Friday, February 29, 2008

Abi's Lent: Day 24 ... and more of the flu

Warning ... delirium-induced rambling transparency ahead!

When it takes a good eight days for a bug to wear me down with interrupted sleep and nausea before it pounces on the respiratory tract, it just is not good, friends. That means the already waaaay sleep deprived, fledgling adrenals dead tired Abbess feels like she's been hit with a Mack truck.

In these moments, and I have experienced this, maybe, 10 times in my life, my coping mechanisms are overwhelmed. I get to the end of my rope... and just free fall into Papa's hands -- just can't even hang on. I pray all the prayers and do all the things I can to cooperation with my body. And then it just is what it is. Fortunately I can type even when mostly dead ... God must want me to share this suffering.

I have to try especially hard to keep from crying, because that increases my congestion by I don't even know what magnitude. I am desperate just to lay down and stretch out ... but then I cannot breathe and begin to cough if I try to breathe through my mouth. I am weary of 10 days of sitting up trying to sleep. I understand why thin folks succumb to these kinds of illnesses ... I'll be grateful for those extra pounds when I'm a little more coherent. ;^)

... I am reminded of feelings expressed by Job and David, even though my circumstance is not theirs. This does not mean, however, that my situation is not real and my desperation false. And this bit of purple wallowing has an important point in line with today's chapter ... so let's get on with it.

Chapter 15 in The Jesus Creed is called A Society for Justice. Big topic ... not gonna scratch the surface! But talking about justice sends me racing back to The Shack, for I believe the truth revealed about justice is one of the most important things Young offers his readers.

Scot defines justice as making things right -- as does Young. Justice is not about retribution but about reconciliation. About making everything work out for good. And it frequently looks and feels very unfair. Another paradox, eh?

Societal laws govern civil justice -- and I agree with Scot that our system is one of the best ones out there. The judges set penalties for those who break the law. That's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about Christ's Kingdom being for justice ... for making things right where we can -- loving God and loving others.

In the midst of my suffering, I know that God is at work at many different levels to bring about a work whose opportunity has arisen because of this illness. Papa is redeeming my pain rather than summarily relieving it. This is a very hard pill for us to swallow.

I believe the lesson he is reminding me about is how easily human Eikons fall into idolatry when it comes to those twin traps: ease and comfort.

We want to be comfortable -- at all cost. And we want to live a life of ease -- at all costs. This is certainly not the way of the Jesus Creed! Yet we have an amazing opportunity, as Scot highlights in the parable of the sheep and goats, to consider how many times we are acting like sheep and how many times little goaty horns can be seen creeping out our foreheads.

It falls to a single word: hospitality. There are many who have written about the demise of the art of hospitality over the past 100 years. I know there are many reasons for it, but I also know that it is possible to overcome it, if we're following Jesus.

I've made this challenge at other times in other venues, but I believe that one of the areas where we can make a difference is in loving others in the way they need to be loved -- not in the way that is most comfortable and easy for me. Gulp.

I've linked to this chart before, but I'll do it again in this context -- in the hopes that it might make better sense. What I do with this chart is take a lot of different actions that can be undertaken in a variety of settings -- with all of them helping us act our way into a new way of thinking. What is that thinking? Scot would call it the Jesus Creed. I would agree while widening the angle of the lens to include some help with the "how" of it.

The challenge is not that any of this information is news, the challenge is that we are beholden to our covenant brothers and sisters to come to their aid in their time of need, regardless of whether it is easy or comfortable to do so.

Now, the Abbess doesn't do guilt, so this is not about making you feel bad about stuff ... it is rather shared with you out of my suffering to encourage you to open your eyes to those in your path Jesus is asking for you to love like yourself.

My challenge is to be transparent with my family that I will not be able to get to the time when I'll be able to pull myself up by my bootstraps. Eight years of injury and weakness piling up has taken a toll. I have come to see the past four month's debilitating exhaustion (physical and mental) as my path toward recognizing this truth. The organizational queen will not be able to get her house in order. Her husband will not be able to add this task to his already full plate as Knight in Shining Armor. Her young boys are going to have to step up and begin to take responsibility for things.

They are fully capable ... but the idolatry of ease and comfort is second nature to them ;^) ....

It is a hard thing to tell your children then will have to step into Mom's shoes a bit and learn to do the laundry and the dishes and some more cooking and picking up their rooms and taking care of their trash. Definitely smacks of unfair -- at least to them! They are already bearing burdens from the emotional trauma of an unavailable mother ... sigh.

What does a Mom do who spends a good deal of her time in bed? She spends a lot of time yelling. :^( But I know that God is about to use this bit in our journey to make up for the past eight years, where these precious boys have run -- um -- a bit feral because their Mom was not able to give them the structure and consistence that requires running after them, physically restraining toddlers, playing at the park, having friends over for play dates...well the list is too long.

I'll tell you what she doesn't do. She doesn't need to have folks tell her it's just a terrible time with young children. That she just needs to get better organized. That it will pass soon enough. Each of these statements is a cop out to the idolatry of ease and comfort that peaks out with little goat horns ....

If there is someone in your sphere whose need seems, well, beyond meeting, do this. Stop and think about what it might be to live that life, not ponder how impossible it is for you to impact it with love. Get to know that person/family and get a real sense of what their needs are. And then ask God to show you how you can love them. Don't take on the world ... just the neighbor God puts in your path.

It is good to hear stories around of those who are living into the lives of others ... but there's plenty of heartbreak to go around.

Well, that's all folks ... I am grateful that Papa's love for me is strong enough to hold me even when I can't hold on.

In Papa's strong hands.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Abi's Lent: Day 23 ... and the flu

The only good thing (that I can see, so far, that is ;^) ) about having the flu and a splitting headache and eyes that feel bruised when moved/opened and a fever and a bit of vertigo for the past week or so is that it gives me a lot of time to repeat the Jesus Creed and the Jesus Prayer ... all night long as I toss and turn instead of sleeping and dreaming. Such is the life of the purple martyr, after all.

I am hoping to recover enough by Friday (yikes, that's tomorrow!) to attend the Ekklesia NW conference in Portland. Lord willing ....

In the meantime I have read chapter 14: A Society of Mustard Seeds in The Jesus Creed. My thoughts are a little random ... I'm figuring it's the delirium. ;^) Here's the gist of what's in my journal for yesterday.

Scot does a great job, as always, setting the context for us. And this saying about the mustard seed is a direct rebuke to the Jealots and those who dreamed of a Messiah as Warrior King and Deliverer from the yoke of the Romans. For Jesus, the Kingdom was spread by planting seeds that grew up into large and useful plant that benefited everyone. Put a seed in your pocket and plant it at the right moment ... don't ride in with your armies and destroy all dissenters.

I sure wish that Pope Urban would have understood this context ... thinking about the Crusades a lot these days ... and so many other times when the church has been willing to link arms with the state to conquer in Jesus' name. The ultimate in taking the name of the Lord in vain, in my book. :^(

What a continual source of grief this must be for our loving Papa.

But I did have a thought creep in at this point that I'm fairly sure won't be popular with some of my newly-met brethren and sistren. It has to do with the justification of any use of force.

While I am very sympathetic to the pacifist stance, I see this issue as a bit more Kingdom related than society-at-large related. I am all for more and better communication and cooperation with those who seek to do us harm based on real or perceived injustices. But I do think that there is a time and place for protection of hearth and home ... it just must be better thought out--like just about everything else! Not knee-jerk uncontrolled use of force based on fear, but a restrained use of well trained and well executed skill that kills only as a last resort.

...a small story break...

One of our favorite movies in called Connagher, with Sam Elliot as the title character. He's the classic tall dark man of the prairie ... doesn't say much, always polite, helps folks--even if it risks his own life. He's a tough man and a deadly shot ... but isn't known for his gunslinger graveyard. At one point in the movie, after he had just emerged victorious from a brawl picked by an enemy, he is asked why he hadn't killed the man. I love his reply: "He didn't need killin' -- needed to be taught a lesson."

Okay, this is a total break in thought ... just putting up a warning cone for you ....

I was especially grateful for Scot to reinforce the notion that Jesus was unschooled. I am a bit weary of those who go on and on about how Jesus was a brilliantly educated Jewish rabbi. The brilliant thing about Jesus the rabbi from Nazareth is exactly that he was unschooled -- yet spoke with more wisdom and authority than anyone had ever heard.

This was a refreshing reminder for a wee, flu-ish, purple abbess who struggles with not being well schooled enough to serve well in the Kingdom. It is being full of the Spirit that makes up for all our lack...

And this on the tail of a couple of conversations Tuesday concerning Greek vs Hebrew "knowing", where I linked to Alan Hirsch's great post of "acting our way into a new way of thinking." We are always tempted to view things from the Greek way, where knowing means learning more stuff...and too frequently doesn't lead to doing much about what we have learned.

But if we remember the Jesus Creed, and that Jesus is Lord, then we will begin to understand the Hebrew take on "knowing" as intimate experience with another. Because we love God with all we have and are, we are asked to SHOW it by following Jesus. This is the first step toward acting our way into a new way of thinking. And the new way of thinking that this action lead to is loving others as we love ourselves.

You don't need to be a rocket scientist to love your neighbors, friends! You do, however, need to be obedient. Those you know who are not-yet Christians don't need you to explain the truth of God more clearly to them. They need you to act like it is true. All the time. No strings attached. Just because you want them to come to learn that Papa is especially fond of them ....

One more warning cone ....

Scot includes the story of the wheat and the weeds/tares ... a story many have problems with. It is a wonderful showing of restraint, which I continue to tout as God's greatest attribute, to allow the weed to grow with the wheat ... especially because he knows that uprooting the weeds may very well damage the wheat -- but the weeds will distinguish themselves at the harvest time and will be sorted out then.

But Scot adds something I had not heard before. He suggested that this restraint allows the possibility of some of those weeds actually being transformed into wheat. Love that image. Thanks, Scot!

Which just goes to show that the paradox remains: the Kingdom is not about splendor and shows of might. It is rather about simple, everyday relationships that strike up out in the field, where wheat and weeds grow together ... and hopefully allow the Jesus Creed to transform everyone!

Restrained by Papa's Love.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Abi's Lent: Day 20

Hey, we're half way there -- on our 40 Days Living the Jesus Creed Challenge leading up to Lent. It has been a good focus time for me, and I am grateful to be finally reading The Jesus Creed along the journey. I'm sure you're getting weary hearing it, but this will be definitely one of those books I will be suggesting to folks who want to understand what CovenantClusters is all about ... one of a growing list, for which I am eternally (as well as immediately) grateful!

Today I read chapter 13 -- first in the second section called The Society of the Jesus Creed -- entitled A Society of Transformation. And I am immediately reminded again of the Covenant Formulary: In Christ + Like Christ = With Christ. Scot (p. 127) speaks of the importance of the term Kingdom of God, defining it basically as: the kingdom is the society in which the Jesus Creed transforms life. In the here and now of daily human existence, not the then and there of Jesus' return and what follows.

This means that we must first join this society. That is where the "in Christ" comes in, with the accepting of the New Covenant. But once one is "in Christ" one must join this society -- this cluster of believers who love God by following Jesus and living out the Jesus Creed by loving others. The "like Christ" society of transformation. The world has known them for years by the word "church" ... but, alas, this word has been terribly compromised. Sigh! :^(

And so we are called, this generation, to order pockets of this Kingdom society afresh -- returning to our roots in order to grow again ... no, flourish. The evidence for this old dance -- one step left, two steps right -- is cropping up everywhere. And I am encouraged by this, almost 26 months out from the vision for CovenantClusters.

Here's what I wrote in my Jesus Creed Journal this morning:

One of the important components in the vision for CovenantClusters is this very idea of a transforming society. I believe that it requires an intentional community in order to overcome the extreme isolation of the current individualistic society we live in.

We must have an environment where all are both encouraged to go deeper in relationship to Jesus (loving God) and to be accountable to live out the Jesus Creed together. To live out the Kingdom now in the midst of their everyday life.

This is cHesed and the life of the Hasidim of Jesus -- clusters of transformed societies out in the neighborhoods!

Radical words call for radical actions....

Dancing with Papa and Jesus and Sarayu.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Abi and Evolution

I don't often get into the middle of these kinds of discussions, because I am not thoroughly educated enough on any side of the issue to really engage properly. But that is my predicament in every subject, so I must do the best I can to understand as my limited abilities allow.

So, following another link from Scot's Meanderings, I wound up in this discussion about evolution. My comment may be found here, but it is best if you read the previous comments in order to understand my context. At the time I made this post, there was no response to my comment ... and there may never be! That's okay with me -- I benefited from the discussion! :^)

I am hopeful that some of the other questions that were asked might be discussed ... they are all fine questions.

I do, however, hunger for deeper thinking about these things. I grow weary of heated rhetoric and simplistic thinking and unacknowledged blind faith. Own your leaps of faith for what they are -- leaps of faith. But don't squash me because I am unwilling to make a leap of faith that another chooses to call solid fact. The pieces that they may be looking at might be solid fact, but how they connect and may be extrapolated can be an entirely different story. And the conclusions one makes and the actions one takes based on those conclusions can go very different places.

I guess this is a wee bit of a rant, but I hope you will see that it is not a heated one, but a very sincere expression of my heart.

Leaning--by faith--on Papa.

Abi's Replacement for The Bridge....

I was browsing links from Scot McKnight's Weekly Meanderings and came across this post from David Fitch. I got to thinking about it and composed this reply (which did not seem to come up in the comments big deal, since I copied it first ;^) ).

Please do read David's post first, so that you will have the proper context of this important conversation, which provides me with the opportunity to talk more about cHesed. Here it is:

Great post! I have been uncomfortable with The Bridge since I first came in contact with The 4 Spiritual Laws in the mid 70s.

I wasn't able to put my finger on the problem until I came to see all things about God and his Eikons through the lens of covenant. In a covenant there are terms and conditions to be kept by all parties and benefits or consequences based on faithful covenant keeping.

The formulary I have since learned goes: In Christ + Like Christ = With Christ. I resonate with it because it allows me a greater breadth and depth of potential conversation:

It allows me to talk about the adoption we have been offered in Christ -- and the love and acceptance and forgiveness and identity it brings.

It allows me to talk about the response God desires of his children (as Scot says in The Jesus Creed): Love God totally by following Jesus and loving others. This is what it means to be like Christ -- it is the culture of the family of God.

And it allows me to talk about the amazing grace of the presence of Christ through the indwelling Holy Spirit -- not just for our own sake as we are continually transformed into the image of Jesus, but as we actively join Jesus in accomplishing God's mission of reconciliation. I'm going to copy this, because I haven't "said" it out loud like this before!

Thanks for the good conversation!

Stay tuned later today for the next post in Abi's Lent series.

Leaning on Papa.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Abi's Lent: Day 17

Chapter 12 closes out the the second section of The Jesus Creed: Stories of The Jesus Creed. It was about the women impacted by Jesus' compassion.

Compassion. This is something that seems to be in short supply. Not pity, mind you. Pity can be sorry for someone's circumstance ... but compassion compels one to do something about it.

This takes me to the thought: why is there a shortage of compassion? On page 111 Scot gives three reasons:
  1. "Sometimes we treat the needy as if they are pariahs, as if they have done something to deserve their fate."
  2. "Sometimes our social allergies to others are the result of a moral judgment."
  3. "More often they come from a profound inner disturbance of not knowing what to do with people who have profound needs.
The first one resonated with me ... yes, there certainly is more than enough moral judgment raining down on those who are needy. And I suspect that it is this "killing rain" that prevents many with needs from asking for help. What a pathetic commentary on a people with a message of grace and mercy....

The second one grabbed me. "Social allergies" indeed! Having struggled for many years with significant allergies, I certainly made connections with this one. Allergies are basically the brain mistaking something that is not harmful with something that is. Somehow, sometime, somewhere (even in one's ancestors), the innocent item got associated with a bad experience of the individual and became an "allergen" to be protected against in the future. We can be allergic to anything (including people!) -- even combinations of things! And when we have become allergic to something, the reaction to them becomes unconscious ... and sometimes violent.

Going along with yesterday's post -- about needing to be healed before we can offer healing -- goes right along with this. When a "social allergy" becomes recognized, we must go to the Great Physician and seek healing and release so that we can serve more effectively.

I'll be thinking about this allergy thing for a while longer.....

But it is the third one that I believe is the most prevalent -- we just don't know what to do to meet the profound needs of others. We don't know what to say. We don't know how to act. We don't know....

And so this is what I wrote in my journal:

This seems to me to be the challenge of the everyday living of the Jesus Creed -- observing those in need, discerning the nature of the true need, having compassion, and then doing something to actually meet their need.

...just today I was reminded of the phrase "hurting people hurt people" in the context of pondering the myth of the wounded hero ... which made me think "healed people heal people." We do not reach out because we are not healed ourselves. Wow. People hide behind their appearance of "okay-ness" and so are unable to see another's needs -- being blinded by their own unhealed wounds and unmet needs.

One of the things that Purple Martyrdom is not about is feeling smug about one's own suffering. As if it is a badge of holiness. No, that is a form of self-righteousness that can be both delusional and destructive.

Some people have come to define themselves by their suffering. They do not want to be healed because they don't know how to be different -- and they don't want to be accountable for actually living The Jesus Creed -- as if their suffering is a permanent excuse from discipleship.

But The Purple Martyrdom is seeking healing from Jesus at all levels -- physical, emotional and spiritual -- but not allowing those wounds to "let us off the hook" for obedience to the call to follow Jesus by loving God and loving others.

The truth of Christ's words to Paul that "my strength is made perfect in weakness" is the paradox embraced by those who live The Purple Martyrdom. In the very midst of our woundedness, we find that Christ's grace is sufficient. We are able to serve out of our weakness because of Christ's strength that comes into play because of our weakness.

But we serve at Christ's bidding -- not our own or others. He gives us strength to accomplish his mission.

Sometimes we are blessed by a return to health ... sometimes not ... sometimes it is partial or temporary ... always it is in connection with a task set before us. And so we come to see any progress in our situation as a preparation for service. It is a very subtle change in perspective.

Now that I have pondered it a bit longer, it is, actually, more nuanced and reminds me of Calvin Miller's classic The Singer -- where the hands that reach out in compassion are hands that have been horribly broken. Being healed means that they are capable of doing what needs to be done ... but it is impossible not to notice the scars....

It's not that one glories in the wounds and scars -- that's back to a false purple. It's that one doesn't let the wounds and scars stop them from allowing Christ to bring glory to God in the midst of their circumstances.

When we let Jesus reach out through us to others who suffer as we suffer, we offer them a powerful hope that does not disappoint.

...I'll be pondering this some more.

Leaning on Papa.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Abi's Lent: Day 16

The Abbess is fighting off whatever is going around (our youngest succumbed last night) ... but did manage to read chapter 11 of The Jesus Creed today. It was about John's story -- from brash young follower to seasoned Apostle of Love.

John's story is, well, Everyman's story! (Sonja, you can read that Everywoman's story. ;^) )

The timing of this particular story is, well, timely. We read of a young John who was full of spit and fire -- heady with power, yet not quite understanding that the power was from and for love ... of God and others. He was still a bit stuck in the us and them state that the Jews had embraced as the Chosen People. And as his fathers before him, he forgot the purpose for the privilege. Sigh.

Today I struggle with loving those who think they don't need my love. Or perhaps they just want to use me for their ends and discard me when I become inconvenient. Being one called to speak the truth in love, I need to call attention to their actions because they transgress love. They are not loving me like they expect me to love them.

I struggle with being slightly offended -- disappointed is a better word, really. Yet I must respond and not just react ... because I am indeed concerned with their best interest being served, even if they are not consciously concerned with mine. But love is something that frequently moves under our radar ... and can take time and distance to be recognized.

Scot speaks of Smedes again and quotes from his last book, My God and I. I have a whole shelf of books my Smedes. I call him the pastor of the heart. This is what transparency looks and sounds and feels like. Someone who asks the real questions his heart is asking.

The power to love, as John found out, does indeed come from being next to Jesus, and thereby learning the truth of what Papa's love is like.

Next to Jesus; leaning on Papa.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Abi's Lent: Day 15

Haven't had a chance to read in Scot's book for two days now ... lots of interruptions and a few night of poor sleep....

I have, however, spent an inordinate amount of my time in the past 48 hours pondering The Jesus Creed and praying for strength and wisdom as I endeavor to love God and love others. As I mentioned in a friend's blog comments earlier today: this love stuff is really difficult.

Leaning of Papa.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Lent Break -- Happy Birthday, Mom!

I had to take a break from the Lent schedule for February 19th, for a number of reasons. The best reason was to celebrate the birth of my wonderful Mother. I told her on the phone that I have slowly been understanding what makes her so special. It is her heart of service. She is always doing what someone really needs to have done -- usually without being asked -- and always without looking for thanks or reward, much less any thought for what she would rather be doing.

If one of Mother's children or grandchildren has ever really needed what only Mom or Grandma could give, she has always been there. Faithful -- that's a good word for her.

My Mother is one of the very best examples of a life lived by The Jesus Creed, even though she has never read the book. She has, however, been reading The Book all of her life -- and so she knows and understands the centrality of the call for loving God and loving others ... and that this means humble service to others.

Not even going to start telling stories ... wouldn't know where to start or finish.

So, thanks, Mom, for loving God and loving others -- especially me.

And Happy Birthday!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Abi's Lent: Day 13

Just love chapter 10! Praising God for his timing, again, I have decided that The Jesus Creed will have to be another of the foundational books for CovenantClusters. God is, indeed, good.

Scot takes us through Peter's conversion process. And that he identifies it as a process is very good news to me. He show the difference between those who see conversion as a "Birth Certificate" moment in time (which can lead to an entitlement mentality) and conversion as a "Driver's License" that comes as one grows and matures and takes responsibility to take to the road with Jesus.

Conversion is a process, friends. And even though some have a "Paul" experience that crystallizes the process, most of us have the "Peter" experience of one step forward, two steps back on the road to belief and active service of our Lord. We have to see clearly before we respond properly. The road begins with private love of God and others, but it must become public -- and our license to drive gets us out on the highway!

Which takes me back to Abi's cHesed Glasses ... being able to see as God sees so that we will first love God and then love others -- ALL others. I guess that means that each of us in the Kingdom will have restricted licenses. We all need help seeing. ;^)

So many other good thoughts ... I'll have to stop here!

On the road with Papa.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Abi's Lent: Day 12

In chapter 9 of The Jesus Creed, Scot talks about Mary and vocation. This chapter, as so many other things I read, had just too many points to process well. I yearn for a simpler life on so many levels....

I agree with him about the word vocation being not very well understood. And I also like his classifications: general and specific. I'll explain! ;^) Each of us has a general vocation or task, which is summed up in the Jesus Creed: Love God/Love Others. But we also have any number of specific "special assignments" -- things that only you can do.

I like to say it like this: There never has been, nor will there ever be, another YOU. If you do not embrace the tasks that only you can do, they will never be accomplished as you could have done them. Some of them may get picked up by someone else, but they will never be what was planned.

This is not guilt (The Abbess doesn't do guilt!), but rather simple truth. If Robert and I had not conceived our three boys exactly when we did, we would not have these three boys ... and our life would not be what it is today. I have a number of vocations that center around family -- and no one else can do these things if I do not do them. I am painfully aware of this....

I like Scot's quote of Dorothy Sayers, that vocation is "...the thing one lives to do" and it is "...the medium in which he offers himself to God." In this way vocation is sacred....

But Scot moves on to Mary's story of vocation and speaks to reputation, just as he did with Joseph yesterday. God stepped into their lives and "ruined" both of their reputations! Reminds me slightly of Job ... and one wonders a wee bit about the cost of having Papa "especially fond of you" -- if you know what I mean. ;^)

Redeeming past reputations is one of the things God does best. He sees and knows and accepts us in Jesus ... and our vocation becomes the daily offering of all we have and are to God and then, as Lewis says in the Narnia books, "accept the adventure that Aslan sends."

The important thing to remember is that when God redeems our past, he does not remove the wounds -- he heals them. The scars remain as testimony to the miracle. This is very purple work, friends, this embracing the pain and suffering and scars. We tell these kinds of inspirational stories looking back. But the minutes and hours and days and weeks and years of faithfulness to vocation are not easy. They are the cross that Christ asks us to bear.

I did a lot of thinking about vocation in the guise of understanding "vision" ... and sometime I will process the wonderful little book that helped me.

...many things left unsaid. Isn't that always the case?

Leaning on Papa.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Abi's Lent: Day 11

I woke up this morning wondering: how do I love God this way? Exactly what am I to do? When things are stressful, it seems just beyond my sight or reach ... sigh. But I think it is a good question to ask, and I'm sure Sarayu (that's the name for the Holy Spirit in The Shack) will help me one step at a time.

And then I got around to Chapter 8 in The Jesus Creed. Bingo -- step one delivered.

This chapter is about Joseph, Jesus' adopted father (I find that slightly ironic...that Jesus even knows how it feels to be adopted!), and the price he paid for loving God: his reputation.

Scot goes on to say that reputation (what others think of you) does not equal identity (who you really are), and I think this is very important. Back to valuing truth over perceptions. But, even more, is his statement that untangling these two is the beginning of spiritual formation. (p. 76)

I agree because learning what Papa says about who we are and what he thinks of us is more important than what we think ... and vitally more important that what others think of us! And the day that we join the New Covenant, our identity becomes "In Christ" and our reputation dies. When we "put on Christ" we take up his reputation.

Sometimes we have a hard time letting our reputation die ... this is just another aspect of dying to self so that we can live for Christ -- I had just not thought of it this way before!

Scot goes on to say that God put his reputation on the line with Jesus -- his unusual conception, his family circumstances, his radical life and teachings, especially his death. God certainly knows something about losing one's reputation....

But this is just another part of what Papa and Jesus were willing to lose in order to gain life for us. Even here, Jesus walks the path of valuing identity over reputation. Loving God means following Jesus ... and following Jesus means laying down our reputation in order to embrace our true identity. No matter what.

This is a very serious thing that I think too many do not consider when they go about their every day lives ... God's reputation is on the line because he has adopted us in Christ. What we do either gives glory to God in Christ, or splashes and smudges the Imago Dei.

Part of the Purple Martyrdom is laying down my puny personal reputation in favor of Christ's greater reputation. They aren't always mutually exclusive ... but sometimes it seems we get way too worked up about our deal and not worked up enough about God's.

Sigh.... That is certainly a great answer to my question. I'm going to be processing that....

Wrapped up in Jesus and Leaning on Papa.

Contacting Abi

Sometimes you want to leave a message for someone at their blog, but there isn't a straightforward way of doing that ... and so you just leave an out-of-the-blue note in the comments of the the most recent post.

If you want to do that, it's okay with me ... but if you want to get me a message and don't want to say it in the middle of a conversation, this post is for you!

So, let me know what you want me to know here in the comments -- and I'll try to respond, if I can.

BTW -- I will probably get in the habit of deleting the comments, unless they are hysterically funny ... because once I have the message, well, there is no need to keep it, right?

Be blessed.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Abi's Lent: Day 10

Chapter 7 of The Jesus Creed is about Truth telling--the good, the bad and the ugly!

The interesting thing about this today is that the focus is on telling God the truth, which is another way of being truthful with ourselves--since God knows everything, anyway!

There are so many ugly things that I want to squirrel away so that I don't have to deal with them. Ugh.... And this brings to mind a very helpful tool I learned back in college: The Johari Window.

Have you ever heard of this--or used it?

It speaks to the importance of self disclosure in order to know yourself better. Do you see the twist there? Not so that
others know you better, although that will be a secondary result. The key for me is to realize that the more open and honest I am about myself with God and a trusted friend or two, the more light gets shed on my blind spots -- and the more we learn about that which is truly known only to God.

It can be a very frightening experience to embrace this kind of vulnerability.

Truly, freedom comes speaking the truth before God (p. 69 of TJC) and truth telling awakens forgiveness (p. 70). We make our own prisons in our minds (hmm....the Matrix, anyone?) when we try to hide from ourselves and God and others.

And in line with a series of conversations over at Sonja's, truth telling must be about us telling our own truths, not about our demands for others to confess.

When I lead by example in this realm, I am set free from the burden in my heart, so that Jesus/Papa can carry the burden of what others have done to me. Only then can I resonate with God's words to the Apostle Paul's, when he was dealing with his "thorn in the flesh":

2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV) 9But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

These are familiar words ... and being familiar, they sometimes ring hollow. My challenge is to allow the Holy Spirit to keep them fresh ... and the only way they say fresh is for me to confess my weaknesses so that Papa's love can make me strong. And that, my friends, is a very purple thing.

Leaning on Papa.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Abi's Lent: Day Nine

It is has been a very interesting and busy day, and while I've had The Jesus Creed on my mind all day in many different circumstances, the chapter I began today is too powerful to process quickly. As a result, I am going to wait until tomorrow post on it and, instead, gleefully pass on this special request from Papa:

Won't you be my Valentine?

Hm, hm, hm ... Papa is especially fond of you.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Abi's Problem With Politics

Small rant ahead....

Today I was wondering why I am so frustrated with the whole idea of politics. And I'm not just talking Democrats and Republicans and Presidential Elections, although that's what got me started this morning. I'm talking any politics -- church, family, school.

It seems to me that the basic reason we have problems with any and all of our decision-making procedures is two-fold: truth and change. Let me explain some.

Let's start with Truth.

I believe there is Truth and that it is found in God -- embodied in Jesus! Whatever God says is truth. But whatever people say, if they are not quoting God (and in proper context ;^) ), is really just their opinion. I'm sure it's based on lots of other folk's opinions; but number of folks with similar opinions does not equate to truth. Not that this is not what passes for truth these days -- and don't get me started on global warming or evolution or economics or immigration reform or entitlement programs, please.

The search for truth involves something I've ranted about before: clear, deep thinking. If you're not going to wrestle with actually digging for the truth, well don't be surprised if what you end up with is simplistic truth -- stuff that folks want to be true, but just isn't.

No one person or group of people, for that matter, is able to know the whole truth about much of anything. They'll know their perceptions of the truth, which is what I believe is called reality. But human perceptions are not the same as truth. We could talk about this a long time (the conversation has been going on for a long time already :^) ) and not necessarily come to complete agreement ... and that's really the whole point I'm making here.

And then there's change.

Change is going on in and around us all the time. There are things that change that are completely out of our control and other things that change because of things we have intentionally initiated. There are things that change because they are just following the laws of nature and other things that change as a consequence of human activity. All change is tied up, at some level, with cause and effect.

Some changes we perceive clearly, some we are oblivious to, and some we have to really grapple with because, well, change is just difficult. How we cope with change depends on the cause and the effect, basically. Which takes me to why I'm ranting about change today.

On the surface it looks like folks think changing one's mind is a bad thing. As if one is to hold to an idea forever, even if one comes to learn to think differently. This, of course, presupposes that someone thinks effectively and changes something because they are convinced that they have a better understanding of truth or come to have a different perception of reality.

What we get when we don't think clearly and deeply are opinions that are not well thought out, profound, convictions. When this is the case (and it is too often the case, IMHO), we are standing on sinking sand. The thing about sinking sand is that, once you realize you're sinking, you do whatever you need to do to get out ... and sometimes you end up in mud, or tar, or -- you pick your quagmire!

How can we truly expect that folks, if they are truly listening to others and pondering what they're hearing and trying to learn the truth, won't change their minds over time?

Now, the challenge is that some folks do change every few months, like the seasons. And the reasons for their change are, shall we say, less than genuine.... These are the ones that can be rightfully labeled "flip floppers."

So what I'm looking for are honest companions on this journey we call life, who are willing to ask the hard questions, listen hard and long so as to see out of the "other's" eyes, walk a mile in their shoes, and seek to love God and love others without being willing to sacrifice folks for truth or truth for folks.

I'm asking for a lot, it seems. But this Sacred love has a firm grip on me. It reminds me that Papa is awfully fond of me. It also reminds me that Papa has no favorites -- he's awfully fond of each and every one of his cracked Eikons. And in the end, it reminds me that Papa is counting of loving others through me.

And this must be the source of my methods for decision-making and problem-solving.

Leaning on Papa's solid Rock.

Abi's Lent: Day Eight

I've come to the end of Section one of The Jesus Creed, with chapter 6--A Creed for Others. I am glad that Scot spent the time at the beginning to focus on the reality of exactly what the Jesus Creed means ... I'm sure it is an important foundation.

What struck me today as I read was how stuck we are when it comes to loving others as ourselves. The first part of that problem begins to be addressed when we really come to terms with the Sacred Love of God FOR us ... that our Papa is "especially fond of" each of us.

This is important because people who do not feel loved in this foundational, unconditional manner just have a difficult time loving anyone -- themselves or others!

But the other part of this is beginning to come into focus a bit ... when we are told to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. The thing that struck me today as I was reading was that we know what makes us feel loved. The challenge is to pay close enough attention to others to discern how we may love them so that they feel loved. This is, as it were, a horse of a different color! I would say that the color of this horse is purple.

Why purple? Because purple is the color of sacrifice ... and too few of us sacrifice our time to find out how people want to be treated. We assume that they want what we want ... and The Abbess is confident that you know what that makes out of you and me.... ;^)

This is where Abi's Rule comes into play. I haven't talked much about it, but you will see that the first thing in my sidebar is called Abi's Rule ... which is missional order talk for the way The Abbess chooses to live. For those of you familiar with The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, you will see that I strive to be multilingual in the ways I love those who cross my path. Sometimes I have good clues, other times I have to depend on observation of their immediate need. I mean, the man on the side of the road (today's scripture was the story of the Good Samaritan) may be a words of affirmation kind of person, but some physical touch, quality time and acts of service certainly spoke love to him, if you follow me. ;^)

Anyway ... I have begun to practice discerning ways to both give and receive love using all five languages whenever possible. Not only is my life full of folks who feel love differently than I do, I want to be sure that I don't miss ways that Abba is loving me through others. I want to recognize when my needs are being met, even if it's not exactly in the way I would like them to be met, if that makes sense. I don't want to miss Abba's love because it wasn't what I was expecting ... I want to live in the expectancy that Abba's love will always find a way to meet my needs.

This goes along with the way Scot closed this chapter, with a quote from James Bryan Smith about God loving us through others. Of course The Abbess resonated with this, as I have said this many times on this very blog. It is always nice to hear other people who have also found this bit of truth! :^)

One of these days, I will make available a little chart I put together to help folks see what I mean when I try to find ways to speak all five love languages into every circumstance ... but, alas, I have run out of time today!

Leaning deeper into Papa, still!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Abi's Lent: Day Seven

Sacred love--that's the topic of chapter 5 in The Jesus Creed. It is a powerful chapter and my brain is swirling with connections. Even from Hosea, one of my old favorites from the mid-70s when I came across the book "In The Shadow of Gomer." This is not Gomer Pyle, now, but Hosea's prostitute-wife. It was a powerful book ... I loaned it to someone ... I hope they were really blessed, because they never returned it. ;^)

I have a couple of thoughts that are really grabbing me today: learning to love self and that the root of sin is dishonoring God's sacred love. There's more, of course, but that's what I'm going to restrain myself to share today.

So let's start with learning to love self. This is what I wrote in my Jesus Creed Journal: "'Mission' is everywhere and always going on because the first mission of God is to secure in us the knowledge of his sacred, all-consuming, love for us, so that we can return that love to him and can share it with others out of our abundance. Wow."

I wonder whether anyone else hits fog banks that hide Abba's never-let-you-go love. It's not that I don't know of his's that sometimes I let things fog my glasses (like when you open the oven on a cold day--poof! Instant fog!) and then I can't see it.

Takes me back to The Five Love Languages and the concept of the love tank that is not full. And I wonder whether I have an undiscovered hole in my love tank out of which Abba's love is leaking out, and I don't seem to be able to overflow.

That turned deep even as I was typing....

It must be a purple hole ... or better yet, maybe it is being siphoned off? Some part of the pain and suffering around me that sucks it up without my being fully aware of it. I'll have to ponder that one for a little longer....

I'm praying that Papa will help me, somehow, lean into him deeply enough to feel him leaning back. How do we reconcile the trusting and the feeling? The faith and sight? The walk is simple, but it is the path that is difficult.

Okay, coming up for air ... whew!

The other thought is that the root of sin is when we dishonor God's Sacred Love--for us and for others. This is how I have defined sin: breaking covenant with God and others. Whatever is not done to faithfully provide for the best interest of the other is breaking covenant.

But we have turned "sin" into "evil behavior" and something that good, honest, kind, generous and moral people don't see as relevant to them. When the truth is that sin is not honoring God's Sacred Love for us, receiving it, returning it, and passing it on. It is as much omission as commission -- omission in the days before we knew of his Sacred Love, and commission when we treat it disrespectfully.

This is the "sin" that separates us from God, not our evil acts. Papa is especially fond of each and every cracked Eikon and want reconciliation and restoration, not judgment and damnation.

...well, this is deeper than I can process at the moment.

Leaning farther into Papa.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Love Feast at Jesus' Table

I'm a little worked up about this whole topic of table and culture and manners and hospitality and all ... can you tell?

If I had a dollar for every Communion Meditation where I was led to examine my heart and see if I was eating in a worth manner, I'd be rich.

Not that it is not important to examine our hearts and repent of impure motives. Don't misunderstand me, now. But we are not worthy to take the bread and cup by what's in our hearts alone. It's whether we're living the Jesus Creed -- whether we're loving God and loving others.

Let's take a moment to read that important passage from the 11th chapter of I Corinthians:

The Lord's Supper
17In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. 18In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. 19No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval. 20When you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper you eat, 21for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. 22Don't you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not!

23For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." 25In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

27Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. 32When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.

33So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. 34If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment.

I'm certainly not going to unpack that all in this wee post ... but I do hope that you will see that the Corinthians were having a problem with living the Jesus Creed -- and at Jesus' Table, no less! What happened to loving their neighbor as themselves?

Certainly this is what the Apostle Paul was speaking to when he asked them to examine themselves before they eat and drink at the covenant renewal ceremony Jesus instituted so that we would remember how much he and Papa loved us -- and that we could be healed by receiving that love in the bread and the cup as well as by sharing it with our brothers and sisters.

I say that we take our cues from the host concerning how to treat our fellow guests ... so that our table manners give off accurate physical cues concerning Papa's new society -- one of grace and inclusion and restoration and and transformation.

Turning away those Papa has invited because they don't measure up to our standards -- well that just isn't proper.

Okay, rant over!

Leaning on Papa.

Abi's Lent: Day Six

Table time ... such a challenge with three young boys and a broken mother. I am totally willing to own every crude manner and lack of social graces my boys have because, well, I just haven't been a very good teacher ... of social graces, that is. I am a very good teacher of many other things, and we won't go into belching championships, or anything like that -- at least not today!

But I just love what Scot has to say in chapter four about Jesus and Table Time ... and, yes, it totally took me back to The Shack and the fabulous Table Time there with Papa and Jesus and Sarayu.

The important thing to remember is that Jesus invites us to Papa's table -- and not just those with clean hands and proper manners, either. Because being at their table makes us clean ... the presence of Jesus sanctifies us. He invites us to the table for our benefit, not his. So that we can be fed and healed.

How is it that we get so many things backwards? Not that clean hands and good manners are not good things, because they are. But their lack is not supposed to disqualify us from joining in and being loved.

Clean hands ... another qualifier for being worthy of God's love? Sigh....

Scot talks about Jesus creating an alternative reality with his table time. The Shack gives very vivid pictures of what he's talking about, at least for me. And the message is loud and clear:

Papa loves you so that you can learn to love him enough that you can love yourself and, in turn, love others. There is no more powerful place for this lesson that at the table. Your table at home and The Lord's Table ... and I'll have to unpack that one when I have a bit more time.

...running to pick up my boys. Sure do love those boys somethin' awful. May not be the best mannered, but you would be hard pressed to find better loved boys.

Leaning on Papa.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Abi's Lent: Day Five

Chapter 3 of The Jesus Creed starts with two readings from scripture: The Lord's Prayer and The Prodigal Son. I was particularly pleased to see the emphasis Scot makes concerning the focus on the parable is on the father, not either of the sons. I have heard it suggested that this should more rightly be called the parable of The Prodigal Father, in the sense that prodigal doesn't necessarily connote anything bad -- it connotes extravagance that verges on wasteful.

And this, of course, takes me back to The Shack -- and a vision of a Heavenly Papa whose love is so extravagant that some might consider it wasteful. Jonah has this same problem with God, who wanted to redeem the horribly sinful people of Ninevah. Jonah was incensed that God would not rather torch the city ... even after the king and all the residents of that city repented of their sins!

So the struggle continues -- the struggle to believe that God does indeed love us! Not only do we struggle to believe it, we struggle to then live in that love. We are surprised that Papa seems to be awfully fond of, well, everybody! Even those who are in open rebellion against him! What's up with that?!?

But the love of a Papa (or Mama ;^) ) for his precious one-of-a-kind children is, indeed, prodigal. It is wildly extravagant. And so some will find it shamefully wasteful ... but only if they see it as a scarce commodity (put on your economics hat with me and Michael Kruse). We have troubles with power when we see it as scarce and we have trouble with love in the same way.

Papa's love, however, is not scarce. It is both abundant and eternal -- endless. Papa's love for us, as well as his ability to love through us, is only limited by our perception.

So many simple truths are so hard to wrap our brains around....

This bring us to the importance of seeing Jesus begin his prayer with Abba Pater -- Papa. A journey to my "Little Kittle" reveals that Abba is Aramaic "familiar" for father, but that the Jews almost never used it for God. Here we see Jesus stirring the pot, as it were.

Earlier I said that I didn't see Abba in The Lord's Prayer ... because it is not there. It is found in Mark's account of Jesus praying in Gethsemane. It makes sense to me that Mark would include the Aramaic, since his gospel is the one which gives us these colloquialisms. And that other scholars would suggest that whenever Jesus was using "Pater" he was saying "Abba" and it was being translated into Greek.

Hmmm...does Greek have a familiar for "pater"? That's a word study for another day!

After pondering Scot's ideas about The Lord's Prayer, I began to ruminate about our response to Papa and his prodigal love. It occurred to me that if we cannot extravagantly love Papa as a response to his love for us, we cannot love others -- because we have not accepted that we can love ourselves. This is a deep thing....

Last night I posted my version of The Lord's Prayer, which resulted from this deep pondering. And I changed my closing to "Leaning on Papa" because I realized that we can receive Papa's love only in Christ, when we trust the love that serves the best interest of the other -- regardless of the wastefully extravagant cost. A very cHesed realization, indeed.

Leaning on Papa.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Abi's Lent: Day Four

Well, I had a wonderful time in Chapter Three -- three pages of notes!

Lots of very good thoughts to share about the importance of understanding God as Abba Father (and some good clarifications about where the Abba comes in, even when it's not actually in the Greek), but I'm going to have to share them tomorrow ... it's time for bed here after a busy day.

This is a very rich time for The Abbess. I'll just quickly share my The Shack/Jesus Creed inspired version of The Lord's Prayer ... and unpack it in tomorrow's post.

Heavenly Papa, we set your name apart for greatest honor.
Honoring your name means
we yearn to cooperate with you in all things.

We trust
you to meet our true needs,
knowing we are your provision for each other.
We gladly forgive all, because you, in Jesus,
have already forgiven all --

in order to restore our broken-down relationships.
Keep us from wandering from your path

by protecting us from the lies of the Enemy.
Papa, I know everything is rightfully yours:

Kingdom, Power, Glory.

Always was, is now, ever will be.

Leaning on Papa.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Abi's Lent: Day Three

One of the things about the growing length and depth of my purple life is that I have come to depend upon God to help me do whatever it is that I am to accomplish. I am less and less inclined to make plans beyond the essentials of the day. I find that as I lean upon him more and more, I manage to find just the right things at just the right times. I don't think it is a coincidence ... I think it is an incredible mercy, because I am just, well, broken.

And so I come to chapter two in The Jesus Creed -- where Scot talks about how Jesus gives us an amazing gift in The Lord's Prayer. There could have been no better preparation for me for this chapter than reading The Shack. None.

I was struck by the raw challenge of forgiveness...and you will have to read The Shack to understand how hard I was struck. I don't have a big problem with forgiveness ... just the same little problem of constantly needing to forgive and be forgiven. Is this another of those things that we have become numb to because we talk so much about it but rarely see it done well?

The other thing that struck me -- and chapter three talks about it, so I'll save some for then -- was referring to God as Abba. (The Greek word in The Lord's Prayer is not Abba, but I'll see what Scot has to say about that tomorrow.) By the time I finished reading The Shack, I was almost comfortable calling God Papa ... almost.

Why are we so stuck with ideas of God as harsh, stern, reprimanding disciplinarian? Why does is seem to so many that Our Father cannot be our Papa without being considered too ...uh... familiar or disrespectful?

It seems to me that this is what keeps us from embracing the intimacy that Jesus intends us to move toward when he uses Abba. Our Abba intimately knows us, and yearns for us to know him as well. He wants us to trust that we are never alone. NEVER. That Father-Son-Spirit are always with us ... looking for opportunities to bring us into their conversation -- the perichoretic dance of loving service and humble submission and unity of heart and purpose.

Love of God by following Jesus and loving others ... opens us to loving as Jesus loves and knowing God as Jesus knows God. And that means that we must embrace God as our Papa. And that we must see the names by which we know him as hallowed. We may not pick and choose -- not if we are following Jesus.

I'm following Jesus -- and that means we're going with Papa.

Abi's Book Recommendation: The Shack

I have been hearing about The Shack since last September (here and here), but the wait for ordering was six weeks and I decided to hold off. Well, my dear friend Annette loaned me her copy...and I read most of it yesterday, finishing it this morning.

Friends, The Abbess resonated with this book so deeply. I laughed and cried more deeply than I can remember--and those of you who know me IRL (in real life) know that I do a lot of laughing and crying!

My mind has been swimming--wondering what to say, what not to say....

This is THE novel of the Purple Martyrdom. Period. Each and every human being who has been wounded, broken, depressed, rejected, grieved ... have I missed anyone? ... who has felt guilty, needed forgiveness, been angry, harbored grudges, longed for justice to be meted out everyone yet?... how about those who are lonely, who feel unloved or unworthy, who cannot forgive someone, who feel lost, who are defined by their pain and suffering. Well, I think you get the idea that everyone could benefit from reading this book. But it will cost you.

Lent is a time when we contemplate the enormity of what Jesus was willing to do to bring us home -- home to the Eternal Community he wants us to share with him and the Father and the Holy Spirit. This little book brings a much-needed focus to that amazingly perichoretic (I will get around to posting about this -- and this book is a much needed push) relationship -- I urge you to read this book in these days before we celebrate Easter. I think it will change your perspective profoundly.

Take a look at The Shack and decide for yourself. But don't try to circumvent experiencing it by reading what others have to say about it. Restrain your curiosity and wait until you can read it for yourself. You can order it from the official website or from Amazon. This is one book I'm going to have to have more than one copy of in my library -- one for me to keep and makes notes in and some to loan or give to others.

...but I will certainly be pondering this very special twist to my 40 Days Living The Jesus Creed journey.

Go with God.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Abi's Lent: Day Two

Since Scot's book The Jesus Creed doesn't have 40 chapters, I will be taking the liberty of blogging about a few chapters more than one day--depending on what I'm thinking. And since my first day's post was late at night after a very busy day, I'm going to finish up my thoughts about that first chapter today.

I'm using the Jesus Creed Journal I created to go along with this 40 Days Living The Jesus Creed Challenge, so this is all turning out very nicely.

Yesterday's post talked a bit about the Hebrew word used for love: ahab. Part of my word study revealed that this word means the ardent and vehement inclination of the mind coupled with tender affection. It goes on to reveal that ahab may refer to the unspeakable love and tender mercies of God in the covenant relationship with his people.

(By the way: I just love my Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible (NIV) published by AMG International, Inc. -- it is the perfect "workhorse" Bible for word study freaks, like The Abbess!)

For any of you familiar with The Abbess and her cHesed glasses, you will probably now understand yesterday's revelation that ahab and her favorite Hebrew term/concept cHesed are synonyms.

During this introductory chapter about the Jesus Creed, Scot notes Jesus' revolutionary twist to the ancient Hebrew creed: Not only are we to love God, we are to love others as well; and to love God means to follow Jesus. It is important to let that sink in a bit....

No longer can the Jews hide behind fervent love for God (yet taking advantage of, and frequently "othering" God's precious Eikons). Jesus tied the love of God to the love of others. And more than that, he said that if you want to practice really loving God, you must follow him.

This would be why he quickly became so very unpopular with the Jewish leaders....

This is also why the Jesus Creed and its focus on this ahab love of God and others reminds me so much of New Testament cHesed. Faithful covenant-keeping is just as important as making covenant. And Jesus and Paul defined entry into, and faithful keeping of, the New Covenant with terms and concepts that have been boiled down to this simple formulary:
In Christ + Like Christ = With Christ.

  • If I am In Christ, I am part of the New Covenant, an adopted child of God and connected with the Father and the Holy Spirit--I am part of the perichoretic, interpenetrating Eternal Community.
  • If I am Like Christ, I am loving God and loving others--thereby faithfully keeping covenant.
  • If I am In Christ and Like Christ, then the promise of being With Christ -- now and forever -- is mine.

This is so simple yet so important. Please take time to do some hard and deep thinking about this in context with what you know about being a follower of Jesus Christ.

I'm sure that there will be more opportunities to get deeper into cHesed as I read The Jesus Creed ... so I don't want to put too much into any one post.

Go with God.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Abi's Lent: Day One

Well, I hadn't intended to wake up at 3:45 this morning (if I had done so on Tuesday, I could have had one of Scot McKnight's books for free ;^) ), but the first thing that popped into my mind was The Jesus Creed--so I said it in my heart, along with a prayer for returning to sleep.

Sleep did not come for a long while, so I had plenty of time to ponder Lent and The Jesus Creed. I ended up repeating it a number of times before I got back to sleep. Fortunately, the boys had a two-hour late start for school, so waking up at 8:30 was not catastrophic. God, as I often say, helps me because I am so pathetic.

After everyone got off to school, I picked up Scot's book and read chapter one. Had some great thoughts about "love" ... and had to do a little word study to see just which word for "love" was used in these two passages (Deut. and Lev.) -- it was ahab. I could spend my entire day, every day, doing word studies!

Of course, Scot's definition of "love" was so much like my definition of cHesed, that I had to make that note in my margin. And then I went on to study the word ahab and notice that one of the synonyms for it is cHesed. Not surprised at all. I'll be pondering this more.... but it's late and I've got to get to sleep (and, hopefully, stay asleep).

I did, however, have to stop and mourn the horrible irony of the sullying of this word for outrageous love by that most notorious King of Israel: Ahab. Sigh....

I'm not sure whether I'll post every day, but I just might ... so stay tuned! It's not too late to join us for the 40 Days of Living The Jesus Creed Challenge. Check out the tools I designed here.

Go with God.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Loving God with All My Mind

Wow, my friend Michael Kruse has posted a very dynamic challenge to the Pollyanna-mentality raging, especially in this time of political changing of the guard. Please do read it...and spend some quality time at his blog whenever you can. I mean it!

The Abbess frequently bemoans the simplistic thinking raging everywhere: church, education, economics, politics -- you name it! I remember reading how M. Scott Peck, M.D., said he was once talked into giving a seminar on how to think. He said he'd never do one again because it is very difficult to think well and the people who attended the seminar complained LOUDLY about how difficult it was -- which made it utterly exhausting for him to lead.

I know the feeling! :^(

Somehow, we must embrace the difficulty of thinking well. I'll add it as another dimension of the Purple Martyrdom. I am grateful that the Lord has brought some very good thinkers across my path, but we must be diligent in our pursuit of this oft-neglected discipline. None of us alone can do it. We must intentionally look for those who think deeply and diversely and ask God for wisdom and discernment.

Besides Michael Kruse, my brother Abbots at The Abbey help me in this well as those you will find in my sidebar. The challenge is to not be overwhelmed with all the conversations out there, but to focus on the ones that make you think about something in a different or deeper way. Loving God with all our minds is part of our worship and brings us nearer to The Truth.

That's where I want to be, closer to The Truth every day. Then, what I say and do has a better chance to ring True -- give a more accurate reflection of the God whose Image I bear -- to each of the "others" that I am commanded to love, even as I love myself.

Christ, have mercy.

As I contemplate tomorrow and the beginning of the Jesus Creed Lent Challenge, I will ponder this especially as I ask God to show me how to better love him with all my mind.

Go with God.

Abi's Lent Challenge Tools

These are the PDF files I've developed to go along with Scot McKnight's 40 Days Living The Jesus Creed for Lent Challenge.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Jesus Creed 40 Day Challenge--Accepted!

The Abbess is joining Scot McKnight and the tribe over at Jesus Creed for 40 Days Living the Jesus Creed for Lent...starting on Wednesday.

For those of you who have not read Scot's book, The Jesus Creed, I've included it here from his original post:

Here it is:

Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.
The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no commandment greater than these.

Scot has a new book coming out in a month or so with this same title, not necessarily meant for Lent, but for any time.

The Jesus Creed resonates with me strongly because it is at the heart of both cHesed and Covenant. Taking 40 days to intentionally bring these words and the resulting actions into our lives is a wonderful foundation from which to strengthen one's discipleship.

Here's the rest of the Scot's challenge, which I've divided into the three separate steps:

I am asking you to begin and end each day of Lent (beginning Wednesday) by reciting the Jesus Creed.

And, whenever it comes to mind throughout the day, I am asking you to recite it again.

In your evening recitation of the Jesus Creed, we are asking you to give some moments of recollection to confess any sins against the Jesus Creed throughout the day.

So there you have it. I'm going to be making up a number of 4x6 cards with this printed on it and place them at strategic places so that I'll see them throughout the day.

I'm looking forward to what God will be doing in the hearts, lives and neighborhoods of those of us who embrace this challenge.

Go with God!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

1-2-3 Meme...Spreading Like Wildfire!

Brother Maynard tagged the entire internet, first. Then, VikingFru tagged me (and Kingdom Grace had tagged her). And then Sonja tagged me...and so here I am, with the rules for the Meme ... although I'm not tagging anyone else, because almost everyone I know has already been tagged ;^) ... except I am going to tag Annette!

Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. No cheating!
Find Page 123.
Find the first 5 sentences.
Post the next 3 sentences.
Tag 5 people.

I’m reading Clinton E. Arnold’s “Power and Magic: The Concept of Power in Ephesians” page 123, paragraph 2, last 3 sentences (you didn’t say which 3, did you?) [Note: Brother Maynard's rules were slightly different from what I have gotten from the others.]

“It cannot be assumed that the fears of these converts about the evil spiritual realm were immediately allayed by their new-found faith. It would also be erroneous to assume that their conversion to Christianity would have brought about a complete forsaking of all their former means of protection from the hostile “powers.” Even if many (or the majority) of Christians did totally turn aside from their former apotropaic practices, some at least would have faced a great temptation to combine their Christian faith with magical techniques.”

Annette...did you see that you have been tagged, sister???

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Reproduction: Nature or Nurture?

Well, I am sorry that it has been so long...that's what happens when one is hibernating, I guess. ;^)

I've been collecting snippets of things in a place for when I have time to blog...and thought that this one would do for such a time as this--that being a time when I still don't have time. :^)

Anyway, Brother Maynard posted an interesting tidbit about The Reproductive Environment.

Here is the majority of the text of the comment I left:

The Abbess, being a bit of an entrepreneur, believes that the "entrepreneurial spirit" is another manifestation of the "apostolic spirit", as it were. And I concur that encouraging and supporting this spirit in one will tend to awaken it in others, while squelching it in one will often squelch it in others.

There are, however, always those "mavericks" who will move out with no support (I tend do be in this category) and build their case from scratch and then find ways to convince others of its merits. The "organizations" from which these mavericks come would not tend to reproduce more...and the maverick's efforts may not necessarily reproduce others--unless they are successful at "reverse mentoring" (a phrase coined for my chapter in "Voices") and encouraging others where they were not themselves encouraged.

I guess I would say that there are "group mentoring" environments and then mentor/apprentice environments. Group mentoring environments continue to "spontaneously" produce innovation and replication--what I would call "unconsciously competent" in that they don't have to "think" about doing it. But there may or may not be any intentionality fostered either.

The mentor/apprentice environments, on the other hand, are ones that must begin very intentionally and must continue to build very intentionally so as to always seek to recognize, encourage and release the entrepreneurial spirit latent in others in and near the environment. For disciples of Christ, this "apostolic" spirit must be recognized, encouraged and released as the Holy Spirit disperses it throughout the Body. And I would go so far as to say that the rest of the five-fold gifts must be treated in the same way.

This is certainly part of the vision for CovenantClusters--which has risen from within a very "Christendom" environment and been recognized and encouraged by many over the past two years...and is hoping to be released very soon.
Nature or nurture? I'd say it must be a bit of both--and I bet no one is surprised to hear The Abbess say that, either. :^)

Go with God.