Fireseed Reunion and Farewell

577616_578421876616_85500315_31527430_741342020_nThank you to all who joined us this cinco de mayo night to celebrate, remember, play, laugh and even let a few tears roll at our Fireseed Reunion.  It was so wonderful to get to share and hear testimonies about how this community played a part in your life, at whatever point you began to travel alongside us during the past five years.

I was recently reading over the Fireseed Field Guide, a recipe book for different community-growing activities and events.  This is an excerpt from a section Millie wrote on “dreaming big with your community”:

“We are retraining our depraved imagination to be one used for good, to imagine stories that could only come out of the Kingdom of Heaven, with our good God and Savior. We imagine characters and communities that are redeemed. We anticipate the obstacles of sin, spiritual oppression and striving. We stretch our minds to pray and meditate on what the most beautiful, rich and meaningful story we could be a part of is and what it will require of its characters. We hold onto the truth that God can do more than we can ask or imagine, and seek to do both; acknowledging Him, listening to His Spirit, and seeking His will throughout our process.”

May your dreaming be rich, your trust in God’s work stretched onto His eternal canvass, and may you live in what is good, beautiful, true and full all of Him.

Things change, some things that never will…

IMG_20120404_085431Five years ago, a rag-tag, paint-splattered (at least, I imagine so) and Jesus-story inspired group of people moved into East Austin.  The mission was to share God’s love by living in the soil they were tilling: eating, laughing, crying, playing, and working in close community, to break down the barriers of religiosity Christianity while pursuing a lifestyle that invited others in.  It’s been the Fireseed Anthology story.

Someone recently called Fireseed an “experiment”.  At first I felt really uncomfortable with that title, but after dwelling on it for a while I realized of course it’s an experiment.  Throw a couple people together to live in close community and practice of their faith – it really is an experiment.  Only God knows how he intendeds to use that, and what the full implications of the story will be.  The only part that isn’t an experiment are the values and truths that are the inspiration to the experiment; for Fireseed those were things like faith that is holistic and disciple-building that follow’s Jesus’ example, generosity, and the principle of story (ours and God’s).

Some of you have already heard, but the Fireseed Anthology story, as a tangible (Cru recognized) and felt presence in east Austin ends here.  And it’s a good thing: wedding bells are ringing for some, exciting new paths into academia for others.  But as always, watching the end come is bittersweet.

We would love to process through with you what your experiences, challenges and memories have been at any point in the past few years with Fireseed.  To me at least it’s encouraging to know that the values and culture-building rather than culture-conforming ideas that inspired this “experiment” will always be true, and that they can always be my practice outside of the realm of what has been Fireseed Anthology.

Lenten Observations

IMG_20120509_082103I have a confession.
Over the few weeks of Lent, Millie and I joined a couple other communities in the Austin area in a simplicity fast.  I had every intention of riding the bus, refusing to buy caramel lattes, taking hardy sandwiches to work instead of stopping on the way at Torchy’s, avoiding facebook and in general reducing my consumeristic behaviors to be instead investing both quantity and quality of intentionality in more simple, meaningful things.
Sounds beautiful.  But once you get into it, the sheer number of everyday activities that I could “simplify” are overwhelming.  So much of a squandering lifestyle has become simply habit, and every layer of consumerism (I-want-it-now attitude) that I peel away only leads to yet another, and another and another.  In my most desperate moment recently I found myself pondering what it would be like to join a monastery.  So before I disappear from all technology entirely…

One of the most meaningful things that has come out of this has been a new sensitivity and enjoyment in the process of things.  My days are still busy, but whereas these 24 hrs used to feel so restricting, I’ve begun to actually savor them.  There is less urgency controlling me; I am starting to appreciate the process of things as well as their end result.

Our lives are like that too, aren’t they. We focus so much on arriving at something, or somewhere (or even at someone – a future spouse?) that the value of the process is completely lost.  Life doesn’t happen that way.  Apparently it’s just as much about the “becoming” and the steps of discovery as it is the end result.

Thoughts from a cold Saturday morning

IMG_20120406_183338It was an unintentionally very artful week for me.  From mucking around in the rain and dirt to build our a preliminary garden to candle-lit poetry readings among friends and walking the Blanton with my Mom and sister, this week was an experience in many different forms of art.  And as the week progressed I noticed how it was, in a way, very satisfying.  It brought a fresh rhythm and sense of wholeness to the rest of my every-day, average life activities.  Both alone or with friends, I was able to practice and enjoy art in many different mediums and contexts.
It got me thinking… as a follower of Jesus, I believe we were designed by a creative God and that we were made “in his image”, meaning there is an element of him in all humanity. We’re creative… because he is creative!  And our enjoyment and experience of beauty is intrinsic, very much a part of our nature.
So it’s only natural that it would be a holistic practice to explore art more consistently.  It’s really encouraged me to continue this.  To set both a variety and increased amount of artistic experience into the regular habits of daily life… and not “habit” in that it becomes dull regularity; more so that it is a consistent practice in my life.  I see many benefits to this…
Variety.  Because lunch really tastes different while listening to dubstep instead of Mozart.
Depth to relationships around you.  Walking through beauty together with others changes those relationships.
Fullness – enjoying beauty and different aspects of art really “fills out” our lives and settles into the corners.  And as we’re doing that, won’t we also get a more complete sense of what the first Artisan is like.


IMG_20120403_193637Do you have any items that you truely just love owning, but don’t ever actually use?  A bike stashed in the garage and with greasy dust collecting on the chain or a record player that looks classy on the shelf, but hasn’t played a record in years.

Something that I have found to be a struggle in following God has been that it is easy for me to settle with loving “having” Him, without really loving Him in His entirety.  It’s like loving knowing that you have a record player (it was such a great find at the antique store and what a deal!) but without ever using it, you love the idea of it more than really enjoying it.

There’s no question about it, I really do love God.  And I also love what He’s shown Himself to be: powerful, characterized by holiness and sacrifical giving, completely just and knowing.  But sometimes I slide into a place of loving what those things about Him make me feel, rather than actually loving how they translate into my life or into His whole.

I may be alone in this and maybe this has never been an issue for you – but I’m afraid that the the Sunday school Bible-drill training we’ve grown up in has bent us towards loving all that we know about God, rather than actually loving His being.
Kind of like being in love with the feeling of being in love – without genuinely loving the person.  It keeps God at arm’s length.  And for me, it gives a sense of control, as if I’ve got a grasp on God.
But while kicking about in the shallows of the beach I’m ignoring this enormous, wildly beautiful and utterly dangerous ocean of His true self.

I’m sure that throughout my life I’ll continue to fall in love with God as I get to know Him better; but I constantly have to beat back my sense of entitlement in approaching Him.  Over and over, setting dynamite to my pride.  I have got to be reminded of how tiny I am in comparison to this magnificent Being.  Approach Him with this attitude of submission – which, I know, is a trigger word in society – but we absolutely have to take that attitude to release ourselves into a quiet space where He can tell us about Himself. Quieting the static in my head enough to let Him realign my heart.

If you got to meet Martin Luther King Jr. you wouldn’t walk up to him with an attitude of entitlement and start listing off all the things you know about him to his face.  You would want to get to listen to him and hear all his stories – it would be an exciting chance to get to find out more about him than what you already know.
So I guess the conclusion I’ve arrived at from within all these scattered musings is – don’t treat God like you wouldn’t treat MLK.

Simplicity Fast Guidelines

camping communionGuidelines for Consumer Fast during Lenten Season

Contributed by: Andrew Walsh:
Oertli House
(Please contact Andrew if you would like to connect with his community during this time)

“But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.” –Romans 7:6

These guidelines are merely a tool for growth in Christ, and they should not be followed legalistically. It is important to keep in mind that we are to be lead by the Spirit rather than a man-made list. These guidelines are meant to help you and your community grow in understanding of faith, hope, and love (charity).

Many times in our American culture the Gospel of Christ is muddled with the advertisements of our consumer-laden society. Often times Christ’s warning of having many material things and riches is muted out by our society’s persistence that “the more you have the happier you are.” In getting back to the heart of the Gospel we propose a Lenten practice of breaking some ties with consumerism. This is our attempt to forgo certain comforts of the world and put our comfort in Christ. Lent lasts 40 days beginning February 22nd and ends April 8th (the day before Easter). These are our suggested guidelines:

1. Charity above all things. We will live simply to love God and our neighbors more fully.

We forgo the excesses of consumerist practices in the pursuit of simple living only so that we are freed to love God and our neighbors more fully. We are trying to leave behind the worries of the world so we can enter into charity without being distracted. Please keep in mind that love is our ultimate goal not living as simply as possible.

2. No frivolous spending. We will refrain from purchase that are unnecessary.

We will refrain from the purchase of anything unnecessary. Who is to say what is necessary? Of course we must be lead by the Spirit. But for lent we will focus on trying to buy only necessities, like groceries. Some things you should avoid buying are clothes, CDs, books, shoes…etc.

3. Simple transportation. We will walk, use bikes, and public transportation.

In Austin it is possible to get around without a car, but at times we opt to drive a car out of convenience. For lent we need to make every attempt to walk or ride a bike. Obviously, when trying to get to certain places we have to take a car, but we should make every effort to park, walk, ride, or use public transportation. You may have to endure the weather or take more time then normal, but it will allow more time to pray and perhaps a chance to meet a new person.

4. Simple Eating. We will prepare meals and eat in our homes.

To cut down on unnecessary spending we will not eat out or buy luxurious food. So much money is spent carelessly at restaurants and coffee shops on over-portioned and over-priced foods. Eating at home is a simple way of solving this problem. There is opportunity to invite people into your homes to share food and stories, which invoke the kind of community mentioned in the book of Acts (love feast). This also involves cutting down on consumption of high cost foods, which typically are unhealthy for us anyways. One example is to eat less meat, which can help us identify with the poor of the world with eating from the land (fruits and vegetables).

5. Community meals. We will gather for meals together.

In keeping with simple eating, we may not be able to go out with people to eat at restaurants or going to coffee shops, so we must supplement this community time. There will be chances to eat with other people who are trying to live simply to encourage each other with scripture and grow together. As a result of our fast-paced lives we rarely slow down to work and eat with people. Also as a result of our fast-food culture, many people do not really know how to cook for themselves. To solve this we will be cooking, eating, and cleaning together in each other’s homes.

6. Avoiding distractions. We will choose relationships over technology.

One of our ultimate goals is to raise the need for community living like “the way” of the early Church. In order to reach this goal we must give up some things that can take us way from community living. Things like TV and computers/Internet are things that one does alone, and if alone, there is not very much conversation involved. Thinking of these things as evil is not a healthy way of viewing it because sometimes in our cultures things like the Internet are necessary. We suggest leaving the TV off for these 40 days and only using the Internet to accomplish a certain task then getting off the computer. Distractions may also include things like iPods or any other personal music players that can take you away from conversation and getting to know people.

7. Simply giving. We will give out of our surplus to those in need.

As a result of living simply we will be able to save quite a bit of money. This money is not ours to horde; all these blessings are from God and to be shared with His people. As the saying goes, “live simply so others can simply live.” This is our chance to break away from our tendencies to selfishness and practice generous giving. Consider the money that you would have been spent during this time and use it to help the people around you and to help Christ in the “least of these.”

’Tis the gift to be simple

‘Tis the gift to be free

‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be.

– Traditional Shaker Hymn

Interrupting your Friends: Crisis Intervention

Last night, my husband and I watched the PBS documentary show “Frontline:Interrupters”. The episode follows three former street criminals as they now put their life on the line to intervene in disputes that would otherwise lead to deadly violence. The three are part of an innovative organization called Ceasefire. Simply, Ceasefire works to reduce the numbers of shootings and killings in hot spots, or communities with the highest rates of murder and poverty.

Though Amenna Matheews, daughter of one of Chicago’s most notorious gang leaders is highly charismatic I was profoundly impacted by the quieter Cobe Williams. At a poignant time in the film, Cobe goes to the house of a former prison mate who is on the verge of violent retaliation. Cobe listens to his friend’s grievances and encourages him to cool down. Minutes later “Flamo” seems exasperated and questions Cobe’s tactics and ask him, “so what, your just here to talk me down and take me to dinner?”. Cobe says, “Yea, we could do that, we could go to dinner”. At first you think Flamo is mocking him, but then he turns and says “Okay, let me go put up my pistol”. Ultimately, he cools down, violence is interrupted, and after months of process, Flamo starts thinking differently and living differently.

What struck me about the work of the interrupters was the simplicity of their effort. They didn’t have magic, inspirational words to say at most points. More so, they were available at the time of crisis, were willing to listen to angry rants, and offered an alternative to reciprocating violence and reaction in the moment. It was as simple as taking Flamo to dinner to start creating a new response path.

Whether it is a neighbor is a crisis and their temptation is to respond in violence or a friend starting down a negative spiral of thought leading to defeat and depression we have an opportunity to interrupt the barrage of angry thoughts that lead to destruction of relationships and hope.

Though simple, being an interrupter (whether passively or actively) isn’t easy. It often means being inconvenienced with late night calls, unexpected guests or intervention “dinners” that are unscheduled. Being involved in crisis work or relationships can often lead to compassion fatigue. 

We were never intended to affect positive change alone or on an empty tank. We need our own source of strength and salvation and we need a team. If compelled to serve others, may it motivate me to cultivate my relationship with God,  cultivate physical and emotional health, nurture my soul with things like art, fires, and music…so that when I am called upon, I may be of some small good to my friend/neighbor in their time of need. May we be interrupters in the cycle of brokenness.

Creating in a Fishbowl

Picture 527Sometimes I can’t shake this feeling that when I’m in my moment of creating, I am really just a goldfish, swimming laps in a tiny, bulbous glass bowl.  Set on the dining room table for all to admire my useless circling; together with a swaying plastic vine and a toy sunken pirate ship, magnified in all our convex glass glory.
Before you think I’m out of my goldfish brain and completely insane, let me explain.  Shouldn’t the “creating place” be the freest place?  The center of play and exploration, with unexpected things like tigers skulking in a leaf-shadowy jungle, cowboys whooping in the distance over a dusty plain, and when night comes – a dark abandoned house with spiraling towers and one lone window lit with mysterious light… (absolutely no vampires though)
Instead, I’m a lumpy goldfish.  Circling, over, over, over again.
Maybe you have absolutely no problem tapping into your creative element.  But if you ever feel like you’re beside me, pulling 20 second laps in a glass tank…

Then try screaming.  Really.
Some of the best writing advice I’ve ever gotten had nothing to do with actual form or style.  My room-mate told me to loosen my body before sitting down to write: jump around, do somersaults, a couple pirouettes in the kitchen before even touching the keyboard.  And you may surprise yourself with how well it works.  Give yourself five minutes to just hop around, throw rocks at a tree and be a wild thing.  Addle your brain a bit, getting out of you element.  Don’t judge the hilarity of your dancing, and you won’t find any reason to second-guess or judge your creative play.