Behind the Scenes

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.


Upcoming Travel and Kenya Update

It’s been such a joy to be home for the last three and a half months to catch up with family and to advance the work on three books I’m currently pushing down the road—a novel called The City, written by a mom in France that unpacks the kingdom of God in a lovely way, a book about interpersonal relationships called The Language of Healing, and a novel set in the Civil War era by the man who presided over our wedding ceremony almost 44 years ago, called (tentatively) Lucien’s Crossing. But my toe is healing and it seems Father has some other adventures awaiting me elsewhere in the world.

At the end of this month I’ll be in the Atlanta area for ten days, then at the end of February in Eureka, CA.  After that I’ll make a quick trip to Tulsa, OK the first weekend of March and then Morgantown, WV, and Pittsburgh, PA at the end of it.  I may be teaching a DTS in Italy in late April and perhaps go to Norway and elsewhere in Europe thereafter. I’m also hoping to get to hang out with some Jesus-loving biker-types in Southern Illinois, but haven’t found a date for that yet.  Later this year I plan on getting back to Kenya to check on things there as we wind down our projects there and hope we’ve given them the tools to move ahead with a growing trust in Father’s provision for them.

Speaking of Kenya, we heard from them the other day with a new emergency. Some of our friends there began a school in a part of Kitale that was settled by displaced people from the tribal violence following the disputed election in 2008. It is an area of extreme need, where many of the adults are hopeless about job prospects and addicted to alcohol. Since school is not compulsory in Kenya, nor is it free, our friends started a school in a church building to educate the children and give them a way out of the hopeless cycle around them. Supporting the school was first picked up by some friends in Virginia for a couple of years, and then it has been part of our monthly support of $10,000 to help with all the needs in Kenya, including our special outreach to Pokot.

Recently torrential flooding there caused the sewage of the school to mingle with their water supply, causing sickness among staff and students. It took them a while to figure out the cause and now the local government wants to shut down the school if they don’t get a new water supply. Drilling a well there will cost $32,000. They have temporarily been transporting drinking water to the school, but wondered if we might help. We advanced them the money in hopes that some of you would join us in keeping that school afloat. If you’d like to help us please.

The needs here are ongoing as is our support for them. If you’d like to join us, you can direct it through Lifestream as contributions are tax-deductible in the U.S. As always, every dollar you send goes to the need in Kenya. We do not (nor do they) take out any administrative or money transfer fees. If you would like to be part of this to support these brothers and sisters and see the gospel grow in this part of Africa, please see our Sharing With the World page at Lifestream. You can either donate with a credit card there, or you can mail a check to Lifestream Ministries • 1560 Newbury Rd Ste 1 • Newbury Park, CA 91320. Or if you prefer, we can take your donation over the phone at (805) 498-7774.

And for those following our saga in Kenya, they sent us a detailed year-end report. here are some excerpts from it:

Greetings in the name of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, Living Loved Care Centre staff and the children, and also from the  coaches, schools, dispensary staff and the entire villages in Pokot as well as the Forkland School.

We appreciate your help in the Kitale area:

  • Gas station, which continues to buy food and pay the staff at the Living Loved Care Centre.
  • Grain enterprise, which helps us maintain the center, and educate the children in nearby schools, as well as help those go to college and university.
  • Forkland School, thanks you for helping them repair the facility when it was destroyed by wind and rain, and now we have a challenge with clean water. You can pray and advice us what to do since we are about to open the school, although the children were there.
Utensil stand to keep kitchen supplies clean

We thank you for supporting us in Pokot now for 3 years 7 months, and it has remain with 1 years 7 months, so the village will be sustainable, probably in July 2020.  There we are seeing villages transformed, helping them know that, although they are in rural areas filled with hardship, God loves them and he has a great purpose in their lives. Our coaches have done great things by teaching the villagers how to meet their challenges. Every village, which we are currently working with, now has water and we are making progress in other areas as well:

Education: Many families now understand the importance of taking their children to school and to keep their compound clean compared to the first time.

Outhouses for each home in Pokot

Hygiene/Health: As I flash back 3 years back, there were so many cases of malaria, typhoid and cholera and helping them with medicine was very expensive. Now, we have constructed 450 latrines with dozen of utensils stands to help the villages clean and hence reduce of the diseases causing micro-organism. Right now almost each household have utensil stands made of available materials and we are praying that in 17 months each household will have at least one  latrine. This is so amazing, as the saying goes better to prevent than cure. Thank to all those who stood with this community for purchasing iron sheets, cement, nails, polythene, and provide tools to build them.

Children enjoying the new crops they are raising

Micro-financing: This program has helped over 400 families start a business to be able to feed their families and run their home affairs.

Agriculture: We nw have farms raising sweet potatoes, cassava, corn, and other vegetables to help feed all the people.

Food donation: Thank you for supporting the aged and the breast-feeding moms on a monthly basis. The monthly amount here has been reduced due to the agricultural projects, which have greatly boosted food security in each village.

In my trip there later this year, we are hoping to make the necessary arrangements that will bring an end to our regular support there over the next few years and ensure that there will be sustainability beyond our involvement. Our desire was not to create programs there dependent upon ongoing support from us here, but for them to have the tools to go forward and trust Father’s provision for the future. We’ve had some great instruction by others who have done this by helping tap the creativity and industriousness of the people there. This will not be easy, of course, and I appreciate your prayers for me and them as we move forward.

It has been a joy to watch these people respond so joyously and so diligently to the opportunities now before them. The reports we get of their responsiveness to Jesus as well as their hard work to better their condition, are incredible. Who would have thought that our little corner of the web could have touched so many people so far away. And it’s all been through relationships that God orchestrated, and not our attempts to try to find a project like this. It’s what love led us to do.

The people of Pokot

Letting God’s Plans Unfold

Many of you know we are trying to make a movie of the story of Jake and John in So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore. We announced two years ago that we were going to make an opportunity for people to give towards this as a way to have some “passion” money alongside the investment money. I’m grateful for the many of you who responded. Unfortunately, we didn’t receive enough to begin production right away. My producer has been looking elsewhere for the necessary funds, which has been made all the more difficult by Amazon and Netflix scooping up the independent projects to create their own original content. It has changed the available money for making small, independent films.

Interestingly enough, on my recent trip east a couple of people asked me about the movie and where we are in the process. After catching one of them up, they simply commented, “I think the time is now.”

Honestly, I have no sense of that. Converting this story into a movie has always been a long-shot in my mind, as much as I’d love to see it done. I do what I can to help it along, but I know many projects get as far as we have that don’t make it into final production. Getting the right people and the money to the starting line at the same time is quite an endeavor.

So, I was surprised when my producer wanted to talk this week. He told me that he had a recent conversation with another filmmaker who was also asking about this project. At the end of it, that friend said to my producer, “Relax. This will get done. Projects like this have their own time.”

“The time is now,” my producer found himself answering, to his own surprise.

When he told me that, I told him the conversation I had the previous week and he said, “I’m bursting out with goose bumps all over here.”

I love how God’s work gently unfolds in our lives. I’ve come to trust it over my own plotting and scheming. I know the frustration of asking God to give me wisdom about something I wanted to do and then feel as if he’s gone silent. Looking back, I now see that I was asking God to give me a strategy so I could work toward the outcome I desired. God didn’t go silent; he just didn’t have an answer for that. So, when he didn’t say what I wanted to hear it was easy to make up a process in my own head and attach his name to it. That is a futile road, for sure. When he didn’t honor my process, I felt even more abandoned.

But now, I’ve been won in to different space, knowing that God’s will for us unfolds in the circumstances of life. We want a strategy to implement; he wants a relationship where he will walk with us. I’m convinced that the best way for God NOT to get me where he wants me in six months, is to tell me. I’ll actually try to get there for him and mess it all up. But if I’ll just follow him today, and again tomorrow, six months from now I’ll be right where he wants me to be. Almost everything I’m involved in now was not part of my planning, but I wouldn’t trade how God has fulfilled the passions he put in me for anything I’d envisioned in the past. I love being in the moment with him, free to respond to the opportunities that come, rather than trying to claw my way to the destination I desire.

Even the cover art (see picture above), which was a gift from someone I didn’t even know, who lived in Chicago at the time, conveys that same reality. Some people thought the book didn’t offer enough “how-tos” at the end, but it wasn’t meant to. The invitation was to an adventure with him down the road less traveled, rather than a new methodology to try and create his church in our image.

I meet too many young people who are trying to strategize a new way of doing ministry. It’s an exhausting road with little real kingdom fruit. I encourage them to draw close to the Master and let him guide them through the circumstances that come their way. Rather than trying to impose our will, we get to flow with his as it winds through the circumstances and opportunities of life. Then we’ll find ourselves being fruitful in ways we’d never imagined and watch him open doors we could never have contrived. It’s slower this way, to be sure, but it is a more joyful and fruitful way to live.

Part of that phone call with my producer this week was to let me know he thinks he’s found a path to get us to that elusive starting line. A fortuitous experience working with another film crew has opened up some new options. I can’t say more than that now, but it will still take people with passion, both on the casting and production side as well as the money side. But this looks far more hopeful than it looked a few months ago.

For those of you interested in the movie, we made a video two years ago to let people know what we were doing. You can view it here:

The budget is currently estimated at $2 million. While we have had, and will continue to have, conversations with both conventional movie and private investors, we also want to include people who have a passion for the story. That will give us a seat at the table to help protect its message. So we’ve come up with the idea of raising funds through Lifestream. Not only will that give you a tax-deductible receipt, but give Lifestream a stake in the movie. If it generates a profit, our share of return will go to help fund our various projects around the world.

Click here to SEE LOOKBOOK Click the button here to view a copy of our Lookbook. In the industry it’s a representation of the movie we want to make and a feel for how it will look.

If you’d like to be involved with us financially, please scroll down to the bottom of this page for giving and reward options.

Seeing How God Works

Fall Newsletter from Lifestream

For most of my life I’ve tried to do God’s work, instead of doing mine.  And, honestly, I wasn’t very good at it. That didn’t keep me from trying, however.  That’s why in recent years I’ve come to love the prayer Paul prayed for the Colossians and to make it my own every day:

“Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven’t stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works…  As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. (Colossians 1:9-11 MSG)

That’s what I want.  I want my mind and spirit to be so attuned to God’s will that I can acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which he works. I wish someone had taught me that when I was younger. When we don’t have any understanding of how God works, we’ll spend all our energies trying to be God to others. Even on our best days, that will only make a mess of things.

  • When I was a pastor, I thought it was my responsibility to build the church, when Jesus said he would take care of it. (Matthew 16)
  • In sharing Christ, I thought I was supposed to bring the conviction of God, when Jesus said that was the Spirit’s job. (John 16)
  • I thought the body of Christ was called to walk in unity, when Jesus asked his Father to bring us there. (John 17)
  • I assumed it was my responsibility to be better for God, instead of coming to the end of my human efforts and learning to trust his power. (John 15, Philippians 2)
  • I don’t have to figure out the times and seasons of his return, because that is in the hands of the Father. (Acts 1)

Learning how God works changes everything! He’s not a projection of our better selves, but Wholly Other, who thinks and acts in ways that confound my natural mind. When we think we know best, for ourselves or others, we usually end up working against him rather than with him.

Jesus asked me to love others like he’s loving me, to proclaim with my life and words the reality of Christ, and to help those who want, to know the God I know. It has become a major focus of my walk now to see what God is doing and how he’s working, especially when he isn’t acting in the way I think he should. When he’s not doing what I think is best, what is he doing? That’s where we learn how different, and how much better his ways really are. It is so much easier to live inside what he asks of me today, when I see, if even just in glimpses, how he is working in people and situations around me.

It helps me be more patient, because I realize God is not in the hurry that I am. It makes me softer toward marginalized and hurting people, because I know he doesn’t always wave his magic wand and fix everyone’s need instantaneously, and more often he wants me to be his gift to them. I’m not so settled on my ease and comfort because I know there isn’t any tragedy that he can’t work in for incredible good. And when I’ve given up trying to change me, I give up trying to change others around me as well.

I’m still learning to take my cues from what Father is already doing. Ask him to show you in the very circumstances you’re in right now. Instead of giving into anxiety and trying to fix them yourself, ask him to show you what he is doing. When you know what he’s doing, then you’ll know how you can respond in trust and be part of what he’s doing.  It’s more fun than trying to do his job, that’s for sure!


A Huge Harvest in Pokot

Progress continues in Kenya, and I’m always blessed by those who help us. In the last couple of months, the pumps in the Living Loved Petrol Station (see picture above) that we built to support the orphanage, died after eight years. They were only meant to last five.  We had to replace them at a cost of $24,000. They are learning now to set funds aside each month to replace them at the end of the next cycle.

The four agricultural projects in Pokot have branched out to five and the produce has been prolific. You can’t imagine the joy and awe of people who have been nomadic throughout their history, to be able to grow their own food! They are euphoric, and grew so much that they had new expenses as to how to dry and store the produce for future months.  And thanks to so many of you who have continued to send in your gifts to help. We’re 2.5 years into a 5-year plan to help them gain some measure of sufficiency.  Even the local government has taken notice of these agricultural projects and are helping out as well.  If you have extra to help in this process, it will always help. As always, every dime you give us ends up in Kenya. We take nothing for administrative or financial transfer fees.


Travel to Year’s End and 2019

I head to San Diego County this weekend, and then after a brief trip through Wisconsin, Tennessee, and South Carolina, I’m returning home for year-ending (at least as far as travel goes) minor surgery on an old broken toe. I need a bone chip removed, which is working its way into a joint, but it will put me on injured reserve for the rest of the year. So, I’m going to be staying close to home through the holidays.

As far as 2019, I’m already praying about possible trips to: Northern California, Georgia, West Virginia, West Texas, Upstate New York/Toronto, Kenya, and Southern Florida. If you have anything on your heart, now is the time to let me know.

So, during the rest of this year I’ll be able to give some time to the three book projects that have captured my attention.

  • Lucien’s Crossing, my friend’s delightful tale of two boys, one a slave, the other the master’s son, growing up in the pre-Civil War south, through the Civil War itself, and then in its aftermath in New York City. It is an occasionally humorous, and always gripping adventure story where religion and faith hang in the background of our views of war and racism.
  • The Language of Healing, with co-authors Bob Prater and Arnita Taylor. Three common Americans look at the vitriol in our political and personal conversations and how to move away from the politics of polarization to have conversations about important matters in ways that bring healing rather than division.
  • The Healing, a novel I began in 2005 about how the gift of God draws us out of religious performance and into a way of living that is real and transformative.


A Man Like No Other, by Wayne JacobsenChristmas Shopping

As you consider gifts for friends and family this year, keep in mind the books and audio available in the Lifestream Store. Especially, A Man Like No Other is an excellent gift for people as it re-tells the life of Jesus without all the religious stuff we have added to him.  It’s book of paintings done my award-winning artist, Murry Whiteman with text by myself and Brad Cummings. It’s not a children’s book per se, but I know families who use it for a devotional because the pictures draw the kids in and the text often provokes lots of questions.  As a special, we are reducing the normal sale price by $5.00 until Christmas Day.  (As always with international  orders, please email the office for a quote. Shipping rates are always off for those orders.)


Discussing Community on Confronting Normal Podcast

Wayne was in Kelowna, BC recently at the invitation of the two young moms that host, Confronting Normal, a podcast that helps us rethink what “normal” spiritual life might look like. While there I recorded a two-part interview that is now available on their podcast. They asked some great questions and we processed some wonderful things together. If you’d like to listen to them you can get Part One here, and Part Two here.


In Case You Missed It… 

Here are some of the podcasts and blogs that have generated a lot of interest over the last couple of months.

Podcasts at

Wayne’s blog at

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:


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 that 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 on 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 may be an illustration of what you’re writing; your book needs to be about the life lesson that will help your order.


2. Not 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 a 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 by 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 the 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 readers, “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 them 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, layout 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; 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,