A Fork In the Road

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’re Taking a Bit of a Break

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Is America a Racist Country?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Going Live Today at 5:00 PDT

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

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

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

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

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

We’ll be discussing the following questions:

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

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

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

This Can’t Keep Happening

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Passion that Has Motivated My Journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s one last excerpt from that book:

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

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

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

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

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

You’ll never regret it.

We Have Completed the Work…

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

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

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

North Pokot Community Transformation Journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Five-Year Project in Pokot:

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

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

The Challenges That Remain

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

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

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

A Conversation about Race

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

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

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

Can’t We Have a Better Conversation?

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

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

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

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

Love Does Not Require Agreement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And…

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

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

That. Is. So. Cool.

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

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

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

____________________

Special Programming Notes:

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

Then

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

A Peek At My Email

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

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

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

My response to her:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Language of Healing Goes Live!

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

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

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

A few other notes:

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

Finally:

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

It’s Rarely the Words…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zooming Through the Pandemic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You just might discover him in new and profound ways.

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

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

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

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

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

Print Out Ancient Middle Eastern Map Before Watching the Video

Embracing Your Own Resurrection

I am a bit saddened this morning by all those who will celebrate the fact of the Resurrection today as if it guarantees them the hope, light, and joy they want. But so many will miss the reality of the Resurrection in their own lives.

The fact of the Resurrection did nothing for the soldiers who saw it, the Pharisees who sought to cover it up with lies and persecution, or the people throughout Jerusalem who did not yet know what happened there.

The fact of the Resurrection mattered only to a dozen or so that day, and five hundred more who saw him later and let the Resurrected Christ begin to take shape in him.

The Resurrection is a doorway that allows us to know God in the safety of his love and forgiveness, and it only has power when we let his hope seep into the cracks of our hopelessness, let his truth disrupt our illusions, and let his priorities overrun ours.

Stepping through that doorway is our choice, and it isn’t made in one prayer, but a thousand moments of standing at the threshold of God’s reality and choosing to follow him instead of grasping for our own wisdom and comforts.

That’s why the Resurrection is still a scandal. We can celebrate the fact of it today and miss its reality. Embracing the Resurrection risks everything as it seeks to overturn the darkness in us, most of which we are unaware.

But there is no other way to celebrate the Resurrection. There is no pure joy to be had in pleasing our own affections every day; it is found on the other side of the upheaval of all of our agendas and finding our wings inside God’s desires for us.

Don’t just stand at the door and rejoice that it’s there; take the risk to come inside and let the Resurrection have its work in you. Of course, you don’t know what it will mean for you, but this is the only adventure that matters and the reward is Life as it was always meant to be lived.

“Jesus Christ, Risen Lord, take my hand today and lead me to your Life. I want to see you and follow you one day at a time until my heart finds its glory in you.”

COVID-19 Finds Its Way to Kenya

Can you imagine the changes the world has undergone in the last three weeks. How unthinkable this would have been if someone told you even two months ago that so many of us would be locked up in our homes and when we do venture out it would be with masks and gloves. Our health care workers and first responders risk their lives every day to help others through this tragedy.

I hope you’re finding ways to get through this season. I just heard from Michael, our contact in Kenya, and the virus is drawing near to Pokot. It is already in neighboring Uganda and is causing fear to spread in the region. Here is what Michael wrote a couple of days ago:

Greetings in the most powerful name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We are so grateful for the article Why I Don’t Go to Church Anymore. I believe this is the time where this teaching is needed more than any other, and everybody is requesting Swahili and English copies. This evening, we are going to deliver some hard copies to more than 500 leaders who are requesting it. This is amazing.

The North Pokot work is well and they are planting different type of crops and irrigating it all. However, because rumors that the coronavirus is going to sweep all people especially those who are congested like they are, they are afraid. Some have prepared to start fighting it as if it was an animal, armed with traditional spears. Some of the old men who still believe in tradition started preparing rituals. However, our coaches are doing extra work to educate and teach them that sanitizer could help prevent its spread and that they need to put their trust in God.

The coaches especially those who trained in the health department, have told them about the importance of social distance, cleanliness even among the community, and washing hands regularly by using soap. But they don’t have soap. Every household needs two soap dispensers and a container of fresh water to wash hands.  This is the report we have got from our supervisor. These things are highly needed now. Anything God can provide through you in these areas will help greatly. As soon as God provides the item Thomas and I will  go there and help the situation.

This issue have affected countrywide, it has also affected feeding because people has been minimized movement, for working and many families are starving. Our country has tried our level best to use all resources that they may be having but still the need is overwhelmed, but we trust God for everything. We understand what is happening around the globe especially USA and the burden which you have worldwide.

We are already seeing in the U.S. how the toll of this virus is worse for those who are most vulnerable. Those with many resources have options and those with little do not. We sent $20,000 to Kenya to help them in this crisis, but it will take more.  If you have some extra to help them, please send it 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, mail a check to Lifestream Ministries • 1560 Newbury Rd Ste 1  •  Newbury Park, CA 91320, or phone us at (805) 498-7774. All contributions are tax-deductible for those in the U.S.

If you’re stretched in this season, please pray for them as you do for your own needs. This is a tough time for so many people and yet we can also put our trust in God who is faithful and a certain refuge in uncertain times.

Thank you for your concern and your prayers.

 

 

The Jesus Story #4 – Learning to Live in Jesus

After Jesus’s resurrection, his new followers had to learn how to live in this new kingdom with Jesus on the inside instead of the outside. A number of those wrote letters to help explain it to others and those have been saved for us in the part of the New Testament between Acts and Revelation. These letters are a treasure map to help you learn how to move from obligation to rules  and rituals into a growing relationship with how Jesus wants to reveal himself to you and through you.

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

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

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

The Pews Are Empty Again Today

“This pandemic makes Beyond Sundays even more relevant and applicable!!!”

That text came from a friend a couple of weeks ago when congregations were forced to cancel their Sunday services all across the country to flatten the proliferation of the coronavirus. This Sunday, once again, the pews were empty and on Palm Sunday at that. Even worse for some, they will still be empty next week for what many consider to be the most important Sunday of the year—Easter!

Some have even tried to continue their meetings in defiance of government orders and have been arrested for it. A pastor in my hometown was on the news this morning because he was requiring his congregation to come for communion this afternoon. He said we can’t let them call liquor stores essential and churches nonessential. I know it’s challenging in this season to give up things we all enjoy, but underneath the anguish of so many pastors seems to be a quest for publicity, a concern that people will get out of the habit of attending, or the fear that without offerings their congregation cannot survive.

A liquor store is not more essential than the Church, but gatherings in buildings are not essential to the life of the Church. She lives and breathes by the power of the Spirit, connecting us to him and each other in a billion different networks of relationships. I thought everyone knew that. I’m genuinely amazed that those religious leaders fear she cannot survive without the structures we’ve built around her.

For the most part now, people “attend” their congregation online, as many have begun streaming the staged elements of their service. These are the same groups who have said for years that you can’t do “church” online—you have to be present in the building. Now they talk about their Internet feed just like they do a regular church service. Even stranger, they conduct the same service to an empty auditorium as if the people were never critical to the event, after all. And how stuck they are in an old form that doesn’t change even when all the circumstances around it have. Wouldn’t these times call for a more creative way to celebrate the life of the church in a time of chaos? How would this understanding of the church ever survive a day of real persecution if it can’t stomach a few weeks of not meeting? It’s an excellent time to reconsider how we view the church of Jesus Christ.

Leaders from Christianity Today and the National Association of Evangelicals put out a statement a couple of weeks ago about canceling Sunday services. “It is not a question of mere expediency. The gathered worship service is central to the church’s identity, and therefore, cancellation seems to trample on more than tradition. It can feel like a threat to the church’s existence.”

I find that statement so unbiblical. As far as we know, Jesus never gathered with his disciples in any kind of “worship service”, nor did he teach them to do so. The early church connected in caves and homes, and conversations in marketplaces and temple courtyards. Where two or three gathered in his name were just as powerful, maybe more so, than 25 or 5000. How, then, has this “service”, which has no precedent in Scripture, become so essential that some leaders can’t imagine the church surviving without it?

Have we lost sight of the Risen Christ and his ability to sustain his church in such desperate times without the weekly service? If so, then these times can serve us well to remember that our sustenance does not come in a service or even a good sermon but from our connection to the Head. He has his church well in hand, and with or without Sunday services, he can lead us and equip us. We could better serve not by worrying about the survival of our congregations but by serving our fellow citizens in a society racked with fear at the possible health and economic impact of this pandemic.

I hope we can all ask if we have made more of the Sunday service than Jesus would? I have no problem with those who find the weekly connection with a congregation to be helpful in their journey. However, if you have become dependent on it to maintain your relationship with God or your connection with others, maybe it is time to rethink some things.

Our hardened religious structures have never looked more naked. The church is about relationships, not with a pastor who doesn’t know you through a video screen where he can’t see you. It is friendships with others who know you, care for you, and can share your journey with compassion, insight, and encouragement.

Not everyone, however, is fearful that these times will diminish the power of the church. Many are seeing an opportunity for God to shift some remarkably skewed priorities:

I received this last week from Michael, our contact for the work in Kenya:

This small article you wrote for some years back Why I Don’t Go to the Church Anymore, is being fulfilled. Across Africa and the world, those who believe the church is institutional buildings and altars are confused in this time of testing with the coronavirus. The pandemic has shaken the world. Your article is really the lesson that is needed for such time of this. Thomas and I have sent more copies to encourage the believers across east Africa, especially those who undergoing self- quarantine due to being locked down.

And this morning I woke up to this in my inbox:

Beyond Sundays by Wayne JacobsenBeyond Sundays seems even more prophetic in these days, as we are all locked out of the church as we know it. We face lockdown and isolation in the midst of the threat of this virus that has engulfed our world. Your book continues to be a source of inspiration and blessing. Written almost for these days, as God’s people, we find ourselves constrained in our homes and out of church. Church as we know it is unable to meet (and) your book keeps coming back as a fresh reminder His Kingdom is more than just church meetings ‘alone’ and the ‘structures’ we build. God is breathing fresh life, hope, and encouragement; something new is happening in His Kingdom, in the world, and the communities where we live.

What I have discovered in the last twenty-five years of living beyond Sundays myself, is that Jesus is an every-hour, everyday companion and the church is a constant reality of interconnected relationships, not a place to meet. Those who live in him can benefit from the teachings of others but are not dependent on them. Their relationship with God thrives as much in the world or locked down in their own homes as it does at a gathering on a Sunday morning.

His church is alive and well today and can shine with greater glory during this pandemic by letting Jesus take shape in his people as they demonstrate more concern for others than they are worried about their own institutions. If you don’t know that, maybe now is the time to discover it. his church can thrive in our communion with him and in our conversations with others even if we can’t meet in the way we’ve always done it.

If your spiritual life is hampered by not attending a Sunday service, maybe this is a good time to lean into him and discover again that he is the Shepherd of his sheep, and that he has all you need. If you feel isolated, think of some people to call every day as a way to encourage them, and especially think of those people who can use it most today. Seasons like this offer a great opportunity for us to take stock of our own journey and let God invite us to deeper places of love and trust.

Maybe now we can more clearly see the difference between the Church Jesus has been building in the world and the one that humanity has been making in its own image. I wrote Finding Church to help people consider that possibility if that’s a stretch for you. .

Yes, they do overlap at times, but at others their priorities seem to diverge significantly.  Knowing the difference will help you discover her beauty in ways you may not have considered, especially in days like these.

The Visible Becomes Invisible Again

As Jesus’s body ascends to the Father, the disciples could no longer see him as they did before. But it wasn’t long until they discovered that Jesus had come to live in them by his Spirit and now they would be the vessels through whom Jesus would make himself known in the world.  Then the message spread throughout the known world and invited us all into a new adventure, learning to walk with Jesus.

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

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

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

When the Invisible Became Visible

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory…”

Reading about Jesus in The Gospels can help you learn to recognize the voice and the work of the Risen Jesus as he draws you into a relationship with him today. That’s the theme of the second episode of The Jesus Story, now available online.

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

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

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

 

The Scripture as a Treasure Map

Well, we did it! We got through the first session of what we are now calling The Jesus Story. It is a simplification of The Jesus Lens, helping my grandchildren (ages 9-15) have an appreciation for the value of the Bible and some tools to help them enjoy it for the rest of their lives.  We are just letting a lot of other people look over our shoulder and find a way to apply it in their own family.

Yes, we already changed the title because the whole book is about Jesus—who he is, why he came, and how he wants to connect us with the Father. This first lesson compares the Bible to a treasure map, with Jesus as the treasure.  We will be taping these live at 11:00 am Pacific Daylight time on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. You can join us if you like on the Facebook Group we created for this little venture:  The Jesus Story.

(For those of you seeing this on our mailing list, click link here.)

This and all future videos will be listed on The Jesus Story Page, as they are completed. I hope it helps a lot of kids find great value in a book that will help them discover the true treasure—a growing relationship with the Risen Jesus.

The Scripture Story

Beginning this Thursday, my daughter Julie and I will be offering a twice-a-week online class about The Story of Scripture. Originally designed as a brief course for my grandkids during the pandemic, we also decided to make it available to other interested families. This class will explore the story that runs through all of Scripture and how it connects us with the Living Jesus as he makes himself known in each of our hearts today. It is an adaptation of the material Wayne taught in The Jesus Lens, which is available for free on this website and takes the view that Scripture is a progressive revelation of who God is and how we can engage him and his unfolding purpose in the world.

No you won’t see Julie on camera, most likely, though I’ve offered to split the sessions with her. She is doing all the behind-the-scenes work, though, and I’m really grateful to be on another project with her. My grandkids are 15, 12, and 9 and I’ll be working to help engage them with this incredible story, but I also suspect adults who haven’t taken the time to work through the full Jesus Lens will find it helpful as well. While The Jesus Lens directly addresses those who have experienced a real disconnect from Scripture because of “teachers” who have abused them with the Bible, we will not be addressing that here. We will be starting fresh to uncover the treasures and mysteries this book contains that can help people recognize the voice of Jesus in their own life today.

The classes will be about twenty minutes long and start at 11:00 am Pacific Daylight Time, Thursday, March 26. They will continue on Tuesday and Thursday mornings for 13 sessions. For those who can’t join us live, the videos will be available afterwards for you to share with your kids when it’s convenient for you. If you’re interested in further details, please join The Scripture Story Facebook Group to get updated announcements and the link to the live feed.

The video instruction will still be available after we record, if you can’t join us live. Also, we will provide a place at Lifestream.org to contain the full class and handouts as we progress, so you’ll be able to watch it ten years from now if you can wait until then.

This is an experiment. I’ve not done on-line teaching before, nor tried to scale this down for young ages. After the twenty-minute video lesson, I’m hoping you’ll spend some extra time helping your own children by answering questions or sharing with them what you think of the lesson. Julie and I did a brief podcast about this which you can listen to here.  It can give you more details and ideas.

Of course, we reserve the right to cancel this whole thing if it turns out to be not very helpful. I feel like a little kid standing on the high dive about to jump in for the first time, and I still want the freedom to walk back down the ladder if I need to.  🙂

Social Distancing

I’ve had a lot of people worried about us out here in California, the land of fruits and nuts, especially hearing the news that we are now under a “stay at home” order by our state. I recorded a podcast on the pandemic on Tuesday and when it aired today, it was already a bit out of date, but the observations we talk about there are still important. People want to know how Sara and I are doing.  There’s nothing new we were asked to do last night that Sara and I haven’t already been doing, given that her allergies make her high risk.  We only go out for trips of necessity and that sparingly. We have all we need at this point and are physically fine. We miss some of the regular activities that have been part of the rhythm of our lives, but this is the most crucial circumstances our world has faced since World War II.  I know it doesn’t look like it yet to some people, but this is bigger than 9/11.  How we respond in this moment as individuals and as a nation will define us for centuries to come.

Unfortunately, this is going to hurt for a while. People are getting sick, and some will die. Businesses will be lost and bankruptcies will multiply. Don’t think just because you’re a Christian or “have faith in God”, you will be exempt from the consequences of this. Jesus reminded us that it rains on the just and the unjust. Anyone telling you that we still need to gather in our “churches” because that’s the safest place to be is lying to you.  There’s just no way around it. But these moments can overwhelm us or they can define us as resilient people that can rise above the challenges, mitigate the spread of this virus every way we can, and ride it out until the sun dawns again. This is one of those moments where we’re being called to “All Hands On Deck!”

I hope we have the national fortitude to respect what’s happening here and in these critical times not just think about ourselves, but be mindful that we’re part of a larger community. Each of us has a choice. Will I live by the creed of “everyone for themselves”, hoarding toilet paper, pulling out of my investments, stocking up on ammunition, or go attending “church” meetings to help spread the virus. Or, will I live out of generosity for people around me, either helping with finances if you have extra or connecting with those who might feel exceptionally lonely as they are no longer able to access their social gatherings.

In talking with a friend of mine yesterday, who also happens to pastor the local Presbyterian fellowship, he mentioned that they’ve changed the terminology a bit. We are being told by our public health people to not be with more than ten people, to stay in our homes and limit trips to necessary ones only, and to stay six feet away from others when we are out. But he said they are not calling that “social distancing,” but “physical distancing”, because that’s all we’re being asked to do. We don’t have to socially isolate. Through phone calls, FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom you can maintain all your social friendships and encourage others in the process. They are using the term, “Physical Distancing, with Social Interaction.”  I’m using that, too, because it reminds me to stay outward in my focus even as I remain separated physically.

I love that. I wish our government would have used it because I know people already hunkering down in the loneliness of their own homes and feeling pretty isolated. Let’s maintain social interaction, and perhaps all the more in these days. Think of five people you can connect with each day just to check in on them. You can’t watch that many Netflix shows anyway.  And if you’re lonely, call someone or arrange a video chat.  This is the time to be alone physically, but not socially.  Let others brighten your day.

He also shared with me the words of Martin Luther that expressed his approach to dealing with the Black Death that was ravaging Europe. Timely advice even today.

“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me, and I have done what he has expected of me, and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”

Luther’s Works Volume 43, pg 132 the letter “Whether one may flee from a Deadly Plague” written to Rev. Dr. John Eric Hess

Words of wisdom from a few centuries ago. This is how Sara and I are living it and hope you are, too. This is not a time for fear, but for deeper trust in Father’s presence with us and his provision for us regardless of what circumstances dish out.

The book cover of IN SEASON superimposed over a grape vineyard.

Let me make a few other announcements while I’ve got you here… First, In Season, which is a farmer’s view of John 15 and what it means to grow in fruitfulness and fulfillment in his kingdom, is now available in audio. I do the reading myself, so when you get tired of watching a ton of video, let me read to you. You can also get four of my other books here.

Also, I did a last-minute appearance on The Vince Coakley Show in Charlotte, NC today and will post the link here when the podcast is up.  We talked about the pandemic, Rodney Howard Brown’s assertion that people who stay away from his “church” during this time are “pansies”, and how we can live more generously in this season.

Finally, I’m thinking with my daughter about making this season of being homebound fruitful for my grandkids; we decided to put together a class about The Story of Scripture for her kids. Since we’ll be doing this via the web, we’re also checking to see if there will be other kids interested in joining. Of course, adults can tune in, too. We’re still working out details for this, but keep your eyes on this space and we’ll announce here when we get it set up.

Let’s take this time on, one day at a time, fearlessly with our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus. No matter what life dishes out, he is greater and we are completely safe in his love.

 

 

 

 

Grounded!

A week ago, who could have imagined all the changes our country would make to help stem the spread of the coronavirus? California has now closed all bars and pubs and is limiting any public events to fifty people or less. Doctors are recommending we limit contact to even fewer—as much as our work might require, and with close family and friends.
Consequently, Sara and I have been praying about and rethinking all of my (our) travel. We have decided to postpone all future trips until our nation gets a handle on this virus. That may not be a momentous decision since I’m hearing that domestic air travel is likely to end soon anyway. Whatever the case, I don’t want to be the cause of spreading the virus especially by getting people together over a broad geographical area. Also, Sara and I are in the age demographic that has been asked to stay close to home. Fortunately, that doesn’t affect our daily walk with the dogs, when we can get them in between the now-frequent and much-needed rainstorms flowing into our state.

I’m sorry for the inconvenience this causes for those who have planned to join me in various locations. I’m thinking of you, Michigan and Wichita, and probably even Europe in June. However, since we are all being asked to make sacrifices, we feel it important to do our part as well. I will reschedule those trips as soon as we are cleared to travel again.

These are undoubtedly challenging times, and no doubt will try us as a society in ways we cannot foresee in weeks and months ahead. We’ve already seen problems created by panic buying of groceries and goods, even though the supply line to restock stores has not been impacted at all. This is not the time for fear to drive our selfishness, but for measured action for ourselves, and generosity toward others. My prayer is that you will find God a safe and powerful refuge through the health and economic challenges you may face and that you find generous ways to reach out to others impacted as well, especially those on the margins of society. Look for ways to live kindly, generously, and without fear. God will do some amazing things in this season and hopefully adjust some of the skewed priorities we fall into in the routines of life.

I also have some new writing and audio projects that I’ve wanted to tinker with, so I’m excited to make use of the added time at home. I also get to have more time with Sara, which is fantastic. Fortunately, we still have phones, FaceTime, and Skype to stay in touch with others. Even a conversation with someone you love can provide a welcomed distraction from all the decisions that need to be made in these strange times.

There’s a wooden placard on the wall above our fireplace that contains the words of an old hymn.

How deep the Father’s love for us,
     how vast beyond all measure…

Those are really the best words of that hymn since it imagines the cross in a way I don’t anymore, but those words are a treasure. His love for you is deep. Even a world in chaos is not outside his grace and work. He knows where you are today, he knows what you fear and knows how to comfort your heart and hold you during these difficult times. Keep in mind, this is just a coronavirus. They have come and gone before and will again. As a society, we are making some changes to keep as many people safe as possible. There will be hardship, but hardship isn’t always a bad thing, especially as it reshapes our hearts to be more in line with his. He’s got you even in this. So, embrace what change is coming and, most importantly, embrace Jesus in it, and you’ll find in the end, your heart will more freely belong to him.