Monday, December 31, 2007

100 Years Later...Still Profound

"The Gate of the Year"
by Minnie L. Haskins 1908

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year
'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.'

And he replied, 'Go into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way!'

I first read these words in the front of Pamela Rosewell Moore's wonderful book, "Safer Than A Known Way." Since then I have often wondered who M.L. Haskins was...and so I finally decided to Google that phrase today. I was rewarded and discovered that Miss Haskins wrote these now-famous words 100 years ago in 1908.

And so, as we all stand at the gate of 2008, The Abbess bids you heed our sister's words: Go into the darkness. There's the rub, eh? We ask for light so that we may see the path ahead clearly. This should be a good thing to ask for, one would think. And yet the gate keeper bids us go into the darkness. Go. Not wait until there is sufficient light. Go.

Into the darkness, yes...but not alone. Never alone.

We are to put our hand into the hand of God. Go ahead, reach out into the darkness before you. There you will find God's hand reaching back to you ... his other hand already under your feet! You may still not be able to see where you're going, but that just won't matter quite so much....

May the knowledge that you are safely held by God be both comfort and guide as you Go With God, my fellow travelers.

Certainly these three words have been used well throughout history by people of faith ... I think that will be my blessing at the close of my posts in this important year of transition.

Go with God.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas to all...and to all a Good Night!

This has been a very memorable Advent and Christmas.... My family has enjoyed creating a new tradition with the Advent Candles and we will be continuing with parts of it throughout the New Year, I'm certain. I have enjoyed being a part of Brother Maynard's Advent Synchroblog and taking the time to ponder the meaning of Advent and Christmas from a fresh perspective.

We enjoyed our unusual Advent Wreath and had an interesting collection of scents! The purple ones were Black Current, the Candle of Joy was a Lavender scent and color (even though the picture might look pink, it is still purple ;^) ), and the white Christ candle was Soft Cotton--which smelled a bit like baby appropriate, don't you think!

On Christmas Eve afternoon, we finally put up a lighted wreath outside, exchanged the Autumn Scarecrow for the Winter Snowman to greet folks at the front door, set the Advent Candles up on the table (in preparation for Christmas Day), decorated a small corner of the family room with our humble tree ... and called it good!

It was a Christmas filled with books ... we are very much a bookish family ;^) ... and one community toy--the Lego Royal Castle. Peter and I enjoyed building it (Alexander and Nicholas were distracted by the snow and had to go outside ... but Peter is not quite 100%, so he was my helper!) ... I have almost as much fun with the Legos as the boys do! I'm a bit stiff from sitting on the floor for over three hours, however! :^(

We just had a lovely, simple day--especially as it snowed for most of the afternoon--and moved the Advent Candles back up to the little boy's room for our Christmas devos from Brother Maynard's book. We enjoyed listening to the Moody Blues version of What Child is This (among others), revisiting The Huron Carol one more time (we just love this one!), and closed--as we always do--with Northumbria's May the Road Rise to Meet You.

God is so good to us! Today there was a hint of shalom in our house--a bit of calm, a hint of tranquility, and a lot of contentment. We'll be pondering our Purple Advent lessons throughout the New Year, you can be sure!

Shalom to you and your house!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Advent's Purple Love

Love...even more than hope and peace and joy, love is a word that is so commonly used that most folks assume they know what it means. At least, they know what it meant to them. But this English word--LOVE--is, it seems, too often a gross generalization. So much so that we have been inoculated against it's power.

I have read many things recently about books and seminars and videos and ways of "doing" church that have effectively inoculated people against the Gospel ... and I believe it--particularly since love is the key element in the story of the Gospel--God's love for humanity.

From my perspective this is the gradual result of folks forgetting (failing to realize?) the very purple nature of love.

Somewhere in the rush to embrace self-love as Lord of Life (HT to Eugene Peterson's fabulous Eat This Book! pp. 31-35), we have replaced submission to the Holy Trinity for our spiritual formation with embracing the divine self and its highly individualized triune expression: my Holy Wants, my Holy Needs, and my Holy Feelings.

It is the gift of free will gone bad. We have focused so long on choosing for ourselves what is best for us that we have become overwhelmed with options ... while missing the truth: it is not all about us!

This love, that comes from God in the form of a babe, is purple because it sacrifices self in order for the best interest of the beloved to be realized. This is the primary definition of the Hebrew concept of cHesed--to faithfully serve the other.

The catch is in the understanding of "best interest." Who knows what is best for us? Our culture would tell us that only we know what is best for ourselves. But this is where knowledge is not equal to wisdom. Because we rarely see our own situation with enough distance to differentiate between trees and forest. We have blind spots ... and some of them can be deadly.

And so, as we approach Christmas, we are faced with these facts about love:
  • God loves us so much that he was willing to sacrifice his very nature in order to become flesh and move into our neighborhood. We say it glibly ... let it sink in for a moment. He adapted to our readiness level in order to lead us home.
  • God loves us so much that, in addition to the sacrifice to embrace flesh, he knew that this flesh would need to suffer and die in order to make a New Covenant that could include us. We are to become children of God! Adopted joint-heirs with Jesus!
  • God loves us so much that he does not compel us to comply with his will ... he woos us and feeds us and encourages us and waits patiently for us to grow toward him.
  • God loves us so much that he helps us understand that it is not all about us ... and it is not even all about him, either (Aaach! Heresy?!). It is all about US ... God with Us ... Emmanuel.
My prayer for us all is that we would see and hear and sense the Eternal Dance of God-the-Three, as they love and serve each other ... and that we would realize that they bid us dance with them, eager to teach us the tunes and steps ... and that they want us to reach out to those near to us--inviting all Eikons to join the Eternal Dance ... loving and serving each other as they love and serve each other, so that we would dance with greater hope and greater peace and greater joy ... and with perfect LOVE.

The Christmas Paradox: there is no greater love than this--that one lays down one's life for one's friends. Yet, in the laying down of one's life, it is not lost--rather, it is saved! In the serving of others, we are served. In the loving of others, we are loved. It is not all about me ... it is not all about others ... it is not even all about Jesus. It is all about miracle of love that is Emmanuel: God with Us--dancing!

LORD, may our dancing in celebration of Christ's birth be acceptable and in step with you, inviting to those who do not yet dance with us, and strengthening to The Church, Christ's Bride.


Monday, December 17, 2007

Abi's Purple Adrenals....

Purple what?

Well, the latest in my story of brokenness is the news that my adrenals have lit the beacons, as it were, calling for reinforcements. This is a great example of the kind of joy I was talking about earlier, actually.

Come again?

Well, it's like this. I've been dealing with what we've been calling chronic exhaustion for the past, oh, seven years. Long story, not going to go into it. Suffice it to say that I've been writing checks my body has been trying to cash...and been robbing Peter to pay Paul, as it were...and my adrenals are representative of Peter. Living with three young boys when you're always exhausted means normal mode required that "fight or flight" response just about every day. And that's just too many stress hormones circulating for too long a period of time.

I're waiting to hear where the joy is in this news. So here it is: when you're bone tired and you think you're just tired, you think you should be able to just "do it"--whatever "it" is that needs being done. But when your body just says "NO" you find yourself being a bit like a zombie, doing things like reading blogs all day because typing doesn't take much energy....

So, when my doctor told me that my adrenal stress test results came in...and mine didn't really even register on the chart, we knew we had work to do before things went pathological: start with some key nutritional supplements to support and rebuild those exhausted glands, and work on really resting.

O, joy...the doctor has ordered me to rest! And so I am going to be taking my supplements (hoping to remember them three times a day!) and in between eating and taking supplements, I'm going to be taking a significant nap (or two) each day while the boys are at school.

This brings me hope that some peace may be coming my way, and that equals JOY to me.

What this also means is that I will be unable to keep up with all my blog buddies over in Abi's Links like I have been... so if something cool is happening out there in the blogosphere that you think I need to know, I'm counting on you sending me an e-mail or posting a comment here for me... I will check e-mail every day!

We're hoping for some significant improvement in three months, after which we'll retest and see how it's going. I am grateful for this "permission" to rest, rather than rush to take advantage of every small bit of energy that comes my way, in order to really recover.

It seems to me that seven years of suffering might make me eligible for a healing sabbatical. What do you think? Three months of rest and recuperation and preparation for what God has in store for me next. Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it! ;^)

The Mother Bear will be hibernating this winter! (I'm just hoping I'll lose 30 pounds or so in the process! :^) ) Taking James' advise, I'm considering this pure joy, indeed!

Be blessed!

Advent's Purple Joy

Well, I know that Brother Maynard's Advent Wreath has a pink candle for this week, but some hold out for four purple candles and the one white candle... and that's what The Abbess is doing, as well. Not just to be contrary, or to try to stay consistent with my purple theme. But because the only way to have true joy in this world is to see it from the purple perspective. [For those of you who might not have been reading from the beginning, this post from October will give you a quick idea of what I mean by "purple perspective."]

We've talked about purple hope and purple peace as things for which we long while in the midst of intense periods of waiting and expectancy...that melancholy part of Advent. But we are now more than half way through Advent, and the time to finally celebrate the Christ Event is a mere eight days away. There is a blush of joy peaking through....

But let's have a look at what the Word has to say about joy. It is another of those words that I believe most people say so often that they understand vaguely what it means, but if you ask them to define it, they give you a blank look... the kind you get when you ask them to define glory or happiness. I find that especially interesting, because the words that are used to define joy have both an element of glory and happiness. Glory is related in that joy brings a quality of shining or brightness to a happiness, a deep sense of contentment, that comes as a benefit from God--one that is frequently unlooked for or unexpected.

This always makes me think of eucatastrophe--Tolkien's words for the sudden and unexpected turn from disaster to success. This joy is a shining moment of inexplicable happiness snatched from certain black despair. It is a powerful word that plumbs the depths of this concept of joy and calls us to a perspective of expectancy. At all times, and in all circumstances, we must live in expectancy that God's glory (his visible presence) will break through and shine on us--if we will open our hearts and eyes and ears, living with hope and in peace with God and others.

And so the writer of Hebrews 12:2 tells us of this joy. The thought of this future joy that inspired Christ on the road to glory that led to the cross. And James (1:2) exhorts us to consider it pure joy when we encounter trials of many kinds, so that we may become mature and complete. A joy that Paul described (2 Cor 7:4) as existing in the midst of all his troubles. The indescribable joy that a mother feels at the birth of a child.

This is purple joy, friends. Joy that blazes forth from darkness as a reminder of God's glory evident in and through us, available at all times and in all circumstances. After four hundred years of darkness, the angels announce with joy that Christ, the Savior, is finally born! This announcement was not made to the High Priest, but to lowly shepherds--whose testimony would not be acceptable in court! This Jesus, the True Light giving light to all, was coming into this world.

Tolkien believed that the birth of Jesus was the eucastrophe of human history. And so it was. So sudden and unlooked for, so different from what was expected, that those who expected to have the inside scoop were left clueless. And the blinking, blinding happiness of a group of poor shepherds gave wings to their feet and boldness to their tongues as they were the first witnesses God called to testify to Christ's birth.

Joy is purple because those who live by faith and hope and peace walk a difficult path... very unlike those who live by sight and certainty and power. This difficult path focuses their perceptions, perspectives and priorities and tunes them into God's frequency, as it were, so that they are first to pick up the Spirit's broadcast.

Joy is purple because it comes to those who are humble in heart and suffering in circumstance, yet still open to hear and obey the Word of the Lord when it is delivered by his varied and sundry messengers. It is a paradox, this joy, because it cannot be sought or caught or kept. It must be allowed to fall with the rain of providence (after which we witness the spectacular rainbow) and flow with the river of contentment (where we at times stand in awe at the majesty of rapids and waterfalls)... but most of all, joy must be received.

Joy is a gift, an unexpected benefit that comes from God. No gift is of any benefit, however, if it is not received...and no gift is more gratefully received than purple joy.

The Abbess, founder of this small Order of the Purple Martyrdom, bids you open your arms to receive Advent's good news of great Joy.

Be blessed.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Allelon of Shalom

I was pondering today's post by Sonja, my friend, cHesed sister, and fellow Advent Blogger, and left this comment:

I was thinking along the same lines, but was so struck by the fragile peace struck in Jerusalem in "Kingdom of Heaven" and the respect that the leaders shared between the Saracens the Crusaders--and I mean the peacemakers on each side, not the war-mongers!

For me it has come down to the processing I have done with my children this week concerning shalom as a form of completeness. We talked about the fact that our home cannot have true shalom unless all five of us are at peace--with ourselves and with each other. We're still processing this, but it looks like having enough respect for each other that we can be quiet when quiet is needed by someone, be tranquil within ourselves, and be content with our circumstances. Buoyed by this shalom at home, we are better equipped to spread shalom to our neighbors and larger communities.

This is shedding some light on the truth of "love your neighbor as yourself" for me, as well.

Prince of Peace, indeed! May his Kingdom increase and all his subjects be utterly loyal....

One of the ways that we honor the reign of the Prince of Peace is when we love our enemies. This is a very difficult concept to actually practice... as in the movie about the Crusades... but I think that we could at least take it to heart within the Body of Christ... and I mean all shapes and colors of those who call Christ Lord.

As I talked with my boys about shalom in our home being an image of complete peace and how we each had a responsibility for keeping the peace, as it were, it is striking to me that there is a continual need to respect each other, to forgive each other, to help each other... and so we begin the long list of the "one anothers" in the New Testament. The allelon of shalom.

Which, of course, is why the community of the believers, the Body of Christ, is so vitally important to the advance of the Kingdom. Yes, it is important that each of us accept the invitation to join the New Covenant in Jesus Christ. But that is just the beginning! Too often we stop there and keep "faith" as something "personal--between me and Jesus." But this is the shame of the church in our times, this individualism that does not discern the Body of Christ to which it belongs. And we are all experiencing the resultant isolation and stunted growth. Not just from the rest of the world, the world to which we have been called to share the Gospel, but from each other.

It is in the living of the allelon of shalom that the world sees the glory of God... that we shine our lights in the darkness. It is in the respect for each other out of reverence for Christ, the preferring of one another in humble submission, that compels us to be quiet or to be tranquil or to be content in whatever circumstances we find ourselves... so that there may be shalom in Christ's Body. Then, the light that is Jesus will be able to shine forth from his Body to dispel the darkness in a world in search of shalom.

So, how long will we continue to hide, huddled with our tiny lights under our bushels? I see a world full of bushel baskets of every color, shape and material... and they hold the Light of the World hostage.

Lord, have mercy... perhaps it is time to set the bushels on fire, like the Beacons of Gondor that sounded the call for aid, racing from peak to peak across the great mountains to kindle the hearts of long-suspicious and alienated allies to fulfill ancient oaths of loyalty fallen into decay. How would Theoden King respond? "Gondor has called for aid. And Rohan will answer! Muster the Rohirrim!"

I can hear their battle cry as they race down the hills--to the amazement of their friends and the unexpected horror of their foes: "Ride now! Ride now! Ride to Gondor!" Brings tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat.

Would that there were a few more valiant riders willing to follow their Lord, riding to the aid of their allies, unified in the battle against the Enemy...all other disputes set aside, willing to lay down their lives for their friends.


Sunday, December 9, 2007

Advent's Purple Peace

The Prince of Peace. That's the title of the Christ that we most want to bring to life, isn't it? Wonderful counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father...they are awe-inspiring, yes...but it is peace that we want.

Shalom is one of the many words that is translated peace. It is the word that is used in this instance to describe Messiah. If you follow the link for this word at the beginning of this paragraph, it will give you the following definitions:
  1. completeness, soundness, welfare, peace
    1. completeness (in number)
    2. safety, soundness (in body)
    3. welfare, health, prosperity
    4. peace, quiet, tranquillity, contentment
    5. peace, friendship
      1. of human relationships
      2. with God especially in covenant relationship
    6. peace (from war)
    7. peace (as adjective)
The challenge of words like peace is that they can only be truly appreciated when their opposite has been experienced. Kind of like light. It is only truly appreciated when one has experienced darkness. And so we come to this week's passage from John 1:

John 1:4-5 (NIV)

4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
How often do we struggle against some good thing because we do not understand what it is? If I could just get my precious children to understand this.... In my mind's eye I can see God shaking his head and saying, "I can totally resonate with that sentiment, Beloved."

And so we need to go back and take a look at the famous "Prince of Peace" passage from Isaiah. But we need to start back at the beginning of that chapter, which is always the right thing to do. Especially when it begins with a word like "nevertheless." And that always means that you have to back up a little farther. In this case, we see Isaiah has been talking about the Assyrian oppression, with chapter 8 ending with these words:
22 Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness.

Nobody needed shalom quite as much as God's Chosen People--people who formerly had the very visible presence of God in their midst. People who were thrust into utter darkness because of their utter rebellion and, well, utter stupidity! [Don't get me started on just how stupid people can be. My mind's eye is, well, replaying that earlier scene! ;^) ]

Reading this passage is a little more vivid this year because I just finished watching the DVD of Kingdom of Heaven. If you need a visual to help you see that peace is purple, just watch those working, living, fighting and dying for peace dealing with those who are, well, war mongers. Listen to them speaking the blessing of shalom to each other in their greetings and living it with their actions. It was a stunning experience... But I'm not going to go farther down that rabbit trail today... back to Isaiah 9:

Isaiah 9 (NIV)

To Us a Child Is Born
1 Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan-

2 The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.

3 You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as men rejoice
when dividing the plunder.

4 For as in the day of Midian's defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.

5 Every warrior's boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.

6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

7 Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David's throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this.

And Isaiah's words breathed hope into the Children of Abraham during their troubles... and they waited for that glorious day... and they waited... and they waited... for the fullness of time to come.

Peace requires a lot of waiting. It also comes at a high price... a price which is always paid in blood. The blood of those who love peace more than they love their own life. Do we understand this shalom? This purple peace?

I don't know if we can ever fully understand it, but I want to keep trying. Hope waits for peace.


One final thing: I found it interesting that the name AbiShalom means my father is peace. I wonder if that means that AbiSomeone might mean my father is someone? And we're not talking just any Someone. Jesus calls me sister...and that makes his Father my father. Yes, AbiSomeone is a fine name....

AbiSomeone is a purple name because it is represents both that which is Royal and that which Suffers in order to incarnate each important aspect of shalom in Christ's Kingdom of Heaven. I will continue processing this for a long time, I'm certain.

Shalom to you and yours.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Missional Order and Seabeck Updates....

Update: Alan has a new post up on his blog that includes a podcast of his talk during our final session on October 18th. I hope you'll take the opportunity to "eavesdrop" on these 37 minutes with us as he frames our experience as well as our action items.

It was great to see the new and improved Allelon website, but especially to see the video report about our time at Seabeck. Stop and take just under 12 minutes to view the excellent video. When you see my clip, you may wonder: can The Abbess talk without using her hands? The answer is YES...if she has to! YIKES! ;^) For those of you there during the filming, you will remember that all of our brains were struggling just to process what we were hearing and thinking...some of us struggled more than others! I can feel a New Year's Resolution coming....

Also on the site is another good article with a box containing links to reflections by some who attended...and you will find a link to the first post of The Virtual Abbess there, too! So, a hearty virtual Welcome, any new visitors from Allelon (and elsewhere!). Abi's Categories called Missional Order and Seabeck will take you to my various reflections!

Be blessed.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Founding of The Abbey

Well, after having such grand time at the Open House, it just seemed appropriate to finally tell the story of the founding of The Abbey, so you will find it recently added here. Just scroll down to the bottom of the page.

Perhaps you'll be inspired to read the rest of the chapter, indeed, the rest of the book! Click on the Wikiklesia Contributor button on the sidebar and join us in the quest to end slavery in our time.

Be blessed.

Advent Open House at The Abbey

Over in the comments for this post, sonja and Matt and I were discussing forms of church--high, low and in between! And as I got to thinking about it, a picture of The Abbey began to form that I thought I would share with you...and since this is the time of year for inviting others over for a bit of Holiday Cheer, I thought it good to have an Advent Open House at The Abbey!

Being a virtual abbey, this tour will require a bit of work for your mind's eye. But childlikeness fosters creative imagination, and Christmas is truly a season of give it a go!

The Abbey is one of those split-level affairs: you approach at street level what is actually the second floor, and inside and to the right, there is a spiral staircase going up and down. It is a pleasant but simple place, nothing to inspire oohs and ahhs as you pass by...but the many large windows and the view of an inviting hearth with a huge yule log burning brightly is intriguing enough to urge you to pull over... just for a quick look... there's time for a quick look, eh?

At the end of the walkway is a small stoop with a great, round purple door (no surprise there!) with the handle right in the middle. (The Abbess is quite fond of Hobbit architecture...and here is the first hint of it!) You are just about to tug on the lovely braided bell rope (of course it is purple, too!), when the door swings open... AbbE, singing and reciting poetry for the other guests, saw you approach (It is almost impossible to approach The Abbey and not be observed by someone.) He got to the door just before AbbY made it down the stairs from the Scriptorium... book in hand, yet! AbbI and I were busy in the kitchen keeping plates filled and mulled cider hot and flowing. How it warms the hands to hold a mug... and what a delicious scent of apple and clove and cinnamon and orange all mingled together... be careful, it's hot!

Who are all these folks? Between the four of us we have seven children (what a perfect number!) and, with the three spouses (we do like triads), that makes 14... even numbers mean there is no one left as odd man out! (I didn't say we have no odd men, now....) We're a very inclusive and very lively group, here at The Abbey. And while there are seven adults and seven children, which is nicely even, the males outnumber the females nine to five--three wives and two daughters. This is not a problem for The Abbess, however. Abi's kind of math calculates each female as equivalent to two or three males, so that works out to right about 10 equivalent females in the end... since the males at The Abbey are of exceptional quality, don't you know! ;^)

Back to the tour....

The Scriptorium, you will see, is on the third floor, with an expansive view of the sky and surroundings -- due to 360 degrees of windows. More High Church stuff happens here, with many connections to the Church past, present, celestial, terrestrial, glocal, virtual... it is from here that Abi frequently ponders and blogs! It is usually a quiet place of awe and majesty and one seems compelled to speak or hum in hushed tones. AbbY, our Celtic Abbot, is very busy these days in extended studies... but he does come down every once in a while... knowing and doing cannot be separated! And we are all the merrier when he does! Actually, AbbI, our Eclectic Abbot, is also involved in course work at this time... but there is plenty of room in the Scriptorium...and we each have our own little cubicle. Come to think of it, AbbE, our Ancient-Future Abbot, is hard at work writing and editing various Kingdom Culture works -- documenting the density packed in his grey matter for present and future generations to process (Remember: Grey is the Color of Hope... and it goes so nicely with purple!)

The Hospitality Center in on the main floor, as you can see, with many windows facing the walkway and street and an open floor plan around the kitchen and hearth--more readily adaptive to whoever is coming through the door to visit! This is the location of Middle Church, that meets needs of food and fellowship--the breaking of bread that is so vital to the covenant community. Laughing and singing and dancing... as well as crying and lamenting and triage... all interpenetrate here -- yes, perichoretically!

The Underground floor is actually a walk-out basement to the expansive gardens behind The Abbey, with many paths for walking and benches for sitting... to rest or talk or pray... and, of course, there's lots of work to do in the gardens!

The foundation of The Abbey is here as well as the roots from which The Abbey bears fruit. It is the lowly place of working with one's hands in the soil--of clearing rocks, amending soil, planting, feeding, watering, weeding, pruning, waiting, watching and, yes, harvesting.

This is definitely the Low Church arena where contextualized and incarnational and missional engagements are fostered...and their fragrance--sometimes delicate, sometimes pungent, wafts up and throughout the house, carried by the Holy Spirit's wind.

Many hands are called to work here. Not all feel called to ascend the stairs to the Scriptorium that often, but gravity tugs at everyone to come down to the Garden! And after a long day's work, there is a place to wash up, put on clean clothes, and lay your weary body down to rest.

The Abbess (on behalf of the Abbots and all) thanks you for coming, bids you to stay as long as you like, invites you back as often as you can, encourages you to bring others with you, and leaves you softly singing (HT to Northumbria for the lovely tune!) this ancient Celtic blessing:

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
And the rain fall soft upon your fields.
Until we meet again,
May God hold you
In the hollow of his hand.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Advent's Purple Hope

By now, if you've been journeying with me for long, you will know that the meta-context of The Abbess is covenant and it's faithful keeping--as communicated through the rich Hebrew word cHesed. This means that Advent has a special covenant context...indeed, the ultimate covenant context. For with Christ's incarnation, he heralded the approach of the New Covenant God had spoken of through his prophets...a covenant he would write on the hearts of those who would receive the Son of God as Savior and Lord.

Four hundred years is a long time without a word from the Lord. Four hundred years. Had YHWH forgotten his people? Surely not. Times had been bad before...war and defeat and exile. But four hundred years...that is a long time to wait. It is painful to wait that long, enduring one conqueror after another. What of David's long vacant throne? Does the Lord not see the suffering of his people, or hear the cries of their oppression.

But hope...hope is the twin sister of faith. As long as there is faith, hope remains. And so we see that faith is the essential component. Faith in the Faithful One. The One who promised is faithful. The One who makes and keeps covenant faithfully does not forget.

Forgetfulness...that is the path of empty, useless suffering. Forgetting Who promised. Forgetting what was promised. Forgetfulness brings doubt...and doubt can poison faith, and sicken hope. Suffering without hope brings despair...and the color of despair is Black.

YHWH's promise of a New Covenant called for the people of the Old Covenant to wait with a faith that would overcome doubt and strengthen hope. And this hope did not disappoint them. But it certainly was purple, this hope...four hundred years of purple dreams of a royal Son of David, while they lived a purple nightmare of beatings and bruises.

Hope is purple because Emmanuel, God-with-us, came to inhabit a human body so that he could suffer with us and for us as the Suffering YHWH's New Covenant. And we are called to be suffering servants as we grow more like Christ.

And that is why Hope is Purple... because waiting is hard and it requires faith... and faith perseveres because it remembers YHWH's cHesed for his Beloved... and faith that remembers while it waits and suffers never loses hope.

As we light the First Candle of Advent--the candle of the Purple Hope--let the fire represent Sister Faith who, together with Sister Hope, dispels the darkness with bright remembrances of cHesed and kindles the Spirit of Expectancy in our hearts.

Be blessed.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Hmmm...Why Are Advent Candles Purple?

Advent, being a time of humble reflection and preparation of the heart for the coming of the Christ Child, The Abbess must confess that it has been very humbling to learn this past year (through the blogs of my many new "virtual" friends) that she comes from what is termed low church tradition.

Low church basically speaks to the lack of formal liturgy. This is in contrast to the often lavishly formal high church liturgy found in traditions like those of our Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox and Celtic brethren (and sistren, of course). And I grew up viewing formal liturgy as something, well, less than authentic or spontaneous. I understand where that view came from, but I have chosen to be more inclusive as I get older...for lots of reasons I'm not going to process today.

So, since this will be my first year celebrating Advent in this manner, I offer this link to what I found to be a good general overview concerning Advent... for any closet low church lurkers out there. ;^)

I don't know that I'll be posting every day... we'll just have to see how things go. And though my family and I will be using Brother Maynard's new book on Advent from John's perspective, I'm going to encourage you to process his book with him, rather than with me.

But I will be sharing my insights about why Advent's main color is purple... and pray that by December 24th, all of our hearts will be prepared to humbly receive afresh the most amazing gift ever given.

And you'll just have to wait... which is another big theme in Advent... and not lose hope.

Be blessed.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Pondering Eucharistia

Sonja tagged me with a gratitude meme that originated with John Smulo...and giving thanks is important to The Abbess, so here goes my five expressions of thanks:
  1. I am thankful that ultimate reality is the totality which God perceives...because it reminds me that he is right there, fully present in the midst of it all. It is a comfort in the midst of irritation.
  2. I am thankful that my husband and children push me to continue to die to self so that I might be more of God's cHesed for them. It is a needful irritation in the midst of a sometimes numbing and insulating kind of detached comfort that sometimes sneaks in with prolonged weakness.
  3. I am thankful that God's daily cHesed for me is not measured according to my worthiness but rather according to my need and his promise of faithfulness to provide. It is a certainty in the midst of chaos.
  4. I am thankful for the many "adaptive challenges" swirling in my life. Their chaos provides the opportunity for creativity and communitas to arise and take flight from the piles of ashes. (See post on Purple Flames.)
  5. I am thankful for the amazing Virtual manifestation of the Body of Christ that has been my experience over the past 10 months...and for the privilege of remembering Christ's cHesed for us all through the New Covenant represented in his broken body and spilt blood.
I will stop at five, although I could go on and on. I have many failings, but ingratitude does not tend to be one of them. ;^)

Who shall I tag? How about Grace, Michael, Richard, Len, and Pete (perhaps we can coax a second post to his new blog?)...

Be blessed.

Purple Flames

Well, Alan Hirsch has done it again...The Abbess will continue to link to this brilliant brother's blog from time to time for some seriously deep contemplation... this time to his post on fire or fire. I will share some of my comment here, but I do recommend that you read his post and the comments.
I think it interesting to remember that we are to be born again of water and fire...water, which is one form of, which is another form of purification.

This "water" gently washes away that which has caked onto the outside, but does not dissolve the yet-recognizable form of the "cracked Eikon", as Scot McKnight says.

The fire, on the other hand, consumes that which is unseen--inside us, in our heart and soul and mind--which is impure, transforming us, reshaping us into the image of Christ, revealing the "true Eikon" that we are already-not yet becoming.


Interesting timing, since my reading through the Bible with the little boys has arrived at Job. It is challenging to process this book with them, but Job has always been one of my favorites (misery does indeed love godly company) and his story is very timely for boys who focus on whether something is fair or is God's eventual rebuke of the "wisdom" of Job's friends. I think some of the health/wealth crew should come along and take a clear look at the foil God has provided us in Job's story!
Our God has often been called a fire--at times completely consuming sacrifice, water, dust and stone. But God is especially remembered for once being heard from the midst of a fire that did not consume--The Burning Bush. For me, this is a wonderful example of how I see God restrain his power for the sake of relationship.

The post-resurrection Holy Spirit is usually represented by fire--one that ignites the hearts of those who draw near to God through Christ. This fire is meant to produce white-hot coals once the "tinder" has gone up in flames...providing steady warmth and energy. And, when necessary, those coals can be fanned back into flames.

Yet, like that famous bush, we are not consumed by the Holy Spirit's fire...we are purified. All the "flamables" (the impurities my father summed up as the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life) are used to produce those white-hot coals. These purified coals, produced by Holy Spirit's fire, are meant to burn eternally.

The power of the Purple Martyrdom is seen anew....providing energy to the Body of Christ as she participates in Christ's Kingdom work. Lord, help me to offer up to you every bit of kindling still stashed in me, that your Holy Spirit would turn it into energy that brings warmth and light to a cold and dark world.

Be blessed.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Lurkers....NOT Stalkers!

I saw one of my friends at a meeting this morning, who mentioned that she was a "stalker" of The Virtual Abbess.


When I suggested that she might have meant "lurker".... sure enough, that was what she meant.


She also mentioned that The Abbess seems to have a high rate of "insider" commentary and terminology that were challenging to her...but she still enjoyed, lurking here and that she was getting more familiar with some of my "Abi-isms" that she has encountered with me IRL.

So, I would like to greet all of you out there LURKING (especially Annette ;^) ) and say that I am happy to have you as quiet companions on this journey...and that I don't mean to be exclusive by the terms I use. I mentioned to my friend that I am working on defining my terms...but realized that these would be terms that I want to define, which may not always be the terms YOU want defined. The point is to make our journey together more pleasant (and less confusing)!

Therefore, The Abbess would like to extend to each of you--lurkers and commenters--an open invitation to ask me to define any terms that you don't understand or would like to have clarified. You can leave these requests in whatever post you encounter the term (helps with context ;^) ) or you can leave them in this post. I may have to open the forum over at The Scriptorium for this purpose...hmmm....

Thanks for the heads-up, friend--the Abbess always wants to be inclusive... even though she has a very long history of telling inside jokes ;^)

Be blessed.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Abi's OrthoCreed

Since starting this blog, I have been less active on many of the other blogs I've clogged over the past 10 months...but there are a couple of threads over at Scot McKnight's blog that have gotten me thinking...and after I finished posting a comment, which referenced my Ortho thinking here of late, I thought I should bring at least some of it over here.

You can meander through the whole thread from Jesus Creed here. My comment is's been a blog-storm!

The thread is about a church planting pastor who has just about been kicked to death by some in his flock who are "hyper-Calvinists" and just are completely unwilling to discuss or listen to anyone with another perspective. The comments are, interestingly, all over the place...and the tone only gets testy a time or two... ;^)

These are the parts of my comment I want to share with you, given our recent flury of "ortho" posts:

I wonder whether we are talking about people's postures before God or people's postures with each other?

Certainly we all agree with more humility, love and deep reverence for God...the challenge, as I see it, is that God calls us to be humble, mutually submitted and loving of each other as we love ourselves--having reverence for each other out of reverence for Christ.

I have had my share of fairly brutal bashings from just about every faith stance...and it's a toss up for me between the Calvinists (whose 5-pointed-TULIPs I just cannot embrace for myself) and their zealous (over?) defense of God's nature against human's nature (I'll lump them over-generalizingly as orthodoxy focused) and those ultra-fundamentalists who don't seem to understand how to hate sin yet love sinners because their focus tends to be on outward appearances (I'll lump them over-generalizingly as orthopraxis focused) rather than inward reality.

I've been pondering the "orthos" quite a bit over at my blog, in connection with some threads at Alan Hirsch's blog, and have begun to realize that there are really four that have to all hang together to get the proper perspective lined up: we have to have right thinking and right actions (so -doxy and -praxy), but we must also have right perception (my take on -pathy) as well as right inspiration (don't have a good word for it yet...-pneumaxy isn't flying currently).

Thinking well and acting poorly just doesn't cut it. Acting well and thinking poorly isn't much better, but sometimes does less damage in the short term. Thinking and acting well but with poor perception of the context is ineffective and very damaging in the long term. Thinking and acting well with good contextualization but improper inspiration leads to doing our own thing rather than joining God's mission.

So, I'm all for asking God to help me start with proper inspiration (the Holy Spirit's rather than humanity's), perceive people and situations through God's eyes, engage in as wide and deep and diverse studying/ thinking/ discussion as possible, and then act as much like Christ as I possibly can.

For me, anything short of all four is, well, short of that to which Christians are called.

Abi's OrthoCreed, therefore, will be:

  • LORD, in all that I see, think, do and say, let my inspiration come from your Holy Spirit rather than from human perspectives and desires;
  • LORD, let me perceive people and situations as you perceive them;
  • LORD, let me engage in as wide and deep and diverse a discipline of studying, thinking and discussion (especially listening) as I am able; and
  • LORD, let me act enough like Christ in every circumstance that my feeble light will be magnified by your cHesed and shine forth in the darkness I encounter around me.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Abbess is Blogging Through Advent!

I'll be joining a synchroblog for the Advent season this year, processing the new Daily Office for Advent book That You Might Believe by Brother Maynard. I have just purchased my copy at (follow the previous link for the scoop on the whole story), and am anxious to see our good Brother's very first book in print!

So here's your personal invitation to join me for the Daily Office during Advent...stay tuned for all the details!


Thursday, November 22, 2007

The passing of my cHesed mentor....

I got word this morning that Mont W. Smith, family friend and retired professor from my alma mater, passed away this morning at 4:20. Dr. Smith's ground-breaking work on covenant has been pivotal in my life and ministry.

Thanks be to God--for giving Mont to us for a time, for Mont's bringing a timely remembrance of what cHesed means to the Church, and for taking Mont home in his good time and according to his steadfast cHesed--on this Thanksgiving Day.

I have been honored to call him my friend. His older brother, Jim, was my research project faculty director and I am honored that he is still my friend as well.

Please be in prayer for his family as they mourn his passing and prepare to remember his amazing life.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Are you a sesquipedalian?

Since I have been propounding about my propensity for perfectionism, am beginning to articulate the peculiarities in my vocabulary, and am blessed to share The Abbey with two fine polymathic Abbots, this might be a fine time to share a polysyllabic moment.

Perhaps I'll tell the story of how I came to know this word another time (from my Dad's seminary days), but sesquipedalian is actually a mathmatical term for something that is one and one half feet in length--or one-half yard. Those of you who know my struggles with PTMS (post traumatic math syndrome) might be somewhat astounded to find me resonating with this word, but it has also come to be associated (possibly pejoratively!?) with those who have an affinity for words with multiple syllables.

And so someone who is a sesquipedalian is one who is given to the use of long words. Some would go so far as to say the overuse of long words...which sound a bit like the pot calling the kettle black, if you ask me! I have observed that there are more and more people who are finding themselves in this category of orator simply by their knack for making up, since when did someone with potential become someone with potentiality?

I have been wondering why my blog has received a readability rating of "High School" rather than "Middle School", like Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed blog. Professor McKnight seems to use his fair share of polysyllabic ecclesiastical terminology...I'll just continue to agree with my friend "cas" from the Jesus Creed blog, who thinks that the rating program must be messed up! :^)

Be blessed...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Come again? of the challenges I have been learning to embrace in my increasing brokenness is that sometimes good enough is best. My natural inclination is toward perfectionism...and when unrestrained, it can just suck the life out of me (and those around me).

I started learning this lesson when I returned to finish my college education at the ripe old age of 35--and stories about being the Old Woman of the Dorms will have to wait for another day!

Adult students are notorious for their perfectionism...and I had my share of "normal" (read: young) classmates who grumbled about who was messing up the curve. But the motivation was not about getting an "A" was about getting everything correct--knowing everything the professor "expected" me to know. After my first year of killing myself with reading and writing and studying, I had to get a grip on reality: 90 percent of my effort resulted in a solid "A" what was I getting for that last 10 percent? Nothing but exhaustion and isolation and stress. Those hours that I burned reaching for that 10 percent were very costly.

Good enough really was best. I have had that same talk with many other adult students over the years. Knowing just a little bit more (and we can never know it all) can lead to pride without ever leading to wisdom. I made a conscious choice to do with that 10 percent what I learned with the 90 percent. And that was a good start. It really was. But then my ability to "do" crashed and burned with the loss of physical strength and energy these past 13 years.

Now I have maybe 40 percent of my former physical capacity...but God has chosen this time to move me into active ministry. Go figure...God has used this diminished capacity to serve in ways I never could have ever dreamed or hoped. I have since, however, learned to have bigger dreams and higher hopes!

So...what, you may ask, triggered this reflection? And what does this have to do with blogging blues?


Come again?


It is so very annoying to The Abbess to have something out there on the net with silly errors. But I have decided that once I click "Publish Post" I just have to live with it. (Learned a lot more about this editing, formatting and publishing two books this last year.)

Sigh....shedding this perfectionism on my own continues to be a long, slow and losing proposition. Perhaps I must join Eustace and let Aslan "undragon" me of my knobby, gnarled and painful perceptions of what is best, and the put on Christ's humility and wisdom and strength anew.

Purple is the color of Royalty, after all. But this purple cloth is very costly--both to make, because God clothes all his children through the blood of Jesus--and to wear, because I may not wear it over my own clothes... but instead of them.

From now on. Every day. For the rest of my life. Forever.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Abi's Terms

[Update: I've put in a link over to the Scriptorium over at The Abbey for this glossary! You will find it at the top of Abi's Links over in the sidebar. I believe that this will solve my issue...and it will also allow AbbE and AbbY (the two Abbots who join Abi in comprising our Virtual Mentoring Triad) to collaborate as well!]

Well, I've decided that I need to start a kind of glossary...and not knowing how to make some other kind of well as not yet having all my terms identified and figured out...I'm making a new label called Abi's Terms ...and clicking on that label will bring together all the various terms I've been working on over the past 10 years or so.

Not the most elegant solution, I admit, but it will have to do...for now.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Trust....huh?...what's that?

Who do you trust?

Oh my goodness...Brad has hit a home run with this post! You just have to find and spend the time to process what he's saying because it is foundational to what I've been (and will continue to be) talking about here.

Faith is impossible without trust. Covenant is based on trust between partners. Faithful cHesed is the day by day working out of the nitty-gritty details of that trust relationship. The "over my dead body" loyalty that is committed to being there for each other. The humility and repentance dedicated to repairing a trust that has been broken...because, honestly, we all break trust from time to time. There is no one who is completely one but God.

Why it is that we are so shocked when we discover unfaithfulness in someone else? Perhaps there is a bit of projected relief that our shortcomings have mercifully not been publically aired.

Please notice the R2A2 label applied to this post....

In this time of gearing up for important elections, I have to really toughen up my gut...because the way the truth gets twisted and the incredible damage being done to my trust concerning all things political and governmental and institutional just makes me want to, well, PUKE! (Having just done a bit of that last weekend, it is a rather vivid image for me right now.)

The Abbess is so sick of self-righteous, self-serving, simplistic and disingenuous "indignation" from all corners of her reality that she will have to be very careful not to break her ruler across any errant knuckles that may happen to wave in front of her face like a red flag in a bull ring!

God have mercy on me as I desperately yearn to be found increasingly trustworthy as covenant partner and humble Messianic Hasidim.

...will you help me with the "specks" in my eyes? I promise to help you with yours. If I will remember to just keep my cHesed glasses ON, less of that junk will get into my eyes!

Create in me a clean heart, O Lord...and remind me to clean my glasses, too!

Be blessed.

Orthopolation as Right Mediation...and Optometry!

MO Blogger Brad and I have been "straightening" some of our spiritual and intellectual "teeth" for the proper "eating" of God's Word...and in this conversation we tossed around the idea that significant perception is needed if one is to attain proper interpretation....especially when the subject is anything biblical!

And this led to another level of realization about Brad's concept of interpolators--that they are individuals who are wired to perceive widely and "differently" enough from most that they naturally become mediators between people who are culturally different (read: perceive things differently) from each other. Interpolators have a cultural and perceptual experience base that allows them to intuitively understand those who are "other"--you'll have to hang out at Brad's place to read up on his mind-blowing research into this phenenomon.

Anyway, this reminded me of why I believe that covenant is the primary context for proper perception concerning God and, therefore, the Bible. While covenant is the primary context, it is cHesed that is the workhorse concept, because it is where the covenant is kept after it is made. A covenant that is made but not kept represents the broken reality called sin. And a covenant that is made and faithfully kept represents the holy reality called righteousness. So that is why cHesed is central to the The Abbess.

Here's where optometry comes into the picture: I am convinced we all need reading glasses!

When I teach about studying the Bible and understanding God's will, I talk about "cHesed glasses" and ask folks if they have ever worn 3D glasses--for reading or watching a movie. Most folks have--or at least have heard about them and can follow my thought. Basically, 3D glasses allow makers of special 3D books or movies to add a perception of depth. It can be a great tool.

But have you ever tried to watch a 3D movie, or read a 3D book, without the special glasses? Well, it's very strange and it gives me a headache! That's because my eyes have to strain to try to help my brain make sense of the images that look really goofy and distorted. I can follow the story, sure...but the images not only don't add the sense of reality intended, they are a huge distraction!

"Covenant" is like the red lens and "cHesed" is like the blue lens of the "spiritual glasses" I intentionally put on as I go about the challenge of properly perceiving and interpretating what God has communicated in his Word and is trying to communicate through the Holy Spirit (both inside me and through the Church, Christ's Bride) as I strive to become more incarnational as well as more missional as a Christ-follower. And while it takes most folks a little work to get their brain around thinking from a Hebraic, rather than a Hellenistic, perspective...once someone "gets it," it fairly blows them away and revolutionizes their understanding.

We'll have to unpack cHesed a piece at a time in order for you to be able to construct your own pair of special glasses...I hope you hang in there with me!

(UPDATE: I added this picture of me in my cHesed glasses based on the first comment....)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Orthopathy as Right Perception

I've been following along, as always, over at Alan's blog...and the most recent conversation has to do with Alan's excellent challenge that we must embrace the Hebraic by acting our way into a new way of thinking, thereby rejecting the Hellenistic thinking our way into a new way of acting. And so I stirred the pot just a bit today by wondering whether right perception could be a kind of bridge between thinking and acting.

Sometimes I think that thinking doesn't involve as much perception as it should...and I think that is a result of presuppositions we bring. And while that is a whole 'nother topic, I think that attempting to perceive things the way God perceives them will always invite the Holy Spirit more deeply into our processes than anything else. This will only help....

Contemplation is, basically, an attempt to listen and discern the proper perspective for the current conversation. And I am looking to discern the proper perspective for what being a faithful Christ-follower looks like for me at the "sweet spot" convergence of these overlapping spheres: What God perceives as best for me, my perceived 3D context and my perceived "virtual" context.

It is an interesting exercise as I look to embrace those actions that will result in a new way of thinking and being (CovenantClusters), because, as I said in my comment over at TFW, I think Berkeley was on to something with his belief that to be is not to be is to be perceived--by the ultimate perceiver: God.

This reminds me of the saying that there is no reality, only perception. For us humans, it is true that we can only claim to know reality based on our limited perception of what goes on around us. We need the voices of all members of the community for the perception to be closest to reality.

Sadly, we are far from this goal...and must be persistent in pursuing inclusivity. We must strive to perceive our brothers and sisters in Christ as he perceives them--his Church and Bride. And we must strive to perceive our neighbors as Christ perceives them--precious ones invited to join his family.

For Berkeley, and for me, there is tremendous comfort here...because God is the Ultimate Perceiver as well as the Ultimate Reality.

May our perceptions grow ever closer to yours, O Lord, our God!

Be blessed.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Hats and Balance....

Well, since beginning this blog, I've been rather focused here...and some of the other hats I wear have been collecting dust ...well, everything around my house collects dust ;^) ...and that means that some balance needs to be restored.

The hat that I wear as PTSA President needed to get worn as I prepared for and presided over November's Board Meeting. That also means that I will need to be preparing our monthly newsletter as well.

...and, of course, with the changing of the seasons, and the horrible influx of Halloween candy into the diet, the "bugs" have begun to float...and I'm feeling a little queasy today...BUMMER. Catching what the kids bring home with them from school always signals to me that I need rest...and so that's what I'm going to be doing...until the boys get home from school, that is...unless one of them has to come home, too!

I'm still learning the lessons of restraint...and brokenness seems to be the favorite mode of instruction.

Be blessed today...

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

I think we could use a wee bit of ORTHOdontia...

[NOTE: Updates made at 3:00 pm are in purple italics.]

Two of the three Brown boys are currently involved in the whole ortho "alignment" it does not surprise me that the discussion about the essential "right" things needs a bit of pushing here and pulling there--and a possible extraction or two--in order to make room for all the elements to both appear in the right spot and be aligned properly with one another so that they might accomplish their task effectively without doing injury to any of the elements.

It is striking, of course, that the whole concept of orthodontia is an experience of suffering....

It is also equally striking (pun to come?) to remember that teeth that do not have an opposing tooth to strike against become diseased...they continue to descend, looking to find their counterpart....hmmm....

Brad has a very interesting post about this whole "ortho" business, with a number of important comments, over at his blog.

So, after that lengthy introduction, here is my reply to the thoughtful comments from yesterday's post...a second step, as it were, to processing orthopathy.

I heard Alan's assertion that "pathos" is more than suffering, but includes the whole range of human emotions. And I would agree that the whole concept is important to keep in mind.

And I heard John's assertion that "pathos" is more a matter of passion than suffering...strongly felt emotions, not just suffering.

I even heard Brad's assertion that imagination and aesthetics need to be included in the mix...and that wisdom is an important overarching perspective to consider.

Isn't this the greatest thing about the blogosphere?! None of us have to get the whole picture...we can each contribute a piece here and a piece there without the burden of believing that we can any of us get a grip on the whole thing...very much in line with A Celtic Son's comment over at Brad's post.

And so I will build a bit on all these and see if there might be some wisdom that comes forth from the whirlwind....

I return to the Great Commandment: to love God with all of one's heart, soul, mind, and strength. And while it would be a grand series of word studies to revisit, I'm going to generalize here and challenge you to do your own word study! But before we get too far, I want everyone to stop and realize that we are looking at parts of a whole...and we cannot fully separate them into their parts. We must embrace the ambiguity that comes from approaching the mystery. So, this in not an attempt to cut cleanly and precisely--thereby defining ultimately. No, humility is the watchword of this Abbess. I know enough to know that I cannot know enough to ever know it all.
  • Heart--this word speaks to the deep will, including the whole range of emotions; it is where the rubber meets the road, as it were. This is the core of the person--the essence. It may or may not always be visible to others or understood by the self, but it is always open to God's view. He looks on the heart and sees who we really are...what makes us we deal with life's adaptive challenges...and always responds with hesed--that which is in our best interest. It is about right perception, I think. This speaks to orthopathy.
  • Soul--this word speaks to the imagination and the aesthetics...the reality of Eikons as sub-creators under God. We have the ability (inspiration?) to take "stuff" (stuff of the earth and stuff of the heart and stuff of the mind) and fashion unique stuff...stuff of great beauty and usefulness and meaning. Physical stuff, yes. But there is much more. Spiritual stuff. Relational stuff. Wow. Here is where we build those things that are imperishable...that are eternal...that cannot be destroyed because they can be remembered. What does this right inspiration speak to? Orthopneumaxy (Hey, I'm just flowing with the inspiration, here! ;^) )
  • Mind--this word speaks to the many different ways in which we have the capacity to receive and process information. It is where we think about "stuff." It is where we struggle to respond to what we see and hear and smell and taste and touch and emote and intuit. Here is where we begin to make sense of the "stuff." The result of this struggle is frequently called "knowing" and "believing." This speaks to orthodoxy.
  • Strength--this is the action word...calling forth vehement action, actually. God calls us to expend 100% of whatever we have in loving hesed toward him. In looking out for his best interest. Whatever strength we have is always sufficient because God is our partner. It's not a question of having enough is a question of giving it all. This speaks to orthypraxy.
As I ponder the challenges of the Great Commandment (not forgetting the addendum to love our neighbor as ourself, of course), I also ponder what this means--to God and to Eikons. And I am struck by yet another paradox--of the freedom that comes from restraint.

First, freedom. Freedom for all that God has created for us to be. Freedom for all that perfect community (shhh...yes, perichoresis is what I'm thinking of, here...I'll get around to posting on it one of these days!) is meant to be. Freedom from focus on self and the resultant bondage. (No, I haven't forgotten freedom from sin, but that is not the point of this particular pondering.)

Then, restraint. I have come to believe that restraint is the greatest attribute of God. Greater than all his "omni" stuff because, without his amazing restraint, we could not exist. All of his "omni" reality he restrains so that he (Shall I use they to speak of the Triune God?)...they restrain in order to be free to enter into relationship with us Eikons. And only as we restrain ourselves can we embrace the freedom they offer.

And that takes me back to suffering, friends. Because restraint is, by definition, a form of suffering. To have a "heart" is to suffer. To have a "soul" is to suffer. To have a "mind" is to suffer. To have "strength" is to suffer.

The Incarnation is freedom through restraint...and that is why Messiah was recognized (and also not recognized) as the "Suffering Servant" in Isaiah. To be is to suffer. To be free is to suffer. To be restrained is to suffer. To be restrained by loving God and loving others as oneself is to suffer...laying down one's life for another. And only then, in willing submission to the suffering that loves with all of one's heart and soul and mind and strength--and other as oneself, is one truly free.

The Purple Martyrdom embraces the paradox of restraint and freedom. The restraint that comes with embracing extreme brokenness and powerlessness as a holy sacrifice to God brings with it an extreme freedom. Freedom to embrace God's perception, inspiration, thinking and action empowered by the Holy Spirit rather than cling to one's own abilities. Freedom from fear of that which can deprive/hurt/kill the mortal flesh but cannot deprive/hurt/kill the immortal soul. As my friend, S. Scott Bartchy, has so long challenged:

How much freedom can you stand?

...still processing...

Monday, November 5, 2007

Color OrthoPATHY Purple

Oh my has been a very busy day!

Alan Hirsch's new post is highlighting the importance of ensuring a form of discipleship that emerges from the intersection of orthodoxy, orthopraxy and orthopathy. In my comment I called this intersection the "sweet spot." It is critical that all of these elements are blended if we are to be, as well as train up, fully-devoted disciples of Christ. And when blended, they become something new. Yikes...I'm thinking perichoresis and communitas here...again!

The Abbess seems to have a penchant for seeing "purple" things...and I was struck by Alan's post because it is the first time I have pondered the term "orthopathy" since the whole Purple Martyrdom theme has arisen here on this blog.

So let's get our definitions understood right off the bat, eh? Alan's post defines our three "orthos" like this:
  • Orthodoxy is understood as right belief.
  • Orthopraxy is understood as right actions.
  • Orthopathy is understood as right feelings.
But something pulled up short in me as I pondered the definition of orthopraxy as right feelings....feelings? That's just not quite right...what feelings?

No, lets back up a minute. The second part of this word, "pathy," comes from the Greek "pathos"... and I know that pathos means suffering.


Orthopathy means right suffering. And that's a horse of a different color....

Definitely more processing on this to come!

[Note: This site on it relates to health...will definitely need further follow-up by The don't hold me accountable for the fine details yet! But it does have my brain spinning about a gazillion miles an hour currently...]

The Practice of the Purple Martyrdom

There are many aspects to the Purple Martyrdom...but at the core is the recognition and embracing of the need for quiet and simplicity and justice and mercy and humility and vulnerability and brokenness if one is to be of use to God in ways that really bring him glory. It is very interesting to me to see the variety of places where one runs across various components of this truth.

Today, I have added Michael Kruse (whom I met over at Scot's Jesus Creed blog) to my sidebar under "Abi's Links" for many just need to go and visit his site once to understand the breadth and depth of this brother's contributions to the conversation in the blogosphere.

But what finally prompted it, however, was his link to this post about the upswing of interest (a quiet flirtation?) among evangelicals concerning all things monastic.

Now that he is on my links, I'll be visiting his site each day and adding him to my prayers.

Thanks, Michael, for the way you love God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength--and your neighbor as yourself. The Abbess is grateful to you for the treasures to be mined at your site.

You just might want to add him to your links, too.


Praying the Daily Office...Virtually!

Well, The Virtual Abbess is thrilled to have been able to participate in the inaugural session of the MO Virtual Praying of the Daily Office. What an amazing thing to be able to do this simple practice with brothers and sisters spread around the continent. I am grateful for the ability to hear voices again that connect faces that have pictures and words that can be read.

God is outrageously good.

Be blessed....

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Where were you 10, 20, 30 years ago?

Well, I've been tagged with another meme that I've seen around the blogosphere: The 10-20-30 Meme--share what I was doing 10 years, 20 years and 30 years ago. I am glad I was there for Lori to tag, since she didn't know where to turn! Here goes:

Ten years ago, I was just about to finish a stint working part-time in the Loan Servicing Department of our local bank. They wanted me to stay on to take the place of the retiring manager. I told her (she was a Christian sister) that if I was going to leave my child and home to work full-time, it wouldn't be at a bank. She completely understood! We had moved here the previous year, after nine months of unemployed and nomadic following after God's will, and needed my help for about 14 months while we settled in and began to recover financially. Our #1 son was 2 1/2 and there were no thoughts of #2...yet, much less #3!

This picture from Christmas of that year is of sister#4 and her three kids and my family and my Mom (Dad took the picture). We are all wearing the sweaters that she had been secretly knitting as gifts for everyone that year...that was 28 one year!

Twenty years ago, I made the unlikely jump from support staff to management at Hughes Aircraft Company. Boy, that's a story for another time! Talking about the best of times and the worst of times! I did, however, have the pleasure of renting part of a home that was walking distance from my office. My cat, Hobie, and I were a lot of company to each other during that time of long hours and lots of work that goes along with the whole management role. The ladies small group I was part of on Wednesday nights had really gelled and I was reading The Chronicles of Narnia to them...we spent quite a few years reading, processing, laughing and crying our way through all seven of them. It was an important time of community-building and embracing vulnerability and authenticity for everyone in that group....

Thirty years ago, I was wondering what I had gotten myself I settled into missionary life in Chiang Mai, Thailand and tried to get the hang of washing clothes by hand (never wore those jeans enough to need washing again!) and figuring out what I could eat with allergies to onions and peppers and any pungent spice. (As an aside--by the time I returned home two years later, I weighed a mere 94 lbs. After four months of home cooking--including Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's--I had only gained 6 lbs. I may have more than I need now, but I don't wish to return to those days! I'll spare you the picture....) Then there was four hours a day in language studies learning to speak, read and write Thai. (My vocabulary is a little rusty, but I am still fairly fluent! Reading and writing are another story...I can just barely get by anymore.)

So...who to tag? Let's see...what about Janet, Richard, Brad, Scot, and Alan. Some of us could talk about what we were doing 40 years ago, but there's no need to go there ;^)

Is it better to have read condensed than to not have read at all?

This was the essence of the question I put to Brother Maynard and "John the Shepherd" a while back...and we already know how challenged I am about linking you'll have to find your way through to the original conversations yourself ;^( ...however, John's initial review post will get you started.

The Vulnerable Abbess, as A Celtic Son commented I should rename my blog, stepped out and suggested that so much of the Bible is never read by most people because it is too daunting a task. I merely suggested that the folks over at Reader's Digest provided a wonderful tool to introduce people to all 66 books of the Bible in such a way as one might actually get from Genesis to Revelation!

And so I'll pass the challenge on to you to consider embracing a tool that removes barriers to reading God's Word without replacing the preeminence of the full text of God's Word. To me, it is better to have someone read 60 percent of the entire Bible than the smattering that accounts for many people's experience.

I am going to very generally suggest that those who say they read the Bible, but who have not taken the effort to read it from cover to cover, have read Genesis, most of Exodus, a bit of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy out of the Books of the Law. From History, Joshua, Judges, Ruth and I & II Samuel, parts of I & II Kings and Chronicles and Esther. From Poetry, parts of Job, parts of Psalms, all of Proverbs, parts of Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs. Of the Prophets--major or minor, only Daniel and Jonah in their entirely...the rest of them just parts here and there. I would hope that the New Testament would have more who have read it all, but figure that John's Gospel has been more widely read with Luke or Matthew following and Mark trailing. Acts and Romans in pieces. Parts of I Corinthians...not much of II Corinthians. Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians are small and easily read. Bits of I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, and a verse here and there of Titus, Philemon and Hebrews. (Hebrews is one of my favorites...and it is key to understanding hesed and covenant in the New Testament, IMO.) James is a short and powerful book read more often, as is I John. II & III John and Jude get lost on the way to Revelation, which is all too often picked apart by dispensationalists and not seen with a singular message of perseverance, hope, and victory in Christ.

What do you think?