Is This Heaven? No, It’s Long Beach – Jason Brown

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City Church and Northeast of the Well sharing a meal

We believe God wants to bring heaven to earth. In fact, this is what he might be most committed to. Jesus did tell us to ask God for this.

As we’ve gotten to know Long Beach, we’ve met lots of people, churches and organizations that are bringing a little heaven here – some of these people and organizations aren’t Christian (but that’s a statement for another blog!).

Recently, we’ve met a ministry called Northeast of the Well. They’ve been around for a few years but are brand new to Long Beach. Northeast of the Well ministers to men and women who have personally dealt with addiction, chronic abuse, incarceration or sex trafficking. It’s a rather remarkable group of people who lead this rather remarkable organization.

Anyway, last Wednesday, they let us be a part of the group they’re starting at the Little Brown Church in Long Beach. We cooked the meal, ate together, and then got to be a part of the Bible discussion after dinner. What an honor. We’re hoping they’ll continue to let us be a part of their Wednesday nights.

Rather than immediately starting a bunch of new ministries, our gameplan has been to discover the good things already going on in Long Beach and join the people or groups doing this good stuff.

If you’re interested in learning more about some of the organizations we’ve connected with or if you know of someone doing heavenly stuff in Long Beach, feel free to send me (Jason) an email:

The Picture in this Blog Says It All (or most of it)

Trevor and Lisa

How could you not want to spend time with Trevor and Lisa?

One of the things we do on a weekly basis at City Church is Open Houses. What’s an Open House – well, we meet in homes to share a meal and have spiritual conversation. So far, it’s been a decent way of getting to know each other and beginning a spiritual journey.

Anyway, Trevor and Lisa started leading an Open House with another couple (Steve and Anita) on Thursday nights. They meet every other week and after the meal they talk about having better marriages. It was about six months ago that Trevor and Lisa first approached me to ask whether they might be able to do an Open House. Bill and I never asked them to lead an Open House, it was just something they wanted to do. “Of course!” I said.

Three weeks ago, they were getting ready for their first Open House. That week, Trevor was in class (he’s currently in college) and the subject turned to marriage. As one of his fellow classmates shared about the issues she was having in her relationship, a tiny thought crossed Trevor’s brain: “Show her the video.” The “video” was a two-minute intro to the marriage curriculum they were going to be using at their Open House. Trevor’s first response to that thought was, “I’m not showing her the video right now! You don’t do that in a class!” But, the thought kept coming.

Eventually, Trevor’s resistance wore thin so he asked the professor if he could show a short video about marriage. The professor said, “Sure.” Trevor pulled out his laptop, got online and showed the intro. Then he let his classmates know they were welcome to come to his house later that week for dinner and conversation about marriage. The woman who was talking about the challenges in her relationship took him up on the offer and came to the first Open House.

So, why share this story? Well, Trevor and Lisa are pretty ordinary folks who are trying to figure out how to give away what they’ve been given. In terms of their marriage, they screw up all the time. They say I’m sorry. They laugh a lot about the stupid things they do. They do a great job of enjoying and appreciating each other. They’ve just been married over a year and while they have a ton to learn, the truth is that they have a really neat relationship. They really do have some wisdom and love to share with others in this area.

Second, I think it’s great that Trevor took the risk of paying attention to that little thought that crossed his mind. He didn’t want to, but he did. In some ways, this is the key to growth and transformation – paying attention to those thoughts (which are often the voice of Jesus) and responding.

Family, on Retreat – Bill White

I’ve been on all kinds of retreats – men’s retreats, couples retreats, youth retreats, pastor retreats, etc. – and all of them have real value. But there’s just something about going on retreat as a family that makes it different. 3 kids with kidsFor one, family retreats are messy. There are screaming kids at meal time (and lots of other times), you’ve got to figure out how to bunk whole families together when there’s only a Men’s Cabin and a Women’s Cabin, and it can feel a bit daunting to have 13 year olds and grandmas in the same small group. And yet the beauty outweighs the chaos for me. Having a group of tweens, locked shoulder-to-shoulder, swaying to the music while teens are raising their hands in praise and a couple of adults are crying, all in the same worship service – that’s a rare sight. Letting the young people see healthy marriages modeled out in front of them, and seeing moms and dads picking up parenting skills from each other, and everyone just enjoying the enthusiasm and wonder of the 4 year olds – what gifts!

Kids in worship (left) and small group time (right)

Kids in worship (left) and small group time (right)

This weekend I found myself thinking often about how messy it must have been around Jesus twenty centuries ago.   People were bringing him babies to bless, and all kinds of folks were gathered around, including the sick and broken and possessed. No doubt, it was a bit like a family retreat.

Family Hike

Family Hike

Would Jesus Play Beer Pong? – Bill White

Take a close look at the picture. I thought of posting it on my FaceBook page and asking for captions, but then thought better of pong

Maria is a fun-loving, big-personality gal who lives next door to a family from City Church, just a few blocks from me. I had met her once before she texted me last week, saying that her neighbor thought I might have an extra table and some chairs she could use for her birthday party. It was an easy swap to make – church tables for an invite to dinner.

So Sunday night I show up at her house looking forward to the Taco Man, meeting a bunch of strangers, and a quick return home for the evening. So the birthday girl meets me at the side gate and just about falls over herself apologizing.

“O my God, O my God, the pastor is here!” is her opening line, her face a mixture of laughter and horror. “I’m so sorry – we’re using your table for Beer Pong!”

I’ll be honest, it’s been a while since I heard the term “Beer Pong.” My seminary education didn’t help me at that moment. Fortunately, my college education did.

I immediately assessed the situation, gazing across the backyard to where the City Church table was in full use, and I told Maria that our table and chairs are meant to be used by our neighbors and I was thrilled she had them.

As relief washed over her face, she introduced me to a bunch of folks and I was off towards the Taco Man and to eat with Nadia, Lenny, Minerva, Brian, and Astin. I had really interesting conversations, ranging from welding to real estate, from parenting to premarital counseling, from how Buddhist monk’s levitate to why Catholics feel guilty, from the meaning of baptism to whether Jesus would play Beer Pong.

Two hours later I’m headed home, stuffed with tacos and with gratitude for the great people I’ve just met and for a savior who loves parties and is not afraid to turn water into wine.

Do We Want to Be Predictable? – Bill White

In a passage that I’ve always been suspicious about, Paul says, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). Doesn’t it seem a bit arrogant to say, “imitate me”? After all, aren’t we supposed to be humble and not think too much of ourselves?

url-1Now as I think back on my life, virtually every healthy habit I now have is something that I saw in someone else and then I imitated it. I learned how to welcome people into my home from my mom, I learned how to take a weekly date night from a missionary in Mexico City, I learned how to speak a daily blessing over our kids from the pastor at my previous church, and I learned about scheduling one-on-one time with my kids from a friend with older children.

Each of those practices deeply marks who I am today and the kind of family I have, and I’m so grateful for them. All I did was imitate others – I didn’t come up with any of those practices myself. So whether they had the clarity to say it out loud or not, each of these mentors implicitly said to me, “Imitate the good you see in me.”

And the other thing about those practices is that they are indeed practices. We learn them by imitating others, but then we have to make them into patterns if they are really going to shape our lives. That’s why I found the above practices (amongst others)so easy to imitate – I witnessed them consistently in those mentors’ lives. They did them all the time. As a surprising study by Google points out, one of the greatest attributes of leadership is predictability. Good leaders have predictable patterns of life.

Good leaders also have lives worth imitating. Do you?


Kids Camp Reflections

Weird Animal Kids Camp was a BLAST.  We had a dozen kids from City Church and 59 others from Lafayette Elementary School (where we worship).  We laughed and played and danced and ate and petted weird animals (including the 12 foot python below).  It was a picture of God’s kingdom coming here on earth – with tons of love and healing and new friendships and connection with our heavenly Father.  The pictures tell the story well…
Python Picture IMG_1901 IMG_0294

Why We Do Kids Camp – Bill White

A dozen of us from City Church got to volunteer at our local school (Lafayette Elementary) on Tuesday for their end of session carnival, along with some city personnel.

I was struck by how freely these kids interacted the adults. Fifth grade girls squealed with excitement as two Long Beach Firemen raced through the obstacle course that the kids had set up. Kids shared “What’s up?” jokes with Jason Brown and gave high fives to Greg Suzuki and chatted it up with Rick Macias.

Carnival time: Jason Brown vs. one of the teachers

Carnival time: Jason Brown vs. one of the teachers

But there was another side to it also. There was the girl who shared with me that her grandma is going deaf, and the boy who said he watches TV all day, and the little girl who started shaking and broke down in tears when she saw that police officers were there volunteering – who knows what had happened in her family the last time she’d seen the police.

In Jesus’s world, where no one gave any attention to kids, he said, “Let the children come to me and do not hinder them.” They mattered to him. So we’re trying to let them matter to us, too. Our Kids Camp won’t be particularly fancy, but there are 25 volunteers who are going to pour themselves into serving, loving, laughing with and teaching the kids of our community.