Turbulent Times: Ready or Not


We leave this afternoon for Australia – the house sitter has moved in (well more of a dog sitter actually as Bonnie told us she does not like being alone) and are furiously working to get our contributions for the MSA Seed Sampler done – as well as working on powerpoint presentations for all our venues.   No wonder I am feeling a little overwhelmed and as though I am in the midst of turbulent times.

Tom has just completed a new MSA resource entitled Turbulent Times Ready or Not! A Creative Response Manual for Missional Communities 2010.

Don’t break out the party hats yet! As we crawl out of the worst global recession in 70 years the troubles are far from over.

Turbulent Times Ready or Not! A Creative Response Manual for Missional Communities 2010-2020 will list some of the waves of change that are likely to hammer our lives and communities as we race into the second decade of the 21st century.

This study resource also is designed to help you re-imagine create new ways now to live and serve our most vulnerable neighbors. Turbulent Times Ready or Not Manual for Missional Churches 2010- 2020 will be launched with the upcoming Seed Sampler. This is an opportunity to re-imagine how to live and serve God in uncertain times.  This PDF manual will be available to download for $10.  Check it out here


What Does it Take To Change a Bad Habit

“Keep it simple, make it meaningful, stick to it”  That is some of the best advice that I have ever received on how to establish a new habit.  It came to mind as I read this article from Zen Habits

Our daily lives are often a series of habits played out through the day, a trammeled existence fettered by the slow accretion of our previous actions.

But habits can be changed, as difficult as that may seem sometimes.  Read the entire article

This is a topic that really intrigues me because I find that not only am I not good at changing my habits but most of those in the churches I am involved in aren’t good either.  I think that the same suggestions for changing a bad habit in this article are good for reinforcing a good habit which is of course what establishing sustainable spiritual practices is all about.

What concerns me is that often we don’t change our bad spiritual habits because we want a quick and easy fix that takes no discipline and little effort.  Changing habits just does not happen like that.

What are the most effective ways that you have found to change bad spiritual practices into good ones?

Where is Christmas?

I am sitting at our dining room table looking out on a beautiful September morning.  It is hard to believe that in a couple of days I will be in Australia – once more heading into spring rather than into autumn.  I will miss the glory of the fall leaves around the lake but I must confess I am rather looking forward to the fact that my summer days are being a little extended for this year.

One thing that doesn’t change no matter what part of the world we are in is that Christmas is on its way – December 25th is coming whether we living in the north or the south so I thought that reviewing this delightful Christmas story Where is Christmas? by my friend Paul Samuels seemed appropriate.


I love animal stories, as I think does every child or people kid (as Paul calls adults) and in this little book Paul has brought together a whole array of wonderful animal characters who are sure to steal your heart.   They are on a quest to find where Christmas is because they believe that it is a place where they will get lots of presents…. Hmm now that sounds familiar.

In a beautiful and simple way Paul talks about the things that most kids in our society are looking for at Christmas – coloured lights, presents, lots of food.  In the end however they discover what Christmas is really all about.

To be honest when I first read Paul’s book I was not sure how well it would connect to young kids – maybe because it is so long since I was a young kid myself.  However six year old Catie Rosario Kilmer loves it which is probably a much better recommendation than any I can give.  The book captures the innocent delight of the search for Christmas as experienced by a child.  Telling it through the forest creatures who embark on this quest makes it even more appealing.

The book is also filled with wonderful illustrations and colourful images that appeal to kids of even younger age.  The timeless and ageless message means that it will appeal to those that read it as to those that hear the story.

Paul is a gifted story teller and poet so I thought that I would end this post with one of his poems which he not only recited but also performed for us when he and his wife Arlene visited over the summer.  You can check out more of his poems here


From a young boy’s face, I snitched a nose.
I stuck it down between my toes.
Now, what do you suppose that you would do
if the nose between my toes belonged to you?

Would you laugh? Or would you cry?
Or would you simply try to get by
without a nose upon you face,
and live your life in a total disgrace?

From a young girl’s face, I plucked a smile.
I hid it down the road about a mile.
Now, what do you suppose that you would do
if the smile that I plucked belonged to you?

You couldn’t laugh without first having a smile
So you’d have to talk about sad, sad, things for awhile.
But maybe you would learn to get by.
And you’d share a smile that was in your eye.

From another boy’s head I took an ear.
And I hid it away for about a year.
Now, what do you suppose that you would do
if the ear that I took belonged to you?

Would you hold your hand up on your head
and not take it down `til you went to bed?
You couldn’t wear glasses `cause they’d slide off your face,
and you’d look awfully silly running in a race.

From another girl, I got two eyes.
And I hid them away in some apple pies.
Now, what do you suppose that you would do
if the eyes in the pies belonged to you?

You couldn’t look around `cause you couldn’t see
so you’d never be able to find out it was me.
But you might one day eat some apple pies
and you might just find that you’ve found your eyes.

Then from a boy and a girl, I grabbed one mouth each
and I hid them in a sandcastle upon the beach.

Now, what do you suppose that you would do
if the mouth in the castle belonged to you?

You’d have to get there before high tide,
or your mouth would float high and wide
and you’d never be able to make a sound,
unless on the beach your mouth you found.

But, you’ve got a nose and you’ve got a smile
and I love it when you flash it every once in awhile.
You’ve got your eyes and your cute little ears
And you’ve had them all for a number of years.

And you’ve got your mouth to complete your God given face
and no matter what you look like, you’re no disgrace.
Yes, the face that you have, it belongs to you


Wild Camano Forest Tour

Tom & I have just returned from Camano Island where we participated in a botanical tour on the land where we hope to create a monastic eco village.  The tour was conducted by Bob Dietal rector at St Aidan’s Episcopal church in Stanwood.  Bob used to be a botanist and was amazingly knowledgeable about all the plants and animals on the land.  It was a wonderful opportunity to learn about the glory of God’s creation.


Cedars and Douglas firs are the most impressive of course but it is easy for us to miss the other small gems nestled in nooks and crannies near them (most of whose names I can’t remember unfortunately)


I was fascinated by the medicinal qualities of many of the plants we looked at too.  Bark, berries, roots and leaves have all been used by Native Americans to relieve pain and cure disease.


What dismayed me however was how much of what we saw had been introduced either intentionally or unintentionally by human intervention.  English ivy, buttercups, and holly are all rapidly taking over from the native species.  Even the native Northwest Banana slugs are being replaced by California invaders.


Now maybe slugs aren’t your favourite creatures and you don’t particularly care what happens to them but who knows what unique and important species are likely to be lost as a result of our thoughtless intervention.

After all did you know that one of the most important creatures in the soil is the termite?  And they are at the top of our list of creatures we want to eradicate.  Yet they aerate the soil, recycle nutrients and decompose wood and plant debris.

Termite mounds in Africa have been an inspiration for humans who want to mimic their fantastic ventilation system. Hot air rises through tubes in the above ground mounds while winds from outside send air currents down into the subterranean chambers so temperature is regulated no matter the weather outside.

Amazingly  termites often dig up to two hundred feet deep in search of water. The soil is brought up to ground level and added to the structure of the mound. Gold prospectors are known to inspect termite mounds and in fact, the largest diamond mine in the world, in Botswana, was discovered by examining a termite mound.

So imagine what other secrets the small creatures in our forests could unveil.  Perhaps they hold the keys to our survival in the future.  God really does use the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.  What do you think?

Social Media and the Church

Bosco Peters made me aware of these videos recently which are very sobering news for all of us who aspire to communicate our message to others and really does make me wonder how effective our social media communications are.  Is it just a way to connect to people or can we really develop meaningful relationships and help people move into a more intimate relationship with God in this way?  What do you think?

Part of what I struggle with is do we unquestioningly take on the tools of the culture without really thinking about their impact on us and our faith.

First the challenge: there are more and more competing voices out there.  How do we convey our message about Christ effectively so that we are actually reaching those that have never heard the message?  On the internet I often feel that I am only talking to the converted.  How relevant is what we say to those who are listening – are they indeed listening or just browsing and flitting quickly through?

Now as the techy in our family I am always the first to embrace new technologies but I still struggle with some of the tensions I see between them and my faith.  Is virtual church really church?

Maybe Religion is the Answer Claims Atheist Scientist

Late yesterday afternoon I took a break from my usual activities and followed some of the fun and interesting links that I had come across in the last few days.  Yes that is the kind of thing that I do for relaxation.

Most of them explore different aspects of autumn (sorry to my readers in the Southern hemisphere for whom this may have little relevance).  However the first article about the place that Christians can play in addressing climate change was really caught my attention.  i sent it out on twitter but because of the interest decided to add it as part of this blog post too.

Anyhow I have come across some other great articles too that are more entertaining about the environment that I wanted to share with you so thought that I would lump them all together in one blog post.

Maybe Religion is the Answer Claims Atheist Scientist

12 Cheap and Simple Ways to Experience Autumn

Five Models For Free Fruit

The Call of the Wild Foods

Adventures in Urban Foraging

Enjoy the articles and get out and enjoy the autumn too.  Or the spring if you live Down Under.


Rhythms of Grace Workshop in Adelaide

One of the things that I am really looking forward to while Tom & I are in Australia is the opportunity to conduct a Rhythms of Grace workshop at Tabor College in Adelaide.

Retreat Theme

Jesus said: Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.

Learn to connect to God through the rhythms of life just as God intended.

Learn to make space for God and discover the Christ-like pace that liberates you from a culture enslaved by time.

This event is open to the public so if you are in the Adelaide area and would like to attend you can check it out here

What Is A Spiritual Practice: The Complete Series

September is rapidly coming to a close or at least is seems so to me because we will be heading to Australia next week – for once heading into spring and not winter on our travels.  Before I go I wanted to round off the summer blog series What is a Spiritual Practice with a complete list of participants and articles in case you missed any of them.  I hope that you have enjoyed the series as much as I have and that it has helped you to connect your daily activities more closely to the presence of God in our world.  I intend to run another series over Advent entitled Advent: What are We Waiting For? If you are interested in participating please let me know.

Reinventing the Wheel by Mark Buhlig part of Roadtrip Project

God of the Bountiful – A Harvest Prayer by Christine Sine

The Spirituality of the Long Distance Runner by Steve Fouch – The Spamhead Blog

The Spiritual Practice of Lament by Tracy Byrd Dickerson – Nacreous Kingdom

Spiritual Practices for Sitting In Front of the ScreenLynne Baab

Thirsting for Coffee With God – A Very Spiritual Practice by Richard Dahlstrom – Pastoral Musings from Rain City

The Spirituality of Creating by John Chandler – Some Strange Ideas

Celebrations and Parties as a Spiritual Discipline by Kathy EscobarThe Refuge

The Spirituality of Drinking (Chinese) Tea by Andy Wade

Networking as Spiritual Practice by Steve Knight,

Mothering as a Spiritual Practice by Tara MaloufRed Thread Photography

Coloring as a Spiritual Practice by Danielle Grubb ShroyerJourney Church

Being Quiet as a Spiritual Practice by Eliacín Rosario CruzMustard Seed Associates

Settling In: Reestablishing Spiritual Practices in a New Place by Ed Cyzewski, author of Coffeehouse Theology

Civil Disobedience as Spiritual Practice by Jarrod McKenna

Running as Spiritual Practice by Luis Fernando BatistaRenovatio Cafe

How to Exercise Caution When Getting Back to Exercise by Adrienne Carlson

Playing Children’s Games as Spiritual Practice by Julie Clawson

Intergenerational Friendships as Spiritual Practice by David ZimmermanInterVarsity Press

Unemployment as a Spiritual Practice by Stephen Herbert

Editing Your Life: The Spiritual Discipline of Editing by Marcus Goodyear, The High Calling

Living in Transition as Spiritual Practice by Guy Chieleski

The Spiritual Practice of Apologizing by T Freeman

Love-making as a Spiritual Practice by Mark Scandrette

Smoking the Glory of God by Jason Clark

The Spiritual Practice of Getting Honest With Myself by Jonathan Brink

Spiritual Discipline–Serving at the Pantry by Maria Henderson

Yoga and Jesus: This is a Spiritual Practice by Christina Whitehouse-Sugg

Driving as Spiritual Discipline by Reverend Mother

Between the Sheets: Sleeping as Spiritual Discipline by Teri Peterson

Brigid Walsh – Gleaning as Spiritual Practice

Bowie Snodgrass – Grief as Spiritual Practice

Thomas Turner – Engagement as Spiritual Practice

Stan Thornburg – Making Space for the Rabbi

Gary Heard – Encountering the Stranger as Spiritual Practice and GPS Navigation as Spiritual Practice

Jason Fowler – Listening for God’s Voice in Music

Sheila Hight – Birdkeeping as Spiritual Practice

Steve Taylor – Composting as Spiritual Practice

John O’Hara – Anyone Can Cook – Spirituality in the Kitchen

Bethany Stedman – crying as a spiritual practice

Christopher Heuertz – Feeling close to God in the graveyard

Gerard Kelly – twittering as a spiritual practice

Tim Mathis – blogging as as a spiritual practice

Mary Naegeli – Writing a sermon as spiritual practice

Hannah Haui – Cultural Protocol as spiritual practice

Jamie Arpin Ricci – Pet Ownership as spiritual practice

Matt Stone – Listening to Enemies as Spiritual Practice

Dan Cooper – Washing Dishes as Spiritual Discipline

Maryellen Young – The spiritual practice of taking a shower

virtual Eucharist: Is this a spiritual practice – Christine Sine

Is Breathing a Spiritual Practice – Christine Sine

Walk to Bethlehem During Advent

Advent is still a couple of months away but here is a really cool idea I heard about this last weekend that would not only prepare us spiritually for the birth of Christ but also physically and emotionally.

A Walk to Bethlehem is an Advent resource developed by St John’s Health Parish Nursing.  The initial concept was A Walk to Jerusalem –  a resource for Lent but because of its success a new resource for Advent has been produced.

The idea is to calculate how many miles it is from your city to Bethlehem and then plan a walk each day so that the cumulative miles over a period of time mean that you have actually walked to Bethlehem.  This would take a little organizing but I think it is a wonderful idea – a great way to integrate the celebration of our faith with our everyday life.

There is a resource available to assist with this walk which evidently includes Advent devotionals.  You can order The Walk to Jerusalem/Bethlehem materials, at 1-888-440-7325.  I have not seen these yet so cannot comment on the content but have heard good reports.

The Walk to Jerusalem is a walking program developed by St. John Health parish nursing and designed to  increase the physical, spiritual and emotional health of participants.  This “imaginary” trip to Jerusalem is accomplished by individuals within the church or organization logging their own walking miles each week. The Walk to Jerusalem usually begins in January with the goal of accumulating enough miles to reach Jerusalem by Easter.  The fall version of this walk is The Walk to Bethlehem.  This begins in September with the intent of reaching Bethlehem for the Christmas celebrations.

Everyday Justice

My copy of Julie Clawson’s Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices arrived yesterday and i wanted to make sure that you all knew about it as soon as possible.  This is a book that I am really excited about, not just because I wrote the forward but because I think that it is one of the most important books that I have read for a long time.

In it Julie talks about how the everyday choices we make in our lives have ramification for the lives and wellbeing of people around the globe.  She highlights the consequences of our food and clothing choices and both for the people that produce them and for the environment in which we live.

Everyday Justice challenges us to recognize that these decisions are an important way that we show our love for God and for our neighbours.   It is a must read for all who care about God and God’s world.  I will probably blog more about it in the future and would love to hear your opinions on this topic too