Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Thoughts after viewing "The Nine"


Last night, our YWAM Modesto team went to see the local premiere of the documentary film "The Nine." This has been a much anticipated release as its subject matter is the South 9th Street community of our city. Photographer Katy Grannan and her team have made a beautifully shot, shocking glimpse into life around and under the 9th Street bridge in Modesto.

A friend texted me this morning asking me what it was like. Here is my short response..."Profoundly sad, very well done, uncomfortable, beautiful and terrible all at the same time. A very vulnerable film. Not much commentary, just an observation of an addicted prostitute's life on 9th Street."

Those words, "addicted" and "prostitute," are not the only words that define the films principle subject,"Kiki." She is also kind, hopeful, despairing, sad, lonely and beautiful. Grannan lets us see complex people in difficult situations without a lot of heavy handed narrative. This is a film shot by a photographer. There are long stretches of stillness that are poinagnt and uncomfortable.

When I heard someone was making a documentary about South 9th Street, where we host our twice weekly Ninth Street Café, I was hesitant. Who is this film maker? Are they going to exploit people's brokenness? Are they going to romanticize "the poor?"

This film was made because the film maker engaged in friendships with a few on S. 9th Street while working on a photography project. She cares about them and told their story with humility. Humility isn't always easy. It can be defined as "an honest evaluation of the way things are" and that's what this movie strives to do.

There are moments that come across as set up. There are scenes that could be trimmed. Some of it seems to go on too long. There are times when I felt like Kiki was too vulnerable, an intimacy not meant for me. But mostly, it gives dignity to the suffering people of 9th Street by showing their real lives. 

I was glad to hear Grannan say that this was not a story about Modesto, it is a story about America, an America that is often hidden and ignored.

There were a few ill informed questions at the Q & A for which the producers, Kiki and a few others pictured were present at the end of the evening. A few good questions too. But all of those interactions were made beautiful by Kiki herself and the obvious love there between her and Ms. Grannan.

This is not an exposé on "the homeless problem" or "the poor." This is a movie about real people. People we've shared coffee and bread with. We watched the movie with those real people in the room with us. They went home that night back to their lives that we had just witnessed. It was full of raw vulnerability and forced our community to take a hard look at a way of life only blocks away that most of us would just as soon ignore.

There is another local showing of this movie at the State Theater on Tuesday, March 14 (you can find more info and watch the trailer here... http://www.thestate.org/calendar/event/860). If you see it, you should know that it is hard to watch. It is unrated but if it were, it'd be rated R.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Cover of Larry Norman's "The Great American Novel"

This is a cover of Larry Norman's 1972 song. Well, actually, it's a cover of Steve Camp's late 80's cover of Larry's song.
This has come to mind quite a bit during this strange season. I resonate with some of the questions and most of the heart cry in this song. And I must admit, I can't offer more than Larry does in the way of a solution.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A Coffee Stained Prayer


This is a prayer book that I think I stole from my Dad. I don't really remember how I got it but I remember it on his bookshelf and it was always attractive to me. It's called "Everyday Catholic Prayer: A Little Office Book," compiled by Angela Tilby. I like little books.
It's quite a simple (and ancient) idea. To mindfully read through some passages of scripture, to read them as prayers, to meditate on scriptural phrases and set your mind on the best things...love, forgiveness, truth, peace, rest, Jesus.
At some point in our life and work together, we began praying the "little office" before going to 9th Street. Over the years, the spine has broken, you can see a coffee stain there on the first prayer. At one point we had two copies. I don't remember what happened to the other one (do you have it, Jimmy?)
I was looking at the coffee stain today before the café and thought of the people we go to meet on 9th Street and what our little café really is, what we truly desire it to be. It's a coffee stained prayer for a broken world.
We go twice a week to meet with people that are living unbelievable lives, people who suffer through some of the worst things imaginable, people who are holding on to some of the thinnest strands I know. The #NinthStreetCafé is a coffee stained prayer that creativity and compassion can make community even in the most difficult of places.
​Come pray with us. ywammodesto.org


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Heavens Proclaim - A poem by Chris Whitler



Inspired by Psalm 19

This shaft of light 
Warming my face
Has come millions of miles
Through the darkness of space

Its a word in season
Spoken to me
An apple of gold
To a heart that’s weary

And morning by morning
His mercies are new
He awakens my ear
To what my heart knows is true

Oh the heavens proclaim
The heavens proclaim
The heavens proclaim
The glory of God

And galaxies turn
And gravity pulls
And pushes us on
Further up, further in

And the suns collapse
Falling on their face
And they rend their clothes
And the fabric is pierced

And worlds collide
Mighty cataclysm
And storms recite
The great catechism

Day after day
Pours forth speech
Night by night
Secret knowledge is preached

Oh the heavens proclaim
The heavens proclaim
The heavens proclaim
The glory of God

And the strings dance
“Let there be”
Is still resounding
Inside you and me

And particles spin
The stuff of stars
The heavens proclaim
In my very heart

All of the cosmos
Is traveling on
Riding His wave
Riding His song

Who kindled the flame?
Who taps the baton?
And the universe plays
And is singing us home

Oh the heavens proclaim
The heavens proclaim
The heavens proclaim
The glory of God

Monday, March 07, 2016

Monday, February 15, 2016

Monday Morning Music: Evidence of Good

This song was inspired by Paul's message to the people of Lystra in Acts 14. They saw the wonderful things the Christians could do and began to call them gods. In The Message translation, Paul, to convince them otherwise, says, "...He (God) made a good creation, poured down rain and gave bumper crops. When your bellies were full and your hearts happy, there was evidence of good beyond your doing.” 

 In JRR Tolkien's "The Silmarillion", he talks about water and how people still get quiet around water as it still carries with it traces of the song of creation. That rings true to me. 

 Enjoy this song! It's a part of my album Rushing Waters (produced and musically enhanced by my very talented friend Jimmy Sustar​). The whole collection of songs is teasing out different ways we can hear the voice of God. Available for a free download at http://noisetrade.com/chriswhitler