Just got back from five days at Gabriola Island with some family at a friends’ rustic cabin. Their spot in the forest is only a few minutes from one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. Cedar and Arbutus trees line the coastline. Sandstone rock formations in all shapes cover the shore. Whitecaps are mirrored by puffy clouds overhead.
It’s Peaceful. Serene. The constant susurrating motion of the waves on the shore mesmerizes and calms. In the background a long line of coastal mountains hover over the expanse of sea water in front of us. The sun sets in a fiery orange-red ball on the watery horizon.
At the cabin we are surrounded by The Gift of Green – the many hues of God’s green creation: grasses, wild shrubs and trees, topped with a light blue sky-covering. Colorful accents of wild flowers dot the landscape.
For most of these five days, my cell phone was far away from me, thank God. We are not driven or held accountable to chronos time here. No frantic rushing. We enjoyed the freedom of kairos time. Kairos is defined as an undetermined period of time in which something special happens. Jesus, Paul and Brother Lawrence operated in the kairos view of time. They saw every moment as a chance to enjoy and glorify God.
In times of rest, there is ample time to think and be thankful. To consider what really matters in life. To let the tension drain out of your body. To catch up on Sabbath rest. To take opportunities to enjoy the sunset, share tasty food and reminisce about days gone by. To share memories with loved ones.
This summer, make sure to take time to unplug from the demands of work and a thousand other things. Whether it’s on an island for a week or in your own apartment or backyard for a weekend ‘stay-cation,’ find a way to slow way down and get out of your normal routine. If possible, spend some time surrounded by nature and get away from your online devices. You’ll be refreshed, revitalized and get fuelled up for the journey ahead!
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Just got back from a 17-day trip to St. Stephen’s Society in Hong Kong. Here is what I saw and absorbed and want to live:
1. A Culture of extreme generosity. Everyone is generous to everyone else. They demonstrate the maxim: Give and it will be given to you.
2. Close community. Sharing life, friendship, laughter, breaking bread together day-by-day.
3. Helping the poor...lifting up the downtrodden…freeing the oppressed…welcoming the outcast. A few hundred people living with them in different properties around Hong Kong—from teenagers to the elderly.
4. A steady stream of people coming to Christ. Example: Their “Go Kids” program welcomed around 1,000 mostly non –Christian parents and toddlers on Good Friday, for worship, a chance to receive Christ and games for the kids. (see picture above with my son and daughter, Jessica and Ben)
5. Healings and deliverance from demonic oppression.
6. A very strong emphasis on worship and the Bible.
7. Slow steady growth of this ministry began by Jackie Pullinger 50 years ago, now with affiliate communities in several other nations.
It really does look like the gospels and the book of Acts.
How I will try to follow this example:
1. 1 day at a time
2. 1 person at a time
3. Don't let my life get too busy and cluttered with things that don’t really matter.
Our fingers were numb before the set started. The temperature was 5 degrees Celsius (41 Fahrenheit). Last night, our band set up the PA and our instruments outdoors at Nightshift (nightshiftministries.org). We played for an hour while people ate. This is a nightly dinner served for people in need. The volunteers mingled with the crowd, and prayed for some.
We’ve been playing at Nightshift a couple times per month since last summer. In the winter, it’s kind of crazy but it’s always fun. We bundle up in several layers and my guitar goes way out of tune because it’s so cold. Why is it fun? Because we love to play good music together and see people touched by God—mostly people who wouldn’t go inside a regular church. This is the closest thing to church they have. Most of them are too broken and wounded to have the courage to walk into a traditional church (even if it’s a church that would welcome them).
Another reason it’s fun is that we can play whatever we want to, and turn it up. It’s not the regular “church rules.” When you play outdoors during a meal, the boundaries of what’s appropriate are much larger. Outdoors, the sound disperses and you don’t have people complaining that it’s too loud.
Last night was typical – a handful of guys approached us to express their gratitude for our music, and our willingness to serve. They always tell us what a huge difference it makes that we’re there. It creates an entirely different atmosphere to have worship music (along with a few secular/Christian tunes) playing during the meal. We welcome the Holy Spirit to speak and heal and he does it.
This is where the action is. “The meat is in the streets,” as John Wimber used to say. It’s in giving that we receive. We started playing at Nightshift because it was an obvious opportunity to bless the poor with our gifts of music and worship.
God healed my arms in 2014 to show his love for me and to enable me to worship in places like Nightshift. Freely you’ve received, freely give.
In March 2015 I was in Hong Kong to do a 12-day songwriting workshop with a dozen worship leaders there. One morning while I was there, I read Psalm 40 in my daily Bible reading. God spoke to me powerfully through that Psalm, which begins, “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.” I had been waiting a long time for a breakthrough. Finally, God was bringing it to me.
"He brought me up out of the mud and dirt...he gave me a new song to sing (Psalm 40:2,3)."
For me, "the mud and dirt" was a combination of things. I was feeling like I was going nowhere, I wasn't moving forward in ministry. There was a lull in my worship-leading ministry. I was leading worship in various churches, but I didn't have an overall plan or vision for what I should be doing.
Four months before this, God began "lifting me out of the mud." Within one week in November of 2014, heaven opened up and God initiated a whole new chapter in my life.
The first breakthrough was a physical healing. For 13 years I had suffered from a severe case of tendonitis in my hands and forearms. I was “trudging through the mud.” Playing the guitar for only 20 minutes was painful. Doing any household chore with my hands was painful. It was very discouraging. I played through the pain but it was hard to write songs and really enjoy worshiping.
Then God healed me! The Holy Spirit came on me powerfully as a few family members prayed for me in church. Since this healing, I can play guitar and work with my hands for hours. I am not 100% free of pain, but my life is radically different because of this healing.
The gushing of God's blessings continued with an outpouring of his presence, and an increase in hearing his voice. In two months I received dozens of powerful prophetic words from many people. Many people independently confirmed the same message: God was going to give me a fruitful season of creativity, songwriting, and imparting his kingdom and healing to many people.
Since that time, I have written over 50 songs (some of them still in process), and have recorded about ten, including “I Waited Patiently,” an adaptation of Psalm 40 that I began to write in Hong Kong. Like the Psalm says, God gave me a new song to sing.
In my next blog post I will share the climax of this story: God continued to bless me as I freely gave what God had given me. It’s in giving that we receive.
A friend of mine gave me this word some years ago: “Your family is your treasure.” It referred to my immediate family. I’ve often thought about it, and God has used it to keep my on the right path. Sometimes I get too busy with the work that I love, and forget my family that I love even more.
Last week I was in Cannon Beach for the annual gathering of worship leaders from the western U.S. (This year we were joined by several friends from other nations, as well). As always, it was a great time in God’s presence with old and new friends. After four decades in the Vineyard, I’ve had so many precious experiences with this family of God. When I see them, I’m reminded of God’s amazing goodness to me. What a privilege to be a part of this God-begotten community.
This week, I couldn’t help but think, this family is my treasure. I also thought about the counterfeit treasures that lure me, namely, finding affirmation through my music. It’s human nature to want and need love and affirmation. Where do we really get it? From our Father and our family.
What our hearts really long for is relationship with God and our family. But, in this world of American Idol and The Voice, we often look for fulfillment through receiving recognition for our gifts. But it’s just an illusion. Sure, we get strokes when we do our thing on stage, but it doesn’t last. We’re in for a huge let-down if we depend on the praises of people for our happiness. Our idols always disappoint us.
True friendship with God and our family members is such a beautiful thing—it’s completely unconditional. What we gain from friendship and fellowship is affirmation...being with people who enjoy being with us. We get the feeling, "I belong here! These people love me and like me! I don't have to strive or performfor acceptance. I don't have to prove anything."
So, remember what your true treasures are. Be content to be a friend of God and included in his household of sons and daughters. Cherish and savor the friendships God has given you.
On January 31, around 7:00 pm, my daughter-in-law felt the beginning of labor pains. My wife, who is a licensed midwife here in British Columbia, quietly sprang into action, making preparations for the birth. For the past several months, the plan was for Shannon to give birth in our bedroom, for more space.
It was very exciting as Shannon’s birth pangs increased in intensity and many family members gathered to wait and offer support. My 2-year old granddaughter, Azélia, sat with my two daughters, along with several other women, mostly Parks.
Around midnight, I went to sleep in my downstairs office for a few hours, intermittently being woken to the sound of groaning from upstairs. At 2:30 am, I heard the sounds of pain turn to bursts of laughter. I thought, “This is a good sign!” So I went upstairs and heard the good news that Zebedee Park was now among us!
What a miracle to see little Zebedee: a perfectly formed baby boy, wide-eyed and calmly looking around the room. Holding him to my chest, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for God’s gift to our family. There were complications with Shannon’s first birth, so this fast and healthy delivery was especially sweet.
I have a grandson! It doesn’t matter how many times I’m around a newborn—I’m in awe every time. Having a granddaughter was amazing, now our joy is doubled. Looking around the room at my daughters and daughters-in-law, I thought about the grandbabies in our future…with eight of our own children, I wonder what the final tally will eventually be?!
God keeps giving us blessings we don’t deserve and haven’t earned: that’s his grace. At times like this, I think about what is most important in life: loving the people that are close to me. The busy-ness of life is briefly suspended as we gather to cherish the precious moment of a new birth.
I can remember sitting in my room of the fraternity at UCLA as a college freshman. I was a new Christian. I was reading the Bible and it was like someone was sitting there talking to me. Up until then, my ‘story’ consisted of loving sports, playing guitar and being a good student so I could eventually get a good job. Then I became part of God’s story. The adventure was just beginning and it was exciting.
I grew up playing the guitar as recreation. Then it became truly re-creational. The creative Holy Spirit was renewing me through the creative act of making music. It was like going from black and white to full-color with surround-sound. A fourth dimension opened up. As I kid, I only wanted to play guitar. I wasn’t interested in singing. Then music became a vehicle for expressing adoration and being with a Person. I finally had a reason to sing. I was singing to a person. Through the gift of music, the Holy Spirit opened the eyes of my heart to see Jesus (John 15:26). The worship-life is all about knowing a Person.
My wife Linda describes her conversion: “Meeting Jesus was like coming to life; I was dead then I was alive; I was totally blind and not aware of being blind and suddenly I could see. Like a baby being born, moving from one world into another. I love singing about this transformation.”
In a sense, every time we worship God, we are re-living our conversion experience. We don’t always have a great epiphany, but when we reach for God’s kingdom that is near us, we touch heaven. For this reason, I try to worship through music at least a little bit everyday. I often don’t feel like doing it, but when I worship, I am always refreshed, even if only gently. I need to touch heaven everyday.