Behind the Scenes

From Canada to Kiev

I just got back from Canada and am getting ready to head out to Kiev. This will be the strangest trip I’ve ever taken to Europe. I had a friend a few years back go to Russia for three days and I thought, who would fly that far for three days?  A few years later, I am doing the same thing. God has a rich sense of humor! I looked for other opportunities in Europe and nothing seemed to fit. Though I had a lot of friends in Europe I could have visited, nothing seemed to have the breath of Father on it. So, I am going to Kiev to meet with brothers and sisters who are wanting to help others grow in relationship with Father and be catalysts for community in their locales, and returning home after three days.  And, I suspect there’s something going on here at home that God wants me back for.

He Loves Me and So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore have been available in Russian for over a decade. They have really resonated with some hungry hearts there. I got to go to Russia seven years ago, and now I’ll be spending time in Ukraine, which is at war with Russia.  Other than the long flights both ways, I am looking forward to seeing what God is doing among our brothers and sisters there.

I had a great time in Canada last week. Starting in Calgary staying with some good friends and a return visit to a community there who really look to help others live in Father’s love. This time there was a lot of focus on the content from In Season, which has really had an impact on a number of lives there.

Then it was on to Kelowna, BC for more connections there at the invitation of Cindy and Renae, the co-hosts of Confronting Normal, a podcast about discovering what true normal is, not simply trusting the scripts we’ve been given. I taped two podcasts with them as well as being part of some gatherings that brought the community together. We had a Friday night discussion about, “What is the Church?” on a back patio, a gathering to talk about Beyond Sundays in a video studio (sorry, it wasn’t taped), and a morning conversation on the beach about raising children in Father’s affection.  We even got in a late Sunday round of golf at one of the most spectacular golf courses I’ve ever had the blessing to play. What a great time with lots of deep conversation and plenty of laughter too. I love that God has room for both—the seriously engaging, and the hilariously freeing.

There were a few ninja photographers there who sent me a lot of pictures I can share with you, if you’re interested….  Above you’ll see us on the beach for our discussion of parenting in a relational way.

Me with Renae (left) and Cindy (right) the hosts of Confronting Normal on the lakeshore

Our evening discussion about the nature of the Church in the world

Talking about Beyond Sundays

What a way to finish—great fellowship, good golfing, and spectacular views

I am grateful that God allows me to engage the people I get to be with all over the world, and the experiences we have together. So many people are exploring a different journey than conventional religion would dictate and finding Father to be all he said he is. And, oh yes, I made biscuits, 3 times.

Just this morning, I received a note from someone I met on this trip.  “I wanted to add my thanks to everyone else’s for taking the time to come and pour into us and our brothers and sisters here. We so enjoyed our “hang time” with you and a friend of mine was so impressed with your heart to make yourself available to chat, and to serve people right where they were at. She mentioned how much this was in contrast to the ‘big speaker-names out there’.  So we bless you and Sara, for serving the Kingdom at large – both at home and abroad; your sacrifice of time, energy and finances doesn’t go unnoticed!”

Invariably when I post something like this, people always ask, “How do we get Wayne Jacobsen to come where we are?” It all begins with an invitation, and then some prayer to discern God’s purpose or timing in it. When Sara and I and those inviting me sense that it seems good to us and the Holy Spirit, then I go. I do not charge for my coming and pay for all my own travel. If those inviting me can help offset those expenses, then great, but I have no expectation that they do so. Father always has a way to provide for what he desires.

We Have Returned!

You people are the best!

No, not those in the photo, although they are pretty awesome, but I’m talking about you—the people who read this blog.

Sara and I just returned from a ten-day vacation in the Caribbean we got to share with our kids and grandkids. We had such wonderful time and a what a great opportunity to relax with our family. Since I was not going to be off the grid mostly, I asked that people hold their emails until I returned since I would be off the grid during my stay.  And. You. Did.  I received the fewest emails ever in a ten-day stretch and just had a few to reply to this morning as we are settling back in. I was deeply touched and grateful to all of you who resisted the urge to write me during that time.

And what a vacation it was, too!  It couldn’t have gone better. I got my relax on with some golf, reading, beach time, snorkeling, swimming with the grandkids, walking with Sara, and best of all, the great conversations that come from spending so much time together. It’s a vacation I’ll remember for a long time. I’m thankful our family was able to get away together.

My vacation read this year was Grant by Ron Chernow.  He’s a great historian and I’ve read other works of his about some of our former presidents. Now that I’m helping a friend with a civil war-era novel, I was really looking forward to getting into this book. It has not disappointed! However, I had some other books to finish up first, so didn’t get to it until until well into our time there. Thus, I’m only half way the 1,024-page read but am finding it fascinating. History really does give us context for our own lives and interactions with others, and reminds us of horrible times people endured in our nations history.

I’m amazed at two things so far: the pettiness of generals and politicians even in war time. While young men are dying on the battlefield, they are squabbling over who can get the most power. When a field general showed great promise in war tactics, they would pull him from the field and bury him in paperwork somewhere, because those above him were afraid he’d outshine them and they would get reassigned. At times, as they did with Grant, they would make up rumors of being drunk on the battlefield, simply to discredit it him.

The other thing that amazed me is how so many of the generals on both sides of the conflict had been friends before. They knew each other each other well from having been at West Point together and many fought side by side in the Mexican War.  Now they are pitted against each other. How horrible that must of been! In fact, when the Confederate forces surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, three of those surrendering had been in Grant’s own wedding party well before the war.  How easily “an issue” can pit good friends against each other as mortal enemies.

It amazes me how we expect that people will be honest, treat us fairly, and that we will be rewarded on our merits. We are always so shocked when people don’t turn out to be who they present themselves to be, or we are confronted with circumstances we don’t deserve. The Bible is full of that, too. We should know better. Life is unfair; people will treat you horribly just out of petty jealousies and personal greed; and not all sacrifices are well-rewarded, at least in this life. It reminds me to keep setting my heart in a better kingdom with a Father who is not only incredibly loving and tender, but honest and fair. Not all will be settled in this age the way we think best. He won’t always do what we want, but he will never fail us. Even through the brokenness of this age he can guide us, setting us ever more free from the tyranny of our own desires, to find a greater freedom in the knowing of him.

Next week I am leaving for a brief trip to New England. I’m doing a retreat at a campsite in Winthrop, ME the weekend of July 13-15, then hanging on for a few days with friends in Maine before heading south to Reading, MA for a few days.  You can get details and contact info here if you’re in the area and want to join in while I’m there.

A Christian and a Muslim Walk Into Common Ground

I was asked this week to appear again on the podcast, “A Christian and Muslim Walk Into a Studio“, hosted by Bob Prater and Emad Meerza. Bob is a long time friend, and I’m really enjoying building a new friendship with Emad.  This time I put them through their paces walking them through the Eight Proven Guidelines for Civic Engagement that I used to utilize in my BridgeBuilder trainings years ago:

#1:  You can’t compel people to change their worldview.

#2:  No one should be asked to participate in a society biased against themselves.

#3:  Vilifying those who disagree with you says more about you than it does about them.

#4:  Making room at the table for divergent views does not validate those views.

#5:  You best protect your civic freedoms by protecting those of people who disagree with you.

#6:  If you do not include all the stakeholders you cannot fix the problem.

#7:  Cooperation cannot require compromise of our deepest convictions.

#8:  The best solutions arise from seeking highest possible consensus.

I think you’ll enjoy the conversation.  You can watch the video of our conversation here, or find it on iTunes if you want the audio version. Just search, “A Christian and a Muslim Walk into a Studio.”

There’s also a new episode of The God Journey up today, called Breaking Up With God, which has Brad and I seeking our own common ground about those who are losing their faith in God.

Additionally Bob, Arnita, and I have already sorted through two of our chapters for the collaborative book, The Language of Healing, and am thrilled with where that might lead.

Interesting times…

No wonder some call him Jehovah Tdsnikki.

Down an Uncertain Path

My last blog talked about restarting BridgeBuilders.  This has been a weird time for me. I sense at times God’s prodding to journey a bit down a road I thought had been long abandoned. To be honest, however, I’m a bit reluctant to open all this up again in this season of my journey.  In response to that blog posting, a lady I know sent me the following email.

Just finished listening to your latest podcast about the “revival” of Bridge Builders, and I am so grateful that God is giving you platforms to share a peacemaker’s message.  My heart has been heavy for so long watching the way we are tearing one another apart.   Knowing how afraid we all are (and have been, probably since 9-11), it is understandable that our “fight-or-flight” system stays triggered all the time.  We no longer use our prefrontal cortex, spiraling downward into animalistic, survival behaviors.  Everyone who is different from us–or thinks differently–is the “enemy”, which must be destroyed.

Someone has to speak a calming message; Someone has to get us to take a collective breath; Someone has to tell us there is a better way.

I know you have just reached that “now-I-get-to-rest” milestone of turning 65 (belated happy birthday!), and it would be completely understandable if you chose to walk away from the doors which seem to be opening, inviting you to step in.  But, thank you for being willing to press on a little longer.  Thank you for being willing to be the peacemaker our world so desperately needs right now.  I am praying that God will give you great strength and wisdom, and will give you a “megaphone” to speak Shalom to us all.

Honestly, this touched me deeply me when I read it and yet I heard the breath of the Spirit in it as well. At the time I got it I was in Dallas to see if God was bringing together a team to write a book about peacemaking across the significant differences that divide our culture. (See picture above and video below.) So the timing wasn’t lost on me, and I shared it with the team knowing this was also for them. We don’t need Someone speaking a calming message, but many someones!  I have also been amazed by the number of people I heard from who want to learn this as well and be a voice in their own community. I may have to do a retreat some day to help others carry this passion as well. Jesus did give us the ministry of reconciliation after all.

I’ve spent the day today in another city in Texas to help a university deal with an issue that is dividing their community. I’m amazed at how easy it is to slide into this part of my life again. It’s really weird.  Because when I look from a distance all this seems overwhelming. When I actually sit down with people I have a clarity of sight that gets some wonderful responses, and I come away with new insights I’d never contemplated before.  The pathway is uncertain, but my Companion on it is not. And your prayers and encouragement do comfort and inspire me.

Now, back to the book. I’m pretty sure all three of us who came together in Dallas were blown away by our time these past three days. Our hearts were in sync and the lessons God has taught each of us in our journeys are so similar, even though our circumstances have been so different.  We found ourselves making points for each other as if we’d been through all of this before. Weird. I was with Bob Prater and Arnita Taylor, both of whom have some incredible stories of God’s work in their lives and carry a passion for encouraging people to reach across their comfort zones to speak words of peace in the earth. The project we outlined went far better than I could have hoped. This seems to have the breath of his Spirit upon it.  Though, of course, that remains to be seen.

I know a lot of people can’t imagine how you bring three people together and start to write a book, so here’s small sample to give you the flavor of our time together:

Now t I start my flight home. My first flight is already late, but fortunately I have lots of space before my second flight out of DFW.

Is It Summer Already?

No, I’m not talking about the physical calendar, but my spiritual one. (And the photo above is certainly not summer. I just couldn’t resist sharing this family photo from a chilly hike up a mountain near Boulder, Colorado!  We were all there to welcome my son’s new dog into the family and to visit him in his new surroundings. Any day spent with the people in this photo brings me great joy.  I don’t take for granted the love this family shares and how being together is laughter-filled and drama-free.)

But, back to summer!

In my last blog I talked about my book In Season. Well, a few years ago, I was resting through a delicious and lengthy winter season where God was cutting back so much of the activity surrounding my life and letting me settle into some new graces he was sowing in my heart. Then, I came through a short spring season of watching God renew some of his promise in my heart and giving me a peek at where we might be going next.  Now, it seems I’ve arrived in the full-on drama of summer where increased activity and the pressure of the enemy’s ploys, help what’s going on inside us to mature the harvest. Here’s where the grapes grow softer and sweeter.  So, it’s a crazy time and I’m hoping it doesn’t last long. I would love to get through harvest and find my way back to winter’s rest. It’s my favorite season. But the timing really isn’t up to me, is it? And I do trust the one whose hand it’s in.

So, let me give you some updates for those of you interested in what’s going on around here:

Upcoming Travel

This week I head back to Dallas. This time it isn’t for wider conversations about the journey, but for three of us to see about writing a book together that will speak into the anger and vitriol of our national dialog and open doors for people to find language that helps bring healing, instead of that which causes hurt. Also, as a result of my TEDx talk a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been asked to advise a university out there about some of their policies that are causing great conflict.  So, back I go for a brief trip.

Then Sara and I will be headed to upstate NY. After that I’ll be speaking at a Christian high school in Orange County and having an evening for folks in the area to get together. After that I’ll be on the east Coast, in Virginia, for early June.

In addition, I’m currently in conversations about future travel to West Virginia, the Kiev, Ukraine, British Columbia, and a return to North Carolina, but as you know I don’t schedule these things too far out because I learned years ago that a hardened schedule makes it difficult to catch the wind of the Spirit when something more propitious crosses my path that can’t be delayed.  You can see all my scheduled travel on my Travel Page. If you’d like to be notified when I’m coming to your area you can sign up on our email list and include your address.

More Audio 

For those who don’t get enough audio of me, (and that’s hard to believe), I’ve been a guest on the following podcasts recently:

The Vince Coakley Show has begun a semi-weekly series on Beyond Sundays as part of their Faith-Focus Fridays. When available, I’ll be on for ten minutes at 11:05 Eastern Daylight Time, 8:05 Pacific on Friday mornings. You can listen in live by punching the “Listen” button on their website.  You can listen to the first one on their podcast. Faith focus Friday starts at 32:55.

Fearless Questions with Jeff Blackburn, invited me on to talk about Beyond Sundays as well.  This is how they set it up:  “When nearly half of Americans who consider themselves Christians only operate outside of the institutional church…it’s worth talking about why. Wayne Jacobsen returns to help us navigate this phenomenon.”

Confronting Normal with Cindy and Renae where they had a lot of questions of teaching children to live loved if they aren’t part of a Sunday school class. Here’s a quote they featured on their website: “I think a lot of (parenting) is being sensitive to what God is doing and aware that you’ve got a little child here who is hopefully learning to find Jesus as a real presence in the universe and not just the end of a theological construct.”

We Didn’t Talk About It.  This site just posted an audio version of the story I told for the Ventura County Storytellers Project last March. It’s about the earliest days of Sara’s and my relationship. You can see the video version here.

The TEDx talk. I know many of you are waiting for the video of my TEDx talk at Abilene Christian University last month, entitled “Differences Do Not Make Us Enemies.”  It will still be another four-to-six weeks until those videos go up. I’m sorry it is taking so long, but I will let you know on this blog when it does. (If you’re not subscribed to this blog, you can do so in the box at the top right of this page.)

New Books

I’ve got three projects I’m involved with now. One is drawn from my days working with BridgeBuilders called The Language of Healing, which I talked about above in my return to Dallas.

I’ve also begun work on a new novel that I’ve been carrying in my heart since before The Shack. It is a bit of a supernatural story of transformation, but in a very different context.  And this one will take a while, but I am loving every moment I get to work on it.

Finally, I’m still helping my friend on Lucien’s Crossing, a novel about two boys, one a plantation owner’s son, and the other a slave, and their relationship as children, through adolescence, the War, and into adulthood. I am so excited about my friend’s work on this book. It is one of my favorite reads ever and I can’t wait to share it with all of you some day.

Retreat, Surgery, Storytelling, and Bridgebuilding

Now that Beyond Sundays is out, what’s next?  I get asked that a lot.  Before I tell you, let me remind you that today is the last day to order Beyond Sundays at a $2.00 discount as part of our pre-publication special.  If you haven’t gotten in on it, you can do so here. You will also find links there to get the e-book version if you prefer.  It’s only $5.99.

Now, what’s next? Well, February turned out to be absolutely nuts!

This weekend twenty people from our God Journey Israel Tour (see picture above) a year ago are having a reunion out here in Brad and my homes.  So, for the next few days we’re going to get to celebrate those relationships again and give them some space to grow. We’ve got people flying in from Canada and all over the U.S. We’re sorry some of our international trip mates couldn’t join us, but are looking forward to a great time renewing our friendships. It’s amazing what ten days in bus will do to cultivate some lifelong friendships.

Then, Sara is having surgery again.  I know. It makes me sad, too.  She’s been through so much in the last two years, but now she needs a cyst removed from the back of her knee and hopefully that will alleviate the pain in her leg enough to avoid a knee replacement. She’s having it on Valentine’s Day, too. Though we don’t celebrate it for the holiday Hallmark wants it to be, it is happens to be the anniversary of the night I first met Sara sitting across from me at a homecoming banquet 46 years ago!  So it’s a day for us! I think we’ll celebrate the night before.

And then there’s this:

I’ll be telling part of the story of our early dating and a near disaster that almost sidetracked it at a Storyteller’s Night here in Ventura County. It’s a new thing sponsored by our local Gannett newspaper and I felt drawn to participate as a way to meet others in the storyteller community where I live. I just had my second coaching this morning and excited to tell the story of how Sara proposed to me nine days after our first date. Though in her defense, it was an accident.  And, unfortunately neither of us knew that for another six months. If you’re local and want to join me on February 21, you can get tickets here. It’s at a comedy club with six other storytellers.

Then,  I’m off for a quick weekend in Phoenix and gathering with lots of others who are on this journey…   Saturday afternoon is the time for our larger conversation if you want to join us. We’ll be meeting at 1:00 in the afternoon, taking a dinner break and re-convening at 7:00 for more time in the evening.  You are welcome at either or both.

But I know when people are asking what’s next, they often mean what book project. I have begun work on a novel called The Healing, that’s been in my heart for a long time. I thought I was going to put in on hold for another book that seemed to be crowding the novel out of my heart. However, on my recent trip those books came together as one book. The plot of the story I wanted to tell fit perfectly with the content I wanted to write helping people discovery how to synch their heart with the way God works in the world.  I am so excited as to how those tow are coming together.

However, God seems to be opening some doors again in the work I used to do with BridgeBuilders, helping mediate disputes over political and social issues. I’ve been asked to do a TEDx event at Abilene Christian University to address the increasing polarizing political discourse in our nation. It’s called “Differences Don’t Have to Divide Us” on March 23.  In addition, I’ll also be staying in Texas for a few days surrounding the TEDx event, first in Dallas/Ft. Worth, and after in the Abilene/Sweetwater area, though those gatherings have yet to be sorted out.

You can get information about the TEDx event here if you’re in the area and want to attend. The vitriol and name-calling going on in our country is not only tearing apart the fabric of our culture, but it is leading to government paralysis and decisions that only serve one side of an argument and are quickly overturned after a new election. Historically, our best decisions have been made in the collaboration of reasonable Americans who may see the issue differently but who both have a greater commitment to the common good than using government to serve their preferences or special interests.  Now both major parties put party loyalty over the good of the country and society is becoming unraveled.

At the same time I’ve been asked to collaborate on a book called The Language of Healing, along with a good friend and possibly the former mayor of a large western city.  It will deal similarly with how we can lower the adversarial rhetoric dominating our national politic, and rebuild a common ground that serves a wider interest than the narrow-margin political victories our representatives, media, and lobbyists have fostered.  There is a better way to govern, and a better way to talk to our friends and neighbors about our political and social differences. Why do people think that obnoxiousness will endear people to their point of view, or think that anyone who disagrees with them is stupid or a bad American. Mutual respect across our differences will not only help us listen better to the concerns of our fellow-citizens, but also lead to more enduring solutions to the desperate issues facing our country.

I find it interesting that both the similarly themed book opportunity and TEDx speech have converged at this time. I’m not sure where it will lead, but I’m going to follow Jesus down this trail until I see what he might have in mind.

So the next few months won’t be boring…

 

 

Beyond Sundays Releases This Week

As I’m finishing up in North Carolina and prepare to head home tomorrow, we have just heard that we will have copies of Beyond Sundays in hand by this Wednesday. We will begin shipping pre-orders as soon as we get them.  If you haven’t pre-ordered your copy yet, you can still do so in the next few days and get our $2.00 pre-publication discount. Just order as many copies as you want here.  The e-book should follow later this week. We’ll post the links when its available at all your favorite e-book outlets.

It is my hope that this book helps the body of Christ be less tribal and open to all the ways that God moves in people and the variety of expressions by which his church takes shape in the world. If we cared more about whether or not someone is finding their life in Jesus rather than where they are (or aren’t) at 10:00 Sunday morning we’d be free to celebrate what God is doing to unify his bride, rather than judging each other for our differences.

Friday morning I did my first extensive interview about Beyond Sundays on the Vince Coakley show on WBT Charlotte. That’s Vince and I above sharing a meal together afterwards. He did a great job getting to the heart of the book. If you missed that interview you can listen to it here:

On another note, I’ve had the most amazing time the last two weeks traveling to Jacksonville, FL and then up through North Carolina from Raleigh to Charlotte. One of the real themes of this trip is the number of people I’ve met, of all ages, who are standing just on the cusp of a new journey outside of religious obligation and  performance and discovering what it means to live in the affection of a gracious Father. Yes, it is disorienting and it may well drive your friends and family crazy, but you were created to know the Father, not to try to impress him with how good you can be.

Living in his love is not the reward of a life well-lived, but the starting gate for the adventure of a lifetime where love slowly but surely wins us into his reality, life, and freedom. And it’s yours for the asking.  Asking him, of course, not me!

 

 

Beyond Sundays Hits the Airwaves

Friday morning I will be discussing the release of my newest book with Vince Coakley on his radio show in the Greenville/Charlotte area. If you want to listen in you can do so here through the website. We will go live from 11:05 Eastern Standard Time, 8:05 Pacific.  I always look forward to my lively chats with Vince and his audience.

Beyond Sundays is being finalized at the printers now. We should have them early next week, well ahead of our February 8 release date. We will ship the books just as soon as we have them on hand. The e-book should debut shortly thereafter as well. We’ll provide all the links here, though you can go ahead now and pre-order the printed copy for a $2.00 discount.

I’ll also be hanging out in the Charlotte area for the weekend if you’re nearby and want to join us.  Get details here.

 

 

A Conversation We Desperately Need

We are in the final stages of publishing Beyond Sundays, and have set the release date as February 8, 2018. This is my newest title, adapted from a series of blog articles about the phenomenon of the “Dones”, those who have given up on institutional Christianity not to forsake the way of Jesus, but in hopes of finding a more vital and authentic faith beyond it.

What are we to make of this trend and how will it impact Christianity in the Western world? Some view it as threatening its future, while others see hope in re-centering the faith once delivered to the saints. Unfortunately there is much animosity and simplistic judgments between these groups that only fractures the bride he loves so much. Literally for Christ’s sake, we need to find a way to converse about these things in love and in a way that recognizes all the ways God is at work in our world.

This book is an appeal for the all those who seek to follow Christ to be less focused on on where others are or aren’t on Sunday morning at 10:00 and more aware of what it is to engage a vital relationship with God, and to share his love freely with others.

The book is 176 pages long and we will print copies in paperback for $11.99 and in e-book for $5.99. However, you can get our pre-order special for only $10.00.  Please be advised that if you order other products from Lifestream in the same order, all products will ship together when this book is available. If you want them sooner, please order those other products separately.

If you’d like a review copy for an article you want to write about it, please contact me for a free review copy.

We hope to have copies on hand during the first week of February and will ship them just as soon as we get them in hand. An e-book will also be available through all major outlets around the same time. We will announce that in the blog when they are ready.

Here is an excerpt from the book:

Preface

In the last few decades, sixty-five million Americans who once regularly attended a local congregation no longer do. About thirty-five million of those no longer self-identify as Christian, but over thirty-one million still do. This last group has been tagged “The Dones”: those who still seek to follow Jesus and find real community, but who have given up hope that the local congregation is still relevant to their journey.

What do we make of this phenomenon? Does it threaten the future of God’s work in our world, or does it create new opportunities for God to make himself known, even if it challenges our hopes or preconceptions?

I have spent my life in both places. I grew up in a traditional congregation and pastored in two of them for over twenty years. For the past twenty-three, however, I’ve spent more time outside with those who no longer participate in a Sunday (or Saturday) morning institution. I see the animosity between the two camps, and I yearn for the day when we can have a healing dialog consistent with the prayer of Jesus that we would all be one. Nothing, he said, would demonstrate his reality better to the world than the love his people share together.

It’s a conversation we desperately need, and not just between various factions of Christianity. I hope this book can seed that conversation between friends and families in communities throughout the world. Whether you attend a local church or whether you don’t, responding to this phenomenon will have repercussions for generations to come. We can continue to treat each other with suspicion and judgment that further fracture our Father’s family, or we can celebrate all the ways he works to bring people to himself and transform them in his love.

Additionally, I hope this book encourages those who have lost their mooring in institutional Christianity and yet still hunger for a relationship with God and real community with others. The failures of organized religion do not discount God’s reality or your opportunity to get to know him. I want to help you navigate a life of growing faith and impact in the world beyond the institutional borders that may have harmed you.

This is a propitious moment in Christian history, and all the more so as the world darkens around us. May we all respond in a way that allows the glory of the Lord to arise out of the love of his people, and by doing so, proclaim to the world that our God is real and worthy to be followed.

Why a Wayne Jacobsen Book?

I am appreciative to all of you who weighed in on my dilemma as to what to title my new book. There were a lot of great suggestions, and I appreciate being able to think this through alongside your input.  At this point I think I’m going to go with:  Beyond Sundays: Why Those Giving up on Organized Religion May Not Be Bad for the Church. Of course no title is final until the book is sent to the printers!

Now I want to ask for a bit more help.

And this is riskier, at least for me.

It realize this could be misinterpreted as an exercise in self-aggrandizement. I hope it isn’t that. Many books include endorsements from other authors and celebrities about the content of the book. I have in the past included “endorsements” from normal, every-day people instead of celebrities because that’s the lifeblood of this family. And endorsements of the content really help those who are not familiar with my stuff to have an idea whether or not a book is worth their time.

For this book, however, rather than commenting on the content, I’d like to have comments from readers about the author. In other words, if a friend of yours asked, why they might find a book by me helpful, how would you answer them?  How has God used them to encourage your journey or how do I come off as a person or writer?

Honestly this isn’t an attempt to get people to say a lot of nice things about me here, or on social media. I’m not fighting off an identity crisis and need people to stoke my ego for a few days. I just want to have something different in the front of the book.  You can post here, or send them to me personally. I’m planning to select about 20 of them to include in the front of the book, and maybe on the cover copy.

So, try to answer this question, “Why would I want to read a book by Wayne Jacobsen?” Keep them short. The more creative the better. Don’t overstate it. If you know me personally you might have something to say that will help the reader think beyond the book itself. Two or three sentences will do. Please include how you would like to be identified, e.g. “Pam a third-grade teacher in Wisconsin”, or “Matt, a father of two in Port Elizabeth, SA”.

I hope that makes sense. You have no idea how such recommendations open a door for people who are considering a book, but are not quite sure if the author is worth their time. I hope this is different enough to be a bit of fun for you.

 

 

Torn Between Two Titles

I’m finishing up my newest book, which I have tentatively called The Phenomenon of the Dones. I’ve written these chapters as part of my blog over the last two years and posted the last chapter, To the Saints Scattered…, a few weeks ago. Now I’m going through and revising all the chapters as well as rearranging them to make it flow better. I hope to have it available early in 2018 as an e-book and printed book.

But lately I’ve been reconsidering the title. Since “The Dones” as a term has not really caught on in the wider faith culture, I’m considering switching the title to Beyond Sundays.  So, I want to use my readers here as a focus group.  Do you have a preference, and if so why?  Reading your thoughts and comments, either here on the blog or on my Facebook page will help me sort out the best way to go here.

So, which do you think would be most helpful to find it’s audience?

Option 1:

The Phenomenon of the Dones
Why Those Giving Up on the Traditional Congregation May Not Be Bad News for the Church

 

Option 2:

Beyond Sundays
Pursuing a Life in Jesus Outside the Traditional Congregation

Thoughts, anyone?

I’m torn between the two, so I would appreciate hearing how these hit some of you.

Jake Colsen Rides Again

I love how this book finds its way to people when they seem to need it most. What started as a fun project between two friends to try to tell a story of someone learning to live loved on a website, became a book that has sold way beyond my expectations. In addition, the free version has been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times. I never realized how much

Just this past week, I received two emails from people who have recently been touched by this story. First, from a brother in Canada:

I just finished reading the book for the SECOND time! I have read some of your other material and I listened to the Transition series,but up until recently I had been unable to download this book for some reason  (I think it was God’s timing, personally).
We have been in formal church settings for many years until recently. I had become increasingly frustrated with the lack of  opportunity in most Christian meeting to really have any kind of meaningful connections with other believers. It seemed easier in the local restaurants and coffee  shops to connect with people. Although I really love worshipping God with much of the current  worhip music, I found that the  tendencies of ‘worship leaders’ in local assemblies to try  to manipulate how people respond to God in the times of corporate praise was a huge distraction to my connection with God and often irritating.
We are now one of the ‘Dones’. I do meet with other believers often and have great time of fellowship. I just wanted to tell you a bit about myself and also to express my appreciation for this book. My eyes were opened to many things and already I can see God working in my heart in new desires of how I can walk relationally with people instead of religiously. I also took to heart the wisdom of not trying to ‘convert’ people to these new ideas if they are not ready to hear them!
You are a great blessing to the body of Christ. Thank you for all the material you have made available.
And this from a sister in Montana:

I just wanted to tell you how deeply I was moved by your book So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore: An Unexpected Journey. I had been talking with a friend who is also Christian, but he and his wife no longer attend church services. I was bemoaning to a friend some of the struggles in our church and my agony over the decision of whether to drop my membership. My friend is always very tuned into what Father places in his heart, and he immediately told me to get a pen and write down your name and the title of this book. I ordered the book that afternoon.

From the very beginning I was so captivated that I couldn’t put it down. It answered a question I had long pondered: Why do we need pastors to interpret the Bible for us? Why do we need others teaching us what to think and believe? Isn’t the Bible alone adequate to instruct us? Churches, I had observed, often become clubs with cliques, to varying degrees, with people chasing the desire for popularity or bowing under the weight of guilt and obligation. This book set free the lifelong belief instilled in me of the necessity of attending church every Sunday in order to prove my faithfulness as a disciple of God. I love the idea of Father simply wanting a relationship with us. That is so liberating!

Your book validated feelings I already had, opened my eyes to new thoughts I hadn’t before considered, and did a beautiful job of modeling what genuine Christian fellowship looks like. My only disappointment in it was that John (whom, I’m certain, ALL readers love) moved to Africa. I cried at this ending! I so wanted him to continue teaching us in another book. Any chance of a sequel??

I have ordered two more of your books and will begin reading them soon. Thank you for the blessing you’ve bestowed on humanity by sharing your unique spiritual insight and keen writing. Please keep up this holy work!

Writing is the hardest thing I do these days. As much as I love it when I get the chance, so many other things encroach on my time to write. I currently have a number of projects I’m trying to complete, and encouragement like this always helps me clear the time to keep writing. I spent most of the day Tuesday with a friend that has an amazing idea for a book that taps some of my BridgeBuilders passion from years ago.  That’s all I needed was another project to add to the six others I’m working on.  God will definitely have to sort out what gets done and what doesn’t.

And for those interested in the Jake Movie, we are still seeking the best way to fund that.  A lot of connections keep happening that encourage us to press forward, so we’re hopeful, but as yet far from the finish line. I’m content to leave this in Father’s hands. If he wants us to do it, he’ll have a way to fund it.

 

Nine Fatal Mistakes of Self-Publishing

Yet another self-published book arrived on my desk last week. Just looking at it my heart sank. Regardless of what was inside the presentation of the book itself screamed, “Don’t read me!” Somebody had poured their heart and soul into that book, but it is highly unlikely that it will find an audience beyond the immediate friends and acquaintances of the one who wrote it.

Writing a book isn’t easy. Many talk about it; few actually accomplish it. Now that you’re done, you want to share it with the world. Most will first seek out a publisher who will love their book as much as they do and soon discover that the publishing companies you know about won’t even look at your manuscript. They will only take manuscripts from agents and agents are more difficult to find than publishers, and even harder to impress.

After failing to find an agent or publisher, many turn to self-publishing. And why not? In this day of on-line retailers, books-on-demand, and e-books, it has never been easier or cheaper to launch your book into the marketplace. According to Bowker, the company who registers UPC codes, over 700,000 were published last year. That’s a lot. If you want people to find your book in that haystack, it will help to give it every advantage you can.

Over the last few years I’ve reviewed hundreds of manuscripts and self-published titles because of all the books I’ve published, including my involvement with The Shack.  That title was originally self-published and sold over 24 million copies and was adapted into a feature film. I not only helped re-write the book but then published it when all the publishers I knew turned it down. So I’ve done it all. I’ve published books on my own, with traditional publishers, and even formed a publishing company.

I get more requests to help new authors than I can possibly meet and get anything else done. Ten years ago I wrote an article for Windblown Media about why self-publishing is a credible alternative for first-time authors. However, to find an audience that way you have to avoid certain pitfalls that most self-published authors make.  I’ve even tried to warn some in advance, but most don’t listen. They are so excited about their work to take a step back and consider that how they put the book together will have more impact on their book’s reach, than what they’ve written.

So here’s what I think is important for your book to reach beyond your family and friends and find an audience with people who do not know you. Take it for what it’s worth. I have made most of these mistakes, as have a few big-time publishers. These are not ironclad rules and you are free to ignore them. And, yes, I know there are books that violate these and still found their way to the top of best-seller lists, but that’s often in spite of their failures not because of them.

But here are my nine fatal mistakes of self-publishing:

1.  Writing to yourself

I realize that journaling your own story is very helpful for people to process their journey. That may be a story you need to tell but it won’t be the story others will want to read unless it is written to them. This isn’t testimony-time at church no matter how compelling your story or how many people have told to write it. The reader doesn’t care about your life, they care about theirs and how what you have learned in your journey will answer some of the needs and struggles in their own.

Ninety percent of the manuscripts I receive are memoirs, where the author assumes people who don’t know them will be interested in reading their life story. Try as I might to get them to abandon the format to make their book accessible to others, most don’t listen. The book falls flat, leaving some incredible wisdom unavailable to people who would have benefited by it. Writing a memoir is the privilege of the famous, and even then someone else usually writes it for them. Your story needs to be the illustration; your book needs to be about the life lesson that will help your order.

 

2. Making your book unique

With all the books being written on similar subjects find something that makes your book unique? Most people think their story or their “take” is unique enough, but books that do well have a unique aspect that gets others talking. Is it especially funny, thought-provoking, emotionally compelling, or has a plot twist that will take the reader by surprise.

Book sales are driven by word-of-mouth, which has become so much easier through social media. If your readers are excited about it, they will talk about it, quote it, and encourage others to pick it up. Advertising your book, while helpful, is not enough. It will not overcome people feeling like they’ve read this before. Word-of-mouth has to come from genuine passion to communicate effectively and uniqueness is the key to that passion.  And don’t beg your friends to all buy it at the same time on Amazon so you can claim it as a best-seller. That will only backfire as a cheap trick. Until you find something unique about your story or the way you’re telling it, you’re not ready to publish it.

We knew we had something with The Shack early on, because we didn’t just get good feedback, we had our reviewers begging us to let them pass the manuscript on to their friends. They weren’t trying to do us a favor, but doing what they desperately wanted to do.  If your friends aren’t that excited about it, others won’t be either.

 

3.  Not cutting enough

Regardless of how long your book is when you think you’ve finished it, cut it by another 20%. I learned this working for Leadership Journal as a contributing editor. When I was done with an article and thought it as streamlined as possible, they would make me cut another 20%. It was always better when it was tighter, more focused, and when every unnecessary word or illustration was removed. Self-published authors don’t cut enough. Their writing comes off as indulgent since they haven’t made the important choices for their reader.

When you write a good book, it takes on a life of its own. There are things you might want to include, but it will weigh the story down with meanderings that will lose the reader’s interest. With so much out there to read, most are just looking for an excuse to put down your book and get on to the next one. You have to grab your reader from page one and hold them throughout.   I know it’s hard to leave out the good stuff you’ve written that the book does not demand. It’s easier to include everything than to make the hard choices between what you want and what is essential. To be honest even most books by publishing companies are too long with too many unnecessary words, usually adjectives. Simple and direct adds to the artistry of a good read.

 

4.  Talking down to the reader

 Everyone appreciates a little respect. Don’t treat your reader like a child, telling him how to read your book and what she should get out of it. Real experts trust their material to make their case, and don’t embellish it by trying to come off as a know-it-all. Be genuine with your reader, alongside them as they consider your words.

Don’t italicize words so they know how you want them to read it. When you’re giving them your advice, don’t use “you must,” “you need to,” or “you should”. It will make them defensive instead of receptive. Trust them to find the meat and chew on it.

 

5.  Not getting honest feedback

If all your friends love your book, you’re not getting honest feedback. There’s no book that can be improved or focused more clearly. We went through four re-writes of The Shack, each time submitting it to people we knew would be critical of it. And we listened, incorporating the changes we could to make the story better.

Where did the story work? Where did it get bogged down? You don’t’ just need an English teacher friend to proof it for grammar; you need a content editor to tell you where the story goes off-track, doesn’t make sense, or lags. If your friends only give you positive feedback, draw them out by asking what would make it better, or what’s the weakest part of the book. Getting their honest thoughts and adapting it to the manuscript will make it stronger when it gets to your audience.

 

6.  Using an unprofessional cover design

Everyone has a friend who is a graphic artist, or the author has already worked out the cover in his own mind and simply looks for someone to produce it. The result is it looks cheap, without the appropriate text on front and the back cover most inviting to the reader. Fully ninety-five percent of the self-published books I receive look cheaper and less inviting than the content inside would warrant.

What got The Shack recognized at Barnes and Noble was the cover. It was on a review table of self-published books, when the buyer pulled it off and handed it to her assistant thinking                     it was in the wrong place because of its design. Her assistant assured her that it was a self-published book, but the cover alone got her to begin to give it a good look. Within a few hours they were ordering 25,000 copies for the front of the stores nationwide.

Your friends and acquaintances will read your self-published book, but their friends and colleagues won’t if it looks self-published. If it looks cheap, they’ll conclude it is cheap without giving it a look. Your book should look exactly like it was produced by a major publisher, even including a publishing company name that sounds real. The design will cost some money, but it is the most important part of a book’s presentation. Find a designer that has already published books in the market place and make sure your book looks like those you see in a bookstore.

 

7.  Getting cute with the inside layout

Just like the cover, you want the interior to beckon the reader’s eyes, not repel them.  There’s a reason why publishers print books with wide margins and use fonts that are pleasant to read. They invite the eye to the text. Books printed with fonts like Arial, Comic, or Helvetica may look unique, but they are hard on the eyes and people will have an aversion to reading them.

Authors who try to save page count with too small a font or too narrow a border are telling their reader, “Don’t read this!” I understand why they want to save money, but you’re only hurting yourself in the long run. Better to edit down the book to save space rather than make the text look unprofessional or overwhelming.

 

8.  Paying someone else to publish it for you

Vanity publishing is quite an industry. They will help you print your book, get a cover, and “distribute it to the trade.” They will tell you they can get it into bookstores, but don’t expect that they will. If they are charging you to ”help” with your book, they’ve already made their money. They know the average self-published book doesn’t sell well, so they make their money when they sold you the publishing package. They will send out informational brochures to retailers, and put it on a website, but most have way too many titles to represent yours well. Don’t expect to see your book in stores or for them to get you interviews.

I realize finding your own editor, cover designer, lay-out person, and then getting it distributed is a huge growth curve and you may want those services all in one place for you. That may be worth the cost do you. Just don’t expect them to do more than that

 

9.  Expecting an audience to show up out of thin air

“I know this is going to sell a million copies.” I’ve heard that at least a dozen times from aspiring authors. They have no idea what it takes to sell that many, nor does anyone else or every book would sell a million.. According to BookScan, which tracks most bookstore, online, and other retail sales of books, only 299 million books were sold in 2008 in the U.S. in all adult nonfiction categories combined. The average U.S. book is now selling less than 250 copies per year and less than 3,000 copies over its lifetime.

Too many authors just think that because their book is in the marketplace it will sell well, and most come away extremely disappointed. Making your book known among the other 700,000 books published each year will take some work on your part. What will separate you from the pack? Creating an audience before your book comes out. What have you already done to help find an audience? Do you blog? Do you submit articles to websites and magazines consistent with what you want to write? Post sample chapters a few months before to see if people become engaged with your story or the counsel you wish to share. If you can’t find an audience for articles or blogs online you most likely won’t find one with your book.

 

Not every book is meant to be a best-seller, nor does it need to be. Some of the best books I’ve read didn’t sell well and some of the best letters I’ve received about one of my books have touched me so much that it would have been worth writing it if they alone had read it. Success is not found at the top of best-seller lists, but knowing that you’ve put something in the world that touches the lives of others, whether it be for a million, or a hundred and fifty.

It is easy to publish a book these days, but it isn’t easy to find its audience. That will depend on you providing the most inviting package possible. None of these guarantee anything, of course, but each will at least give your book the chance to fly.

Some News on the Home Front

I just have some quick notes to let you in on here since many of you have been asking and praying about Sara and what we’re up to this fall.

First, for those interested I’m going to be on The Vince Coakley Radio show tomorrow morning (Friday) at 11:05 Eastern Daylight Time (8:05 PDT) that airs in Greenville, South Carolina on WORD 106.3. Vince is a good friend of mine and has asked me to talk about The Nashville Statement that came out last week and my response to it that caused no small stir on my web page.  You can find out more about the show here, and if you want to listen in you can stream it live using the button at the top right of that page.  You’ve got to listen when it airs; there is no podcast posted later. Sorry.

Also, next week my wife, Sara, will be having hip-replacement surgery at UCLA Medical Center. This has been a long year for her with a number of medical challenges that have hampered her from many of the things she enjoys. Over the last year we have tried every other option and honestly feel this is our next step. We don’t need medical advice and know a number of people who have enjoyed the benefits of this surgery.  We would appreciate your prayers as she goes through this and I will be taking the time to nurse her through the recovery.

There will be new podcasts this Friday and next, though the rest of my pages may be quiet during this time.  Our friends in Pokot can use your help as they are learning to farm their own crops around the wells we drilled them. Remember these tribes have been nomadic for centuries, and are only now learning to grow crops instead of scavenging for food wherever they can.

After this, who knows where the Lord will lead us. If she recovers well from surgery I am planning on being in France and Belgium at the end of October, and though I have other trips to consider, I’m not confirming that or scheduling anything further until we get through surgery. This should give me some time to write and finish up a few things around here.

I Lift My Eyes To the Mountains!

When I was a little boy our family always vacationed in the Sierra Nevada mountains above Fresno. No place on earth rejuvenates my heart and soul as much as some time spent in the pines, alpine lakes, and rocky outcroppings of the Sierras. That’s where we are headed today to visit my dad and to enjoy a two-week vacation. Some of that will be with our extended family who will join us for a week, and some of that will be Sara and I just relaxing together. This past year has been brutal physically for us. I’ve undergone two surgeries and Sara one. And Sara will have one more in the next month or so. She has been in constant pain since last year at this time and we’re hopeful that hip-replacement surgery will soon provide the relief she needs. It seems we’ve spent most of the last year in hospitals or in recovery, or in my case being on the road to the midwest, east coast, and most recently South Africa.

So you can expect these pages to be quiet for the next few weeks.  After I get home I’ll be helping my son move to Denver where he’s taken a new job at the University of Denver, and it happens to coincide with the solar eclipse in late August. You can also expect me to get hopelessly behind on my email, so it might be best not to write me until August 15 if you need an intelligent answer.  At the end of the month I’ll be in Amarillo, TX. I’m not sure where else I’ll end up this fall. There’s talk of going to North Carolina and possibly to France, but we’ve got to get Sara’s surgery sorted out first, and then I’ll be announcing what other travel I’ll be able to get in this year.

However, during this time book orders will still go out, since we have people covering that for us.

Until then…

Blessings and love to al our friends around the world,

Lifestream Audio Close-Out

We will no longer be selling CDs of Wayne’s audio teachings here at Lifestream. Over the years the income we have derived from these sales has helped us pay for our websites and some of our other projects in the world, but the time of CD audio is passing so we’re going to discontinue the infrastructure we’ve needed to keep this going.

You can access the free recordings on-line here.

So beginning today the audio teachings we think are the most helpful will be joining the free side of our website. You can listen to them online, or download them to include in your mp3 player. We will not continue to make and sell CDs.  However, for those who would prefer a CD, we are having a close-out sale of those remaining in stock. If you would like to have them, you’ll need to write to our office and let us know which ones you want. We will be selling them at half-price, plus postage.  Because supply is limited you’ll need to claim yours by writing Sara (office@lifestream.org) and she will let you know if they are still in stock, and what the cost will be including shipping.  Then you can go to our On-line Giving Page and pay for your order there.

The CD collections we still have in stock are:
  • Transition (8 CDs)
  • Combo Book Disc (1 mp3 disc) HE LOVES ME and SO YOU DON’T WANT TO GO TO CHURCH ANYMORE in mp3 files with Wayne reading
  • Heart of Relational Church Life (4 CD)
  • Letting Jesus Perfect Your Faith (4 CD)
  • Letting Jesus Take Shape in You (4 CD)
  • Living in Father’s Delight (4 CD)
  • Abiding in the Vine (1 CD)
  • Seasons of the Vineyard (4 CD)
  • Essentials of the Journey (4 CD)
  • Finding Your Place in the Body  (4 CD)
  • Get real! Get Free! Get Holy!  (3 CD)
  • Living in God’s Reality  (4 CD)
  • Living in His Kingdom  (4 CD)
  • Power of the Cross  (4 CD)
  • Security of Father’s Love  (4 CD)
  •  Sharing the journey (2 CD)
  • Thinking Outside the Box (4 CD)
  • Will the Real You Please Stand Up  (3 CD)
  • Superdisc (mp3 files of all audio recordings)

When these are gone, they’re gone. We’re not going to be printing any more CDs. I remember when we stopped audio cassettes, and now CDs…. Technology just keeps shifting. Downloadable audio is so much easier, and now it’s free as our gift from Lifestream!

FINDING CHURCH Now Available in French as Découvrir l’église

The book on the left is one of the first copies of Finding Church in French. The man on the right is my good friend Silvio Viotti who translated the work as he as done with many of my other books.  He has done all this as a labor of love simply to make these works available to the French-speaking world. Thank you, Silvio, for your service to the Gospel in this way. I hear from so many who are touched by the availability of these books in French.

The evangelical community in France is incredibly small and those looking outside the borders of the traditional congregation are even smaller. So these don’t sell in great quantities there, but they do provide some encouragement to those who are learning to live more freely in the life of Jesus.

Sara and I have been with Silvio and his wife Dominique many times over the past decade. We met them first at their home in Switzerland, but have also enjoyed their company in the U.S., Ireland, England, France, Israel, and Italy. I’m so happy that this project is finally done.

If you know anyone who wants FINDING CHURCH in French, they can find it here.  It is only 9€ for a copy. (They also have He Loves Me as Il M’aime! and So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore as Alors tu ne veux plus aller à l’église?)

It is also available in German, Dutch, and Spanish as Encontrando a la Iglesia in free PDF Download.  You can find links to all our international translations here.

In addition to the original book in English, it is also available by audio through Audibles and iTunes. Also, there are a number of us doing a study through Finding Church, just about to start Chapter 15 at the Lifestream Discussion Forum.  You can join us where we are or start back at the beginning.

Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the book:

The church of the new creation is more like wildflowers strewn across an alpine meadow than a walled garden with manicured hedges. I realize such a seemingly amorphous view of the church will make many nervous, especially those who think it their God-given duty to manage a group of people on his behalf or else the church can’t exist. But it can. And I’m not advocating for the isolated, everyone-is-a-church-to-themselves idea. The church takes her expression in relationships we have with others who are also following him—local friendships as well as international connections that he knits together.

 

 

Going Live at 1:00 pm Pacific Time Today

I’m not sure what I’m getting into here, but I was invited by Bill Hale to appear on his radio show on the Liberty Works Radio Network this afternoon, starting at 1:00 Pacific Time (4:00 Eastern). They wanted to talk about my life, The Shack, and my past work with Bridgebuilders, so it should be a wide-ranging conversation. They asked if it was OK to get into some controversial stuff, and I told them it was fine with me. So I have no idea where this will go. You can listen along here if you like.

But first, this morning, I’m doing some recording with Brad for future shows of The God Journey. So I will be doing my share of talking today.

We’ve been inundated with orders for He Loves Me after reducing the price to $9.00 for those who wanted copies. That will continue for another week if you want to get in on it. I’ve also had many people write me to let me know that So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore was their favorite book, so maybe we’ll have to do something there down the road. I’m always glad to get these books out further in the world and help others discover the joy of a living relationship with a gracious Abba.

In Celebration Our Offices Are Closed This Week

No, it doesn’t seem possible.  Forty-two years ago this week, Sara and I were married and thus began an adventure that has exceeded both our expectations and in this season of our lives brings us great joy and support through the twists and turns of life.

Who would have thought? We’ve had many friends not make it this far, who  have been deeply hurt as the life-long marriage they thought they were in came unraveled with pain and heartbreak. We’ve known those whose spouses have passed away at far younger ages. Our hearts go out to all of them. A long-term marriage is nothing to boast about; it is its own reward. We don’t think we’re anything special to get along this far and have been through some of the intense struggles that sometimes shipwrecks good relationships. I’m just grateful we’ve both had the strength to stay true to the promises we made to each other, that we keep finding our way to mutual love and respect even though we are built very differently and have differing tastes in so many things. In fact this longevity feels like a whole lot of grace. The joy has been in learning how to lay down our lives for the other and love more deeply at each unfolding season of our lives.

This week we are taking some time just to be together and to enjoy the fruits of Father’s work in our relationship. While I have amazing friends all over the world there is no one I’d rather be with than Sara. She is far and away my best friend. I love our laughter, conversations, and even though we know so much about the other we can still be surprised when something unexpected pops out. I always look forward to an extended time for just the two of us to be together and celebrate the love that continues to grow between us.

However, since this is a two-horse operation most of the time, that means we’ll close the office until Monday, May 21 and apologize for an inconvenience that may cause you with book orders or travel invitations. You see, none of this happens without Sara. She is truly the unsung hero of Lifestream, Kenya, the God Journey, and everything else that goes on around here. She is the office manager and detail person. Without her I couldn’t do what I do in writing, podcasting, or traveling. Every time I travel I leave with her blessing because of what she gives up in our time together so that others can be enriched in the world. I love it when people acknowledge the price Sara pays when I’m out of town. I couldn’t go out as often if she wasn’t so committed to the work we do in the world and so capable of handling all things Jacobsen while I’m gone and does it with such grace and joy. While that means some lonely nights for her, she is fully on board with any trip I take, or I don’t take it.

When people ask why Sara doesn’t travel with me all the time, the answer is it is not as much her calling as it is mine. She has traveled with me a lot, but being more introverted a day of conversation with new people completely wears her out and she will need a couple of days to recover. Me?  Not so much. I can keep going for two weeks or so in conversations that span almost the entire day and with multiple groups. Though Sara is welcome to come with me any time she wants, I am able to give myself far more to the people I’m with if she’s home taking care of the rest of our lives. It’s not easy doing what I do and when she has the grace for it she comes. If not, I’d rather have her here at home with the family, dogs, and garden she loves. And when I get to be home, she is great at really being present with me.  Also Sara has some health issues now and diet restrictions that make it very difficult to travel and she hates to inconvenience others who would need to accommodate those. I know most wouldn’t mind just to have Sara there, but it is hard on her. We’re still hopeful that some of this will improve in the months to come.  That’s our prayer, anyway.

I always told Sara that my calling didn’t have to be hers. She’s my wife, and what we share together is incredibly special, and all the more because our absences really do make the heart grow fonder.

So if you can hold that correspondence you’re dying to have with me until next week, we’d appreciate it.

Conversations About the Law and Freedom

This week I was back on the set of A Christian and A Muslim Walk into a Studio for a conversation with Bob and Ermza about the Law and how Jews, Christians, and Muslims look at this differently.  The episode is called A Follow-up Conversation With Wayne Jacobsen. I loved the conversation and think we not only unpacked things we view in common, but also the differences we have between us. One of the most revealing aspects for me is how Muslims view the Bible in line with the Quran.  Their final revelation from God comes in that book, and thus they judge everything in the Old Testament and New Testament by how it is interpreted in that book. Thus, they don’t have a lot of regard for Paul’s teaching and why they end up seeking to attain grace through law.  It’s a fascinating discussion and one that also reveals how much hope Muslims put in mercy and compassion as well.  It’s also lengthy… about an hour and twenty-two minutes.  What can I say? We were exploring some big issues.

Also, I recorded a podcast a few months ago with Jared Gustafson that is just airing now on New Nature’s Podcast.  It’s called Slinging Freedom Everywhere with Wayne Jacobsen.  We talk about moving from religious obligation to an intimate and transforming relationship with Jesus Christ. We talk about how to embrace the dynamics of a growing relationship over trying to conform ourselves to God’s expectations by our own will and performance.  I hope you find it helpful. It’s shorter, only 48 minutes.

In Recovery Again

Just when I thought I’d survived my birthday and was getting back to a more normal routine, a medical emergency again intervened. I woke up on March 22 in the middle of the night with severe abdominal pain. Thinking it was food poisoning from the night before I tried to ride it out. By 5:30 am, I knew that wasn’t possible and woke up Sara to head for the Emergency Room. Being so close to my heart surgery, the doctors’ first concern was that summon the sac around my heart had either ruptured or become infected. Early tests indicated otherwise, which sent them down another track. After two days of testing the discovered that I needed my gall bladder removed, which was done on Friday morning by laparoscopic surgery that took four different small incisions to do the deed. I returned home later that afternoon to begin recovery.

Again.

Welcome to my life! What a crazy four months it has been since my last surgery, recovery, two-week trip to Jordan and Israel, back for THE SHACK opening and then quick trips to Wyoming and Montana. I thought I was getting my groove back. In fact, I had finally scheduled the make-up trip that my heart surgery cancelled, to Michigan and Wisconsin at the end of April and early May.

I just got a call from the hospital doctor that the biopsy showed no bacteria and no malignancies, so I’m grateful for that. But honestly, I’d rather be in Vermont tonight, which was my original plan than sitting home nursing a very sore abdomen. I was supposed to be on the east coast between Boston and Baltimore with lots of people I was looking forward to seeing. It’s hard to be on the bench again, or should I say couch and I am feeling a bit too badly at the moment to even make use of the time to write. Hopefully that will change by the end of the week. And guess what, I’ve got to start walking again for a couple of weeks until more strenuous activity is allowed.

There are times when things like this come up and I can see how God wonderfully spins these things together. Even my heart surgery with its cancellations seemed important to take care of a congenital need I had and the fact that it didn’t keep me from the Israel trip was a bonus. This last week, however, has seemed more like an attack of some kind, as if the enemy thwarted something God was about. That happens too. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians about his attempt to visit them again, “For we wanted to come to you — I, Paul, more than once — and yet Satan thwarted us.” I don’t know that it was Satan in my case. I’m sure a lessor demon would have done, but I’ve been feeling a bit robbed this week.

Oh, we’ll reschedule the time back east, already looking to nail down early June, but it’s more than that. And will God make better use of Plan B? Of course he will. He’s just like that. But that doesn’t mean that his way always unfolds without conflict. That’s why he calls us to be faithful stewards, praying and responding as we are able.

and praying for others too. One of the hardest things to do with growing trust in Father’s affection is not to become fatalistic, and assume that whatever happens is what God wants. There are two kingdoms at war around us. Sometimes because of the obedience and prayers of the saints Father’s will happens, and sometimes the enemy has his way. I have greatly appreciated all those who have written my through this second surgery with prayers for my recovery. Also pray for God’s will to unfold in the places he wants to send me these days. I don’t claim to know for sure, but there seems to be some resistance.

And I know that while we may not win every battle, we do win the war. Victory is guaranteed, I only want to ensure that my heart is yielding every day his lead and that I am brimming full of his life and power.

And I pray that for you, too!

New Travel Dates Announced

Please note: This trip has been postponed due to unexpected surgery.

This week I head for the East Coast with a weekend near Boston before I head over to Milbury, MA and then up into northern Vermont.  I’ll finish the trip with stops in Lancaster, PA, Hagerstown, MD and then have a weekend in Sykesville, MD through April 2. This is a great mix of old friends and new people to discuss the journey with.

I will also be doing a live appearance on a panel for Moody Radio’s Up For Debate radio show on Saturday, March 25 from 11:00 am – 12:00 noon about whether or not we should take our theology from books or movies like THE SHACK.  You can listen to it on line if you want.  I did one with them a year ago on church attendance. That should be fun. And then Brad and I are doing an appearance at USC to engage some college students about the movie on April 19.

Then I’ll finally pull off my make-up trip to Wisconsin and Michigan at the end of April and the beginning of May. This is the trip I had to cancel when my doctors rushed me into open-heart surgery the day before I was supposed to leave in November.  I’m glad to have it re-scheduled.

And then I’m headed to South Africa at the end of June and beginning of July. It’s been a long time since I’ve been there, so I am going to crawl on that 19-hour jet ride to go do a YWAM DTS there and to visit those who’ve enjoyed my books and podcast.

You can get all my travel details on my Travel Page.  If you’re nearby, I’d love to have the chance to meet you.

Last Week Was Crazy!

From the New York Premiere of The Shack movie, to our own home-town opening of the movie with 250 people who flew in and drove in to watch the movie with Brad and me, it was a wild week. It was fun to see so many people who have been God Journey listeners and Lifestream readers and see the work God has been doing in their lives. I’ll post some pictures at the bottom to capture some of the flavors of the weekend here in Thousand Oaks.

As fun as all this has been however, I’ll be glad when all the hoopla settles down and the star of the show isn’t the movie, the actors, Lionsgate, Paul Young, Wayne Jacobsen or Brad Cummings, but God himself.  That was the joy of the book, seeing how God used this story to invite people out of the places they may have gotten stuck into a more compelling relationship with him based on his love and his work, not our own efforts.

It is already doing that. Here are just a few of the emails I got over the weekend as people were seeing the movie all over the country.  (And my apologies to those frustrated readers from other countries who cannot see the movie yet. I ‘m so sorry.  Your turn is coming!)

From a mother in Nashville: My 19 year old son saw it last night. He said “all I can say Mom is Wow! I feel better from just seeing that movie. I just want to hug you!” I don’t know what all God is doing in his heart…  But He has used you and this movie already!!! Can’t wait to see it tomorrow!!!’

Marlowe: Such a POWERFUL movie for anyone who has ever suffered heartache, and struggled to move forward… or wrestled with “why the pain?”… or longed for a closer relationship with God. If you can relate, RUN, don’t walk, to The Shack!!!

Chris: Just saw The Shack with my wife all I can say is wow, so powerful. Broke my heart and put it back together again, it’s life changing.

Jennifer: I’m sitting in the theater parking lot after my 2nd time of seeing it. It was even more amazing than the first. I was a complete movie nerd taking notes because some quotes I do not want to forget.

John: Just wanted to tell you thank you for all you have done. This movie bears your language and words and poetry and love in Christ. During the movie people in voluntarily were calling out. Thank you for all you have done without fanfare or attention.

Loren: Took my family to see The Shack tonight. I did my best to put on my critic hat and leave my personal bias for it at home. My take on it is best summed up by a Darth Vader line, “Impressive! Most impressive!” It was far better than I expected it to be. I haven’t cried like that in the theater since I was ten years old and saw E.T. Plus it was super cool seeing Wayne Jacobsen and Brad Cummings names pop up on the first end credit. I’ve never seen a wide release movie in the theater in which the name of someone I know shows up on the screen. I got so caught up in the movie it actually caught me off guard when their names popped up. That was fun! Great job guys! All the actors were fantastic and overall the movie was great! Totally worth seeing!

Now I’m up in Wyoming and Montana helping some others process this story before I head to the east coast (Boston and Baltimore) at the end of March.

Oh, and here are the pictures I promised

Sara registering people for the movie

Brad and I interacting with the audience after the show

Even the grandkids showed up for the After Party, though two of them didn’t see the movie

Brad and I sharing the story at the After Party

Our celebration cake at the open house the following day

 

The Shack Opens Tonight

Sara and I returned last night from New York where we attended the Worldwide Premiere of The Shack movie with Brad and Kelly Cummings and their daughter, Taylor. (Here are some short videos from our time there:  from Central Park, from Times Square and from our hotel as we get ready to leave for the airport.) We walked the “red carpet”, but in this case it was gray and even had a chance to talk to some reporters that were enquiring about the movie.

It was a whirlwind of two days, but gave our families time to celebrate the culmination of a very long journey.  Eleven years ago four of us sat in my dining room with a manuscript Paul Young had written for his children, to brainstorm how we could take the heart of that story and make a redemption-themed movie out of it.  We discovered that the first thing we needed to do was turn it into a book and if we could sell 100,000 copies of it in 2 or 3 years we might get the chance to make a movie.

Thus began a 16 month journey to rewrite the book and make it more of a story. The months we worked on the book were some of the most spiritually potent and personally enriching seasons of my life. I’ve never worked with two other men who demonstrated such love, generosity, tenderness and wisdom as we sought to get the story right. We were more concerned with serving the story of God making himself known to a man lost in pain and depression than serving our egos.  As I look back it is clear to me that God brought three unique individuals together with life-experiences and perspectives to help craft and refine this story.  And in the process we were aware that we were part of something greater than ourselves. What came out was bigger than any of us or all of us combined. It was a gift, an invitation God wanted to put into the world and we were merely conduits for it.

Quickly the book found its audience and in a few short months we had already overshot the 100,000-copy runway and interest from movie producers and directors began to pour in. Delight and joy soon gave way to pain as some of the relationships didn’t survive the journey. Even though I knew millions of people were being touched by the story for a time I came to regret my involvement with it. I’d been part of close friends in Jesus separating before, and had promised myself I’d never be part of that again. Yet, here I was despite my best efforts to avoid it.

In the past few months, however, God has drawn me back to that season of collaboration. The sixteen months we wrote together and the eighteen months we were putting it the world as good friends, filled with laughter and friendship and deep, deep sharing of life and heart. And even if others no longer wanted to honor or celebrate it, it didn’t mean that I couldn’t. In the past few months I have come to see this all as an amazing gift God gave through some amazing lives. If you missed that part of the story you can hear Brad, Paul Young and I discuss it in a podcast that aired on January 11, 2008, talk about it here.

I wasn’t involved in the nuts and bolts of making this movie. My friend Brad was, and though he allowed me to look over his shoulder and throw in my two cents worth from time to time, he bore the brunt of an incredibly arduous process. Making a studio movie is balancing a host of agendas and egos that would make you tremble and were always concerned as to how it would come out. This was a painful process in many ways, but honestly this movie would not have come out as true to the book as it did without his hard work and sacrifice. But somehow, through a less-friendly collaboration, God also found a way to shape this gift too. Brad and I could not be more excited at how this movie came out and the touch of Father’s hand that seems to be on it for all kinds of audiences. It stays true to the story and the message and we think you’ll be in for a pleasant surprise.

As Sara and I sat through the premiere showing on Tuesday night, I found myself incredibly grateful for all God has done in this process. As we reminisced with Brad and Kelly it brought such warmth and tenderness to our hearts and an excitement about what this movie might do to invite others to know God. I was asked by a reporter as we went down the “red” carpet what I hoped people would have in their hearts as they walked away from the movie. My answer was that no matter how lost they might be in their own pain or failures, that they would at least wonder if there was a God in the universe looking for them, winning them into his love and freeing them from all the places they got stuck. “If we have to find him on our own, we have little hope. But if he is looking for us then we have all there reason in the world for hope.”

As many of you see the movie you may want to talk about it with others. We are hosting a place at Lifestream for people to comment, ask questions, and process their own journey. You can of course comment on the bottom of this blog, or on the Facebook posting about it.  Or, you can go to our Shack Discussion Forum at Lifestream.  We’re just going to open a door for people to comment, ask questions, or share your favorite moments. You create the topics you’d like to talk with others about and we’ll manage it just to make sure everybody plays nice. You don’t have to love the movie, either to participate. We realize not everyone appreciates art at the same level or hits them in the same way.  However, we’re going to ask you to play nice. Abusive and arrogant postings will be removed.

I do hope you get a chance to see it. And I do hope it draws you ever-closer, not to the characters in the story or those who helped in the process, but to the Father, Son and Spirit themselves. Helping people discover them has been the purpose behind this process. And the frosting on the cake is the friendships it has brought into our lives from all over the world.

 

 

Back to Israel!

I probably won’t do this again. I don’t see myself as a “tour operator” in Israel or anythwhere else. I much prefer being a tour operator to help people discover how to live freely in God’s kingdom.

But I promised I would go back, to get my daughter there, after my son and wife went on the last trip. She couldn’t go because of young children at home. So this time she is going along with my niece, and Sara is staying home to help Julie’s husband with the kids. I also decided to go back because of the number of people who wanted me to do it again and said they wanted to go. However, most of them ended up not being able to go this time, so we have a bunch of others.

So in a couple of hours I depart for the airport and an overnight flight to Frankfurt and then to Amman, Jordan. I am looking forward to the next two weeks wandering around some of the most amazing real estate in the world with Brad Cummings and his wife and people from all over the world. We’re going to see some amazing sites in Jordan first, and then in Israel. We’re going to reflect on how this land became so critical to God revealing himself in the world and the unique challenges that it faces until the day the New Jerusalem descends from heaven. I’m always amazed when I’m there that God chose this place of all those on the earth to make himself known. We’re also going to let the Scriptures come to life as we visit places where these things actually happened. And, we’ll have a great time on the bus, around meals, and walking around to get to know each other. Last time a group of strangers became knit together pretty quickly and the sense of family we had there continues to bear fruit across continents since.

We are going to take a boat across Galilee (the picture above is from our last time there) and observe the hills that Jesus would have seen countless times, stare down the Gates of Hell in Caesarea Philippi, stand near the altar Jeroboam built in Dan, be on the mount Jesus where most likely preached his famous sermon, swim in the Dead Sea, go up to Masada, and end our travels in Jerusalem on some of the very stones Jesus walked on, visit the mount where the Temple stood and the traditional sites for his death, burial and resurrection.

I wish you could all go. I know many reading this wish they had the time and resources to have joined us on this trip. I wish you could have as well.  I don’t believe God is any more present in Israel than he is in your own home. God inhabits his universe and we can discover him right where we are as easily as any place else. So I don’t go to Israel to have a more special time with God, though like everywhere else I go, I fully anticipate engaging him there.

And I pray that you, too, wherever you are, will make some time to lean into his reality over the next few weeks. It’s so easy to get caught up in the rush of life that we don’t set time aside to reflect on him and to ask him to make himself known to us.  That’s where this journey thrives, not on Israel trips, in books or by listening to podcasts. This is a journey he wants to take with you. I know that connection takes some time to develop. It may be just inklings at the start, but it will grow into nudges, and then revelation, and then the joy and confidence of knowing he is always with you whether you feel him or not. Your whole life is in his hands and there’s no better place for it to be.