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?

Friday, November 2, 2007

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times....

The best thing about blogs is that they connect people. The worst thing about blogs is that they disconnect people.


Well, the great thing about blogs is that you have the wonderful opportunity to meet and converse with people whom you would never have the opportunity to hang with IRL (or, in real life, as I've recently learned). You come together because of any number of commonalities. I visit blogs of brothers and sisters in Christ with whom I am trying to share "the adventure that Aslan sends," as it were. Our main commonality is devotion to Christ as Lord and a desire to love God and love others--living the Jesus Creed, as Scot McKnight would say. (BTW, I get my connection to the wilder world through my amazing brother, Matt Stone...thanks, Matt!)

And this is a really, really great thing that blogs do. Really great!

The challenge, as always, is the loving of others who are, well, other. As in, not like me. In my case that would be the vast majority of people I meet IRL, much less on the Net....

So, the worst thing about blogs is how easy it is to disconnect when the "honeymoon" is over. When the struggle to stay connected begins to make your stomach churn as your "otherness" really starts showing. You face the moment of truth when you wonder whether your blog buddies will ditch you when they get to know the real you.

Sigh...and we thought this was over after getting through middle school...or high school...or after we got married...or after the kids are in school all day, or with your new small group or church or pastor. fill in the blank__________________.

Nope. None of the challenges of risky relational transparency are ever long as there are still people around. Last time I checked, that still applied to me. And so I am left with the same old dilemma: what am I going to do about it?

This is my starting list of things to do:
  • If I want to be heard, I'm going to have to really learn the lessons about listening.
  • If I want to be understood, I'm going to have to do a better job of thinking about what I mean and saying it plainly and clearly--no jargon, no assumptions, no generalizations.
  • If I want to be part of the solution, I'm going to have to choose not to be part of the problem.
So, what is the problem?

In my book it's a failure to speak truth in love. Speaking my best understanding of what the truth of any given topic or situation is in a way that is respectful of the view of the other. Speaking in a tone that will allow others to hear me long enough to choose to really listen. Inviting feedback so that I can ensure that what I mean is what is being understood. Asking clarifying questions that show I really want to understand. Restraining myself from engaging in any and all forms of reactionary assumption or judgment or well as sarcasm that targets a precious Eikon/bearer of the very image of God.

More lessons of the Purple Martyrdom, I guess...and a reminder from MO Blogger Andrew about the reality of owning the name The Ugly Blogger. I told him in Seabeck that I was struck by his chapter (with that very name) in the Wikiklesia Project's Volume One. It was a private moment for confession to him that I make public here: I, too, have been The Ugly Blogger. And Andrew, I'm hoping you will forgive me for the tinge of it that showed on your blog yesterday. I will learn this lesson in restraint...I will! Thank you for being a person of shalom.

But I choose to step away from those images. (You really do need to get this book and read it--lots of great insights from a wide variety of authors. Click on the Wikiklesia link in the sidebar.) I want all that I am and have and say and do to bring glory, not shame, to my Lord.

Now that I have my own blog, I need to say the things that define who I am and what I am about here in my space and in my time and according to my outline...and quit blog-clogging elsewhere. (Except, of course, at Alan's TFW blog...I am free to be me here and there!) if you're interested in what The Abbess thinks and does, know that you are welcome to journey here in safety--well, the kind of safety that comes from speaking the truth in love, that is. Safe to listen and be listened be and to learn and to teach.

But beware of Aslan...while not always "safe," he is always good. And the "Lucy" in me always wants to answer his call to follow--even if no one else can see or hear him.

Be blessed.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Have you joined the onehitwonder phenemenon?

What's a dollar worth to you?

Currently 729 million people have internet access. Imagine if just 1% of these people were willing to get involved & give one dollar. That would amount to over 7 million dollars to give away. Not bad for a measly dollar!

Yesterday, Alan Hirsch tagged me to become a part of the onehitwonder phenemon. As I have been pondering the day...Reformation Day and seemed like this was an appropriate thing to do and to extend the challenge to anyone visiting the I did--and I am.
  • Check it out and if you're inspired, then please participate.
  • Then spread the word by passing it only takes a spark... (sorry, I am old ;^) and I always liked that song)
The extra great thing that they do after you donate is provide an opportunity for you to designate where your dollar will be spent and what kind of donation you want to support (food, clothing, medicine, education, micro-loans, etc.)

These people have their priorities straight. May God inspire his children everywhere with generous "virtual" hearts!

...freely you have received, freely give....