Hillsong United in Concert in Bangkok

The night with Hillsong United began as we waited longer than usual for the concert in Bangkok to start. Thai time even affected the Aftermath world tour…

That’s when we found out the delay came due to a major electrical problem. The heat of the day was overloading the electricity in the area, especially the arena, leading to surges and malfunctions. Apparently, Simon (one of the members of the band) got electrocuted 6 times. The stage even set fire twice prompting the tour manager to make an announcement to the fans waiting in anticipation outside the convention center doors. He told us the concert likely was cancelled to protect the safety of the fans and the team. They had been working hard for 5-6 hours to get things right…but they would give it another 45 minutes. At this point we almost waited two hours past the scheduled time for doors to open, which was 6:30 pm on June 8 at the Tamasat Convention Center.

We decided why go after making the trip out to see them. We can stick around, even if one guy in our group had to wake up at 4:30 am to get ready for work. My first reaction was a bit of sarcasm, saying to our friends, God surely will protect us if we are worshipping him…but remembering sad tragic events where Christian leaders died while performing baptisms or preparing to deliver a Sunday morning message negated my over eagerness to risk our safety for an experience with Hillsong United. Cause, how often will they be in Bangkok…this is the first time. Second, I initiated our group to pray at the same time groups throughout the crowd of showgoers began to do the same.

After the moment of prayer, people began spontaneously singing worship songs, mostly from the Hillsong catalog, but worship rose up from the mouths of patient concert goers waiting for an incredible moment inside. As they waited, a powerful encounter happened right with us as we worshipped. One person from the audience shouted out, nothing can stop us from worshipping our God.

At that point the mood of many picked up, and optimism picked up as we heard various loud sounds from inside as they began running a sound check. We might actually get a concert, I thought.

And we did.

The concert began (approximately 3 hours after the doors originally were to open) with their signature Aftermath video that begins their show in every city…which led into the big sound and ecstatic energy of the new song off their new album, Aftermath. Thai Christians, missionaries, students, NGO workers and people from a wide variety of countries entered into exuberant worship during the energetic songs and passionate praise during Hillsong’s signature worship ballads. The group played some of their all-time great songs such as “From the Inside Out”, “Mighty to Save”, and “Hosanna” along with a selection of songs from their new album. At times the room filled with the noise of crunching electrical guitars and pounding drums while at other moments the moody notes of the keyboard led the audience in contemplative worship. The band concluded a late night with a crazy and frenetic rendition of “One Way” igniting a room of jumping fans into a frenzied exclamation to a great night of worship inside and outside of the arena.

Above all the music and emotion of the night, we felt the presence of God heavy in the room…

I know I want to see something incredible unleashed as God moves in this city and nation…perhaps this helped loosen up some of the strongholds…not just as the crowd of people sang their hearts out in worship, but as  concert promoters and workers called their friends in prayer meetings to have them pray that this event might still happen. This morning after less than ideal sleep, my Thai teacher asked me how the concert went….with the electrical problems and all. I said, how did you know. She answered with a smile, saying her friend called their prayer group and asked them to intercede. More people in Bangkok praying together have to be a good thing.

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My Bird and My (Soon to be Born) Baby

When we moved to Thailand, Andy and I packed our stuff in storage, gave it away, or got rid of old junk. We had numerous pets when we moved; 2 Amazon parrots, a hermit crab, and a newly found turtle, which had been living in our backyard. We gave the turtle to our niece, and were in the process of giving the hermit crab to one of the girl’s in my Sunday school class when it died. I just couldn’t part with my wonderfully sweet birds, which are like family. So, going against what most missionaries do, I found a person to bird-sit them for an extended time.

Every time that we visit the US, I also go and visit my birds, Pepper and Sally. Sally only tolerates me but loves our bird-sitter. Pepper, on the other hand, just adores me, and always has. Our wonderful bird-sitter has re-hand tamed both the birds so they love to come out of their cage and sit on your arm.

While visiting my birds this trip, I was holding Pepper and talking with our bird-sitter. Pepper was just talking away…well, cooing and clucking…while we sat and visited. At one point in the visit, baby Sweet Pea started to move around in my tummy. When she started to move, Pepper stopped talking and looked at my tummy. He continued to stare at my tummy for the whole time that baby Sweet Pea (only 21 weeks along) was moving around.

I can’t wait to introduce baby Sweet Pea to Pepper when we go back to the US next!

The Intersection of Politics and Religion

I don’t often delve into politics on this blog. The old maxim that one avoids talking about religion or politics when making a new friend applies to this blog. I’ll add talking sports too. The Lakers, Cowboys, Notre Dame and Yankees polarize almost as much as politics and religion. Already I use religion enough.

However, a new book hit the bookstores titled City of Man by former senior Bush White House aides Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner.

I love the thoughtful conversations begun with this book. How do we as Christians interact in the political realm? Dozens of incredible books tackle this topic, but here is a totally new perspective from people who worked on policy and speech writing during some of the toughest decisions of the Bush administration. They fairly give critical look at allies and foes including the religious right and their influence on the country during the Bush years.

Hugh Hewitt interviews Pete Wehner with the transcript here.

The book does not shy away from talking about complex issues with a depth of thought. They get into the nitty gritty. Pete Wehner explains the difficulty of a book like this.

It is a delicate balance, and I don’t pretend that we know exactly what it is, and I don’t pretend I as an individual have gotten it right. I mean, we write about our own struggles, even within the White House on this whole question of tone, which I’m happy to get into. But the argument is that it is. It’s a tight rope. I mean, you’ve written about this, and you know it. This is a tightrope that we’re walking. Unless you believe in two propositions, which we don’t, which is first, that you just simply aren’t involved in politics, or second, that there’s full immersion. Then, you’re on a continuum.

And the question is how do you engage these issues in a way that’s principled and responsible and with conviction, but in a way that doesn’t hurt or vulgarize your faith, and that stays on the right side of these various lines. And it isn’t easy, and there’s no cookbook that you could have for it. What you can do is just examine the record and analyze it, and hold it up, and you know, open it to debate and see what people say. As I say, the religious right, we’re sympathetic to many of their positions, and we try and credit them where we can.

What is the best way to be involved over the next weeks leading up to the election? I love how everyone makes each new election the most crucial vote of our lifetime. Unless we take one of the two sides that Wehner remarks on, being absent from Politics or fully engaged, how do we participate and involve our Christian life and thought into the life of civil thought and action?

Census 2010

We tried hard to complete our US census forms for this year but the government never found us…instead, the Thai government found us and asked us to fill out a Thailand census today.

As this was my first census to fill out, I cannot compare it to the US’ census, but can only imagine the differences. Let me demonstrate by sharing some of the questions.

Of course it asks all the basic information of every person living in our home: name, age, religion, nationality, current educational level, literacy (in Thai and other languages), marital status, occupation, etc…All that was fill in the blank with short answers.

On the harder questions that government tried to make it easier by giving some possible answers to write in. One such question was current occupation, or the job that takes up most of your time. Most of these examples are normal jobs like bank manager, electrical engineer, owner of a shop…and then dishwasher…hmm, no creative titles here.

When asking about disabilities, the government wanted to make sure that you knew what disability was. Examples included blind in both eyes, loss of one foot at the ankle or arm at the wrist, violent, mentally ill, withdrawn, and autistic.

But in all of these questions, I was never asked my ethnicity (only nationality) or how much we make each year.

After filling out the short answer part, you got to the fill in the bubble. These questions asked the household in general. Too funny to not include: Type of residence (including room in an office), materials used to build residence (concrete, wood, locally found materials, and used/surplus materials-boxes and crates, number of bedrooms and number of rooms used as bedrooms (must give both numbers), type of toilets in house: including buckets to squat into and empty later/ discharge into water…I would classify all that as no toilet, but that was also an option so I’m not quite sure about that classification…source of water for drinking and otherwise (separated of course)…we use water from vending machine in our household for drinking and cooking and then tap water for all other use.

I made a chart of the last question I want to highlight to show how the outlook in Thailand is as well as how different our lives are than in the States. Items in your household: (check all that apply)

Have  in our House                                                                           Don’t Have in our House

–          TV                                                                                                – Washing machine.                                                                                     (Don’t even think about a dryer…)

–          VCD/DVD player                                                                   – Car/ pick-up truck/ van

–          Mobile phone (who cares if you have a house phone) – Motorcycle

–          Computer                                                                                    – 4 Wheel tractor

–          Fridge/ cold box                                                                       – 2 wheel steamroller

–          Microwave (which we got after living here for 2 years)

–          Air-conditioner

The Best Furlough Ever

We’ve been back in Thailand for a month and a half, and I just realized that we never gave a concluding post about our time of furlough in the States. We looked forward to our furlough time this year as a chance to connect with our family and friends in an extended way. We also looked forward to getting to worship in our native language and share with everyone what God is doing in Thailand. We did all of that and it was great, but furlough touched us in unexpected ways as well.

During our furlough, we really were refreshed in about every way possible. Andy got to take classes for his masters, and I even sat in on one for free. It was great being challenged in my walk with the Lord during that week. This jump started spiritual refreshing as we started our time away from Thailand. By the end of our furlough, I felt closer to God than I have in a long time. It is quite uplifting to worship in one’s native language, even if I don’t know many of the songs any more. Also, Americans are much more expressive in their worship and that allowed me to worship God freely, without thinking about how others are acting and wanting to be part of the culture here. All this was combined with sharing the excitement of God moving in Thailand and it made me excited to come before my maker and commune with him.

We are very healthy here in Thailand. To prove that point, I have never had to go to the doctor because I was sick while in Thailand (this is rare for most people, but I am counting my blessings from God and constantly thanking those who pray for our health). We walk almost everywhere we go, even to get to the bus, so we get lots of exercise. We always try to maintain that when we are in the States but it is hard when you have a car just outside the house. While we are healthy, the heat is a constant drain in Thailand. We have learned to live with it, but the constant sweating takes its toll on our bodies. It was refreshing to enjoy cool, sometimes cold, weather while we were visiting the States (in the summer). I didn’t even gain any weight (confirmed by the weight consensus Thais).

During the last two weeks of our furlough, I felt refreshed and ready to jump back into ministry in Thailand. I didn’t know at that time, but we were about to be blessed even more during our furlough. A few days before returning to Thailand, we discovered that we were pregnant. We have been trying for a few years, and had been discouraged to say the least. We traveled a lot during those 3 months so we weren’t worrying about getting pregnant.  It was refreshing to just be and not worry about anything during our furlough.

Baby Sweet Pea: 8 Weeks

After discovering we were pregnant, we ran all over town to get things that aren’t easily available in Thailand. I went shopping for maternity clothes (and had to explain why a woman only 5 weeks along was at the store), pregnancy books (which my doctor in Thailand tells me to read up in so he won’t have to explain it all in English), and prenatal vitamins. We feel so blessed by God that he would answer our prayers, even when we weren’t expecting it.

All this adds up to The Best Furlough Ever!

Foursquare Heritage House

We spent two hours recently touring the Heritage House that honors the ministry and life of Aimee Semple-McPherson. No matter how many times I have heard the stories of God working through her life, I am always blown away. How could God use a widow who buried her husband in Hong Kong to build a church that now numbers over 66,000 churches around the world?

Sister Aimee originally built the round shaped house in 1921 to train those called into ministry. However, the response overwhelmed her, so she built Life Bible College next door. She used this house to always be open to ministry. Anyone who was in need could stop by for a cup of coffee or something to eat. Her heart to feed people prompted her to being the commissary ministry which fed 1.5 million people during the Great Depression. At the height of the commissary ministry, Angeles Temple fed 50,000 people a week.

Sister’s (that is what she was known as informally) house always felt open to those in need. One of my favorite little ways to give came from her heart to help everyone get to the temple for one of the meetings or events. The old trolley system brought loads of people from around Los Angeles down Glendale blvd. Sister never wanted anyone stranded in Echo Park without a way home. Therefore, she created a little cubby under the banister along the stairway that always was filled with tokens for the trolleys. If a person needed a token, they could step inside the house, pull up the knob on the banister, and pull out a token to return home.

Other rooms were dedicated to carrying for unwed mothers, babies left on her doorstep, hospitality, song writing and more.

A few extra highlights include the story of when Aimee came up with the foursquare name and symbols.

If you ever get a chance to be in LA, stop through the Heritage House, the visit is free, but you walk away inspired.

Date Night

I am looking forward to tonight, the first Date Night I have gotten since being in the US. We have been on the go so much since touching down in LA whether preparing for the speaking engagements at churches, connecting with friends and partners in our ministry, visiting family or doing homework and taking classes for my masters program, we have not taken just one evening to be our date night. How could this happen?

For me, first for weeks of furlough equaled, stuffy head, runny nose, soar throat, and a hacking cough that just would not go away. Two days after arriving in the frigid mid-May climate of Southern California, I came down with a cold. The cold hung on as we flew, stayed up late and woke up early for class, and continued to be in rapid weather changes for weeks.

We tried to get to as many people as often as possible to maximize our time in each part of the US. Already, we have visited five states with Arizona coming this weekend and Northern California after that, not to mention a brief stop in Denver. The life of a furlough is not relaxing, the pace just keeps going or you miss seeing people that you need to see, and miss getting things done.

Somehow in the midst of this busy-ness, we need to take time for a date night. We are not on furlough from that routine. Date night is not just cliché for us. Date not is not just a funny movie that describes how life can get if we allow our life to become boring and routine.

Date night gives the space for us to talk and pour into each other deepening our relationship. My wife has the love language of quality time. If I keep giving others my time, I will not show her the love she needs to receive. Therefore on Saturday, I said, let’s make Wednesday night our date night. We are going to go out to dinner and walk on the beach tonight. How fun, I wish I had time to buy some roses and make a card to build the moment for my beautiful bride. Maybe I should stop typing this post and get on that…

Date night is not the end in itself. This just allows us to catch up on the small things, relationship issues with friends and work, family drama, the small and slightly larger than small talk necessary to a vital and fresh relationship. We still cherish those days when we get several hours, a half day or more to really talk and share our hearts, life goals and deeper issues that take time and comfortable space to come out.

I am so looking forward to spending time with my wife tonight. She talks with me so well. She makes me so much more than I would be without her. I should never take that for granted.