Culture Watch

Meet Me in the Middle

A couple of weeks ago on The God Journey, Kyle and I briefly discussed Tyler Perry’s invitation on the most recent Academy Awards TV broadcast:

“I refuse to hate someone because they’re Mexican or because they are black or white. Or LGBTQ. I refuse to hate someone because they’re a police officer or because they’re Asian. I would hope we would refuse hate. And I want to take this humanitarian award and dedicate it to anyone who wants to stand in the middle. Because that’s where healing, where conversation, where change happens. It happens in the middle. Anyone who wants to meet me in the middle to refuse hate and blanket judgment, this one is for you, too,”

In response to our discussion, I got this email:  “I was just thinking earlier this week about how hard it is to be in the middle.  That is one of the main reasons I have had to quit Facebook. Maybe in a future podcast, you and Kyle can give some tips on how to survive being in the middle without getting ripped to shreds.  For now, I am quietly sitting on the sidelines licking my wounds.”

My heart goes out to this man. Political dialogue on social media these days is a blood sport where bullies rule the day and where thoughtful conversation is almost always hijacked by political agendas with an air of superiority.  I am convinced, however, that most people want to meet in the middle where character matters and mutual respect wins the day, which is why I helped with A Langauge of Healing for a Polarized Nation.

Maybe Kyle and I will come back to this someday, but to answer his request, here’s how I find a way to lean into the middle as freely as I can.

  • Realize everything in the media is skewed toward fear. It attracts eyeballs and advertisers who find fearful people an easy sell. I don’t let it in.  Things are never as dire as the media wants us to believe. Regardless of what is going on in the news and wherever fear tries to find its way in, I reflect on the fact that God is bigger than any agenda humanity tries to exert and that his purpose is unfolding in our world behind the scenes. I know that in the end, Jesus gets the last word on everyone and everything (I Peter 3:22 MSG)
  • I rarely take in more than 30 minutes of news and commentary per day, and that includes days with “breaking stories.” Glance and move on; don’t wallow in the fear or hysteria the media works to foment. If you don’t have resources that can give you a good overview in that amount of time, find better ones.  And even then, I only believe about 70% of what I hear. I try to distinguish between facts I’m being given and the interpretation of those facts to manipulate my behavior. I try to recognize their bias and adjust accordingly.
  • I intentionally go to websites and read articles that do not agree with my point of view. I always benefit from hearing what the other side is actually saying, and it keeps the algorithms from serving me up a soup of my own biases.
  • I limit my input from one-sided think tanks, commentators, advocacy groups, and overtly biased media. If you think your side has all the facts and worthy ideas, you are part of the problem. We all have convictions about what is right and wrong, but these sources all have one purpose—to manipulate you so they can advance their agenda by exaggerating their perspective. It’s not so hard to see once you are aware of it. Hold fast to your convictions, but don’t let them be used to give you cause to hate or to fear those who don’t share them.
  • I have good friends on the opposing sides of every issue to keep me honest. They are people who can talk about different points of view with respect and graciousness.
  • I converse with people I don’t know on my social media the same way you would talk to them in person. I treat them with dignity and respect until they prove themselves toxic and destructive. Then, I no longer engage them and either block or delete their comments.
  • This may be the most important one. Take in at least an hour of beauty and peace every day. Go for a walk. Sit in a garden. Celebrate a friendship with someone that refreshes your spirit.

I love this perspective that Eugene Peterson offers his Introduction to Nahum in The Message:

The stage of history is large. Larger-than-life figures appear on this stage from time to time, swaggering about, brandishing weapons and money, terrorizing and bullying. These figures are not, as they suppose themselves to be, at the center of the stage — not, in fact, anywhere near the center. But they make a lot of noise and are able to call attention to themselves. They often manage to get a significant number of people watching and even admiring: big nations, huge armies, important people. At any given moment a few superpower nations and their rulers dominate the daily news. Every century a few of these names are left carved on its park benches, marking rather futile, and in retrospect pitiable, attempts at immortality. The danger is that the noise of these pretenders to power will distract us from what is going on quietly at the center of the stage in the person and action of God. God’s characteristic way of working is in quietness and through prayer.

This is what makes my heart soar even in trouble times. What is God doing at the center of the stage?

If we stay grounded in that reality, we’ll learn to live generously in a world that needs it so badly.

“I Believed the Lie”

That was a headline I saw the other day of quoting a woman arrested for her part in the riot at the Capitol by Trump supporters on January 6.  I didn’t read the article, so I don’t know if this was a real moment of self-awakening or simply an excuse to escape the charges against her.  I hope it is the former.

There’s no shame in believing a lie. It happens to all of us. Some people are great liars, telling us stories we desperately want to believe. The chance for healing comes when we begin to suspect that what we believe isn’t true. Most of us immediately feel embarrassed and are tempted to draw back into the lie to preserve our reputation. But the opportunity for growth always comes from exploring the possibility that we are wrong and have something wonderful to learn.

That happened to me when a good friend back in my pastoring days said to me one day, “Don’t you think that sermon you preached Sunday was the most manipulative talk you’ve ever given?”  Immediately, I felt defensive and wanted to argue. But this was a good friend, so I gave his words time to sink in and learn from them.

A friend of mine from the U.K. told me a story about one of the most audacious rebukes I’ve ever heard. After sharing something he was about to do, an older friend leaned in and, with a twinkle in his eye, said, “I love you too much to let you do something so stupid.” Fortunately, they were good enough friends that the younger man recognized the love behind the humor, and doing so saved him a lot of grief.

It’s no doubt the past election cycle has been a painful period for our country, no matter what side of the divide you’re on. Both sides characterized it as a fight between good and evil, God or Satan, saving the country or destroying it. I’ve hated most of the politics that have divided our families, pitted friends against each other, and caused an endless amount of anxiety and fear. One lady wrote me, “I have family and friends who I know to have good hearts, who raged against Trump and said they were praying for him to be assassinated, and family members who are leaders in ministry, holding out for the “Red Sea miracle” that was going to overturn the election and keep Trump in office a second term.”

But I do not come through this season discouraged. Instead, I’m hopeful. In a conversation Sunday, I was expressing how God has been opening their eyes to a better way of thinking that has caused them to question some of their earlier positions. That’s the only way growth happens. If we think we already know everything we need to know, we are in dire straits.

Over the past few months, I’ve found myself on a course through Isaiah, Hosea, and Micah. Almost every day, I read words and phrases in those ancient books that corresponded to the days in which we find ourselves. I am encouraged when the Scripture is as fresh as the morning’s news and so much more enlightening.

I realize the circumstances are very different. Israel was God’s people in a theocracy of his choosing, while we are a democratic republic being polarized by two political parties.  Still, I’m amazed at how specifically the lessons God was giving Israel apply in our context today.

Many people prophesied five years ago that Trump was a Cyrus figure, anointed by God to protect Christianity from the ravages of secularism. Even though I heard that from people I respected, I didn’t sense the touch of God on it, especially when it came from people pushing Christian Nationalism as a viable political matrix for followers of Jesus.  They also used it as an excuse to give Trump their unquestioned loyalty and not challenge or even acknowledge the unseemlier side of his character or his shoot-from-the-hip foreign policy.

Even though I didn’t think Trump was a modern-day Cyrus, I appreciate why many of my friends supported his policies and his judicial appointments. I was grateful for many of them myself, but not enough to ignore his deficiencies. I understand why Israel turned to Egypt and why besieged Christians turned to Trump. They may have their flaws, but they are not nearly as bad as the enemies we’re facing.

But the prophets of Israel who pointed to Egypt were wrong, seeking their help in horses and chariots instead of turning to God. By trying to save themselves, they resisted the work God wanted to do in them.  When the same leaders who told us Trump was our Cyrus prophesied with absolute certainty that Trump would win a second term, I was even more skeptical.  They were like football prognosticators on the football pre-game shows, telling us why our team will win.  They even had a 50% chance of getting it right and still missed.

When they were proved wrong, many of them doubled down on their error, prophesying the “Red Sea miracle” that would occur and overturn the election. That’s what fed some of the passion behind the January 6 attack on the Capitol. When they turned out to be wrong yet again, most still did not repent but blamed the church for not praying hard enough or deflected by telling people, “Who cares who said what; it’s time to win souls.”

Now, read these words from Micah for the prophets of Israel’s day and tell me they don’t apply equally well today for those who put their hope in a man rather than on God.

Here is God’s Message to the prophets, the preachers who lie to my people: “For as long as they’re well paid and well fed, the prophets preach, ‘Isn’t life wonderful! Peace to all!’ But if you don’t pay up and jump on their bandwagon, their ‘God bless you’ turns into ‘God damn you.’ Therefore, you’re going blind. You’ll see nothing. You’ll live in deep shadows and know nothing. The sun has set on the prophets. They’ve had their day; from now on it’s night. Visionaries will be confused, experts will be all mixed up. They’ll hide behind their reputations and make lame excuses to cover up their God-ignorance.” (5-7, The Message)

The leaders of Jacob and the leaders of Israel are leaders contemptuous of justice, who twist and distort right living, leaders who build Zion by killing people, who expand Jerusalem by committing crimes. Judges sell verdicts to the highest bidder, priests mass-market their teaching, prophets preach for high fees, All the while posturing and pretending dependence on God.  (9-12, The Message)

Harsh words, indeed, and not all of them apply, but a lot of them do. Many of our religious leaders have failed in this time to invite our hearts to God and instead placed their hopes in the conventions of humanity. They allied with the wrong agenda, and even when their lies were exposed, they have refused to repent. Instead, they hid behind their reputations and made “lame excuses” to cover up their ignorance of what God was actually doing.

They fought to build their audience by pandering to what people wanted to hear, and many of them charge exorbitant amounts of money to take their “ministry schools” or be on their select mailing lists. We don’t need to blame them or exact a pound of flesh for their failures, but it ought to give us all an opportunity to say maybe these men and women shouldn’t have my ear. Maybe I got caught up in what I hoped to be right instead of what really was.

If you got distracted from your relationship with Jesus by the angst and anger of the politics of our time, now would be a good time to return to the Lord. We can freely participate in politics as citizens of the U.S., but we dare not put our hope there. Please don’t get caught up in the Biden hatred; it will only further crush your soul. All that is still humanity’s kingdom. We’re part of a more powerful kingdom that, even now, is infiltrating every corner of the globe. That kingdom transcends politics and spreads not as we fight each other but as we love our neighbor and, yes, even our enemies.

Remember, God’s salvation for Israel was not found in resisting Babylon but seeing him in their disappointed hopes and expectations. We can, too.  There may be rough times ahead, but one day a trumpet will blast from heaven, and voices will call out,

“The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever!” (Revelation 11:15)

Until then, we have only to remain faithful to him, to love as we are being loved, and to watch the hand of God move in the earth.  These are great days!

A Conversation about Racial Equity

Last Sunday, I held a Zoom conversation with people who wanted to discuss some of the political climate we are in, especially as it has affected relationships with friends and family. We didn’t record it, so nothing to share there, but we had a great time talking about putting our hope in God’s kingdom, not the political parties that humans have devised. We had a lot of people share the trajectory of their journey from a strong partisan point of view, to a greater generosity toward people who don’t see the world the way they do.

One of the issues that kept arising in that conversation was about racial equity, and how to be a voice for positive change in an environment that is so politically charged.  One wrote me this after:  “I’d love another one on how and what we can do to be more racially conscious and helpful. When I speak up and I do, I’m making groups feel self-conscious and I’m a little ostracized…🤨”

So I asked Arnita, one of my co-authors on A Language of Healing, to lend her insight as an African-American woman as to how people from the majority culture can be more sensitive and helpful as allies in the quest for racial justice. This Sunday, February 14 at 10:30 am Pacific Time, I’m going to host another Zoom conversation with Arnita to help people explore how to have better conversations here.

This time, however, I’m going to limit the room to about 25 people so we can have more of an interactive conversation. However, I will also be streaming it live on The God Journey Facebook page  for those who would like to watch it. It will also be on that page for people to listen to afterwards, and we may even excerpt some of that conversation for a future podcast at The God Journey.

If you’d like to be part of that conversation let me know and I’m going to prayerfully select twenty-five people out of those who want to join us. This is not limited to the majority culture and I hope to have a good representation of people with brown and black skin with us as well.

Whether you want to join us in the room or not, if you have any specific questions you’d like Arnita and me to address, please send them in advance so we can give them our consideration.

I am giving first opportunity to those of you who were there last week but will also be inviting others as well.  I know everyone can’t be in the room with us but we are going to stream it live, record it, and possibly put excerpts in a future podcast of The God Journey.

 

Want to Zoom with Me on Sunday?

I got this email last week, and it really touched me. I know this woman isn’t alone. Many have come through this pandemic and election season confused about what is true and how to deal with people in our lives who seem to have fallen prey to many of the lies that are disarming the power of his church.

My heart hurt for this lady and what she is going through, but I also admire the courage of her honesty and how to handle what’s going on around her:

Today, I got an email from someone I looked up to circulating a conspiracy theory about vaccines, and it kind of just cracked me open. I’m seeing the people who taught me to value truth abandon it or not even using the slightest bit of discernment as they circulate clearly problematic “information.”

I just don’t know what to do. It’s hurting me more than I expected. The isolation of this year is hard, homeschooling our three boys is hard, the political turn the country has taken has been deeply concerning. Watching what’s happening in the church is by far the hardest.

This year the church looks nothing like the church to me. I watched my Mom and her husband make fun of the black lives matter movement. I listened to my sister’s pastor preach against black lives matter for having points he disagreed with. I watched people I went to Bible school with mock George Floyd’s death and condemn the protests that followed. My entire family, right down to cousins, seem to have bought into the “rigged election” lies. With that comes political conspiracy theories using the name of Jesus. Now the vaccine conspiracy theories. Most of my family is wrapped up in this. I feel so sad and so tired. I feel brittle. Every day Jesus teaches me more how much He loves me, I’m completely 100% all in with Jesus, but for the first time in my entire life, I’m not so sure what to do with Christians. I don’t know who they are anymore. It makes me cry.

What I thought was, isn’t. The people I respected, I now do not. The people I trusted, I now do not. I don’t want to be part of a church that is a thinly veiled political party with spiritual window dressing. But I do want Jesus and all the He has for me, wherever that might be.

I’ve had quite an exchange with her and even interact a bit with this email on The God Journey podcast set to air tomorrow (February 5).  I wrote the blog on The Symptoms of Delusion to engage in this kind of conversation. If you are having some of the same struggles this lady is and would like to get together with some other people to talk about it, I’m going to hold an open Zoom conversation this Sunday, February 7 at 10:30 am Pacific Time.  Please understand me. This is not for people who take offense to her email and want to argue that the election was rigged, that Donald Trump is a modern-day Cyrus, that there isn’t racial injustice in this country, or that the vaccine is unsafe.  This is for those who want to have a different conversation — how do I navigate a Christian world I feel so out of step with? And, what might God be doing in our day through all of this that can give me hope?

And, if that doesn’t include you, please don’t feel judged or excluded from God’s life or my love.  This is a very trying time and rather than fight over the controversy on Sunday, we just want to talk to those who are feeling alienated from their friends and family who see politics very differently than they do.

If you’d like to join us, please email me and I will send you a Zoom link.  We’ll spend about an hour together and see what God does.

 

Also ——————-

I’m looking for ten or so people who are between 25 and 40 years of age with a sense that God has given you specific gifts to help equip others to live in his love in a bit more unconventional way than some of our religious boxes provide.  I already have a few in mind, but I sense there are some others who would like to get together weekly on Zoom and see where the conversation goes. This is not so I can teach you anything. I have no agenda or curriculum for you to follow, but just a willingness to walk alongside a few younger people while God is shaping something in their hearts.  This will be a chance for us to bounce questions and insights off each other and see what God does. I only want people who are already familiar with the passions of my heart from having read at least a few of my books or listened to a fair amount of podcasts.  I hope to encourage people who feel as if God is inviting them on a similar walk.

If you’d like to be considered, please email me. If I don’t know you already tell me a bit about yourself and why you would be interested in this kind of gathering.  I’m looking to start with about ten or twelve people so I’m going to be praying about who that might be off of the things you share with me.  If there’s more interest then I’ll have to see about starting another or what else God might have in mind.

What the World Needs Now

2020 was a disaster on so many levels, the greatest of which was a worldwide pandemic that we couldn’t even take on as a common enemy with a united front. Instead, we politicized it with everyone did what was right in their own eyes without regard for a greater common good.

So, half our population thinks the pandemic is overblown and carelessly spreads it to others by refusing to obey the CDC guidelines for limiting travel, masking, maintaining social distance, and avoiding indoor gatherings through this holiday season. I know the odds are in your favor that you probably won’t get it, and even if you do, you will recover quickly. Too often, however, the odds catch up with people who live carelessly, either for them or someone they love. The virus offered us the opportunity to lay down our lives for others, and so far, we seem to be failing that test.

And support measures by some governors who overreached their authority by unnecessarily closing all businesses of a certain type and not letting business owners find ways to continue their business with proper safety measures. If we’d all been able to respect social distancing recommendations, I wonder how many more businesses could have stayed open, but people wanted to party, gather in large groups, and hang out indoors. How can you trust a government that lies to us for three months that masks won’t protect you when they knew it wasn’t true?  And why does the federal government keep sending stimulus money even to those who have kept their jobs and maintained their incomes instead of targeting those who actually lost their income? It’s chaos out there, but you can still live in the genuine peace that makes no circumstantial sense.

Now, as we enter 2021, what does the world need most from you?

More than ever, our world needs an army of people who will live generously in a world dominated by the selfish and the arrogant. I know it’s hard when everyone else looks out for their own self-interest, and you feel you’ll get overrun by them. A couple of weeks ago, I talked with a friend about living free of the pain of our own self-centered thinking on a podcast. That conversation continues to flow into places in my heart that is setting me freer in his love. You can only afford to learn selflessness when you are confident Father’s love has got your back.

And by living generously, here’s some of what I think of…

  • Asking God to show you ways to care about the marginalized people around you. Spend a bit of each day putting yourself in their shoes and asking how you would want someone to respond to you.
  • Passing your stimulus check on to those in need if you have maintained your income through this pandemic. If you don’t know anyone, give it to a group providing food for those who don’t have it.
  • Sharing whatever you have with those around you—extra resources, a virtual shoulder to cry on if they need comfort, an unexpected phone call just to check on them, etc.
  • Putting on a mask when you’re around others, even if you think it isn’t necessary, just because it sets them at ease.
  • Not taking offense even to the selfish and toxic people around you who want to start an argument.  Just move to a safe distance and love them as best you can from there.
  • Taking the vaccine when it is offered to you, even if you’re afraid it may have side effects. Jesus took the cross for you, knowing the side-effects were torture and certain death. The vaccine is the only way to get to herd immunity without millions of others needlessly dying. (And please don’t send me your anti-vaccine conspiracy theories. I don’t buy the fact that thousands of medical professionals, the same ones I went to for heart surgery and others I know used for cancer, would be involved in a deception like this to wreak mayhem on the populace for no apparent reason.)
  • When you do something risky, like flying or getting caught in a large crowd, quarantine yourself for 14 days, especially from elderly and high-risk people.
  • Learning the joy of not taking offense even when people mistreat you. Keep loving as best you can.
  • Don’t try to fix people around you; it will only push them deeper into their delusion or brokenness.

You may have different ideas. Just remember living generously is not primarily following a checklist; it’s a different way of navigating the world. Every day ask yourself what generosity would lead you to do. Learn the joy of an others-focused life, and even if the world kills you for it, you will have lived a life worth living.

The best thing about living generously is that no one can make you do it. Our default setting seems to be doing whatever we think is best for us. Expanding our perspective to do what’s best for others around us is a major shift of thought. If you don’t choose it you’ll never discover its joy.

May you all have a really blessed New Year, but looking for ways to bless others with the gift of grace Father has given you,

_____________

Live Loved Free Full

The e-book is out on Kindle, but release of my new devotional book has been delayed until mid-January due to some issues with the virus at the printing plant.  But starting on Friday, January 1, I’ll be posting the first devotionals online so you can read them if you want to start at the beginning. However, this book is not written in that kind of order, so you can start whenever you want throughout the year. If you haven’t pre-ordered your copy yet, you can do so here.

Don’t Miss This

Our last two podcasts of 2020 were two of the best of the year, focusing on how to become increasingly one with love. That conversation is still re-writing wonderful things in my own heart and changing how I live in the world. If these are the only podcasts you listen to this year at The God Journey, you will find them well worth your time.

A Head’s Up

Early this year, Wayne will release a new limited series podcast called My Friend Luis. In 10 immersive episodes, you will hear the story of Luis’ life growing up in an impoverished village in Mexico and the dramatic story of how God revealed his love to Luis on the worst night of his twenty-one-year-old life after he had been assaulted by police officers and then swept into a canal filled with sewage.

The story continues with how he has lived in the U.S. and how God brought him and Wayne together in a friendship that has changed the trajectory of both of their lives.  It is an incredible story of struggle, friendship, and overwhelming grace. Look for it around mid-January.

Politics Divide; Only Love Redeems

“How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust, and has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.” Psalm 40:4

Honestly, I couldn’t help it. I read this a few Sunday mornings ago, and the first thought in my head was “President Trump.” He creates more fake news than he complains about, and his pride is legendary. Even many who love President Trump will admit he’s often his own worst enemy.

He also came to mind because of all the emails, videos, and articles people have sent me lately, declaring him the hope to save Christianity in America. Many of these are embellished with supernatural dreams, angelic visitations, and direct words from God saying a vote for Trump is a vote for God and revival in America, and a vote for Biden is a vote against God’s kingdom. Without President Trump, they say, the U.S. will become a godless, communist wasteland.

People are even saying that God is telling us to distinguish between the man’s flaws and the mantle of anointing he carries from God to destroy those who oppose his people. I’ve never read such ridiculous double-talk in my life. “Don’t look at the fruits of a man’s life to gauge his measure.” We’re supposed to ignore all of that in the misguided belief that God uses him as a tool for his purposes.  These usually come with grave warnings, like, “To the degree that you judge the man, is the degree that the Lord will judge us. Don’t get in God’s way.”

I’m sorry, this does not pass the sniff test for me. None of it has Father’s fragrance about it—not what they are saying or how they are saying it. It is easy to make up dreams and visitations and pass them off as coming from God or to want something so badly you convince yourself God is telling you what you want to hear. These “warnings” have confused many because even though they have reservations about voting to re-elect the President, they don’t want to vote against God’s will.  They assume people talking to angels must be closer to God than they are. Some are even afraid that if we don’t re-elect President Trump, we invite God’s judgment on our nation.

When they ask what I think of all of this, my answer is the same. “Follow your heart, not your fears.” If you think re-electing President Trump is the right thing for our nation, then vote for him. If you can’t vote for him in good conscience because of his lack of character and lack of respect for anyone who thinks differently than he does, vote for someone else. Don’t listen to the manipulative taunts and threats of those who want to control your vote, especially if they claim to speak for God. Anyone who tells you that you will be working against God’s kingdom if you don’t vote for President Trump is a false prophet. Their motive may seem genuine, but they are genuinely deluded. And I would say the same of anyone who would tell you in God’s name to vote for Joe Biden or anyone else.

You may have good reasons to vote for Trump. You like his judicial appointments, his confrontations with China, his economic policies, and his repeal of government overreach in business regulations. I like many of those things myself. I voted for him in 2016. It was not an easy vote; I hoped the Christians supporting him would influence his behavior, and he would rise to the office. Unfortunately, he has not, and if there’s been any influence, it has run the other way. I see more of my evangelical friends becoming more like Trump when they attempt to bully others into agreeing with them. 

Many of them think we needed someone of President Trump’s abrasive personality to stand up to Democrats, the mainstream media, and the so-called “deep state.” I sense a certain delight that he is treating their “enemies’ the way they wish they could if they were not constrained (and unfortunately, they see it as a constraint) by love and grace.  That view is woefully misguided; for me, character matters even more than political platforms. Now, I wouldn’t suggest the Democrats are the paragon of virtue. Far from it, especially in light of some recent allegations about Biden’s business dealings with China. I don’t know if our cultural civility can survive another four years of bullying, mocking, and disdaining fellow Americans. He has proved to be the wrong President during this pandemic and the call for an honest conversation about racial equity in America. He delights in dividing Americans rather than appealing to our better angels.

For me, this election is bigger than whether President Donald Trump would serve my interests better than Vice President Joe Biden. Unless evangelicals have the courage to repudiate Trump’s divisive and demeaning character, they will wear his reputation around their necks for generations to come. How can they ever again speak convincingly on the importance of moral character in leadership when they dismissed it in deference to gaining the political power they wanted?

Over my lifetime, I’ve seen the people who most advance God’s kingdom hold themselves with humility, respect, and compassion, just like our Founder did. You can be firm and gracious while moving toward change without disrespecting those who disagree with you.

So, vote for him if you think he’s the best choice to represent America in the world, but don’t make the mistake of putting your hope in him to save Christianity or the nation. The same will be true if you put your hope in Vice President Biden.

God has not placed his hope in either candidate or even in our politics. His kingdom comes on the shoulders of one person—Jesus. That’s the only place your hope belongs. If you put it anywhere else, not only will you be devastated if your candidate loses, you’ll also be distracted if he wins. Sadly, you’ll find yourself invested in another kingdom. Politics divide even Christians from each other; only love can heal and redeem at the same time.

When all the votes are finally counted,  Jesus will still ask us to wake up the next day and to love one another, our enemies, as much as our friends.

Maybe we could start that today, especially if you do disagree with what I have written.

Language of Healing Live – 2 pm (PDT) Today

In a week or so, this contentious U.S. election will be over and regardless of which side wins the election, how do we recover from the polarization that has been fostered during this campaign?

That will be our topic this afternoon on another episode of Language of Healing Live at 2:00 pm PDT.  I’ll be joined by my coauthors of A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation, Bob Prater and Arnita Taylor. Paul Swearengin, the author of the edgy novel Jospeh Comes to Town and host of The Non partisan Evangelical Podcast will guide our discussion.

We will be streaming live at the Language of Healing Discussion Group on Facebook, and I will post that feed on my Wayne Jacobsen Page on Facebook as well. Language of Healing Live is a continuing series of video conversations to help people learn to live more generously in this divided world. You can view previous ones here.

Join us there live, or watch the video after, which I’ll post here when we’ve finished.

___________

Personal note:  If you’ve read A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation, and find it worthy to pass on to your family and friends, please consider downloading and reposting the graphic above. We are passionate in the mission to help people have a different conversation than the angry and fearful rhetoric we hear from both sides.  Thanks. 

Lifestream #5: How Can I Live More Generously in a Broken World?

Wayne’s journey has led him to greater intimacy and joy in his spirituality, and to ever-deepening and more authentic relationships with others, both inside and outside of the body of Christ. As a bridgebuilder he has helped very diverse groups find the common ground that can lead to cooperation instead of polarization.

Paul said that we are all ambassadors of the ministry of reconciliation. Learning to live openly and generously in the world gives God the best environment to extend his peace to others. Of course, not everyone takes it, and the outcome of our efforts is not always in our hands. However, learning to live loved changes the way we live in the world, making us better listeners even to those with whom we disagree and more generous with people around us who are in need. We’ll find ourselves giving a drink of cold water to a stranger, overwhelmed with compassion for broken hearts, and gracious even when mistreated by others.

The following resources to help you discover how he is revealing his love to you and how you might respond to him on a new journey steeped in his love:

Books

Audio/Video

Articles 

Podcasts

For a Deeper Dive

You can check out Wayne’s work with others to cultivate the common ground at BridgeBuilders.org.  Also, in the Topical Archives at TheGodJourney.com is an entire section for Current Events/Touching the World. You’ll find it three headings down from the top of the page. There are lots of conversations there that look to sort through the difficult questions about how we engage a broken and polarized world with the love of Jesus.


More Lifestream Features

Lifestream 1 - How Can I Live Every Day in Father's Love?
Lifestream 2 - Where Will I Find the Church Jesus is Building?
Lifestream 3 - How Can My Freedom to Trust Jesus Grow?
Lifestream 4 - How Do You Find Such Encouragement in the Bible?
Lifestream 5 - How Can I Live More Generously in a Broken World?

A Conversation We Desperately Need

One of the big themes for A Language of healing for a Polarized Nation is the importance of nuance. Political realities in our world push us toward one extreme or the other—binary thinking. It’s all or nothing! Those narratives are killing us.

Last night, I had dinner with a police friend of mine. Hearing him talk about the difficulty of doing his job today broke my heart. If there is any engagement between a person of color and a police officer, it is assumed the officer is racist even if the suspect is a danger to others around him. And, they know if something goes wrong, they will get little support from society or their superiors. Morale is at an all-time low.

I also have conversations with my African American friends and hear the fear in their voices of what could happen to their children if they engage law enforcement. I see the pain in their eyes when they recite the names of young black men and women who have been unnecessarily killed in those engagements.

And we can’t seem to find a healthy way to talk about the problem so we can fix it. Why is it that if there’s a disturbance in my neighborhood, I am reassured when a police officer rolls onto the scene, and others feel threatened, even though they’ve done nothing wrong? More importantly, how do we responsibly fix that?

That’s the conversation we need to be having as a culture—truly listening to each other’s concerns and finding the place to make substantive changes for a better society. But most people aren’t having that conversation, not if you listen to the media or to our political parties. They are caught in the throes of a presidential election, where both candidates and their supporters are using the current unrest to their political advantage even if it further divides us with fear and mistrust. Citizens are using violence on both sides without regard to law and order as we tap dance on the precipice of another civil war. 

We had no idea our country would be in such turmoil when we published A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation only a few months ago. We are grateful that many people and institutions have found our book and are using it to explore more wholesome conversations about the issues that divide us. Here’s what we got from one reader recently:

A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation is an amazing book. You not only created the best format for a multi-author book but also created a space where people can have transformative conversations. Our culture desperately needs this message. The practical steps you provided in each chapter gave me hope that change can really happen. We do not have to agree with someone to show compassion, love, and engagement.

Kyle, a reader in Colorado

Over the past few months, I’ve been involved in numerous conversations where people want to explore the nuances of our current crisis and bring people together to find solutions. I’ve done Language of Healing Live Zoom conversations to help explore those options. I’ve been asked to be a guest at many on-line book groups who are studying our book. I am convinced the vast majority of people want to have a different conversation. That’s why over the last few months Bob Prater, Arnita Taylor, and I have worked on a companion to our original book to help people conduct small group discussions about our book.

You asked us to create this resource, and today we are pleased to announce the publication of A Language of Healing Conversation Guide. This new resource will help small groups of people in neighborhoods, businesses, and schools create a safe space for people to talk with each other instead of shouting at each other. It is hot off the presses and is also available at Amazon or in discount bulk pricing at Blue Sheep Media, our publishers.

This guide can help you and people you know…

  • to speak your own language of healing in your corner of the world,
  • to reach out to people beyond our regular sphere of relationships, and
  • to think proactively about how you might respond in difficult situations to disarm the tension and build bridges of honest dialogue and compassion.

Don’t let the media or politicians control the conversation here. Find some people you know and take the risk to discuss this book with them. You’ll be surprised at how it can turn the conversation from one of rancor and fear to mutual respect and understanding.

You can order the new Conversation Guide here.

 

Don’t Put Me in Your Binary Box

You will be able to understand better my blog and my podcast if you don’t assume I’m in your binary box.

I reject them all. I can think beyond the false boxes politicians, media, and sometimes friends try to put me in. I think you do, too. I helped write a book about that where one of the chapters is titled, Disarming the Binary Bomb. I’m serious about that. Binary thinking is destroying this country, and many, many friendships. Binary thinking goes like this: “there are only two options here, and if you don’t fully support mine, you are my enemy.” It is the lowest form of dialogue on the planet.

If you watch a newscast or read an article and believe everything the person says, you probably need to check yourself. Everything you get is distorted by someone’s political agenda, attempts to be true to their brand, or a desperate attempt to get clicks. Whether it’s NBC News, Time Magazine, Fox News, MSNBC, or I book I’m reading, I agree with about 30% of what I hear or see in those venues. I don’t expect them to give me the unvarnished truth. The media serve mammon, after all, and politicians, their lust for power. They are not trying to tell us what’s true; they are only serving some personal interests. The more you read from diverse sources, the easier it will be to discern what’s true.

For instance, last week on The God Journey, I talked about the popular book, White Fragility, with Arnita Taylor. There is a lot I like about this book and how it helped me through some important realities in our culture. But I didn’t like everything about it. Monday morning, a news podcast I listen to attacked the book in terms I didn’t understand. I knew they hadn’t read the book but believed what someone else said about it. I read the book and appreciated much of it. Their attempts to debunk it as “total garbage” fell on deaf ears with me. 

I didn’t read it with a guilty conscience or to feel shame for my whiteness, only because I wanted to learn better how to interact with people of various colors in my life. Does the author overstate some things? Of course, she does. What author doesn’t? Do the things she exaggerates diminish the real things she points out? Not to a thinking person! It’s really OK to interact with what you read, to let some things challenge your thinking, without having to conclude it’s either all good or all bad.

So when I get an email like the one below, please don’t assume I think about the issues like you do:

I have been listening to The God Journey for about four years. The show has always been about God’s grace, but now just because the propaganda media started a Communist campaign, suddenly, you shift fears and make The God Journey a show about how white people don’t listen to black people. Black Lives Matter is funded by the Ford Foundation and other companies through Susan Rosenberg of Thousand Currents, former convicted Weather Underground and M19 communist revolutionary that was plotting to bomb buildings. I know your heart is in the right place, but you’ve been deceived. The media has so much influence that it directed you to change your show to follow the direction of their narrative. Social Justice is a Satanic deception for a Communist agenda. And this is the only reason you’ve shifted focus onto race issues. I can’t listen to your show anymore because your guilt and shame over whiteness have turned it into one more thing that hugs the curves of today’s political agendas.

The God Journey used to be a way for me to reset my attention on Jesus, and now it’s just another narrative that RESPONDS to the mainstream LEAD. Do you know where “White Privilege” came from? I’m tired of seeing Christians buy into this SJW garbage of the world, and I really think you should know that you are making all of your recent episodes of the God Journey about this topic have really turned me off from seeking out new episodes to focus on Jesus. I RESEARCH THIS STUFF HEAVILY, and it is all COMMUNISM! The goal is to divide us and conquer our nation.

(Hint: capitalizing complete words doesn’t make anyone seem more intelligent, just a bit unhinged.)

Here’s how I’d respond:

Ah, you’re welcome to stop listening; that is your privilege.

I hope you can appreciate that we are engaged in two different conversations. One is what you describe—an all-out political battle between left and right. I know the people behind the BLM organization have admitted to having Marxist leanings, and that their mission statement denigrates the nuclear family and religious faith. I don’t buy their extremist agenda, and I have not endorsed that organization in anything I’ve said. At the same time, there is a movement of “black lives matter” in our culture that is calling attention to the fact that young, innocent men are being killed by those empowered with government authority. To draw attention to that and demand that government officials be held accountable for how they treat people of color does not make me a sympathizer to Marxist doctrine. You have to separate the two to be intellectually honest. 

Black Lives Matter, as an organization, is gaining traction because we do have racial issues in our culture that many white people prefer to ignore. I would argue letters like yours only empower the Social Justice Warriors because you refuse to acknowledge the underlying problem that does real harm to people just because of the color of their skin. The “true origins” of my podcasts about race have nothing to do with their propaganda. They have risen out of my relationships with people of color and watching how they live in a very different world than I do, or my children and grandchildren. They have touched my heart and opened my eyes to the legitimate needs here, not the contrived ones by those who seek to undermine our culture. Our society is clearly weighted toward whiteness, and people of color are increasingly frustrated that we don’t care that they suffer through circumstances far more complicated than most of us endure.

So, there is a political game going on here. You’re right about that. Both sides want to divide and conquer this nation and pull it back from its powerful ideals. But I’m not playing that game. However, I am sharing this part of my journey to show what’s going on in our culture and to find solutions that are different from what BLM advocates. I’m not trying to score political points but asking people to live more generously in the world and help disarm those who would use the disparity and desperation for nefarious means of undermining our culture. President Trump has undoubtedly turned “mainstream media” into one of the most dismissive labels people can use to ignore whatever challenges their thinking. No doubt, the “mainstream media” distorts a lot of news to its political ends, but no more than Trump or his cronies at FOX. 

That is still a tiny part of all the content of my podcast (four shows out of forty-six this year). I label them clearly so that if discussions of current events aren’t of interest to you, you can easily skip them. But why people want to do so, however, was the point of the podcast last Friday. I hope that those of us who have power in the culture will find ways to share it freely with those who have for too long been marginalized. We can disagree on this, but I hope you understand better what’s motivating me. 

My utmost passion on this page and the podcast will always be to encourage people on a Jesus journey that shows you how to live loved by the Father and be a better lover in the world. I just began sharing some of the most exciting discoveries I’ve hmade ad in over a decade. It’s called Embracing His Glory and is meant to encourage people on the journey of transformation and freedom. A new release comes each Tuesday morning, and will for a while. 

So, don’t bother inviting me into your binary box. I’m not coming to join you. I’d sure welcome you, though, whenever you’re ready to give it up. 

There Is a Better Conversation Going On

Yes, I wanted to get your attention. I don’t triple-dog-dare anyone to do anything, though I would love for you to think through the issues the author lays out in that chapter. Please don’t let the media that amplifies the most extreme voices on the left and the right rob you of the important conversations going on about the inequities of race that still persist in our society. One of the lessons we encouraged in A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation is not to compare the worst actions of those who disagree with you with the best intentions of those who do.

This is a good time for softer hearts not harder ones, for listening instead of pontificating. Underneath the diatribes in the media—social, mainstream, and Fox—people are exploring what it is to care for others beyond what we might consider as “their tribe.” White Fragility, the book I referenced above, is a difficult read if you’re white. I don’t love everything about this book, and some of her terminology can be off-putting, but hopefully, it will make you think. It helped me understand more why we have such a hard time communicating about this, and why those who look like me have a hard time talking about the issues that underlie racial inequities in our culture.

I know some of you grow tired of my musings on this. I like this space to help encourage people on their journey of leaning in more deeply to Jesus and to be less influenced by the world’s ways. Some have called me “liberal” and accused me of being a Democrat. I hope you can appreciate that I’m not playing politics here. I’m not pro-Republican or pro-Democrat, and I think both parties are out to exploit the tensions in our society for whatever political power (and money) they can hope to gain. They are both a huge part of the problem, and I don’t look for them to be the solution.

So, I reject the binary constructs that both of them try to force on us. Life is more nuanced than they lead us to believe.  I can bear witness to the injustices some people groups suffer in this world and be a voice for more understanding and compassion without endorsing all their agenda or approving of violence or looting.  I can decry racist acts when they happen, and still support the men and women in blue who put their lives on the line to make us a safer society. These are our first responders who valiantly rush into the most dangerous situations to disarm evil and protect the good and, if not, they should be held to account. Society in a fallen world cannot exist without them.

I write because I have good friends who are severely impacted by these issues, and silence is no longer an option, and hoping it will get better is not a strategy. What could be closer to Jesus’ heart than how we treat people who are different from us? Isn’t that what the Good Samaritan story was about? Our neighbor not only includes those who look like us or live in our neighborhoods but even more importantly, those who don’t.

My heart hurts when people who say they love Jesus are unaware of their blindness about racial issues.  I saw this on FaceBook from a friend who attended the same congregation with me many years ago. I would love to be with her when her eyes are open to see just how arrogant and racist these words are.

For those of you drinking the white privilege hype, don’t be ashamed of your station in your God-given life. I know of plenty of African Americans who are privileged. You see no matter what you do, it won’t be good enough. The black community has to figure out they are not slaves anymore. Their hurt runs deep. Only God can truly heal their hurt. We can empathize, we can stand by them. We can love them, we can lift them up when they are down. What we cannot do is heal them. Unfortunately, they have leaders who are self-serving and have not led them to other ways of dealing with injustice. We see the agenda of hate, it’s time for our Black Americans to quit being used. It’s up to them. Meanwhile quit the white privilege narrative. It’s just an agenda of shame. I’m not ashamed of who God made me to be. Don’t slap God in the face by now denying who you are. Quit your bitching….

Of course, she doesn’t see herself as a racist and made enough “loving statement” to keep herself deluded.  I hope people like her will listen to what is really being said by those around us in real pain. We can do better.  I’m seeing it happen all around me.  The reason I’m in this conversation is for people like those below who are finding a different way to see the world around them, and hopefully, be more redemptive in it.

From someone I haven’t met, who read my latest book:

I finished A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation. I didn’t realize how much my pride and “search for the truth”, led me to justify the sufferings of others. I felt that if I admitted white privilege/advantage, I was admitting that I was inferior and less than. I justified myself and tried to “correct the narrative”. But I had never really pondered how Jesus would walk in this time. I started to feel compassion, empathy, and no longer concerned for my own “rights”. It is eye-opening to me, how much I staked my identity on being a conservative, American, instead of a son of God, who is walking in relationship with Father. I am starting to see just how dangerous tribalism is and how harmful it is to our brothers and sisters. Unfortunately, it has taken a long time for me to see, but I am excited to see the adventures that Father and I will have together, as I participate in this process of healing.

From someone in a small mountain community in the Colorado Rockies:

I wanted to express my thanks to you, Arnita and Bob for the amazing book The Language of Healing. You all not only created the best format for a multi-author book I have encountered but created a space where people can have meaningful conversations that can transform lives. The message of the book was something we so desperately need in our culture and has only been magnified over the past few weeks. Imagine if more of us had been reaching outside “our group” and been listening to understand others over the years. These types of conversations might have led directly to the saving of people’s lives.  I am hopeful that recent tragic events will spur more of us on to form relationships with those who are different than us. And from my perspective it is on the individual and community level where real transformation will take place. Your focus on personal connection and the practical steps you provided in each chapter is what gives me the hope that change can really happen. I found the book engaging but challenging in many good ways. And where Papa has been directing my attention is on engaging and showing empathy for working class folks in my community (almost entirely white) who hold very different political, economic and racial views.

From a twenty-one-year-old woman:

The murder of George Floyd did not happen in a vacuum. Rather, the tragedy was a symptom of a much larger, multifaceted problem. I like to use a pyramid analogy to think about racism here in America. The act of murder is at the top point of the pyramid. Individual, perhaps seemingly “smaller” acts of racism lay the foundation of the pyramid. These smaller acts include implicit biases, racial slurs, stereotypes, other microaggressions, and color-blindness. These “small” acts fit into the pyramid and eventually lead to devastating, tragic, life-sucking acts such as the murder of George Floyd. The murder of George Floyd was simply a bubbling over that reveals the race culture in American that often lies beneath the surface.

The thing is, these “small” acts truly aren’t so small. Each one contributes to a negative racial culture. Each one is damaging. Furthermore, silence is also damaging. While I may not use a racial slur myself, if my friend says one, and I don’t use my agency to speak up for my black brothers and sisters, I am creating damage too. My silence implies complicity and consent.

As a white female, I am striving to do what I can to disrupt the culture of silence and to help dismantle America’s negative racial culture starting with destroying the bottom of the pyramid. If more of us can speak up, using our voices to proclaim the equal worth of every human being, I have hope that we can crush the pyramid before it reaches the top.

Finally, while I want to use my voice to speak out against all forms of racial discrimination, I also want to be an empathetic listener for my black brothers and sisters. I will never truly fathom what it is like to a black person in America. And I should never pretend to.

From an African-American mother of two young boys in the Carolinas:

Then came the riots. Pain and frustration followed. This is not the way to solve it. But I get the pain! I can see why some feel like enough is enough! But I know in my heart violence is not the answer. I know my hope is in Jesus. I can quote scriptures to back that up, but sometimes life sucks. And I’m learning to sit in the tension of the pain and tears and being honest with that, knowing that Jesus is right there with me. He’s weeping too and understands my pain.

My husband and I have had some very interesting conversations with our respective friends over the last week. They have been so draining and all consuming, but mostly positive and definitely worth it. I’m thankful that my friends have felt comfortable enough to share and want to discuss. We are doing deep. I even had one friend who said that her eyes were open to systemic racism for the first time. I’m shocked, but so grateful! I listened to more of The Language Of Healing today and it’s been so good to get back into it. I have the book and the audible version. What an on-time book! So grateful that the three of you followed the Holy Spirit’s lead to put that together. You complement each other super well and each brings something uniquely important to the table. It’s beautiful.

I’m taking a moment to share this because I want to say thank you. Thank you for being in my community. Thank you for giving me hope. That you are willing to use your leverage and possibly lose friends in order to speak up on behalf of those whose voice goes unheard. Human dignity is human dignity. Period.

We can do better than the options the media give us.  Find your way into new relationships laced with compassion and the willingness to understand. Don’t just look for voices that only confirm what you already think. Read and explore outside your comfort zone and see what Father might want to shift in your thinking. If nothing else, your comfort zone will expand, and you’ll be a safer place for people to approach.

A Fork In the Road

First, Sara and I had a great trip to Denver to be with our son and his girlfriend, Karen. We put on a lot of miles, over a thousand each way.  We took our two dogs with us in a rented RV so we could maintain our anti-COVID bubble.  It all worked out great. Well, except for being mistaken for drug mules and having our vehicle sniffed out by a drug-detecting canine. After wasting our time and theirs, they allowed us to continue.

But the real reason for this post is to alert you to our Language of Healing Live session today at 2:00 pm PDT. Vince Coakley (pictured with Wayne above), a good friend and the host of The Vince Coakley Show in Charlotte, NC and Greenville, SC will be our moderator. We will be discussing the first chapter of A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation: A Fork in the Road.

Our society is certainly at yet another fork in the road. This book was all but getting lost in the pandemic before the racial events of the last few weeks brought it center stage again. We stand at the crossroads of whether we can find more meaningful changes to set our culture on a better past with equity of justice and opportunity for all, or whether it will all quiet down again until the next incident.

I’m voting for the former, but it is not likely to happen where the extremists on both sides control the narratives. If we’re going to see lasting change we have to have a different conversation, and unfortunately, our political leaders are not showing us the way.

Let’s discuss how we can choose a better path that leads to healing rather than more division. This is the fourth in a series of A Language of Healing Live events that we are posting on FaceBook. (You can view past ones here.)

The event is now over, but you can view the YouTube recording here.

This is a propitious time for our country that can mark an upward trajectory of equal justice for all, or devolve into greater division and anger. We can all be part of a better solution.

Is America a Racist Country?

I woke up yesterday to this email from a really close friend: “Do you believe there is systemic racism in this country? Do you think we are a racist country? I was just curious about what you thought as I couldn’t tell from what I have listened to and what you’ve written.”

Great question, and an important one for us all to answer.

I hope those are two separate questions. As to the second one, I don’t think any country can be racist any more than it can be Christian. The country is made up of people—some are, some aren’t. As a country, we are  committed to incredibly high ideals—”liberty and justice for all!” Have we ever lived to the fullness of those ideals?  No, not yet! Do most people aspire to that reality? I think they do, but they don’t control the microphones in this country. This great melting pot has some fabulous stories where people of different ethnicities coming together for a greater common good, and some horrible examples of those ideals being betrayed by those who act with hatred against certain groups of people.

The question I’d be more prone to answering is, “Does our country have a race problem?”  I used to think it didn’t. I knew we had a disturbing past of enslaving people, but we’ve been trying to dig our way out of that and extend freedom and rights for all, even if that has often been done grudgingly. I grew up on the West coast where I was not exposed to a lot of overt racism, but I didn’t have a lot of black or hispanic friends, either. I grew up around people like me, for the most part. Over the years I’ve had friendships with people who look different from me, but they never let me in on the inequities they faced in our society. Perhaps they feared it would risk the friendship. Over the last decade or so I’ve had an expanding group of African-American and Latino friends who have let me in on the injustices they and their friends face. Some of it is low-key, but it impacts their opportunity and they definitely get the message that they are looked down on by the bulk of white culture as not-quite-equal. They see their children more at risk, and they don’t think we care.

Now, I’m convinced our society has a race problem and that many of my white friends are blind to its implications. We want to think we have reached equality, that most of these battles are behind us, that we do have equal opportunity and if “they” just worked hard enough they could have what we have.  But, that isn’t true. They don’t have the same opportunities and we have added to their burden.  We didn’t see how lynching replaced slavery as a way to instill fear and keep a culture down. We don’t see how unjust mass incarceration of black youth get them into the system to limit their opportunity and “keep them in their place.”  We think high crime in ethnic neighborhoods justifies our suspicious treatment of all blacks.  We don’t see racism around us, because it doesn’t happen to us or people we love. So, yes I am convinced there is systemic racism woven into the fabric of our culture. Most of it isn’t as overt as a racist cop killing an unarmed black man, and may even be unconscious, but it does exist. It gives people of color more to overcome to have the same opportunity the majority culture enjoys.

The reason there is such an explosion with anger now is not just because George Floyd was tragically murdered by a white cop but because his death provided a visible, undeniable image of the injustices that my friends of color and their children suffer every day in a society that is still white-preferring. This one is on video and even so, we have white people who don’t want to look at it or look for a reason that Mr. Floyd deserved it. They want it to be an isolated incident and ignore the wider issues it exposes. If we didn’t have that video, it’s very likely our justice system would have believed the police and dismissed the testimony of the onlookers. That’s been going on far too long, not only in the deaths of so many black, unarmed young men, but in the systemic racial inequity of a society that can do better.

Most white people I know wouldn’t want any of this to be true, but they have a hard time looking at our disparity and seeing it for what it is. I don’t think acknowledging white privilege is some horrible evil for which we should all feel shamed. It simply expresses the advantages we’ve had in being part of the dominant culture that prevailed in settling this country, often by violent and unjust means. They don’t want us to despise what we have; they want us to create a more level playing field so they can have the same opportunities we do.  That reality has found its way into my heart, and I hurt along with them in ways I did not used to. I want to see more what they see, understand more what they feel, and lend my voice to theirs for more just and equitable solutions. I want to speak out against injustice, against using race as a means to judge another human, against ways they are exploited or looked down upon.  If we could see the suffering our unawareness causes, we would act differently. That may be what is happening now in the protests being so diverse racially and generationally.

It has always been hard to talk about racism because we don’t use the same definitions. I hear African-Americans use the word to describe any attitude, policy, or action that diminishes them and their opportunity. White people, however, only use it to describe the worst examples like the KKK and white supremacists and can’t recognize racist tendencies in themselves or in the mechanisms of our culture. They think our racial issues were solved by the Civil War, or at least by Civil Rights legislation in the 60s.  Most of us want this to be over and believe that all are created equal and have an opportunity to succeed. That’s why when racial conflict comes up they think even mentioning racism is divisive.

Don’t make the ‘racist’ term so evil, that you can’t look for it in your own heart and mind. Racism doesn’t have to be intentional or overt; it can simply result from not seeing beyond your own interests to incorporate the interests of others as well.  Don’t take your definition of ‘racist’ by its most extreme examples. You can have friends whose skin tones are different than yours and still be blind to the racial issues our society has yet to confront and in doing so you help perpetuate a problem that needs to be fixed.

But you may have racial issues, or at least racial blindness…

  • …if you’ve never offered safe space for your black or brown friends to discuss discrimination and bias without arguing with or dismissing their experience.
  • …if you think you are “color blind” and treat all people equally.
  • …if you see a group of white kids walking through your neighborhood you smile, and see a group of black kids and wonder if they are up to no good.
  • …if you think everyone has the same opportunities you did; they only need to work harder.
  • …if you take offense to the term “white privilege” or see it as a source of guilt or shame. White privilege is the recognition that as part of a dominant culture you have had significant advantage in navigating society—white more than black, male more than female. Since you’ve always had them it is easy to understand why you don’t recognize them. Watching how people of color are treated in public environments, or how you tend to look down on people who don’t achieve as much as you do, may help you recognize it.  I don’t think people want your guilt; they are hoping you’ll learn to share those advantages with all others.
  • …if you prefer not to talk (or read) about racism because it makes you uncomfortable.
  • …if you think there are no bad cops because they are racist, afraid, or unnecessarily violent. Or, if you think all cops are racist.
  • …if you see the destructive looters or rioters as an excuse to dismiss the concerns of so many law-abiding protesters.
  • …if you tend to want to blame the victims when they are black or excuse the perpetrators if they are white.
  • …if you still believe the narrative that Colin Kaepernick was out to denigrate our flag or our military.
  • …if you get angrier when someone from a different culture cuts you off in traffic or gets the job you wanted.
  • …if you have convinced yourself that President Trump cares equally for all Americans.

And if you find vestiges of racism in your heart, what can you do?

First, learning to recognize it is a big step.  Now learn more about it, especially from those who’ve suffered from it.

Second, if you’re a person of faith, talk to God about it. Ask him to show you where it is in your heart and how he can untangle it. It will take time, but progress is a great thing.

Third, make time for relationships with people who look different than you do.  Get to know them as friends and when you do, ask them to tell you their story. You can only discriminate against people you dehumanize. Humanizing them will change you and the way you live in society.

Fourth, explore with other people ways to make our society more equitable. The challenges are huge and finding the policies to fix them won’t be easy in our polarized culture. You can however, simply start with asking, “How can I become a more generous person in the world outside my own in-group? If you need some ideas here and some concrete ways to do that, see our book, A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation. It contains specific exercises for you to engage conversations about race, as well as politics, religion, and sexuality that can close the gap on the divisiveness of our media and political leaders.

Don’t let this upheaval pass without taking stock within.  Philip, a friend of mine, posted this scene from JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. It is one of my favorites and so appropriate in the face of the pandemic and the racial concerns that now confront us:

Frodo tells Gandalf of his regret that the ring had come to him. “I wish it need not have happened in my time.”

“So do I,” Gandalf responds, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

We have not chosen to live in this time, but God has chosen us to live in it. Let’s respond in a way that puts more of Father’s glory in the world.

Going Live Today at 5:00 PDT

First, I want to let you know we have completed The Jesus Story, a twelve-week video class that I did for my grandchildren about appreciating the Bible as the treasure map that can lead us to an adventuresome life in Jesus. These twenty-minute videos are designed to help other parents and grandparents have a similar conversation with their children or grandchildren. I have so enjoyed the emails many families have sent me as to how this has sparked more Jesus-focused conversations in their home.  I love what it has done in my grandkids.

Now, the real reason for this post.  Who hasn’t been touched by the anguish in our country over the death of George Floyd. I’ve been deeply touched by the anguish and fear in the black and brown faces I see, for whom this murder was only the tip of an iceberg of injustices that they suffer daily. We’ve been here before and after days of grief our society settles back into its old form. I have white friends who either can’t or won’t wrap their hearts around the injustices that still exist in our society, either unaware they exist, or unwilling to look closer. What does encourage me this time is the number of people like me who want to understand and are now calling for change. That’s different, and it has given hope to the African-Americans I know that things will not always have to stay the way they are. I’ll write more about that later this week.

If we’re going to see lasting change we have to have a different conversation, and unfortunately our political leaders are not showing us the way. That’s why we’ve begun a series of on-line Live events to help people see how a better conversation can be had.

I’m going live 5:00 pm PDT with a conversation about Staking Out the Common Ground, that will be moderated by Josh Armstrong a facilitator of Common Ground in Bakersfield, CA. This is the third in a series of A Language of Healing Live events that we are posting on FaceBook. (You can view past ones here.) The one we did on race two weeks ago, before the murder of George Floyd, was a powerful example of how we can come together and listen to each other across racial lines. Just remember, love does not require agreement, but it does require understanding and empathy.

On today’s show I will be with my other two coauthors of A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation as well as a roomful of panelists in a Zoom session.  We will be streaming that live at the Language of Healing Discussion Group on FaceBook, and I will attempt to post that feed on my Wayne Jacobsen Page there as well.

We’ll be discussing the following questions:

  1. How can we use a language of healing to speak to the ever-widening racial divide—especially in light of the protests following the death of George Floyd.
  2. With this being a presidential election year, how can we find common ground with family and friends who view the world through a different lens?
  3. Are there strategies that we can use to bring healing to the pain that we are all experiencing?
  4. How can we intentionally pursue relationships with folks who are on the other side of the ideological aisle?

If you couldn’t join us live, the links will still work afterwards to view the recording or you can watch it here:

This is not a time for fear or for hand-wringing, but courageously becoming part of a solution in our corner of the world instead of hoping it will all just go away.

This Can’t Keep Happening

Two more horrible images of racism were added to the national lexicon of our racial divide this week. Both have made my heart hurt this week.

The first was the killing of a young, black man in Minneapolis by a policeman who persistently ground his knee into the man’s neck as he lay handcuffed and gasping for breath on the street. How in the world are people like him still on a police force in America? Who doesn’t yet know that you can’t treat another human being this way? This. Is. Reprehensible. Yes, he and his partners should have been fired, and I hope they also stand trial for murder. Another young life is lost, and I hope we all mourn this horrible tragedy and demand better from our authorities. And I really don’t want to hear from my white friends that we have to be careful and not jump to conclusions until all the facts are in. There is no possible fact that would justify what I saw in that video. None. You can be a supporter of law enforcement and call out bad police work at the same time. In fact, you have to. What happened in Minnesota is bad policing and bad humanity. It feeds the fears of so many people that our society doesn’t care when a young black man is killed or the presumption that, of course, he must have done something to deserve it. (And if you want to find out just what kind of man the victim was, you can read about George Floyd here.)

The second image came from a lady walking her dog in Central Park. Her dog was off-leash in the Ramble, which is against park rules. When she comes upon a man bird-watching, he tells her to leash her dog. As the confrontation heats up, the man records the engagement on his phone. It’s a good thing he did, too. The lady is obviously offended at has actions and demands he turns his camera off. She even moves aggressively towards him when he doesn’t obey her. He pleads with her not to come closer. She responds by telling him she is going to call the cops. He tells her to please go ahead and do so. She warns him that she will tell them an African-American man is threatening her life. He tells her to go ahead, and she does. The video causes her to lose her job, her dog, and possibly her right ever to go to Central Park again.

It’s easy to hate on the Minneapolis police and young woman. They both made horrible choices, one costing a young man his life, the other didn’t have the same grave consequences, but grows from the same root. Before we choose sides and mount our soapboxes to eloquently argue from whatever side of the racial divide we find ourselves, perhaps it would be better to pause and see if we can learn something. It would be nice if these were just the actions of a few “bad eggs,” but the incidents themselves and how our people react to them, belie an ugly underbelly of American society where all people are not yet treated equally.

When another young, black male is killed by the outrageous actions of a police detachment, can you feel, even for a moment, what that does to the mothers of young, black men all across this country? Can you imagine what a young man feels when he is put in cuffs by the police, especially if he knows he’s innocent of their presumptions? They don’t see this as a tragic accident, but the result of a systemic unfairness to people who aren’t white. Many have already taught their sons how to be compliant and nonthreatening in the face of a police presence. They know it is likely that their sons will be treated differently than a white suspect, and often to tragic ends.

The lady with the dog in Central Park may be a fine person most other days. She was simply doing what many dog-lovers do. I’ve done it. I’ve had my dogs off-leash on mountain trails so they can have a moment to run free. I only do it when no one’s around. Occasionally, however, I’ve gotten caught by an unexpected person coming up the trail. I have always apologized profusely and leashed them quickly. I’m sure she wishes she had done that now. Instead, her life has been ruined by her willingness to use her whiteness to falsely accuse another human being based on the color of his skin. Watching it escalate, my heart hurt for her. She’s in the wrong, and she knows it. To compensate, she gets all uppity about the fact that he is filming the incident. Her racism gets unmasked when she takes a superior tone with him and rushes forward to try to put him in his place. Thankfully, he doesn’t back down, and she goes from embarrassed to feeling violated with his camera, to threatening him in hopes of gaining power in a situation where she had none. 

Maybe that’s how we need to see racism. It is not only about white supremacists with hate in their hearts. Racism, at its core, is about power and what we are willing to do to gain or maintain an advantage over someone else. It subtly dehumanizes “the other” so we can treat them in whatever way is most advantageous to us. Even by making this woman a villain, we don’t have to look for the subtleties of racism in our hearts or how we might treat or perceive someone differently based on their skin color. 

After losing her job and her dog, even the man she threatened has come to her defense, saying that none of us deserve judgment for the worst moment in our life. You’ve got to love his generosity when he was being judged for no reason at all. Wouldn’t it have been incredible if this had stayed a human engagement, where she would have learned something about herself and the video would never have gone viral?

I know it is difficult for many of my friends to talk about racism. We are quick to discount race and want to pretend it had nothing to do with the incident in Minneapolis. We want to pretend we’re color blind and that society is now equitable for all. These situations unmask that lie. It isn’t race-baiting to acknowledge it, nor falling in step with the mainstream media. The African-American, Latino, and Asian friends I know tell me of the situations they are presented with frequently that I’ve never had to concern myself with. They continually deal with injustices that never make it into the news. We can do better. These kinds of tragedies have to end, and they won’t if we can’t face it, learn from it, and get to know people on the other side of the racial divide so my erroneous presumptions can be dismantled.

Last week, I was in a Zoom conversation with the coauthors of A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation and a diverse panel talking about our society’s reaction to the Ahmaud Arbery killing in Georgia. It lasted two hours as we listened to how circumstances like that affect families that aren’t part of the majority culture. I had one woman write to me afterward, sharing what she had gleaned from that conversation. 

I thought so many good points were raised as the individuals felt safe to express truths that came from deep within. It struck me when Arnita said we need to tell our children that it’s wrong to kill someone because of their skin color. Just the fact that she needed to say that speaks volumes in terms of how far we have to go. I remember one man saying that his daughter asked him why they “always have to be the ones to say, ‘Sorry’”. That one got to me. The man who expressed the idea of whites giving up power by having a black person actually occupy the leadership position and how that leads to true diversity, resonated with me. Perhaps the comment that impacted me the most was from the African-American woman who shared that she knows that hearts can change because she experienced it herself. She had wanted her sons to marry girls who looked like them, but when she got to know some of the bi-racial girls in her program, her heart changed. Wow! I wanted to thank you for your part in this movement. This work is much needed, and I hope, greatly valued!

These conversations are changing me, and I’m genuinely grateful. They are the greatest joy of my work on A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation. We wanted to put a tool in the world that would encourage people to move beyond their comfort zone and embrace those who don’t think or look like them. We’ve got to bridge the divisions in this country, especially where we can  help to create a more just society for people who are being unfairly marginalized. 

So, instead of reacting to news like this that reinforces our biases, maybe we could pause and learn how we can be a more generous person in a broken culture.

A Conversation about Race

Yesterday, my coauthors of A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation hosted a Zoom conversation to discuss the public reaction to the Ahmaud Arbery killing in Georgia and the racial divide it exposes. Gil Michel, a friend, CPA and an inner-city pastor in Indiana moderated our discussion with a diverse panel who braved the conversation with us. Set to go for an hour, the conversation went for two and could have gone on longer. There are some incredible moments here of pain and pleas to have the conversations that can make a difference.

You can view that conversation here if you like or watch it below. I am grateful to be in conversations like this where people can speak honestly about race and the inequities that exist in our culture, with a hope for healing the divide. To do that, however, we first have to hear each other at a heart level and understand someone’s pain, especially if it isn’t our pain. Remember, love doesn’t demand that we agree; it only demands that we understand.

It is my hope that people of faith can take the lead in a conversation like this and especially include those who can’t understand the fears and frustrations of those whose skin color makes them feel less a part of their country and less safe going about their daily lives. If you want to continue the conversation with me, you may do so in the comments below or if you want to include the other two authors, you can do so on the Language of Healing Discussion Group on Facebook.

Can’t We Have a Better Conversation?

In just a few hours, at 2:00 PDT today, I will be joining my coauthors of A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation to discuss the public reaction to the Ahmaud Arbery killing in Georgia and the racial divide it exposes. People are quick to choose sides and vilify anyone whose opinion doesn’t match their own. A Facebook post I did on it this weekend caused people to accuse me of race-baiting, being a progressive, and stupid enough to believe the mainstream media.

I was expressing my concern that a young, black man was gunned down in the street, seemingly for looking into an unoccupied home undergoing extensive remodeling. Accusations are flying everywhere, either that the young man deserved it or that the armed men were acting recklessly. It has once again fanned the flames of the racial divide in this country.

This afternoon, we’re going to discuss the racial divide in this country that is exposed in tragedies like this.  What can lower the rhetoric and actually come to some answers that will heal our wounds and treat each other with more respect?  Gil Michel, a CPA and an inner-city pastor in Indiana will moderate our conversation. We’ll also have a panel who will add their questions and insights as well.

You can watch it live, or recorded afterwards, at The Language of Healing Discussion Group on FaceBook. I’m also going to share it if I can on the Wayne Jacobsen Author Page.  Come join us if you can, and add your insights to the comment section on Facebook, or here on this blog.

Love Does Not Require Agreement

I’ve got friends on both sides of the polarizing divide in our country, some who think religious conservatives are some of the worst people on the planet and some who think it is impossible for Democrats to believe in God.  I’ve been questioned by people on both of those sides as to how I could write such a “great” book as He Loves Me and then follow it up with something as carnal as A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation.

Many seem to think God only loves the “home team” they are on and holds in contempt those on the “away team,” as they see it. The truth is, God’s love extends to us all. There is not one taste of Father’s love for me that has also not been extended to every other human on the planet. I believe a Father’s love is not the reward we receive for holding the right beliefs or following the right political agenda. Father’s love is the starting line of a glorious adventure of transformation that will allow us not only to live more freely in God’s reality, but also to love other people who need to find the starting line themselves.

The secret is, those two are not separate books about different things, but two books about the same thing. It is love we receive and then love we freely give away in the world. I loved how one lady discovered that and wrote me last week to tell me about it:

I wanted to tell you how much I appreciated the God Journey podcast last Tuesday with Vince Coakley (The Dangers of Dogma). I’m from the South and I found the conversation between the two of you so engaging for me personally, and so fitting for our nation as a whole at such a time as this!

As I was thinking back on your conversation and reflecting on the notes I took, I was struck by your statement about people who “ran up to the end of their answers and were willing to go beyond them”. I immediately thought, “That’s me. He’s talking about me!” I love having these words to help me articulate what I have experienced. And then you said something about finding the answers “beyond the ones I used to think were all I needed”. Again, I thought, “Yes, that’s what happened to me. That’s how I experienced that part of my journey towards authenticity.”

Then, I had one of those rare but profound moments when two concepts; or in this case, lessons learned from two seemingly different realms of experience suddenly converge as if they were intricately woven together all along.

I realized that what caused me to run up to the end of my answers was my desire to see my belief system through the eyes of my out-group as I wrote about in my first email to you several weeks ago. I knew that the answers that I had always leaned on were not going to stand up to the cynical doubts that drove the questions of three people in my life who all perceive Christians as hypocritical colonizers.

The more I thought about it, I saw that for me, and I’m guessing many others, there is a connection between the message of He Loves Me and the challenge presented in  A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation:

When my heart began to truly be free to live in God’s affection, I began to be more aware of a deeper love, a wider grace, and a more sincere desire to forgive. All of the sudden, I found myself loving those who represent my out-group in much the same way God loves me.

I mentioned in my first email to you that I read He Loves Me six years ago for the first time. I have been rereading it recently these last few weeks. Your words from p. 183 in Ch. 21 resonate with me so clearly now; much more so now than they did six years ago at the very beginning of my journey:

“Once we experience love as God defines it we will not be able to keep from sharing it with others as it has been shared with us. Where God is generous with you, you can be generous with others. Where God affirms your worth in him, you won’t seek a substitute from others. Where you know God overlooks your flaws, you’ll overlook them in others.”

And…

“Instead of despising people who are broken by sin you will be touched by the depth of bondage that holds them captive. You will also see better how the Father responds to them and then you will know how you can as well.”

So it became clear to me in the past couple of days that not only am I free now that I have stepped outside of the boundary of religious obligation, but I am truly free to love others in ways that I was powerless to do before. While I had recognized that my friendships with these three people inspired me to take a hard look at my values and beliefs from their perspectives, I now see that my new ability to begin living loved two and half years ago primed me for engaging with each of these individuals in the first place in ways I was previously not prepared to do. I was not conscious of it when each relationship took root, but I can see it now looking back.

That. Is. So. Cool.

Jesus said it best, “Love others as I have loved you… by this all men will know that you are my disciples.”  Without that love, no attempt to defend what’s true will matter.

Remember, loving someone doesn’t mean you’re required to agree with them, only that you’re willing to understand them.

Try it, and you’ll soon discover how you can love someone who sees the world very differently than you. It may even drive them a bit nuts!

____________________

Special Programming Notes:

This Sunday, May 17, at 1:00 pm PDT we are doing another God Journey After-Show, for those who want to discuss the content of the last two podcasts about viewing the Bible as a Treasure Map to explore, not a Moral Code to Follow. If you’d like to be in on the discussion, please listen to the two most-recent podcasts and sign-up for the After-Show and let Wayne know what your interest is in this discussion. If you just want to stream it live or watch it later, view it here.

Then

This Tuesday at 2:00 we are having another Language of Healing Live, where the co-authors will be discussing the recent shooting of a black man in Georgia and how our culture can discuss difficult issues like that without polarizing into two mutually exclusive camps. This episode of Live! will be hosted by Gil Michel, of South Bend, IN.  You can stream it live at The Language of Healing Discussion Group.

Social Distancing

I’ve had a lot of people worried about us out here in California, the land of fruits and nuts, especially hearing the news that we are now under a “stay at home” order by our state. I recorded a podcast on the pandemic on Tuesday and when it aired today, it was already a bit out of date, but the observations we talk about there are still important. People want to know how Sara and I are doing.  There’s nothing new we were asked to do last night that Sara and I haven’t already been doing, given that her allergies make her high risk.  We only go out for trips of necessity and that sparingly. We have all we need at this point and are physically fine. We miss some of the regular activities that have been part of the rhythm of our lives, but this is the most crucial circumstances our world has faced since World War II.  I know it doesn’t look like it yet to some people, but this is bigger than 9/11.  How we respond in this moment as individuals and as a nation will define us for centuries to come.

Unfortunately, this is going to hurt for a while. People are getting sick, and some will die. Businesses will be lost and bankruptcies will multiply. Don’t think just because you’re a Christian or “have faith in God”, you will be exempt from the consequences of this. Jesus reminded us that it rains on the just and the unjust. Anyone telling you that we still need to gather in our “churches” because that’s the safest place to be is lying to you.  There’s just no way around it. But these moments can overwhelm us or they can define us as resilient people that can rise above the challenges, mitigate the spread of this virus every way we can, and ride it out until the sun dawns again. This is one of those moments where we’re being called to “All Hands On Deck!”

I hope we have the national fortitude to respect what’s happening here and in these critical times not just think about ourselves, but be mindful that we’re part of a larger community. Each of us has a choice. Will I live by the creed of “everyone for themselves”, hoarding toilet paper, pulling out of my investments, stocking up on ammunition, or go attending “church” meetings to help spread the virus. Or, will I live out of generosity for people around me, either helping with finances if you have extra or connecting with those who might feel exceptionally lonely as they are no longer able to access their social gatherings.

In talking with a friend of mine yesterday, who also happens to pastor the local Presbyterian fellowship, he mentioned that they’ve changed the terminology a bit. We are being told by our public health people to not be with more than ten people, to stay in our homes and limit trips to necessary ones only, and to stay six feet away from others when we are out. But he said they are not calling that “social distancing,” but “physical distancing”, because that’s all we’re being asked to do. We don’t have to socially isolate. Through phone calls, FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom you can maintain all your social friendships and encourage others in the process. They are using the term, “Physical Distancing, with Social Interaction.”  I’m using that, too, because it reminds me to stay outward in my focus even as I remain separated physically.

I love that. I wish our government would have used it because I know people already hunkering down in the loneliness of their own homes and feeling pretty isolated. Let’s maintain social interaction, and perhaps all the more in these days. Think of five people you can connect with each day just to check in on them. You can’t watch that many Netflix shows anyway.  And if you’re lonely, call someone or arrange a video chat.  This is the time to be alone physically, but not socially.  Let others brighten your day.

He also shared with me the words of Martin Luther that expressed his approach to dealing with the Black Death that was ravaging Europe. Timely advice even today.

“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me, and I have done what he has expected of me, and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”

Luther’s Works Volume 43, pg 132 the letter “Whether one may flee from a Deadly Plague” written to Rev. Dr. John Eric Hess

Words of wisdom from a few centuries ago. This is how Sara and I are living it and hope you are, too. This is not a time for fear, but for deeper trust in Father’s presence with us and his provision for us regardless of what circumstances dish out.

The book cover of IN SEASON superimposed over a grape vineyard.

Let me make a few other announcements while I’ve got you here… First, In Season, which is a farmer’s view of John 15 and what it means to grow in fruitfulness and fulfillment in his kingdom, is now available in audio. I do the reading myself, so when you get tired of watching a ton of video, let me read to you. You can also get four of my other books here.

Also, I did a last-minute appearance on The Vince Coakley Show in Charlotte, NC today and will post the link here when the podcast is up.  We talked about the pandemic, Rodney Howard Brown’s assertion that people who stay away from his “church” during this time are “pansies”, and how we can live more generously in this season.

Finally, I’m thinking with my daughter about making this season of being homebound fruitful for my grandkids; we decided to put together a class about The Story of Scripture for her kids. Since we’ll be doing this via the web, we’re also checking to see if there will be other kids interested in joining. Of course, adults can tune in, too. We’re still working out details for this, but keep your eyes on this space and we’ll announce here when we get it set up.

Let’s take this time on, one day at a time, fearlessly with our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus. No matter what life dishes out, he is greater and we are completely safe in his love.

 

 

 

 

Living in Uncertain Times

What a difference twenty-four hours can make. Last night as I watched at my grandson’s little league game, the coronavirus was still a distant concern. Then, the president spoke, and suddenly major league and college sports teams were postponing their schedules. Cruise lines were canceling their trips; Broadway and Disneyland are closing. Now, it seems, we are taking this seriously.

Of course, the idea is not to stop the spread, which now encircles the globe. Rather, officials want to slow its growth, so that we’ll have enough medical resources to help with those contracting the virus. Scientists have talked about the danger of a pandemic in this highly-mobile world, and it has finally come. Fortunately, this one does not yet appear to be as virulent as worst-case scenarios have imagined, but now we see that it is going to dramatically affect most of our lives.

I’m still not certain at this point what travel I’ll be able to take in the next few weeks or months. Some of us had been planning a gathering in Europe, which may have to be postponed. Time will tell, for sure. I’m all for being cautious and prudent, not only for myself but for people around me that my carelessness might put at additional risk. The best counsel I’ve heard to date came this morning in a conversation with a friend in Ireland. The UK is recommending that if you have a cough or a fever, self-isolate for at least seven days. It may turn out to be nothing, but that’s when you are the most contagious to others, whether you have the coronavirus or the cold or flu. Loving others enough to take that precaution seems minimal at best.

Who knows where all this might lead, other than God himself. John’s prophecies in the book of Revelation hint at plagues that will wipe out one-third of humans on the planet. This virus isn’t near that potent, but it does make me think, “What if?” Is this a birth pang of the Last Day? My heart leaps at the thought. Yes, it would mean a rough ride ahead, but isn’t this what our hearts have longed for—the consummation of this age and a kingdom to come fulfills all God has desired for his creation? Oh, that it is!

I know many people are afraid or at least find the uncertainty of it all disturbing. I am not among them. A long time ago, Jesus began to teach me how little control I had over my own life. I used to find my security in trying to control people and events around me; my inability to do so would cause great anxiety or fear. But ever-so-slowly, Jesus began to invite me into an ever-deepening security in his love and trust in his plans for the world that has allowed me to grow increasingly at rest in times of uncertainty. (Here’s a podcast Brad and I did back in 2009 if you want to taste a bit in the middle of that process.)

Faith is this: our whole life is in his hands—every breath—and he can enfold any circumstance into his purpose in the world. He promised each of us grace enough for each day and told us to look to the birds as encouragement because they live anxiety-free in the Father’s care. So, whether or not my planned trips come off right now or not, how much of a crisis this virus becomes is not in my control. My life is not wrapped up in the stock market curve or in my knowledge of the future. My joy is to wake up on this day, listen for his nudges, and follow his footprints. However he chooses to lead me, fear is not my friend. It will only wrap me into knots and make me respond in ways that will be destructive to me and others around me.

This is the adventure of walking with him, uncertain of what the next circumstance might bring. I’m actually learning to love this, not the tragedies in the world, but the freedom to lean into him through them. Yesterday, someone wrote this about a recent exchange I had with them during a podcast interview, “(He) has a willingness to be profoundly honest about his journey, and this wonderful lilies-and-the-sparrows trust about him which has helped me spiritually exhale more than once over the last month. For a person who’s been so successful in his career (he co-wrote The Shack, for instance), he’s also one of the most generous I’ve met when it comes to his time and his attention.” Man, that is not the Wayne of twenty years ago, but if that’s how my life encourages others right now, I’m overwhelmingly grateful.

You’ve got to know that this freedom has come through a lot of disappointment about what I wanted for my life. I’ve spent hours in fruitless prayers trying to get God to change my circumstances when he was more concerned about changing me in them. I’ve had close friends betray me and lie about me simply to get their own way. I’ve encountered circumstances that have challenged me to the core and drove me more deeply into trusting his care.

All the while, this has become one of my favorite portions of Scripture in times of extremity:

Jesus has the last word on everything and everyone, from angels to armies. He’s standing right alongside God, and what he says goes.

Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want. (I Peter 3:22 – 4:2, in The Message)

No, Jesus hasn’t had the last word about everything in my life, or this world. Not yet. I’ve been cheated, shunned, blamed, excluded, and insulted unfairly by people who have taken out their brokenness on me. Right now, it seems that they have had the last word. (By the way, I’ve done my share of that to others, and though I’ve tried to own those moments I’m aware of by apologizing to people, I’m sure there’s more I haven’t yet seen.) In any case, he will get the last word on all of it, and I can only imagine all the healing that will bring into his world.

And I love knowing he has been through everything I’m going through and more. I love Peter’s counsel here. I can see any suffering as an opportunity to let go of more of my plans and to embrace his purpose in the world. Who wouldn’t want to wake up every day free to do what he wants rather than be tyrannized by our own desires? And truthfully, today is no more uncertain than any other day you’ve lived; you’re just more aware of it.  

So, if you find yourself anxious in these times, this may be the best time to have him teach you how to deepen your rest in his love. Every plan we have that is a day out, a week out, or even a year out, may be turned on its head with the next twist of this crisis. This is not the time to grit our teeth and get through the next rush of anxiety, or to beg Jesus to take it away. This is the time to call out to Jesus. Ask him to help you see where fear has a hold to hook its tentacles in you. Live one day at a time and see where grace makes itself known to you. Spend less time trying to get him to change your circumstances and more time leaning into his love so that trust overwhelms fear.

If those who live loved can be fully at rest in seasons of uncertainty, then we can be a rock for others who have no such place to deal with their fear. That’s where God’s glory shines most brightly—when people respond differently than circumstances might dictate.

After all, our circumstances don’t get the last word, Jesus does.

Changing the World You Live In

My dad said he read the book, and he loved it, but he also added, “You’re going to have a tough time getting people to read this book.”

A few days later, I got this note from a friend in Washington, “(This is) one of the most important books I have seen in a long, long time—very close to the heart of God.”

A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation has been quite an adventure. It has opened the door to conversations I never expected to have with families who are dealing with gender or sexual identity issues, communities polarized over a racial divide, and those that have the ear of some pretty influential people. I don’t know yet where this little book will end up, but the conversations I’ve enjoyed over the past few months have made it all worth it.

People’s responses to it have been amazing, as the quote in the picture above that coauthor Bob Prater heard from someone. Even those who have been suspicious of its message, thinking it is just the invitation to make nice, have become engaged with the conversation. “I’ve never even heard of this perspective before,” is something I hear often. 

The language of healing is a robust conversation that can recognize our differences and still care about the perspectives of others. During my recent trip to Oklahoma, I got to share in a workshop with coauthor Arnita Taylor as we walked people through the ways to speak this language of healing that will allow us to live with conviction and generosity in the world.

I also met with two men who are influential in black churches throughout the US. They say one of their greatest needs is to help reconcile the polarity in their communities. These men were talking to me before they’d even read the book. 

And, next year Tulsa, OK, will be dealing with the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre that occurred in 1921. It has been called “the single worst incident of racial violence in American history.” Some of the key players in helping the community deal with this horrific tragedy are reading the book now. It will be interesting to see where that goes.

The greatest joy, however, is hearing how it has changed the way people think and interact with people around them. I got this email earlier this week:

My husband and I finished listening to the audiobook this afternoon. We absolutely loved it. It took us quite a bit of time to get through the book because we would pause for conversation and provide our own examples. It was also meaningful to talk about our hopes and dreams as the material lends itself to living a transformed life in relationship with others. We find this very exciting. We felt as though we were right there, listening to conversations between the three of you. It was truly delightful!

When I was in Richmond a few weeks before, one of the families I visited asked a black pastor from a downtown church to join us. He told us how discouraged he had been that the white community would ever have any compassion for him. He said he couldn’t remember the last time a white man had invited him out to lunch, and here he was sitting with a group of us. He was really touched by the gesture and the things we shared from the book, even though he hadn’t read it yet. It restored his hope, he said.

Last week in Edmond, OK, I met a young man who had been apprehended by the police as he was walking to the store when he was eighteen years old. They thought he had just robbed another store in the area. When the police officer found out the young man he had in custody did not match the description, he angrily uncuffed him and shoved him in the gutter before driving off. Can you imagine what that might do to a young man?

We can do better. I hope this book at least gets people to reconsider how their biases and prejudices shape their unfair responses to people. Then we hope they will invite people into their lives that are different than them. It can’t hurt to reach across whatever aisle we have in our world to find out those on the other side are a lot more like you than they are different. They’ve just had some experiences that have led them to different conclusions than the one you have.

This book can change every engagement you have with other people in the world. Working on it, has for me.  It was never meant to change Washington, DC or the news media. Remember, the world changes one conversation at a time.

Compassion and courage can change the world. Maybe not the whole world, but at least the world you live in. 

When Character Matters Most

As another impeachment trial begins today, the second in my lifetime, I’m really left wondering if character matters to anyone anymore for our political leaders. 

The Democrats fought for a resounding “no” in the Bill Clinton sex scandals, and many of my Republican friends are pushing the same agenda now that their champion holds the White House. 

Growing up, everyone I knew talked about the importance of moral character in voting for our representatives. Now, no one seems to care, or doubts that anyone rising to that level of politics will have any character left. One can hardly argue that Hillary Clinton had any better character than Trump. It seems a cynical electorate no longer seeks out a candidate who exudes integrity, honesty, or graciousness, and perhaps even sees those things as detriments to getting their agenda accomplished

At least, the character issue is back in the news again, after the Christianity Today editorial calling for President Trump’s removal from office or appealing for his resignation. “His Twitter feed alone — with its habitual string of mischaracterizations, lies, and slanders — is a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused.” Mark Galli’s editorial also expressed his concern that evangelical support for Trump is undermining the credibility of the Gospel among groups that President Trump regularly belittles or marginalizes. 

The Christian Post immediately responded that Christians who support Trump support him for appointing pro-life judges, standing up for religious freedom for business owners, moving the embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and fighting for border security. “It’s a different kind of character that is found in courageous leadership, fortitude, and dogged determination. There is a deeper morality in keeping your promises after you’ve been elected.”

It is disheartening to see people who claim to be following the same Lord and King so passionately divided along the Trump line, and so dismissive of anyone who disagrees with them. As one person told me, “I’ve got friends who regard President Trump as the nephew of Jesus Christ and others who think he’s the cousin of the Antichrist.” So do I.

Jesus prayed that his glory would fill each of us in such a way that we would become one with the others, and that’s how the world would know we are directed by the breath of a better Spirit. Is this division the fruit of our politics becoming our first loyalty, or even seeking a savior among those who play the political game? 

That’s why so many change tactics when their self-interest does. Those who dismissed the importance of Clinton’s flawed character back in the day, now want to hold Trump to account. That’s how you know it isn’t truly about what’s right or wrong, but about whatever advantage I can gain to drive my agenda. If we’re going to champion character, we have to be less one-sided on political issues or personalities. I appreciate those who can support some of President Trump’s policies, while still struggling with his caustic demeanor that diminishes his office and harms our national interest.

While I like many policies of his administration, I’d be hard-pressed to commend President Trump as a man of character. I don’t understand how many of my evangelical friends can ignore the problems he creates by dividing Americans into polarized groups, obfuscating the truth, and demeaning anyone who disagrees with him.

By granting unparalleled access to evangelical leaders, he has convinced many that he can right the American ship and that he needs to protect Christians from the liberals who wish to persecute their faith. What those leaders don’t seem to understand is that their unquestioned support for President Trump makes them complicit in his lies, his mockery of others, and the self-serving nature of his “America First” that has hurt our standing in the world among our own allies. Their unquestioned allegiance is having an impact on how people perceive the mission of Christ in the world.

What his detractors don’t seem to understand is that while evangelicals may be embarrassed by Trump’s bullying tactics, they won’t criticize him because they feel like the media establishment has already done so unfairly. In their mind, Trump may be an immature bully, but he’s their bully. They have long grown tired of the establishment media and leftist politicians belittling them as unthinking, gun-toting “deplorables,” and they see Trump’s antics as evening the score. But that is a mixed message at best. Many have justified his tactics by convincing themselves it takes someone as underhanded and belligerent as Trump to disrupt the Washington establishment that has worked so hard to marginalize them.

In a discussion in Los Angeles recently with a group called CultureBrave about my new book, A Language of Healing for a Polarized NationI was asked why I thought evangelicals give President Trump their unwavering support even though he doesn’t demonstrate the behavior they claim to value?

Before I answered, I asked him what his conclusion was. His response was immediate: “Racism, pure and simple.”

I understand why he would say that. Being an African American himself, he knows that racism didn’t end with the Obama presidency. Incidents of police violence against black males increased during his term, as did threats against President Obama himself. When Trump said, “Make America Great Again,” he heard Trump dog-whistling those who want to undermine gains in civil rights for the past forty years and re-assert white dominance of the culture. Like him, I am gravely disappointed that this President doesn’t even pretend to represent all Americans and seems to use our racial divide for political gain. 

That notwithstanding, I don’t believe most evangelicals have a racial agenda here. At least, I never hear that sentiment expressed among them. The image that disturbed them most was not a black man in the White House, but a rainbow of lights splashed across it when the Supreme Court affirmed the legality of gay marriage. Their concerns are not about race but sex. They are pained by abortion-on-demand at any stage of pregnancy, the amount of sexual exploitation in our culture, and special accommodations for the LGBTQ community they perceive as infringing on their religious liberty. 

As long as President Trump supports these causes, most of the evangelical community will put character on the back burner just as feminists did for President Clinton. They know that any word of criticism of his divisive and immature behavior will only trigger his wrath and threaten their access.

If character has any value, it’s what protects us from doing what we want to do for ourselves at the expense of others. Personal expedience is easy to understand. Everyone tends to do whatever they think will serve them best at the time. By nature, it is self-serving and often leads to decisions we come to regret. Every law we have is to rein in people of questionable character who are willing to use whatever advantage to benefit themselves.

In our bottom-line culture of garnering political power or individual profit, character is a fool’s errand. You can make more money and gather more power by greed and duplicity than you can caring about what is right, just, generous, and fair to others. Good character is the moral compass that will call someone to forego personal expedience for a higher human good. What may be best for me may not be fair to you or best for us all.

Character allows us to consider other factors than merely our pleasure or profit and doesn’t seek to benefit at someone else’s expense. Character comes by living to the truth, even when it hurts and especially when it costs you more than you’d want to pay. 

When does character matter most? I can think of two places.

First, character is critical whenever you give someone power. Raw power uncontrolled by a moral compass and sense of fairness will wreak havoc in the long term, even if it serves your interests in an immediate circumstance. The same way my evangelical friends have felt despised by leftist politicians and the media for decades are now unwittingly creating that same resentment in those Mr. Trump despises. It’s a no-win game. You may hold the cards now, but you eventually won’t, and there will be dividends to pay you’ve not yet considered. 

Without character in our national leaders, they will always put party above country, and their gain above the common good. Lacking integrity, a President will continue to risk American blood and treasure in an unwinnable war as Johnson and Nixon did in Vietnam, and now we are learning that Bush and Obama did the same in Afghanistan. A lack of character allows so-called “public servants” to take financial rewards for friends and family instead of fighting for equal access for all.

Character doesn’t change just because the financial reward grows greater, or the need to win an election becomes more acute. I’ll admit it’s hard to find anyone on the national stage who has the character to be a statesman or stateswoman, but that doesn’t mean we give up looking or encouraging those in power to do better. Win-at-all-costs is a strategy that only foments further division and anger.

And it’s not just politics, don’t we want people of character acting as our CEOs, educators, military officers, religious leaders, and law enforcement? What kind of society do we become when people in high places do not have a moral compass than bends toward honesty, justice, compassion, fairness for all? We get CEOs that take excessive compensation at the cost of providing fair wages for their workers, district attorneys who charge a man they know to be innocent to get the crime off their books, religious leaders who hide the rape of children for fear public relation concerns, and military officers that cast a blind eye to harassment. 

Character matters in every stratum of human society, and it matters most among those who hold power. Making society fair for you also includes making it fair for others who don’t think like you. Once we give in to the bottom line, be it in political power or maximizing profit, character gets lost, and society suffers.

Secondly, and this is for my evangelical friends, character matters most when we hope to demonstrate the nature of God to others who don’t know him. It would be fine for us to support those policies we think will make for a better nation, but to let the arrogance, mockery, and dishonesty go unchallenged is to forsake a higher calling. You most need character when it calls you to do what’s right, even when it costs you what your self-interest desires. 

When you think President Trump either needs to be roundly condemned or blindly defended, you have already purchased a seat on the train of illusion that wraps religion in a flag and uses it to divide this country further and as we’ve seen in the last few weeks. Peggy Wehmeyer, a journalist based in Dallas, expressed her frustration at fellow evangelicals, “What has really troubled me from the beginning is why can’t people say on the one hand, ‘We love what he’s done on religious liberty, abortion and the economy,’ but on the other hand, say that ‘As Christians whose allegiance is to Jesus Christ, his behavior is despicable’?”

When Jesus’ followers are marked by a political agenda, be it on the right or left, especially one that prides itself in mockery, deception, and putting down others, people will be confused about the Gospel as well. If God’s followers don’t demonstrate his glory by how they treat everyone around them, regardless of political leanings, the light of Jesus dims.

Jesus said as much at the end of his time on earth. As he prayed before going to the cross in John 17, he talked about putting God’s glory on display by the way he lived. He demonstrated how compelling his Father was by the quality of his own person—his passion for justice and truth, and his tenderness and love for all. 

And when Jesus prayed for the disciples, he said he had ‘spelled out’ God’s character to them in detail so that his life would be on display in them now. This is the evidence the godless world needs to make sense of God’s reality. (I’ll be talking more about this in days to come because displaying God’s glory is the mission he left on earth for his followers.)

Our loyalty is not primarily to change the world through the wielding of political power as satisfying as that might be to our flesh. Our allegiance is to the God who redeems us, and our passion should be for his glory to dwell in us so that we would live with the same tenderness and compassion that marked Jesus’ life. If we become associated with anything else, the message of the Gospel gets twisted in the frailties of human flesh. Even when we fall short, we can still uphold the ideals to which we aspire. 

This is how the world will come to know him, not because his name appears on our t-shirts, but because his splendor is on display in our character.

__________________________________

Wayne Jacobsen writes at Lifestream and podcasts at The God Journey. He is co-author of A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation, The Shack, and many other books.

Defining Life on the Extremes

I’m delighted so many of you are reading A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation and are putting those things you’ve learned into practice. I love hearing that people are exploring new relationships with those who are different, discovering that understanding and respect is a freer way to live than in fear and animosity. I know working on this book has changed every relationship I have in the world because I see people differently and engage people with more compassion and generosity.

But I do get the occasional email or comment from someone who immediately takes our premise to the extremes. Will this work with abusive people, or evil ones? In the book, we make clear that about 22% of people have to be right about everything and treat those who don’t agree with them with anger and hostility. No, you won’t be able to find common ground with them. But that leaves 78% of the people you know who are able to have a respectful conversation even if you do have significant differences. If they are hurt, they can talk it out and find or extend forgiveness for other people’s weaknesses, including yours.

So, what about abusive people, who always accuse or berate us? You don’t have to get along with people like that, or be their victims. If you can, avoid them; if you can’t, give them a wide berth. Life is too short to waste significant time with toxic people. If they are family you can’t always avoid, you can still be kind and respectful, but put your focus on the other 78% who don’t exhibit such arrogance.

And what about people we consider evil? The other day someone sent me this comment: “How did Jesus deal with the Pharisees and Sadducees. Was it what you’ve written. Did He ‘engage them with generosity and kindness?’ Not from anything I’ve read in Scripture.”

I’m surprised by the comment and saddened for people who define life in such extreme terms. I get it. I grew up in a religious world where there was a home team God loves and an away team he hates. That gave us the freedom to despise them, too. But I’m afraid the person who made the comment here, hasn’t read enough Scripture. In John 6:35, Jesus said, “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” (Emphasis mine.)

We read our Bibles wrong if we see Jesus being abusive to the Pharisees. Jesus was generous and compassionate to them. He told them the truth, even when they didn’t want to hear it, but love does that. Even in the end, when he calls them hypocrites, he is still hoping they will see what’s real and run under the safety of his wings, like the chicks under the hen. But they would not have it. Yes, you can love even Pharisees,’ he did.

A Language of Healing... is about building bridges of kindness to others, not to be afraid of our differences, and to discover that the vast majority of people simply want the same things for themselves that you want. You can share disagreements respectfully, work through problems with graciousness all while demonstrating compassion. We encourage people to start out where it’s easy, not with the most extreme relationships in their lives. 

If you haven’t read the book yet, give it a try. If you have, and want to interact about it, feel free to write me or comment here.  

I love what Stephanie wrote about the book….

If ever a book was needed to help us understand the common ground of our humanity, it is now. Today, when so many long to practice peace but are at a loss to go about it, A Language of Healing provides hope, guidance, and inspiration. Communicating effectively requires finding—and then walking in—the shared space between us. In a world of runaway social media and chaotic twitter feed we need to find a way back to each other… back to our humanness. A Language of Healing resounds with a strong, collective voice that arises out of the diverse backgrounds and perspectives of the authors. As they model dialogue and work together to fashion a solution, motivation toward peace and reconciliation are sure to emerge in readers who are open to the transforming power of God through Christ. This is a gift from God! 

Stephanie Bennett, PhD, Professor of Communication and Media Ecology, Palm Beach Atlantic University and author of the Within the Walls trilogy

With Prayers for Gilroy, El Paso, and Dayton

Let me make a few comments about the tragic shootings last week in Gilroy, CA, and the two weekend shootings in El Paso, TX and Dayton, OH. Our community suffered a mass shooting only nine months ago where eleven young people and a sheriff’s deputy were killed in a country-western club, hosting a college night.  I’ve been asked to assist our community with planning some gatherings around the first anniversary to help our community heal. Being behind the scenes has taught me a lot about mass shootings and what goes on in a community that deals with this kind of horror.

It’s hard enough having a child die by disease or accident, but there the anger and helplessness that comes from a senseless murder is a deeper wound. To think someone is so depraved that murdering innocent people will somehow satisfy their twisted soul is impossible to comprehend. It’s maddening to think that a choice to go back-to-school shopping at a Wal-Mart, or dance at a club, should end someone’s life. Grief, anger, and frustration can mix in a toxic brew. The people who lost loved ones need our prayers and, if you know them, our support as they try to make sense of something that is entirely senseless. To be the victim of another person’s abject selfishness is so brutal.

The first victims from a shooting like these are only the tip of the iceberg. Grief experts know that in the next few years more people will die of suicide because of these shootings than died in the shootings themselves. And that isn’t just among the families and friends of the victims, but first responders, medical people, and others who were swept up in the tragedy itself and its aftermath.  Stay close to anyone who has suffered grief, not just for a next week or two, but for two to three years. Make sure they have an outlet to deal with their pain and the senselessness of it all.

Do NOT push a community on to resilience. I saw on an NBC news report last night a headline about El Paso Resilience. Don’t use the term so quickly after a tragedy. It is offensive to the people who matter.  Outsiders love to talk about the resilience of a community to respond to such tragedies, but those who’ve suffered loss from these evil shootings see it as minimizing their pain so you can get back to your life. The news vans are going to pick up and leave as the funerals end, and media people want to believe the community is healing as they head off to the next one. Grief is a two to three year process at best.

Some have tried to put the term ‘resilience’ on our community after only nine months and the response from the victims’ families have been clear. They mostly worry that their children, friends, and parents have died in vain and that people will soon forget them. “Resilience” is only a term for those only tangentially touched by the tragedy, it doesn’t ease the pain of those who touched it personally. It is often an excuse for people to ease their conscience as they get back to their lives and leave the survivors even more isolated in their grief.

My heart goes out to those communities today who have been touched by violence, and not just the three most recent, but those still healing from their own mass murders. Now is the time for our national leaders to move beyond the partisan rhetoric that seeks to use these tragedies for whatever political agendas they have and find bipartisan solutions that can stem the tide of mass shootings by misguided young people.

If you are concerned that someone you know is angry and detached enough to act out in violence speak up! If you are one of those that fantasizes about inflicting violence on innocents as a way to get revenge for how unfair life has been to you, go seek out an older adult who can help you find what you need not to waste your life with such wanton destruction. It’s no way to end your life or theirs.

It’s Right in Front of You

I get so many emails from people trying to find a group of like-minded people or frustrated with the current political climate in which our country finds itself. These are troubled times indeed, but we are part of a kingdom that transcends everything in this age. Our God is working behind it all for his glory and to bring history to a glorious conclusion as the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Christ and of his Father.

It’s easy to forget sometimes that he is with us, too, working out his purpose in each of our lives. So quickly we get our eyes on people or our circumstances and forget that we are not alone in any of it. No, we don’t always get our way, but there is always a path to take that yields to the glory of his kingdom and how it takes shape in us.

This quote from a recent Time Magazine article spawned some of our discussion last week on The God Journey Podcast.

Unless you’re among the tiny group of people who exercise actual, substantial political authority, each of us can only have a large influence on a small number of people and a small influence on a large number of people. In other words, we have the potential to transform a life. We have minimal capacity to individually change American politics.

From Why Anger is a Wasted Emotion by David French

Man, I can raise my hand here. It may feel good to berate the idiocy of our national leaders, but to what end? How much time and emotional energy do we give to circumstances over which we have no control or influence? Social media provides yet another illusion that our voice on the big-ticket items of politics or religion can really make a difference, and then are frustrated when it doesn’t.  What I love about the quote above is that it asks us to be present in the places where we can make a difference, which is in the lives of people right in front of us every day.

Who do you know that brightens your heart when you spend time with them? Who do you know in need whose day you can brighten? What conversations can you have today that will move the needle in someone’s life? Who could you reach out and encourage today instead of reading the end of this blog?

That’s where our attention needs to be. I’m afraid the enemy has us wasting so much time venting on things that have no impact, instead of engaging the things right in front of us that do.

Somehow we’re always looking for the big moment “out there” somewhere instead of living with what Father has put right in front of us. Many keep trying to find the right group of people to fellowship with, or the best model for church life, instead of celebrating his presence in whomever we are with today. Jesus seemed to live every day with what was in front of him, and some of his most impactful moments rose out of spontaneous engagements that he didn’t pass by.

I’m finding my heart these days much more drawn to what I can impact and wasting far less time with words that merely flitter into the ether of cyberspace and are lost the moment after I push “post.” And I’m having a far richer time.

Jesus said the kingdom of God wasn’t “out there” somewhere; it’s already inside you. What you need from God today, he has already brought right to your doorstep. All you have to do today is respond to what God has already put inside you, and to what’s in front of you. That’s where you’ll find life abundant and fruitful.

You might well miss it if your eyes are set “out there” over the horizon, instead of “right here” where you are today.