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. 



A Prayer of Praise to God

Tom & I are on retreat.  This is part of the rhythm of our lives and we love to get away every few months to reflect, renew and refocus.  I should hasten to add that this is also a retreat from the internet so I have scheduled this post in advance.  It seemed an appropriate one to share during a time of reflection

Thanks and praise to you O God our Creator

For the universe immense and unkonwn

For the earth formed by your hands

For humankind made in your image

Thanks and praise to you O Christ our Redeemer

For entering into human history as a child

For sacrificing yourself upon a Cross

For dying that we might live

Thanks and praise to you O Holy Spirit our sustainer

For your indwelling presence that guides and counsels

For your comfort and caring embrace

For drawing us together as one body

Thanks and praise to God, creator, redeemer, sustainer

Through whose love and mercy we are made whole

Whole in body, mind and spirit

As one community from every tribe and nation

Thanks and praise to God through all eternity

Don’t Pre-celebrate Christmas

For Orthodox Christians Advent begins not after Thanksgiving but on November 15th.  It is not meant to be a time of party going, overeating and over consumption.  It is, like the season of Lent, a 40 day fast leading up to this important celebration.

Here are some great resources I have come across in the last few days that are helping me to focus now so that the build up to Christmas really is what it is meant to be – a preparation for the coming of Christ.

Wikipedia has some very helpful information to assist our reflections at this season:

The Nativity Fast is a period of abstinence and penance practiced by the Eastern OrthodoxOriental Orthodox, andEastern Catholic Churches, in preparation for the Nativity of Christ, (December 25).[1] The fast is similar to the WesternAdvent, except that it runs for 40 days instead of four weeks. The fast is observed from November 15 to December 24, inclusively.

Sometimes the fast is called Philip’s Fast (or the Philippian Fast), as it traditionally begins on the day following the Feast of St. Philip the Apostle (November 14). Some churches have abbreviated the fast to start on December 10, following the Feast of the Conception by Saint Anne of the Most Holy Theotokos.  read the entire article

And from Father Andrew George at

Within this 40-day preparation period, a slow progression of events and remembrances unfolds. This is seen in the general attitude, hymnology, prayers, and fasting practices which begin to intensify on the Feast of St. Nicholas (December 6/19), and progress through the feasts of St. Spyridon (December 12/25), St. Daniel (December 17/30) and St. Ignatios (December 20/Jan-uary 2). The latter is specifically called “the day of preparation”. What do you think this tells us?  read the entire article

Last from a great article to meditate on during this season

The herald of the pending miracle begins. It is the Eve of the Nativity as these words are sung. The transformation of the world, the birth of God, is but hours away, and it is through such words that the faithful are called into attentiveness and anticipation. ‘Make ready, O Bethlehem!’ We can see the radiant lights of of the feast just beyond the horizon, we can taste the sweetness of the miracle that took place beneath a star; and through the words sung around and within us in the Church, the great eve of the birth of God is made a reality in our present experience. We make ready, and we wait.

But this is not the first moment of preparation for the Feast. For ‘forty days’, with the usual adjustments to that length for Sabbaths and Sundays causing it to begin on 15 November,2 the Church has been setting herself in readiness, drawing her attention to the mystery to come, waiting in expectation. She has made use of the great joy that will arrive on Christmas day as occasion to take up the task considered by so many as opposite to joy: fasting, with all its rigour, its harshness, its discomfort. These are the steps which, for Orthodox Christians throughout the world, lead to the radiant wonder of the Nativity of Christ.  Read the entire article

I think that we in the West have much to learn from the Eastern Orthodox observances and from the dedication of traditions that are far older than our Protestant traditions.  Tom and I are heading on retreat this morning for a couple of days and it seems very appropriate to do so just as others are beginning to celebrate Advent.  Perhaps you could consider joining us

Help Prevent Burnout – Take a Cleaning Day

Today is a long overdue cleaning day for me and I am delighted that I will have several helpers to assist me.  This is no ordinary cleaning day.  We will be emptying out closets that have not been touched for years and burrowing into corners that rarely see the light of day.

This kind of cleaning, at least in the northern hemisphere, we usually associate with spring and the season of Lent when we clean out our houses as a symbol of the inner cleaning that God is doing in our lives.  But the autumn too seems an appropriate time to begin the cleaning process as a symbol of the cleansing our souls need in preparation for the Advent season and the coming of the Christ child – a season that the cool mornings and cloudy days remind me are not far away.

And of course, those of you in the Southern Hemisphere are right on time for that big spring clean, not just in your houses but in your lives.  Consider it a preparation for the Advent and Christmas season.

September and October for many of us are times for intense planning as we start to think about the year ahead and how God wants us to shape our lives and our ministry into the future.  Hopefully it will not just be a time of business planning.  This is also a good season for another retreat time to reflect on the year that is passing and the one that is to come.  It is a good season to take extended time to listen to God and discern what God is saying… before we start to plan.

I want to make sure this year that the rest and refreshment of the summer does not get swamped by the growing busyness of the season.  And, as I mentioned yesterday, I want to make sure that I take time to listen to the quiet voice of God that comes not in the whirlwind of activity I am so easily drawn into but in a gentle whisper .

I have always been challenged by the story of Elijah as it is recounted in 1 Kings 19.  Here is a great man of God, who has done remarkable things but feels like a failure primarily because he is exhausted and too distracted to recognize God’s provision and hear what God is saying.

All he can say to God is “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty but the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you…. ”  Elijah seems to be caught in that mind numbing space where there is so much whirring around in his head that there is no way he can hear the voice of God.  And like so many of us when we are under pressure, he feels as though no one else in Israel  is still following God.

When we are exhausted and over busy it is easy to see ourselves as God’s answer to the world’s need.  And we can become very self righteous in the midst of it saying like Elijah “I have been zealous for God but no one else has is following you….” I know because I have been there and don’t want to go there again.  But I still need regular reminders.  That is one of the reasons that I am such a strong advocate for regular retreat days and times of reflection.  For those of us that are activists as Richard Foster says “Busyness is not of the devil, busyness is the devil.”

Celtic Prayer Retreat Coming Up August 13 – 15

On Saturday we will head up to Camano Island to clear trails, whack nettles and generally get our land ready for this year’s Celtic Prayer retreat.  I am excited about this year’s event because it will be a special time of dedicating the land in preparation for building that should begin this next year.  I hope that you can join us

Join us on Camano Island August 13 – 15 (or just for the day August 14th) for this landmark retreat.  We will set aside the busy clutter in our lives and create a quiet space for prayer and renewal as we worship God in a beautiful outdoor cathedral surrounded by maple and cedar trees. Following the Celtic Christian tradition, this retreat will incorporate the rhythms of work and rest, community and solitude, prayer and biblical study.

Register Online

This year’s theme is “Building Community.” and it is our hope that not only will we build community as we worship and pray together, but also as we join in the exciting task of constructing our first permanent structure on the land – a landmark event, a first step towards the development of a permanent community on the property.

Saturday we will meditate on Scripture and listen for the movement of the Spirit on forested prayer trails and in the wood-rimmed labyrinth. We will work together, worship and eat together as we enjoy a potluck lunch and BBQ dinner, and fellowship around the fire pit.  Those that camp with us for the weekend will participate in morning and evening prayers and enjoy extended opportunities for fellowship and meditation. Truly, this will be a spiritual retreat to restore rhythm in our lives, rebuild our souls and renew our call to go out into the world.

Ryan Marsh and Tara Ward from Church of the Beloved will lead us in worship, and serve the Eucharist. Christine Sine will direct the liturgical program and meditation times.  There will also be a separate children’s program for kids 5 to 10 years old during some of the morning and afternoon sessions, but we will all preparing the altar and take communion together. Apart from stinging nettles, the land is a very safe environment for kids.

Note: Registration fees do not cover the full cost of this event. If these fees are beyond your budget please contact us.  We do have some partial scholarships available.

If you would like to sponsor another attendee or make an additional contribution, email us at


Register Online

Friday, Aug. 13 Program (optional):

afternoon : Set up your tent and join us in working to erect our first small structure on the land (light manual labor)
dinner : bring your own food
evening : Compline: Evening Prayers

Saturday, Aug. 14 Program:
8:30 am Morning Prayers (for those staying Friday night)
9:30 am : Registration and Gathering
10:00 am : Preparing the Altar
10:30 am : Lectio Divina
12:30 pm : Potluck Lunch (bring something to share)

1:30 pm : Walk the prayer trails, meditate in the labyrinth or help us build
4:00 pm | Eucharist Service and sharing time
6:00 pm | BBQ Dinner: The Great Shared Feast (bring something to grill)

Sunday, Aug. 16 Program (optional):

breakfast: bring your own food
morning: Morning Prayers, time for silent meditation or walking the prayer trails

12:00 am – pack up and clean up the land

Register Online

A Weekend in British Columbia

Tom and I have just returned from a great weekend in Abbotsford British Columbia.

I started Friday evening with a Spirituality of Gardening seminar at Highland Community church.  The church is about to break ground for a community garden and so it was exciting to be able to help the participants think about their garden not just as a place to produce food or even as a way to reach out into the neighbourhood.  A garden is a wonderful place to connect to God and God’s story.

As part of the seminar participants wandered outside in the garden.  During the reflection time that followed one woman shared about some rather dry and scraggly blackberries she had picked off the bushes around the church.  They reminded her of how God often provides us with free produce – if we are willing to go out and get it.  God really does provide for us abundantly if we look around and take notice.

On the way home I kept thinking about this and listed off the many nourishing and free gifts that could help supplement our diets if we were only willing to harvest them – not just blackberries but also dandelions (probably the most nutritious plants in your garden) nettles, and in our part of the country wild mushrooms.  There are also the many fruit trees that are never harvested – apples and pears and peaches.

I was delighted to discover recently that Community Harvest of Southwest Seattle has mapped all the fruit trees and sends out gleaners at the right season to harvest this valuable resource.  They make Windfall preserves from the fruit to help fund the organizations.

I learnt a lot and hope the participants did too.  I also hope that other Abbotsford gardeners who were unable to attend may be able to make it across the border to the seminar in Lynden Washington May 22nd.

Saturday Tom & I facilitated a futures creativity workshop for Communitas Care.  It was a very stimulating day talking about how the world and British Columbia are changing and how Communitas will need to change in order to be effective in the future.  Lots of creative ideas about how to move forward in a world that is likely to be very different than it is today.  Sunday we spoke at Highland Community church and then had lunch with friends before heading back to Seattle.

March – May is always a busy season of travel and conferences for us.  However we are trying hard to preserve a balanced lifestyle in the midst of this.  Holy week we will take several days off to go on retreat, one of four that we do each year to help keep us on track spiritually.  Without these i find that my life can get out of control and focused on work and productivity rather than on God and God’s purposes for me.

If you have never gone on retreat I would highly recommend this practice and there is not time like Holy week to begin

Quietness and Rest – A Great Christmas Gift

Maybe it is just because of the busyness of the last few weeks, or because Tom & I have just booked accommodation for our annual Advent retreat, but I have been thinking a lot lately about the need for rest and quietness in our lives.  I think particularly as we move into what is generally the busiest and noisiest season of the year, it is important to set aside time for solitude and reflection.

This morning I was reflecting on Isaiah 30: 15

In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength (TNIV)

or as it says in the New Living Translation

“Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved.
In quietness and confidence is your strength.

In the busyness of our lives trust and confidence in God often disappear, partly I suspect because our busyness focuses us away from God and onto the concerns and values of the consumer world around us.  But there is more it it than that.  It is in the place of solitude that we connect most powerfully to God – the place where we can hear the still small voice that Elijah had so much difficulty hearing.  Here is a beautiful quote from Henri Nowen that seems to say it all

When you are able to create a lonely place in the middle of your actions and concerns, your successes and failures slowly lose some of their power over you.  For then your love for this world can merge with a compassionate understanding of its illusions.  They your serious enjoyment can merge with an unmasking smile.  Then your concern for others can be motivated more by their needs than your own.  In short: you can care.

Let us therefore live our lives to the fullest, but let us not forget once in a while to get up long before dawn to leave the house and go to a lonely place. (Henri Nowen – Out of Solitude)

Now is the time to plan for rest, solitude and quietness during the hectic Advent and Christmas season.  Block out some time on your calendar before it fills up with parties, concerts and shopping binges.  Go on retreat and drink in the quiet confidence of God.  It is probably the best gift you can give yourself and your family this Christmas season

Retreating for Advent


Some of you may have noticed that I have been rather silent over the last few days.  That is because Tom and I along with our golden retriever Bonnie have been away on retreat.  This is something that we try to do each year during Advent.  We book into a doggie friendly motel up at Anacortes and spend 2 days reflecting, listening to God and refocusing. We look back over our journals for the last few months, read scripture and spend time in quiet reflection and contemplation interspersed with times of sharing and listening to each other.

This has been a very good retreat for both of us and I personally have returned with a renewed sense of commitment to God’s call on my life and renewed zeal to live into God’s kingdom ways.  Particularly during these turbulent times in which we live, I find that this discipline more than anything renews my trust in God and confidence in God’s love and compassion.

As I spent time in peace and quiet I realized how easy it is for me to become inwardly focused and disconnect from the insecurities and fears of those around me.  This is a time for me to engage the world not ignore it.  It is a time to live into God’s love and not allow the fears of this world to overcome me.  It is a time to encourage others to live out of God’s generosity not out of the world’s scarsity.

As I read back over my journals I was reminded of NT Wright’s assertion that the language of God’s new world is the language of love and  as Jean Vanier explains

“To love is a way of looking, of touching, of listening to all.” (Jean Vanier: Essential Writings, p44).

And that of course brings me to John 13:35

By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Surely this is what our faith should be about.  Maybe then those outside the faith would sit up and take notice.

My plan for the rest of Advent is to continue reflecting on practical ways in which I can be God’s compassionate response in this challenging time and then get out and get involved.  What are the practical ways in which you are being God’s compassionate response to others at this time?

Back from retreat

We had a great retreat on Camano Island in site of the rain. On 32 adults, 12 kids and 2 dogs gathered for a time of worship, prayer, scripture and reflection. We walked the prayer trails and the labyrinth. We ate meals together and swapped recipes of all the wonderful salads. We BBQued everything from vegetarian burgers to gourmet steaks. Saturday night a record 4 families and 4 singles camped overnight enjoying morning prayers and evening vespers together. We soaked in the beauty of God’s creation and shared our vision for the development of a Celtic Monastic centre that could provide a more permanent place for people to come for retreat and renewal.

I took lots of photos but please bear with me – I managed to upload them with the last ones first so you start with the tear down photos first. Will try to re upload them later today.

Our theme for the year was Living into the Kingdom of God. I wrote a number of new prayers for the event. here is one that I wrote as a centring prayer at the beginning of the retreat.

Breathe in the breath of God,

Breathe out your cares and concerns,

Breathe in the love of God,

Breathe our your doubts and despairs,

Breathe in the life of God,

Breathe out your fears and frustrations.

We sit quietly before the One who gives life and love to all creation,

We sit in awe of the One who formed us in our mother’s wombs,

We sit at peace surrounded by the One who fills every fiber of our being.

Breathe in the breath of God,

Breathe out your tensions and turmoil,

Breathe in the love of God,

Breathe out your haste and hurry,

Breathe in the life of God,

Breathe our your work and worries,

We sit quietly before the One who gives life and love to all creation,

We sit in awe of the One who formed us in our mother’s wombs,

We sit at peace surrounded by the One who fills every fiber of our being.