, OK – February 27-March 1
  • Grand Rapids and Flint MI – late March
  • Wichita, KS early April
  • Europe May 28 – June 2 – I’ll be in Europe during this time and seeing what God might have for me while I’m there. If you have something you’d like me to consider, please let me know.
  • Europe Gathering in Sweden – June 3-10. (*See below)
  • Kenya – late June early July 

*A Gathering in Europe

From the 3rd to the 10th of June my friends in Ireland are planning a get-together in Sweden at the Trunna Hostel and Conference Centre’ in Örsa, Sweden. Their desire is to bring together “friends and friends of friends” to relax and enjoy days of fellowship and encouragement.  Örsa is situated to the north of the city of Mora close to Lake Siljan,  it is a beautiful part of Sweden and very popular as a holiday destination. The surrounding county of Dalarna has much to offer and is a haven for hikers and sightseers and anyone who loves the great outdoors.   It is also regarded as the cultural and historical heart of Sweden. You can find pictures of the Trunna centre at: www.trunna.se. If you’re interested, please let me know.

Language of Healing Presentations

I love the conversations that A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation has spawned with so many people and how people are applying the suggested activities at the end of each chapter to make more space for the “symphony of different.” This book is really about living more generously in the world as a reflection of the Father’s glory, especially to those who do not yet know who he is.   Living more generously combines both the passion of my heart to live in and share God’s affection freely in the world, and how that invites to live beyond the conflicts and agendas the world wants to throw on us. If you know groups that would like to host a seminar on this topic with either myself or my coauthors, Arnita Taylor and Bob Prater, or with all three of us, just let me know and we’ll see what we can work out.

Would you Like to Go to Israel?

So many people have asked if I’d take another trip to Israel, so I’m thinking about scheduling one for the first part of February 2021, if there is enough interest. If you would like to go, please email my office and let us know. Our time in Israel is about nine days and costs about $4200 per person including airfare and double occupancy. Last time we added Petra and Jordan as an extra two-day add on that costs about $1000 more per person. When you us know that you’d like to go on the trip, please let me know if you’d also be interested in this added adventure.

Our Friends in Pokot

Thanks to so many of you who helped with a flooding emergency in West Pokot this winter. Their crops were devastated and their storehouses destroyed. All of that has since been rebuilt and we’ve purchased food to get them through to the next harvest thanks to your generosity. We were also able to help them expand their water enterprise at Forkland School to help with future needs. You have all been amazing, and I am grateful to the tips of my toes. And, so are they! Thank you so much.  If you would like to help us here create a sustainable life for these villagers, you can give here.

 

If you’re not on our Newsletter list and would like to be, sign up here. Include your address if you want to be notified if I’m planning a trip to your area. 

When Character Matters Most

As another impeachment trial begins today, the second in my lifetime, I’m really left wondering if character matters to anyone anymore for our political leaders. 

The Democrats fought for a resounding “no” in the Bill Clinton sex scandals, and many of my Republican friends are pushing the same agenda now that their champion holds the White House. 

Growing up, everyone I knew talked about the importance of moral character in voting for our representatives. Now, no one seems to care, or doubts that anyone rising to that level of politics will have any character left. One can hardly argue that Hillary Clinton had any better character than Trump. It seems a cynical electorate no longer seeks out a candidate who exudes integrity, honesty, or graciousness, and perhaps even sees those things as detriments to getting their agenda accomplished

At least, the character issue is back in the news again, after the Christianity Today editorial calling for President Trump’s removal from office or appealing for his resignation. “His Twitter feed alone — with its habitual string of mischaracterizations, lies, and slanders — is a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused.” Mark Galli’s editorial also expressed his concern that evangelical support for Trump is undermining the credibility of the Gospel among groups that President Trump regularly belittles or marginalizes. 

The Christian Post immediately responded that Christians who support Trump support him for appointing pro-life judges, standing up for religious freedom for business owners, moving the embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and fighting for border security. “It’s a different kind of character that is found in courageous leadership, fortitude, and dogged determination. There is a deeper morality in keeping your promises after you’ve been elected.”

It is disheartening to see people who claim to be following the same Lord and King so passionately divided along the Trump line, and so dismissive of anyone who disagrees with them. As one person told me, “I’ve got friends who regard President Trump as the nephew of Jesus Christ and others who think he’s the cousin of the Antichrist.” So do I.

Jesus prayed that his glory would fill each of us in such a way that we would become one with the others, and that’s how the world would know we are directed by the breath of a better Spirit. Is this division the fruit of our politics becoming our first loyalty, or even seeking a savior among those who play the political game? 

That’s why so many change tactics when their self-interest does. Those who dismissed the importance of Clinton’s flawed character back in the day, now want to hold Trump to account. That’s how you know it isn’t truly about what’s right or wrong, but about whatever advantage I can gain to drive my agenda. If we’re going to champion character, we have to be less one-sided on political issues or personalities. I appreciate those who can support some of President Trump’s policies, while still struggling with his caustic demeanor that diminishes his office and harms our national interest.

While I like many policies of his administration, I’d be hard-pressed to commend President Trump as a man of character. I don’t understand how many of my evangelical friends can ignore the problems he creates by dividing Americans into polarized groups, obfuscating the truth, and demeaning anyone who disagrees with him.

By granting unparalleled access to evangelical leaders, he has convinced many that he can right the American ship and that he needs to protect Christians from the liberals who wish to persecute their faith. What those leaders don’t seem to understand is that their unquestioned support for President Trump makes them complicit in his lies, his mockery of others, and the self-serving nature of his “America First” that has hurt our standing in the world among our own allies. Their unquestioned allegiance is having an impact on how people perceive the mission of Christ in the world.

What his detractors don’t seem to understand is that while evangelicals may be embarrassed by Trump’s bullying tactics, they won’t criticize him because they feel like the media establishment has already done so unfairly. In their mind, Trump may be an immature bully, but he’s their bully. They have long grown tired of the establishment media and leftist politicians belittling them as unthinking, gun-toting “deplorables,” and they see Trump’s antics as evening the score. But that is a mixed message at best. Many have justified his tactics by convincing themselves it takes someone as underhanded and belligerent as Trump to disrupt the Washington establishment that has worked so hard to marginalize them.

In a discussion in Los Angeles recently with a group called CultureBrave about my new book, A Language of Healing for a Polarized NationI was asked why I thought evangelicals give President Trump their unwavering support even though he doesn’t demonstrate the behavior they claim to value?

Before I answered, I asked him what his conclusion was. His response was immediate: “Racism, pure and simple.”

I understand why he would say that. Being an African American himself, he knows that racism didn’t end with the Obama presidency. Incidents of police violence against black males increased during his term, as did threats against President Obama himself. When Trump said, “Make America Great Again,” he heard Trump dog-whistling those who want to undermine gains in civil rights for the past forty years and re-assert white dominance of the culture. Like him, I am gravely disappointed that this President doesn’t even pretend to represent all Americans and seems to use our racial divide for political gain. 

That notwithstanding, I don’t believe most evangelicals have a racial agenda here. At least, I never hear that sentiment expressed among them. The image that disturbed them most was not a black man in the White House, but a rainbow of lights splashed across it when the Supreme Court affirmed the legality of gay marriage. Their concerns are not about race but sex. They are pained by abortion-on-demand at any stage of pregnancy, the amount of sexual exploitation in our culture, and special accommodations for the LGBTQ community they perceive as infringing on their religious liberty. 

As long as President Trump supports these causes, most of the evangelical community will put character on the back burner just as feminists did for President Clinton. They know that any word of criticism of his divisive and immature behavior will only trigger his wrath and threaten their access.

If character has any value, it’s what protects us from doing what we want to do for ourselves at the expense of others. Personal expedience is easy to understand. Everyone tends to do whatever they think will serve them best at the time. By nature, it is self-serving and often leads to decisions we come to regret. Every law we have is to rein in people of questionable character who are willing to use whatever advantage to benefit themselves.

In our bottom-line culture of garnering political power or individual profit, character is a fool’s errand. You can make more money and gather more power by greed and duplicity than you can caring about what is right, just, generous, and fair to others. Good character is the moral compass that will call someone to forego personal expedience for a higher human good. What may be best for me may not be fair to you or best for us all.

Character allows us to consider other factors than merely our pleasure or profit and doesn’t seek to benefit at someone else’s expense. Character comes by living to the truth, even when it hurts and especially when it costs you more than you’d want to pay. 

When does character matter most? I can think of two places.

First, character is critical whenever you give someone power. Raw power uncontrolled by a moral compass and sense of fairness will wreak havoc in the long term, even if it serves your interests in an immediate circumstance. The same way my evangelical friends have felt despised by leftist politicians and the media for decades are now unwittingly creating that same resentment in those Mr. Trump despises. It’s a no-win game. You may hold the cards now, but you eventually won’t, and there will be dividends to pay you’ve not yet considered. 

Without character in our national leaders, they will always put party above country, and their gain above the common good. Lacking integrity, a President will continue to risk American blood and treasure in an unwinnable war as Johnson and Nixon did in Vietnam, and now we are learning that Bush and Obama did the same in Afghanistan. A lack of character allows so-called “public servants” to take financial rewards for friends and family instead of fighting for equal access for all.

Character doesn’t change just because the financial reward grows greater, or the need to win an election becomes more acute. I’ll admit it’s hard to find anyone on the national stage who has the character to be a statesman or stateswoman, but that doesn’t mean we give up looking or encouraging those in power to do better. Win-at-all-costs is a strategy that only foments further division and anger.

And it’s not just politics, don’t we want people of character acting as our CEOs, educators, military officers, religious leaders, and law enforcement? What kind of society do we become when people in high places do not have a moral compass than bends toward honesty, justice, compassion, fairness for all? We get CEOs that take excessive compensation at the cost of providing fair wages for their workers, district attorneys who charge a man they know to be innocent to get the crime off their books, religious leaders who hide the rape of children for fear public relation concerns, and military officers that cast a blind eye to harassment. 

Character matters in every stratum of human society, and it matters most among those who hold power. Making society fair for you also includes making it fair for others who don’t think like you. Once we give in to the bottom line, be it in political power or maximizing profit, character gets lost, and society suffers.

Secondly, and this is for my evangelical friends, character matters most when we hope to demonstrate the nature of God to others who don’t know him. It would be fine for us to support those policies we think will make for a better nation, but to let the arrogance, mockery, and dishonesty go unchallenged is to forsake a higher calling. You most need character when it calls you to do what’s right, even when it costs you what your self-interest desires. 

When you think President Trump either needs to be roundly condemned or blindly defended, you have already purchased a seat on the train of illusion that wraps religion in a flag and uses it to divide this country further and as we’ve seen in the last few weeks. Peggy Wehmeyer, a journalist based in Dallas, expressed her frustration at fellow evangelicals, “What has really troubled me from the beginning is why can’t people say on the one hand, ‘We love what he’s done on religious liberty, abortion and the economy,’ but on the other hand, say that ‘As Christians whose allegiance is to Jesus Christ, his behavior is despicable’?”

When Jesus’ followers are marked by a political agenda, be it on the right or left, especially one that prides itself in mockery, deception, and putting down others, people will be confused about the Gospel as well. If God’s followers don’t demonstrate his glory by how they treat everyone around them, regardless of political leanings, the light of Jesus dims.

Jesus said as much at the end of his time on earth. As he prayed before going to the cross in John 17, he talked about putting God’s glory on display by the way he lived. He demonstrated how compelling his Father was by the quality of his own person—his passion for justice and truth, and his tenderness and love for all. 

And when Jesus prayed for the disciples, he said he had ‘spelled out’ God’s character to them in detail so that his life would be on display in them now. This is the evidence the godless world needs to make sense of God’s reality. (I’ll be talking more about this in days to come because displaying God’s glory is the mission he left on earth for his followers.)

Our loyalty is not primarily to change the world through the wielding of political power as satisfying as that might be to our flesh. Our allegiance is to the God who redeems us, and our passion should be for his glory to dwell in us so that we would live with the same tenderness and compassion that marked Jesus’ life. If we become associated with anything else, the message of the Gospel gets twisted in the frailties of human flesh. Even when we fall short, we can still uphold the ideals to which we aspire. 

This is how the world will come to know him, not because his name appears on our t-shirts, but because his splendor is on display in our character.

__________________________________

Wayne Jacobsen writes at Lifestream and podcasts at The God Journey. He is co-author of A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation, The Shack, and many other books.

Resurgence in Kenya

I am so amazed by the number of people who hold the Kenyans in their hearts. I am often asked for updates and am sure I probably don’t provide enough.  Last time I wrote toward the end of December, the people of Pokot had been through some devastating floods, destroying the villages, their crops, and their storehouses of food.  You responded with money enough to help feed them and restore the damage to their farms.

I’ve received some updates this week from our friends caring for their neighbors in Pokot.  The storm was devastating, but they have begun to rebuild. You can see the devastation of their homes on the left. On the right below you can see the crops beginning to grow again as they have rebuilt the irrigation systems, thanks to your generosity.

Storm damage on the huts in Pokot

Here’s what they wrote:

 

We would like to thank you so much, actually the help was a great rescue to the community. And since the plumber and his team who are fixing and replacing the destroyed pipes and other things, they will continue till next week. The damage was so big. But we thank God for your quick intervention. The environmental department has contacted us so that they can teach the community how they can protect from the destruction in future. This includes making terraces around the farm and planting trees to prevent soil erosion and avoid future damage.

The crops begin to grow again

The committees, through our coaches, called us to thank you and the team for the support of the irrigation program. This program has had a great impact on their food security in that region. The irrigation has been fixed and is now working but the community is out of food. Even those working on farm don’t have the energy to do that job.

We have estimated that to sustain these three village with food will take536 bags of maize, 90 bags of beans, and Transportation, which will cost $23,600.

 

I am sorry to come back to you so soon for this need, but it seems we are the only ones in the world that stand between them and starvation. I thought the money we sent in December would be enough, but they hadn’t planned on the three additional months.  If you would like to help with this need you follow the links below, and if you know others who might be touched by this need, please pass this information along. You have always responded so generously and I am grateful.

As always, every dollar you send us gets to 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. You can either donate with a credit card there, or you can 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 your concern and your prayers. And, if you are in a place to help, please give generous

The Focused Life

Over the past few weeks I have been recording the audio version of In Season: Embracing the Father’s Process for Fruitfulness, and then this weekend it was time to prune the four grapevines I have in my back yard. And it just so happens that I’ve been undergoing a bit of pruning in my spiritual life as well.  So, I have been freshly reminded of how much I love those stories from the vineyard, and how much I appreciate the Father’s engagement in helping us find our fulfillment in him so that his fruitfulness can take hold in a transformed heart.

Except for some snowy scenes at Christmas time, winter seems to be the most unpopular season. Spiritually, however, I’ve come to appreciate it deeply. At no other time does the farmer have so much influence on his vine’s fruitfulness. In the slowing cold of winter, the Master can cut off all the extraneous branches to focus our lives on the few things he wants us to do well, rather than being driven by the demands of our circumstances.

Having read these passages recently, I wanted to share them again with you from In Season:

The slowed days of winter fly in the face of our frenetic pace of life. This is the gardener leading his vineyards to rest in the same way the shepherd takes his sheep to green pastures and quiet waters. There they lie down to rest. The waters that nurse them are quiet, not raging. If we learned this well enough, perhaps the expression “to be busy for God” would be an oxymoron. It is the world that invites us to busyness. Take it from one who used to find most of his identity in a crammed schedule, proving by activity his worth to God. It is a fool’s trap that has made busyness a coveted merit badge in the kingdom of God.

God doesn’t want our busyness; he wants our trust. Having our trust, he knows we will respond to him and his ways as life unfolds before us.

When we are drawn away from our busyness then we’re free to submit to God’s reshaping of how we live our days, more focused on him and less manipulated by the illusions around us:

Pruning is God’s invitation to lay down those things that no longer need to take up our time and energy and move on to new things that will inspire us and help others. Through it, God resets our focus so that we can concentrate on what he wants us to do. Better to do one thing fruitfully than a lot of things that only turn out to be empty foliage.

I know people like that. In fact, I’ve been like that myself. Externally I looked productive, busily rushing from one meeting to another or jumping from one project to the next. Leaves everywhere! How intoxicating busyness can be. But I couldn’t find the fruit. My spiritual life was so diluted by my myriad of activities that none of them were bearing anything more than paltry, unripened fruit.

Busyness is not the goal of a conscientious believer; fruitfulness is. Not every request that comes my way is God’s will for me to accept. Good opportunities are not necessarily godly ones. Expectations pushed on us by others are not the directions Jesus invites us to follow.

Paul wrote to Titus that, “The grace of God teaches us to say no.” That means we can say no to the worldly passions that destroy us and no to the opportunities that overwhelm us.

Notice that it’s not fear that teaches us to say no, but grace. Because we can trust God and know that he will lead us into the fullness of joy, we are free to say no even to the things that we desire, whether good or bad.

Jesus said no to the enemy’s temptations, knowing that God’s way was better. He didn’t rush to Lazarus’ side when he first heard he was sick. He stayed two days longer to finish what he was doing before he joined the friends he deeply loved. Given Paul’s explanations in his epistles, he didn’t rush to churches that desired him to come either. He followed God’s agenda instead.

Recognizing that we are branches on his vine will free us to focus on the few things that God has really called us to do. That’s the only way to be fruitful. Draw near to God and let him show you what his plans are. His grace will teach you to say no to those that aren’t.

We hope to have the audio out in a month or so.  We’ll let you know here…

Defining Life on the Extremes

I’m delighted so many of you are reading A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation and are putting those things you’ve learned into practice. I love hearing that people are exploring new relationships with those who are different, discovering that understanding and respect is a freer way to live than in fear and animosity. I know working on this book has changed every relationship I have in the world because I see people differently and engage people with more compassion and generosity.

But I do get the occasional email or comment from someone who immediately takes our premise to the extremes. Will this work with abusive people, or evil ones? In the book, we make clear that about 22% of people have to be right about everything and treat those who don’t agree with them with anger and hostility. No, you won’t be able to find common ground with them. But that leaves 78% of the people you know who are able to have a respectful conversation even if you do have significant differences. If they are hurt, they can talk it out and find or extend forgiveness for other people’s weaknesses, including yours.

So, what about abusive people, who always accuse or berate us? You don’t have to get along with people like that, or be their victims. If you can, avoid them; if you can’t, give them a wide berth. Life is too short to waste significant time with toxic people. If they are family you can’t always avoid, you can still be kind and respectful, but put your focus on the other 78% who don’t exhibit such arrogance.

And what about people we consider evil? The other day someone sent me this comment: “How did Jesus deal with the Pharisees and Sadducees. Was it what you’ve written. Did He ‘engage them with generosity and kindness?’ Not from anything I’ve read in Scripture.”

I’m surprised by the comment and saddened for people who define life in such extreme terms. I get it. I grew up in a religious world where there was a home team God loves and an away team he hates. That gave us the freedom to despise them, too. But I’m afraid the person who made the comment here, hasn’t read enough Scripture. In John 6:35, Jesus said, “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” (Emphasis mine.)

We read our Bibles wrong if we see Jesus being abusive to the Pharisees. Jesus was generous and compassionate to them. He told them the truth, even when they didn’t want to hear it, but love does that. Even in the end, when he calls them hypocrites, he is still hoping they will see what’s real and run under the safety of his wings, like the chicks under the hen. But they would not have it. Yes, you can love even Pharisees,’ he did.

A Language of Healing... is about building bridges of kindness to others, not to be afraid of our differences, and to discover that the vast majority of people simply want the same things for themselves that you want. You can share disagreements respectfully, work through problems with graciousness all while demonstrating compassion. We encourage people to start out where it’s easy, not with the most extreme relationships in their lives. 

If you haven’t read the book yet, give it a try. If you have, and want to interact about it, feel free to write me or comment here.  

I love what Stephanie wrote about the book….

If ever a book was needed to help us understand the common ground of our humanity, it is now. Today, when so many long to practice peace but are at a loss to go about it, A Language of Healing provides hope, guidance, and inspiration. Communicating effectively requires finding—and then walking in—the shared space between us. In a world of runaway social media and chaotic twitter feed we need to find a way back to each other… back to our humanness. A Language of Healing resounds with a strong, collective voice that arises out of the diverse backgrounds and perspectives of the authors. As they model dialogue and work together to fashion a solution, motivation toward peace and reconciliation are sure to emerge in readers who are open to the transforming power of God through Christ. This is a gift from God! 

Stephanie Bennett, PhD, Professor of Communication and Media Ecology, Palm Beach Atlantic University and author of the Within the Walls trilogy

One Conversation at a Time

Our hope for A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation is that it would change the way people interact with those around them.  I love the stories where that is happening. Here are two I got just last week that really touched me:

Our publisher sent me this story after going into a Barnes and Noble in Colorado:

Out of curiosity, I attempted to find a copy of A Language of Healing. I was unable to locate it so I asked a customer service rep to see if they had it. She informed me that unfortunately they were sold out but that they could try and ship a copy to me in time for Christmas. I thanked her but declined, informing her that I was associated with the publishing company for A Language of Healing.

She got very excited and told me that her 14-year-old son loved the book. He is very passionate about politics and has been asking some very challenging questions about some of the current issues in today’s political atmosphere. The Barnes and Noble employee went on to say that there were a lot of books that B&N sells that she does not see the point in even carrying.  She wanted me to express her deepest thanks in taking the risk to write a book worthy of the world’s attention and told me she has intentionally sold several copies after reading it for herself with her son. 

Then, I got a series of texts from a good friend who lives in Mississippi:

Earlier in the day, he had met a Methodist pastor living in the area. After a brief conversation, my friend invited the pastor to go to dinner some evening with their wives and further the conversation. They exchanged cell numbers, but a bit later when my friend texted the pastor to firm up dinner arrangements he got back this text:

“Thank you for your gracious offer but our political views and views on faith are pretty much on opposite ends of the spectrum.  My wife will be running as a Democrat in the state legislature.  We appreciate the invitation and are glad you love this community like we do but we would rather not enter into a situation that would make either or both of us uncomfortable.”

My friend responded:  “I got your text.  Perhaps we could start with a coffee at Starbucks for just you and me? I’m sorry if I did anything to create the idea that friendship depends on agreement. In fact, I’d say just the opposite. Attached is a book called “A Language of Healing…” which I recently endorsed at the request of the authors.  You will see that conversations don’t make me uncomfortable at all. I understand however if you or your wife are not up for that. By the way, I’m not even a Republican anymore so being with Democrats is definitely no problem. Happy New Year”

With the text, he sent photos of the front and back cover of the book, and his endorsement inside it.

Shortly after, he got the following text:  “I am pleasantly surprised.  You did not do anything to make me think that friendships depend on agreement.  All I had to go on was info I found on Google about your past political views and so thought we might not enjoy each other’s company.  I have ordered the book and will give it a read.  After I have finished it you and I can get together for coffee.  Thanks for your gracious response.

To which my friend responded:  “Sure. Google and Facebook are from some hellish demon, or at least that’s my opinion based on experience. It’s too easy nowadays to dislike someone from a distance. I am quite confident we can smile about any differences. Thanks.

He agreed to meet for coffee!

In such small moments the culture begins to turn.

Who can you build a bridge with in 2020?

O Holy Night

O Holy Night is my favorite Christmas carol. Sara and I listened to it as we got ready to go to bed last night. I reveled in my favorite lyric from it: “Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.”

Ever since Eden’s Fall, the hardest belief for many to sustain, especially in times of struggle and failure is that they are worthy of God’s love and affection. So often we are overwhelmed by failure and feel so alone in our struggles that it seems sometimes as if no one cares, and too often God most of all. But that’s the illusion that pushes our world into the darkness.

Till he appeared, and the soul felt its worth.

God is not ever inactive toward us—unrecognized perhaps, but never uninvolved and he is always working to beckon us out of the darkness and into the joy of his light. What Sara and I want those three precious children in the picture above to know more than anything else is that they are beloved children of a gracious Father. They are worthy of his love, no matter what struggle they go through, whatever mistake they make, and in spite of every whisper of darkness into their ears.

It’s what we want everyone to know. He appeared in our world because we were worthy of love and to prove it he would spend his own life to rescue us from all that darkness twists or destroys in us. He came to redeem us because we were worth it to him.

You!  You are worth everything to him. What I love about the lyric above is that we come to know that worth when he appears. That’s when it all makes sense, and that’s not just about his coming 2000 years ago, but how he wants to make himself known to you today. When you behold him then your soul knows its worth. We are deeply loved and deeply cherished simply for who we are.

If you need a reminder of that, steal away for some alone-time over the next couple of days. Find a quiet place and ask him to reveal himself to you. Wait in the quiet until his reality begins to bubble up in your soul. We used to sing an old chorus, “There is none like you. No one else can touch my heart like you do. I could search for all eternity long and find, there is none like you.” It is such a rich chorus to sing to God.

But if you could for just a moment, imagine God singing those words to you. Read (or sing) them again and this time put those words onto God’s lips toward you. That’s just as true. And when you come to know that, your soul too will feel its worth. Then every night can be a holy night!

With love to all of you and hopes that in this Christmas season and throughout the year ahead, you will know how precious you are to him,

Wayne & Sara

The Moments That Bring Transformation

Winter 2019-2020 Newsletter
If you’d like to subscribe, fill out the form here.

Do you know those moments when a nudge in your heart contradicts what you would
choose to do? Those are the moments on which your transformation hangs.  

I can think of many occasions when the voice of the Spirit whispered through my illusion, to invite me on a better path.

  • At the betrayal of a close friend: I have more to teach you if you walk away than if you stay.
  • When people I loved were spreading lies about me: Don’t worry about what they think; it only matters that you’re following me.
  • In the struggle to find a means of provision after I lost my salary: Keep doing what I’ve asked of you; I’ll take care of you.
  • In contemplating a file full of notes on a new structure for church life: Jesus didn’t leave you with a system to implement, but a voice to follow.
  • After flying home with a newly recorded teaching series whose sales just might provide some income we desperately needed: I want you to give it away.

Each time the nudges on my heart were the opposite of what I wanted to do. Looking back on those moments today brings back all the emotions I felt then. Jesus was cutting through my agenda, showing me a different reality I could follow. None of them were easy, but all of them, in the end, opened up taking me on roads I have cherished ever since. I can’t imagine what my life would be today if I hadn’t believed him and followed anyway. Though costly, each was part of his transforming work in my life.

Truth be told, I have probably missed more of those invitations than I’ve heard throughout my life because the paths the Spirit invites me down rarely look better than the illusions I already hold. I think I know best how to protect my interests and keep my fears at bay. But he isn’t concerned about the same things I am; he’s more interested in my ultimate freedom, and that can only be found by living in what is real, not in my pretensions.

Illusions look comforting, but they are a trap of the worst kind. And we all have them. Science tells us that the human capacity for cognitive dissonance is nearly a superpower. We can make ourselves believe anything as long as we think we will benefit from it, either financially or holding some fear at bay. Illusions give us comfort, false though they be and are often built on our fears: the fear that people I love won’t understand, the fear that God won’t be enough, the fear that others aren’t doing it the same way, the fear that I’ll look foolish, or so many others.

When Jesus’ brothers were trying to convince him to go up to Jerusalem at the feast and become well known, Jesus saw the trap. Being well known is not the same as living his life in the Father’s purpose. He knew that people were out to kill him there. “(The world) is against me because I expose the evils behind their pretensions.” (John 7:6. The Message)

Evil works behind our pretensions. So much of our spiritual growth is not learning new teachings, but listening when Jesus is showing us what’s ultimately real. We mostly make judgments by what we can see with our eyes; he can show us the unseen realities that shape life in this world more than we know. Only by believing him when he reveals something, can we escape the illusions that hold us captive.

That’s why Jesus said that we could know the truth, and the truth would set us free. Eugene Peterson translated that a bit differently, “Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you.” (John 8:32) By truth, John wasn’t talking about a set of principles or doctrine to learn, but what is real inside God. When we know that, we can face any situation more aware of the best way for us to navigate through it for the glory of his kingdom, not by trying to save ourselves.

Yes, his truth will set me free, but it almost always messes with me first. When Jesus opens up a new reality to me, I almost always cringe. Viscerally my reaction is usually, “I hope that isn’t true.” When I hear him, I am so aware of the cost and the risk to my ideas of what is best for me.

That’s the moment where choice matters most. If we stay with our comforting illusions, we miss the opportunity for transformation and to see his hand in ways we’d never imagine. By staying “safe,” we avoid growing in trust and our ability to recognize God’s purpose unfolding in the circumstances around us. After a few days, we won’t even remember what Jesus showed us and miss out on a new adventure. We are still loved there but also still captive.

His Spirit in us will continue to invite us out of those soul-crushing illusions to show us the life that really is life. That’s the moment in which transformation comes. By believing him, we’ll be able to see how empty our illusions are and learn how to trust him.

A few times in my life, I’ve been on the other side of this process. Talking to someone caught in a painful dilemma, God gave me an insight that would help them see better. When I share it with them, I see the same cringing in their countenance that I often feel. But here’s the choice: cringe and follow, or cringe and retreat to my false securities. Most will stay in the imagined safety of their own illusions, too afraid to take a risk. It hurts when I see it. In doing what they think is best, they’ve chosen more pain and frustration when they feel God isn’t cooperating with their plan.

But for those who hunger for truth, I will eventually see that sparkle in their eye in that “Ah-ha” moment. A better way stretches before them, as scary as it might be, they will take it because they care more about truth than they do their self-interest. When they go down that road in spite of their fears, they will find the path to life abundant in him.

All he asks you to do is to dare to believe him when he exposes your pretensions and invites you down the road less traveled.

This is where transformation happens and where we touch the reality of a kingdom so much bigger than ourselves.

If you want some resources for this journey, check out He Loves Me, Transitions, and Engage.

Publishing News

My latest book, The Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation: Creating safe environments for conversations about race, politics, sexuality, and religion. was released in November by Blue Sheep Media. Written with coauthors Arnita Taylor and Bob Prater, this is a very different book for me. It is not written primarily to a Christian audience, even though I hope fellow lovers of Jesus will want to learn how to live more generously in a world torn apart by political agendas and manipulated by people who get rich off the divisiveness of our country.  If you haven’t completed your Christmas list, consider giving this unique book. We also all three of us recorded the audio version and it should be out in the next couple of weeks. Keep up with the details on my blog or at ALanguageofHealing.com.


Also, since I’ve been home most of December, I’m finally making the audio version of In Season, and I am really enjoying it. This is my current book on the Father’s vineyard and how God brings us along a journey to make us fulfilled in his life and those more fruitful in the kingdom. It should be available at your favorite audio outlets in mid-January.

2020 Travel 

I’m just beginning to contemplate what my travels might look like in 2020. I am planning on being in Oklahoma early in the year, and perhaps Michigan. I’m also considering invitations to upstate New York, Virginia, Georgia, and a return trip to Florida. I may also be able to get that trip into Kenya this summer that I had to postpone last year. If you have anything on your heart near these locations or to someplace else, now would be the time to let me know.

Return to Israel?  

Over the past year, I’ve had a number of people encourage me to do another Israel trip. I’d be happy to consider that if there are enough people who want to go. I’m looking at early February in 2021 since the weather is not nearly so hot and it is far less crowded at the places we want to visit. Our first two trips also helped people from all over the world to get to know others on a similar journey. Those relationships have continued in the years that followed. Cost is usually around $4000 per person if you want to start saving up. Please email us if you are interested.

Thanks for Your Help in Kenya

This year we moved one year closer to helping the tribal groups in North Pokot build a sustainable way to live into the future. We are supposed to complete that in July of this coming year. We had a horrible set-back with horrible flooding ten days ago that killed many and wiped out some villages, but many of you responded with nearly $50,000 in emergency aid in only three days. We also had to help build a new well for a group of people in Forkland this summer, whose existing water supply was contaminated by their sewage. That well hit a major supply of pure water, which they are now able to bottle and sell. In 2020 we are going to help them expand that capability with some warehouse space at the cost of $25,000, which will provide them enough income

Sheep Among Wolves

I have just heard about this incredible story about how God is moving in one of the darkest and most radicalized corners of our world—Iran. Muslim-background Iranians are leading a quiet but mass exodus out of Islam and learning some simple and unique ways to make Jesus’ kingdom known in the world. The Iranian awakening is a rapidly-reproducing discipleship movement that owns no property or buildings, has no central leadership, and is predominantly led by women. This is their story and it would appear that the Church in the west has much to learn from them.

Watch Movie Here:  Sheep Among Wolves (1:53)

Here is how it begins: The first thing in Iran, we know what country we are serving. We are serving the Islamic Republic of Iran. We know that if they get us, the first thing they will do to us as a woman is rape us and then they will beat us, and ultimately they will kill us. This is the decision we have made that we want to offer our bodies as sacrifices—because I have this thought when I wake up that when I leave that door I might not come back. I have talked to my husband and we have made an agreement that this is the decision of our lives so if we leave that door and don’t come back, we accept the consequences of what happens.   

 

Merry Christmas from Us to You!  

Finally, Merry Christmas from the two of us. What an amazing year this has been, so many wonderful connections and amazing conversations! Watching God’s glory continue to unfold in people’s lives is such a joy and an honor. I’ve watched him rescue people out of the darkness, transform them from the enemy’s deceptions, and change the way they live and love in the world. I am so blessed by the people God has allowed me to know.

With Gratefulness from Kenya

Your response over the last ten days has been overwhelming. You have no idea how many lives you saved and how many families in North Pokot that you have blessed.  So many of you came alongside these dear people who were ravaged by floods in the north of Kenya that we were able to send over $45,000 to help with immediate food and bedding supplies last week.  Thank you so much for responding so quickly and with such overwhelming generosity. Sara and I have been overwhelmed with joy at your response.

This morning, I heard back from our friends from Kitale who took the supplies your funds bought and delivered them in North Pokot. They were able to take food into North Pokot over the past weekend to bring relief to the people there and sent pictures of what your generous contributions were able to accomplish.

Hi Brother Wayne,

Greetings in the most powerful name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we thank you and all the team who stood with us for the emergency which by the flood, we have just returned this evening after a long journey. We did get stuck on the road, but God is faithful we managed to reach safety. Glory to the Lord!

Otherwise, the community appreciated so much for the support and thank God for the provision of food, blankets, mattresses, and other essential things.

The truck they hired to take food and supplies to North Pokot.
Rejoicing for the food supplies to sustain them.
Distributing mattresses and bedding to replace what the floods swept away.
A woman is able to cook for her family.

It looks like the rains have subsided and they are now preparing to rebuild their lives. I will get back to you when we know better what it will cost to rebuild the agricultural projects and the storehouses for their food. We will also be expanding the warehouse at the Forkland School water project since the demand is outrunning their facility we built there last spring.

So, we can still use your help. As always, every dollar you send us gets to 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 you can 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 your concern and your prayers. Rejoice with us! God has provided out of your generosity.

 

The Current Crisis in Kenya: Update

I wrote last week about the horrific crisis unfolding in West Pokot where we have been helping tribal groups of people recover from a sustained drought that completely changed their economy. For five years we have been investing over $1.5 million dollars to help them with food, water, medical, and educational needs as well as help jump-start a sustainable economy. Over the past week torrential floods, the first ever in that region, have wiped out their villages and destroyed much of the progress that they made. Over 65 people have died. You can view a BBC report on the crisis here.

In response to my blog last week we received about $5,000 over this past weekend to help with that relief.  Today, I received an update for their immediate needs just to care for the families involved, that our friends have been helping:

Today we have received the report from our coaches regarding the affected villages. They also added another one—Ngetut Village—to the list of casualties.  That’s three villages including Olorwo/Compass and Chemyon/Kasoyan. About 630 households with their families have lost everything. They are so desperate with no blankets, mattresses or food.

The local government, NGOs and other bodies are working tirelessly to see that people are getting food and other necessities in other places, but they have not reached these villages with any help.  We request for emergency to help the situation as soon as God provides.

We do not yet know about the damage to our agricultural projects. Our coaches have not yet gotten to the site to see how it was damaged. As soon as the rain stop, we shall go and find out with our coaches.

Here is our immediate need:

  • Food supplies (maize, beans, salt, sugar) –  $34,390
  • Bedding – $4560
  • Transportation to Pokot – $2300
  • Reconstruction of latrines $3300

Total emergency Request – $44,550. 

Please pray for these people and if you can give anything to help give them this week, please send it as soon as you can.  Keep in mind that the people asking us for this money already live in poverty themselves, but they are asking for money to help fellow Kenyans who are in far worse shape than they are. We want to try to send them $44,550 in the next day or two if you can help. And please keep in mind, this is only for immediate relief. We will also need funds to rebuild the agricultural projects that were destroyed. I’m grateful to so many of you who responded last week. Thank you. We do need some more to meet our $44,550 goal.

If you know of others who might be touched by this need, please pass this information along.

As always, every dollar you send us gets to 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. You can either donate with a credit card there, or you can 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 your concern and your prayers. And, if you are in a place to help, please give generously.

Crisis in Kenya

EMERGENCY! EMERGENCY! EMERGENCY!

You know I don’t hype things here, especially when it has to do with money. But there is a crisis unfolding in Kenya, right where we have been working with several tribal groups. I realize we’re past Giving Tuesday, or whatever crazy ploy was being used this week, but I have an emergency need. I was just informed about a horrific crisis unfolding where we have been investing so much to help abandoned tribal groups in West Pokot.  I’ll spare you the pictures I received of dead people, including children trapped in the mud. They are horrific.

A flooded village in West Pokot.

The devastation in this part of Kenya is tragically ironic. We got involved because of a prolonged drought that destroyed the cattle of these nomadic tribes in the West Pokot region of Kenya.  Now, they are experiencing the first flooding ever in that region, and it has killed 65 people and ruined some of the agricultural enterprises we had started. Their food stores are gone, as are many of the outhouses they constructed for hygiene reasons.

Here is a BBC report on the crisis.  I received the following message from our contact in Kenya:

Overturned food relief truck in West Pokot

Right now we are experiencing a flood in Kenya, almost every part and the most affected place are West Pokot, North Pokot, Baringo, Ukambani , Kitale, and many other places. We thank our coaches for the ongoing latrine construction since it has really helped in preventing diseases like Diarrhea, Typhoid and Cholera.  Although over 30 toilets have been swept out, we are praying for them not to be contracted with diseases.   The local government is taking limited measures in some places to prevent these diseases. Historically, this is the first time this area has ever experienced flooding.

The Kompass/Olorwo, irrigation has been swept, all the pipes and plantation –this is very sad and all the villagers have been advised by the coaches to move the upper side as they see the situation calm down. Also, Chemnyon/Kasoyan irrigation has been affected too. Our coaches are waiting for the flooding to stop so that they can go and see what we can do.

According to the coaches, all the food that it was on the farm and in the storehouse was swept away by the flood, so they are in danger of hunger. Fifty people died in Central Pokot 50 people due to floods and landslides. You can pray for us since the situation worsens day after day.

In the Forkland community, they experience flood but they are not so bad, since they have clean water for drinking, we thank you very much for the support of spring’s water borehole.

Please pray for these people. They have lost so much, including children they love. We will have to rebuild some of the agricultural projects as well and will need to provide relief food and supplies as soon as our team can get in and assess the damage.  If you have extra giving to do by year’s end, please consider these dear people.

Funeral for the orphanage security guard

Not only will we need emergency relief funds, but we also paid recently to get the body of one of the security guards of the orphanage released from the hospital after a sudden illness and death. Hospitals will not release the body until the bill is paid. Also, the water enterprise needs to increase its warehouse space to be able to distribute as much water as they can produce.  So, the need is tremendous, both short term and long term. If you can help us here, I will be incredibly grateful, as will they.

As always, every dollar you send us gets to 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. You can either donate with a credit card there, or you can 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 your concern and your prayers. And, if you can help in the current crisis, please give generously.

Let’s Change the Conversation…

When you combine courage with compassion, the world can change.

The last two weeks have been crazy launching this A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation, first in Dallas and then in Los Angeles. We found each audience incredibly engaged with wanting to change their own conversations from fear and suspicion to mutual respect and being able to see the world through the eyes of those they have long regarded as “the opposition.” I know what a joy that has been just working on this book and over the last year finding myself seeking out conversations with people who are different than me, not to explain my point of view, but to truly understand theirs.

This is where change begins, not in Washington, but in the next conversation you have and the next relationship you seek out. This book invites you to have different conversations with friends and family, colleagues and co-workers, neighbors, and even strangers. As you move outside your comfort zone with a more generous heart, especially toward those who are different than you, the world can change. I heard a marvelous story yesterday of a friend in traffic school engaging a young man who was being picked on by others in the class. My friend is Hispanic, and the young man was Caucasian, so immediately, the walls went up. But my friend pressed through them, offering to buy him lunch, and by the end of the day, they had struck up a friendship that put the bullies at bay. The young man was so grateful.

We’ve heard from people in the U.K., France, and Spain, hoping this book will also help the polarized climate in which they live. Imagine if enough of us lived more generously in the world, moving past our imagined barriers to care about people who are different from us? That doesn’t mean we become less passionate about the things we care about for our nation, but we’ll also be able to appreciate the concerns of others as well. We are not as divided as our political parties or media want us to believe. There is enough common ground to share our hopes and aspirations and find solutions that are fair to our differences.

We are already hearing from a few colleges and universities that are considering using the book in their cultural studies programs, and from a political party county chairperson who is hoping this book can help build some bipartisan bridges in her own community

Would you help us change the conversation as well?

If so, get the book and read it if you haven’t already.

If you have and think it worthy, would you help us spread the word? There’s nothing more powerful than word-of-mouth recommendation from passionate readers.  Here are some ideas that will help more than you know:

  • Write a review for Amazon (and copy it to Goodreads). It only needs to be a sentence or two. Tell people what you think of this book. These reviews make a huge difference in Amazon’s algorithms recommending this book to others.
  • If you host a podcast or blog, please consider having one or all of us as a guest to discuss the book.
  • If you have a favorite radio talk show or podcast, send an email to the host and recommend they do an interview with one or all of the authors. We are all making ourselves available to discuss this book wherever and however the doors open.  Listener-suggested topics carry a lot of weight.
  • On your social media feeds, post pictures of yourself with the book, reading it, or of it laying on your end table or bedside stand. Use the picture from this blog post if you want. There are many more on my Facebook Author page. We want to fill the Internet with photos of the book on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram,
  • Post your favorite quote(s) from the book along with a picture of the cover,  or post how it is changing the way you relate to people in your life. Personal stories are the best!
  • Feel free to tag us authors, Bob Prater, Arnita Willis Taylor, and Wayne Jacobsen
  • Use the hashtag:  #ALanguageOfHealing wherever you can and link to the website ALanguageOfHealing.com or Amazon sales page wherever it is appropriate.
  • Consider the book as a Christmas gift to friends or coworkers.
  • If you’re already in a book group, suggest this one. If you’re not, organize one for your neighborhood or family to discuss how we can change the conversation to one of greater respect and understanding.

There’s no big media company behind this book and we don’t anticipate that the national media will love it since we give them a pretty good knock for increasing the polarization to generate sales and attract viewers. I do think this book is worthy of a hearing in our culture and I am excited to see what might happen if enough people are captured by its message to live a bit differently in their day-to-day interactions.

Thank you for whatever help you can lend us. Of course, what’s most important for all of us is not just getting the book out there, but taking seriously some of the encouragements in the book to live differently and engage people every day with greater generosity and kindness. That’s how the world will change, even if it’s only a small corner of it where you live.

When You Don’t Get the Miracle You Want, Part 13

Many of you followed the saga of Alan and Lynn (not their real names) the summer that began as In the Shadow of Death and finished as When You Don’t Get the Miracle You Want. It’s a prolonged email exchange with a man whose wife was dying of metastasized breast cancer despite their faith and belief that she would live. She died a few weeks into that exchange, and our correspondence continued into the grief of her loss and the challenge to his faith when he thought his belief would secure her healing. You can read all 12 posts from the beginning starting here if you’d missed it.

I have continued to stay in touch with Alan over the intervening months, and thought I’d add on this one exchange from last week:

From Alan:  

Today is 6 months to the day that Lynn died. It has been another difficult day. I am having a tough time remembering her in her beauty and love and kindness, the images of her in the hospice bed dying before my eyes are crowding out the good. Wayne, why did Jesus say “I will” to the leper and “I will not” to Lynn and me when we said we believe He can heal her if He will. We had zero doubt about His ability. I am so broken trying to make sense of my Father saying “no.” I suppose there are no answers now, and even in eternity he may choose to not reveal why. It is our place to just try to trust that He is good even though we don’t understand. I’m trying.

Wayne’s Response: 

I didn’t know what day it was but knew this would be a brutal day when it arrived.  A day that was so filled with celebration now becomes a marker for pain. That’s what grief is meant to walk us through—to recapture those memories with joy instead of being devastated by them. It does take time. I know we’re perhaps a long way from that kind of thing, but your self-talk now will take you one of two directions—either deeper into disillusionment and despair, or through the darkness of grief and into a light that shines more brightly on the relationship you shared for thirty years.

You know I don’t agree with you about the “I will not.”  Do you think the God you know would have listened to your and Lynn’s prayer and for some capricious reason decided, no, not this time?  Really? What kind of Father would that be? Her healing was never going to be about you believing enough or saying the right prayers. God’s work in the world is not to give all the good stuff to those who trust him, and all the bad stuff, like cancer, to people who don’t. You asked God to heal your wife. I would too, in the same situation.  His answer wasn’t, “I will not,” but it rather might have been…

My beloved son, Alan, there are considerations here you don’t even fathom and couldn’t if I tried to explain them to you, or else I would. It’s not that I didn’t want to, but that I could not, not because I lacked the power or desire to do so, but because of other factors in play that you don’t know about. I am so sorry. I knew you would take that out on me for a time, and I was willing to risk it because I know that at the end of the day your faith would win out. I am good, and Lynn knows that better than anyone living on earth right now. What I did or didn’t do was not about whether or not I loved you or her, but simply that this was the best of all possible solutions for all else that I’m doing on the earth.

I would never ask you to understand that, given your horrible loss and your limited perspective, but I do hope you’ll find a way to trust me in this and look beyond it to see what good I will yet do in you and through you.  Lynn is safely at rest in me, and she yearns for the day when you will join us, but there is so much more I want to share with you right where you are.  Stay the course. Find your way back to love and trust simply in the strength of my character, not in your ability to understand it.  You are mine, Alan. Your time is not yet. There is more day to live until the dawn in which all of this will make more sense.

Alan Response:

Wow! Thank you!. That is the most amazing response ever! You must have been attached to the portal of Heaven because that came from the Father, no doubt! Thank you for being patient and willing to be used by God in my life as opposed to being impatient and preferring to ignore me or tell me to stop bothering you. I love you and thank God for you. I hope that 2020 will afford an opportunity for me to tell you that face-to-face.

Too often, we come to conclusions about God from our limited perspective that are wildly untrue and wars against our intimate life in the Father’s love. If we could only see what he sees, we would understand, and until then, we have to trust what we know of him—that he is a loving, gracious Father, who is not wanting to add to our pain but wants to walk us through it into greater freedom beyond.

You might say we judge God through the knothole of our own pain. We’ve all done it, but it never leads us to what’s true.

The Puppy and the Garden

It’s one of my all-time favorite stories, of Sara, her garden, and our new pup Zoey from three years ago. I’ve shared it all over the world, and even in a former blog post. But it showed up recently in an interview I’d done quite a while ago in a new video produced by Loren Rosser for Stephen Crosby. It’s called Life in The New Covenant – Part 2 – “Christ in You (us all)”. I asked permission to take out this snippet so those of you who hadn’t yet heard me tell the story, might enjoy it as well. The visuals in this video have been changed from the original to include photos of Zoey and Sara’s garden.

It all illustrates a powerful point:  We will not be transformed by the Father until we know him well enough to rest in his love.

Enjoy!

If you cannot see the window above, use this link: https://vimeo.com/375774561.

Launch Day!

Today is drop day!  A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation dropped this morning at retail outlets throughout the U.S. I’ve been living inside this book for nearly two years and it is such a relief to finally have it available in the world. We have had a group of advance readers already discussing it and I love what people are seeing in it and how it is beginning to change the way they interact with others. Some of the stories we are hearing are overwhelmingly beautiful. That’s what we hoped for. We didn’t write this book to change the politics in Washington, DC or the angry voices that fill the media echo chambers. My coauthors and I wrote it as every-day Americans, inviting others into better conversations with people in their lives. If the temper of this country changes it will be one life at a time and one conversation at a time.

We held a number of events in Dallas this week to mark the launch and will continue to do this Saturday and Sunday in southern California. If you’re free to celebrate with us, hear my coauthors share a bit of their story, and get your book signed, join us in San Dimas on Saturday for the launch, and on Sunday afternoon with CultureBrave in Los Angeles. You can get all the details here. Just look under Events.

We’re looking for people who are willing to intentionally engage those who look and think differently than they do with mutual respect and compassion. Our subtitle is: Creating safe environments for conversations about race, politics, sexuality, and religion. Learning to speak this language means we will engage people, listen to their stories so that we can better understand their concerns, and then consider how we might share a culture that seeks to be fair to all points of view instead of imposing our own.

Wayne sharing with our Language of Healing class.

Bob, Arnita, and I taught our first class together in Dallas this weekend and to a group of people eager to join this conversation. Some of the things we shared there, that might be helpful here are:

  • About 75% of Americans are ready to have the conversation that embraces mutual respect, which means about 25% are not. Don’t try to force this conversation on those who are not ready for it. Most will be, however, tired of the polarization that is making us angry and suspicious of our neighbors.
  • Don’t think first about changing institutions, but of the next interaction you have with someone who thinks differently than you do, or the next room you walk into and who you choose to spend some time with.
  • Learning to speak a Language of Healing invites an inner transformation first, where we “see” others and engage them with compassion and respect even if they don’t share our political views or our faith.
  • We all have biases that influences our interactions with others. By recognizing and managing them we will find ourselves in more fruitful relationships.

This week we will also be recording the audio version for those who would like to hear all three of us read our parts of this book.  It should be available by the first of the year.

If you’d like to help us get the word out, here are some ideas—

  • Go to your favorite bookstore and ask if they have the book in stock. (If not, it will alert them to order it.)
  • Get a copy at Amazon, Barnes, and Noble, or Books-A-Million and start reading it.
  • If you like what you’re reading, share it freely on social media, post a review on Goodreads and Amazon. All of those things help the book spread in the world.
  • Post a picture of the book whenever you quote from it or share your thoughts about it. There are lots online, or on my Facebook Author feed, or you can personalize it by taking one with you reading the book, or sitting on your coffee table or desk.
  • When you see other postings about this book on your social feeds “like” them so the conversation grows.
  • Suggest A Language of Healing for any book group you attend, or host a study in your own home.

We have been blessed with a lot of people who are passionate about this book. Give it a read and see if it resonates with you as well.

Farewell Kevin… And Thank You

The world is a bit poorer today, at the same time more of what I treasure has found his way into eternity.

I found out this morning that my good friend from Australia, Kevin Smith, passed away peacefully on Sunday morning. I knew he had not been well and had endured great suffering and pain over the last few months. Those closest to him are relieved that his suffering is finally over and that he has begun the greatest adventure for which he was created—eternity with the Father he loved so much. My heart and prayers go out to his wife Val, his three kids and their spouses, and all the grandkids.

Over the past 24 years, I got to have so many long, deep, healing conversations with Kevin—in my home, in his, in Ireland, Singapore even on Skype calls. I got to introduce him to so many of my friends around the world. I first met him and Val in the summer of 1995 when asked to teach at a Servant School he’d helped organize in the bush outside of Melbourne, Australia. He and his then-21-year-old daughter picked Sara and me up at the airport to drive us out to Camp Weekaway. The conversation I heard between that father and daughter let me know we were in for a special time. It was our first time in Australia and we were deeply hurting at the time having just been betrayed by a close friend and forced out of a group of people we dearly loved. Those few days were life-changing. It’s where we began to see the cross in a different light, that I wrote about in He Loves Me, and talked at length about in Transitions, and where we got to experience the reality of a community of brothers and sisters that we had been trying so hard to produce, without success, by our own efforts at home.

Those ten days in Australia changed the course of our lives in so many ways. I have always been grateful that God allowed our lives to intersect then and continue to over the years that followed.  He was a treasure in so many ways—his smile, deep laugh, his wisdom, generosity, and graciousness communicated the Father’s nature to me better than anything else ever has. When people ask me what books have most shaped my life and theology, my answer is that it was never books. What has most shaped my life and thoughts on this journey are the people God brought across my path at just the right time and who invested so much in my heart and life. And I don’t mean I got to hear them speak; I got to spend time with these people in their homes, on long walks, in deep conversations and in frivolous moments of joking and laughter. They allowed me to see God in real life and Kevin was one of those. He never took himself too seriously or never tried to impress me with his spiritual depth. He just lived an authentic life and made room for others to walk alongside him.

Kevin Smith having a yarn in Ireland

The sheer gravity of his character and passion for God permanently altered the trajectory of my life. When I spent a few days with Kevin my trust in Father grew in ways that surprised me. He simply lived at rest in the Father’s care through times of great abundance and in times of great need or pain. He was willing to follow God’s leading even at great personal risk financially and otherwise. So much of how I live in the world today, I can trace back to my friendship with Kevin and what he showed me about what life in God looks like.

Even how I travel now is the fruit of our relationship. I know that what people need to see to catch this life for themselves is not a speaker on a stage talking about the love of God, but an example in their homes and over meals of our common humanity and the amazing Father that can make sense of our lives. I know that frivolous moments of laughter or making buttermilk biscuits are every bit as significant as the deep conversations. That’s what Kevin showed me and I still treasure every moment we’ve had together.

As I have reflected this morning on my gratefulness to God for allowing Kevin in my life, I was reminded of some of the things he said to me, that I still share with others:

  • He was the first person I ever heard use the word “Father” without the article in front of it. It captured me because I never call my father ‘The dad’. Father became such an endearing term to me.
  • After asking me how many of our policies in the church I’d been a part of were based on our fears of people falling through the cracks, of the wrong people getting in leadership, or of people not seriously following Jesus and I answered about ninety percent, “So, you know well the church that fear can build, but you’ve yet to discover the church that grows from trusting him.”
  • “We loved The Naked Church when we read it, but we also realized that what you don’t know yet is that Jesus didn’t leave us with a system to implement, but with his Spirit to follow.”
  • When asked by someone if he believed in the infallibility of the Bible, he hesitated briefly then answered,  “I believe in the infallibility of the God of the Bible.”
  • When I was complaining about one of our politicians, “Well, we know he lies, but we don’t know that he’s a liar.”
  • In a classroom in Singapore discussing Jesus’ prayer for the unity of his followers. “Is unity really our calling?  Who was Jesus asking to produce this unity, us or his Father?”
  • When asked about his children not growing up in Sunday school. “I think they may give our children just enough of God’s things to inoculate them against the reality of knowing him.”
  • “Let’s make a pact to use the term church only the way God uses it, not for humanity’s faltering institutions, but for the living, breathing family that thrives in the earth.”

I’m sure there are so many more that will come to mind over the days to come. I am so grateful that Father allowed us to have a friendship over the years.

Kevin Smith in Australia

Fortunately, you can still spend some time with Kevin if you’d like. Over the years I did five podcasts with Kevin and was always touched by the power and simplicity of his words as well as his life.  You can listen to them here. Take a weekend sometime and listen to all five of them back-to-back. It will enrich your journey in ways you can’t imagine.

Most of all, I will miss knowing you’re in this world, Kevin. I realize you are face-to-face with Father now and how I wish we could have one more Skype call so that I could know what you know now. But that will await another day. Thank you, Kevin, for being you! For sharing your life so freely with so many of us and enriching this world with the fragrance of Father.

Farewell, my friend.  Enjoy what’s next!

A Crazy, Crazy Few Weeks

Why has this page been so quiet?  Because the last few weeks have been a bit crazy, and the next couple will be the same.

The above photo was my view last weekend, getting a walk in the woods as the day began. I was in Ohio on a two-day turn-around from Sara and my week away. The temperature was 34 degrees, so it was a brisk four-mile walk.  Ohio!??! It wasn’t on my travel schedule, but for personal reasons, I felt nudged to spend some time with dear friends in northeast Ohio, near Millersburg, that God has connected me to over the years. Some others in the area came to join us, and I heard some amazing stories of how at desperate moments my life intersected with theirs. I was touched at what God does. Do people really Google, “I don’t want to go to church anymore,” and get to my website?  (Not anymore, as I checked today!)

It was a crazy, rushed trip as I had to get back and help coach some storytellers that are part of a one-year commemoration of the mass shooting at Borderline Bar and Grill that took twelve undeserving lives. Hearing police officers, firefighters, parents, and survivors talk about that experience a year ago has been incredibly moving. The final event is tomorrow night. One year ago today those young people were murdered then within twenty-four hours 250,000 people from my community were evacuated in the dead of night in the face of two encroaching wildfires. Everyone in our community has vivid memories of those days.

After that, we are gearing up for the release of my new book, A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation, along with coauthors Bob Prater and Arnita Taylor. We’ll all be in Dallas next week, doing a six-hour class together on Saturday (November 16) before our official release the next day. If you’re in the area or would like to fly in you can get details on the website above either for the Saturday seminar or the Sunday afternoon/evening book launches.

Then the following weekend Bob and Arnita are coming to Southern California where we will be recording the audio version of the book as well as having our own book launch here. You can join us at Life Pacific University on Saturday, November 22.  Details are also on the Language of Healing Website and you can RSVP there.  Then, on Sunday afternoon November 24, we will be meeting with the CultureBrave at Cultural Interiors, 4421 W. Slauson Ave. L.A. CA. 90043. There is ample parking in the back and refreshments will be served!

This book’s pre-sales have already put it at #1 on Amazon’s list of books about war and peacemaking. Amazon has ordered thousands of them and we’re excited by the feedback we are getting from our early readers. Join us if you can at one of the events above because I’d love to introduce you to Bob and Arnita. You can also pre-order your copy now from a number of outlets.

When we get done with this launch Thanksgiving will be upon us and soon the holidays and a new year. I haven’t worked out my travel yet, waiting to see how this new book influences the places I need to go, but I am actively considering trips in 2020 to, Florida, Oklahoma, Michigan, upstate New York, South Carolina, and West Texas. It will be interesting to see what God has in store in the days to come.

In addition to all of that, it’s my daughter’s birthday today, which we get to celebrate with an early dinner, and then late tonight the grandkids are coming for the entire weekend! My heart revels in such moments as these kids are growing so fast!  Even faster than ours, I think!

 

Meet the Authors of A Language of Healing

Sara and I are just back from our week away, and it was glorious! Life is full now with getting our new book released and available.  But first, let me assure everyone that Sara and I are doing fine in the face of all the wildfires going on in Southern California since our return. I’ve received numerous texts, emails, and messages asking about how we’re being affected by these fires. Firefighters won the day in our area yesterday and it is much quieter today.  There are very few losses in our county and we are grateful.

For the time being, Sara and I, and Julie and her family are not in danger. We have fires to our east and northeast, with winds blowing toward the southwest.  We got a bit of smoke yesterday, but it is much better today. Your prayers and concern are deeply appreciated. There are some other more dangerous fires burning out on the east side of LA today, but the winds are supposed to end late morning.

Now, let me share with you a new video of Bob Prater, Arnita Taylor, and me, talking about our new book, A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation that releases November 19. They were also my guests on this week’s episode of The God Journey, in a podcast called Erring on the Side of Love.

It couldn’t be more timely given the times we live in. Check out the latest Pew Research on the escalating polarization of our nation. We have to have a better conversation that leads to generosity and respect, even to those who don’t see the world the way we do. We hope this book will help generate that conversation. You can pre-order the book here.

The comments in this video were made the weekend we began work on this book, and I can honestly say the process and our engagements with each other were greater than we had hoped.

The video link is here –  https://vimeo.com/369947815 if you’d like to share it with your friends. And here’s a link to an Instagram-friendly forty-five-second version – https://vimeo.com/369949507.

Thanks for helping us get the word out.

The Story Behind A Language of Healing

Sara and I are taking a break for a week so, please go easy on me email-wise while we are gone. This is Sara time, and perhaps the lull before the storm with the new book coming out and a bit of travel ahead.

Amazing news today! We just found out today that Amazon placed an order for 3,000 copies of A Language of Healing.  That’s astounding for this little book from a new publishing company! Obviously, there is a lot of interest for this title and we’re excited that it may give people a way to negotiate the growing tension in our culture.  I’ve been asked by some of our international readers whether this is for the United States alone.  It’s not. People in any polarized nation will find the strategies in it very useful.

The publishing date for the book is November 19, but we are having two weekends around that to celebrate the launch and where we’ll have books available. You can join us in Dallas for the first book launch on November 17,  It will give you a chance to meet all the authors and talk about our passion to change the conversation one person at a time.  Details are on the ALanguageOfHealing website.  Also, the day before (Saturday, November 16) we will be hosting our first seminar about the content of the book. We’ll be meeting from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. The cost is $50.00 for the training, which will include an advance PDF copy of the book and a printed copy at the seminar. We only have room for 40, so sign up quick at the website or by emailing me.

The following weekend the team will be together again for a Book Launch in Southern California at Life Pacific University.  Details can be found at A Language of Healing website or you can email me to register. I hope some of you can come join us and help us begin a different sort of conversation in the world.

I can’t wait for you to meet my coauthors, Bob Prater and Arnita Taylor. The connections between us have not only been orchestrated by God, but the synergy between our thinking has been transformative to each of us. This has been such an amazing journey.

Here’s a sneak peek at the introduction to this book and how it came to be.

INTRODUCTION

Have you ever found yourself in an awkward moment with someone different from you?

Maybe you both heard a joke at the same time, but your reactions were wildly different. Have you ever made a comment that you found out later was offensive to others, when you didn’t mean it to be? Are you afraid to initiate a conversation with someone different from you for fear you’ll say the wrong thing or be misinterpreted?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are in good company. Our social fabric is unraveling as anger and vitriol rule the national dialogue. Offenses are easily taken… and too often intended. We are losing our ability to communicate gracefully with people of different cultures, interest groups, or opinions.

Political parties exploit it, the media sells it, and Russian troll farms exacerbate it. And they will continue to as long as the electorate falls for it.

Aren’t you done with all of that?

Our differences cannot be an excuse to vent our anger and animosity. We can hold to differing views and argue for them passionately without resorting to contempt, suspicion, and accusations. If we can manage this, we’ll not only learn more about each other, but we might also find ways to work together for our shared interests, guarding our own dignity by giving it to others.

This is a book for those who are tired of being spun by politicians and media and having their personal relationships destroyed by differences in religion, race, sexuality, and politics. It’s for those who want to find ways to communicate and cooperate beyond our most deeply rooted differences. It’s for those who realize that in the shared spaces of our society we have more to gain through mutual understanding than from the politics of polarization.

If you enjoy the fight or profit by it in money, votes, or clicks, you will not enjoy this book. While it’s not about linguistics per se, it is about speaking a language that dials down the anger and opens the door to listening to others as much as we want to be heard.

The idea for this book began with Bob Prater, a former pastor, lumber company manager, entertainment developer, and father of three daughters. He spends a lot of his time with people who have been marginalized—the poor, the LGBTQ community, and others who’ve been abused or fallen through the cracks of our society. He’s also been a bridge to the Muslim community in his own city of Bakersfield, California. His friendship with people in these groups, however, has caused great concern among his friends in the evangelical community.

Bob thought their combined experiences could help dispel the growing anger in our culture. In addition, Wayne is theologically and politically conservative, while Bob is more progressive on both scores. They have butted heads often on various issues, but through their conversations only grew closer as friends. Both disdain the polarizing rhetoric that has taken over the country.

Bob also had a third person in mind—a female politician in California who would bring more perspective to the conversation. Unfortunately, she bowed out in the end, and they began to seek another voice to enrich the content of the book. During that time, Wayne met with some people in a home in Dallas, Texas, when in walked Arnita Taylor, feigning frustration at having been passed over for the role of Papa in the movie The Shack, based on a book Wayne coauthored.

Arnita is an African-American woman from middle Tennessee, now living in a mostly white suburb. Arnita was trained as a laboratory chemist, raised two young men with her husband, earned a graduate degree in leadership development from Walden University, was employed in church ministry at a predominately white congregation, and is the founder of EIGHT Ministries (a consulting agency for leadership development).

During the meeting, comments were made displaying some insensitivity on racial issues. Before Wayne could jump in and help with any potential offense, Arnita spoke up. As Wayne recalled the conversation, in the most gracious way imaginable Arnita helped the room communicate more wisely and freely about racial differences. “Now, I’m not going to take offense to that,” Arnita would say, “but this is how others I know might hear that…” Her honesty and demeanor invited others into a conversation and added to an already enriching discussion. Wayne wondered at the time if she might be the third voice they were looking for.

Shortly after, Wayne called Bob and they discussed the possibility of adding Arnita to the authorship of A Language of Healing. After a few more meetings, it was clear that Arnita was the right fit for the project though they had no prior relationship with her.

Thus, began A Language of Healing… During the course of writing together not only was Arnita a valuable contributor, but she also became a treasured friend. As you’ll see, each chap- ter is written as a conversation between them, with sketches to help identify who is doing the talking in any given paragraph. Though framed as a conversation, the words were edited to flow seamlessly from paragraph to paragraph. However, in many cases, who was speaking was even more important than what was said to give the words context. You’re invited to eavesdrop on their conversation and, by doing so, are encouraged to learn a different language for your own relationships.

None of them claim to be an expert in the language of healing, though they are avid learners. They are three very ordinary Americans, who are tired of the polarized rhetoric and name-calling that surround issues of religion, politics, sexuality and race. They all enjoy a number of deep friendships with people who have very different views and experiences, and they appreciate what they learn in those relationships. This is their appeal for all of us to seek better ways to communicate with our family and friends in these critical areas.

They are not social scientists using formal qualitative or quantitative research. They are concerned citizens, learning from one another while adding their own personal narratives. They are not writing for the politicians and pundits in Washington, D.C., but to other people who don’t want differing perspectives to further divide us. They hope better dialogue and greater compassion will lead to more mutually satisfying answers to the problems we face.

None of them are trying to convince you their opinion is the right one, but rather they want to model how friends can talk through combustible issues. When you realize you don’t have to convince people you are right and they are wrong, you get to grow by appreciating that others look at the world differently. The substance of their conversation is in their mutual respect and the desire to find a common ground larger than their own preferences.

Try it. You’ll find that issues are more nuanced than you’ve been led to believe, and you may discover some rich friendships along the way. The book is divided into three main sections:

  • An opportune Moment. Why is this a particularly propitious moment to elevate the conversation, at least for the vast majority of Americans who are tired of those who manipulate them through fear and anger?
  • Five practices of a peacemaker. What does it take for someone to be in a conversation to help lower the heat and increase the level of communication, especially where we hold significantly different views?
  • Operating in shared space. Our deeply held views do not have to be subjugated to cooperate with others, we only have to look to make as much space for their views as we want for ours.

At the end of each chapter, you’ll find three suggestions you can use to practice the language of healing in your own day-to- day interactions. Choose any one of them and see how it can expand your ability to engage a wider variety of people.

We all win if you take one of the chapter topics to explore more deeply. We all win if your level of understanding increases even slightly. We all win if you take this book into a book club and have your own conversation about differences in our culture. We all win when these chapters are used as discussion starters in college classrooms or used in high school civics. We all win if you learn to listen better to people who see the world differently than you do.

The hope is that everyone who reads this will gain a little more awareness about themselves. You don’t have to agree with everything here, but if you can at least acknowledge the validity of varying perspectives and communicate about them more generously, you can help repair the rip in our societal fabric. Just maybe something you read will encourage you to more harmony and peace with your family, colleagues, and friends. Even better, you may learn something here that will give you the insight to solve a problem or repair a broken relationship.

Polarity damages people. The current atmosphere is saturated with disdain for one another. It’s time for a new approach that celebrates our common humanity.

“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”
— Anne Lamott

You can pre-order your copy of A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation here.

Book Launch Events Announced in Dallas and Los Angeles

A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation is the book we need at this critical moment in our history. At a time when many Americans are reduced to shouting past one another, the authors of this volume—three thoughtful, compassionate citizens—give us a roadmap to restore civility and respect across even our deepest differences. Filled with honest dialogue, inspiring stories, and practical advice, this compelling volume should be required reading for every American committed to seeking a common vision for the common good.

That endorsement was written by Dr. Charles C. Haynes, Founding Director of Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum Institute in Washington, DC. I worked with Dr. Haynes back when I was helping work through social conflicts with BridgeBuilders.  He is a noted constitutional scholar, and I couldn’t be more grateful for his endorsement. I hope people take it to heart.  You can pre-order the book here.

Ok, this news is so hot off the presses, that we don’t even have all the details nailed down yet, but for your planning purposes, I wanted to make you aware of these gatherings in case you want to join us in Dallas or in Southern California.  It will be available November 19, and to celebrate its release we are having two celebrations, one in Dallas where one of the coauthors resides, and one in Southern California at Life Pacific University.  Mark your calendars if you want to join us. All three coauthors—Arnita Taylor, Bob Pater, and I—will be at all of these events and books will be available.

Dallas Book Launch – Sunday, November 17, 2019: We will be meeting at the Eventually Yours Event Venue, in North Hills Village at 7640 NE Loop 820 (at Boulevard 26) Suite 110, North Richland Hills, TX 76180. To accommodate those who want to come, we will be having one from 2:30 – 4:30, and repeat it from 5:00 – 7:30. You must RSVP to guarantee your space since the size is limited.  Click on the link for your preferred time to let us know you’re coming.

Seminar in the Language of Healing:  On the Saturday before, November 16, we will be taking a look at more in-depth skills as to how you can be a bridgebuilder in your own community. We will release details as soon as we have them, but we will host a six-hour training on Saturday from 9:30 – 4:00 pm. in Keller, TX. Arnita, Bob, and I will all be participating in this event. There is no cost for the other events, but we are going to ask for $50.00 for those who want to register for the training to contribute to the expenses involved. When you register you’ll receive an advance PDF copy of the book, and then a free book at the traiining.  Space is limited to the first forty people.  To register, please email me.

The following weekend we’ll be together again in Southern California

Southern California Book Launch will be in the chapel of Life Pacific University in San Dimas, CA on Saturday, November 22 from 1:30 – 4:30. If you’d like to join us, please RSVP here.

In addition, CultureBrave with Lisa Vitello is planning a Sunday Brunch for us to meet with their group on November 23 somewhere in Los Angeles in the late morning. You’d be welcome to join us there, too. We don’t have the weblink for that yet, but you can email me if you’re interested in attending and I’ll get you included.

Finally, it is not too late to join our Launch Team that is gathering right now in a private group on Facebook.  We are looking for five hundred people who will help us start some buzz about the book by pre-reading it and being ready to post reviews, blogs, Instagram and Facebook posts when it launches. We have procured a Launch Team Coordinator well-versed in the ways of using these algorithms to help people know about this book.

  1. Fill out this Google form:  https://forms.gle/1PEJrx9dYV34GerC8
  2. Click this link. https://www.facebook.com/groups/2448614108754741/  to join the launch team Facebook group!

Bob, Arnita, and I have been both blessed and a bit overwhelmed by the reception this book is getting by those who are pre-reading it and those that endorsed it. It seems like there is a great hunger to move from the animosity of our current national dialogue to conversations more gracious and more enlightening. We hope you will join us.

We Don’t Always Want What We Want

I am traveling through the south of Florida at the moment, having spent the weekend in Miami, and now headed up to the Sarasota/Tampa area for the weekend. Yesterday, I had an amazing lunch conversation reconnecting with someone I’d visited several years ago. He’d come here to plant house churches and ended up discovering that the church was more wild and wonderful than that could contain as well. He, too, is learning that life moves at the speed of relationships.

While we were eating, I sat facing the wall pictured above. We were in a restaurant called Ford’s Garage that commemorates the life of Henry Ford, who had a summer home near here, which just happened to be right next door to a summer home for Thomas Edison. Can you imagine the conversations they must have had together? Oh, to have been a fly on that wall…

Anyway, I was taken with this quote of Henry Ford’s: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” He had dreamed up something so much better, what people didn’t even know they wanted, and his automobile has taken over the world.

I wonder how many of our prayers sound like that to God. We are asking him for the thing we think we want when he has things in mind for us that are more wonderful than we can even conceive. Most of my prayers used to ask God to do things that would make me comfortable or happy, and he had things in mind that would radically change the way I think and live in the world. I’m so glad God did not answer most of my prayers the way I wanted him to. His ideas have proved to be so much better and higher than mine.

It made me think of my favorite line from the movie, Bruce Almighty. “Since when does anyone have a clue about what they want?” So true! We think we do, but then God works in other ways.

I’ve long thought that’s what Ephesians 3:20 is talking about. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.” 

It doesn’t mean if I’m asking him for a three-bedroom house, he wants to give me a five-bedroom one. It merely means that what we want now is rarely what we would really want if we could see our lives through God’s eyes. We want comfort, ease, and a pain-free existence, he wants to invite us into the adventure of a lifetime that transcends all of those things to embrace his reality in a way that changes how we live in a broken world.

As I’ve continued on this journey, I am much more aware that what I thought I wanted wasn’t what I really wanted. Almost twenty years ago, I found myself saying to a friend, “Over the past few years, God has defied to the nth degree every expectation and desire I had for my life.”

“Is that a good thing?” he asked me.

I found myself answering, “It’s the best thing!” And it has been, though it often takes the added perspective of two or three years to pass so I can look back and see that what he was doing was far better than what I had in mind. It has led me on a path to The Deepest Freedom—freedom from the tyranny of my own best wisdom or my desires.

I’m glad that Jesus said the Father knows what we need even before we ask him. I’m relieved by that because I’m sure many of my prayers don’t make much sense to him. Now, if we could just relax and trust that in the present, we would be so much more at peace.