The Relational Spirituality Podcast

The Relational Spirituality Podcast

What’s going on behind the scenes – Going deep with a friend | Ep. 33

September 05, 2023

How do you open yourself up to the Spirit’s movement in your marriage and with your friends? How do we rely on the Holy Spirit to relate with people? Tap into the power of the Holy Spirit in a way that changes how you live and love. Soul talk is the Spirit moving through us toward another. The Spirit will lead you as you move into the life of your spouse. 


James Shelley by day, is a product manager at Denver Hardwood Company, and has been actively serving in his home church as leader on the worship team for over a decade. James and Kep met in late 1998; they quickly became fast friends and brothers in Christ, and have played in a band together, led worship at each other’s churches, for nearly 25 years. He is proud to have known Larry and is excited to see Larger Story grow. James and his wife Brandy have been married for 28 years and reside in a small town on the eastern plains outside the Denver metro area. They enjoy spending time together at Lake McConaughy in Nebraska in the summertime and are avid Denver Nuggets fans!



Reading & Relating book club 

The SoulCare Experience Study 


[00:00:28] Kep Crabb: Welcome everybody to the next episode of Relational Spirituality. I’m with my boy, James Shelley, a familiar face to some of you. He’s been around before, but we’re going to have a talk as we wrap up this quarter and as we talk about the book, SoulTalk, one of Dr. Crabb’s most practical books in respect to giving you handles on how to move into some kinds of things. We’re going to chat tonight, or today I should say, about a couple of different things. James and I have been friends for a long time, and we’ve had many evenings and times of SoulTalk and soul connection.

James, thanks for joining me today, big man.

[00:01:04] James Shelley: Yeah, man, I’m glad to be here. As always, it was good. Look, we’re using technology to talk to each other.

[00:01:12] Kep Crabb: I love that. I love that, man. It’s been too long since I’ve seen you just face to face. You went through the book SoulTalk a while ago, and we’re wrapping up this quarter on some of the themes and some of the conversations that we’ve had. We’ve talked about a bunch of different things, because I think this book really touches on everything. How do you have a conversation that’s based primarily on a relationship that only the Spirit and me and the Spirit and you can connect on, and how does that soul to soul conversation happen?

You and I’ve had some of those, have they been organic or did we force them or tell me what your thoughts are on some of that, man.

[00:01:48] James Shelley: I think a lot of it in the beginning was probably on the surface. It didn’t take very long before you and I were diving deep, especially once we found out where our faith was, where my faith background was, where yours was, especially when I finally met your dad, all those many years ago, and realized what was happening on that side of where you came from.

I just remember, we were reckless and wild. We were younger for sure. 20 years younger. Things straightened out after a while because we started doing the worship at churches and things like that and diving into that. So the conversations that we have, I think are organic.

[00:02:33] Kep Crabb: You bring up a great point too, bro. What I think about as you say it is you can’t just start right away into this kind of stuff. It’s almost too much for people sometimes, and then you find yourself turning somebody off because you want to go “deep with them,” whatever that means. It’s got to be something that is organically worked through, but at the same time, the essence of it is about relationship. I think what you and I started to develop over years is a trust and a love for each other that took our relationship to that next level where we can talk about the struggles in our lives. We can talk about raising kids. We can talk about anything and we have someone that we can lean on that’s not our wife. I remember Dad saying so many times, your wife was not made to bear your weight. And so it’s important to have a brother that can help bear some of that. Dad said one other thing that I want you to comment on, don’t ever go to your grave having secrets.

Make sure one person, your closest confidant, knows what’s going on in the deepest parts of your soul. What do you think of that? Is that healthy? Is that good? That’s what Dad would say. And it doesn’t have to be your wife. Now he’s not saying to disclude her.

[00:03:58] James Shelley: I think it for sure starts with your wife.

Brandy and I often talk in wonder and amazement that we’ve lasted so long, but it boils down to our relationship with our heavenly Father that over time has just grown us closer together. As you look at the triangle, with God being at the top, the closer you grow to God, you automatically grow closer. I use that when I officiate weddings a lot, that triangle, just to tell, as you grow closer to God, you grow closer together. So it starts with your spouse of course 

It is a little more difficult to bear soul with brothers. You got to find that one. It’s been you and I together from way back, we could tell each other basically anything. I like what your dad said early in the book, he said that what I do without the Spirit is self talk, but the things I do with the Spirit is Soul Talk. That was early in the book. That changed my trajectory on reading how your dad does stuff and talks about the stuff, because then I look back and see how many of our conversations were Soul Talk, because we knew that if we were talking, we were thinking, how can we increase each other’s hunger to be closer to the Lord?

That’s what Soul Talk basically is. The language that He’s put in us to draw us closer to Him. So if you look back on all of our conversations, Soul Talk has been quite prevalent in those conversations. If you really look back, we were doing it without even really knowing that’s what it was, but we were speaking the language that the Father, the Holy Spirit had put into us and developing that over time.

But it is tough to do that with everybody. I’m actually developing a couple different gentlemen in my circle just becoming an elder at my church and being that servant leader getting to know people and discipling. If you think about backpackers, the Sherpa just really disciple people, and moving into that and being able to employ Soul Talk as you start out listening to their story and then figuring it out in pretty quick order.

What can I do? The Holy Spirit helped me to create an awareness or a hunger, a bigger hunger to be closer to you with this person that I’m talking to. That’s the more difficult part. I think that happens as you get older and more seasoned and mature in faith. I’ll be 52 coming up on my next birthday, father time here.

That’s where I think that the list is short, but it’s like a spiritual discipline. You got to put it into action and start using it and relying on the Holy Spirit, asking the Holy Spirit to create, create something new, and rely on that. 

[00:07:10] Kep Crabb: You’re talking about so much, which was great. I love it because I know you well, I’ve seen your life and you mentioned Brandy. So how long have you and Brandy been married?

[00:07:21] James Shelley: We’re coming up on 28 years, in December it’ll be 28. Got married in December of 95. So 28, a couple of years behind you and Kimmie.

[00:07:32] Kep Crabb: Yep. I knew the number. I’m just talking to our audience here, but you’ve been married to this woman for 28 years. I had someone ask me a question this week. She was reading one of Dad’s books and at the end, Dad uses a metaphor of kind of a bridge as a link between a husband and a wife.

He says he sees the wife moving across the bridge and the husband moving too. Her question was essentially, does the wife move first towards the husband, or does the husband move towards his wife? I think the issue that she was running into is she was feeling not very pursued by her husband.

I said, what an opportunity as we talked about it. I believe that what Dad meant there was certainly – and he talks throughout this book, this was a book that he wrote called Fully Alive. By the way, we’ll be diving into that at some point, which will be massively controversial in today’s world, but we’ll wait to do that until I’m ready for a big fight.

Basically, it is the job of a man to move and to lead his family spiritually. And you’ve taken that bull by the horns in so many different ways. Unpack that with how Brandy has responded, just in the last few years, bro. Just as you’ve really gotten involved in the church, you’ve now stepped into a leadership position in the church, but you’ve always been in a leadership position. How has your wife responded to your movement? As you guys have engaged in the Soul Talk versus self talk that you guys have had an opportunity to move into that takes years, that takes commitment. That takes others-centeredness. All this kind of stuff is not something that happens by flipping the switch.

How has she responded to some of the ways that you’ve changed? 

[00:09:15] James Shelley: It seemed there was a direction change a couple of years back. We finally got into a little life group here in Byers where we live with some younger couples. There was a couple that was married 15 years, there was a couple that was married 5 years, and then down the road we had a couple that was only been married, maybe 18 months to 2 years, and we did this study called love and respect, and it was a study on that and it talked a lot about how the guys need to feel respect and the gals need to feel love.

And how do we do that? We really dove into a lot of that to where. Part way into the study, we would say to each other, or she would say to me that wasn’t very loving. And then a couple of times I would say I didn’t really feel that was very respectable, but it made us aware of each other’s tendencies and what we really felt. So that really put us on a path the last couple of years to be to be even further along quicker than we had previously been. Brandy has always been my helpmate, when you get married God created woman to be the helpmate, it’s always been the situation with whatever I was doing and you’ve seen it over the years. Brandy is right there. She’s right there following whatever direction that I wanted to go leading wise she would be there to support and all that stuff. I’ve tried over the years when she’s stepped out and done some things to be that in reciprocity – that’s a big word on a Wednesday evening – so it’s been like that for a while.

Recently though, we’ve taken it out to where we’re realizing that our first job, and I think Larry had mentioned a couple of times that he told Rachael that it’s not my job to be the best husband to you. I’m probably butchering that, but it’s my job is to follow the Father the best I can, and you will get the result of me being the best Christ follower that I can be, and it’ll be an automatic result.

So that’s where we are now. I don’t know if you saw the movie Jesus Revolution. The young couple in there talked about early on, I hope you don’t get mad, but I want you to know that I’m in love with this guy named Jesus. He comes first, so don’t be getting all hurt when I’m ignoring you for Him. It was like in that paraphrase, where they said that early in their careers. I think that’s where we are, where our eyes are on the Father for here to our last day until He calls us home. Our best thing to do is to keep our eyes as focused on Him as possible.

I’ll demo both. Receive the benefit of the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, all those gifts will become evident and you’ll be evident. It’s just like what the Bible says about, you will know my disciples by the way they act and by the fruit that they put off, you’ll know, and that’s where we’ve been the last couple of years.

Marriage is work. You can’t slack at any point. It’s a daily thing, you have to get up and make that commitment that I’m going to work as hard as I can. But it is a lot easier if you get up in the morning and you turn Lordship over to our great, gracious, loving, merciful God and get out of His way. You’ve heard me say that before. Just get out of His way and let Him lead, because the evil one’s going to try to bump you off course. That’s his main focus, especially when you’re really following Christ, the evil one’s radar is up and he’s going to try to bump you off the track as many times as he can.

So that’s where we’ve been the last couple years for sure. The fruit is better because I think we’re more locked in. I’ve always said that Brandy and I could go off and be on a deserted island and we wouldn’t need anybody else. Just me, her, God, and the trinity. That would be all that we need because we’re best friends. The gift that He’s given me by putting her in my life, man, it’s Soul Talk, it’s everything this book said it was. It’s when you get to that level and you can do that with your spouse, then you have to take that out of that comfort zone and step into doing that with somebody else.

[00:13:50] Kep Crabb: It’s so sweet to hear you say that and to see the relationship as it’s just blossomed between you and Brandy over the years. How you’re both just, you’re both one. I love that. That’s why I really wanted to go that direction. I know some marriages that are struggling, as we all do, because that’s what seems to be happening.

How do you move through those deep waters, relying on the Spirit? I think that’s one of the key elements that you talked about. One of the things we’re going to be doing come the first of the year is we’re going to be doing a series – I’ve talked a little bit about this with some people, I talked about it with Duncan a few weeks ago – it’s a series on what Dad was very enamored by. He came up with something years ago, probably 15, 20 years ago, called the seven questions of spiritual theology. What I’ve really come to realize, James, is this is a great entree. To talk to your kids, talk to your wife, talk to your friends, talk to just acquaintances. An entree into that world of opening up the door for really authentic Soul Talk. The opportunity to meet at a level that’s different. So the seven questions are pretty simple and we’re going to start this series at the beginning of the year. I’m going to be talking with different people and I’d love to chat with you about some of this, but just real quickly, the seven questions are simple and I’ve talked to him about it, but let me just tell you what they are real quickly.

Who is God? You can define it any way you want to. I know a story about a woman who was struggling with one of her middle school children over homework, which they mostly struggle over at that point, and she said, let’s just sit down for a second, take this pencil, take this paper. I’ll take my pencil and my paper, and I want us just to each answer these questions. And she runs through these questions with her 14 year old middle school student, who was being a little belligerent in respect to trying to get his homework done. And she says, who is God? What is your opinion of that? What do you think? What’s God up to? What’s He doing? Which is what we’re talking about with the larger story stuff all the time. That’s the thing. And then, who are you? Who are we? Who are we and what’s gone wrong with this world? What’s the problem that we have? And then the fifth question is, what’s God done about that problem? What’s He done about it? And then the last two questions are what you just hit on. And these are the two questions that have really been grabbing me very intensely for the last several years now, certainly since Dad’s death. How is God’s Spirit moving today? Because oftentimes you sense this intense spiritual warfare going on within yourself, within people, and then within the culture and the world that we live in. This country is just a blatant example of that right now in respect to intense spiritual warfare. So what is God’s Spirit up to today? Question number six. The last question, and I think the most important question at some level, is, how do we join what it’s doing? How do you join them? It’s what Dad said in the sense of, my goal is not to be a good husband to you, Rachael. My goal is to pursue the Lord with everything that I am and you will be the beneficiary of a good husband hopefully. 

By the way, he was one of the most others-centered people that I think you and I’ve ever known in how he loved people. That gives us the example that we have access to because Larry Crabb wasn’t anything special in the sense that he had the same exact Holy Spirit in him that we have in us. We have that opportunity to move into people’s lives, to have that impact because of the Spirit in it. You’ve done that to me, bro. That’s what I wanted to say is, you’ve been an encouragement to me for so many years now, but just to see your progression. The Lord’s grabbing hold of your life. He’s grabbing hold of your heart and he’s saying, James, this is where you’re going. And you’re taking Brandy with you. You’re taking your kids with you and you’re taking a lot of other people with you. And you’re doing that in the name of Jesus. And because of the Spirit you’re in the rhythm of that Spirit. Dad used to say, find out where the Spirit’s going and tag along with the Spirit. 

The issue that I wanted to ask is, we have so many opportunities – and it’s all through scripture – to squelch the Spirit, so much opportunity. I was talking with my brother the other day and he was just talking about, if I squelch the Spirit in me, how does that Spirit in me then pour into you. It can’t, it’s impossible because I’m squelching it. So I’ve got to be encouraging the Spirit to move, guide me. That’s where you talked about the fruit of the spirit. Patience, long suffering, joy, all of those things that the Spirit brings in us, those are gifts from the Spirit. Those are fruit of the spirit. And so without the Spirit, we don’t have that fruit. I’ve seen it in your life in spades, bro. In how you love Brandy, how you’ve taken in your brother’s children, how you’ve raised your own in the last 10, 15 years, and just what you’ve done, how you’ve changed, and that is such an encouragement to see, because it lets you realize real change is possible and it happens with soul talk.

[00:18:55] James Shelley: It does. And the same thing for you, bro, the last 10, 15 years for sure. It’s not been the overnight thing, but we realized, just looking back over time, the gradual changes as the kids got into junior high and high school and then went to college, we were faced with, we had to do something different to fill those gaps, because that’s what we did when those kids were little, taking care of them and trying to raise them up like the Bible says to and not succeeding by any means because the world, the outside influences and you’re battling that on a daily basis, and now we have the social media that’s even tougher to defend sometimes.

The way you’ve changed. Quite honestly when I first met you and then a couple of years later, you were calling yourself the executive director of New Way Ministries. I’m like, no way. The executive director, the way what you were doing I was unaware of what was going on behind the scenes.

Just after just looking back all these years, the inner struggles that your dad went through behind the scenes that tormented him as he was in the word and speaking and meditating and praying to God and having conversations with God and the fruit that we have all been able to receive from your dad and you being the person that had to transcribe, being the scribe for your dad.

It had those seeds that he planted in you all the years that just are now what Paul said, some plant, some water and God gives the increase. I think that’s what we’re seeing here is the increase. I love the seven things because it gives you a real opportunity to talk to younger people, because we were the younger people once, and who is Jesus? Who would you say Jesus is to you? It’s a great opener. Or, if you were to die tomorrow, where do you think you would go? What do you think happens? Then that opens the door for that secondary conversation. It doesn’t always have to be in the first 10 minutes that you’re talking to somebody new, but it is cool to even hear your response when you ask me the question, who is God?

And I ask you the question, it’s going to be a great thing to hear the definition that you’ve given. I’m sure it’ll be cool for you to hear my definition.

[00:21:33] Kep Crabb: It really will, I’m excited for that. Man. There’s so many different directions you can go with that, that I think are so fun to dive into, because ultimately everything boils down to one thing, relationship.

If you ask the question, who is God, He was a community of three that’s living in a perfect relationship. Because that’s what it’s all about. It’s all about relationship, which is what you and I’ve developed over the last 20 plus years and how the Lord’s begun to nurture that. I think you hit on something that I think is really crucial as we get ready to wrap here a little bit, but that Soul Talk is only possible if the Spirit in you is speaking to the Spirit in me because then everything else becomes self talk and it’s that flesh spirit battle at some level. So you have to have the Holy Spirit in order to be able to talk at a level that allows you to get soul to soul. I know that’s a little controversial, but that’s the only process to get to the Soul Talk level.

[00:22:27] James Shelley: When your dad laid it out, you have to think beneath. When we’re spewing out the daily troubles and what’s really troubling us, we see the examples of the stories that your dad told in the book. You say nothing. You just sit there and you start thinking beneat,h where is the center of the problem? Somehow you got to funnel that into, how can we drive this into an increased hunger to be up in the Father’s lap, that type of thing.

So it’s going to be cool. The directions that you see God moving and working, some of those missions now will be, are we able to join the movement right now? I think we’re joining the movement. I think there’s a couple of different movements going on. So for us, as we answered those questions, we’re going to be able to answer each question fully. But it’s going to be fantastic. I think when you said that to me earlier, I was excited to start diving into those questions. We’re starting a better man series because going back a little bit in the conversation, today, most men, young men especially, have no idea how to win the game because they don’t know the rules of the game.

We see it. We’ve seen a lot of men come into our church, young families, and quite honestly, we just feel like they’re there because why? Because the wife says, Hey, let’s go to church. So the husband says, okay, I’ll go to church, and we see these guys from the platform and they’re in the back during worship and the first couple of times they’re like that, but then if they continue to attend, then you see that shift, you see the Holy Spirit who’s working in the place. So this better man series that we’re coming up on where it’s going to run a quite a few weeks starting in September running right up against Thanksgiving and we’re going to have an opportunity to have small tables and to get to know guys and I’m looking forward to being able to have Soul Talk with some of these guys. Just to start from square one, get to know them, get to this level that your dad talked about and all the processes of Soul Talk and getting to the things that I can do only with the Spirit, that’s the language that the Holy Spirit has instilled deep inside of us. That’s the language he wants us to speak. A Soul Talk. Because like Ecclesiastes says, everything else is dust blowing in the wind.

[00:25:18] Kep Crabb: One thing that I think of as we get ready to wrap here, bro, is your church is very welcoming. I’ve been there several times now and have had a chance to play in the worship team with you and do some things that have just been so fun, but I’ve always felt very welcomed. The people are very gracious and I don’t know if that’s just because it’s a rural, small town kind of thing and you don’t have that snooty uptown stuff. But I think there’s some good churches in big cities that are very welcoming as well. It’s just great to see what God continues to do in your life. I love having these conversations, which is why I continually want you to be a big part of what we’re doing on Relational Spirituality here.

Hopefully you get a chance to do this again with some of the other things that we’ve been chatting about and talking about. I love that you’re diving into a lot of this new material from Crabb. He’s got a ton of it, it’s a reading list that is really tall, but it’s great. This last weekend I reread Waiting for Heaven and just really enjoyed that. I was in the airport doing some traveling this last weekend and it just really struck me. My dad’s in heaven right now. I love that. I was thinking about all the stuff that you and I’ve been through, bro. I was around when Brady was born. You were around when Jake was born. Both of our fathers have passed away, that we were around for. Life has these deep water moments that, when you have brothers and sisters, you can walk through those tough times together. You just feel that community and that relationship, which I think is what God calls us to. And you’ve been a big part of my community, bro. I’m just so grateful to have you in my life.

[00:27:13] James Shelley: Yeah, no doubt. Brandy just got through Waiting on Heaven not too long ago and she was just in love with that book. She’s almost done. She says she’s not quite done yet. She just piped in from the couch. She’s loving the book. I gave my mom a couple of books. I warned her, my mom is 20 years my senior, and I said, just so you know, Dr. Crabb speaks like a doctor sometimes and she did comment. She enjoyed the book, but she really had to buckle down and read it in prepositional phrases to start. And then you get into that flow. So I’m just enjoying all the things that I’ve read because I’ve read snippets. I’ll be honest. I haven’t done very well. I’ve read the first 5 chapters of 66 love letters and then stalled out The Pressure’s Off.

I got through that one. SoulTalk. Waiting on Waiting for Heaven. So now I can say I’m a five book veteran of the Crabb library. I’m excited about that for the next one. I think I’m going to jump into Fully Alive next. I think it is the next one you gave me, but I think I’m going to go from here into Fully Alive.

I’m just excited about this opportunity and being able to talk about Relational Spirituality where you can be known, like you guys always say on the podcast, just be known.

[00:28:34] Kep Crabb: It’s about being known and becoming what we are supposed to become. If we’re the same people that we were when we first met, shame on us. We’ve grown together. A lot of times we’ve grown together because of each other. When one of us is down, one of us is up, we pull each other together, we’ve got someone to cry with, we’ve got someone to laugh with. Those are important things. I pray and hope that the people out there listening to us have an opportunity to find that kind of relationship with a brother or sister where they know they have someone that they can trust, that they can lean on, and that they can depend on and vice versa. And that’s what I have in you, bro.

[00:29:11] James Shelley: Very powerful, for sure. The same here. Very powerful to have you in my back pocket to be able to lean on, confide in, and it’s a powerful thing. And just look forward to what’s going to happen here. What God’s going to do. Let’s just jump on the train and let’s get on it.

[00:29:28] Kep Crabb: We’re on the road. We’re on the ride here. 

Folks. Thanks for joining us today. On behalf of my brother, James Shelley, I’m Kep Crabb. This is Relational Spirituality where you can belong, you can be known and you can become what God wants us to be. And be known to each other. James knows me. I know this guy and I love him to death. James, thanks for joining us today.

Folks, next week join us as well as we begin our next series that we’ll talk a little bit about and preface that for you in the coming weeks ahead. So everybody have a great evening and we’ll talk to you soon.