Reporting on Wild Goose East 2012

Tom & I at the Mustard Seed/Overflow booth at Wild Goose

Tom & I at the Mustard Seed/Overflow booth at Wild Goose

Tom and I are back home after several wonderful days at the Wild Goose Festival in North Carolina. It was hot, humid and dusty but in spite of that we had a wonderful time. Tom was in fine form talking about intentional community and moving beyond the Western dream and I had fun speaking on reimagining how we pray.

Tom was in fine form

Tom was in fine form

More than anything we enjoyed meeting old friends and making new ones. Had lots of good discussions, shared lots about the Mustard Seed Village and Cascadia and just thoroughly enjoyed a relaxed but provokative festival.

Together with fellow Australian Dave Andrews

Together with fellow Australian Dave Andrews

I also loved the grievance wall and the opportunity for people to share their frustrations with life & faith

Grievance wall Wild Goose festival

Grievance wall Wild Goose festival

What I didn’t enjoy – having to check for ticks every day and came home covered in itchy bites.

Uninvited guests

Uninvited guests

You can check out my complete festival album on facebook. enjoy

Still to come for the summer – Creative World Festival in Mission B.C. and Wild Goose West 


Umbrella Cockatoo Dances to ACDC

Tom and I are sitting in the Los Angeles airport waiting for our connecting flight to Seattle and after 14 hours on the trip from Sydney I need to do something mindless to keep me awake. When I have been back to Australia people always ask me What do you miss most? Apart from my family it is always the birds that I most enjoy coming back to. Here are some photos that I took around my mother’s house over the last couple of weeks that i thought you might enjoy – and don’t miss the video at the end – great for a good laugh.

Rainbow lorrikeet on Camelias

Rainbow lorrikeet on Camelias

Rainbow lorikeets are definitely my favourite.

Kookaburra sits on an old gum tree (or anything else)

Kookaburra sits on an old gum tree (or anything else)

kookaburras always make me feel that I am home even when they wake us up at 4 am.

Cockatoos always the most destructive

Cockatoos always the most destructive

Cockatoos stripped the orange tree of fruit while we were there – they can strip paint from a house too. However here is a lighter side of their nature – they love to sing and dance.

Lighten Up – Laughter is the Best Medicine.

A couple of weeks ago I was chatting to Ricci Kilmer, about how much we miss her daughter Catie at our Mustard Seed staff and retreat times. I remember her telling us once that we needed more fun in our meetings. Not surprisingly, she was often the one who came up with ideas of fun things for us to do together.

At one of our MSA retreats she made us all into chocolate tasters. We were each given a small piece of chocolate to savour. We each closed our eyes, and sat with the chocolate on the palm of our hand,breathing in the richness of its aroma. Then we got to taste it, noticing its texture, the way it tasted on our tongues and stirred our senses. With much laughter and hilarity we shared our thoughts. Then we opened our eyes and with relish licked the now molten chocolate from fingers.

savouring chocolate

The wonder of chocolate

I couldn’t help but think of this as I read the invitation to participate in this month’s synchroblog

One thing feels clear about the faith blogging world–we can be kind of serious most of the time.  Serious about beliefs, theology, and hard conversations about the intersection of life and faith.  It is serious stuff we’re talking about, but sometimes what gets missed in all of the intensity is joy & laughter & lightness.  It’s probably a good idea to learn how to not take ourselves quite so seriously.  The May 2012 Synchroblog is centered on the idea of what it might mean to lighten up a little–personally, spiritually, professionally, or in any area of our lives.   You can write about why that’s easy or hard for you, share something funny or humorous, or any other angle that feels easy and right (remember, part of this is about lightening up!)

Its true, I often think that most of us take our faith too seriously. How often after all do we imagine Jesus laughing or God enjoying a good joke. Yet I think that God is full of laughter and humour. It bubbles up in the wonder of creation – who else could create a dog like the Komondor.

Or animals that act like these

Or give us the imagination to do things like this first wedding dance video

Imagination, creativity, the very act of laughter itself show that God is a fun loving God. And it does even seem to improve our health as this articlesuggest. Maybe it shouldn’t surprise us therefore to discover that lot of God’s creativity can make us smile and feel happy.  Even compost gives you a high. The earthy smell of good rich composted soil, or even of compost straight from your pile produces bacteria that increase the serotonin in your brain and make you feel happy. As Pagan Kennedy says in her article How To Get High on Soil, 

Scientists call it “geosmin,” this dirt smell that lends the earthy taste to beets and carrots. It’s the flavor of life. Read the entire article

No wonder God’s first action after creation was to plant a garden and no wonder he calls us to steward creation. He knows that we are happiest when we have our hands (or our noses) in the dirt. Now that seems like something to really laugh about.

Learning to lighten up for me would mean taking time to enjoy the humour of life more. It would mean taking more time for fun and laughter. Working on this post today has definitely made me realize that this is something I need to do.

Here is the complete list of posts

Chocolate Anyone?

On Monday (Valentine’s Day) we toured Theos chocolate – a must visit for anyone in the Seattle area particularly if you are a chocoholic.  They actually let you sample as much chocolate as you like.  I had no idea that the making of chocolate is such a complicated process.  It makes me wonder how anyone ever thought of it.  It also made me think of the incredibly complex nature of God – when you taste a cacao bean it tastes nothing like the finished product.  It is bitter and unpalatable (often the way many people think of God) but as chocolate it become a rich, delicious substance that we all crave because, guess what, it is good for our hearts and it makes us feel loved.

Are We Having Fun Yet?

Thanks Chris and Naomi Lawrence for making me aware of this:

Volkswagen has started this new program called “the fun theory” where they explore new ways to get people to do things which are good for them or good for the environment. For example, it is noted that more people opt to take escalators than stairs even though stairs are much more healthy. So in Sweden, a team was hired to transform a staircase (next to an escalator) into a piano so that when people took a step, a note was triggered that would make a sound. The result was astounding. By making it fun, a ton more people took the stairs versus the escalator.

What Do We Do When Creativity Dries Up?

This week I have written a series of posts on imagination and creativity and had planned to write more this morning… but my creativity has dried up.  I am sitting in front of my computer screen trying to get my brain into gear and it just isn’t working.  Maybe it is the fact that I am looking out at what may be the last kiss of summer weather here in Seattle.  Maybe it is because I am trying to juggle too much.  Or maybe it is just that I am tired.

This photo is of dried out seaweed on the seashore. As I reflected on it this morning, it occurred to me that even here there is creativity.  Even when we feel dried out and our brains don’t seem to be functioning, God is still at work within us, creating from the dried our bones of our being something new and exciting.

So what do you do when your creativity runs out?  Don’t panic, relax and enjoy is my suggestion.  For me having fun is the most important thing at times like this.  Today I plan to get out and enjoy the garden one more time, go for a walk, get a rest and give my brain time to refocus.  I also plan to spend time reading and meditating on the scriptures.  All of these are therapeutic for me.  What I hope I can avoid doing is thinking about all the projects that I need to finish.

What renews my creativity may be very different from what renews yours.  The important thing is to know when we have reached our limits and not try to push ourselves beyond them.  One thing is certain – none of us can force creativity.  That is why an author’s freshness usually fades after the second or third in a novel series and why the third or forth movie sequel usually fades into oblivion.

So what keeps you on the creative edge personally?  How do you renew your creativity when it runs dry?  And what advice would you give to others who are trying to be innovative and imaginative?

Looking For Friends at Greenbelt and CCDA

Autumn is coming and Tom and I are on the move again – ratcheting up those water consumptive miles. So we want to make sure that every mile counts by getting together with friends at our various destinations

First a message from Tom for Greenbelt attendees… Tom Sine is looking for someone to have lunch with him at GB.  He knows he has friends who will be attending but at this ripe time in life he can’t remember who they are.  If you know Tom or would just like to help him with flagging memory join him for lunch near the speaker’s podium at the Grandstand on Saturday 28th at 1pm.  BYOB…bag lunch that is.  Or if you would like to get together at another time and make sure he doesn’t lost on the way to lunch let us know

Eliacin Rosario Cruz will also be at Greenbelt so if you are interested in connecting to him as well please let him know.

Second – Tom & I will both be at CCDA in Chicago September 7th – 11th. Again we would love to get together for fellowship, food and fun with some of our friends.  So if you are going to be at CCDA and would like to get together please let me know.  This is one of our favourite events of the year and we would highly recommend it to all of you.

Third – Tom & I will be back in the UK at the end of October. If you are interested in getting together or in hosting an event at that time please contact us.

The Kingdom is Here – Let’s Celebrate!

The Kingdom is Here – Let’s Celebrate! This morning I was sitting here wondering where to start posting for the series The Kingdom Is Here – Where Do You See It? I must confess I was feeling a little bleary eyed because Tom & I have just returned from Beacon New York where we celebrated his nephew’s wedding.  Then last night we celebrated and prepared a lavish meal for the coming ordination and appointment of our Board Chair Coe Hutchison to Grace Lutheran Church in Port Townsend.

Suddenly it hit me.  This is what the kingdom looks like.  Not the bleary eyed feeling of too much travel and not enough sleep but the wonderful exhilaration of having joined in these two important celebrations.  It is not by accident that Jesus performs his first miracle at a wedding celebration or that some of the most vivid imagery of the new kingdom that we look forward to is of a wedding celebration.  God is a God of celebration.  Jesus loved to party.  He was right there in the midst, not just enjoying the food and fellowship but making more fun and enjoyment by turning water into good wine.

I think that every time we celebrate together in fun and fellowship God is there in our midst enjoying the party with us,stimulating our imaginations as we plan how to enjoy each other, nudging our creativity as we decorate, and concoct new recipes, guiding our hands as we prepare the food.

This fun loving celebrative God who enjoys laughter, music and yes good wine (read about that wedding at Cana if you don’t believe me), is not a God that many of us are well acquainted with but this is one that all of us should get to know. God loves a good celebration and so should we.

Celebrating with Mike & Gina

Mike and Gina Sine

Tom and his Brother Jack

Tom & I enjoy the celebration

Celebrating with Coe and Janet Hutchison

Coe and Janet cut the celebration cake

Helping Coe & Janet find their way around - an old map of Port Townsend

Getting Ready For Halloween

One of the things that really surprised and horrified me when I first came to the US was the huge emphasis on Halloween.  Even churches organized Halloween celebrations with kids dressed as witches and no one thought twice about feeding the monsters that came to their doors trick or treating.

Today there seems to be more talk about not celebrating Halloween because it has been so taken over by witches, covens and non Christian groups.  But is that the right attitude?  How could we redeem the celebration of Halloween and return it to the Christian celebration it once was?  How can we enter into the joy and celebration of God’s rhythm of feasting and add to the fun rather than trying to kill it?

The word Hallowe’en itself is a contraction of “Hallowed evening” the old English word for “holy” still seen in older translations of the Lord’s prayer .  The evening is hallowed because is is the beginning of the Feast of All Saints celebrated November 1st.  All greater feasts of the church calendar like Christmas and Easter begin in the evening the following the ancient Jewish practice of beginning the celebration of the Sabbath at sundown on Friday evening.  So it seems to me that ignoring Halloween and trying to just celebrate All Saints Day doesn’t really work.  What we need to do is reattach it to All Saints Day and regain its original and true significance.

So how can we do this?  Here are some possibilities:

Matt Stone conducts an alternative service – Thanksgiving for the Dead to reflect on lost loved ones and the saints who have gone before

Helen Hull Hitchcock from Women of Faith and Family suggests holding a children’s party at which children dress up as saints from past ages.  She has some other great suggestions that you can check out here

tom and I will be on the road this Halloween but here are some thoughts I have on celebrations we could do in the future to enter into the real meaning of Halloween

Plan a family heritage party. Invite people to do some work beforehand researching their family history and particularly the Christian saints who were a part of it.   Ask them to bring photos and stories to share.  Finish with a time of prayer for all those that have gone before us.

Several years ago when my youngest brother went to Greece where my father comes from he found out that it is possible that our family name Aroney comes from the name Aaron and that our family probably originated in Jerusalem many centuries ago.  It is probable that one of the reason they began the journey out of Jerusalem first to Constantinople then to Rhodes and finally to the tiny island of Kithera at the bottom of the Peloponnese mountains is because they became Christians.  There are a number of Greek orthodox priests in my father’s family history and my Aunt Mary was a very devout Greek Orthodox Christian.   I know less about my mother’s family history but would love to find out where her family too has had profound encounters with God.

Plan a Halloween pilgrimage. Again this might require some before time research.  Explore the Christian heritage of your community.  Where did the first Christians come from?  How did they interact with the native peoples?  Where was the first church established?  Who were some of the early Christians who impacted your community.  Plan a pilgrimage walk to the site of the first Christian community and if possible have a time of prayer and possibly even a eucharistic celebration to remember those who have gone before

What ideas do you have for a redeemed Halloween celebration?

Celebrations and Parties as A Spiritual Discipline

Well the What is a Spiritual Practice blog series is winding down but I am still continuing to receive articles so I intend to continue to post them over the next few weeks.  today’s article comes from Kathy Escobar .  Kathy describes herself as mommy. wife. friend. pot-stirrer. shepherd. follower of Jesus. peace maker. rule-breaker. dreamer.  She blogs at The Carnival In My Head and also The Refuge on Line

I love this article because I read somewhere once that “everywhere that Jesus went there was a party” – not only is partying a good spiritual discipline but it is good theology too.


celebrations & parties as a spiritual discipline

i have always loved parties.  ever since i was little i was always the one planning the get-together, hosting the shower, somehow finding a reason to gather people to celebrate something-or-other.   it wasn’t until this past few years that i recognized that parties and celebrations were actually a spiritual discipline.  and one that is fun to practice!

i don’t think everyone loves to throw parties, but most people like to participate in them in some shape or form.  sure there are big-crowd people and smaller-crowd people…gourmet foodies and  pre-made costco-junkies (that’s me)….kids-or-no-kids types..alcohol or sodas…and everything in between.  regardless, it seems that most people love a reason to gather. a reason to get together with other people and “honor” life somehow.  it could be a birthday, anniversary, graduation, retirement, promotion, post-memorial service reception, moving in open house, a moving on farewell, or a host of other things to celebrate.

each time we are together for one of these celebrations somehow we are celebrating God’s movement in our lives and the lives of others.  they are sacred spaces—no matter how fancy or unintentional—a set-apart time to say “God, we know you are at work somehow and we are thankful.” whenever i leave a celebration i always leave a little more full, a little more inspired, and somehow more mindful of my own life and what God is up to in it.

birthdays remind us of God’s creation, how thankful we are for the people in our lives, that they are here for one more year and the impact they have had.  anniversaries remind us of how it could only be God that could keep faithfully binding hearts and lives together through the good times and the bad.   post-memorial service receptions are always a special space to reflect on how short life is and to be grateful for extended family & friends and the weird ways lives intersect over time.  graduations remind us  of God’s help & provision in “getting us through” certain milestones in our education and life.  moving in open houses flood homes with hope & possibility for what’s ahead while moving-on parties cause us to remember how sometimes God has other plans for us and we have to be courageous enough to follow where we’re lead.

the bottom line: each party or celebration we are part of is a beautiful form of communion, a celebrating of life, an infusion of the Spirit of God into our hearts individually & collectively.  we might not always notice parties & celebrations as a spiritual practice, but i think they are an integral part of our life together in community & a significant place to notice God-at-work.  Jesus seemed to love parties & get-togethers.  i wonder if it was for some of the same reasons.