I Think God Believes in Cross Pollinating

red zebra tomato

red zebra tomato

A couple of days ago I read an article in the Seed Saver catalogue about the development of the Red Zebra tomato. In 1992, the developer, jeff Dawson noticed that one pant in his row of Green Zebra tomatoes had different colouring. He recognized something new had emerged and saved the seed from that one plant. Planting it out the following year produced amazing results. At least five distinctly different tomates appeared. One became the red and yellow striped red zebra, another a larger striper slicer called Copia and a third green with no stripes became Marz green. A fourth tomato with yellow and green stripes became Lemonhead.

Seed from these varieties was saved and Jeff worked to stabilize the varieties over the next 3-5 years. Some threw off even more unique and distinct varieties. What really impacted me was Jeff’s comment

It is so fascinating to see how one simple act of cross pollination in a garden and a gardener who is paying attention can produce a whole new family of tomato varieties.

Cross pollination, inbuilt in God’s plan for diversity. It produces an ever changing array of varieties of all kinds of fruit, vegetables and flowers. It encourages varieties that can adapt to a range of habitats a fruit may never have existed in before. Sometimes, as in the rich array of potatoes that thrive in South America,  it produces a variety that will only grow effectively in a few fields.

Shane Claiborne tells me Mustard Seed Associates is one of the best cross pollinating organizations he knows so as you can imagine this article really caught my attention. Cross pollination is extremely important in the church too. We learn from Christians of other traditions and sometimes our collaboration produces new expressions of church and faith that looks very different from the parent church or organization.

Unfortunately, we are not always good gardeners. We don’t always even notice the one plant in the congregation that is uniquely different from the rest. And if we do we often don’t nurture that new expression until it stabilizes and produces fruit that stays true. We are more likely to cut it down, or try to force it to produce fruit like all the other plants. 

The garden teaches me that God is a God of rich diversity, diversity that is ever changing, ever adapting to new soils and climates. Why do we think that when it comes to the church that diversity suddenly crashes to a halt? Why do we think that churches should be homogenous in beliefs, ethnicity, age and social strata?

So my question today is how do we become good gardeners in the churches (gardens) that God has placed us in? How do we recognize, nurture and grow the new varieties that are emerging in our midst without trying to squeeze them back into the old models (plants)? How do we become those good gardeners who can both recognize and nurture the new things that are emerging in our midst?

 

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Encouraging Spirituality, Sustainability and Simplicity.

Igniting the Divine Spark

The Mustard Seed rule of life encourages spirituality, sustainability and simplicity and this year we invite you to join us in the exploration of these values.

Join Us For Lent

What are the ordinary everyday activities that make you feel close to God? Is it working in the garden, going for a run or washing the dishes. Lent is only two weeks away. It is a good season to reflect on what draws you into the loving presence of God and learn to nourish these experiences.

So get ready to return to your senses in Lent.

  1. If you live in the Seattle area, join us for a Lenten retreat and take time to reflect and refocus with us. Establish new spiritual disciplines for the season: February 16th at the Mustard Seed House.
  2. Contribute a post to the Godspace series Return to Our Senses in Lent.  We already have an exciting collection of posts ready and Kimberlee Conway Ireton is whetting our appetites with an ongoing series of articles on prayer. You might like to check out her latest contribution Eight Ways of Looking at Water 
  3. No matter where you are in the world you can join us in the study of Return to Our Senses and challenge your friends to participate too. The study guide can be downloaded free from the MSA website. The book itself is available at a special discount price ($15 for a single copy; $12 for 5 or more) until Easter. We hope you will share your experiences with us on Facebook or with a comment on one of the Lenten posts.

Join Us in Igniting the Divine Spark

MSA’s entrepreneurial business developer Cindy Todd has just been featured in this TED talk. Cindy’s business is featured by the last speaker, Jill Bamburg. starting at 01.03.50 We are excited to have her share her insights and expertise with us in the upcoming workshop Igniting the Divine Spark  March 16th at the Mustard Seed House.  Throughout February and March Cindy and others will post on the MSA blog about creative models that encourage sustainable, local business and the ways that God ignited the divine sparks that gave rise to these. Cindy’s workshop will be the culmination of this series. So sign up now for this exciting and instructive event.

April 19th and 20th the entire MSA team will join our friends at the Parish Collective and Seattle School for the Inhabit Conference – The Art of Parish Renewal which also focuses on themes of sustainability and simplicity. We hope that some of you can join us their too.

Join Us In Spirituality of Gardening

The garden is the place where spirituality, sustainability and simplicity connect for many of us. May 18th we hold our annual Spirituality of Gardening Seminar at the Mustard Seed House. This is based on our popular resource To Garden With God. If you do not live in the Seattle area perhaps you would like to get a group of garden enthusiasts together to share stories about your own interactions with God in the garden. If you do please let us know. And stay tuned for other locations that will host this seminar.

Join Us in Australia in June

For our Australian friends who would like to explore these themes in more detail, please consider joining us in Adelaide in June. Tom and I will teach an intensive: Reimagining Faith for Turbulent Times at Tabor College June 17 – 22. There is still space & time to sign up. We will also be in Melbourne and Sydney and would love to have some of our friends join us.

Join us Together with The Overflow Project

The Overflow Project  is an initiative committed to a new way of living, a way of living that breaks down the walls that divide rich and poor. Using a 50-Day Challenge, The Overflow Project helps individuals, groups and churches simplify their lives in order to give generously. Donated funds provide clean drinking water – a vital resource for community and economic development. This year MSA will partner with this important initiative and encourage all of us to simplify our lives, not just for 50 days but as a lifestyle.

Join Us for Our Annual Celtic Retreat.

Save the dates August 10th and 11th for our annual retreat at the site of the future Mustard Seed Village on Camano Island. Here are a couple of links to past retreats if you want to check it out. Celtic Retreat 2011 and from 2012: Celtic liturgy and Lectio Divina and Celtic retreat slide show 

There is much happening here at MSA and we are excited to be able to share these opportunities with you. I do hope that you will be able to join us at some of these events.  

 

Creating A Faith Based Community Garden – Much to Reflect On

Time to plant seeds

Time to plant seeds

Garden season is underway here in the Pacific NW. I have already planted lettuce, spinach, Chinese greens, mesculin mix, cabbages, cauliflowers and peas inside on the front porch. This morning I emailed our burgeoning garden community of those keen to get their hands in the dirt. (If you would like to join us once a month for fellowship and a shared time of gardening please let me know.)

All of this has meant I am doing a lot of reflecting on creating a faith based community garden. There are some excellent websites and articles out there to help with this and I have blogged about them in previous years

More Resources for Creating a Faith Based Community Garden

Tips for Creating a Faith Based Community Garden – part 1

Tips For Creating a Faith Based Community Garden – part 2

This year my thoughts have revolved around the concept of community garden, especially in faith based gardens. So few encourage community. Sometimes the plots are even surrounded by fences that say in no uncertain terms – this is mine.  Often the work for tending the plots falls to one or two people who often religiously tend everyone else’s space. Sometimes the produce goes bad because people are too busy to harvest it.

For me there are three must do requirements for a faith based community garden:

  1. Create community. One church I heard of invited the congregation out into the garden once a month after the morning service to help weed and tend the crops. That truly is a community garden. For us at the Mustard Seed House inviting others to our monthly garden days has increased the feel of community and extended it to a broader community as well. Sometimes we can also create a deeper sense of community with our neighbours just by being out in the front yard, and when a church plants a garden in its front yard and the neighbours walk past it makes a statement about the congregation’s concern for their community too.
  2. Create a sacred space. Every garden should have a sacred space. At the least this should be a place that invites us to sit and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. It should stir all the senses of sight, sound, taste, feel and smell. I will reflect on this more later in the week
  3. Provide opportunities to share. The garden has taught me much about the economic views of our God who provides abundantly far more than we can ever use on our own. This abundance is meant to be shared – with the marginalized in gifts to food banks and community kitchens as well as with our friends and neighbours in harvest celebrations. So make sure that you plan at least one garden party this year where the garden produce has pride of place in the food on the table.

Go In Peace to Love and Serve the Lord

Peace rose

Peace rose

As many of you know at this season I tend to become an obsessive gardener and because I am currently teach a course on spirituality and gardening for a local church this has become even more of a passion for me. So I thought this week I would share some of my favourite garden stories and reflections.

The Peace rose is one of my all time favourite flowers, and even more so because of the history that goes with it. I frist read about this rose in the book For Love of A Rose,  and immediately fell in love with it.

It was developed by French horticulturist Frances Meilland in the years 1935 to 1939. When Meilland foresaw the German invasion of France he sent cuttings to friends in Italy, Turkey, Germany, and the United States to protect the new rose. It is said, by some that it was sent to the US on the last plane available before the German invasion. Others think that it was smuggled out by the French resistance. In the U.S. it was safely propagated by the Conrad Pyle Company during the war. In early 1945 Meilland wrote to Field Marshal Alan Brooke, principal author of the master strategy that won World War II, to thank him for his key part in the liberation of France and to ask if Brooke would give his name to the rose. Brooke declined saying that his name would soon be forgotten and a much better and more enduring name would be “Peace”.

His words were prophetic. The naming of the rose as ‘PEACE’ was publicly announced in America by Robert Pyle on April 29, 1945 , the day Berlin fell, officially considered the end of World WarII in Europe. The next showing of the Peace rose came on V-E Day, May 8, 1945. At the very first United Nations Conference in San Francisco, a Peace rose with the message: “We hope the ‘Peace’ rose will influence men’s thoughts for everlasting world peace”, was presented to all 49 U.N. delegates.

August of 1945 came the announcement that the Peace rose was the winner of the All-American Rose Selections Award of Honor. Simultaneously, the war ended in Japan.

Another memorable occasion came in 1951 when the American Rose Society made the Peace rose the first rose to receive its Gold Medal Award. This award corresponded with the signing of the treaty of peace with Japan.

Peter Beales, English rose grower and expert, said in his book Roses: “‘Peace’, without doubt, is the finest Hybrid Tea ever raised and it will remain a standard variety forever”. It is still the most popular rose in the world.

So go and plant a Peace rose, or better still plant some peace in God’s garden. God desires peace in our world and I think that the history of this rose shows that. I always have a peace rose in my garden. its fragrance reminds me constantly of God’s dream of peace and the efforts God makes to ensure it continues to thrive.

Eight Ways of Looking at Water By Kimberlee Conway Ireton

Kimberlee Conway Ireton has embarked on a Year of Prayer. To help hold her accountable to this commitment to live more prayerfully, she promised herself (and her blog readers) that she’d write about (some of) her prayer experiences.

This reflection was written in response to “blessing the water” prayer experiment in Return to Our Senses: Reimagining How We Pray.  A free study guide is also available and there is still time to form a group to use this as a study guide during Lent. 

Water3

 

1. Come, everyone who thirsts,

come to the waters.

2.”When Paul says, ‘If then you have been raised with Christ,'” the preacher quotes from Colossians 3, “he is referring to baptism. In the ancient world, water was viewed as a place of chaos, a symbol of death.” I understand. I am afraid of water, too, the vast expanses that blanket the earth, hiding only God knows what beneath their opaque, undulating surface.

Water2

 

3. Icy morning. Frost paints the housetops white. My breath hangs in the air when I step onto the porch. Back inside, I run water from the tap into the kettle, pour near-boiling water over tea leaves and wait for them to steep. I sip too soon; the hot liquid scalds my throat.

4. Driving up the hill to church, I enter the fog. Low, white swirls of water settle among the gravestones as I pass the cemetery. I think of Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones and am grateful I live in so lush a place as this, where water is plentiful and our bones are never dry.

Water1

5. Stomach flu. I sleep fitfully, mouth dry, throat parched. A cup of water sits on the nightstand. I do not drink it. I am afraid I will throw up yet again, and my body aches from the violence of retching. Much as I long for water, I let the cup sit, unsipped.

6. After nearly a day without eating or drinking, I am a dry and weary land. I am the deer longing for the water-brooks. I sit at the dining room table and marvel at the beauty of clear water in clear glass. I sip, and the water soothes my parched throat. I imagine it filling my belly, my body, sending its healing power into every cell, rehydrating my dry skin, my dry eyes, my dry self.

7. Lynne takes the baby in her arms. He is wearing a long, white gown, over 100 years old, she tells us. She dips her fingers in the font and marks his forehead in the sign of a cross, once, twice, three times, baptizing him in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. “You are one of Christ’s own,” she tells him, “forever.”

8. On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If any of you thirsts, come to me! And those who believe in me—drink!” 


Post and photos by Kimberlee Conway Ireton, urban outsider, mother of four, and author of The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year.

When the Farmer Scatters Seed… build up the soil

“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seed.” So begins one of my favourite parables, a parable that many of us are very familiar with. Some of the seed falls on the path, some on rocky ground, some among thorns and some in good soil. The seed is the word of God. That which falls on the path represents those for whom God’s word never takes root, the seed in rocky soil those with shallow roots who turn away when problems overwhelm, that scattered amongst thorns are those who allow the worries of life and the lure of wealth to distract, and of course the seed that falls on good soil stands for those who produce a rich harvest. (Mark 4:3-20)

It is so easy for me to interpret this parable from an urban dweller’s perspective, to look down on those who don’t receive the word of God or who turn away because it has not grown deep roots, or been choked out by the cares of the world. It is only recently that I realized a farmer would interpret this completely differently. The central principle of organic gardening is – Build up the soil!

Any ground can be made more fertile and become productive. Stony ground can be moved as all of us who have travelled to Ireland know.

stone-walls-ireland

And brambles can be cleared as any gardener here in the Pacific NW is well aware of.

Sampling the blackberries

It is the farmer who works to convert poor soil into good, just as it is those of us who spread the word of God who are responsible to build up the soil in which we plant it. Too often we place the responsibility on those who hear to respond appropriately when we do little to prepare and nurture the work God is doing in their lives. Our spreading of the seed (evangelism and proclamation) is not done to put another “soul saved for heaven” notch on our belts, it is to introduce them to the renewed community of God’s shalom world. Having introduced them we are responsible to grow them into shalom representatives, teaching them to be plants that produce a harvest of plenty.

Build up the soil, it is as important for followers of Christ as it is for the farmer. And what do we build up the soil with? The best organic fertilizer of all is compost – garbage transformed to gold. My colleague Andy Wade has just written a couple of great posts on this on the MSA blog.

So what is the garbage in your life that God has transformed into gold? How could you use that to nurture, grow and help sustain others so that they too can become healthy and productive plants in God’s fertile garden?

 

Prayers for the Journey #2

This is the second posting of prayers from Light for the Journey. If you use one of these prayers please make sure that you acknowledge the appropriate source.

Lord God You are worthy of our praise

 

 

This world would have us believe
that true happiness comes from
possessions,
and those who find contentment
with the simple things of life
are wrong;
yet to such as these you came,
and such as these you sent,
to herald a kingdom
in which to lose all things
is to gain everything,
and where true happiness
comes from the possession
of this,
the knowledge of Jesus Christ
as Lord of our lives.

(www.faithandworship.com)

Lord of creation,
create in us a new rhythm of life
composed of hours that sustain rather than stress,
of days that deliver rather than destroy,
of time that tickles rather than tackles.
Lord of liberation,
by the rhythm of your truth, set us free
from the bondage and baggage that breaks u,
from the Pharaohs and fellows who fail us,
from the plans and pursuits that prey upon us.
Lord of resurrection,
may we be raised into the rhythm of your new life,
dead to deceitful calendars,
dead to fleeting friend requests,
dead to the empty peace of our accomplishments.
In the name of our Creator,
our Liberator
our Resurrection and Life,
we pray, Amen
(from Common Prayer – Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals)

Coptic prayer from Contemplative network

 

Compline prayer of Thanksgiving from the Coptic Office, Agpeya.

Let us give thanks to the beneficent and merciful God, the Father of our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ, for He has covered us, helped us, guarded us, accepted us unto Him, spared us, supported us, and brought us to this hour. Let us also ask Him, the Lord our God, the Almighty, to guard us in all peace this holy day and all the days of our life.

O Master, Lord, God the Almighty, the Father of our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ, we thank You for every condition, concerning every condition, and in every condition, for You have covered us, helped us, guarded us, accepted us unto You, spared us, supported us, and brought us to this hour.

Therefore, we ask and entreat Your goodness, O Lover of mankind, to grant us to complete this holy day, and all the days of our life, in all peace with Your fear. All envy, all temptation, all the work of Satan, the counsel of wicked men, and the rising up of enemies, hidden and manifest, take them away from us, and from all Your people, and from this holy place that is Yours.

But those things which are good and profitable do provide for us; for it is You Who have given us the authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and upon all the power of the enemy.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, by the grace, compassion and love of mankind, of Your Only-Begotten Son, our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ, through Whom the glory, the honor, the dominion, and the adoration are due unto You, with Him, and the Holy Spirit, the Life-Giver, Who is of one essence with You, now and at all times, and unto the ages of all ages. Amen.

(posted by Contemplative network)

Your love does not fade
as we choose to walk
a different path,
or listen to voices
persuading us
to put faith aside
and pick up instead
a forbidden fruit.
Your love is constant
and accepting.
Your love is merciful
and forgiving.
Your love is grace-full
and inspiring.
Your love is…
Your love is…
all we are not
and everything you are,
our loving God and King.

(www.faithandworship.com)

You are Lord of each moment.
From our rising to our lying down
you are with us wherever we go,
our travelling companion
accompanying us along the road.

You are Lord of each moment.
In our thinking and conversation
your voice and wisdom are active
in that gentle whisper guiding
in the difficult moments of our lives.

(www.faithandworship.com)

Lord God You are worthy of our praise

Arise and embrace a new day!
O Master and holy God, who are beyond our understanding: at your word, light came forth out of darkness. In your mercy, you gave us rest through night-long sleep, and raised us up to glorify your goodness and to offer our supplication to You. Now, in your own tender love, accept us who adore You and give thanks to You with all our heart. Grant us all our requests, if they lead to salvation; give us the grace of manifesting that we are children of light and day, and heirs to your eternal reward. In the abundance of your mercies, O Lord, remember all your people; all those present who pray with us; all our brethren on land, at sea, or in the air, in every place of Your domain, who call upon your love for mankind. Upon all, pour down your great mercy, that we, saved in body and in soul, may persevere unfailingly; and that, in our confidence, we may extol your exalted and blessed Name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, always, now and forever. Amen.

(Contemplative network)