Thursday, July 31, 2008

Abi's Dance with the Diving Porpoises....

Wow ... it's out, and it's not even August yet!

I haven't had time to read all the rest of the articles in the August Edition of The Porpoise Diving Life e-zine, "Shall We Dance", but I will soon--and I hope you will, too. There are nine submissions; my article, Freedom Dances, is number eight ... right before the lone poem. This poem, titled Perichoresis, follows my article perfectly ... hmmm, perhaps Sonja and Patrick planned it that way? ;^)

* * * * * * *

I'm up to my eyeballs in PTSA stuff, with just four weeks until school begins again ... but I will work to get my series on perichoresis going here real soon. In the meantime, enjoy reading "Shall We Dance"--and don't forget to let The Abbess know what you think in the comments!

Oh ... and I noticed that:

The September 1, 2008 edition of The Porpoise Diving Life is dedicated to
6 word stories - About God

Send your 6 word stories - about God by August 28th 2008 to:


...which made me think of my entry in the "What is Missional" Synchroblog. I will look forward to reading them--they'll all be quick! :^)

Enjoying the dance....

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Scot McKnight and The Shack

Friends, Scot McKnight just posted a link to an important review of The Shack. Derek Keefe (in Christianity Today on July 10th) titled his review: Reading in Good Faith. IMHO, this should be required reading for anyone who has ever commented on any book--critics and supporters.

Abi suggests that you read the review first and then follow the comments over at Jesus Creed. It should be interesting to see how the conversation goes over there ... my comment was #2.

And Brother'd fit in just fine over at Scot McK's One T Saloon, partner. Well done!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Coming Soon: Abi's Series on Perichoresis!

Well, friends ... the time is approaching when The Abbess will finally begin to process her thoughts about perichoresis!

My friends Sonja Andrews and Patrick Oden asked me to contribute an article to the August edition of The Porpoise Diving Life, which is dedicated to Patrick's book: It's A Dance: Moving with the Spirit. (You'll notice I have added it to my list of recommended books!)

The theme they have chosen is "Perichoresis versus Hierarchy or Power" ... and it was just the thing Abi needed to get focused. My article is titled: Freedom Dances. What a surprise--NOT!

So, stay tuned--because I'll be blogging in August about my article and using it as the introduction to a series on perichoresis. I'll probably include some thoughts I had from reading Patrick's book, too. And may even get into some stuff from The Shack.

In the meantime I would recommend you subscribe to the monthly PDF e-zine NOW, so you'll get your copy delivered to you when it comes out!

Dance on....

Friday, July 18, 2008

Abi's take on small group ministries .... it's here!

You may remember my post on small groups, where I was unable to get to my comment until it was rescued from comment purgatory after the 15th of July? Well, I went back there today and here it is:

Hello, Brian.

Came over from Bro. Maynard's because I was struck by the title....

Just two weeks ago it occurred to me why my six-year experience in leading a large small group ministry (had 100 groups at the most successful time) was thwarted.

I resonate with those who say that the definition of small group is not standard, and I would wholeheartedly agree. For some is it another Bible Study. For others it is prayer group. For yet others it is food and fellowship. We tried to embrace whatever definition each individual group wanted.

It didn't make any difference because the end was the same: there was rarely any multiplication of groups. Rarely any growth of disciples who made disciples. Rarely any leaders apprenticing new leaders who would then birth a new group.... all too familiar to all of you, I'm sure.

I was convinced that my problem was not enough small group leaders. Isn't that were we all get stuck? Not enough people willing to step up to the plate and lead....

But I have come to believe, instead, that it really comes down to life transformation ... I read one comment above that talked about it ... and it was the rare group where lives were truly transformed. I would go so far as to say that MANY are touched and encouraged in small groups, as testified above, but not many are transformed into disciples who make disciples on a natural, ongoing basis.

And then I read three books by Neil Cole. His "Organic Church" in November of 2006, "Cultivating a Life for God" in February of 2007, and I just finished his latest, "Search and Rescue", last week. Have you read these books?

It is the concept Cole calls "life transformation groups" that get the job done, in my opinion. These are groups of two or three (men and women in separate groups) who meet for 1 hour a week for three things: 1) to see what God is doing in their lives through the reading of the significant passages of scripture (20-30 chapters per week) they have agreed to read, 2) to be accountable to each other for their actions and weaknesses and confess their sins when they fail, and 3) to pray for two or three people to be responsive to the wooing activity of the Holy Spirit.

Cole's second book is small and solely dedicated to these LTGs, as he calls them, and they are described in context in the other two books.

There is a place for the small group of 8-15, just as there is a place the the larger groups for fellowship and the largest groups for teaching ... but if people are not engaged at the LTG level, there just will not be the same level of transformation -- in themselves and in others.

Wesley and others have done similar things with classes and groups, but I think Cole is really onto something here.

Thanks for letting me share.

CovenantClusters will be built on a form of LTG called WordClusters. I am more convinced than ever that this foundation will make a huge difference in everything else that happens.

Blessings, all.

Abi's Pondering of Original Sin

It's been a busy summer ... but I felt I needed to share a little ramble of a comment I made over at Jesus Creed today, where Scot McKnight is beginning a Friday is for (Original Sin) Friends series on Alan Jacob's book Original Sin. It is a bit of a follow up from this earlier post on Sin: A Reflection back in May.

Anyway, here's what I had to say:

It is not the fact that humans are unable to consistently make choices that are in line with God's holiness that I have issue with when considering the concept of "original sin". Rather, it is the extent to which this reality is spun into bondage of the will that concerns me....

I think we have to stop and consider what "sin" is. If we believe sin is missing the mark of God's intent, then we have to consider what that intent (the target, as it were) was and is. What if it is as simple as this: to walk humbly and joyously in community with God; to trust God's requirements are just and right (as well as the consequences being true) and, therefore, due obedience; and to faithfully accomplish our task to steward the rest of God's creation cooperatively with each other.

Bear with me, we use the archery concept from which the term for "sin" derives....

And then, what if the command against eating and getting the knowledge of good and evil was meant to be like a guard and guidance for keeping proper focus necessary for good "aim" at the "target". While Adam and Eve were constantly presented with the opportunity to choose to keep on target, their innocent trust and simple obedience made their task easier.

When they turned from obedience and trust, they basically removed the safety and guide from their "bows" and the task of keeping on target got immediately more difficult. They were distracted by the knowledge they gained and were introduced to the "evil" of which they had not previously been aware: the ability to freely choose that which is harmful (to self and others) and disrespectful and disobedient to God. Relationships crashed on all sides and the cooperation necessary to steward the creation suffered terribly.

What if, then, humans (as created in the Garden) were without sin (able to consistently hit the target) until they ate of the forbidden fruit? What we have inherited, as a result of their rebellion, is the requirement to continue to strive to hit the mark, but without the safety and guide of innocence and with a marred creation that requires much more effort to steward. It does not mandate that we cannot ever aim well, but it makes it virtually impossible to completely and consistently hit the mark.

The Law, in time, was introduced as an echo of the safety and guide in that it called out to warn against terrible choices and call God's people back to focus on God's will. It was a first level of reinstating restraint.

But it was not until Christ came and set up the New Covenant that the safety and guide is in full view again. As we are "in Christ" and continually submit to the Spirit's transforming power to make us "like Christ" that we are able to be "with Christ" -- and feel his strong arm and steady hand on our bow, helping us focus our aim and shoot ever nearer to the center of the target. Here again the importance of restraint comes to the fore....

The hope and promise of the coming age is that the time of weak restraint in dying human flesh will be supplanted with the perfection in the new, imperishable bodies -- safety and guides restored -- able to again commune with God and each other while stewarding the New Creation.

I realize that there are many out there who will disagree with The Abbess over this, but I didn't want to miss the opportunity to clarify what I believe about original sin.

Be blessed ... I hope to be back with some real good stuff to share soon!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Abi's Copyright Notice

I have seen a number of folks who have copyright notices on their blogs. These are people whose ideas are fresh and really valuable, so that totally makes sense to me. I have, however, continued to run across suggestions that I should copyright my blog.

So here is what I want you to know:

Most of the stuff I write is processing that grows from lots of different sources collected over a lifetime of reading, watching and living -- what J.R.R. Tolkien would call intellectual "mould." It is stuff that grows out of stuff that I have "ingested" and whose nutrients I have extracted. And even those portions considered "ruffiage" that have, ahem, been "out-processed" are valuable as, um, compost. Gotta love Tolkien's word pictures....

Here's the deal. When I'm directly quoting someone, I try to identify the source -- giving credit where credit is due. When I can only remember who a main idea came from, I try to tell you their name. If I have lots of energy and it is "linkable" I try to link you to what I'm talking about. I do the best a poor, harried abbess can.... ;^)

If something I've written is helpful to you and you want to process it, make it your own and share it with others, go for it. There is no reason to hoard ideas, for goodness sake!

I'm hopeful, however, that you will deal with me in this same manner (do unto others...) because it is the right thing to do ... and don't forget the last comment in Abi's Rule: freely you have received; freely give.

I'll have a link in my side-bar that says "Abi's Copyright Notice" that will lead back to this post. It will have to be sufficient.


Abi's take on small group ministries .... stay tuned!

Just a quick post, now that I'm back from Napa and a visit to my sister ... Hi Wendy! ... while I'm waiting for time to document the Thunderstorm Connection between Kansas City and Vancouver.

A pastor named Brian Jones, from my same roots in the Restoration Movement, has a very interesting blog and an interesting post from a few weeks back on what to do with comatose small group ministries. Pull the plug...euthanize them, he suggests.

Hmmm ... well the Abbess was just thinking about this the other day while reading Cole's Search and Rescue -- which I'll also get around to blogging about one of these days -- and I left a fairly long comment ... and then found out that he set the blog to "moderate comments" while he's gone for three weeks of summer camp, returning July 14th.

So this is a reminder to me to go back later and see what other comments have been waiting in blog pergatory ... and an invitation for you to have a gander at his blog and that series of posts. He strikes me as a good guy ... and that bodes well for the folks in the Stone-Campbell movement.

I was going to copy and paste my comment here, but it was lost in "comment moderation" before I could capture it ... so you'll have to wait right along with me!

...I'll be back real soon.