Friday, October 17, 2008

And they were called: organizer, go-getter, networker, innovator, recorder

It's been a good year for DSC full of growth and change. We had good gatherings in VA, NC and TX. The Charlottesville Project moves into it's third season, continuing to work at living out the DSC thing on in a local context -- being community, following Jesus and follow the creative/arts call. The group has changed and learned a lot in it's three years!

The Goshen contingent is talking, and it seems likely that something new will be happening locally related to the DSC. The critique group was on hiatus for the last while, and now the Flemings and Keeslings are up to something.

Adam and Megan Fleming are spearheading coaching in the DSC network, and it's taking off -- they're coaching a number of DSC people and result is creative growth and focus. I continue to mentor and coach a number of DSCers as well.

The NING site has given us a place to meet online, and has given birth to some good discussion and new or ongoing connections.

We continue to develop the PHLOX model and other tools designed to help artists live out their calling, or to encourage release creativity in every arena of life and culture.

This growth spurt has been good, and it brings about the need for a wider leadership base. Over the years many people have used their skills, talents and resources to help the DSC become what it is today. Part of what I've loved about the DSC in it's pioneering phase was the organic, relational and fluid way leadership worked. There was a downside, however, and for us to make it into the next phase some things will need to change.

The weakness of the relational, informal, transformational leadership style we've employed so far, is that while it's good for developing people it's pretty inefficient and not good for getting tasks accomplished. The fact is that all of gatherings have involved a leadership collaboration between me and someone (or several someones) who are more gifted at strategy, administration and accomplishing goals. When it's come to charting the larger direction for the DSC, however, I've acted pretty much alone. It's time for that to change. We need expand our leadership base with a committed team made up of people with different gifts, skills and strengths to lead the DSC into the next era.

I propose that we all pray and think about who should be on this team. I've started a thread on the NING called "Calling a Leadership Team" where people can post their thoughts. Then in early December we'll have a conference call and talk about the team, and get it launched.

Here's how I imagine the team (and it will surely evolve from there): 5-7 people meeting monthly by phone or videoconference to refine the vision and establish and implement priorities and strategy for the DSC.

Part of what I'm praying for is an organizer; a go-getter; a networker; a creative innovator and a recorder for this team.

I'm excited about the process of calling this team. We went through a very similar process with the CVP -- the whole group prayed and thought about leadership and then came together to talk about it. God led the process and we ended up a team that has worked together increasingly well since it's inception.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Stamp Collecting :: a metaphor for the bits of wisdom we peel off experience ::

When I was young I collected stamps. You got the envelopes with the stamps on them and soaked them for a while and then you could gently pull the stamp off, dry it, and add it to your collection.

Now I collect wisdom like stamps stuck on the envelopes of experience. Some envelopes are heavy and ugly and it takes a while to get the stamp to the place where it will come off.

It's been a dramatic summer. I've felt more discouraged, depressed and hopeless than about any time I can remember. I've also realized some important things about myself and my life. I feel like I'm a car getting worked on during a long pitstop, or a guy being prodded and operated on by a talented but very focused doctor. I'm looking for the stamps I can peel from the envelopes of these experiences.

I stepped back from music and JRL. What was going on there? It registered on a number of levels. God was leading me to do some letting go and prioritizing. I needed to step back to see how deeply discouraged I was about my progress in music. I had expected to be much farther along than I am now -- with my music having a larger influence than it's had. I am coming to terms with what it would take to make the leap to the next level in the music world -- money, connections, hired help -- things I don't currently have.

Another stamp I'm peeling off the envelope of this hard summer is this: I'm still an independent, headstrong person. It's hard for me to realize when I need help or can't do something alone. I see this pattern in my marriage, my friendships, my leadership and my music. And I'm starting to change. God is gracious. These wisdom stamps take longer to soak (I've got a number of them in the water right now), but with a little help from God and my friends, it's happening, and the collection is growing.

I look forward to trading stamps with the rest of you the next time we connect.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

from blog august 19 08

Every week Christa and I try to take a day off. Yesterday was my day off and I found myself frustrated, discouraged and not wanting to go back to my normal life -- wanting to escape to some place where I didn't have all the responsibilities I have. I remember feeling like that on school days. I don't usually feel that way now -- I really like my life and am thankful for most of what I spend my time doing.

I've been trying to figure out why I often feel that way when I slow down and quit doing things. I don't have many answers, just a few clues and helpful activities:

I still dream of singing with a killer band on a big stage. The times I've done this or something like it have been some of the most amazing times in my life.
Being alone is hard for me for some reason and some of it needs to change.
I get fits of insecurity where I wonder if I have anything of value to offer as a songwriter. (Resistance is real and ongoing).

Helpful activities:
Punching the punching bag hard for a while
Listening to Satellite (POD), Bringing it all Back Home (Dylan), something by Beck and "Salvation" by the Cranberries at high volume.

Feel free to substitute other exhausting activities and your own music selection...


Trusting God in the Here and Now

How do these three ideas relate to the Dandelion Seed Company here in August 2008?

1. The DSC is changing. Part of our DNA has always been creativity, but in this new season God is calling us to live creatively in new ways and in new areas of life. We are called to be courageously planting ideas, relationships and projects, assuming that many of them will not succeed. We really need some successes and God wants to give them to us. They will only happen if we individually and corporately sow ourselves into the Kingdom with a 25% mindset. In the next year I believe there will be projects (artistic, entrepreneurial, and relational) that will sprout up. This applies within our friendships, marriages and families. We can generously sow into each other with prayers, encouragement, service, and listening. A few of these "sowings" will be wild successes. Many of them will be learning experiences. If we expect otherwise we'll get discouraged and quit sowing (trying dreams, encouraging people, praying, serving, listening).

In the parable 75% of the seeds don't make it. Can we deal with that? Are we willing to go ahead and try? Can we let the rest of the DSC people in on our attempts? Part of why God called us together was to challenge each other to plant the seeds God has given us to plant. We're also called to celebrate both our learnings and successes together and model a different way of living -- based on trust and courage and growth and God's generosity that far exceeds our ability to get things right or keep them together. The NING and peoples' blogs are a few practical ways we can let each other in on our journeys of sowing generously and living out the 25% principle of the Kingdom.

2. The DSC is changing. Part of what DSC is about is relationships between people who are following Jesus. That is kind of what "church" is, at it's core, although we've got all sorts of ideas of what church is and how it looks or should look. Church is changing. What it looks like to follow Jesus is really up in the air for more and more people. We've got to do trust transfers individually and corporately. God has met us in the past. How that's looked has changed many times through history. Both those who've gone before us and we ourselves have grown and been changed in numerous ways. We need to transfer trust to God for the here and now -- that God will meet us, help us grow and change in ways that fit who we are, who we're becoming, and the need around us for Jesus that can't be filled by old ways of being religious. Jesus talks about "new wine" filling new wineskins. We can ask God to bring himself to us in ways that we desperately need (even though we might not even know what those new ways are).

3. The DSC is changing. (Do I sense a pattern here?) In some ways we're in a DMZ. We've been one thing (a loosely connected group of mostly artists meeting together once a year for a conference) and we're becoming something else (it's not clear yet what that is but it includes art stuff, some "churches" (although what they are called and what they look like may make them unrecognizable as churches to most people) as well as the inclusion of people who are not necessarily artists -- including entrepreneurs, administrative people, hackers, etc). We're also growing larger and smaller at the same time as the new emphasis of gathering locally in smaller groups has emerged. And the online thing we can't even begin to know what it means. All that being said, we're losing some things. We've got some things to mourn. For example, I'm sad that we haven't all gotten together in person for over a year now. I'm sad about some people who have dropped off the radar. I'm sad about projects that have started and died or are slowly choking to death in some back room.

All that being said, death comes before new life, so we can trust God as we let go of the things we need to let go of and walk forward together.


Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Hey people -- this week I just want to encourage you. We're such a scattered, needy people stretching to stay connected by infrequent meetings, communicating online, and occasional phone calls. Yet we have a sense that God may be doing something and that we may fit together somehow – to keep this sense fresh we need encouragement. I see so much possibility in our ragtag group, even now, so hopefully God will be able to get a sense of hope and purpose through to us (we all need it) and give us strength to move forward.

Christa and I are in PA with her family at the moment. We came here directly from seeing my grandma who is dying of cancer in central IN. Before that we were in southwestern Ohio finishing up the last JRL recording (we've recorded everything -- now it needs to be mixed).

Our lives continue to change. Christa and I are in a big transition with her finishing college and looking to the next season of life. The Charlottesville Project is in transition -- three founding members are leaving in a two-month period (which is about a third of our group) and two new people recently joined (a few others are looking at coming soon as well).

Part of the change in my life has been a shift away from making music as a primary focus. I'm doing more speaking to groups of people and working with leaders now, and I continue to see this theme of transition wherever I go. And maybe the truth is that we're always in transition, things are always changing. (A 70-year-old man in Ohio told me, "Son, fifty years ago we were preaching about change in the church and culture -- here today you're saying the same thing!") So, while it is true that the reality of change will never change, here are a few things that may help us in our current transition:

1. The 25% principle. Remember in his parable about the Kingdom Jesus assumed a 75% failure rate. We expect to succeed in life without failing, despite the overwhelming evidence that this is not possible. The good news is Jesus came for failures and people who have been burned (to heal, restore, and strengthen us). If we'll live in the Kingdom manner, generously planting what he's given us (seeds of vision, dreams, service, kindness, love, Jesus' message) the 25% that makes it will bring such an incredible return that it will be far more than worth the risk and failure we encounter regularly. In major transitions the "failure" rate is probably even higher, because you must spend more time listening, watching, and exploring during transitions. Let God take the pressure off you to succeed -- he's inviting us into a partnership where He defines success, and we follow him into the unexpected. (Mark 4:1-20)

2. Trust Transfers. During transitions there are so many new things happening that we're usually disoriented and not sure how to tell if we're being faithful or not. A trust transfer is when you look at one part of your life where you've grown and met God and transfer that trust in God towards another area where you are struggling or unsure. Remember that most of the areas where you have freedom, joy and effectiveness were not always that way. One way or another you grew into those things, and most likely Jesus was at work in the process in some unusual ways. Look for him in the new areas, dare to think the same God is there as well, even though you haven't seen him yet.

3. The DMZ. The “demilitarized zone.” It’s a name for one of the phases of transition I've been thinking about lately. A DMZ is a border space between two countries that are at war. No fighting is allowed in the DMZ, but it's a scary no man's land where you can't really settle and everything is up in the air (your identity, your allegiance, your purpose, etc). The human tendency is to try to rush through it and get to some place where things are more clear and you're not between warring factions (the way things are and the way things are becoming). I believe God invites or even challenges us not to rush through the DMZ, but to take our time. Part of what happens in this phase of transition is that we grieve what we're losing or have lost. Whether the change is personal (a friend's death, the end of a job, a move, etc) or corporate (major changes in a family, business, church or wider culture) it's really important to recognize and mourn (allow ourselves to feel bad about) what we're losing. I've been doing that personally as I'm wrapping up JRL (a musical project that I've been pretty focused on for the last 5 years). It's sad. Some dreams I had are dead, they won't happen how I thought they would. It's good not only to let go of that, but also to allow myself to feel sad about it. On a larger scale, seeing my grandma dying is a similar challenge. Will I face what I'm losing and let myself feel sad about it, or rush on with life (maybe getting busy-er and busier and in so doing forget about those griefs)?

I welcome your conversation. More on how these principles relate specifically to the DSC next week.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Dandelion Seed Texas Report--July 18-19

We recently had a very short Dandelion Seed gathering in Texas. We met at the Runnels house in Wylie. The theme was worship. We were together Friday night, and Saturday from 10 until 2. Christa kept time. We talked, did creativity exercises, hung out, and ended up at a pizza shop and then at the movie theater for The Dark Knight. I'll tell you a little bit about the time and some questions that were raised that I'd like to keep talking about together. Please join in if you're interested.

We created a working definition for worship:

Worship is finding value in things and connecting that value to God. (Or "Worship is finding value in things and discovering how that value is connected to God.")

This definition opens up worship to include a lot of things. Things like skateboarding, computer programming, running, playing music, painting, talking to a friend, giving a gift to someone in need, sitting in silence, looking at art, imagining conversations between Jesus and a vampire, etc.

Does this definition open it up too wide, so wide that the definition isn't helpful?

I remember Mark yelling at one of the first Dandelion Seed conferences "I get it -- art, God! They're connected." That was a highlight in my worship life so far. I remember another conversation with a writer in which, somehow, his faith connected his writing -- in an organic, real way. Then there was that time when all of a sudden a love for music became also a conversation with God that had been going on in the background, unrecognized for years.

But is that worship?

If we open up the definition of worship like this, it now includes much of what most churches do together, but doesn't exclude the many people for whom those expressions are difficult to connect with. It also validates parts of the body of Christ who tend to be overlooked (which are the ones we should give special honor to -- introverts, visual communicators, etc).

So, with this new and much wider definition, how do we "worship together?" One way is to choose several worship practices and do them together.

For example, at the Charlottesville Project we're working at these practices:

1. Meditation. We're drawing on several eastern traditions in practicing this discipline. The goals are to slow down and make space for God, trust and a receiving posture.

2. Improvisational playing, singing and art making. We draw on a number of traditions here: gospel music, charismatic free-singing, jazz improv. I've also wondered whether a study of the mystical practices of the Hebrew prophets and Sufi worship might teach us something we could use in worshiping our Lord Jesus.

3. Corporate singing of old and new songs. We draw on Christian traditions here, which probably drew a lot from Hebrew traditions. We also use some popular music and original music when we sing together.

One element that made the discussions at our recent gathering great was that they included people from four communities: the Charlottesville Project; a house church in the Dallas area; a group made up mainly of 20 year olds who are trying new things within the wider context of a local church (New Hope); and Segue, a church plant in the arts district of Dallas. People had different experiences and perspectives—as each of these communities grow conversation between them will become more and more helpful.

We also had a lot of fun doing writing exercises. We started with the sentence "The air above my head was clear." The rest we wrote on the fly, quickly. Here is an excerpt from one of them:

"The air above my head was clear. I walked, stiletto-clap, click on plastic fields stretched tan and rose in all directions. Smoke stacks empty, machinery frozen, eyes of robots empty and staring, sockets, not grain of sand or smell of earth..."

It was a good DSC time: building relationships, building creativity, and exploring ideas.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The folks in Texas: another arm of the DSC

So I'm rushing off to Texas. It's an interesting state, at least the few parts I've connected with. I'm going to this little town called Wylie. There's a legend that it was founded by pirates. No, it isn't near the coast (that way people wouldn't suspect it was a pirate town, right?) But that's part of what I love about Texas -- they just do and say things there that people in other places wouldn't. Take belt buckles and cowboy boots, for example. A good Texan can wear them anywhere in the country and not think about it. There's something about fitting in that just isn't on the radar in the same way that it is in some other subcultures I'm a part of.

Of course, there's a dark side to that as well. Some Texans, in the spirit of this unselfconscious confidence, have done things that have resulted in damage that will have long term ramifications. Yet, the overly cautious also do damage with their inaction.

So every time I go to Texas I am struck by the cultural contrast between the Texan vibe and the current DSC culture (as much as we have a culture, which I think we actually do). DSC culture, I think, tends to be somewhat tentative and self-critical (or at the very least pretty self-reflective). This introspective, questioning vibe seems pretty standard for GenXers, and the DSC culture was started by artistic GenXers who all had some sense of displacement, so that kind of makes sense.

One of the groovier changes I've seen happening lately is the infusion of younger than GenXers into the DSC. I think this is beginning to shift our culture a little bit -- these younger people (Justin, Jordan, Kimberly, Zac, etc) tend to have a different way of being. There is still angst there, but there's an ability to engage life in the present moment, and relationships with openness and joy. There's awareness of differences without them being divisive, and a way of embodying things they care about without self-incrimination, which I find really inspiring. I see these qualities on the NING interactions and on some of the younger DSCers blogs (one example is Kimberly's last post in which she talks about sailing). You won't catch me saying this culture is perfect either, but I think what God is building in the DSC capitalizes on the coming together of these two subcultures with their strengths and weaknesses.

So, I'd like to see how Texas rubs off on the good ole' DSC. We're going to do another small DSC gathering in Texas while I'm down there. There are a couple Virginians and a North Carolina DSCer also visiting, so it seems like a natural mix. Can't wait to see what comes out of it.


Saturday, July 12, 2008

What Happened in Virginia?

I'm sitting propped up in a wicker chair writing on my old G4 hooked into a big old monitor (the laptop screen is gone) with rain glistening on the grass and trees outside my window. Thunder grumbles halfheartedly above Moby playing in the living room. It's good to be home.

Christa and I went on a six mile walk today on old back roads and talked strategy: what's going on in our lives and what do we do about it? What opportunities face us? What challenges face us? What is priority?

It's been three weeks since the DSC mini-gathering in VA and I've been doing a lot of thinking about why it feels like a turning point for the DSC. What was going on? Exactly what happened in Virginia?

I'll talk about it from two angles. 1. Practically what we did, and 2. significant themes or surprises I think may have to do with this sense of change.

Wednesday and Thursday people began trickling in. Joel from Texas. Bryn and Jordan from North Carolina. Justin from Three Hills. Later Kimberly, Troy, and Ken arrived (from IN and MI). Zac and Aneke from South Africa (via 3 Hills) and a number of Charlottesville Project people.

This is what we did:
We watched and discussed a documentary called "Jesus Camp".
We heard excerpts and discussed the book "The War of Art". Joel introduced this book about the battle with resistance we face moving towards what is meaningful, what we're called to.
We identified and talked about fears and dreams -- individual and corporate. Many fears were related to community, church and art.
Ken talked about missional church, theology and different ways of thinking about the church (contrasting a farm with fences with ranches where the cattle stay close because the water is there).
Sessions started with meditation (silence) and music -- hymns, a few worship songs, and original tunes.
Christa talked about meditation and learning from eastern traditions (and we discussed this).
We talked about and smelled essential oils (including myrrh and frankincense and other ancient substances -- thank you Troy).
We prayed together.
We went to the theatre and watched the Hulk 2 or the Happening.
We drank vitamin water, tea, beer, root beer and off-brand gatorade and ate a lot of wonderful food prepared and/or provided by Anita, Jonathan, Christa, Bryn, Joel and others.
We hung out and talked, played music, talked, talked, and talked. (Which was part of why the silence of meditation was so beautiful).

Themes and Surprises:
Generational Synergy: During this mini-conference I was called "old people" by one of the younger participants, and assured that "it was nothing to be ashamed of". And it isn't. It's actually exciting and a sign that the DSC is maturing, getting beyond a few friends sitting around talking about ideas. The DSC is 6 or 7 years old now. Those of us who started it are now in our mid 30s. The VA gathering had people with ages ranging between 17 and 40 something. This synergy between generations is key if we're going anywhere as a group.
Multi-community: Represented at this little gathering were 2 churches, 2 house churches, a microchurch and a mission outreach center. Everyone's varied experiences and understandings of community and church were helpful as we talked and prayed about being the body of Christ in new ways at a new time in history.
Host community: I think the fact that the Charlottesville Project has been up and running over two years now trying to embody the values and vision of the DSC helped create the setting for this gathering.
Technology: People understand blogs and have been on myspace and facebook long enough that when Justin got the DSC Ning site set up it took very little work for people to engage it. We've tried connecting online before, but before now the learning curve was high enough few people climbed it. Now it's normal and working.
Taking Ownership: For some reason at the end of this mini-conference almost everyone who was there volunteered to do something to move things forward for this group and the wider DSC. When people make that shift from "I wish someone would do something about this" to "what could I do?" everything changes...

It's almost dark now and a mouse just scurried across my desk -- a downside of being in a beautiful wooded area. Christa and Megan are talking about art in the next room. I look forward to your thoughts and comments.


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Prophets, Ning, Viral

Prophets: I just got back from Arkansas. There I met an old prophet who has been doing mysterious, bizarre God stuff for more than 6 decades. I've been hearing stories and I finally got to meet this man. He's my friend Glen's uncle. He said a couple things to me that I think are relevant to the DSC. This is in my words, as close as I can remember:

1. "There is something building and growing around you and the people you're with. It's building in intensity and momentum, but it's not formed yet and it's not clear what it is. At the right time God will speak a creative word into that group that will form it, ignite it and propel it forward."

2. "I see you falling into a lake of fire that stretches into every direction. You're standing in it. It's the purifying work of God."

3. "You don't think much of it right now, but there is something in you that will change how the church in the future understands praise and worship. We don't get it."

-- I do feel like something is happening in the DSC -- what has been loose connections is becoming something more. This is leading somewhere, somewhere only God knows. We're not just building relationships and community to feel more at home -- there is a God-idea behind all this that will become more clear in the days to come -- at least that's what I'm longing for and praying will happen. And it really will need to include purifying work from God. Everyone needs it, and we as a network need it. It's not something we can make happen, but God can do it. There are things in our lives that we've been struggling with for years that God can and will change in an instant. And I'm not talking about when we die!

Ning: Something is happening on this site. It's connection, and remembering and dreaming. I think it's also timely and strategic.

Viral: Part of what's needed to happen for some time, and is beginning to happen in a new way is this: this thing is getting viral. The Kingdom of God always was viral (the yeast in the dough, the salt in the soup, the little seed in the ground). What is happening with us is happening small, organic, real, and everyone has a part -- the leaders don't make it all happen anymore. They (we, I) have a really important role, but it's more speaking into what is going on and bringing it together by seeing what God is doing -- than it is planning and organizing and controlling. So act! Pray. Talk. Create. Be. Love. Listen.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

DSC social network on Ning!

One new development that came out of DSC’s recent Charlottesville gathering is a new social network for DSC on Ning. I was invited and joined and am happy to see friendly faces and a new place to connect! Seems like there is definite interest this time around about staying connected online.

On the Ning site, each person has a profile; a page of their own similar to other social network sites like Facebook (where conveniently, DSC also has a new group!). You can leave comments for each other, start or join discussions, make blog posts, and share ideas and resources through the forum.

From the site: Reflections on favorite moments at the Charlottesville gathering:

Justin Fike: Mine would have to be the all night conversation I had with Kim and Jordan. All of the connections with new friends was the most unexpectedly fun part of the conference for me, and that moment was the most extreme example of that. Thanks for being interesting enough to keep me up all night guys ;-).

And thanks to everyone else I met there for the first time, for being open and real right from the beginning.

David Oliver: I would have to say that helping Jordan finish his version of "Sorrowy Mind" was a definite highlight. it's interesting that it happened after Bryn and I changed our minds about leaving and returned to join the madness. So we almost missed it. It had a good hook too! I still have that song in my's sort of not fair that I can't hear it anywhere. although there's the video. Is that posted somewhere in here? Youtube? Jordan?

Jordan Miller: Mine is the conversation with Kim and Justin; I've never connected with people my own age like that, and i'm excited to develop those connections. Sorrowy mind is definitely up there though. And I love the way that newcomers were just absorbed into the family.

does that make the DSC sound too much like the mafia? maybe that's a good thing...

Kimberly Glick: Shhh - DSC is the mafia, Jordan! The artistic, Jesus-centered, we're not-actually-all-that-hot-at-making-money-or-beating-people-up kind of mafia. (I don't actually know what the mafia does, so I'm just guessing here.)

My favorite moment - definitely the totally unexpected all-night conversation (I only joined in because I was trying to sleep and they wouldn't stop talking! I decided it was better to participate than to just not sleep.) And the conversations with Ken and Troy during our 24 hours in the car together. And lunch conversations with David and Kristi. And meetings that couldn't go anywhere because we were laughing so hard.

I wasn’t there but as far as I can tell, everyone who was at the Charlottesville gathering had a fabulous time (More on that soon). For those who missed it or just can’t get enough—the next gathering is in Asheville, NC August 15-17, 2008. Space is limited so email as soon as possible to register if you are interested.

But for now, say hello to everyone online!

(If you are interested in joining the Ning site, let us know!)

Amber (for the DSC blog elves)

Monday, June 16, 2008


We'll have more on the DSC conference that gathered in Charlottesville this past weekend--but for now, here is more along the vein of Jon's thoughts last week. (Be sure to read the previous post to get the flow of what he is talking about).

If the Dandelion Seed Company is an incubator, what's been growing in it?

A person who studied (and now practices) meditation -- and in the process came to love Jesus more.
A microchurch made up of people learning to follow Jesus in a way that's different than how they grew up.
Several bands that play in bars and coffeehouses.
Several small businesses that value creativity and helping others.
Some interesting projects bringing together artists and churches.
Lots of conversations about what following Jesus means.
Visions and dreams.

So what is the Dandelion Seed Company?

It is a group of people God is bringing together. It is a dream of living life creatively, in community, with meaning and awe and the presence of God. It is an alternative way of being together with each other and God.

What will the Dandelion Seed Company become?

Who knows but God? No one.

But it may become a resource and a meeting place for all kinds of people, people who are settling into a new culture, people who are looking to build friendships, homes and families with the help and direction of the Holy Spirit, the teachings of Jesus, and the wisdom and love of God.

It may become a home for people: creative people, depressed people, artists, leaders, misfits, business people, lonely people, practical get-it-done people, scientists, theologians, and chimney sweeps, loners without friends, and networkers without a center.

It may become a network of individuals, microchurches, and businesses who are committed to follow Jesus creatively in this new culture.

This is currently how we have describe our vision and mission:

Vision: Our goal is a revitalized culture that is creatively engaged, emotionally aware, spiritually alive, relationally secure and socially responsible.

Mission: Our Mission is to provide tools, training, a context and accountability to individuals and organizations committed to
revitalizing culture through the arts; intentional, committed relationships; and Jesus-centered spirituality.

What do you think about all this? What has the DSC been to you? What do you think it may become? What would you like it to become?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What is the Dandelion Seed Company?

We're having a Dandelion Seed gathering at our house this coming weekend. Friends from TX, NC and IN are coming to visit. The floors will be crowded; there will be fun, music, prayer and lots of discussion. We're talking about this question: "Is Christianity optional?"

Obviously it is optional (not everyone is a part of it). But is it optional for us? Who is us? This got me thinking about the Dandelion Seed Company (DSC) and what it is.

We've called it "an informal gathering of artists," "an artists' network," "a gathering of people committed to follow Jesus, build
community and make art that is honest, excellent and true."

So why do non-artists come? Why do so many of us wonder if we're really artists?

Why have we spent so much time over the years talking about church? (What church is, isn't, should be, could be?)

Why have so many of us come away from Dandelion Seed gatherings saying "We felt more at home with that group of people than about anywhere we've been?"

As the guy who first called us together I've been thinking about this a lot recently.

I have some ideas:

Maybe God brought us together.
Maybe we didn't know why and still don't.
Maybe that's ok.
Maybe we need to discover it together.
Maybe that will emerge as we think, talk, create, listen, pray and live life together.
Maybe it's been emerging but we haven't noticed it.

Our culture is changing. Artists are usually at the forefront cultural shifts.

What if this "artists" group is actually a group of people with a certain cultural perspective and identity that's so unformed it's hard to identify clearly?

What if the DSC is less about art and more about a way of thinking, living, seeing the world and relating? What if God wanted to incubate something that would grow in this emerging culture? What if God grabbed a group of artists and misfits and dropped seeds of vision in them? What if God drew them together and they felt it but couldn't quite understand it?

More on this next week.


Monday, June 2, 2008


Most traditions have some form of mystics, seers or prophets. Jesus is seen as a prophet in several traditions -- and for those of us who make our life's goal following him, it's good to approach this facet of who He was while on earth (and is now in His mysterious body which is the people who have given themselves to him).

There is something human that hungers for mystery and revelation and connection with God. Dreams, signs, words from God, visions -- abstract, metaphorical, imagery and story.

Paul Grout has been something of a prophet among us since almost our beginning. We've seen Jesus in and through his art, words, challenges and looks in a unique way. I recently connected with another friend who is also a prophet, and from another stream or tradition. He recently connected with the Charlottesville Project (which is a local gathering connected to the Dandelion Seed Company). His visit was encouraging and challenging -- in some ways similar to Paul Grout and in some ways very different.

I look forward to the Dandelion Seed Company continuing to connect with prophets -- to hear and see and feel God through people and art. To be inspired and challenged, and to give this gift to others as well. I believe our lives and words and art can embody the mystery of the Word of God in ways we haven't imagined and yet long for...


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Things I've Seen

I'm off to A Place Apart retreat in Ohio in a couple days after an intense week and a half in Indiana. In the last 4 weeks I've met with leaders from 8 or 9 different "churches" -- some very postmodern and young, some with buildings and services and leadership teams. In this time I've run into three pastors who will probably soon be leaving church ministry to follow Jesus and serve in other areas -- one into the arts, the other into business and another into counseling. I've also met with a number of young leaders (under 25) who are saying things about church that are blowing me away -- wise, exciting, true, different. I feel like part of what I've been doing in the last few years in starting the Dandelion Seed Company and experimenting with microchurch has been to prepare the way and make a space for what these people are saying.

On the other hand I've more and more convinced of the need to be connected to older people -- tested veteran followers of Jesus. Christa and I recently met a guy who took care of his wife through years and years of alzheimer's. At one point he couldn't take it any more and he was going to take her to a home and he told God that. God told him, "It's ok, I'll love her through you." He took care of her until he died -- and this man was full of thankfulness and hope. God knows how much we need to see connect with people like that.

Keep asking hard questions, listening, creating, trusting, serving, and worshiping without fear.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Ragtag Band Forming

Hi, this is Jonathan. Last week I was in Texas. I got a Texas belt and a Texas star buckle. I also learned you can pay $400 for a pair of cowboy boots. I didn't.

In Texas I participated in two conferences -- one was about "the Seven Mountains" and the other was the annual gathering of the larger network that the Dandelion Seed Company is connected to. A lot happened there that I think is significant for who we are and where we're headed as a network, so I'll be writing more about the experience and what I think may come out of it over the next few weeks. Here is installment one:

1. The Seven Mountains: the basic concept here is that culture is made up of seven segments or "mountains": family, religion, economy/business, arts, government, media, and education. God is calling us as Jesus' followers to live and embody the Kingdom of God in each of these arenas. There has been a tendency in the past to assume that if you were serious about God you should spend your time on the religion mountain. This isn't true. We're called to follow Jesus where he leads and that includes all areas of culture, all seven mountains.

2. Dandelion Seed Company and the larger network. After a great weekend connecting with other leaders in the GDI network I'm more convinced than ever that a key element for the DSC's health and future is relationship with and a real, deep connection with other followers of Jesus. I see this beginning to happen in organic (no pesticides added) ways already, and we will need to make it a priority in planning for the future. One shift I see from the way people have thought about following God before and how we're working at doing it now is this: before (in modernism) a lot of what brought us together was a commitment to certain ideas or theology. I believe that the focus is shifting to a commitment to certain relationships. If this is true it is an extremely high priority for us to welcome and cultivate the relationships as a network which will grow us up into Jesus. More about this later.

Love you guys. I'm excited about what God is up to in this ragtag band that's forming. I believe we're on the cusp of some major changes as a network -- we're moving into a season where we will have a much greater influence and impact on those around us, so the choices we make now are really important. God is giving us time to reassess our lives and direction so that the course we set will get us headed in a direction that will be fruitful long term. This starts with each of us personally looking at our own lives and loves and choosing again what matters most to us (and weeding out some other stuff -- the garden is only so big so what we plant in it and cultivate really does matter),

In Jesus,

Jonathan (with a bit of help from Kimberly Glick)

Monday, April 28, 2008

To the Road-Weary

Contributed by Amber Butler

A few days ago I finished reading The Grapes of Wrath for the first time and found myself ironically comforted. Through the travail of uprooted homes and loss of income, the characters in John Steinbeck’s epic show that despite all, life goes on and they find the way through, and they even find the way to give out of lack. In my super-pseudo-secure lifestyle I am at times dead to my real life—and frenzied with the insecurity of trying to create something out of nothing…with no guarantee in the end. This book helped start me thinking beyond my current limits and realize that generation upon generation has continued their choice to live against striking odds. At times the road for the artist appears just as obtuse.

What I loved about it most is that it brought hope for myself—that I will have the strength to face the challenges I know are ahead of me, and to make choices that are not based on fear of what I will lose. There is so much that we can lose and there is nothing we can lose that that truly defines us. (What angst, what bitter seeds there are to swallow!) It helps to practice letting go before the loss comes. I cannot say that I am reconciled with loss as a feature of human life but it stares me in the face every day; I must find ways to move beyond it.

I recently began a landscaping job where I am out of doors most of the day and asked to submit my body to manual labor. For me, this has been a needed switch from my “head-heavy” thought life where I have tried to think my way through everything. The rest of you may have figured this out already, but moving your body does wonders for your soul.

I wrestle with the problem of pain constantly, my bread is often all torn up in tears; but there’s too much good in the world to throw in the towel. God is an infuriating whirlwind of mystery but damnit those spring blossoms on the trees just about make up for it.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Announcing DSCo Conference June 2008!!

We're hoping that June 13-15 is still an open weekend on your calendar because DSCO folks from all over the country will be gathering in Charlottesville, VA with the theme of Is Christianity Optional? as a central focus for the weekend. This is an issue that appears more and more relevant to our spiritual journeys. Members of our community will be presenting perspectives on this question and the time will be used to open discussion and share insights.

Jesus, Religion and Culture Summit:
Following Jesus: Is Christianity Optional?

What it's about: We keep running into people who are wholehearted followers of Jesus who are using spiritual practices from other religions (meditation, prayer cycles, etc), or are following Christ in different cultural context (rather than converting people to the Christian religion). 2000 years ago the early followers of Jesus wrestled with the question of whether they had to be Jewish to follow Christ -- we're wrestling with whether we have to be a Christian. We see Jesus as central. We commit our lives and worship to Him alone as we look for new insight into what that means about our connections to religion and culture. The goal -- to come out of the weekend more in love with and committed to Christ, free to follow him and serve Him wherever he calls us.

The format of this conference is a bit different than we are accustomed to in that we will be using a local church facility (Charlottesville Mennonite) for our meetings. It is available Friday evening and Saturday all day. Sunday morning we will be gathering in a local park. The church is located downtown in Charlottesville. Lodging and meals will not be included in the conference registration so individuals are responsible to make their own arrangements. We are hoping to share a few meals together--more to come soon. Charlottesville's downtown features many great shops, venues and restaurants and will provide an urban background to our time together. For those who are interested, there may also be an informal pre-gathering on Thursday the 12th.

Lodging suggestions:

Local community members may be willing to open their homes to guests, but all space is on first come, first served basis. Jon and Christa Reuel have also offered their large yard outside of town as a space for people to camp if they are interested in that type of accommodations. Otherwise, information on lodging in the Charlottesville region can be found at

We'll post more details as we have them--but consider this blog a space where we can collaborate and coordinate while preparing for the conference. The official signup will come soon, we hope you will be able to come. Start thinking about whether there is anyone else you want to invite as well.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Arts & Business

One area that DSC focuses on becoming a resource to its members is in the intersection between art and business. An article in the San Francisco Chronicle details the stories of several artists who are coming to view themselves as entrepreneurs, but still struggle with the balance between the creative side and business side of their work. As we are on this journey ourselves, hearing a little more of how others are doing it can provide crucial encouragement at an important moment along the way.

Christopher Knab, a music business consultant, also has a great article encouraging artists to feed both their creative self and business self in order to experience true growth.

If you're just getting started with the idea of your art as a business, Arts Business Management gives a nice overview of several areas to start thinking about. And if you've already gotten started, this site may remind you of things you've overlooked.

DSC has attracted both artists and entrepreneurs to our ranks. While each of us may feel stronger in one area or another.. we'll find that both activities pull on our creative energies and are closer to each other than we first realize.


What are your latest triumphs or pitfalls with art and business? Any tips? What are you trying?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Seeds in the Wind

On occasion we want to share the work of those in our midst. This week take in a recent poem by Amber Butler. Other submissions to share (word, image, etc) may find their way to our inbox at

Stuck in the Middle with You

March shafts of ice like sticks
over spring’s budding twigs;
lost in transition
from somewhere to nowhere;
uptown and downtown,
nowhere’s looking pretty slim—
but somewhere to begin again.

Where did agony begin
and does her tail have an end,
or is it lounging from this
end of time to the next
and the next after?
Switching swick,
switching swick,
swiping with swiveling nicks.

Do I make my story a travesty?
A tragedy told to myself
and no one else,
a berating for a farthing
and far I never get;
stuck in my corner with a stick,
switching swick,
switching swick.
In a maze I might better find my way
and stop to contemplate,
than I do with the open road,
the unknown, the peculiar moments of choice
propelling me upon them.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


We will have more info on our annual (x2) gatherings planned for this summer very soon. Jon is marshaling all our forces to make some decisions, after which we will be able to send out the news to you--

What we can tell you is that we are planning two DSC conferences this summer, to give more options for travel and to cover a wider breadth of topics. June in Charlottesville, VA; August in Asheville, NC. More to come soon.. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm ready to see your faces again. It's been too long.

As we'd like this blogspace to become more and more of a hub for our far flung DSC network, we will be offering ways to connect and prepare for the conference in the months ahead. Discussions, reading lists, introductions, etc. We look forward to seeing you here, and seeing you there.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Blogs, RSS, subscribing and the like

We thought we'd spend a moment pointing out the hand dandy links at the top right of our webpage. One of the most important developments with content online is the ability to set up feeds that bring the content to you rather than you having to go to the content. We have two options for subscribing to the blog: one is by email delivery (mainly, when we post, you will get an email with said post), the other is by using RSS, which feeds into a reader (like this one) where you can access many feeds at the same time. If you aren't familiar with the concept of feeds, check out Feed 101 a Google guide that explains it better than we could.

Speaking of blogs, one of our own, Joel Wassinger, has started a blog and occasionally gives us the inside look at his thoughts towards God, faith, doubt and all the rest. Most recently:

"I have been troubled–deeply troubled–by the Crucifixion from when I first perceived it. I am, I confess, still puzzled and disturbed to think that Justice and Wrath and a Father God could require it. At some level, faith compels me to understand the Father’s love in this awful, ugly moment–this cruel silence at the center of history–but it is a thin strand of faith, blind, indeed, and confused and frustrated. But nothing so consistently moves me as Christ’s sacrifice and, I suppose, in the final analysis, that the willing Son convinces me of His Father’s goodness."

We're often uncomfortable and wrestling with that cruel silence. We've got words to speak into it, and Joel is one person leading the way in that regard. Thanks Joel!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Place Apart

This week on JRL's blog Jonathan featured his new meditation cards which were inspired by the similar work of Paul Grout, someone who has been an influential presence and speaker at the last several Dandelion Seed Conferences. Thinking about Jon's cards got us thinking about Paul and we rediscovered the A Place Apart website (where Paul is director). For those of you who know Paul or want to get to know him, visiting their website is a good place to start.

A Place Apart defines itself as: "a teaching community where all types of people can come for a time to break from the world and rediscover the new way of living introduced by Jesus Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit."

In the last year A Place Apart has been fortunate in acquiring further property to host a modern day "monastery" and also completed significant renovations at the property. They have a new virtual tour of the place hosted on their site and it's worth taking a look.

Some DSC folks have been out to Putney, VT and have experienced A Place Apart's hospitality first-hand. In particular, a group from DSC partnered with A Place Apart to record the Vermont Project in July 2006.

A Place Apart also keeps a blog where you can keep up and join in on their news as well. If you aren't familiar with A Place Apart, or you'd like to spend time with Paul Grout and his crew again, they are hosting several retreats in the coming months.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Sharing Resources: contributed by Amber Butler

I often troll the Internet for information and advice regarding the business of music. Last week I stumbled across an excellent little e-book that I immediately felt I wanted to share with the DSC community. The book is targeted directly at the music business but I agree with the author that it shares principles about online presence and marketing strategy that are applicable to all businesses, particularly for small businesses in the arts industries.

Andrew Dubber, a music industry professor at Birmingham City University in the UK wrote “The 20 Things You Must Know About Music Online” as a series of posts in 2007 that turned into an e-book which you can download and share for free. I found his advice very insightful and timely. It’s a challenge to take our selves seriously and take the online medium of marketing seriously.

For example, one of the things I love about this book (besides all the very practical organizational and technical advice) is thing number 1: "Don't believe the hype." Dugger tells us not to buy into the idea that you can just post stuff online and become an overnight success. The Internet is one of several avenues to market your product and you'll make the most of it when online strategies are paired with the offline, more "traditional" ones. This is an important introduction to a book that is all about how to best leverage your online presence.

Check out his blog, New Music Strategies, for other cool ideas.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Theater moves boost confidence; Hurray for Help on becoming a Non-Profit

This week a few our folks in Charlottesville got to take in a mini-workshop with Michelle Milne, a former Goshen College classmate for some and current GC Assistant Professor of Theater. The workshop focused on vocal and teambuilding exercises as well as developing spatial awareness. Though developed for application in the theater, anybody who is in front of people, on stage or presenting their own ideas would benefit from these types of exercises.

As a result of the workshop this past week, DSC will be planning a seminar led by Michelle so that others can benefit from her expertise. This is just one example of how people outside the DSC are able to come in and enhance what we do through their own strengths.

On another note, Jonathan is excited to relate that he has gained a mentor in the area of forming a non-profit. Ron Copeland, who started the Little Grill Collective, a worker-owned restaurant and music venue in Harrisonburg, VA and Our Community Place, a soup kitchen also located in H'Burg, has made himself available as a resource as the DSC pursues non-profit status. Thanks Ron!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Logos Galore!

We have been collecting design ideas for a DSC logo from within our ranks (Troy Foster, Mark Neubauer, Amber Butler and Jonathan Reuel have submitted ideas). Having a consistent image to represent our group will help to present ourselves more professionally, as well as create recognition for our group. Today we're posting design ideas to get input from the larger community (ie. you!). We welcome any comments on which logo is your favorite!

Logo 1:

Logo 2:

Logo 3:

Logo 4:

Logo 5:

Logo 6:

Logo 7:

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Art Brokering: Artist + DSC = Buyer

Over here at the DSC offices (if we had an office) we like to throw around ideas about what types of constructive opportunities we can offer our members. One project currently in its first trial run is art brokering.

Art brokering is a service where a broker (DSC) attempts to connect artists with buyers. In this case, the goal is a commissioned work. Our intent in this process is to form an agreement that allows the artist freedom to create meaningful work with hope of a sale and also ensures that a buyer connects with a piece of art inspired by their own idea or experience.

The first experiment in progress is a deal brokered by Jonathan Reuel between New Hope Christian Church (Wylie, TX) and artists Jordan Miller, Concept Art (Asheville, NC), Jonathan Reuel, Illustration (Charlottesville, VA) and Christa Reuel, Collage painting (Charlottesville, VA). It’s been a work in progress and initial photos of the four-piece series will be sent out to the buyers in the next few days!

Our ideas about this process and how it works are still evolving. We’d like to see it working in multiple mediums—most immediately with music and writing. If arts brokering sparks your interest, feel free to add your ideas to the melee!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Non-Profits, Conference Planning and the Road Ahead

So the news around the Dandelion Seed Company is that we may actually be becoming something (other than the wonderful, loose, lovely network that we are). Jonathan Reuel is talking to lawyers about non-profit formation and getting the skinny on what something like that would look like. When we talk amongst ourselves, it seems that we’re ready for something different than what we’ve had in the past and are excited about shaping what we will become. More on that in the future, but we wanted to give everyone a heads up on the sense of internal stirring.

Jonathan Reuel and Anita Oliver are in talks to determine the when, where and how of our annual DSC conference. In case you have been wondering, the conference will probably take place in June 2008 rather than March as it has in years past. This year gives Adam and Megan Fleming a welcome break from running the administrative end of the conference and we thank them for the last several years in which they had a major role in making the conference happen.

The location this year will be in Charlottesville, VA pending a search for a suitable venue. An alternate location may be Asheville, NC. Speaking of Asheville, Rachel Nussbaum has volunteered to head up planning food for the conference this year. We thank her for that in advance. If you have other aspects of the conference that you would like to contribute to or volunteer for, don’t hesitate to contact us about them. We love ideas!

We consistently receive a few donations throughout the year, but if anyone would like to contribute financially, that is welcome as well. (Send checks payable to DSC to: Jonathan Reuel, P.O. Box 1246, Charlottesville, VA 22902)

And highlighting a few of our folks that could use an extra dose of thought and prayer, Christian Groves and family, for grace in maneuvering issues of finances and relationships; and Nate and Amber Butler, who are in the midst of a six month and counting job and geographic transition and can get a little road weary (like the rest of us).

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Getting started here

We connect in different ways as a network. This is a new one. Check here between newsletters to hear about what DSCers are doing, to make new connections, or just to remind yourself you're not alone.