Godspace is Moving

Sahara bus - Frans Lemmens

In the next few weeks we expect to move this blog to a new site. Maybe it won’t look quite like this but we are moving. Definitely time to get rid of those ads I have no control over and to expand our capacity to add video, apps and who knows what else.

The name of the blog remains the same – unless you think it should change and have a creative idea for a new name, but we do need to choose a new url. Not surprising godspace.net; .com ; .us and all other possibilities are all taken – in some cases not being used but grabbed by someone who hopes we will come and buy it from them. Anyhow that is another issue. So what should our new url be?

We have thought of:

godspace-light.com (or net or who knows what)

godspace-MSA.com to link it to our existing MSA site of which this is a part.

Do you have other suggestions? And do you think the name of the site should change? If so let us know your suggestions.

 

 

 

Spiritual Rhythms that Create Resilience

Candles help us centre ourselves

Candles help us centre ourselves

The response to my post Enhance Your Spiritual Resilience – Five Practices that Make a Difference made me realize that this is a topic that needs to be fleshed out in more detail. This post is designed to help flesh out some of the practices. It draws from my book Godspace which specifically addresses some of these issues.

According to Christian anthropologist Paul Hiebert there are two types of rituals, habits or practices we need in our lives, what he calls rituals of restoration and rituals of transformation.

Rituals of restoration are the most common. These are the practices that restore our faith in the beliefs that order our lives. They also connect us to and anchor us in the religious communities in which these beliefs are expressed. Restorative practices are highly structured & do not change from day to day or year to year. They reaffirm our sense of order & meaning in the universe, our community & our own lives.  Most importantly, they intentionally connect our daily activities to the life, death & resurrection of Christ.

Possibilities include a rhythm of prayer that reaffirms what we believe, sabbath practices, weekly church gathering, taking communion, following the liturgical calendar and the use of liturgical symbols like the sign of the cross, candles, and incense. I even find that writing prayers for Facebook each morning and preparing my blog posts is a stabilizing and restorative ritual.

For me it has been the establishment of rhythms rather than the actual practices that are important. The practices may change but I love to have a regular rhythm to the day, week and year. In fact the breaking of this rhythm is one thing I find destabilizing. Praying each day is an essential part of my faith practice but what those prayers look like can change from day to day and week to week. At the moment I am using The New Zealand Prayer Book each day.  It is available on line here. I have just downloaded the morning and evening prayer sections onto my kindle for when I travel, though I much prefer having a physical book in my hands each morning when possible.

Rituals of transformation are characterized by a high degree of creativity & have little repetitive structure. Their goal is to cut through the established way of doing things and restore a measure of flexibility and personal intimacy. In other words they stop our restorative practices becoming boring and stagnant. They enable our faith to grow and change, enabling us to adapt to the passages of life and changes in our culture. In the liturgical calendar, Advent & Lent were specifically designed with this intention. Prayer retreats, conferences and workshops can also accomplish this though these days it seems that such events are more geared towards reinforcing the status quo than changing it. Pilgrimage, Biblically based celebrations like Stations of the Cross can also accomplish this. Prayer walks, mission trips, even walking the labyrinth are all practices that maintain this type of flexibility.

When I was on the Mercy Ship Anastasis, when the ship was ready to sail to a new port, we held what was called a moving of the ark ceremony, harkening back to the fact that the Israelites would only break camp and move when the cloud over the ark of the covenant moved. We celebrated with a special worship service, sharing the good things that had happened in the port we were leaving, sharing communion and then learning a little about the new port we were heading towards as a time of preparation. Another possibility is a celebration like the Reclaiming the Jubilee  party held in Hackney, London a few years ago.

I don’t live on a ship that moves every few weeks any more but I have learned the importance of marking milestones in my life journey in similar ways. Acknowledging transitions, looking back with gratitude and forward with anticipation is a wonderful, faith building exercise that all of us should practice on a regular basis.

What are the practices that provide both stability and flexibility in your spiritual life? What are your restorative and transformative habits that shape your faith?

 

One Million and Counting

Celtic crosses

Yesterday the one millionth person visited Godspace. Exciting, amazing and uplifting.

Now I know that is not really one million different people as many of you visit several times a week. However I still feel it is quite an achievement. What began as a place for me to share my personal thoughts and ideas five years ago has become a go to place for those looking for resources for creative worship, prayers and out of the box spiritual practices that connect to their every day lives.

Many of you have told me about how your faith has been strengthened by the resources provided here. Others appreciate the ways your faith has been stretched and challenged by some of the issues discussed. Your comments and questions have stretched and challenged my faith at times too. I love it!

The blog has also provided an avenue for a growing network of writers and creative thinkers around the globe to contribute their ideas in a venue that gives them more exposure than they would otherwise receive. Our spiritual growth is grounded in community, not a community of like minded people, but a community of rich diversity. Increasingly, I want to provide an outlet for these diverse and enriching voices.

The question is: Where do we go from here? In the last couple of months at Mustard Seed Associates, of which this blog is a part, we have had numerous discussions about what this blog could and should become. First we want to upgrade it to get rid of those annoying ads that a free blog template attracts. We want to add a section for daily prayers, another for online retreat curricula and more publications that flow out of the blog series. And we want to make access to the existing resources a lot easier.

To move forward however we need your help. At Mustard Seed Associates we believe that every venture is a collaborative opportunity.

  1. First we need your input. What kinds of resources would you like to see added to Godspace?
  2. In what ways would you like to participate in the development of resources?
  • Would you like to write prayers, liturgies or blog posts?
  • Would you like to help with the new web development?
  • Would you consider financially supporting the expansion of this website and the valuable content it provides?

MSA is a 501c3 not-for-profit organization. All donations are tax deductible.

I hope that you will prayerfully consider these questions and help us grow the mustard seed that is Godspace.

 

Christmas Greeting From Tom and Christine Sine

Christmas greetings (c) Christine Sine

“And God himself will choose the sign… A frightened woman in her time… Will bear a son and name him well… God with us! O come, O come Emmanuel!”

These beautiful lyrics from the song the Oracles by Steve Bell words were the focus of our Advent II Homecoming party this last week, a time at which we remember not just the birth of a child two thousand years ago, but the promise of a new world coming in which justice will come for the poor and hope for the marginalized. Tom and I love this season of the year with its expectant promise of hope and fulfillment. Each morning we light our Advent candles, sit in their warm glow, and listen to Advent music while we eat breakfast. We finish with scripture reading and prayer.

This year held many celebrations and festivals for us. In June we headed to Australia for Christine’s mother’s 89th birthday. In July we celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary and in August we celebrated together with many MSA friends, at our annual Celtic retreat, rejoicing at the beginning of our building for the Mustard Seed Village. The poles for our first classroom became the focal point for our fellowship In the afternoon their dedication drew us together again into our dreams and hopes for the future. We expect to have them in the ground and the concrete slab poured before the end of the year. This will house classes on sustainability as well as place for people to imagine and create new ways God can use their lives and communities to have an impact in the lives of others.

Celti Retreat 2012 - Dedicating the logs for our first Mustard Seed Village

Celti Retreat 2012 – Dedicating the logs for our first Mustard Seed Village

We also hosted a number of BBQs and other meals at the house, sharing hospitality with people from around the world and feasting from our bountiful garden produce. Tom’s Bacon and Tomato sandwiches are to die for.

Our participation in Wild Goose East in North Carolina, Wild Goose West in Oregon and Creative World Festival in British Columbia also gave ample opportunity for celebration. These festivals brought us together with a rich array of friends old and new, stirred our imaginations with inspiring talks and invited us to live out the kingdom in our everyday lives. More recently we celebrated with Mark and Lisa Scandrette and the Reimagine Tribe in San Francisco. We walked the streets where Tom grew up, reminiscing and soaking in the stories of how they are making a difference in the lives marginalized people in their city.

Return to our Senses - cover

My new book Return to Our Senses: Reimagining How We Pray is also part of the good news that God is still with us. It invites the reader to see prayer as far more than words. It introduces a rich array of experience that affirm God’s presence in every moment and in aspect of our lives. Today is the last day to order it from Amazon for a Christmas delivery, or download it for your kindle. This blog, Godspace which increasing focuses on how to reimagine prayer and spiritual practices for the future, continues to grow in popularity and is consistently listed in the top 100 Christian blog sites. The current Advent series has been particularly popular and enriching. I have certainly benefited from the posts and I hope you have too.

The Light for the Journey prayer page also grows in popularity with the addition of inspiring new content from John Birch, Bonnie Harr ,  Micha Jazz and other contemplative activists. My growing desire is to provide a place where others can share the creative gifts God has given them. Both Godspace and Light for the Journey provide those opportunities. We will further expand the authorship of both these venues in the next year so if you are interested let me know or sign up for the Godspace writers group.

Tom’s good news is the beginning of a new book on imagination and innovation. It is designed to enable readers to discover creative new ways God can use their mustard seed to be a difference and make a difference in response to rapidly changing times.  He is also blogging about the ideas from the innovative edge on the MSA web site.

As we race towards a fiscal cliff in the US, a slowing global economy throughout our planet and continuing bloodshed and volatility in the Middle East… thank God there is good news! We can in these uncertain times share this good news by how we live and care for our vulnerable neighbors locally and globally. We want to hear your stories of innovative ways followers of Jesus in your community make a little difference in your community. Can you send us your stories so we share this good news with people throughout our global village too?

Our MSA Team and Board are involved in the very ambitious task of refocusing MSA as a center for Christian imagination and innovation…to help us all discover how we can become much more of God’s good news in these tough times.  We are so grateful to God for Cindy Todd and the innovation she brings to our small team and Andy Wade whose tireless work makes our ability to communicate with you possible. Our growing circle of supporters and volunteers are constantly blessing in the midst of all we do. Please consider joining us in this venture. Your year end donation to Mustard Seed Associates will help keep this blog and the other ministries of MSA alive.

  MSA is a 501c3 not-for-profit organization. All donations are tax deductible.

We wish you and yours a joyous Christmas and a new year filled by creative new ways to be a bit of God’s good news in times like these.

Tom & Christine Sine

Tools for Prayer – Moving Beyond Chronic Randomness to Intentionality

Godspace: Time for Peace in the Rhythms of Life

Godspace: Time for Peace in the Rhythms of Life

When I wrote my book Godspace: Time for Peace in the Rhythms of Life, I talked about the need for all of us to move beyond chronic randomness to a more intentional pattern of prayer that draws us closer to God, to God’s purposes and the needs of our world.  This exercise resulted in the writing of Light for the Journey and though I have moved away from using this pattern over the last couple of years as I reread the section in Godspace this morning I realized how much I too need to refocus my daily time with God to in intentional ways that draw me closer to the God I love and the world I ache for.  So I thought that you too might appreciate this excerpt from Godspace

Since I recognized the power of regular restorative practices, I have worked hard to develop a pattern that connects my daily spiritual observances to the rhythm of my life. I wrote down the characteristics of my faith that needed reinforcing and divided them into seven themes—one for each day of the week. These now form focal points for my daily devotions. To sharpen my focus I purchased a loose-leaf notebook and divided it into seven sections—one for each day of the week. Each section begins with Scriptures that reflect my theme. To these I added ideas and quotes from my Bible and other spiritual books or from the Sunday sermon.

I read these verses and quotes first thing in the morning. They make good meditation points. Then as I read the newspaper I write down prayer points that connect to that day’s theme and use these as a focus for my prayer time. I devised questions that encourage me to incorporate this theme into my day’s activities.

Monday, I focus on God the Creator, creativity, and the call to be stewards of God’s creation. Sometimes I start the day by reflecting on how God is revealed in creation through the rhythm of the day and year or through the beauty and majesty of all created things. On occasion I meditate on God’s creativity expressed in the rich diversity and incredible complexity of life around me and contemplate the creativity I see in human endeavors such as fashion or architectural design. I use this as a launching point to think about my life and how God could use my creativity in the coming day. My questions for the day are either “In what ways am I called to steward God’s creation today?” or “How will my actions today glorify God’s creative work in the world?” I focus my prayers on those impacted by environmental disasters, on creation care ministries, and on those engaged in creative arts. As a result, I find myself praying for farmers and landscape gardeners, for fashion designers and environmentalists—people I was hardly aware of before.

Tuesday, I focus on Christ our Savior and what it means to bear his image into the world. I reflect on ways that I can model Christ to others and think about how those around me reveal Christ to me. I pray for those who seek to be an incarnation of Christ to people who live in poverty, despair, or oppression—particularly for situations I have read about in the newspaper during the week. I ask, “How can Christ-in-me show forth his love and compassion in my actions today?” and “In what ways do the faces of my family, friends, and those I pass in the street reflect the image of God?” Asking these questions has totally changed my attitude toward work and my community. Grocery shopping is no longer just to buy food; it is an opportunity to interact with people for whom God cares and Christ died.

Wednesday, I focus on the Holy Spirit and my need to be equipped as God’s servant. Sometimes I start the day by reading my mission statement—”To be a voice for those who have no voice and bring glimpses of God’s shalom kingdom into people’s lives.” I ask, “How can I live this out in my life today?” or “How do I need to be better equipped to be God’s voice for the voiceless?” Then I strategize about practical ways in which I can apply my ideas. I pray for places in which I can see the Holy Spirit at work, places where there are indications of renewal like the emerging postmodern church movement.

Thursday, I turn my focus toward community. I think about what it means to be part of God’s worldwide community and how that oneness can be expressed through hospitality and compassionate care to others. I reflect on God’s international community and pray for those who suffer from hunger, poverty, disease, or injustice. Sometimes I ask myself, “What do I plan to do today that will help build God’s community?” I also ask, “How will I help draw others into God’s community today?” Sometimes I focus on a far more difficult question: “In what ways do I discriminate against others who are part of God’s community?” I pray for those who suffer from AIDS and other devastating diseases, for those who are persecuted because of their faith, and for those who are discriminated against because of race, color, age, disabilities, or gender. This has made me very aware of the diversity of the human race. It has also opened my eyes to the rich variety of ways God reveals himself through different cultures.

Friday, not surprisingly, is my day to reflect on the cross of Christ and the wholeness God brings through restoration and reconciliation. Sometimes I pray about where I still need to be restored, or I ask God’s forgiveness for the obstacles that keep me from a whole-hearted commitment to Christ. I like to ask, “In what ways do I need to lay down my life today and intentionally embrace the life of Christ?” Sometimes I ask more difficult questions: “Are there areas of sin that I need to confess or people I need to be reconciled to?” I pray for countries torn apart by conflict and war and for those I know who work in ministries of reconciliation and peacemaking.

Saturday, I reflect on God’s kingdom and the “cloud of witnesses” who have gone before me. I love to read stories about followers of Christ who dared to be different and lived as citizens of God’s kingdom. I gain confidence as I connect my own sense of purpose to the wonderful examples of Christians who have lived valiantly over the last two thousand years. My questions revolve around my call to be a witness. I ask, “How can I live today as a testimony to God?” I pray for missionaries and mission organizations I am involved in that reflect glimpses of God’s shalom kingdom.

Sunday is a day to celebrate the resurrection and the new life we receive through salvation. I rejoice in being a new creation in Christ and focus on the wonder of that new life. My questions are “What am I most grateful for this week?” and “What have I accomplished this week that reflects my new life in Christ and bears the seal of God’s approval?”

This exercise has greatly enriched my spiritual life and intentionally enabled me to integrate my daily routines with my Christian faith. I am amazed at the joy this has brought me. For example, focusing on God’s creativity made me realize that I too could be creative. I started writing poetry, something that would never have occurred to me before. I wrote the following poem one morning while reflecting on God’s beauty as revealed in the rising sun.

I awake this day to the joy of life

A sudden sunrise, a royal pageant,

Red and gold splashed across the sky

Like the daybreak of your light

It penetrates the darkest gloom

God-in-me vibrant colors shining through.

Sometimes black clouds obscure your brightness

Roaring thunder, jagged lightning

Clinging sin lances through my soul

It waits for the deluge of your grace

The cleansing rain that purifies my life

Forgiving love, embracing care

God-in-me muted colors waiting patiently.

I have also tried to connect these themes to my other daily activities. I love to walk, and I constantly look for creative ways to use my spiritual themes in my daily walks. Monday, I focus on my enjoyment of God’s creation. There is a lake five minutes from our home with a three-mile walking track around it where I love to go to soak in the beauty of God’s creation. Sometimes Tom and I walk around our neighborhood admiring the gardens. We are reminded that the first responsibility God entrusted to humans was to steward creation and make it flourish. Our walks encourage us to pray for all who are involved in creation care. Tuesday as I walk I think about how the face of Christ is reflected in the countenances of people I pass. Wednesday, I like to walk the neighborhood, asking God’s Spirit to open my eyes so that I can discern the needs and dreams of my community.

Did Jesus Lead A balanced Life?

Yesterday some of my twitter friends had a discussion on whether or not Jesus led a balanced life.  Now I was not really part of the discussion so I cannot comment on what was said but it seemed to me that they came to the conclusion that Jesus did not lead a balanced life and that really concerns me.  It reminds me of that bumper sticker that was popular a few years back “Jesus Is Coming Back Look Busy”.

I suspect that many of us make excuses for our own busy lives by making the excuse that Jesus was busy too.  But was he as busy as we seem to be?  When I developed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome sixteen years ago – partly as a result of overwork, I spent almost a year in bed with plenty of time to reflect on what I had done wrong and what I could have done differently.  I spent a lot of time reading through the gospels specifically asking myself the question How did Jesus spend his time on earth? It was an enlightening study as I started to realize that Jesus really did have a very balanced life.  There were times when he was really busy but those were usually balanced with more relaxed times when he walked and talked with his friends or withdrew into the hills to pray.

I identified 3 basic rhythms – the balance between spiritual and secular, work and rest and comunity and solitude.  To that I would now add the balance between fasting and feasting.  I explore these rhythms in detail in my book GodSpace: Finding Peace in the Rhythms of Life but here is the short version.

Jesus never made a decision without spending at least a night in prayer.  How many less mistakes would we make and how much more relaxed a lifestyle would we lead if we had even a fraction of that commitment?

Jesus spent more time forming community than he  did working.  Community slows us down, encourages us when we are stressed, helps us to discern what we should and should not be doing.

Jesus work was focused on the in breaking of God’s kingdom not on putting bread on the table each day – that he encouraged his followers to trust God for.  How much of our busyness and dysfunctional rhythms are because we are caught up in the consumer culture that focuses on the making and spending of money on ourselves?

Everywhere that Jesus went there was a party.  Jesus was constantly celebrating life with enthusiasm from the time that he performed his first miracle at a wedding he was constantly encouraging people to enjoy life with enthusiasm.  One of my favourite bible stories is that of Jesus making breakfast for his friends after he rose from the dead.

I think that the rhythm of the early monastic communities flowed out of their knowledge of how Jesus spent his time.  They knew that he practiced the Jewish ritual of prayer several times a day and the daily offices were designed to do the same. To be honest I think that for busy people spending a few minutes in prayer several times a day is probably healthier than spending a big chunk once each morning.  It helps us to refocus our lives at regular intervals on God and God’s purposes.  They also had a good rhythm of work and relaxation (though actually their rest times were usually dedicated to prayer and to study).  However I wonder how much better we would be if we interspersed our times of study and book work with good physical exercise – not going to the gym which is so artificial but maybe some good manual labour – walking to the shops & lugging our groceries home rather than driving might be a good idea.

We have so divorced our spiritual rhythms from everyday life that we don’t even know how to develop a life of Godly balance any more.  And believe it or not as I have metnined before people who take a siesta in the afternoons are actually so much more productive afterwards that there is no way that those who have not had a siesta can equal their production.

So to all my British friends who are struggling with snow and worried that they cannot get into work – relax and enjoy it – you will probably accomplish more this week than ever because of it and maybe in the process discover something of the rhythms and the wonder of a God who created every snowflake to be different.

Making New Year’s Resolutions that Stick

The New Year festivities have come and gone and many of us have made resolutions that we know we have no hope of maintaining.  I think that New Year’s resolutions are extremely important and should not be laughed off because we bite off more than we can chew.

So how do we make them stick – or more simply how do we make resolutions that have any hope of sticking?  I think this is so important that I thought that I would devote this next week to a series of posts on this topic.

My first piece of advice is something I came across when writing GodSpace, about developing new rituals and routines for our lives.

Keep it simple

Make it meaningful

Stick to it.

Probably there is no better advice that I can give you now for those New Year’s Resolutions.