Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Have you heard of Time Banking?

Last night at our weekly missional learning community, we listened to Ron talk about a concept known as time banking. I recommend that you browse their website and see what they're about.

I was captivated because it dovetales amazingly with part of the vision for CovenantClusters, but it also expands the possibilities. I also downloaded a special edition pdf by the founder (for a modest donation) Priceless Money: Banking Time for Changing Times. It outlines their five foundational principles and gives you a quick grasp on what these folks are about.

And this is right on the heels of my current experience with what I'm now thinking about calling Yoke Buddies: Helping Each other Share the Load.

You may remember, back in the throes of the horrible flu, that I had quite an epiphany about needing to ask for help in my quest for the 15 minute a day house transformation project. It was actually a paradigm shift for me to realize that I could not get things under control "my way" ... I needed a plan that was workable. I needed to "eat this elephant" the only way possible: one bite at a time. I just cannot tell you what a blessing my "house fairy" has been these past two weeks -- and what a lift it has been to the mood in our home.

Well, I have decided that I might need to start Yoke Buddies in my area as a way for folks to tangibly love one another ... because everyone has 15 minutes to help another!

And that might be a great lead-in to the whole Time Banking concept....

Yoked together with Jesus already.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Remembering The Great Eucatastrophe

Christ is Risen!

Indeed -- the resurrection is the Great Eucatastrophe, when things looked their worst. The Son of God had been murdered and his followers are stumbling around in shock and disbelief (of varying kinds). Had Jesus gambled and lost? What happened to all his talk about the Kingdom of God? As the great sermon phrase goes: It's Friday; but Sunday's coming!

Sunday -- when the grave could no longer hold our Lord and Savior and the course of history was changed -- the great eucatastrophe, indeed!

Well, if his followers (then and now!) actually learned how to hear properly and understand, they would understand that this was all unfolding according to plan. Why do we not hear and understand?

You know me ... The Abbess will say that we are not using our cHesed glasses to good effect.

What? We're talking about hearing, not seeing!

Well, this is what happens to me all the time. If I do not have my glasses on, I do not hear clearly. I can be heard saying, "I'm sorry, I didn't understand what you said -- I don't have my glasses on."

Do you have glasses? Do you find this same phenomenon? I think when my visual acuity is off, then my senses tend to go fuzzy as well. And I think when we are not wearing our cHesed glasses, sometimes we just don't see or understand what is happening around us -- because we are not trying to see what Papa is seeing. When we rely on our own perception of reality, well, things get missed and we get confused.

But let's not run ahead....

So, I'm going to give you the opportunity to read this wonderful post over at WindRumors before I unpack some of its treasures here ... but as The Abbess love both mystery and ambiguity, you can bet that I'll have lots to say. ;^) (HT to Kingdom grace)

Yearning to see life through Papa's eyes.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Valuing Diversity -- Riverdance-Style

So, have you taken a look at any of the Riverdance stuff? What? Not getting ready for the post coming about perichoresis?

If you need a bit of help, then take a look at this Battle Dance and see the progression. Looks a bit like contextualization on the fly ... or should that be on the tap?

Do you have a favorite scene from any of these series of shows that speaks to unity and shared story or putting down barriers?

De-Toxing From Spiritual Abuse

I just have to stop and give a shout out to FuturistGuy, my precious brother Abbot from The Abbey (AbbE) and MO Blogger Brad, for the amazing series he is undertaking about recognizing, responding to and recovering from toxic spiritual situations (mostly churches and their leadership structures).

This series is a must read, friends. Brad's brilliance and perceptions and discernment are "spot on," as my friends from various corners of the British Empire like to say. ;^) Be sure that you have time and available brain cells when you read his stuff ... it will be worth the extra effort!

... I really will get to Perichoresis :^) ... patience!

Letting Papa draw out the toxins.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

cHesed as Fidelity

Clark Cowden has a new post on the Missional Journey blog at Allelon. Read his thoughts about "A Certain Uncertainty" as well as the comments. Good food for thought.

Down in the fourth comment, a Timothy Wright responded to a comment MO Blogger Len made (excerpted from his excellent post on Certitude) with this:

Help me understand the practical outworking of:

“We all have a hunger for certitude, and the problem is that the Gospel is not about certitude, it’s about fidelity”

The fidelity of who? And how do we find out who this person is? Is the Bible or? And if it is written down anywhere, we have to have a certainty that something is true, if we are to trust the fidelity of the person who is offering it? And who decides what the characteristics of this fidelity that is being offered?

* * * * *

This was my comment:

I love the fidelity response to the desire for certainty. And the embrace of the mystery of fidelity as well. But when it comes to "the fidelity of who" question, I would go a bit farther than Len does.

I would say that fidelity is a two way street. When we accept God's offer of adoption through the New Covenant in Jesus Christ, we realize that God's fidelity is what guarantees our salvation, just as Jesus Christ's fidelity purchased that salvation, and the Holy Spirit's fidelity through its indwelling presence enables us to struggle to live out our fidelity in response -- loving God and loving others.

This is the essence of faithful covenant keeping (hesed) and it involves the fidelity of all parties to the covenant. The fidelity of the Triune God is certain: they will always serve the best interest of their covenant partners. The fidelity of us humans (toward God and toward each other) is where we crave that shot of certainty ... to which I would add these questions:

...will we actually believe that God is always active in seeking our best interest -- and then respond accordingly?

...will be believe that Jesus Christ is always making effective intercession for us before God's throne -- and receive his love, grace and mercy so that we can then recognize and join God's missional activity?

...will we believe that the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit can actually transform us, bit by bit and day by day, into the very image of Jesus Christ -- and thereby humbly submit to this transformation?

...will we believe that the fidelity of God flows to us in such abundance and power that we can then actually respond with increasing fidelity -- not only toward God (as above), but toward others (those who are Christians as well as those who are not-yet Christians) by looking out for their best interests.

And finally, will we believe that there is mercy and forgiveness from God, through Jesus, for all our infidelities -- and embrace the vulnerability that actively repents, confesses, receives forgiveness, and moves toward reconciliation and restoration?

If we will believe these things, then we will see that our feeble fidelity is surrounded by God's unfailing fidelity ... and that there are brothers and sisters in Christ who are also looking out for our best interest, according to our shared covenant in Christ ... and this larger network of Christian fidelity is one awesome mystery to behold -- and the source of our greatest witness.

"They will know that you are my disciples because of your love for one another," said Jesus.

I think we have an amazing certainty in the midst of uncertainty -- we just have to look its direction with Hebrews 11:1 faith...realizing that the remaining uncertainty has to do with what loving one another actually looks like moment by moment.

How am I looking out for the best interest of my covenant partners? Is what I am doing/thinking (or not doing/thinking) an act of fidelity or infidelity? Hmmm....

* * * * *

I am still working on Perichoresis ... but I thought this was worth sharing in the meantime.

Certain of Papa's fidelity.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Saint Patrick and the 100th Post!

Well, here I am at my 100th post! And so The Abbess of the Purple Martyrdom celebrates by paying tribute to one of the Saints of the White Martyrdom ... who gave his life for the people of the Emerald Isle.

Thanking God for Patrick and all the faithful Celtic brothers and sisters he encouraged -- who encourage us still today with the traditions and wisdom and words and music -- sacred rhythms of life, as they followed The Way, that they were inspired to leave for us.

The Blind Beggar has a wonderful Irish Blessing that must be experienced ... with my blessings added to it!

Dancing a bit of an Irish jig with the 3 in 1....

Abi's Lent: Day 40

Well, I have been blessed by accepting Scot's 40 Days Living the Jesus Creed for Lent Challenge. And just yesterday I received my copy of Scot's new book, 40 Days Living The Jesus Creed. I look forward to another six weeks of daily devotions ... and I'm sure they will find there way into this blog from time to time.

Yesterday I spent a number of hours collecting my thoughts about perichoresis -- which I have promised to do for quite some time. It's not quite ready to publish at this very moment, but it will be -- soon. I promise!

In the meantime I want to leave you with this. Have you ever seen the Irish Dancing shows called "Riverdance" or "Lord of the Dance" or "Feet of Flames"? Without going into how appropriate all the dance moves or songs might be for younger audiences, there is something about watching these amazing dancers that makes you want to get out of your chair and dance along. The music; the chanting; the rhythm of the instruments as well as the stomping and tapping; the quiet, light-as-a-feather dancing of the female principals; the thunderous unison of scores of men's tap shoes; the amazing speed and timing of their synchronized movements....

When "Riverdance" was first thought of, nobody believed that great crowds of people would be interested in watching Irish Dancing -- but the shows sold out night after night, in city after city, around the world. There must be something about this that speaks to our hearts.

Researchers have wondered about the "purpose" for music to have evolved and have come up empty-handed. There appears to be no reason for it. But I think they have forgotten the resonance-factor, as I call it. Everything vibrates at a specific frequency, and those frequencies that cause resonance in those near to it will amplify the vibrations. Sing it with me and the Beach Boys: good, good, good, good vibrations.... And when one is around a vibration source for a while, a phenomenon called entrainment happens. They begin to synchronize with each other.

Disclosure alert! The Abbess is no scientist ... but that does not mean she is without intuition or understanding of some of the things on the edge (being, after all, an edge dweller ;^) of sorts).

So, before I get into too swampy of territory, I'll leave you to ponder these, well, vibrational frequencies about music and rhythm and dancing and singing. And the power they have to move us in profound ways.

And if you have a tape or DVD of any of the referenced Irish Dancing ... you just might want to watch them again in preparation for processing The Divine Dance with The Virtual Abbess. :^)

Dancing with the 3-in-1.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Abi's Lent: Day 39

Okay ... I promised to process some of what I have been pondering of late, and it has to do with the whole issue of timing -- as in God's timing. There is a time for listening and reading and talking and blogging and conferencing. And then you hit a kind of wall. The wall of actually doing whatever it is that you believe God is asking of you.

I'm feeling pressed up against that wall a lot these days. It has been coming into focus as a result of the Missional Learning Community we're involved with -- where we're asking a lot of questions about what do all these words mean ... and what can we really do about it anyway?

In the midst of this, I have come across two powerful posts. This one, on the younger Evangelical's drug of choice, came to my attention via Jonathan Brink's post on interesting stuff. This is a post to read, along with all the comments. Then there is a post at Allelon by MO Blogger Dan about the actual practice of being communal.

Now, where this hits The Abbess is in Dan's first point: Core questions reinforce the value of core practices. I am grateful for this because it brought me back to something that I harped quite a bit about when I was teaching spiritual formation classes: all the knowledge in the world is useless if you never put it to use.

I began to challenge folks to stop looking to know one more thing and just do what they already know. It is more difficult that it looks....

And Dan's "core questions" took me back to the whole point of embracing cHesed as primary context for the Christian life -- and getting your own pair of cHesed glasses! Let me explain.

If you take a look at how I define cHesed, you'll see that it comes down to looking out for the best interest of the "other" according to the covenant. In the context of my recent read through Scot McKnight's The Jesus Creed as part of Abi's Lent, I have gratefully acknowledged that Scot's book is very much a cHesed primer. The call to Love God and love others is essential cHesed. We are to be looking out for their best interest -- at all times and in all circumstances.

One of the things I do when I'm helping folks get a grip on cHesed is to help them see that this foundational concept will help them make right choices every moment of every day. And it will also make them aware of their short-comings and help them recognize opportunities for repentance and confession and forgiveness and reconciliation and restoration. Not that most people are eager for this kind of awareness (see the drug of choice link for a refresher on this). They want "sin" to be something really bad -- something that they don't do.

Sorry to be the bearer of this bad news! Actually, I guess I'm really just a reminder. ;^)

So here's my core cHesed question: Is what I'm about to do/say (or not do/say) going to lead me to keep covenant or break covenant with God and others? Whose best interest am I really looking out for at this moment?

I don't care what else you know or don't know about doctrine or theology or evangelism or Bible study ... if you aren't willing to actually enter the covenant dance (think: perichoresis) and learn the steps of unity and interdependence with love and grace and mercy, well ... you have a big problem. And no amount of duct tape and paper clips will "MacGyver" you out of it.

This question should be popping up all day long -- every day. You will never be rid of it. Because this question is at the heart of what it means to be like Jesus. To love and obey God. To embrace the 50-some "one anothers" of the New Testament. Take another look at this chart in this context and see if it makes any more sense. This chart represents the core practices that follow from the core question.

This concept of cHesed takes a lot of pondering and looking at from many angles before the V8 moment hits ... The Abbess urges you to persevere.

The life of one who follows the way of Jesus does not have to be all that complicated. CovenantClusters will be an attempt to provide a living example of how it can be simpler than Christendom has made it. The mystery of this grand paradox is that the simple call to cHesed is very profound yet simple enough to be understood by all. The challenge is in moving beyond the awareness and into the application. one has said it better than Chesterton: the Christian life has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.

So as we enter Holy Week and ponder the steps Jesus walked that led to Golgotha, The Abbess of The Purple Martyrdom bids you embrace the death to self (not my will, but yours, Abba) that leads to abundant life in Jesus. Take up your cross and follow....

Dancing with Papa...and Jesus...and Sarayu! :^)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Abi's Lent: Day 38

Well, it has been a long time, no blog! After being "mostly dead" for so many days, I found that I had a number of things to do when I got to feeling like I could do anything. So, here I am, back before the end of my 40 Days experiment. :^)

And what should arrive today but Scot McKnight's new book: 40 Days Living The Jesus Creed. I am grateful for this, as it will be the perfect follow up to reading his earlier book. And after that I will plunge into his Praying With The Church, which I have been looking forward to reading. It is only right that I should be paying my dues, having been such a blog hog over at Jesus Creed this past year. ;^)

In the meantime, thanks to a suggestion from my friend Sonja, I began to ponder the power of 15 minutes. Not the 15 minutes of fame so many crave. No, I'm talking about "you can do anything for 15 minutes." Mostly this is in reference to things that you are not particularly excited about doing... ;^)

Anyway, in the spirit of a deepening color of purple, I thought to myself that I would see whether there were any of my friends who might be willing to join me for 15 minutes (M-F) as I attempt to bring order to the chaos in which I live (which has not gotten any better for my being "mostly dead" for three weeks!). And so I went for it ... and my precious friend I approached was already familiar with this saying of FlyLady ... she actually subscribes to it! What are the chances of that? Hehehe ... love seeing a little run of Divine Dominoes! :^)

So anyway, being a Quality Time person, as well as a Words of Encouragement person, and a growing Acts of Service person ... having someone join me for my 15 minutes these past two days has been more of a blessing that one might imagine. I'm hoping that there might be others of my friends, who have wondered how they might be able to help me over the years of brokenness, who might be willing to spend 15 minutes with me now and again. Just until I get a handle on things and the 15 minute routine becomes a solid habit.

Hmmm..... I can see this as a kind of "Pay It Forward" opportunity, only in reverse. At least for those of us who have homes that are nightmares and have challenges wondering just how to start to bring order. Now, I don't think this is necessarily something that you can offer ... as in, "Hey, your house is a wreck ... have you heard about FlyLady and the 15 minute miracle?" But I do think it can be an opportunity for those of us in need of help to be a little purple and humbly consider asking for help in this manner. Gulp.

So, I'm grateful for 15 minutes of friendship and service and encouragement ... it is making a significant difference in my home after only two days.

... and while I'm in humble mode, I've been having to ask my friends to schlep me around since Tuesday, when one of a pair of huge bolts wiggled its way out from my front wheel drive. Made me think I threw a Jackson Rod or something -- but that is a very deep inside joke from camp, oh about 40 years ago ... ;^)

Been busy thinking about lots of stuff ... I'll get to some of it soon. Just wanted to check in and let you know I'm still alive!

Leaning on Papa.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Abi's Lent: Day 33

...and Day 20 of the flu. We are calling it finished because we are moving on. I'm feeling enough better that I will venture out to the store ... and get on with various deadlines approaching. I am so sick of being sick that I've decided I've had it! Of course, a good week of sleeping at night had made a bit of a difference....

I also finished The Jesus Creed today. The last two sections were easier to read -- well, faster may be the better word. They were more familiar and so were easier to process. Now I will see just where I am to go with this ... but this is definitely a book that will be added to the story that will someday soon be born as CovenantClusters -- a little outpost of the Kingdom where a society that lives the Jesus Creed transforms life -- loving God, loving others.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Abi's Lent: Day 29

...and Day 16 of the flu. My precious husband has fallen to the evil virus as well. He is on Day 4. I am confident he will recover more quickly, but our home is a little, well, subdued. :^(

Chapter 17 in The Jesus Creed is called A Society of Joy. Scot uses the Wedding at Cana to build some on the previous chapter 's talk about Jesus as the source of our purity. The large water pots that were central to this miracle were the ones that were used for ceremonial purification rites. This was sacred water that Jesus turned into sacred wine. Drinking the sacred wine of Jesus, provided so abundantly, purifies and brings joy -- the joy of hearts contented.

Jesus is the Bread of Heaven and he is also the Sacred Wine of the New Covenant. The "food" that he offers in himself is abundant and makes all things pure ... and brings the only joy that satisfies that gnawing hunger deep in our souls.

Scot went on to say that Church Potlucks are Signs of this sign for the church. The coming together of everyone bringing their home specialties in abundance to share with each other is a little slice of Heaven here on earth -- Love Feasts, indeed! Bring 'em on!

For all the joy that goes with a wedding, there is an undercurrent of solemn truth: life is changing forever. The Bride and the Bridegroom are now joined; no more waiting and preparing. It is time for the Kingdom of God -- the Society of the Jesus Creed -- to take up residence in the neighborhoods. And that means lots to eat and drink, and JOY to share with everyone -- abundantly.

Potlucking with Papa.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Abi's Lent: Day 26

Well, I am hopeful that the worst of this flu is over ... after 13 days! I'm still not able to sleep very well, but I'm sure everything will work itself out eventually. All thoughts and prayer have been much appreciated!

I was very sad to have missed the entire Ekklesia NW conference Friday and Saturday... :^(

* * * * * *

Chapter 16 in The Jesus Creed is called A Society of Restoration. Scot coins a great new word for us sesquipedalians: classificationitis. Love it! He defines it (on page 155) as "the inflammation of orderly distinctions." There were just too many separating classifications--and Jesus came to remove those barriers and restore people to their place in society.

Jesus removed barriers in a number of ways -- by his example, by his teaching, by his miracles. But it seems to me that Scot hits it right on the head (on page 159) by calling Jesus the Contagion of Purity.

For the Jews, impurity was wildly contageous. Hence, the extreme number of categories that separated clean from unclean and kept the "infection" under control. But Jesus came to do away with the whole problem! God had given the Law -- his "orderly distinctions" -- through Moses in order to both preserve and build the nation of Israel.

But when the time of the Messiah arrived, and in preparation for the cutting of the New Covenant, God began to deal with the horrible "inflammation" that had come to be so heavy that the people could no longer bear it. Instead of separating and condemning the unclean, the Society of Restoration heals and cleanses.

Before, the touch of a leper or a woman with an issue of blood would render one unclean. Now, when touched by Jesus, his purity passes to them -- cleansing and restoring.

If the society of the Jesus Creed is to be a society of restoration, then we have to be about remembering that we are infected with the purity of Jesus -- and it is meant to be wildly contageous.

The days of the classification wars are over, friends. The contagion of purity has been unleashed.

The question that must be asked, then, is this: are you "sneezing" restoration as loving God and loving others? Or are you quarantining the "contagion" to your church or your group or your ... whatever.

Jesus is the cure for the bad case of "classificationitis" that ails humanity. Please, set his power free -- so that his contagious purity can get on about cleaning and restoring God's precious Eikons to right relationship with God and with others.

Leaning on Papa.