Are You Recession Ready?

Tom has just had an article on Recession Readiness published in Leadership Journal

Mustard Seed Associates hosted our first ever Recession Preparedness Brainstorming Session here in Seattle.

We have been concerned about a possible economic downturn since 2007. In fact, I met with the administration and board of a leading evangelical college in January 2008, urging them to get ready for the impact of a possible recession on student loans and the ability of students and their parents to pay the bills.

We held our Recession Preparedness session several weeks before the economic meltdown actually began. Almost 50 friends came together to identify creative ways we could more fully be the compassion of God in our communities during a global economic crisis. We have worked in a similar way, over the years, with groups like Habitat for Humanity, World Concern, and Tear Fund UK to help them anticipate and creatively respond to new challenges.  Read more

We are planning another brainstorming session at Trinity Lutheran church in Lynnwood March 14th.  (More details to follow).  We are hoping to put together a booklet or DVD of resources out of this session.  To help us get ready we would love your input.

  1. What do you see as the major economic problems facing your church in the next two years?
  2. What are you doing in your church to help members of your congregation weather this season and still be available to be God’s compassionate response to those at the margins?

Book Review Friday – The Great Good Place

I have decided that I am going to try and make Fridays my book review day – at least for the next couple of months as I continue to read through the mountain of books I have accumulated on different aspects of community.

My best book for this week is The Great Good Place by Ray Oldenburg.  It explores the need for third places like cafes and coffee shops which provide an important place for people to gather in communities. These places provide a gathering place in which people from all backgrounds can gather without feeling inferior or judged, a place where race, culture and belief don’t matter and where everyone is allowed a voice without being threatened by the need to believe certain things or act in certain ways.  “a transformation must occur as one passes through the portals of a third place.  Worldly status claims must be checked at the door in order that all within may be equals.” p25

Oldenburg believes that third places are essential to community because they encourage civil discourse, political discussion and creativity within an informal setting that affirms the place of all members of the community.   I love his assertion that the word idiot comes from the the ancient Greeks who equated privacy with stupidity.  “Idiots were those who only understood their private worlds and failed to comprehend their connection to the encompassing social order.” p71

The best known third places are probably the English pub and the German beer garden. “The pub… is the only kind of public building used by large numbers of ordinary people where their thoughts and actions are not being in some way arranged for them.” p47

I found this book both stimulating and thought provoking particularly as he indites the church as a destroyer of third places and therefore by implication a destroyer of community mindedness.  How does the church destroy thrid places – by forbidding dancing, smoking, alcohol and some cases even “loitering on street corners”.  These social activities provide gathering places in which people can share ideas, tell jokes, relax and unwind without feeling judged or criticized.

Interestingly the way the author describes third places is reminiscent of the gatherings of Christains we read about in Acts where there was “neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free”.  The egalitarianism of the early church fostered the kind of community  Oldenburg speaks about but somehow we lost it and replaced these informal community gathering places with formal institutions in which one needed to colour inside the lines in order to be allowed through the doors.

I think that one of the driving forces of the emerging church is the recognition of this need for a Third Place where people feel free to voice their disagreements, express their doubts and encourage their creativity.  I think one of the reasons we are losing young people from the church is because of this lack of third places.  Being told how to act, and what to believe without any place for dissent or doubt is destructive of the very kind of community we say we want.  I wonder if we would have less teenage rebellion and lose less older people from our churches if we fostered third place gatherings rather than the often boring and formally regimented segregated groups that many churches still encourage?

Yes I am deliberately trying to be provocative here, partly because I am concerned that we do not encourage questioning and healthy disagreement in our church gatherings and in the process are contribibuting to the isolation and loneliness within our society. What do you think?

Grocery Store Wars

Well this seems to have been quite a food related week on my blog and to round it off I have just been meeting with Ricci about her workshop Justice At The Table coming up February 7th.  I was reminded of this fun video produced several years ago by Free Range Studios about organic food.  If you are a Star Wars fan or just if you need a good laugh it is well worth watching


Deaths We Ignore

I think it a little ironic that my post yesterday on the 10 most dangerous foods has received so much attention.  We are all concerned about our health and how what we eat might affect us.  Yet we ignore the fact that others face constant risks to their health because of the lack of basic sanitation and clean water – things that we take for granted.  For us the food we eat may contain dangerous additives that affect our health, but at least we have a choice.  We don’t have to eat the dangerous foods because there is so much else for us to eat.

In Zimbabwe however thousands have already lost their lives and others are at risk because of cholera.

The death toll from the cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe has now passed the 3,000 mark, the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) has said. Read more

And around the world millions have been pushed into poverty and starvation because of the economic downturn. As I thought about this I was reminded of this blog post by Ricci Kilmer who is getting ready for the Justice At The Table workshop February 7th

I’m at a crossroads right now.  I feel that I can’t just buy fair traded coffee and locally grown produce and say that’s the epitome of food and justice for christian life.  I need a way in which to become the bread,  to become the body and I need to do it in a way that puts me in communion, in the truest sense of that word, with the rest of the body as well.  I’m not sure where this will lead but I think I’m finally at a place where I’m ready to find out.  Read more

Ten Most Dangerous Foods

I was going to close down my computer for the night but just came across a link to this article and just had to post it.  More good reasons to grow your own groceries and be educated about where your food comes from.  10 Most Dangerous Foods

We all love to eat, but the ugly reality is that some foods can make you sick. We’re not talking about salmonella here; none of what’s listed below should send you directly to the hospital with a debilitating illness, though Jeremy Piven recently claimed to have mercury sickness from a diet too rich in sushi. While the verdict is still out on Piven’s poisoning, certain foods, when eaten too frequently, can pose a very real health risk over time (especially if you are thinking of having a baby or if you are feeding a small child). Read more

Strategies for Planning the Vegetable Garden


Last week I planted the first seeds of the season – peas – not outside but in seedstarters on the front porch (enclosed).  This afternoon Catie, Ricci and Gabriel helped me plant Asian greens = some of our earliest crops for the season.  Hopefully over the weekend I will get lettuce, cabbages and cauliflowers as well as the absolutely essential green onions started.  I was delighted therefore to come across this great garden guide 7 Strategies to Plan Your Vegetable Garden thought to be honest I employ a method the article does not talk about.  It is the what do I have time for at the moment approach which I have found to be the most effective method of all – and the overall effect makes me the queen of what I call the messy gardener approach.  With any luck we will finish cleaning up from last year’s garden before we start planting outside this year.

As far as I am concerned gardening is meant to be fun and if I get obssessed with what should and should not be growing then I miss the fun.  However I do love to harvest beautiful vegetables too though it took me about 10 years to build the soil up to an adequate level to produce really spectacular cauiflowers and carrots.

So what are my strategies that I would like to add to the list above

  1. Enlist help. I never enjoy gardening as  much as I do when Ricci and Gabriel and Catie are there planting seeds too.  Catie, who is six years old has her own garden journal as well as her own garden.  A couple of years ago she started us growing celery which is something I never enjoyed before.  But homegrown celery is wonderful.  this year she is starting us on radishes and we are all excited to see the seeds sprout
  2. Plant some unusual, fun varieties – like purple cauliflowers or green tomatoes.  They are great conversation starters.
  3. Share with neighbours. I always start far more tomatoes, cauliflowers and squash than I need and have found that one of the most effective ways to get to know my neighbours is to share either the seedlings or the produce with them.
  4. Don’t take yourself too seriously.  As I said I am the queen of messy gardens.  I love to sit and enjoy the flowers and the fragrances but if I worry about the fact that there are still weeds around the strawberries and snails on the lettuce then it is not nearly as enjoyable.  p1010004-1

World Must Double Food Production by 2050


Here is a very sobering report from the UN on current and future food production.  Many of us are challenged because we can’t go out to eat as much as we used to or because we are having to eat less expensive food items, but the economic crisis has pushed many of our sisters and brothers into starvation.

Global food production, already under strain from the credit crunch, must double by 2050 to head off mass hunger, the head of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation said on Monday.The food crisis pushed another 40 million people into hunger in 2008, Jacques Diouf said here at the start of a two-day international conference on food security.

That brought the global number of undernourished people to 973 million last year out of a total population of around 6.5 billion, he said.  Read more

Carribean Black Bean and Pumpkin Soup

I just mentioned on Twitter that I was making Black Bean and Pumpkin soup and receved so many responses that I thought I better post the recipe.  Enjoy

Title: Caribbean Black Bean And Pumpkin Soup

Yield: 8 Servings

1 t  ground cumin
2 lb pumpkin,Pureed
1 lb black beans
1 1/2 c  Coconut Milk
4 c  vegetable broth
4 T  chopped fresh cilantro
2 t  fresh lime juice
3/4 t  grated lime peel
1    Onion,Finely  Chopped
1    Jalapeno,Finely Chopped

1 tablespoon epazote

1 tablespoon Mexican oregano

[Note: Something a little different on a chilly fall day. ]
Soak beans overnight in large saucepan.  Add epazote and Mexican
oregano.  cook until soft (about 1 hour).  Set aside.  Roast pumpkin,
onion and garlic in oven at 375F until soft.  Puree in food processor,
add to heavy saucepan, Add beans, coconut milk, broth and 3 tablespoons
cilantro. Bring soup to boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to
medium-low and simmer 3 minutes to blend flavors. Mix in lime juice and
lime peel. Season soup with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls.
Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon cilantro. and drizzle with half
and half.  If ou like a thicker soup add more pumpkin or beans.

Per Serving: 259 Cal (41% from Fat, 12% from Protein, 47% from Carb); 8
g Protein; 13 g Tot Fat; 9 g Sat Fat; 2 g Mono Fat; 32 g Carb; 9 g
Fiber; 5 g Sugar; 75 mg Calcium; 5 mg Iron; 599 mg Sodium; 0 mg
Cholesterol;  AccuPoints = 5.4


Crystals vs Christ

Here is a great article interviewing Mark Berry on BBC.

Keep up the good work Mark .  We need more missionaries like this.

Community In Our Genes


Yesterday in my blog Do Your Friends Know Each Other It Might be In Your Genes I provided a link to an article I found that suggested the way we make friends and whether our friends are also friends is intimately related.  It has set my brain twirling and i have since spent a lot of time reflecting on the ways in which community is literally written into our DNA.  Now of course some would say that is another indication that we don’t need God to explain who we are and how we relate together.  To me however it says the exact opposite.  Not only has God knit us together in our mother’s wombs but God has also knit his very nature, the nature of community within us as part of our creation.  And there are some intriguing aspects to this.

One way that we appear to be linked in community is through the production of pheromones – chemicals that are released by an organism to communicate with others of its species.  Unfortunately research into pheromones in humans is not extensive but it has long been known that when women live together in community their menstrual cycles soon synchronize.  In animals, pheromones are involved very strongly in care of offspring, in recognizing members of your social group, in recognizing family members.  their production can result in group violence, sexual attraction and in warm fuzzy feelings of togetherness.  I suspect that in humans too there are many ways in which we are hard wired for community interaction through the production of pheromones, hormones and DNA structure.


Evidently singing together produces pheromones that increase our sense of bonding, community and shared endeavour.  Read more. One only needs to watch spectators singing together at a football match to know how powerful this bonding can be.

Working together in community can also play an important part in bonding.  Many phsychologists recognize that community involvement can lift depression and calm anxiety especially if we interact with positive thinking people.  It doesn’t surprise me therefore that as our society has become more individualistic and less community minded that depression has reached epidemic proportions.  Evindently 121 million people suffer from severe depression and by 2020 it is expected to be the second biggest killer in the world next to heart disease.


So what are the implications for Christian community.  Not that we want to view the way that we practice our faith in a purely clinical framework, but I think it is good for us to recognize that our shared practices and interactions strengthen our faith and bond us to like minded individuals.

How do you think this knowledge could help us in strengthening Christian community?