Deadheading is for the Birds

I don’t usually upload two posts in a day but this is an exception – tomorrow’s post is being uploaded early because tomorrow my blog is moving and I will not be able to add content. Hopefully those of you who visit the blog will not notice any changes – except that by the end of the day there should no longer be advertisements at the end of the posts. If you do have problems please bear with us – we hope that the change will make it easier to expand the resources available on the site and give us more freedom in what types of files we are able to upload. The url will change to but if traffic will continue to be redirected from the old site.  So with that preamble….

Dahlias in the garden

Yesterday morning I shared about spirituality and gardening in a class at Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. It was a beautiful morning and we were able to wander in the local pea patch for part of the time. Beautiful dahlias are still in bloom and the fragrance of roses wafted on the air. Rosemary, thyme and oregano waited to be crushed in hands to share their fragrance as well. But in the midst of the beauty there was also brokenness and death. Giant thistle seed heads ready to blow away on the wind. Piles of dead leaves, and much to our disgust dirty syringes and broken bottles.

thistle head

Our instinct was to  pull out the dying plants, deadhead the summer blooms and “tidy up”. We don’t like untidy spaces and we like even less, the brokenness it sometimes uncovers. We wanted to throw away the syringes and pretend that the brokenness of the city had not invaded this tranquil space.

But is that really what we should be doing? Evidently those untidy and seemingly dead flowers are an important source of nourishment for the birds over the winter. And the corners full of dead leaves provide warm hiding places for insects, frogs and other garden animals.

Maybe the brokenness of our world has a purpose too we speculated. Perhaps as the birds find nourishment from the seemingly dead flowers, we too find nourishment in the midst of the death and brokenness of our souls. And maybe those “dead leaves” are good places for us to hide too so that we can be protected from the wounds still too painful to bear. If we clean them up too quickly before they have done their winter work maybe our lives will suffer.

We grow closer to God in times of sorrow and heartache then we do when everything is going well. We find healing more rapidly when we recognize and face our pains and brokenness then we do in the height of “summer” when everything in our lives seems as sunny as the weather.

This wander in the garden provided some encouraging and challenging lessons for me. I know there are still broken areas in my life that I would love to tidy away right now. And as I look at my loved ones and my friends I see places in their lives I would like to tidy up as well. But God says be patient, make sure you nourish and protect them until God says it is time to tidy up.


Five Business Lessons From the Garden

Gomphrena pink zazzle shoing tiny yellow flowers

Gomphrena pink zazzle shoing tiny yellow flowers

Many of you know that I have been reading a lot lately about Social entrepreneurship, business and imagination. Lots of new and stimulating books out there but probably the greatest lessons I have learned in this regard come from the garden, and as I read some of the books on my pile it seems that many of them just reiterate what I am learning:

  1. There is no failure in the garden – if something doesn’t work this year, try again immediately or next year or plant in a different place in the garden. One of the primary tenants of social entrepreneurship is fail well, some even say we need to become masters at failure. (see Imagination First 187) Failure is not disaster it is a learnable skill that is necessary for success.
  2. Plan for surprise – there is nothing more wonderful than going out in the garden and discovering something totally unexpected. Developing a business is a little like that too. Routine can stifle our imagination. We need to regularly rinse out our expectations (Imagination First 158) and allow the random unexpected happenings to take over. This year for example my best autumn greens in the garden are a patch just behind my raised beds that self seeded. One of my garden helpers almost covered them over thinking they were weeds. Fortunately I stopped him in time and have just encouraged everyone to walk around the patch. This unexpected surprise has provided an amazing harvest for my green smoothies.
  3. Look, listen and learn. Stillness is a fertile breeding ground for ideas (43). Wandering through my garden with no other intention than to breathe in the stillness of God and admire the flowers gives unexpected rewards. For example, to fill in my flower pots which had been decimated by the summer drought here in Seattle, I planted gomphrena – I knew nothing about it but the plants in the garden nursery caught my attention. Usually I look at them from a distance but a few days ago I walked close and was stunned by the beauty. The wonder of the leaves covered in dew and then the emergence of tiny yellow flowers has awed and stirred me.

    Gomphrena covered in dew

    Gomphrena covered in dew

  4. All good things begin small. We are easily overwhelmed by the immensity of the problems in our world- gun violence, poverty, sex trafficking, climate change – no matter what the issue we want to respond to, we can easily become powerless because our own small efforts seem so trivial. But every plant grows from a tiny seed – a seed that germinates in darkness away from the world. Forcing it into the light too soon destroys it.
  5. Share with others. Gardeners are the worlds greatest sharers or cross pollinators. They love to talk about their garden designs, share recipes, produce and techniques. they love to hear the stories others have to share and never feel they know it all. Along the way they learn, rethink their ideas, experiment and come up with new and creative plans that improve their harvests. For too long we have thought that the way to effective business is to hold our ideas to ourselves – patents and copyrights though sometimes necessary to protect our intellectual rights can also stifle creativity and new design. When we share all of us benefit.

Time to Garden

Its garden day at the Mustard Seed House. We will be transplanting tomatoes, and other summer vegetables, weeding and tidying up the porch (I hope). Our garden never looks as tidy as we would like but it produces lots of food – including these wonderful early greens (had our first garden salad this week).

Early garden greens grown under row covers.

Early garden greens grown under row covers.

All of this reminded me that I have not mentioned how you can be a part of our garden efforts here;

  1. If you live in Seattle and would like to participate in our garden days – good times of food, fellowship and gardening – let me know
  2. I have started over 120 tomato plants, and more basil and squash – obviously more than we can plant. Each year we sell vegetable starts as a small fundraiser for MSA so if you would like to buy your plants from us (sorry only if you can pick them up) here is the order form.
  3. And it is also time to sign up for the Spirituality of Gardening seminar on May 18th.
  4. Those of you who do not live in the Seattle area may like to consider developing your own garden community and perhaps, like other groups we are connected to,  you would like to use To Garden With God as a resource – lots of garden reflections, liturgies and prayers to start your garden days with. Even recipes to help you with what to do with the produce. It is available in black and white, colour and ebook versions. You can even get it together with Snohomish soap’s wonderful hand cream and garden soap in our garden bundle.


When the Farmer Scatters Seed… build up the soil

“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seed.” So begins one of my favourite parables, a parable that many of us are very familiar with. Some of the seed falls on the path, some on rocky ground, some among thorns and some in good soil. The seed is the word of God. That which falls on the path represents those for whom God’s word never takes root, the seed in rocky soil those with shallow roots who turn away when problems overwhelm, that scattered amongst thorns are those who allow the worries of life and the lure of wealth to distract, and of course the seed that falls on good soil stands for those who produce a rich harvest. (Mark 4:3-20)

It is so easy for me to interpret this parable from an urban dweller’s perspective, to look down on those who don’t receive the word of God or who turn away because it has not grown deep roots, or been choked out by the cares of the world. It is only recently that I realized a farmer would interpret this completely differently. The central principle of organic gardening is – Build up the soil!

Any ground can be made more fertile and become productive. Stony ground can be moved as all of us who have travelled to Ireland know.


And brambles can be cleared as any gardener here in the Pacific NW is well aware of.

Sampling the blackberries

It is the farmer who works to convert poor soil into good, just as it is those of us who spread the word of God who are responsible to build up the soil in which we plant it. Too often we place the responsibility on those who hear to respond appropriately when we do little to prepare and nurture the work God is doing in their lives. Our spreading of the seed (evangelism and proclamation) is not done to put another “soul saved for heaven” notch on our belts, it is to introduce them to the renewed community of God’s shalom world. Having introduced them we are responsible to grow them into shalom representatives, teaching them to be plants that produce a harvest of plenty.

Build up the soil, it is as important for followers of Christ as it is for the farmer. And what do we build up the soil with? The best organic fertilizer of all is compost – garbage transformed to gold. My colleague Andy Wade has just written a couple of great posts on this on the MSA blog.

So what is the garbage in your life that God has transformed into gold? How could you use that to nurture, grow and help sustain others so that they too can become healthy and productive plants in God’s fertile garden?


Its All A Matter of Perspective – Lessons from Parker Palmer

Ready for spring planting

Ready for spring planting

Like most of us keen gardeners here in the Northern Hemisphere, I am starting to think about planting the spring garden. Next week I will get early greens and peas into my seed starter kits, shortly after I will get the broccoli, cauliflower and cabbages going and then the tomatoes. From my perspective spring is the planting season. Imagine my surprise as I read Parker Palmer’s wonderful book A Hidden Wholeness a couple of weeks ago (more about that in a later post). He talks about autumn as the season of planting – the season when nature begins her work again by dropping and scattering seed. This is also the season when trees set buds which contain the leaves and flowers for next year’s growth. Winter then is a season of dormancy, a time of hibernation when growth has gone underground, and even what is above the surface is pruned and cut back in preparation for a new spurt of growth.

As I thought about this I realized the power of this perspective, a perspective that is distorted by our man-made cultivator’s view of seasons. Palmer talks then about spring as a season of surprise – when winter’s deaths give rise to new life. It reminded me of how much I love to go out in the garden to see what has sprouted without my help. These are often the strongest seeds in my garden, the ones that give rise to the best and hardiest crops.

This view is similar to the Jewish view of the day which begins at sunset with us going to sleep and God at work inviting us each morning to join the work God has already begun. Part of the strength of this perspective is the understanding that all of us have hidden untapped potential planted deep within our souls, just waiting for the warmth of spring to allow it to emerge. It also reminds us to be patient when we have planted and not seen the growth we had hoped for. Remembering God is at work and invites us to join the work already begun is a heart warming and faith building concept.

You might, as you prepare for spring this year, like to ask the questions Palmer suggests: What seeds were planted when you arrived on earth with your identity intact? How can we recall and reclaim those birthright gifts and potentials?

Winterizing the Garden and Our Lives – Five Tips that Can Help Prepare for Next Year.

Winterizing the garden

Winterizing the garden

This weekend we will be out in the garden getting it ready for winter. This is the time when we pull the last of the now rather bedraggled tomato plants, disconnect the hoses, bring tender perennials inside, cover pots so that they don’t fill with water and rake the last of the autumn leaves so that they don’t clog the drains. In other words we are getting the garden ready to rest.

Why don’t we prepare ourselves to rest too I wonder? Our bodies are telling us that it is time to slow down but few of us listen. In fact we often get angry and try everything we can to reverse the body’s inclinations. And to make it worse, if you are like me, the next couple of months will become a frenzy of activity as we prepare for Christmas and the end of the year. Friends to contact, presents to buy, letters to write, parties to plan. The list seems endless.

So what can we do to help us prepare for this season? Here are some things that winterizing the garden has suggested to me this year that I plan to try to implement.

  1. Clean up the dead plants in my life. There are so many distracting and unnecessary dead plants in my life that need to be thrown into the compost bin. – especially too much time spent on Facebook and email. And hopefully if I throw them into the compost bin now they can be transformed and renewed for the season of spring growth.
  2. Bring tender perennials inside. One question I am learning to ask at this season is What aspects of my life do I need to nurture with some extra TLC so that they will survive and flourish in the future?
  3. Cover pots so they don’t fill with water. This is one that I learned by bitter experience last year as my pots filled to overflowing and killed the waterlogged plants inside. There are aspects of my life that need to be allowed to rest without the drenching, killing rain of the Christmas season. Preserving them so that they are not vulnerable to the onslaught of the season is very important. One way that Tom and I have found to do this is by setting aside retreat time during the days of Advent. Scheduling those times now so that they do not get filled with other things is essential.
  4. Raking up the autumn leaves. Clogged drains and gutters lead to flooded basements, that too I have learned from bitter experience. So what are the aspects of my life that clog the free flow of God’s spirit? What needs to be cleaned away so that the water of God can flow uninterrupted into the drainage system cleaning away the remaining debris?
  5. Plant cover crops. One of the greatest organic garden techniques which to be honest I rarely get to do, is the planting of nitrogen rich high energy producing greens that can be tilled under in the spring to provide that life-giving energy boost to all the new spring crops.  So the question I ask myself this morning is What are the green manure, high energy disciplines I should be planting in my life right now in order to give full benefit to the spring crops I plant? As I think about this I realize once more how the foundational spiritual disciplines of prayer and quiet reflection as well as times of retreat at this season, are to my growth for next year. And they are so easily neglected.

So my question for all of us today is – How do we prepare for the coming year so that the garden of our lives flourishes into a new season? I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Let Us Help Get Your Garden Started.

Bee pollinating squash

The garden is growing

It is garden season here in Seattle.

The front porch of the Mustard Seed House here in Seattle is already bulging with plants – some germinating on heat mats, some under grow lights, others outside in our green house. Last year we sold over 100 vegetable starts – tomatoes, squash, basil and greens. Friends told me that our tomato plants were the best they have ever grown. This year we hope to double our sales. We will also have a selection of other plants available for purchase when you pick up your vegetable starts at the end of April or beginning of May.

Plants are all grown using organic soil and fertilizer. They come in 4″ coir fiber pots that are biodegradable. Proceeds from plant sales will help us establish the Mustard Seed Village.

Please download the order form, fill it in and return it to us as soon as possible so that we can get your plants started.

Garden Seminar is Coming

This year’s Spirituality of Gardening seminar at the Mustard Seed House will be held May 5th. This year we have special discounts for students and alumni wanting to gain new spiritual insights and share gardening advice. It would be a great opportunity to check out the Mustard Seed garden, interact with our growing garden community and pick up your plants.

Register HERE today before all the spots are filled!

If you can’t attend you may like to follow along with the reflections from To Garden With God

And if you live in the Pacific NW and are just trying to work out what you should be doing in the garden check To Do In the Northwest Edibles

To Garden with God – Updated version available as download

To Garden with God

To Garden with God available as download

The full colour version of To Garden with God is now available as a download.  I know that several of you have been very patient waiting for this.  Enjoy.

Bishop endorses Garden Seminars.

The garden seminar in Mt Vernon is now over and I am busily getting ready for the next one here at the Mustard Seed House there are six more seminars planned in Oregon, Seattle and New York.  I was delighted to recently receive this kind endorsement from Bishop Rickel, the Episcopal Bishop of Olympia

“I am pleased to recommend the work of Christine Sine. Over the last of couple years, I have grown to deeply appreciate her spiritual insights and knowledge. Community gardening has been an important faith based response to the recession and her work on spirituality and gardening is important for anyone who wants to engage their spiritual practice with stewardship of the land.”

And as a photo is worth a thousand words, I also thought that you might appreciate some of the photos from last Saturday.

To Garden With God Now Available in Book Form

To Garden With God is now available in book form.  We have had so many requests for this that I thought it was time to get this project completed and we worked hard to do this before Christmas. For those of you who are wanting to be supportive of MSA at this season, this is a great way to do that. This book makes a very practical Christmas gift for any of your friends who are keen on gardening.  The book is available in 2 forms – one especially for Christmas as a full colour coffee table type book and the other the usual black and white paperback book version.

Order books here

About To Garden With God

In the last few years garden produce has become a popular and important addition to our diets. Community gardens are springing up in vacant lots, back yards and even church parking lots but many of us do not know how to connect this experience to our faith.

In To Garden With God Christine Sine compiles twenty years of gardening experience and advice for backyard gardening interspersed with deep spiritual lessons to be learned from God’s good creation. Nothing gives us a greater sense of the presence of God than working in the garden. We read about the death and resurrection of Christ in the Bible, but experience it every time we plant a seed and watch it burst into life. We read about the faithfulness of God to Israel but experience it every time we watch the rain fall and nourish the seeds we plant. We read about the miracle of the fish and the loaves but experience a miracle every time we are overwhelmed by the generosity of God’s harvest.

In To Garden with God, Christine Sine shares a profoundly spiritual explanation for the sense of peace we experience when we step into a garden. Blending Scripture with story, this journal – inspirational, contemplative, deeply personal and supremely practical – offers readers a means for transforming pastime into prayer and work into worship. This book is a must-read for seasoned and fledgeling gardeners, and anyone else who yearns to learn how to grow closer to God. – Anna M. Clark, author of Green, American Style

Order books here