I receive some of the most amazing emails in my inbox, detailing people’s stories and how intersecting some of my books or podcasts has helped affirm what the Spirit had already been speaking into their hearts. I don’t always get to meet those who write them, though. On my most recent trip, I got to visit with Celia Layman right near where I took that picture above. She wrote me a couple of years ago about the transformation in her life that began with someone telling her about He Loves Me.
The trajectory her life has taken, and how it has helped her navigate these difficult days encouraged me and I think she might inspire you as well.
I can still picture the bench near an indoor climbing wall in Charlottesville, Virginia where I was sitting with a friend when she shared with me about a book she was reading. She began to tell me how learning to “live loved” had changed the way in which she lived each day. My interest was immediately piqued and got my own copy of He Loves Me!
Your writing has helped me to find my own voice as I have processed my own journey out of religious obligation and outward performance to learning how to live under the cover of His wings. Reading So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore a few years ago gave me a clear understanding of why I was so restless in my church. Not long after, God led our family to a new faith community that is “far more centered on relationship than religion” and where “those who act as leaders are true servants” (p.185). I read Beyond Sundays this past summer along with several other books by other authors. Your book deepened my understanding that the church “cannot be contained or managed in any human organization” (p. 21).
I have also been listening much more regularly to The God Journey podcasts and I really enjoy your Lifestream blog posts. Sometimes it really does seem like your perspective on politics, church, and Scripture and the overlap of these three is the only public voice with which I can wholeheartedly identify.
I also began to be mindful of the people whom God has placed in my life who are cynical at best when it comes to their concept of American “Christianity”. I began to want to see my “in-group” through their eyes. So, this past summer when I heard about the soon-to-be-released A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation, I could not wait to get my copy. It has helped me to develop a clearer understanding of why the world often has a negative perception of Christians. And gave me the concepts and words I needed to be able to express why it is so important that we seek to have a growth mindset.
I believe that our trust cannot be placed in an earthly leader or agenda. Any leader will fall terribly short of promises made, policies proposed, and slogans pitched. When we let our hope rest in these, we will be gravely disappointed. Even beyond that, when we look towards earthly leaders for Light, our vision dims. Then we can no longer see our responsibility to walk with justice, mercy, and humility while abiding in peace, resting in strength, and sharing love… as we change the world… one life at a time, especially in a time as uncertain as this.
This book prepared me on two levels. One, to have space for an even deeper compassion for those who have suffered mistreatment and inequality. It prepared me to hear their desperate cries for help and not look away or justify. Two, it prepared me to have patient and calm discussions with white people who do not yet see the depth of the racial issues we face, as well as to listen with compassion to my friends of color who need a safe place to be seen and heard. Thank you for all you have done to address these issues head-on from a place of both grace and truth.
Yet throughout this time, I sensed that God had been preparing me for this challenge and that some pruning that took place during the quarantine period had freed me emotionally and relationally in ways that I can now see as I look back on the summer. Even with meeting new people with facial coverings and working under heightened stress, I sensed an undergirding strength and a new space in which to engage brand new people beyond the surface level and I found myself ready to listen and pick up on cues that the conversation would take a spiritual turn.
In one conversation, a co-worker casually said that her family were not “church people”. I told her that I was not a “church person” either and that we had found a loosely structured faith community that is authentic and that we were done with traditional church. That got her attention and she shared about her husband growing up as a Baptist preacher’s son and the negative impact that his growing up years had on him. She listened as I told her about how I’ve discovered a relationship with God that is totally separate from religion. I shared about your books (mainly He Loves Me and So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore). She was very open. From then on, our conversations always cut right through superficial talk as time allowed.
The Embracing His Glory episodes have been a balm for my spirit this summer. #6 deeply resonated with me and I have listened to it at least 4 times… the parts about being able to hold temporal things at bay and being a bridge from the seen world to the unseen world encouraged and challenged me!
Your work allowed me to keep up with the social and political issues of these times without being overtaken by the clamor of a media-driven culture. Your perspective helps me guard against the pull to get caught up in a swirl of spins and emotional rhetoric. It reminds me of the danger of getting caught in an undertow that wants to pull me down and keep me entangled in darkness beneath the surface. I don’t want to live down there where I can’t breathe. Thank you for helping me to be able to be present for those I care most about!
Your work has helped me to be intentional about living above the fray and to not give too much of my time and attention away to issues I am powerless to change. I do have a vision of how I can positively impact my tiny corner of the world during these difficult times.
I anticipate the day when you will be able to travel and share in person… maybe here in Virginia one day!
I love stories of transformation and am greatly encouraged that some of the resources at Lifestream.org and TheGodJourney.com were part of helping her see what Father wanted her to see. And who would have thought two years later her anticipation would come true as we sat down one afternoon together in the Shenandoah Valley to celebrate what God has done in both our lives.
I love the family that Jesus is knitting together around the whole world and how Jesus is taking shape in his people.