What I’m Reading

Connecting with my Nineteen-Year-Old Dad

During the Christmas break, I spent some time with my nineteen-year-old dad.

Our family recently discovered letters my father wrote home to his parents when he went off to join the army during World War II. They begin with his basic training and follow his journey through Texas to Maryland to England, to the front in France, back to England for surgery, and then to France again before boarding a ship that took him through the Panama Canal to the Philippines, where he served out his time.

All told, he was in the service from February 1944 until April 1946. Hundreds of letters chronicled his thoughts, hopes, and disappointments as he left his family’s farm fresh out of high school and headed for a world war raging in Europe and the South Pacific. I had no idea these letters even existed. While Dad told endless stories from his war experiences throughout his lifetime, this was the first time I had known of them. What a treasure trove of a young man’s thoughts at a pivotal time in history!

I got to see what it was like for him to leave everything familiar at eighteen and go off to distant lands during war. It was quite a ride watching him endure the challenge of military life that interrupted his own. This was an adventure filled with uncertainty for a boy who had never traveled more than 300 miles from home and had no aspirations for world travel. He was a cog in a great war machine, without control over his present or future. He was being trained to kill and then sent to the front, helping push Germany out of France. On the front for just over twenty days, he was wounded and sent to a hospital near Paris. When he finally recovered, Germany had already surrendered, and he was sent to the Philippines. There, he was assigned MP duty near Manila, which he found embarrassing. He only wanted to be known as an infantryman.

Though I’d heard most of his stories before, this was more intimate. He celebrated fried chicken wherever he could find it, thought about girls more than I thought he would tell his mom about when there were so few even around, expressed concern that he couldn’t help his dad in the vineyard, especially during harvest, and vented his ongoing frustration with the military bureaucracy. He mentions his dog, Ozzie, in every letter, worried she’d be bored without him. His camaraderie with those in his squad continued long after they were separated. His anxiety about going to war was obvious, even as he tried to hide it so his mom wouldn’t worry about him. There was even a telegram notifying his parents that he’d been wounded in battle, though not seriously, and they would get more details later.

He also referred to life as it went on back home. Relatives and friends got married, passed away, and his dad’s raisin crop was damaged by rain. He tried to keep up with his classmates who were finding their way into other branches of the military or could not serve due to physical limitations. As terrified as Dad was of going to war, staying home in the face of such a great conflict would have been humiliating to him.

He also wrote about his hunger to know God, which increased dramatically in times of uncertainty or danger and then seemed to wane when he was bored and the peace had been won. It would be another twenty years before that passion would re-ignite as he began a search for a real God. He didn’t want to raise his boys in “the faith” if Jesus wasn’t any more real than Santa Claus. One night in his early forties he prayed, “If you’re real, show me?” Some months later, God did, and Jesus became the relentless passion of his life to the end of his days.  

He passed away last summer at ninety-eight. Reconnecting with his younger self made me admire him all the more. You can see the seeds of spiritual hunger, personal character, courage in the face of fear, and passion for family and friendships that would blossom over a lifetime.

It was special reading all these letters at year’s end. It not only allowed me to know my dad better but also the chance to reflect on my own journey and how Jesus drew me to himself at such a young age and has walked with me, both when I’ve been aware of him and during seasons when I was more distracted.

His faithfulness doesn’t depend on mine. It never has.

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Finding God’s Rhythm in the Darkness

It’s finally out!

I read this book over a year ago to Sara on one of our driving trips to Denver to be with our son. It’s the second part of the three-part Velieri Uprising, a series of books that take on big themes like identity, spiritual warfare, and human conflict in a fictional setting. Here’s the endorsement I wrote for the book:

Intimate as well as epic. Tessa Van Wade has crafted a compelling adventure of a young woman’s search for her soul while on the run from those who would destroy her to save themselves On the fate of the world hangs in the balance.  Entertaining and eye-opening!

If you haven’t read Part 1, Out of the Shadows, you will want to start there. In it, Tessa sets up this fantastic world where forces of good and evil converge through the perspective of a young woman who finds out her past was much more than she ever thought it was. Is she the Willow she believes she is, or is she Remy, a warrior who was killed battling a savage enemy that a mysterious stranger says she is? Accepting his version will change her forever.

Deep Trace is the second book, and like no other book I’ve read, it unpacks how we “take every thought captive (2 Cor. 11:5)” so that we can focus on the rhythm of God coursing through our veins. I was going through a complicated relationship in my life at the time, and this book described so well what I faced and how to work through it.

Where the first book is a thrilling action read, this one is a psychological struggle to win over the thoughts of darkness preying on her mind and to find that heartbeat of God’s wisdom and direction that would prevail over the lies and pretensions of darkness. Tracing is what the enemy does to draw into his lies and illusions. Deep tracing is how we get underneath those attempts and find God’s peaceful rhythm that allows us to push aside those things that seek to manipulate us.

I’ve called it The Matrix meets The Hunger Games, but with a powerful redemptive theme. It is a fantastic read that will stir your heart and help you be more aware of how it is that God invites us into his ways.

Then, I got this email yesterday from someone who just read Deep Trace. Here’s what they said:

Deep Trace reminded me of the Divergent series, Inception, and the Matrix all in one, but with added spiritual awareness. I find the exploration of trauma timely, given the conversations that have been swirling around The God Jouney (as well as mine and the group of which I’m part) of late! I can tell I will be chewing on this one for awhile, and re-reading it at some point, since I almost swallowed it whole.

There’s a third book coming down the pike to wind this story up, but you won’t be disappointed reading this one and how this story unfolds. She describes a battle we are all engaged in and gives some helpful cues to find our way out of the darkness and discover how to pace ourselves in God’s light.

You can find out more about Tessa from her website.

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Some Book News

The Jake Colsen Book Club

First, the second installment of the Jake Colsen Book Club, to explore the content of So You Don’t Want to Go To Church Anymore, will meet this weekend on Saturday, June 18, at 4:00 pm PDT. I loved the conversation around the first chapter, which you can see here if you missed it.

The second chapter deals with frustration, disillusionment, and emptiness and how God can use those feelings to draw us onto a different path that will produce the fruit we hunger for in our walk with him.  We stream these live on my Facebook Author Page for those who don’t want to be in the Zoom discussion. If you want to be in the conversation, please email me one week before each session, and I’ll send you a link to join us. There will always be reminders on my blog a few days before our scheduled time. You can subscribe to the blog at the top right of my blog pages.

Chapter two shows just how much we try to hide from the frustrations that God uses to invite us down more fruitful paths. Sometimes, we are afraid to question the things about life in God because we’ve found security in our illusions. Being dis-illusioned is often the first step to seeing God as he is and ourselves as we truly are in his presence.

The Jake Colsen Book Club uses a different link for each session, and you’re welcome to join us for all the sessions or only for the chapters that most interest you. You’ll need to sign up each time to have a spot in the Zoom room.  


Deep Trace

A year ago, I introduced you to Tessa van Wade’s first book, Out of the Shadows. What a great summer read!  If you haven’t read it yet, now might be a good time because in a few months, the second book in the series, Deep Trace, will release.

Sara and I got to read that story last summer as it was being finalized. I can’t tell you how much Deep Trace not only touched my heart but also mirrored my own story at the time. Remy continues her battle against the lies, even by members of her own family, to discredit and marginalize her. The powerful forces that seek to kill her only challenge her to dig deeper to find out who she really is against the differing voices that want to control her. It’s a page-turning story that wrestles with such big-ticket items as personal identity and purpose, culture and conflict, taking thoughts captive and embracing what’s true even if it’s uncomfortable.

Why am I telling you now?  So that, if you haven’t read the first one, you will get started so you’re ready for book 2 in the Valieri series when it arrives.  Those who have already read book one have been waiting for some time for the story to continue. Here’s what I wrote in my endorsement for Tessa’s book:  “Intimate as well as epic. Tessa Van Wade has crafted a compelling adventure of a young woman’s search for her soul while on the run from those who must destroy her to save themselves. Only the fate of the world hangs in the balance. Entertaining and eye-opening.”

I’ll let you know when the next book comes out and share with you some of the endorsements we’ve already received.  For now, you will do well to read the first book, and perhaps connect with its author, Tessa Van Wade on her blog, Instagram feed, or on her new podcast with husband Ben, The Tessa Van Wade Show.  I’ve known Tessa for almost 40 years and appreciate the journey she is on, what she encourages in others, and her gifts as a budding young author. I hope you’ll give her a chance.

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Control Is an Illusion

You never know how even the most casual comment can profoundly impact the trajectory of someone’s journey.

In the early 2000s, I visited a fellowship in Nottingham, England, on a couple of occasions within a few years. I remember those visits with a smile and enjoyed the pastor and his family where Sara and I stayed. I hadn’t heard from them since until this email showed up in my inbox last week. I’m sure I must have taught some wonderful things when I was there, but what God seemed to find most valuable was a simple comment I made in passing.  I’ll let Gary tell you about it:

Your visits to us all those years ago fundamentally altered the spiritual direction of travel for our family and for the church. My family remembers you fondly. Being a Vineyard church, our relationship with God was ministry-led.

However, your presence shifted us towards an authentic personal journey with God-experienced in community. I remember profoundly you looking at my well-organized calendar and saying, “You do know that control is an illusion, don’t you?”

In light of that, I wanted to let you know that I have written a book summarising my spiritual journey. It’s where I arrived after all those years. The title is Control, the Illusion, and the Lie: The illusion is that you can have control and the lie is that you need it.

It’s a personal spiritual growth book for people to join me on the journey, arising from a fresh view of the beatitudes. My writing may not be the best, but I am a message carrier which I believe I have achieved in the book.

I have used some of the material with a friend who does research for an international computer company. At the time, he was undergoing some top-flight psychotherapy that these companies provide for their executives. On sharing some of the material with his psychotherapist, the therapist said, “this is great. Can I use it?”

God works in mysterious ways.

That he does.

I love his story, and if you’ve read much of my stuff, you know how passionate I am that the love of the Father displaces our need to feel in control of our circumstances. There is no more frustrated person than the one trying to white-knuckle their way through difficult times rather than letting God guide them through them. Thinking we can control what happens to us is an illusion, and learning to live in his unfolding reality is much better than trying to get him to do what we want. Recognizing our powerlessness is a doorway into living lightly and freely in the world, and seeing God’s glory unfold.

His book is a wonderfully simple read with a profound message that will change the way you live in the world and leave you ever-more free to embrace him and his glory as it unfolds in you. This is one powerful thought I got from Gary’s book:

In circumstances when we feel powerless, we don’t have to give in or give up; we give way to what the Father has in mind. 

Order it in the US from Amazon.    —    Order it from Amazon.uk

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Ever Wanted to Read the Divine Comedy?

This isn’t for everyone, I’ll admit that at the outset.

For years, I’ve wanted to read The Divine Comedy by Dante. It is one of the classics of Christian literature, a poem about Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, told in one hundred short cantos (short poetic chapters). Come with Dante as he descends into hell and then goes through purgatory, and ascends into heaven. I don’t even believe in purgatory, but I’ve wanted to understand this story because it sorts through the ancient view of hell, sacramental Christianity, and a lot of ancient mythology.

The problem is, these cantos are very difficult to understand with many historical and mythological references that I don’t have time to chase down. However, Baylor University Honors College has just begun a study of The Divine Comedy, called 100 Days of Dante. It is billed as the world’s largest reading group (no, not impressed by that) and covers three cantos each week along with a 7-10 minute reflection by a professor about what’s going on in the poem. It is and started last week and will continue until Easter. Sign up with your email and each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday they will send you a link to read the assigned Canto online as well as a link to a brief reflection on what Dante is communicating to the reader.  You don’t even have to buy the book.

I have tried it for a week and a half and I am loving it!  So, if you want an intellectual challenge this fall, and want to walk through the Divine Comedy with me, join in.  Yes, you do have a bit of catching up to do, but it won’t take long and it may be worth it. Each day they send the email, I read the assigned canto trying to grasp what I can, and then read a synopsis and an analysis on LitCharts.com. That really helps. Finally, I listen to the reflections offered by a college professor who loves this story.  This is really well done and worth your time if you’ve ever wanted to explore this classic piece of Christian literature.

As I said, it is not for everybody, but for those who have wanted to read this classic, this is probably the best way to do it.  Now, if someone will only do 100 days of Paradise Lost by Milton. Again, more poetry.

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Out of the Shadows is now Available

Out of the Shadows, the first book in the Velieri Uprising, was written by someone I know since she was fourteen.  I love this story and what it sets up for the future books in this series.  I’ve been so excited to have people I know finally read this book.

Here’s what I wrote as an endorsement for this book:

One of the most beautiful, deeply-layered stories I’ve ever read. Out of The Shadows will hold you spellbound from first the page, and leave you craving for more after the last one. Tessa van Wade has created an iconic woman in Willow who has to discover her identity to fulfill her destiny.

I’m already deep into the second installment as I’m helping Tessa work through this amazing story Father has put on her heart. As good as the first one is, the second one has spoken some amazing clarity into some painful situations I’m dealing with right now.  If you like a thrilling adventure that expands what God is doing in your own heart and mind, you won’t want to miss this.

If you’re still undecided, You can see the book trailer here and read more below.

Out of the Shadows

You are not who you think you are.

A seemingly ordinary existence is shattered when Willow is assaulted and left for dead near her San Francisco home. It is not a random attack, as she soon discovers. The stranger who rescues her tells her she’s part of a hidden race of people whose oppressive government is on the verge of a violent uprising. Against her will, she is drawn into a maze of deception and conspiracy, which defies everything she has ever known. As she attempts to separate fact from fiction, she becomes too entrenched to retreat. Her only hope is to discover the truth before it is too late.

“I’ve always been intrigued by human capabilities. The amount that we can accomplish is limitless as long as we have the time, but a hundred years go by in a flash and many of us don’t even get that long. So suppose you took time away? How much could we do spiritually, emotionally, physically, monetarily, or even with relationships? I examined a limitless life where we aren’t chasing time,” says Van Wade of her novel.

About The Author Tessa Van Wade  

Tessa Van Wade (also known as Tessa Sandberg) is a long-term resident of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii where she lives with her husband and two daughters. She is the owner of The Fit Xchange, a boutique personal training gym and fitness center in Kona. Tessa’s writing aims to ignite the imagination and open discussion around topics like female empowerment, self-identity, and acceptance. Learn more at https://thevelieriuprising.com.


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You Are Not Who You Think You Are

You’ll want to read this.  No, not this blog, the new novel I want to tell you about.

Out of the Shadows will debut in less than a month, and it will change the way you look at the world. It’s been described as a cross between Bourne Identity and Hunger Games and while those comparisons give you an idea of the mystery thrill ride it is, it doesn’t do justice to the depth of meaning you’ll find in this story. Willow is a young woman who is beginning to discover that she is not what she grew up thinking herself to be, and she holds a pivotal place in the future of the world.

I’m rarely this excited about a new book, and all the more because it was written by someone I’ve known since her childhood. Tessa van Wade was the daughter of a family I grew close to when she was four years old. I’ve watched her grow up alongside my daughter as a young woman, wife, and mother and more recently have watched her bloom as an author and someone with a powerful journey into the love and life of Jesus.

Here is what is on the back cover:

You are not who you think you are.

A seemingly ordinary existence is shattered when Willow is assaulted and left for dead near her San Francisco home. It is not a random attack, as she soon discovers. The stranger who rescues her tells her she’s part of a hidden race of people whose oppressive government is on the verge of a violent uprising.

Against her will, she is drawn into a maze of deception and conspiracy, which defies everything she has ever known. As she attempts to separate fact from fiction, she becomes too entrenched to retreat.

Her only hope is to discover the truth before it is too late.

You’ll find it is not only true of Willow but you too, and that’s what makes the adventure of this book so amazing.  If you’ve read enough, you can pre-order it here from Amazon or here from Blue Sheep Media.

Out of the Shadows by Tessa Van Wade, published by Blue Sheep Media
Release date: June 8, 2021. • Paperback  • 272 pages

Here’s a brief endorsement I wrote for the cover of Tessa’s book:

One of the most beautiful, deeply-layered stories I’ve ever read.
Out of The Shadows will hold you spellbound from first the page, and leave you craving for more after the last one.
Tessa van Wade has created an iconic woman in Willow who has to discover her identity to fulfill her destiny. 

Wayne Jacobsen, author of He Loves Me, Live Loved Free Full, and co-author of The Shack.

Wait!  There’s more.

Tessa is looking for avid readers who are connected on social media to join her Launch Team. So, if you’d like to read a pre-release copy of the book and help her make it available to your world, please follow these two easy steps.  (1) fill out this Google form and (2) click this link Out of the Shadows Launch Team | Facebook and answer the questions there.  That’s it.

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The Old Testament Story Not to Be Missed

A friend sent me this book, The Gift of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels by Thomas Cahill. It’s not a new book, having been initially published in 1998, but this is the first I’d heard of it. To be honest, I wasn’t excited to read a historian’s perspective of the Old Testament but was I ever wrong. I started this book on vacation, and I could not put it down.

This is the best overview of the Old Testament story from a historical perspective that I’ve ever read, and I don’t say that lightly. While I didn’t agree with every conclusion he makes, he tells the most compelling story of how God revealed himself to desert nomads and how, in doing so, he transformed the course of human history. None of these changes would have happened through normal evolutionary processes, which only makes it more evident that God intervened to reveal himself and his purpose to them.

Unfortunately, many people have given up reading the Bible because it has been laced with such guilt and condemnation by legalistic religious leaders, and others never dare to look in the Old Testament except to read a Psalm or two. Both groups are missing a fantastic narrative of how God began to reveal himself in the world, first to a person, then to a family, then a tribe, and finally to a nation. No, they didn’t always understand him and often misinterpreted his intentions. But over the centuries, they were confronted with the presence of a God who loved them, and who invited them to move beyond caring about their own survival, to create a culture with a generous heart for the poor, the orphan, the widow and the foreigner in their own land.

Many of the conclusions he draws you will also find in The Jesus Lens, over nine hours of video teaching about how to read Scripture through the lens of Jesus’ life and teaching. In doing so, we see the progressive revelation of God that grew over thousands of years for a more complete picture of who God is and why he acts in our world. This book and that series would make a great companion.

Here are some excerpts from his closing chapter. I hope they create enough curiosity for many of you to pick up this book. You won’t regret it.

“Where are the Sumerians, the Babylonians, the Assyrians today? And though we recognize Egypt and Greece as still belonging to our world, the cultures and ethnic stocks of those countries have little continuity with their ancient namesakes. But however miraculous Jewish survival may be, the greater miracle is surely that the Jews developed a whole new way of experiencing reality, the only alternative to all ancient worldviews and all ancient religions. If one is ever to find the finger of God in human affairs, one must find it here.”

“To me at least, the most satisfying way to read the Bible is to see it as a collection of varied documents, each showing us the same revelation at different stages of development but capable of bringing us at last to a processive, personalist faith in a completely mysterious God.”

“We are the undeserving recipients of this history of the Jews, this long, excessive miraculous development of ethical monotheism without which our ideas of equality and personalism are unlikely ever to have come into being and surely would never have matured the way they have.”

It leans a bit on the academic side, but the content will add a rich foundation to understanding how God went about making himself known in the world.


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Two Books You Might Enjoy

As summer winds down, let me commend two books to you, both by people I’ve come to know its they were writing their books. So I got to read them both before they were published.

The first is Alter Girl, by Andrea Syverson. I met when we were both on a speaker’s panel at the FUTURE OF THE CHURCH convention in Colorado last year. I immediately found her story engaging and had the opportunity to have lunch with her and her husband. Alter Girl is the story of a young woman raised Catholic, whose hunger and questions took her away from religion and into the reality of a more vibrant faith. Many readers of this blog will find her story engaging, even if you don’t share her Catholic past. With humor and profound insight Andrea takes us on her journey from a girl who faithfully followed the rules to one who found a moe authentic journey of relating to God and the church Jesus is shaping in the world.  I always enjoy a book more when the life behind it resonates deeply with what’s on the pages. This one does and it’s a compelling read you’ll enjoy.  (230 pages, paperback)

 Both Eugene Peterson and I have quotes on the book.

“ALTER GIRL is a tour de force of learning how to abandon preconceptions of the life of faith and embrace what is so generously given.  Beautifully and wonderfully written.”

Eugene Peterson

“You hold in your hands an epic tale through religious disillusionment into a discovery of a more personal and vibrant faith. With refreshing wit and candor Andrea invites you inside her Catholic upbringing, her marriage outside that faith and the struggle her and her husband faced seeking a community of believers full of reality and encouragement. Not everyone finds their way through this journey with their faith intact.  She does and what she discovered along the way can be of real help to you.”

Wayne Jacobsen


The second book is Incarnate: The Incredible Journey of Edward Mayus, by Robert Blizzard. This is a fictional story that asks the question, “If you had a chance to implant into yourself the DNA of Jesus Christ, would you?”  Edward Mayus did.  An agnostic medical researcher takes up that challenge from his murdered brother and the changes that happen in him upend his entire world.  This is a wild ride from the heart of the Vatican to the streets of New York that contemplates the power of transformation in the human heart and the conflict it brings him into with the powers of religion.

Here’s what I wrote of the cover of Robert’s book:

RJ Blizzard has crafted an exceptional story that contemplates the best mysteries of the universe, where faith and truth find their way into the human heart. It’s a wild ride with engaging characters through conflict, discovery and unforeseen twists that will have you scratching your head until the end. If you’re looking for a a compelling read of human transformation where religion is not always the best friend of faith, you’ll find it here.
Both of these books are about transformation, the power of Jesus to transform our lives through a growing relationship with him.  Whether you enjoy a real-life story, or a fictional tale, I’m sure one, if not both of these books will be a blessing to you and an encouragement to your own journey.

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Free Book: Living Beyond the Borders

Living Beyond the Borders, a new book by a friend of mine, John Langford in the UK. It is a feast for any hungry heart looking for the boundless joy of living in the Father’s reality. Too often we live hemmed in by manmade borders that reduce our freedom in Christ to a set of empty rituals. This book will help you set your sights beyond those borders and embrace the mystery and joy of a journey of growing intimacy and friendship with Jesus. This strikes to the very heart of salvation—access to him and a growing relationship that makes every day an adventure. Simply, powerfully, and honestly written.

Since it’s horribly expensive to ship this book overseas, John has made it available as a FREE PDF download until August 15, 2017. This is the first book in a trilogy John is writing about knowing God’s love and life in limitless ways.  Just go here and click on the image of the front cover. If you find the book valuable and you want to share a contribution to help them with the work God’s called them to do, please feel free.

I’ve known John and Jenny Langford for well over a decade, visiting them in their home in England and crossing paths with them at gatherings with other friends in Ireland and France. John even shared a bit of his story with me on a GodJourney podcast, What’s In Your Heart?  John and Jenny are native South Africans but moved to the UK many years ago. He is a businessman with a heart to help other people connect with Jesus and help them grow.  He posts his thoughts and other resources on a website called His Life. John and Jenny are some of the true elders of the faith that I’ve met in my travels. I’m excited to see him make some of his thoughts available in book form, and making their lives more available to help others find the life in Christ they have discovered.  I’m so glad I can share this book with readers here at Lifestream. You’ll find it a great encouragement with practical insight and heart. He really lives the things he writes about.

You can read more comments about the book HERE.  John would also love your thoughts about the book if you’d like to send them.  

Now available in Kindle.


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