Behind the Scenes

FINDING CHURCH Now Available in French as Découvrir l’église

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Going Live at 1:00 pm Pacific Time Today

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

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

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

In Celebration Our Offices Are Closed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conversations About the Law and Freedom

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

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

In Recovery Again

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

Again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I pray that for you, too!

New Travel Dates Announced

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last Week Was Crazy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, and here are the pictures I promised

Sara registering people for the movie

Brad and I interacting with the audience after the show

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

Brad and I sharing the story at the After Party

Our celebration cake at the open house the following day

 

The Shack Opens Tonight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Back to Israel!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Move Along Now, Nothing to See Here

I have been so grateful for so many of you who have helped carry me through this surgery and recovery. I’ve received so many emails, cards, phone calls from so many of you, as well as shared walks and conversations that have made this all incredibly smooth. This is my last update regarding my heart surgery and recovery.   I am now 10 weeks from surgery and feel as if I’m 90% back to normal. My only limitation now is not exerting my heart too much until it is fully healed. My maximum heart rate for exercise now is about 120 and increases each week. I had my 10-week check up with my cardiologist earlier this week and we couldn’t have been more pleased with the results.  Everything is normal at this stage of recovery and the extensive bloodwork that he did showed everything in the normal ranger and some of my cholesterol numbers he said were great!  Who would have thought?

This has been a bit of an ordeal, but I’m so glad to have come through it as smoothly as I have, thanks to the incredible medical team and the prayers, love, and support from so many family and friends. So now, I’m returning to my normal activities and just in time, too. On Sunday I leave for two weeks in Jordan and Israel. When I had surgery on November 10, I thought I would have to cancel my part in the God Journey Israel Tour. My surgeon told me at the time that would not be necessary, I would be good to go by January 22.  That seemed too incredible to me, and I’m still shocked now that I’m well enough to travel and participate with the tour.

I will continue Cardio Rehab for the next few weeks after I return, an the heart is still completing its healing, but there really isn;t any need for further updates about my medical condition. I’m ready to move on from being the Wayne-who-is-recovering-from-heart-surgery, to just plain old Wayne. After The Shack opens in March, I’ll be returning to my normal schedule. I’m already book travel for this spring and summer. So as far as surgery and recovery are concerned, there’s nothing to see here now. If some complication changes that, I’ll certainly let you know, but in the absence of that let’s all move on to what God is doing in the world and how we participate in that reality.

For those of you interested in joining us for The Shack Showing in Thousand Oaks on March 4, you can purchase your tickets on the web page that will go up tomorrow. I’ll put the link here when it does.  We will also have an after-part after the showing for people who want to converse with Brad and I more about it.

One last thing, I made two appearances on A Christian And a Muslim Walk Into a Studio, a podcast where two men of different faiths hammer out their friendship and share it with the world.  I know, it sounds like the start of a joke, but it’s not. One of the co-hosts is a good friend of mine, Bob Prater, and the other is becoming a good friend, Emad Meerza. Emad describes himself as a seventh-century Muslim and he’s a recognized emir in Central California. He’s a fascinating man with a very open heart. They invited me into their conversation for two episodes. The first airs this week about my involvement with The Shack, and the second (to air next week) is about my former work with BridgeBuilders helping public schools bridge the cultural divide. I think you’ll find these conversations fascinating.  I know I did.

 

The Shack Movie: Caught Between Reality and Fiction

“Missy was murdered right here.”

The conclusion came with a wave of grief and sorrow I was not anticipating.  It felt as if I stood on holy ground amidst the wooden boards of the dilapidated shack with shards of light piercing the semi-darkness from cracks in the walls. The hole in my heart was so vast I felt loss and lost.

I was so disoriented for a few moments that I’d forgotten all this was fiction. There was no Missy and she had not been murdered. She was part of a story I’d helped to write and in fact this setting was the first chapter I’d rewritten after the prolonged insistence of the original author to help him rework his manuscript. I’d been drawn back to that moment and the setting was exactly as I had imagined it.

No, I wasn’t dreaming I was on the movie set for the film adaptation of this story in July of 2015.  Brad, who had also helped on the rewrite and was now a producer on the film, was showing me the shack set, built out of old barn wood alongside a lake in British Columbia.  We were alone as we walked across he porch and inside the shack.  I took it in, eerily familiar on a visceral level, though I’d only been here in my own imagination.  Seeing it in reality was disorienting, disturbing the line between reality and fiction.

Brad watched me take it in and so he was already looking at me when I turned to him.  “Where?” I mouthed. Any noise seemed so inappropriate here.

Knowing what I was asking he nodded to the floor not far in front of me.  Until that moment I had been on a set.  In the next, my heart plunged into the depths of sorrow as I felt the loss of an innocent little girl to the tortured heart of her killer. My heart began to break with sorrow.

And then reason slowly began to take over.  “Wait a minute. No one died here. This is a movie set.” Like waking from a vivid dream each thought sought to break the hold of my emotional reaction and remind me that this was a simple convention in a fictional story. It took some time, but reason finally won out and I was once again back on a movie set, though still surprised at the emotions it hat provoked. It’s what others had experienced reading the book, that blurring between a fictional story and the reality of our own pain.

That’s what The Shack was designed to do, to carry the pain of its readers before God in a way that would allow him reveal himself as more good and loving than any of us would dare to believe amidst the tortured brokenness of the world we traverse. It seems far easier for us to blame God for our pain than to let him show us a greater reality beyond it and the immense love he holds for his creation.

I wanted to stay there as long as I could and soak in the moment, but we had to move on.  The film crew was elsewhere and we didn’t want to miss the day’s shoot. As we walked back to the car I couldn’t help glancing over my shoulder to take it in. There stood the shack just like we’d imagined it as a crew around it was winterizing it for tomorrow’s shoot. I can’t wait to see what comes from it all.

There’s a mild antipathy inherent in any film production between the film company that wants to creatively adapt the story to a visual medium and those that worked on or enjoyed the book and want to see it stay faithful to the original story. I hear an ominous concern from many readers who love the book so much, fearful they will be disappointed if the film doesn’t live up to their imagination.  They want my assurance that the story is in good hands.

There is much to be done before we’ll know for sure so we’ll have to see what comes of it.  It will be different—a movie and a book have to accomplish different things.  But having been on the set for a couple of days and meeting some of those involved in this adaptation, I came away wonderfully hopeful.  Hearing words that are so meaningful to me in the mouths of actors touches a deep place in my heart, listening to so many who were touched by the book, and seeing the scenes come to life with such beauty, was exhilarating.  And there was something indefinable in the air and I suspect more is at work here than the human hands touching it.

In the end it will be a beautiful movie and I am hopeful that it will unfold God’s reality in a way that will touch many more people who haven’t yet read the book.


Wayne on the set while the Shack was being prepped for winter in July 2015

I wrote the above right after I returned from the set but was not allowed to post it at the time because of restrictions from the studio.  I can now.  Two days before Christmas I got to take my family to a special screening and see the entire finished movie. It was my first time to see it color corrected, with all the special effects and the music. Wow!  It is simply amazing, and my family thought so too. It was weird to watch people in the the theater cry or laugh to some of the words I wrote and the scenes I helped create. But the main messages of this movie that I wanted to convey are fully intact within it.  There is so much here as to how God can touch the lives of people.

And, yes, the controversy is beginning to rage once again by those who think we want the world to believe that God is a woman or that we got some detail of the Trinity not quite right. Unfortunately they miss the greater story—that God is capable of walking into the depths of our most painful disappointments and despair, win us into his love, and walk us out into reality and freedom.  It’s all about relationship. It’s what God desired before the Creation and what heals the restlessness and brokenness in our own souls. That comes through wonderfully clear in the movie. It’s not a perfect movie and there are bits that I would change if I had the power, but what is here is a faithful depiction of the story we worked on and some visuals that are amazing. I was touched at a heart level many times and I knew what was coming.

But you don’t have to take my word for this alone.  The studio has been running trial screenings in various markets. They’ve come away very encouraged by the audience reaction. Two of the statements audience I’ve heard repeated are: “The Passion shows us what, The Shack shows us why!” and, “Finally Hollywood gets it right!” Honestly, I think they did here.

Two of my friends got to attend two of those screenings, one in Atlanta and one in Colorado Springs.  I had no idea until they wrote me to share their perspectives:

From Colorado Springs:  We were privileged to attend the preview showing of The Shack last week. So well done, and moving. Several unexpected moments of revelation and exhortation throughout.

From Atlanta:  All I can say is, WOW! Brad – you did an awesome job fighting for keeping the integrity of the book with Hollywood. Not that I have it all memorized, but it seemed like the majority of it was kept intact. As an actor and Christ-follower, I have a high (and maybe even a super sensitive) BS meter when it comes to “Christian” movies — and that could be because of the acting or the writing or cheese-factor I see in most of those flicks. That meter didn’t go off one iota in The Shack. The directing was great. The acting was even better. And this is something I feel I can tell others to go see. I’m excited to see where this will go! Unfortunately, my wife didn’t get to goodie to a prior commitment so I took a friend with me who had never read the book.  He is going through a painful season in his life. He absolutely loved it. I asked if he had a favorite part and he mentioned the portion with Mack and “Wisdom” was his favorite.

It’s only a few weeks now until the movie will be out for everyone to see.  March 3 can’t get here soon enough for me, but I do have to run off to Jordan and Israel first. We’re still planning on hosting a showing here in Thousand Oaks, CA either on February 25 if we can get permission to do it a week before the release, or March 4 if we can’t. Hopefully we’ll nail that down in the next week so people can begin to buy tickets. If you’re interested sign up here.

You can follow what’s going on with the movie and view the trailer here or follow it on Facebook here.

Happy New Year!

2017 has arrived!  Big deal!  I’m not much on arbitrary dates like this. Oh, they are fun to celebrate with friends but I know for many dates like this haunt them for the lack of seeming progress they’ve made in their lives over the past year. But transformation doesn’t come in giant leaps and resolutions, but in a slow, steady heart that keeps leaning into Father’s reality and out of the illusions of this world and even our religious sensibilities.  God loves you. He lives in you and as you just keep opening your heart to him each day he is at work in you to will and to do of his good pleasure. Find your way into that reality today, even if you can’t see it’s impact in the way you would like, and that transformation will continue.  God wants you free and alive in him far more than you do!

Sara and I have enjoyed the week between Christmas and New Years at Shaver Lake with my dad, my daughter and her family and with some friends from this area that we don’t get to see often enough.  Kids, puppies and snow are quite a delightful mix as our new pup explored the white stuff. It amazes me how much all our dogs have loved the snow at first sight.  They bolt from the car and run through it like they’ve just discovered heaven. And they are barefoot at that!  We have had a great time up here and are getting ready to head home in the next day or two.

I’m now seven and a half weeks out of surgery and feeling pretty good.  Except for not being able to exert my heart as much as I would like, I’m pretty much back to normal and am so grateful.  The heart will take another 4.5 weeks to heal so we’re slowly elevating my heart activity to make room for that. I continued my walks up here, in the snow and ice, so it’s been brisk and beautiful.  And after all the trauma my body has been through I’m constantly amazed at the resilience of it as it finds it’s way back to “normal.” And hopefully it will be a new normal with a stronger heart and greater endurance.

Over the break I’ve been reading Colson Whitehead’s book, The Underground Railroad. It’s a novel that won the National Book Award about the people who risked their lives to help slaves escape to the north and the hunters who fought so hard to bring them back to be tortured so others wouldn’t be tempted to try it. It is a story of fear and great courage. I started reading it as background for the book a friend of mine is writing about the Civil War. I’m helping him with it and wanted to read an award-winning book in that genre.  I am fully hooked on the characters and the story and looking forward to continuing later today.  It’s got me thinking what kind of person I would have been back in that day if I’d be raised in the South.  There’s no way to know, of course!

The best “gift” I got this holiday season was the opportunity two days before Christmas to watch the final version of The Shack movie with my family at the Lionsgate Screening Room. I’ll write more about that experience in my next blog, but it was such a joy not only to see the movie myself, but to experience it with them and watch them and a roomful of other people respond to it. It exceeded my hopes. To watch people react with laughter and tears to the words and scenes that I helped to write was an extraordinary experience. Talking about it with my kids after was a further delight as they shared their thoughts and insights about it.  Will March 3 ever come?

But before it does, I still have a trip to Israel to make. Three weeks from today I’ll be headed to Jordan.  Yikes!

Our Offices Closed This Week

Due to the holiday season our office will be closed this week.  We will open again on January 4. We apologize if that’s an inconvenience to you in some way. Book and audio orders placed this week will be sent out early next.

The good news, however, is that our 15% discount at the Lifestream Store continues until December 31.  Just place your order as usual and type in “LSChristmas” for your coupon code and it will reduce your order by 15%. Our books and our Audio and Video products are included.

Also, if you need to some year-end giving opportunities, we’d be blessed for you to consider the ongoing need in Kenya, the production of the Jake movie, or an of our ongoing needs at Lifestream. Please see our donation page if you’d like to give.

Finally if you’d like to go to Israel with Brad and I from January 15-February 5, you have to get it done quickly, but I think e can still smash you in.  Check here.

I continue to recover from heart surgery, allowing me a bit of time to run up to visit my dad. I’m six and a half weeks out from surgery and all is doing well.  I’m back to doing most things I was able to do before except put too much exertion on the heart. I’m permitted some light workouts as well as my walking. It takes 12 weeks for the physical trauma of the heart to heal.  So I’ve got a ways to go here, but couldn’t be more pleased at my recovery.  I am grateful for all your prayers and expressions of concern and it is good to feel functional again.

I hope you are looking forward to the year ahead and all the possibilities God might have in mind for taking your journey into greater freedom and fruitfulness.

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.

lindsaybday

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

gjwebsite

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.