Are we too busy to live?

I just heard about a pastor whose spouse is so stressed out that they live different states and get together once a week – presumably to remind themselves that they are still married.  I have often heard of married couples in high profile secular jobs that live like this but I am horrified to think that Christian leaders who should be setting a good example for their congregations live like this too.  What is the church coming to?  No wonder more and more Christian leaders are opting out of church in their 40s and 50s – they have not given up their faith just the pressures that the church imposes on them.  And evidently the average length of time that pastors stay in their jobs these days is down to about 5 years.  The pressures get to them and they opt out.

Is this the way that God intends us to live?  I don’t think so.  Shouldn’t we be setting an example of a different way of life?


Books, Plants and Friends

I just realized looking back through this blog that it is a long time since I mentioned any of the books I have been reading, which is rather surprising since I read 4 – 5 books a week. Maybe the problem is that I have been dipping into a number of rather of uninspiring books lately. The best I have come across is Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, a delightful account of her family’s adventures when they decided to live only on local food for a year. It really inspired me to consider other ways that we could reduce our consumption of food that has been transported halfway across the world. Actually I am feeling pretty good about that at the moment – this afternoon Ricci Kilmer and I were out planting the autumn vegetables – cauliflowers, cabbages and broccoli. Part of the rhythm of life for Ricci and I (and her daughter Catie) is that we get together every Wednesday afternoon for a cup of tea, a chat about where we are at in our lives & then an hour attacking some project in the house or garden – at the moment we are usually out in the garden planting or weeding.

It is a great time to wander the garden – the spring flowers are in full bloom, the early tomatoes are starting to turn red (or yellow depending on the variety) and the first squash are growing rapidly. It is extremely satisfying, not just because we are able to produce so much of our own food but also because it is just wonderful to wander around and drink in the beauty of God’s creation.

Anyhow back to books. The other book I have been dipping into is Covenant of Peace: The Missing Peace in New Testament Theology and Ethics by Willard Swartley. It is a wonderful look at the concept of shalom (one of my passions) in the New Testament. I was glad to notice when I read the introduction that this book had actually taken 20 years to write. I have been studying and writing on shalom for 15 years. I too would like to write a book but I suspect that it will be another couple of years before I get around to it.

While I am on the topic of books maybe I should share a few of my favourites. They may surprise you. One book I have carried with me since I was 14 years old is a children’s story called All the Proud Tribesmen. It is a delightful story about a young Polynesian boy Kerri, who grows up on a small island in the South Pacific. There is a missionary woman on the island whom the islanders love and so they decide to give her a present – they give her Kerri as a son. After all in Poylnesian society children grow up as part of a community so they don’t feel that he is losing his family, he is just gaining another one. The story follows the islanders through the loss of their island and their move to another that is feared because it is believed to be the home of evil spirits.

When I was on the Anastasis in the South Pacific this book did the round of everyone on board. According to the Fijians and Tongans it was a very realistic look at island culture. I still pass the book around to anyone I can convince to read a children’s book.

Another of my favourites is also a cross cultural novel but this time a sci fi book called Hellspark by Janet Kagen. It is one of the best looks at cross cultural misunderstanding and struggle that I have ever read. And just to round off the list, another book I have carried around for years is Neville Shute’s Pied Piper. Like most of Neville Shute’s books it is the story of an ordinary man who does extraordinary things. John Howard, a man in is 60s is caught in Austria at the beginning of World War II and is asked to help get some children back to England. As he travels, dodging the advancing Germans, he slowly gathers other children. Anyhow I don’t want to give the story away so I suggest that you get hold of it at a second hand bookstore or at the local library.

Totally Domesticated

I have spent a very relaxing and totally domesticated evening – making blackcurrant jam and granola – the only challenge has been making sure that I do not put the blackcurant spoon in the granola and vice versa. If you have never tasted blackcurrant jam then you are missing out on one of God’s most wonderful inventions. I know that it is much better known and appreciated in Australia & Britain than it tends to be in the United States.

When Tom & I visited Britain a few years ago we stayed at a small community called Little Giddings where they made their own blackcurrant jam. Tom enjoyed it so much that the first thing we did when we arrived home was to buy a couple of blackcurrant biushes to plant in the garden. Now we produce more than enough for our own needs – and of course it really does need to be shared to be fully appreciated.

I have been making my own granola for years. It is an easy way to provide a nutritious and inexpensive breakfast – with fruit & home made yoghurt. In case you are interested here is my recipe.

Title: Christine’s Granola, Categories: Breakfast Yield: 60 Servings

10 c Rolled Oats 2 c Wheat Flakes
2 c Tricilicate Flakes 2 c Wheatgerm
3 c Wheat Bran 2 c oat bran 2 c Skim Milk Powder
2 c Wheat Flour 1 c Pecan,Chopped, 1c almonds chopped
1 c Cranberries 1 c Apricots,Chopped
1 c Pumpkin Seeds 1 c Flax Meal
1 c Apple Sauce 1 c Honey

[Note: I started making granola many years ago because I found the
ones I found in the stores were far too sweet for me. Over the years I
have reduced the fat, added a wider variety of grains and generally
made the granola more healthy. This is our main breakfast over the
summer months.]
Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Heat apple sauce & honey
together, add to dry ingredients and mix separating any lumps in
mixture. Cook at 350 F until brown. Leave in oven until oven is cool.
Add dried fruit.

Per Serving: 195 Cal (19% from Fat, 15% from Protein, 65% from Carb); 8
g Protein; 4 g Tot Fat; 1 g Sat Fat; 1 g Mono Fat; 34 g Carb; 5 g Fiber;
10 g Sugar; 53 mg Calcium; 2 mg Iron; 15 mg Sodium; 0 mg Cholesterol;
AccuPoints = 3.5


Exploring Restorative Justice: Meet the prisoners & the victims

Here is a cool article on Exploring Restorative Justice that I received a copy of from Peacebuilders at Eastern Mennonite University today.  I was touched and encouraged by this radical and I think Biblical approach to justice.  In a world in which most of our “justice” is based on punitive measures we all really need to think more about what a Biblical approach would be.  The scary thing is that it also means we need to respond in new and restorative ways to the injustices we experience too.  Not easy for any of us when we feel violated by crime in some way.

These are some of my favourite things

These last couple of weeks have been busy but satisfying. I really have had a chance to do a lot of my favourite things.

We have entertained friends from Australia & Hong Kong


As you can see Fuzz Kitto from Australia really does live up to his name.

Last weekend we flew to San Diego to work with Solana Beach Presybterian Church. For me it was a little like going home to Australia – not only was the weather like Sydney (sun and surf all around) but it seemed to me that San Diego had imported all of my favourite trees & shrubs too – eucalyptus (commonly called gums in Australia) bottle brush & one of the most unusual flowers you will ever see – the kangaroo paw (see photo)


We also spoke at three church services, taught a perspectives class and met with church leadership over meals. I also had the chance to reconnect to people I had not seen since I was in Mercy Ships. It was a wonderful treat.

This weekend began with another party – Tom organized a luau with lots of wonderful Hawaiian style food. Anneke who lives in our downstairs flat even taught us to do the hula. In his book The Challenge of Jesus Tom Wright says “Everywhere that Jesus went there was a party. Seems like good theology to me & certainly something that we have taken to heart.


Saturday we spent on the land we own of Camano Island working on prayer trails in order to have the site ready for our Celtic prayer retreat in August. It was wonderful to be up on the land again – the smell of cedar & fir, the beauty of the forest and just the joy of being out in the midst of God’s wonderful creation is one of the most refeshing things I know.


p1010099.jpgI have even had time to work out in the garden. As you may know one of our commitments is to sustainability and one of the best ways to achieve this is by growing as much of our own food as possible. There is nothing more satisfying than being able to go out into the garden and pick vegetables to use in the meal you are about to prepare. This year I have gone a little wild with new varieties – purple, yellow and green cauliflowers have to be seen to be believed and they taste every bit as good as the white ones.


And in between times there was plenty of work to do on the Seed Sampler and upcoming MSA events. Somewhere soon I hope to find time to work on another book, or maybe just another reflection video – I love being able to incorporate my photos in what I do. It is the first time in my life I have been able to use this creative gift in this way.

The Simple Way Need Your Help.

This morning, a 7-alarm fire consumed an abandoned warehouse in the Kensington neighborhood in Philadelphia. The Simple Way Community Center at 3200 Potter Street was destroyed as well as at least eight of their neighbors’ homes.  We really want to support our friends at the Simple Way.   Read more on Eliacin’s blog

A Fast from Consumerism

Here’s a different kind of fast to consider – don’t buy anything new (except food & other essentials) for a month. Take the time to buy second hand or borrow from friends and neighbours. I think that it is a great idea. I think that it would have a huge impact not only on the environment but also on our relationships with others. When we share we develop new friendships and new forms of closeness. I would love to hear from anyone who has tried this. Read more

Jesus is Coming Back Look Busy

A good night sleep, a long refreshing prayer time and a few moments to relax and I am wondering “why do I allow myself to get stressed out over work?”  Part of it I know is that our culture is obsessed with work.  It is called the applauded addiction.  The first question we ask people is not “What is your spiritual vocation?” but  “What do you do for a living?” and many of us see our value and self worth in our occupation.   We look down on people who can’t hold down a full time job and even tend to see those who work as Christian volunteers or in positions where they need to raise their own support as second class citizens.   “When are you going to get a real job?”  I was often asked during my days on board the Mercy Ship Anastasis and many of my missionary friends struggle with the attitiude s of Christian friends who don’t understand their comitment to God’s call on their lives.

How much of the work and busy activity we fill our days with is really what God has calls us to do.   Several years ago I remember leading a church retreat where the organziers confessed that they were all a little nervous about what I would share because they were concerned that what they committed their time to was really not important at all.  Most of them had never spent any time reflecting on their use of time or on God’s priorities.  For how many of us is that true?  We keep busy but never take the time to reflect on the value of our activities.  And if we do think about it we are convinced that God is a hard task master who approves of our overbooked over stressed lifestyles.

It is only when I am convinced deep within my heart that this is not God’s plan that I make an effort to prioritize what I am doing and find God’s easy pace and balanced rhythms.    What do you think the lifestyle of a truly spiritual person looks like?  I am convinced it looks nothing like our stressed out lifestyles.

On the Edge

Today I have felt as though my job is overwhelming me.  The workload at MSA is growing as we start to plan our 2008 conference, work on plans for the Celtic retreat & community site as well as juggling the ongoing work of the newsletter, workshops & conversations.  I realize that there is a tipping point beyond which I know longer feel that I can maintain the balanced rhythms between spiritual and secular, work and rest, community and solitude that I know are essential for my life.  Above all when my work load becomes too great my spiritual life suffers and I find myself disconnecting from God.
So what can I do?  Well hopefully those of you who are not as busy as I am can help.  First I realize that we need more help here in the office.  If you would like to join our team here in Seattle please read the descriptions that I have added to the Mustard Seed Associates page & email me.  We can accomodate people who are interested from 1 hour to 10 hours a week.  There are also opoortunities for people to be involved from a distance – in fact our newsletter – the Seed Sampler  has been produced in Colorado for the last year.  So if you do not live in Seattle but would like to join the Mustard Seed team please let me know.

As well recruiting more help I know I need to take some more time to space out my responsibilities in order to maintain the balances that are so important for me.  I would appreciate your prayers as I take time to reflect on what I am doing that I should not be doing and how I can once again learn to say no.  I find this is something I need to do regularly.  I find my rhythm and develop a sustainable way of life for a while and then I find myself taking on more than I should.  Our culture encourages us to be too busy and it is an easy trap to fall into.  Pray that I will again discover God’s unforced rhythms of grace.

“My Peace I leave with you”

One of my tasks each month is to write a liturgy for the MSA newsletter (Seed Sampler). One of the things I love about this task is that it ensures I take time each month for reflection and prayer that revolves around social or spiritual issues we face in our world. This last month’s issue was on Peace in the Middle East which meant I spent quite a bit of time reflecting on what it would take to bring peace to the Middle East. I was doing this the week after Pentecost so reflecting on the story of Pentecost and its implications of cross cultural understanding seemed an appropriate place to start. I thought that you might enjoy seeing what I shared.


This last weekend we celebrated the Feast of Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit into our lives and into our world. I love this story as it is recounted in the second chapter of Acts. Having worked in many cross cultural situations I know that there is nothing more frustrating than lack of understanding with a person from another culture who speaks another language. I can imagine the delight of this gathering literally from across the known world – Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamians, Judea, Cappadocians, Asians, Egyptians, Libyans visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans, and Arabs. All of them heard the disciples in their own languages. I suspect that the understanding went far deeper than language, however. I think that through the power of the Holy Spirit all of those gathered on the day of Pentecost were able to understand the cultural traditions and nuances that so often cause misunderstanding and conflict.

The story of Pentecost is a story of a wonderful international cross cultural gathering. God’s Holy Spirit draws us all into a new family in which we are able to understand and break down all the cultural barriers that separate us and create conflict. In spite of our cultural differences we are, through the power of the Spirit, enabled to understand each other and treat each other as equals, with love and mutual care.


Peace in the Middle East is not possible without cross cultural understanding not just between Israelis and Arabs but also between Jews and Christians and Muslims. Perhaps this is part of the reason God asks us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. This holy city of God is special to people of so many traditions and cultures. Without understanding and without the power of the Holy Spirit working within it there will never be peace.

Take Action

1. How could you help to break down barriers & foster understanding between peoples of different cultures in the Middle East?

2. What does it mean for us to be drawn into community with the peoples of Palestine?

3. What implications does the message of Pentecost have in relation to the topics addressed in this newsletter?

A Liturgy for Peace

God blesses those who work for peace,
For they will be called the children of God. (Matt 5:9)



God of peace you call us to peace.
Peace within and peace without
Peace before and peace behind
Peace on right and peace on left
Christ of peace you call us to peace.
Peace with brother and with sister
Peace with neighbour and with stranger
Peace with friend and with foe
Spirit of peace you call us to peace.
Peace in work and in play

Peace in thought and in deed
Peace in word and in action
Grant us peace O God of peace.

Psalm 122 (New Living translation)

1 I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
2 And now here we are,
standing inside your gates, O Jerusalem.
3 Jerusalem is a well-built city;
its seamless walls cannot be breached.
4 All the tribes of Israel—the Lord’s people—
make their pilgrimage here.
They come to give thanks to the name of the Lord,
as the law requires of Israel.
5 Here stand the thrones where judgment is given,
the thrones of the dynasty of David.

6 Pray for peace in Jerusalem.
May all who love this city prosper.
7 O Jerusalem, may there be peace within your walls
and prosperity in your palaces.
8 For the sake of my family and friends, I will say,
“May you have peace.”
9 For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek what is best for you, O Jerusalem.

John 14:23-27 (Contemporary English Version)

Jesus replied: If anyone loves me, they will obey me. Then my Father will love them, and we will come to them and live in them. But anyone who doesn’t love me, won’t obey me. What they have heard me say doesn’t really come from me, but from the Father who sent me. I have told you these things while I am still with you. But the Holy Spirit will come and help you, because the Father will send the Spirit to take my place. The Spirit will teach you everything and will remind you of what I said while I was with you. I give you peace, the kind of peace that only I can give. It isn’t like the peace that this world can give. So don’t be worried or afraid.

Our Father who is in heaven hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for yours is the kingdom the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

God all powerful and all knowing encircle us
Keep love within and fear without
Keep peace within and violence out
Circle us with your presence

God all loving and all embracing encircle us
Keep wholeness in and disease without
Keep care within and selfishness out
Circle us with your love
God all mighty and all caring encircle us
Keep truth within and injustice out
Keep acceptance in and prejudice out
Circle us with your peace

God may we be instruments of your peace today
In a world divided by war and strife
May we be your reconcilers
In a world of hurt and pain
May we be those who care for our enemies
In a world that kills and maims
May we be those who heal and restore

God lead us with your peace