Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May 31 2011 - "Yes, I am coming soon."

You probably followed the news about the pastor who predicted the world would end on May 21st. Since that didn’t turn out, he is now saying October 21st, which is not a good day for me since the Giants will probably be in the play-offs.

Isn’t it amazing that someone can believe they know the date of Christ’s return when Jesus said no man knows the hour or day, including the Son of God? The presumption over Jesus Himself is truly staggering.

One thing I am thankful for though is this pastor, in his misguided way, has turned our attention to Christ’s return. The only thing worse than trying to predict the date of Christ’s return is to ignore it altogether or live indifferently to this glorious truth – Jesus is coming back. And we are told basically one thing: watch for it. Let’s live our lives and ministries in the light of this blessed hope. I personally think we don’t live intentionally enough on this one.

I love memories of Christmas approaching as a child. There was an “I can’t wait” factor that colored everything. It gave energy, joy, anticipation that we carried with us as children. It was contagious. It obliterated the drudgery of daily life with a looking forward.

What would our lives and ministries look like if we cultivated this, talked about it, proclaimed it in word and deed? Would we not be changed by this watchfulness and urgency?

What would this mean to our friends in club? I personally love to talk to them about Jesus’ return and the glimpses they are getting of the imminent kingdom and the coming King. I love to encourage them by reminding them this is not all there is. There is something more. Something better God has planned. Something wonderful on the horizon.

Watch for it. Expect it. Paul exhorted the Thessalonians to expect Christ’s return. Paul said, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (I Thessalonians 5:11)

Hebrews 10:23-25 says, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing but let us encourage one another and all the more as you see the day approaching.” Let’s look for Jesus on the clouds of heaven together every day in a way that transforms us and our ministries.

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon. Amen. Come Lord Jesus.’” (Revelation 22:20)
In glorious day by day hope!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Pentecost - May 23 2011

As we enter the final lap of the club year, many with weariness and longing for refreshment, I can think of nothing better to talk about than Pentecost. Because that’s when we were allowed to drink from the Fountain of living water – the Holy Spirit.

We sit with our 120 sisters and brothers: ordinary like us, sin-prone like us, failures in many ways like us, but we have a secret. We have seen the Risen Jesus. Our minds are spinning while our hearts fill with wonder and our spirits with joy. And we wait. What’s next? Jesus gave us our crazy mission. Go proclaim throughout the whole world, but how? We are weak, tired, and inadequate.

Suddenly (because that’s the way God moves) we are interrupted by the sound of a mighty rushing wind and tongues of fire hovering over our heads. Many of us scream – I think it was John and Mary of Magdala that together say, “It is the Holy Spirit”.

And as we all open our mouths to reply in praise, words and a language that is not ours gush forth. Language, that great barrier, is obliterated as the Good News is poured out across all language barriers.

My eyes catch a crippled teenager at the Gate Beautiful. I have seen her many times, but felt only pity that she was cursed and outside the promises of God. However, in this moment the Holy Spirit has given me eyes to see into her spirit. And what I see is what my beloved friend, Lydia, always tells me; “their minds might be delayed but their spirits are not”. And I begin to converse with the beautiful little blonde girl. And she understands the love of Jesus as I talk to her. Yes, Pentecost! Yes, the Holy Spirit transcends all languages and barriers.

The Holy Spirit equips all of us to do work we would not choose, with strength we do not have. The Holy Spirit is the one who qualifies us for the mission and that means everyone. The Holy Spirit is not for certain people. The giving of the Holy Spirit puts us all on level ground. Our abilities, wealth, talents, appearance, none of this matters or qualifies us. “The hills have been brought low and the valleys lifted us”, as our brother Luke quotes. This is Good News for our friends with disabilities. What is their qualification for life and ministry? The greatest qualification of all – the Holy Spirit.

This is also good news for those of us that seemingly have all the gifts of life and privilege. We no longer define our worth by what we can do but by the Holy Spirit in us, who makes us His own through the Sacrifice of Jesus and the creative love of the Father.

What good news as we run this race to the finish line. Because it is not by glory, not by strength but by my Spirit says the Lord. (Zechariah 4:6)

Immerse us Jesus in the Fountain of Living Waters!
With you in Him,

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Theological Musings - April 29 2011

Theological Musings Continued…

What does Jesus’ ascension tell us in our ministry with our YL Capernaum friends?
First, it tells us there are times we experience Jesus’ absence. Our friends know absence intimately: absence of friends, sometimes absence of parents, absence of opportunities to experience in friendship. All of this collectively can make it seem God is absent.

Yet Jesus’ absence ironically means God’s greater presence.

“Now I am going to Him who sent me, yet none of you asks me where are you going? Because I have said these things you are filled with grief. But I tell you the truth; it is good for you that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go I will send him to you.” (John 16:5-7)

The disciples were grieved. With absence comes loss and grief. Our friends know this intimately. But God is a God who fills gaps and holes. This absence is to allow the Holy Spirit to give us a 24/7 experience of God’s presence; a presence in the depths of our being not dependent on physical presence. What great news for us and our friends. Our friends, many times, are limited in what they can do and where they can go. This creates absence and grief. But Jesus leaves and then comes the Holy Spirit with a constant, everywhere presence.

All of this influences how we minister and serve with our friends. We must live out a ministry of absence with them. We must not allow our friends to become dependent on us or addicted to us. We must combine absence with presence so they can breathe in the ever-present Holy Spirit on their own. In this way we, as we embrace Jesus’ ascension and absence, facilitate our friends’ growth in discipleship and primary dependence on the Holy Spirit.

He died for us! He was buried! He rose! He ascended!
And now He is always in us, in every moment and every place.
Easter Blessings Upon You,

Do Not Grow Weary - April 19 2011

Blessings in our Lord my dear friends,

I have been focusing on the accounts of Jesus passion in the Gospels. It portrays Jesus as resolute to fulfill His mission. To do so would mean unspeakable suffering and weariness. You can really feel this when Jesus falls and can’t go on. Simon of Cyrene has to take His cross. At this point of Jesus’ mission is a weary walk towards fulfilling His Fathers call.

In 2 Timothy 4 we see Paul at the end of his life abandoned and weary, and yet we know he went to his death faithful to Christ, refusing to bow to Caesar. It’s so easy to start something when everyone is so excited. Everyone wants to pitch in, but as days go by people start to drop off. It’s not new anymore and people are tired. The result for those who are left can be discouragement.

I am in a weary season right now with 32 days of travel out of 90 days. How do we handle weariness? How do we stay the course? How do we fight discouragement? There are a number of things we can see in the examples of Jesus and Paul.

First we have to constantly renew our call from God as Jesus did. One of the places He did this was in the garden before His arrest. He wrestled with God in honest prayer and ultimately said “yes” to His Father and was strengthened by angels.

When we are weary and fall like Jesus, we must be willing to receive help from others. We must not refuse the “Simon’s” God sends us. We must bear one another’s burdens and help carry each other’s cross by dropping our pride and asking for help.

We must endure weariness and the cross for the joy set before us as Jesus did; it is the joy of doing the Father’s will. As Paul says in Galatians 6:9, “We must not grow weary and give up for in due time we shall receive a harvest.” I know this first hand because I spent 14 years laboring to see YL Capernaum conceived in Young Life before its growth exploded in 1999. There were plenty of times I was tempted to give up but God is faithful. We must lean on Him and do this in His strength or we will burn out.

Paul was not afraid to be vulnerable and ask for help. He says, “All abandoned me but the Lord defended me and stood by my side.” And for 2000 years we have benefitted from Paul’s writings because of his faithfulness. So friends as Paul said to Archippus in Colossians 4:17, “God has ordained you to your ministry. See that you complete it. I love you all and I am praying for you.”

All my love in Jesus.

A Celebration - April 3 2011

Dearest Friends in Capernaum

This past Saturday night was one of the greatest nights of my life. We held a celebration of 25 years of Young Life Capernaum in San Jose, but that celebration is truly about 25 years of Capernaum in Young Life, which means we celebrated you.

Pam, Amira, and our fabulous coordinators Suzanne, Liz, and Lyn were there personally representing all of you. I so love these dear women and all of you who labor together amongst our wild and crazy friends with disabilities.

The church was full of people from our 25 years of history. We rehearsed our history and God’s wonders. We laughed, we cried, we celebrated God’s amazing story that He continues to write. I was in awe of God’s miracles and at His people. It truly was a night of worship. One of my dear former staff friends, Valerie Bryan, cam up to me weeping and said, “The 18 months I spent here were the most significant months of my life.” I was struck by how many people who were, or are, involved as leaders, drivers, staff, committee, and donors said similar things.

Is it not for the glory and by the grace of God that we enter kids’ worlds in response to His invitation to serve and it is we who are transformed?

One of my favorite things is honoring and recognizing people who have served long and well in Capernaum.
Ken & Alice Kerley and Esther Quement – original committee
Mike & Kristie Morrison – 25 year volunteers
Joe Palermo – driver for 15 years
Robert Latone – driver for 23 years
Lee Jaramillo – Administrator for 22 years
Shelley Smith –our 2nd Area Director in 25 years, leading YL Capernaum San Jose
And my favorite – my wife Sue – lifetime achievement award for enabling me to do what I do in YL Capernaum.

What about you? How long has your ministry been running? One year? Three years? Five years? Seven? 10? Whatever it is, rejoice! Praise God for His miracles and His servants. Is it hard right now? I understand! Those 25 years were filled with hardship and tragedy. But, friends, God is faithful! He has been faithful to us and He will be for you and for your 25 years!

In awe of His grace, faithfulness, and mercy!

The Capernaum Project - March 12 2011

The Capernaum Project

It’s 3:44 am on Thursday, March 10, 2011. I cannot sleep. I am rehearsing a day that changed my life 25 years ago today. As my wife and 3 sons soundly sleep, my faithful dog Archie is up with me as I write and ponder a now 25 year-old miracle. Twenty-five years ago today I was at the very first Young Life Capernaum club. I remember it like yesterday. Will you share it with me and rejoice at what God has done from that very small beginning 25 years ago. The Lord says in Zechariah 4:10 “Do not despise small beginnings.”

MaryAnn, my supervisor and “big sister”, along with Kelly, Valerie, and I aimed at our 4th attempt to pull off a club for kids with disabilities. We had failed 3 times in the first 3 weeks. The day after our 3rd failure Kelly, MaryAnn and I met and were discouraged but decided we wanted to try again. To accomplish something that day, I suggested we name this ministry that Young Life was embarking on. I read that morning in Mark 2:1-13 of a paralytic, four magnificent friends’ faith through every obstacle, and Jesus who saw a person and not a disability. It all happened in Capernaum. I suggested we name it the Capernaum Project because of the story and the fact that we were going to be a 2 year pilot project here in San Jose.

So one week later MaryAnn, Valerie, Kelly and I acted as the 1986 version of the four Capernaum friends. We brought 5 kids in wheelchairs to the 1st club; Jim, Brett, Alison, John, and Lori. Amazingly, Lori is still with us today as a volunteer. We had a handful of my campaigner kids from the typical club I led.

We met in a small room of the Adult Independent Development Center in Santa Clara, California. That room had a hard time containing the joy and excitement that was pulsating all around us. We sang and I had never experienced such joy singing. We all made a joyful noise to the Lord. We played musical hats for the skit. The laughter, smiles, and joy at something so simple astounded me. I told kids about our club talks and that we would talk about Jesus and their challenges. I asked what they would like to talk about. They all said death. Their bus driver had died 2 weeks earlier and they were grieving.

Then we celebrated Jim’s birthday with a chocolate cake and candles. Valerie presented the cake to Jim and we sang Happy Birthday. Jim was so happy that I thought he might have a seizure. It would have been the 1st Capernaum seizure of many in the arms of loving friends.

When we finished club that day I drove kids home in our leased lift-equipped van. I’ve always, since that day, considered our van rides home as 2nd club. What a time we had for 2 hours in the van talking, laughing, getting lost, singing, and playing Mr. Radio. If you don’t know what that is I will teach you sometime. What a day it was.

Our committee of Carol Kerley, Ken and Alice Kerley, Esther Quement, and Alan Metelak were behind the scenes giving visionary support, prayer, and money. We loved each other deeply and gave ourselves to this new project in hopes of making it one in many in Young Life. Our vision was always the world and not just local.

A few months later my beloved MaryAnn asked me to be Area Director for Capernaum. MaryAnn believed in me when no one else did. I owe her my vocation. She is a spiritual mother that helped me birth Capernaum.

So here we are 25 years later. Every one of you is the offspring of this small beginning created and led by Jesus who loves kids with disabilities. I praise and worship our faithful God who got us started. I praise our miracle God who has led us today to have Capernaum around the world. But we are on our way to the next 25 years. I hope and pray to be around to see what God will do.

Lastly, I give celebration to this day in honor of Steve, Donny, Robbie, Julie, Mike, Jose, Antwon, Ben, Lucia, Herbie, Brandon, Ju, Diego, David, and others I didn’t know quite as well. They all died during our time here in San Jose. All were involved in club. All met the Lord. We will see them as ushers in Heaven.

Happy Birthday Capernaum! Let’s blow out the candles, celebrate, and go forward into all God has for us in the next 25 years.
The recipient of God’s grace!
Nick, the blessed

He Is Risen - February 18 2011

I have felt over my years of involvement in the Young Life Proclamation that we fail to give enough attention to the Resurrection. There is a very significant detail of the Resurrection that is especially poignant for our friends in YL Capernaum. I will point that out a little later in this reflection.

One of the first things of note about the Resurrection is that it’s first witnesses and evangelists were the marginalized. Women. This is astounding when you realized that a woman’s testimony would not be valid in that culture. And yet, the Gospel writers all agree on this. I find it so beautiful that the first witnesses and evangelists to the birth of Jesus – shepherds – and the first witnesses and evangelists to the Resurrection – women – are marginalized members of society. This is Good News for our friends.

The women rush to the disciples but are not believed. They are brushed away, as so many of our friends are. But these women stood in the confidence of what they had witnessed and would not deviate from their story. Their confidence was in the risen Jesus and not what the men thought of them. And we know how the Risen Christ appeared to so many of our friends and how He reveals Himself through them whether acknowledged or not. They are witnesses!

Mary of Mogdola, in tears and grief, lingers at the tomb. She runs into who she thinks is the gardener. Until she hears her name, “Mary!” That familiar voice! The marginalized are rarely known by their names. So many women in the Gospels and throughout the scriptures are unnamed. They are seen through their marginalization as non-persons, but not with Jesus. He utters a woman’s name. “Mary!” And not with our friends. He doesn’t call them by their disability: Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Spina Bifida, and Down Syndrome. No, he calls their names: Janae, Adan, Big D, Carmela, Caroline. With Jesus the marginalized have names.

Jesus, on that first Sunday night, appears to the disciples behind locked doors. Locked doors mean nothing to Jesus. Isn’t it true that our friends have dealt with constant locked doors all their lives? Good News! Jesus doesn’t just open locked doors, He goes through them. He does this for our friends.

Eight days later Jesus appears to Thomas who does not believe. He urges Thomas to see and touch his wounds. Jesus was beaten beyond recognition on the cross. Now He is risen and His body healed…except for his wounds. His scars. A person with a physical disability can take great comfort that their Savior bears physical scars and wounds for all eternity. Jesus understands their bodies. Our Jesus is risen for all people, including our friends.

The Greatest Act of Love - February 18 2011

Dear Capernaum Sisters and Brothers!

Greetings from our Capernaum team in Kauai. I am returning from a visit where I had the joy of attending their 6th club and speaking at it. This summer I will be joined by some of our staff to help them with their 1st Day Camp. It’s a pretty perfect setting for a day camp if you like an island paradise. Pray for the team there. They are doing a great job and learning more each month.

I am writing on the eve of Valentines Day about the cross. How appropriate to share some reflections of the greatest act of love in history on a day that celebrates love.

The greatest news for all of us is that the cross is for all of us. That may seem like an obvious truth but judging by the question I am most asked about kids with disabilities it is not. “Do they get it?” My first response has always emanated from the cross. “So what if they don’t?” Does that mean Jesus’ act of love on the cross is null and void for a kid with a mental disability? For God so loved the world! All! Past, present, and future without qualification. As a Capernaum team we believe and know that Christ died on the cross for every kid we know and it is that fact that compels us to love kids for Christ’s sake.

As I have reflected on Christ on the cross and kids with both physical and mental disabilities, I see God’s amazing display of identification. If one of the characteristics of disability is limitations, then we see a God with self imposed limits, dying paralyzed by nails on a cross and doing this intentionally. Jesus knows limitations, physical pain, and mental disorientation through his pain and premature death. He is a God who understands someone with a disability.

I remember a few years ago one of our kids broke down weeping after our first club of the fall. He asked through tears why God made him the way he was. I remember thinking how his cry sounded so much like Jesus’ cry, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?!” Jesus knows the anguish of an unanswered question.

On the cross Jesus said, “I thirst”. In doing so he identifies with the deep human longings of our kids. I remember one of my dear club kids named Petey interrupting the speaker by shouting out, “I want a job. I want to get married. I want to be a Young Life leader.” Petey was thirsting. Jesus knows our kids thirst.

Jesus said so powerfully to centurions who nailed Him and those who gave Him over to his executioners, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Being misunderstood. How often do the kids we love navigate through insensitivity, ignorance, and misunderstanding on the part of others? Jesus identifies with this and responds with breath-taking forgiveness.

On the cross Jesus responded to his mother’s agonizing grief and her loss of her son who cared for her. “Woman, behold your son. John, behold your mother.” Jesus created community of two He loved who were not blood related. Is not Jesus constantly doing this among us – giving our precious friends’ mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers in a community of belonging. Jesus does this from the cross.

“It is finished.” Done! Nothing left. Perfection. And kids with disabilities are just that because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Perfect in Christ. God does not view them through their disability. God views them through their identity in Christ as beloved daughters and sons. Perfect because Christ finished His work.

And that means that Christ can say to each kid robed in His blood, you will be with me in paradise. Whole. Well. All as intended in the Garden before the tragedy of the fall.

For God so loved our friends with disabilities in Seattle, Tampa, Dallas, Baltimore, Nashville, Kauai, San Jose, Peru, Santa Clarita, Minneapolis, Kazakhstan…yes in every place we are and are not…Through His cross. Glory to God forever!

Sharing in His sufferings and power - February 11 2011

Dear Friends,
I am pausing my theological reflections to you because yesterday was my 40th Christian birthday and I want to celebrate with you. Now I know not everyone knows when they became a Christian. It’s different for all of us and valid for each one of us. But I am a dates and milestones type of guy. Things like the anniversary of the Watergate break (June 17, 1972) or Patty Hearst’s kidnapping (February 4, 1974) routinely break into my head. So this is normal for me. So, I want to celebrate with you.

Woodleaf weekend. February 7, 1971. I was 16 and told Jesus, “I want to carry my cross and follow you but I need you to do it. I am too weak.” That’s the prayer I prayed on my knees in my bedroom as I leaned over the turquoise bedspread. I felt His peace come after 5 years of despair and emptiness over my dad’s death.

Through the years I have lived out the line from Paul that “we are to share in His sufferings and the power of his resurrection.” I have lived this in countless ways.

God has been faithful in every suffering: my father’s death, my mother’s death, two divorces, finding out, at 24, that I am adopted, my birth father’s death, the deep early struggles with YL Capernaum, the deaths of more than 20 kids, struggles with depression, self-esteem, and anxiety. In all Jesus has been Immanuel – God with us. God with me.

But he has also let me live in the power of His resurrection. He gave me hope. Peace. A confidence I never had. A dream. A vision. He comforted me deeply through multiple deaths and losses. He gave me countless friends. He healed my self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. Although I am still vulnerable in these areas, he continues to teach and heal me. He chose a nobody like me to start Capernaum. He chose a nobody as a missionary to nobodies. Great is His name!

He reunited me with my birth family. He let me meet and know my mother. And fall in love with her. He “repaid me for the years the locusts have eaten,” as it says in Joel. He did this by giving me my incomparably amazing, beautiful wife, Susie and as a bonus, three incredible sons. He has fulfilled my dream for Capernaum to go around the world.

Yes, God is faithful. He loves me. I know He loves you but…He…Loves…Me! My life verse is “For He who began the good work in you will bring it to completion on the day of Christ Jesus” Philippians 1:6 and He is doing that.

The past 13 weeks have been about the passing of my beloved big brother, Gene. Never have I felt grief like this. And yet, I have experienced the tenderness, love, and comfort of Jesus like I’ve never experienced it before. Yes, God is good!

So, yesterday I called my Young Life leaders, Johnie and Jane, and said thanks “mom and dad” for adopting a frightened 16 year old hiding behind a mask and introducing him to Jesus. Thank you Johnie for teaching me about Jesus and how to follow Him. Thanks Jane for mothering me and nurturing me and not killing me when I was so loud and obnoxious. Well, I am still loud but hopefully not obnoxious.

I told them I was speaking at club. And last night I did. I told kids my story with Jesus. And I prayed for some frightened 16 year old in club hiding behind a mask to begin a relationship with Jesus. And I prayed for that kid, 40 years from now, to be speaking to his or her club kids about Jesus and the difference Jesus has allowed him or her to make in our world.

So friends, go back and count the times of God’s faithfulness if you possibly can. And then tell the story.
His Unfinished Work,

Sin - January 27 2011

“His disciples asked him: Who sinned? This man or his parents that he was born blind.” John 9:2
“When Jesus saw how much faith they had, he said to the man, your sins are forgiven you, my friend.” Luke 5:20

What about sin? How does it apply to someone with a severe mental disability? The answer is most vividly portrayed in the story of the paralytic in Capernaum, from which our ministry has its name, and the answer comes from Jesus.

As this man is lowered in front of Jesus, there is a beautiful moment where Jesus looks up at this man’s four loyal “go through the roof” friends who will stop at nothing to get their friend to Jesus. Jesus sees their solid action packed faith. I’m sure he smiles and laughs and in the same breath turns to the paralytic.

It’s easy to think that Jesus spoke immediately when reading the text. But I imagine there was first a deep compassionate gaze at this man. And then he says, “Your sins are forgiven, my friend”.

Now we have no idea of the type of disability or severity of the paralysis. Jesus gives us a wonderful example as well as a theological instruction. He does not view the paralytic through his disability. He looks right past that as He looks deeply into his soul. The place of longings, hopes, fears, joy, worries, and…sin. He sees this man like all others; as one created in the image of God and that image marred by sin. Greater than the paralytic’s physical need is the need of his soul and that’s where Jesus directs his first contact.

After this he does address his physical needs by healing him and restoring him to the community. Jesus cares for both soul and body. We don’t see Jesus caring for his soul, while ignoring his body, nor do we see Jesus healing his body, while ignoring his soul. He does both, which all of us experience, especially at camp with our friends.

In this act Jesus thwarts the Pharisee’s theology which would have viewed the paralytic’s condition as the result of sin without believing there could be a reversal of his soul condition. By forgiving the paralytic, Jesus is restoring the man to full standing with God and with those in the community who sinned against him by making him an outcast to live in a relational exile.

Jesus is revealing forgiveness for sin and being sinned against. The paralytic is now empowered for new life. With God. With his friends. With the community. With himself. All because Jesus, friend of sinners, forgives the sin of all that come to him no matter ability or disability. At the end of John 9, Jesus indicates that true disability comes from refusing to acknowledge one’s own sin. All have sinned but not all recognize or believe this. Jesus offered forgiveness to the paralytic and he gladly received it.

Next week: The Cross

Cracked Clay Pots - January 20 2011

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." Gen 1:26 (NIV)

"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life…” John 9:3 (NIV)

As we are in the 25th year of Young Life Capernaum, I thought it would be helpful to spend some time on what I have learned biblically and theologically as I have given my life to Christ and serve my friends with disabilities. So the next few reflections I write will focus on this.

It seems to me the most basic starting point concerns kids’ identity in this world. Are they accidents and unfortunate tragedies? Are they less than others because of mental disability? This is what much of our world believes and sadly the church is not all that different. However, these perceptions say a great deal more about our culture than they speak with any accuracy about our friends with disabilities.

It seems to me there are two central verses when it comes to looking at our friends with disabilities. In Genesis 1:26 we are told that all of humankind, male and female, is made in the image of God. All. Not some. Not just righteous, saved people. Not just physically or mentally whole. All!

This is how we see our friends and how we portray them to our culture. They are created in the image of God and because of this they are no less or more than anyone else. They are people made in the image of God who happen to have disabilities, rather than disabilities who happen to be kids with the image of God tucked away somewhere inside their souls.

One question that all of us have probably heard or asked ourselves is, “Are their bodies the result of the fall?” There is disagreement on this. I know people who say they will remain this way with their disabilities in heaven because to say otherwise would be to designate them as less than.

While I don’t pretend to believe I or anyone else can know with certainty, I don’t believe this. Just as I know I would want a new body in heaven, a desire that anyone who ages would readily welcome, I believe God’s creation of us is to have bodies that work as He designed them to work.

Jesus’ statement in John 9 to His disciples counters the idea that this means they are in some way defective. His disciples assumed the blind man was born blind as the result of sin; as a result of the fall. Jesus blows this to pieces saying that he was born this way to show the glory of God. And then Jesus heals him. This chapter, along with 2 Samuel 9 and Acts 3 are whole chapters focused on a person with a disability. In John 9 and Acts 3, the content of the chapters and the dialogue are a direct result of Jesus’ encounter with a person with a disability.

Here Jesus is saying to the blind man, to His disciples, and to all of us that the blind man is not a mistake. Instead he is the vehicle through which the glory of God is revealed in his disability. Haven’t we all experienced this with our friends at club in countless beautiful ways?

When we look at Paul’s reference to us as cracked clay jars where the treasure of Christ spills out, is this not especially true for our friends with disabilities? I believe our friends are a witness to all of us that God’s strength is perfected in weakness rather than in our strength and ability.

In this understanding, our friends with disabilities become our prophets and prophetesses – turning us away from the idol worship of power, success, and appearance. They call us to our gloriously flawed humanity while recognizing God does His greatest work in the lowly, ordinary, and weak in this world – cracked clay pots.

Paul in I Corinthians speaks of the Body of Christ and all its different members. At one point he states, “God himself has put our bodies together in such a way as to give greater honor to those parts that it lacked…” He also says that we cannot get along without parts of the body that seem to be weaker, and those parts we think aren’t worth very much are the ones we treat with greater care; while the parts of the body that don’t look very nice receive special attention, which the more beautiful parts of our body do not need.

In all this our friends are whole because they are created in the image of God, and yet like us they are human, fragile, and weak. God redeems this by reminding us it’s through our very weakness and disability that He most powerfully reveals Himself.

Next week we will look at sin.

Being a friend - January 13 2011

“And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors as though God were making his appeal through us…” (2Corinthians 5:20)

As God in His grace and sovereignty blows on Young Life Capernaum’s growth around the world it is good to pause and remember who we are and who we are not.

I was so frightened and intimidated when I began Capernaum. I even said no when I was asked to become Area Director because I thought a “professional” had to lead this. I was wrong.

The beauty of what God has created is that He has called ordinary non-professionals to be friends to kids with disabilities and encounter Jesus with them. We are not occupational or physical therapists. Though some of us may be, it is still first to friendship and a ministry of reconciliation to which we are called.

Now, of course, we will learn how we can better serve our friends. We will be compelled to deal with a wider range of issues as we enter their world. We cannot ignore these issues if we truly want to be incarnational in our approach to them.

However, their worlds are filled with professionals. The key ingredient missing in their lives is friendship. It is what our friends long for and their parents desperately desire for them.

This is the place of our professionalism and confidence. It is being the best friend possible to kids. A friend that looks like, sounds like, and feels like Jesus. As we are friends like that, lives change, including ours.

So, dear friends, keep focused on who God has called us to be and live that out full throttle. May God give thousands of kids with disabilities a new friend this year as we venture into their lives.

A Friend of Kids,

Happy New Year - January 7 2011

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 1:5)

Dear Team!

Happy and Blessed New Year to you! For me the ending of an old year and the unfolding of a new one is always an amazing sacred event.

I look back and realize that no matter how hard or good it was, God was faithful! Again. Another year that He provided, helped, forgave, encouraged, and changed me. I had so many monumental joys in 2010 in my life and ministry. I bet you did too. And I had the tragedy of my beloved brother’s death. I know many of us have had deep challenges, struggles, and tragedies as well. And yet with gratitude and joy we can truly say, “God is Faithful!” What a gift this is. I recorded 30 ways God met me in 2010 in my journal. I am so thankful and give glory to God.

As I begin my walk with Jesus in 2011 it’s with anticipation but also my continued grieving over what I’ve lost. Yet I see God constantly bringing life and resurrection out of this painful loss. I continue to look moment by moment of what God wants to do in me through my brother’s death and God continues to speak and weave.

I want to encourage you this year to be kind to everyone because everyone is fighting a hard battle. I want to encourage you to live with constant gratitude for all you have. I want to encourage you in your struggles to fix your eyes on Jesus and know that He will be faithful again in 2011. I want to encourage you to believe and expect wonders and miracles in your life and ministry from the God who makes all things new. I want to encourage you to believe God can move suddenly, in a breakthrough, in a place where you feel stuck. I want to encourage you to dream wild, ask big, and love large towards God, leaders, and kids in your ministry.

God goes before us in 2011! The best is yet to come! He won’t leave us or forsake us!
Be encouraged!
I am praying for you!