Why Being Spiritual may be More Important Than Being Religious by Rob Rynders

Grace cathedral San Francisco

Yesterday my friend Steve night posted a link to this video. It seemed so appropriate in our discussion of creating sacred space that I thought many of you would appreciate it too. Sacred space as someone comment yesterday is where the soul goes and that is very much reflected in this video. We need to get our souls (and our bodies) outside churches and into the streets to discover the sacredness already present in our neighbours and our neighbourhoods. We need to rediscover the sacredness of those third places where people gather.

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.

Godspace 2012 in review

Thank you for making this year the best ever on Godspace. The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

About 55,000 tourists visit Liechtenstein every year. This blog was viewed about 260,000 times in 2012. If it were Liechtenstein, it would take about 5 years for that many people to see it. Your blog had more visits than a small country in Europe!

Click here to see the complete report.

And if you would like to help make 2013 even better please consider a small donation to Mustard Seed Associates so that we can upgrade the blog,  get rid of the distracting ads, expand the circle of writers and publish new prayer and liturgical resources.
  MSA is a 501c3 not-for-profit organization. All donations are tax deductible.

Finding Love In A Hopeless Place – by Ruth Valerio

The Valerio Family

Ruth with her husband Greg and their two children

This morning’s post is by Ruth Valerio Community activist, Christian, academic, eco-warrior, mum, author, veg grower, wife and pig keeper rolled into one. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Chichester, England, where she is part of Revelation Church, leading a cell group and preaching regularly. She runs A Rocha’s Living Lightly initiative. Is part of the leadership of Spring Harvest and Director of Cred Jewellery.

She has written extensively on justice, environment and lifestyle issues, as well as writing Bible study guides for Scripture Union and CWR. Concerned to ‘practice what she preaches’, she has an allotment, runs a food cooperative and runs a pig-keeping social enterprise with friends. She is also very involved with Transition Chichester and runs the Chichester Garden Share scheme. She writes a regular column in Families First magazine, as well as writing for magazines such as Christianity and Third Way.

As we move towards the beginning of Advent I felt that it very appropriately challenged us to think about how we need to prepare to be God’s compassionate people in the turbulent future we face.

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Rihanna might seem a bit incongruous on a blog to do primarily with issues around faith and the environment.  My time at the Lausanne Consultation on Creation Care, though, has provoked a lot of reflection on my part and left me mulling over some things, and as I’ve done so, we found love in a hopeless place, has been acting like a constant theme tune, going round and round my head. I want to try to give expression to something in particular here, and I would love you to help us develop this further together. Let me try to explain.

At present there is an ongoing debate within the environmental/scientific fraternity around the two concepts of mitigation and adaptation and which should take priority in terms of effort and investment. Mitigation represents those who say, ‘we’ve got to fight to see climate change reduced as much as possible; we’ve got to work to reduce emissions, to force or persuade business and governments to take action. We cannot allow it to be business as usual: we’ve got to put our efforts into bringing about change’. Adaptation, on the other hand, represents those who say, ‘that’s all very well, but we have to face facts and recognise that climate change is here and it is only going to accelerate, so we have to put our efforts into helping poorer countries (and ourselves) adapt to this new situation’.

Of course, I’m painting too simplistic a situation and most people would recognise that we need to be doing both. Still, mitigation and adaptation represent two differing approaches to the massive and awful challenges that face us, both now and into the future, and they provide a tension. Listening to the sessions at the Lausanne Consultation, I realise that this same tension is present analogously as we develop Biblical theologies of wider creation care.

Much of what we’ve been about so far has been to do with mitigation. Akin to business and government, the Church worldwide has failed abysmally to recognise the place that wider creation care should occupy in its life and understanding, preferring instead to focus only on individual human beings and their society. The Biblical understanding that many of us have been developing, therefore, has been concentrated on persuading Christians and churches that wider creation care is a central part of what the Christian life is about: that God loves this world and deems it ‘very good’, that he created us to look after it with compassion and servitude; that it has gone wrong because of us, and that the world and all its inhabitants are part of God’s plans for the future, rather than the future being about an exclusively human existence in heaven.

Whilst the Church in the UK has pretty much got this now, the Lausanne Consultation has opened my eyes to how far behind us the rest of the worldwide Church is, with some pretty shocking stories coming from some of the participants about their national churches. Our Biblical approach so far has, in effect, being saying, ‘Wake up Church! This issues is serious and it is something Christians should care about and be actively involved with’.

But is this enough? I am increasingly feeling that, while we still need the ‘mitigation’ approach, we increasingly need to develop the ‘adaptation’ side too. Bill McKibben’s article for Rolling Stones magazine back in July made for truly terrifying reading and was like a bucket of cold water after a beautiful dream. Business, Government, individuals (and the Church) are in an oil-induced coma and the likelihood of them waking up and taking the real action we need is becoming increasingly slimmer. The future looks very bleak indeed.

The question I’m struggling with is, how will we deal with this new situation as Christians? I am writing this not long after Hurricane Sandy left around 200 people dead and millions with their lives turned upside down. As the years go by, such situations of devastation and turmoil will become increasingly ‘normal’. Just consider one example: the Andes glaciers in South America. They are the water source for millions and millions of people, but are disappearing rapidly. What will happen in Peru or Argentina when they disappear altogether? We will face the decimation of countless numbers of people and other species. How will we cope with such a thing: what will it mean to be a follower of Jesus in such a situation?

Alongside the important message of our ‘theologies of mitigation’, we need also to be developing ‘theologies of adaptation’ that acknowledge the horrors of the future we will face – and that many are already facing – and that provide us with resources that help us live faithfully as followers of The Way in such times. Our task will be to discover how to find love in a hopeless place.

As an example of what this might look like, I felt prompted to read through Micah whilst at the Lausanne Consultation and was struck when I realised the context for the well-loved verse of 6:8. It comes in the midst of a damning tirade from Yahweh against his people, particularly the leaders, set against the back-drop of a court scene, in which the created order form the jury: ‘Stand up, plead your case before the mountains; let the hills hear what you have to say. Hear, O mountains, Yahweh’s accusation; listen, you everlasting foundations of the earth’ (6:1). Yahweh is calling his people back to repentance and to a life lived according to ‘his ways’ (4:2) and how does he want that to happen? Not through sacrifices and religious worship, but through a life that acts justly, and loves mercy, and walks humbly with him (6:8).

What will it mean to do that in a hopeless place, in our context of a world and people in crisis? That’s the kind of theology I think we need to be exploring.

 

Can a Simple Piece of Paper Change the Way We Eat?

This is an amazingly creative way to save fresh produce. When I first watched the video all I could think of was the food that goes bad in our fridge, (yes self centred I know) but this really could save the 25% of the world’s food which presently gets wasted because of spoilage. Kavita M. Shukla the Inventor and Founder/CEO of Fenugreen is a pioneer in the movement towards sustainable, active, natural food packaging.

Twitter, Facebook, and On the Go Prayers – A Wonderful Tool or Terrible Distractio

On the go prayers

On the go prayers

The following post is the eighth in a series that is excerpted from my upcoming book Return to Our Senses, which will be available in mid November. It is already available through Mustard Seed Associates at a pre-publication discounted price of $15.

Twitter, blogging, Facebook and other social media have all become popular tools for prayer and the formation of spiritual community in the last few years. Virtual churches abound and a growing number of people are turning to the internet as their primary spiritual community.

Neal Lock, one of the organizers of First Presbyterian Church of Second Life believes that technology is a part of God’s creation and a gift that we can use for good, twist to evil or ignore. He explains: Gutenberg’s printing press changed the world, paving the way for the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution. Because it made possible the Reformation, it also brought drastic changes to the church, changing almost every visible aspect of Christian worship and theology in just a few generations. In our generation, the internet and digital communication have already brought about drastic changes, and will continue to transform the church in sweeping and dramatic ways in a short span of time.

He goes on to remind us that, church participation in the past few decades has been in steep decline. Yet, as millions of people leave behind their communities of faith, millions more are finding community online, in places that a few years ago wouldn’t have even qualified as places. Worshiping communities of Christians are also beginning to appear online, especially taking root in 3-dimensional synthetic interfaces known as Virtual Realities, or Virtual Worlds.

As I think about this and try to get my head around the possibility of attending a virtual church, I am reminded of what Erik Qualman author of best selling Socialnomics says. He challenges us to consider that we don’t have a choice as to whether we do social media or not. The question, he believes, is how well we do it.

Its true. The internet is here to stay and in the last few years it has become more portable, social, fast paced, and ever present. If Facebook were a country it would be the third largest in the world. Snail mail and long distance phone calling have given way to texting, Skype and online chats. Tablets and smart phones keep us connected 24/7.

Even our everyday spirituality is effected by social media. We post our prayer requests, events, photos and our spiritual struggles on Facebook and other social media sites. We can “like” Mother Theresa, Wendell Berry, St Francis of Assisi and many others for daily prayers and inspiration. We can listen to daily prayers like http://prayasyougo.org and download them onto our phones or tablets. We can follow those who post prayers or Bible verses on Twitter. Or we can read reflections from bloggers like ChristianDroid who seeks to combine Christianity and technology to enhance our lives. We can even use social media feeds to keep us in touch with breaking news, our favorite missions and the needs of our world. The options seem to be limitless and sometimes overwhelming. How we interact with social media and incorporate it into our faith is an important question for all of us to grapple with as we seek to shape our prayer life.

There is no denying that many of us benefit daily from these technologies but there are definite downsides too. They speed life up so that we often don’t have sufficient time to think about and act on what is really important for our ongoing salvation and walk with God. Our minds become cluttered with too much information that further fragments our sense of reality. We can become like robots moving through a web of activities deprived of time for what is essential to nourish our soul and to cultivate our spiritual growth. In this mad rush we forget that our aim above all else in this life, is to seek union with our loving God.

According to Tony Dokoupil, a senior writer at Newsweek and The Daily Beast, the current incarnation of the Internet—portable, social, accelerated, and all-pervasive—may be making us not just dumber or lonelier but more depressed and anxious, prone to obsessive-compulsive and attention-deficit disorders, even outright psychotic. Our digitized minds can scan like those of drug addicts, and normal people are breaking down in sad and seemingly new ways. One recent research project suggest that social media may be more addictive than cigarettes or alcohol. When 200 University of Maryland students agreed to go without social media for 24 hours–no cell phones or computers–their reaction was akin to drug withdrawal.

The most concerning drawback to internet community is this ability to distract us from work, family and face to face interactions sometimes to an addictive extent. Avoiding people we don’t want to talk to is much easier when we can “talk” to friends around the world without even needed to getting out of our chairs. The temptation to check, what our friends and acquaintances are doing, how many likes and visits our blog posts get, or even just to pass on prayers and breaking news we enjoy can at the least soak up our time and energy. At the worst we become obsessed with the kudus, criticisms and hopes that our posts will go viral.

Maintaining the disciplines that balance time spent on line with other aspects of life is not always easy. Some of us blurt out all our thoughts and intimate struggles to strangers with few if any inhibitions. How often do you take your struggles and concerns to Jesus before sharing them on Facebook or Twitter?

The Ugly Tomato

Yesterday I received notice from our friends at Soulsby Farm of their upcoming Ugly Tomato contest. It sounds like fun and I look forward to seeing the entries though unfortunately I am not sure that my own tomatoes will be ripe enough by the end of August for any photos at all. This is definitely shaping up to be an ugly tomato season here in Seattle, though I must confess I usually think that about this time of the year and am usually pleasantly surprised.

Unfortunately there are other ugly aspects to tomatoes I have been learning about this week that are not quite so much fun. Like this story that International Justice Mission shared in their Recipe for Change newsletter this week.

Mariano’s Story

Thanksgiving week of 2007, Mariano punched his way through the ventilation hatch in the ceiling of a box truck in the farming town of Immokalee, Florida. He and his co-workers were held against their will for more than two years, violently forced to labor in Florida and South Carolina tomato fields, and padlocked into the windowless box truck at night. One worker was chained to a post by his employers, the Navarretes. That day during Thanksgiving week, after escaping, Mariano found a ladder and went back to help his friends get out. Read more here

It is hard for many of us to accept that slavery occurs in our own backyard. Yet it does and all of us can make a difference just by deciding where to shop and what to buy.

Today the nation’s largest retailers in the fast-food and food-service sectors have joined the CIW’s Fair Food Program, a joint effort with farmworkers and Florida’s largest tomato growers to confront slavery and other abuses on Florida’s tomato farms. Chains like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, McDonald’s and Subway have agreed to buy Florida tomatoes only from suppliers that comply with the Fair Food Code of Conduct, designed to protect workers’ basic rights. We’re calling on Publix, Kroger and Ahold to join too!

Unfortunately it is not just the tomato industry that takes advantage of workers. As we shop at farmers’ markets and fair trade stores we realize the true cost of our food and consumer goods – if all those who produced what we eat were paid a fair wage. Christians should be at the forefront of movements like this that raise concerns about how we treat the disant neighbours who produce our food.

My biggest concern is that we look for the same cheapness regardless of the costs to others when we view our faith. Several years ago I wrote about this in Cheap Faith? 

We want to buy salvation and Gods grace at bargain prices too.  My quest for bargains encourages me to believe I dont have to pay the full price for redemption either.  Which is great because I would much rather settle for a relationship that demands little of me in terms of penitence or repentance.  Like many Christians, I would rather experience Gods grace and forgiveness without sacrifice, without commitment and without the need to change. Read more 

So what do you think? How does our quest for the easy life with cheap food, cheap clothes and cheap living extend to our faith and impact our values?

What Does a Person Need?

MSA intern Chris Holcomb

MSA intern Chris Holcomb

MSA intern Chris Holcomb is starting a series of posts at the MSA blog on experiments in simplicity.

One of the questions that I’ve been grappling with over the last several years is this: what do people need? No, I’m not trying to think of a product to sell, or an innovation to change the world; I’m thinking in much more basic terms than those. What does a person need to survive, and what do they need to live a happy, fulfilling life?

Check out the first post here

What Gift Do We Leave to Our Children – A Message from Archbishop Rowan Williams

I was just sent the link to this video which the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, recorded in advance of the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in which he asks “What kind of world do we want to leave to our children?” I thought that many of you would appreciate it.

“All religious people see the world as a gift from God.  And all religious people are therefore bound to ask: if that’s the gift we’ve been given, how do we make it a gift to others, to the next generation?”

In the video, the Archbishop says that this question poses “a challenge that I think will resonate for absolutely everybody across the world.”

Viewing our environmental and social legacy as a ‘gift’ to be passed to the next generation, the Archbishop suggests that one such gift is “the wisdom of how to inhabit a world, how to inhabit a limited environment with grace, with freedom, with confidence.”

“Are we handing on a gift, both material and spiritual, that really will make them live well, live happily, so that their future will be secure and they too will have a gift to give to their children and grandchildren in turn?”

He highlights the key role that both governments and faith communities play in achieving this vision of justice for future generations, working collaboratively for an equitable and inclusive green economy:

“Governments can, of course, and must, play their part in all this.  Governments need to give fiscal incentives to green development.  They need to promote programmes that encourage us all to reduce our waste.  They need to ‘green’ our economy, both at home and worldwide.  And we, all of us, not least the faith communities, need to collaborate in that and support governments in that vision.”

“Big changes come because small changes happen”

A transcript of the Archbishop’s message follows.

The big question that faces Rio+20 is: what kind of world do we want to leave to our children? And that’s not just a question about what kind of material environment we want to leave – the answers to that, in a way, are quite simple: we want a world that’s free of pollution, a world where everyone has access to clean water, a world where food supplies are secure, a world where people have learned sustainable methods of agriculture and development.

But just as importantly, it’s a question of what kind of habits and what kind of lifestyle we want to leave to our children – what sort of skills we want to see them developing in living sustainably in this world.

That means, as in so many areas, we have to start small and we have to start local. Big changes come because small changes happen. And in the work I do, I have the privilege of seeing quite a lot of small change going on. Last year in Kenya I was able to see the work done by the Anglican Church there in developing the Umoja agricultural methods, methods that lift people out of subsistence agriculture to real sustainable production of food for themselves, and training also in nutritional information so that agricultural development, food security, and healthcare go together. There are many other such local projects, and I have also been deeply impressed by the way in which people locally across the world have challenged and resisted some of the depredations of the extractive industry, in many areas one of the greatest threats to a sustainable future.

Governments can, of course, and must, play their part in all this. Governments need to give fiscal incentives to green development. They need to promote programmes that encourage us all to reduce our waste. They need to ‘green’ our economy, both at home and worldwide. And we, all of us, not least the faith communities, need to collaborate in that and support governments in that vision.

But at root, the question remains the same: what kind of world do we want to hand on? Imagine that you have a child’s or a grandchild’s birthday coming up. You want to give them a present. You want to give them something that will genuinely mean something to them, that will enrich their lives, that will be part of lasting growth and well-being. And that’s what we’re challenged to do here. It’s a challenge that I think will resonate for absolutely everybody across the world. Simply enough: what’s the gift we want to give? The gift of a world that’s more free from pollution, a world whose future is more secure, a world where more people have access to food and clean water and healthcare? Yes. But also a world in which we’re transmitting the wisdom of how to inhabit a world, how to inhabit a limited environment with grace, with freedom, with confidence.

All religious people see the world as a gift from God. And all religious people are therefore bound to ask: if that’s the gift we’ve been given, how do we make it a gift to others, to the next generation? How do we do justice by our children and grandchildren? How do we act fairly by them? Are we handing on a gift, both material and spiritual, that really will make them live well, live happily, so that their future will be secure and they too will have a gift to give to their children and grandchildren in turn?

More Insights from My Parish Collective Friends

Toward an architecture of place

Toward an architecture of place – via project for public spaces

It is easy for me to get distracted and I must confess that since the Inhabit conference I have found it even easier. My friends at the Parish Collective keep posting such interesting articles, examples of what creative ordinary people are doing in their communities. It is both inspiring and energizing so I thought I would share some more of what I have learned this week.

Continuing the Conversation: Toward an Architecture of Place and Toward an Architecture of Place are two articles well worth reading.

We believe that the  iconic design movement, which defines our architectural era, must integrate a sense of place into its work. When the bold idea of place takes hold in modern design, cities will become more livable, sustainable and authentic.

Now it is time to watch Paul Spark’s video on Land and the Baptized. produced by Work of the People. Paul is always an inspiration to me and his insights are well worth reflecting on.

OK now download this great resource from the New American Dream.

New American Dream Guide to Sharing

And finally this is a very inspirational video to watch too. I love the comments she starts with: There is no failure – creativity comes out of chaos. Gratitude trumps fear.

And Paul Spark’s comments:

The only stories of heroes most people have in common are the ones they watch on TV. But in our neighborhood a lot of us have stuck around long enough to see the characters who deserve to be called “hero” because of the way they live their lives, and what they’ve overcome. In our town stories are told about their lives, about their character, about their courage, and about how their acts of imagination bring power to the people. My friend Patricia Lecy-Davis is one of those kind of heroes.