Our Families Shape Not Just Us But our Organizations

With my Mother at her 90th birthday

At our MSA staff meeting just before my recent trip to Australia, we discussed the importance of our families and how they impact our work.

Our families shape not just who we are but also what we are as an organization.

I am very aware of that as I reflect on how my mother influenced my life. I am so grateful to God for her and the ways that she helped shape all I am and do. Even in her death she continues to influence me and shape my work, MSA and the life of others. I am so grateful to the many of you who have prayed and comforted me over these days and for the encouragement from those of you who have drawn strength and faith as I shared my journey.

Here is a complete list of the prayers and blog posts I wrote during this important journey.

Am I Fully Recognized for What I am 

 Tributes to My Mother

 Heavens Gates Have Opened Wide

 Today I want to Go Home

Prayers for the Journey

Tears, Tears, Tears 

Comfort in the Midst of Waiting

Not Embarrassed to Share About Death

It’s Hard to Watch Your Mother Die 

Love Hurts But It’s Worth It


God Give Us Light for the Journey

We are just starting an important MSA team meeting for the day. This prayer has been revolving in my mind. Appreciate your prayers too.
God give us light for the journey.001

Practicing Resurrection – Being Radical by Brian “Wolt” Wolters

Easter Sunday has come and gone and its time to practice resurrection living! As I mentioned in my post Practicing Resurrection yesterday, Easter is not just a day it is a season, in fact it is the framework for the rest of our lives. Over the next few weeks I plan to share a number of stories of creative ministries and initiatives that do just that. Today’s post is written by Brian “Wolt” Wolters, director of The Overflow Project.  It was first published as Being Radical, Good Friday on the MSA website as part of a series on the Overflow Project. The MSA team are all joining the initiative this year and we hope you will too.



Over the past several weeks I have found myself coming up with excuses to drive to work instead of ride my bike.  Even before I get in my truck I tell myself, “Oh, one more day of driving and then I’ll start riding my bike,” or even on a sunny day I’ll say “Oh, it may rain today, so I’ll just drive.”

Why is it that we often have good intentions of doing something we think is best, but then opt for something easier or more convenient? Why do we form habits as human beings that prevent us from being radical?

Many books explore these questions. Some prescribe easy “steps” or even “recipes” for breaking out of patterns and molds that develop over time. On the flip side, other materials suggest creating new habits for life change like setting aside time for prayer and exercise daily.

Insert Good Friday.  Jesus’s death on a cross is radical I think.  He does not conform to culture or take the easy, most comfortable option.  He also does not say oh today, I’m going to start “effective habits.”  He even goes against his own desire and chooses to die!  If you want a vivid reminder the horror of his death, pick up the Mel Gibson film, The Passion of Christ.

The reminder of Jesus death on Good Friday inspires me to be more in tune with God’s voice for my life – instead of my own desires –  and explore being radical by forming new habits and breaking old ones. I pray I am who God made me to be and that I my eyes open to see my comfort zones.

I shared these thoughts about Easter with MSA last year, and am just as excited about The Overflow Project’s initiative this year.  The opportunity is great: to join with others in a unified effort to live with a little less and be able to give a little bit more, following the mold of Jesus death on the cross and celebrating on Easter his resurrection.

Perhaps today is a day to break a habit or start a new one. Jesus leads us in His way and with His death.

An opportunity to celebrate his resurrection on Easter exists.

Join in a challenge for the 50 days of the Easter season.

This is the fourth post in a Friday series about The Overflow Project that was published on the MSA blog, leading up to the 50 Day Challenge starting on Easter.

Periodically during the 50 days, various Challenge participants with share how they are taking the challenge and what they’re learning.

If you decide to take the challenge, please register on their page and share your story!

The Overflow Project is an initiative committed to a new way of living, a way of living that breaks down the walls that divide rich and poor. Using a 50-Day Challenge, The Overflow Project helps individuals, groups and churches simplify their lives in order to give generously. Donated funds provide clean drinking water – a vital resource for community and economic development.

Are you ready to join Saint Patrick in the spiritual discipline of listening – by Tom Sine

Today’s Lenten post for the series  Return to Our Senses in Lent is written by my husband Tom Sine. Tom is a futurist, author, and chief hospitality guy for Mustard Seed Associates. It was first posted on the MSA website where Tom is now blogging each week.

Celtic cross -behind Abbey

In 1982 I took my first pilgrimage to Iona to experience the new discipline for me of listening for God in one of the holy places.  I got more than I bargained for.  I not only had a very deep experience of what Celtic Christians call “thin places” where the dimension between this world and the next becomes one.  As a result of that first pilgrimage I became acquainted with Patrick and a number of his friends and followers and it has radically changed my view of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

At age 16 Patrick was kidnapped from his home in England and was taken by Irish traders as slave to Ireland. He was forced to care for sheep.  He learned about the people and Irish culture but being enslaved most importantly he learned a life of prayer was essential to his difficult life..  After 6 years he escaped and returned to his family. Then God called him to return to Ireland as a missionary. In three decades Patrick and his compatriots saw Ireland become largely converted to Christianity.  The Irish, Scots and English were introduced to much more of a whole life faith than was not common then or now.

What I have learned from Patrick, Columba, Hilda, Bridget and Cuthbert is that prayer is not 15 minute break in the day but prayer was intended to permeate all of life.  Celtic Christians had prayers for rising in the morning, prayers planting seeds in the day and prayers for banking fires at night. Celtic Christians not only were devoted to a life of prayer, but a love of God’s creation and a care for the poor.  I find younger Christians who are hungry for a more authentic whole life faith are often drawn to Celtic Christian faith.

If you would like to have a small taste of the Celtic faith join us for our annual Celtic Christian Prayer Retreat on Camano Island August 10th &11th.

As we head into the final days of the season of Lent and as we celebrate St. Patirck’s Day on Sunday… I invite you to join Saint Patrick and the many Celtic Saints in taking time to listen to our God by quietly repeating Patrick’s prayer and listen to what God might say to you.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left
Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

Write me and let me know what you hear from God as you quietly read Patrick’s prayer and listen for God’s whispers to you.

Moving Into Transition – The Awakening of Hope

Let us gather at the table together

Let us gather at the table together

This is the third post in my series this week on transitioning MSA and the process I am engaged in personally as a part of that. It is very much a thinking out loud process for me, but one which I realize requires me to listen to many voices and to discern together with others what God is saying. You can check out the other posts here:

Going Through Transition – Help from Walter Brueggemann

Planning For Transition – Wisdom from the Desert Fathers and Mothers

The first posts came out of the retreat time Tom and I had at the end of last week. Since then we have participated in meetings with others who are key to this process – the MSA team and several consultants who are helping us on the way. I am excited about what is emerging – not new ministries or even a new focus but rather a new process that ignites participants with images of hope for the inbreaking of God’s kingdom and invites them into a community where together we provide tools to journey along the path towards God’s kingdom.

In the first post on Monday I wrote – The prophet offers symbols of hope for a new future. As I have wrestled with who we are currently and who we are sensing God wants us to become, this I realize is central. Interestingly the third book that I read during my retreat time was Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s The Awakening of Hope. What I loved about this book is its practicality – not just giving theological precepts that should shape our practice but sharing beautiful stories of how our Christian beliefs are lived out in practice. As Jonathan says we need to build community amongst believers by nurturing faith that leads to action.

Building community and nurturing faith that leads to action that too is central to who we are and what we hope to become.  At this point we have identified three aspects of MSA that we believe are important elements of the process we are developing. Part of what excites me is that none of these elements require experts to speak at su, they require a recognition that all in the body of Christ have valuable gifts to bring to the table:

  1. Encouraging each other with images of God’s hope for the future – I think that one of our strengths in the past has been the sharing of mustard seed stories that inspire others with the the thought “I could do that”.
  2. Discerning together as a spiritual community – As many of you know we begin all of our meetings with a check in time – looking back and looking forward and then discussing where we sense God is moving in our midst. It is a powerful and energizing process that not only draws us closer to each other but also closer to God. This element of who we are can be adapted to any situation. It draws us into the hope of God’s kingdom and it ignites creativity within all of us.
  3. Fellowship and hospitality – Tom often tells people that he would rather cook for them than stand in front of them to speak. We have tended to treat it as a joke, but as we talk around the table I am beginning to realize that this too is a central part of who we are. In The Awakening of Hope, Jonathan quotes Norman Wirzba: To be reconciled to one another is to be able to gather around a table with each other without shame, celebrating the gifts to each other that we are. Table fellowship builds community, connects us to each other and to the body of Christ around the world. I am not sure at this point how this translates into all the situations we are involved in – for example how do we practice table fellowship with those who read our books and blogs but are separated by many miles?

There is much still for us to grapple with and I would very much like to engage others in this conversation. What do you think MSA should become? What has inspired or connected you to this ministry and why do you remain connected?


Planning For Transition – Wisdom from the Desert Fathers and Mothers

Seeing with new eyes

Seeing with new eyes

Yesterday I posted this post, about the fact that Mustard Seed Associates is in a time of transition and talked about the impact that Walter Brueggemann has had on my theology and my thinking. There are others that have helped to shape my thinking in this transition time too that I wanted to mention.

The second book I took with me was Christine Valter Paintner’s book Desert Fathers and Mothers Early Christian Wisdom Sayings. What particularly struck me is where she comments:

We often bring unconscious expectations to life. We feel disappointed when things don’t turn out as we had hoped, even when we aren’t aware we had a desire for a particular outcome. Often we are poor judges of what should happen in our lives. We bring a whole set of ego-centered habits and patterns, and we dream from the person we have been , rather than the person we are being transformed into. Our transformed self is always far beyond our own striving.

When we realize we have limited vision and that our planning minds will only take us so far, then we can begin to gently release the pressure we put on ourselves to have things turn out in a certain way. We may begin to approach life in a more open-hearted way, receiving its gifts rather than grumbling about what we would rather have had happen. (60).

When we seek to bring about change that is not a tweaking of what has existed in the past but rather something entirely new, our own planning and limited vision often does get in the way. Letting go does not begin in the planning room, it begins in the place where we seek to listen to God. I am more convinced than ever that unless we can unleash our creativity and imaginations in the realm of prayer and worship, we will never see real change that leads us into the new reality of God’s kingdom, occur. God’s new reality does not emerge fully grown, but as a baby that needs to be nurtured and fed.

Run With Purpose In Every Step

Celtic retreat 2012 Morning worship

Celtic retreat 2012 Morning worship

This morning I am preparing for our MSA staff retreat time this weekend. We will use the Quaker Discernment process and organic strategic planning to discern God’s future focus for our ministry. At core, our MSA team is a spiritual leadership community that discerns and implements the will of God for our organization. and these processes have become the keys to our development both as individuals and as an organization.

As we enter this retreat we know that we need to focus more acutely on what God is leading us into. We are in a time of growth and transition, grappling with issues of how to sustain our current ministry, launch CCSP Cascadia and build the Mustard Seed Village.  In this time constantly coming back to God to discern God’s will becomes more important than ever.

In preparation for this time I have looked back over previous discernment sessions to catch a sense of what God has said in the past and how well we have responded to those promptings. I have looked at our strengths and weaknesses, our successes and our failures, our joys and our challenges.

I have also looked back and been encouraged by what others have said about what MSA has meant in their lives. Most are drawn by the invitation to join a community that is journeying together towards God’s kingdom of peace, justice and abundance.  Shane Claiborne once told us that he thought we were great “cross pollinators” and others to have appreciated the connections we help them make to people and organizations they feel they can identify and hang with.

Others have told us that they appreciate our encouragement to reimagine life and faith and create new possibilities for how we live in every aspect of our life. Brian McLaren shared that through MSA he was given permission and encouragement to think new thoughts, dream new dreams and see the gospel in a fresh, new life-changing and world-changing light.

Others have appreciate the modelling of a simpler, more festive and hopefully more Christ centred way of life and our willingness to share openly the ongoing journey it involves us in, even when it reveals our warts and wrinkles. Added to this is an appreciation of the resources we develop to help move all of us in this direction.

So my question this morning is what draws you to this blog and the other aspects of MSA? What would you like to share that could help us focus the ministry of MSA? I would love to hear your thoughts and also appreciate your prayers for this weekend. 


MSA Imaginings

This morning we have an MSA Board meeting which made me realize that I have not posted our monthly MSA update for June.


“God instructs the heart, not by ideas but by pains and contradictions.”

omsc-art-009.jpg?w=300&h=179This wise quote by 18th century French mystic Jean Pierre de Caussade was sent to me a few weeks ago shortly after we heard that a grant application we hoped would support the start up of our Cascadia program, had been rejected. In the midst of our disappointment we found ourselves turning back to the heart of God in prayer, seeking wisdom and discernment.

One of our Board remarked,

“Mustard Seed Associates is about planting mustard seeds and this was certainly no mustard seed.”

Its true, we have always excelled at networking, collaboration and the planting and nourishing of small kingdom seeds that grow and produce fruit. Many of you are examples of that kingdom fruit.

This does seem to be a time of contradictions for us at Mustard Seed Associates. On one hand God is blessing us in amazing ways and we have much to celebrate. Plans are completed and we are moving forward with the first building of the Mustard Seed Village. Construction should begin shortly.

Jeff Johnson at arkmusic.com

Cindy Todd is making amazing connections in the Stanwood/ Camano area and has been asked to co-chair the education for Port Susan food and farming center. Our annual Celtic retreat on Camano Island August 17-19 is shaping up to be the best ever. Our theme is gratitude and thanksgiving. Internationally known musician Jeff Johnson will provide music with a special Selah service in the evening.

CCSP/Cascadia is definitely sparking the interest of Christian Colleges and Universities across North America and we have a growing list of those who plan to add it to their semester away options. George Fox University recently added it to their options of semester away programs. We see the coming year as an opportunity to build our team and prepare for a better launch. Over the summer, Tom and I will participate inWild Goose Festival in Shakora Hills NCWild Goose West in Corvalis OR and the Creative World Festival in British Columbia. We would love to spend time with those of you who are also at these events.

MSA seeks to stir imagine and encourage creativity. We add daily to resources at Godspace and MSAimagine that inspire and encourage many to reimagine their lifestyles and faith observances. Andy Wade’s latest article Creepy Community is both thought provoking and instructive. We want to expand these resources and need your collaboration to connect us to other creative possibilities and inspiring stories. Where do wateryou see the kingdom emerging in creative and imaginative ways? Where do you see God’s mustard seeds emerging like The Overflow Project– small and seemingly insignificant but making a kingdom difference. How could we reimagine our lives to more authentically live into God’s kingdom ways? Post on our facebook page or email us with suggestions for articles or communities and ministries to highlight.

We have a remarkable team at MSA. Most are volunteers. Our architect David Vandervort has generously given time and resource over many years to the Mustard Seed Village project. Douglas Woods moved his family up to Seattle from California ten years ago because of his vision for this project. Dr. Forrest Inslee contributed numerous hours to the development of the Cascadia/CCSP curriculum. Tom and I receive no salary and Andy Wade and Cindy Todd contribute far beyond their part time salaries. Ryan and Jessica Weemhoff who will be our program directors for the Cascadia/CCSP program will volunteer over this next year to help provide new and exciting opportunities for future students.

We are privileged stewards of what God has given us but we need your help to establish what we believe God is giving birth to. Together we can make a huge difference in God’s world.

Please plant a mustard seed today and help us bring this dream into being. Your gift of $10; $15; $25 or more will enable us to support the growing work of Mustard Seed Associates. Your monthly pledge of $10; $15; $25 or more would enable us to see the Mustard Seed Village move from dream to reality.  Various options to support MSA can be found HERE

Its Winter But Spring IS Coming

A couple of days ago I wrote this post Weathering the Winter Storms – Lessons for the Soul. reflecting on what I have learned from the winter storms. I love the ways that God speaks to us through the seasons of the year. This post formed the foundations for the latest MSA Happenings which I thought you might appreciate.

The description of what happens in trees during winter has resonated in my soul this week as I feel MSA is in a waiting, strengthening season. It is as though God has set buds for next year’s growth and we desperately want to see them spring into life, but God is saying, not yet, wait for the lengthening of days and the warming of the air. In the mean time put down deeper roots and strengthen your framework. Allow your roots to grow down to the deep water you will need for the coming summer and enjoy the peace of a world at rest.

Roots Going Down Deep

Mustard Seed Associates is going through huge transitions at the moment. Our Seattle team is growing and soon we will begin to develop the Mustard Seed Village community. Our Board is also changing as we grapple with the new skills needed to grow us into the future. These transitions have encouraged us to revisit our MSA foundations, refresh our vision of God’s kingdom purposes.

We are at core a spiritual community

This has reaffirm our belief that we are at core a spiritual community that discerns and implements God’s will for our organization. We believe that everything we do should flow out of our involvement together as community. The kind of creativity and innovation we want to encourage, that enables us to create new ways to advance God’s kingdom purposes and engage tomorrow’s challenges, occurs best in and through community. Much of what I have learned is expressed in my recent blog series: Leading Spiritually

Tom is also blogging about community on the MSA website. As he stated in last week’s post I am deeply concerned that too many of us miss new possibilities for community because we don’t pay attention to “times like these.” Check it out here

Our garden community is putting down roots too and we invite you to be a part of it. Each Friday and the 3rd Saturday of each month will be community garden days. If you live in Seattle and would like to join us at the Mustard Seed House please let me know. Or contact us if you want us to start your lettuce, tomatoes, squash, basil or other vegetables. Proceeds from sales will go towards starting the Mustard Seed Village community garden.

There are other ways in which we hope to put down deeper community roots in the coming weeks too. We need to grow our circle of friends and supporters. If you know people anywhere in the world who are interested in sustainability, community or creativity that would resonate with the MSA message we would like to meet them.

We are a networking hub 

MSA also provides a networking hub for many expressions of faith and community, a place to share and cross pollinate ideas. We are working to strengthen this networking capacity. We will hold several small networking gatherings at the Mustard Seed House this year. Cindy Todd and Andrew Wade will man a Mustard Seed booth at the Justice Conference in Portland February 24 & 25 Tom and I will collaborate with the Parish Collective and the Seattle School for the Inhabit Conference.  April 20 & 21 and all of us hope to attend the Wild Goose Festival in South Carolina June 21 – 24.

Buds in Waiting

So what are the buds in waiting that will not emerge until the spring? First our initial cohort for the Pacific Sustainability semester has been delayed until January 2013. We still expect to bring our program director and  community facilitator on staff in July of this year. However this program will require the building of community networks and connections that need months of preparation. We are also still waiting for the final approval from colleges and universities that are potential recruiting grounds for students.

Second we have decided to delay the launch of our ezine Imagine That. We want to provide a tool that will help launch creativity and innovation in the MSA network as well as share examples of how God has already unleashed creativity in our midst. However we realize that with our current commitments, this would stretch our existing resources too thinly.

Building Resilience – Adding to the Team

We continue to grow the MSA team. We are currently looking for a volunteer with administrative skills to work as my assistant helping with research, writing and web communications.This position will provide an opportunity for the volunteer to assist in publishing articles, blog posts and possibly a book on spiritual practices. There will also be opportunity to assist in events and meet collaborators from around the world. If you are interested I would love to hear from you.

We also have a summer internship position available. Duties would include organizing, marketing and coordinating our annual Celtic retreat at the Mustard Seed Village site. If you or someone you know might be interested please contact us.

In our discernment time during our MSA team meeting this week we sensed that God is at work below the surface, getting ready to grow the seeds and preparing to bring new life to those waiting buds. We appreciate your prayers as we solidify our foundations and press forward to discern and implement God’s will for us as an organization.

MSA Happenings – We are Building a Networking Hub

Many hands make light work

Many hands make light work whether we are building a network or a pole barn

MSA – A Networking Hub

A couple of days ago a local pastor told me that he saw MSA as a community hub and matchmaker that networked like minded people and ministries.  This summer has certainly exemplified that.   We have been both encouraged and blessed by the many opportunities to bring like minded people together sharing creative examples of what others are doing and stirring peoples’ imaginations to create new and innovative possibilities for their own lives and ministries. The momentum of the Mustard Seed Village Project is accelerating, the MSA team is growing and God is providing resources in remarkable ways.

Our summer networking began with the Wild Goose festival in June and progressed through our recession readiness session in conjunction with the Diocese of Olympia of the Episcopal Church, the Washington Association of Churches, and the Parish Collective.  In August Tom and I also spoke to Reformed Christian Educators on re-imaging K-12 education preparing kids to live and serve in a much more uncertain future.  We also led a creativity workshop for Kent Covenant Church, and participants came up with some very innovative ways to live and serve God in there community which is one of the most ethnically diverse in Washington state.

This last weekend we held another significant networking event, bringing together members of the  Parish Collective, Seattle School of Theology and Psychology and Seattle Mennonite church for a discussion about the role of the church in local and regional sustainability.  We hope to meet again in October and expect that in the coming year this will become a hub for networking many who are concerned, as we are about economic, environmental and spiritual sustainability.

Jubilee and new Beginnings

Our 20th annual Celtic retreat on Camano Island brought together an incredibly diverse group from Canada and U.S.  It was a very moving event with great enthusiasm and anticipation for the development of the Mustard Seed Village. Our theme of Jubilee and New Beginnings was significant for many attendees.  And for us personally the new beginnings were profoundly celebrated in a very meaningful ceremony on the recently cleared land that roughly marks where the pole barn will be erected. We drove a pole into the ground and then prayed for the new beginnings in construction of the Mustard Seed Village and fulfillment of the vision God has given us. You can view more photos from the retreat here or check out liturgies from the retreat here and listen to reflections from first time attendee Owen Brown here.

We are still on track to launch the SEED Semester Away Program in partnership with Creation Care Study Program September 2012.  Tom and Forrest Inslee have worked with a curriculum advisory group to design a unique curriculum which will enable students to:

  • Increase their understanding of environmental, economic, political, societal, and religious issues facing our troubled planet and learn to anticipate some of the new challenges likely to face both society and our endangered planet tomorrow;
  • Learn about and work with groups, like A Rocha and Sustainable Bellingham, that are creating innovative responses to these challenges.  We hope this will inspire the students to create their own ideas of how to enable local communities to fashion sustainable economic and agricultural networks wherever they choose to live.
  • Experience co-housing and other eco-villages in the northwest. We hope this will ignite their imagination to create new models of community for their lives that are more sustainable environmentally and economically after they finish college. We also hope these new models not only enable students to free up more time and resources to invest in advancing God’s purposes, but also to more authentically reflect the values of God’s new creation in their community-based lifestyles.

New Ideas and Beginnings for the Future

All of us on the MSA team are passionate about the need to provide resources that prepare us to live as more effective followers of Christ in these volatile times.  We want to continue providing publications, hosting events and networking opportunities that enable all of us to create innovative responses to the challenges of both today and tomorrow and are excited about the emerging possibilities for the coming year.

This year we are expanding our Advent resources to include a daily devotional guide as well daily reflections at Godspace, both drawn from our worldwide network of authors.  We expect that this will be the first in a series of devotional guides designed to encourage us to grapple with the challenges of our turbulent world and provide tools that strengthen our faith.

In January 2012 we plan to relaunch a new monthly e-zine called  Imagine That – creating mustard seeds of change, hope & new life.  This will be a place not only to relate creative examples but also to stir imagination and awaken creativity that enables us to imagine and create appropriate responses for our own locations.  We encourage you to frequent our website and Facebook pages, contribute your ideas and comments so that all of us can be enriched and better equipped for the future.

Growing the Mustard Seed Team

We have also been blessed with new volunteers here at the Mustard Seed House. We have a new book keeper, Nancy Merklinghaus, and an executive secretary Bonnie-Jean Heather both of whom are a huge blessing to our growing ministry.

However we expect that the MSA team will continue to expand in this coming year.  We are currently looking for student interns and a garden manager  And there are other possible collaborators and additions to the team for the Mustard Seed Village on the horizon.

This is an exciting time of growth and new beginnings for Mustard Seed Associates.  We appreciate your prayers and support as we move towards the development of new resources, the launch of the Mustard Seed Village and the relaunch of our monthly ezine.

If you would like more regular updates please consider  joining the MSA mailing list or  join us on facebook or