Life-giving or Life-draining?

— by Christine Sine —

a.msa.17This last weekend the MSA team held one of our quarterly planning sessions. These away times have become an important part of the rhythm of life at Mustard Seed Associates. In a garden, producing good fruit drains the soil, and we need to plant crops that provide nutrients to enrich and replenish the soil. It’s the same in our lives. Like Jesus, who withdrew into solitude when the crowds pressed around him, we recognize how much these away times empower our ability to focus on God’s purposes during our seasons of busyness.

We began as we do all our gatherings, with a discernment process that draws us closer to each other and into the loving presence of God. This time we started with the question: What has been life-giving and life-draining in the last months? As I pondered this question I realized what a rich and life-giving year this has been. My heart swelled with gratitude for all of you who have made this possible.

68Gratitude and thanksgiving was the theme of our annual Celtic retreat on Camano Island in August, an event which was life-giving for the whole MSA team. Soaking in the beauty of creation, singing Jeff Johnson’s melodies, walking the prayer trails, and fellowshipping with friends old and new refreshed and renewed us all. The poles for our first building became the focal point for our fellowship, and in the afternoon dedicating them gave new life to our dreams and hopes for the future. Building has progressed more slowly than anticipated, but we still expect that the poles will be in the ground and the concrete slab poured by the end of the year.

The publication and release of my book Return to Our Senses: Reimagining How We Pray, has been my most life-giving experience this year. It was life-giving for me as I wrote it and seems to be life-transforming for others as they read it. Reimagining our spiritual practices is the anchor for the creativity and imagination we apply to other areas of life. As I say in the introduction to the book: God wants to awaken our imaginations to the many ways our prayer life can be enriched and our intimacy with the Holy One deepened, as we connect the ordinary everyday experiences of our lives to our spiritual journeys. What I hope is that we will all see these tools as stimuli that awaken our creativity to brand new possibilities of how our loving God can speak to us, in us, and through us as well as ways to stir our imaginations and open our minds to express the prayers God has already placed in our hearts.

I am currently also gaining life from the guest posts contributed to the Advent series Let Us Wait As Children Wait and the prayers added to the Light for the Journey Facebook page, including these recent prayers for Advent. These have enriched this season of celebration for me as I await the birth of Christ.

sno-hoFor Cindy Todd the life-giving thread is the ongoing development of the Snohomish Soap Company. Her soaps and lotion bars are now available in all nine PCC’s and 28 Haggen stores in the Pacific NW. Coming soon is Walmart online. Snohomish Soap Company’s development is an integral part of MSA as we transition towards a centre for Christian innovation and creativity. Her creative business model, which empowers single mothers and disabled people, is inspiring for all of us. Cindy’s endeavours provide a wonderful example of the interplay between business and Christian ministry. Expect to hear more from her as she develops her ideas on igniting the divine spark.

For Andy Wade, buried in the technical challenges of running our website, the increasing opportunities to inspire, connect and create by drawing new collaborators into the MSA writing circle have been life-giving. Thanks to Jonny Baker, Rebecca Joy Tucker and Peter Illyn for their contributions in the last couple of months. I also love this humorous look at social media and the limits of imagination, which Andy posted last week.

For Tom, helping people make sense of our changing world and giving expression to new images of the future of God is life-giving. As we race towards a fiscal cliff in the US, a slowing global economy throughout our planet, and continuing bloodshed and volatility in the Middle East, Tom loves to share stories of innovative people who make a difference in their communities and our volatile world. Read his most recent story gleaned from our trip to San Francisco. Tom‘s work on research for a new book on imagination and innovation is also life-giving for him. Expect to hear much more about this in the coming year as he shares the insights and stories gained from this research.

One surprising revelation as our team discussed our discernment question this weekend was that life-draining and life-giving events are often the same. It takes intentionality to make sure that the balance is in the direction of life- giving, not life-draining. To maintain that balance and continue growing MSA so that it becomes the centre of innovation and creativity we believe God intends it to be, we need your help.

We need your support now and in the coming year to produce new resources and provide new gathering opportunities that stir our imaginations and enable us to give birth to new creative models of life and faith.

Would you consider:

  1. A monthly gift of $10, $20, $50 or $100 for the next 12 months to help us develop curriculum and launch the semester away program?
  2. An end of year gift of $100, $250, $500 or $1,000 to help us grow the mustard seeds that make a difference in God’s world?