Gathering around the Table of Jesus

7 Mar

What does soccer and bbq’s have in common with the Good News of Jesus? Check out this short video that tells the story of one way we see God’s Kingdom coming in our neighborhood of Golden Hill. Many thanks to Peter Schrock for this gift.

<p>Soccer Nights and BBQ: Gathering Around The Table of Jesus from CRM Leaders on Vimeo.</p>

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neighborhood goldmine

30 Nov

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As we cultivate learners and apprentices of Jesus here in Golden Hill we journey through a set of “postures” each year.  The hope is these postures intimately inform our commitment towards God, our community and our neighborhood.

 

Currently we are practicing “submerging”: we desire to be Jesus in Golden Hill by seeing the hidden, listening to the voiceless, and engaging the stories that are often forgotten or misunderstood. 

 

This past week I was walking my streets and passed by the local youth center- a place where many of the transitional age youth of San Diego seek a place of refuge, resources, and friendship among many other things. As we begin to vision how to submerge in our neighborhood this “hub” for at risk youth feels like a goldmine. 

 

A quote from my conversation with the director on site: ““I have desperately tried to get the community and neighborhood involved with SDYS the last couple months. I have visited business, talked to people in coffee shops and I just couldn’t get anyone to buy in. But you just walked into my door, someone who lives in the community, and asked how you can serve us. Now THAT is encouraging.” 

 

May we have eyes to see the diversity of places and people on our home-fronts where good news is needed. And bring it

 

an alleyway garden

24 Jul

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Our alleyway is a lively stretch of street ripe with neighbor

interaction. We run into many bustling to and from their cars. It’s not

foreign to hear our neighbors, who call the streets of Golden Hill

their home, rolling their grocery cart past our window or rummaging

through our garbage. On occasion, a drug deal will go down and a fresh

piece of graffiti will set up shop next to us.  Daily, we will see one

of our neighbors doing his faithful trash clean up of our immediate

block.

 

So what about us? Well, we couldn’t allow everyone to have their fun

without us getting in on the action. Sooo…with our collective

finances, cheerful hearts and grubby work clothes; we launched our

alley garden on A street. What we have found is that this little

corridor of concrete has unearthed itself as prime real estate for

relationships to begin and it is chalk full of unknown neighbors

becoming more. Becoming friends.

 

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Today, something “other” is sprouting besides our leafy greens and

summer vegetables. The Kingdom of God is coming in Golden Hill in

simple, powerful moments. It comes when an elderly neighbor who

struggles with mental illness plants flowers in our backyard as a

source of life. Or when a  fresh handful of greens is handed to a

neighbor who is hungry. Or to another neighbor who feels safe enough to

come over and plant his own veggies with us.

 

Gardening for us has become more than caring for the earth and its

field of goodies for personal and collective consumption.  We see it as

partnering in the beauty, nourishment, and bounty of all God’s dreams

for this place.  We see it as another way of planting the roots of our

feet deep into the soil of Golden Hill. We see it as actually

stewarding the space God has given to us so that we can love our

neighbors and neighborhood well.

 

This little plot of land is creating place for us to be among the

people. When I look at the life of Jesus, he intentionally chose to

dwell, to “pitch his tent”, to be among. And he actually asks us to do

the same. So we pray that we would have eyes to see the faces of all

our neighbors, those visible and hidden, and may we hear their voices.

 May “back alley gardens” be one way that places can become something

home, something good for those who dwell around us.

 

NieuCommunities launches book and dvd

11 May

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Led by author Jon Huckins and Rob Yackley, our community in San Diego just launched Thin Places: Six Postures for Creating and Practicing Missional Community.

Based on St. Columbo’s description of a thin place-a place where heaven and earth are only thinly separated, comes a tangible yet powerful read that is rooted in apprenticing followers of Jesus to live into the mission of God for their unique context.

All of us in NieuCommunities played a part in the creation of Thin Places by sharing stories of how we see God’s kingdom coming in our homes, on our streets, and among our neighbors. The hope is to inspire, challenge, and spark imagination in all of us as we discover life as it was meant to be lived.

Want to hear more? Buy the book, read the full description, and watch the exclusive Submerging posture video here:

Jon Huckins: Thin Places


heART

12 Jan

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Title: the SENSE-Itive man

Size: 5′ 9″

Medium: Foam Blank Surfboard

Shape: Fish

Materials: Acrylic Paint with Friskit Stencils 

“Sensitivity”, deep feeler”, and “emotional” are words and attributes that are not held in high esteem for the typical western American male.  They are at war with our cultural messages of strength, dominance, and performance. This piece was inspired to bride the gap between who I think I should be and who God wants me to be. Or better put, who He has created me to be…from the beginning. In 2011, I am learning to embrace my namesake calling. David. A deep feeler, sensitive, scrapper warrior bandit.  A man of emotion…for the Kingdom of God. 

One of the key elements we journey through near the end of the year as apprentices of Jesus in NieuCommunities is creating a heART project.  We reflect on the learnings of 2011, posturing ourselves with the understanding that God doesn’t waste any of our experiences.  

 How has your view changed of God or God’s Kingdom? How has it changed in your understanding of community? What have you gained? What have you lost? These are some of the questions we wrestle with as we create an experiential piece of beauty to encompass the last 365.

Collectively, we are discovering a different definition of “artist” and “art”.  As we experiment and risk being “artists” we are actually participating in the unearthing of the Ultimate Artist’s irresistible, creative, explosive craftsmanship within all of us. We drew. Painted. Sculpted. Planted. Filmed. Tagged. Weaved.  As we listened to each artist present their piece we received doses of heavenly inspiration through the diversity of mediums. This process is moving us toward dreaming of vibrant expressions of beauty within ourselves, for our neighborhood, and for the King.

God is still speaking in 2012 and the avenues in which we desire to respond are vast. This year may we risk. May our art reflect our heARTs. And may we encounter fresh ways of experiencing the divine because of it.

 

 

 

 

Freedom under Stars

29 Sep

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Every year there is a unique opportunity for 16 young men of CRM to be on houseboat together in the middle of the desert.  One of the primary purposes of the trip is to give the young leaders within our missional organization a platform to develop relationships. I was blessed to receive one of the coveted invites this year.

The uniqueness of being on Lake Powell is a couple fold….

The scope of our individual contexts and where God has placed each us is typically scattered across the nations.  The opportunity to get a glimpse of the depth and diversity of the next generation of missional leaders is invaluable.  I often wondered throughout the week, “how the heck did I get here?”

The pure majesty and beauty of the place just shouts at you…imagine the Grand Canyon filled with water.  Between the lightning storms shaking the boat and the purity of the stars bouncing off the moonlit waters…the overall sense is smallness.  I saw Jesus’ words in Luke come to life…”even the rocks cry out” in worship.

Some of the most meaningful times are our evenings.  We gather on the top deck under the stars, taking turns sharing our life story. We minister to one another through blessing and affirmation after each person shares.  Our voices discover together the men of God Christ is asking us to be.  The men He’s called us to be.  We listen. We Laugh. Celebrate. Mourn. Cry. It seems God always decides to reveal Himself, bringing life and freedom in these holy moments.  He let’s us see, even if it’s just for a glimpse, below the surface into our hearts.  Phillipians 1:6 was spoken over me,  “be confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

There is much hope…my story is not over. There is more to hear. To tell. To do. And Christ is faithful to complete in me. So I pray for a holy momentum…a gripping of this promise in me. And in you. Our story is not over…and get this: the best is yet to comeJ

 “There is so much more I want to tell you…When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth.” –John 16:12+13

 

 

 

 

Road Trip

26 Jul

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God has allowed me to experience some profound discoveries living in community these past 2 years. Some beautiful insights. Some hard pills to swallow. A few giftings. And what seems to be a swarm of challenges. I want to share my latest with you…

One of the rythms of our NieuCommunities team in San Diego is to offer a 1-2 week cross cultural experience called a “road trip”. A road trip is a chance to encounter God through the eyes of another culture…a chance to get a taste of NieuCommunities and experience what it’s like to live on mission. We recently hosted a group of high school students from a church in Seattle. The desire during this time is to offer a holistic missional experience by taking pieces of what we naturally pursue throughout the year into a compact, integrated journey. This week included…

  • Common meals in our homes and business’
  • Serving and sharing with the poor and homeless in Golden Hill
  • Study of Scripture, Worship, and listening to God
  • Trip to Tijuana, Mexico to get a taste of partnering with local like minded leaders and to share our hearts and lives with brothers and sisters across the border
  • Partnering with the local church in our neighborhood
  • Teachings on the life of Jesus and wrestling with what it might look like to live on mission daily in a local context.

I was asked to partake in the teachings of Jesus, specifically about the Kingdom of God.  This is challenging for me.  I have often feared of public speaking. The insecurities rise, palms sweat, and my voice typically starts off shaky to name a few.  “What if people don’t relate to what I’m saying? Or Worse. What if people don’t like my thoughts?  I’m learning that God isn’t as concerned about how comfortable I feel. He wants my obedience and it seems He’s calling me out. I can hear him whisper, “David you say my perfect love cast out fear, (1 John 4:18) but do you believe it. Does it call you to action?”

It called me to action recently and God confirmed my gifting as I try and step out in obedience. The senior pastor of the trip approached me afterward and said, “You have a gift in teaching and you need to do more of this. You were engaging and compelling to my students and to me…thank you.”

God was teaching me some powerful lessons this week, but more than anything these students had one of the most transformational experiences of their lives. They discovered that a commitment to follow the Rabbi doesn’t mean they have to “go” elsewhere to be on mission.  In actuality they have all been called to be missionaries right where they find themselves…on the streets, alleyways, parks, parking lots of Bellevue, Washington.

One of the most meaningful moments of the week came at the conclusion. Before their departure the Senior Pastor of the teenagers’ church said, “I have been on a billion ministry trips, but this one was far and away the best trip I have ever been on.”  He shared how God moved in the hearts of his kids and how he moved within him.  “It refreshed my soul.”

May we all be challenged, transformed, and refreshed at the very core of us…in our souls….as we participate with the King and His Kingdom.

 

 

A Beautiful Soul

10 Jun

Ali Mahta or who I like to call “Ali of Babua” (part of the fun we have of giving him a nickname after the movie Aladdin) has become a brother and teacher to me. His arm of influence extended deep into our community as well. This is a small piece of his story.

Ali grew up a Shi’ite Muslim in Iran. In an effort to complete his studies as a doctor of neurology, he moved to the United States about three years ago. His whole life is in Iran; family, religion, tradition, friends, home.

After moving to New Orleans, Ali met one of the couples who are now on staff with our NieuCommunities team in San Diego. Although coming from two very different backgrounds (Iran and Washington state), they immediately connected and became close friends. More than anything, Ali became intrigued by this Jesus their lives revolved around. Within his Muslim tradition, Jesus is a prominent and highly respected prophet, but to believe in him as God is to commit shirk (holding anything/anyone as equal with Allah/God); the worst sin of all.

In fact, Ali became so intrigued by the Jesus he saw in his friends that when they moved to San Diego to go on staff with NieuCommunities, he asked if he could come with them and be part of their missional church community. After finding a neurology position in San Diego, Ali packed his bags and not only moved to San Diego, but moved into our neighborhood of Golden Hill (where all NieuCommunties participants have committed to live).

As I watched Ali live, his traditions and values planted themselves on our doorstep. Fear and revere God. Devotion to prayer…faithfully, 3 times a day. Everyday. Surrender… he’d turn his palms face up every single time during prayer as if receiving all that God has for him in each moment.

Although a brilliant doctor and having lived a life devoted to Islam, Ali was a humble learner who made the most of every opportunity to hear and experience the Jesus of his friends. Ali dove deep into our Christian community as he prayed, worshiped, listened and practiced alongside of us. He wanted to encounter Jesus, so he chose to expose and submerge himself deep into a band of believers whose lives had been submitted to their King, Jesus.

Through the lives and worship of his new friends and the profound work of the Spirit, my friend Ali did encounter Jesus in his time here in Golden Hill. After a recent worship gathering, Ali said to one of the members in our community “Yes, I am a follower of Jesus.”

Having accepted a position at Temple University in Philadelphia, Ali moved away from his new family in Golden Hill last week. While it was hard for us to say goodbye, both Ali and our community knew this was not the end of our story together.

After taking Ali surfing for the first time in his life, we all gathered for a meal just hours before his flight took off to Philadelphia. We shared the ways he had impacted us and thanked him for all that he had taught us. He came to us as a student, but his humble devotion ended up teaching us so much.

In a most recent email Ali sent me he said this, “David, my brother, you are a man with beautiful soul and I want to ask you to continue our brotherhood for the years to come and forever. I promise to come back again to visit you.”

Ali gave me a tangible glimpse of what it looks like to pursue holiness. So often I come into a foreign context believing I have it pretty much figured out.  I think “well maybe I can pick up a few nuggets here and there”.  Despite the fact Ali’s brilliance and faithfulness stretches beyond my yard stick his posture is humility. Ali honored God in his time with us and he gave me a lesson or two to say the least. He is my friend, my brother, and a teacher to many. Ali is a beautiful soul.

Before Ali walked out the door to catch his flight, we all turned our palms to the sky and thanked Jesus for our friend; our brother. (see pictures below)

I am extremely grateful to the brilliance of my friend, my fellow community member, and author Jon Huckins for giving me permission to partake in this and share many of his thoughts with you all. For a fuller story of Ali check out his blog: http://jonhuckins.net/?p=622

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Smell of Jesus

29 Apr

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Monday nights started out being a communal roommate night…. a fresh
glass of wine, a delicious home-cooked meal, and the sounds of
laughter are typically what fills the room. It’s a time to connect
our hearts. A time we say, “not only do we share a room where we
prepare food in, or a room we brush teeth in, or a room we all rest in
…but we want to share our hearts together.” We want to commune in that
room in these moments.

Monday’s we continue to reserve that room for each other, but we
started wondering what it might look like to invite others into the
mix… specifically our neighbors. Our hope is that our hospitality
and hearts bleed out into the community…so much so, people can’t not
notice it. Well that hope, became a small dose of reality for us
recently.

We welcomed our neighbors over for a Monday night. We laughed. We ate.
We connected. Multiple times throughout the night we heard them say,
“It just feels really good to be in this home.” And get this, our
neighbor Marnie decided to give us a toast, she said, “We have lived
on this street for over 13 years now. We have seen neighbors and
people come and go. They all bring something, but what you guys bring 
to our neighborhood nobody else has brought before…and we thank you
for it.”

2 Corinthians 2:14 comes to mind. “Thanks be to God, who always leads
us….and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him
in every place.” I believe Marnie and Lew got a big whiff of Jesus. I
pray that they continue to smell Him…even if they have no idea what or
who they are smelling….yet☺

I yearn to wreak of peace, of goodness, of laughter, of….Jesus. I pray
that scent surrounds you…surrounds me this day…AND it becomes familiar
to others.

May we smell like Jesus.

Seductive Success

14 Apr

I recently received an invitation to my first official speaking opportunity in a church…in my hometown of Santa Maria no less, with many of my friends and family present.  Immediately my fears and anxieties of being in front of a pulpit began to well up within me.  “Who am I to speak…Why me God? What if I crash and burn?” I sensed Him saying…“David you say that you trust me…here’s an opportunity for your actions to catch up with your prayers. Align your heart with mine. Your job is to show up…I will do the rest.” I believe God had called me out.  My faith was getting an exam.

 

So I showed up.  I shared my heart with these people.  I told stories about the wonders of God that I have seen these last 2 years…and the wonder of Him letting me participate in His Kingdom.  I expressed my longing of wanting to be a redemptive presence and agent of change wherever I go for Jesus Christ.  The hope was as I shared my journey of pursuing God and His mission for this world that people would be encouraged, they would be inspired, they would keep marching forward for Jesus in their own context. 

 

The affirmation I received from many people afterwards was warming and encouraging.  If I’m completely honest it became my identity…even if it was just for a couple hours.   For me, the taste of success in front of people is a seductive recipe for losing focus on the face of Jesus.  So I repent.  I repent for trading the voices I can tangibly hear, the things I can tangibly taste and see on this earth, for heavenly things in which I cannot.  I am reminded of John 15:3-4 Jesus says, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5"I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

 

I am discovering that without the breath of God my human words are stale and empty.  The affirmation of people becomes fragile and brittle.  So I declare today that I am nothing without Jesus… and I need to re-learn this daily. I want all other voices to fade, and may the voice of the King reign in my life. May it reign in yours’. 

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