Transition Time

Transition Time

al.paulTom and I have just returned from Evangelicals for Social Action’s 40th Anniversary celebration. Tom had the privilege of participating in an hilarious roast celebrating the retirement of Ron Sider, founder of ESA.

It was a delight to share vision with the new ESA presidents Al Tizon and Paul Alexander. They also reminded us that change especially on this scale, is both scary and filled with possibility and promise.

This is a time of change and transition for Mustard Seed Associates too, not on the same scale as in ESA, but change none less that can be scary as well as offering new possibility and promise.

  • Mustard Seed House is in transition
  • Mustard Seed Village is in transition
  • Mustard Seed Board is in transition.
It is an exciting but challenging time and we appreciate your prayers and support throughout these changes.

What’s Happening at the Mustard Seed Village?

The 22nd Celtic retreat is coming fast. This year’s program offers new and exciting opportunities that reflect some of our transitions. Inspired by St Brendan, our featured Irish saint, who sailed into new and unchartered waters in the 5th century, our retreat has us sailing into new waters and exploring new expressions of life and faith. Our theme, Celebrating the Newness, has taken on a prophetic edge not just in the development of the new youth program, but also as we work with collaborators Ryan Marsh and Kendra Long to reshape and strengthen our existing adult and children’s programs.

This retreat will feature a new and experimental program for youth 13-18 years. Led by Cindy Todd, this progam will invite participants to explore their God given creativity and reflect on ways it can be used to create new sustainable models for life and faith.

For all of us, the afternoon will provide many active ways to express our faith from painting a Celtic mural for our new building, to walking prayer trails and our labyrinth. We may also get to make solar cookers and build boats to journey with Brendan.

For those that spend the weekend we offer extended times for quiet reflection as well as great times of fellowship and fun interwoven with a rhythm of morning and evening prayer. In the afternoon we will also dedicate our new, though still unfinished building, celebrating another step forward for the Mustard Seed Village.

We are especially grateful for those of you who contributed to Graham Kerr’s appeal which helped us raise the beams and begin roof construction. If you want to contribute there is still time to do so.

What’s Happening at the Mustard Seed House?

The Mustard Seed House is changing too. At the end of May we said goodbye to Ricci and Eliacin and their kids Catie, Gabriel and Elias who have moved to a new house in Shoreline. They have been an important part of not just the Mustard Seed House community but of the MSA team in the last 7 years.

Ricci and Eliacin played central roles in helping us rethink MSA as a community based organization. Together we experimented with the Quaker discernment process and integrated it into the life of MSA. Together we experimented with morning and evening prayers, which became our first MSA publication Light for the Journey.

It was Eliacin who encouraged me to start blogging and helped us connect to new networks in the Pacific Northwest. Ricci and Catie facilitated the expansion of the Mustard Seed garden into the productive ministry it is today. Ricci’s work with the MSA publications Waiting for the LightPrayers of a Difference Sortand A Journey into Wholeness has been invaluable. Their presence will be missed though their friendship will continue.

carroccinoAt the beginning of June we welcomed Michael and Kristin Carrocino and their kids Mirella and Caedmon to the Mustard Seed community. We are enjoying getting to know each other and exploring ways that this new community can express the purposes of God’s kingdom together. Mirella has already planted her first garden and Kristen has begun editing A Journey into Wholeness. Michael started work at the beginning of July as the new curate at St Mark’s Cathedral.

What’s Happening with the MSA Board?

In the last year we have said goodbye to four Board members: Coe Hutchison, Shonnie Scott, Paul Stephenson and Jill Alyard Young. All have served faithfully for at least ten years but relocation and new commitments make ongoing participation challenging. They continue to participate in the broader circle of Mustard Seed Associates however, providing valuable encouragement, support and advice.

New Board members Jonathan and Jennifer Campbell, Neil Gavin and J.Paul Fridenmaker, are stirring us to reimagine new possibilities for how we carry out our goals and live into God’s purposes for us. We affirmed the already existing MSA vision and goals but began discussing new ways in which these might be expressed. We appreciate your prayers as we discern God’s will for us for the future.

What’s Happening with Cascadia?

The cancellation of the Cascadia CCSP program for September because of lack of students was a disappointment for all of us. We are passionate about the need for sustainability education for university students and believe that this program will still come into being but for the foreseeable future it is on the backburner. The indefinite postponement of CCSP Cascadia has planted new seeds, however. Some of these are already beginning to emerge as new partnerships and collaborative relationships.

View every MSA venture as a collaborative opportunity”, Jonathan Campbell encouraged at a recent Board retreat, and as we look to the future we sense that collaborative partnerships will be key to our ongoing development.

What’s Happening with the MSA web?

breath.prayer 3Tom and I have both just read The New Digital Ageby Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, a challenging book that some describe as a guide to the future. It talks about how technology is reshaping war, peace, freedom and people. It is also reshaping faith, spiritual practice and discipleship. This encourages us to realize that our new developments on the web are vital to our journey.

The popularity of prayers, like this new breath prayer and resources like this post on creating spiritual resilience, shows the vital need for connecting followers of Jesus to ongoing resources that ground us in our faith.

Drying LaundryThere is also a growing interest in resources like Andy Wade’s series, Intentionally Ordinarythat stir our imaginations encouraging us to create new possibilities for life and faith for the future. We ask for your continued prayers and support as we reshape these areas of our ministry.

Pray for us in transition time

  • Pray for the MSA team and Board as we work together to discern God’s purposes for MSA into the future
  • Pray for the ongoing construction of the Mustard Seed Village and the finances needed to complete it.
  • Pray for our upcoming Celtic Prayer retreat and the spiritual renewal of all who attend.
  • Pray for the reshaping of the MSA website and Godspace which will continue over the next few months
  • Pray for Tom as he works on his new book Join the Innovation Revolution.
We pray God’s richest blessing on all of you over this next month.

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.

Going Through Transition – Help from Walter Brueggemann

A journey into newness

A journey into newness

Tom and I have just returned from one of our quarterly retreats. These usually focus on our personal lives and the direction we sense God is nudging us into for the next three months. This time however I was focused on the transitions we are going through at Mustard Seed Associates. We are seeking to discern what MSA will become in the future, with new leadership at the helm. During the retreat I skimmed through three very helpful books which I will share about over the next few days.

The first of these was Walter Brueggemann’The Prophetic ImaginationBrueggemann has played a major role in shaping my theology in the past and I can that he will in this transition too. Though this is not a book about how to transition a ministry to new leadership, it certainly has a lot to say that can help in a situation like this.

MSA has always been a prophetic organization, challenging followers of Jesus to consider how the world is changing and how we as God’s people need to change to be more effective in the future. At its centre is a vision of hope, the belief that God’s kingdom of shalom is not only possible but is already breaking into our world and God calls us to be a part of that. We have always done a broad array of ministries – from Tom’s and my speaking and writing to networking and consulting and it is easy for us to look at the future and say – who can we find that can take over these tasks? It is easy for us to look at what we have done and attach the word forever.

As I read through Prophetic Imagination I realized that this will never move us into God’s future. The forever language is the language of kings and rulers who want to maintain the status quo. MSA has always been a prophetic organization and to continue to be prophetic we must be willing to let go of what has been and embrace the possibility of newness. Newness is only possible when we have the freedom to hope for something different and to allow for the possibility that everything can and should change.The question Brueggemann raised that really challenged me is: How can we have enough freedom to imagine and articulate a real historical newness in our situation? (44). Maybe beyond that, how can we allow others to have the freedom to imagine and articulate something that is totally new? Brueggemann goes on to say: The prophet does not ask if the vision can be implemented, for questions of implementation are of no consequence until the vision can be imagined.  At this point we are not wanting to ask the questions – how can we manage change – that could stifle any possibility of something new. Our question is What is God’s vision of newness for us as an organization?

The prophet offers symbols of hope for a new future. Change and newness do not spring into being in a void however. It is not accomplished by discarding all the symbols and accomplishments from the past, but rather it means to move back into the deepest memories of the community and activate those very symbols that have always been the basis for contradicting the regnant consciousness (66). Israel stood agains the regnant consciousness of the Pharaoh in order to bring a new reality into being because they believed in God’s promise to Abraham that this alternative reality was both possible and desired by God.

So my question for us at MSA is what are the “deep memories”, the DNA of our organization that God would draw us back to? Interestingly as I thought about this none of what we do came to mind. It is not our activities but our beliefs and our passions that make it possible to face a future of newness.

Here is my sense of what that is, though I realize this is not something that can be defined without the discernment of the MSA team, Board and even the broader MSA community.

  1. From Biblical hope to new design: the core of MSA is its desire to articulate and bring into being something of God’s kingdom dream of a world made new where justice does come for the poor, healing for the sick and wholeness for all creation.
  2. A spiritually discerning community that seeks together to discern the will of God for us as an organization and the implement it. Ministry flows out of spiritual discernment in community not out of “what we do well”.
  3. A questioning organization (or should I use the word prophetic) that calls others to question the status quo of the secular culture and inspires them to create new models of life and faith that flesh out something of what they hope God’s kingdom will look like. It is only when we question that our imaginations can be stirred and newness can come.
  4. We are an organic organization and see planning as a fluid process that flows out of our spiritual discernment and constantly allows us to be reshaped by the ways God speaks to us as a community.
  5. Praxis and academia are both important to us. We don’t just want to talk about change, we want to be a part of it, allowing it to shape who we are so that we can move along the journey towards becoming the people God wants us to be.

I wold love to hear your thoughts on this. Some of you have travelled with us in MSA for a long time. Others have recently joined the journey. What is it that inspires and ignites your passion? As we move into the future we want to make sure that we listen to all the voices through whom God would speak to us. We want to make sure that allow for all the newness that God wants to give birth to.

Transition Time – How Do We cope?

For many of us moving into a new decade is a time for transition and this year it seems that we are inundated with transitions that mean change and growth but also  insecurity and a certain amount of fear and trepidation.

First there are transitions in MSA

The MSA team as it was

Friday evening we farewelled Judy Naegeli who has edited the MSA Seed Sampler for the last 3 years.  She so enjoyed editing the ezine that she took a certificate course in editing at the UW now wants to spread her wings.  She is looking for other editing jobs in the Seattle area.

Transitions require a lot of trust.  A month ago we had no idea how this position would be filled but to our amazement God has provided two new team members both of whom will work with MSA half time.  Andy Wade, who has recently returned to Hood River Oregon with his family after 12 years as a missionary in Hong Kong will be our new Seed Sampler co-ordinator. Cindy Todd who has also recently located with her family from Florida will act as my administrative assistant.

We are also going through transitions in the Mustard Seed House as the downstairs apartment is empty and our remaining small community is seeking to discern what God is saying to us in this season.

Transitions require a lot of listening and discernment. I find that during times of transition I need to protect listening times – both personally and for the MSA team.  It is in the place of quiet and silence that we are most able to listen to the still small voice through which the Spirit of God so often speaks to us.  Centering our lives as the Quakers do on the truth revealed through the inner light of Christ is, I have found one of the foundations that enables me not just to cope with change but also to grow closer to God and God’s ways through that change.

Tom and I are also aware of transitions in our own lives.  This next week I celebrate my fifty ninth birthday, and as I head towards my sixtieth year I am aware that the coming years could bring many transitions.   Last night we heard that a good friend of Tom’s had died suddenly and unexpectedly of a stroke.  Sobering events like this make us very aware of the frailty and uncertainty of life.

A number of years ago I read a book by Lyle Schaller entitled Strategies for Change in which he talked about the need to establish stability zones in our lives.  More than anything what helps us cope with transition is the knowledge that there are some foundations in my life that will remain the same.

Establishing good spiritual disciplines is probably the most important thing any of us can do proactively to enable us to cope with with change and transition. More than anything what gives me a sense of stability at this time are the faith practices that I do on a regular basis, practices that were established 10, 15 sometimes 20 years ago.  Reading my bible each morning, morning and evening prayers with the other members of the Mustard Seed House, Sabbath observances that Tom and I share each week are the practices that anchor my soul and make it possible for me to remain secure in the midst of rapid change.

Last but not least I think that all transitions should be marked with celebration. Evidently the Jews had celebrations for everything good and everything bad that happened in their history.  Lauren Winner talks about this in her book Mudhouse Sabbath which I have mentioned before.  Celebrations bring us together as a community, and it is only in community together that we are able to withstand the winds of change.  And one of the important parts of celebration is the sharing of stories that remind us of God’s faithfulness in the past.  These stories build expectation in us that God will continue to be faithful into the future.

One of the paradoxes of our faith is that we believe in a God who is the same yesterday, today and forever, yet God is ever changing and ever creating.  Or maybe I should rather say our understanding of God is ever changing because we all see through a glass dimly, and it is the ways we handle transitions in our own lives that add to our understanding and clear away some of the fog that dims our views of God.

Praise the Lord who is ever faithful.

Sing to God in the midst of hope

Sing to God of the good things of life

Sing to God when you weep and mourn

Lament and sing when life is hard

Praise God and rejoice in your maker

Praise the God who is always the same yet ever changing

Rejoice with the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end

Yesterday, today and forever the same

Let everything that has breath, praise the God of all life

Living in Transition as Spiritual Practice

I am now in Sydney Australia after what has been one of the easiest long international trips I have made for a long time.  I even slept for several hours on the flight which makes me very aware of the fact that people have been praying for me.

Today’s article comes from Guy Chmieleski who is a follower of Jesus, a husband to Heather, a father to 3 small children, a friend to many, a relatively new blogger (check out, a wannabe triathlete and the University Minister at Belmont University in Nashville, TN.


Life is full of transitions…

Transitions mark some of the most significant moments of our lives!  They also tend to include some of the most challenging moments as well.

Transitions encapsulate the end of one thing and the beginning of another.

Transitions often include a wide spectrum of emotions ranging from hurt, grief and loss to excitement, joy and anticipation…

Transitions often provide some of the most fertile soil in which God can plant seeds, grow plants and reap a harvest!

However, reaping a harvest from our transitions requires something of us…

We must be willing to live in, and through, transition with openness to God in our midst.

Living with an openness to God in our midst is often much easier to do when life is easy and going our way.

When life is not so easy, and seemingly not going our way… well, that’s another story.

My current transition: a season of relative homelessness – with my wife and three small children…

We were scheduled to close on the sale of our old home and the purchase of a new one on the same day – June 18th.

On June 17th, just 30 minutes before friends were arriving to help us pack our home into a U-Haul, we got word back on the independent mold inspection we had done…

three different strands of “deadly” mold at “of-the-chart” levels…

We packed the truck as scheduled, closed on the sale of our old home the next day, and have been “on the road” ever since.

While transitions have the incredible potential to be times of walking closely with the Father, with openness to change and being changed, it does necessitate a disciplined heart and mind that are focused on the Lord.

If you’re anything like me you might too often find yourself easily frustrated, upset and self-consumed when in the middle of life’s bigger transitions…

It would seem that in most times of transition, as a people who typically like to have all of life’s details in order, we can struggle to focus on anything other than our immediate needs and circumstances.

When we become obsessed with trying to figure it all out, speed up the process and manipulate things so that they go our way, we tend to take our eyes off of God and depend solely upon our own effort.

We cease to trust in God and His Divine work in our life and begin to try and make things happen on our own strength.

Trust is essential… ALWAYS!  But especially in times of transition.

Don’t get me wrong.  God does ask us to work… but it has to be in conjunction with what He is doing.  It has to be the work that He wants US to do… and not the work that ONLY He can do.

One of the things I love most about our God is that He gives us the choice to turn to Him, to bring ourselves under His leadership, to join with Him in the work He is doing in our midst… or not.

The bible is full of stories of people in transition… consider the lives of some of the following:

  • Adam & Eve
  • The Patriarchs
  • Moses
  • The Israelites
  • David
  • Jesus
  • The Disciples
  • Paul

Transition happened back then and it happens now… Transitions are happening all around us…

Our task is to open ourselves to God in the midst of our transitions and allow Him to lead us, and work on us, as we journey from one side to the other!

Grace and peace to you as journey and transition…