Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Pearl of Great Price



What is the joy of the secret kingdom?
To find the field where the treasure is hidden
To give everything for the priceless pearl
To see through the door to an untold world
Eyes to see, ears to hear
Dancing stars, musical spheres
An unknown frequency hiding in static
To push through the membrane, a tear in the fabric
There's joy and light and song in dark places
From broken hearts and through lines on faces
We limp and we fall and we curse the clock
The very gifts, the keys that unlock
Surrender and grace and space and deep time
Harmonics of angels, infused paradigm
Enchanted with Presence and power and knowing
Through atoms and quarks and galaxies flowing
Above all and through all and in all pervasive
Unstoppable tide, incalculable graces
O taste and draw and fall into this Well
Kicked open and broken are the gates of hell
And infinite shores of delight awaiting
Inviting and joyful, surprising, creating
Universe undercover, a rose through a fence
The pathway is narrow that leads to immense
Fields full of treasure, oceans of pearls
Glory and wonder filling all worlds

~CMW

Monday, June 10, 2019

A Pivot



I have been listening to a new(ish) podcast called The Pivot by Andrew Osenga (a fantastic musician) and he always includes the tag line, "Stories of people who have made a change." These are conversations about seasons in life, the pain of letting go and the grace that can be found in stepping out into unknown territory. You can find that podcast HERE.

For quite a few years, I (Chris) start out January at a prayer retreat with pastors and leaders from my city. We go away for 2 days of reflection, singing, meals and listening. Classically, this has been in a location with little to no cell reception.

Two years ago, while at this retreat, we were taking a few hours to spend in solitude and meditate on a scripture in Isaiah, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?" 

While pondering this in my room, in very spotty cell reception, a text came through from a friend of mine. He was on vacation in Nevada. The message basically said, "Do you want a job? I think you'd make a good activity director for our care facilities."

I knew that something was coming. Change was in the air. Our friends that we started YWAM Modesto with were all transitioning. Also, I knew that we were about to lose half of our personal support due to budget cuts at one of our supporting churches. I also had the feeling that more cuts were to come.

It took a while for me to "perceive it" but in June of 2017, I began part time employment that grew into full time employment by October. I've been working as an activity director for people with serious mental illness. I took the job, seeing that this was God's provision with the council of close friends and our board of directors.

The people in the facility are much like the people we have been connecting with on the streets. Many have struggled with addiction and have lived on the streets. It is definitely an extension of what we have been doing all along. I am able to lead Bible studies, sing with residents and create fun, hospitable activities to enrich suffering people's lives. I even do a once a month "Cafe" for our residents. It is truly rewarding.

So, we are in bi-vocational ministry. YWAM Modesto is still operating. We are still on 9th Street Friday mornings and, as a family, we continue working with youth in our neighborhood. Also, Amie works with our local refugee community and, partnering with lots of folks, we have opened a hospitality house for refugee families.

I am also still on the leadership team for Mission Greater Modesto, connecting regularly with pastors and leaders to pray for the city. We are still able to host teams to the area as my work is providing me with flexibility to do this. And, we continue to offer hospitality to visiting artists and missionaries, hosting creative events for the community.

We are still serving with a congregation at New Hope Church.

The change is that all of our personal support is now coming from my work with the care home. It is enough to cover what was lost. But, while earning a paycheck is nice, the sense of calling to broken, wounded, outcast people is still the motivation.

I often think of a quote from Eric Liddell (Chariots of Fire) when I think of the work I am doing. 

“I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast! And when I run I feel his pleasure.” 

Now, God didn't make me fast, but he did make me...well...me. So, when I am laughing and driving and bowling and watching a movie and swimming and singing and sharing food and praying and shopping and walking with our residents, I feel his pleasure.

I wish I could show you pictures. We have a lot of fun. And really "bi-vocational" is a bit of a misnomer. It's not 2 vocations (Vocation...taken from "voice"...think "calling"). It's one vocation, several different jobs. But they are so connected that it's hard for me to tell the difference sometimes. 

When a basketball player pivots, he's still playing ball. He just needs to change direction to move the ball forward. When a dancer pivots, she's still dancing, the pivot adds nuance and beauty and grace.

And that's what this pivot has done in our life. Far from easy but lots of grace and beauty has come to our lives because of it. I think I'm beginning to perceive it.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Mourning and Celebration


Yesterday morning, my Father, Albert Whitler, passed away from this world into the light of God. He finished his course. 
He has been lovingly cared for by my sister, Christianne and her children in their home for many years as he suffered through dementia and physical deterioration. He was surrounded by the ones he loved and who loved him so well as he passed.
Our family will be joining them in mourning and celebration this week. Pray for safety as we all travel and take care of preparations. There are a lot of details and timing that need to work just right. Pray for grace and provision.
Already a few things have come together that hint at the Strong Hand of Love helping us through this time.
We are grateful for your support and friendship.
For all us Whitlers,
Chris

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