Sustaining Life or Buying into Consumerism

books, ebooks and videos - how do we sustain MSA?

books, ebooks and videos - how do we sustain MSA?

Sustaining life or buying into consumerism – this it is the question that I am grappling with at the moment and I would appreciate your help in setting boundaries.

As I am sure all of you are aware this is the season when all not for profits like Mustard Seed Associates are asking for funds to help support our ministry into the coming year. The coming year will be a monumental one for us as we relaunch our e-zine and begin the semester away program at the Mustard Seed Village. We will also host a series of events designed to stimulate our imaginations and stir our creativity to respond to the growing challenges we face. The MSA team is passionate about the need to provide resources that prepare us to live as more effective followers of Christ in our turbulent and broken world and we know that we cannot do it alone.

However we are also aware that in our changing economic times charitable donations are not what will keep us moving into the future. And the question we, like so many, are grappling with is: How do we make our organization self sustaining without letting go of our core values of simplicity, sustainability, hospitality and spirituality?

We affirm what most advisors tell us, that we will need to become more entrepreneurial in the future, designing, marketing and selling products that help provide income while furthering the reach of our ministry’s goals.  Even the IRS here in the US has recognized this and provided avenues for Not for Profits to sell products related to their ministry.

The question I struggle with however is: When does the selling of products push us over the line away from our Christ centred values and into the crass consumerism of our secular culture? And I can tell you I don’t have all the answers either. Selling books, DVDs and mp3s that have been produced by participants at Mustard Seed events or by those of us that are full time on the MSA team has always helped provide for our needs. And we constantly seek to balance the resources we sell with a range of free downloads.

In a couple of weeks we will launch Wait for the Light – an Advent devotional drawn from blog posts and reflections contributed by a diverse group of people that are part of the MSA network.  This will be the first of what we hope will become a series of devotional resources to strengthen our faith throughout the church year. these resources all seem well within the boundaries of our mission. I am also working on my annual Advent reflection video which I hope will be on line by the beginning of November.

But then I come to the crunch point. Last week I was asked to consider making prayer cards and book marks from some of my daily prayers. One person commented:

and then you open an alternative Christian bookstore to sell them? Along with only the “good” Christian books (as approved by me naturally) and of course Christian hipster paraphenalia and apparel. Okay… not a helpful comment.

But it is a helpful comment.  I constantly affirm on this blog that we need to listen to all the voices through whom God speaks to us and this is obviously one of the voices. I personally find prayer cards helpful tools for prayer in some situations, for others they are so far outside their usual experience of prayer that they just seem like glitzy Christian consumerism.

So first I am asking: What do you think? I know that there are no set boundaries for questions like this, but I still think it is a place in which we need to help each other. Where do you feel we should we place the boundaries in terms of what kinds of products we sell and endorse? And then to the more important question: How do we sustain ministry in the current economic downturn?

The Spirituality of Soap

Cindy's soap

Looking forward to the spirituality and soap seminar with Cindy Todd

For months now I have been trying to convince Cindy Todd the founder of Snohomish Soap Company and MSA team member that she needs to hold a workshop on spirituality and soap here at the Mustard Seed House.  And now it is happening.  I am so excited.  I love Cindy’s soap and a great idea for inexpensive gifts, but more than that I love her attitude to business formation too which I kno she will share more about so hope that you can join us.

Its going to be a good day!  Come to Mustard Seed House October 29th 11am – 2pm to learn about the spirituality of soapmaking and share your own “clean” stories about how God can use unexpected things to help us learn more about him.  Hint:  Its all about process and transformation…

In this hands-on workshop, Cindy Todd, MSA team member and owner of the Snohomish Soap Company, will teach hot and cold process soapmaking, use of color and fragrance, plus…you’ll leave with your own bar or two. Everything you’ll need is included in the $40 fee.

Prepare for a home made holiday with a couple of bars to take home!

Tea, coffee, and snacks provided.


Are You Interested in Joining the MSA Team

Join the MSA team

Join the MSA team

The MSA team is expanding and we are looking for help

If you have interest in any of the positions listed below we would love to hear from you! Please email your resume, cover letter, and any other information you feel may be relevant.

Garden Manager

This position is an exciting opportunity to help develop a new area of ministry for MSA as we seek to model a way of life that emphasizes both concern for God’s creation and for local and regional sustainability. The garden manager would care for an existing urban vegetable garden in Seattle and develop another much larger garden for the Mustard Seed Village on Camano Island. The existing garden currently provides some of the produce for the community at the Mustard Seed House but we would like to see this expanded to help provide for other members in the broader community.

The farmer would plant, grow, harvest and distribute the bounty of the garden in Seattle and have the opportunity to develop the garden on Camano from scratch. They would also organize volunteers for work parties on both sites and help expand MSA’s networks through involvement with local community garden and sustainability networks. There will also be opportunity to participate in spirituality of gardening seminars and other aspects of the MSA’s ministry.

This position will begin as a volunteer position but with entrepreneurial initiative on the part of the farmer should become self sustaining through the selling of seed starts, garden produce and other products as well as through involvement in educational programmes.


  • An interest and passion for modelling God’s kingdom in their life and work as well as an interest in local and regional sustainability
  • Gardening experience and knowledge using organic methods of production – preferably in the Pacific NW
  • Self motivated with a willingness to develop income generating initiatives related to the gardens.
  • Also willingness to complete garden tasks and develop network contacts with minimal supervision
    Good communication skills to organize volunteers, connect to local organizations and keep the community informed of the garden efforts.

Time Commitment

  • Duration of the opportunity: Long-term (three months or longer)
  • Expected time commitment: More than 10 hours per week
  • Times of day volunteers are needed: Mornings/Afternoons
  • Days of week volunteers are needed: Weekdays
  • Type of commitment: Schedule is flexible

If you have interest in this position we would love to hear from you! Please email your resume, cover letter, and any other information you feel may be relevant.


Research and Communications Assistant

Tom Sine is seeking a student intern that loves to do research and is interested in learning more about the remarkable field of imagination, innovation, social entrepreneurship and social, religious, technological and economic change in our very volatile world. This research will be used to help design at the Mustard Seed Village a multi-faceted program of Christian imagination and innovation to create new ways to live a more sustainable way of life and more sustainable local communities in these very troubled times. This research will also be used for speaking and writing for Mustard Seed Associates about the power of imagination to help us all imagine new ways to live and serve.

The position is unpaid however academic credit should be possible. It is open to both graduate and undergraduate students who are well organized, self motivated and reliable. I would prefer to find a student that would be available for a year-long internship but would settle for two quarters. It would be important that the student have good computer skills including Microsoft Word, creating powerpoint presentations as well as Internet application. Ten or more hours a week would be great but would be willing to negotiate. I would be happy to mentor an intern in research and writing in areas of your keen interest.

Time Commitment

  • Duration of the opportunity: Long-term (three months or longer)
  • Expected time commitment: More than 10 hours per week
  • Times of day volunteers are needed: Mornings/Afternoons
  • Days of week volunteers are needed: Weekdays
  • Type of commitment: Schedule is flexible
If you have interest in this position we would love to hear from you! Please email your resume, cover letter, and any other information you feel may be relevant.

Office & Event Coordinator

This position will provide a unique opportunity to assist the Mustard Seed team in developing and marketing events that invite participants to re-imagine how to live and serve God in our volatile world. There will be opportunities to attend MSA events and to meet MSA collaborators from around the world.

The position also involves participation in logistics for coordinating speaking opportunities for the MSA team. It includes heavy administrative activities and requires good attention to detail, computer skills in Word and Excel, and organizational skills.
If you have interest in this position we would love to hear from you! Please email your resume, cover letter, and any other information you feel may be relevant.

Time Commitment

  • Duration of the opportunity: Long-term (three months or longer)
  • Expected time commitment: More than 10 hours per week
  • Times of day volunteers are needed: Mornings/Afternoons
  • Days of week volunteers are needed: Weekdays
  • Type of commitment: Schedule is flexible


Administrative & Research Assistant

Are you interested in learning to live and serve with the future of God in mind? In particular are you concerned about how to develop spiritual practices that interweave throughout every day life? This internship provides a unique opportunity to work with Christine Sine in a small not for profit to research and help create new spiritual rhythms, new faith practices and new community expressions of faith.

This internship will provide support for the Executive Director of Mustard Seed Associates in research, writing and web communications. It will provide an opportunity for the intern to assist in publishing articles, blog posts and possibly a book on spiritual practices. There will also be time to assist in events and interact with and meet collaborators from around the world. There will also be the opportunity for mentoring in spiritual development. This position will also involve administrative responsibilities.

The position is unpaid however academic credit should be possible. It is open to both graduate and undergraduate students who are well organized, self motivated and reliable with good attention to detail. Good computer and Internet skills required. Writing and editorial skills would be a plus. A minimum of 10 hours per week with fifteen preferred.

If you have interest in this position we would love to hear from you! Please email your resume, cover letter, and any other information you feel may be relevant.


To Garden with God – Updated version available as download

To Garden with God

To Garden with God available as download

The full colour version of To Garden with God is now available as a download.  I know that several of you have been very patient waiting for this.  Enjoy.

Welcome all Doubters – By Coe Hutchison

Last week I posted this video on Faith means Doubt.  Coe Hutchison chair of the MSA Board and pastor at Grace Lutheran in Port Townsend WA responded witha comment I thought was so good I asked him to make it into a post as we all struggle with the realities of life and the doubts that assail us.  Each time we grapple with doubts our faith is stretched, renewed and hopefully revitalized.

In the Gospel message for last Sunday, June 19 (Matt. 28:16-20), we read that even after following Jesus for years some of the disciples experienced doubt. And the Gospel’s author decided that it was important to point this out in the very last words of his Gospel. We might expect Matthew to paint a picture of the sure-hearted disciples rejoicing at meeting the resurrected Jesus and going forth into the world with confidence. Instead we read that some DOUBTED! Thanks be to God for Matthew’s honest and accurate testimony to real life. And yet in the face of doubt and questions and faint-heartedness, Jesus declares his reassuring presence with us to the end of the age.

I have often thought that it would be good to have signs on our churches that say, “Doubters Welcome Here!” There is no better place for us to bring our doubts than to the place where Jesus meets us.

Frederick Buechner writes, “Faith is better understood as a verb than as a noun, as a process than as a possession. . . Faith is not being sure where you’re going, but going anyway. . . . Tillich said, that doubt isn’t the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith.” (Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking, 30)

Thomas Merton, as Christine noted, was a wonderful encourager of the doubting faithful. Here is my favorite quote from Merton that I have carried with me for years. “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going, I do not see the road ahead of me, I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore, I will trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” (Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1976)

May God continue to bless the doubting faithful!

Pray for Us During this Busy Season

All of us at Mustard Seed Associates are heading into a busy season and we would appreciate your prayers for our travels, speaking and development of the Mustard Seed Village.  I will be in Australia May 31st to June 15th spending time with my mother who will be celebrating her 88th birthday.  I will also have some time to catch up with the rest of my family and some of my many friends Down Under.

Here is a snapshot of what else we are involved in:

Upcoming speaking for Tom and I includes:

Wild Goose Worship Festival June 23 – 29 ;

Christian Schools International Leadership Convention July 18 – 21;

Recession II Ready or Not July 23rd with Bishop Rickel and Diocese of Olympia;

MSA’s 20th Annual Celtic retreat Camano Island

Kent Covenant Church WA August 19 – 21

Sanctuary’s annual Fall Retreat September 30 & Oct 1

Laurelville Mennonite Church Laurelville PA Oct 21 – 23

Tom spends most of his waking hours these days coordinating the launch of the Mustard Seed Village. An increasing part of his time is consumed in growing the circle of friends to help us launch this exciting project. Please contact Tom right away if you would like to be a friend of the MSV launch.  He always has time to get to know another friend and explain how you can be involved in creating the Mustard Seed Village as a center for Christian imagination and innovation…for life and mission in turbulent times.

For Cindy Todd, the summer market season has begun and Snohomish Soap Company continues to grow as she reaches new customers interested in her wonderful product.  A promising opportunity has recently emerged.  A friend involved in Microfinance in Uganda is facilitating the development of an organic essential oil line as well as a soap manufacturing business.  He has asked Cindy to work with him by sharing her soapmaking expertise.

Andy Wade celebrated with volunteers from the Columbia River Gorge Warming Shelter last Saturday in a “Thank You” dinner for their amazing work this winter keeping homeless neighbors safe and warm. Although challenging at times, it was truly a joy for Andy to train volunteers and coordinate their efforts in this important local cause.

Andy’s wife Susan will work with me over the summer to edit a series of Advent meditations.  We believe this will provide an exciting addition to the MSA resources.  Be sure to check back in October for updates on this exciting new publication!

Robert Watton & Levi Dillard continue to help in the garden at the Mustard Seed House and are also planning the beginning garden at the Mustard Seed Village.  This year in Seattle we have sold tomato, squash, basil and other vegetable starts to raise seed money (no pun intended) for this new venture.  We are excited about the possibilities that this new garden and ministry will offer us.

Exciting Happenings At MSA

Aerial view Mustard Seed Village

This is an wonderful season for us at MSA with exciting momentum and promise.  We are very grateful to God, to our team, our board and the new friends God is bringing our way. There are new ventures on the horizon and we are greatly blessed by God’s direction and provision for our organization.  We have just launched a new website and continue to work toward clearer communications,  a more community-like presence and greater integration of all aspects of MSA.

Our most exciting news is that we have signed a memorandum of agreement with Creation Care Study Program (CCSP) We are excited about this partnership which will enable us to launch our semester away program at the Mustard Seed Village.

CCSP provides a high-caliber academic semester abroad experience that connects Christian faith with the most complex, urgent global environmental issues of coming decades.  They currently offer two programs during fall and spring semesters: one in Belize,  and one in the South Pacific (New Zealand and Samoa) where students study for four months in learning-living communities. MSA and CCSP will work together to design this new curriculum which will  provide a third option for undergraduates to engage in a study away program.  MSA’s program will meet it’s own unique objectives, but also complement CCSP’s other programs.

We are also moving ahead on site development.  Last month we met with our architect David Vandervort on the 40 acre property and positioned where we will construct our first pole barn/classroom and initial garden. This is a momentous step and we are excited at the possibility of having our first structure completed by the end of the summer.  Unfortunately, accommodation facilities will not be completed for the first students Fall of 2012.  They will live at Warm Beach, a nearby Christian retreat center, for the four months.

As well as that we are starting to plan for our annual Celtic retreat.  This will be our 20th celebration and we have given it the theme Jubilee and New Beginnings. So save the date – August 13th on Camano Island.

Mustard Seed Village - Stage one

Please pray for:

  • For David Vandervort and the initial development of the Mustard Seed Village site
  • For Forrest Inslee and Tom Sine as they work to develop curriculum
  • For Cindy Todd as she works on grant proposals
  • For MSA’s partnership with CCSP
  • For the preparations for the Celtic retreat.