Friday, December 27, 2013

Some Pictures from the 9th Street Cafe Christmas Party

This past Monday we had our 9th Street Cafe Christmas Party with our normal coffee bar set up for the street community on South 9th. But we also brought...

Santa! All the folks loved hanging out with him.

There was a table to color ornaments for our 9th Street Christmas...

tree! Yes, that's right, we had a tree and it was beautiful. We decorated it together with all our friends and guests.

There was food



And fun

And even a sock monkey (?)

There were clothes, presents for kids, extra food and plenty to go around. A great night on 9th Street! Thanks to all our friends who made it all possible.

Monday, December 09, 2013

The Rap Starz are back!

It's every other year y'all! If you've been following the Rap Starz for a few years, here's the latest offering. If you want to get the whole box set of funky Christmas raps, you can download it below.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Arley's Testimony

Recently, we celebrated a memorial for our good friend Arley who passed away this past July. 

Back in 2008, we had Arley share his testimony on film. A small portion of it was used for a ministry video. There was a lot more footage of him speaking. Thankfully, the videographer had saved the tapes and let us dig through them to find Arley sharing his heart. You can read more about Arley at Aaron's site HERE.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A good conversation on a plane.

Recently I (Chris) flew east so that I could attend a conference in Nashville and see my Dad and sister for a few days. On my stupidly early flight from San Francisco I was pleased to find that I was by the window with no one next to me. This is a great comfort to large people (and probably to smaller people too). It’s that little extra breathing room and the ability to uncross your arms and be comfy for the flight. Well, as comfy as you can be belted into a metal tube with wings at thousands of feet. Oh, when you have no one next to you and that door closes...ahhhh!

I was seated in a 3 banger row. I had the window and an older man was sitting in the aisle seat. I noticed he was reading a Christian biography about a martyr in Soviet Russia. He smiled at me and I said ‘hello’ and that was all it took to spark a great conversation. This man was so friendly and his eyes were very kind.

I was sitting next to a retired 4 star general in the Egyptian air force. He was so pleased to find out I was in Christian ministry. He had been 9 years in the U.S. to be with his children and grandchildren. He attends an evangelical church in the Bay area but every now and then visits the Coptic church to hear scripture in his own language.

What did I learn from him?

I learned about lift. 

Here are the notes from the private lecture he gave me (he taught this stuff to cadets). He is so passionate about flight and LOVES to talk about it. Even though I don’t really care about how flight works, his talk drew me in.

“Flight is one of the things man accomplished before he understood it! We did it, then we learned how it worked.”

I learned about Egypt. 

“Egypt is so much more than what you see on the news. Most people want peace. We love to laugh. We love to share food. Even my Muslim brothers treat me this way. It is the very few that want to cause trouble.”

I learned that people seldom appreciate the wonders around them.

“Many Egyptians do not understand or care to learn about ancient Egypt. many have not gone to see the pyramids!”

Me: “I know quite a few people in California that have never been to Yosemite!”

“Yes, like that.”

I learned that if you turn off your iPod or put down your book, every once in a while, you’ll be glad you did.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Pink Room

This Wednesday, Zack, friend and regular volunteer at the 9th Street Cafe, will be hosting a film screening at the Peer Recovery Art Project in Downtown Modesto.  It's at 7pm this Wednesday. This film does not show graphic images but the film is about a graphic subjects. Parental discretion advised. Here is what Zack wrote in the facebook event page...

"The Pink Room follows the journey of Mien and other young girls in the turbulent world of sex slavery that at times seems unfathomable.
Mien grew up in Svay Pak, just eleven kilometers outside the capitol city of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, a vast and vicious epicenter of child sex slavery. This is a country notoriously renowned for its devastating genocide under the reign of Pol Pot in the 1970′s. After burying over two million of their educated and religious citizens, the children of this horrific era are now the parents. At a young age, Mien enters life in a brothel, and her virginity is sold at a high price. After her innocence is brutally stolen from her, her value becomes less and less with each purchase of her body. She is held captive and raped and sexually tortured twelve hours a day. Even when help is within reach, obstacles that appear too great to conquer squelch her dream of freedom. The Pink Room shows passionate determination in attacking the complex issue of human trafficking with an even more complex and diverse response of rescue, restoration, reintegration and prevention. This is the story of redemption, ordinary people who become unlikely heroes, Cambodians rising up with compassion to take back their country and a town’s process of rebuilding from the inside out. Mien gives hope in the midst of a blinding darkness. In a world where it is estimated that there are over one million children held captive and sexually abused, a flower blooms in the heart of Cambodia."

Refreshments will be served after the film, and t-shirts made by Mien and the others employed with AIM will be for sale. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Who do you say that I am?

 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Matt 16


"I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God." These were the words I had my sons repeat the day I was privileged to baptize them in our church pool. Some call it the 'good confession'. And look at what this confession opens up for Peter.

First, Jesus calls him by his old name and family association. "Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah." Then Jesus changes his name and association - he is Peter, the rock of his new family, the Church.

Elsewhere the Bible says that "if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. Old things have passed away, all things have become new."

When we throw our lot in with Jesus we let him tell us who we are and he puts us in touch with a new family, a community of hope where history is not a weight and the future is ripe with possibility.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

First day of Autumn

In California, it stops raining sometime in the Spring and it doesn't usually rain for all the long, hot summer. At some point, during day after day of upper 90's and triple digits, the sky here in the central valley gets a lovely hue of dusty tan. The concept of a rain location for an event is almost unheard of here.

We here in the valley look longingly at our friends facebook posts from the east about turning leaves and cooling temps and sweaters and our hearts turn a bit down. In September, it feels like the heat will never let up. When a heat wave comes in October, you can start to despair. Good friends of ours live in the desert in the south and I honestly don't know how they do it.

Yesterday, in the valley, the day before the first day of Autumn, we got an early treat. We got a September rain. It usually doesn't come until some time in October. I was in a meeting at my church and when we heard the foreign sound on the roof. It was such a surprise that we jumped up and went outside to see and feel it for ourselves. It shocked me how much my heart was lightened by the downpour. We were actually working through some really difficult stuff in our meeting. The first rain makes everything feel so clean and new.

I harvested some posts from facebook from my friends. This is what the first rain does for us in the valley...

"What is this wet stuff falling from the sky?

It's raining!!! Yeah!!! I love the smell of rain, and I love that it's not hot.

Hoodie weather \m/

Baking pumpkin bread, washing the car, doing a little rain dance

I LOVE the thunder.....this is AWESOME!!!! It can do this all night and I will be Happy, Happy, Happy!!!!


A lovely grey day. I needed this.


Yay! Some rain finally! Started out with a bang and what a downpour!

Just a bit of Chicago weather here in Modesto, love it!

Loving this raining weather

I love the sound of rain just not the thunder — feeling great."

Dry seasons come. But a season is a season. It's bound to change if you wait and stay faithful to what you know. Sometimes it doesn't come when you think you need it but, eventually, rain falls.

And, of course, by the time February rolls around, we're ready for it to be over. The sun shines, the almond blossoms come out and it's time for our facebook posts to make our friends in the east jealous.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Saturday, September 07, 2013

A surprise visit

Last week, we had a guest staying with us that we did not expect. I received an email that started our "I don't really know how to start this email but..."  It was from Justin Kantonen, a man in the first week of a months long adventure. He took off last Sunday and is driving across the country in search of what God is doing in the world.

I met with Justin and we discovered together that he ended up in Modesto quite by accident. He thought we were another YWAM ministry in another part of California. But it became a happy accident as we spent the rest of the week together. Justin rolled along with me through my week.

On Wednesdays, I meet together with area pastors to pray for our city and Justin came along. After sharing Justin's story, they all gathered around him to pray a blessing for his journey.

Then, Justin was with me for the live stream and taping of the local podcast I co-host. He shows up there too for a little blurb about his trip (around the 9 minute mark) here...

He joined us for our community Bible study on 9th Street on Thursday, and stayed to be at the 9th Street cafe on Friday. He was truly a blessing to have in our community for the week. So if you see a young guy in a Bronco somewhere on the highway in the next year, welcome him. He is a treat to have around.

Well, you might want to make sure his name is Justin and he's on a trip to see what God is up across the country. Then welcome him.

You can follow his journey at his blog


Chiasmus and the story of YWAM Modesto

Many of you got this story to your inbox this week, but I thought it was worth posting here as well. Thanks to Aaron Alford who helped me make this a little more readable.

Have you ever heard of a "chiasmus"? Me either until recently. Read as key-AS-mus, it’s a neat structure to look for in literature and whatnot.

From Wikipedia...

“The elements of simple chiasmus are often labelled in the form A B B A, where the letters correspond to grammar, words, or meaning. For example John F. Kennedy said ‘Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.’

“The ancient Hebrew and Greek texts of the Old and New Testaments are rich in chiasmus. Many of these have become lost in translation, but hundreds of others remain. The following example [is] indented to show the parallel structure of the text.

A "But many that are first

B shall be last;

B1 and the last

A1 shall be first." Jesus (Bible: Matthew 19:30.)”

It’s a circle-y way to reveal truth through a proverb or story.

While talking about this with John, my friend and former YWAM Modestan, we discovered that the story of our community and work here in Modesto is a chiasmus! We said “Oooooh!” a lot as we were working this out.  Our chiasmus is an A-B-C-D-C-B-A form.

A - In 2001, Amie and I moved to Modesto to begin developing ministry as YWAMers with New Hope Church and our friends Josiah and Ang in a neighborhood near the church building. They had already begun to share bread and friendship in the notorious Prescott Estates apartments in north Modesto. The month we moved here, the city shut down the very neighborhood we had come to serve and everyone was evicted. I began looking for ways we could help those who had become homeless from this event. Due to other unforeseen circumstances, Josiah left vocational ministry to find other employment.

B - A year or so later, my good friend (and YWAMer) Aaron felt a call to come and join our little team that was looking to be a support and a voice for the homeless community in Modesto.

C - A year or so after that, the Sustar family from Ohio also felt a call to join with us to create something new together. We dreamed a lot and tried a lot! When the Sustars joined us, that’s when our regional Youth With A Mission leadership decided that we had become an official YWAM location.  In 2006, we officially incorporated as YWAM Modesto.

D - John and Rhiannon Rosenbaum had both (before they were married) volunteered with our outreach to the poor and homeless. They each decided to do a Discipleship Training School and after they were married they joined our staff. It was in this time that God gave us a clear word that he wanted to make us a “creative, compassionate community” that would reflect who he is to the city around us. This is when we reframed what our team was about. We no longer sought only to be a help to the poor and homeless, but our dream was to be a light to whoever we came to be with. So, to this day, we seek to build friendships with the poor, the church, the young and with Jesus and look for creative ways to get all of these friends together.

D1 - It soon became evident that both John and Rhiannon’s passion was for school and learning. They left us to pursue these.

C1 - In our years together, we began taking trips to Thailand. Our friend Rich had shared at New Hope about the then almost unheard of issue of human trafficking. It has since become quite the hot topic in ministry circles. When we heard what was happening, our hearts responded, and we had to go. The Sustars started to make trips to Thailand more and more. They fell in love with the Burmese hill tribes escaping over the Thai/Burmese border. After a few of these trips it became clear that the Sustars would be moving on.

B1 - Aaron and I drove to Los Angeles almost three years ago to get advice from a lawyer about his visa. He told us that Aaron would have to go home to Canada for at least a year. This has been the longest year on record, having lasted for almost three! We’re still trying to figure the visa issue out.

A1 - New Hope Church has moved to another neighborhood. We’ve had several people make attempts to join with us that just never seemed to get off the ground. The Sustars came back to Modesto for a minute but needed to leave again to help family in a time of illness (with the Burmese still capturing their hearts). Aaron has been able to travel, visit here some, write and be a wandering friend to the poor in spirit all around the world. The Rosenbaums are out of state and plugging away at school, studying philosophy and art. And we Whitlers are still here.  We are all still friends, wherever we are, which is what we wanted all this to be about anyway.

Finally, due to some other unforeseen circumstances, Josiah is now back in leadership at New Hope and we are partnering together to work in our congregation’s neighborhood and on South 9th Street. It took 12 years, but we are working with Josiah and New Hope to reach a neighborhood and the 9th Street community with friendship and God’s love with a whole gaggle of other friends we’ve made along the way.

Of course, this is a super-simplification of the story. There has been much heartache, confrontation, silliness, belly laughs, songs, stories, travel, danger, fear, joy, frustration, Mexican food, prayer, grace, anger, misunderstanding and love. We have lost our way. We have seen things wrongly. We have surprised ourselves. We know a lot about bread. 

And maybe that’s what it really all comes back to...bread. Day old bread and friendship started all of this. Bread in the park, bread on the street, bread in boxes, bread to share. We used to give bread to a man named Bob in a motel on 9th Street. That same man, now free and being healed, hands me a little cube of bread every Sunday that frees and heals me.  We break it together because Jesus broke bread. We give it, we receive it, we share it, we eat it. Our little creative, compassionate community has always shared bread. The Creative, Compassionate Community, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, shares with us so we can share with others. And there’s always been plenty to go around.

Thanks for being a part of our story.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Sam Whitler: Boy Comedian

Here are Sam's two comedy routines he worked up for our church talent shows. One last fall and one this past week.

July 2013

October 2012

Friday, August 09, 2013

Notes from the 9th St. Bible Study, Acts 9

Has there ever been a time when you were so sure you were right? You were positive you were right! No one could convince you otherwise.

One time, I had a big disagreement with Aaron. I don’t remember it getting heated but maybe it did. I certainly was right and he was definitely wrong. I knew, I just knew that Weird Al Yankovic was Canadian. I had heard it somewhere I just knew I was right. By the way, have you noticed that this is the 2nd blog post in a row that mentions Weird Al?

Well, guess what, Weird Al is not Canadian. I was wrong. And I have been sorely mistaken about much more important things than Weird Al’s country of origin.

In the book of Acts, when Stephen’s own people were killing him for his faith in Jesus, they laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. This same Saul started “breathing out threats and murder” against the people of the Way. He got a letter of permission from the high priest to arrest any he found. He travelled to Damascus, 150 miles from home, to find more of them and bring them bound back to Jerusalem. Saul was right.

Until he met Jesus on the way. It was a fearful, humiliating, loving encounter that left Saul shaken, blind and weak. He was brought face to face with the one he was persecuting and he knew he was wrong.

It seems Jesus takes personally all that we do to one another.

“I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was sick and you visited me. I was in prison and you came to me. I was a stranger and you welcomed me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me.”

“Why are you persecuting me? I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”

Saul is led on to his destination but he doesn’t do what he had come to do. Instead, he stops eating and starts praying. Three days of intense reflection gives him a vision of a man, a friendly man who comes to pray with him.

God tells Ananias to go to this murderer who is praying. God tells him that he’s already set the meeting up. Ananias reminds God about who Saul is. God tells Ananias that he knows who Saul is. They’ve met.

So Ananias does what he’s been told. He goes to the enemy. And what does he say upon entering the house of Saul’s wrestling? “Brother Saul!” And the blindness fell away and he finally started eating (the part of the story I am so relieved by) and he received strength.

Saul had an encounter with the real Jesus. He saw him personally. But he still needed a friend. We need Jesus. We need each other.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Why I Want To Be More Like Weird Al Yankovic (by me, Chris)

If it's been awhile, here's a little Al to listen to while you read this post.


We saw Weird Al perform at our county fair last week. This was my third Al concert, the other two being when I was a teenager (once I saw him open up for the Monkeys!). Whether you appreciate his music or not, there are certain things about Al that are undeniable. 

So, here, in no certain order are the ways I’d like to be like Weird Al Yankovic:

He’s consistent - He’s released new work every few years since 1983. I was 13 years old in 1983. This year I was at Al’s concert with my 13 year old son. And we all loved the show! Al seems to be able to wake up the the 13 year old that’s there in all of us. 

He doesn’t care what people think - Al was nerdy when nerdy wasn’t cool. He is who he is and does not apologize for it. But not in the jerky way. In the cool, humble way.

He is generous - It was a hot, central valley evening and he came out and performed for  2 hours with a full costume change for every song. Even though he was at a county fair in Turlock (which, let’s face it, isn’t the big time), there was no sense that he was just calling it in or getting it out of the way. He gave us his weird all.

He works hard at what he does - The musicianship is top notch. Al and his band work hard at playing their silly music with skill. There are no short cuts. The music in the parodies are spot on (often with added hand flatulence noises). And there are more than just parodies, Al writes music “in the style of” and original work that is often better than the more famous parodies.

Consider “Bob”, a song he wrote in the style of Bob Dylan and every line in the song is a palindrome (every line can also be read the same way backwards). “Lisa Bonet ate no basil.” Genius.

He is still having fun - 30 years later, you can feel the friendship between him and his band and there were a few songs they did, less famous songs, that you could tell, they just like to play. They still make each other laugh and there is definitely still joy there in what they do together.

We could all stand to be a little more like Weird Al Yankovic.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Homeward Bound

We met Arley about 9 years ago and, to be honest, I didn’t have much charity for him at the beginning. Aaron was the one that pushed me to get to know him. He was always drunk in the park and the worst kind of drunk at that. He was pitiful. He cried and said he was sorry way too much and I just didn’t think he was worth a lot of our time. I didn’t have patience for him. He seemed beyond hope. I was wrong.

Friendship and consistency and love worked it’s way into Arley’s heart. He opened up to all of it. He opened his heart to Jesus. He sobered up. He began to reach out in love to others and became a real, regular part of our life. He came to 9th Street with us every week. He came to Bible study. We played dominoes, shared lunch and laughed a lot. He was also grouchy, gruff and grumbly. He was doing the best he could with what he was given. He was one of the most resourceful people I have ever known.

He lived in a little shanty he built in his sister’s backyard called the Hobo Shack. It was every 12 year old boy’s dream and over the years it got some great upgrades. First was the hobo wash machine, then came the hobo fridge and finally, this year, the hobo AC! He had a TV, DVD player, stereo (always playing country) and pictures of his friends on the wall.

This past Superbowl Sunday, he called right as the game was starting to ask for a ride to the hospital. I knew it was bad. Arley hated doctors and didn’t like to be fused over in any way. He was in for 10 days. They discovered multiple inoperable blood clots in his abdomen. The only thing they could do was try to keep his blood thin enough to travel around them and hopefully they would absorb back into his body. Since that time in the hospital, Arley had just not been his same self. He never quite felt up to anything. 

Arley passed away two weeks ago and it’s just still so hard to wrap my mind around. He was my good friend and I really miss him. He really has left a big hole in my life.

We had taken Arley to lunch countless times. Especially memorable were the annual birthday trips in May to Hometown Buffet, his favorite place. He loved to surprise us with the weird combinations he’d bring back to the table.

Aaron and I got to spend a last day with Arley a few weeks ago. He had come into a little money and wanted to take us out to Hometown, his treat! He also had us back to the Hobo Shack for a movie. It was about as perfect a last day as we could have hoped for. And to think, I almost passed it up to “get some stuff done”!

In Genesis, it says that Abraham died happy and at a ripe, old age. And that is, I’m sure, all of our wish. But it doesn’t always happen that way. So many in my life have died way too young. Arley was only 61. But I do know this, sometime on July 3rd this year, Arley died into happiness. The weight he struggled with from his past life rolled off his shoulders and he stood up in Light and now knows even as he is known. No more dim glass for him. Now, he sees face to face.

But here, we live with the vacuum that he leaves behind. I had lunch with Arley almost every Friday for 7 years. We can feel his absence at the 9th Street Cafe. His domino table sits empty. There is no stopping at Madera Ave to pick him up. There is no happy dread of what is going to come out of his mouth when he gets in the van. He’s just gone.

At some point, Jimmy read that one of the origin stories of the word “Hobo” is that it came from the words “homeward bound.” So, Arley is no longer a Hobo. We are the hobos. We’re on our way to the happiness he’s found. And I can’t wait to share it with him.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

"Remember when you used to update the blog?"

Joshua said this to me yesterday and it got me curious. So I checked my blog homepage this morning and found that I hadn't posted to our site since May!

May?! Wow.

I used to be all about the blog. I love blogs. I read a lot of them. Especially ones that my friends write. But it seems these kinds of posts are fading away in the quick-i-ness of Facebook , Twitter, Vine, Instagram and the like (Linkedin? Anyone? Hello? echo, echo, echo...). And you can find me on all of them.

I also took a little time this morning to look back through our old newsletters we used to mail out. Newsletters! That went out in the actual mail! My friend Aaron used to make fun of our ever so creative title, "From the Whitlers". I thought it stated exactly what needed to be said, "This is from us, yes us, the Whitlers".

I've always been a fan of ellipsis

Whatever the form, I've always wanted my communication to be more than information on what we do and what we need. My desire is to give real encouragement to my friends through honest reflection, story telling and creativity. Really, this is the goal of my life, on and offline, over coffee or a meal, in the car, walking or working, writing, posting, singing and preaching. I want to always be reflecting on how we are blessed and seek ways to be a blessing. What more is there?

Here is the first blog post I ever wrote, still available at the first blog site I ever signed up for over at

"2004-08-11 - 8:57 a.m.

I got some bad news...I'm really bad at following through with stuff like this. My brother in law challenged me to keep a web journal about how things are going in my life and work for my friends and supporters. So here I am (feeling a little sick today) on a hot Wednesday afternoon begining on this thing that I hope I can see through. I have to...cause I have felt the challenge from Kevin and Aaron. Cause I have also felt the challenge from God and my own heart. And last but not least, in the midst of my argueing with myself about if I have enough time to invest in a web journal, I bought a bottle of Jones Soda a few days ago and in the bottle cap it read, "Start Your Journal." There's no argueing with that. So here it is. Enjoy."

And there is it folks, right there in my first post ever, a statement about how I may not be able to keep a blog going. And, whether it's important or not, I got a little itch to start posting here and other places a bit more. So, just like back in August of '04, we'll see.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

"An act of kindness restores the soul"

We've been meeting with a small group on South 9th Street in Modesto for almost a year now.  We started out at Shiva's motel which burned down and we moved on to the 9th Street doughnut shop for the last little bit.  We have gone through the gospel of John and now are making our way through St. Paul's letter to the Romans.

The last few weeks, we have found the doughnut shop to be closed, so in true 9th Street Cafe style, we just pulled chairs out of the van and met right on the street.  Here lately we've been piling everyone in the van and taking them up to Wendy's for a frosty.

A few weeks ago we looked at Romans 10 and saw Paul's devotion to his people.  How he ached for his countrymen to come to know Jesus.  So much so that he admits he was willing to be left out in order to see them come in.  So the question was, there on the doorstep of the doughnut shop, how might you be able to bring good news to the people around you today?  And the sidewalk congregation gave some great answers...

  • Love
  • Show up
  • Don't try to do something great, do simple acts of kindness
  • Serve

"An act of kindness restores the soul" - Ron

Let's show up to love and serve today.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Je Veux Voir Mon Bébé Ce Soir

Today is Amie's birthday! So to celebrate, I thought I'd post up this new song I wrote for her...

 Every time I travel with my buddy Dave, I write a song about how much I miss my wife. Last month, I was traveling with him in Quebec, the mostly french speaking province in Canada so out came some french. I recorded this at the Jeunesse En Mission (YWAM) house in Dunham, Quebec at their new recording studio and had some helpful language coaching from the staff there.

 Enjoy and Happy Birthday, Amie!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Randy Stonehill in concert!

Sunday, May 5 at 7pm...

                               Randy Stonehill in concert!

New Hope Christian Fellowship
300 Trask Lane
Modesto, CA 95354
Cost: ZIP! However, we will 
pass the hat to cover Randy's expenses

From Randy's official bio...
"Randy Stonehill (born March 12, 1952) is an American singer/songwriter from Stockton, California, best known as one of the so-called "fathers of contemporary Christian music." His music is primarily folk rock in the style of James Taylor, but he has assayed other styles, with various albums focused on new wave, pop rock, roots rock, and children's music. His live concerts, more so than most of his albums, have a strong comedic element in the manic vein of Robin Williams."

If you know me (Chris), you know that Randy's music is the reason I started to play the guitar and writing songs.  I was so happy and surprised when the last minute chance came to host one of my musical heroes in concert!  His concerts are intimate, acoustic, funny, challenging and interactive.  Join us!

To hear some of his music, visit:

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

"Peter said to him...

 'Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.'

 And He said, 'Come!' 

And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, 'Lord, save me!'

 Immediately, Jesus stretched out his hand and took hold of him, 'You of little faith, why did you doubt?'" Matt 14

 I think Jesus says this to me a lot. In our life, work and community, a sure way of knowing that something is going to work out is if I am afraid that it won't. My wife and friends are always helping to reassure me. They have spoken on behalf of Jesus to my fearful heart so many times.

 This may sound like Jesus is being negative here, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?", but when I read it, it sound comforting and gracious (maybe said with a smile? or a "I could'a had a V8" style hand to the head). When I take a risk in order to walk with Jesus in impossible places, even if I fearfully fall, he will catch me and set me to rights again.


 P.S. for an even better reflection on Peter and his tendency to "step out without knowing" go HERE to the lovely Malcolm Guite's sonnet for today.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

More Canadians in Modesto!

Just over a week ago, we hosted a team of leaders from Global Youth Volunteer Network, an international organization of students and others who seek education and connection with people involved in justice issues around the world.  Every year, we get a leadership training team from universities across Canada.  This year's team sought to understand our city and hear the voice of the homeless here.

Homemade cookies and coffee at the library

They had a beautiful, hospitable idea on a colder rainy day last week to bake oatmeal cookies, make coffee and take it to the library where many homeless people go to get out of the rain.  It was awesome to watch them spend time with the community, work with them to solve problems (we got kicked off of the actual library property) and create ways to learn from and share with them.  They put up 3 poster boards with questions for people to weigh in on.

Community is: sharing, helping each other, "it's always good for God to show that He loves us", connection/friendship, inclusive, everyone, "full of good people that need to not give up (and) better our people...coming to make this place a better place to live.  To be in peace and live the right way, that's what God puts us here for", giving a hand to those you don't know yet.

What I would like to see in Modesto: Homelessness to end, nobody deserves it, more live music, "I'm pretty happy with my Modesto", less mannequins and more bikes (?!) and more Canadians, me(not), People with more things to do with their spare time so they have no time to think or do any bad, more prayer.

Faith is: Committing to something you believe is truth, whatever you want it to be, hope & love, love & peace, keeping on, tied to hospitality, Leaving it up to God to give you what you want because you love what you see and can't live without it.  It's too beautiful to leave, "I believe in God and also believe that people who feed people in need are people of God. So, from my heart, God bless everyone of you boyz and girls. That's what's up, from Jaime".

A few girls on this team helped one of the guys sign up for an email address at a job search organization.  We just received word that he got a call back from one of his applications and was scheduled for an orientation for a new job.  Friendship changes the world!

Making Lemonade for 9th Street

BBQ on 9th

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Surprise YWAMers!

Last week, after a chance meeting of a newer youth worker in our city, I learned that there was a team in town from Youth with a Mission in Pichilemu, Chile.  They were here all last week!  Because YWAM works through relationships and not protocol, this team was here through a connection between the team leader and this youth pastor...they had no idea there was a YWAM Modesto (a thing I am getting used to - ha!).  So after a few phone calls, we had the great surprise of having a guest YWAM team at the 9th Street Cafe last Friday.  And they were a great group, doing all the things a good YWAM team does...

They came to serve the 9th street community with smiles, music and laughter.  And they spoke Spanish to cafe regulars that I am not able to talk to.

They supported people with prayer

They learned how to play dominoes from Arley (and he beat them badly)

They learned the important Modesto cultural lesson of Taco Trucks

They really, really enjoyed the important Modesto cultural lesson of Taco Trucks

And later that night, our family attended an outreach service they did in a West side ministry center, where they performed dramas and gave testimonies of God's work in their lives.

It was a nice surprise to have them with us an now they're off to do much of the same in San Diego and  on into Mexico before they head home.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

For the underdog.

"I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants." Jesus, Matt 11. 

 There is something at work in us that cheers on the underdog. We love a story with an unlikely hero overcoming huge obstacles in spite of himself. I believe that is in us because it is first in God. 

 Directly opposite to the world's system, the Kingdom of God is for the misfit and the unprepared, the small and the not-so-smart. It is for those with no false stage to stand on. We like to trust our knowledge and experience and lean on our goodness and hard work. 

 The Kingdom can only be received by children who have simple faith that nothing can replace falling into the arms of Jesus and finally finding our rest there. 

"Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Jesus, Matt 11.