Monday, December 28, 2015

You Did Not Have A Home

This is a recording done fairly early on in our work here in Modesto. This is a cover by Jimmy, Aaron and myself of the late Rich Mullins' song "You Did Not Have A Home" from The Jesus Record. I don't quite remember why we wanted to record this song (maybe for a fund raiser of some sort?) but it's a recording I have always enjoyed. Hope you do too. And be sure to listen really carefully at the end :)

Monday, December 21, 2015

Silent Night

Sam performed this for our congregation this past Sunday, Silent Night on the ukulele...

Monday, December 14, 2015

A 9th Street Christmas Song

This song was written and recorded quite a few years ago not long after we came to Modesto. A friend, Josh Davenport (who you'll hear on the track) was making an impromptu Christmas CD for his family as a gift. We were recording some standard Christmas songs together and Josh asked me if I wanted to include anything in the collection.

I told him to give me a minute and I went out into the next room and wrote this little song in about 10 minutes. Listening now, it sounds a bit like I wrote it in 10 minutes. But there are a few things that commend it.

I love how the chorus worked out. And I also love Josh's improv of the bridge.

This is a good snap shot of where my heart was in this time. Once, I came up on a woman's room in an old run down motel on 9th Street here in Modesto. I was going to let her know we were there to share food with the residents. This is a woman I see and have some interaction with every week to this day. She was passed out from drink in a fitful sleep on her bed.

I realized that I had a certain image of this woman's life just based on my small interactions with her for maybe an hour a week. But she lives in a hovel on South 9th Street all the time. She is still there when I am not.

But I have also come to realize that God is there whether I am there or not. The Christmas story is that God enters our reality and brings His healing and grace through our broken systems and "realities."

I suppose this song doesn't have anything new to say in the way of Christmas reflection. But, sometimes, saying the old thing is good enough.

"He has mercy on those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm
and has scattered the proud in their conceit,
Casting down the mighty from their thrones
and lifting up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty."
~Mary, from Luke 1

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Holding on to hope - by Chris

This is taken from a talk I gave to our congregation this past Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent...

On our Thanksgiving road trip to Oregon, we listened to C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The children in the book discover a new world, Narnia, where an evil witch has cast a terrible spell over the land. It is always winter and never Christmas.

But the resisting forces in Narnia, the woodland creatures, keep telling one another that Aslan, the Great Lion, the true King, is “on the move.” The name and this news lifts the children’s hearts, even though they have never met Aslan face to face.

Then Father Christmas visits the children and gives gifts for the upcoming battle with the witch.
Then the animals begin to celebrate and have meals together.
Then the snow begins to melt.
Then flowers and green patches begin to appear.
Then, the river starts to run.
And everyone, though a great battle lies ahead, begins to have hope

Just before we left Oregon to head back home, my brother-in-law said, “I hate it how the sun sets at 4:30 these days!” And my sister-in-law, as an encouragement, said, “Just watch everyday how it starts to grow later! How the time for sunset moves back a little bit everyday.”

And, of course, she’s right. I checked…online. 

Today, December 2, the sun sets at 4:45pm in Modesto, 

December 20 - 4:46pm
December 21 - 4:49pm
December 23 - 4:50pm
December 25 - 4:51pm
December 26 - 4:52pm
January 1 - 4:56pm
January 6 - 5:00pm!
Easter Sunday, 2016 - 7:22pm

The change is slight, so small we barely notice.

This gradual change is exactly why the Advent and Christmas seasons are where they are in the year. So much more than Jesus’ “birthday,” it is all about His arrival in history, His arrival in our lives and His return.

With that in mind, here are some thoughts (Italicized) on this past Sunday’s gospel reading… 

Jesus speaking in Luke 21

25 “There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, 

Is there dismay among the nations of our world right now?

in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, 

Is there perplexity at the roaring of the sea? Are folks wondering and worried at rising tides, environmental upheaval, and strange storms?

26 men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; 

Are people fainting in fear of the expectation of things to come? Are futures unsure? Are people afraid by what they see on the news?

for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 

27 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 But when these things begin to take place, 

straighten up 

My Mother used to use this phrase to get my attention. It was always shocking when she said it. “Chris, straighten up!” And I would. She had my attention.


lift up your heads, 

Recently, my daughter Stella wrote an argument paper for school titled, “Why Children Should Be Allowed To Have Cell Phones.” I have no idea why she chose this topic. *ahem* Anyway, in the paper, she had to include an argument from the other side. She said that one bad outcome of children having cell phones is that their heads are always down.

Perhaps that’s a bad outcome of all of us having cell phones. News feeds consume our lives. Fear, worry, envy and political arguments are only a finger swipe away. Jesus calls us to be people who lift up our heads because…

because your redemption is drawing near.”

Verse 34 “Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with 

dissipation - energy trailing off.


drunkenness - escape of our reality with false support 

and the worries of life - anxiety 

and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap; 35 for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth. 36 But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

An old African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

We can’t do this alone. If I’m going to get there, it’s with the community in which God has placed me. 

We read the Bible personally, as if Jesus is talking right to us. And He is. But this passage of scripture, most passages of scripture, are written to the community. Jesus is speaking to a group here. He is not so much speaking to you as He is to “you all.”

You all be on guard. Don't let your hearts, all of your hearts, become weighted down with failing energy, escape or anxiety. You all keep on the alert. You all pray for strength (for one another) to get through and to stand before Jesus.

What if your congregation is exactly the congregation, the people that God wants you to be with? What if God has called you with these people, with your gifts, to be used to further the mission of His Kingdom? You can’t do it alone.

The way we hold on to hope is by journeying together, worshiping together, praying together, eating together and reaching out together. 

Don’t dissipate, don’t escape, don’t get caught up in the anxieties of this life.

Christmas is coming, the light is returning, the day is getting longer.

Let’s hold on to hope. Let's hold on to one another. Let's hold on to Jesus.

Monday, November 16, 2015

My friend James

James Flaherty was one of the first friends we made on the street in Modesto. On hot days, Aaron and I used to walk the parks with cool drinks to share. In a way, it was the first version of the Ninth Street Café. A simple act to foster relationship. James was the first one I recall sitting, staying and talking.

We connected first through our mutual love of singing and playing guitar. James had been to one of our early BBQs and remembered me playing. I soon learned that James’ talent on guitar far surpassed my ability. He was good. He loved to write songs. He was happiest when he was singing.

James was a regular fixture in our lives for a season. He talked about how life on the streets was so discouraging. How good it was to meet up with Christian friends to share, talk and just do things together. We had lunch together every Tuesday for a while. James loved a good Chinese buffet. Well, James loved food.

James worked. For a while he worked at a local church as a janitor. He aggressively pursued recovery from addiction. He built a website for his friends on the street to tell their story. His concern was that many homeless people pass away and no one knows about them. He wrote and recorded music. He had been in a few bands. His last record he recorded with us at our church building.

James had problems. He had a mental illness that sometimes controlled him and made him act in a way that did not represent his true heart. We had to work things out between us more than once. Even in this, he was a good friend.

Several years ago, James made the choice to return east where most of his family live. He was able to reunite with some of them and build new relationships. It’s also a lot less expensive than California.

James passed away this last May. I think of him often, his cheerful (loud) greetings, his infectious smile, his heart to worship and his heart for others. This is a song he wrote from the album “Hi, I’m Homeless,” recorded at New Hope Christian Fellowship in Modesto. This is the first song he played for me and has always been my favorite.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Fall Update 2015

A year of work, fundraising, praying and anticipation has finally culminated in Josh getting off to his Discipleship Training School (DTS) with Youth With A Mission, Holmsted Manor in Sussex, UK! It was hard to let him go, and we miss him terribly but he is having a great time learning and growing in a new community. Thanks so much to all who gave and helped with our fundraisers. Josh went to his school fully funded!

We enjoy our weekly skype chats with him. We've met most of his room mates (from Spain, Germany and India). The school will travel together after their training for 2 months of ministry in South Africa. Please keep this time in your prayers.

We had a surprise team at the end of this Summer. Plans fell through for the "Rise" Discipleship Training School in Vancouver, BC for the end of their outreach and we were asked to host them for 2 1/2 weeks here in Modesto. They worked with us on 9th Street and all throughout our community. You can read about their time with us from their perspective HERE and HERE and HERE.

Stella was able to rope the Rise DTS with some of her friends for the 2nd initiative of the "Save America Club." They worked for the morning cleaning up litter along the Dry Creek Trail in our neighborhood. We removed 8 bags of trash and 2 shopping carts! The club is dedicated to feeding the hungry, cleaning litter, removing graffiti and helping the animal shelter

We worked together with the Modesto Youth Pastor's Network to put on the annual Nor-Cal All Nighter. And yes, it's exactly what that sounds like. 190 students and leaders gathered at New Hope for worship together and a message then we played all night all around the city. And, once again, yes, we're insane. It was a lot of fun.

I (Chris) had an opportunity to go and share with another YWAM DTS led by good friends Matt and Steph in Fort MacMurray, Alberta, Canada the last week of September. My topic was Evangelism (literally "doing the good news") and it was a great week sharing with these students...3 First Nations, 4 Samoans, 1 Swede and 1 Jamaican. I love getting to travel and teach. It recharges my desire to get home and "do the good news" here in Modesto. And yes, we went to Tim Horton's a lot.

And, of course, our Café is still going strong Tuesdays and Fridays on South 9th Street with a community Bible study at a local donut shop on Thursday afternoons. Much friendship, laughter, coffee and community building comes from this simple time together.

You can find out more about YWAM Modesto at our website HERE

Thanks for interest, prayer and support!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Book That Transforms Nations

I (Chris) have a whole section of my book shelf called "promises, promises." These are books that people have loaned or given me to read and I have said something like "Well, there are many books in the way of this one but if you don't need it for a while I'm happy to check it out." Thus, the shelf full.

I enjoy reading. I think reading is important. And, I'm quite busy. And, I generally prefer to read fiction. And I like audio books, fiction audio books.

It took me a while to get around to reading "The Book That Transforms Nations" by Loren Cunningham and Janice Rogers. It's not the kind of book I'm naturally drawn to but I'm so glad a friend pressed it into my hand.

Written in 2006, this is a wonderful overview of how the Bible has had a profound impact on nations around the world. Loren is the founder of Youth With A Mission and has literally travelled to every nation on earth. Think of the passports!

Reading Loren is a pleasure. He brims with hope and optimism. He does not gloss over the difficulties around the world. He speaks openly and honestly about the many challenges facing our world but he speaks of them from a place of hope. That makes a big difference. He holds fast to his belief that the Bible and the God it reveals are the hope of our world.

I would heartily recommend this book. You will learn things and hear stories you never knew. You will be inspired. And the biggest take away for me is how precious the Bible really is and what a miracle it is that it has come to us the way it has. When I finished this book, I wanted to immediately go and read the Bible.

You can pick it up at YWAM Publishing HERE and it's available on Amazon

Monday, May 18, 2015

Out on a limb with M. Night Shyamalan - Chris

Here I go again.

M. Night Shyamalan is releasing a new scary movie this September and it has people wondering if he'll be "back" or produce yet another disappointment. You either love a Shyamalan movie or you hate it. He has fallen from grace with the public and critics alike with his past few films. It seems people like his stuff less with each release.

I've always appreciated his style. Usually a slower, surreal pace that has often worked and sometimes not so worked. Kind of like that sentence.

I absolutely loved Signs. It may be one of my favorite movies of all time. It's my favorite Shyamalan for sure. The Last Airbender is my least favorite along with The Happening. After those, like all the rest of us, I got Shyamalan shy.

It's always bothered me that I never gave After Earth a shot. It got 11% on the Rotten Tomato site! That's pretty rotten. The studio didn't even advertise Shyamalan as the director. 

Today, I rented it and watched it.

And I really liked it. It is not at the top of the heap and not at the bottom either. It's right in the mix with The Village, Unbreakable and Lady In The Water.

Shyamalan is best when telling a small story about people in the context of a bigger happening (pun intended). You experience the story from the small view of the characters. In this way, After Earth is spot on. 

Critics were put off by the funny accents. I found it a creative tool to think about how the English accent would evolve in the future. Others were put off by the Smith's producing and contributing to the story but this is also what critics have been saying Shyamalan has needed, partners. 

I found the suspense engaging. The danger felt real. There are some beautiful moments in this film to do with parenting, fear and letting go that made it such a good experience for me.

You don't have to like it. I did. And I would heartily recommend you give it an honest try. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Moving Toward

Moving Toward from Chris Whitler on Vimeo.
Amie's entry into the 2015 MJC Choreographers Showcase. This piece was inspired by the support we all need to move toward the change that makes us afraid. Past the fear, there is freedom.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Update: The Save America Club!

Thanks so much to all of you who gave to Stella's idea for the Save America Club. The first initiative rolled out successfully. We were able to make 51 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for folks in the community and some pet food for their animals!

It was a good day bringing food and encouragement to folks in the park and also...getting ice cream together! Next up is cleaning up litter at the river!

Save America!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Save America Club!

This is Stella and some of her friends from church. The have formed a group called the Save America Club. They need your save America. What follows is a communication from the club's founder...

"I want to tell you about our Save America Club. First, let me tell you a little about the club. Now, I know that we are just a group of kids but this group of kids wants to try to save America.

We have 4 things that we want to face:

  • We want to share food with the poor
  • We want to clean up all of the trash
  • We want to feed the animals at the animal shelter
  • We want to paint out graffiti

We are asking for money because we are focused on our first thing which is sharing food with the poor. We need money to buy peanut butter, jelly, bread and water bottles. So please donate to the Save America Club."

The club will be making and distributing sandwiches on Saturday, March 21. Any extra they raise will go toward next months initiative (cleaning up trash).

If you would like to give to the Save America peanut butter sandwich initiative, you can give online at our one time gift paypal button at