“Lighthouse Trails, the Early Years – Part 2 – “A Hot Topic” That Just Wouldn’t Go Away”
By Deborah Dombrowski
After reading the unpublished manuscript, A Time of Departing by Ray Yungen (our new-found brother in the faith) in the fall of 2000, the first thing that seemed reasonable to do was to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 own 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. I also later found an article by Al Dager of Media Spotlight. But that was about it. Essentially, the contemplative issue was not being challenged, at least not on the Internet. 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.
The day before Ray and I were to meet with the Young Life Director, 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 70.
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 promoted 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, 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. I knew how to write a book proposal as I had put one together for my own biography, Laughter Calls Me (also unpublished at that point).
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 40 Christian publishers would only publish books written by authors who had “significant national platforms.” We knew this left Ray out. He was unknown.
Ray had published For Many Shall Come in My Name (1st edition) in the early nineties with a small publishing company that eventually went out of business. 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.
Then, 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. Before the seminar took place, Yungen read Celebration of Discipline. Ray had been studying 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.(from chapter 4 of A Time of Departing)
Ray began to study Richard Foster in depth after that, and in early 1999, he finished the first edition 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, Dave, 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 Mystery Babylon 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!” 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 church.
One day, after we turned down John Armstrong’s offer to help publish A Time of Departing and after I was 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 Dave, “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, it was agreed that this is 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. I figured if we were going to publish a book, selling a million copies would certainly get our message out. However, when I read the 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 ten 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 and officially started Lighthouse Trails Publishing. Our motto would be “bringing light to areas of darkness.” Six months later, we released the first edition of A Time of Departing. Another book, by a large Christian publishing house, was being released right about the same time. While we were picking up our first 500 copies 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 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.
It was before we read George Mair’s book, A Life With Purpose where he 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.
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).
It was before Rick Warren wrote his “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.
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 saying that we had broken into their website server and “federal agents” were on the case.(story)
It was back when we thought that 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 this 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, Dave, 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, 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.
But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. (1Thessalonians 5:1-6)
David and Deborah Dombrowski – December 2010 – Montana
From our article, “Are These Rumors True?”