About a week ago I was listening to The God Journey Podcast, intending to catch up on several episodes as I hadn't been listening regularly since around Christmas. However one podcast title jumped out at me and I decided to listen to that one first, despite the fact that it was one of the newest ones. It was titled "The Doctrine Police." After listening to that one, and another entitled "To Stay or Not to Stay," I had a ton of thoughts bouncing around in my head. They were both incredibly encouraging to me, and gave me a ton to think about. So often when something gives me a lot to think about, I just think about it, digest it for a few days, and then eventually it manifests itself somewhere when I least expect it and in the most unlikely place.
Wayne Jacobsen and Brad Cummings are the hosts of the God Journey, "just two real brothers talking about life" as they call it. Wayne Jacobsen is the author of "So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore," and he and Brad are the founders of the publishing company that published "The Shack" when they couldn't find anyone else to do it. (Secular companies said it had "too much Jesus," Christian companies deemed it "too edgy.")
Anyway, I was in a coffee shop with my computer last Friday, eating a hummus wrap and drinking a TON of coffee, and I felt the urge to send Wayne an email. I've written to him before, and he's always responded as a brother. He is very down to earth and focused on the Body Life between any brothers and sisters God brings him into contact with. I was just really thankful for the real way he and Brad present themselves, no apologies, but completely acknowledging the fact that they are brothers on a journey. (When you're on a journey, it's just common sense that you'll be at a different place on the road in 5 years than you were five years before, and you'll understand and know and believe differently about certain things as well in all probability.)
But now I should get to my point. While what I wrote is a letter, and some of the things I wrote I have written here before, going back and reading what I wrote to Wayne has touched me as I see something developing in my understanding about God, something I hadn't seen before. More of a 'connecting of the dots' if you will. Wayne wrote back to me today, to say what I had written was encouraging, and I am so thankful for that. I know that God has given me my writing for a reason, but I'm very very critical of myself, and I have a hard time sharing what it is that I write a lot of the time. My dad and stepmom have also read the letter I sent however, and despite the fact that it's in the form of a letter, they have encouraged me to share it here.
So here it is, a small picture of a space in time where God was teaching me something, and I was fortunate enough to be in the writing mode in that moment. From other things I've written in the past, I know in the future I'll be able to look back and read this and relive what it is that God taught me that afternoon at Jitters, as I wrote a letter to a brother who does the same: chronicles his journey with Father as he can, then shares it with others - proclaiming the love and glory of God as he grows and learns and loves through God's power. If that's not Body Life, I don't know what is.
Happy Spring! The season has been rather unpredictable and frustrating so far here in Minnesota, but today the weather has been BEAUTIFUL...I'm just trying to block out the knowledge that snow has been forecasted for tonight. *sigh* I bet the weather is much nicer in California.
Our family has really been enjoying your books along with The Shack. He Loves Me especially really shook my dad up, and it's his favorite of the three. I'm reading it right now in bits and pieces, and the last few weeks have been amazing for me, as daily I become more and more secure in the knowledge of how much Father loves me! It's so weird for me to say things like that, as I was brought up to believe that 'experiences' of the non-physical nature can never be real, and that emotions are wrong, but I don't know any other way to express it! Even though the feeling itself is amazing, and I'm learning that feelings aren't wrong, I do know that emotions can be fleeting, and that no matter what I'm feeling, I know that Father's love for me changes in neither degree, amount nor magnitude. And I guess that's what is so totally overwhelming! I'd just like to thank you for sharing your journey with so many people, and proclaiming the freedom that Father so desperately wants His children to have! Gaining that knowledge, and actually 'living in the reality' of it, has completely changed me and the way I view the Christian Life. I now know that the Christian Life is not a scale where the times while "in fellowship" are balanced against the times while "out of fellowship," that my actions do not create spirituality or bring relationship. It is actually quite the opposite! Having a relationship with Father, looking toward Jesus, and letting the Holy Spirit breathe truth through me is what creates peace and rest within me, and what brings about spiritual fruit! I've been writing on my blog a lot about this new "relationship revelation" I've been living in, and stressing how relationship is a BEING and not a DOING. I've been getting a lot of interesting responses to that, and most of them quizzical at best. I think God just wants me to answer in love though, and not give in to my desire to "prove" myself spiritual to others. He knows where I'm at spiritually, I know I am secure in Him; He will always accept me unconditionally no matter what! When I'm at rest in Him, I know that nothing else really matters.
I've been listening to the God Journey podcast quite a bit as well, and I'd like to thank both you and Brad for continuing it and giving me and so many others so much encouragement. Thank you for being honest - nothing more and nothing less. Oh the freedom we have to be honest with each other once we are secure in Him and we no longer feel the need to please others! Ever since leaving the institution I grew up in, for the simple reason that the discouragement I received every time I went was preventing me from enjoying a relationship with Father, a lot of my relationships with people I grew up with have drastically changed. It was hard at first, because I miss a lot of people, but Father has been so faithful and keeps on bringing just the right kind of encouragement into my life at moments when I need it most. Sometimes it's in the form of a new friend through a sudden mutual realization that we are on similar journeys with Father, sometimes it's an old acquaintance who pops back into my life and surprises me with the fellowship we are able to share, and sometimes it's simply sweet, gentle moments with Him that come and go almost before I realize that it's happened. Those are the best; how can I not know that God loves me? I've been finding though how refreshing it is to be honest about myself and to others, despite the fact that it is usually painful as well. Relationships are finally then able to truly reflect the level at which two people know each other. I think that only once that happens, once both people can stop trying to make something out of what just isn't there, only then can a true relationship have a chance to develop. Only then can real fellowship based solely on our identities in Christ have a chance to blossom.
I think that's how God wants to reach us as well. He wants to reveal to us our real selves, strip us bare of our misconceptions and many blind spots. Is this painful? Most definately, but it is then countered with what we see when beholding ourselves in God's mirror; He knows our sins and failings and blind spots better than anyone, but our reflection in His mirror is nothing less than the image of His Son! That concept was something that was finally hit home for me when I read The Shack. I had read the verses about the believer being "in Christ" and a "new creation" and how we are in the image of God's Son so many times over the years, many of them I had committed to memory. But all the time they were little more than memorized literature, practically speaking. I'm so thankful that Father was able to bring me along, none-to-gently, to the place where I finally felt like I had nothing. I was stuck in a dank, muddy mire a mile deep, and then finally I realized I had no way to look but up, and He was there! That moment happened about a year ago, and I never could have guessed the journey I was about to embark on. I have experienced the most intense pain I could imagine when I lost a friend to suicide; I have bounced between the two halves of my family as it re-balances itself in the wake of a divorce; I have watched my family shunned and attacked as they left the institution, then experienced the same myself when I finally couldn't stand it anymore and left myself. I have also come to know - because and through these life-circumstances - what it means to be filled with supernatural, unexplainable joy at the same time as overwhelming grief; I have begun restoring real relationships with my family members, as I am learning to not judge them for things in the past and things I can't control; I am learning to not put stock in the favors and approval of men as Father takes away some relationships and gives me others that don't drain me of His love and truth. I am truly on a journey, and it is the most wonderful thing! It reminds me of the story you shared on the podcast around Christmas about a day in the life of the cat in comparison to a day in the life of a dog. It may sound corny, but I don't care, this Life truly is "my favorite thing!" I so want to share this with others, and I just wish I could show everyone I know how simple it really is! Maybe that's what's so hard about it, the same way the message of salvation is so hard for some people to grasp. The unbeliever wants to add works to salvation, the religious believer can't help but add works to walking with the Lord. But how can we add anything when He's supporting us the whole way? Through HIS power and love, He has done it all. Jesus Christ's death accomplished so much more than just salvation, (though there is nothing little about that.) We cannot afford to forget or ignore the whole story however; He has brought us the Father, and we have no need to reach for something we already have!!!!!!!! Once we realize that we have Him, He will bring about the works necessary to accomplish His will, thereby fulfilling us as He interacts with us and develops our relationship!
How can words adequately express this? They can't, but let's keep on trying, writing it and saying it and singing it over and over and over, and the Lord will use it for His will and purpose and pleasure. I'm just glad I can add my own little chorus to creation's continuous song. Thank you for adding yours. :)
And thank you to those who read and comment here, and write about God's teaching in your own lives and share it with others, for adding your own verses and choruses. We might not always agree, but you are all my precious brothers and sisters. I value you and what you have to say immensely; thank you for sharing with me when you have concerns, and rejoicing with me around our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I hope God can use me to channel love toward you all, and that nothing I say causes anyone to stumble. May all the glory go to God, who has and is dealing so bountifully with me. I am completely and totally overwhelmed.