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

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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.

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bracelet-small

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.