Winter 2019-2020 Newsletter
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Do you know those moments when a nudge in your heart contradicts what you would
choose to do? Those are the moments on which your transformation hangs.
I can think of many occasions when the voice of the Spirit whispered through my illusion, to invite me on a better path.
- At the betrayal of a close friend: I have more to teach you if you walk away than if you stay.
- When people I loved were spreading lies about me: Don’t worry about what they think; it only matters that you’re following me.
- In the struggle to find a means of provision after I lost my salary: Keep doing what I’ve asked of you; I’ll take care of you.
- In contemplating a file full of notes on a new structure for church life: Jesus didn’t leave you with a system to implement, but a voice to follow.
- After flying home with a newly recorded teaching series whose sales just might provide some income we desperately needed: I want you to give it away.
Each time the nudges on my heart were the opposite of what I wanted to do. Looking back on those moments today brings back all the emotions I felt then. Jesus was cutting through my agenda, showing me a different reality I could follow. None of them were easy, but all of them, in the end, opened up taking me on roads I have cherished ever since. I can’t imagine what my life would be today if I hadn’t believed him and followed anyway. Though costly, each was part of his transforming work in my life.
Truth be told, I have probably missed more of those invitations than I’ve heard throughout my life because the paths the Spirit invites me down rarely look better than the illusions I already hold. I think I know best how to protect my interests and keep my fears at bay. But he isn’t concerned about the same things I am; he’s more interested in my ultimate freedom, and that can only be found by living in what is real, not in my pretensions.
Illusions look comforting, but they are a trap of the worst kind. And we all have them. Science tells us that the human capacity for cognitive dissonance is nearly a superpower. We can make ourselves believe anything as long as we think we will benefit from it, either financially or holding some fear at bay. Illusions give us comfort, false though they be and are often built on our fears: the fear that people I love won’t understand, the fear that God won’t be enough, the fear that others aren’t doing it the same way, the fear that I’ll look foolish, or so many others.
When Jesus’ brothers were trying to convince him to go up to Jerusalem at the feast and become well known, Jesus saw the trap. Being well known is not the same as living his life in the Father’s purpose. He knew that people were out to kill him there. “(The world) is against me because I expose the evils behind their pretensions.” (John 7:6. The Message)
Evil works behind our pretensions. So much of our spiritual growth is not learning new teachings, but listening when Jesus is showing us what’s ultimately real. We mostly make judgments by what we can see with our eyes; he can show us the unseen realities that shape life in this world more than we know. Only by believing him when he reveals something, can we escape the illusions that hold us captive.
That’s why Jesus said that we could know the truth, and the truth would set us free. Eugene Peterson translated that a bit differently, “Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you.” (John 8:32) By truth, John wasn’t talking about a set of principles or doctrine to learn, but what is real inside God. When we know that, we can face any situation more aware of the best way for us to navigate through it for the glory of his kingdom, not by trying to save ourselves.
Yes, his truth will set me free, but it almost always messes with me first. When Jesus opens up a new reality to me, I almost always cringe. Viscerally my reaction is usually, “I hope that isn’t true.” When I hear him, I am so aware of the cost and the risk to my ideas of what is best for me.
That’s the moment where choice matters most. If we stay with our comforting illusions, we miss the opportunity for transformation and to see his hand in ways we’d never imagine. By staying “safe,” we avoid growing in trust and our ability to recognize God’s purpose unfolding in the circumstances around us. After a few days, we won’t even remember what Jesus showed us and miss out on a new adventure. We are still loved there but also still captive.
His Spirit in us will continue to invite us out of those soul-crushing illusions to show us the life that really is life. That’s the moment in which transformation comes. By believing him, we’ll be able to see how empty our illusions are and learn how to trust him.
A few times in my life, I’ve been on the other side of this process. Talking to someone caught in a painful dilemma, God gave me an insight that would help them see better. When I share it with them, I see the same cringing in their countenance that I often feel. But here’s the choice: cringe and follow, or cringe and retreat to my false securities. Most will stay in the imagined safety of their own illusions, too afraid to take a risk. It hurts when I see it. In doing what they think is best, they’ve chosen more pain and frustration when they feel God isn’t cooperating with their plan.
But for those who hunger for truth, I will eventually see that sparkle in their eye in that “Ah-ha” moment. A better way stretches before them, as scary as it might be, they will take it because they care more about truth than they do their self-interest. When they go down that road in spite of their fears, they will find the path to life abundant in him.
All he asks you to do is to dare to believe him when he exposes your pretensions and invites you down the road less traveled.
This is where transformation happens and where we touch the reality of a kingdom so much bigger than ourselves.
My latest book, The Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation: Creating safe environments for conversations about race, politics, sexuality, and religion. was released in November by Blue Sheep Media. Written with coauthors Arnita Taylor and Bob Prater, this is a very different book for me. It is not written primarily to a Christian audience, even though I hope fellow lovers of Jesus will want to learn how to live more generously in a world torn apart by political agendas and manipulated by people who get rich off the divisiveness of our country. If you haven’t completed your Christmas list, consider giving this unique book. We also all three of us recorded the audio version and it should be out in the next couple of weeks. Keep up with the details on my blog or at ALanguageofHealing.com.
Also, since I’ve been home most of December, I’m finally making the audio version of In Season, and I am really enjoying it. This is my current book on the Father’s vineyard and how God brings us along a journey to make us fulfilled in his life and those more fruitful in the kingdom. It should be available at your favorite audio outlets in mid-January.
I’m just beginning to contemplate what my travels might look like in 2020. I am planning on being in Oklahoma early in the year, and perhaps Michigan. I’m also considering invitations to upstate New York, Virginia, Georgia, and a return trip to Florida. I may also be able to get that trip into Kenya this summer that I had to postpone last year. If you have anything on your heart near these locations or to someplace else, now would be the time to let me know.
Return to Israel?
Over the past year, I’ve had a number of people encourage me to do another Israel trip. I’d be happy to consider that if there are enough people who want to go. I’m looking at early February in 2021 since the weather is not nearly so hot and it is far less crowded at the places we want to visit. Our first two trips also helped people from all over the world to get to know others on a similar journey. Those relationships have continued in the years that followed. Cost is usually around $4000 per person if you want to start saving up. Please email us if you are interested.
Thanks for Your Help in Kenya
This year we moved one year closer to helping the tribal groups in North Pokot build a sustainable way to live into the future. We are supposed to complete that in July of this coming year. We had a horrible set-back with horrible flooding ten days ago that killed many and wiped out some villages, but many of you responded with nearly $50,000 in emergency aid in only three days. We also had to help build a new well for a group of people in Forkland this summer, whose existing water supply was contaminated by their sewage. That well hit a major supply of pure water, which they are now able to bottle and sell. In 2020 we are going to help them expand that capability with some warehouse space at the cost of $25,000, which will provide them enough income
Sheep Among Wolves
I have just heard about this incredible story about how God is moving in one of the darkest and most radicalized corners of our world—Iran. Muslim-background Iranians are leading a quiet but mass exodus out of Islam and learning some simple and unique ways to make Jesus’ kingdom known in the world. The Iranian awakening is a rapidly-reproducing discipleship movement that owns no property or buildings, has no central leadership, and is predominantly led by women. This is their story and it would appear that the Church in the west has much to learn from them.
Watch Movie Here: Sheep Among Wolves (1:53)
Here is how it begins: The first thing in Iran, we know what country we are serving. We are serving the Islamic Republic of Iran. We know that if they get us, the first thing they will do to us as a woman is rape us and then they will beat us, and ultimately they will kill us. This is the decision we have made that we want to offer our bodies as sacrifices—because I have this thought when I wake up that when I leave that door I might not come back. I have talked to my husband and we have made an agreement that this is the decision of our lives so if we leave that door and don’t come back, we accept the consequences of what happens.
Merry Christmas from Us to You!
Finally, Merry Christmas from the two of us. What an amazing year this has been, so many wonderful connections and amazing conversations! Watching God’s glory continue to unfold in people’s lives is such a joy and an honor. I’ve watched him rescue people out of the darkness, transform them from the enemy’s deceptions, and change the way they live and love in the world. I am so blessed by the people God has allowed me to know.