By Deborah Dombrowski
Editor – Lighthouse Trails
Every good mystery starts off with “It was a dark and stormy night.” But this is a different kind of mystery. It’s about a church, a Bride, that was mysteriously kidnapped by a dark deceitful stranger who came as an angel of light and promised her many great things if she would just follow him. And it’s about a small insignificant publishing company who teamed up with members of the Bride who did not succumb to the angel of light, in an effort to find out what happened to her and how to bring her back to safety.
In the summer of 2000, there was no Lighthouse Trails Publishing. There wasn’t even a glimmer in anyone’s mind about it. Dave and I were nearing the final round of raising a half a dozen kids in a small town in Oregon, one nestled in the Cascade foothills. We had been alerted in 1997 to a thing called Y2K and helped put together a task force in our little town. Not because we thought the world was coming to an end on December 31, 1999. We didn’t. But we were stirred from our every day lives of soccer games, raising kids, going to church, small time campaigning to keep the homosexual agenda out of the schools, helping friends in need, supporting ministries like Focus on the Family – you know, just the regular stuff a good Christian family does. In twenty five years of being part of the church by getting saved in the 70s (I in a barn with a Bible and some cows, Dave in an army bunker in Germany), there were a lot of things we had never heard about in the pulpits. At first, in the 70s, we heard a lot about Jesus’ return, and it wasn’t unusual to hear the Gospel preached on Sundays with people going forward in altar calls and getting saved. It was exciting, and there was anticipation in the air that the rapture could happen at any time. But over time, that kind of talk ceased, altar calls died down and were replaced with lots of other things: signs and wonders that were said to all be from God, boycotts and legislation efforts to turn our country into a “Christian”culture, songs that started leaving Jesus and the Cross out, and in many cases drums so loud, you wouldn’t be able to hear the words anyway, or songs about all the great things we could do if would would just unite together.
When Y2K came, it jolted us and reminded us that our time on this earth was very temporal, and the Bible talked about a time where people would become very deceived, not realizing the times in which we lived. While we did not believe that the culmination of time would end at the strike of midnight on New Year’s Eve 1999, we did believe that God used it to get our attention. We just weren’t sure what for at the time. 2000 rolled in rather uneventfully, and life continued. In 1998, a friend told me about an author she knew in Salem who wrote about how the New Age was coming into the evangelical church. While I knew something about the New Age, it was a term that was never mentioned on the pulpit of any church we had ever been to, and the remark slipped quietly by for two years.
In the fall of 2000, our 16 year old daughter was a Young Life intern. Young Life is a national organization that reaches out to young people in public schools with a Christian message. One day in October, she brought home a list of required reading for the year. It contained books by 12 authors, most of whom I nor my daughter had ever heard of. Four of them would soon change Dave’s and my lives forever: Thomas Merton, Richard Foster, Henri Nouwen, and Brennan Manning.
About a week later, a local pastor called because he was trying to get some information about a college his kids wanted to go to. “Deborah, remember you told me a couple years ago about an author around here who wrote about the New Age coming into the church? I wonder if you can find out about that.” After that call, I contacted my old friend who had told me about this author, and she immediately said, “Deborah, it’s time you met Ray Yungen.”
A week later, I sat in a Keizer, Oregon coffee shop, a few minutes early for my appointment with Mr. Yungen. Right on time, in bounded a 6’4″ pleasant looking kind of guy carrying in each arm bundles of magazines, newspaper clippings, and books. After plopping down his obviously well-read stacks of materials, he bought me a .50 cup of house coffee then proceeded to talk to me for over an hour. When early in the talk, he mentioned Thomas Merton and Richard Foster, something told me this was a providential meeting. And when a little later he mentioned Brennan Manning and Henri Nouwen, I was beginning to get the picture. This man had been sent to save my daughter from reading books by men who called themselves Christians but who, in reality, were bringing a mystical spirituality under the guise of Christianity. Before I left that meeting with Ray, he handed me a brown envelope. “I’ve written a book about this but it isn’t published yet. I call it A Time of Departing. I’ve been carrying it around for 2 years. I wonder if you and your husband would like to read it.” I took the package and left.
It would be an understatement to say that reading that manuscript opened our eyes and changed our lives forever. And if someone had told us back then that within two years from that day in the coffee shop we would start a publishing company and eventually take on the Christian leaders in North America, we probably would have run the other way. Frankly, at the time, we thought Ray Yungen’s book came just in time to help warn the church so contemplative spirituality would not enter it. We thought that there could be no way that too many Christians would even consider going down the contemplative path. It just seemed so obvious to us how dangerous and anti-biblical it was. We thought that if we could warn some of the more influential leaders (like Rick Warren), they would be so happy to be warned, they would probably go out and write their own books warning about contemplative prayer, and we could just go back to our “normal” lives and leave this kind of thing up to them.
We had a lot of misconceived thoughts in those days, and we had no idea what was about to happen.
Part 2 next week.