Behind the Scenes

Did You Enjoy Your Breath of Fresh Air This Week?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Breath of Fresh Air

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coming Home to the Sierras

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

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

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

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

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

Language of Healing Live graphic with book cover

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

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

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

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

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

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!

 

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.

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 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.  🙂

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.

Abandon Your Agenda and Embrace His

I was invited this week to appear on Joseph Warren’s podcast, The Broken Catholic, where he asked me to share some of my story. We had a great conversation about what it means to find our way into a meaningful and transformational life with Jesus.  We talk about how we can align our hearts to make it easier to recognize how Father is making himself known.

Here’s the link if you want to hear it. Yes, the website is a bit more self-promotional than I love, but different strokes for different folks, right? I hope it doesn’t discourage you from taking it in if you’d like.

Also, the second half of my conversation with Richard Hanes of Richmond, VA aired yesterday.  We talk about how that whenever something God is doing gets big enough it is commandeered by humanity as a way to attempt to control him, (which always fails) or to profit from it (which works for some). When that happens, those who are still hungry for God and not just “revival” are vilified by those who want to maintain the illusion.

I’ve had a great day in Enid, OK, today, though it has been full-on in fairly intense conversations from 7:00 this morning until almost 9:00 tonight. The only “alone-time” I had today was for two miles of a four-mile walk. But I’ve enjoyed the things we are talking about and the hunger and experience many of these people have had that has opened up a rich conversation.  So, I went to bed last night really grateful for the doors God has opened here and with prayers that God works beyond our religious inhibitions to find the reality of his gift—Christ in us, the hope of glory!”

Some Possibilities in Europe

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

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

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

The Audio Book is Now Available

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

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

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

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

Let’s Change the Conversation…

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

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

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

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

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

Would you help us change the conversation as well?

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

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

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

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

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

Launch Day!

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

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

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

Wayne sharing with our Language of Healing class.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Crazy, Crazy Few Weeks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Story Behind A Language of Healing

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

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

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

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

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

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

INTRODUCTION

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

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

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

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

Aren’t you done with all of that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After a Marvelous Summer…

I’ve been in Sara’s presence every day for the last four months, as long a stretch as I can remember over the last twenty years. Any travel I did, we did together and it has been wonderful, even though the reason for doing so was to finish up a couple of books and help some friends in Wyoming launch a new publishing company. It also allowed some great children and grandchildren time too. Next week I head out again to spend some time with people who are exploring various facets of learning to live in the Father’s affection and to explore relational community in a way that lets Jesus’ church take shape wherever we are.

I’ll begin my first trip with a quick weekend in Atlanta, GA, and then head out to Lake Jocassee during the week to finally finish my third book this summer—a novel set during the Civil War that a dear friend of mine has been writing for the past eight years. After that, I head up to Damascus, VA for a weekend and then back to Charlotte for one night before I fly home. If you’re in the area, and hunger for some connection, come join us.

Then in October, I’m doing a seminar in Miami, FL called The Freedom to Live Loved. How would I live differently today if I was completely at rest in the Father’s love for me? I’ll be covering what I’ve discovered about that over the last ten years as the fruit of what I wrote in He Loves Me. We’ll have two sessions on Saturday and one on Sunday. Then I’ll make my way over to Sarasota, FL toward the middle of the week, then finish up Sunday north of Tampa.  If you want more details on any of these stops, please find the appropriate link on my Travel Schedule.

I also carried on a lengthy correspondence with someone dealing with healing and the death of his spouse. With his permission, I’ve shared that exchange in twelve installments on this blog. If you missed it, you can start it here. The response from people reading it and how it’s impacted them in the face of their loss or unanswered prayers, has been overwhelming. I’m grateful for every one.

Here’s one I got the other day:

I’ve just finished reading Part 7 of your correspondence with Alan. You mentioned, in either Part 6 or Part 7, that you hoped the words you both exchanged would touch others as well. I can assure you that they have and continue to. All of our circumstances differ, but the rock solid foundational truths of the love of God are universal to us all. I had believed as Alan does that God could have (should have) fixed whatever problem was current. If there was no “fix” forthcoming clearly my faith was too small. The other day I believe I saw a truth… “if I have faith as a mustard seed”…there is a current song that says “they say if I have little faith, I can move mountains… good thing, little faith is all I have.”

I saw that, having passed through grief in the past, it is precisely at those times that my faith is so precious and that God knows in those moments how we struggle. I am left standing with only the knowledge that God loves me and that He is good, in everything, and always. He is not saying “shame on you, your faith is so small.” He is saying “I see your faith and I do love you, come to Me.”

Thank you from a very grateful woman. Just a thought, if possible, you could put all of the episodes in book form. They truly are wonderful.

Many have made that same suggestion, so people can read that exchange more easily. I am considering it, but too busy to do much about it at the moment.

One of the books I finished was a rewrite for a friend in France, but her family has decided to go a different direction. The other one we’ll be releasing in November this year. It is called A Language of Healing for a Polarized World. The subtitle is:  Creating safe environments for conversations about race, politics, sexuality, and religion. It is a collaboration of three people—Arnita Taylor (a leadership development specialist from Dallas, TX), Bob Prater (a former pastor from Bakersfield, CA who hosts a podcast called A Christian and a Muslim Walk Into a Studio), and myself.

This book looks to invite, inform, and ignite people to learn a new language to communicate generously across political and religious lines. Drawn from my 25 years of experience with my work at BridgeBuilders, Arnita’s heritage growing up as an evangelical black woman in Tennessee, and Bob, born in a racist home, has a passionate ministry to reach out to marginalized people with the love of God and has profound connections to the poor, the sexually marginalized, the Muslim community, and blacks in his community. This book doesn’t resolve our policy differences but helps to create an environment in which those differences can be discussed to better solutions than either side proposes. It is not written to change the culture in Washington (though we hope it helps), but to help people navigate the relationships around them in a way that promotes healing instead of the angry vitriol so prevalent in our culture.

I got this review of it just this morning:

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

Dr. Charles C. Haynes. Founding Director
Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum Institute

We are already getting some amazing endorsements from around the country I can’t wait to share with you.  That will come soon.

And to publish that book, I’ve been helping Kyle and Jess, some dear friends of ours, launch a new media company. They’ve been on some podcasts with me at The God Journey and will be more so, not to promote books, but to help make a lot of what we discuss here more accessible for those in their 20s and 30s. I’m excited to see where that might go.

So, this has been both a full and a fulfilling season. Now, it’s time to hit the road again.

 

The Transformative Power of Living Loved

This is probably one of the best podcast interviews I’ve ever had the joy to participate in. And, not because I was particularly brilliant but because the host was so hungry to interact on the content of He Loves Me. I couldn’t have been more surprised. I usually don’t do things targeted to men because so much of “men’s ministries” are filled with performance and accountability.

This one wasn’t. The host, Jim Ramos, had not read my book previously, and when he did, it hit him right where he is on his own journey. He wanted to process what I had experienced in moving from performance-based living to embracing the Father’s affection. I loved this conversation.

Jim said of my book, “This book is so rich and so good. It hits the heart of where men are. We need to get this book in the hands of guys. Performance-based religion is the default for men in America, and it has been mine… Your writing style is simple and heartfelt, very fluid, and easy to read.”

It’s a great conversation sorting out what it means to be transformed by love, instead of trying to earn God’s approval from our own efforts. We talk about all the biggies—wrath, fear, love, and transformation. To me there are two great benefits of living in the Father’s love, not only do we get an ever-deepening relationship with him, but we also get the fruit of that relationship in the growing transformation in our own lives.

Too many people who teach grace and love, only go so far as giving people comfort from their guilt or works. That’s not enough for me. Living loved lets us engage him in a growing relationship of tenderness, and as we live there, love begins to change the way we think about everything, and with that, we begin to live differently. Instead of being captive to our sin and less stellar appetites, we get to experience what a growing trust in God’s love produces in us, a freedom to navigate life with his purpose in mind and not so manipulated by the whims of others.

If you’ve been raised in the Christian religion, then you’ve been deeply schooled in performance-based living. The real fruit of grace is not an excuse to remain in our captivity to sin, but in how it “teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,” Titus 2:11-12.

And he’s the one doing the work in us, not us trying to do it for him. If that’s where your learning curve is now, this podcast may help you.

 

The Joys and Pain of Collaboration

I owe you an apology. For the past few months, I’ve been talking about a book I was working on with a friend from France. I told you we were hopeful for a September release, and now that isn’t going to happen. It is now quite unlikely at this point that you will ever get to see the manuscript I was working on with her. For reasons I still don’t understand, her family has pulled out of the collaboration and cut off communication with me.

I told you a few weeks ago that I was on a familiar road collaborating on a new book, though I hoped this one had a better outcome. Well, it didn’t. Unfortunately, that uncharted road quickly became a road with which I’m all too familiar. It’s hard to talk about these things and protect people I love, but I’m already getting a lot of questions I want to try and answer.

One week after I finished working on the manuscript, the author wrote me to say how incredibly grateful she was, especially thanking me for the last line, which I gave her from another novel I was writing. It fit so perfect in her story. She compared me to a diamond maker who brought the brilliance of a story she created. After I sent the approved manuscript to the editor, however, I got a disturbing email. It contained suspicions about my ulterior motives. Her tone had shifted dramatically as she told me in subsequent emails that she wanted control of everything in France and would not follow through on any of her assurances over the past eight months.

Collaboration is always a risk, and all the more so here because of the geographical distance and the language barriers. When I was hesitant, she repeatedly assured me that God was in this and that she would honor our work together. I thought the beauty in her story was worth the risk. I have a seven-year friendship with her and her family, a deep love for them, and eight incredible months working on this book with her. I am confused but not devastated.

Of the dozens of collaborations I’ve worked on, only two have gone off-track and ended valued friendships. Interestingly enough, however, they have all followed the same pattern. Other voices get involved who wanted to profit from the collaboration. They start by making accusations about my motives, then assert whatever control they can to take over the project. Finally, no matter how much they have said in the past, they now have a fresh word from God telling them not to continue. Of course, there is no way to discuss anything after that, which is why people pull that trump card. The reason it rings so hollow with me is that people who hear from God are more grace-filled and apologetic, especially when it’s a complete change of their prior assurances. Finally, they cut off any further communication and raise the drawbridge on the friendship by telling me not to contact them directly.

So, I’m there again and I don’t have the foggiest idea why. This is an abrupt end to what had been a delightful season in my life. I only wanted to help a friend get her wonderful story more widely read in the world, and gave her the best I had to help make that happen. However, she has now decided to revert to her original story and discard all I had done to help re-write it and get it published here in the States. It makes me sad to know there’s a beautiful manuscript in the world that you may never see. I still feel God was in this process, and that somehow fear and darkness have cut in to send it sideways.

People are already asking me why I do this when it can turn so hurtful in the end? I’m crazy, I guess. I believe in the power of collaboration. Everything is better when multiple people bring their various insights to give a more rounded picture of God. Scripture teaches that God gives gifts so that through the whole of the body, “the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.” I think the enemy freaks out where brothers and sisters collaborate in love and sacrifice. I don’t think God intended for any of us to go it alone. I know what The Shack would have been like if Brad and I hadn’t put sixteen months into the re-telling of that story, and I know you would never have heard of it if we hadn’t.

My friends are also asking why I don’t get people under contract at the start, to guarantee they will follow through, before spending so much of my time and money on a project. The answer is simple. I don’t know how to collaborate without shared tenderness, honesty, and faithfulness. I thought we had that here until we didn’t. I have no idea at the beginning how any collaboration will turn out and what will be fair for everyone. I just figure if people keep walking together in agreement, we will get to see what Father has in mind. The results can be fantastic.

The other reason I don’t make contracts at the start is that they don’t work either. I have signed agreements with people and companies who violate them every day. The only way to enforce a contract is to be willing to sue dishonest people. I’m not that guy. I learned a long time ago if someone doesn’t respect their word, they won’t honor their signature either unless threatened to do so.

Will I stop collaborating? No. I’m pretty sure it’s in Father’s heart. I try to be careful to do it where it is a blessing, not when people end up despising me. I don’t enjoy being used, or having my word tied to someone else’s capriciousness. What I don’t know is how people will change in the process, especially when I’ve finished what I said I would do.

For now, I’ve switched tracks. Before this newest book came into my life, I was already working with those two delightful people pictured above on a book tentatively titled The Language of Healing: Creating Safe Environments to Talk about Race, Politics, Sexuality, and Religion. With me in that photo is Arnita Taylor, a mom to two sons, a former staff pastor, a leadership coach, and an encourager I met last year in Dallas, Texas. The other guy is Bob Prater, a father of three, also a former pastor, long-time friend, podcaster, and an encourager to marginalized people in Bakersfield, California. I can tell you my life has been deeply and permanently changed for the better by these people and the process of collaborating with them.

We’ve been working on this book for almost 18 months. We had all the pieces in place, but it wasn’t reading as smoothly as any of us hoped. Both of them were able to come to my home this past weekend, and in long, exhausting, laughter-filled days, we went through every word of the manuscript and made it read so much better. We are all thrilled with how it has turned out and hope to release it early in November this year.

Here are three paragraphs from the Introduction to whet your appetite:

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

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

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

No, we haven’t signed any contracts yet. Given our time this weekend and the depth of love we have for each other, I’d be surprised if this one goes sideways. I know, I’ve been surprised before!

So, we’ll see what happens. I guess you’re in this with me, too.

More Uncharted Roads

First, a great quote:  In last week’s podcast, I read a quote taken from a June 2019 Atlantic article entitled, Abolish the Priesthood. An incisive read on its own merits that has application in the Evangelical church world as well, it contained this quote:

The first reference to the Jesus movement in a nonbiblical source comes from the Jewish Roman historian Flavius Josephus, writing around the same time that the Gospels were taking form. Josephus described the followers of Jesus simply as “those that loved him at the first and did not let go of their affection for him.”

What a wonderful identifier of God’s people in the world! I’ve been chewing on that sentence for the last couple of weeks.  It sums up well the aspiration of my heart and allows me to follow the nudges on my heart.

A few have asked why I’ve not posted much here of late. The short answer is I’ve got two books on final approach and am giving all my time to getting them ready for editing and publication. One is my collaboration on THE CITY, a novel written by a French housewife about how we learn to live in the Father’s kingdom. Sara and I have known the family for over seven years, and I have been working with Claire to brighten the story and add some of my insights to the English version. This has not been easy knowing it didn’t turn out so well the last time I tried to help someone. In the end, however, I really felt as if Jesus was asking me to do it again, even if it all goes wrong. Though I have better assurances and a better relationship this time, no one really knows how the future will play out. But this is a book I want in the world, and I think Jesus does too.

Early feedback from a few people who’ve read it for me has me astounded. Although I don’t expect anything close to the numbers we had with THE SHACK, I do believe this story is as transformative. This story touched in my heart, what THE SHACK touched in my mind. This story will help people discover how the love of God will transform the way they live in the world. I can’t wait for you to read it.

Kyle and Jess Rice from Torrington, WY

And to publish it, I am helping a young couple from Wyoming start a publishing company. Kyle and Jess Rice, whom I interview on today’s podcast, have been friends for several years. I love their passion for Jesus and their desire to help others live in the reality of Father’s affection, and they want to unfold that message in a way that resonates with people in their 20s and 30s. We’ve talked for years about collaborating together, and now we’re actually going to head down that road. They will publish THE CITY and THE LANGUAGE OF HEALING, which I’m also finishing up with two co-authors, Bob Prater and Arnita Taylor. That’s a joy too! We actually had some publishing companies seek us out on these titles, but in the end, I didn’t want to put them through the Christian publishing machine, and all that means. I’d rather give wings to them as Jesus leads us and release them into the world to travel as far as he desires. It’s a risk, it always is, but I’m excited to see what he might do.

On the local front, I’ve been asked by a team in our community to help process the twin tragedies we had here in Thousand Oaks, CA last November. On a Wednesday night, our city faced a mass murder at a local country & western hangout, and the next day we were confronted with two wildfires that did extensive damage to our community and surrounding ones. Several community leaders hope to bring this city together by letting people share their stories under the banner of “Finding Strength Together.” Over the last few years, I’ve had a growing desire to find a way into this community and serve it, beyond the relationships I already have. I’m thrilled to be invited into this collaboration and use my gifts to help others tell their stories as part of a process of healing.

So, that’s why I’ve not blogged much, why I’m horribly behind on my email, and why I won’t be traveling much this summer. I do have a lot of family obligations at home this June, but was planning on heading for Kenya the first two weeks of July. However, due to road construction in the areas I wanted to visit, we’re going to postpone that trip to a later date.  So, I have the time to help launch a publishing company and complete these two titles for a Fall 2019 release.

Two years ago, none of these projects were visible on my horizon, except Kenya of course. I love the way he brings new things into my life out of nowhere, and then nudges me into projects that enrapture my heart as well as enlighten my mind. They’ve also allowed me to get to know people better that greatly enrich my life.

So, times they are a’changin’ here. A fresh wind blows and draws me down uncharted roads. Come with me if you want; pray for us, if you will. This will at least prove interesting.

Living Lighter

Yesterday at lunch, a dear friend asked me what I had learned in the last ten years in my exploration of Father’s affection. I first started thinking of lessons or truths I had gained, but then my mind quickly went to how differently this journey allows me to live. I am less worried about achievements, more present with the people I’m with at any moment and have far less angst to convince people of anything. That allows me to live with a lighter hand, with the freedom to not be so worried about how I’m being perceived that I can’t respond more simply and freely to others around me.

Nowhere has that produced fruit I enjoy more than in my relationship with this woman. Today Sara and I celebrate forty-four years together—forty-four incredible years! For us, this is not an endurance project, staying together because we said we would. Every year of the last twenty has been better than the year before. We find ourselves today celebrating our love, our partnership in negotiating life together, and our presence with each other as we endure the challenges and pain of growing older together. This woman makes my heart beat faster when I see her, adds so much beauty and texture to my life and models a self-sacrificing love for our family that makes life so precious.

No, it has not all been puppy dogs and rainbows. Over those forty-four years, we’ve also had the days-long, painful, and frustrating conversations that have helped us learn to love more deeply. We’ve hurt the other by selfish actions and miscommunicated in ways that have challenged that love. We’ve acted selfishly and lived to regret it. We’ve disagreed over critical decisions to great frustration. But through it all, we’ve learned that a heartfelt apology can heal anything. We have found our way to solutions we could both embrace wholeheartedly.  We’ve endeavored to live in a way that the other is never our victim, but always our valued partner. We’ve made room for God’s work in the other, allowing them to change by changing along with them. We have been with each other in our worst moments and seen the darkest recesses of the other’s soul and become the other’s primary cheerleader for more freedom in the love of Jesus.

Truthfully, he’s the real hero in this marriage, giving us insight and courage to keep doing what love led us to do. We don’t see these forty-four years as an achievement of our discipline and commitment. That could have won us a life-long marriage, but it also could have been lifeless endurance. We see these years as a triumph of grace. Somehow, Jesus has held us in this relationship and taught us to love the other like the other needed to be loved. We’ve confronted the relationship-sabotaging weaknesses of our flesh and found his strength to embrace the healing. Neither of us is the same person that we were on the day we stood before family and friends and pledged our lives to the other, but I love the woman Sara is becoming even more, and I’m sure Sara loves the current me more, too.

I can’t imagine this relationship getting any better, but I know it will. No doubt, there’s still more freedom ahead for both of us, and our relationship is the first place we get to celebrate it. There is no one I’d rather be with than this woman, no one whose wisdom I regard more highly or whose presence sets my heart at rest more completely.

Those who think longevity can lead to boredom have not tasted a relationship like this. I feel bad for those whose marriages don’t endure the painful bits, where selfishness rules instead of where love serves. My heart breaks when I hear of abuse or neglect that has shredded a couple’s affection for each other. No one deserves to be victimized by another, especially the person closest to them. We were created to be loved and though we can only find that first in the Father himself, seeing it reflected in another human being who knows all your secrets and still adores and admires us, is a gift for the ages.

I am grateful for Sara and the courage she has shown to keep growing as a person and to always make room for me in her life. I’m grateful to God for holding us through the darkest storms and giving us his wisdom to resolve our conflicts and embrace the other more wholeheartedly. It’s the delightful fruit of learning to live inside of love, and I want that for everyone.

Don’t just endure life with your spouse; let Jesus keep teaching you how to love more freely, and thus more lightly. It will take you through some dark and challenging waters, but doing so is its own reward.

Placed in the Hearts of Others

Some thoughts while waiting at Newark Airport this morning:

This week, Sara and I have been in New York City with our oldest granddaughter. As she prepares to graduate eighth grade and start high school, we wanted to spend some time with her in a place she’s always longed to see. The three of us have had the best time exploring the city and taking her to Broadway since she loves drama and is quite good at it. Today we head separate directions—Sara goes home with our granddaughter, and I head to Pittsburgh and West Virginia for the weekend.

Last week, I posted on FB an acknowledgment of all the birthday greetings I received. In that post, I mentioned a bit about Sara as the one who really facilitates all I do in the world.  “I wouldn’t be the man I am without that girl. I couldn’t do what Father has asked me to do in the word without that girl. We wouldn’t be on this journey without her courage to follow the Lord’s leading beyond the edges of the maps religion gave us. No one pays a bigger price for what we do than she does. I love it when so many of you acknowledge that in my travels. You realize that Sara pays a huge price in all of this, too. And I think it touches her when I tell her that you’re aware.”

After that posted I received an email from someone across the U.S. They suggested someplace we might visit while in NY because she thought Sara would enjoy it.   Then she wrote this:

“I don’t know if she came to mind for any reason. Maybe you all will want to go there or maybe it is just evidence of how your love for Sara is contagious and you have placed her in our hearts, too. Hmmm… Is that what you are doing with Papa?”

That made me smile, on both counts. I love placing Sara in people’s hearts, though I’ve never thought of it in those terms.  But I do so intentionally. Sara and I are one, and to know me is to know Sara, at least I hope so. Even when she can’t travel with me, I want people to know her and feel connected to her as well. Watching her journey up close and personal has been one of the most incredible joys of my life, and I enjoy the insights Father has given her along the way.

Wanting to place her on people’s hearts is also a deliberate act. When I first started traveling I had overtures from some women that made me uncomfortable, and some that were overtly inappropriate. But I also noticed that when I talked about Sara, those overtures didn’t happen. Once people knew how devoted I am to the love of my life, no one dared crossed those boundaries.

But I also love the second part of her comment, “Is that what you are doing with Papa?” I hope so. I’ve never thought of that in those terms either, but I hope my life does that. I hope I speak endearingly enough of Father and live authentically enough with him that others begin to catch glimpses of him in their own lives as well. And I don’t mean in that religiously manipulative way that turns people off to any mention of God. I want them to be as endeared to him as I am.

This all reminds me of an exchange I had over fifteen years ago. I’d spent an evening with someone who had been an elder of a large fellowship before he left it and the faith when he became disillusioned by seeing the private lives of the church staff and the guest speakers who had visited. We had a fun dinner together where we laughed and shared stories from our lives. At the end of it, I got an email from him. The subject line was, “Not Impressed.”  My heart sank until I read his first paragraph.

He wrote, that for the first time in his life, he came away from dinner with an author/speaker type and was not impressed with him. “At the end of the evening, I came home hungry not to know Wayne better, but wanting to know Wayne’s Father.”

That’s one of my favorite emails ever. If our lives can do that, especially when we’re not trying to make it happen, how awesome would that be?

Delightfully Overwhelmed

I’m off to Atlanta in the morning for a ten-day stay in Georgia and South Carolina.  As I do, I’ve been reminded this week about all the ways others help us do what we’ve been asked to do in the world.

Every year about this time we send out donation tax receipts to those in the U.S. who have helped us financially. While I don’t look at the giving records here, I get to write a letter of thanks to send with those receipts. It gives me a moment to pause and reflect on all those who helped us over the past year. I realize financial support is just one of those ways, but we don’t send out receipts for the others. There’s no way for me to know all the prayers that are offered on our behalf, all the stories and bits of wisdom that are shared with us, and all the ways some of you pass on a quote or a link to a book or podcast that has touched you, or that you might think will bless others.

Here’s what I wrote to those who are part of our financial giving this year. It’s as true of all the other ways people have helped Sara and me do what God has asked us to do in the world:

I am always amazed at how this works even after twenty-four years. I simply do what God asks me to do in the world, and he keeps providing for it through people like you. And for the last ten years, we’ve added the needs of over 100,000 people we’ve come to love in Kenya, and he just keeps providing.

Your generosity has touched many. An entire area of Kenya is being transformed, and people are coming to know the Lord. It also allows me to give my life away, whether it be through personal connections, website content, or traveling the world at my own expense to places where people can’t even afford to help with my plane ticket. I don’t have to charge for anything I do, and that makes the message so much more powerful. Your generosity causes an overflow of thanksgiving around the world at the way Father makes himself known.

I am excited about some new opportunities coming in the year ahead, with the writing projects I’m involved in, the people Father is putting on my heart to visit, and the surprises I cannot yet foresee. I am absolutely delighted at what Father allows me to do and the vantage point he’s given me to see his glory unfold.

Thanks to those who have written reviews on Amazon that encourage others to check out our books, and to those who have sent cards or emails full of love and support for us to stay true to God’s calling, especially when times are difficult.  All of this has a part in the word getting out in the world that there is a journey in Jesus available to every one of us that allows us to live deeply in his love and share it with others.  We are deliciously overwhelmed with gratefulness to you and thanksgiving to the Father for the way all this has unfolded.

Perhaps this email says it best, understanding that it is written as much to you as it is to me… 

Thank you for all the wisdom you’ve given to my wife and me in the last few months. The last part of our journey has been coming out of a very conservative, rule-driven, doctrine-based church system, into the freedom of the God journey. God prompted me to listen to Finding Church just as we were in the last throes of leaving the church, and was like all the lights came on! God has pretty much showed us everything you said, but it put words to what I was feeling, and totally settled the idea of Church being believers interacting in everyday life, not a group gathering regularly, or ‘belonging’ to any particular group.

I guess your book confirmed what God has already put in our hearts, and gave us the confidence, that we were already there!  This is it, we don’t have to keep looking for the right ‘thing’.  Since then God has progressively freed us totally from anyone’s control, and at the same time given us 3 separate beautiful Christian families to fellowship with, as we feel led. 

I was also prompted to listen to So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore and more recently, He Loves Me. These were very helpful, lots of fresh perspectives, lots of ‘yes!’ moments. My wife is now reading He Loves Me and slowly letting God unravel all the brokenness she has, and I can see a father – daughter relationship forming.

We still have a long way to go in our relationship with Father, and the lies take a long time to unravel, but we are now in a safe environment which is allowing Father to work.

I have no idea how they found out about me or some of my books, but it often happens because someone like you passed it on to someone like them and that keeps slinging freedom all over the place. I am deeply grateful that so many of you who help us in so many ways pass the word along.