His name is Jamie Winship and you are in for a treat with this podcast. He is the founder of Identity Exchange. He wants to help you live fearlessly in your true identity. This will all make sense by the end of our two part series with him. Don’t miss a single second of this incredible episode!
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Jamie [00:00:12] You need to live in the present moment with the future in mind. And the stronger your sense of identity, the easier that is to do. And so, in the present tense, instead of just avoiding things for some moral reason or something, you’re actually making decisions knowing what the future has.
Sarah [00:00:31] His name is Jamie Winship, and you are in for such a treat. Your jaw will drop at some of the true stories that he tells. Jimmy is the founder of Identity Exchange, which is all about helping you learn to live fearlessly in your true identity. If that doesn’t make sense to you right now, no problem. It will by the end of this episode and the next one, which is going to release in a couple of weeks. Let’s just get right to it with my conversation with Jamie Winship.
Sarah [00:01:02] Would you start by sharing the moment where you felt that prompting inside of you in a movie theater about the gifts and talents God had given you and the career that you wanted to go into?
Jamie [00:01:15] Yeah, sure. Yeah, I’d love to. Thanks for having me. Yeah, I was 14. I was in eighth grade. And in our household where I grew up in Washington, D.C., my parents are pretty strict on the movie theater and movies. So I was curious about the whole thing. So I went to a movie and I didn’t even know what it was. I just was interested and hadn’t been to a movie before. And so when I went into the movie theater to watch this movie and sat in the back row. The movie comes on and the movie was about a New York City police officer it’s a true story. I’m sitting in the back row and the movie starts. The movie actually started at the end of the movie with the police officer had been shot. That was the story, life story of police Officer Frank Serpico, New York City Police. The movie starts with him having been shot and then it goes backwards into his life joining the academy and his dad and uncles were all New York City police officers. So I’m watching that movie, and it just really affected me, the whole thing. I mean, you know, as I look back on it, the music and the acting and all of it just really affected me in a very deep way. And it was a spiritual experience, although I wouldn’t have called it that at the time. Tt was one of it’s one of those experiences that goes right past all of your sort of defenses and your culture and everything. It just cuts right to your heart, right to your spirit. I was so emotional about it. I was raised in a not emotional home, but it was it made me cry just pretty quickly into the story. I was crying and I was even thinking to myself, “Why am I crying about this?” It’s not sad necessarily till the very end. I just was looking at that screen and that character in New York City, and Frank Serpico was a big opera fan and just all of that watching it. And I knew that it was naming me, I would call it now, calling me like good literature does. It calls you, it names you. Everyone, every human knows this. When you read a certain poem or hear a certain song, it just impacts you in a deep way. And so because I was raised independent Baptist, you go forward at the end when something impacts you that you consider godly, you have to go forward or it doesn’t count, I guess. And so when the movie was over, I knew that I had to make some kind of decision, like that’s how profound it was in me. Again so this is eighth grade, 14 years old. So the lights come up and people are leaving the theater and I went forward in the theater all the way down to the little platform they have in front of the movie screens back then. And I climbed up on the little stage and I turned back and it was cool because the lights from the projector were shining down. So I was like, looking up in this theater at this lights kind of coming from the heavens down on me. And I made a commitment to God or whatever at the time I didn’t really understand all that, but that I wanted to be…I knew I wanted to be a police officer. I knew that this is the calling one of my life. And I made a commitment that at some point in my life, I was going to join the police department and be a police officer. And so. Yeah, that was when I was 14. I’m 63 now and I never wavered from that moment. That was the most profound. Back here behind me, on the shelf up there on the top of my shelf, I have my badge and my stuff, from the police department in my career. And a big picture of Al Pacino up there, who was the actor that played Frank Serpico. They’re like markers in my life of remembrance of when I really felt like God intersected with my life. That was my calling I would say. That was the beginning of it, of understanding that life has a direction and we have. There’s a part of us that’s attracted to certain things, and we know it when we see it, even though we can’t fully understand it. And it’s a beginning of a journey for sure. So that’s when it started for me.
Sarah [00:05:50] You had another moment when you were in the hospital for some reason and you had a nurse that made a big impact on you.
Jamie [00:05:57] Right. So, yeah, So that was 14 when I was in the theater. And so 14, 15, 16, 17. Those years, I was determined I was going to be a police officer. So I started like living my life, which I tell especially young people all the time now like you need to live in the present moment with the future in mind. And the stronger your sense of identity, the easier that is to do. And so in the present tense, instead of just avoiding things for some moral reason or something, you’re actually making decisions knowing what the future has. So when I was 14, 15, 16, 17, those ages, I knew I was going to be on a polygraph when I was 21. So I would make decisions in the present tense, realizing at 21 I didn’t want to answer a question and say, “Well, I did this wrong or whatever.” So that’s how I lived and I even like participated in sports. Everything I did was to become that identity that I felt when I was 14. So I knew I was going to take a police physical. I knew I was going to be on a polygraph, all of that stuff. I knew my grades were going to matter. So all that, it just became important to me more than what was just happening in the moment with my friends. And so when I played sports and was on the wrestling team and all that…not so much because I liked sports, they’re okay, I was much more of a literature person. But I played sports to be in shape and all that. And so when I was in a wrestling tournament going into my senior year and suffered a pretty horrific injury and tournament. And went into the hospital that night and I was terrified that I was not going to be able to pass the police physical that was most concerned about. And so I went into surgery that night, wake up the next afternoon in a cast and everything. The first thing when the doctor came in I wanted to know was would I pass a police physical and he said, “I don’t know, but you’re not going to play sports anymore, that’s for sure.” So I was devastated and bitter and angry and mad at God. I didn’t really have a strong faith at the time, but I knew I had to blame someone so God was handy. Anyway, this physical therapist comes in that same day. Amazing woman. I don’t know anything about her to this day, except that I knew she was 27. She was a single mom from West Virginia that had worked her way through nursing school at night. I just remember these facts about her. But she came in and she sat next to me and she was talking to me about my injury and in the therapy that would be involved. And she said, “You know, your body will heal. That won’t be the issue. The issue will be your bitterness, your anger.” She said, “That’s what’s going to hurt you.” And she started to talk to me spiritually about Jesus and about my heart. And I was so caught off guard by her. One just tremendous compassion. She was relatively young and had had a difficult life. But she was so compassionate towards me and she wanted to talk to me about spiritual things as well as physical. And it just made me so mad. That I, I just cussed her out. I was so mad at the whole situation and like, I can’t even control my own body and I can’t control my future. These events are going to happen that are going to stop me from everything I’ve been trying to do. And I just cussed her out. And she stood up and I just wouldn’t let her talk to me. And she went all the way to the door, to the room and and she looked back at me and she said, “Well, I’ll see you tomorrow.” Just the nicest, and not affected by my anger and the rude things that I was saying. And she came back the next day like she had amnesia. She came back and introduced herself to me like she had never met me. And she did that for five days. Because each day I was so rude to her and disrespectful to her. And she would come back the next day and “Good to see you!” And I realized that her love for me was greater than my hostility. I had never seen anything like it. No matter as mad as I was at her, it would just vanish into her love. And she was more powerful than me I knew. And so the other thing I realized about her was there were other health care people that worked on that floor in that hospital. She was different than all of them. And it was so she was I said to myself, she’s more than a nurse or a physical therapist. She’s a healer and she’s trying to heal me. She’s not just doing her vocation. She’s actually giving me the gift of who she is. And I had never seen a human like that before. When I was finally discharged from the hospital, my prayer to God, she’s the one that really walked me into faith. Even though I’ve never seen her ever again. I’ve never met her, I’ve never found her. I’ve looked for her for years. But when I was driving away from the hospital, I said to God, “Would You teach me how to be a police officer like she’s a nurse?” That was the only way I knew how to say. Just whatever it is she’s bringing to her vocation, teach me how to bring to the police vocation what she has done. So it’s cool, though. She was this beautiful model to me of what a human could be bringing their identity into their vocation as opposed to getting their identity from their vocation. So one day I’ll thank her.
Sarah [00:11:52] We’re going to talk more about how that’s what you say your identity is the gift that you give to the world. And you saw nurse is the vocation, but healer is her identity. And we’re going to talk more about that as this episode goes on. I want to talk a little bit about how you approached after all of your training for the police force. You had another approach, which was to ask God, “What do You want me to know and what do You want me to do?” And one of the most powerful examples of that was when there was an abduction of a young boy at a bus stop. And you responded, Would you share what happened next?
Jamie [00:12:35] Right. Yeah. So yeah, that was in my second or third year in uniform. And so, yeah, there was an abduction of a elementary kid from a bus stop. So that was back in the eighties. And so that was very unusual to happen back then. Unfortunately, it’s not as unusual today, but very unusual then. And not to be a domestic situation so it’s very quickly we knew it wasn’t a domestic situation. We didn’t find out about it for an hour and a half, 2 hours after it had happened. When the school calls the police and we get there and it’s already occurred. And we know that every hour in a situation like that is, you know, you’re not going to resolve it properly because it’s too late. But in just interviewing little kids at a bus stop. They’re not the best witnesses in the world. They’re not really paying attention and so it was a sad situation. My partner and I went to interview the parents just to make sure everything was okay there. And so I was talking to the father, obviously upset. I said to him for some reason, I said to him, “I’m telling you, we’re going to find your son.” My kids were young at the time, so I was really empathizing with him. We walked away from talking to the father and my partner, who was senior to me, said, “You know, you’re not allowed to say that. You can’t say that to a parent. You can’t give them that kind of hope. We have no idea where this kid is and all of that.” And I said, “I know, I don’t know why I said that I just felt like it was the right thing to say.” Anyway I had been practicing for a little while asking God questions about police work, which is funny because I don’t know. Do you think I don’t know, like God is good at certain things, but not necessarily police work as one of them. You know, God’s more religious or something. And so I had been asking God, “Can you help me understand crime? Can you help me understand what to say in a situation? How do I know Your voice and understand it’s You in situations like this? So I went back and I got in my cruiser and I drove down the street a few blocks and I just pulled over and I just said to God, “You know where this kid is. I mean, clearly You would know where this child is. How would You tell me? Do You still do things like that? Is that Old Testament? Is that whatever? Is that over with? You don’t do that anymore or do You? And how would I know? And this is about justice. And this is about a kid that is a victim. What do you do? You let this go or how do You do that? How do You want me to think about this in my relationship with You?” It’s all part of just learning how to how your own relationship with the Lord works and really exploring it. Not just being passive in it. Anyway so I was doing that and I was asking how would I know? And this car comes down the street from behind me just driving the speed limit in a residential area, and it passes me and in my cruiser and I felt really sick to my stomach. I felt like someone hit me, punched me, and I felt really nauseous. And it was like I had this like, okay, I’m praying, this prayer and I think people don’t do this. I think people ask the question and just forget it. Like when you ask God a question, pay attention. Pay attention to everything that happens around you for the next week or whatever. And so I was like, “Okay wait I just asked God, how would I know if He spoke and I suddenly feel really sick to my stomach and there’s this car and just all those things happening at the same time. So I just responded to it. And it’s interesting, the Hebrew word obey means to listen and respond. That’s what it means. And so I had asked a question. And I was listening and responding. That’s obedience. And that interesting definition. Obedience is better than sacrifice scriptures say. So I pulled out and I pulled around in front of the car and I stopped him and I got out and I looked. It was a guy in a car and the car was empty. And I just said, “Get out. Get out and open your trunk right now. Get out.” And he gets out and he opens his trunk and the kid was in the trunk of the car. The kid that had been abducted was in the trunk of the car. And it was you know, like I was shocked. The driver was really shocked that I stopped him. The kid was okay and everything. So then I called the detectives who came to the scene and we arrested the guy. And the detective asked me, the senior detective said, “How did you know to stop that car? What was your probable cause for stopping in that car.?” And I said, “I just was asking God about it.” And he said, “No, no, no, no. You can’t say that in court. If you’re going to do this, you have to be able to testify in court what your probable cause was for stopping a car.” So the whole thing for me was it was like, there’s another way to do your vocation. If you have a relationship with Christ and you’re bringing that relationship into your vocation. It affects how you do your job. And it would seem.If you have the mind of Christ in the spirit of living God inside of you, that you would do your vocation at a different level than a person who doesn’t have that. So that was that was a big incident. I was Officer of the year because of that. And so then that kind of launched me in to what would this vocation be like if this is the way it’s going to happen? Which is pretty it’s pretty thrilling, actually. It can make any vocation a lot more exciting than me just trying to do it on my own.
Sarah [00:18:21] Two things about that. The first is Jamie doesn’t have a special superpower that you don’t have access to with the Lord yourself. And we’re going to talk more about that because there’s actually a course that Jamie and his wife have come up with where you can take some classes, interact with others, and learn more about your identity and your relationship with the Lord and asking those questions. So that’s still to come. But we’re going to keep going through your story. Jamie. So you did you continued that practice and the Lord did speak to you in many different areas of police work. And of course, that caught the attention of the CIA.
Jamie [00:18:57] Right? Yeah, Yeah, it does. You know, and I tell again, people that I work with, especially younger people. If you move with excellence in what you do. And for me, that means that that for me is just deepening your relationship with Christ that people notice it. If you want to be noticed in your vocation, then operate in the truth of who you are, which is unique. There’s no one else like you. You’re the only one God made like you. And so if you do your vocation or whatever it is in the truth of who you are people notice it. Five years of doing that kind of thing, when I was home one night and I get a phone call from a magistrate who I was working cases with and he said, “I want to introduce you to someone that wants to ask you some questions.” And so I went to meet with them and it was a operations guy from the CIA. So it was the magistrate and the operations guy from the CIA. And we met and the CIA operations guy had my a folder of all my casework for five years. And he was looking through it and he said, “I want to know how you’re doing, what you’re doing. How do you know how to do what you do?” He said, “I know that no one we have could train you to do what you did. You didn’t learn this in the police academy. There’s no way we know that you would learn this. So how are you doing what you’re doing?” And then he would just pull out cases and say, like, “This case, for example, what did you do? How do you know how to start this? How did you know how to close it? How did you know where to make the arrest?” All that sort of thing. And I said, “I’m pretty sure you’re not going to like my process for doing this. I don’t think you’re going to like it.” And he said, “It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter whether I like it or not. What matters is the result. Which is a great thing. It’s a thing Jesus said by your fruit they know you. I could preach a sermon or say things, but it’s by the result of how you live that people really say, “Okay, that works.” So I told him my process and I said, “I’ve learned most of this from the Gospels, actually, from watching Jesus, how Jesus operates from the people and the book of Acts.” He didn’t know the Book of Acts. He said, “Yeah, I don’t understand that and I don’t even know if I agree with it. But again, the results are important.” He said, “Can you do this in Islamic world?” Can you do this in an Islamic Muslim context?” And I said, “Yeah, well, it wouldn’t be any different there are people.” So if it works with people, that works with people anywhere in the world. So I said, “I’m pretty sure.” And then he gave me a real life scenario. They were working and asked me what I would do because they didn’t know what to do. And I said, “Well, I said I would change the paradigm that we’re operating in.” And so I told him what I would do, and he said, “You’re hired.” We’re offering you a job right now if this is something that you’re willing to do. So that interview, obviously sent my life on a whole another trajectory. It was the same direction as when I was in the movie theater when I was 14. Nothing had changed. It’s just that the scope and level of it changed, but the identity didn’t change. It was just sort of a higher level risk factor. So that interview obviously sent me to places that I was not intending to go when I was even I was 28, 28 or 29 in that interview. I had been a police force officer since I was 23. So from 23 to 28 or 29, it was going the way I kind of thought it would go. This just took it to a whole nother level. So for the next 27 years, we went overseas and to a lot of other countries and a lot of other situations.
Sarah [00:23:02] And you took your whole family and you taught this to your children, to your sons. You said, you know, ask God from a young age, you were teaching them, ask God your identity, because you said that God was going to reveal it to your son, not to you.
Jamie [00:23:18] Right.
Sarah [00:23:20] There was a day where he came to you. I forget how old he was. I feel like he was in middle school. And he said, “Dad, I know.”.
Jamie [00:23:27] Oh, yeah. Yeah. The youngest one, the youngest son. So we had we had already been overseas for ten years and had come back into the States. So our youngest son, he was…he was about 14, about the same age I was. He was a little bit younger than that. And he was in sixth grade and he came home from his middle school. He’d never been in school in the US before. It was pretty interesting time for him. But he came home and he said, “I know my identity.” And I said, “That’s great.” And he said, “I’m a skateboarder for Jesus.” And I thought, “I don’t know if that’s exactly what I had in mind when I was thinking about identity, but okay, so that’s your sense of how God refers to you. So what does that mean?” And I said, “Do you even have a skateboard?” And he said, “No.” And I said, “Well, that would be step number one, I guess if you’re going to be a skateboarder for Jesus.” So I just bought him this terrible skateboard. He went out in the driveway and just started practicing. He looked to me like he was never going to be a very good skateboarder and just how much time he spent on the ground. But he worked really hard at it. Around eighth grade, he was fairly good. But I knew we were going to be sent to Iraq with the tension and going on in Iraq. And so I knew that we were going to be sent into a war zone, and I knew that there was not going to be any skateboarding there where we were going. And so when I sat with him to.Tell him, “Hey, we’re being sent to Iraq.” And he asked me right away, “Is there is there going to be skateboarding there?” And I’ve said, “I’m pretty sure there’s not, because it’s we’re going to be right in the middle of the conflict in our job and I don’t think I don’t even know if you’re gonna be able to go outside much.” So he was pretty upset and he said, “Dad, why would you take me into a place where I can’t be who God made me to be?” Which I thought was a great question, and I didn’t know the answer to that. I had no idea how to answer that as a parent. But what I did know was that God would not give identity to me and my son and then lead us into a place where those identity separated. God’s a reconciler. He’s a connector and He works all things together. And so I just said to my son, I said, “Look, let’s just pray about this together and let’s just see what God has in mind about this, knowing both of our identities and that He’s not going to put us in a place where that will put us in conflict with one another. But I said, “But you are in eighth grade, so you are coming. You know, it’s not like it’s a democracy here.” So he really prayed about it, came back and he said, “Yeah, Dad, yeah, I’m going to, obviously go and I’m going to trust you and God and I’m going to look for whatever God has for me.” He was very mature about it for eighth grader. And so yeah, we went there and he figured out that he could.Skateboard and one of his brothers, we have three sons, one of them was already in college, the other two the youngest one in the middle one, the middle son who’s an FBI agent today, those two went with us. He figured out he could skateboard certain hours of the day. There’s a lot of fighting, a lot of bombing and kidnaping where we were in the city and so we had to be careful. But he would skateboard and one day he was out on the street skateboarding and this M-1 tank comes down the street. M-1 tanks if you’ve ever seen one, are these massive, huge piece of equipment and they’re really fast comes racing down our street because we were we were in a neighborhood that had a lot of fighting in it. And he’s skating towards it and he jumps out of the way of it and the tank slams on the brakes in the top of the tank opens up and this American guy yells to him and says, “Hey, kid, who are you? What are you doing?” Because our son had blond hair. Long blond hair. And obviously he didn’t look Iraqi. And my son said, “Yeah, my parents, we work for the government. we live over here and I’m just skateboarding.” And the guy said, hold on a second, and he climbs down from the tank and then a couple of other guys come out of the tank and they were National Guardsmen from California and they were skateboarders. And so we had this really cool video of them on his skateboard, which I’m sure they weren’t supposed to be doing, but showing him tricks on the skateboard. And our son went home that night and he went and wrote an article for Thrasher magazine I didn’t even know he’s doing this for Skateboarding magazine and he wrote an article called “Skatebag Baghdad.” And he sent it in and they published it and he became. He developed a name for himself for the only kid that was skateboarding in Baghdad. And so the skateboarding company sent him two crates of skateboards, beautiful custom boards, trucks and all that through the military. And so he handed them out in the street to Iraqi kids, and then he would teach them to skateboard. We have these videos of him out in the park. That was empty because of the war. But the US military guarded the park, so they would let him in the park with his friends. Iraqi kids, I mean. Like 100 of them. And they would skateboard in these empty fountains and it was like a gigantic skate park. And Caleb would say, our youngest son would say, “It’s like God has given me a skateboard heaven to practice in.” But I get to practice with Iraqi kids. Really crazy thing about it is my wife is Jewish. So our kids, you know legally in the Jewish world are considered Jewish. So here’s our Jewish son who’s a follower of Jesus running this skateboarding club for exclusively for Muslims in a war zone guarded by U.S. troops. And it was just it was like the kingdom of God had just to how the kingdom of God would orchestrate something like that. And so he’s gone on I mean, I can tell you a lot of different stories about him, but he went on to become the first Red Bull sponsored skater in the Middle East. He won the first Middle Eastern competition for skateboarding. And he started a skateboard company and Jordan was given land by the King Abdullah in Jordan gave them land for a skate park in downtown Aman, Jordan, which is if you ever want to get a skateboard in Jordan, it’s called Seven Hill Skateboarder. They started a skateboarding company called Seven Hills Boards, which he and his Muslim friends. And he would use that platform to talk to them about Jesus. And so by the time he finished high school in Jordan and went to business school in Boston, he already owned a skateboarding company and which his Jordanian friends still own to this day. So yeah, so when your kid comes in and tells you that his identity is a skateboarder for Jesus and God says, well, the best place to do that is a war zone in Iraq. I mean,that’s what life in the kingdom is like. You don’t want it to be what you would write because you wouldn’t write that. It’s what you want the Lord to write the story and then you then you want to follow his script, so to speak.
Jamie [00:31:21] Okay. So clearly you can see that we did not have enough time to cover all that we wanted to. So this is going to be part one. I asked Jamie, will you stick around for part two? And he graciously agreed. And so I’m sorry that you have to wait two weeks, but it’s going to be worth it. I will promise you that. Until then, go ahead and grab Jamie’s book, Living Fearless, and you can also hop on over to IdentityExchange.com. We’re going to link that up in the show notes and you can start taking courses, even a deep dive into a three month. They call it a transformational identity exchange, summer intensive. You can register for that as well and it’s all there for you in the notes. We’re going to see in two weeks. Our thanks to Terra Firma. Scott Karow, our producer. Rebecca Beckett, our content coordinator, obviously to Jamie and get ready for part two.