Change of Direction

Hi friends. A few weeks ago, I had a Pet/CT scan to see if I was still cancer free. A lymph node near my trachea lit up as possibly being malignant. After having it scoped, it was confirmed that it’s a flare up of the esophageal cancer I had a couple of years ago. At this point, it’s limited to the one lymph node, but I will need to have chemo again to treat it. So, there are two good news items:

1. It’s very limited in size

2. It’s treatable.

The bad news is chemo is not a fun experience. I’ll be in treatment for about 4 months. I’d appreciate your prayers for healing. I do believe I’m still here telling you about this because God has answered a lot of healing prayers, along with the brilliant and compassionate work of the team at UCSF. I’m going to be using my music blog as a place to tell the story of the journey we’ve been through in the past four years. I’ll break it up into smaller posts and share some insights Linda and I have had along the way.

You can sign up to follow my blog here on this page.

Cheers,

Dave

5-15 Minutes Can Change A Lot

5-15 Minutes Can Help A Lot

Hi Friends,

It’s Dave Foster.  You might have already guessed that I’m the one who does the webmaster thing for the Concord Vineyard’s blog.IMG_3982

Something we encourage everyone to do during the summer is to take some time to reflect on scripture and try to hear what God is saying to us today through what we’re reading. It might just be a couple of minutes, but as we stick with the practice, I believe we’ll see the fruit of the effort.

So, in that spirit, I’m going to share my reflections with you.  I read the Moravian Texts every morning. I have it sent to my inbox daily.  I could pick some verses out on my own, but I’m finding that following the verses they’ve laid out for me has been very helpful to my knowing and using scripture in my life. It usually doesn’t take me any more than 15-20 minutes a day.

You can sign up for the daily email here   They’ll only send you the daily verses, nothing else.
They send out 3 selections (in one email) every day, usually Old Testament, a Psalm and New Testament. Right now, I’m concentrating on the New Testament reading.  So here’s today’s selection. I’ll share what I heard from it below.

Luke 9:12-27New International Version (NIV)

12 Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.”
13 He replied, “You give them something to eat.”
They answered, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.” 14 (About five thousand men were there.)
But he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.”15 The disciples did so, and everyone sat down. 16 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people. 17 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.

Peter Declares That Jesus Is the Messiah

18 Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”
19 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”
20 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.”

Jesus Predicts His Death

21 Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. 22 And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
27 “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”
 
Reflection:
So my reflection today is that there are no limits on the power and love of Jesus. There is no reason not to ask Him and have complete faith that it will be done. He fed 5,000 people in the middle of nowhere. He gave up His life for me. He rose from the dead. 
Action/prayer:
Today, Lord, I want to make sure that I’m looking for opportunities to act in faith. When someone tells me of an area they need God’s help, I want to pray for them and see that help come. Especially when it comes to emotional, mental or physical healing.
  I’d love to hear what He told you.
Cheers,
Dave

What Was Going Through My Mind While We Were All Singing Last Night?

Last night, at the Church Without Shoes Maundy Thursday Communion Service, several people asked me about the song we played at the end. It’s called Fiery Love, and is available on my album “Greater Things.”  It was written by Samuel Lane and Daniel Wheeldon. The album was produced by Marc Ford and Chris Lizotte

As I was singing the song, I found my mind drifting to memories of the journey of life since the album was recorded. First, I was in the moment, thankful for my great friends in the band last night. We’re all worship leaders from churches in the area, and we’ve shared the highs and lows of our lives together over the last 10+ years. Some have moved away and others have joined in more recently. When we come together to lead worship, it’s amazing how we share the same heart and purpose.

Next, I was thinking of the journey my family has been on. We finished recording the album in August 2014. In mid-September, I was diagnosed with stage 3 melanoma. Over the next few months I had two major surgeries to remove cancer cells, which had travelled into my lymph nodes. Through the work of God’s healing and the incredible doctors and staff at UCSF Mount Zion Hospital in San Francisco, I am now cancer free! As I sang, I thought about our journey, and the journey many of my friends have had with cancer.

Third, I was thinking about my dad. While I was laid up after my second surgery, my dad took a fall in his back yard and ruptured his spleen. He was hospitalized for two months before passing away on March 27, 2015. The first anniversary of his passing is Easter Sunday. I was wondering about how I was going to react to Easter this year.

Finally, there’s this high note I hit the end of the song. I hit it and hold it for a couple of measures. I’m not doing it to show off, it’s reflective of the power, relief, strength and faith I sense in still being here. I have visited the valley of the shadow of death and God has delivered me. I’m still here to be a husband, father, grandfather, friend and leader.

That’s what I was thinking about. Have an awesome Easter.

He is Risen!

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A Backlog of Thankfulness Makes Tough Times Better

Several years ago, we were attending a National Vineyard conference in Anaheim.  It was a difficult season in my life. I was feeling particularly tired and sorry for myself.  Working two jobs, not getting enough sleep, battling a long illness, I loved leading worship but everything about my life was getting to be like going through the motions. I was deeply weary. There was no breath of inspiration for living the life God gave me. I felt like the valley of dry bones.
At these conferences, there are usually breakout sessions each afternoon on various topics, which I am sometimes inclined to skip, because I’m tired and I’m an introvert.  I need down time.
However, this particular time, Linda and I decided to attend an afternoon session on worship. It was led by Chris Lizotte and I really enjoy his thoughts on worship.  But I was surprised when at this workshop, Chris spoke for less than a minute and then introduced his neighbor, Jimmy.  I thought to myself ‘I should have gone back to hotel and taken that nap!’. Jimmy was a small man, in his early fifties/late forties, with a broad smile, a carpenter by trade, who embraced the Southern California surf culture, with a blonde pony tail and a pretty thick southern drawl. Jimmy had also been fighting cancer for a while and actually lost that fight not too long after.
Jimmy wasn’t really a preacher, but he had a powerful message. He was about saying thank you, out loud to God, for His love and every detail of care He shows for us.  This man embodied his message. He was joy packaged. We were undone!
His message wasn’t new.  The scripture clearly tells us to give thanks always and in every situation. But I think this message hit me hard for a few reasons. One, it was what God was speaking to me. It was clearly his word to my tired, sick, discouraged and weary heart. And it hit the target square on. It was all the more powerful because it was delivered by a man fighting cancer and could not have been more authentic and genuine. He was a husband, father and friend who in no way wanted to be in the situation he was in.  But, in every inch of his being, he was extremely and genuinely thankful.   The resulting joy and peace were something you could see and feel. I have a tape of the session, and it still moves me.
He was a living example of how actively giving thanks to God changes your perception of everything. He was a powerful reminder of the fruit of gratitude  Jimmy just had us all say “Thank You Lord” a whole bunch of times together.  It sounds contrived, but when the Spirit is in something, it gets real very quickly.  We could feel the Spirit moving through the room, happy to move among us and lift burdens.  We ended the time by crowding around Jimmy and praying for his physical healing. It was a bath of tears. Good tears.
This 90 minute session brought about a lasting change in me.  Here in the bay area; we are a sarcastic, suspicious, independent bunch.  How could something this simple as a grateful heart change such “sophisticated” people?  But it did change us.  There is power when we name things. And naming the things we had to be thankful for was just that, powerful. When we name things we see them. And we are reminded of them. And we stop and acknowledge them. And we encourage others when we share them. So we started intentionally thanking God out loud as an act of worship.  We wrote Him notes of thanks.   Thank you Lord, thank you Lord, thank you Lord became a breath prayer for us.
Everyone has difficult things happen.  We’re navigating a particularly hard one with our friends and family right now.  The hard challenges of this life are real. And we need to acknowledge them and pray our way through them, hearing what God is saying to us about them.
But equally if not more important is His goodness. So even still in the midst of the good and the bad, the easy breezy days and the hard painful ones, when we gather together for dinner, we each take a moment to say what we’re thankful for this day.  Each of us naming something we are thankful for, from the youngest to the oldest. It seems to disarm the enemy’s lies, calm our insecurities and neutralize our fears.  It sets the tone for our conversation. It puts us in the right frame of mind to hear His voice and go where He leads us.
 It can change your way of thinking and lighten your heart.  As it becomes an ingrained part of your daily rhythm, it will change the way you encounter others and engage in daily life.  You will see the joy of the Lord become your strength. It will become your “go to”, because you’ve put in the time, you’ve practiced the discipline of being thankful and it becomes part of your spiritual rhythm.
   “Thank you Lord, that You know my name, That you look at me and everyone as the same, Your love is strong, and it never changes.”  (From- You Know My Name by Chris Lizotte)

Abiding: How to Hear God’s Voice

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.    John 15:1-4
In my home church, Vineyard Concord, we take the month of July for a time we call Summer Sabbath.  We suspend our midweek meetings, along with our kids and youth churches.  Our Sunday mornings together are called “All-In;” and we have a very simple worship time with a couple of activities all ages can do together.    During Summer Sabbath, the worship band is pared down It’s a couple of us on acoustic guitars and maybe someone on box drum.  I ask all of the worship team to serve in one year terms, which start in August. Summer Sabbath is also a time set aside so we can listen to God and decide together if they’re going to sign on for the coming year. We end Summer Sabbath with the whole congregation getting together for a picnic in a local park.
When we first started explaining Summer Sabbath a few years ago, some people got the impression that it was basically a time to give the church staff and leaders a break.  This does happen, but really, for us, Summer Sabbath is a season to abide in the Father and prune back our activities to allow us to bear better fruit in the coming year.  We encourage each other to embrace a rhythm of life where we take time to read, reflect, pray and hear God’s voice, so we can go and do the things we hear Him saying.  My wife, Linda, writes a weekly blog during this time, called Abiding, to help focus our thoughts and prayers.
Other churches we are in relationship with in our valley encourage their congregations to do the same. To join in and embrace Summer Sabbath as a time to intentionally rest in Him.  We may not be able to actually take a vacation or scale back our work schedules, but we intentionally find ways and time to connect with the Father’s heart, which we may neglect when we’re busy with fruit bearing times of our lives.  Our goal is to establish a rhythm in our lives of resting then working to bear fruit.
During the rest of the year, we talk about and encourage everyone to find a rest/work balance within the day, within each week, in every season. Life is not a marathon with a few weeks (if we are lucky) off for vacations in the summer. Life is about rhythm. All of creation reflects this truth. The seasons, each having a specific, rhythmic purpose, in order. Breathing in, breathing out. Daytime and nighttime. Work and sleep. We are created for both. Each has its own specific purpose in our physical and emotional and spiritual well being. God created it all, knowing how He made us. And by acknowledging this fact, we humble ourselves, admitting we are the created, and we honor His design in us. True, we easily get knocked out of rhythm in our lives.
To be sure, there are days, weeks, seasons where the call is to be intense and intentional about something, and we will needfully put aside rest or work. New babies come to mind. Or job changes or illness, or any number of life interruptions. But we must go back and find the rhythm we were created for and acknowledge it is designed for our good. We function best when we agree with God about who He says we are and how He made us. After all, we are the created, He alone is the creator. We honor Him when we recognize and by our actions agree with this.
Our Summer Sabbath begins on first Sunday after July 4th and runs through the last Sunday in July. Join us! I’d recommend seeing what daily and weekly activities you can put aside for the time, diving into the word and prayer, (we use the  Moravian Texts as our daily readings and the Abiding blog), to hear His voice. Then reflecting on what God is saying to you, now in this season of life. Listen to His direction for your upcoming season, year.  Since I’m mainly writing for worship leaders here, I want to challenge you to get in there and make this a rhythm of abiding. Daily, weekly, seasonally, annually, recognize your need to both bear fruit and abide. You’ll draw closer to the Father’s heart, and your ability to lead others will be more fruitful.197392_10150103597568862_3232886_n
Note: Moravian texts are a daily set of 3 or 4 sections of scripture, which can be emailed directly to you every morning.  They aren’t selling anything and they won’t flood your inbox.  It’s just a daily scripture reading resource.  We use it as something we can do as a church family.