Sunday, December 22, 2013

Advent with Abi -- Peace as Relational Reality

Peace ... what longing there is for peace everywhere. And yet there seems to be so little peace -- in families, in marriages, in politics, in schools, in neighborhoods, in churches, in relationships, in countries, in the world.

My little corner of the world has struggled to find peace for too many years to count. It seems that strife and heartache and brokenness overwhelms all.

But that has begun to change -- just recently, if you can believe that. And it has changed because I have finally seen the Truth that has been just out of reach ... just a bit out of focus ... just around the next corner ... just needing one more conversation ... or book or video or whatever.

That truth is what I have finally called Perichoretic cHesed.  It is the reality of the eternal relationship between  the Triune God -- Father, Jesus and Grandmother ... where there is so much unity of purpose and will that they can only be described as One, yet with no loss of their distinct individuality.  Their relationship of merciful loving-kindness dreamt up this amazing universe in order to provide a habitat for those who would bear their Image as male and female.

It is the realm of adoption, which Jesus crossed time and space to make possible by the miracle of his incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension. It is the mystery in which Jesus has taken his creation down in his death in order to set it free from the Death it suffered through Adam's rebellion.  It is the mystery in which we have also been raised from the dead with Jesus -- and taken up with all of creation, including all of humanity, and brought home with Jesus to be with Father and Grandmother.

But it is a reality still hindered by human blindness and stubbornness -- for until we repent and allow Grandmother to renew our minds and heal our blindness, we cannot see what Jesus has done.  We truly see through a glass darkly....

My circumstances have not changed.  All is as chaotic tonight as it was last night. But I am finally learning how to live in the space between the already adopted and the not yet fully transformed. The space where I live by the faith of Jesus, who tells me that I am included in the Perichoretic cHesed of the Three-in-One already. That I am never is a group smaller than four -- three of whom are totally dedicated to my best interest.

I do not have any peace around me.  But I dwell as sister of the Prince of Peace.  And he shares with me his peace -- one that is not as the world gives. And with my hand in his, I walk through the baby steps of my life without believing the lies that swirl all around me. I listen to his voice -- to the Truth.  I see myself and others in the brightness of the darkness-scattering Light of the World.

As I approach Christmas, I breathe in Peace as Relational Reality...and look around me to see bits of it sprouting here and there in the chaos. I do not know what the future holds, but the One that holds the future is the One that holds me tight. I am leaning into the love that brings peace to my heart and mind.

May the Breath of Peace steal sweetly over you this night and every night.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Abi has finally come Home for Christmas...

Update:  I have added the rest of the posts for the Synchroblog at the bottom.  Please do check them out as you have time.  You will be blessed!  Abi

* * * * * * * 

It has been a very long time since I participated in any Synchroblogs out there ... but I had a feeling that I might have something to say this time around.

I grew up in a pretty tight knit family -- Thanksgiving and Christmas and (usually) birthdays were always family time. Family time for our family almost always included the church family's activities ... because we were the church-planting minister's family. If we weren't there and involved, well, things didn't happen....

There are lots of ups and downs to being a PK (preacher's kid)...and this post is not going to talk about any of that. But I have to say that this Christmas will be the first year that I will really "be" home. And that will need a little unpacking....

Regulars of The Virtual Abbess will know that I have been processing heavy things for many years ... and that this past year I've been processing what I have just recently come to call Perichoretic cHesed.  The reason things have finally come together is that I have finally unpacked the last piece of the puzzle (should I more humbly say the next piece?!?) as I continue the process of reconstructing what the journey of Kingdom Life is supposed to look like -- for me, at least.

Home is where family is -- and where one is always welcome. Home always means extended family, too. While I love my biological family, I have lived very far away from them for 22 of my 57 years. Most of the past 18 years have been spent away from them as our nuclear family left Southern California for Washington State.  I had no idea how difficult raising children would be without my extended family in a church family that was not full of relatives ... or people who knew me BK (before kids).

The sad thing that I have come to realize is that I, somehow, did not carry away many "traditions" ... because they were anchored in people who were not where I was.  When I was with them, the traditions lived on. But not here.  Not at the place I called home.

As I have pondered this source of grief, it has finally occurred to me that somehow, I have never really been "home" anywhere ... because I never felt like I fit in. I was useful, most of the time. And that's part of the problem.  Rather than relational, family had turned out to be something more utilitarian. And when you are a broken down person, as I have been for much of the past 18 years, sometimes you're not as useful as folks think you should be. Maybe you no longer fill roles that have come to be expected of you -- in the way that is expected.

Yes, I actually said that out loud....

But I have been pondering a different foundation for family.  One that has been seemingly lost to much of humanity for much too long. I have found that the truest foundation for family comes from the original Family: The Holy and Eternal Trinity.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit have been recognized as the Triune God for a very long time ... but I think that the familial nature of their relationship has not been.  And I think some of that comes from the fact that many have seen the Holy Spirit as either male or gender neutral. I, however, have joined forces with some who have embraced seeing the Spirit as female -- as God our Mother ... or perhaps, as our Grandmother.  There is lots of evidence in the Hebrew for the terms used for the Spirit as being female or feminine.  We know that there are many images of God which are maternal.  I'm not going to argue that here.  You will have do your own searching.  (But both of Wm. Paul Young's books, as well as Baxter Kruger's book, The Shack:  Revisited, may help you as they have helped me.) But in order for the image and nature of God to be seen in humanity, it needed to be expressed in what we know as male and female.  Both are necessary -- one is not more important the the other.  (It seems that even in the Trinity, there only needs to be one female to two males ... please be smiling!!!)

Of course only Jesus, the Father's eternal Son, is actually human and male -- since that first Christmas so long ago.  The other two members of this triad are still whatever it is that they have all been for all eternity. We have been dressing them up in language and images that help us relate to them ... and it is only in Jesus that we have definitive answers.  So, I am finding it terribly helpful to relate to God as Father, Brother and Grandmother -- because of the reality of the new family forged in the New Covenant in Jesus Christ.

[It's okay ... no bolt of lightening has struck me.  God can handle this. It's all good.]

In this Eternal Family I have found my truest family -- the family that is always with me...from which I cannot be separated. They are the Truth about family as it is intended to be.

  • I have a Father who loves me with deliberate affection regardless of what I do or don't do.  He is "especially fond of me" as Young has made so famous with his Papa from The Shack. He sees my true self and calls it out into being bit by bit -- regardless of what others think I am or should be.
  • I have an Elder Brother who extends me the unmerited favor of grace because I am his little sister and he has crossed all worlds to joyfully bring me -- with  my Adoption Papers -- home to his Father and the Kingdom. He walks with me at all times -- he holds my hand (he holds everything in his hands!)
  • I have a Grandmother who breathes wisdom and power on my baby steps -- while showering me with gifts of kindness and mutuality -- so that I make a difference in the family.  I have a part to play in each interaction with my brothers and sisters. I participate in the Eternal Will of God as it is lived out moment by moment. She isn't harsh with me when I don't do things "correctly" ... she is happy that I engage and embrace life.
This family reality I have described is, in essence, what I mean by perichoretic cHesed.  It is being part of the family while still being myself. It is resting -- relaxing! -- in the love of Father, the grace of Jesus, the mercy of Grandmother -- knowing that They are holding everything together, making everything work together for good, teaching me the family recipes and traditions.

This Christmas, I will be home for the first time.  I'm not quite sure exactly what it's going to be like compared with the previous 56 experiences ... but I do know that it will be filled with more hope and love and joy and peace than any Christmas I've known. I'm going to relax into it and be surprised by joy....

I am reminded of the line from Sleepless in Seattle, when Sam is describing to Dr. Marsha what it was like when he first held the hand of the woman who would become his wife:  "It was like coming home, only to no home I'd ever known."

As I finish typing this, I can almost hear them clapping and shouting:  "Welcome home, child.  We have been waiting for you for so long. Come on in and join the dancing and singing ... and you don't really need your dancing shoes anymore!"

Be blessed this Christmas -- may you find yourself coming home to no home you've ever known, too!  I'll see you there...  ;^)


* * * * * * *

Other bloggers writing so far about “coming home” this advent:

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Advent with Abi -- Joy as Wholehearted Response

The third week of Advent begins ... and I'm working through Baxter Kruger's books again, now that I have finished listening to so many hours of his lectures.  Reading the books, I hear him and his wonderful Mississippi accent in my head....  :^)

During the time I've been reading and listening to and meeting Baxter this past year, I've also been watching and listening to Brene Brown talk about courage and vulnerability and wholeheartedness. Their messages have arrived at just the right time -- kairos time -- when I was both in need of the message and able to hear and receive the message. What a blessing....

I was struck this morning as I was reading ... struck at how much power we give to the lies that are whispered around and about us ... rather than believing Jesus and his Father and the Holy Spirit. The darkness of our fallen minds, Baxter says, makes sense to us.  The amazing perichoretic cHesed of the blessed Trinity -- well, it doesn't make sense to us at all.  Not unless we repent of our fallen and darkened wrongheadedness!  Lord, have mercy!

At this third week of Advent -- as the darkness is starting to lift because of the approaching birth of the Light of the World -- I found a small trickle of joy welling up in my soul. As I have walked along with Jesus, choosing to side with him against the lies of "I am not", I have a new kind of courage growing.  The courage to tell the story of who I am with my whole heart. (Thank you, Brene, for these words!)  And I find that the telling of this story an act of joy.

Joy is the fruit of courage, it seems.  We know that it is a fruit of the Spirit, too...but I find the telling of the story of who I really am with my whole heart cannot be told without joy.  I think this is because those willing to risk sharing their whole heart -- not just the good stuff and not just the bad stuff, but the good and bad stuff along with the hard but important stuff makes up the whole.  And Father, Son and Spirit love the whole me...not just the nice shiny parts....

C.S. Lewis wrote a book called Surprised by Joy ... and I am beginning to understand that a bit better today.

This week, as you ponder the Joy of Jesus -- Father's Eternal Son Incarnate -- may you find that his joy is your joy, too.  That his truth is your truth. That his peace is your peace. That his courage is your courage. That his faith is your faith.  Because everything that he shares with the Father in the Spirit is yours -- if you will radically reorient your mind and believe that what Jesus has said and done is actually, finally, totally, joyously TRUE.

Joy to the world!  The Lord has come.  Let earth receive her King!

Be blessed....


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Advent with Abi -- Love as Perichoretic cHesed

Today I finished the 33rd and final lecture in Baxter Kruger's The Big Picture series.  Took me about five weeks. Wow ... thanks so much, Baxter, for sharing your passion! Now I need to go back and re-read all of his books -- I have a much better perspective for them now.

It has been through Baxter's goal to make perichoresis a household word that I found the perfect pairing for making cHesed a household word:  make them a household phrase!  :^)  I have already blogged about that some.  Please see this post.

But for today, as we begin the second week of Advent, it is time to talk of Love.  But the full, deep love that is perichoretic cHesed.  The eternal love that Father, Son and Spirit -- the blessed Trinity -- dwell in together.  Love that is other centered and self-giving ... the eternal reality out of which came Creation, and it's crowning glory, Humanity.

As Baxter has hammered into my brain over the past year, to say the name of Jesus is to say that the Trinity and Humanity now dwell together. Forever.  Begun before creation, incubated in the Old Covenant, brought forth from the virgin Mary, hammered out as the babe grew into a man, shown to those who had eyes to see in the years of open ministry, Jesus was fully God and fully Human.  The only fully human person ever to live. And in his willing death at the bitter hands of his fellow humans, Jesus entered fully into human darkness -- felt all the pain and agony and loneliness and blindness -- and took creation down with him in death.  He did this so that the Father could raise us up with Jesus from the dead and so that Jesus could take us home to our Father's side with the Deed of  Adoption signed in his own blood.  Done deal.

This is the Gospel.  The Good News.  The news that too many have not yet seen in their blindness or heard above the deafening cacophony of their own ideas about who God is and who they are and who others think they are supposed to be ... and how are they going to find a way to make it through another dark and lonely day all on their own....

* * * * * * *

It is all good and well to talk about the love of the Trinity being other centered and self giving.  But I believe that there is a richer concept that comes to us from the Hebrew language -- just as the beautiful word perichoresis comes to us from the Greek language.  If you know anything about me, you know that this concept is hidden in the gem of cHesed ... merciful loving-kindness.

You could read quite a long time on my blog if you looked up all the posts on cHesed...which would not be a bad use of time.  I have mentioned before that there are many things I've written about over the past seven years that I would need to tweak considerably.  And cHesed needs a bit of that as well.

I have begun this tweaking with this labeled and colored version of the ancient Celtic Trinity Knot.

Just as we see the interpenetrating, looping reality of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you will see the ring of gold that encircles them.  I have labeled this ring with the three descriptors of cHesed:  love, grace and mercy.  But underneath these three are three others: submit, serve and lead.

To say that Father, Son and Spirit live in an unbroken dance of love -- so much so that the foundational description of God is love -- is saying much more than the western mind has generally had the tools to grasp. This has led me on a twenty year quest to, as it were, redeem the word "love" from the too-often shallow usage to which western civilization has adhered.

Trinitarian cHesed is a Love of deliberate affection that submits its wants to the needs of the beloved ... it is a Grace of unmerited favor that serves the best interest of the beloved without thought of repayment ... it is a Mercy of kindness mutually owed that initiates and leads the beloved in ways that move toward the accomplishment of their mutual goal.  In this circle there is no competition or hierarchy or envy. Their's is a unity of such togetherness that the only way to describe it is to say that these Three are One!

It is descriptive enough to show us what it actually means to say that God IS Love.  That the Trinity have lived in this amazing relationship from all Eternity ... and that They have desired to share this love in and through their creation -- and especially in Humanity.

Their desire to share their love with Humanity was so strong that the Father's Eternal Son decided that, for the remainder of Eternity, he would live as the Human Man named Jesus ... Emmanuel -- God with us!  And in this form, Jesus entered into a New Covenant with God as the representative of Humanity ... resulting in our Adoption -- joint heirs of God with Jesus.

* * * * * * *

While I am yet a long way from distilling this down, what I hope to leave you with this week is the assurance that this cHesed -- the merciful loving-kindness of Father, Son and Spirit -- is the gift that God has been showing Humanity from the very start.  And that this gift has been permanently given to Humanity in the New Covenant in Jesus.  You and me -- we all are already completely loved and adopted by Father, where we may dwell with him and Jesus in the fellowship of the Spirit.

May you have eyes to see this love all around you in the beauty of Creation -- in the heavens and on the earth and in your adopted brothers and sisters all around you.

May you have ears to hear this Good News of love and adoption in Jesus ... all ready finished and just waiting for you to recognize.

May you rest -- truly rest and relax -- in this knowledge of God's love made flesh in Jesus. This is the only healing balm for your soul sickness.  Nothing else matters if you are blind and deaf to the Love Song of the Trinity.

Be blessed, adelphoi -- brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.  I am grateful to have your fellowship on the journey in the Kingdom.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Advent with Abi -- Hopeful Expectancy

Hopeful Expectancy.

Powerful bloggers are proficient at the use of hyperlinks. It comes from an aversion to saying what has already been said. I get it. I've done it.

I've blogged on the important difference between expectation and expectancy.  I could link to it. Or you could search my blog, if you wanted to know what I've said about it.

But what I think has changed so much these past seven years -- and this past year, especially -- that I don't necessarily want to point backward.

Expectancy is the reality of living in Kairos time -- the Eternal Now.

If you are a planner, this can be the ultimate frustration.  Because waiting is getting harder and harder in our times.  Our Chronos time ... that we track with watches and calendars and the time it takes for our browser to load the page we want to read ... is a brutal task master.  We are never at rest because we are always looking to our next whatever.

We have forgotten how to be present in the moment.  We have slipped from expectancy to expectation. From life to death. Do you feel the death grip of expectation on someone you love -- or yourself -- choking the life out of your moments day by day?  Can those expectations really be that important?

As I begin the process of pondering Advent's first week, I do so with with a hopeful expectancy that has been slowly growing over the past 10 months.  So much pondering preceded the birth of Jesus so long ago. Not all of it was hopeful...sadly.

It is the same today for many.

But I am hopeful because of what I have been learning -- or relearning? -- about Father, Son and Spirit. How their Eternal Three-in-One reality is always active everywhere and cannot be thwarted.  They are the quintessential waiters. But their waiting in not empty or wasted, because they are always busy together -- even while they're waiting for us to wake up to the stunning knowledge of who we are in them, so that we may join in their faithful and quietly joyous work.

Father, Son and Spirit live in Hopeful Expectancy -- in Kairos Time.  I am choosing more and more to live in that reality with them.

May you be drawn into their hopeful time today, and be warmed by the bonfire of their love.

Be blessed!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Abi and Brokenness....

Updated...see below!

I have written about Oprah a couple of times.  I have tremendous respect for her, although I do not agree with everything she says or does.  That's normal, I think.  If you have problems with Oprah, I humbly ask you to suspend disbelief (J.R.R. Tolkien's lovely term) long enough to hear what I'm saying.  You'll be okay.

Anyway, today's lead article in her Spirit Newsletter struck me as timely.  It came as an answer to a fervent prayer.  It is not perfect, either; but it gave me several bits of encouragement.  These I will share with you. Some come right out of the article, others are my thoughts that came from reading.  Please read the original article first, if you haven't already ... the rest of this post will still be here when you get back.  Go ahead; it's not very long.  ;^)

Here's the stream of consciousness that made me get out my pen and paper and capture some thoughts:

  • Everyone is broken from time to time.  Um, this would resonate with the abbess of the purple martyrdom.
  • Breaking is necessary for enlargement.  I could write an entire series on this profound thought.
  • Enlargement comes by being present in all ways, in all directions. I struggle with this and I am astounded by the variety of ways this little gem keeps popping up in my journey.
  • Being present is the practice of holding nothing back.  Dr. Brown would call this part of the courage that comes from being wholehearted.  Her thoughts have been echoing Dr. Kruger's thoughts, especially his teaching on the "I am not..." problem, which she states as "Never enough."  Profound.
He then gives four steps to finding wholeness and health and growth:

Accept the weather

    • It is what it is....
    • Every "crack" is an opening
    • ...The Light of Jesus, there in the deepest darkness in our souls, shines out through our cracks.  Makes me think of this passage.
    • ...What is opened is always more important that what breaks us.
    • ...Don't get stuck in your list of legitimate grievances.  Yeah, this is very big.

Lean into the tender places

    • Letting the wind of life rush in and tough the tender spots is the beginning of resilience.  This is very deep and I'm still processing it....

What kind of "part" am I in what kind of "whole"?  This is the whole "identity crisis" issue, right here!

    • My response:  I am a daughter of the Heavenly Father, sister to Jesus, the Father's Eternal Son, and dancing partner with the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Blessed Trinity.
    • This Truth is foundational and is what has been undermined by the "I am not..." and "Never enough" curse of human culture. is pernicious!
    • When blinded by the pain and darkness, I need to remember to look for the Light shining through those broken, cracked spots.
    • ...Embrace what can emerge by allowing Jesus to clean away the broken bits.
    • ...Sometimes we emerge like those beautiful Oriental bowls that have been repaired with gold....
    • ...Sometimes we emerge like butterflies struggling to escape from their cocoon. Transformation is often mistaken for rejection or heresy by those who do not have eyes to see what the Spirit has been doing.

Look beyond the broken

    • In each of us, the Holy Spirit has planted a unique seed.  Different seeds go through different processes of germination.  They remain dormant until the time and environment are right ... the fullness of time, as it were.
      • ...what is too dry for some is just right for others
      • ...what is to warm for some is not hot enough for others
      • ...what is nutrient-dense to some is too rich for others
Sometimes I think I am one of those seeds that need a hot fire to neutralize my cocoon of enzymes and allow the seed to germinate.  Yeah, burning down the forest is not a good time. but if that is the only way to awaken the sleeping life inside my soul....

Be blessed as you persevere on your journey.  

  • May the Light shine through the cracks of your broken heart. 
  • May the Light that is in you overpower the whispered evil of the "I am not...never enough" that has flourished in your darkened soul.
  • May the sweet burn of the cleaning pool restore you to your True Identity after Aslan's powerfully sharp claws have torn away the knobby dragon hide that imprisoned you.  Love C.S. Lewis!  Do you know Eustace?  (And, yes, I will forever be sorry that they did not put that powerful scene in the movie of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader....)   Update:  you can listen to the chapter here!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Year Seven Begins!

Well...I was so busy listening to Baxter and Paul and John from the Open Table Conference, that my Sixth Blogiversary passed on October 19th without my notice.

It is impossible to express what an important thing it has been for me to write my wee purple posts here in my little corner of the Interwebs, as my friend Bill Kinnon would say.  Whether or not it has been of use to anyone else, I cannot say...but it has been good for me to process my journey.

I am in such a different place, in just about every way, than I was back then.  But that is the whole point of a journey, isn't it?  To travel from where you are along the meandering path that life takes is how we participate in the life of God in Jesus.

There is quite a bit of dancing along the way.  I've gotten a good deal of use out of my purple dancing shoes. ;^)

Be blessed, precious companions!

Abi and Perichoretic cHesed

You've listened to me talk for quite a while now about Dr. C. Baxter Kruger. I just listened to the recordings from the North Carolina Open Table Conference (from Labor Day weekend) ... and he said that it has been his goal for the last few decades to make the Greek word perichoresis a household word. Well, I have had a similar goal these past 15 years -- to make the Hebrew term cHesed a household word.

Baxter defines perichoresis basically as mutual indwelling without loss of identity. He goes on to say that perichoresis is the reality of the interpenetrating relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They are three who have always been one -- they are "in" each other without becoming each other.  They are so together that they can only be described as One.  The Trinity -- three who are one.

From all eternity they have dwelt together -- and together they dreamed of sharing the wonder of their life -- which Baxter calls The Great Dance -- together with us...even before the Cosmos was created!

The great Good News is that, after all the years of waiting and wading through the chaos of human blindness and darkness brought on by The Fall, in the fullness of time, they accomplished their dream of our adoption in and through the Incarnation of Jesus, the Father's eternal Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Through his death, burial, resurrection and ascension, Jesus has gathered all of humanity -- indeed, the entire Creation -- and brought us with him into their relationship. We are in Jesus -- and they are in us.  Done deal.

Many people do not yet know this Good News.  This does not change the Reality, however!

Baxter suggests that the relationship that is perichoresis is one of altruism -- other-centered, self-giving, mutual submission.  But I believe that it is in describing the actions of this relationship that the beautiful concept of cHesed serves more fully.

Most often translated as loving-kindness or mercy, I define cHesed (following Dr. Mont Smith) as looking out for the best interest of the other, according to the covenant. While that may sound like altruism, it is a much richer concept.  cHesed was too rich for just a single Greek word...and so the Septuagint and the New Testament use a variety of words to describe the covenant keeping attitudes and actions of cHesed -- love (agape) as deliberate affection that submits to the need of the other, grace (charis) as unmerited favor that serves the best interest of the other, and mercy (eleos) as kindness mutually owed that leads the other toward success.  And that not all there is to this beautiful concept....

Who knew that they would merge, these two foundational words!?!  Below is crude drawing of what is known as the Trinity Knot.  I have colored and labeled it to help me get my brain around this ... and perhaps help you see what I'm talking about more clearly.

I can't tell you the number of different diagrams I've played with these many years to try to capture the essence of cHesed. Now that my mind has been reconnected with the Good News of the Blessed Trinity through the beauty of perichoresis, it was obvious where cHesed fit.  Thank you, Baxter!

We will have plenty more to unpack, don't worry!  But this weary abbess is finished for today....

Be blessed ...

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Abi and Individuality

I was re-reading an old post ... and it occurs to me that I have changed so much over the past few years, that many of the things I've said in the past ... well, they just don't represent what I think now.  I leave those old posts up because they are part of the process through which I journeyed to today.

In the crazy world of American politics, I keep coming back to freedom and the individual.  There is a great deal of deeper thinking that needs to go on that has been bypassed, IMO.  And part of what I've been processing lately about perichoresis -- thanks to C. Baxter Kruger -- speaks to the reality that I think is too often missing from the conversation:  being fully part of the covenant community without losing one's individuality.

Too often today, to be part of whatever group is being hailed as essential, individuals are asked to lose their voice -- so that another can speak for them.  When someone represents us, they are to represent our voice, not supplant their voice for ours.

I believe that each and every individual is known and loved by our Triune God -- Father, Son and Spirit. Their voice is unique and valued.  Their own creativity is necessary. When someone proposes to silence the voice of the individual for the good of the community, I start to see the old red flag rise....

The changes I have made are actually quite subtle ... as if the purple hue of my cHesed glasses has changed slightly, or perhaps the prescription has shifted.  I have, really, moved toward God as I have moved away from religion and institutionalization.

Any talk that moves toward more religion or more institution ... and this includes more government ... seems like a move away from God.

Our young Republic is at a huge crossroads.  I hope we do not abandon our Constitution.  I pray there is a way forward that brings together all people of good will and sound mind to reason together without vitriol. Because I'm really so done with the name-calling and the straw-man arguments and the spin-meistering.

People of good will.

People of sound mind.

People willing to reason together.

People without vitriol.

...all coming together to find a way forward.

I know it is possible.  I pray that more will desire the same thing.  I trust God's love for all of Their creation as it spins in time, second by second.

Thy will be done -- on earth as it is in heaven.  If heaven is where God dwells, then heaven is right in our midst, because Jesus has taken up residence in every human heart -- and he has brought his Father and the Holy Spirit with him.

May this Good News spread.  May it cause us to recognize the light of Jesus in each one we meet.  May our love for Jesus inspire us to love one another.  May the great revolution of cHesed/perichoresis begin!

Be blessed....

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Abi and Gossip....

I don't have lots of time to read blogs...and even less time to comment...but I do when the Spirit brings up something in me that bubbles out.  So, after reading an interview by Frank Viola with the author of a book called Resisting Gossip, this was my comment.  Go ahead and read the post first.   ;^)
Interesting. But I think there is much more to gossip than Matt’s definition: “bearing bad news behind someone’s back out of a bad heart.” 
I think that sharing someone’s good news behind their back can be gossip, whether out of a bad heart or not. Maybe the five different heart-level motivators he talks about would shed some light, but I think the root of this is not so much jealousy as it is brokenness and shame — the whispered evil of the “I am not…” lie that they have believed about themselves — that looks to feel better by focusing on the lives of others rather that let the love of Jesus heal their own broken heart. As C. Baxter Kruger says, we tend to have the lid to our own “garbage can” duct taped down, lest anyone see us for who we really are and reject us. What we need to see is that Jesus is already in there with us in our mess — and he’s brought his Father and the Holy Spirit with him. Our darkness is not dark to him…we have nothing to fear from our loving Triune God who has already dealt with sin in and through Jesus. We just don’t seem to be able to believe it…and so we cry, at best: “I believe. Help my unbelief!” At worst, we are overwhelmed with guilt and shame — unwilling to receive the adoption Jesus died to make real for us…struggling under the burden of the expanded lie that whispers: “I am not ___________, but I can be if I _________________.” So very sad…. 
I have become persuaded that a lot that passes for “prayer requests” in group meetings is actually a form of gossip. I link it to what I call a culture of voyeuristic pride — we make other people’s business our business because we want to be seen as “in the know”. I’m all for transparency, but we have to be self-disclosing in real relationships — not “spiritual journalists” looking for a “scoop.” I suggest to my children, and those in my sphere of influence, that we don’t want to have a conversation about someone that we’re not willing to have with them. Or that they have not specifically asked us to share on their behalf. I tell my children that we need to let people tell their own stories so that they can provide the proper context — and clarifying questions can be asked, if necessary. 
So, if we hear something about someone, we need to ask the person telling the story to please stop speculating behind their back and go directly to the source. Then we need to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom and discernment as to whether it is even appropriate to get involved. If we believe God is asking us to intervene, then we need to find a way to approach the person and gently share what we heard and ask for clarification — face to face. This usually requires a level of relationship that can bear speaking and hearing the truth in love, which is not all that common, unfortunately. 
Everything comes down to right relationships, doesn’t it? First, our relationship with Father, in Jesus, through the Holy Spirit … and then, out of the security of God’s love, with those around us. And nothing gets in the way of relationships like guilt and shame and condemnation and judgment. Lord, have mercy — give us eyes to see your Good News! 
Thanks for letting me ramble on. Glad to see some light shed on this shadowy area.
Be blessed….

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Abi, Paul, Timothy...and subtle humor

Today, I have my dear brother in Christ, Len Hjalmarson, to thank for the inspiration behind this post.  He Tweeted a link to his post that collects important links concerning women in ministry.  Please take a look...particularly at the link to Don Rousu's post, since it is the one that provided my "missing link" moment!

If you have been following me for any length of time, you will have come to learn about my friend and mentor, S. Scott Bartchy...who was gracious enough to preach at my ordination 18 years ago.  His scholarship and friendship over the past 33 years has been so very important to me.  For this post, it is timely to link to this important post of Scott's from two years ago. While his post concerns Paul's letter to Philemon, the importance of what he calls "deep contexting" in paragraph 2.12 is so very important ... and is the point where translators so often fail us.

Go ahead and read it ... I'll be here when you come back.

You will see that Don Rousu has provided a bit of "deep contexting" for the tension-filled text found in 1Timothy 2:11-15.  I'm going to connect it to some teaching I heard and synthesized from Scott and others over the years.  I am sorry that I do not have links.  I am grateful that all the pieces fell into place for me today...even with a sluggish brain.  I only hope to challenge you with another view.

I'm going to start with the end and work my way forward.  To prepare for this, I ask that you follow J. R. R. Tolkien's sage advice to those who would read imaginative works:  suspend your disbelief long enough to enter into the story so as to experience it as the author intended.  Listen all the way through.  Hear the whole tale.  Could it possibly be true?


My paraphrase of 1 Timothy 2:11-15, inspired by The Voice, adapted from the New Century Version and building on the deep contexting of Rousu and Bartchy, goes like this: 

11 Let that woman who is troubling your congregation learn by listening quietly and being ready to cooperate in everything. 12 But I do not allow such a woman to teach or claim that a woman was the originator of or superior to a man, but want her to learn the truth peacefully, 13 because Adam was formed first and then Eve. 14 And Adam was not tricked, but Eve was tricked and became a sinner. 15 But that woman will be saved through The Childbearing if she continues in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.

Need to take a deep breath or two?

It is important to remember a couple of things right off the bat:  this is considered to be a personal letter from Paul to Timothy -- probably a response to a letter from Timothy concerning his ministry in Ephesus.  It is full of insider information and context to which Timothy would have been totally aware.  Timothy would have been completely familiar with Paul's style of rhetoric and his use of humor and other "clever" speech.

The deep context Rousu provides is critical here concerning the culture in Ephesus regarding Artemis/Diana, as interpreted by the Gnostics.  What possibly was being taught by "that woman", among other things, was that women were superior to men because Eve was created first and that, being the Mother of All, she birthed Adam on her own -- with no need of a man. She possibly went further to claim that Eve was the "illuminator" who received "knowledge" from the Serpent and shared it with Adam.  So, they revered the Serpent as the Savior revealer of Truth.

Ugh...the twisting of Truth always comes from reading our own context into the Text, without regard for the deeper context.  This is why it is so important for those who teach to have learned in quietness and cooperation first.  It is just as difficult a task today as it was then.  Sigh....

So here we have Paul, responding to his "son in the Faith" with insightful encouragement and a bit of wit:
  • All, men and women, are to be encouraged to learn the Truth in a posture of humility.
  • Those who teach falsehoods are to be stopped gently and taught the Truth more fully.
  • Just as in Corinth, those in Ephesus had problems with Jesus' new paradigms that subvert their ideas of power and patriarchy. They did not know how to embrace their new situation as brothers and sisters -- joint heirs of God in Jesus.  Where no man is called Father but God and no one is Lord but Jesus.
  • As Paul said in 1Corinthians 11 (another passage requiring "deep contexting" and rarely getting it), Adam was created first -- and Eve came from him.  But Adam came from Christ, who created everything.  And Christ comes from God, as the Only Begotten. And now every man comes from a woman in the process of childbirth. It is not about power and hierarchy and authority and subordination, but simply about source in the perichoretic Circle of Life.
  • Because Eve did not have enough education, she was tricked by the Serpent and sinned.  There is lots of room to wonder why Adam didn't speak up to defend her ... or why he had not educated her properly ... and, in the end, he went along and ate, too.  The point is to teach well -- without improper embellishment --  and correct error gently as it crops up.
  • And in a delicious twist of humor, Paul reminds Timothy that salvation comes -- to that woman (and all humanity) -- through Jesus, who actually was born of a woman (The Childbearing) without the aid of a man!  That woman, if she continues to learn the Truth in faith, love and holiness, with self-control, will be saved.  As will we all....
So there you have it. 

I fully realize that there are a great many scholars who would not agree with me.  Listening for humor, irony, quotations -- this is difficult work in Koine Greek and First Century context.  But we must continue -- especially with the difficult passages that seem out of step with the rest of what Paul teaches and what Jesus lived.  We must all determine that we will learn in quietness of spirit and a humble heart that is open to the Spirit's still, small voice speaking the Truth that will set us free.

I hope that you were able to process this wee post with your disbelief suspended.  I pray that we will allow the Spirit to continue to lead us all into All Truth.  I yearn for the day when we can all truly be brothers and sisters in Jesus, sharing the Good News with those around us that our Father has already adopted them too...even if they don't know it yet! 

Be blessed!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Abi's 300th post....

Just when I thought I was moving into lighter shades of eldest and I were in a horrific accident on Saturday.  By the grace of God, our lives were spared and we are in the process of determining how much injury we sustained.  But I saw Papa's fingerprints of mercy everywhere and am awed by his love for us.

I have a busy couple of weeks ahead, dealing with doctors and insurance stuff...and the search for a replacement for the trusty vehicle that gave it's all to save our lives....

So, my interrupted posting schedule will continue to be interrupted for a bit longer.

Be blessed ... and remember that defensive driving saves lives!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Abi and Perichoresis... finally

Anyone following this wee purple abbess for any length of time knows that she has been processing the deep reality of the interpenetrating, other-centered, mutuality-in-equality nature of the Eternal Circle -- the relationship of Father and Son in the Holy Spirit -- and how it is that humanity has been included in that glorious dance, which the early church fathers called perichoresis.

What I am so surprised to find out is that my 20+ years of obsession with cHesed has been, as it were, my ruby slippers...they have always had the power to take me home, but I was not ready to know and use their power.

Since writing on my tablet makes posting more complicated, I will post from my computer later.  But for now, I want to share the basics:  perichoresis is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew concept of cHesed.  And just as cHesed is a concept that takes some time to wrap our head around, perichoresis is equally challenging.

But not any more ... not for me.

Ironically, I have come full circle, as it were.  My long study of cHesed began as a formula for salvation and sanctification and discipleship.  It was what "works" looked like as the flip side of "faith".  But the stumbling block was in whose works and faith are in view.

My first shift came four years ago, when Wayne Jacobsen spent the weekend with our SYB group.  I mentioned my thoughts about cHesed, to which he replied:  "Yes, but you have the order wrong. You have to receive it from Father first."

I spent the next four years reading and listening to Wayne.  What an interesting desert time that was -- so close, and yet so far.  It is truly a mystery to experience and understand Father's love.  I am so grateful for Wayne's ministry in my deepest darkness.

But it was finally time to experience the ministry of Baxter Kruger.  I had heard of him, even visiting his website and looking around.  Clearly, I was not ready to hear what he had to say.  Not yet.  Until last fall, when I read The Shack: Revisited.  Baxter took all the mind blowing ideas from The Shack and unpacked them through the prism of perichoresis.

I had read through Baxter's book three times -- even reread The Shack before the third time.  It was so strange -- reading and comprehending, but unable to retain and process fully.

Then, just as my personal world blew up, my friend sent me the link to Baxter's "In" series.

And as I had done with Wayne  previously, I listened to those five recordings almost every day for the next three months.

Sometimes, there were words that seemed too good to be true.  But by the time I returned from The OTC, the shift in thinking had taken place ... and cHesed  was the clutch in my mental gear box.

Just as it is the faith of Jesus we believe, it is the cHesed of Jesus that we live.  Jesus has brought us into the Eternal Circle in him.  We only share with others  what we are actively experiencing in Jesus.

I stood in my familiar ruby cHesed slippers -- truly my feet were shod in the gospel of peace -- and unleashed their power as I clicked my heels three times while saying "There's no place like home.  There's no place like home. There's  no place like home."

Truly, I have come home.  I didn't even know I was wandering around lost.  But my senses are processing  the overload, even as Sarayu/Grandmother continues to heal my eyes so that I may see more clearly.

More later.   Be blessed today, friends....

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Abi and The Open Table Conference

It has been almost seven years since I attended the Missional Orders conference at Seabeck, Washington -- out of which this blog was birthed!  To say that I have gone through enormous changes during these seven years would be the grossest of understatements.

What is interesting, though, it to see how much I "knew" -- even just a few months ago, even -- that seems, well, rather Greek in it's knowing about ... instead of Hebrew and it's knowing by experience. We never do stop growing in our understanding.  There is so much to be experienced on this journey in Jesus -- in ways that we have not experienced before.  I am learning, still, to relax....

I spent this past weekend in Oregon's central desert with an interesting and eclectic group of folks at The Open Table Conference.  This was my first conference since Seabeck ... and it was just as (if not more, actually) life changing.

I did not know what to expect.  I only knew that Papa was asking me to just go.  I'm not sure exactly what my expectations were, but I tried to lean into the living verb and wait in expectancy for what Grandmother had waiting for me.

One of the things I learned at Seabeck, which was sponsored by Alan Roxburg's Allelon, was the importance of listening to one another.  (Allelon is Greek for "one another".)  They had a saying that remains so meaningful to me:  "Listening one another into free speech."

I don't know about you, but sometimes this very extroverted Abbess doesn't really know what she thinks about something until she is able to talk out loud.  This requires someone to listen.  And we humans tend to be less than stellar listeners.  Sigh....

One of the things I received this past weekend was the opportunity to listen and be listened to.

First thing Saturday morning, I was talking with Marilyn and Gordon ... and the next thing I knew, I was telling them things most would not be comfortable hearing.  Especially as related to my string of horrible injuries leading up the the last one four years ago.  The one I affectionately call The Fall...

Marilyn's ears perked up and she said:  "You haven't had just a concussion.  You have a TBI."  She and Gordon began to ask about problems that I was having without my saying anything. is truly rare to talk with someone who knows what I'm dealing with.  Their son fell from a horse 17 years ago, and they have been walking this harrowing journey with him.  Their encouragement alone made the trip worthwhile....

The worst part of most of my injuries has been that they are not necessarily visible -- or not for long.  But the cumulative effect of these injuries over the past 13 years has been fairly overwhelming ... because folks have a hard time understanding that the process of healing can be very slow.  I am in year four of this particular mid-brain TBI ... and have realized that I had suffered seven head injuries in my life -- at least two of which would also be considered mild TBIs.  It sometimes takes 10 years for even a mild TBI to resolve.  If you know someone suffering this way, be gentle with them....

Under the wonderful care of my homeopath and my chiropractic neurologist, I have truly made remarkable progress.  But I have come to a kind of crossroad of my own:  my level of stress has been so high that my brain is unable to heal...and it actually being damaged by the over-stimulation that comes from being in a fairly constant mode of Fight or Flight.  The reasons are many and I'll not burden you with them...but I did have to do something to bring the stress down.

Into this place of chaos, Papa brought Baxter Kruger and his series called "In".  I have already shared about his amazing book, The Shack Revisited.  Now he has released his Study Guide.  I can't wait to work through it!

Anyway, please download his "In" series -- I don't know how long it will remain up on his website -- I have been listening to it since the end of February.  Sometimes daily.  Do this while you're waiting for your copy of the book to be delivered (unless, like me, you got the Kindle version)....

Building on the important work of Wayne Jacobsen, Paul's and Baxter's work have helped Sarayu make another significant shift in my journey.  What I so appreciate about all three of these men is that they are humble and hold their knowledge and experience gently.  They want to encourage you in your journey with Father, Son and Spirit -- they don't want to be your leader.

Baxter, in person and in his writings, is my kind of folk:  say it simple with as little religious jargon as possible.  Having listened to him for so long, I can "hear" him in his books.  Love that....  I am so very grateful for you, Brother Baxter!

Anyway ... I am processing so much right now that I am a bit in overload -- and my brain is complaining!  But I did want to post this update and let you know how grateful I am for the faithful cHesed of the blessed Trinity.

More later....

...oh, yeah -- my eldest son graduates from high school this Friday, so it's a little busy around here.

Be blessed!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Abi and Baby Steps....

It has been a long time, friends.  There is a tremendous work going on in the wildly fractal garden Sarayu tends that is my soul, which I hope to be able to share with you soon.  But not quite yet.

I will say, however, that I will be embracing something I heard from Craig Groeschel back in 2007:  anything I say may only be good for 90 days!  Hahaha...this means that much of what I have pondered in this wee purple blog may have expired.  Not all of it, mind you, but enough to remind me that embracing uncertainty and mystery is a wiser path to travel....

One day, when we are face-to-face with God, we will all be overcome with a huge case of what Baxter Kruger calls "family embarrassment" ... when the family album comes out at we shake our heads at the things we did ... bless our hearts!

If we live long enough searching for what is true, we are already well acquainted with this experience.  I know that I am....

Last summer I began Tweeting my way through cHesed ... until I hit a rock in the road.  Who knew it was "The Rock", Jesus, saving me from more embarrassment?!?

I am hopeful that this summer will see the next steps toward sharing the richness of cHesed ... but I will be taking baby steps, because I have lots of, um, revisions to my thinking going on.  Some pruning.  Some serious weeding.  Some cross-pollination.  Some grafting.  Some staking and supporting. Some new seeds and seedlings.  Lots of feeding and watering and sunshine.  But Sarayu loves this soul work ... and Papa is smiling as we embrace the messiness of it all.

Be blessed during this weekend as we embrace holy suffering, waiting in darkness, and glorious resurrection -- the amazing grace of adoption accomplished in Jesus.