Herbs, Healing and Hot Under the Collar

 

Garden irises

Garden irises

 

My garden and spirituality seminar is only 3 days away, the irises are in full bloom, and the garden has never looked better.   It looks as though we will have beautiful weather for exploring the garden and the many ways in which God’s story is revealed in and through it.  Not surprisingly my reading this week has revolved around the garden and particularly the herb garden that fragrant corner that is a delight to weed and water because every time I even brush against the rosemary or Thyme or oregano I come away surrounded by the fragrance that lingers long after I have come inside …. and that is a beautiful spiritual analogy if ever I heard one- every time I brush against God I come away surrounded by the fragrance of God’s presence too and it lingers even longer than the fragrance of my herbs.

The most intriguing book I have read this week is 75 Exceptional Herbs for Your Garden, by Jack Staub.  I was delighted by Staub’s recounting of the history of the herbs I grow and the ways they have been used, often for thousands of years to flavour food and heal illnesses.  

Then I came to the chapter on Stevia. As I read the story of how this herb which is 10 times sweeter than sugar, easy to grow  and with virtually no calories was banned from the American market about the same time that Monsanto introduced its artificial sweetener aspartame because an “anonymous firm” lodged a complaint with the FDA, I felt, as Staub comments “This is a herb that makes me boil.”

There are so many ways in which our food choices are manipulated by unjust laws and the interests of big business and we are not even aware of it.  There are other ways in which we are manipulated by fashion in the garden that are detrimental to our health.  Believe it or not nature’s richest source of cancer-fighting beta-carotene is the dandelion which we all so diligently pull out of our lawns.  Staub documents that it also contains impressive amounts of vitamins D, B and C, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, manganese, copper and phosphorus.  He goes on to say:

All this makes the dandelion as good as it gets for you: the sap, leaves, and root extracts are all recommended as diuretics, and aid digestion, stimulate bile production, treat liver disorders and help prevent cancer and high blood pressure, while the root is considered a powerful detoxifier, acelerating the removal of adverse elements for the body.  Interestingly, while most diuretics leach potassium from the body, the dandelion leaves a generous amount behind, and the dandelion’s milky sap may also be used externally to heal wounds, remove warts and soothe bee stings.

I  believe God intended the garden to provide all that we need for health and nutrition so it doesn’t surprise me that the humble dandelion is so good for us.  And in Europe it is often added to salads or steamed and even used as a substitute for coffee.  However it is not a very marketable herb – after all who would be willing to spend big bucks for a few dandelion leaves that they could pull out of their backyard?  Maybe I am a little cynical but I do think that our food and nutrition choices are highly manipulated by the marketers of the global economy – and they definitely don’t always have our best interests at heart.

What’s Happening in the Garden?

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It is a beautiful day in Seattle, the Spirituality of Gardening seminar is only a week away and much to my delight the garden is thriving.  We have already harvested about 20 lettuce and more Chinese greens than I thought we could manage to use even with all three households in the Mustard Seed House helping to dispose of them.  A couple of days ago I made my first batch of pesto from basil sitting on the sunporch.  I threw in some of the chinese greens instead of spinach and it was delicious.  The cabbages, cauliflowers and broccoli are starting to form heads and the Swiss Chard is displaying its rainbow colours. 

Yesterday I transplanted scarlet runner beans which have been sitting on the porch for a couple of weeks sending out their long green tendrils.  I find that even though the garden experts tell me I should plant them straight in the ground mine always do better if they are at least 5 – 6 inches high before I plant them.  otherwise, as with my peas, the snails and slugs devour them.

Tomorrow we intend to get our tomatoes planted.  It is a little later than usual but this has been one of the coldest springs i can remember in Seattle.  Hopefully we will find space for 30 plants, though rotating where we put them every couple of years is a real challenge.  

Garden irises

Garden irises

The blossoming diversity in the garden is incredible.  Irises are in full and fragrant bloom, columbines are sending up flower heads, lupines are bursting out even while the lilacs, rhododendrons and azaleas are fading.  Not only am I reminded that God is a God of diversity and creativity but also that just as different plants bloom and flourish at different seasons so too are we designed so that we do not all flourish at the same time.  Just as some plants send out fragrant blooms in spring, others in summer and still others even in autumn and winter, so are God’s people.  Some of us, like the daffodils and tulips bloom early and welcome the world with the promise of resurrection and new life.  Others are designed by God to bloom over the summer, sustaining the world with vibrant colour and life.  Still others bloom late in life with a final flourish that heralds the coming of winter.  

This understanding has been an encouraging lesson for me.  It is easy for us to expect that our lives should always be blooming.  We pay little attention to the seasons that all of us go through in our lives and ministries and struggle to produce blooms and fruit when God is saying not yet, or wait until next year. Or else we spend too much time trying to force the wrong flowers into bloom at the wrong season.  

Garden columbine

Garden columbine

God, the great designer has blessed all of us with gifts for a specific season.  I am very aware of that as I prepare for this upcoming seminar.  A year ago it would never have occurred to me that do a seminar on gardening and spirituality would be a part of my ministry.   Yet through listening to God and to the encouragement of others I have had the opportunity to bloom in areas that I never thought possible.

What is God preparing you to bloom for?  What new flowers are in bud or still dormant in your life that God is nourishing and preparing for a fragrant display?  this is a great time to reflect on what God is doing and how God is growing your life

Another Prayer for Ascension & Pentecost

I cannot remember if I posted this prayer before but as it seemed to be an appropriate one for the season I did not think that you would mind if I posted it again as it affirms both the ascension of Christ and God’s new resurrection created world.  It is part of the evening prayers that we use in the Mustard Seed House at this season.  From now until Pentecost we are also using an adaptation of some of the prayers that I posted yesterday for morning prayers.  I find that using prayers like this on a regular basis is a wonderful way to affirm my faith and connect my everyday life to the events of the life, death and resurrection of Christ.  That in turn makes it easier for me to live in the presence of Christ throughout the day.  If you are unfamiliar with the Feast of Ascension you may like to check out this post by Eliacin Rosario Cruz.

God whose glory fills our world

God whose life is closer than breath

God whose love is stronger than death

God, this God of life and love

Has sent an advocate to save us

Jesus Christ the righteous, now at the right hand of God

Not to condemn but to bring full life

Not to accuse but to redeem

Not to reject but to draw close

God, this God of life and love

Has sent an advocate to save us

Jesus Christ the righteous, now at the right hand of God

God who hears the cry of our seeking souls

God who sees the pain of our suffering bodies

God who feels the loss of our grieving spirits

God, this God of life and love

Has sent an advocate to be with us forever

The Spirit of truth abides with us eternally

Before us to teach and lead,

Within us to comfort and heal,

Around us to shield and protect,

God, this God of life and love

Has sent an advocate to be with us forever

The Spirit of truth abides with us eternally

God whose dream brings hope and wholeness

God whose ways bring abundance and peace

God whose new world is breaking into ours

God, this God of life and love 

Has made his dwelling place with men and women

God the Almighty welcomes us into a resurrection created world

Together with sisters and brothers of every nation

Together with saints from every age

Together with those who follow in our footsteps

God, this God of life and love 

Has made his dwelling place with men and women

God the Almighty welcomes us into a resurrection created world

Prayers from Ascension Day

Christ in glory

Tomorrow is Ascension Day, the day on which we remember Jesus ascension into heaven 40 days after he rose from the dead.  What I did not realize is that for many this is also a celebration of the new creation that God brought into being by the ascension of Jesus.  What beautiful imagery to carry with us for the rest of the season until Pentecost.

This is not a celebration that I grew up with, nor is it one that I have taken much notice of in the last few years.  However because of the fact that we are now saying morning and evening prayers at the Mustard Seed House, I thought that it would be a good idea to celebrate this day with a special litany.  I tend to think of Ascension Day as a Catholic celebration.  I was amazed this morning therefore at the beautiful and enriching prayers I came across from many different traditions and thought that I would share some of them with you.

I love the exultant note of this prayer from Rev. Marilyn E. Thornton the Lead Editor for African American Resources at the United Methodist Publishing House

One: Let us gather as they gathered on the Mount of Olivet.
Let us remember the teachings of the law, psalms, and prophets.

Many: Ride on King Jesus, no one can hinder you!

Read the entire prayer

Here is another from the reformed tradition With A Shout

And this by David Diephouse who teaches history at Calvin College

Our God goes up with shouts of joy!

Our Lord ascends to the sound of trumpets!
All: Sing praises to our God, sing praises!
Sing praises, sing praises to our King!
The Almighty rides in triumph.
The Almighty leads captivity captive.
Who shouts for joy? Who blows the trumpet?
The hosts of heaven sing the honor of his name;
they praise him with an endless alleluia.

Read the entire prayer

And this prayer from the Catholic service for Ascension Day

God our Father,
make us joyful in the ascension of your Son Jesus Christ.
May we follow him into the new creation,
for his ascension is our glory and our hope.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Read the entire service.

A Prayer for Pentecost

Here is a litany adapted from the morning and evening prayers that we use at the Mustard Seed House.  I think that it is an appropriate one to use for Pentecost

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God, the light of your Spirit has fallen upon us, 

The seal of your ownership is on us,

You have placed the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

Like tongues of fire it has renewed and restored.

In our rising and our sleeping,

In our working and our playing,

In our joys and in our sorrows,

Your Spirit’s brightness has dispelled the darkness, 

In our loving and caring,

In our touching and our listening,

In our thoughts and in our actions,

God’s Spirit has brought life out of death.  

(Pause to invite the Holy Spirit into your day’s activities)

 

God, your spirit fell like tongues of fire. 

It filled those that were empty,

It empowered those that were weary.

God, your spirit fell like tongues of fire. 

It brought together those that were divided,

It reassured those who were afraid.

God, your spirit fell like tongues of fire. 

By its power we can walk together as one,

By its power we can find strength to share.

God, your spirit fell like tongues of fire. 

By its power we can find freedom in loving each other,

By its power we can find life in you. 

Read scriptures from daily lectionary or use following scriptures

1 Corinthians 12: 1-11 (The Message)

Galatians 5: 1, 13-26 (CEV)

John 14: 15-21 (CEV)

God, we believe you have sent your Spirit to live within us,

Your indwelling Spirit leads us into all truth.

God, we believe your Spirit teaches your followers to serve others,

Your empowering Spirit equips us with gifts for service.

God, we believe your Spirit breaks down the barriers that imprison us,

Your comforting Spirit encourages us to worship God with all our hearts. 

God, we believe your Spirit writes your law on our hearts,

Your liberating Spirit sets us free to love our neighbours as we do ourselves.

God we believe your Spirit calls us to follow you.

God, we believe this is the path from death to eternal life. 

 

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.  Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and for ever.  Amen

God, thank you for your spirit breaking down barriers within and without 

Barriers that distort our ability to lead a life fully integrated with you and your ways

Forgive us for the times we have deliberately resisted the Spirit’s work

Life giving spirit, God’s advocate and guide, have mercy on us.

Forgive us God for the barriers we create within ourselves, 

Barriers that resist your healing work and prevent us moving toward wholeness.

Forgive our self-centerdness, our anger, our fear of change, our lack of trust in your love.

Life giving spirit, God’s advocate and guide, have mercy on us.

Forgive us God, for the barriers we create between us and you,

Barriers that separate us from your love and the assurance of your salvation. 

Forgive our busyness, our independence, our desire to go our own way. 

Life giving spirit, God’s advocate and guide, have mercy on us.

Forgive us God, for the barriers we create between us and each other,  

Barriers that separate us from neighbours near and far and inhibit mutual love and care.

Forgive our resentment of others, our love of control, our indifference to the poor.

Life giving spirit, God’s advocate and guide, have mercy on us.

Forgive us God, for the barriers we create between us and your beautiful creation,

Barriers that abuse your world and deny our responsibility as stewards.  

Forgive our greed, our misuse of resources, our pollution of the environment.

Life giving spirit, God’s advocate and guide, have mercy on us.

God, by the power of your spirit, free us and break down these barriers.

Turn us away from the bondage of a life lived for ourselves and our own desires, 

May your spirit guide us into the freedom of life lived for you and your purposes. 

Life giving spirit, God’s advocate and guide, have mercy on us.

 

Glorious God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

We go into this day knowing your Spirit dwells within us.

May your Counselor make us wise and help us understand what it means to know you. 

May the Spirit’s fire ignite our hearts so that we understand the hope of being chosen by God.

May we discover the glorious blessings we share together with all God’s people.

 

God we go into this day knowing it is you who makes us stand firm in Christ

We are filled with your Spirit,

We are anointed to serve,

We go out to bring resurrection life.

 

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all, this day and forever.

Amen

 

What Is A Spiritual Practice?

A couple of months ago I wrote a post on reimagining our spiritual practices.  I wrote that I feel we really limit our understanding of God and faith when we restrict our spiritual practices to prayer and scripture study.  I also said that for me a spiritual practice is any routine I perform on a regular basis that connects me more intimately with God and God’s purposes.  

I thought a lot about this over the weekend as I was conducting a Rhythms of Grace retreat for a local church.  I wondered what would happen in my own life if I reimagined everything I did as an opportunity both to encounter and to represent Christ.  This morning I further reflected: What would happen if every time I got dressed in the morning I reimagined this daily routine in the light of my relationship with Christ?  

I started to think about the people whose lives are interconnected to mine because they produced the raw materials to make my clothes.  I looked at the labels and considered the conditions employees worked in to provide me with clothes.  Some I knew were small children, virtual slaves whose young lives were spent in atrocious conditions in order to provide inexpensive items for me to wear.  I prayed for them and for the organizations that work to abolish this kind of slavery.  I thought about those who transport and sell the garments and how lives have been impacted by the economic downturn.  I prayed for them as well.  By the time I was dressed I felt connected to people all over the world that I had never really thought of or prayed for before and in the process felt I had connect to God and God’s heart for these people in a new way.   

There is another way too that I sometimes connect to God through the process of getting dressed.  Sometimes my thoughts revolve around the spiritual analogy of clothing ourselves with Christ which usually puts me in mind of the following responsive prayer that I wrote a couple of years ago using Patrick’s Breastplate and Ephesians 6.  I know that I have posted this in the past but I have adapted it here so that it revolves around the garments we all wear rather than the armour of Christ that we think of when we read the passage in Ephesians.   I thought that it was very appropriate to use it again here because the Celtic Christians were so good at connecting their prayers to everyday events and giving them spiritual significance.  

We bind unto ourselves today the strong name of the trinity,

By invocation of the same, the Three in One and One in three.

We bind this day to us forever, by power of faith, Christ’s Incarnation;

His baptism in the Jordan River; his death on cross for my salvation;

His bursting from the spiced tomb; His riding up the heavenly way;

his coming at the day of doom; We bind unto ourselves today.

We put on this day the garments of light

We cast off the works of darkness 

We clothe ourselves with Christ

 

Christ behind us, Christ before us,

Christ beside us, Christ to win us,

Christ to comfort and restore me,

Christ beneath us, Christ above us,

Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,

Christ in hearts of all that love us,

Christ in mouth of friend & stranger 

We wrap ourselves around with the belt of truth

We strap on the shirt of righteousness

We take up the jacket of faith

We shod our feet with the gospel of peace

We place the rings of salvation on our hands

We clothe ourselves with Christ

 

We bind unto ourselves today, the power of God to hold and lead,

God’s eye to watch, God’s might to stay, God’s ear to harken to our need,

The wisdom of our God to teach, God’s hand to guide, and shield to ward,

The Word of God to give us speech, God’s heavenly host to be our guard. 

Eternal God sheltering us

Christ before us and behind us

Holy Spirit deep within us

We clothe ourselves with your life 

 

We bind unto ourselves today the strong name of the Trinity,

By invocation of the same, the Three in One, the One in Three.

Of whom all nature hath creation, Eternal God, Spirit, Word;

Praise to the God of our salvation, Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Pentecost is Coming

spiritumsanctam

May 31st is Pentecost Sunday but for a number of reasons I have been thinking a lot about Pentecost this last week

First because Saturday is Pentecost Seattle, a gathering of leaders from  Mainline, Evangelical, Emergent, Catholic groups co creating an event around the theme of what Faith and Justice looks like in Seattle.  We are excited about this event which we hope will catalyze many new ways of reaching out to our communities within Seattle.  

However I was also reminded of the wonderful intercultural spirit of Pentecost yesterday as Tom and I met with Terry Le Blanc in preparation for our participation in the NAIITS conference June 4-8th at Trinity Lutheran University BC.   NAIITS (North American Institute for Theological Studies)is a non-sectarian Christian organization dedicated to encouraging the Native North American evangelical community to develop and to articulate Native North American perspectives on Christian theology and mission practice.  

As we listened to Terry explain some of the ways in which Native American Christians view faith and life I was both challenged and excited by the new perspectives he shared.   The week after Pentecost seems a very appropriate time to hold a conference like this.  

Pentecost, fifty days after Easter Sunday celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church.  As the Holy Spirit fell on the disciples, the barriers of language and culture were broken down – not so that everyone thought and looked the same, but so that everyone understood each other in their own language and culture.  This festival draws us beyond the resurrection to remind us that through the coming of the Holy Spirit we become part of a transnational community from every nation, culture and social class.  

At Pentecost we are reminded that in God’s kingdom community, in spite of our culture differences that often divide and separate us, through the power of the Holy Spirit, our eyes are opened so that we can appreciate and understand each other.  The separations of the nations after the building of the tower of Babel preserved the diversity and richness of every culture that God had created.  

At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit draws us together as a new kingdom culture – not a culture in which the diversity of our separate cultures becomes an amorphous lump of homogeneity, but a new understand and respect for each person made in the image of God and for each culture reflecting something of God’s kingdom culture.

My own understanding of this has been greatly enriched as I have listened to sisters and brothers from other cultures.  I was particularly impacted by theologian Tite Tienou from Burkina Faso whom I heard speak several years ago.  “All of us are on a journey wanting to understand who our brothers and sisters from other parts of the world are.”  he said.  He then reminded us that we are all part of the same family – God’s family –  and like any family we are called to share life together as sisters and brothers.  Learning to share life with people from all over the world means listening to their viewpoints, hearing their struggles and sharing their joys.  And learning to share life in this way means walking together on a journey towards a deeper understanding of God’s truth and a stronger commitment to God’s kingdom ways.  

How are you planning to celebrate Pentecost his year?  You might like to bring together people you know (or even those you don’t know) from as many cultural backgrounds as possible for an intercultural potluck celebration.  Get each person to bring food and music from their culture to share and if possible to dress in traditional garb.  If you don’t know people from other cultures then get everyone to bring food and music from a culture other than their own that they are familiar with.   

Start the evening with a time of storytelling.  Get each person to share a story about how their faith has grown through the experiences and witness of people from other cultures.  Then talk about the different cultures represented in your gathering.  Get each person to share which aspects of their culture they believe bear the fingerprints of God and reflect God’s kingdom culture.