If all has gone as planned, I will be on a plane bound for the United Kingdom when this post goes live. I am travelling with my 21 year old daughter and we have an exciting itinerary. We start in Scotland, then on to Northern England for the ABCD Festival, then south to London. In total, I will be traveling for 12 days and thus why you will not see any new blog posts for a few weeks.
While in seminary, one of my favorite classes was Celtic Spirituality. In preparation for my time in Scotland, I pulled Phillip Newell’s book, “The Book of Creation: An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality” off the shelf to help me enter into the proper spiritual space for my trip.
I love the centrality of the natural world found in Celtic spirituality. The natural world is not worshiped but it is revered as a means through which the creator makes known to man the mysteries of the spiritual world. Jesus often pointed to the natural world in his parables, using seeds, fruitless trees and yeast to point to cosmic truth. Celtic spiritually recognizes that the spirit of God moves through all of creation and thus all of creation is speaking to us.
I am writing this post while on a silent retreat in the wilderness. We purchased this property the year I studied Celtic Spirituality. It has become my own private sanctuary and through the years, I have heard God speak to me the most powerfully here than at any religious institution.
While nothing much ever changes on our property, it is a place that is constantly in transition from one season to the next. Even after seven years of meditating high on this ridge, surrounded by hard wood trees, looking down at the creek and pasture below, I am always moved by how stark a difference there is between winter, spring, summer and fall. These natural rhythms remind me that there is a time for everything and everything happens in God’s timing. The beautiful wild roses that grow beside my creek cannot bloom until it is their time, the leaves will not take on color, the ferns will not uncurl, and the birds will not nurture their young until it is their season.
My ministry turned ten years old this year. In organizational time, we are still an infant. I spent the first five years getting the lay of the land, figuring out where the seeds that I had been given would take root. I spent the next five years planting those seeds and figuring out how to nurture them. As we enter a new season, I feel like it will be a season of blossoms. The picture in this post is of a gardenia bush I planted last year. Last year, there were a few blooms at a time, this year, the entire bush is covered in sweet smelling flowers.
Five years ago, we starting sowing into the Hillside Court community and watched those seeds bear fruit in the form of nine resident-led initiatives. This year the Hillside team is adding three new initiatives that I am excited to be supporting through our Great Neighbor Grants programs.
Last year we launched a youth-centered community listening project called “Dream Catchers”, that planted the seeds for three resident led initiatives on the Northside. This year we will be partnering with churches and community groups to expand the project into six neighborhoods and hopefully they will bear much fruit in the form of resident led projects this fall.
Last year we launched our Great Neighbor Academy with our first Mission Shift learning cohort in an effort to coach and train churches and community groups in ABCD. This year we anticipate offering Mission Shift six times and engaging more than 200 individuals in ABCD training and coaching.
Yet, in the midst of all this growth, I am reminded by the magnificent trees that surround me that everything is in God’s timing. As much as I hope and pray all the seeds we are planting will take root and bear fruit, it is not within my power to make that happen. All I can do is faithfully tend to the seeds we plant, pray and wait for God to move.
Our prayer is that we grow great neighbors who in turn strengthen our city, one neighborhood at a time. Please join us in praying for a fruitful summer. Please also pray for my daughter and I, as we explore the UK and as I seek to learn from ABCD practitioners from across the world.
What is God growing in your neighborhood this summer?