Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas from the Whitlers!

You can look at our short little Christmas greeting letter with some links to more holiday pics by GLONKING HERE!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Mystery Christmas by the Rap Stars!

(repost from the Fire Bowl)As so many around the world have come to expect, Christmastime means a new offering from everybody's favorite seasonal rap group, the Rap Stars!  They have generously agreed to let us post the newest piece here.  You can download this song and the other Rap Stars holiday raps for free in a brand new Christmas 3-pac!  Just GLONK HERE!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

I need a montage.

I wish I could be in a montage. I really need one right now.

You know, when you’re backed up against the ropes, everything is a mess, there doesn’t seem to be a way out and all you have is a small group of friends and a crazy idea that will only work if you get the timing just right.  But the only way to get from point A to point B is if that really encouraging music starts playing.   I feel like it should start to play any minute now.

What encouraging music?   You know..the montage music.  As soon as it starts to play, me and my friends will kick it into high gear.  Yep, we’ll work together to build stuff, we’ll exercise, someone will do some welding, we’ll have some minor set backs and maybe even a few laughs.  But by the end of that awesome song, we’ll have it pretty much figured out.   It only takes one song to lose weight, get in shape for the big fight, figure out the main problem or build that thing that’s going to (with a little luck) get the job done.  Heck, with the right song, we might even could build a house!

I just need to figure out how to get it to play. In the meantime, I’ll just sit here.  Geez, I hope that music starts soon.   I could use a good montage about now.

Or maybe...

A PSALM OF LIFE by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Tell me not, in mournful numbers, Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers, And things are not what they seem.

Life is real ! Life is earnest! And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest, Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow, Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting, And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle, In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle! Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant! Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,— act in the living Present! Heart within, and God o'erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another, Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother, Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing, With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labor and to wait.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Pumpkins, Dr. Who, the Little Mermaid and Big Foot!

This year, we discovered pumpkin templates...they were a bit more work than we're used to but we got some great pumpkins out of them.  This is Stella's "kitty bat".

Sam went for the free style design.  It looks like the mouth but no, my friend, that is a moustache.  The mouth is making an "o" underneath.

Back to the templates with Amie's "two spooks"

I free styled this design but it was inspired by a template of an alien.

And finally, Josh's "Hunger Games" logo...pretty sweet.

Happy Halloween from Dr. Who, The Little Mermaid and Big Foot!

Here's my song again about Amie's favorite holiday...enjoy!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sci Fi Country - a new song by Chris

For the past few weeks over at the Fire Bowl, we've been exploring stories and lessons learned from crossing cultures and this is our last entry on the subject.  You can enjoy this original song by me right here by clicking on the player.  If you would like to download the song, listen to more music or subscribe to future Fire Bowl and Whitler audio, just GLONK HERE.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Fall Mini-Harvest!

A cool thing about living in California is that we get 4 harvests in a kinds of produce every season.  This year, we decided to try a Fall time garden so we're growing lettuce, radishes, broccoli (which I've heard is impossible), onions and carrots (that take a really long time).

Our pastor spoke this past Sunday on seeds.  "Seeds are like the unseen life of God."  They sprout and grow to provide nutrition, beauty, fresh air.  Some even grow to cast refreshing shade and provide a place of refuge for birds and other creatures.  It's a mystery as to how the soil and water activate that seed and tell it to sprout but it does and it is good.

We had to thin out the lettuce a bit as we had gotten a little seed happy when we sowed them.  But that didn't stop us from having a  mini early harvest salad with the baby greens...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

An Evening of Justice and Worship

YWAM Modesto proudly presents "An Evening of Justice and Worship" from Steps of Justice, an educational, inspirational and practical initiative from Youth With A Mission.  Come join us for a night of music and challenge with Phil and Amy Cunningham and Chris and Jenna Wilson.  They will be with us on Tuesday night, October 18th at 7pm at New Hope Christian Fellowship, 300 Trask Ln. in Modesto.  This night is open to all.  A free-will offering will be taken to help support these families on the road with a most important message.

You can find out more about the tour, hear some music and read about Steps of Justice over at their website...CLICK HERE.  If you have any questions, call Chris Whitler at 209-404-4027

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Our life in a bag.

If you know me (Chris) and are around me for any time, you probably know that I carry a purse.  This has been the object of much humor at my expense but you know, purses come in handy.  Even Jesus told his disciples to take their purse with them on the road.  Mine is a reproduction of a WW2 map carrier's case.  Very manly.

 I thought I'd show you some of it's contents to let you in on what we're up to these days.  So, here we go...
First up is my Youth With A Mission (YWAM) journal and daily planner where I try to keep track of meetings and activities.  I have bought one of these little books for many years now from YWAM publishing and it is super helpful.  This week, it tells me about meetings with our little YWAM team here in Modesto, prayer gatherings with pastors, friends and other Christian workers in the city and it helps me remember stuff I've promised to do...visit or call folks I'm building relationship with, find furniture for a struggling family and help someone obtain their birth certificate.

Next there is a little note book I keep with a list of helpful numbers in the back for people I may encounter.  Numbers for the Modesto Gospel Mission, Salvation Army, a community housing service and Advancing Vibrant Communities, a great resource in our city for people with needs and one of the simplest and most beautiful ideas I've ever encountered.  I often give these and some other numbers away to people I meet on the street who are looking for real help from the community.

And the other book there (the one covered in Mickey Mouse comics) is a journal for thoughts about scripture, life and the future.  It is often the seed for blog posts like THIS ONE.

Next is a collection of stickers from my friends at Steps of Justice that I passed out today at our local Youth Pastor's Network meeting.  I was letting them know about an event we're hosting on Tuesday, October 18 called "An Evening of Justice and Worship".   It's at 7pm at New Hope Church in Modesto (300 Trask Ln.)  This is a great night of music and stories to challenge us to take a next step toward justice for the poor and oppressed peoples of the world.  Come and join us!

Next are some packets of seeds that I will be planting with Josh and Sam and our friend Bob in his back yard.  We educate our children at home and this will be one of our projects this year.  We are growing a salad...lettuce, carrots (which I am told take forever), radishes, onions and brocoli (which I am told will take a miracle.)  We're headed out this afternoon to get our hands dirty!

And finally, this is a poem that was handed to me by my friend Patrick.  We met him at our 9th Street Cafe that we host every Friday morning.  It's a cafe we set up on the street as a way to build relationships with the people that live there.  Through this time and getting reconnected at church, Patrick has rediscovered his faith and has been a wonderful addition to our cafe community.  He is quick to sit and listen to others and offer kind words and comfort to the broken people that come for a cup of coffee and friendship.  He is also very bright and quite fun to talk politics, religion and culture with.  I have re-posted his beautiful poem describing life on 9th Street at the YWAM Modesto website HERE.

Of course, nothing in my purse tells you about Amie dancing at the Modesto Junior College and teaching Stella to read or about all the kids starting up Awana and our new season of youth group at New Hope church or about the Fire Bowl that is a new communal blog I am hosting and me traveling to Canada in October to teach in a Discipleship Training School in Winnipeg.

Thanks for reading and for prayers and support.  Life, for all of us I'm sure, is a juggling act.  Please pray that we can be faithful to all we're called to.  How can we pray for you?

If you would like to support our work financially, send me an email and we can go through the several options there are to give.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"Seek..His Kingdom and His Righteousness..."

 Matt 6

In Psalms, it says that our heart tells us to seek God's face.  Jesus instructs us to seek God's Kingdom and righteousness.  To search it out.  Life is a quest to find God and His work wherever it is hiding.

This tells me that the Kingdom of God is not obvious.  It is not necessarily with the loud ones on the street corners (proverbially speaking, of course).  It's quietly tucked away and it's up to us to look for it.

It's out there right now hiding in unseen sacrifice.  It's a mother who gives her children the only mattress on the floor.  It's the faithful in prayer closets pouring out their heart.  It's the gentle who take a friend's arm to go into the recovery meeting.  It's a wildflower by the road that is overlooked and dressed better than King Solomon himself.

It is for us to look for it, to seek it out and live in it's radiance.  And Jesus promises that God himself takes care of the rest of our lives.

Lead us, O God, to your Kingdom and the things you say are right - in lives and stories and homes and around tables and music and friendship and prayer and nature and laughter and sorrow and in a million other ways and things.

Help us see, help us hear, help us remember.

Monday, August 29, 2011

I got to hold Jesus once.

During my School of Evangelism with Youth With a Mission (YWAM) in Texas, I found myself with a large group and we were on a missionary trip through the States. We were driving and had stopped in my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. My parents had met us at my church which was hosting us for the night. I remember walking with my friend out of the church building to our vehicle in the parking lot.

To our surprise, a small plane had landed in the lot and a great crowd had gathered around the stairway that had come down from the plane. There was quite a stir as whoever was inside was coming out. The crowd parted and this unknown VIP stepped into sight and looked straight at me. Immediately, I knew it was Jesus. He was dressed just like a normal guy, but his eyes revealed his true identity. He didn’t speak but held his arms out to me.

My heart rose with exhilaration and I took off running toward him. The crowd made even more room as I approached. I ran with all I had. I was getting ready to run into the arms of Jesus. That welcoming smile, those loving arms, the look on his face. I was almost there and my friend Mark woke me up. It was time for us to go to our early morning work duty to make pancakes for our missionary school.

My heart sank. I missed it. I missed a hug from Jesus in my dream to go make pancakes.

Every year I buy the YWAM prayer diary and daily planer. I seldom use it for it’s intended purpose, a reminder to pray for the nations, issues and peoples of the world. I more use it like a calendar. But today's prayer encouragement caught my eye and reminded me of a time when I really did hold Jesus.

The calendar entry says: “Pray for the children of Jamaica”

Before I joined YWAM, in 1989, I traveled with my church to Jamaica on one of my first ever mission trips. We did all the normal stuff...helped rebuild a church from hurricane devastation, ran VBS type programs in a poorer neighborhood, attended incredibly long, enthusiastic worship services at churches that make most North American expressions look pitiful and pasty and sad. And one day, we helped out at an orphanage.

When we arrived, the workers told us we were there for bath day. I think there were about 20 or so toddlers running around a good sized back yard. Here’s how bath day went. They gave all of us sponges and soap. The kids all got naked. Someone had a hose and let ‘er rip and we chased little naked kids around with soapy sponges. It’s one of the funnest ways you could ever hope to take a bath.

This orphanage took in handicapped kids too. I got asked to help bathe them as well. After all the hub bub, and there was quite a bit of it, we spent the rest of the day playing with the kids in the yard. Only, one of the handicapped kids couldn’t walk.
The workers called him “China-man”. He didn’t have a name. They called him that because of the shape of his eyes. He had come to the orphanage without an identity. He could not see, talk, walk or do anything by himself. I think he was about 4 or 5 years old. I was holding him after bath time and while the rest of the team ran and played, I needed to do something with China-man. I quickly found out that the one thing he could do was laugh. So, I sang “Can’t Touch This” and danced around with him while he laughed.

Then I sat down with him under a tree and we sang. He could only moan and dig his teeth into my shoulder but he held onto me for dear life and I sang and held him.

The down side to all such trips is that eventually, the time comes to leave. I had spent the afternoon with this boy and now it was time to go. I tried to put him down, but he wouldn’t have it. With a little help from the others, I got his arms from around my neck and we sat him down in the care of his workers.

Walking away, I told myself to not look back. I knew I should just go to the vehicles and not look back. I looked back. There he was, lying under a tree with his arms grasping at the air, looking for me.

If he is still alive, China-man is around 27 years old now. Today’s prayer suggestion made me think of him. I’m so thankful I got to meet him for just one sunny, hot afternoon. He helped me hold Jesus. I’ll never forget.

Friday, August 26, 2011

It's been over a year....

Our taco blog, Thank God, it's Taco Trucks (or TGITT) has been on hiatus for quite a while...mainly due to the fact that one of our contributing reviewers has been out of the country for quite some time.  But, I think I found a willing, temporary replacment...

 Oh yeah...he's willing!

 We're here to report that the lovely Tacos El Maguey is still up and running and delicious

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Links, glorious links!

You can find our recent family newsletter HERE

And you can find our new communal blog we've launched here...

Woo hoo! Let's hear it for links!

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Fire Bowl

I happy to announce a new blog site that myself and a few friends are working on together. From the first post...

"As city mission workers, my wife and I were approached around 2003 by interested
supporters that wanted to help us buy a house. So we did what any one would do. We
put our stuff in storage, borrowed a fifth wheel trailer, parked it at our church, and lived in it for 6 months. Me, my wife and two sons lived in a fifth wheel on a church parking lot for 6 months.

Outside our fifth wheel sat the fire bowl..."

Please, go and read the rest at and add your thoughts and stories to the discussion.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

The Whitlers LOVE Canada!

We're taking a couple of days to rest and reset after our adventure to the great white north (it was great!). But for now, the Whitlers love Canada!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Letting God do the heavy lifting

A couple of weeks ago, I was trying to change out my van seats. Our YWAM van has big, stupid, heavy seats. John, my friend who was visiting us, would not help me lift the seat. He told me he would get his teenage son to help get the seat in. I inwardly pshawed at John thinking it'd be quicker to just throw it in myself. I picked it up and felt electricity wrap around my back that left me helpless for the next two days. John is wise. I am dumb.

Have you ever been to Nepal? I haven’t. Word on the street is that if Bob Seger ever gets outta here, that’s where he’s going.

I knew a girl who went to Nepal once. She went by way of the classic Youth With A Mission story. A team was going on a missionary journey to Nepal and she knew she was supposed to go with them. She had no money, even up to the day they were leaving. In an act of faith that I would have for sure shrunk back from, she rode along with the team to the airport with bags packed. At the last minute, she got a call on the airport courtesy phone that someone had purchased her a ticket. She went to Nepal.

Nepal was the subject of my first time in a YWAM style prayer meeting. We call it ‘intercession’. I believe it was the first morning of my Discipleship Training School in 1990 and all the YWAMers in Tyler, Texas had gathered for prayer together. In these times, we began to practice a progression of prayer that followed a set of biblical principles to help lead us as a group.

Several hundred of us sat in smaller circles around a gymnasium and prayed together for God to help the nation of Nepal. Something magical happened. In that short hour, I began to feel God’s feelings for the people of Nepal. It’s like he gave me a tiny taste of his love for them. I began to cry. I was caught up in a swell of emotion that I didn’t know what to do with. Afterward, I even felt a little embarrassed. I don’t know if I had ever even thought about Nepal before and here I was, experiencing deep feeling for the people. It was a little intense for my first day.

We Christians can be smug sometimes when we talk about having a ‘burden’ from the Lord. We tout it like it’s such a cool thing to carry a heavy burden for “the lost” or “the poor”. We wear our service, our work, like a badge of honor. But Jesus says to learn from him. His burden is light. No need to brag about how much we carry. We can find rest in him for our souls.

I think prayer or intersession is the place we learn to let God do the heavy lifting. I may never go to Nepal, but God can let me in on his heart for the Nepalese in prayer. It’s not up to me to do great things. God does great things and sometimes he takes me along for the ride. We just have to keep close to his heart.

God is more committed to making the world a better place than you and I. And he uses us in the process if we let him. What is it like to have a heart that stretches around the world? How does God see all the injustices, hear the cry of the desperate and still have love and hope to carry us all? I don’t know. I don’t have to know. But I want to be close to a heart like that. We get there by prayer.

I don’t use a lot of words in prayer anymore unless I’m praying with others or if I’m writing. Simple liturgical prayers or silence are fine by me. It seems that God doesn’t really speak English. He speaks heart and can understand it no matter what language we use. I can go talk to a mountain all I want to, but to really understand it, it’s probably better to just lay down on it. To know the sea, you have to go sit next to it, walk along it and let the water wash your feet.

There are many other ways to pray. THIS ONE has been especially helpful to me.

If you’d like to read YWAM’s principles of intersession, you can find them HERE.

How have you experienced God’s heart in prayer? Did that ever lead you to an unexpected place doing unexpected things?

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Good lesson. Bad story?

My introduction to fiction written by Christians was sadly not “The Hobbit” or “The Chronicles of Narnia”. Neither of these really grabbed me as a child. My parents were not particularly readers, it’s not something I saw too much in the house. Maybe they were ‘behind closed doors’ readers or maybe I was oblivious but I do not remember reading as part of the culture of my family.

Books were though. My Dad was a collector of antiques and curiosities. And if that makes you think of my childhood home as looking a bit like a museum, then you’ve got the right picture. In our back family room, Dad had an entire wall made to be a book shelf. It was filled with hundreds of old, dusty volumes of poetry, history and I think four copies of the complete works of Shakespeare. Dad bought books for how they looked.

My Dad has a bit of the flair for the dramatic. In front of the book shelf was his half grand piano and a carved wooden writing desk complete with inkwell and quill. On the bottom row of the bookshelf were about 500 LP records.

In the 80’s, cable TV had not yet reached the channel capacity of today’s 5,348 and counting (remember the song “57 channels and nothing on”? That was supposed to be hyperbole! Ha!), so in the summer, if I did not want to watch a soap opera, my other option was to walk up to the library. We had a little local branch around the corner from us that was quaint and air conditioned. It was here that I learned to love reading.

I think I read every Encyclopedia Brown story at that library. I am happily rediscovering these kinds of stories by reading their source material in Sherlock Holmes. I would stay up late, scarred out of my mind reading books about UFO sightings and big foots (big feet?) and other unexplained phenomena.

The first “Christian” fiction I ever picked up was a book called “The Tower of Geburah”, a children’s fantasy novel by John White. I did not know at the time that this series was an homage to Lewis’ Narnia that Mr. White wrote at the request of his nephews and niece. Delightfully, he put them in their own adventure story and I was caught up in it too. I recently re-read the first book with my son and I enjoyed it again (probably my 4th reading or so) but it definitely doesn’t have the staying power of Narnia, which I found later in life.

Then, when I was a teenager looking around the Bible book store, there was a book on the bargain table that caught my eye. It was called “This Present Darkness” by Frank Peretti. It was on clearance. I picked it up strictly because of it’s cool name and cool cover. This book had not yet become the famous, landmark work for Peretti. I, or any one else it seems, had never heard of it. I bought it. I may be the first person ever to buy that book. I like to think that I discovered it.

Well, I opened it and like many, many others, could not put it down. It was fast, exciting and scary. It opened my imagination. I ate it up. About a year later, this book blew up and became a best-seller and it’s own culture in the American Christian scene. I haven’t read it since. I remember not liking the sequel as much but it was every bit as popular as the first. A friend of mine used to say, “In the 70’s, people knew you were a Christian if you were carrying around a large ‘Good News Bible’. In the 80’s, it’s a copy of Frank Peretti’s books”.

If you’ve never read it, it’s about a small town church congregation that is caught up in a high stakes spiritual battle of which they are mostly unaware. We see the story unfold in the physical world and in the spiritual as angels and demons fight to influence human lives.

After this book hit, Christians began discussing ‘spiritual warfare’. People started to see their life as a battle. ‘Warfare’ prayer and songs became quite common in Christian meetings. And there were reactions and warnings to not let fiction influence your theology. It was a big deal.

Recently, I was at the movies with a couple of friends and we were standing in front of a poster for the next Christian outreach film coming to one or so theaters within a hundred miles of you. This is a “message” movie. I know, because the poster tells me what the message is. I don’t even need to see this movie to know what I’m supposed to get out if it. This movie wants me to be a better Dad. I don’t know if this movie is good but it got us to talking about stories and why it seems that Christians have a hard time writing or telling good ones.

I think it’s because we start with the lesson and work our way backward. I don’t think Peretti started with the idea that he wanted to teach us all about spiritual warfare. I think he wanted to tell a good story. I think he liked scary stories and thought it’d be cool to write a scary story about angels and demons. It seems in a lot of Christian story telling, the story is secondary to the message.

You may be saying, “Of course we start with the lesson! We do it because Jesus did it. He told parables.” Yes he did. And I like parables. Parables are short. Most of them take about 2 minutes to read or hear. Some less. It’s a small message in story form told to open our eyes to (or hide...which is confusing I know but Jesus said it, not me) a spiritual truth. The people hearing the parables came to hear a message. Parables work fine in that context. I love it when preachers use parables instead of just lecturing. It’s way less boring.

A 90 minute or 300 page parable is boring. Why? Because you feel the sell. If you sense the ‘message’ early on, your mind puts up walls to it. Stories are supposed to ignite imagination and take us to another place. Stories help us recover something that gets stolen by the false world around us. Stories remind us of what’s true. But if you start backward from the ‘message’, it seems harder for the story to work it’s magic, not impossible perhaps, but harder.

Lewis, Tolkien, L’Engle, King, Grisham, Lawhead, Rowling and many others have all written distinctly ‘Christian’ and enormously popular stories. What makes them different than ‘Christian’ fiction or movies? Do you have a favorite book/movie? What makes a story work for you?

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Gout, suffering and diarhea.

On and off, for about the past 12 years or so, I have flair ups of gout. It’s a little embarrassing as gout is a disease people think of as something 18th century British waifs get as they sit begging on the side of a cobblestone road in a Dickens story for a few tuppence or an old apple as they cry out, “have mercy on me, I’ve got the gout, Gov’ner!” (cough, cough).

But gout is alive and kicking in 2011 and right now, it’s kicking me in my knee pretty hard. I couldn’t sleep last night. I’ve been up for a while. It’s a pain that hurts no matter what you do. There are small, spiky crystals that settle into your joints and hurt like, well...the dickens. The tendency to get gout is fueled by genes (my Dad got gout), systemic tendencies (especial kidney function), reaction to various foods (red meats, asparagus, cauliflower, shellfish, etc), being overweight and even ethnicity (pacific islanders have the highest rate of gout in the world. I’ve always wanted to visit Tonga.)

We get sick. Sickness seems to be a part of the deal no matter what your chosen life pursuit is. People in missions or “full time ministry” (not a fan of the term) don’t get a sickness pass. In fact, getting sick on a short term mission trip should be part of the promotional brochure. “Join our team for a 21 day trip to Finscuvina where you’ll share the love of Jesus with orphans, learn about another culture, grow in your relationship with God and get a mind blowing case of diarrhea. Yes, that’s right, you’ll get stomach cramps that are so bad, it’ll make you question your faith in a whole new way. Join us!”

In the Winter of 1991, on a 24 hour drive from Romania to Germany, I shivered in the 2nd bench of a VW microbus stuffed with way too many team members and our luggage. I had a fever, diarrhea and was the most uncomfortable I had ever been in my life. I remember running to a toilet on the hungarian border only to find the strangest looking contraption I had ever seem. There was no place to sit on an elongated type bowl that resembled a banana seat on a kids bike from the 70’s. It seemed you were supposed to straddle it. I had no strength so I just sat down on the thing. Sorry for the visual, but I was miserable. That would make a good line in a rap song like all the kids these days seem to enjoy.

We made it to Germany and were staying at a church in Augsburg. I quarantined myself in the church basement and writhed on the floor in an unparalleled agony for a couple of days. I had massive sores on my head, a scorching fever and could not eat. I was miserable. I slept on the whole plane ride home. Turns out, I had caught impetigo from the orphans we were working with in Romania. Some thanks, eh?

We get sick. I don’t know why. My friend is in agony in the hospital right now with a strange spinal issue that some of the best doctors in the country can’t figure out.

Dear friends, who last year went for broke and moved to Thailand to work with street kids had their whole world pulled out from underneath them (the mission they went to serve was not a relational or philosophical fit), then they got the joyful news of a new pregnancy that has laid the wife in bed with sickness for about 10 or so weeks now. They are confused and coming home to uncertainty, in need of all kinds of healing, housing and fresh direction from God who doesn’t seem to be making the way too clear at the moment.

Another friend who was in YWAM with us continues to suffer with undiagnosed pain that puts her out of commission more often than not.

We pray for healing. Sometimes things get better, sometimes they don’t. It’s hard to understand.

Looking back on that trip to Romania, I don’t really think too much about being sick. In fact, when I talk about that miserable road trip, I laugh about it, almost proud of my battle story like an old guy that shows his scars from the war. For that trip, I mostly remember the way Ana Maria, a little orphan who adopted my heart and how she loved me so deeply and purely. We were short term best friends and she taught me so much while we played games, fumbled through language barriers, shared snacks and sang “Miss Mary Mac” way too many times. She probably gave me impetigo. But the suffering is a funny afterthought now.

The bible says that Jesus, for the joy set before him, endured the cross, despising it’s shame. We are that joy. He was able to endure the cross because relationship with all of us was on the other side of it. The resurrection pushed the reset button on creation and set about redeeming human suffering and opened the way to know God and enjoy him forever. Jesus felt it was worth it.

I have wondered if Jesus looks back on the cross the way we look back on an incredible time of suffering that we have come through. If he sometimes laughs and talks about it in the way we would tell an old battle story. Does he talk about the proud scars of a risk taken that cost a lot in terms of pain but was totally worth it. “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’ “ John 20:27

I am not pretending to have answers for our suffering. While I’ve been writing my gout attack has begun to ease off as my nsaids kick in. My friends are still in pain. I do know that there is joy set before all of us and joy to be found right now. Jesus suffered and still suffers with us. He is not aloof from our pain. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin.” Hebrews 4:15.

And one day, as Andrew Peterson wrote in his beautiful song paraphrasing C.S. Lewis, “We will look back on these tears as old tales.” Until then, we carry on, supporting one another in love, bearing one another’s burdens, rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep.

Please feel free to show off a battle scar in the comments section or share on what suffering has meant to you. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Super 8 and a Control Freak

So far, I’ve seen "Super 8" two times. I’d like to see it again. This film has scratched an itch that I’ve had for a long time. It’s no secret that the director, J.J. Abrams (the newer Star Trek, Lost, Alias wanted to make a Spielberg movie from the 80’s. Kids that get caught up in a something way bigger than they could imagine and winning the day with backpacks, bikes, overlapping dialogue and slightly foul mouths.

Do you remember that scene from “Ratatouille” where the food critic is whisked back to his mother’s kitchen and the comfort food she made for him? That’s how I feel watching this movie. Suddenly, I’m 13 year old Chris sitting alone in the theater and crying as E.T. is leaving Elliot, Gerty and Michael. From the soundtrack to the beautiful writing and fun adventure, it’s a place I haven’t been too in a while.

Part of the story is a movie within the movie. The kids are making a zombie movie to enter into a contest. As the credits roll, you get to watch the finished product entitled “The Case”. It’s awesome. And it made me realize how much of a control freak I am.

Let me explain. My sons (especially my oldest) love to make movies. And I have had some involvement in a few of them. I usually end up directing/controlling the ventures I am involved in because, well, I have a mature sense of what would be funny or interesting in scenes. I usually have a little moment when I realize that I’ve taken over the project but sometimes it’s too late.

In Super 8, Abrams (and Spielberg) are telling part of their story. They are letting us peak into what it was like when they were kids, running around with a Super 8 camera and dreams of cinematic glory, adventure stories, and scary wonder. These kids are free to make their movie even if it doesn’t come with a mature sensibility. It’s about kids making a movie kids would make.

This week, my boys had some friends staying with them and they all saw Super 8 together and then set to making their own movie. I stayed out of it. The way you get good at something is to just do it. To make an attempt at the level you’re at.

I have a friend in Canada that is determined to learn to sing songs, write poetry and play guitar. His attempts are not yet perfect but they are awesome. He is reaching, trying, stretching and growing. His poems are insightful, his songs are surprising and his outlook is fresh and creative. He is seemingly free from worry over what others think of him while he grows. I want to be like that.

I want to free others to feel like that.

I was at a concert festival in Texas listening to Phil Keaggy. This concert seemed to be running by a pretty strict time schedule and Phil’s set got cut short. He was gracious and respectful of the schedule but if Phil Keaggy is playing the guitar, you should just let him play till he’s done. A friend turned to me and said, “Man, sometimes you gotta stifle utility and let art flow!” We laughed so hard and that line became our mantra for creative freedom.

And here’s the boy’s movie as they wanted to make it. It's perfect.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Do not be afraid

I’m chasing you and I don’t know why.
I want you to see
I want you to hear
I want you to know

I write, do, go, say, work, try
Partly because I am afraid
Of what you think
Afraid you think wrong of me

Fear begets fear
And there is no fear in love
I’m so sorry. I don’t love you
When I’m afraid of you

I hate the me that chases after you
I know he’s afraid
He’s running hard after the boys who are laughing
His side hurts and his heart breaks

Stop! Let them go
Into the woods and catch your breath
Sit by the tree
Feel a love greater than the boy’s

It’s just for you
It’s wide and vast
Settling like a cool mist
“you’re enough”

I can’t
I might
I’ll try
Let go

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Psalms - Inspiration for Life

Next week will be John Wason's 4th tour to the Modesto area. John is from YWAM Canada's Word To Life Theatre Arts, he performs large portions of memorized scripture presented with excellent story telling. (Check out last year's tour HERE)

If you're a Modesto local, come on out Tuesday night for a live performance of...

Psalms - Inspiration for Life
Tues night, June 21, 7pm
New Hope Church
300 Trask Ln
Modesto, CA

A free-will offering will be taken. There will be no child care services but kids of all ages are welcome.

John will also be performing at Shelter Cove's M2 Saturday morning men's bible study at 4242 Coffee Rd in Modesto, June 18 at 8:30am

Thursday, June 09, 2011

An Evening of Justice and Worship

This week, I've been in San Diego with friends here teaching for a YWAM Mission Adventure team. Last night was a special evening for prayer, thinking about justice and the heart of God and responding through singing and commitment. This was put on by Phil Cunningham and Chris Wilson who are a part of Steps of Justice, an initiative to inspire the church to begin to take steps toward those living in poverty with our hearts, our minds, our choices and actions.

This fall, the Cunninghams and the Wilsons are taking Justice and Worship on the road all up and down the west coast (and beyond) and I'm happy to announce they will be stopping in Modesto (more to come on that). This evening is interactive, challenging and very helpful to inspire the "next step".

If you'd like more info on the tour and how you can book a night at your church, you can check out their site at