Behind the Scenes

You Can Help Jake Find His Way to the Big Screen

One of the greatest days of my life was spending an afternoon with my daughter’s well-marked copy of He Loves Me after she had returned from college shortly after it had been published. With her permission I got to read through the comments she’d written in the margin and enjoy what she highlighted. My daughter posted the picture above a couple of weeks ago. It’s my oldest granddaughter reading So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore. It took my breath away. I knew she was reading The Shack with her mom for the first time, but now she wants to read everything her grandpa has written. I cant tell how how that impacted me and I can’t imagine the conversations we’re going to get to have ahead.

I’m still amazed and incredibly grateful whenever I hear how something I’ve written has touched someone else deeply, and helped encourage their own spiritual journey whether it’s my family or people I haven’t met yet. The power of a story can invite people into a transforming reality they are not even expecting.

The Shack movie will be out March 3, and it will give people a lot to think about as they process that story and God in their own lives. And we are well into the process of adapting Jake’s story in So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore for a big-screen movie, tentatively titled Out of the Game. The movie focuses on the religious game Jake doesn’t even know he’s playing by serving his own need to gain approval from others. Though an encounter with a mysterious man who is living in more freedom than Jake has ever known his life begins to change. As it comes unraveled he has to choose between the false security of his past, or the risk of finding God is better than he ever dreamed. We made some changes in the story, but not to its meaning and I’m thrilled that we’ll have a chance to re-tell this story to a wider audience.

We just added a new section of the website that will let you look behind the scenes at the process I’ve been involved in, introduce you to some of the people I am working with, and if you’d like, I can give you an opportunity to be involved in the production. The link above will explain everything but we’re hopeful to make this movie with a combination of investment money and passion dollars from those who care about the message and want to help us make this movie. You can do that through a donation to Lifestream that will give us a stake in the movie and the ability to shape its message.  In return we’d like to offer you some special gifts as our way of saying thanks and involving you in this unfolding process.  .

Unlike The Shack, we don’t have a major studio behind us. This is an independent production, born in the heart of a man who found this book to be a meaningful part of his own spiritual journey by helping him see that God was not the demanding taskmaster he’d learned in his childhood. I am deeply involved in all phases to his project and am excited to put this story into a new medium that can touch a different audience of people. I invite you to click through to our behind the scenes video and see if this is something that would interest you.

And don’t forget, through December 31, you can receive a 15% discount for all items in the Lifestream Store simply by using the coupon code: “LSChristmas”.

Christmas Gift Ideas

‘Tis the season and all that. Just found out we had two more sign-ups to go to Israel with us. I thought it was too late, but it turns out our reservations still allow us to sign up nine more people who might be able to go with Brad and I to Israel at the last minute. We depart January 22 for three days in Jordan and then those not going to Jordan will be flying to Israel on January 25 for our ten-day stay there. You can get all the details here! Yes, I know it is expensive, and a once-in-a-lifetime trip, but it might be just the thing for someone you love this Christmas. But you have to have a passport and move quickly. Imagine, in six weeks you could be walking along the shore of Galilee, standing in the ruins of Capernaum, Beit Shean, or walking the old city on the very stones Jesus would have set foot on. And you’ll have Brad and I to mess with you! It could be a win/win.

On the less expensive side, we have lots of books and recordings in our Lifestream store. A Man Like No Other makes a perfect gift for anyone who appreciates the story of Jesus. And as a way to thank you for all the love and support we have received this year from so many of you, for all orders placed between now and December 31, we’re offering a 15% discount to help you buy for someone else, or use your Christmas money after. Just enter the discount code: “LSChristmas” in the appropriate box. I hope you can find something there to enjoy or pass on to a friend.

Finally a health update: It has been four weeks and a day since my surgery, which is a milestone in my progress. Most of the pain and soreness is gone and I can function to about 80% capacity during the day, so I’ve spent a lot of time this week catching up on emails and recording two more podcasts with Brad. Yesterday, my cardiologist and I took my refurbished heart out for a test drive on the treadmill while all hooked up to monitor how it’s all working inside. He said everything is perfect at this point and all the numbers are above expectation for only being a month out of surgery. My incision has healed well and runs about four inches down the top of my rib cage. He traced his finger from there another four inches to the bottom of my sternum and said, “In the old days, the would have cut you to here.” I nodded with a grimace having watched my dad go through that 12 years ago. “The old days,” he added, “were eight months ago!” Wow! That hit home. I’m glad my valve held out long enough to get to this procedure because it makes recovery a whole lot easier.

The next milestones come at 6 weeks when I can begin to lift things heavier than ten pounds and at 12 weeks when my heart will be mostly healed and I won’t have the weird stuff going on in there or the shortness of breath. Thank you for all the prayers, love, and concern you’ve shared with me and my family through this process. I’m walking about 5 miles a day now on two separate walks. One I do with Sara and the dogs usually in the afternoon and the other I do in the morning with God, a friend around here if I can find one, or with my cell phone in hand talking to many of you who have been gracious enough to call me and help pass the time. Next week I should begin cardio rehab which will be an hour a session three times a week and learn how to care for this thing! They say it’s a hoot.

If some of you want want to shift your prayers to Sara, that would be awesome. For the past five months she’s had some medical challenges that aren’t as eye-catching as open-heart surgery, involving her back, right hip, some weird food allergies, and neuroma in her feet. She negotiates a lot of pain every day as the doctors and therapists try to find a solution for her. Prayers and love her way would mean a lot to her.

Recovery Update #2

Walking. Walking. Walking. It’s a good thing I enjoy it, because that’s the regimen now.  I’m nearly two weeks out from open-heart surgery and according to my doctors I’m on the upside of the recovery curve. I was home after two days, have nearly stopped all pain meds  and can function at about 80% of normal for 4-5 hours a day. All in all this has been way easier than I had thought watching my dad go through this 12 years ago.

But there were some significant differences in our two surgeries. He also had triple bypass; by God’s grace my arteries were clear and I did not need any bypasses and thus did not have the extra load of having arteries harvested from elsewhere for the grafts. Also, I didn’t get my entire rib cage split open. My surgeon has been part of team developing a less-intrusive procedure only opening the top half of the rib cage instead of the whole thing. Also, the technology of these procedures has also changed significantly leading to better recovery times. So I’m not anticipating taking a year to recover as I’ve heard from many other open-heart patients and for them I’m thankful.

So as Thanksgiving approaches, I’m really grateful: for an unexpected warning during a soccer scrum with my granddaughter, for skilled doctors, surgeons, and nurses who knew exactly what to do and were the most amazing people, for God’s care during the harrowing moments just before and just after surgery, for the support of my wife and my family who carried me through this with compassion, humor, and kindness. And of course, there were so many of you who sent greetings my way, prayers God’s way, and many who came by to visit and distract me from the long hours of staring into space.

And I love how many of you wrote me about others you were praying for in your life alongside your prayers for me.  That was so cool. Thank you for doing that.  And I received emails from people suffering worse than me, or with loved ones that were facing imminent death because they were beyond medical help. This world really is cruel and I have prayed for your loved ones as I have been prayed for by so many others. It is good to share the fellowship of suffering and not pretend a life in God is always full of ease and happiness. This is a broken world, and even Jesus navigated it often with “loud cries and tears” raised to God.

My friend David said I should “relish” this experience. I’m not sure I got there. His encouragement, though helped me see a different way to navigate this surgery. I got to a  place where I no longer fought it, or fought God in it. I let him have the reigns on these circumstances and relaxed into his goodness. He’s been here with me, but I know some are waiting for new revelations of God’s reality or of my mortality, but this didn’t play out that way. God was just with me as we are navigating these events. I was more touched by a movie I saw last night, ARRIVAL, than anything that happened in surgery. It was not at all what I was expecting and I mean deeply touched at a Matrix-like level of seeing into some things God has been showing me for some time.  More on that at some future time, I think.

Two weeks out and I’m truly amazed at how all this has gone. It’s nice to be mostly pain free now and only a bit uncomfortable at times. I’m glad I can read and stay focused for a significant chunk of the day. And I’m grateful to get out and go for a walk or even to a movie last night with Sara. Things are getting back to a better normal. I’ve got some more recovery time, obviously, and am looking forward to a quiet Thanksgiving season ahead with my family. After that I begin some cardio rehab to get my body back up to speed, but I’m grateful all this is on track for me to still be part of the Israel Tour leaving at the end of January.

And look who came to visit me yesterday afternoon to pick-up my spirits.  That panda on the right is Pepper, a gift from my daughters’ family. The kids fill her with hugs so when I need to cough or sneeze, I can hold her to my chest with their love… So sweet!

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So wherever this journey takes you, I trust that you too find gratitude and thanksgiving rising toward God as he walks alongside you helping you find your life in him, not your circumstances.

Surgery Plus Seven

It’s been a slow, steady climb out of the trauma toward the light of normalcy again.  It’s just over there. I can see it from here, but it still eludes my grasp. Many of you keep asking for an update, so here it is.

It’s still hard to fathom that a week ago today a surgeon cut into my chest and heart to replace a valve that had reached the end of its usefulness. Before surgery he told me I had a fifty/fifty chance of surviving 24 months without surgery and after it that my life expectancy is now what it would have been if I’d never been born with the offending valve.  The marvels of medical science is astounding.

Just remember I’m still in my post-surgical haze so everything is clouded by that. This has not been easy. Dealing with the trauma my body has suffered is unlike anything I’ve been through before. My medical team says the metabolism of my body dealing with all that trauma is like running a marathon every day for about two weeks. I can’t imagine that since I feel so lethargic and unfocused, but I’ll be glad when those two weeks are up.  That said, I notice every day that things are improving, some pain less intense or of less duration. I have a bit more strength to breathe deeper, walk further, or stay awake longer.

Two days after surgery I was released from the hospital to continue my healing at home. It was great to get her, though my world is still pretty small at this point. I’d hoped I’d be able to do some writing or at least some reading in the great expanse of uncommitted time now available to me, but I can’t focus enough to do either.  So instead I am learning  to rest and let this body heal. It’s so weird just sitting around, having the time but not the energy to do things that I love.

I had to return briefly to the hospital yesterday due to a potential complication, but that situation turned out to be a fall concern so I’m still on track. Though the next week is still the most difficult, I get the idea that I won’t be doing much through the end of the year.  I can’t say that God has been overwhelmingly present in all this as some have prayed, but I know he has been there alongside holding me in his presence and the guiding hand behind so many other hands who have touched and inspired me.

One of the great joys in this has been finding an astounding medical team just down the street. When this began I had friends push me toward the best medical care available to me in Southern California for this kind of operation. It turned out that one of the leading surgeons had just been hired away from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center by our local hospital to create a new world-class heart-care center in Ventura County. Fortunately I’ve gotten to stay close to home and he and his team have been fabulous. I couldn’t be more grateful for their skill, care and their accessibility.

More than anything I’ve come to appreciate the love of family and friends.  Even though Sara has been dealing with her own medical challenges for the last few months involving some significant back and hip pain she threw herself into the breach to help with my needs and fully supporting me emotionally through this entire process. Even though I knew this surgery was in my future, when it all came down, it did so far quicker than I could process. I was three days from flying to the midwest when informed that surgery needed to be done right now. It all felt so disorienting and yet her calm and caring presence would cut through the options and help me clarify what needed to be done and when. None of those choices i liked, however. (On the positive side, having it so quickly means I’ll fully recover in time for the Israel Tour I have at the end of January.)

My children and grandchildren have been great as well. Offering very welcomed distractions and helping Sara with my needs. I’m so grateful that they wanted to be with me through all of this and I have treasured the extra time I’ve had with all of them and the concern they have demonstrated for me.

I have also appreciated the brief visits of good friends from all over the world. Someone even came by from Tennessee who was in LA on business, and I’ve had others connect by phone or by Skype. You can’t imagine what a delight it is to have someone show up unexpectedly in a long, slow day and bring a spot of sunshine into it.  So if you want to check in don’t be shy.  If I’m not up to it we’ll be honest, but please don’t assume I’m not. Conversation with good friends is incredibly healing and if I can’t take your call, please know that hearing from you still brought a smile to my face.

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One last thing.  Here I am on Monday night with a Lindsay the birthday girl who wanted to celebrate by being with Sara and me. Her family also got me that cute little Panda, named Pepper, to grasp to my wound when In need to cough. Every time I do, I reminded of their love.  It turns out that Lindsay, who initially blamed herself for hurting me because my incident first happened playing soccer with her, is now being credited with potentially saving my life. That incident alerted the doctors to a more immediate surgical response than they had planned.  One said she’d probably saved my life. So Lindsay pulls the hero card when she needs, as when she wants to visit, but cannot due to other needs prods further with: “But didn’t I save his life.”  So incredibly Lindsay and tirelessly cute!

So thanks for all your love and prayers.  I’ve been well-carried through this bump in the road and am so grateful to all of you, many I’ve never met, who walked with me through this ordeal. Please be aware of others around you may need this kind of care and may have far less people who care than I do. Love goes a long way to healing a broken heart, of whatever stripe.

Jake and John Still Headed For the Movies

The Shack movie is being finalized for it’s March 3 release. A trailer should be out in the next week or so, hopefully sooner. There are lots of moving parts to get all this through the studio machinery.

On a less complicated note, this weekend the producer and screenwriter of the movie adaptation of So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore were in town. We recorded a video (pictured above, and now being edited) for use on a crowdfunding page we will be setting up over the next few weeks. What a joy it was to reconnect with both of them and their passion for this story. This story was never even supposed to be a book. It started out as a website, but people said they wouldn’t read it off a website, so we printed it up into a book and though it has been free since we wrote it, it has sold over 400,000 copies.  That was shock enough, I never dreamed it could be made into a movie.  It isn’t a dramatic story in a visual medium. It’s thirteen conversations between two men and that doesn’t make for a compelling movie. All the drama of the story goes on inside. So, we’ve adapted the story, added a lot more plot between the conversations and now it is a compelling and sometimes humorous story.

Jake is playing a game and doesn’t even know it. But when a crisis at work and a desperate need at home challenge his faith, it gives Jake a chance to reconsider everything and find his way out of the game into a vibrant connection with God that has interesting implications in his life.  Now with a screenplay completed that is generating some buzz in the industry, we are ready to see if we can find the funds to shoot the movie.Ninety percent of the stories that make it this far never get made into a movie, because finding the money is the hard part. We already have some solid interest on the investment front, so our producer is saying now there’s a 90% chance this movie will get made.

But we don’t want to do this on investment dollars alone. He also wants to have some dollars in the movie that are strictly from people who have a passion for the story and that can give us a seat at the table to help protect it’s message. So we’ve come up with the idea of seeing if there are people who love this story enough to help us raise part of the funds through Lifestream Ministries. Not only will that give you a tax-deductible receipt, but Lifestream a stake in the movie. If it generates a profit, our share of return will go to help fund our various projects in the world. For those who contribute we will also be offering an escalating array of gifts to connect them with the movie process. That will include free DVDs when the movie is completed, autographed copies of the book, and a free subscription to an insider mailing list as the film develops . People can even become co-executive producers and join me for a day on the set to see how it’s all done.  But mostly this will allow us to keep shaping the story to have maximum impact in the world.

That web page will be up in a few weeks, but I thought I’d give you a head’s up if you wanted some time to think and pray about joining our team. If you’re curious to know more, you can listen to a podcast I recorded with producer and screen writer while we were still hammering out the story a couple of years ago. You can find it here.

Do You Know What I Appreciate About You?

Three years ago for my birthday my daughter gathered letters from people all over the world who wanted to tell me what my life and friendship meant to them. That book is one of my most treasured possessions. Reading it is like attending my own funeral, things that people often don’t appreciate about someone until they’re gone. It has often been a great encouragement to keep living the life God has given me, even when things get rough and I’m misunderstood or even falsely accused by others. Affirmation is a powerful gift to give someone.

I’ve told Sara that those leaders speak to both of us, but she waved me off. They’re for you, she said, not for her. So for her birthday this year I made her own book. I asked people that knew Sara well if they would contribute a letter for her book. People were so willing and excited to tell Sara what her life has meant to them. And I found out Sara was right. What they said about Sara was so different than what had been said about me and painted an incredible picture of this woman I’ve had the privilege of living with for the past 41 years. I’ve always known she’s a magnificent treasure even as I get to see more of that treasure every year. But I was reduced to tears numerous times as I edited through the letters and created her book, adding pictures all the way back to our college days. It’s my latest work, and it was written for an audience of one! It may be my best book because I had so much help. But you’ll have to visit to read it.

I want to thank all those who contributed to this book. We will both be forever grateful that you have honored her with your expressions of kindness and friendship. Your words have washed over my wife like a refreshing shower after a hot day. She opened it last Sunday and just thumbing through it choked her up.  Now she’s had more time to read the individual letters and she thanks me every day for doing this.

I know many of you haven’t gotten the chance to know Sara. While she travels some with me, she can’t possibly go all the places I go nor is she called to. Many of you have heard me talk about her in my writings and recordings and I’ve even done a few podcasts with her, but I know many of you haven’t had the opportunity to sit with her and get to know the person behind the name or the voice. Those who have amazed me with the things they wrote about her. Here are just a few of them:

“…your gracious sense of hospitality, the way you never seem to judge anything we do but support us no matter what…”

“So often you’ve gone out of your way to do things for others even when that meant sacrificing on your own part. Nobody I’ve ever met has wanted to do more for others than you.”

“You have shown me nothing but kindness and love since I walked through the door.”

“I still feel completely loved and welcomed when I’m with you.”

“You were the physical representation of what God was inviting me into—love and acceptance.”

“When you least expect it, here comes a tender word from Sara asking how we are doing, and letting us know that she is thinking of us and knows how hard some of our days must be.”

“Your honesty and openness in sharing your story just makes the Sara we know even sweeter. Each time we see you I am more and more impressed by the way Father is moving you into a deeper place of trusting Him.”

“You care about people more than yourself or things.”

“You really understood my heart, you understood just how much pain I had been in and you didn’t back away from sharing that moment with me.”

“You care so deeply for your garden and the love that you pour into the space is evident not only in the breathtaking flowers and landscaping, but also in the atmosphere there. Your appreciation for beauty and the way that you cultivate it is incredible. There isn’t an inch of that space that you do not know or has not benefitted from your skillful touch.”

Sara will be the first to tell you that she’s far from perfect, that life isn’t about getting everything right. Folks schooled in religion find it way easier to focus on their weaknesses rather than celebrate where God’s glory displays itself through them.

We just don’t affirm each other enough. Perhaps we’re too insecure or self-focused, but can you imagine the world we’d live in if every time we were with someone we found something gracious and genuine to say about the gift they are in the world and the gift they are to us individually? Word of affirmation and gratefulness encourage God’s work in us like nothing else and after editing this latest book, I want to make sure I put even more of that in my conversations with people.

Don’t wait for a funeral or even for someone to edit a book. You can salt it into any conversation with these simple words, “You know what I appreciate about you…”

Imagine the gift you’d give someone who doesn’t often see their life the way God does.

Getting Updates from Our Websites

But first, I came across this quote the other day by Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt from his book, Everyone Belongs to God.  Immediately my heart resonates with this, but I realize how it is polar opposite to the way I used to think when I was younger. The hope then was to go from seeming powerlessness and helplessness to acquiring the knowledge and power to be able to fix things for myself and others.  But time and reality has won me away from such misguided notions.

You must learn to accept your weakness, your own poverty, and your own limitations, especially when the going gets rough. It is just through your weakness that our Savior can do his work (2 Cor. 12:9). He can manage what you cannot!…It’s often better not to get too involved in other people’s affairs, wanting to have a say in everything, because most of the time we don’t really know what the right step is. In the end, only God can work things out. Especially where there is sickness, poverty, or strongholds of temptation, you will have to realize your helplessness. You don’t need to be a knight in shining armor who is all set to kill the devil – no, we must learn to step back in faith and hope and keep the power of Jesus firmly in the center.

Brad and I discuss this quote on last week’s podcast because I wanted to know how he would think of it.  I now think we are at our most powerful when we put no confidence in our own abilities and can then allow God’s grace and strength to shine through our weakness.  If not, we become the annoying fix-it person who is out to get everyone else to do their bidding.

Now an important note about updates from our websites:  FaceBook has made it more difficult for you to view feeds from pages like Lifestream.org, TheGodJourney.com and FindingChurch.com. It is part of their strategy to increasing access through advertising and to create an addictive environment so that you will find it difficult to avert your eyes from FaceBook. What began as a way to connect people is now a full-fledged advertising venue.  Talk about mission creep!

However, if you’re missing these updates, you can restore them by going to the corresponding FaceBook pages: Wayne Jacobsen (Lifestream), The God Journey, or Finding Church, clicking on the “Liked” tab (see picture above) and in the drop-down menu click on “First” instead of using the default.  If there are updates on those pages, they will now show up at the top of your feed.  You can do this with any pages you want to follow and with the profiles of your friends and family by finding the drop-down menu under “Friends.”

It’s your feed, you ought to get what you want to see, not what FaceBook wants you to see.

You can also subscribe by email to the blogs on all three of those sites, so that when a new blog is posted you’ll receive it in your inbox. Just look at the top right hand page on those websites for the box to enter your email address.

At Home In the Sierras

Sara and I have arrived in the Sierras, Shaver Lake, CA our home away from home this time of year. I enjoy coming up here for a number of reasons. In the slower pace of summer it gives me a place to reflect on what God seems to be doing in my life and a place to write the projects on my heart.  Coming here also takes me back to the places where I vacationed in my childhood—alpine lakes, mountain meadows, and rocky outcroppings to scan the horizon by day or the undiluted stars at night.  It is hear that God has often spoken to me in ways that have been transforming as I go for a hike in the woods. No place on earth restores my soul more than here.

It also gives me four weeks visiting with my dad as he just turned 91.  He still cuts firewood, clears his driveway of snow in the winter and continues to listen to Jesus now two years out from my mom’s passing.  It also brings us near the Central Valley where Sara and I lived for 25 years and were we raised our children.  We have lots of people in this area that we have known for multiple decades and it is always good to catch up with them as well, or at least as many as we can fit in.

Today two people we’ve known for over forty years and have shared this journey of faith with in two different congregations are coming up for the day.  I love those  connections. The nourish my heart, but to have them Sara and I have stayed very intentional over the years of inviting people back into our lives and have probably done it far more than others have done it with  us, but they always seem to appreciate it.

And we’ll also get some vacation time in with our children, grandchildren, and other extended family who enjoy these mountains as much as I do.  But since we’re not close to all the things we do at home, things will slow down a bit at Lifestream. We’ll still be filling orders, but not quite as fast as we normally do. I’ll still blog a bit, but not as much as normal and I’ll still respond to emails, but that, too, will take more time.  This time is about listening and refreshing not keeping up with demands on my time. I hope y’all understand and give me some added space.

My podcast at The God Journey will continue for the next three weeks, as Brad and I had recorded some in advance, but after that we may have a brief hiatus as we are taking some time out this summer.

I am continuing the book discussion about Finding Church and today we’ll start chapter 5.  It’s not too late to join us. You can jump in at chapter 5 or review the previous chapters there as well.  This chapter shows how quickly and easily the history of our religious institutions departs from Jesus’ priorities by putting a premium on managing believers rather than helping them learn how to live in the fullness of his love.

Finally we’re in the last few days of getting people signed up for Israel. There are a few slots left and are available on a first-come, first-served basis, but registration must be completed by August 1.  You can get all the details here.

Last Chance To Sign Up for Israel

Registration closes in nine days!

If you’re interested in The God Journey tour of Israel with Brad Cummings and me, the time is at hand. August 1 is the cut-of date for registration we still have some slots for you if you’d like to join us. I know it is quite a time and cost commitment but was pleasantly surprised last time to have people come who didn’t think they had the means but watched God provide.  It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience to explore the Holy Land and see the land where God made himself known and out of which our Scriptures arose.

We have some amazing people already signed up and as happened last time I know you will enjoy the time getting to know others on a more relational journey from all over the world as much as you’ll enjoy the sites in Israel.  It’s a win/win.  You can read about our last tour here, or get the details for this one and sign up for this one here.

This land and its people are pivotal in the biblical story and it is here that history will reach its conclusion. No, God is not more present here than he is anywhere else on the planet, but if you’ve never been you have no idea how it will impact you to be in the very places you’ve read about so often and how it will change your reading of Scripture for the rest of your life.

For more information and registration click here.

Jerusalem

The Latest from Lifestream

Helping People Find a Better Path

As I write this, I’ve just returned from the east coast, in what proved to be an intense but fruitful time. So many people I met on this trip were in the throes of severe crisis, looking for a way to navigate their need with a loving Father alongside. Some had recently lost children to tragic accidents, one was about to lose her child to a congenital medical condition. Others were battling guilt from past religious experiences, or loneliness after no longer feeling connected to the congregations they used to attend.

No, I don’t try to fix all of that in a few hours or a few days, I simply look for a way to walk alongside people at that point in their journey and encourage them down the better road. If grief is isolating them or turning a couple against the other, I look for that path where grief promotes healing and encourage them to go that way way. If they are trying to earn their healing with one more prayer, or pretending to have “faith”, I help them relax and entrust all that to Jesus’ love for them rather than their own effort.

In every uncomfortable situation we stand at a crossroads. One path leads to greater freedom and life, the other to greater pain and destruction. Sometimes people can’t see the path to life and that’s where we can help point it out to them in simple encouragements. It isn’t always easy to see, but it leans toward trusting God to do in us what we could never do for ourselves.

I just put up a new blog today about handling the truth with love, which is part of my continuing series on The Phenomenon of the Dones.  That dovetails with this encouragement quite well. If you haven’t seen it, you can find it here.

Updates

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Come check out the changes at TheGodJourney.com. Now that The Shack movie is all but completed, Brad is back at co-host and we have re-designed the website for easier navigation and an updated look.  For the last issue we rolled out a new website for Lifestream.org. This month we have just completed a re-design of The God Journey.com d our new website this year, come take a look.  Everything I’m doing is easily accessed from the front page.

Join Brad and I in Israel for TheGodJourney Tour. Because the release of The Shack movie conflicted with our Israel dates, we had to move them to earlier in they year. We will now be headed to Israel January 25 through February 4, 2017.  The pre-trip to Petra has moved to January 22-25.  If you’re interested in joining us you can get all the details here. For those interested in the release date of the movie, it is now March 3, 2017.

The movie of So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore, called Out of the Game, is moving along nicely and stirring up some interest even among Christian filmmakers. We are getting ready to raise the needed capital to go into production. If you’d like to help with this project, either by being an investor in the movie, or through contributions to Lifestream, you will get your chance shortly. Keep an eye on Lifestream.org for details.  (If you’d like to subscriber to the blog, you will receive notifications by email whenever we post news there.

Torrential rains this spring have given us another setback in Kenya with a break out of Typhoid and malaria. Medical teams are in that region now to offer vaccinations and medial attention. If you’d like to help us with this need, you can get more information here.

The on-line book discussion of Wayne’s Finding Church continues in our new forum.  Come join us if you’d like to discover how to embrace the church that Jesus is building in your own corner of the world.

For the readers out there I’ve recommended eight good books this spring that I think many of you would enjoy. If you’re looking for some summer reading, scroll back a couple of months through the blog. You’ll find books on God’s mystery, discussing sexuality with your daughter, on death and tragedy, and even a book on marriage by a family court judge.

Upcoming Travel:  I’ll be in Alberta Canada from June 3-13, and then on it looks like I’ll be in Nashville and Bowling Green, KY on July 7-12, but that isn’t final yet.  Get all the details on Wayne’s Travel Schedule.  If you’d like to know when Wayne is visiting near you be sure and sign up for our mailing list and include your location so we can send you a notice.

In Case You Missed it…

To get all the latest information as it happens, you can subscribe to the blogs at Lifestream or The God Journey and receive notification in your email whenever we post something new.

The All New God Journey Site

All new!  Still free!

If you haven’t visited The God Journey website for awhile, now would be a good time.  Brad is back as co-host and we have a full re-design of the website and the podcast to update the look.  Still the same conversations, with new artwork and imagery and it’s still free!

Brad and I continue to explore our journeys and invite others along for the ride. We’re always blessed by the email we receive from people who are encouraged, challenged, or enlightened out of our conversations and thoughts about the journey.

New episodes post on Fridays. There are 532 shows in the archive. Every where I go people tell me how much my weekly conversations with Brad, others, or myself has helped to bring freedom and joy to their journey. We even included on the new page a list of some of the sweet things people have said or written about the podcast.  I’ll also include them here:

“I don’t think you realize what a lifeline the podcasts have been.”
“You articulate what I am feeling. Somehow I don’t feel alone when I listen to you and Brad talk.”
“Your conversations are like a cool breeze on a hot day.”
“It’s simply two real guys talking about life…”
“Keep slinging that freedom all over the place.”
“My entire outlook on life has changed overnight! My life has Life again!”
“The podcasts also gave me language and an eye to see what God was doing inside me.”
“Your compassion for both God and his children is refreshing and honest.”
“Yours is a sane voice in a crazy world.”

Who would have thought when we began recording our conversations 11 years ago, that it would have gone on this long and been helpful to so many?  We are blessed by the continued encouragement we get to record conversations that Brad and I find so joyful even if they were not.

The God Journey Goes to Israel

Two years ago I took my wife, son and 40 other people who have enjoyed my writings for an 11-day trip to the land of Israel. We had the time of our lives! Not only did we get to be where so much of redemptive history unfolded, but we also got to share it with people on a similar journey of learning to live in the Father’s affection and exploring more relational ways of finding church.

I am returning again in February 2017 to take my daughter and my niece on the same trip and you would be welcome to join us. Brad Cummings, my podcast partner at The God Journey, will also be joining us and adding his insights and passion to our tour. We are also adding an extended three days before the Israel tour for those would like to go to Jordan to visit Mt. Nebo, where Moses viewed the Promised Land, the ancient rock-carved city of Petra, and some added sites in Israel as we come back up to join the rest of those touring with us.

The cost of the Israel Tour will be less than $4000 per person, with double-occupancy and including airfare if you’re coming from the US.  Those of you traveling from elsewhere can just pay for the land tour and make your own flight arrangements to Israel.  If you’d like to join us for the three extra days in Jordan it will cost about $1300 extra. You can get all the details and register here.

This land and its people are pivotal in the biblical story and it is here that history will reach its conclusion. No, God is not more present here than he is anywhere else on the planet, but if you’ve never been you have no idea how it will impact you to be in the very places you’ve read about so often and how it will change your reading of Scripture for the rest of your life.

Jerusalem
Can you imagine what it is like…

  • to stand on the shore of Galilee with the water lapping at your feet
  • to climb Mt. Carmel where Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal
  • to look down from the Mt. of Olives at the very place where God’s temple stood
  • to be surrounded by 2000 year old trees in Gethsemane
  • to approach Temple Mount on stone pathways that date to the time of Jesus
  • to be in the very cell that held Jesus the night before He was crucified

jeruslamewwallMy first trip to Israel in 1997 proved to have far more impact on me than I ever thought it could and the one we took two years ago brought some amazing people together and began friendships from around the world that continue to flourish. My time in Israel gave me a different dimension of understanding for God’s work of redemption. I was drawn closer to His heart. I had touched the earth where He had walked. I had been given a first-hand look at the sky, hills, valleys, and waters where He lived out His physical life. I had experienced His earthly home!

israel3We’re making room for forty-five people to come with Brad and me.  As we journey, we’ll walk through the Scripture story. I’ll be sharing some thoughts at key sites designed to stimulate personal reflection. And as we go along, we will enjoy a joint conversation about how God is revealing Himself in us.

The Israel Tour Company, known for intimate tours that allow people to absorb the culture and history of the land, is taking care of all the details.  They have hosted both my previous trips there and I’m thrilled to be working with them again.

We have chosen to travel in February since the weather is comfortable in the desert locations. There aren’t as many tourists in the country at this time. And we can take a smaller, more intimate group more affordably. The length of the trip is designed to move us through the highlights of the country, still allowing time for reflection and a free day in Jerusalem. And for those who can come a bit early we are offering an extended three days to visit Mt. Nebo, where Moses died in Jordan, the ancient rock-carved city of Petra, and some added sites in Israel as we come back up to join the rest of those touring with us.

I hope you can join me for an amazing tour of Israel – one that will add so much to your understanding of who God is and how he wants to walk with us.

For more information and registration click here.

The Sheba Years

It seems our lives are measured in dog years.  Yesterday morning, on what would have been her thirteenth birthday, we put the remains of our beloved dog to rest in a corner of Sara’s garden.  And we cried, both at our loss of Sheba’s presence and in celebration of the love we shared together for so long.

We’re grateful for all thirteen of those years.  She wasn’t supposed to have so many. At six months of age our vet told us she wouldn’t live past five since she had such severe hip dysplasia. We were shocked at the news. Dogs don’t live long enough as it is, but only five years! As the news settled in Sara took a firm resolve.  “If she only has five years I am going to make sure they are the best five years any dog could ever have.” And she did, so much so that Sheba just kept on enjoying the life Sara made for her for eight extra years.

As we buried her ashes, we gave thanks to God for the gift Sheba was to our family.  She was a friend  to everyone and embraced life with a passion.  At the same time this black lab/German shepherd mix was a gentle soul. She thought fetching balls was a waste of time, but couldn’t resist a stick thrown into the ocean or a mountain lake. Swimming must have felt so good on her damaged hips. Perhaps her favorite thing was going for a ride in the car. You just mentioned a ride and she would go crazy, rushing for the door roiling with impatience.  Even if Sara didn’t have anywhere to go she would take Sheba for a ride anyway almost every day. She was Sara’s constant ompanion when working in the garden until her back legs wouldn’t follow her to get down there anymore, then she would sit on the grass watching Sara’s every move.

When she came into our lives I was still writing So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore, Sara had just earned her Master’s Degree in Guidance and Counseling and was employed by a local high school.  The God Journey wasn’t even a thought yet, nor was The Shack. We had no grandchildren. Sheba saw us through the joy of those years, as well as their challenges. And she fell in love with each grandchild we had and treated them oh so gently loving each grandchild in turn and winning them into her friendship.

On Easter a week before she died, all the kids were packed up ready to leave and were heading for the front door. All of a sudden we heard one loud bark from Sheba laying a rug unable to get up on her own.  That bark said everything:  “Don’t you dare leave this house without saying good-bye to me.” We all laughed at her indignation and rushed back to include her in the good-byes.

Yesterday morning we also reflected on what Sheba demonstrated to us about God’s love and care.  She was always there providing comfort and joy in the best and worst of times. Dogs are faithful no matter what. And you have no idea what adoration really is if you didn’t see Sheba watch Sara walk through a room. Her eyes were fixed on her with a look of wonder in her eye. She thought Sara was the most incredible human being to walk this planet.

We are embracing the grief now that our home is a bit emptier without her. We talk of her in the special places in our home where she used to keep watch. We speak of her often and how much we miss her. We made a video of her life to the tune of You Have a Friend in Me. We reminisce. We cry. We pray. Grief is a glorious process of crying out the pain to reclaim each memory, eventually taking out the sting of her loss and reveling in the joy of her time with us. It takes time, but it will work.

Yes, she is just a dog, but she’s was a beloved member of this family. She was a big part of the past 13 years and will always be a treasured part of our lives.  We miss her and all she represents to us.

But time marches on.

A new pup has already taken up residence in our home.

The Zoey years have just begun.

zoeypup

And the Winner Is….

Actually there is no winner. Over three hundred of you offered your thoughts and suggestions to me through Facebook, email, and blog comments to my recent post about book cover designs for The Phenomenon of the Dones. Thank you all for your help. It is greatly appreciated. My artist on this project commented how amazing it was to have so many readers care so deeply about the cover and offer us their input. Some even sent their own cover designs. It is incredibly inspiring to see so many people offer their input and ideas.

So which direction are we going? That was tough. The problem for me was not that there are good covers and bad covers, but that all of them resonated with me for different reasons, and all of had things about them I’d want to tweak. That’s what comps are for, to begin the process and find a cover that is both attractive, inviting, and conveys the heart of what’s inside.

Option 3, the staircase climbing out of the basement, had significantly more votes than the other two options. Though I love that cover, it is a bit more “institutional-looking” than I like, and way more formal. I can see how it really speaks to the journey of someone coming out of a more institutional environment and into greater light, life, and freedom. What I didn’t like about it was that it made the journey of the “Dones” more preferable than those who are still in more traditional congregations growing in the same life, freedom and passions as those who are no longer there.

I loved the mystery of the second one, but not the overly sinister look of it. Some compared it to a Stephen King feature. What I liked was the open door outward, which really gets to the issue of the so-called “Dones” and the feel of those inside who are missing their friends and relatives who no longer attend. As I said, I hope this e-book will encourage a conversation among all God’s children whether they go or not about what God seems to be doing with the breakdown we’re all experiencing with the traditional congregation no longer being the soul source of community, discipleship, and engagement with the world.

So we have reworked Option #2 to a softer image. You can see a larger version of it below.

donescoversingle

The danger of course of letting others give input is that some won’t like it or will have other ideas. In the end, of course, there is no right answer, obviously. Book covers like book reading is a matter of preference and there really isn’t a right or wrong.

Now I’ve got to get to writing the rest of it!

Which Cover Works for You?

As regular readers here know, I’ve been writing another book online, this one a special report relating to the latest research on those being called the “dones”, those who are giving up on the traditional congregational model for church and are looking for more relational realities.  This series is designed to help people understand what’s being going on for the past twenty-five years or more while inviting the body of Christ from all her expressions to an expanding conversation about the nature of the church and its unity in our day.

Those are going to be combined into a book and since I’m getting toward the end we are working on a cover for that book. Last time, readers of this blog and those who “like” its Facebook page provided some helpful input to sort out a cover for Finding Church: What if There Really Is Something More? This isn’t a vote to decide, but a chance to hear which cover resonates with you and why, which is very helpful for us in crafting a final cover that will serve the project well.

My hope for this book is that it will invite all followers of Jesus Christ into a better dialog about the nature of his work in the world. I don’t want to see yet another division among those who are learning to live in Father’s love, this one between the “dones” and “undones.” We have to see the life of Jesus as larger than the specific way we might encounter his church. For those who attend a local congregation and for those who are finding life in his church beyond it, we need a better conversation that coincides with Jesus’ prayer that the Father would make us all one, even as Jesus and his Father are one.

If you’ve missed this series of blogs, you can find the links on my latest in the series.

Take a look at the covers above. Which do you prefer and why? What would make it better?  You can comment on the blog, my Facebook page, or email me with your comments.

Thanks for your help.  You all make a pretty incredible focus group.

 

Bubble Gum Alley and a Meeting with John

Those of you that have read So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore will recognize the above photo. It was taken in San Luis Obispo, CA where the first chapter of the book was set. John disappears down this alleyway as Jake goes looking for him.  We were there awhile back and thought I’d post a picture of it. In case you didn’t believe it, people have been sticking their gum (and other things) to this wall for multiple decades. It is a bit creepy to be sure.

I am incredibly grateful at how this little book has touched lives around the world. I get email every week from people who found this story pivotal in their own journey. One of the more unique ones came in last week from Pooja and I wanted to share a bit of it with you.

I do not know where to begin thanking Jesus for your books and your life. I was born and raised Hindu and changed to Christianity at the age of nineteen. Thereafter for 18 years I was the most “faithful and committed Christian” that you could hope to find. My husband and I served our congregation in any which way that we could. He was both the deacon and the treasurer and I would not miss any opportunity to sing, teach or pray. However the spiritual emptiness that built inside of me caused me great depression and made me question my belief in Jesus.

To make a long story really short, I was on my way to agnosticism/atheism when the Lord met me in my closet in my home (My testimony starting from Hinduism leading up to this point is recorded in my book, And Then There Was Jesus.). Following this moment there was a very painful exodus from my church/community. The Holy Spirit kept on leading me to be like the apostle John. I felt like it meant taking a break from all religious activities and just spending the time to love and get to know the person of Jesus better and to start writing about Him.

I really doubted this inner voice. It was against everything I had been taught and whenever I missed my church friends the doubts would creep in. One day I prayed to the Lord to validate the thought that he wanted me to be like John and you cannot imagine my shock when I found your book So You Don’t Go to Church Anymore! Your book sits by my bed and reading it one time has not been enough. Whenever doubts creep in I go to different sections of this book and read it randomly and feel peace! You are an example of what God can do with just one person who follows their inner convictions no matter what the cost. I cannot say thank you enough!

Thank you, Pooja, for taking the time to write and let me know. I am honored that this book would be such a source of confirmation in your own journey and pray he will continue to lead you onward in his life.

Get Your Free Book

Just a reminder that from now until January 31, we are sending out a free copy of In Season to everyone who places an order at Lifestream as our gift. And if you order a copy of In Season, you’ll get two for the price of one. This is only for US addresses, since shipping is so costly overseas, but if we can fit it into an overseas order without having to send another package, we’ll include one there too.

I was reminded of this in a message from a friend from Ohio today.  Harvey wrote:

I’m investing in another read of In Season… What a breath of fresh air! I’m savoring instead of devouring it this time! The second time around I think I’m getting more out of it.. Thank you for the gift! It is ringing so true to the changing seasons in me ! Helping me relax into His ongoing purposes in me today.

This book takes me back to my roots.  I learned to walk with God in a  vineyard and the lessons of John 15 have shaped my life since. What does it mean to abide in Christ and how does that lead us to fruitfulness and fulfillment?  And how does Jesus work in different ways in the different seasons of our lives? This is not a set of principles to follow, but help recognize the different ways his Spirit works in us depending on what we’re going through at the moment.

This is one of my favorite books. I’m always blessed to hear when others are drawing life from it as well.

Travel Plans 2016

I announced at the beginning of the year that I’ve declared “Travel Request Bankruptcy” since my list of invites has gotten unimaginably long and some of those requests are now outdated. So if we’re not currently in a conversation about my coming your direction and you’ve been waiting for me to let you know, please get in touch with me and let me know you’re still interested. Or, if you have it on your heart to host a conversation in your area and haven’t asked before you can let me know that as well.  I’m building a new list of where I might travel.

What does it take for me to come?  Very little, actually. It all begins with an invitation. As we explore that we’ll look for Father to give us a sense of purpose and timing and who might join us, whether you want it just for your group or are open to inviting others. There are good reasons for either of those choices and I am convinced that those inviting me will know in their hearts which is best.  But there are few places I go that others who’ve read my books or follow The God Journey podcast, wouldn’t also want to join in as well. I mostly help facilitate conversations about the things I’m most passionate about—walking more deeply in his love, the nature of God revealed at the cross, how grace transforms us, or how we engage his church in the world. Some people, however, prefer more of a seminar setting where I’m sharing on a specify topic over a weekend and I’m happy to serve that, too.

And I come without any financial expectations. I have never charged for my travel, not even for the plane ticket. I come at my own expense, and trust that God is able to provide however he desires. If your people inviting me can help share that, I am always blessed but it is not required.

Sorting out my schedule is never easy because if I go very far I enjoy making use of the time by staying on for 10-12 days to meet with others in a given region that also want to have those conversations.  That’s why I often post locations before details are settled, because I want to see what other opportunities Father might have while I’m in the area.  Last year I put a trip together that took me to the suburbs of Chicago, up to Wisconsin, over to Pittsburgh before I finished up in Northeast Ohio. It makes good stewardship of the travel costs and my time.

I’ve only scheduled two trips so far this year, one a brief swing through Southern California (Redlands, Dana Point, and Temecula) the weekend of January 29-31, and then to Charlotte, NC from April 1-11.  It also looks like I’ll also be in Tulsa, OK in late February and Alberta during the latter part of May or early June. There are still plenty of open slots on these trips if you live nearby and have something in mind, but get in touch with me as soon as possible. You can keep an eye on my travel schedule, or access it from the front page at Lifestream.

In addition, there are some other invitations that have my attention and where I sense that God may want to do something this spring:

  • The United Kingdom
  • Northern Ireland
  • Maryland
  • Charlottesville, VA
  • Nashville, TN

If you are in these areas or nearby and want to host something, please let me know.  If  you just want to be informed when my travel details are finalized, please don’t write. A long time ago I lost track of all the people I know, where they live, and who wants me to contact them when I’m planning a trip to their area. So, I have an email list that tracks all that for me now. If you’d like to be notified when I’m coming to your area you can sign up on the Lifestream Email List and include your address.  (If you have previously signed up for Lifestream News or Travel Notifications you are already on that list.)

Change, Change, Change!

They say no one likes change except a wet baby. I remember using that line in a sermon years ago to great laughs. It’s not so funny anymore. I’ve actually come to enjoy change, well at least most of them.

No, I don’t enjoy when Sara moves things in the house from their usual spot and I can’t find them anymore. There I like familiarity. But in my own life and those around me, I’ve come to enjoy the changes that result from a growing confidence with the Father’s affection and engagement with him.  There will be more on this on the next episode of The God Journey Podcast.  Certainly the process isn’t easy, and in fact can be downright painful but the fruit of the process eventually overwhelms any pain.  When new freedoms emerge and people learn to live in his flow of love and grace, they feel as if a huge weight has fallen off their shoulders.  Many didn’t even realize they were carrying it. They notice it more when it’s gone and they can engage the ups and downs of life is so much lighter and more relaxed.

Of course not everyone around you will like those changes. They may miss the old you, or better said, what they could manipulate about the old you. One of the wonderful things Jesus’ church does in the world is to celebrate change with others and makes room it even if the relationship shifts a little. That’s how people and relationships grow, and the kingdom is about growth not stagnation.

None of that has anything to do with what I want to share today about some new changes at Lifestream, though. We had to rebuild our website due to some problems with the old platform we switched to three years ago and didn’t turn out to do for us what I was promised. So, we had to change again. Fortunately we’ve been able to keep most everything in the same place and I hope it will be an easier site to navigate. So hopefully this change isn’t all bad either.  We will continue to make some adjustments to the format for the next couple of weeks, but most you won’t notice.

The major change comes in our mailing list. Since we won’t be posting new issues of our newsletter anymore we folded all of our email lists together. For those who have subscribed to Lifestream News, Travel Updates, and the newsletter you will now receive all notices from Lifestream, which total about 3 or 4 per year, plus a notification if I’m traveling within 150 miles of where you live.  If you don’t wish to subscribe to that, just “unsubscribe” the next time you receive one of our emails, and I apologize in advance for any inconvenience this is to you.

In addition, you can also subscribe to my blogs on their respective websites at Lifestream.org, TheGodJourney.com or FindingChurch.com.  The sign up is in the upper right at Lifestream and Finding Church and on the lower left at The God Journey.  When you register your email, you will receive any new postings by email.  It’s a great way to keep up with all that’s going on around here

Unfortunately, since we switched platforms for our e-commerce we could not import your ordering details. The next time you order from us, you will need to register a new account with your shipping details.  Yes, that’s a hassle and I’m sorry.  Once we get through this transition, however, I’m convinced Lifestream.org will offer a better experience for those who find the resources here to be of help and encouragement to their journey.

Visit the New Lifestream.org

The Latest From Lifestream

wayne2015This has truly been an amazing year in so many ways.  Sara and I enjoy the place that God has given us to help encourage others on their journey and the perspective it gives us of his work in the world. These are truly amazing times we live in. Over the past few weeks we’ve announced a number of things having to do with Lifestream and what’s going on around here.  In case you missed any of it, I thought it might be helpful to put it all in one place:  

 

 

The Last Newsletter

This is the first newsletter we’ve done in three years, and it will be the last. We’ve done this for almost 20 years and there are just better technologies now to share more immediate information than a newsletter allows. Also the gap between issues got to wide since at this stage in life Wayne is working on books and other projects. You can view the latest version here, or go straight to the lead article, The Phenomenon of the Dones. We will continue to keep past articles in our archive and I will write more from time to time, but they will appear first in the blog before they are archived. If you want to keep up with all that we’re doing, please keep up with the blog or podcast. Next month we will launch a new Lifestream site and it will offer the opportunity to subscribe to the Lifestream blog so it appears in your inbox.  You can subscribe to the podcast now either through iTunes or by getting an email notice of new postings by signing up on the lower left of The God Journey page

 

Get a Free Copy of IN SEASON
With every order between now and January 31 we will include a free copy of Wayne’s book In Season: Embracing the Father’s Process for Fruitfulness and Fulfillment as our gift. It is a farmer’s view of John 15 and how to engage the process by which God invites us into his reality and shapes our lives with fulfillment and fruitfulness. Due to the significant costs of international shipping this offer is only for those shipped to US addresses. However, if there is room in the overseas packaging we will include one as well. You don’t have to do anything on your order to receive this gift.  We will just include it.

 

New Video Interview With Wayne

At the end of the summer Wayne sat down with Jeff Herr of DefiningRoots.com for a no-holes-barred question answer session where he freely probed my thoughts and passions and how I moved from being a pastor to helping those who felt they no longer fit in the traditional congregation. Jeff had had read my books and listened to my podcast, but we had not met before this trip. The result is an hour and 15 minute interview by a campfire in the growing dusk of late summer in Indiana. You can view it here.

 

Travel Invitations Bankruptcy
Wayne has had so many travel requests on a list, that it has become hopelessly out of date. So he’s assuming that if people still want him to visit, they will be in a continuing dialog with him about timing and purpose. If you are not currently in those conversations with him, please email him and let him know of your continued interest. Though he receives far more invitations than he can accept, he is always in prayer about those opportunities God might have for him.

 

Updates: The Shack and Jake Movies
The Shack Movie is now in post-production with a release coming in 2016 though a date has not been announced. Wayne visited the set during filming and has seen a rough cut of the production. Though he is not free to share in depth about what he’s seen until the movie is out, he’s excited about this adaptation of the story and the people it will touch.Also, So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore is in development and going well.The movie is tentatively titled, Out of the Game, and the screenplay is generating a bit of buzz these days with people in the industry. The script is done and some of the production team is being assembled.The story has been changed significantly, the same lessons are there for people who are tired of the religious game and want a more authentic spiritual journey. We are also receiving a lot of interest from the faith community with the screenplay. This is an amazing adventure.

Finding Church: What if There Really Is Something More?
The conversation continues to grow about finding church beyond our conventional congregations. If you haven’t read Wayne’s latest book helping people see the church Jesus is building, instead of the one humanity builds on his behalf, you can pick up a copy.It is available in print, by 3-book, or as an audio book. Links to order in all formats can be found here. It is also available now in German from a German publisher as The Community of a New Creation and in Spanish as a free PDF file.

He Loves Me Available in Spanish
For those who want to help spread the message in the Spanish-speaking world, this book is now in Spanish in print and by e-book. Order from Lifestream.org for paperback and by Amazon.com for Kindle version.

A Man Like No Other
We still find that many people don’t even know about this magnificent book Wayne and Brad wrote to illustrate some paintings about the life of Christ. A Man Like No Other is a powerful if unconventional look at the life of Jesus and many have found it useful to start family conversations about Jesus by making it part of their reading list. You can order your copy here.

Kenya
We continue to be involved with our Kenyan brothers and sisters in reaching out to the impoverished region of West Pokot.We just drilled two new wells for a total of six and have committed one million dollars over the next seven hears to help them find solutions to their food, medical, and education needs as well as to jump start a self-sustaining economy. We have helped train a team of four coaches who can help the villages work for their own solutions to these ongoing needs by using readily-available, local, low-tech resources to address the most significant need in their village. You can read a short story about the miraculous connections behind this story here.  If your heart is moved to help us, 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 • 1560-1 Newbury Rd #313 • Newbury Park, CA 91320. Or if you prefer, we can take your donation over the phone at (805) 498-7774.

Engage!
Just a reminder for those who are seeking to engage their own relationship with God, Lifestream has a series of 5-7 minute videos called Engage that Wayne recorded to help coach people as to how God builds a relationship with us.It starts with some specific ways you can begin to look for him in your own life, and then answers specific questions people have as that engagement begins.You can watch or download these videos for free and use them in your own personal journey or help facilitate a group of people exploring this growth together and encouraging each other in the process.

Why I Travel…

In a few hours I’ll depart for Orange County, CA and complete my last trip of the year there adding La Habra and Irvine to Toledo, Atlanta, Greenville, Orlando, Daytona Beach, Orange City, Sarasota, West Palm Beach, Denver, Loveland, Richmond, Riverside, South Lake Tahoe, Barcelona, Azille, Nimes, Fresno, Shaver Lake, Vancouver, Indianapolis, Walnut Creek, Prince Edward Island, Raymond, Millbury, Wichita, Chicago, Beloit, Jaynesville, Pittsburgh, and Millersburg, as some of the places I’ve visited this year.  In each of them I’ve been warmly received and generously cared for. Sara went on many of these trips with me, but many I went on alone because at times God has it for us to be in different parts of the world at the same time.

I’m often asked why I travel? If you know me well, you know I don’t enjoy most of what travel requires. I’ve never desired to see the world or enjoyed sitting on long airplaine flights. I don’t like being away from Sara and the family and friends we have in our lives. I wouldn’t do it to sell books, be a star at conferences, or to hold seminars. I do it simply because I sense that Jesus asks me to and the joy of that comes when I see lives touched and encouraged into more spacious places of God’s life. It’s part of seeing his kingdom grow in the world as I get to help people process their journey, learning to live in Father’s affection and connecting to others near them on similar journeys. In every one of those places above I have left good friends behind, even after knowing them for a few days. I love the people I get to spend time wtih and am honored by their stories and struggle to live deeply in the life of Jesus in a world that seeks to distract us from it.  

Sitting in a gathering in Trafford, PA on my last trip someone joked about me signing the plastic cloth on the table and the result is pictured above left. Yes, there were a lot of people around that table who had been deeply touched by some of my writings and podcasts and the conversation was robust, enlightening and heart-warming. Yes, I was there, but more importantly, when I leave I know that Jesus is still there. When I got back from this last trip, I found a note waiting for me that sums up why I travel better than anything I could say, and what I hope happens in people’s hearts when I do:

I am so thankful my friends invited me to come talk with you this week…I had no preconceived notions of who you were or what this event would be like, but considering the traumatic events I’ve gone through in the recent past, I still had some fears that you would treat me like the majority of other Christians in my life. I am so thankful you did the exact opposite – you showed me Jesus…but also you showed me a human who isn’t Jesus and you don’t pretend to be his twin or understudy.  Thank you for not being anything but who you are.  I am very quick to see the best in people when I have obviously been horrifically burned before in that department…but I have to learn how to trust in a SAFE, wise fashion eventually, so why not start with you?

If that’s what people get out of my visits, then I am deeply blessed. I don’t live this journey flawlessly but I hope to reflect enough of his light and life that others are encouraged in their own journey of learning to live in his reality. That fruit alone is enough reason to take this on the road when he asks.

Two others expressed similar gratefulness for our connection.  

“You reflect our Fathers love quite well, which might explain us acting like a bunch of fun-loving kids!”

“Thank you is too small a word to express how grateful we are to God for bringing you into our lives.  To have a brother to be able to visit with like we do with you is priceless…  We love how Father made your beautiful heart.”

I love what God does when he brings people together. I dont’ know where I’ll go next year. I’m still praying about what he might have in mind. In all honesty, however, I’ve had to declare bankruptcy on my travel invitations. I probably am not able to go to half the places I’m invited to and my list of invitations has gotten long and some on it are from a long time ago. So if you’ve invited me to come your way in the past, and we have not had any exchange about it in the last six months, please let me know again so I know there is still an interest and a purpose to my coming.

I’m amazed at how many people do this, especially when I don’t do many conferences or speaking events. I simply enjoy hanging out for a few days talking about this amazing journey and helping people process things they’ve heard or read from me. It also gives an opportunity for people in the same area who are hungry for similar things to connect. I’ve introduced a lot of people to others who became good friends.  I am often asked what it takes to get Wayne Jacobsen to visit somewhere. It simply takes an invitation and a wilingness to facilitate an opportunity for people to come together. There’s no manual for doing this. Mostly I meet with people in homes, garages, shops, or stores, wherever we can find a place for people to come and share part of a day together. If those people can help with my travel expenses and time away, that’s awesome. If they can’t, I know God will have other ways to take care of it.  

So the real heros are those that invite me to come, find a place for us to gather, communicate with those who want to come, and coordinate whatever refreshments and food we might share. Without them none of this would happen.  I am so grateful for all my hosts over the years. Their graciousness opens a wide door for others to be touched. Thank you so much for being part of his kingdom growing in the world…

 

FINDING CHURCH release in German

Glory World Medien has just released Finding Church in German.  They have done many of my other books three and are calling this one, The Community of the New Creation. I’m surprised at the hunger in Germany for so many to think outside the box of religious obligation and discover that Jesus is building a church in the world that is rising with magnificent splendor. She sometimes overlap our human attempts to build “churches”, but she transcends it in so many ways as well.  Many are discovering that his church is more like wildflowers scattered on a hill side rather than the manicured hedges of a formal garden. I love the conversation this is stirring and the courage people take in re-examining what we’ve called the “church” to see if there aren’t better ways to express the life of his community.  

Thanks to the efforts of Glory World, the message is spreading in Germany.  I get many emails from there and am blessed by the friendships I’ve formed in my previous visits there. There are also translations in process for Finding Church into French and Dutch.  

 

Last Trips of the Year

I’ve just finalized my travel schedule to year’s end, and if you want to join me somewhere along the way, you can contact the link below and come join us. I’ll begin in Chicago, make my way into southern Wisconsin, and then off to northeast Ohio.  I actually still have an evening free on Wednesday, November 18, which I will use for some rest, or to connect with those who might want to in either near Cleveland, OH, Columbus, OH, or Pittsburgh, PA. I  have feelers out for all of those right now.  The others you can connect to through my travel page. After Thanksgiving I’m making one more trip, this one by car to Orange County California to spend time with people there during the first week of December. 

The reason I travel these day is to have “conversations that matter with people who care.” I don’t do a lot of presentations or seminars unless someone insists on it. I travel to help people process their journey along the lines of those things I’ve written about or shared on The God Journey, to equip others to live loved and learn how to love others in a way that helps the church take shape, and to be a catalyst for bringing people together who are exploring a similr journey so they can meet others along the way. 

I haven’t scheduled any trips in 2016, though I’m seriously considering a trip to England early in the year. I’ve got a ton of interest from there. Other than that, I’m dangerously close to declaring invite bankruptcy. I have a huge list here of people that have invited me to various places around the world that I haven’t gotten to yet and I’m not even sure who is still interested in my coming, or has a vision for it. When I haven’t heard from these people in a while, I assume they are no longer interested. So, if it is on your heart to have me come, you might re-invite me. If I travel far, I look for other interest in the area to make good use of time and cost of travel. So if you’ve invited me, don’t assume it’s still on my radar screen. Please let me know where you’d like me to come, when you’d like me to come, and what’s on your heart about why I would come. Then we can pray together and see what Father makes clear. I really don’t try to control where I go, and I’m sorry if I haven’t been to your region recently.

And, please, only invite me if you know of someone willing to host a gathering. If you just want me to let you know when I’m coming to your area I lost track of that a long time ago. But I have an email list that tracks all that for me now. If you’d like to be notified when I’m coming to your area you can sign up for Wayne’s Travel Notifications.  

What does it take for me to show up somewhere? How much do I charge? What kind of meetings do you need to plan? I only travel when God clearly directs me to go somewhere and when I see a clear purpose in my coming and at least a handful of people who want to explore the journey. It helps if people on the other end have that as well. I do not charge anything, even for my own airfare.  I go where God sends me and trust that he will provide whatever I need. If the people inviting me can help with my expenses and my time, that’s always a blessing, but it is not necessary. God has so many ways to provide for whatever he wants. If you want me to cover a specific topic while I’m there, I’m happy to consider it. Mostly, though I find open conversations lead us wherever we need to go. I encourage people to open the meetings to others on my mailing list because there are always people nearby who are hoping to meet on others on this journey, but you don’t have ot. If you have a specific group that wants to explore some things more privately, I’m happy to pray about that. This is really about serving you and what you see God doing in your area, not trying to control the outcome myself.  

I’ve been traveling extensively for over 25 years now to help encourage the body of Christ and see what connections he wants to produce in the world. I’ve never had a bad experience and my life has been wonderfully enriched by seeing his hand and meeting his people all ove rthe world.  But honestly, I don’t do it because I love it.  I’d rather spend every night of my life home with Sara. But I know God has a purpose in these things and I’m happy to serve you and him when he makes that clear. 

 

 

Five Hundred Episodes of The God Journey

 

Last week I taped the 500th episode of The God Journey with my former co-host, Brad Cummings joining me again.  It will air this Friday morning.  (We actually taped the 501st one as well, since we couldn’t stop talking!)

 
When we began over ten years ago, I would never have guessed our little radio show on the Internet would have survived this long or would have touched the people it has touched.  On Facebook last week I asked those who wanted to celebrate this journey with us, to either post or send me thoughts about what this podcast has meant to them and their journey. I’ve been overwhelmed by the responses.

I’ll share many of those below, but before I do, I want to share what this podcast has meant to me. Through this podcast my friendship with Brad grew and it provided an environment for my own discovery and growth as we talked about things neither of us had contemplated before. It also put me in touch with thousands of people all over the world who are on some incredible journeys, with a passion and depth in God’s life that has enriched my own relationship with him. It’s still a bit weird meeting new people who know everything about me and my family. I forget just how much of our personal lives have found their way onto that podcast, and how much that has encouraged others. 

I’m amazed at all the people who listen, many from the very beginning and even more in awe that some people today still go back through the archive and have listened to all of them over the past year.  We will talk more about this on the podcast this week, but no one is more amazed than I am at where this little podcast has gone and the lives it has encouraged and connected. I continue to meet people around the world who first connected on the forum, blog, or Facebook page of this podcast and ended up in close, personal friendships.  I am grateful for the ways you engage each other, how you’ve shared the podcasts and books with your friends. This was the audience that launched The Shack, when no one else even had the book. Who knew at the time it would sell over 24 million copies worldwide and now being turned into a movie? 

I am so grateful to all who wrote and share their thoughts. We probably have been encouraged way more than we’ve encouraged others. If you’d like to add your thoughts you can do so in the comment section below.  
Now here is what some of you said about The God Journey podcast.

Claudia:  Changed.  My.  Life.

Traci: Having a couple of guys talk about freedom, life, and grace in a way that stirs the depths of your heart and soul – how do I put it into words? The beginning of understanding “he loves me and he is especially fond of me.” It was life changing.

Rick: Thanks guys, your Podcasts really helped me leave a restricted mess called religion.

David: They are a breath of fresh air in a world of stale ideas.

 

From Chris:  Thank you so much for sharing the awesome truths about our Father’s intense love and affection for us!!  I have been digesting and meditating on these truths the last few years and God has brought so much freedom and joy to my life.  I spent the first 20 years of my Christian life nearly killing myself trying to gain God’s acceptance and approval through my performance. However, I am so thankful that for the last three years He has lead me to Bible teachers like you guys that teach the truth of our God.  These truths have been like refreshing water and a healing ointment to my soul.

From Greg in NY:  Thanks for doing so many. They are an encouragement to me, and so many more. Since we first learned of your writings back in … maybe 2002? When you were writing “the Jake book” chapter by chapter online…. you (both) have been an encouragement to me to continue to listen to, follow, and want to really know Father, who loves me more than I can truly understand. And I’ve found equal encouragement in listening to your words and conversations, which echo those that God has been whispering in my own heard and mind.  My first thought when I read your post was to share our new song, This Journey, because it celebrates what this journey has meant to us. 

Jarred: I’m not your target audience by any means, as I’m 20 years old and have virtually no church background. Just wanted you to know that I really enjoy your podcast.  I particularly enjoy your discussions about relationships, and your ideas seem to coincide with the ones I’ve built over the past two years. To keep the story short, I moved out of my parents place and moved in with my best friend’s family. I already had a very close relationship with my friend, but what caught me off guard was how out of nowhere I began to build a relationship with his father (who also listens to this podcast). We just started talking, and somehow it grew into an authentic, loving relationship with no authority; just conversation.  I’ve been thinking about this more lately, but I really feel that genuine relationships with God at the center bloom naturally. Forcing it, especially in the way religious organizations seem to, leads to an insincere relationship where barriers, such as authority or conformity, prevent individuals from connecting. How can someone be the treasure they were created to be? I’m sure this is something you’ve already explored.

‪Karine:  I’ve been listening for a number of years and the podcasts have been such a support though many difficult times can’t thank the lord enough for you both and the commitment to doing this.

Kim:  Oh my goodness…the podcasts were my lifeline, as far as having someone who understood, for months after leaving the institutional world we’d been part of for 32 years! I knew God had led us out, and you, Wayne, He loves Me, and the podcasts really helped confirm and affirm the journey we knew it was time for us to begin. He Loves Me, changed my life, actually! Note to Brad Cummings: Your laughter!!! Oh my, how I miss the sound of it!! Hope you are doing lots of it these days! Enjoy you both and the encouragement you’ve been. Can’t wait to hear number 500…Live loved!!

Shari: I’m just so grateful for your podcasts over the years. It really does help to hear another voice echo what Father puts on my heart about fellowship and church. It’s easy to fall back into wanting the social life created within an institution but that comes with so much restriction and falseness. I love to live free in Fathers love and your podcasts remind me to stay the course. Friends are fewer but they are truer.

Scott:  A friend recommended So You Don’t Want to go to Church Anymore? And that led to the podcast which led to The Misunderstood God book which led to being the heretic that a lot of my Christian friends think I am now. Thanks a lot! No really, I’m not kidding. I really enjoyed the podcast when it was you and Brad, but I think I’m getting more out of it now

Chris:   This podcast has meant so much to me. “An ever expanding conversation” is a good way to describe it. I’m so thankful to God for bringing voices like yours into my life and freeing me from religious thinking at such an early part of my walk. Thanks for the conversations!

Terri: I quit my job at the local church back in ’05, hoping there was a better way, but feeling as if I’d ruined everything. You guys convinced me otherwise. At your encouragement, I spent the next two years in the Gospels getting to know Jesus, and oh my word! The last 10 years have been nothing short of spectacular. Thanks for being there and inviting us into love with Dad.

Dawnna:  I can echo many of the comments about The God Journey being a lifeline. I didn’t have a clue the depths of my hunger in wanting to know the love of Father and the church Jesus is building until I started listening to the podcasts. You set my heart on fire. And it all started with your opening lines “living outside the box of religious performance and inside the Father’s affection”. That’s all it took to launch me on my journey. Thank you for being the vehicle in which God called me to open my eyes to see Him more intimately. I will always be eternally grateful.

Ashley: The podcast, in addition to the website resources, has been an amazing support in my journey to getting to know my Father for who he really is. So grateful for the perspective shifts you and your guests provide in my thinking about how to live this out every day.

Doug: Wayne and Brad, this may be after you tape, but the podcast has certainly been used in my journey to freedom from the shoulds and into the freedom of living adventurously expectant in the love of Papa.

Hayley:  I LOVE your podcasts! Happy 500th taping!

Jerrine: So grateful for your podcasts and encouragement to live loved.

Pat: Your podcast has been an encouragement and a sane voice of the faith.

Bob: I found the God Journey just as the Pharisees’ showed their true selves where I attended and was an usher, worship team singer, and men’s group breakfast cook. Since I left, not one man from there has called me for golf, beers, hanging out. But Wayne and Brad showed me a new path, a new journey if you will. Now when I am asked if I go to church, I say “I am on a God Journey”. And the conversation begins.
Randy: I have really enjoyed The God Journey. Thanks to Wayne and Brad for taking the time to show us Jesus all these years.

Timothy: I just want to thank you both SO MUCH for having taken the time for these podcasts over the years. They have helped me immensely in my walk and relationship, through some VERY difficult times.  In addition they have been a big help in connecting with the body worldwide in a very real way. 

Kedish: This podcast has encouraged me a lot and is helping me also to be in the Journey of learning to know our Father’s heart (to rest in His love) away from religion and the system in the world. I really enjoyed it God bless you brothers.

 

John: What I have learned? I have learned that God loves me not for what I could be, might be , or when I get my crap together or performance of likeability or spelling  in an email….. He Love Me in all my mess and doubt and pain and brokenness. He Loves Me one hundred percent NOW. Just as I AM ….  My question is not to you, but to my Papa.. “How Deep Is Your Love?”

 

Ken: I believe I have been following Wayne for twenty years now.  Just when I was about to go full tilt house church out of frustration with the typical congregation model Wayne’s word of caution helped me avoid another cul-de-sac , and am now gratefully disillusioned .. the ping-pong that Wayne and Brad provided weekly was extremely helpful to know others were on similar journeys and the grace at which you both allowed another season of life to not derail your friendship was priceless. Glad you get to record a 500th podcast together.. Looking forward to the laughter and the serious .. you both do that so well.

Liz:  I’ve really enjoyed hearing what I believe the Lord has been speaking to me for the last thirty yrs, confirmed in so many lives in so many different places around the world. It’s always encouraging to hear of others experiences and perspectives. I love the fact that we are all works in progress and Father is not in the cloning business. It’s all about our love relationship with Him, which in turn enables us to truly relate to each other in love. Jesus is indeed building His church and there is not an ounce of religious ambition, obligation or conformity anywhere to be seen—just real people, free to be honest about where we’re at, encouraging and being encouraged as we learn to live in the Father’s love and view life and each other from this perspective.

Charlie:  You guys have brought such a fresh blend of personality and life to a subject I had only previously known as cold and uninviting. Both of your work is very much appreciated, we all need more people like you guys! I feel like in my time listening along, that I have gone from walking to running and have grown immensely. The training wheels are off and the rush of riding absolutely free is beyond description! Thank you for your courage and determination to stay true to the course, and for offering such a life-giving resource for free. You have shown us all truly what life with God all about and that this life is worth living!!

Kevin: I remember listening to you guys some years ago. I was at the gym and your were discussing if penal substitution was good or bad-now I didn’t know what that was but thought it was something quite different if you get my drift!

Tracy: Hearing your perspectives (even when they differ) has been life changing for me! Thank you for providing a safe place to ask big questions, and know in a deeper way just how much God loves me.

Heather:  The podcast really helped me sort through all the emotions of leaving the institution. It was comforting and encouraging to hear that others had similar incidents and feelings.

If you’d like to add your thoughts, you may do so in the comment section below…

Is THE SHACK Heresy?

We knew it would happen eventually. Frankly we thought it would happen far sooner and in far greater quantity than we have seen to date. But we knew The Shack was edgy enough to prompt some significant backlash, which is why so many publishing companies didn’t want to take it on at the beginning.

I never thought everyone was going to love this book. Art is incredibly subjective as to whether a story and style are appealing. I have no problem with a spirited discussion of some of the theological issues raised in The Shack. The books I love most are the ones that challenge my theological constructs and invite a robust discussion among friends, whether I agree with everything in them or not in the end,. That is especially true of a work of fiction where people will bring their own interpretations of the same events or conversations. I never view a book as all good or all bad. It’s like eating chicken. Enjoy what you think is the meat and toss what you think are the bones.

What is surprising, however, is the hostile tone of false accusation and the conspiracy theories that some are willing to put on this book. Some have even warned others not to read it or they will be led into deception. It saddens me that people want to use a book like this to polarize God’s family, whether it’s overenthusiastic reader thrusting it in someone’s face telling them they ‘must read’ this book, or when people read their own theological agendas into a work, then denounce it as heresy.

If you’re interested, read it for yourself. Don’t let someone else do your thinking for you. If it helps convey the reality of Jesus to you, great! If all you can see is sinister motives and false teaching in it, then put it aside. I don’t have time to give a point-by-point rebuttal to the reviews I’ve read, but I would like to make some comments on some of the issues that have come up since I’m getting way too many emails asking me what I think of some of the questions they raise. I’ll also admit at the outset, that I’m biased. Admittedly, I’m biased. I was part of a team who worked with the author on this manuscript for over a year and am part of the company formed to print and distribute this book. But I’m also well acquainted with the purpose and passions of this book.

What do I think? I tire of the self-appointed doctrine police, especially when they toss around false accusations like ‘new age conspiracy’, ‘counterfeit Jesus’ or ‘heresy’ to promote fear in people as a way of advancing their own agenda. What many of them don’t realize is that research actually shows that more people will buy a book after reading a negative review than they do after reading a positive one. It piques their curiosity as to why someone would take so much time to denounce someone else’s book.

But such reviews also confuse people who are afraid of being seduced into error and for those I think the false accusations demand a response. Let me assure any of you reading this that all three of us who worked on this book are deeply committed followers of Jesus Christ who have a passion for the Truth of the Scriptures and who have studied and taught the life of Jesus over the vast majority of our lifetimes. But none of us would begin to pretend that we have a complete picture of all that God is or that our theology is flawless. We are all still growing in our appreciation for him and our desire to be like him, and we hope this book encourages you to that process as well. In the end, this says the best stuff we know about God at this point in our journeys. Is it a complete picture of him? Of course not! Who could put all that he is into a little story like this one? But if it is a catalyst to get thousands of people to talk about theology—who God is and how he makes himself known in the world—we would be blessed.

This is a story of one believer’s brokenness and how God reached into that pain and pulled him out and as such is a compelling story of God’s redemption. The pain and healing come straight from a life that was broken by guilt and shame at an incredibly deep level and he compresses into a weekend the lessons that helped him walk out of that pain and find life in Jesus again.

That said, the content of this book does take a harsh look at how many of our religious institutions and practices have blinded people to the simple Gospel and replaced it with a religion of rules and rituals that have long ceased to reflect the Lord of Glory. Some will disagree with that assessment and the solutions this book offers, and the reviews that do so honestly merit discussion. But those who confuse the issues by making up their own back-story for the book, or ascribing motives to its publication without ever finding out the truth, only prove our point.

Here are some brief comments on the major issues that have been raised about The Shack:

Does the book promote universalism?

Some people can find a universalist under every bush. This book flatly states that all roads do not lead to Jesus, while it affirms that Jesus can find his followers wherever they may have wandered into sin or false beliefs. Just because he can find followers in the most unlikely places, does not validate those places. I don’t know how we could have been clearer, but people will quote portions out of that context and draw a false conclusion.

Does it devalue Scripture?

Just because we didn’t put Scriptural addresses with their numbers and colons at every allusion in the story, does not mean that the Bible isn’t the key source in virtually every conversation Mack has with God. Scriptural teachings and references appear on almost every page. They are reworded in ways to be relevant to those reading the story, but at every point we sought to be true to the way God has revealed himself in the Bible except for the literary characterizations that move the story forward. At its core the book is one long Bible study as Mack seeks to resolve his anger at God.

Is this God too nice?

Others have claimed that the God of The Shack is simply too nice, or having him in humorous human situations trivializes him. Really? Who wants to be on that side of the argument? For those who think this God is too easy, please tell me in what way does he let Mack off on anything? He holds his feet to the fire about every lie in his mind and every broken place in his heart. I guess what people these critics cannot see is confrontation and healing inside a relationship of love and compassion. This is not the angry and tyrannical God that religion has been using for 2000 years to beat people into conformity and we are not surprised that this threatens the self-proclaimed doctrine police.

One reviewer even thought this passage from The Shack was a mockery of the true God: “I’m not a bully, not some self-centered demanding little deity insisting on my own way. I am good, and I desire only what is best for you. You cannot find that through guilt or condemnation….” That wasn’t mocking God but a view of God that seems him as a demanding, self-centered tyrant? The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ revealed himself as the God who would lay down his life for us to redeem us to himself.

The words, “I don’t want slaves to do my will; I want brothers and sisters who will share life with me,” are simply a reflection of John 15:15. Unfortunately those who tend toward legalism among us have no idea how much more completely Jesus transforms us out of a relationship of love, than we could ever muster in our gritted-teeth obedience. This is at the heart of the new covenant—that love will fulfill the law, where human effort cannot.

Does it distort or demean the Trinity?

One of the concerns expressed about The Shack is that it presents the Trinity outside of a hierarchy. In fact many religious traditions think they find their basis for hierarchical organizations in what they’ve assumed about the Trinity. To look at the Trinity as a relationship without the need for command and control is one of the intriguing parts of this story. If they walk in complete unity, why would a hierarchy be needed? They live in love and honor each other. While in the flesh Jesus did walk in obedience to the Father as our example, elsewhere Scripture speaks of their complete unity, love and glory in relating to each other. Different functions need not imply a different status.

This extends in other ways to look at how healed people can relate to each other inside their relationship with God that defines authority and submission in ways most are not used to, but that are far more consistent with what we see in the early believers and in the teaching of Scripture. It is also true of many believers around the world who are learning to experience the life of Father’s family without all the hierarchical maintenance and drama that has plagued followers of Christ since the third century.

People may see this differently and find this challenging, if only because it represents some thought they have not been exposed to before. Here we might be better off having a discussion instead of dragging out the ‘heretic’ label when it is unwarranted.

Does it leave out discussions about church, salvation and other important aspects of Christianity?

This is some of the most curious complaints I’ve ever read. This is the story about God making himself available to one of his followers who is being swallowed up by tragedy and his crisis of faith in God’s goodness over it. This is not a treatise on every element of theological study. Perhaps we should have paused in the story to have an altar call, or perhaps we should have drug a pipe organ into the woods and enlisted a choir to hold a service, but that was not the point.

Is this a feminist God?

The book uses some characterizations of God to mess with the religious stereotypes only to get people to consider God as he really is, not how we have reconstituted him as a white, male autocrat bent on religious conformity. There are important reasons in the story why God takes the expressions he does for Mack, which underlines his nature to meet us where we are, to lead us to where he is. While Jesus was incarnated as man, God as a spirit has no gender, even though we fully embrace that he has taken on the imagery of the Father to express his heart and mind to us. We also recognize Scripture uses traditional female imagery to help us understand other aspects of God’s person, as when Jesus compares himself to a hen gathering chicks, or David likens himself to a weaned child in his mother’s arms.

Has it touched people too deeply?

Some reviewers point to Amazon.com reviews and people who have claimed it had a transforming effect on their spiritual lives as proof of its demonic origin. Please! How absurd is that? Do we prefer books that leave people untouched? This book touches lives because it deals with God in the midst of pain in an honest, straightforward way and because for many this is the first time they have seen the power of theology worked out inside a relationship with God himself.

Does The Shack promote Ultimate Reconciliation (UR)?

It does not. While some of that was in earlier versions because of the author’s partiality at the time to some aspects of what people call UR, I made it clear at the outset that I didn’t embrace UR as sound teaching and didn’t want to be involved in a project that promoted it. In my view UR is an extrapolation of Scripture to humanistic conclusions about our Father’s love that has to be forced on the biblical text.

Since I don’t believe in UR and wholeheartedly embrace the finished product, I think those who see UR here, either positively or negatively are reading into the text. To me that was the beauty of the collaboration. Three hearts weighed in on the theology to make it as true as we could muster. The process also helped shape our theologies in honest, protracted discussions. I think the author would say that some of that dialog significantly affected his views. This book represents growth in that area for all of us. Holding him to the conclusions he may have embraced years earlier would be unfair to the ongoing process of God in his life and theology.

That said, however, I’m not afraid to have that discussion with people I regard as brothers and sisters since many have held that view in the course of theological history. Also keep in mind that the heretic hunters lump many absurd notions into what they call UR, but when I actually talk to those people partial to some view of ultimate reconciliation they do not endorse all the absurdities ascribed to them. This is a heavily nuanced discussion with UR meaning a lot of different things to different people. For myself, I am convinced that Jesus is someone we have to accept through repentance and belief in this age to participate in his life.

Throughout The Shack Mack’s choices are in play, determining what he will let God do in his life through their encounter. He is no victim of God’s process. He is a willing participant at every juncture. And even though Papa says ‘He is reconciled to all men” he also notes that, “not all men are reconciled to me.”

Is the author promoting the emergent movement?

This guilt-by-association tactic is completely contrived. Neither the author, nor Brad and I at Windblown have ever been part of the emergent conversation. Some of their bloggers have written about the book, but we have not had any significant contact with the leaders of that movement and they have not been the core audience that has embraced this book.

That said I have met many people in the emergent conversation that have proved to be brothers and sisters in the faith. While I’m not nuts about all they do, a lot of the statements made about them by critics are as false as what some say about The Shack. They do deeply embrace the Scriptures. As I see it they are not trying to re-invent Christianity, but trying to communicate it in ways that captures a new generation. While I don’t agree with many of the conclusions they’re sorting through at the moment, they are not raving humanists. I have found them passionate seekers of the Lord Jesus Christ, who are asking some wonderful questions about God and how he makes himself known in us.

Does The Shack promote new age philosophy or Hinduism?

Amazingly some people have made assumptions about some of the names to think there is some eastern mysticism here, but when you hear how Paul selected the names he did it wasn’t to make veiled references to Hinduism, black Madonnas, or anything else. It was to uncover facets of God’s character that are clear in the Scriptures.

It’s amazing how much people will make up to indulge their fantasies and falsely label something to fit their own conclusions. Some have even insisted that Mack flying in his dreams was veiled instructions in astral travel. Absolutely absurd! Has this man never read fiction, or had a dream? Just because someone screams there is a demon under that bush, doesn’t mean there is.

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We realize this would be a challenging read for those who see no difference between the religious conditioning that underlies Christianity as it is often presented in the 21st Century and the simple, powerful life in Christ that Jesus offered to his followers. Our hope was to help people see how the Loving Creator can penetrate our defenses and lead us to healing. Our prayer is that through this book people will see the God of the Bible as Jesus presented him to be—an endearing reality who wants to love us out of our sin and bondage and into his life. This is a message of grace and healing that does not condone or excuse sin, but shows God destroying it through the dynamic relationship he wants with each of his children.

We realize folks will disagree. We appreciate the interaction of those who have honest concerns and questions. Those who have been captured by this story are encouraged to search the Scriptures to see if these things are so and not trust us or the ravings of those who misinterpret this book, either threatened by its success, or those who want to ride on it to push their own fear-based agenda.