This morning I was contacted by the 24-7 prayer network about using this prayer for their five city prayer pilgrimage for the new Archbishop of Canterbury. I was delighted because this is not only one of my favourite prayers, but because I strongly believe that the formation of community based on friendship and mutual care is one of the keys to Christian formation – something that is very important for us to think about during this season of Lent.

What are you doing during this Lenten season to strength your local and global community?

Godspace

I am working on the programme for our upcoming Celtic retreat & thought that you might enjoy this one of the prayers I have written.

The theme is -Building Community

God build your community

From brokenness and indifference

Build love and caring

For you, for each other, for your creation

God build your community

From self centredness and independence

Build friendship and compassion

For the marginalized, the abandoned and the despised

God build you community

From mistrust and misunderstanding

Build unity and togetherness

For other peoples, religions and nations,

God build your community

May we build together your living community

Bound together by love and joy

Interrelated to all God’s people, to the earth and ll creation


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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.

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?

 

Let the Newness Emerge – MSA Imaginings January 2013

Photo by Nick Lipinski

Photo by Nick Lipinski

God as this new year dawns,

May we take time to see the newness you are giving birth to.

May we not be blinded by the darkness that consumes our world.

Or consumed by the fear that paralyzes our actions.

May we remember,

Out of winter’s darkness you bring forth light,

Out of winter’s death you give birth to new life.

From New Year’s Prayer 

This prayer reflects much of the hope and despair we felt at the end of last year. The hope and promise of Christ’s return was tainted by the horror of Sandy Hook and the uncertainty of the world economy.  As we look to the future however, we find hope and promise in the new things God is giving birth to. We look forward, not just to personal change, but to a future in which society is transformed and healing finally comes for the broken, justice for the poor, peace for the nations and restoration to creation

In a volatility and uncertainty world we too need to allow the spirit of God to stir our imaginations and encourage the newness of God to emerge. We need fresh ways to strengthen our faith and equip us to be God’s compassionate response in our communities and around the globe.

Return to Our Senses in Lent

Newness must begin with our faith Our volatile world calls for new forms of prayer and spiritual disciplines that weave intimacy with God into every aspect of life encouraging us to reach out with compassion and love. Lent which begins February 13th, is a season to reflect and refocus our faith. It is a time to ask ourselves: How do I need to change to be a more effective follower of Christ in the future? As was mentioned yesterday, this will be the focus of our Lenten disciplines this year and we hope that you will join us.

  1. We have just completed a study guide for Return to Our Senses: Reimagining How We Pray and invite you to participate in a Lenten study that will draw you closer to God and equip you to respond in compassion and love to God’s needy world. The guide can be downloaded free and Return to Our Senses will be available at a special discounted price to facilitate its use.
  2. This will also be the theme for the Godspace Lenten series. The daily reflections and activities throughout the season will complement the resources in Return to Our Senses. We hope you will accept the challenge and use them to develop new disciplines that equip you to respond to God’s needy world. Or perhaps you would like to join the Godspace writing community and contribute your own approaches to innovative, experiential prayer. Our insights can inspire each other to new levels of commitment.
  3. February 16th I will facilitate a Lenten retreat at the Mustard Seed House here in Seattle. We invite you to join us in a time of reflection and refocusing. Allow new forms of prayer to be woven into your life so that you can become all that God intends you to be.  

Igniting the Divine Spark

The second place newness needs to emerge is in the unleashing of our creativity. Our God is a god of unlimited imagination and has placed the divine spark of that creativity within each of us. To provide for ourselves and continue to be generous to those at the margins we need new economic initiatives. Cindy Todd continues to inspire us with the creative business model on which Snohomish Soap is founded. And it is not just us who are inspired. She was featured this last month in Puget Sound Co-operative’s news, and at the end of the month her model will be touted in a TED talk as one of the new and innovative business models for the future.

Throughout February and March Cindy and others will post on the MSA blog about creative business models and the ways that God ignited the divine sparks that gave rise to these. March 16th this will culminate in a workshop Cindy will facilitate at the Mustard Seed House entitled Igniting the Divine Spark. So save the date. This will be an exciting and instructive event.

Unleashing our Imaginations

It is not just in economic provision that God wants to unleash creativity. My husband Tom is busily engaged in research for a new book on creativity and imagination, exploring ways to move from Biblical vision to new design for church, ministry, housing, simplification and sustainable living. He is excited about how God is stirring the imagination and creativity of ordinary people to advance God’s purposes and engages the challenges or our turbulent world.

God is doing something new in our midst and we ask you to help us connect to those at the creative edge. If you know of imaginative business models, ministries, churches or approaches to housing please let Tom know. These will continue to fuel his weekly blog posts so check the MSA blog regularly for new insights.

Teaching in Australia

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 be teaching an intensive: Reimagining Faith for Turbulent Times at Tabor College in Adelaide Australia in June 2013. Still room & time to sign up. We would love to have some of our friends join us.

Not All That Emerges is New.

Please continue to pray for the launch of Cascadia/CCSP in September this year and let your friends know. It is time for students to sign up and we need your help in getting the word out.

Join MSA Board member Mary De Jong:

For a retreat at the Whidbey Institute in Chinook March 8-10.

For a pilgrimage to Iona off the west coast of Scotland, May 12-20.

Dates you might be interested in:

Return to Our Senses in Lent – Retreat at the Mustard Seed House February 16th

Igniting the Divine Spark – workshop with Cindy Todd at the Mustard Seed House March 16th.

We appreciate your prayers and support as we move into the newness that is emerging.

What Do We Give Thanks For?

Today I give thanks

Today I give thanks @Christine Sine

Tomorrow is American Thanksgiving, a tradition that I have embraced with great enthusiasm since I have lived in the U.S. I have already posted a Thanksgiving – Harvest prayer for 2012 and decided there is really no need for another. Yesterday when I posted the above prayer on Light for the Journey’s Facebook page, one of my friends responded:

I want to be able to feel warmed by those words.I want to find faith and hope – right now I can’t! They don’t fit some of us in the UK- for today is really tough and full of pain for those of us who are female priests in the Church of England, and are facing yesterday’s grim decision that our gender still cannot be Bishops. I was in the first wave of women to be ordained as a priests over here.

It made me realize that even in our thanks and gratitude we live in the tension of God’s kingdom now and not yet. The glimpses of God’s kingdom that fill us with awe and wonder, that bring us to our knees with shouts of praise and gratitude are unfortunately just that, glimpses of a world that we desperately long for but do not yet see fully realized. The pain of my sisters in the U.K. who are so devastated by the General Synod no vote to women bishops is my pain. Oppression in Syria, Israel, Columbia, and North Korea oppresses my soul. The environmental degradation that devastates rainforests in Brazil, contributes to the destruction of hurricane Sandy, and wipes out species in Africa, these degrade my spirit.

Our celebrations at thanksgiving. Our gratitude and praise to God for the many blessings we see in our lives should not blind us to the suffering of others. In fact it should inspire us with the desire to see others rejoice and celebrate in the same ways that we can.

So my question for all of us at this season is What are we doing to bring thanksgiving and gratitude into the lives of those who are suffering, oppressed or marginalized? 

For more Thanksgiving prayers check out these from the last few years:

A Thanksgiving Prayer for 2011

A Thanksgiving Prayer for 2010

A Thanksgiving Prayer for 2009

Wading Pool Gardens

Job Ebenezer - container gardening

Job Ebenezer – container gardening

This evening I have been sitting in Newberg Oregon talking to Randy Woodley about possible ways that urban areas can become more self sustaining which reminded me of one of my favourite urban gardeners Job Ebenezer. It made me realize that I have never blogged about the work of this remarkable man.

Job believes that with inexpensive containers and suitable soil mix, you can create an urban garden virtually anywhere – on roof tops, vacant city lots, brown fields, and unused portion of parking lots. And he uses children’s wading pools to create them.

The president (Dr. Job Ebenezer) of the organization, Technology for the Poor, explains his vision for the spread of urban agriculture.

In 1993, Dr. Job Ebenezer, former Director of Environmental Stewardship and Hunger Education at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) established a container garden on the roof of the parking garage of the ELCA offices in Chicago. The hope was that the roof top garden would serve as a role model for creative use of urban space throughout the country. Dr. Ebenezer proved the feasibility of growing vegetables in plastic wading pools, used tires and feed sacks.

Moving Into Transition – The Awakening of Hope

Let us gather at the table together

Let us gather at the table together

This is the third post in my series this week on transitioning MSA and the process I am engaged in personally as a part of that. It is very much a thinking out loud process for me, but one which I realize requires me to listen to many voices and to discern together with others what God is saying. You can check out the other posts here:

Going Through Transition – Help from Walter Brueggemann

Planning For Transition – Wisdom from the Desert Fathers and Mothers

The first posts came out of the retreat time Tom and I had at the end of last week. Since then we have participated in meetings with others who are key to this process – the MSA team and several consultants who are helping us on the way. I am excited about what is emerging – not new ministries or even a new focus but rather a new process that ignites participants with images of hope for the inbreaking of God’s kingdom and invites them into a community where together we provide tools to journey along the path towards God’s kingdom.

In the first post on Monday I wrote – The prophet offers symbols of hope for a new future. As I have wrestled with who we are currently and who we are sensing God wants us to become, this I realize is central. Interestingly the third book that I read during my retreat time was Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s The Awakening of Hope. What I loved about this book is its practicality – not just giving theological precepts that should shape our practice but sharing beautiful stories of how our Christian beliefs are lived out in practice. As Jonathan says we need to build community amongst believers by nurturing faith that leads to action.

Building community and nurturing faith that leads to action that too is central to who we are and what we hope to become.  At this point we have identified three aspects of MSA that we believe are important elements of the process we are developing. Part of what excites me is that none of these elements require experts to speak at su, they require a recognition that all in the body of Christ have valuable gifts to bring to the table:

  1. Encouraging each other with images of God’s hope for the future – I think that one of our strengths in the past has been the sharing of mustard seed stories that inspire others with the the thought “I could do that”.
  2. Discerning together as a spiritual community – As many of you know we begin all of our meetings with a check in time – looking back and looking forward and then discussing where we sense God is moving in our midst. It is a powerful and energizing process that not only draws us closer to each other but also closer to God. This element of who we are can be adapted to any situation. It draws us into the hope of God’s kingdom and it ignites creativity within all of us.
  3. Fellowship and hospitality – Tom often tells people that he would rather cook for them than stand in front of them to speak. We have tended to treat it as a joke, but as we talk around the table I am beginning to realize that this too is a central part of who we are. In The Awakening of Hope, Jonathan quotes Norman Wirzba: To be reconciled to one another is to be able to gather around a table with each other without shame, celebrating the gifts to each other that we are. Table fellowship builds community, connects us to each other and to the body of Christ around the world. I am not sure at this point how this translates into all the situations we are involved in – for example how do we practice table fellowship with those who read our books and blogs but are separated by many miles?

There is much still for us to grapple with and I would very much like to engage others in this conversation. What do you think MSA should become? What has inspired or connected you to this ministry and why do you remain connected?