Art by Mark Nii Hylton

Ghanaian artist Mark Nii Hylton will have an art show here in Seattle at the Q cafe beginning July 3rd. It looks very interesting.  I hope to attend.  Here is some info on Mark and a sneak preview

Mark Nii Hylton combines realism and abstraction and effectively uses a mixture of raw primary colors in an expressive, effective and controlled style. His choice of medium ranges from acrylic, oil pastel, to black ball.

Mark was born in Akuse, Ghana, in 1978. Nii completed his classical training at Ghanatta College of Art in Accra, Ghana . He graduated with a Diploma in Graphic Design and Painting in 2002. In 2004, He traveled to the United States of America where he is currently pursuing his BFA in Painting at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri. He won the Presidents Honorary Scholarship and Art Assistant Scholarship during his first semester of college. Currently, he works as a part time artist. He is inspired by the traditional, cultural and social aspects of African life. In Fall 2004 and 2005, he participated in the Red Barn Arts and Crafts festival in Kirksville, Missouri and won the best Student Art Award in 2005. He was the first African student from Truman State University to introduce African art into the local community. Mark is also a proud member of the Columbia Art League in Columbia, Missouri. He joined the organization in April 2007.

Preview his work.

Photo Show

Those of you that are in British Colombia might be interested in this photo show.  Tom Balke takes beautiful photos and often contributes to the MSA Seed Sampler including the upcoming edition.  He has been involved in Mustard Seed Associates for many years and is a frequent speaker at our conferences as well.  He is also a very good friend.

THe World’s Women Need Our Help

We have just posted the main articles for the MSA Seed Sampler which will be distributed tomorrow. Thought that you might find the lead article interesting

“‘The church’s challenge for the 20th century was the equality of women,’ proclaimed the speaker at a conference I attended recently. ‘Now that this battle has been won, we need to move on to new issues facing the church in the 21st century.’ I was stunned as I thought of my many women friends around the world who still struggle to find acceptance and feel valued within their society and their churches. This statement has revolved in my mind ever since. What have women gained in the last few decades, and as we look to the future what are they still seeking?” Read the entire article

Church Basement Roadshow

On Monday we hosted Doug Pagitt, Mark Scandrette and Tony Jones for a BBQ lunch. They are on tour promoting their books – Soul Graffiti, The New Christians and A Christianity Worth Believing and entertaining audiences with The Church Basement Roadshow

It was fun to catch up with old friends and make new ones. I have appropriated some of Mark’s material for the urban walk at our conferences (with acknowledgment of course) and have been challenged by the way that he and his wife live and work in community. Doug too is involved in Solomon’s Porch a community church in Minneapolis. Tony Jones is the national coordinator of Emergent Village. This was the first time we had met him. I am looking forward to reading his book.

The Prayer of Examen

The Mustard Seed team met again this morning for a session on discernment.  We had intended to discuss our spiritual gifts and talents and seek to discern together how we could use these to further the ministry of MSA.  However Ricci Kilmer was unable to join us because Gabriel still has a slight fever so instead we spent our time going through the Jesuit Prayer of Examen. This was a very rewarding exercise in which we found ourselves not only listening more closely to God but also to each other.

This prayer takes about 10 – 15 minutes to complete and provides a process in which we seek to discern the movement of the Spirit of God throughout our day or week.  It is a prayer that draws us into the presence of God and with the intention of discerning how God has interacted with us during the day.  It is not always a comfortable prayer as we must take time to allow God to challenge as well as encourage us.  This is a prayer that requires a response from us.  Sometimes we need to seek forgiveness from others that we have wronged.   At other times there may be a very positive response as we are made aware of God’s enjoyment of our faithfulness.

There are five steps:to the prayer

  1. Recalling we are in the presence of God
  2. Looking over the events of the day with gratitude for the day’s gifts
  3. Inviting the Holy Spirit to help us evaluate our actions and attitudes with honesty and patience
  4. Reviewing the day making yourself aware of where Christ assisted your decisions and where you should have paused to receive his instruction
  5. A heart to heart talk with Jesus sharing your thoughts on your actions, attitudes, feelings and interactions.

I hope that you find this process as helpful as we do.

A Weekend to Remember and Forget

Well the weekend is over and it is one that I both enjoyed and hope I never have to repeat. Saturday morning we headed up to Camano Island to start preparations for our Celtic Prayer Retreat August 9th. Going up to the land, walking the prayer trails (now a little overgrown but still recognizable) and just generally soaking in the beauty of God’s good creation is one of the most relaxing things I know. Of course the fact that we were laying down gravel in some rather muddy patches on the road made it a little more busy than sometimes but it was a day well spent.
Shortly after we returned home, Ricci came down with their son Gabriel who had a high fever. I had just gotten him into a tub of cold water when he started to convulse. Now probably one in 20 kids have a febrile (fever induced) convulsion at some point in their lives but that does not help when it is you kid (or godson as is the case here). Even the fact that I have treated lots of these kids in my days in the emergency room at the hospital did not make it any easier.
So here is a good piece of advice for all parents of young children. If your child does have a febrile convulsion – get him cool (tepid water or fan or both) and lay him on his side on the floor then call 911. Chances are that the fit will not last long but since you don’t know it is good to get those emergency guys there as well.
That’s exactly what we did – got him wet and laid him on his side until the paramedics arrived – doesn’t sound spectacular but the most important thing is to make sure that he is breathing and that his tongue is not obstructing his air passages. The only thing extra that the paramedics did was to give him oxygen.
He is now doing fine and will probably never have this happen again but I know that all of us will be a little stressed every time he has a fever for a little while.
Sunday was another busy day – church in the morning and then the first BBQ of the season with some of the local young church planters – Karen Ward and Gareth, an intern from Britain, Ryan Marsh, Tim and Cote Soerens, Eric Likkel and his family and Penny Carrruthers and her family. It was a great time for food, fellowship and fun. I might be prejudiced but I think that Tom makes the best BBQ in Seattle.

Seminary at Sing Sing

Did you know that you can actually get a seminary degree while in prison?  Here is a great story from Jim Wallis at Sojourner’s about speaking to inmates at Sing Sing

Last Wednesday evening, June 11, I was blessed and honored to give the commencement address at Sing Sing Prison. The New York Theological Seminary offers a program of theological study leading to the degree of Masters of Professional Studies, with all courses taking place inside the walls of the Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, New York. In twenty-six years this extraordinary and courageous seminary training program has graduated hundreds who then go on to ministry, both inside the prison system of New York and back in the community when their sentences are finished.  Read more

More on Quaker Discernment.

We held our first discernment meeting Tuesday with our MSA team. It was an exciting time which we felt drew us both closer to each other and also closer to God. We were particularly encouraged by the fact that this process gave everyone in the MSA team a sense of ownership and drew us together as a team that is focused on Christ rather than on our own agendas. We see it as an opportunity to mentor each other and to integrate our spiritual practices with our work. Our greatest struggle was a concern that this would slow us down and make it harder to accomplish concrete goals. We were also concerned at the extent to which outside pressures distract us from God’s purposes. To be honest as I reflected on this I realized that we are probably not wasting time at all – in the long run we are probably saving time. The more time we spend focusing on God and God’s agenda the more effectively we will be at doing things that have eternal value.

Here is a summary of the process we used. It was developed by Bruce Bishop – one of the authors of Practicing Discernment Together.

Centering

(Recognizing the presence of God)

Gathering silence before the meal/meeting

Relating

(Checking in with each other)

Briefly checking-in: Something we are looking forward to this week, something we’re not so excited about

Receiving

(Attending to God, listening)

Prayer of Examen on your experience of God this last week: Consolations and Desolations

Ruminating

(Considering the fruits of the prayer, looking for direction and threads)

Listening to one another, considering how God is moving in our personal lives

Reflecting

(Given what we’ve heard and shared, what is God doing among us or calling us to?)

Noticings and reflections and implications of where God is active

Responding

(With this focus on God and God’s activity, we do the business at hand)

Looking at our business agenda in this spirit of attentiveness

*Business*

including recentering as needed to keep ourselves attentive

Returning and Closing

(offering ourselves and our efforts to God)

Noticing God-movements and shifts during the meeting

Reflecting on where God seemed to be active

Prayer

Centering Prayer

This morning we are conducting a discernment process to help us listen to God and discern what we, both as individuals and as the MSA team, are meant to be doing.  In preparation for this session I have been reading 2 books that I would highly recommend.  One is Basil Pennington’s classic Centering Prayer: Renewing an Ancient Christian Prayer Form. Centering prayer begins with a time of silence focusing on the presence of God and reminding us that Christ is the center of all we are and do.  It is very challenging as it is easy for us in our busy modern world to want to move straight into the work of the day.  “At the beginning of our prayer we take a minute or two to quiet down and then move in faith to God, dwelling in our depths.”

The other is a book on the Quaker group discernment process called Practicing Discernment Together by Lon Fendall, Jan Wood and Bruce Bishop.  I would highly recommend both of these books to anyone who is interested in a more participatory, Christ focused discernment process.  Chapter 2 by Bruce Bishop on Cultivating Foundational Discernment Skills is excellent.

We appreciate your prayers as we move ahead in this process.  This is a whole new way of running an organization.  It is so easy (and seemingly more efficient) for us all to gravitate toward the world’s way of doing business and not even acknowledge that God’s way of doing things may be very different from ours.

The World’s Women Need Our Help

I am still working on input for our upcoming ezine on “The World’s Women Need Our Help.  Though conditions have improved remarkably for many women around the world, It is discouraging to see how much still needs to change.  Thought that I might share some of my discouragement – here are some of the statistics I have gathered.  It just highlights how much we need to pray for women around the world and reach out to help them.

Though more people have been lifted out of poverty in the last 50 years than in the previous 500, 1.2 billion still subsist on less than $1 per day. Seven out of ten of the world’s hungry are women and girls World wide women grow about half the world’s food but own only 1% of the world’s property and receive only 10% of the world’s income.

Reproductive health conditions – including HIV/AIDS – are still the leading cause of death and illness in women aged 15 to 44 worldwide and the second leading cause of death and illness when both men and women of reproductive age are taken into account. An estimated 529,000 women died from complications of pregnancy and childbirth in 2000. For every woman who dies, roughly 20 more suffer serious injury or disability — between 8 million and 20 million a year. Virtually all these women were in developing countries. Up to 95% of infants will die with the first year of life without their mother.

Nearly half of those living with HIV are female, but the share of infected women and girls is growing. Of the 17 million women between age 15 and 49 living with HIV, 98% live in developing countries. Of all regions, sub-Saharan Africa continues to be the most devastated. No other region in the world approaches its HIV prevalence rates or displays such a disproportionate impact on women and girls. More than three–quarters (77 %) of all women with HIV live in Sub-Saharan Africa. Women and girls make up almost 57 % (over 13 million) of all people infected with HIV in the region. Among girls aged 15–24, the difference is even more pronounced: In the worst- affected African countries, as many as three young women live with HIV for every young man.

In India and China it is estimated that there are 60 million less women than there should be. These infants are victims of female feticide & selective malnourishment and neglect of girls.

Each year about 1 million girls worldwide will suffer female genital mutilation – a crude surgical and suturing exercise done to insure males a virgin bride. An estimated 90 million women and girls living today have suffered this procedure.

There are approximately 50 million uprooted people around the world, both refugees who have sought safety in another country as well as people displaced within their own country. Between 75-80% of them are women and children many of them fleeing their homes because of war. In U.S. wife abuse is the leading cause of injury among women of reproductive age.

Between 22% and 35% of women who visit U.S. emergency clinics are there for symptoms related to ongoing abuse.

One particularly vicious & violent form of discrimination and abuse in India and other parts of Asia is “bride burning” or dowry deaths. Dowry deaths are notoriously undercounted, estimates vary from 1200 to 15,000 a year. Often the victim is doused with kerosene and set alight and then it is claimed she died in a kitchen accident.