Sunday, October 19, 2008

Thoughts on One Year of Blogging....

Well, friends--what an interesting journey this past year has been! Amazing.... Thanks to all of you who have been my companions from the start -- and welcome to those of you who have joined along the way.

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After my warm-up post on Friday, we spent the day on Saturday with our missional tribe here doing a prayer summit. I find that I am still unable to fully process exactly what transpired, but I want to share just a few here, on this anniversary of my return from the Missional Order/Seabeck experience.

One of the many things I experienced for the first time at Seabeck was The Daily Office. I have since read Scot McKnight's excellent book, Praying with the Church, as well as other books that have been helpful in filling in some of the historical blanks for me concerning this ancient, yet still powerful, practice. We used the Northumbria community as our primary example (please do check out their link in my sidebar!), and I am still impressed with the way they have set up their "virtual office" ... ever so appropriate for this virtual abbess! ;^)

One of the things we pondered at Seabeck was the core values of the Rule of Life at Northumbria: availablility and vulnerability. For a long time I have been at a loss to come up with anything more powerful or fundamental than these two values. To be fully available to the other and to be fully vulnerable with the other are acts of extreme faith....

But a couple of things dropped into place yesterday ... let me just tell you about them.

We went out for 30 minutes of silence to ponder Psalm 131 and the picture of the satisfied child sitting on the mother's lap -- what does that speak to us, this picture of a child snuggled up with mom? What does it speak to you?

Anyway ... I began to think, as the others talked, about the power of perception. The word always takes me back to Bishop Berkeley's "to be is to be perceived ... and the Ultimate Perceiver is God."

The foundational issue is right perception -- perceiving as God perceives. How do we do this?

To be still ... to sit on God's maternal lap, satiated from the nutrition received and the thirst quenched; to be rocked on Papa's lap and listen to words of love and encouragement; to feel the firm but gentle pats that ensure all the bubbles escape; to gaze adoringly into Papa's eyes, drinking in the unconditional love ... and then, after sufficient rest, to hear Papa's voice tell us it's time to get down and get busy learning and playing -- with one more big hug and a kiss on the cheek, to slide off that warm lap and skamper off....

This is the beginning of right perception ... to experience the unconditional love of Papa. To be filled up to the top and empowered to get going with a hug and a kiss is to know who you are.

To be is to be perceived aright ... because it is God's perception that holds all things together, not ours.

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And so we turned to the Rhythm of Life, which is what many call The Daily Office. While so many think this Rhythm is a repetitive "rule" to be "enforced" ... what if it is a "gift" to be "received" -- individually as well as collectively?

What if this Rhythm of Life is to Papa's spiritual children what mother's milk is to a child? (This insight is yet another of the benefits of nursing my children for 2-3 years!) When the children are small, they nurse frequently--their little tummies just can't hold that much--and sleep most of the time. As they grow, they can stretch out the time between feedings and begin to explore the world beyond "mommy and me". But they keep coming back every few hours ... to climb up on mommy's lap to be fed and held and loved and "perceived" aright.

It makes perfect sense to me that we would have a need for regular quiet time, to be refresh and perceived intimately by the one who loves us the most. To hear of that love ... and speak of our love, as well. To have our fears calmed and our path made straight for the next leg of the journey. And to be set down to go out and play.


Does Kingdom Life ever seem like play to you? Maybe you need to get a little more of God's sweet milk of love to go along with the meat, eh?

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Today's thoughts will then close with the two words that are beginning to compete (for me) with availability and vulnerability: expectancy and responsiveness. Let me explain a bit....

Back in The Shack, Papa was explaining that we have taken the living joy of expectancy and, killing it, turned it into expectations ... life-sucking legalism ... robbing relationships of anticipation and replacing them with disappointment. We have also taken the power and privilege of responding to the wonders of expectancy -- when Papa breaks into our lives like sun through the clouds -- by turning it into the bone-crushing burden of responsibility. Sigh....

These two words -- expectancy and responsiveness -- pair up with two other words I've talked about before: kairos and chronos.

Kairos being the kind of time that is, well, timely. It is God's time because it is eternal time that is perceived. It is the place of expectancy -- looking for God to surprise us ... and still being surprised! It is God writing stuff in our calendars....

Chronos is the seconds and minutes and hours and days and weeks and months and years in which we life out this mortal life. It is made up of all the responses we have made to God's appointments, as well as the responses we have made to all the other things that compete for our time. It is also full of reactions (as opposed to responses) we have made. :^(

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All this rambling comes down to this: perhaps, just perhaps, The Daily Office is the gift of expectancy ... of crawling up on Papa's familiar lap to rest, be refreshed, have our perceptions refocused and our wounds bound up, and then sent back out to play with renewed strength to respond with love to those in our sandbox.

It isn't wildly fresh, spontaneous and new content (rather, it is ancient and cyclically repetitive) ... just the simple meeting of needs in the intimate embrace of the one who loves us the most. The shalom of sabbath rather than the pressure to perform.

Of course, there is more than this to the story ... but this is a start! And it is a very important part of the mystery that is the Purple Martyrdom ... best perceived through cHesed glasses, of course.

Here's to the next leg of the journey!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Countdown to the Big Day....

No, not the election! We don't begin that countdown for another couple of weeks, silly....

The Virtual Abbess is preparing for her first blogiversarous!

On Friday, October 19, 2007, this blog came into existence. Wow ... a lot of amazing things have happened in that time. Even though the 19th is not until Sunday, today, being Friday, is kind of like the first The Abbess will be having a weekend celebration at The Abbey!

I see that my profile has been viewed 920 times [only about 50 of which were me checking ;^) ] ... which means that there is a slim chance that I could hit 1000 by Sunday.... I have updated it a bit, so if you haven't checked it in the last couple of months, go ahead and give it a whirl. (Not that The Abbess is interested in statistics, don't you know!)

I'll talk more about what the past year has been about later in the weekend ... today I want to share something a friend of mine sent in an e-mail this morning. (Thanks, Peggy Jo!)

For those of you who have followed the development of The Purple Martyrdom, you will see why this story about being and mom is like building a cathedral ... and why pondering the founding of a missional order took me to Seabeck last year with 40some friends of Allelon.

While our flesh and blood runs on Chronos time, our spirit moves in and out of Kairos time ... and it is in those Kairos moments that the veil is lifted and we see what God is doing with what we think is invisible ... because God truly does see what is done in secret.

Invisible Mother

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store.

Inside I'm thinking, 'Can't you see I'm on the phone?'

Obviously, not.

No one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all.

I'm invisible. The invisible Mom. Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?

Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a clock to ask, 'What time is it?' I'm a satellite guide to answer, 'What number is the Disney Channel?' I'm a car to order, 'Right around 5:30, please.'

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated sum a cum laude - but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She's going; she's going; she is gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England

Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in.

I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself.

I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, 'I brought you this.'

It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe ..

I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I read her inscription:

'To Charlotte , with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.'

In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work:

No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record of their names.

These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished.

They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.

The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, 'Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.' And the workman replied, 'Because God sees.'

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place.

It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, 'I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over.. You are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will become.'

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life.

It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride.

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on.

The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend he's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, 'My Mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.' That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, 'you're gonna love it there.'

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we're doing it right.

And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.

Great Job, MOM!


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Abi thinks a good shake-up is essential!

Here's what I had to say over at Matt Stone's blog. Do read his post and the comments, please!

Thank you for this thread and your elaboration in the comments, Matt.

It is no surprise to me that the Spirit continues to hold the launch of CovenantClusters as my own thoughts go along with yours...and we at The Abbey are those who do tend to be bridge builders and not separatists.

I was laughing to myself at the whole "homogeneous" discussion. I take a cue from nature here: milk. We don't drink homogenized milk at our home because the process turns the good fat into bad fat by breaking them down so small that they are no longer able to separate and come to the top as cream. They are, however, so small that they can leak out into places where they do damage.


However, when you leave the cream alone, it has that tendency to rise to the top. There, everyone sees that it is separating from the milk. And in order to get it back into the milk before you drink it, so that the protein and other nutrients can be properly utilized, we have to shake everything up. Yeah...we just have to get in the habit of regularly shaking things up! that cream representative of the Holy Spirit?

Sometimes cream is scooped off the top for special butter and ice cream. But these are special treats that we can use to help bring the wonder of the cream out into other areas. The non-fat milk is not wasted--it gets used to make other things that nourish the body.

Hmmm...the Abbess feels a future blog post coming on, so I'll stop blog-clogging here!

So...what does anyone out there "lurking" think about that?

I'm sure I'll be back to process it some more...but we do not "pasturize" here any more than we "homogonize"--so it will take a little time. The benefits of not killing the milk and pulverizing the cream are worth it!

Shaking it up regularly....