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.