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... http://vibrantcommunities.org/ministering-to-teen-parentstheresa-hellstrom

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  http://journeyswithjustin.com/


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.