Sunday, November 29, 2009

Looking for signs

This is a sign posted in Modesto's airport neighborhood at a strange bend in the road. Classically (and a little notoriously) called the "Airport District," this part of our town was settled at the arrival of the dust bowl refugees. Plots were cheap and times were hard. While the demographics have changed here, poverty has not. It has always been a part of the story in this neighborhood. On this side of this street, it is county property. Some of the area is claimed by the city and other islands are in the county. You can tell the county areas by the lack of side walks and street lights.

This sign caught me off guard while walking with a friend in the neighborhood. Just a simple hand painted sign warning motorists that kids are near by. But it speaks. It speaks of caring parents or a concerned neighbor. It speaks about going the extra mile. It speaks about using what you have to do what you can. It is resourceful, creative and compassionate. It speaks of hope.

What can you do today to make the world better? How can you use what you have, where you're at? Who needs encouragement? Who needs your time? Who needs a gracious ear? Who needs food? Who needs a call or letter?

In our first Advent service at church, we talked about living as people of hope. We can live awake, alert and intentionally looking for opportunity to express our hope to an aching world. Keep your eyes open. Signs of hope are everywhere.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving with cousins

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings...popcorn, jelly beans, pretzels and toast. We even had Snoopy.

Friday, November 27, 2009

(Not) Too Hard For Christmas!

Well, the time has come! The Rap Stars (featuring Quade) have produced a new holiday classic. You can download the MP3 HERE to share at all your holiday functions. Also, over at the Part In The Middle podcast, I've posted all of our Christmas projects we've done over the years.

If you're reading this on facebook you can glonk "view original post" or go HERE to watch the youtube version. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

9th Street Surprises

The past couple of Fridays on 9th Street have been good but a little different. With the Sustars in Ohio and Aaron in Canada, Bob and Arlie and I have been holding down the fort. Yesterday brought a few surprises.

Looks like a normal day at the 9th St. Cafe...friends having coffee and goodies, relaxing and laughing. But...

there's Julie! She came today to try her hand at being a 9th St. Barista. It was great to have her out with us again. And then my pastor showed up! He talked and prayed with folks and tried his hand at being a Barista too...

Then Amie showed up...she's not usually able to come out on Friday...another nice surprise.

Mary (in the middle there) really likes it when other girls come with us. We can have the tendency to be a bit of a boys club : ) Speaking of which, Arlie proceeds to pull out a little pool table he found. So the cafe upgraded to a game room!

It was fun to see this little thing work it's magic on friends down there who carry so much worry. It's like they got to come up for air in the simple joy of playing a game. It's exactly what we want our time on 9th Street to be.

It's the simple things that matter the most. Times like that leave me grateful and amazed. Let's pray for eyes to see God's little surprises everyday.

Monday, November 16, 2009

We're going to allow this...

This is a fly that died (all by himself-we didn't swat him) on our wall sometime around 2 weeks ago. We thought we'd see how long it takes for him to fall off.

This is a plant that sprouted in our living room maybe 2 months ago. We wanted to see how big it would get.

And finally, this is a remnant of potato that is on our wall from last week's Whitler family food fight...started by Amie.

Which will we clean up first? Only time will tell.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

November update

Howdy folks, Chris here writing for the Whitler family in Modesto, California.

A quick update...

My week with Youth With A Mission in Winnipeg early in October was great! I was up there to teach in the Justice Discipleship Training School on Evangelism. There are 6 students with them right now and I had a blast spending time with them and sharing my heart. They reviewed my teaching on their blog and you can read that by GLONKING HERE.

Following my October travels, our team jumped right in to hosting our friends from Stanley Park Community Church that come for an annual visit and ministry trip. This has become one of our favorite events of the year (four years and counting!). This time a group of four men visited to join us in our work. We spent a lot of time on South 9th sharing food and friendship right on the street. You can see pictures of their time with us HERE.

In our last update I reported that Amie's Grandmother had fallen and broken her neck and wrist. We are happy to report that she has recovered quite quickly and will be able to go back home this Friday! Thanks for all the prayers and kind messages.

Josh had his 14th birthday on October 30 (we're still in shock) and my 30-somethingth birthday was November 4th. We were both rolled under the bed on our birthday mornings in the grand Whitler tradition and served breakfast in bed in the Hewitt tradition.

And finally, a request for help and for prayers...

My Kentucky family has faced a major battle this year and we would like to go to be with them for the Christmas season. At this point, we do not have the funds to purchase tickets. We need either money for a road trip or air tickets or for someone to donate air miles/points to help us go. If you have questions or would like more info, please feel free to call me (209) 404-4027 or email

Please pray for Helen and Danny, a couple stuck on South 9th St. that desire to be free of addiction and a destructive life. Pray for a family we know facing homelessness in the next few weeks. Pray for health and peace for Mary, Cheryl, Arlene, Ken, Brandie and Dave.

If you would like to support our work financially, all donations are tax deductible when made out and sent to: YWAM / P.O. Box 3000 / Garden Valley, TX / 75771-3000. Our name must not appear on the check but include a separate note stating the gift is for the Whitlers in Modesto, CA.

There is also an auto-withdraw form available with instructions on how to set up monthly support for our work. If you have any questions, feel free to email We'd love to hear from you.

Thanks so much!

Here's how to find us online and other ways...

Family site/blog -

Whitler podcast (teaching, music and fun stuff)-

Amie on Facebook -

Chris on facebook -

YWAM site -

YWAM blog -

Stanley Park Team '09!

For four years and running, we've hosted a team from Stanley Park Community Church in Kitchener, Ontario; Canada. This has become less like hosting a team and more like a visit from friends. This year was no exception. They have have been so faithful that they even have people in Modesto they go see from the friendships they've formed in previous visits. Here's few pics and highlights of their week with us...

This was our first group to host in a new location...they were small enough to fit in the Haddon house at New Hope's new property (still very much under construction).

But the guys seemed fine with our "casual" digs.

On a previous trip, the guys had connected with Ken here and helped him patch up holes in the roof of his trailer. Ken is a shut in due to illness and lives alone in a trailer park off South 9th St. This year, the awning covering his front porch was all but gone and with the rainy season on it's way, the guys set to work.

You can't keep Danny away from a project : )

It was an engineering marvel and just in time. Of course, we spent a lot of time on 9th Street with coffee, chili and BBQ, just doing what we do, spending time with people...

They spent time in the hobo shack...

Lots of taco trucks including the TACO BUS!


And of course...

Thanks guys...see you again next year!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Saturday, November 07, 2009

What do you see?

The church bells rang and he stood looking down
His face was sad yet resolute...pain and strength
He was alone and making a decision for more than just himself
He wrestled with the idea but knew he had to go

They were angry, busy, frustrated
They were together but alone
They didn’t see one another
They could only see their own, individual agenda
Even when their paths crossed, they made their own movements

He came and they didn’t see him
He was there and they didn’t look
He touched them but they didn’t know it
He was ignored, not in the room

Out of the darkness he appeared
A light shining on his sacred heart
Out of the red heart came a soft, mourning song
They closed in, they pushed him around
Their moves hurt him, he adjusted and flowed with them
They pushed all the more, the light intense on the red, brooding heart
He fell
He died
The light went out
The music stopped

They were busy, frantic and bored all at the same time
Everyday the same
Waking to the activity, laying down with the same hunger
Empty busyness

They were working together now over his dead body
They looked away and his heart began to beat
One of them fell and he caught her
She got up but didn’t see who had saved her

Then the room lightened
He was there
They carried on with their motions but he was there
Moving with them
They still didn’t see him
Church bells rang

He looked down again, not sorrowful now
More at peace, more at ease
They were working together
Something had changed and maybe they didn’t even notice
They were at peace, still moving but something had changed

And then the dancers took their bow.

This is not really a poem, it’s a description of a dance (as best as I can remember) Amie and I saw tonight at the Modesto Junior College from the Keith Johnson Dancers. You just saw it through my eyes. I was in awe at this piece called “Outside Looking Up (Still)”.

“Was that about Jesus?” I asked as they set up for the next piece. Amie shrugged, unsure of where I was coming from.

Amie loves dance. She connects with the movements in ways that I never will. I go to concerts with her in the same way she watches “The Lord of the Rings” with me. I get it but she really gets it. She isn’t built the way I am...needing to find the meaning. She just likes interesting movement. In fact, if it’s supposed to have a meaning, she’d rather them just tell us up front instead of guessing.

I was amazed though, not believing that I had watched the gospel play out right in front of me at a dance concert at our local college.

At the end of the night, the company director and the dancers came out for a question and answer session. This piece was inspired by the death of the choreographer’s mother. The man...the “he” that for me was the Christ figure was actually representing the director’s mother. Another element of inspiration came from the events of September 11, 2001. Letting go, mourning, dealing with death, saying goodbye, not understanding, unanswered questions are all elements to the piece we saw.

Of course, we all interpret life and art through our own lenses. I am a Christian and I saw the gospel. It may have meant 20 different things to 20 different people. And maybe Amie’s view is the best...the simple fact that they are up there moving, trying to express some concept of transcendence, emotion and what it is to be human is the best “message” of all.

The gospel shines through. It has everything to do with mothers and sons and death and mourning and hope and reaching and relationships and brokenness and resolve and peace and forgiveness. All our reaching is a reaching out for God. I left tonight happy to be invited to dance.

It's 4pm and they all had sleep-overs last night...

From another perspective...

Yesterday we had a new friend join us for the 9th Street Cafe. Her name is Bethany. She wrote about her experience and I wanted to link to that here. It's good to see this thing we do all the time from a different perspective...

Thursday, November 05, 2009

"Love Was Here First" (album review)

Fresh from the blog tour for Andrew Peterson’s recent release of his book I saw an opportunity from Carolyn Arends to review her new CD, “Love Was Here First”. I loved the process so much from the book that I quickly signed up and was given immediate access to the album, artwork and promo materials. So, here goes...

Ever heard of Carolyn Arends? Yeah, she’s probably there in the background somewhere singing “Seize the Day” in 1995. Oh yeah...It’s dawning on you now. Well, she’s still around and has been recording, touring, speaking and writing all this time from her home in British Columbia in Canada.

You may not know much about Canada...most of us south of the border do not. Canada can be easily dismissed as that nice, kinda quirky country up there providing us with maple syrup and hockey players. “I heard it’s real clean...”

Our family sojourned among the Canadians for eight years from 1993 - 2001. Having been previously unfamiliar with (aka ignorant of) Canada, I assumed it would be a lot like the States know...colder. Living there changed me forever. Community awareness, commitment to the marginalized of society, celebration of diversity and respectful discourse flow easily through the fabric of the culture. It is by no means perfect but in so many ways, Canada has a lot of depth, quieter insight and wisdom to offer us here in the land of rugged individualism.

Carolyn’s music is a lot like Canada. It would be easy to dismiss to the background. She has a nice, innocent sounding voice that does not reach out and grab you and make you listen. Her music is based in roots disciplines...acoustic guitars, mandolins with ambient electric layers. Her melodies and themes are simple. But listen again...

This album, “Love Was Here First” is full of songs that easily play as the background of where I am at in my journey. The busiest song on the album is the first one and ironically named “Be Still”. I started listening while cleaning off my desk covered with late bills and projects left ignored (including this review). This song flowed into Arend’s haunting, heart cry rendition of an old song “Standing In the Need of Prayer”...during this I was sorting through a pile of stress looking for an important something that I’d lost.

On to the anthem, “My Favorite Lie” and as I’m still trying to frantically figure out my mismanaged life, Arends sings “I am a pilgrim on a dead end road who refuses to go in a new direction...” Ok, I get it. I’ll stop and listen.

Now that I’m paying attention and ready to receive what I need to hear from this album comes the hopeful “Something Out Of Us” made cosmos out of chaos, you made Adam out of dust, you made wine out of water, you’ll make something out of us...

And the album goes on with songs of hope, songs about what’s real, songs about Jesus, songs about surrender. My favorite line and the heart of the collection is from “The Last Word” which inspired the album title, “That day in the garden could not erase, all that was started with original grace, and though we have wandered, we will know if we search, Love was here first.”

Musically it’s well done and you can hear Carolyn and crew having fun playing this music. A few songs have horns that brighten and bring gravity to the tracks...I especially liked them on the last song “Never Say Goodbye”. The production gets a little busy on a few tracks...Arends is best being a folk artist singing hope. A couple of times, the atmosphere bends toward rock and blues which doesn’t work as well for me as when the music and Arends voice is being straight forward.

I would highly recommend this work. It is not a loose collection of songs but flows on the currents of the best themes that can be sung or written about.

Find out more about Carolyn Arends and listen to some of the tracks from “Love Was Here First” at her website...

The album is available for purchase here...