Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Being a friend

One of our YL Capernaum Teammates asked about ideas for one-on-one times with our Capernaum friends. So I thought I would reflect and recount some of my own one-to-one times with kids. I have always loved times like these more than anything else, and none of it is rocket science or that unique to Capernaum. It is what we do in the normal course of being a Young Life leader.

My first six years as an YL Capernaum leader were spent with kids in wheelchairs. I loved getting our Capernaum lift equipped van and to pick kids up after school and just go out for ice cream or hot chocolate. I loved to delve into their lives and find out what they love. It didn’t matter if they were non-verbal. I loved the challenge of that! What helped was using 20 questions that they could say “yes” or “no” to. One friend named Danny communicated by looking up for “yes” and down for “no”. He would laugh like crazy when I was way off the mark about what he wanted to say. I knew that was just the reality of trying to understand him, but it was the “trying” that meant the world to him. I found that it is just as important for a friend to know me. So I would offer up slices of my life of what I liked, hoped and dreamed for. I opened up my life as a gift to my friend.

I also like to go to a friends’ home. My friend Tony, who was laid up in bed with bedsores for 2 years, would love that I went to his home to sit with him and watch superhero cartoons. We would just be together. Words are way less important than presence. One day I glanced at Tony’s wall and he had written a note by his bed. He had written, “Nick, Best Friend.” I am still overcome by how powerful my once a week visits were to him.

Where friendships really take off is when you have shared experiences, adventures big and small. Sometimes it would just be driving around town listening to music, talking, joking and laughing. Sometimes it is a movie or going to a baseball game for the first time.

Last year I took my friend Manny to San Francisco to speak at an YL National Board Meeting, it was an hour ride each way and lunch coming back. Manny has not stopped talking about it. He felt important, he wanted to hang out more often and our friendship deepened.

I love having kids into my home. Years ago a friend built a cement ramp and every time one of my friends in a wheelchair comes to visit, they comment on it. One friend named Danny could not believe that I was taking him to my house when I picked him up. When I asked why he was surprised, he told me that no one invites him to his or her house. I said, “Well buffalo breath, you are wrong. You are coming to my house today.” And we watched the Three Stooges together for 3 hours until we cried from laughing so hard.

One-on-one times are simple. It is simply my persistent effort to enter a kid’s world and find out what we share in common. It is going into his world and letting him in my world. It is sharing new experiences together. It is becoming lifelong best friends….All this writing reminds me that I need to call one of my friends!

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” John 1:14

Loving Kids,

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Why so long?

Though he slay me, yet I will have hope in Him. Job 13:15

Dear YL Capernaum Friends –

I am writing very personally to you today about a major breakthrough in my life. My motivation is to encourage any of you who have/are laboring and suffering under a long-term problem or challenge in which God seems silent. I pray God uses this to speak to you in a present or future circumstance.

For 5 or 6 years I have been suffering under extreme fatigue that stepped up greatly around August 2008 and then increased this past September. As it progressed, I did everything possible. I saw my doctor and cleared off any problems. I began exercising and making sure I got lots of rest. All to no avail. I prayed fervently and had others pray for me, but no change.

In the midst of this I searched my heart for answers and inquired of the Lord, nothing. I began to feel literally that God had abandoned me. I had a lot of self-doubt. I asked myself, was I not handling stress well? Was it a natural progression of aging? Do I have something seriously wrong with me? For someone who has always been high energy this was overwhelming and agonizing. My life has been so full these past few years. I had a growing family, YL Capernaum was dramatically growing, travel was increasing, coaching little league and volunteering and leading various clubs. I would pray to God each day for the ability to rise to each occasion. I think for the most part no one could see much difference in me because I sought to keep it from interfering with what God has called me to do. But underneath it all I was deeply discouraged. I leaned on God and sought to be faithful no matter the cost. Yet I continued to live in the darkness of God’s silence.

In September I was invited to go to India with my dear friend Clif Davidson for a Young Life trip. I was so excited, but as preparation began I noticed my fatigue was deepening. In desperation I went back to my doctor, wondering how I could possibly make this trip. She examined me and everything was fine. She sat in her chair tapping her pen on her prescription pad and suddenly asked, “Do you snore?” “Yes”, I said. I’ve been told that a lot by my roommates at Young Life conferences. She told me to go to a sleep clinic. I was relieved because I have been having problems sleeping.

A wonderful doctor from Stanford named Kim Mae Yuen interviewed me for an hour. When she examined me she sighed, “Oh my goodness.” I nervously asked, “What?” She said, “You have severe sleep apnea. I don’t even need the sleep study to evaluate you, your airway is about a third of what it should be.” The sleep study showed that I ceased breathing 54 times an hour with durations of 19 seconds to a minute of no air. If I was on my back it was 78 times. This significantly raised my risk of heart attack or stroke. The doctors I saw were wonderful. They gave me a CPAP machine that assisted in my breathing while I slept. Last night I had my first full nights sleep in more than 5 years.

As I have met and sat with Jesus my heart poured out to Him. I asked Him, “Why so long?” The answer to that question came from my wonderfully encouraging friend Jen. She told me that God has enlarged your belief by relying on Him and she was right. What is amazing to me is that I was able to do all I did the past 5 or 6 years without any sleep. Through immense suffering God was faithful to sustain me and even use me. It also feels like God on His own kept me alive. I have gained a new sense of love, admiration and care for our YL Capernaum friends and all they go through physically. It makes me more compassionate and understanding. Also Sue, my wife, is my biggest hero. She has patiently travelled this road with me like no one else. She has watched me suffer, listened to my cries, prayed for, comforted and encouraged me, and so have my children.

Ultimately God has been faithful and in a moments time through 3 wonderful doctors gave me a breakthrough. It will take time but I know the Lord is healing me. I don’t know what challenge or impossible obstacle you are going through but my encouragement is:

• Stay faithful to God
• Pour your heart out to Him
• Pour your heart out to a small circle of friends, let them carry you
• Enlist others prayers
• Wait on God and believe
• Remember, He is faithful

In 2010 I believe your breakthrough is coming! I am praying for you!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Filled with God's plans and dreams

Dear YL Capernaum Friends

Happy New Year! I have looked back at the past decade with awe. At the beginning of 2000 there were 5 YL Capernaum ministries in Young Life. In the beginning of 2010 there are 125 ministries in the U.S and ten YL Capernaum Ministries in other nations. God has been awesome and faithful, God has moved.

From 1986-2000 I prayed and prayed and labored before God for a breakthrough, and then in a moments time “it” happened, out of the blue (out of God’s blue) Bill Younger pledged 1 million dollars to YL Capernaum. That began a strong Pentecost wind of God’s Spirit across our land. The 14 silent years, leading up to this gift, felt like a pregnancy. Something was happening that we could not see, the ministry was being enlarged and prepared for birth. And then in God’s sovereign time it happened. Glory to God!

So here we are in 2010 stepping into a new year. What do you believe God for? What has He put on your heart? Believe! I am here to say, don’t give up. Don’t quit. Are you willing to wait 14 years for your dream? Don’t give up on what God has placed in your heart. God is awesome, powerful and sovereign. What you have prayed for, hoped for, labored for and endured weariness for maybe answered by God in a moment’s time. 2010 might be that year for you. Possibly today might be the day. Anticipate, be faithful, do not stop praying, be expectant, you are pregnant with God’s plans and dreams. Birth will happen and you will rejoice.

I am looking at this year for God to do exceeding abundantly beyond all I can dare to ask of imagine. (Ephesians 3:20) My dream is that YL Capernaum will exist in every place that Young Life is present. I do not know how long that will take but my attitude is similar to Paul’s found in Colossians 1:28-29:

We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom
so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor,
struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me.

That is what we need, His plan, His dreams, His energy powerfully working in us as we labor to bring to birth the kingdom of God amongst our friends with disabilities in every corner of the world. I am praying for this everyday! Pregnant!