An Invitation from Graham Kerr

Pole barn coming soon

Pole barn coming soon

Tom and I have spent an amazing day celebrating at the Mustard Seed Village on Camano Island a couple of weeks ago. A team of 11 volunteers raised and bolted 8×32′ beams to the fir poles already planted as foundations for our first building. But we need your help to complete it.

Listen to Graham Kerr as he shares his enthusiasm for this project.

My wife, Treena, and I have had multiple seeds sown in our spiritual lives, several of these were MUSTARD SEEDS.

Has this been the case for you?

We are close personal friends of Tom and Christine Sine. We have known them for almost as long as we have been Christians and that is now well over 30 years. Time and time and time again both Tom and Christine have blessed our lives with their multiple ways of serving the Body of Christ worldwide through Mustard Seed Associates.

If you find yourself with a similar harvest we want you to know that there is a way to save some of the seeds and to re-sow them in a very special piece of land.  Read the rest of Graham’s invitation and consider how you can join the Party

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An Urban Forest Takes Shape

A few weeks ago I published Reclaiming a Sacred Space – Cheasty Greenspace: A Place of Goodness and Grace by Mary De Jong about what is happening at the Cheasty Greenspace – an urban forest here in Seattle. Yesterday I had the chance to visit.

With Mary De Jong at the Cheasty Greenspace

With Mary De Jong at the Cheasty Greenspace

 

I was so impressed with what Mary and her collaborators have accomplished – not just reclaiming a beautiful piece of God’s creation that had been invaded by destructive species, both environmental and human, but also providing a place for the neighbourhood to interact with creation. Mary and I were brainstorming about the possibility of doing an urban equivalent of the Wild Camano here in the Fall – such fun not just to interact with creation but also with the God whose presence is so obvious in its midst.

Listen to what Mary has to say about this wonderful urban project.

 

Shopper’s Guide to Pesticide – Which Fruit Can You Eat?

Tomatoes and summer squash - Are they safe?

Tomatoes and summer squash – Are they safe?

The 2013 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides is out. If you are concerned about eating supermarket food but cannot afford to go totally organic here is the latest guide on what gets the most pesticide spray. Maybe like us you just want to start your own garden and target those crops that receive the most spray.

The Dirty Dozen for 2013
  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Cherry tomatoes
  4. Cucumbers
  5. Grapes
  6. Hot peppers
  7. Nectarines (imported)
  8. Peaches
  9. Potatoes
  10. Spinach
  11. Strawberries
  12. Sweet bell peppers

Dirty Dozen Plus category to highlight two crops – domestically-grown summer squash and leafy greens, specifically kale and collards. These crops did not meet traditional Dirty Dozen™ criteria but were commonly contaminated with pesticides exceptionally toxic to the nervous system.

The Clean Fifteen for 2013
  1. Asparagus
  2. Avocados
  3. Cabbage
  4. Cantaloupe
  5. Sweet corn
  6. Eggplant
  7. Grapefruit
  8. Kiwi
  9. Mangoes
  10. Mushrooms
  11. Onions
  12. Papayas
  13. Pineapples
  14. Sweet peas (frozen)
  15. Sweet potatoes

So why should you care. Listen to what Dr Alex Lu of Harvard has to say

Don’t Miss The Wild Camano Tour

It is just over a week until our wild Camano tour at the site of the future Mustard Seed Village. This is a great opportunity to learn more about the vision for the village and about how to live more sustainably. More information and sign up here

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Earth Day Is Coming – Why Should Christians Care?

I posted this last year from Earth Ministry and thought that it was definitely worth reminding ourselves again of why we as Christians should be concerned for God’s good creation. I had hoped to write another Earth Day reflection for today but the Inhabit conference consumed too much of my time this weekend.

You might also like to check out some of the Christian organizations that are concerned for creation and some of the prayers I have posted in the past for this day:

Good Seed Sunday – Celebrate with A Rocha

Evangelicals Do Care About Creation

Prayers for Creation

Renewal – Students Caring for Creation.

Earth Day To Do List from The Soulsby Farm

Garden Blessing for Earth Day

Earth Day Liturgy

And the two postcard style prayers I wrote earlier for this year:

Earth Day Meditation.

A Garden Blessing for Earth Day 2013

Godspace

Sunday April 22nd is Earth Day but why should Christians care? Over the next few days I plan to post statements from several different religious organizations that are concerned for creation.

The post below comes from earthministry.org. It very eloquently articulates my own reasons for being concerned for God’s good earth. Earth Ministry is a Seattle based creation care advocacy group. They have initiated the Washington Interfaith Power and Light project which organizes an interfaith response to climate change.

Spirituality

Creation itself inspires us and calls us to care.  Many people have had their most profound spiritual experience in nature. As we behold the power and love of God in a mountain range, a sunset, or in the timelessness of the ocean, we can’t help but be moved.  But creation also includes humans – our families, communities, and created landscapes.  God created all things of Heaven and Earth and…

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Reclaiming a Sacred Space – Cheasty Greenspace: A Place of Goodness and Grace by Mary De Jong

This morning’s post in the series Creating Sacred Space comes from Mary De Jong. Mary leads personal discernment pilgrimages/retreats to Iona, Scotland and locally in the Great Pacific Northwest. She is also, slowly, pursuing graduate studies with a focus in ecotheology.  She is a Green Seattle Partnership Forest Steward, and is co-founder and co-chair of Friends of Cheasty Greenspace at Mt. View. She lives in the Columbia City neighborhood of Seattle, WA (USA) with her husband and three children. It sacred space than what I talked about was first published on Waymakers the blog.

 

Ed beats out the rhythm

Ed beats out the rhythm

The detective called inquiring after whether or not we had found “anything” in the woods since the fatal shooting that occurred near Cheasty Greenspace/Mt.View on February 4, 2013.  While we have certainly unearthed some curious, and somewhat disturbing, artifacts during our forest restoration work parties (lined up pairs of shoes next to an axe, dismembered dolls, rosaries, and large singular bones to name a few), no, we had not found the weapon involved in this fatal incident.  He went on to inform us that a team of officers with metal detectors and a K-9 unit would be canvassing the area the following day.  Mind you, just a few months ago, there was the horrendous reality check that came along with 40 search and rescue volunteers and cadaver K-9 units looking for the remainsof a young women in Cheasty/North, so I was already edgy about the resurfacing street-cred of our Rainier Valley forest.  However, I don’t think I was prepared for the potential emotional unraveling the impact of this dynamic in our beloved forest would have on me.

You see, we have been faithfully involved in the reclamation and restoration of this urban forest for the past six years.  We have hosted over 80 community work parties dedicated to the vision of reimagining this landscape as a safe and welcoming resource for our neighborhood.  We have written for, and received, grants that have funded our hope to build trails within this 10 acre woods that would connect neighbors, encourage walking to public transit, and provide local access to nature.  And the beauty that has resulted from this grand grassroots effort is as real and glorious as the noon-day sun!

What used to be a landscape filled with invasive plants, such as English ivy and Himalayan Blackberry,  and illicit behaviors, such as prostitution rings and illegal drug trades, has been replaced with the balance that true restoration brings.  Our native Northwest understory is thriving due to the absence of ivy.  Children now play in the forest, and their laughter mixes with the chatter of songbirds and the cries of our resident Red Tail Hawks.  The trails are a resource to neighboring youth organizations who now can bring their students into their own backyards to study, learn and just be in nature.  Our neighbors, who have worked literally shoulder to shoulder for years to see the effects of this hope-filled vision, have become a networked community of friends and families.  These woods have become apart of the vibrant, social fabric of our neighborhood.

And so my heart was heavy when I saw dozens of marked and unmarked police vehicles lined up against our trees.  My spirit sunk when I witnessed uniformed men, shoulder to shoulder, working their way through freshly budded Indian Plum, Trillium and Sword Fern.  Their presence conjured up the spirit of negativity that brooded over this place for so many years, the very spirit that we have worked so hard to drive away from this place.  I felt my repose unravel and give way to the erosive work of despair and hopelessness.  ”You can never change these woods,” the line-up of police cars seemed to sneer. “These woods will always be the cover for dark deeds!  No vision for hope and help can changethat!”

I awoke the next day to clouds over my head and heart, hardly able to utter a morning prayer, but with the imperative to get out of bed and prepare for our monthly work party we host.  Begrudgingly, I set out shovels, buckets and First Aid kit.  Grumbling, I laid out our registration table materials and sign up sheets.  Demoralized, I wondered if this slow and steady, long term effort to affect change in our little corner of the world was even worth it anymore.  Yup.  My little pet dark cloud was beginning to rain on me.

However, contrary to Saturday’s Seattle forecast (and my attitude), sun began to beam on South East Seattle and neighbors began to convene at our home to gather up tools and gloves, and log their dedicated time towards making a tangible difference.  And then Ed approached, scuffed toe-shoes ambling down our sidewalk, threadbare coated-arms raised in greeting and dusty top hat ready to blow away with the wind.  I presumed he was on his way past our home to visit one of our neighbors, who are involved in some unsavory practices…but he stopped.  Right in front of me.  And smiled.  Turns out, he was here for our work party, but his car ran out of gas and stalled in the middle of the street, just up from our main trail head into the woods.  Can I help, he asked?  My heart softened towards Ed; of course, I can help, but give me a minute to kickstart the volunteers and get the work party going.

Lesson #1: It always amazes me what kind of help shows up in a minute. The momentary pause before immediately responding to a need that you know you can meet is almost an invitation to allow those around you to participate in an assistance that is easy to presume only you can do.  All that to say, when I was able to finally direct my attention back towards Ed, Neighbor Mike had already fixed him up with a five-gallon gas container and a Seattle Parks worker was ready in the wings to tow his truck to safety.  I felt a sun beam penetrate my hopeless haze.  This community that has been created through a hope for the common good, without question, took care of a stranger in our midst.  My heart tried to soar with the pride for my ‘hood, but quite honestly, I figured I would never see Ed again and that sense of being “had” was enough to tether my fragile mood.

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I followed the last volunteers up into the woods and was mentally making a game plan for the variety of ferns we would be planting (grown by spores from a forest friend), and how we would disperse the five cubic yards of mulch, when I was called out of my reverie by the beating of a drum.  The repeated rhythm was coming from the trail head where we would be working for the bulk of our work party.  I crested the trail into view of the forest’s entrance and there was Ed, top hat and all, sitting on a stone, surrounded by a medley of musical instruments and a growing number of children.  Ed smiled at me and proceeded to play music for the duration of our work party.  Trombones, clarinets, bongos, tamborines, all were enlisted to lift the spirits of the volunteers and provide a special joy for the children.  Oh, forgot to mention the unique detail that we were the host-site for a local preschool co-op parent group who wanted to participate in a local Earth Month volunteer opportunity.  We had dozens of preschoolers running around the woods on Saturday.  And it would be important to note, too, that the sun shone during our entire work party.  Sunshine.  Children.  Music.  Ed.  My heart was unfettered and finally flew.

Now, some who knew of these back to back unique and unplanned occurrences probably could just attribute it to the Wheel of Fortune, for that would explain such a social spectrum in Cheasty Greenspace.  However, I’m one who is always interested in the quiet cadences of God and what one would call a coincidence, I’m eager to see thesynchronicity.  Essentially, this means that when you really need something, and often when you really want something, it is there.  Furthermore, the ancient practice of pilgrimage maintains that help, and the divine answer, are most often found in the company of a stranger.  Pilgrimage is this radical practice that turns upside down the ways of the world; in each other and in the strays and strangers en route, pilgrims meet-not the paupers-but the princes.  In the gestures and greetings in gravely roadside places, prayers are answered, and what you are in need of is given.  In this nontraditional way of journey-living, the road taken to a better place is one where divisions are bridged: race, status, and gender are irrelevant.  I would further go on to say that this mode of being also exists in Nature.  For in the woods, all are recipients of the goodness and grace inherent in nature.  All are apart of the greater community of things.  And to a degree, all become Kings.

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Lesson #2: Rough, worn edges and the grime of a harder-than-mine-life under the fingernails are trumpets heralding the presence of a stranger who has the potential to deliver great gifts, should we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear.  Ed transformed my day and realigned my hope-filled vision for Cheasty Greenspace.  He was a vehicle of grace to me and his music was like incense, cleansing and purifying the bullet-weary woodland air.

Following the work party, volunteers (including Ed!) gathered under the large tent we had set up in our drive way.  As the expected rains began to pour down, we shared meager cookies and rich laughter together.  The rains were washing away the sundry steps of the officers and were watering our newly planted ferns.  And we, we were an intimate community of Kings, believing and working together, shoulder to shoulder, for a better place. 

The Message of Permaculture – Care and Share

Pumpkin in the compost

Last night was my final class at St Andrew’s Episcopal church here in Seattle. Much of our discussion was around the principles and tenets of Permaculture. This method of agriculture, sometimes referred to as “do nothing gardening”  is modelled observation of natural ecosystems. Out of that are developed self maintained horticultural systems.

I love the three tenets of Permaculture which could easily come out of the Bible and wanted to reflect a little more on these, incorporating some of the principles of Permaculture (and of the Bible) in the process.

  • Take care of the earth – especially the soil. No life flourishes without healthy soil.

Taking care of the earth is not just about conservation however. The words that come to me are:  Look back with gratitude & forward with anticipation. We need to look back to legacy of past stewards, learn from their techniques, preserve the heritage seeds they developed and cultivate native and other plants that are well developed for our climates.  We als nee to look forward so those that follow us will reap the benefits. Our concern should not be for short term gain but for long term stable systems that therefore depend on long living perennials and trees that provide food for many years rather than short lived annuals.

Permaculture is not a quick fix garden technique. We need to take time to let the land speak, observing and interacting with it in all seasons, learn the patterns of rain, wind, sun, and noise, taking the animals into account and framing the vistas and views the land opens up. The idea is to work with nature and not try to control it.

Another basic principle of permaculture is to catch and store energy. We can catch solar energy in sun spaces, and greenhouses. We can use it in solar cookers, dryers and lights.  We can also store water  through the use of rain barrels and greywater (not allowed in many cities). And we can store the rain that falls on the earth with deep layers of compost and mulch.  We can also store energy by storing the harvest in root cellars, or by preserving, drying and freezing.

Another important principle is the use of renewable resources. The idea is to produce no waste at all. Leftovers can be composted, dead trees cut down for new garden beds or firewood. Nature is an incredible waste free design that we could do well to emulate.

Mimicking the ways of nature, which has been refined in the science of bio-mimicry is something that has always intrigued me. God has created some amazing designs that we could emulate to save the planet.

  • Take care of the people 

For number one priority here is the need to form community & grow friendship by gardening together, preserving the harvest together and partying together.  The idea is to integrate rather than segregate, cooperate rather than not compete. We learn to value diversity in our garden community as well as our produce. Community gardens and shared backyards can foster this.

One principle of permaculture is to use every available space. We use the edges  by espaliering trees on walls, growing vines and hanging baskets. We use dark spaces by growing mushrooms. But perhaps (and here is my radical Christian perspective here, right out of the Old Testament.) – maybe we should leave the edge crops for others to glean

  • Share the surplus:

Unless we share we do not really care for others, but as the author comments in The Vegetable Gardener’s Guide to Permaculture, to share we must recognize that we have more than enough for ourselves. We live in a culture that teaches us there is never enough. We must hold onto everything. No wonder storage for excess household goods has become such big business. And sharing in a garden should go beyond the harvest. We should generously share techniques, seeds, recipes, skills and information. And above all we should share the beauty of our gardens, inviting others into our space whenever possible.