When Things Go Wrong Can We see the Beauty?

Today Tom and I were supposed to go up to Camano Island to begin roofing our first building at the Mustard Seed Village. Things did not go as we expected. We arrived to find the lumber had not been delivered and the lumber yard was closed. Frustrating yes but the day was not wasted. We returned home and I planted pansies and bulbs instead. And now I have just watched one of the most beautiful sunsets I have seen for a long time.

How often I wonder do we miss the breathtaking beauty of God because we are all set on doing the wrong things – wrong at least from God’s perspective. So I hope that you will enjoy this sunset with me and spend some time thinking of the beautiful things you could easily have missed in the last few days if God had not redirected your footsteps.

Beautiful sunsetBeautiful sunset Beautiful sunsetBeautiful sunsetBeautiful sunsetBeautiful sunset

A friend just commented on Facebook that this reminded them of the song from Garden State Beauty in the Breakdown. And I agree with him it does seem appropriate so I thought I would add it here.



Lent is For Friends

I wrote this post for the series Return to Our Senses in Lent, as a reflection on a wonderful few days I have just spent celebrating my friend Cheryl’s 60th birthday.

Celebrating with Friends

Celebrating with Friends

To be honest when I first arrived at the celebration I felt a little for taking off time like this in the middle of Lent. Then it struck me – Lent is a season to renew, refocus and restore ourselves. This celebration accomplished all three. I hardly opened my Bible, but have rarely spent a more spiritual time together with a community of friends.

Four of our party share memories that date back to the early days on board the first Mercy Ship M/V Anastasis which we all helped pioneer. Some of you may have seen the recent 60 minute program on the Africa Mercy which highlighted this ministry and the amazing fruit that has flown from our challenging efforts and sometimes heartbreaking time together. 

One of Cheryl’s friends who had not been through those pioneering commented “I have never seen a group of friends with such a special bond.” And its true, those days of struggle when we sometimes did not even know where the money for our next day’s food would come from formed a depth for friendship we could never have created in any other way.

We reminisced about the trip Ruth and I took in the mid 80s’ on which we recruited Dr Gary Parker who was featured on the program and has now lived on board for 26 years. I shared stories of my adventures in the hospital chipping, scraping and painting wondering why God had called a doctor to do such work. (You can read more about this in my book Tales of a Seasick Doctor). We talked too about the challenging times when some of lived in tents on the Hawaiian island of Oahu while the ship had a sprinkler system fitted – no sacrifice you might think until you realized this lasted for twelve months. The rest of us lived on the ship surrounded by welding smoke and with the not so gentle sounds of unloading cement and cars.  Not an easy time to be in charge of the ship’s medical ministry and without these friends I am sure that I would never have had the faith or the sticking power to see it become a fully functional hospital on which I oversaw the first years of Mercy Ships medical ministry. Most important of all we talked about the faithfulness of God in midst, the regular rhythms of prayer, fellowship and fun which molded us together into this very special friendship.

Friendship is so important to our lives and our faith. I would not be the person I am today without these very special friends who cried with me, prayed with me and shared my joys. They helped me confront the demons in my past and brought me healing. What better way to spend a part of Lent than with such friends.

It reminded me of a friend Tom and I share who always contacts us during Lent. His Lenten discipline is to contact friends he has not been together with in the last twelve months. He too recognized the importance of such relationships in molding us into the people God intends us to be.

So think about it. Are there friends you have been out of touch with for a while that you could contact during this Lenten season? Are there ones that were once friends that you are now estranged from? Or are there friends that you fear to contact because they are in challenging circumstances you can’t cope with hearing about? Or sit for a while and think about relationships that have renewed, restored and transformed you. Give your friends a call just to say thank you for their input into your life.

Time to Plan Your Garden

Time to plan the garden OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you are like me, and you live in the Northern Hemisphere, now that Christmas is over, you are probably dying to get out into the garden even though here is snow on the ground.  And the seed catalogues that start arriving the moment the Christmas frenzy is over certainly don’t help. So if you can’t get outside (or even if you can but just don’t want to go sloshing through the rain and mud, here are a couple of websites that you might like to check out to at least to give you the feel of being outside.  They are great planning tools.

BBC’s Virtual Garden – it has a fun 3D function on the site and is free

Kitchen Garden Planner – part of the gardener’s supply website which is one of my favourite places to look for seed starter supplies and self watering pots.  This is also free.

Better Homes and gardens also has this free planner – not so helpful for vegetables though.

Plangarden.com This website has some great hints for gardening on it.  The garden design function costs $20/year

I really like the look of this garden planner  that Mother Earth provides. It does cost $25/year after the first month’s free trial (which I am about to try) but it looks far better than the rather limited free versions above and I am always ready to pay for good advice.

Going Green for Halloween – Seven Tips to Consider

Halloween lantern

Halloween lantern

This morning I was reading through Green America and came across an interesting article on Halloween. Now I am not an advocate for Halloween. It always seems weird to me that Christians celebrate it as much as non Christians. But here in America it is such a part of the culture that this rarely seems to be questioned. And I certainly know it is coming because the number of horror movies on T.V. has increased astronomically. So instead I thought that I would turn my thoughts to preparations for the season.

First some thoughts from the Green America article and elsewhere you may want to consider:

  1. Face paint: A 2009 study by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found that 10 out of 10 children’s face paints tested contained at least trace levels of lead. This article provides some DIY alternatives.
  2. The Candy Problem: 41 million kids in the U.S. go trick or treating. Last year Americans spent something like 2.2 billion on Halloween candy. No wonder one out of three children in America are overweight and many will develop diabetes. Consider making your own healthy treats, giving out non food items like polished stones, temporary tattoos, or friendship bracelets.
  3. Swap costumes: Millions of costumes are purchased in the U.S. each year. Consider holding a pre Halloween party to swap, mend, make or borrow costumes from your friends.
  4. Reverse Trick or Treating: I wrote about this a couple of years ago in this article. My growing concern for just working conditions for children makes me a strong advocate for this. I think it is a wonderful way to raise awareness of these issues and show consistency for our values.
  5. Hold an All Saints Party. Rather than celebrating Halloween celebrate All Saints Day November 1st. Have kids dress up as their favourite person or saint. Share stories, decorate pumpkins if you must but also consider some alternatives like decorating window panes with non toxic paints, making Christmas decorations and wreaths.
  6. Organize a Community or Neighbourhood Event. Green Halloween started in Seattle but grew into a national phenomenon with community events at more than 50 locations. You might want to join in the fun and get to know some of your neighbours.
  7. Make the most of you pumpkins: Kids and adults alike love carving and decorating pumpkins, but I hate to watch them slowly rotting on the porch. So here are some thoughts to use that pumpkin more effectively. Save the seeds and toast them in the oven with a little salt. Use the pumpkin flesh (discarding any melted wax) to make pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup and pumpkin bread.

God Bless the Animals.

Blessing the animals

Blessing the animals

October 4th is the Feast of St Francis St. Francis who founded the Franciscan Order. He is the patron saint for animals, the environment and Italy. Many churches around the world are getting ready to bless the animals either on that day or on the following Sunday. It is a fun experience. At our church last year our dog Bonnie was just one of the dogs and cats gathered around the labyrinth to be blessed.

This celebration is increasing in popularity as people reconnect to the earth and the animals it nourishes. This year the Diocese of Olympia will bless the animals at Woodland Park Zoo here in Seattle, as part of an emerging mission of “outdoor church” in the Diocese of Olympia which conducts ritual gatherings in public places. St. Andrew and St. Margaret of Scotland Church in Alexandria Virginia holds their blessing in conjunction with a petting zoo and opportunity for participants to adopt animals.

The blessing of the animals does far more then acknowledge that we are the stewards of creation, a viewpoint that can still consciously or unconsciously make us feel that we have control and power over the rest of God’s creation. Blessing of the animals reminds us that God created all life and infuses all life with a part of the divine essence. That doesn’t mean that all animals are made in the image of God – that language is reserved for humans. But think about it. Whenever you make something, part of your personality, your creativity, your passion goes into that creation. I am sure that is true for God’s creativity too. Anyone who has a dog and experiences their unconditional love will affirm this.

Last year I wrote this post about animal blessing, highlighting the work of Episcopal Relief and Development and their free resource from which the liturgy I posted was drawn. This morning I was thinking about the many other organizations I know that work to provide families with animals that sustain them and help to draw them out of poverty. Others work to preserve the world’s wild animals. Still others rescue animals that are abused and mistreated or abandoned. Still others train service dogs to work with the disabled. Here are a few that you might want to highlight in your prayers:

Christian Veterinary Mission

The Heifer Project

World Wildlife Fund

The Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Assistance Dogs Australia

American Service Animal Society



Dead Sea: A Novel by Lynne Baab.

dead sea: A Novel by Lynne Baab

dead sea: A Novel by Lynne Baab

I don’t often post reviews of fiction books, in spite of the fact that I read 3-4 of them a week. However last week my friend Lynne Baab sent me a copy of Dead Sea: A Novelwhich is now available as an e-book on Amazon. I loved it. It not only brought back memories of my own time in Israel twenty years ago but also satisfied my desire for some good detective work. Her descriptions of a trip into Petra Jordan where I have not been, made me want to pack my bags and get on the plane.

This is not a complex novel of intrigue and thrill, but it is a delightful read for a quiet afternoon of relaxation and refreshment. I highly recommend it both to those who love the Middle East, and to those who enjoy a good detective story. 

Prayers for the Journey

Flower seller - Pike Place market

Flower seller – Pike Place market


I am just back from the Pike Street Market, one of my favourite places in Seattle. The flower sellers are everywhere, lifting my spirits with the vibrant beauty of their bouquets which inspired the first of these prayers. If you would like to receive these prayers each day on facebook you can sign up here

Glory be O God almighty, glory be.

Glory be O Christ redeemer, glory be.

Glory be O Spirit advocate, glory be.

Glory to the One who loves us,

Glory to the One who cares,

Glory to the One who hears us,

Glory be.


Lord Jesus Christ, let the wonder of your love shine forth,

Let the beauty of your image emerge,

Let us magnify your greatness,

And bless the One,

who has given us new birth into a living hope.


May faith go before us,

May hope reside within us,

May love always surround us.

All else will pass,

These three will remain,

And the greatest of these is love.

(From meditating on 1 Corinthians 13)


God may I gaze on you and find myself,

May my eye be focused and my body full of light.

May I move forward with the joy of your presence before me,

And the wonder of your love ever within me.


Let us welcome the good news of the kingdom,

and stand firm in its wonderful truths.

Let us follow its path and not stumble,

And see in it the unfailing love of our Lord.


Lord Jesus Christ you are the way,

May we turn our our face toward you,

And grow in the beauty of your light.

No apologies for the fact that this is derived from the prayer I wrote yesterday (see below):

Christ is the centre and circumference,

Christ is the way and the destination,

Christ is the beginning and the end.

Before, behind, within, without,

Christ is God’s gift of life and love.


May the centre of all things be Christ,

May the way of all things be Christ,

May the truth of all things be Christ,

Behind, before, within, without,

May the life of all things be Christ.


What Makes You Feel Close to God?

This morning I came across the website Picturing God: Faces and Traces of the Divine developed by Ignatian spirituality. This is a place to share photos of where we experience the presence of God that I thought some of you may be interested in.

Where do you find God in the world around you? Do you encounter God in nature, in the people around you, in a church, in the beauty of the arts, the disciplines of science, or the mundane moments of daily life? All of these are places where we can experience God’s presence and grace. This photo blog seeks to use the visual to help us find God in all things.

Thinking about this made me pull out some of my favourite photos that made me feel close to God. The interesting thing is the diversity of experiences that make me feel close to God.

I feel close to God in the midst of creation, especially in the garden

With God in the garden

With God in the garden

I feel close to God when together with friends and family, while doing hospitality and celebrations.

tea with friends

tea with friends

I also feel close to God when I sit in my office gazing out at the beauty of the mountains.

Seattle sunset

Seattle sunset

I also feel close to God when I meditate, walk the labyrinth, pray, when we go on pilgrimage and spiritual retreats.

Iona Abbey Window

Iona Abbey Window

I often start seminars on spirituality by asking the question: Where do you feel closest to God? The answers over the years have surprised me as participants have shared their encounters in the garden, while playing with kids, sharing a meal with friends and even taking a shower. Even though people often mention spiritual practices , they rarely mention church.

So where do you feel closest to God?



Refreshing Drinks from the Garden for the Hot Days

Chocolate mint makes great iced tea

Chocolate mint makes great iced tea

Citrus and Mint Iced Tea

I make this tea throughout the summer, though with the way the weather has been in Seattle this year I have not thought about it until this week. It is both refreshing and thirst-quenching, and uses some of the garden produce. We always have an abundance of mint as I grow apple, chocolate and spearmint. All of them work well for this recipe though the chocolate mint is stronger in flavour and so you will need less.

I am hoping that when my seaberry bushes start producing I will be able to substitute their juice for the orange juice. If you grow it in the garden substitute lemon verbena for the lemon juice.

Last year I posted an article about how our food choices are manipulated by the global mall.  I talked about Stevia:

which is 10 times sweeter than sugar, easy to grow  and with virtually no calories.  However it was banned from the American market about the same time that Monsanto introduced its artificial sweetener aspartame because an “anonymous firm” lodged a complaint with the FDA  Read more

This year I  don’t have any stevia plants because the harvest last year was so abundant.  I miss the enjoyment of getting our visitors to sample the incredibly sweet leaves.  So now I find myself needing to experiment with using it as a sweetener.  I harvest the leaves when the branches look as though they are about to flower and dry them in the microwave – it only takes a minute or two.  I usually start with 30 seconds then continue in 10 second increments until the leaves are just dry.  When they cool down they will be totally dry.

At this stage I use stevia mainly for beverages, though my friend Cheryl has found that adding 5 stevia leaves straight off the plant to a pot of pears before she cooks them is ample to sweeten home preserved fruit.

I make a Ginger Stevia syrup that I then add to different summer beverages.


  • 2 cups water
  • 1 – 2 tablespoon dried stevia, crushed – I use a mortar and pestle
  • ¾ cup ginger root, finely chopped or grated
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla
  • ¼ cup lemon juice or 1/2 cup lemon verbena leaves chopped
  • 1 cup mint leaves (optional)

Bring water to boil. Add ginger & stevia, as well as the lemon verbena and mint if you are using them.  Boil for 10 minutes, strain into a heat resistant container. Add vanilla and lemon juice. This syrup will store in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Homemade Stevia ginger ale

I first started making this recipe when I discovered that most ginger ales have no ginger in them at all and were usually full of high fructose corn syrup.

Add 1-2 oz syrup to a glass depending on how sweet you like your drinks, top with 6 oz sparkling water and ice cubes. Enjoy.

Citrus/ Mint Iced tea punch

  • 8 teaspoons Loose Leaf red or black tea Or 8-10 Teabags (I like to use fruit flavoured teas
  • l cup (or more) Fresh Mint Leaves
  • 8 cups Boiling Water
  • 1 cup Orange Juice – or seaberry juice if you have this available
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice – or use lemon verbena from the garden
  • 1 Orange, Cut Into Thin Slices
  • 1 Lemon,Cut Into Thin Slices
  • 1 Lime,Cut Into Thin Slices
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup ginger stevia syrup
  • 2 litre bottle sparkling mineral water or soda water.

This is a favourite for our summer BBQs & picnics. Put tea & mint in a heat resistant glass or ceramic pot. Pour in the boiling water & steep for 30 minutes. Strain & refrigerate. Pour into a large pitcher. Add orange juice. Add orange, lemon & lime rinds. Add ginger syrup & mineral water and serve with ice cubes.  If you prefer a more lemony flavour add 1/2 cup lemon juice or a cup of lemon verbena leaves to the tea mix.

For more stevia recipes visit sugarfreesteia.net

Hunza Pie – Great Way to Use Greens

Garden salad

Garden salad

I have just made 2 hunza pies and a quinoa salad for a day out on Camano on Monday. These are both great ways to use greens from the garden. I just wish that I had more tomatoes & squash to go in the quinoa. Here is the Hunza pie recipe. This is great hot or cold

Hunza Pie
A great vegetarian dish for a picnic or camping trip. the vegetable mix can be adapted depending on what vegetables you have available and what you like.


– 2 cups whole wheat flour
– 2 cups wheatgerm (if you don’t have wheatgerm use all flour)
– 6 ounces vegetable shortening
– 1/2 cup milk or water
– 1 teaspoon vegetable salt
– 25 stalks Swiss Chard or other garden greens ,leaves coarsely
– 2 lb potatoes
–  1 lb cottage cheese
– 1 teaspoon mixed herbs (I like Italian herb mix)
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 1 large onion, chopped
– 1 teaspoon dried basil, or 1/4 cup fresh chopped
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 cup mushrooms, diced
– 1 cup squash (e.g. zucchini), chopped or 1 cup broccoli


1. Pastry:

2. Sift flour and salt into bowl. add husks in sifter to flour fold in wheatgerm. Rub in margarine until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Mix with enough water to make a stiff dough. Knead lightly. Cut pastry into 4 pieces. Cover and place in refrigerator for 20 minutes. Roll out 1/4 of pastry on floured surface and place in base and up sides of a 9 inch pie dish. Do same with second pastry section. Spoon over cold vegetable mixture. Brush edge of pastry with water. Roll out remaining pastry in 2 pieces and place over pies. Trim edge with a sharp knife. Make slits in top. Bake in a hot oven (400) for 15 minutes then reduce heat to 375 and cook further 15 – 20 minutes until golden brown.

3. Filling:

4. Peel potatoes and cut into cubes. Cook in salted water until tender. Drain.

5. Cook onions in a medium skillet with 1 tablespoon oil until brown. Add chopped mushrooms and squash. Cook a further 5 minutes. Add chard, garlic and herbs. Cook a further 5 minutes. Add cottage cheese and salt. Allow to cool.