Brokenness Transformed to Beauty

Yesterday I held a spirituality of gardening seminar at the Inhabit conference.  We had a chance to wander the Belltown P-Patch community garden and reflect on the amazing transformation that has taken place not just here but in many other once vacant lots not just here in Seattle but around the world.  As I have said before, I believe this is a move of God.  Something new that God is doing to transform our world.

Sherry Maddox from Lexington shared about the vacant lot next to them where broken bottles, syringes, needles and other garbage have been dumped.  They have spent long hours cleaning out the lot, bringing in good soil and compost, planting trees, preparing raised beds and making a chicken coop.  Soon a couple of beehives will be added.  People are excited not just because what was once an eyesore has become a beautiful site but because it will provide fresh vegetables and hopefully even an income for those who tend the garden.

This seminar was a great opportunity not just to interact with people who love gardening but also to reflect on what is happening on once deserted and often toxic vacant lots in cities around the world.  They are being transformed.  God is taking what was broken and despised and turning it into something beautiful.  At one point we stopped to contemplate the cactus that was growing up through a seemingly solid rock, a wonderful metaphor for what God is doing.  No rock is too hard for God to penetrate.  Nothing is too damaged for God to transform.

Last market for Typewriters – Prisons

The Indian press reported this week that the inventory of typewriters at a company called Godrej & Boyce is down to 500 units.

“We stopped production in 2009,” said the company’s general manager, “and we’re the last company in the world to manufacture office typewriters.”

Not so fast, says New Jersey-based Swintec.

“We have manufacturers making typewriters for us in China, Japan, Indonesia,” the firm’s sales manager Ed Michael tells Minyanville.

Apparently, Swintec has found a growth market.

“We have contracts,” Mr. Michael says, “with correctional facilities in 43 states to supply clear typewriters for inmates so they can’t hide contraband inside them.”

Popular with guys who wear orange jumpsuits…

Hey, a market is a market…right? Even if your business model depends on your government continuing to imprison its own population at a rate greater than any other in the world.

Work it and hang onto those old typewriters – they may become collectors items.

Flexible home design

I was sent this interesting article a couple of days ago on flexible home design.  You can read the entire article on Treehugger

credit Andco

It’s a fact of life that people’s needs change over time, and that’s as true in housing as any other industry. Aiming to create condominiums that are flexible enough to accommodate some of that change, Canadian architectural firm Sweeny Sterling Finlayson & Co. has created a new, modular design for living spaces that allows them to adapt when needed.

Created with developer Parallax Investment Corp.FlexNatür is a system for condos by which residents can buy living space in increments and then combine or divide up those increments to suit their current needs. So, rather than committing to a condo with fixed square footage and a preset floor plan, residents instead can buy a certain number of units of space, with room to reconfigure as their needs shift. Thanks to their raised floors, for example, units can be reconfigured without penetrating into the concrete substructure. Self-contained utilities, meanwhile, make it relatively simple to redirect plumbing. And instead of concrete walls, loads are carried on solid concrete columns, enabling walls to be shifted fairly painlessly.

The FlexNatür concept is currently implemented in Toronto’s Downtown condominiums, among other projects. All those in architecture and design: be inspired!


FlexNatür: Designing Condos For

Flexibility And Change

by Lloyd Alter

Studies have shown that multifamily housing in transit oriented neighbourhoods is the most energy efficient, and that more young people want apartments, not houses. But with most apartments and condos are WYSIWYG; they are inflexible and hard-wired to resist changes.

But people’s needs do change. That’s what is so interesting about the creatively named Downtown condo in Toronto; it is designed to support change. Architect Dermot Sweeny calls it FlexNatür.

downtown flexible condo image section
Image credit &co; click to enlarge

The building, designed by Sweeny Sterling Finlayson & Co Architects (Danger,excessive flash) AKA &Co, is different. The architect explains the problem:

Downtown living has become almost unaffordable in major North American cities, including Toronto. Without a viable apartment-style solution, people have been buying single family homes where they can afford it, choosing massive and ever-increasing commutes, smaller dwellings, or both.The single family home is thought of as something that is flexible, but those of us who have renovated/added to them, know they are not flexible relative to cost and process. We buy small ones. Then, if possible, keep buying bigger ones. Most families rarely experience a sense of permanence or true belonging: “We bought a starter home… we will be looking for something bigger, something closer, something cooler and more stylish…” or “we will be renovating, adding-on, finishing the basement… and then moving…”.

Tornado Warnings – What Do We Do

Tornadoes in Alabama from The Weather Channel

We woke this morning to hear about the horrific tornadoes – 160 as of this morning –  that have hit across the South, the last in a terrible chain of natural disasters that have hit our world.

Deadly tornadoes and thunderstorms tore through the South early today, pushing the death toll to at least 210 people in five states and giving neighboring states a possible taste of what’s to come today, authorities said.

So far 164 tornados have been reported from Mississippi to New York, the worst tornado outbreak since 1974 when a super tornado outbreak killed more than 300 people. read more

My heart goes out to all those who have lost family, friends and homes as a result of this devastation.  May we pray for them and for those who come to help

Lord have mercy on all who suffer

Christ have mercy on those who have lost family and friends

Lord have mercy on those who seek to help

Texas Fights Catastrophic Wildfires with Prayer & Denial of Global Warming

During this Easter season when we are wanting to be salt and light to the world spreading them message of Christ’s resurrection, it is good (and often sobering) for all of us to see how those outside the church view us.  I often struggle with Alternet because of its antiChristian bias but I also find that its articles challenge me to take my faith more seriously in practical ways.  This article from is well worth a read and maybe some soul searching too.

Texas governor Rick Perry set aside these last few days for a period of prayer for rain across his state. It’s easy to see why: Texas has seen scant precipitation since September, and the drought is now worse than at the height of the Dust Bowl in the 1930s. Here’s a spokesman for the state’s forest service describing the fires that have broken out around the state: “This is a situation of historic proportions. The fuels are so dry. The winds are astronomical. The behavior of the winds is a perplexing situation. It’s never been like this before.”

I’ve got no problem with prayer–in my life as a Methodist, I’ve served as Sunday School superintendent and lay leader, and I added my heartfelt supplication for Texas to my Easter prayers.

But I think maybe Mother Teresa put it best: “Prayer without action is no prayer at all. You have to work as if everything depended on you, and leave the rest to God.” And while Texas politicians have certainly worked, mostly it’s been to deny global warming and prevent the changes that might actually deal with their troubles.  Read the entire article

Resurrection Life – Christ or the Easter Bunny?

Easter Sunday is usually my favourite church service of the year.  This year I found myself struggling.  What began with triumphant shouts of Christ is Risen Alleluiah, Alleluiah, Alleluiah and a beautiful flowering of the cross ended with an easter egg hunt.

“It’s great to see the kids so enthusiastic.” someone commented.  But is it really?  Is an enthusiastic sugar high really a substitute for celebrating the resurrection of Christ.  Have we bought into the secular culture so much that we can no longer tell the difference?

When I discussed this with a friend yesterday she told me that she too struggled.  She realized that the values being emphasized in the easter egg hunt are counter to kingdom values – greed, individualism and competitiveness drove the kids to find more candy not to share but for themselves.  And what about the symbolism?

The Easter Bunny is a rabbit-spirit. Long ago, he was called the “Easter Hare”, hares and rabbits have frequent multiple births so they became a symbol of fertility. The custom of an Easter egg hunt began because children believed that hares laid eggs in the grass. The Romans believed that “All life comes from an egg.” Christians consider eggs to be “the seed of life” and so they are symbolic of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  read more here

Now I am all for taking the symbols of the culture and transforming them into the symbols of our faith, but I wonder have we transformed this symbol or has it transformed us?  Are our values and our joy in the resurrection of Christ subverted by the secular culture that is all into greed, consumption and competitiveness?  Do we miss out on the life that the season is meant to renew in us because we are caught up in another world view?

The fact that most of my friends are now back to life as usual doesn’t help me at all.  Easter is meant to be a season in which we celebrate the transformation in in our lives.  For most Christians it isn’t even a day.  A couple of years ago I wrote a post: What Have We Done with Jesus?  that sums up a lot of my concerns so I won’t repeat them here.

Bruce MacDonald: Crucified Stuffed Bunny.

This year I came across this image on Matt Stone’s blog which seems to say it all.  An atheist friend of ours holds an easter bunny BBQ each year.  He too is disgusted with the worship of the season but obviously for very different reasons.  I would love to hear from those of you who have found alternatives to the easter egg hunt that really do symbolize the renewing transformation of Christ rather than the rebirth of spring fashions and consumer values.

Jesus Has Risen a New Creation Has Begun

On Good Friday I posted a litany entitled When Good Friday and Earth Day Converge. I hated having to finish with the Cross rather than the resurrection so have adapted it here as an Easter season litany – and it does end with the resurrection Hallelujah Christ is risen, he is risen indeed

He Qi - The Risen Lord

God all of created life is groaning waiting for the future God has prepared for us,
We hope for the day on which all you have made will be rescued from death and decay,
We wait for the redemption of our bodies and the restoration of our world.

In my opinion whatever we may have to go through now is less than nothing compared with the magnificent future God has planned for us. The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own. The world of creation cannot as yet see reality, not because it chooses to be blind, but because in God’s purpose it has been so limited – yet it has been given hope. And the hope is that in the end the whole of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and have its share in that magnificent liberty which can only belong to the children of God!

It is plain to anyone with eyes to see that at the present time all created life groans in a sort of universal travail. And it is plain, too, that we who have a foretaste of the Spirit are in a state of painful tension, while we wait for that redemption of our bodies which will mean that at last we have realised our full sonship in him. We were saved by this hope, but in our moments of impatience let us remember that hope always means waiting for something that we haven’t yet got. But if we hope for something we cannot see, then we must settle down to wait for it in patience. (Romans 8:18 – 25 (Phillips Translation)

God in this season of hope and promise bless the earth rich and fertile with life
God in this season of planting and growth, bless the seed we plant and nurture
As it falls into the ground to grow may we remember your body broken for us

Unless a seed is planted in the soil and dies it remains alone
But its death will produce many new seeds,
a plentiful harvest of new lives (Jn 12:24 NLT)

God as we sprinkle our gardens with the water that gives life,
May we remember lands that are parched and those that are flooded,
May we remember Christ that your life blood was poured out for us,
You were hung upon a tree and crucified,
So that together with all your creation we might be liberated into freedom.

Open up O heavens and pour out your righteousness
Let the earth open wide
So salvation and righteousness can sprout up together (Is 45:8 NLT)

As we watch for the first sprouts of new creation
We remember your resurrection promise,
A new world is breaking into ours with abundance and wholeness

Look I am making all things new…
On each side of the river grew a tree of life
Bearing twelve crops of fruit with a fresh crop each month
The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations (Rev 21:5; 22:2 NLT)

Jesus our hope lies not in your death but in your resurrection,
Not in your dying but in your rising again,
We wait in hope for your promise to be fulfilled,
Death is conquered, resurrection has begun,
May your healing be revealed in our bodies,
May your healing power be seen throughout the earth,
May we all participate together in the coming of a new heaven and a new earth.

Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her.  “Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”  She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. 15 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”   She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”  “Mary!” Jesus said.  She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).  “Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”  Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message.  (John 20: 11 – 18 NLT)

Hallelujah, Christ is risen
You who are the gardener of the new creation,
Cultivate the new seeds that have sprung into life,
Bring growth, bring blossom, bring fruit,
May your new creation flourish in us, through us around us,
So that all the world may say together,
Christ is risen he is indeed Hallelujah.