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

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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...  ;^)


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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....

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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.

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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!