Thou Shalt Not Kill Except in Video Games

Here is a very sobering article that was in the NY Times a few days ago.  Talk about buying into the secular culture with a vengeance.  What “Christian” values do we teach when so much of the entertainment even at church portrays violence.

“First the percussive sounds of sniper fire and the thrill of the kill. Then the gospel of peace.

Across the country, hundreds of ministers and pastors desperate to reach young congregants have drawn concern and criticism through their use of an unusual recruiting tool: the immersive and violent video game Halo.” Read more


What Do We Do About Halloween

Halloween lanternHalloween – probably one of the strongest rituals and an important part of the rhythm of life practiced in the American culture – is almost upon us.  When I first came the live in the US I could not believe how much emphasis was placed on this night even by churches and many of my Christian friends.  The power of the secular culture to overcome the practices and beliefs of our faith is overwhelming to me.

Over the years I have become even more uncomfortable as the horror movies and graveyard displays have multiplied around me.  But what really puzzles me is: Why are we so drawn into these images?  Why do so many Christians not only practice Halloween but also enjoy the ghoulish images that go with it?

Probably the best reflections on this I have seen were posted recently by Julie Clawson.  

At Halloween our modern cultural rituals are a dim reflection of the historical practice of connecting with and honoring those who have come before. We lost the true meaning, but keep the trappings in hopes that we can connect in some way to something bigger than ourselves. We bring out the ghosts, jack-o-lanterns, and black cats not understanding what they mean, but longing nonetheless to grasp hold of a fleeting glimpse of the mysterious. We watch horror movies in hopes that fear, as raw and intense of an emotion as it is, will at least make us feel something beyond ourselves. But these things still remain trappings of a world in which we don’t fully believe.   Read more

Halloween lantern

Sitting with Mary at Jesus Feet

The start of another week and my mind is whirring with the many things I would like to share – the beauty of Fall in Seattle, the horror of the fires in California, my struggles to keep my life balanced in the midst of a busy schedule all come to mind.  However uppermost are some further reflections on the place of women in Christianity.

jesus-raises-jairus-daughter-chinese.jpgAs I was thinking about my posts on this subject during the last week I was reminded of a discussion I had with Elaine Storkey, prominent English evangelical whose writings have helped me greatly to understand a biblical perspective on women.  One thing she pointed out that really impressed me is how deliberately the gospels balance Jesus interactions with men and women.  Jesus miracles always touched men and women alike, in fact there is often a deliberate reporting of similar miracles occurring to men and women – both men and women were raised from the dead, both men and women who had been marginalized (lepers and the woman with an issue of blood) are healed, and there are two accounts of Jesus followers acclaiming “You are the Christ”  We all know the man (Peter) but who is the woman?  I find that when I ask this question few can tell me – and maybe I will tell you next week if someone doesn’t guess
My favourite story that Elaine expounded on is that of Mary and Martha.  “We have it all wrong.” she said.  “This is not about busyness, this is about the liberation of women.  In a culture in which men prayed daily, ‘Thank God I was not born a woman.’ and in which it was believed that women were unable to understand theological truth, Jesus is telling the men (and Martha who is carrying out the accepted womanly duties) that it is OK for Mary to sit at his feet and learn in the same way that the men are.”  What a refreshing and wonderful insight that was for me.  Not only did I feel affirmed in my own role as a professional woman, I also felt an affirmation of my own desire to see women everywhere set free to worship God freely.

I have often shared this story when working with women in Africa and Asia who are struggling to be educated themselves or to educate their daughters and other young women.  The education of girls does more to improve the life conditions of poor families than almost any other form of intervention.  Yet of the 900 million non literate people in our world 65% are women due to lack of educational opportunities. And partly as a consequence of this 70% of the 1.3 billion who live in poverty are women.  How wonderful that there is a story in the Bible that even affirms the value of women and our work in this important area

He Qi - Mary & Martha

Songs for a Revolution of Hope

emccdcover.pngI thought that you might be interested in this CD that Brian McLaren has just produced in conjunction with Tracy Howe and the Restoration Project called songs for a Revolution of Hope .  As I mentioned last week Tracy will be performing a house concert in conjunction with Mustard Seed Associates on November 3rd.  Click here for more information  

Women Peacemaking and the Church

I just found this wonderful article on Women Peacemaking and the Church by Father Dear, thanks to Jan who mentioned the article on her blog Yearning for God   It reminded me of a book I read many years ago written in 1970s by Swiss psychiatrist Paul Tournier called The Gift of Feeling, in which he reflects on what the world would look like if women found their true place.  At one point he comments “If women dared to be themselves, to realize their special mission and if their influence increased, would our society become more humane?”

Father Dear writes in his article:

“Women are the peacemakers. The world will not achieve peace without the energy and the work of women.” So writes Dolores Huerta of the United Farmworkers. Gandhi said the same thing in 1947: “Women are the natural messengers of the gospel of nonviolence, if only they will realize their high estate…. It is for American women to show what power women can be in the world. You can become a power for peace by refusing to be carried away by the flood-tide of the pseudo-science glorifying self-indulgence that is engulfing the West today and apply your minds instead to the science of nonviolence…. If nonviolence is the law of our being, the future is with women.” Read more

Going Organic

Here is an interesting article in the New York Times on Five Ways to Go Organic.  One of the things that amazes me about articles like this (good though they are) is that they rarely if ever mention the value of growing our own food.  We produce about 50% of our own fruit and vegetables in our urban backyard.  We don’t manage many potatoes yet – though in the light of facts like this we are certainly working on it – but we do manage to produce a lot of apples, tomatoes and an endless supply of lettuce and other greens.

There are wonderful benefits to producing your own food apart from the fact that you know exactly what pesticides and fertilizers have been used on it.  The flavour is unparalleled (one of the reasons I am always looking for new ways to increase the production).

I think that the sense of connectedness to God (who was of course the first gardener) that one feels in the garden is another great reason to work o producing our own food.  And the benefits for kids is huge.  Not only can they get their hands dirty (and the rest of them too) without getting into trouble but there is evidence that interaction with bacteria in the soil actually improves immunity.  And of course anything we can do to preserve God’s wonderful creation makes it worthwhile.

Women Speak Out

A couple of days ago I spoke about the need to listen to voices from other cultures.  As I reflected on that entry I realized that at times I seem to pay more attention to the voices from other cultures than I do to the voices of sisters in my own culture.  Yet I am very aware of how much more difficult it is for women to be heard than it is for men.  I have often found far more acceptance in the medical profession than in the church.  And I have often spoken about issues facing women in the Third world.  So this morning I have been blog surfing from one woman’s blog to another – what a rich array of material there is out there written by women I have not discovered yet.

A great place to start if you too want to listen more to the voices of women is with the emerging women’s blog  and the extremely helpful blogroll listed there.  In the next few days I intend to add most of them to my own blogroll.

My top recommendations (at least as a place to start:

Renita Weem’s entry Those Preaching Women , was particularly insightful for me.

Julie Clawsen’s Women in the Emerging Church

Tea for Health

Now here is something that all of us who are tea addicts can rejoice at: “Tea drinking is associated with preservation of hip structure in elderly women, according to the results of a study reported in the October issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.”  I always knew that my morning and afternoon tea rituals were an essential rhythm of life.

Get Satisfied

This morning I have been making granola, reading Get Satisfied edited by Carol Holst and keeping tabs on the discussion about monastic orders of the white man on Eliacin’s blog.   Talk about multi tasking.  And what do all these things have in common you may ask?  To answer that let me refer back to Get Satisfied.  This is a great collection of stories about people who really have found the satisfaction of living simply and being satisfied with enough.  There is growing evidence that our increasing consumption and profligate spending is not good either for us or for our planet.

As I read the book I was reminded of Paul’s wonderful words in 1 Timothy 6:6-8 “But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing we will be content with that. ”  And that led me to thinking about monasticism and the new Christian communities that are springing up all over the world and grappling with issues such as simplicity and with what a monastic order should look like in our day and age.  We certainly need to learn to be satisfied with enough but at the same time we need to grapple with how we can make it possible for others to have enough too.  We very definitely live in a multicultural world in which those with enough are often those from white Anglo-Saxon heritage.  It is very definitely time for us to listen to those from other cultural backgrounds and learn to practice a simplicity of life and faith that embraces all the people of our world.

Tracy Howe in Concert

Hope that you can join us for a House Concert with Tracy Howe of the Restoration Village

Host: Mustard Seed Associates
When? Saturday, November 3, 2007 – 7:00pm – 10:00pm
Where? Shafer-Baillie Mansion 907 14th Ave E Seattle, WA


Come for a concert at the Shafer Baillie Mansion in Capitol Hill to benefit Mustard Seed Associates and the Restoration Village.

Suggested donation: $10

About Tracy Howe and the Restoration Project: is the home to Tracy Howe, The Restoration Project, and the individuals and communities knit together around them. The Restoration Project is a vision of musical and artistic partnership. It is founded upon the eternal hope of a loving creator and a belief that artists able to express anything about this hope and creator become a vehicle for spiritual and relational restoration.

Tracy Howe, visionary and lead artist of the group, was born in Boulder, CO and now live in a small mountain town called Woodland Park, CO. She was classically trained on the piano from the age of five and began writing music by the time she was 12. Her first two albums were recorded during her college years in a basement studio. Aaron Strumpel, native of rural Iowa and currently residing in Boulder, CO, traveled with Tracy from 2002-2006. Aaron is now an accomplished solo artist and worship leader, and remains an important foundational part of The Restoration Project.

Tracy began traveling full time in 2000. It was not so much her ambition or desire for rock stardom that led her to book her first tour, but a desire to connect with people. Three years and 400 shows later, her vision was refined and she was more focused than ever on bringing hope to broken people through music and relationship. Because of her desire to serve people and communities in the margins, The Restoration Project became a 501 (c ) 3 nonprofit in 2003 and “Restoration Village” was launched as a platform to share the resources and relationships gained through years of partenrship and touring.

The Restoration Project traveled under the radar of industry and pop culture. Without the attention of media the group played on nearly 100 university campuses in 40 different states relying on relationships and new listeners to keep them moving forward. In 2005 the band was selected out of thousands of artists for the national NACA showcase (National Association for Colleges and Activities), the largest college booking showcase in the nation. Touring was focused on college and university campuses, but The Restoration Project has also visited prisons, drug rehab centers, inner city shelters and continues to visit communities throughout Latin America and the world.

International Work
The Restoration Project maintains an active tour schedule in general market venues but in her current season, Tracy has been focused on deepening relationships with a handful of communities in the US and South America, developing and sharing international resources (she speaks and sings in Spanish and Portuguese as well) and exploring alternative and sustainable models of touring and artistry (like HOUSE CONCERTS) that release people into their work, regardless of socio–economic situations or community size. Desiring deeply to help pioneers all over the world in bringing the presence of Jesus to their communities…and nations, Tracy is leading combined efforts to build helping networks in North, Central and South America.