Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Abi's Ephiphany...9 Years Later

Nine years ago, I had an Ephiphany ephiphany...I had a vision on January 6, 2006, (with words, if that makes any sense) of a community I came to call CovenantClusters.  I had been trying to take a much needed nap (chronic exhaustion being the normal state of an elderly mother of three young boys). But instead of sleep, ideas -- actually, words -- intruded.  These words were so persistent that I asked God if I should get up and write them down.  I know it was God, because the boys all slept through the three hours I spend writing it down, very much like dictation...with drawings and everything! Over the next year, I worked it up into quite an interesting church planting proposal.

Fortunately, no one was interested it in.  Whew...dodged a bullet with that one!

Of course, at the time, I was disheartened...but over the years I have had the opportunity to learn and experience so many things that have changed just about everything concerning how I see the church. To have moved out earlier might have meant missing all of that...and probably would have meant an Epic Fail!

It is fascinating to me to see how that vision has changed so much while remaining unchanged over all these years. How I adore paradoxes.  ;^)   Most of the change has been related to changes in my perspective and perception, as my vision changed from church planting strategy to missional communitas fostering.  I also began to realize that the vision was not something that God wanted me to undertake, but was a glimpse of something that God wanted me to be able to recognize some day...something that They are working to bring together.

I don't know how many more years it will be until I bump into that awesome vision in real life, but I have plenty to do in the meantime...and both Perichoretic cHesed and Simple Living will be core components.

Today, when we remember the arrival of the Wise Men -- bringing precious gifts to honor and worship Father's Eternal Son Incarnate -- may we be reminded that we (all that we are and all that we have) are the precious gifts we are to bring to Jesus...and then relax as He leads us with gracious loving-kindness into The Great Dance.

This day.

Every day.

Special shoes not required.  ;^)

Expectantly,

Abi


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Abi Ponders Perichoretic cHesed...again!

My new Facebook friend, James Paul, asks great questions. I am wanting to learn to ask better questions myself so I appreciate hanging out with him on FB...this was the question he asked:

Flat Hierarchy

Are flat hierarchies tenable in the real world? The Superbowl XLVIII Champion Seattle Seahawks think so ... Danny O'Neil, Mike Salk and Dave Grosby discuss the outlier relationship between coach Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider. What are your thoughts regarding top-down vs. flat models of power distribution? Is consensus building worthwhile? What, if any, are the implications for the church? Leave a comment - let's have a conversation!

After reading through a number of comments about mutuality and consensus building and collaboration, I chimed in with this:

Organizational Management is my corner, in degree and work experience. One of the most powerful experiences I had was during a management workshop, where we were divided up into group of four or five and given a list of 100 tasks that must be done to start an organization. We each had to work alone to put them in order -- what came first, etc., all the way to what was the last thing you go. It took a bit of time to get your head around all 100 items and think through the process.

After everyone was finished, the group was tasked with negotiating a group order. The kicker was that everyone had to agree. No one could sit out and no one could give in. Everyone had to share why they picked the order they did and be convinced that they were wrong or convince others that they were wrong in order to come to a true consensus of which steps should be taken in which order.

Then, once that process was finished -- which took about twice as long as our personal ones -- we were given the "correct" order. We "graded" our individual efforts and then our "collaborated" effort. The results were striking.

The group got 95 out of 100 in the correct order. I got 95 out of 100 in the correct order. The interesting thing was looking at the precise ones each missed.

The five choices I made that were wrong were catastrophic. Like, what I put at 45 should have been at 3 and so on. They would have been difficult to recover from. It's not always how much you get right, but the nature of what you get wrong, eh?

Well, the group's five errors were all just one place off. Like 4 and 5 were transposed, or 33 and 32, or 73 and 74. None of those were even remotely catastrophic. It took the group to see where my five were so far off (and I had the best stats of the group) and negotiate together to see why a different order was better. We had one quiet person -- with great intuition but not much confidence -- that we had to remind many times not to cave to peer pressure...and it was this person's ability to articulate why they thought the way they did -- and the requirement that the rest of us HAD to listen and consider -- that brought us to the better decision almost every time.

That's a long example, but it has been a powerful lessons to me, almost 24 years later.

When Jesus, Creator and Sustainer of ALL, chose to be first among equals, it was the most important (and regularly the least recognized) example he set.

And he is still to be first. He is the source, the head, the initiator...but he includes us in each step of the process. He leads...so that we can follow and exercise all our gifts together. If we don't follow, he doesn't fire us or punish us or have a tantrum of blame and guilt. Because, in the end, he knows that it is our participation that is the real point.

This is the reality of perichoretic hesed -- the interpenetration of selves with one will, without loss of self, that moves with gracious loving-kindness for the best interest of the other...this is the Great Dance of the Triune God into which Jesus has brought us through his life, death, resurrection and ascension.

Jesus said we are to call no man "Father", because we have one Father in Heaven -- so the prestige and iron rule of patriarchy was set aside.

Jesus said we are not to be called "Teacher" or "Lord", because he is both Lord and Teacher ... and after his ascension, he sent the Spirit to continue educating the human race concerning our adoption as joint heirs with Jesus. [It is a long process, because we are not always apt students, eh?]

Jesus said we are not to lord it over one another. We are to participate in the Perichoretic cHesed of God, so that we might see each other in that same light and learn to dance in that same manner together in all our dealings.

It is breath-takingly simple, but also the most difficult of things to do, because it seems so counter-intuitive to those who have come to rely on experts to tell them what to do, instead of using their gifts and brains and hands and feet and hearts to see and hear with the Spirit is teaching them...so that they might be able to share it with the rest of The Body of Christ.

It's simple. But it's not easy...at least not at the start. Not until you have experienced your own five single-point failures, and have learned about your own blind spots, and have embraced with your whole heart that every person has an important perspective to contribute...but Jesus, with the Spirit, is the quiet voice of the Truth that we must train our eyes to see and our ears to hear and our heart to resonate with and follow.

James asked where he might read more about Perichoretic cHesed...so this is what I said:

I started thinking about perichoresis from the early days of Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed blog, back in early 2007. There were pieces of it floating around in my mind, but always just out of focus. I played with it, but just had to wait. The number of times I blogged about "I'm getting ready to blog about perichoresis" is pretty funny.

My long study of cHesed took an interesting turn in June of 2009, when I met Wayne Jacobsen at a weekend retreat for my small house church...and we talked about cHesed a bit and he said I had the order wrong...that cHesed is not something we do, it is something that we receive from God. My whole world began to spin as I pondered how I had managed to miss that we are to live loved by God first and foremost before we can ever respond to that love appropriately -- either to Love God or to Love Others.

Then, I had been introduced to C. Baxter Kruger and his Perichoresis organization, but it was not the right time yet...until his book, The Shack Revisited, came out in the Fall of 2012. It was then that the other shoe began to drop -- both for getting perichoresis to focus in my mind, and for cHesed to be married to it. I had not seen, previously, that they are interconnected.

That's when I coined the term Perichoretic cHesed as the reality of the Triune God, into which Jesus has brought all of creation through the Incarnation of the Father's Eternal Son.

It is as though Perichoresis is the Music of the Great Dance (as it has been often called, and Baxter has a book called The Great Dance), whereas cHesed is the steps of the Dance itself. The melody calls forth the footwork, as it were.

* * * * * * *

So, there it is...the work on sharing Perichoretic cHesed begins in earnest.  I ran it past my Hebrew scholar cousin the other day and he thought it was on track. Not that I need approval, but it is nice to have every once in a while.

Of course, none of this will be new to those of you who have been hanging out in my wee purple corner of the interwebs, but I wanted to share the conversation with you.

Slowly but surely the concepts are beginning to gel well enough to be able to talk about them in a free-flowing manner.  This is good. It means it is making itself at home in my heart and mind.

Enough for today...off to do neurological exercises....

Be blessed!

Abi

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Abi and The Dones....

I have been following the Facebook page of Josh Packard, as well as his website concerning those he calls the dechurched. Yesterday and today he linked Facebook posts to the blog of John W. Hawthorne, where I read this blog post. It is important to go and read that post...or the rest of this post will not make as much sense as it should....

What follows is the comment I left on Josh's Facebook post:


Very well said. I do believe that there are a segment of the Dones who are done with institutional Church...and this article hits many of the reasons why. When I was growing up in Michigan, we had an old record called The Game of Life, which was essentially an audio of an announcer at an imaginary football game...where Jesus was the quarterback...and all the players were personifications of character. Think Paul Bunyon does Football.... While it was hysterically funny, I don't think it was intended to be.

We have been given the personification for the church, actually three:

It is a Family -- the family of the King. Kingdom life is family life. And Lord knows there are plenty of rules that have formed around family life. Part of the struggle has been the desire to continue to laminate the rules of patriarchy onto the Family of God...and many Dones are done with playing the patriarchy game.

The second is as Bride of Christ...and there are just as many rules about what is means to be a Bride -- ones that are a subset of patriarchy.

When half the population of the world (women) are regulated to the margins to the extent that they are in so many institutionalized manifestations of the Church, many of those women -- and their families -- find themselves unable to grow and exercise the gifts the Spirit has bestowed on the for the building up of the Body of Christ, which is the third one. It is no wonder that so many women find ministry opportunities outside the church in the social services area of communities and paracurch organizations, where the rules are less stringent because the immediate needs for workers are so high. Same applies to the mission field, where women are often embraced because there is such a high need for willing hands and feet.

Then there are some of us who have had to make a stand because we have sons who can't understand why Christians don't believe in equality.... I have embarked on a long road of providing a fresh vision of Church for the sake of my sons and their future families.

Finally, I come to the Body of Christ. If people really learned their physiology and considered the beauty and intricacy of the human body, perhaps they would see that there is another set of rules altogether that apply. But some do not see the body/soul/spirit as one whole...they see the body as parts. And when the Body of Christ moves to a mechanistic, utilitarian view, then parts are parts. If one part isn't working, just cut it out and transplant a fresh one. Or give it the latest drug (What? Side effects?!) to keep it under control.

As many of us have embraced alternatives to the professional medical institutions, ones which consider the patient in a holistic manner, we have been enlightened to how the Body of Christ has not been well cared for at the cellular level...

Well, I certainly didn't intent to wax on...but this struck some big nerves. I may have to do some pondering about this over at my wee blog later. Blessings!

There are a couple of typos in there, but I'm too tired to look for them...imperfection is important. ;^)

And I'm not done pondering this post...but I didn't want too much time to pass before sharing it here, just in case it is encouraging or interesting to any of my fellow journey mates.

Be blessed!

Abi

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Abi's New Year's Eve Reflections

A Facebook post by Sarah Bessey asked for a word or phrase to sum up the year.  What popped into my head was:  Preserved to Persevere.

These were the words whispered into my heart earlier this year when I pondered the reason for so many horrific injuries, accidents and trauma visited on me (any my family) over the past 20 years, with an emphasis on the past five.

I had been preserved.

In the face of so many times when I could have been lost -- or more severely injured -- Death had been turned away.  No.  It is not her time...not yet.

Why?

We rarely find an acceptable answer for the "Why?" question...I had learned that lesson over the years from my Patron Saint:  Job.  This year was so hard I found myself back there...wondering why.  And the Spirit answered.

I had been preserved.

You will have heard me say "privilege is always given for a purpose" many times. So I wondered what purpose there was in the continued privilege of walking on this side of Kingdom Life.

I had been preserved to persevere.

There is to be no giving up or giving in....

Interestingly, I finished the year reading an amazing book. Neurological issues have severely limited my ability to read these past five years, so I knew this was a gift.  I read "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand.  I totally recommend this book. But this story had been told from another angle. Louis Zamperini had written his autobiography earlier.  He talked about two things:  never give up and never give in.

Louis Zamperini knew what it meant to be preserved to persevere.

My wee story is nothing compared with his. What a remarkable man. But I think, if we will have eyes that see, that each of us can see how we have been preserved to persevere. Whatever obstacles are thrown in our path, we find a way to not give up or give in. But is not not easy and it is done one step at a time. In the moment, we can't see a way forward...but somehow we take one more step....

One step at a time, I have arrived at the end of this year. Tomorrow will bring 2015...and I do not know what the journey will look like.

But I will put my hand in the hand of God, every day. And Father, Son and Spirit will be to me better than light and safer than a known way.  Seven New Year's Eves now since that post...and still so much darkness. But I will persevere. And, even though it is clear that I knew I was not alone seven years ago, I have such a deeper sense of God's presence...of my participation in The Great Dance.

I will persevere...one day at a time...with 2015 being a bit of a 12 Step dance, I think. ;^)

Be blessed!

Abi

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Abi's Advent -- Week One

...so, I was gone Sunday through Friday night late for the entire first week of Advent...the week where we talk about longing...longing for the Savior to come and make things right, bringing justice and righteousness.

I spent this week longing as well.  Longing for this week of intensive neurological therapy to restore balance to my battered brain.  It was a lot of work, but the good news is that the wonderful team at NW Functional Neurology were, effectively, able to reboot my brain and restore balance.

The bad news is that my newly-balanced pathways are not solid enough yet to withstand the waves of stress that wash over my brain day in and day out...and so I must work through my set of nine exercises three to five times a day...and make these fragile pathways solid from repetition...and more repetition. And I have to find a way to reduce the stress.

There is no one in my home who is particularly interested in this essential task before me, much less eager to help me -- either with the exercises or with the reduction of stressors.

...just me -- and Jesus and Papa and Grandmother, that is.  Somehow, it is time to make this foursome the true Reality in all aspects of my life...every day...all day long.  Yes, I would like to have my family help, encourage and care for me. But that's just not what's happening right now. It makes me very, very sad and lonely to own that reality.  But it is, as they say, what it is.

And so I have had a very intense sense of longing this week...longing for the Primary Family of Father, Son and Spirit to take their rightful place in my heart this Advent...to dull the ache of expectation and replace it with the healing balm of expectancy. 

All. Will. Be. Well.  [Always makes me think of that recurring theme from Shakespeare In Love:  It will all work out in the end.  How?  I don't know, it's a mystery.]  Embrace the mystery....

As Advent cycles around again this year, I am a completely different person than I was last year...and every year before. I am grateful for all that I have learned and all the ways I have grown.  I believe that this was the year and the time for this work to be accomplished with my very purple, broken brain...and I trust that Jesus will walk with me through the therapy.

So...just had to get this first post of Advent in before midnight, when the Second Sunday of Advent begins.

Whew!

Blessings on you....

Abi

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Abi and November's Synchroblog: Spiritual Abuse and Redemption


Updated update!  Kathy Escobar chimed in...better late than never, indeed! 

Update!  Scroll down to the bottom for the links for the rest of the posts....

* * * * * * *

Hmmm...I have found it a bit challenging to write about a topic that still actively triggers me, but I have had a look at it from a couple perspectives lately, so here goes. This post is part of November's Synchroblog. Please do take time to go and read all the posts!

I think that the root of spiritual abuse stems from confusion: about who God is, about who we are, and about how to treat each other. Everyone is confused, on some level, about these three things. The problem is not that we are confused, but that we are unwilling to embrace self-awareness about it so that we can deal with our confusion effectively.

Spiritual abuse comes from two basic kinds of relational dysfunction:
  1. Because I am confused about who God is, I am confused about who I am in relation to God and to Others. This confusion, if I am not vigilant to seek the Truth for myself, can make me vulnerable to being dominated by the convictions of others.
  2. Because I believe I am right about who God is, I am self-righteous about who I am in relation to God and Others. This conviction makes me vulnerable to dominating others who remain in confusion.
In order for spiritual abuse to occur, you have to have both kinds of people:  the vulnerable and the dominant.  As Dr. Phil and Robin McGraw say: You teach people how to treat you.  The problem is that we usually teach this without realizing it. We give away our power to those we think are more competent to manage it. What we put up with is what we'll get.

But this is not a post about shame. It is a post about repentance and redemption. And it's something that we all need to engage with throughout our lives.  We never get past the need for repentance and redemption, because none of us are perfect.

As an aside, I think many Christians have problems here because they have misunderstood Sanctification as a state to be achieved instead of a process to embrace.  It is yet another example of the Already/Not Yet Paradox....

The late M. Scott Peck, MD, in his important book, The Different Drum, spoke about the four stages of spiritual growth.  One important insight is that as you grow, you have to choose to remember yourself as you were in the earlier stages so that you are able to relate to those still in those stages.  People who forget this tend to only relate to those in the last stage they passed through. Those who are farther back in the stages of growth will not only not relate to such a person...but will typically think they are evil.

One more morsel from Peck (see this post) that I think comes into play for this topic has to do with laziness. Peck came to see original sin as laziness:  “attempting to avoid necessary suffering, or taking the easy way out.”

The vulnerable and the dominant are both caught in the web of laziness.  Striving to know God and know yourself and others is the ultimate in necessary suffering. No one can do this work for us--we must embrace the struggle ourselves. Yes, we need companions on this journey, but we must each walk the path, step by step, ourselves...or we do not gain the strength, experience and stamina we need for relationship with God and Others.

To take the easy way out, to attempt to avoid this necessary suffering, misses the mark. It's sin.

For those who are confused and vulnerable, missing this mark can look like trying to find someone who will tell you what to think and do. These folks teach people to treat them like children who can't do things for themselves. They find their way to churches or other institutions that will give them boundaries and, for all intents and purposes, make their decisions for them. These churches or other institutions will, by definition, stunt the growth of these folks by encouraging them to cede their personal power and self-control.  It may seem benevolent, but it is still domination and it slowly steals Life.

For those who believe they are Sanctified (done deal) and Authorized to represent God, missing this mark can look like choosing programs and policies and procedures that control and standardize the thoughts and actions of others. These folks, intentionally or not, make others dependent on them rather than discipling them toward greater maturity. Resorting to power and control are actually attempts to take the easy way out by not really having to love and teach and correct personally in the context of authentic relationships.  "If you would just do what I tell you to do, everything would be fine." Or maybe not....

Now that I've sketched out spiritual abuse a bit, let's turn to redemption.


I have become more and more convinced that AA's 12 Step program is possibly the best foundation for discipleship, and certainly a good way to engage in the necessary suffering of growing up. Yes, it is a program, but it is one that brings persons into the hard work rather than shielding them. In the end, we are all addicts trying to recover from something!

The 12 steps, as outlined on the Realistic Recovery blog, are powerful.  Have you ever read them? Worked through some of the program? It is worth your time...and it is something that needs to be done with at least one other, preferably a mentor.

I would prefer a group of three:  someone I look up to as farther along the road, me, and someone who looks up to me. I think it is most balanced if someone is helping us up and we are helping someone up. Of course, these persons must be willing to engage the process with you and have already proven themselves to be trustworthy. It is not a small commitment, this....

The key to redemption is being willing to engage in the suffering that comes from honest  self-reflection.  And this is where Step #4 shines: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.  Yeah, when was the last time you did that?  Have you ever done it?

Take a look at this list of Character Defects and Assets...Looking at the Man (or Woman) in the Mirror.  One man, talking about processing Step #4, said that they were not able to look at the Assets until they had thoroughly processed the Defects...because it was too easy to fool themselves into thinking that they were not really that bad--all things considered. Our capacity for self deception is, sadly, enormous!

Again, this is not a guilt or shame exercise.  Rather, it is a courageous opportunity to look deeply at your character.  Of course, Step #s 5, 6 and 7 deal with those defects discerned, while #s 8 and 9 move to identifying who we have harmed through these defects and the making of amends, where possible.  Step # 10 commits to regular self-examination and promptly admitting defects as they are recognized.  This is what the process of Sanctification looks like, friends.  It is a life-long process.

Step # 11 commits to improve our conscious contact with God and # 12 commits to living life by these principles and sharing them with other addicts.  Yeah, sounds like the Jesus Creed, doesn't it?

* * * * * * *

There are so many others who have developed such important works that will help with understanding spiritual abuse and redemption.  My friend, Brad FuturistGuy Sargent, is a fabulous place to start....

In the end, I believe the only way to approach spiritual abuse and redemption is to realize that we all participate in it, one way or another.  We have spots where we avoid necessary suffering and take the easy way out. We have spots when we use our power to control others so we don't have to do the hard work of confrontation and correction. We have spots where we submit to the power and control of others so we don't have to do the hard work of being confronted and corrected.

If you have been abused, seek help as you process the pain...you are not alone and guilt and shame will not bind your wounds. If someone speaks to you with words of guilt and shame, RUN! Look for resources to help you. Be gentle with yourself, because the process of grief can be intense and last longer than you might think.  God can handle your emotions....

If you have witnessed abuse, wake up and look for those who are hurting and come to them with listening ears. Hear their story fully. Bear their pain with them in silence, without inflaming it with your own emotions. Honor their trust with fidelity. Your presence is more important than any words you might want to say. Be patient and do not press them beyond what they are willing to share.

If you have been abusive, gather up the courage to STOP and confess it to God. Follow the 12 Steps. Get deep into Step #4. Look into the options offered on the other posts in this Synchroblog. Find someone who will walk with you as you embrace the necessary suffering of repentance, confession, reparation and, if possible, reconciliation.  Let God's redemption drill down into your soul, to drain the swamp and clean up your soul.

* * * * * * *

We teach each other how to treat us...but we need to learn a better way.  I call that way Perichoretic cHesed. The 12 Steps are a particularly lovely theme of The Great Dance.

Whether we like it or not, the human condition is wrapped up in suffering because growing is painful -- physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally. But this is the sweetest of pains, because our dancing partner is Jesus. Are you draging him along in your dreadful dance, or are you letting him lead you in The Great Dance?

Life is a long list of Necessary Losses:  the loves, illusions, dependencies and impossible expectations that all of us have to give up in order to grow. Trying to cheat and avoid the pain of these necessary losses leads to all manner of chaos and destruction. That way dragons lie....

Be blessed as you journey. Do not think that you go alone, for Father, Son and Spirit are always with you. But do find companions to hold your left hand and your right hand as you go, because we're all in this together.

Abi

 * * * * * * *

Here are the links to the reset of the posts in the Synchroblog:

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Abi's "One Sentence Summary"

I am always fascinated by the pathways the Spirit leads me down!  Today's led me to the blog of Andrew Perriman, to whom I was introduced during the work of producing Wikiklesia, Volume One: Voices of the Virtual World.

Anyway, I found my way to this post, which I found interesting. The challenge was to capture the message of the Bible in one sentence. So I decided to make a wee attempt [after two years of processing, Baxter!], which ended up in their spam filter...but I copied it so I could paste it here:

Hello, Andrew! Very late to the convo, but here's my wee attempt:

From Eternity, God has dwelt as Father, Son and Spirit in 3-in-1 Perichoretic cHesed, and chose to create in order to include Their Imago Dei, male and female, in Their relationship, though the "already/not yet" process was long, counter-intuitive, difficult, subversive and traumatic, as well as intimate, gracious, merciful, loving and joyous; and it would, from Eternity, require the Incarnation of the Son as Jesus the Christ--fully God and fully Human--to "finish/begin" the recreation/adoption/inclusion process via his birth, life, ministry, death, burial, resurrection, ascension and sending of the Spirit as indwelling guide and advocate for the new brothers and sisters until Chronos ceases and Kairos is our Now/Forever reality.

From an older, white, post-evangelical, Trinitarian, American "virtual abbess"...taking a page from the Apostle Paul's "run-on-sentence" playbook.  ;^)


The first time it was blocked, it erased my "sentence" ... and I was appalled because it felt like one of those times when what I wrote could not be repeated.  But then I felt like, if this was something that was really jelled in my heart, I could repeat it.  So I did...and that is what I pasted above.  And it is close...but, I think, even better than the first attempt.  So, thanks, Spam Blocker, for the help!  ;^)

Feel free to take the challenge yourself. You can go and read all the attempts at Andrew's blog first, if you want. Or you can just jump in without being influenced (other than my wee attempt above). You can put your attempt in my comments section...I will check the Spam file and rescue you if you end up there.  :^)

This was a fine exercise for this crisp, cold and blue sky day! 

Hallelujah!

Be blessed....

Abi