Back From Mayne Island B.C.

Tom and I are just back from 5 wonderful days on Mayne Island, one of the Gulf Islands between Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Colombia.  This has become a yearly ritual for us, a few days away that refresh both our spirits and our bodies while enjoying a good time with friends.  The weather could not have been better.  It was glorious time of fun food and fellowship and I thought that some of you might enjoy getting a glimpse of our time away.  For more photos check out the album on facebook

The Sine family enjoying Mayne Island

The Sine family enjoying Mayne Island

Photo shot at the japanese gardens

Photo shot at the japanese gardens

View from the cottage

View from the cottage

The Oaks of England

It is our last day in England and Tom and I have just returned from a wonderful walk along the Thames at Richmond.  Part of our walk went past Deer Park where the kings of England once hunted for deer – dating back centuries.  I was particularly struck by the beautiful old oaks some of which must have been standing when Henry VIII was raging his way around England.  Oaks are some of the longest lived of trees.  Down through the ages the oak tree has become known for its very durable wood, so much so that the phrase English oak has become a metaphor for strength and fortitude.

It was a very sobering moment – looking at these ancient trees and reflecting on their significance and what they have seen over the centuries so I thought that you would not mind if I indulged in a little looking back at the history of oaks in England.

From the pagan image of the Green Man garlanded by oak leaves found in many parish churches to the writing of Shakespeare and Keats, the oak has rooted itself deep in the British national consciousness and its influence is represented in many ways.

The Celts particularly revered the oak which represented their most prized virtue, hospitality. The Celts loved to hunt in oak woods, as did the Anglo Saxons and in Celtic mythology it was the tree of doors, believed to be a gateway between worlds.  It was also seen as a protector and healer.

The Royal Oak is the second most popular pub name in Britain, after the Red Lion.  The original Royal Oak was the Boscobel Oak near Shifnal in Shropshire where King Charles II and Colonel Carless hid after the Battle of Worcester in 1651.

After the Restoration, May 29th, the King’s birthday was declared Royal Oak Day. Ironically, the Boscobel Oak was dead by the end of the nineteenth century because patriotic souvenir-hunters tore off its branches, thereby hastening its demise. The name, the cult and the link to the pub all live on in the Royal Oak ale now made by the Eldridge Pope brewery. It is described as: “A beautifully soft, well-balanced, bitter, strong, full-flavoured pint.”

Not surprisingly, Robin Hood met his Merry Men under the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest. The joint symbolism of the hero and the talismanic tree is a powerful one. Here the qualities of both man and tree are entwined, representing once again strength, protection, durability, courage and truth.

The connection of hero and oak tree can also be traced through King Arthur, whose Round Table was said to be hewn from a massive piece of oak and whose coffin at Glastonbury Abbey – if indeed the coffin was Arthur’s – was made from a hollowed out oak tree. Other oak trees that have been associated with British heroes include the Elderslie Oak, which was said to have sheltered William Wallace and 300 of his men (that must have been a BIG tree!) and Owen Glendower’s Oak from which tree he witnessed the battle between King Henry IV and Henry Percy, Macbeth’s Oak at Birnam and Sir Philip Sydney’s oak tree at Penshurst. In all cases the trees are associated with or commemorate a war hero. They shed some of their strength on the hero, whose exploits mirror the timeless power of the tree.

The English oak is usually a symbol of liberty though sometimes, like Kett’s Oak in Norfolk, one of rebellion.  In July 1549 Robert Kett led an uprising against the Crown to demand the end to the practice of enclosure of common land. He made a rousing speech beneath the oak tree on the village green in Wymondham and led a mob in the march on Norwich, where he captured the castle. Defeated by the Earl of Warwick, Kett was condemned for treason and hanged.  His oak tree lived on, however, and became a symbol of freedom from oppression. Under the name of the Reformation Oak it became a place of regular pilgrimage for political radicals.

The image of the oak tree is also used to represent the strength of Britain’s fighting men. The central part of the tree, which has no sap and was prized in shipbuilding. During Nelson’s time 2000 oaks would have been used to build a 74 gun warship.These ships were the “wooden walls” that protected Britain during the Napoleonic Wars.

In 1763 Roger Fisher, published Heart of Oak, The British Bulwark, in which he argued empires rose or fell depending on their abundance or dearth of oaks. Fisher warned that the gentry were squandering the future by leaving woodlands to be destroyed by animalsprotected for the hunt, frittering away the birthright of future Britons so they might fund their passions for “horses and dogs, wine and women, cards and folly”.

The newly formed Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts offered prizes to those who planted the most trees – supremely the oak – but also the softwood conifersused for masts. As a result, acorn fever took hold. The great Dukes planted acre after acre of oak trees. Naval officers on leave, like Collingwood, went around surreptitiously scattering acorns from holes in his breeches in the parks of his unsuspecting hosts!

Even today the focus of many English villages is an ancient oak on a village green and the British Houses of Parliament are panelled in oak. The oak continues to be part of the fabric of English life though its numbers are now vastly depleted by the advance of modern cities.

God may we in all things seek you

We are now at CCDA (reports to follow) and as so often happens when I travel I find that writing prayers is very therapeutic for me.  Here is one I wrote during our flights as I thought about all that I am looking forward to at this conference – the challenging presentations, the renewal of friendships and the opportunity to meet new people in particular.

God may we in all things seek you

God may we in all things praise you

God may we in all things know you

Remold us, remake us build us into you

Christ may we in all things seek you

Christ may we in all things praise you

Christ may we in all things know you

Remold us, remake us build us into you

Spirit may we in all things seek you

Spirit may we in all things praise you

Spirit may we in all things know you

Remold us, remake us build us into you

Memories of a Slower World

I finally feel as though my body and my brain have reunited here in Seattle.  Getting over jetlag is always worse coming West because our body clocks can only readjust in one direction – a little like the old digital clock we have in our bedroom which also only resets by scrolling numbers forward.

Over the weekend I spent a lot of time reflecting on my time away.  It was not just a wonderful time with friends and family.  It was also a great time of reminiscing.  As my mother and I drove up to Brisbane we stopped at a lot of places that we had regularly frequented when I was a child.

With my mother at Laurieton NSW

The Sydney to Brisbane trek was a common holiday adventure for us – first undertaken in an old Austin A70 with 4 young kids.  At that stage there were 3 ferries to cross rivers on the main highway which not only slowed us down but provided wonderful and exciting memories for all of us.  The last of these disappeared many years ago and the highway now bypasses the towns that grew up around these important river crossings.

Some of the towns have faded into oblivion as a result.  Others have managed to reinvent themselves as regional centres.  They have refurbished their historic buildings and discovered the importance of their heritage.  Unfortunately, most people are just too busy and too driven by the desire to get to their destination as quickly as possible to make the small detours necessary to enjoy these historic towns and I think they are poorer because of it.

Reminiscing with old friends

As I reflected on this I was reminded of a conversation that Tom had with a Haitian friend many years.  (I know I have mentioned this before but it seemed so appropriate here that I hope you will forgive me repeating it.)  His friend commented – “You Westerners are so frustrating to be around.  When you go on a journey, all you worry about is getting to your destination.  For us Haitians it is the journey that matters.  We set out in an old car.  When it breaks down people come out to help.  We make new friends and at the end of the journey we have a new story to tell.”

Life is about having stories to tell.  Destinations matter – that is why I love to talk about the kingdom of God and our vision for the future – but what sustains our lives and satisfies our souls is not how many journeys we have been on, or even what the destination looks like, but what happened on those journeys.  The memories they leave us with solidify family and friendship bonds, deepen our faith and strengthen our confidence in who we are.  In fact I think that the longer the journey is and the more adventures we have along the way, the more important arrival at the destination becomes simply because we do now have stories that we are excited to share with others.

Jesus was always telling stories that helped people connect their faith to mundane everyday activities.  The Bible is full of parables, stories of ordinary people doing ordinary things, because it is through these stories that all of us learn the important lessons of life.

Imagine the wonderful storytelling time we will all have when we get to the end of this great journey of life.  Imagine the richness of that sharing time, the excitement and joy that even now we can anticipate as we think about who will be there and the memories we want to share with them.  Imagine Jesus there in the midst, listening to our stories, sharing some of his own, entering into our journeys just as he invites us to enter into his.

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

Sine Meanderings – The Netherlands in Review

I have finally downloaded all my photos and had time to catch my breath from our trip, though Tom is still on the move and I just drove him to the airport for a trip to Pittsburgh and a Youth Specialties event.

It was great to be able to take this trip together.  Tom’s three week trip to Britain was the longest we have been separated since we were married and neither of us like travelling overseas on our own.

Enjoying our trip

Enjoying our trip

I think that more than anything on our trip to the Netherlands I enjoyed the people we met and the new friendships we made.  We asked to stay with people rather than in hotels and this provided a wonderful foundation for getting to know some of the organizers of the various events.  The first few days were spent in Utrecht with Frank and Marika Mulder.  Frank heads up Time To Turn which is a part of an international network of organizations that campaign for justice.  Frank was also one of the translators for The New Conspirators into Dutch.

Frank Marika and their son

Frank Marika and their son

One evening we crammed 20 people into their small apartment to discuss what it means to live in community.  11 of them are about to move into a series of 5 small apartments (at least by American or Australian standards) in Utrecht in order to be involved in intentional community together.  Frank and his able assistant Wanda kept us busy during our 2 weeks away speaking to emerging church groups, the Evangelical Alliance and several church congregations as well as the Time to Turn Festival in delft this last weekend.  The emerging church is really only just beginning to grow in the Netherlands but there are some very creative new church plants that I think we will hear a great deal about in the near future.

Time To Turn - enjoying a meal together

Time To Turn - enjoying a meal together

On Saturday afternoon participants engaged in a protest outside the Nokia headquarters, highlighting the fact that many of the cell phone components are made by slave labour in the Congo. Everwhere we spoke we found that people were craving a deeper understanding of the kingdom of God and how to live out our Christian values in today’s worlds.  Young people in all the groups we met with were looking for an authentic whole life faith that could impact every aspect of their lives.

Frank ready to protest

Frank ready to protest

One of the highlights of the trip for me was the opportunity to get together with a good friend from Australia who just happened to be in Europe while we were there.  Louise and I went to medical school together and have remained friends ever since.  It was wonderful to wander through the old city of Delft together on a glorious afternoon.

With Louise in Delft

With Louise in Delft

I was really challenged by the young people we met who take their faith seriously and as a consequence have committed not just to social activism but also to simplicity and community.  Most of them don’t own cars – of course in a bicycle culture like Holland this is a little easier than it would be in most parts of the world.  But they have also taken some very deliberate steps to live in the poorer parts of their cities and work to enable those at the margins to have a better life.  May God continue to bless their efforts for his kingdom.

Home At last

Canals and Windmills - this must be Holland

Canals and Windmills - this must be Holland

Tom and I returned from Holland on Tuesday evening – still trying to get our clocks turned around but it is great to be home.  I will share more on our experiences in the next couple of days as I have time to sort photos and reflect on experiences.  One thing is obvious however – for me travel and blogging do not go well together.  By the time I have done email and prepared for speaking events all I want to do is spend time with my new found friends.

Actually I find that I am less inclined to travel than ever and for someone who has spent all her life in the air, on the sea or somewhere in between that is amazing.  The more that our Mustard Seed House community develops the less I want to be away which raises the question for me –

Is society becoming more mobile because we lack community or do we lack community because we are more mobile?

Maybe it sounds a little like the question of which came first the chicken or the egg but I really am wondering – we tend to think that our lack of community is a result of our increasingly mobile society but I wonder if in fact it is more the cause of it.  Place and relationships both matter.  When we feel secure and comfortable where we are none of us want to be on the move.  It is only when we feel alone, insecure or dissatisfied with life that we want to get up and go somewhere else

What do you think?

Is this Where Capitalism Began?

Tom and I are struggling to get our clocks turned around while getting ready for our first speaking event later this afternoon.  Actually I should say I am struggling with getting up when my body tells me it is time to go to sleep, he is full of energy and do most of the preparation.

I just learned that The Netherlands was the first country in the world where banks charged interest on loans and where company stocks and shares were first sold.  Evidently Catholics and Lutherans really struggled with this but for the Calvinists it was no problem.

We are particularly enjoying learning about Time to Turn, a small organization (one of God’s mustard Seeds) that seeks to raise awareness of issues of injustice toward the poor.  Last year they published a copy of the new Testament with all those difficult sayings of Jesus about money removed.  After all as they pointed out Jesus did not really understand the modern world and free market economic policy.

Of course this was very tongue in cheek but some of their readers actually believed it was for real and that this was a good idea.  No wonder our world economy is in trouble!

Heading to Holland

Tomorrow Tom & I leave early for a flight to Amsterdam and a 2 week tour of the Netherlands.  We are mainly working with an organization called Time To Turn

However we have several other speaking engagements and are particularly looking forward to the opportunity to catch up with friends we have not seen for many years.  To me catching up with friends like this is a foretaste of heaven.  It reminds me of a line from one of the Narnia books “There is nothing like a joke that has been forgotten for 400 years. ”  Now it may not be 400 years since we saw most of our Dutch friends but it is still wonderful to reminisce and share fellowship together.  Much to my delight an Australian friend that I went to medical school with will be in Europe too and she will come and spend a day with us in Delft.

We would appreciate your prayers as we travel

Here is our complete itinerary. If you are interested in attending one of these events please contact Wanda Schuurman Time to Turn, Faustdreef 183, 3561 LG Utrecht
tel: 030-2621969:

The New Conspirators Tour

with Tom and Christine Sine

morning afternoon evening
Wed 15 Oct 07.00 arrival / free time / / free time /
Thu 16 Oct 10.00Interview with Maarten Vermeulen for Nederlands Dagblad) 15.00Interview with Frank Mulder for magazine CV Koers / free time /
Fri  17 Oct 15.00-20.00 Symposium Evangelical Alliance + book launch (continued)
Sat  18 Oct 14.00-17.00Emerging Network Utrecht


Sun 19 Oct 11.30 and 14.00Dutch Reformed Church Houten

2 services

(continued) Meeting in Utrecht Overvecht
Mon 20 Oct Gerard Kelly lunch or coffee 20.00Workshop Imagine That Amsterdam
Tue 21 Oct Rik Zutphen Gouda
Wed 22 Oct 10.00Emerging Church Foremen


20.00 Meeting with protestant Christians in Best
Thu 23 Oct 10.00-16.00 Youth for Christ, training for youth workers (continued) 19.30-22.00 Dutch Reformed Church Utrecht
Fri 24 Oct Jeff Fountain 19.00Time to Turn festival, Delft
Sat 25 Oct Time to Turn festival workshop Time to Turn festivalfree time Time to Turn festivalservice
Sun 26 Oct 10.00Christ Church Amsterdam


(continued) Leadership meeting Christ Church Amsterdam (optional)
Mon 27 Oct 09.55 departure

Tom Sine Travelling in Turbulent Times

I just talked to Tom who is now in Manchester England on his book tour for The New Conspirators.  Amazingly he has not gotten lost once and is having a great time reconnecting to old friends and making new ones.  Here is a podcast from Moot in Oxford where he spoke over the weekend