Category Archives: Mustard Seed Thoughts

That “Thaing” in the frig!

thaing-in-frigWell, arrgh and staink!
Is it breathin’ or is it dead?!

You know what I’m talking about  …  that amorphous blob in the back of the frig that’s been locked in an air-tight container for a week  now – probably, longer!  At one point It had a purpose.  You had the admirable intention of eating it as a left over, but somehow, lack of time and other stuff got in the way.  Now, “the Thaing” is just there … lurking, moving deeper and deeper into fogotten recesses … hiding behind the milk and OJ.  Dare you open it?

What were you thinking?! … That by reserving the Thaing you would help humanity or save money?!  That it’s just not right to be wasteful, so you will somehow blunt that by discretely liberating the Thaing on another day – maybe, under the cover of night?

Really, are you going to even dare to open the lid and breathe the air, exposing the Thaing to the light of day, again!?  Who are you trying to impress or convince, anyway?  Let go of it!  Accept what anyone else can plainly see – you didn’t need it, and it doesn’t care about you!

Now, here we go … you will be intentionally disposing of this excess in your life.  Yes, today – now – not a hypothetical, “Maybe, later”.  You aren’t fooling anyone, or helping anyone (no starving children would eat that Thaing, either!) – just surrender to the fact that you will never, ever be getting back together with that Thaing again!  (Thank you, Taylor Swift!)

So, here’s to your liberation!  Open the frig, intentionally grasp hold of the container, firmly and knowingly, take authority over the now useless deposit you have protected for whatever reason … that’s it … that’s what I’m talking about …

Move with deliberate haste, not second guessing yourself, or fantasizing about the intrinsic value of the Thaing, or how wonderful it once was … No! … with conviction open the trash can, and with all the resolve you can muster, RELEASE THAT THAING!  It’s of no value to you anymore.  That’s it. .. You’re doing it (no looking back!) … You’re doing it … YOU DID IT!!!

Congratulations, you have demonstrated your patience, your thrift, and your good heart by keeping it, but you have shown your courage in disposing of it!

Now, spend your attention and efforts on some real thing or some real person who is worthy of such devotion.  Your life is better because the frig is free of this ill-fated treasure, spoiled beyond any semblence of reason!  You can devote your goodness to a worthy cause, not a fantasy of what once was.  Go for it!  Now, just take the next step!

Stuart Swann


Most everyone goes to church.

church-cathedral-shrine-God-Not-Need-Temple-Made-w-Human-Hands-Acts17.24Empty pews convey the news!

Contrary to statistics and increasingly empty pews, “Most everyone goes to church!”  This is based solely on my observation, no impirical study.  If you look around, you will see that people are quite busy on Sunday mornings (Saturdays, too, for my dear SDA friends) – they may not be in a recognized church building, or doing churchy things, but they are doing rituals of worship:

They’re placing priority on some highly esteemed activity …

  • Little League
  • Soccer
  • Many are at the local coffee shops
  • “Sleeping in”
  • “Eating out”
  • Outdoor adventures – “Sunshine and fresh air!”
  • Visiting loved ones in skilled nursing or assisted living settings
  • Surfing/searching the Internet
  • Watching movies – DVDs or streaming

The list goes on and on!

They’re seeking personal renewal of some kind …

  • Getting away from the workplace
  • Making time with family and friends
  • Fixing or cleaning something at the house or on the vehicle
  • Reducing the overwhelming “To Do” list

Okay, you’re right, these don’t constitute “church”, as we have it in our heads  …. that place where religious people gather to sing songs about God, listen to long sermons, pray, eat way too much food, and talk with each other, briefly, before dispersing to go on with their business (e.g., make it home in time to watch the afternoon sports shows!)  Oh, and don’t forget the offering = $$$.  Got to have that to keep the church going!

If given the choice between “Church in the world”, or “Church in the building”, which one would you choose?  I think the “Church in the building” has a lot to learn from the “Church in the world”.  Maybe, the two could find a common meeting place?  What might those intersections look like?  The possibilities are probably endless!

How we worship shapes us.  Our rituals, regardless of place and name, are indicators of what/whom we worship.  Most everyone goes to church (of some kind!) – it’s just a matter of which location.  Maybe, it’s time for “church” to go where the people are instead of crying that they don’t come to us?

Stuart Swann

OMG, what shall we call you?!

steps-descend-Enlarged-My-Steps-Psalm18.36Where art “Thou”?

Call me old-fashioned, but I surely did like the use of “Thou” in reference to the Holy, indescribable One – GOD, the LORD.  It’s a perfect word, too, for poetry and narratives, especially the romantic ones.  Pronoun cousins, “thy”, “thee”, and “thine” have also had to go to the heap of archived language!  Can you imagine how hamstrung Shakespeare would have been if only “you” and “yours”, and maybe, “you all”, or “ya’ll” had been his lot?  Or, the loss of the Bible translations if William Tyndale’s version or the King James version had gone with “Hey, you!”, or “you guys”?!  Maybe, they could have even splattered the word palette with an “OMG!” to spice up the Psalms?!

Language changes and cultures shift; kings and kingdoms come and go, but our strength remains sure in the One who is truly beyond “You”.  I cringe when hearing “Christian music” on the radio these days – the constant whining of “me” and “You”, sung much like a teenage boy might sing (if he could!) to his girlfriend.  In many contemporary worship services, “You” (God, the Lord) is reduced to a sappy love song with repetitive verses, over and over again.  At least, in the old hymns of the churches there remains some sense of “Thou”, with no easy slide into a casual pal and lover kind of relationship with God (Yes, I guess I am of an older vein!).

Words fall so short in expressing the divinity, the mystery, the humanity, the intimacy – and so much more!  The Hebrew prophet Isaiah described the Presence in this way, “the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy” (Isaiah 57:15).

Psalm 18:36 proclaims (King James Version):  Thou has enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip.”  I’ll keep a special place for “Thou” in my longings … for “Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory”, and I will worship “Thee” all the days of my life.  “How great Thou art!”

Stuart Swann

“Rut” – a grave with both ends knocked out!

Stuck in a rut?How do I get out of this?

Do you ever get the sense that you’re just living the same day over and over again!?  Bill Murray’s movie classic, “Groundhog Day”, surely brings the point home.  In that film, Bill’s character relives Groundhog Day (February 2nd) in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, over and over.  His self-centered weatherman character, Phil Connors, gradually learns the only way to get “unstuck” is to be less stuck on himself!  Through actions focused on others and his own personal growth, the shallow, hedonistic, desperate prisoner of his own life becomes a more whole person – and even “gets the girl”, Rita (played by Andie MacDowell). Check it out, sometime, if you haven’t seen it.  A culture classic from 1993!

I have heard it said that, “A rut is nothing but a grave with both ends knocked out!”  How true!  Once we get into a pattern of thought or actions that lead nowhere the life gets sucked right out of us!  Hope, anticipation, new experiences, adventure, new relationships – these, and more, are squelched before they can even get started!  I really don’t like “ruts”, but you can’t altogether avoid them!  Sometimes, a rut has to happen before the need for change can be realized and welcomed.

One way to deal with a rut is to reach out for help:  Isolation and self-determination lead to a lonely frustration.  Keeping the rut to myself is a sure way of remaining stuck (Yes, it is humbling to even admit that I am in a rut!).  When I, finally, open the situation to the light of day by sharing it with a trusted and able friend or counselor, my truth telling begins to make the rut a teacher, instead of a grave.

Openness, conversation, prayer, encouragement – these are just some of the ways that I find myself breaking free of my own personal “Groundhog Day” experiences.  I can’t really think of a rut in my life from which I can become free without connecting to someone and something greater beyond myself.  How about you?

Stuart Swann

Horror and Hope

Los-Angeles-reflection-city-water-Lords-Prayer“Thy Kingdom come …”

In light of the horrific tragedy at the Boston Marathon, yesterday, once again, it seems the distance between heaven and earth has grown so much greater.  I won’t belabor the tragedy, but I do join with millions to express deep sorrow for the losses and in outrage against the evil behind it!

This photo of another great city, Los Angeles, taken by my daughter, reminds me of the separation between the earthy reality and the anticipated fulfillment of God’s “kingdom come”.  We wonder:  “Will that kingdom ever really come? Will we truly experience peace ruling over chaos?”

I don’t know when or how that will be accomplished, but this I do know:

Every day is one day closer;

Every prayer and act of kindness is one step nearer;

Every time goodness and compassion and faith and love raise the flags of hope we are reminded that good will triumph over evil and that God’s justice will prevail.

For every evil deed that is seen and televised, there are countless, mostly unseen, acts of courage, fidelity, thoughtfulness, generosity, and so much more, extended by people in all kinds of situations!  Somehow, the spark of hope for a just and peaceable Kingdom is kept alive in this world.  It must be a sign of God’s will “being done” – one day, one person, one action, at a time.

Stuart Swann

I’m so stinkin’ slow!

finger-point-snail-slow-journeyWhy is it taking so long?!

Do you ever feel that you’re just not making progress?  You’re giving it everything you’ve got; you’re keeping a “can do” attitude; you pray, believe, hope, work … and still, you’re just not able to realize any forward movement to speak of!  It seems others are just blazing past you in life and success?

There are people whose achievements rise with rocket-like speed – they bolt  from the gate like the finest purebred, steaming ahead to win the race!  Then, there are the ones who just plod along with lives more modest and undetectable to the star-gazing world.  That “ordinary soul” isn’t any less loved by God or forgotten in the care of such abundant Providence.  The love of God, so perfectly shown in Jesus Christ, is given to every child, equally, no favoritism, although our courses may differ and our visible “worth” in the world’s eyes will vary.

Is it possible that the Almighty has a finger on you?  Today … right where you are?  Maybe, you feel stuck, or incredibly slow in your progress … it is for wanderers, and the lost, and the hurting that the reservoir of God’s unlimited supply can be most easily tapped Not to the mighty, but to the broken and contrite of heart is this Gift most readily revealed!  Self-made, snug and smug achievers are hard-pressed to see the need of such saving grace.  But who knows their end, or the sum of their days, or the struggles yet to come in their personal lives?  Only their Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer can know this – the same One from whom and to whom all folks must ultimately draw their strength and give their answers.

Does not he see my ways, and number all my steps? (Job 31:4)

Stuart Swann

What tomorrow brings

girl-kiss-horse-nose-WHO-NOSEWho “nose“, anyway?

I’m thinking about the future, as in “tomorrow”, threats of nuclear attacks from N. Korea on the bigger scale, and how will I get my “To Do List” done on the smaller scale? In between these extremes are a multitude of unknowns that are probably far more important to deal with!

How do you deal with the “future”, as in immediate – tomorrow kind of future? Do you just wake up and let it happen, or do you have a “game plan”? I guess that’s a personality thing, and some of us are just a mix.

The future is something we face, daily, or avoid. All I know is what I’m doing today shapes tomorrow in simple and profound ways. If I fail to prepare for the food that will be healthy to eat “on the run”, I’ll end up at a fast food spot trying to find something not-too-bad (but it is!) to kill the hunger; If I don’t plan ahead to take my camera along and, suddenly, there’s a great shot to be taken – well, too bad – I missed it!

Let’s not just let tomorrow come and go. It will do that, but will we be any wiser, richer, happier, healthier in its passing? A few things I try to do, personally, that help …

Thank God for each day, at least at the beginning and ending. Taking a conscious time to meditate and pray helps – nothing too deep or spiritual, really, but at least enough to “pause” before the busyness sets in.

Feed my soul and mind with some good news:  Some scripture, an e-mail exchange or two with special people in my life, some simple reading from a good book that feeds my brain and soul.

Take an inventory of my health supplies: Do the pantry and frig have fuel for my best health, and am I planning ahead about what I will eat and drink today?

FaithSnaps:  What images speak to me today, and how can I prepare some more images to be of use to others? Is there an opportunity coming up today where I surely must have my camera?

Productivity:  Doing whatever work is at hand, and “making hay while the sun shines” to get things accomplished, so that I can be satisfied with my work at the end of the day. Hopefully, this involves something that is of value or service to others. If not, I wonder what I have produced?

Activity:  Going to the gym, or taking a walk, daily to make sure this body of mine stays as flexible and strong as possible. I want to last and enjoy this great life for a long time!

Don’t forget to share appreciation and love with people in your life. That’s something that really can’t wait for “Tomorrow”!

Well, these are some of my own habits. How about yours? I bet you have many of your own personal practices that make tomorrow a better day. I’d really like to know what makes your tomorrow work for you. Who nose what you’ll be doing next?!

Stuart Swann