Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Gift List

Dear Comrades! I am taking the challenge! Pam gave me a wonderful book for my birthday entitled One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. In the book she tells of a friend who challenged her to write down on paper 1000 gifts. Graces. Blessings, small and large. It’s a practice called Eucharisteo. Eucharist. Thanksgiving and gifts leading us to joy. A Thousand Gifts is the author’s journey of transformation into a life that is joy-filled and wonder-steeped. So, I am in. I bought a journal. I wrote Gift List on the inside cover and made a crazy little drawing of a gift in ribbon. I started my list and I take my journal everywhere. I am up to #35. Only 965 more to go. Here is a random selection of some of mine so far… #7 Feeling rest in my weary body #11 A few brief moments of conversation with my beloved nephew, Joe. #13 Coffee at Peet’s while sitting with Jesus. #18 My favorite purple pen. #20 My word Ponder I am practicing today. #25 My son, Joel’s, music wafting through our house as he plays guitar and sings. #31 Cheering for my son, Sam, at his baseball game as he gets three hits. #35 My office with pictures of my family and friends. #36 Attending the Festival of Faith and writing with my son, Zack. These are a sample. I am leaning fully into Eucharisteo. There is so very much in life that pushes us towards the darkness of negativity, cynicism, frustration, and anger. I want to be shaped increasingly by thanksgiving. By Eucharisteo. It has felt so good to chronicle God’s loving presence and presents throughout the day. Want to join me? Friendly competition. Who can get to a thousand first? We live with a community of our friends who I really believe are our teachers in this…ooh…#37 My Capernaum friends who teach me to be thankful. You better hurry and get started. I am thankful for you!....Hey that’s #38! Nick

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Dining Table Conversation

One night I was transported to heaven. I was escorted by an angel named Priscilla. She told me the Father had decided to give me a special gift. I was escorted by Priscilla to a seat looking over a dining table.

Priscilla said, “Beloved it has been granted you to hear a conversation of the Blessed Trinity recorded before time; after time and in the eternal now. Listen and behold Beloved.”

I saw a warm room with pictures of millions of people on the walls. They were ever-changing like a digital photo frame. Then one picture stopped and began flashing. To my astonishment it was me.

The dining table of beautiful cherry wood stood in the foreground. Then the door to the room became Jesus and He walked to the table. Next in an instant the Holy Spirit appeared shimmering and blue changing shapes both feminine and masculine. Next out of the hearts of the Son and the Spirit came the Father. I was enveloped in the electricity of their love for one another.

A fountain of Living Water gushed up from the middle of the table and small beautiful flowers brilliant in color began sprouting. The Blessed Trinity created their own food and ate. I saw the Father’s dish of inexpressible creativity and love. Jesus began to eat a dish of the will of the Father. And the Holy Spirit ate a dish of glorification, fire, and wind. As they ate I listened in on the sacred conversation.

Father: We have a tragedy and the need for a rescue operation. The man and woman We formed were seduced by Lucifer. They have fallen and they will continue to fall over deeper. They are cut off.

Spirit: Yes, I feel their agony. (tears)

Father: I have a plan. It will come at an unthinkable price.

Jesus: Whatever it is Father, let me do it.

Father: Sin has a consequence and a punishment that is unspeakable. Death. They are now in death and will remain eternally dead and lost. I have provided them with the sacrifice of a lamb but it is a band aid.

Jesus: Father, if the Holy Spirit will clothe me in flesh I will become the Lamb of sacrifice. The perfect sacrifice.

Spirit: Yes, I will be that power. His source.

Father: My beloved son in whom I take great delight. You honor and bless me. My heart breaks at sending you and sacrificing you. You are my only beloved son.

Jesus: Father, I delight to do your will.

Spirit: I have searched the earth and I have found a young woman from Nazareth called Miriam. Her heart belongs to us. She is pure. She is like you Jesus. She longs to do our will. You will have family likeness to her.

Father: Then she shall be called. You will go to her Holy Spirit when the time is right.

Spirit: Yes, I will overshadow her and breathe Jesus into her womb.

Jesus: Let it be done Father and Spirit according to our word. I am the will of God - fulfiller.

Father: Spirit we shall guide Jesus to learn of his mission in his early years because he will know but he will not know.

Holy Spirit: Miriam will treasure the child and teach him our ways.

Father: In later years, in the fullness of time my beloved son, will come the time of sacrifice and spilling of your blood.

Jesus: Yes, Father, I will go for the joy set before us of adoption into our circle of love. We again will have a people. A family. I will be elder brother to millions of little sisters and brothers. I delight to do your will.

At that moment a cross arose in the fountain of Living Water turned to blood and they each held cups up to drink.

Jesus: With my blood our hearts will be pierced with sorrow that will turn to unspeakable joy.

Spirit: After sacrifice, beloved Jesus, I will raise you up by the Father’s will. All will see our glory that is greater than death. The city of God will descend from heaven.

Jesus: Though my heel be bruised I will crush Satan and destroy the works of the devil.

Then they took each other’s hand and merged into the Great I Am as one. I looked up and there was my picture flashing again but there was blood on the frame. A title flashed – I am my Beloved’s and He is mine. On the top frame it said purchased by the blood of the Lamb. My heart exploded with joy and then Priscilla touched my shoulder.

I looked into her eyes aglow with the love of the Blessed Trinity. It is time to leave, you are to go back and proclaim this glorious plan of the Blessed Trinity. You are to proclaim Jesus! Your reward in heaven will be great.

The next moment I was with my friend Big D in our club. We were talking about Jesus.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Christian Withness

In 1977 Bob Mitchell came to our region. During his visit we had the privilege of being taught the basics of Young Life. One of the things he said, that really stayed with me was, “what we are about in Young Life is not so much Christian witness as much as Christian withness.”

Then in 1995, while on an YL Capernaum Ministry study trip in Germany, I met a wonderful woman named Rosal Stiefel, who had been engaged in serving people with disabilities for 35 years. She talked to us about camping. She said, “We do not do camp to young people with disabilities. Instead we do camp with young people with disabilities.” She expounded on this idea saying, “Ministry with young people with disabilities is an experience of encountering Christ in each other.”

These two statements from two wonderful followers of Jesus, along with the majestic striking words of Jesus in Matthew 25, deeply influenced the early development of YL Capernaum Ministry.

Embedded in these words is: a theology of mutuality, a theology of reciprocity and a theology of incarnational encounters in one another. Those are not mere words or concepts. They are crucial to orientation and way of doing ministry along with our results.

The friends we engage with tend to be seen as tragedies to be pitied. They tend to be seen solely through the prism of ability; as those only who need to be offered help. When we engage our friends in this “ministry to” manner we truly disable our friends. We do not recognize the image of God in them with their corresponding spiritual gifts, talents, and abilities. They are stifled and unable to grow.

This is why we hold to our core value of “ministry with kids who happen to have disabilities.” This is a condescending approach in the best sense of the word which means “come down to be with”. When we take to our knee to be eye level we are condescending, recognizing our friend has something to offer us as do we for them.

We come recognizing we will encounter Jesus in our friends who were born this way to show the glory of God as Jesus stated in John 9:3. This orientation allows us to receive as well as give but it also allows our friends to give as well as receive.
The result is empowerment and an ever-expanding sense of who they are in Christ and what they can do. We become a holy beloved community in Jesus. We begin to experience Galatians 3:28 – There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female (and I will add – neither disabled nor able-bodied) for you (we) are all one in Christ Jesus.

About three years ago I was suffering and I mean truly suffering with undiagnosed sleep apnea. Every day was overwhelming as it gets to function. One day I was getting ready for club and pouring my heart out to the world. God I can’t go on. How am I going to do club? I found myself begging God to take me home. I had sleep apnea for 5 years at that point.

So, I went to club. At the end of club I was feeding one of my friends named Stashu who needs total care. I was lost in my exhaustion. As I lifted a cookie to his mouth I stopped in wonder. I saw the most beautiful sparkle in Stashu’s eyes with a slight smile.

I could hear Stashu silently talking in the voice of Jesus, “Nick I understand daily wearing of a body that won’t function well. I understand what it is like to feel no one understands. I understand what it takes to get through each day. But I also understand the life I have is a gift to be lived in mystery, even joy, rather than a problem to be solved.”

I placed the cookie in Stashu’s mouth and smiled back at him and said, “Thanks Stashu.” Christ in him had given me hope and faith to go in spite of how badly I felt physically.

This is “withness.” This is ministry with kids. This is how we do Capernaum and God is glorified.

Praying for you as you are receiving and offering Christ with kids,

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. ~Luke 6:38 NIV

Give away your life; you’ll find life given back with bonus and blessings. Giving, not getting is the way. Generosity begets generosity. ~Luke 6:38 Message Bible

Generosity! This core value describes our approach to each other and kids. There are two ways of living out ministry: scarcity thinking or abundance thinking.

Scarcity thinking operates on a belief there is not enough to go around. Not enough leaders. Not enough money. Not enough time. The result is feeling threatened. An orientation of fear, clutching, and protection is formed. It becomes my donors. My leaders. My kids. Things become territorial and when our territory is crossed it is met with anger and posturing.

The second possibility of living out ministry is abundance thinking. Abundance thinking is based on trusting a God who owns and rules the entire universe. It is based on Philippians 4:19, “My God shall supply all your need according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Abundance thinking believes that all we have is God’s: our donors, leaders, and kids. It believes that there is more than enough to go around.

Fear is replaced by confident trust. Closed hands are opened. Protection is replaced by hospitality. Instead of an orientation of “what I have is mine” there exists a “what I have is yours” mentality. It’s like Ruth with Naomi, “your people are my people. Your God is my God”.

The result is a growing fruit of generosity in our lives and in our ministry. We freely give away what we’ve received without fear. We are confident God will provide.
We see this in the miracle of the feeding of the 5000. The little boy gave up what little he had and Jesus multiplied it with leftovers for the disciples. We cannot out give God!

I have experienced this from the very beginning of my Young Life staff career and in the beginnings of YL Capernaum. I experienced it powerfully with the most generous person I have ever known. My friend Steve Chung.

Steve leads a generous life. He seeks to serve, help, and share his resources. We were in deficit for five years. Steve constantly helped in practical ways. He was there to host a banquet table and sponsor a table. He would bring his club kids to events to volunteer.

Steve was an Area Director just like me and every bit as busy as me. And he lived 60 miles away in San Francisco. Yet, he was intentional with generosity. His generosity influenced me dramatically. When we got out of years of deficit and started received vans, our Lighthouse, and more donors, I made a pledge to God to let all of this be at the service of others. We were going to live our ministry generously to bless others.

When I became National Director it was the result of even more generosity bestowed on Capernaum. I carried Steve’s example into this new phase of my career. Pam and I share this value to get as much money out into the field as possible. I believe this is something God honors. Not as a manipulative formula but a condition of the heart.
As we are generous, I believe God will continue to provide for us. As soon as we seek to possess His resources we will run dry.

Take stock of your ministry. Who has been generous to you? Who is God leading you to in order to display his generosity?

A generous life is a provided for life...
A provided for life calls for a generous life.

In awe of how generous God has been to Capernaum,

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Young Life Capernaum Core Values

Over the next few weeks I want to reflect with you on what we believe to be our core values. What is our identity? What makes us who we are? What compels us to act and to act in the manner in which we do ministry?
These are not values we just pulled out of air. They are values God has written in our history. They are repeated patterns showing up over the course of 26 years in Capernaum. My prayer is that these reflections will focus and guide us along with celebration of God’s work as we ponder these core vales. So get a cup of coffee and
sit down and reflect with me.

The first and most important value is Jesus. We call this value prayer but this is inseparable from Jesus. Jesus is our start and finish and we are connected to him through prayer. It is Jesus who initiates all prayer. We merely respond by feeding his heart back to him. It is very much like a mother or a father saying words to their child and the child repeating the words back to his mother or father in learning language. In this same way we learn prayer.

When I look over the past 26 years of Capernaum it is literally covered in prayer…
Lord, how do I relate to these kids? Help me.
Lord, should we begin a club with these kids?
Lord, give us favor with the special education principal.
Lord, we need a van.
Lord, we need a place for club.
Lord, would you give me leaders? I have so few.
Lord, give us kids.
Lord, give us campaigners and buddies.
Lord, we need money.
Lord, we need a committee.
Lord, how do we do camp? Help us.
Lord, we need another van.
Lord, would you bring Capernaum into existence all over the world?
Lord, would you give us a house?
Lord, would you give us a club room?
Lord, please give us a million dollars.
Lord, please let Capernaum begin in the east.
Lord, please give us a small picture in the Young Life calendar.
Lord, please let Capernaum begin in Hawaii.
Lord, let Capernaum spread internationally.
Lord, give us a Capernaum week of camp.
Lord, use us to impact the church.

And there are hundreds more. The point is that prayer is who we are. Jesus initiates prayer. Prayer received ends up in dreams and visions. We pray those back to our Heavenly Father. He answers in Jesus’ name by the work of the Holy Spirit. Dreams and visions become concrete realities.

How much of your day is given to prayer? How much of your staff meeting is devoted to prayer? How much of our time with friends is spent in prayer? How sore are our knees?
We are to assume the posture of Mary of Bethany at Jesus’ feet before we assume the posture of Martha in the kitchen.

Praying for and with you,

Saturday, February 11, 2012

One Word People

I was having breakfast with my dear friend Don Goehner just before Christmas. He shared something with me that he planned to do for 2012. He prayerfully selected a word to be his focus for 2012. He selected the word “possibilities” with the attached verse of Luke 1:37 – For nothing is impossible with God. He told me that he would look for possibilities every day from God.

I loved this idea and became enthusiastic about it for myself. I chose the word “ponder”. It is from Luke 2:19 – But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Mary is my favorite person in Scripture. I have always loved her responses to what God had done in her life. She turned them over in her heart deeply and in wonder. She didn’t quickly move on to the next thing. She went slowly allowing herself to soak in the wonders of God. That is what I want to be like and it is my focus every day for 2012.

This excited me so much that I began sharing it with others. Here is my list of family and friends and their words so far:

Susie ~ Listen
Joel ~ Patience
Sam ~ Think
Don ~ Possibilities
Pam ~ Celebrate
Amira ~ Present
Lydia ~ Breakthrough
Suzanne ~ Intentional
Lyn ~ Risk
John P. ~ Dream/Imagine
Shelley ~ Solitude
Otila ~ Gratitude
Katie ~ Compassion
Nancy ~ Thankful
Jen ~ Joy
Kristie ~ Trustworthy
John B. ~ Change

I am praying my loved ones’ word for them every day. I have enjoyed it so much and I believe that God is transforming us with the words he has given us.

What about you? Is there a word the Lord has for you this year? If so send me your word and scripture and I will pray it for you every day in 2012!

Join the One Word People.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Magi Journal

My name is Melchior and I am a scholar. I work with two best friends at U.O.P. – University of Persia. We direct the departments of astronomy and philosophy. We are truth seekers. We seek truth and his sister wisdom whenever they might reveal themselves. We’ve spent years in a search for truth from amongst a sea of lies. I want to share my journal with you on the night we found not only truth and wisdom, but love and majestic power in fragile weakness, in a baby.

December 7, 6 B.C.
Did not sleep last night. I believe we have found our answer after all these years. I had wondered if it was even possible to find truth. But last night when my colleagues, Gaspar and Balthazar, and I spotted the alignment of a star with Jupiter and Venus we knew something unique and wonderful had taken place. I won’t bore you with our precise and detailed calculations, other than to say their sum pointed to a new king in Israel. Not just another king but one who would rule this world with trust, wisdom, justice, mercy, and love. There was no choice but to pack up and travel to Israel.

December 9, 6 B.C.
What will this journey bring? Will we recognize this king? Will he accept us? We must bring gifts that demonstrate our whole-hearted search for truth. We decided we would each pick a costly gift to bring to this king. Tomorrow at dawn we leave.

December 10, 6 B.C. 5 am
We packed. Gaspar took 3 camels. He always over packs but he always has more treats and delicacies, which we are grateful for. So I won’t criticize him. A beautiful sunrise began to appear. Balthazar commented this is a sign on our journey – a son of righteousness will rise up on the earth to bathe it in healing light. Balthazar was the mystical one of the three of us. I have learned that logic and rationality are not the only ways to truth. Balthazar has taught us that imagination, attentiveness, and reflection will bring us at truth’s doorstep also.

February 15, 5 B.C. Evening
Exhausted. We still have weeks to go. I reminded my friends that our journey to the home of this king will demand faithfulness and perseverance. It will demand all of our energies and effort to reach our destination. It demands the committing of our very lives. Gaspar wondered if it would be worth it. Balthazar chimed in saying that when we meet the son of righteousness, nothing else but He shall be worth it. We laid down our weary heads confident we are on the right road. All I had to do was look in the heavens to see the star of magnificence guiding us.

May 24, 5 B.C Afternoon Jerusalem
There are incidents in every journey you’d rather forget. Meeting Herod in Jerusalem was the one that troubled us most. We felt it important to pay our respects to Israel’s king before we sought the newborn king.\

Herod was very gracious; even friendly. But there was something about him that disturbed us. He questioned us and we could not help but feel he had ulterior motives. Charming on the outside, but there was a stench that he could not hide. All of us were quite discerning and we knew something was not right. He was evil wearing clothing of righteousness.

We left him after he implored us to return once we found this new king so he could worship him with us. I almost laughed because I think the only thing Herod had ever worshipped was himself. He is only the king of narcissism.

May 25, 5 B.C. Bethlehem
As dusk came, we began our travels following the star. Balthazar said it was a great light heading us to the Light of the World. As we came to the outskirts of Bethlehem the star came to a halt over a very modest house.

The rays of the great star shone on a young woman gathering her toddler to go inside. Our approach startled her and the little one instinctively ran to his Imma finding security in her skirts. She was beautiful even with a very hesitant, protective look on her face. She had her hands around the young one’s face and shoulders. She looks like a mother lioness ready to protect her cub.

I admit we looked a bit intimidating. You know our big caravan and all. As we stopped a young man approached us. “My name is Joseph. What can I do for you?” He was kind, and strength emanated from him.

I smiled warmly back and replied, “My name is Melchior. This is Gaspar and Balthazar. This may sound strange to you but we have been led here by a star. We have come to worship the newborn King!”

Silence. The young woman smiled at us warmly. She said, “No, it is not strange. My name is Mary. Let me tell you about my child, my story and the wonders of God. We listened as we sat around the fire hearing the miraculous story of this simple young woman. And with everything she told us we were increasingly sure of our journey. As she talked, the child played throwing sticks on the fire and laughing while running back and forth from his father. Mary smiled and took him onto her lap and kissed him twice. She looked at us knowingly and quietly. The depths I felt from this young woman were extraordinary. I felt she was like us; one who ponders deeply. Her words are not frivolous. They come from a deep well of attentiveness and meditation. She reminded me a lot of Balthazar.

Then she spoke as she held the child with piercing eyes. He is the Prince of Peace. She kissed him. Wonderful Counselor. Kiss again. Everlasting Father. Kiss. And Almighty God. One more kiss. “These are the words of our prophet. But to me he is Yeshua. My child. My little prince,” she held him tightly, to Yeshua’s delight.

We sat in silence. Gaspar arose and went to our caravan. We followed him. We unpacked our gifts and lined up to present them. These gifts made more sense now that we listened to the young woman’s story.

I came and bended my knee to place gold before the child. I looked into Mary’s beautiful eyes and said, “It’s a gift befitting for the King of Kings”.

Gaspar knelt next to me and laid down a jar of frankincense. Looking at me and back to Mary he said, “For the High Priest of all nations who will bring people’s prayers to God”.

And then Balthazar knelt beside us. He very hesitantly, with a tear in his eyes, said, “This is a gift of myrrh for this child will make a supreme sacrifice for the world, which will be your costly sacrifice as well”. Tears began to flow from Mary’s eyes.

The rest of the evening we played with this delightful child. We slept near the house. I was caught up in overwhelming joy. We found truth and so much more. Such majestic power displaced in such fragility. We left the next morning to warm embraces from Joseph, Mary, and the affectionate child.

As we left I said to my colleagues, “Truth”. Gaspar said, “Wisdom”. Balthazar was silent for the next hour and then quietly said, “Emmanuel, God with us! The defeat of death!”