Wednesday, June 30, 2010

An answer to some difficult questions...

Recently, I was at a community outreach in West Modesto and I got asked one of the three really hard questions to answer, I stammered around the question as I often do. Here are the 3 hard questions... What do you do? How much of your time does YWAM take? How can I volunteer with your program?

The following is an older email I stumbled on today that I wrote in response to someone who wanted to come and join our work here. I have changed it to make it make sense as a blog post. So here's my answer to those hard questions...

"My family came to Modesto from Canada (we had been with and still partner with Global Youth Network) as YWAMers to work with a little local church that couldn't afford to hire us. We came to help the church start doing community outreach, we didn't even set out to start any YWAM (Youth With A Mission) thing here at all...we were just YWAMers seconded to a local church. Then, Aaron came from Canada to join us and then the Sustars and then YWAM told us we should become an official operating location so that's what we did. There are only 2 families and a single dude here and the Sustars are headed to Thailand for 2 years to work with some good friends we have over there.

"We do outreach. We spend regular time on the street (especially 9th street that has a lot of old residential motels) just meeting with people and building relationships with them. Every Friday we host a little coffee time out there on the street and hang out for a bit. Lots of other things we do come from that....from the friendships we form on Friday. So like, today, I hung out with my homeless friend in his shack he built in his sister's back's really rainy and windy today so I took him a little food and checked in on him. Aaron is with our other friend who is trying to recover from an alcohol addiction...they went to the movies to just spend a little time together. Last night, we picked up another friend at the Shiva motel for Bible study at our church. So, we do stuff like that.

"And we are partnering with the local church....uniquely with one church, New Hope Christian Fellowship...the church our family originally came to serve. I am the worship leader and a deacon and we facilitate the youth group. We also have developed lots of friendships with other churches through the youth pastor's network, Youth For Christ and City Ministry Network. So we do some speaking at local churches about evangelism, local poverty and simple outreach. We also host them in local outreach experiences when there's interest.

"We don't look for it but we do host we don't actively recruit teams but through relationship we have about 4 - 5 teams a year. We use these times to try to impart the simplicity of reaching out through relationship. So we do teaching and take the teams out with us to hang out on the street here in Modesto and do what compassion moves them to do.

"God has continued to challenge us to go further and deeper but at the same time drop more and more that propensity in all of us to lean on programs or systems instead of relationships. Our heart has been to keep the greatest expression of love at the top of our priorities... friendship that's willing to lay down it's life.

"In the past few years, we have been taking trips to Thailand to work with some good friends that have started a ministry to vulnerable families on the Thai/Burmese border. Our friends at Compasio are such a good fit because they are a lot like us...they don't really know what they're doing but they just go ahead and do what they can. Like I said, the Sustars are headed there, Aaron visits regularly and I serve on the U.S. board.

"The work here was born out of friendship and continues to be. We are not a YWAM in we do not have a property, we live in the community in rental houses. We do not have secured staff housing here. We have no real money as we have no programy source of income...our ministry exists on little gifts here and there and us chipping in from our own individual support to do the things we do.

"Our mode is to release one another into ministry by regularly meeting and praying together and serving one another to do what God has put in our heart. To be friends and extend friendship to others. And to articulate our story creatively. We sensed God giving us these words in a prayer day a couple of years ago...'creative, compassionate community'. So, that's our aim. We are a work in progress that grows dynamically through friendship."

So, hope that helps. If you still have questions, let's have a coffee!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunday School Father's day cards

Sam and Stella filled out these cards in Sunday School about me...thought I'd share 'em as they reveal deep insights into my person.

This is Sam's.

I love it when we "do nothing"

The thing he does best is "fight"

The best thing my Dad ever did was "ride the Tower of Terror"

The best thing I ever did looked like this...

And Stella's

I love it when we "play together"

The thing he does best is "He just lays around everyday"

The best thing he ever did was "married my Mom"

True, so true.

And here's my Father's Day gifts...

A good day.

A Father's Day message

I gave this message 5 years ago to our church on Father's Day and ran across it again so I thought I'd post it up. You can listen right here or (if you're reading this on facebook) you can listen or download it for pods of all kinds HERE.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Jesus Manifesto review

Someone mysteriously recommended this blog to the publishers of this book "Jesus Manifesto" by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola for review. I'm glad they did. Like many I am sure, I immediately thought this book was an extension of the website It is not. is a webzine hosted by Mark Van Steenwyk and is the site for the book. All cleared up? No? Well, you can read the different parties talk about it HERE if you feel the need.

The main idea of Jesus Manifesto is to call the Christian church back to a Christ centered faith. To me, it reads as a reaction to popular trends in christian culture (lowercase "c" is on purpose), the culture of selfish appeal...the "Best Life Now"/"This Is Your Day" kind of christianity as well as the "justice/emergent" trends too. The authors communicate the insufficiency of these schools of thought in and of themselves and call Christians back to Christ as the center of our faith.

Did I like the book? Yes and no.

What did I like?
Most of it! This book delivers a clear call to remember Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith. He started it and is still working (alive and real and active in everyday life) to finish it. There are many worthy words in this book that call us back to remember that Jesus is not a dusty, dead man who said wise things but that he is real, alive now and very much at work in the world, at work in us. In it's best passages, this book shows us Jesus. That is a good thing.

I really enjoyed the last few chapters as the writers find their stride. There are many open and freeing ideas about Jesus. And this book did it's work on me. The intention is to help us see Jesus again. To help us remember who this faith is all about. To call us back to our "first love". This book accomplished this goal in me.

This book has great things to say about the communal nature of life in Christ and how simple and beautiful church can be. This book challenged me in the way I perceive my own local church and called me to a deeper commitment to love Christ's body, his people. So, yes, I enjoyed most of it.

A nit picky thing I liked was the quotes from other writers throughout the book in the margins. Many books of this kind have quotes from the book's text highlighted and larger in the margins of the page to bring special emphasis to the point they are trying to make. This usually annoys me because if I read it in the text, why would I care to read it again bigger to the side of the page? It just ends up feeling in the way and a like a way to fill up space to make the book seem bigger. In Jesus Manifesto, the highlighted quotes are not from the text but are from other writers and they add to the point the authors are trying to make. These provided nice little snippets from other viewpoints (even other disciplines like poetry) to chew on.

What didn't I like?
Well, up there in my first paragraph, I said that this book reads like a reaction. This bugged me the whole way through. The message can come across defensive and worried. This book's claim is that it wants to call us back to Christ by helping us see him again. Well, ok, do that. Write a book about Jesus. Don't write a book about others that are wrong.

This book critisizes the emergent, missional, and justice ideas circulating out there for missing the point. It asks us to think of our faith more deeply than what works of good we can do in the world. This book cautions against social justice as an emphasis in the church. And in these issues, this book comes across to me like it plays the middle ground. In one sentence it will say that social justice and serving the poor are important but those working for it are missing the point. There's a "yes it's good but..." tone throughout. This gets annoying. The message get convoluted. I don't know why works of justice and mercy in the world can't be seen as expressions of love for Jesus instead of competing with his love. This just doesn't make sense to me.

This book is called "Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ" and I think the name points to a problem. I had no idea that Jesus needs his sovereignty or supremacy restored. So much of western christian culture today is about fearful and reactionary sentiments like this. Like somehow God's throne can be overthrown by a flash in the pan, silly society. It's the language of "we've got to vote God back into office." I don't think he's running. Show us Jesus, guys.

And for the most part, they did. I would recommend reading Jesus Manifesto. I don't think it's important to sign it online or join any movement or the facebook group but as a call to remember Christ, this book has helped me, comforted me and challenged me. I'm glad I read it.

Again, the book's website is here...

And you can read a bit of it on Amazon HERE.

And you can read Mark Van Steenwyk's review (which I tend to agree with) HERE.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Some reasons to celebrate!

June 12...our 17th wedding anniversary! Stella arranged a special ceremony in her room with Sam as organist and officiant, Josh as photographer and herself as flower girl.

June 13...Sam's Annual Beginning Of Summer Birthday Blowout Swim party Spectacular! Sam's actual birthday is on the 9th (he turned 10 this year!) but his party was last Sunday. This year's theme? Soda.

And we got to spend last week with a team from Heartland Christian Center in Wooster, Ohio. They came here to learn, grow and reach out on the streets here in Modesto. They did great and we ended it all with ice cream.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Breaking Bread

This video was put together by Aaron. This is our heart. If you're reading this on facebook, you can watch it HERE. From Aaron..."A lot of what we do in Modesto is centered around food. Burgers, burritos, coffee & donuts have been the beginning of some of my best friendships."

Breaking Bread from Aaron Alford on Vimeo.

Monday, June 07, 2010

The inevitable blog post...blogpologies.

Well, it's happened again, another blogger has realized he has been way too busy and posts a lame entry with excuses and promises of new posts coming soon. Welcome to the inevitable blogpology. So, yeah, I've been in a bloggy slump. But there's some ideas cookin' and songs brewing and whatnot. Just wanted to let you know I haven't disappeared and will get back on the ol' horse sooner or later.

One thing I'll be doing soon is a book review of "Jesus Manifesto" by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola. You can check out the amazon page HERE. Someone was kind enough to recommend this blog for review and I have received a copy I'll be making my way through soon.

Ok, that's all I got for now. Please accept my humble blogpologies.

Thank you.