I was reminded of this going forth prayer as I read Tom’s post this morning and thought that it would probably resonate with many of you as well. Remembering the cloud of witnesses who surround us before and behind is a wonderful anchor for our faith.


Here is another of my favourite Celtic prayers. We will use this to close off the time at our Celtic retreat this weekend.

(The Rising)

Let us go forth,

In the goodness of our merciful Father,

In the gentleness of our brother Jesus,

In the radiance of the Holy Spirit,

In the faith of the apostles,

In the joyful praise of the angels,

In the holiness of the saints,

In the courage of the martyrs.


Let us go forth,

In the wisdom of our all-seeing Father,

In the patience of our all-loving brother,

In the truth of the all-knowing Spirit,

In the learning of the apostles

In the gracious guidance of the angels,

In the patience of the saints,

In the self control of the martyrs,

Such is the path for all servants of Christ,

The path from death to eternal life

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Are you ready for the Lenten discipline of celebrating those who have gone before by Tom Sine

Today’s post in the series Return to Our Senses in Lent comes from my husband Tom Sine, futurist, author and hospitality guy here at the Mustard Seed House.

“Ashes to ashes” are the words I heard again on Ash Wednesday last week as my pastor placed an ash cross on my forehead.  As I turn 77 this week I am much more aware of my mortality than I was a decade ago.

Christine Sine - Come to our SensesChristine led a very inspirational retreat called Return to Our Senses in Lent at our home a couple fo weeks ago with a few MSA friends.  It was during this session that I discovered a new way of reflecting on my own mortality… expressing my deep appreciation to God for family members, friends and mentors that have added so much to my life.

Those of us who knew Richard Twiss  were shocked by his unexpected death while attending the Presidential Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC.  We pray for the huge loss Richard’s death will have particularly for his family.  Those of us who knew him are deeply grateful for his life of service to Christ and his strong prophetic voice to call us all out of the values of the dominant culture to embrace a more biblical faith.

I start every morning by inviting the great family beginning with Abraham and Sarah to join me in my prayers.  On Saturday at our Lenten Retreat I focused on my mortality by giving thanks for family, friends and mentors that have joined that great family.  I started by expressing my deep gratitude for my dear parents Tom whom I lost in 1990 and Katherine in 1995.  My hardest loss was my son Clint in 2006. But I still celebrate his good life and memories of camping at Baker Lake and touring the UK.

In the last 5 years I also lost two of my most significant mentors from my student days at Cascade College in the 50s…Grace and Lee Nash.  Grace helped a young man who had little prospect of succeeding in college get his life organized.  Lee was so affirming as I became an author and so gracious when I fell on my face.

Edward Lindeman came as President to Whitworth College in 1970 as I arrived in Seattle to start my doctorate at the University of Washington.  He was easily the most creative college educator I ever met.  He had headed the Apollo Space Craft Project and mentored me researching and writing about the future.

Frank Herbert author of the Dune series was the first professor in my doctoral program at the UW in 1971 in a course on Utopia and Dystopia.  We continued to be friends and he was a valued mentor in my life and writing after he and Beverly moved to Port Townsend to create what he called a high level of “techno-peasantry.”

Just a few weeks ago I joined hundreds of people in the most multi-cultural event I have ever attended in Seattle as we celebrated the life of Cal Uomoto.  I had known Cal since the early 70s .  I can’t remember having a friend that was a more self effacing servant of Jesus than Cal.  Over his lifetime thousands of refugees from all over the planet experienced his care and hospitality.

As you reflect on your own mortality during this season of Lent will you write and tell me some of those whose lives you are celebrating?

A Prayer for the Third Sunday of Lent

I posted this prayer on the Light for the Journey Facebook page earlier in the week and it was so popular that I thought I would share it here too. The beginning of next week we will be about half way through the journey of Lent and I think that many of us begin to feel a little weary at this point.

God go with you in your journey.001

Stranger at the Door by Mary Elizabeth Todd.

Today’s post in the series Return to Our Senses in Lent comes from Mary Elizabeth Todd. May was born in the mountains of Western NC and grew up in East Tennessee- She went to Erskine College and majored in Behavioral Science and Religion. She started writing poetry at 10 years of age, grew up listening to her father’s poems. She worked 28 years as a foster care worker and was awarded Social worker of the Year in 2004 for the state of South Carolina by the Foster Parent Association. She retired in 2006 and reckons she is a mountain woman thru and thru, loves the Lord but fails often, but always gets back up.

I asked Mary if I could post the following prayers first because they seemed to flow so well after the post yesterday on looking after special needs children and second because they so beautifully fit into this year’s theme. Caring for those who cannot care for themselves is a spiritual discipline that we all should consider.



A child I once worked with and who was in a persistant vegetative state, died this morning. He has been healed.

I wrote this poem right after this incident happened that crippled his life:

Sing You a Lullaby…

“Hush little baby
Don’t you cry”*

I saw one little tear roll
Across your tiny brown face.
I took the tip of my finger
And wiped it clear.
You turned not seeing towards me.
Your dark brown eyes
Stared through me.
Did you cry for the sadness
That you could not know?
Did you cry for the pain
You no longer understood what it was?
Did you cry because in minutes
You lost all the things; we take for granted,
Playing ball and riding bikes,
Laughing and talking and making friends,
Feeding ourselves, and being able to know
Light from dark, and growing up to love.
Did you cry in anger that no one heard you
When you were alone and needed them?
I looked at the tiny tear on my finger,
And it pierced my heart.
If all my tears could heal you,
Your eyes would light up, and you would smile,
But your eyes are expressionless as a doll’s eyes,
And my tears cannot heal.
There is nothing I can do,
But wipe the tear from your eye,
Place a kiss on your tiny hand,
And sing you a lullaby…

“Mama’s goin’ buy
You a mockingbird”*


Mary read  the following poem when she received the award for Social Worker of the year from the foster parents in 2004.

Stranger at the Door
Dedicated to the foster parents of South Carolina

There is a stranger at the door,
Newly born in a cocaine haze.
The crying and hunger is non-stop;
The monitor jangles your nerves.
Just about dawn sleep rocking him,
His tiny fingers reach in and entwine your heart.

There is a stranger at the door,
A curly haired angel on the spring tour of homes,
Trying threes were never like this-
The broken toys, the biting, the banging of her head.
Exhausted curled in a tight ball, she sleeps.
She is safe here, you say, brushing her hair from her face.

There is a stranger at the door,
A snaggle tooth grin beams from his face,
Dark eyed charmer, nimble adventurer.
The school is concerned, Maybe ADHD,
Wants you to come; you understand,
Living with a tornado, charming or not is rough.

There is a stranger at the door,
Three AM and there she stands;
Wide eyed, holding back the tears, she refuses to speak.
Nine years old and seen way too much.
Three thirty breakfast and a bath,
You’ll take care of her needs, when she is ready you’ll listen.

There is a stranger at the door,
The twelve year old is not the same,
Who left smiling a year ago hopeful things had changed,
Sullen and angry with a “why me” look on his face.
The black eye and red marks tell it all.
You simply open your arms and welcome him home.

There is a stranger at the door,
There are really two, a mama and her baby
Thrown away like dust.
Fifteen isn’t so grownup when you’re alone.
You teach her how to do her algebra and what a mama’s to do.
As she struggles with her studies, you sing them how to love.

There is a stranger at the door…

Mary Elizabeth Todd


The Dirty Job of Special Needs Parenting by Barbara Dittrich

Today’s post in the Lenten series Return to Our Senses is written by Barbara Dittrich. Barbara is the mother of three children, two of whom have a variety of special needs, Barbara Dittrich founded SNAPPIN’ MINISTRIES (Special Needs Parents Network) in 2002 and currently serves as its Executive Director.  The organization she leads was one of three finalists for WORLD MAGAZINE’S Hope Award for Effective Compassion in October of 2009, in conjunction with the American Bible Society.  With a unique vision for serving parents of children with special needs, she has led the SNAPPIN’ MINISTRIES team in developing an innovative parent mentor curriculum.  She has lives with her husband of 20+ years in Wisconsin and blogs at Comfort in the Midst of Chaos.  Barbara is also a contributing writer at Not Alone  and presents on topics relating to parenting children with special needs throughout the U.S..

I have several friends with special needs kids and have always felt that this is yet another segment of the population that is overlooked and abandoned. I was profoundly moved by the imagery of foot washing in this context and asked for permission to repost it after seeing it her: The Dirty Job of Special Needs Kids

Jesus washing Peters feet

“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14, NIV)

“Bloody noses are just a nuisance,” the hematologist proclaimed.  I melted into tears and frustrated anger as we stood there in the exam room, sleep deprived and disheveled, lacking a desperately needed shower.

“YOU live with this and see how much of a nuisance this is!” I cried in response.  The doctor softened her edge as I buried my face into my hands.  She knew it took a great deal to push me to a point where I lose my diplomacy with staff.

We were in a period of constant and unexplained bleeding for my son with severe hemophilia.  Despite having ever-increasing amounts of clotting factor infused into his little veins, he was suffering from daily nosebleeds that lasted an hour or more.  We couldn’t go to church, to school or even to pick up groceries without a bleed starting up spontaneously.  The night before this exchange with the doctor, my husband and I had awoken to our boy crying in the middle of the kitchen, with the floor covered in pools of blood like a crime scene.  The sight of all of the blood was not only upsetting to us, but even more so to our son.  The more he cried, the worse he bled.  One of us tried to hold him still, applying pressure to his nose while the other sopped up the sticky crimson mess.  It was a nightmare.  Once we got the bleeding stopped, I began the meticulous process of washing and rinsing the stains off of his face and hair, between his fingers and under his chin.  We changed his pajamas and bed linens, soaking laundry to be dealt with in the too-soon-to-arrive morning.

When we became parents to children with special needs, I expected the expensive medical bills; I expected the change in lifestyle and accommodations; I expected fear, and anxiety, and sorrow; but I never expected that it would be such a truly dirty job.  Between our son’s bleeding disorder and our youngest daughter’s severe and rare allergies, we have had to endure some filthy, thankless circumstances throughout the years.  There was the Christmas season where our daughter threw up under the tree with yet another severe allergic reaction that put us in the emergency room.  Fa La La La La!  Then there year our son was hospitalized with a gastrointestinal bleed.  That was an entirely new venture into rancid smells, disgusting testing and repugnant maintenance.  Those are merely two of the many “nuisances” that have driven us to adorn ourselves in disposable gloves while raising our precious kids.

I know most of you can relate to what I am saying, because you have told me such at camp or when I give a talk.  I laughed the first time a group of mothers confessed to me that if you have a child with any sort of special need, you probably also deal with some sort of bowel trouble.  There are some of you whom I have the highest regard for as you press on maintaining feeding tubes, changing the diapers of teenagers or practicing the meticulous sterile procedure of using a port-a-cath.  Regardless of what the dirty job is, it can be the one thing that drives us to tears, especially in our most depleted moments, crying out to God, “Why me?”.

Yet, God always redeems.  Jesus asked us to do just what we’re doing.  In a much less overtly spiritual or notable way, we parents of these remarkable kids are washing feet just as Jesus commanded.  When we do this for our children, we are doing it to and for Christ.  This thought certainly elevates that which feels incredibly unsacred and makes it profound, doesn’t it?  Carrying out our duties with love and pressing on is a tender act of worship that we dare not miss.

I will confess that this is rarely the way I want to worship God.  I want a more comfortable form of praise and adoration that doesn’t require the high cost of heart ache and personal humility.  Still, this challenge is the purest form of adoration, maintaining deference to our awesome Lord.

Over the years, I have learned to laugh about the disgusting parts of my parenting life.  I often joke that you could spray our house with the blood-revealing Luminol and see it glow from outer space.  While that humor brings relief and is evidence of acceptance, more pleasing still is the understanding that our parenting trials are all part of God’s mission to which we are uniquely called.  How blessed we are when we can reflect knowing our encounters with the putrid are actually a divine privilege.

Noticing by Kathy Escobar

Today’s post in the Lenten series Return to Our Senses is written by Kathy Escobar, co-pastor at the refuge, an eclectic beautiful faith community in north denver. She juggles 5 kids & an awesome husband who has a bunch of jobs, too.

She’s an advocate for friends in hard places, a trained spiritual director (one who’s a little on the loud side) & loves to teach and facilitate events, workshops, and groups.  She writes a little, hangs out with people a lot, and teaches college classes online because missional living doesn’t pay the bills. This post was originally published on her blog as formation friday: noticing


twice a month at the refuge we have a gathering called “refuge advocates”, a time for learning, training, encouragement, and soul care for people who journey with people in hard places.  i love this group!  it is not just for refuge advocates but for friends from other churches & ministries, too, to come and have a space to process and learn together.  this past week we did a neighborhood prayer walk as part of lent & being more aware of what’s going on around us and inside of us at the same time.

oh, it was so pretty, what can happen with intentional quiet space and a little guidance.

it was also really hard, seeing what maybe we hadn’t seen before in new ways. the area where the refuge is located is in the suburbs but it is the ghetto of our town, on the other side of the railroad tracks, and the contrast between it and other parts of broomfield is really evident.

the exercise made me think of christine sine’s new book, return to our senses: reimagining how we pray.  i hope you’ll get a copy (i gave some as christmas presents this year. it is so good!) .it is centered on opening ourselves up to diverse and meaningful ways of connecting with God.  i love what she says in the book about prayer:

“Prayer is not about finding the right words to say to God, it is about becoming alive to the loving presence of God in each and every moment. It is about waking up to the fact that the love of God shines through every act, every object and every conversation. The speaking of words can become rote and repetitive, even boring at times, the developing of relationship requires flexibility, creativity and constant willingness to change and to grow. Anything that connects us to the love of God, or expresses our love for God is an act of prayer. Sights, sounds, tastes, smells, textures can all be acts of prayer that draw us into deeper intimacy with God.”

i love this reminder that anything that connects us to the love of God, or expresses our love for God, is an act of prayer.

we started our walk with this prayer:

God, help us see.

help us feel.

help us taste.

help us smell.

help us hear.

help us listen.

help us understand.

help us love. 

for our walk, we used the beatitudes as a guide and had some reflection questions to consider (yep, i’m a broken record). each one had a personal reflection in addition to what we noticed in the neighborhood as we were walking.  i thought i’d share it here today for formation friday and for those of you who might want to try it, even if in the comfort of your own home, as a practice of “noticing” and tuning into our hearts and what we are wrestling with and also what’s around us in prayer.

blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness ,for they will be filled.
blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
– Matthew 5:3-10

as you walk, notice:

spiritual poverty. practical poverty. // consider places where God’s presence is needed.

  • what are some ways we are spiritually poor?
  • what are some ways this neighborhood might be?

places of pain and grief. // consider what’s going on behind certain doors, up certain streets.

  • what are things we are grieving right now?
  • what are some things that people around here might have lost?
  • who is comforting them in their pain?

dry and hungry places. this can be practically or spiritually. 

  • what does it look like, feel like there?
  • what are we hungry and thirsty for right now?
  • what do you think others out here are hungry and thirsty for?

places that need healing, mercy. // imagine some of the things people around here struggle with: broken relationships, job loss, divorce, depression, shame, abuse, struggling kids, addiction, mental illness, chronic pain, physical illness, immigration.

  • what are some areas of your life that need God’s healing & mercy?
  • how do you think God’s mercy shows up here?

places of beauty. // notice God’s beauty.

  • where are you seeing it in your own life right now?
  • where do you see it today?

places in our heart that are hardened and judgmental. // notice our hearts as we are walking. 

  • what are our hearts hardened to right now? 
  • how are we judging others in our own life?
  • how are our hearts hardened to the needs around us or protected by our judgmentalness?

places in need of peace. // think of God’s shalom–wholeness.

  • how are you finding greater peace & wholeness in your life right now?
  • what would God’s shalom look like for this neighborhood?

places of persecution. // consider how people here are persecuted for all kinds of reasons. 

  • how do you maybe feel persecuted in your life right now?
  • what are some things people who live here might be persecuted for?
  • what would it look like to be persecuted on others behalf, for doing what’s right no matter the cost?

as you walk, keep asking yourself these three questions, courtesy of my dear & wise friend from mile high ministries, ryan taylor:

  • what’s the struggle?  
  • what’s the hope?  
  • what’s the invitation?

God, we don’t want to miss you.  we want to notice you in new ways, creative ways, beautiful ways, hard ways. may our hearts & eyes & ears & mouths & hands be open.  

I posted this prayer during Lent last year. It has been so popular and is so in keeping with my thoughts at this season that I decided to repost it today. It is one of my favourite prayers.


Today’s prayer is attributed to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu adapted from an original prayer by Sir Francis Drake.

Disturb us, O Lord

when we are too well-pleased with ourselves 
when our dreams have come true because we dreamed too little, 
because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, O Lord

when with the abundance of things we possess, 
we have lost our thirst for the water of life 
when, having fallen in love with time, 
we have ceased to dream of eternity 
and in our efforts to build a new earth, 
we have allowed our vision of Heaven to grow dim.

Stir us, O Lord

to dare more boldly, to venture into wider seas 
where storms show Thy mastery, 
where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars.

In the name of Him who pushed back the horizons of our hopes 
and invited the brave to follow.

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This Place of Grace by Kimberlee Conway Ireton

Today’s post in the Lenten series Return to Our Senses is written by Kimberlee Conway Ireton who 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.

Until three years ago, the glass of my life was always half empty with a hole at the bottom where everything leaked out. Then, during Advent that year, I began to make a gift list. Not a list of gifts I wanted, a list of gifts I already had—and for which I was grateful. At the time, this list was a way to cope with a whole lot of professional disappointment and an unexpected pregnancy.


The list turned out to be a whole lot more than I bargained for. It has taken my glass-half-empty view of the world and upended it: my glass has never been half empty; it’s always been filled to overflowing. There wasn’t a hole in the bottom at all: it was spilling over the sides.

But until I started counting the gifts, I simply couldn’t see that. I fixated on my problems and never noticed all the ways God was meeting me in the midst of them. I fixated on what I wanted that I didn’t have and missed the many gifts I did have, gifts I took so for granted that I didn’t even notice them.

I now see the error of my former ways. The problem with someone like me entering into a practice like this is that it can make me smug and judgmental: people who are still stuck in the cultural mindset of more, more, more sometimes strike me as pathetic and annoying.

They whine too much. They complain too much. They don’t see how good their lives are. They don’t see that the way they work/spend their time/spend their money/parent their children/view the world is making their lives harder than they need to be. If only they could be more like, well, me.

Luckily, God is hell-bent on destroying my smugness, and into the midst of my judgment and gracelessness he sends these words from William Willimon:

The first word of the church, a people born out of so odd a nativity, is that we are receivers before we are givers. Discipleship teaches us the art of seeing our lives as gifts. That’s tough, because I would rather see myself as a giver. I want power—to stand on my own, take charge, set things to rights, perhaps to help those who have nothing. I don’t like picturing myself as dependent, needy, empty-handed.

The words are a smack in the face of my smugness: “we are receivers.” All that I have learned and become—any spiritual health and whatever wisdom is in me—it’s all a gift. It’s all grace from the hand of God. The only thing that separates me from anyone else is that somehow, by God’s grace, God got my attention, shook me by the scruff of the neck, hauled my eyelids up, and said, “See!” And—again, God’s grace—I saw.

I can take little credit for this—it is God’s work, God’s grace working in me. My only role is Mary’s: “Be it done to me according to your word.” That is all. Perhaps I could even manage to feel smug about saying yes—but how many times have I said no? How many times have I refused to see God’s grace, refused to receive God’s grace, refused to give thanks for God’s grace, God’s gifts?






Oh, Jesus, thank you for this reminder that it is all grace, that even my yeses are gifts from you, the grace to receive your grace! Forgive my arrogance. Forgive my gracelessness. Help me to see and believe and live the truth that even my desire to say yes to you comes from you, much less the ability to open my lips and proclaim your praise. Help me to inhabit this place of grace, of gift, of receptivity, of open-handedness, of submission. Help me to live and write and think and speak and parent from this place of grace.

Igniting the Divine Spark

Cindy Todd at Fledge welcome

Cindy Todd at Fledge welcome

Last night Tom and I attended the welcome for the new cohort of Fledge: A conscious company incubator. Up there on the stage was MSA’s own Cindy Todd.  We are so proud of Cindy and all she is doing.

“You are my hero” Tom told Cindy at our last MSA team training day. The launch of the Snohomish Soap Company, inspires us with a unique business model that is exciting the attention of many who like us think Cindy’s entrepreneurial approach is brilliant.  She has been featured in TED talks(fast forward to 1hour-4min. for Cindy’s part) and PCC’s promotional flyerand now the Fledge conscious company incubator. Her dedication to helping those at the margins by empowering them to develop small businesses, incentivizes all of us to apply our God given creativity to new entrepreneurial models that will sustain us in our volatile world.

The next event on the MSA calendar is Cindy Todd’s workshop, Igniting the Divine Spark. We are all looking forward to hearing more about what has ignited her divine spark and inspired the creativity that lay dormant for many years of her life.

Come Lord Jesus Be Our Guest – April Yamasaki

Today’s post in the Lenten series Return to Our Senses is an excerpt from April Yamasaki’s new book Sacred Pauses: Spiritual Practices for Personal Renewal. The questions at the end of this excerpt are excellent ones for all of us to ask ourselves as we journey through Lent.

April is lead pastor of Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Abbotsford, B.C and is third-generation Canadian of Chinese descent. She has published numerous articles and several books which you can check out on her website. I have thoroughly enjoyed this book and heartily recommend it to you.

Guests at the table

“Come Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let this food to us be blest.” I learned this table grace as a child and repeated it so often that even now as an adult I sometimes pray these same words when I offer a silent prayer before a meal. The words have a comforting rhythm and come quite naturally to me – so automatically, in fact, that I’m tempted to rattle them off without thinking. But when I slow down and focus when I’m truly present and paying attention, these simple words can carry me more deeply into prayer.

I reflect on Jesus as a guest at my table, how his presence transforms an ordinary meal into an opportunity for communion with God. I am reminded of “our” table. Even when I’m eating alone, I remain part of a community and a world where some take too much and others do not have enough of God’s abundance. The words of blessing remind me never to take food for granted, but to receive even leftovers with thanks as a blessing from God. In this way my childhood prayer has become as heartfelt an personal as any spontaneous come-as-you-are prayer might be and continues to teach me how to pray.

I still have a lot to learn about the breadth and depth of prayer. How do I pray at six o’clock in the morning when someone calls in crisis? What do I pray for the person who is struggling, who is in such deep pain yet keeps making the kinds of choices that make everything worse? How do I keep praying for the dame person, the same situation over and over without getting tired and giving up, without getting bored? How do I pray continually as described in Scripture? What does it mean for prayer to become personal renewal instead of drudgery, to become a joy instead of a burden?