Monday, August 30, 2010

What if I only knew this?

“...I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
1 Cor 2

What would my life look like if my entire worldview was through the person of Jesus Christ and his sacrifice on the cross? If I saw everything in light of who he is and what he has done? How would it change my perspective on relationships, hardships, finances, culture, politics, work, my self and my community?

What if before I speak, write or act in any way, I considered Jesus and how he laid down his life? What if I picked up my cross and followed Jesus?

Jesus heals, speaks truth, tells redemptive stories, spends time in prayer, encourages, forgives, is a pain to the systems of the world, loves the outcast and those on the fringe, shares meals, feeds people, is above politics, never once gets drawn into a silly dispute, feels no need to defend himself and willingly lays down his life so that others can live.

What if I followed in this way? What if this were all I knew?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Love 8/22/10

I got to talk about what it's all about today at my church...

If you're reading this on facebook, you can hear it here...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Spicy Cincinnati Style Coney Island Meatbuster by Sam

Sam has entered a burger contest at Red Robin (if you wanna enter, you can go HERE). We made his entry burger this week and thought I'd post our process here. After a great meeting of the burger minds (Sam, Josh and I), we came up with the Spicy Cincinnati Style Coney Island Meatbuster...a name we labored over quite a bit. The winning entry gets their burger on the Red Robin menu for a year and a free family vacation. Let's get into it...

We started with the Cincinnati style chili (which is really a Greek pasta sauce that was sold to here in America as 'chili' and it's beautiful). It's a simple mixture of tomato paste, water, ground beef, chili powder, cayenne pepper, cocoa, cinnamon, allspice and garlic. You can read more about that HERE.

Then of course, the burgers...

Next, we cooked up some sweet Nathan's kosher dogs and split them in half...

Add dog to burger...

Top with chili, shredded cheese and chopped white onion...

Take a moment to find your center...

And dig in!

Sooooooo good. And maybe your next few meals should be salads.

Also, Stella tried her hand at making up a dish of her own. The recipe of which should be self explanatory. For dessert, may we suggest, the whipped cream sandwich?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Who is YWAM Modesto and what do you do?

Youth With A Mission Modesto is Aaron Alford, Jimmy, Kelly, Mila, Zion and Gabriel Sustar and Chris (me!), Amie, Josh, Sam and Stella Whitler. We also have many friends, partners and supporters that make our life and work here possible. We live exclusively on the grace of God through donations to our work from congregations, families and friends.

We serve a Mission...

Youth with a Mission
(YWAM) is a specialized, inter-denominational missionary order desiring “to know God and make Him known.” YWAM is committed to...

Convey the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Change lives through training.

Care for those in need around the world.

We are aligned with this vision and one or more of these elements is a part of everything we do. We connect with others in our mission regionally for mutual prayer and conference. We teach our style of outreach to YWAM trainees when called on.

We serve A church...

Aaron and I are deacons at New Hope Christian Fellowship, a small, Bible based, non-denominational congregation. I lead the congregation in worship on Sundays. We facilitate the youth group meetings in a team and are available to listen to and pray with them. We attend the leadership meetings. We help run monthly prayer meetings. We serve the members who have needs and help to connect people to resources in the community. We serve the vision of the elders. We serve the activities of the congregation.

We serve THE church....

We connect with local networks of church and ministry workers and build relationships and serve where we can. We host teams from out of town and locally to teach them the joy of simple outreach by taking them along with us to 9th St. and other hurting places in our city. We partner with local inter-church worship and outreach efforts.

We serve two international organizations...

One is Compasio, a ministry to impoverished families on the Thai/Burmese border. Jimmy and Kelly are moving their family to Thailand for two years to work with them (read more about that HERE). Aaron goes to work in Thailand at least once a year for a month or more. I sit on the US board for Compasio.

We assist Global Youth Network in Canada in the training of young leaders by hosting an annual group for 10 days. Global is an international justice and education organization that we worked with and learned from before coming to Modesto. We also partner with Global in other projects including retreats and camps.

We serve the poor, lonely and broken...

Each Friday, we set up a little cafe in a forgotten place in our city and spend time with hurting people. We serve coffee, some food and friendship. Friendship is the heart of our little team. Out of friendship comes everything else. We have been with people through recovery from substance abuse. We have seen people come to and back to relationship with Jesus. We have seen people leave the street. We have seen them fall, get up and fall again. Through it all, we offer friendship, prayer and support. And we seek to engage our creativity in being a voice for these friends.

And, because we are a 501c3 non-profit in California -

We also keep our own books, manage donations, and raise our own personal and corporate support. Some of our ministry is right out of pocket and some of it comes from our corporate budget.

Please pray for us. Sometimes it's a lot to juggle and we are in a constant state of re-evaluation as this life is quite dynamic. Thanks for reading and thanks for your support and friendship.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The previously rich, young weirdo?

Today’s reading in Matt 19 is “sell all your possessions and give to the poor.” The young man to whom this was said went away from Jesus very sad because he had many possessions. I have often thought of the fact that I probably have more and am richer than the rich, young ruler. Maybe not relatively but I’m sure in some sense, I have more privilege than he. I mean, I have a refrigerator and air conditioning and a car and two computers and...

We think of spending time with Jesus and leaving happier, free, forgiven. I know that happens. But what about the Jesus that wants us to own less and share with the poor. He makes people like me sad. It’s his great love that does not want us to own a lot. Or better said, for a lot to own us.

I serve stuff all the time. I attend to a TV quite a bit. I listen to an ipod. I get downright intimate with food. I care for buildings. I am happy to put things up that I don’t even like. Am I serving stuff more than people? Do I attend to people? Do I listen? Do I relish others? Do I care for people? Do I put people up?

This “rich, young ruler” gets a bum rap. We don’t know the rest of his story. Perhaps he was sad but thought about it a bit and went for it. Maybe, in a franciscan fit of madness he put all his stuff in the street and followed Jesus. He might have been one of those gathered there on the mountain to watch Jesus ascend into heaven.

The word “rich” doesn’t seem to offer much hope of his changing. But the word “young” has some promise to it. “Ruler” maybe another stroke against his ability to do the right thing. It’ll be a while before we know what happened for sure.

We have made all kinds of excuses about this story. There are sermons and commentaries out there in the ether full of “he didn’t really mean”s and “hyperbole” this and “getting to the heart” that. But the truth is, if we really want to know, Jesus isn’t afraid to tell us. He’s not afraid to make us sad.

If we want Jesus on our own terms, we will not have the real Jesus. He’ll point out the elephant in the room and tell us to deal with it aggressively. And on the other side of that is the freedom and joy we so desperately need. The world doesn’t need to see anymore nice Christians with all their own stuff and maintaining the status quo. The world needs big weirdos who have abandoned everything to follow Jesus.

You can’t follow Jesus and keep your cool. You can’t look normal. My friend Wick once said “If you follow the call of God on your life, people will think you’re weird.”

To paraphrase Jesus a bit, “Go on, get rid of it and live for something better. Trust me, you’re going to like it.”

Friday, August 13, 2010

What I learned while climbing Vernal Falls.

A few years ago, I tried to hike the Mist Trail that takes you to the top of Vernal Falls in Yosemite National Park with two of my best friends. I was too out of shape and could not make it. Vernal Falls is a relatively easy hike, just 1.5 miles but it winds and climbs up a long incline that eventually turns into “going into Mordor” type stairs up the actual side of the fall which is 317 feet tall.

Late in 2009, in response to Don Miller’s recent writings and encouragements to turn your life into a better story, I posted here that I was going to get into better shape, lose weight and climb to the top of Vernal Falls. You can read that full post HERE (There’s even an entry in comments section from Mr. Miller. I know, name dropper!)

Well, I said I’d do it in the Spring. Spring came and went and to be honest, I have not had all that much success in the weight loss and getting in shape area. I have gone up and down (as has my resolve). I have blamed this and that. It is one of the hardest battles of my life. I have not given up just yet.

Regardless of my “in-shape-ness”, Jimmy, his boy, Zion, Aaron, my boys Josh and Sam and I loaded up on Wednesday and headed out to see if I could get up the falls. I was quite nervous. What if I just couldn’t do it. I would not only let my friends down again but my sons were there too. And what if they couldn’t make it? If you know the Whiters, you know we’re not the most in-shape folk on the block. Usually, we prefer an air conditioned theater to hiking and the like.

But, there was nothing for it, our lot was cast. We were gonna give it a shot. So, in Don Miller blogging style, here it is...What I learned while climbing Vernal Falls...

Take on challenges in a community.
Many hands make light work.” The old saying is a saying because it’s true. It’s easier to do things in groups. If you’ve all bought into the vision, it isn’t as easy to give up. You all can laugh about how hard it is and you can all celebrate making it to the next level.

Take on challenges by remembering the beauty around you.
On the hardest parts of the trail, I found it easier when I took time to look up at the beautiful park all around me. How much do we miss when we have our eyes on the path and we don’t stop and look up? There is always beauty to be found if we look for it.

Take on challenges by doing them in smaller segments and taking it slow.
We took a lot of breaks. It was a steep hill to walk up. When we’d start off again, I’d point up the trail and pick the next spot to stop and catch my breath. We gave ourselves plenty of time to get up the hill and allowed anybody in the group to break when they needed to. We also encouraged each other to reach the projected goal. None of us felt the need to be super-human but we pushed ourselves to keep going.

Before going on to my final lesson learned, I’ll pause here to say
in the previous Vernal attempt, I failed in all of these points. Jimmy and Aaron were with me but I was trying to get up myself. I pushed myself hard to the breaking point and inevitably had to give up. I wanted to fit in with my fitter friends and did not admit my weakness. I did not let them help me. And I failed. This next part was THE key to get me up the falls.

Take on challenges by changing your motivation.
I made it up the falls (oh yeah, I haven’t said that yet...yes, we made it!) because my motive changed from wanting to get myself up Vernal Falls to wanting to get my sons up Vernal Falls. They both really wanted to do this with me and I did not want to let them down. Every goal I set, every decision and thought was turned toward helping them succeed. And I wanted to make them proud.

I took the rear of the group and held back even when I felt I could go faster. I watched for signs that Sam needed to rest. I was watching to keep Josh hydrated. By switching my focus from getting myself up the falls to getting them up the falls it resulted in getting me up the falls too. Woo hoo!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Kids Dance!

Amie and a friend from Modesto Junior College taught dance this year at our church's summer kids program. Here's what they came up with...