A Good Day with Brother David Steindl-Rast

This beautiful video on gratefulness makes a wonderful meditative reflection for the day. Thanks Greg Abell for making me aware of it.

Sharing Meals, Sharing Faith, Sharing Life

Sharing In the Eucharistic Feast

Sharing In the Eucharistic Feast

Yesterday I posted on the forming of community around the preparing and eating of food. Coincidentally Tom also posted on community yesterday Did You Ever Consider That God Might Want You to Start A New Community In A Parking Lot?.  This is so central to the gospel and to the kingdom of God that this morning I thought I would share other stories that speak vividly of this aspect of who God calls us to be and of the eucharistic power of shared meals.

First this beautiful story from Turkey that Jeri Bidinger added as a comment to my post.

I don’t garden, though we have recently taken up residence in a Turkish village where home food production forms the fabric of life. Yesterday my neighbor found me to show me how they are making olive oil from olives collected from my trees and hers. As I left, her rooster attacked me when I got too close to the hen-house to photograph their small son. Yes, much community around the sharing of what we grow (my lemon tree is also an amazing producer and her husband showed me a pine-nut sapling he prepares for my garden) and the tending of her chickens and another neighbor’s cow. And then there is my bread-baking.

The stuff of hospitality, though, resonates very deeply. In this place of very few believers (I was the only one last Sunday), we share the Lord’s table every Sunday night and it IS a meal where we consciously celebrate Christ’s body and blood in the elements as we share and pray together. Whether we are two or six, whether we speak a common language or not, these times are rich fellowship.

Beyond food, in all its beauty and simple goodness, the offer of a safe place, of thoughtful converse, of space apart from life’s battering and stresses, where one can listen and be listened to, and play a bit–joy that leads to worship.

Second another very moving story that I used a couple of years ago from a post by Lisa Carlson co-director of Aurora Care Continuum

This month my husband and I shared meals with a handful of women that are prostituted in our neighborhood. We are grateful that they trust us enough to enter our home. As I reflect on the faces of each woman- one stands out to me the most, and this is the story that I must share: her name is “Rose”. I met “Rose” on the corner of Aurora and 95th street.

When I met her she was practically slumped over onto the fast paced street of Aurora, she could barely keep herself awake. I touched her on the shoulder and she looked at me as if she did not know where she was. She told me that she was in pain and that she had not slept in four days. She went on to tell me that a “john” had busted out all her teeth on a trick a few days ago, so that is what caused the pain. Her teeth were all knocked out and she hobbled as we stepped. I invited “Rose” to walk with me to my home where she could take a much needed, much deserved nap in a safe place. She agreed and this began our 24 hours together.

“Rose” slept on the couch, and as she slept I prepared a meal of chicken, potatoes, bread and salad. I lit candles and put out our finest plates and napkins. When “Rose” woke up, I invited her to join us at the table. And as we sat together, she asked if she could pray for our dinner. Her prayer was beautiful and yet it held a harsh reality: as she prayed she shared with us that she is 40 years old and that she has been prostituted since age 13 when her dad started feeding her crack. In this prayer she thanked God for a warm and safe place to sleep and then she shared with us and with God that this is the first time that anyone has ever invited her into a home to eat.

My goodness, “Rose” is 40 and has been out in the streets for 27 years and this is the first time she has shared in meal fellowship! I could not believe my ears. As she ate, she shared that this was the best meal that she could ever remember having and then later on in the meal as she talked about her love of singing, she bust out into song! “Rose” spent the night at our home that night, and the next day I accompanied her to the methadone clinic and then to lunch at Recovery Café.

This is certainly not the first time that I have had neighbors eat at my home or sleep on my couch but this was the first time that I gave myself permission to experience the table fellowship in light of Christ’s words, “Whenever you do this, do it in my memory.” We shared Eucharist with “Rose” that evening; I have no doubt about this. “Rose” was at the table with us, sitting in the position and place that she deserved…fine linens, candles, a warm meal, singing and fellowship with the Mystical Body of Christ. This is the work of God, for the people of God. Amen. Read the entire post

And finally a story I shared a couple of years ago about an Ethiopian feast prepared by our good friends Melody and Gil George.

Several months ago our good friends Melody and Gil George cooked a wonderful Ethiopian meal for us. The delicious hot and spicy sauces were spooned onto platters spread with layers of the Ethiopian flatbread injera. More mounds of injera dotted the table waiting for us to tear off pieces with our fingers so that we could scoop up the wonderful berbere flavoured wots. By the end of the meal all that remained on the platter were broken pieces of injera soaked with the remains of the sauces.

As we gathered the empty platters I was struck by how much this meal must have resembled meals Jesus ate with his disciples and those other friends of his – the tax collectors and prostitutes. Bread was far more than an adjunct to their meals, it was the very heart of their shared life together. The bread was broken so that people could share together the nourishment they needed to sustain life. And as the bread was broken there was implicit in the act, a sharing of hospitality, of togetherness and of community. Anybody who ate from their table, friend or stranger, rich or poor, young or old would enter into this shared community. I was suddenly overwhelmed by the feeling that in eating together in this way we had shared in the communion of Christ’s body.“To the Middle Eastern mind-set bread is not just a source of nourishment.” Says Ravi Zacharias. “It is the bearer of much more… It is the means of friendship, celebration and pleasure.” Read the entire article



How Do We Form Community?

Garden day at the Mustard Seed House

Garden day at the Mustard Seed House

Friday and Saturday were community garden days at the Mustard Seed House. Afterwards I reflected on what wonderful times of fellowship and fun these were. It started me thinking again about the importance of community and how we form it.

Gardening and hospitality, I thought. These are two of the most important places for forming community. Other shared activities like shared worship practices and shared ministry are also important for forming community, but sometimes they create rather than break barriers. And the best worship and ministry are deeply enriched by the sharing of food and its production. The phenomenal growth of the community garden movement is a good example of this.

In the creation story we find God forming a community around gardening too. It is God who plants the garden of Eden and asks human kind to tend it. And it is God we hear walking in that garden in the cool of the evening, not just enjoying what has been planted but looking for Adam and Eve so that they can enjoy it together.

In gospels we are introduced to the risen Christ as the gardener of the new creation. To be part of God’s new creation we once more walk in fellowship with God and with each other, fully mindful once more of our call to tend God’s garden and make it flourish.

Gardening breaks down barriers that can destroy community. Barriers of race, social strata, and age. In the garden we are all one. We wear our oldest clothes, so no one can tell the rich from the poor. We listen to the wisdom of grandparents who had their hands in the dirt long before we were born. And we rub shoulders with people of every tribe and nation because to get the big jobs done we need every will hand and every able body.

Hospitality at the Mustard Seed House

Hospitality at the Mustard Seed House

The other place most important community forming practice is hospitality and the sharing of food together. In the gospels we find Christ constantly sitting down to table to enjoy community around hospitality and food. Even after the resurrection, hospitality plays an important part in his interactions with the disciples. One of my favourite bible stories is the resurrected Jesus making breakfast for friends. (John 21:9)

Like gardening, the sharing of food can break down barriers as we see profoundly portrayed in the wonderful film Barbette’s Feast.

It is no wonder that the central sacrament of our faith is the breaking of bread and wine, something that was once more than the symbolic sharing of a rice wafer and a sip of wine or grape juice. The last supper must have looked a little more like what Sara Miles does in her book Take This Bread. The bread and wine at communion becomes tons of groceries, piled on the church’s altar to be given away and in the pages of her book we find the most unlikely people sitting down to dinner together – church ladies, bishops, schizophrenic street people, thieves and millionaires.

What do you think? Where do you find community? What for you are the most community enhancing activities?


Prayers for the Journey

This is a summary of the prayers that I have posted on facebook and twitter in the last couple of weeks

Still my mind O God, calm my spirit,
Draw me to a place where my soul finds solitude,
May I listen to the sounds of silence,
And hear your quiet whispers.


God transform us

May our blindness become sight,

May our zeal become faith,

May our hate become love.


God we are hungry to see your face,

Jesus we are thirsty to hear your words,

Spirit we are longing to know your presence,

Feed us, quench our thirst, dwell within us today.


May the gospels be ever new to us

May the word of God be ever fresh

May our eyes and ears be ever open

To the Christ revealed as we walk the road with him


When Jesus says don’t be afraid, may we listen

When Jesus says I am with you always may we believe

When Jesus says in me there is no condemnation

May we be set free.


Let us breathe in the wonder of this moment

Let us look at its beauty and savour the essence of God

Let us touch its glory and know the love of God


May we seek to know the will of God

And listen to all the voices through which God speaks

May we walk forward without fear into God’s kingdom ways


Let us sit in the presence of God

Confident of his goodness and mercy

May his love surround us

His Spirit fill us

His truth guide us


God is good and loving and kind,

May we share God’s goodness,

And celebrate God’s love,

Till the whole earth shines with God’s glory


The beauty of the snow covered landscape outside my window reminded me of this prayer I wrote last year:

Beauty beyond words, creativity beyond imagining

God bathed, son drenched, spirit infused

May we dare to believe

God is here, transforming, redeeming,

Making all things new.


A prayer for Martin Luther King Day


May we dream of a world made new,

Where together we shout for justice,

And as one we fight against oppression.

May we dream of a world made new,

Where together we seek God’s righteousness

And as one we sing God’s praise.

May we dream of a world made new,

Where together we climb God’s mountain,

And as one we enter the promised land.

May we dream of a world made new,

Where together we proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom,

And as one we enjoy its peace, and abundance and love.

Getting Ready for Lent – What Do We Hunger and Thirst For?

Lent is Coming

Lent is Coming

We are rapidly moving towards Lent, which begins with Ash Wednesday on February 22nd. This is the season that most challenges us to reflect on our faith and renew our commitment to follow Jesus. Once again I want to invite you to participate with me in Lenten reflections that challenge us to take our following of Jesus more seriously.

Last year our theme was: Following Jesus What Difference Does it Make. The theme for this year is: Easter is Coming – What Do We Hunger and Thirst For? 

When reading  Ancient Christian Devotional: A Year of Weekly Readings. a couple of years ago, I came across this quote by Caesarius of Arles (470 – 543) in a reflection on Exodus 17: 1-7. It profoundly impacted. Do we really thirst for justice or are we satisfied with water? Do we hunger for righteousness or are we satisfied with bread? If we do really hunger and thirst after justice ad righteousness, how is that lived out in our lives?

For what did the people thirst?  What then does the scripture mention in what follows? “In their thirst for water the people grumbled against Moses.”  Perhaps this word that he said may seem superfluous, that the people thirsted for water. For since he said “In their thirst” what need was there to add “for water”?  Thus indeed the ancient translation has it.  Why did he add this, except because they thirsted for water when they should have thirsted for justice?  ”Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice.” and again “thirsty is my soul for the living God.”  Many people are thirsty, both the just and sinners, the former thirst after justice, the latter after dissipation  The just are thirsty for God; sinners for gold.  For this reason the people thirsted after water when they should have thirsted after justice.

The guidelines for the guest posts are simple. Please write an article of 500 – 800 words. If you have a blog, post your article there mentioning that it is part of this blog series and send me the link.  If you do not have a blog but would like to contribute please email your article. I will post a new article each day with links to the appropriate blogs.  Each couple of weeks I will post  a complete list of posts that I have received with links to the appropriate blogs. I ask that you also post this on your own blog.

With your post please include a 2-3 sentence bio and any photos that you want included. Also note that the email to respond to this year if you want to be a part of this, is not my personal email. Seattle Pacific student Lyndsay Field is assisting me this year and will coordinate the blog series through the email msaintern@gmail.com. Alternatively leave a comment at the end of this post.


Its Winter But Spring IS Coming

A couple of days ago I wrote this post Weathering the Winter Storms – Lessons for the Soul. reflecting on what I have learned from the winter storms. I love the ways that God speaks to us through the seasons of the year. This post formed the foundations for the latest MSA Happenings which I thought you might appreciate.

The description of what happens in trees during winter has resonated in my soul this week as I feel MSA is in a waiting, strengthening season. It is as though God has set buds for next year’s growth and we desperately want to see them spring into life, but God is saying, not yet, wait for the lengthening of days and the warming of the air. In the mean time put down deeper roots and strengthen your framework. Allow your roots to grow down to the deep water you will need for the coming summer and enjoy the peace of a world at rest.

Roots Going Down Deep

Mustard Seed Associates is going through huge transitions at the moment. Our Seattle team is growing and soon we will begin to develop the Mustard Seed Village community. Our Board is also changing as we grapple with the new skills needed to grow us into the future. These transitions have encouraged us to revisit our MSA foundations, refresh our vision of God’s kingdom purposes.

We are at core a spiritual community

This has reaffirm our belief that we are at core a spiritual community that discerns and implements God’s will for our organization. We believe that everything we do should flow out of our involvement together as community. The kind of creativity and innovation we want to encourage, that enables us to create new ways to advance God’s kingdom purposes and engage tomorrow’s challenges, occurs best in and through community. Much of what I have learned is expressed in my recent blog series: Leading Spiritually

Tom is also blogging about community on the MSA website. As he stated in last week’s post I am deeply concerned that too many of us miss new possibilities for community because we don’t pay attention to “times like these.” Check it out here

Our garden community is putting down roots too and we invite you to be a part of it. Each Friday and the 3rd Saturday of each month will be community garden days. If you live in Seattle and would like to join us at the Mustard Seed House please let me know. Or contact us if you want us to start your lettuce, tomatoes, squash, basil or other vegetables. Proceeds from sales will go towards starting the Mustard Seed Village community garden.

There are other ways in which we hope to put down deeper community roots in the coming weeks too. We need to grow our circle of friends and supporters. If you know people anywhere in the world who are interested in sustainability, community or creativity that would resonate with the MSA message we would like to meet them.

We are a networking hub 

MSA also provides a networking hub for many expressions of faith and community, a place to share and cross pollinate ideas. We are working to strengthen this networking capacity. We will hold several small networking gatherings at the Mustard Seed House this year. Cindy Todd and Andrew Wade will man a Mustard Seed booth at the Justice Conference in Portland February 24 & 25 Tom and I will collaborate with the Parish Collective and the Seattle School for the Inhabit Conference.  April 20 & 21 and all of us hope to attend the Wild Goose Festival in South Carolina June 21 – 24.

Buds in Waiting

So what are the buds in waiting that will not emerge until the spring? First our initial cohort for the Pacific Sustainability semester has been delayed until January 2013. We still expect to bring our program director and  community facilitator on staff in July of this year. However this program will require the building of community networks and connections that need months of preparation. We are also still waiting for the final approval from colleges and universities that are potential recruiting grounds for students.

Second we have decided to delay the launch of our ezine Imagine That. We want to provide a tool that will help launch creativity and innovation in the MSA network as well as share examples of how God has already unleashed creativity in our midst. However we realize that with our current commitments, this would stretch our existing resources too thinly.

Building Resilience – Adding to the Team

We continue to grow the MSA team. We are currently looking for a volunteer with administrative skills to work as my assistant helping with research, writing and web communications.This position will provide an opportunity for the volunteer to assist in publishing articles, blog posts and possibly a book on spiritual practices. There will also be opportunity to assist in events and meet collaborators from around the world. If you are interested I would love to hear from you.

We also have a summer internship position available. Duties would include organizing, marketing and coordinating our annual Celtic retreat at the Mustard Seed Village site. If you or someone you know might be interested please contact us.

In our discernment time during our MSA team meeting this week we sensed that God is at work below the surface, getting ready to grow the seeds and preparing to bring new life to those waiting buds. We appreciate your prayers as we solidify our foundations and press forward to discern and implement God’s will for us as an organization.

Looking for Partners.

Over the last few months many of you have told me how much you appreciate the content on this blog. Its popularity continues to grow as we post reflections, resources and liturgies from around the world. Some of you regularly use prayers and liturgies that are posted here in your church services and study groups. Numbers have used the series on Spiritual Leadership to guide your own leadership teams. Thousands view the meditation videos each year and dozens have already downloaded the Lenten guide in preparation for the upcoming season.

Many of these resources are available free and that is the way we want to keep it. I strongly believe that God has gifted me and the other members of the MSA team to serve the body of Christ in this way. However to make it possible for us to continue this into the future we need your help.

I would ask those of you who do regularly use Godspace resources to consider partnering with us in the ongoing work of this blog. Please prayerfully consider a small donation – either a one time donation of $25 – $100 or a monthly donation of $10 or $20 or even $50/month to Mustard Seed Associates.

I know that many of you face the same kind of financial struggles that we do at Mustard Seed Associates. And as you can imagine I have struggled with writing this post. But many of you have become like an extended family, and I know that part of being family together means sharing our needs and struggles. Please pray for us as we seek God’s wisdom and guidance in these challenging times.

Books I am Reading That I Want to Recommend

Books I'm Reading

Books I'm Reading

These last few weeks have been an orgy of reading for me. As I glanced over the books on my desk this morning it occurred to me that I rarely find such a rich assortment of books at one time. I thought that you might like to know what they are:

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp – this is the best book I have read for a long time and I am currently on my third read of it. I would highly recommend it for a book club as well as individual reading.

Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership by Ruth Hayley Barton. Those of you who read my series on Leading Spiritually  know that this was one of my best resources for group discernment and spiritual leadership. I think it is a must read for anyone in spiritual leadership.

Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality by Richard Rohr. This is a book that had sat on my shelf for a couple of years. When I finally started reading it last week I was riveted. There is much about the upside down nature of God’s power and the wonder of God’s love. It is a revolutionary invitation to move into the ways of God.

A Hidden Wholeness:The Journey Toward an Undivided Life by Parker Palmer. I have just started reading it, but am already hooked. Listen to this quote: The soul is creative: it finds its way between realities that might defeat us and fantasies that are mere escapes. All we need to do is to bring down the wall that separates us from our own souls and deprives the world of the soul’s regenerative powers.

Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes:Cultural Studies in 1 Corinthians by Kenneth e Bailey. This commentary has blown all my ideas about Paul. It is a gold mine of new discoveries that I am thoroughly enjoying. I can’t wait to get my hands on his earlier book Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes. 

The Cost of Community: Jesus, St Francis and Life in the Kingdom by Jamie Arpin Ricci. This deceptively simple little book has been more challenging than I wanted, once more calling me to consider the cost of true discipleship.

Weathering the Winter Storms – Lessons for the Soul.

tree icicles

tree icicles

Last week we had snow and then ice storms in Seattle. The city ground to a halt and anyone who could hibernated for a couple of days. Outside the trees were festooned with snow and icicles formed along their branches. How do they survive I wondered? Some of my time last week was spent researching this very question. And the answers are astounding with powerful implications for my faith.

…trees are large, tall, and immovable. They have no choice but to face everything winter can throw at them.  And yet, as you travel north throughout the world one thing is ubiquitous: forests… (read the entire article)

A tree begins to prepare for winter far in advance of the icy blasts. In August as the days begin to shorten, chemical reactions occur in the tree signalling the need to slow down, stop growing and get ready. It is this that produces the vibrant colours of autumn. At the same time, deciduous trees set buds that contain next year’s leaves and flowers and then go into a dormancy, at least above ground. In some species the roots continue to grow, strengthening the tree as they search out water that has not frozen.
That is not enough however to cope with the destructive force of freezing water that can send sharp penetrating icicles through cell membranes anywhere. That too a winter hardy tree knows how to cope with. As the weather cools, the concentration of sugar in each cell increases dramatically and the plasma membrane becomes more flexible. It’s as though it produces its own sugary antifreeze that embraces the precious cell contents and keeps it safe until spring. The sap of the sugar maple, which is tapped for maple syrup, is a particularly good example of this.
As I read this last week I was overawed at the creativity and adaptability of God’s creation and I thought – how do I prepare for the times of winter that inevitably come to my life? Do I know how to recognize the first signs that winter is approaching so that I too can hunker down and allow my spirit to rest without feeling that I need to keep growing and producing? Or even more challenging am I willing to form buds that need to wait until next year to grow and produce?
If those buds that were set in August start growing prematurely they will be destroyed by the next icy winter’s blast. The tree will produce no leaves or fruit next year. It has no chlorophyll for photosynthesis and is likely to starve and die. This description has resonated in my soul this week as I feel I am in a time of winter. It is as though God has set buds for next year’s growth and I desperately want to see them spring into life. But God is saying, not yet, wait for the lengthening of days and the warming of the air. In the mean time enjoy the sweet sugary embrace of my protective presence. Allow your roots to grow down to the deep water you will need for the coming summer and enjoy the peace of a world at rest.

Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus – A YouTube Phenomenon

This video that was posted just a week ago on Youtube has taken the world by storm with over 15 million viewings in just over a week. It certainly made me think and has obviously made others think too. I found the responses that I looked at as thought provoking as the original video and have chosen some of those I thought the most interesting, especially as they made me grapple with the video from diverse perspectives.

It has also provoked a number of responses from a variety of viewpoints. Here are some of the responses that I thought were the best or the most challenging at least.

This from a catholic perspective:

And here is a very compelling response from a Muslim

This a rather angry response from someone who does not seem to be too sure what he believes

So what do you think?