Is This A Move Of God?

Garden tour at Mustard Seed House

Saturday I facilitated a Spirituality of Gardening seminar at the Mustard Seed House.  A small but extremely enthusiastic group gathered to discuss basics of organic gardening and how we encounter God in the garden.  Towards the end of the day we talked about the current move towards faith based community gardens that are springing up literally all over the world as churches discover they can not only produce food for their congregations but also help feed those at the margins.

Sunday Tom and I drove up to Camano Island and then to Lynden Washington for some teaching venues.  In our travels we participated in some exciting meetings that focused around our desire to develop a community on Camano that can both model and teach sustainable faith and sustainable life practices.  Again the conversation turned to community gardens and the amazing movement that is gathering momentum and in many ways transforming our churches.

I do believe this is a move of God.  In many cases starting a community garden is revitalizing churches as people from the surrounding community are drawn in to participate.  In other situations it is strengthening community within the church and sparking off new ministries that are feeding the hungry and teaching basic life skills like cooking and canning to many who have never cooked from scratch before.

My friends at Five Loaves Farm in Lynden are receiving so many requests to help with new gardens it is hard to keep up.  Even our good friend Graham Kerr, once known as The Galloping Gourmet, has become involved planting his own garden and working with his church at Mt Vernon on a huge garden project.  Graham tells us that he has never before cooked anything he has grown or grown anything he has cooked and it is delightful to watch him enthusiastically discover the delights of this.

Graham, Treena and Tom admire Graham's new garden

Another great encounter during this trip was meeting Rich Dixon from A Rocha an organization that is doing exciting work around the world to preserve God’s good creation and feed the hungry in the process.  A Rocha Canada is developing a list of community gardens in Canada that is worth a look.  And while I am talking about such things Beth Stedman just sent me a link to a fascinating site World Food Garden, that lists community gardens and CSAs all over the world.

Funny, but I think that many of us could miss being a part of this incredible movement of God’s spirit because we have preconceived ideas about what a movement of God looks like.  Movements of God are about worship and professions of faith.  Or we think they are about big numbers gathering together to worship.  God’s spirit could not possibly be concerned about the development of a few square meters of garden in our church parking lots.  Or could it?

It is my belief that God’s desire is to bring to wholeness all that is broken and scarred in our world.  Above all God is in the business of restoring our relationship to him, our relationship to each other and our relationship to God’s good creation as well.  Establishing community gardens accomplishes all of these.

So many sincere followers of Christ confess to me that they feel much closer to God in the garden than they ever do in a church.  Which really shouldn’t surprise us as the first place we see humankind communing with God is in the garden as God walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening.

Catie shares her garden knowledge with a friend

Community gardening also strengthens relationships between people as they work together, eat together and just generally have fun together.  In the garden it seems there are no barriers between young and old, rich and poor, male and female, white and non white.  We are all one together learning to share life in a way that I think is part of God’s great plan for us.

And last but not least community gardening strengthens our relationship to God’s good creation, and draws us back to God’s original commission for humankind – to tend the garden and make it flourish.

So if you have not yet joined this movement maybe it is time that you thought about it.  God is at work and we have the opportunity to join in the incredible things that God is doing.


Help Us Make Soap… In the Ukraine

Some of you may remember that a couple of months ago I shared the story of Cindy Todd who started volunteering with us at Mustard Seed Associates at the beginning of this year.  Cindy started a small soap making business in order to help provide financially for this work.  She has even developed a Mustard Seed garden soap for me to sell at the spirituality of gardening seminars.  It is great for getting rid of the garden grime after a few hours outside.

But that is not really what excites me about what Cindy is doing.  What really excites me is that this small business has already opened up new doors for her and in a few months she plans to head to the Ukraine to teach women there to make soap.

Its only a few months away and yet it feels like an eternity. I’ll be headed to Ukraine again in early fall, sometime in September or October. I’m going to work with Vera Kushnir and the Aquila Foundation…partnering with some really strong women, those who care for their disabled children.

They’ve had a tough time, culturally, financially, personally. They have struggled to stay with their kids, to care for them with little help from the government and community.  All too frequently they’ve become social outcasts.  Crazy, huh? These women are barely surviving. They are frequently isolated and living in extreme poverty. I’ve been invited to teach them how to make soap…and train them in business development. Its an awesome story of God and His infinite creativity.  Read the entire article

We believe that as we continue to move into a volatile and turbulent future, this type of small business will become even more important to help provide for those at the margins.  Talk about planting mustard seeds that can grow into huge trees.  We would like to have Cindy as a full time MSA staff member.  Can you help?  You can support Cindy in her work here at MSA and her trip to the Ukraine through Mustard Seed Associates.

Is The Emerging Church for Whites Only?

Last week I posted a link to the discussion that is going on about the male dominated nature of the emerging church movement. This week I wanted to highlight the broader discussion on The Emerging Church and Race.  This is such an important discussion as we move forward into a majority future in which the Christian church will be more non-white than white.  And until the present time, not only has this movement been very male dominated it has also very white dominated.  But that is beginning to change, something that all of us should applaud.

God calls us to share life together with sisters and brothers from every tribe and nation and that is not possible if we do not welcome them as friends, and sit down at table with them – not inviting them to our table where we set the agenda and make the rules, but sitting down at a new table at which all of God’s children are listened to and embraced.

The posts below are in response to the Sojourner article Is the Emerging Church for Whites Only?. Sorry you do have to register at Sojourners to read this article.

Here are some other posts on the God’s Politics blog that you do not need to register for.  First of all is a great article by Mustard Seed Team member Eliacin Rosario Cruz – Can the Subaltern Speak? or Moving the Conversation Forward

If you want to catch up on the entire conversation check out this: Emergent and Race. It has lots of great links to posts by, amongst others:

Onleilove Alton – The Global Emergence Won’t Be Televised

Brian McLaren – Turning the Tables of White European Male Privilege – Our Tables, Their Tables and New Tables

Julie Clawson – Emerging or Converging

Lisa Sharon Harper – An Open Letter to the Emerging Church Movement

Sarah-Ji – What Is Happening Is Bigger Than Emergent

Shane Caliborne – The Emerging Church Brand: The Good The Bad and the Messy

An Update from Mustard Seed Associates

Last week we held an exciting meeting here at the Mustard Seed House.  Our Mustard Seed team gathered with our Celtic Project team to discuss possibilities for moving forward towards the development of a Celtic monastic community on Camano Island.  We are in the beginning stages of negotiations with Christian educational and sustainability organizations who are potential partners in this endeavor.

Those of you who have journeyed with Mustard Seed Associates over a number of years know that our dream has always been to establish two communities – one a small urban community in Seattle, the other a larger rural community that can model something of God’s kingdom values and principles.   These communities will also provide a place for people to gather not just to discuss issues facing individuals, churches and our world in the volatile and turbulent future into which we are moving, but also to develop creative and innovative new models of life, faith and community to address these challenges.  The development of the property on Camano Island will also serve the broader MSA community by developing new resources and educational programs to equip us to live and serve God in the future.

We are very grateful for the incredible work done by our architect David Vandervort and for the addition to the MSA team of Cindy Todd.  Cindy recently completed an MBA at Eastern University and is working on a business plan for this project.  Both of them have volunteered long hours that have enabled us to make this beginning.

The development of the Celtic project is not the only activity MSA is involved in.  The last couple of months have been very busy but satisfying ones for all of us at Mustard Seed Associates.  Tom and I have spoken in a number of venues including to Mennonite Educators, Communitas in Abbotsford B.C. and First United Church of Denton Texas.  Eliacin continues to network attended the Emerging Christianity conference in Albuquerque NM, and travelled to Portland OR with his family where he and Ricci in collaboration with Mark Van Steenwyk, Pastor of Missio Dei in Minneapolis, facilitated:  “You Say You Want a Revolution? Creating Liberated Spaces in the Empire” Read a report by Quaker pastor Wess Daniels here Next weekend Eliacin will facilitate a similar workshop at the TransForm Conference in Washington DC.

As well as this, MSA has hosted a number of events at the Mustard Seed House – including workshops on Rhythms of Grace, Justice at the Table and Spirituality of Gardening.  Attendees loved the great food and the combination of practical resources, reflection and presentation.  Those at the Justice at the Table event were particularly inspired by Ricci Kilmer’s  suggestion that communion/Eucharist is a spiritual framework to structure justice issues around.

These events have spawned other events and the development of creative new resources.  This last week I completed an article entitled Creating a Faith Based Community Garden, which will provide additional resources to those already available in To Garden with God. In the next couple of weeks we also expect to launch Ricci Kilmer’s resource Justice at the Table.

We are very grateful for Andrew Wade, our new Seed Sampler co-ordinator.   Andy has focused each edition of the Seed Sampler intentionally on the theme: 2010 to 2020- New Challenges- New Possibilities.  Each issue identifies a new challenge likely to impact our lives and God’s world in this volatile new decade and shares creative ways people are responding to these challenges.  Another exciting aspect of Andy’s Seed Sampler vision is to follow each edition with updated posts on the MSA blog throughout the month.  In conjunction with this, we have created a Futures Watch Team to help supply information on both new challenges and creative responses for both our ezine and other projects.

Prayer Requests for May

  • The development of the facility and community on Camano Island is a huge step for Mustard Seed Associates.  We covet your prayers as we move forward:
    • Pray for the Celtic project team as we seek to discern the next steps for this project
    • Pray for our discussions with organizations that are potential partners in this process
    • Pray for our architect David Vandervort as he meet with Island County to obtain approval for these plans
    • Pray for Cindy Todd as she develops our business plan
  • Pray for Andrew Wade and upcoming Seed Samplers published at the start of each month:
    • May: Social Entrepreneurship/Micro-enterprise and development
    • June: New Forms of Community – both secular and sacred
    • July: Biometrics and Biomimicry – the spiritual/ethical implications
    • Aug. Education
    • Sept. Family life and creative celebrations
    • Pray for Andrew’s ongoing financial support as we work to raise funds to enable him to work with MSA full time.
  • Pray for our travels and speaking events:
    • Tom and Andrew in Liberty Missouri: April 29 – May 2
    • Christine in New Haven CT: May 2 – 7
    • Eliacin in Washington DC: April 29 – May 2
  • Pray for upcoming MSA events:
    • Spirituality of Gardening: May 22nd in Lynden WA, May 29th Rosewood Manor Edmonds
    • Community gathering and discussion June 26th
    • Celtic Retreat August 14th on Camano Island
  • Pray for the effectiveness of new resources
    • Justice at the Table
    • Creating a Faith Based Community Garden
  • Continue to pray for the MSA financial needs. We would love to be able to bring both Andrew and Cindy on board as full time staff members.  Please pray about the possibility of joining our support group at this time.

I Arise Today: Music By Stefan Andre Waligur

Those of us who love Celtic chants are always looking for new song writers and musicians who contribute to this area of music.  I was delighted this last week to receive links to this beautiful chant by Stefan Andre Waligur

You can listen to the professional and very beautiful version on Stefan’s website here or you can watch this preview of a shorter version from YouTube.  Thanks Stefan for making me aware of your beautiful music.

I Didn’t Learn It From the White Males

Some of you have been following the synchroblog initiated by Julie Clawson on What is the Emerging Church. The responses to this have been diverse and fascinating.  I particularly enjoyed this post by Mike Clawson – maybe because like me Mike has learned many of his lessons from theologians outside the Western context.

This effort is partially in response to the recent Sojourners article by Soong-Chan Rah and Jason Mach alleging that the emerging church conversation has largely been dominated by white male hipsters, and partially just to celebrate all the good things that are in fact emerging. So even though I am a white male (though decidedly un-hip), I did want to contribute and speak to my own experience of being led into this conversation through non-white, non-western voices in the first place.  Read Mike Clawson’s entire article here

The first of May I will be in New Haven Connecticut teaching a course on Spiritual Renewal in Missionary Life.  All of my students will be from non Western countries.  It as challenging and renewing time for me too in which I feel I always learn more than I teach.  Part of the wonder of the good news of Jesus is that it can be contextualized into every culture, place and stage of history. Opening our eyes and our ears to voices that are unlike our own is always challenging but so enriching of our faith.

Earth Day with Eyafjallajokull

Here is a post that is well worth looking at.  First Colleen Scheck mentions the thought provoking fact that the cancelled flights would have caused far more carbon emissions than the volcanic eruption did.  Second don’t miss the spectacular photos of the volcano.

With air travel considered a principle contributor to climate change, perhaps this “act of God” that halted over 100,000 flights is Mother Nature’s way of saying, “We’ll, if you’re not going to do anything about this, then I will!”  Read the entire post

Happy Earth Day or is It?

Today is Earth Day.  I know because every garden supply company I receive emails from has hit me with free offers and special sales to commemorate the day and that I suspect is not really a very earth friendly thing to do.  Shipping so much unnecessary stuff half way across the country is a very unearth friendly thing to do.    The only free offer I have received this morning that I would endorse is Julie Clawson’s offer of a free digital copy of Everyday Justice, a book that challenges us by discussing how our everyday actions impact not just the environment but also the lives of many who are marginalized around the world.

I hate it when events like this become so commercialized that they  seem to be counterproductive.  I wonder if all these companies buy carbon offsets to counteract the impact of shipping.  Or if they consider the environmental impact before they buy goods to sell from the other side of the world.  I would love to see some statistics on this.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I love the work that many garden supply companies do to protect the environment, to encourage seed diversity and backyard gardening.  And I realize that they all need to make sure their businesses are profitable.  What I struggle with is how quickly many of them succumb to the lure of glitzy and cutsy to make this possible.

All of us struggle with how to sustain our businesses and our ministries but surely there are more creative ways to do this.  Should we compromise our principles in the process?  What do you think?

Finding the Center – How Do we Balance Our Lives?

I just received an email from a friend with whom I was supposed to meet this morning.  Unfortunately she is so stressed out trying to maintain the balancing act of work, life and faith that she has had to cancel.  And she is feeling guilty not just because she is too busy but also because she cannot stand the pressure of the balancing act.

The compulsions all of us face to get busier and busier are enormous and our culture constantly impresses on us the fact that we should never slow down or take a break.  Multitasking is the order of the day and hundreds of gadgets appear every year to help us with the ever increasing complexity of the juggling act.

But is this really the way that we are meant to live and conduct our work?  What relationship does this type of life bear to the way of life in the kingdom of God? Perhaps you think that I harp on this too much, but I am concerned that this way of life is not sustainable for any of us, and it is certainly not drawing us closer to God and God’s kingdom ways.

Many of you know that a couple of years ago here at Mustard Seed Associates we started using the Quaker discernment method as a way to conduct our staff meetings.  It is a wonderful process that focuses on listening and learning from each other rather than on the assigning of tasks and the seeking after goals.  It encourages us to develop relationships and form community rather than see life as an assigning of tasks and an accomplishment of goals.  It also affirms the fact that God speaks through all people and that every voice needs to be listened to and taken notice of.

To be honest we drifted away from this approach for a while last year, but with the encouragement of our Quaker pastor friend Stan Thornburg, we have returned to its use this year with amazing results.  If you are unfamiliar with this process you may like to read the 2 posts I wrote when we started using this approach

Quaker Discernment

More About Quaker discernment

The sense of community and mutual respect this process engenders in us is phenomenal.  Part of what I have discovered is that it slows me down and encourages me to listen to those around me – not just in the midst of our meetings but at all times.  And believe it or not I think that as a result I actually accomplish more – more of what matters from a kingdom perspective that is.

Life is about relationships but our culture has converted it into a series of tasks and goals.  To move into a different way of thinking and operating we need new tools and processes that affirm God’s new life that wants to blossom and grow within us.

Let me finish with a centering prayer that I wrote over the weekend and have been using this week to help me focus and discern in the midst of all that is happening in my life and at MSA

May the centre of all things be Christ

May the way of all things be Christ

May the truth of all things be Christ

Behind, before, within, without

May the life of all things be Christ

What is Emerging in our Culture?

Yesterday I participated in a synchroblog on What is Emerging? referring to the emerging church movement and the changes we see happening in our churches and faith communities.  It was obvious that many of us continue to grapple with these issues.  For some they are never far from our thoughts.

This discussion raised other questions for me that I think most of us spend less time thinking about.  They are questions that are central to who we are and what we do at MSA – How is our culture is changing and how we as God’s people will continue to need to change in the future to be more effective followers of Christ.

Some of the changes coming at us are scary – especially the rapid changes in social media that we talked about in the last MSA Seed Sampler on technology and social media and its implications for the future.  And in light of that I wanted to share a recent MSA blog post by Matt Stone in Australia.  He blogs at Glocal Christianity

…do we as Christians see a role for ourselves in the emerging ethical conversations prompted by these new technologies and cultural shifts? Do we seek to have a leading role or a lagging role? Can we imagine some constructive applications, particularly with respect to this social networking technology? Or do we just follow the ways of the world? If we are as into relational community as we say, can we envisage how social networking technologies could be used for good? And can we anticipate some of the pitfalls before we fall into them? 2020 isn’t that far off.  Read the entire article

Matt is one of the most thoughtful and challenging bloggers I follow regularly.  He has also just posted another thought provoking article entitled What Can Google Trends Tell Us About Ourselves

I was scanning Google trends this week and I was noticing a curious trend across many keywords associated with religion.  Read the entire article