LTRP Note: We are reposting this background article for those who have been asking how Lighthouse Trails got started.
By Deborah Dombrowski
Editor – Lighthouse Trails
Part One: “It Was a Dark and Stormy Night.”
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 after getting saved in the ’70s (I in a barn with a Bible and some cows, Dave in army barracks 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 we would just unite together.
When Y2K came, it jolted us and reminded us that our time on this earth is very temporal, and the Bible talks about a time where people will become very deceived, not realizing the times in which we live. 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 God wanted to get our attention. We just weren’t sure what for at the time. 2000 rolled in rather uneventfully, and life continued. However, in 1998 a friend had told us about an author she knew in Salem (Oregon) who wrote about how the New Age was coming into the evangelical church. While we knew something about the New Age, it was a term that was never mentioned in the pulpit of any church we had ever been to, so the remark slipped quietly away for two years.
In the fall of 2000, our then sixteen-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 twelve authors, most of whom we nor our daughter had ever heard of. Four of them would soon change our lives forever: Thomas Merton, Richard Foster, Henri Nouwen, and Brennan Manning.
About a week after our daughter brought home the list of required reading, a local pastor (who we met during Y2K) called because he was trying to get some information about a college his kids wanted to attend. “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 fifty-cent 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 in 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 two 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 ministry 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 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: “A Hot Topic That Just Wouldn’t Go Away”
After reading the unpublished manuscript, A Time of Departing by Ray Yungen (our new-found brother in the faith) in the fall of 2000, the first thing that seemed reasonable to do was to meet with the Young Life Director of Training for Oregon. I was concerned about my daughter’s involvement with Young Life but also was thinking about all the thousands of Young Life leaders and interns who might be introduced to contemplative spirituality through Young Life’s recommended reading list.
I called the Young Life office in Portland and made an appointment. During the week or so interim before the meeting, I began researching contemplative spirituality on the Internet. The only problem was, there was virtually nothing opposing it or critiquing it. But there was plenty supporting it. Finally, I found an article by a John Caddock (from Oregon). His article was written in 1997 and was titled “What is Contemplative Spirituality, and Why is it So Dangerous?.” It was actually a review of Brennan Manning’s book, The Signature of Jesus. That was one of the books Ray had discussed in his manuscript. John Caddock’s article and one other one were the only things we could find on the Internet refuting this mystical prayer that was being called Christian. Essentially, the contemplative issue was not being challenged. Little did we know at the time, it had been simmering in the background within the evangelical church for at least two decades by then and was about to explode wide open.
The day before Ray and I were to meet with the Young Life Director of Training in Portland, I stumbled upon Peter Marshall Jr.’s name on the Internet and saw where he was promoting Henri Nouwen. I didn’t know a lot about Marshall Jr., but I had loved the movie of his father Peter Marshall, A Man Called Peter, a Scottish minister who eventually became U.S. Senate Chaplain back in the ’50s. When I saw the endorsement of Nouwen by Peter Marshall Jr., I e-mailed his office with my concerns and got a rather scathing reply back. In my naivety at the time, I couldn’t believe the e-mail was really from him. So on the morning I was to leave for my appointment with Ray and the Young Life Director, I called the Peter Marshall office. Lo and behold, Peter Marshall, Jr. answered the phone. He acknowledged that it was indeed he who had written the e-mail, and he told me that anyone who would say anything bad about Henri Nouwen or Brennan Manning was committing “Satanic slander.” Marshall expressed strong anger about my having questioned the two contemplative men. I was very taken back by the angry response to what I had thought was an amiable and mild challenge on my part. When Marshall was finished reprimanding me, we said good-bye and hung up. I never had another chance to talk to Peter Marshall Jr., and he died in 2010 at the age of seventy.
When I arrived at the coffee shop in Portland later that morning, Ray was standing in the foyer waiting for me. As I approached him, I said, “You’ll never believe who I just talked to.” I will never forget Ray’s reaction as I shared what had happened. His eyes filled with tears, and he said, “Peter Marshall is a conservative Christian. I am shocked that he would have such a view.” I knew then that Ray Yungen was a brother who did not hate these people but rather had a genuine desire to help people. And as for Marshall’s angry reaction, I later came to find out that an angry reaction was a common denominator from those who promote contemplative spirituality when challenged by someone about it. The list of those I would someday talk to either by phone, e-mail, or letter began with Marshall but would later include: Philip Yancey, Dan Kimball, Shane Claiborne, Rick Warren, Ken Blanchard, David Jeremiah, Gary Thomas, Keri Wyatt Kent, Richard Foster (indirectly), personnel from Focus on the Family, Beth Moore’s top assistant as well as Charles Stanley’s close assistant, and many others.
From the fall of 2000, when we met Ray, until the end of 2001, we tried to find a publisher who would publish A Time of Departing. We put together a proposal and sent it out to several Christian publishers.
As one rejection letter after the next came in, we grew more and more skeptical that we would find a publisher for A Time of Departing. In the mean time, Ray read in an article somewhere that the top forty Christian publishers would only publish books written by authors who had “significant national platforms.” We knew this left Ray out. He was unknown.
As for Ray’s writing background, he had written For Many Shall Come in My Name (1st edition) in the early nineties, which was published by a small publishing company that eventually went out of business. The book was an exposé on the New Age movement in our society. Several thousand copies of the book had sold, and Ray did a national tour that included interviews with places like Southwest Radio Church, but when Ray’s publisher went under, he was left without any representation.
Meeting Richard Foster
In 1994, a few years after Ray wrote For Many Shall Come in My Name, he was asked by a Salem (Oregon) Missionary Alliance youth pastor to research a man named Richard Foster who would be coming to the pastor’s church soon. Ray had not heard about Foster prior to that time, so before the seminar took place, he read Celebration of Discipline. Ray had been studying the Catholic monk and panentheist Thomas Merton for some time, and as he read Foster, he felt there was a connection between him and Merton. Ray attended the seminar, and afterwards went to the front where Foster was standing and talking to people. Ray describes the brief conversation he had with Foster that evening:
After the seminar ended . . . I approached Foster and politely asked him, “What do you think of the current Catholic contemplative prayer movement?” He appeared visibly uncomfortable with the question, and at first seemed evasive and vague.
He then replied, “Well, I don’t know, some good, some bad (mentioning Matthew Fox as an example of the bad).” In defense, he said, “My critics don’t understand there is this tradition within Christianity that goes back centuries.” He then said something that has echoed in my mind ever since that day. He emphatically stated, “Well, Thomas Merton tried to awaken God’s people!” I realized then Foster had waded deep into Merton’s belief system.1
Ray began to study Richard Foster in depth after that, and in early 1999, he finished the manuscript of A Time of Departing, with Richard Foster and Thomas Merton as key figures in his critique. Nearly two years later, we met Ray.
While we were seeking a publisher for A Time of Departing and getting a growing stack of rejection letters, Ron, the Salem youth pastor who had invited Ray to the Richard Foster seminar, was at a church conference and found himself sharing a dining table with John Armstrong, a pastor, author, and an adjunct professor at Wheaton College Graduate School. Ron happened to have a copy of Ray’s manuscript with him, and after striking up a conversation, asked Armstrong if he would take the manuscript with him and read it. Armstrong agreed.
Within a couple weeks, Armstrong contacted Ron and said that A Time of Departing was fantastic. He said if Ray would remove chapter six (“Could This Really Be the End of the Age?”), he could probably get Harvest House to publish the book. At first, we were excited, but after prayer and deliberation, Ray, David, and I decided that removing that chapter would seriously diminish the message of the book. It is in that chapter that Ray talks about occultist Alice Bailey (who coined the term New Age) and her prediction that the Age of Aquarius (a supposed age of enlightenment for man when he realizes his divinity) would come through the Christian church by mystical practices and signs and wonders. Chapter six also talks about what the Bible refers to as Mystery Babylon (Revelation 17:5) where seducing spirits will deceive the whole world into embracing a new system of spirituality (a one-world religion). Quoting from that chapter, Ray stated:
I]nstead of opposing Christianity, the occult would capture and blend itself with Christianity and then use it as its primary vehicle for spreading and instilling New Age consciousness!2
No, we knew that chapter had to stay. Sadly, and ironically, John Armstrong has, in more recent years, come out as an advocate for the emerging ecumenical church.
One day, after we turned down John Armstrong’s offer to help publish A Time of Departing and after we were beginning to think we would never find a publisher for this vitally important book, a little light came on, so to speak, and I said to David, “Why don’t we start our own publishing company and publish the book ourselves?” We prayed that God would open the door if that’s what He wanted us to do, and after talking to Ray, we mutually agreed that this was how we could get the book published.
We knew nothing about publishing. I was a small-time free-lance writer and had written my own biography, and Dave had a degree in English from Portland State University. But that hardly prepared us to start a publishing company. I bought a bunch of books from Amazon, one of which was called How to Publish a Book and Sell a Million Copies. It seemed only logical that if we were going to publish a book, selling a million copies would certainly get our message out. However, when I read that book, one of the things it advised was, Don’t write anything “controversial” if you are interested in “large sales.” It was then I knew that Lighthouse Trails would never be a big publishing company that sold millions of books. We started off controversial, and nearly seventeen years later, we are still considered controversial. Sadly, “controversial” is increasingly coming to mean “something devoted to the biblical Gospel.”
In March of 2002, we opened a business bank account with one hundred dollars and officially started Lighthouse Trails Publishing (later to become an LLC and then an Inc. in 2017). Our motto would be “bringing light to areas of darkness.” Six months later, we released the first edition of A Time of Departing.
Rick Warren Enters the Picture
Right about the same time as A Time of Departing was being released, another book, by a large Christian publishing house, was also being released. While we were picking up the first printing of our new release from a small printer in Washington state, unbeknownst to us at the time, Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life was being released as well and would soon be a New York Times best seller, eventually reaching sales of over 35 million copies. It would turn into a rabbit versus a turtle race to get our messages out, but because we believed that contemplative spirituality would draw people away from the Gospel rather than to it, we felt our efforts were necessary and that God would get our warning out as He saw fit.
In the spring of 2003, we sent a copy of A Time of Departing to Rick Warren thinking we should warn this now-popular pastor of the contemplative prayer movement. He wrote back a personal note on a card saying:
Just a note to say thanks for the copy of A Time of Departing by Ray Yungen. It definitely will be a useful addition to my personal library and resource in my studies. I agree this is a hot topic.
Sincerely, Rick Warren
When we received Rick Warren’s reply, we felt a sense of relief that he seemed to have appreciated our warning. But that was before a lot of things happened:
It was before we read Deceived on Purpose: The New Age Implications of the Purpose Driven Life by Warren B. Smith.
It was before we learned that Rick Warren had been promoting Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, and the spiritual formation (i.e., contemplative spirituality) movement as far back as the early nineties in his first book, The Purpose Driven Church.3
It was before we read George Mair’s book, A Life With Purpose: Reverend Rick Warren—the most inspiring pastor of our time, which identified Rick Warren’s plans to use New Age sympathizer Ken Blanchard for his global P.E.A.C.E. Plan in training leaders around the world.4
It was before George Mair was advised by an acquaintance at the Attorney General’s office in California to file a hate crime against Rick Warren for his assault against Mair for his book (but Mair called me, and I advised him against filing).5 Ironically, when Mair wrote his book, it was meant to be a testament of praise to Rick Warren as “America’s Pastor” not realizing that at the same time New Age connections had been unveiled.
It was before Rick Warren wrote his damage-control “midnight e-mail” to me in the spring of 2005, an e-mail that was filled with inaccuracies to cover up the truth, but yet he had his chief apologist at the time post it all over the Internet within hours of sending it to me.6
It was before Saddleback sent out e-mails to an undisclosed number of people saying that Lighthouse Trails and Ray Yungen were “sitting on a pile of money” (and we just wanted to know where it was because we could really have used that pile of money to pay the bills that month).
It was before Saddleback accused Lighthouse Trails of “publishing lies” and inferring that we had broken into their website server saying that “federal agents” were on the case.7
It was back when we thought there was no way the majority of Christian leaders could be right in the middle of helping to bring in a mystical spirituality that would take millions into the arms of outright apostasy.
Needless to say, by the time we went to press with the second edition of A Time of Departing in the spring of 2006, the book now had an entire chapter devoted to Rick Warren and his contemplative prayer propensities. And it had a chapter devoted to something everyone was calling “the emerging church.”
Vicious and unscrupulous efforts were already underway to stop Lighthouse Trails. Had it been just our own strength and wisdom to keep us going, we never could have continued. But, in spite of our own human frailties and weaknesses, and in spite of efforts to stop us, God showed mercy and justice and kept Lighthouse Trails afloat. And while there’s no question that contemplative spirituality has skyrocketed exponentially throughout the world (thanks largely to big name advocates of the movement), tens of thousands of people have now read A Time of Departing as well as our 2007 book on the emerging church, Faith Undone by Roger Oakland; and we believe these books have made a difference in helping to defend the Gospel message of Jesus Christ and identifying the mystical spirituality that is working to blind the eyes of millions.
There’s much more to our story, and you can read about most of the episodes on our site. When we first began, we wondered if there were other Christians who saw what Ray, David, and I saw. Surely, we can’t be the only ones, we thought. We are so happy to report that we aren’t by a long shot. Through the thousands of e-mails, letters, and phone calls from readers, customers, and newsletter subscribers, we have learned that God has faithfully shown many believers what is happening in today’s church and world. We are privileged and humbled to have a small part in this work. As we have said many times before, Lighthouse Trails exists as a service to the body of Christ, for the sake of the Gospel, and we pray and hope, to the glory of God.
1. Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2nd ed., 2006), pp. 76-77.
2. Ibid., p. 123.
3. Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995), pp. 126-127.
5. Read our article “Rick Warren Biographer, George Mair, Passes Away at 83 – The Rest of the Story” for this full story.
7. In December of 2005 a woman sent us an e-mail she had received from Rick Warren’s personal e-mail address, which stated:
The website you refer to [Lighthouse Trails] below is well-known for publishing lies, which can easily be proven false. . . . The Bible says “Satan is the father of lies”, so those who intentionally spread them are doing Satan’s work for him. That is evil. We suggest you avoid listening to evil people who have a habit of lying about ministers of the Gospel. Study the Scriptures every day and flee from those who make their reputation by lying.
We contacted Saddleback about the e-mail, and we received the following reply, suggesting that the e-mail had been written by a computer hacker: “We are sorry that this public mailbox has been shut down due to vandalism and stolen identity. Federal enforcement officers are tracking down the source in either Africa or the Pacific Northwest.” At first, we thought this was a joke because we (who live in the Pacific Northwest) had recently issued a press release about an evangelist in Africa who had been opposing Purpose Driven. Hearing that Federal officers had narrowed down an investigation to either our location or the evangelist’s location seemed preposterous. We contacted Saddleback by phone requesting the names of these Federal agents because of the threatening nature of the “anonymous” email. A few days later a Saddleback staff member called and told us that Federal agents were doing an investigation on their web server being broken into and that Saddleback (and the agents) suspected Lighthouse Trails. We again asked for the names of the Federal agents as well as the Saddleback communications director that was handling the case. However, we were told they would not give us any names. We have not heard anything from Saddleback since.
(Photo from cover of the booklet, The Story Behind Lighthouse Trails; photo from bigstockphoto.com; used with permission)