Wednesday, December 31, 2008
It is good to know that there are other places than you-know-where to which the road is paved with good intentions. Just about any road I'm traveling on these days seems to be one....
Next week, however, there are two amazing things happening on Epiphany (January 6th):
First of all, it will be the third anniversary of the vision for CovenantClusters. It is beyond amazing to me that three years have passed...and if I were to outline for you all the places I have been and the people I've met and the books I've read and the conversations I've had, well, it would take more time than any of us have available! God is amazing. His vision is still burning brightly in my heart and soul and mind. His timing will be perfect....
Secondly (and one of the reasons why so many other things have been slow-cooking on the back burner), it will be the launch of Missional Tribe -- and the other six of the "instigators" join me in looking forward to bringing the missional conversation to a whole new level. So stay tuned.
The year 2008 has been a very full year -- full of joy and sorrow, full of beginnings and endings, full of growth and, um, good intentions! Most of all it has been full of cHesed -- God's cHesed for me (in and through so many of you) and my wobbly cHesed of loving God and loving others. His faithfulness is without question ... I am a work in progress -- and grace, mercy and forgiveness are high on the list of projects, as always!
Here's looking back on a year of good, hard work ... and looking forward to a year full of hope and peace and joy and love as we follow the Way of Jesus -- whatever that means and wherever it leads.
I am so grateful to have so many wonderful folks on this journey with me.
Blessings for a wonder-filled New Year!
Saturday, December 6, 2008
This has been a week full of amazing synergistic connection with my Missional Tribe (more information to follow about who and what and all). As we were sharing, these very purple words bubbled up from deep in my soul. AbbE suggested that he was reading a post on Hope for The Virtual Abbess ... and I agreed.
Before you read my story, there are two blog posts that you really should read first. The first is from Erika Haub at The Margins and the second is from
I had so many thoughts swirling around in my head as I read his story. He (following Erika) is talking very much about the essence of the Virtual Abbess and her Purple Martyrdom, my friends … for I have spent a lifetime being a very good friend to many who just wanted to take advantage of what I had to offer.
But when life turned Purple and shattered and I became a broken-down, beyond chronically exhausted mother desperate to hang on hour-by-hour in order to beat the odds of recovering from catastrophic accidents and care for a newborn and two toddlers and answer the call of God to actually serve in an amazing pastoral ministry opportunity … I found myself very inconvenient to the many I thought were my friends … who neither wept with me or came to help me fold laundry because my neck and shoulder and back injuries prevented me from even doing this small task … and kept forgetting that I was broken, because after seven years I should be better, shouldn't I?
They were not there the day the doctor told me that my chances for recovery were poor, at best – and I had 8 ½ more months of pregnancy and a third child still ahead … and no family nearby to help me....
But it took a sister in Christ who (unbeknownst to me at the time) prayed me into being our middle school PTSA President (she is my right-hand as PTSA Secretary) … and then became my real life House Fairy last spring (trying to prepare for summer) and just recently again in November (trying to recover from summer). She would come – sometimes for 15 minutes, sometimes for 2 hours – and help me wash dishes, or clothes, or the kitchen floor, or the bathroom, or the kids' room (again!), or sort through stuff and rejoice with every little thing I either threw out or gave away … telling me what Fly Lady would do and then helping me do it.
And I have never been so humiliated and so honored at the same time, that this precious sister would carve out time from her busy days to come into the nightmare that has been my house these past eight years and help me break it down into pieces and get it done side-by-side is beyond words still. This is a woman who knows how to "wash feet" … and she saw the need that so many chose not to and didn't try to tell me that "Life's a bitch, isn't it?" or "These hard times will pass—everybody goes through this." or "Just suck it up and quit whining." or any number of other unhelpful things that I have heard over the years. She saw my need and moved to be Christ's hands and feet…to yoke up with me to help me carry the burden.
* * * * * * *
Wherever you are on this 7th Day of Advent, the last day of pondering Purple Hope, I pray that you will do two things:
First, choose to listen to those who need to have someone truly hear them … listen them into free speech (as our friends from Allelon say) by letting them talk long enough that they are able to hear themselves—perhaps for the first time—and in being heard, perhaps they will have the courage to share their heart's simple-but-seemingly-hopeless need.
Second, choose to watch for these Kairos-time moments where you might have the privilege of being Christ’s hands or feet or shoulder to some brother or sister with an empty spot in their yoke. Perhaps they will invite you into their pain and allow you to slip on their yoke and even out their burden. Might just take 15 minutes … might take two hours … one time, or once a week, or once a month, or whatever it takes to meet their need.
Dare to have hope … dare to give hope.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
And if we choose to interpret life in a larger narrative framework, we’ll work to perceive God’s providence as a text in the context of “the watching universe.” Something deep and unique is going on in the life of every individual, every couple, every family, every community, every ethnicity, every race, every nation, every civilization.
You may have seen me write about Bishop Berkeley's profound old statement: "To be is to be perceived ... the ultimate perceiver is God." And so Brad's call to perceive in a universe that watches strikes me again.... To be is to be perceived, and each of Brad's life groups both perceive and are perceived. I pondered this in an earlier post, which might be of interest.
In the end it seems to this abbess that we must be about the work of more properly perceiving that which God is perceiving. And, of course, to do that requires that one wear one's cHesed glasses.
Peering through purple cHesed glasses is one of the ways that one can vividly see Hope in the world in which we find ourselves ... because we will be perceiving as God does.
Monday, December 1, 2008
If you want to join the conspiracy, please visit Advent Conspiracy's website and have a good look around. Then go have a glass of water ... and consider those who are literally dying for a drink of clean water. I'm pretty sure you'll be challenged to prayerfully consider making a difference this year in how you view Christmas.
Thanks to the many folks, IRL and virtually, who have showcased this wonderful movement. Let the gift of clean water be a herald of the birth of the Living Water....
Sunday, November 30, 2008
The Abbess invites you to join her every day for Advent at The Virtual Abbey, using this link. I've posted it right at the top of my sidebar, so you don't have to go looking for it! You will notice that they have eight scriptures for each day. I am planning to read all eight of them each day, but I'm not quite sure yet how and when ... and with whom! I would like to do something each morning at 9 and again at noon and then at dinner with the whole family and then again at bedtime with the boys. I am excited about making this more than a Sunday ritual....
I'll be sharing links to other Advent blog posts, like these from Scot McKnight.
And if you're new to the whole idea of Advent, and want to see what I was up to as I processed Advent for the first time last year, you can start with this post about why Advent candles are purple, of all colors!
Today, with the first candle lit, I went back to look at what I had to say about the Candle of Purple Hope.
Be blessed with hope this week....
Friday, November 28, 2008
Stay tuned for the promised "review" by the Abbess ... it might turn into an Advent series!
Sunday, November 16, 2008
This was not like any book on Job I'd ever read. There were almost as many things about which I disagreed as there were things I agreed. I'm not going to go into why, because it isn't important at this point in time. What is important is that God brought me back to Job as I continue to process the Purple Martyrdom. And even in those areas where I disagreed, the Spirit was bringing deep things to the surface.
The first one came in chapter five, where the author stated that the nature of worship is praise in pain. Job knew to praise God in the midst of his pain. He didn't speak about God ... he spoke to God. And while it took many chapters worth of time, God spoke back to Job. Because they had a relationship.
We know that Job was in deep pain -- from his property loss, the deaths of all 10 of his children, and the sores that covered him from head to toe. And this is before the pain brought on by his "friends" ... we'll get to them another day.
At this point in my notes I have two things written:
- Job is the patron saint of the purple martyrdom.
- Pruning does not just cut off diseased or dead wood. It also removes growth that will detract from the health or fruitfulness of the plant.
Pruning a beloved plant is an exercise in "severe mercy" (how many times has this phrase of C.S. Lewis found its way into my thoughts in the 29 years since I first read Sheldon Vanauken's book by that title?). As severe as death to the majority of the new growth -- as merciful as preserving the health and shape of the bush and the size of the cane left to bear bigger blossoms.
What to value more: sheer quantity of rose blooms or better quality rose blooms -- not to mention sustainability and control of disease and pests.
Anyone who really loves their roses must prune. Period. But they must do it at the proper "kairos" time and take their "chronos" time doing it.
If someone were to observe me pruning my roses, they would see me down on the ground, looking at every single cane:
- was there disease?
- what direction will the new growth take?
- what is the desired shape for the bush this year?
- how much cane should be left?
- what canes must be removed completely?
There are few things more stunning than a rose bursting with blossoms.
There are few things more stark and ugly than a pruned rose bush.
But you can't have the first without the second. And a true lover of roses knows this well.
* * * * * * *
God was proud of the prize "rose" named Job. And as beautiful as his righteousness was and as fragrant as his life was ... God loved Job enough to allow the ultimate in "severe mercy" pruning -- everything but his life (and his wife ... and let's not beat up on her too much -- everything Job lost was something she was mourning the loss of as well).
And while the pruning was harsh, the growth God brought to bear was unbelievable. Not only were all Job's losses returned (with interest), his 10 new children were even more blessed than the first 10! But more than this, God came to answer Job. And even though God did not actually answer Job, Job felt more than answered. He gained wisdom and insight -- and shared it with us:
I know that you can do everything, and that no purpose of yours can be withheld from you. ...I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ...I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you. Therefore I abhor myself; and repent in dust and ashes.* * * * * * *(Job 42:2, 3, 5-6)
The Gardener prunes the rose -- because the rose cannot perceive its situation aright, nor can it take up shears to make the proper cuts. It must submit to the hands of the one who chose it and planted it and nurtures it so that it can be what it is meant to be -- beautiful -- and do what it is meant to do -- bring honor and glory to the Gardener.
Papa is the Master Gardener ... and this wee abbess trusts completely, even when the pruning shears are being sharpened....
Thursday, November 6, 2008
* * * * * * *
Well, it has finally happened...the Abbess has gotten a virus. No, the the one that had everyone else in my house vomiting over the past two weeks. The one that is trying to destroy my computer.
The good news is that I am married to Firewall Man :^) ... the bad news is that Firewall Man says that I cannot even turn on my computer until he has a fix ready to eradicate those viral attachers :^( ...
So, here I am at the Library--finished with Google Reader--and decided to let any of you know who are wondering where I am and why I'm not responding to e-mail or Twittering along.
Another aspect of the purple martyrdom, I suppose.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Those of you out west, do not let anyone discourage you from casting your vote. Remember Galadriel's words to Frodo: even the smallest person can make a difference.
...it is better to have voted and lost then never to have voted at all. Don't make tomorrow one of regret because you didn't vote.
Whatever the outcome, Jesus is Lord and those who follow him will keep on keepin' on.
...some of you may have a better understanding of purple, however. ;^)
Shalom--to each of you, to this great nation of our, and to the people of the world.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
* * * * * * *
After my warm-up post on Friday, we spent the day on Saturday with our missional tribe here doing a prayer summit. I find that I am still unable to fully process exactly what transpired, but I want to share just a few here, on this anniversary of my return from the Missional Order/Seabeck experience.
One of the many things I experienced for the first time at Seabeck was The Daily Office. I have since read Scot McKnight's excellent book, Praying with the Church, as well as other books that have been helpful in filling in some of the historical blanks for me concerning this ancient, yet still powerful, practice. We used the Northumbria community as our primary example (please do check out their link in my sidebar!), and I am still impressed with the way they have set up their "virtual office" ... ever so appropriate for this virtual abbess! ;^)
One of the things we pondered at Seabeck was the core values of the Rule of Life at Northumbria: availablility and vulnerability. For a long time I have been at a loss to come up with anything more powerful or fundamental than these two values. To be fully available to the other and to be fully vulnerable with the other are acts of extreme faith....
But a couple of things dropped into place yesterday ... let me just tell you about them.
We went out for 30 minutes of silence to ponder Psalm 131 and the picture of the satisfied child sitting on the mother's lap -- what does that speak to us, this picture of a child snuggled up with mom? What does it speak to you?
Anyway ... I began to think, as the others talked, about the power of perception. The word always takes me back to Bishop Berkeley's "to be is to be perceived ... and the Ultimate Perceiver is God."
The foundational issue is right perception -- perceiving as God perceives. How do we do this?
To be still ... to sit on God's maternal lap, satiated from the nutrition received and the thirst quenched; to be rocked on Papa's lap and listen to words of love and encouragement; to feel the firm but gentle pats that ensure all the bubbles escape; to gaze adoringly into Papa's eyes, drinking in the unconditional love ... and then, after sufficient rest, to hear Papa's voice tell us it's time to get down and get busy learning and playing -- with one more big hug and a kiss on the cheek, to slide off that warm lap and skamper off....
This is the beginning of right perception ... to experience the unconditional love of Papa. To be filled up to the top and empowered to get going with a hug and a kiss is to know who you are.
To be is to be perceived aright ... because it is God's perception that holds all things together, not ours.
* * * * * * *
And so we turned to the Rhythm of Life, which is what many call The Daily Office. While so many think this Rhythm is a repetitive "rule" to be "enforced" ... what if it is a "gift" to be "received" -- individually as well as collectively?
What if this Rhythm of Life is to Papa's spiritual children what mother's milk is to a child? (This insight is yet another of the benefits of nursing my children for 2-3 years!) When the children are small, they nurse frequently--their little tummies just can't hold that much--and sleep most of the time. As they grow, they can stretch out the time between feedings and begin to explore the world beyond "mommy and me". But they keep coming back every few hours ... to climb up on mommy's lap to be fed and held and loved and "perceived" aright.
It makes perfect sense to me that we would have a need for regular quiet time, to be refresh and perceived intimately by the one who loves us the most. To hear of that love ... and speak of our love, as well. To have our fears calmed and our path made straight for the next leg of the journey. And to be set down to go out and play.
Does Kingdom Life ever seem like play to you? Maybe you need to get a little more of God's sweet milk of love to go along with the meat, eh?
* * * * * * *
Today's thoughts will then close with the two words that are beginning to compete (for me) with availability and vulnerability: expectancy and responsiveness. Let me explain a bit....
Back in The Shack, Papa was explaining that we have taken the living joy of expectancy and, killing it, turned it into expectations ... life-sucking legalism ... robbing relationships of anticipation and replacing them with disappointment. We have also taken the power and privilege of responding to the wonders of expectancy -- when Papa breaks into our lives like sun through the clouds -- by turning it into the bone-crushing burden of responsibility. Sigh....
These two words -- expectancy and responsiveness -- pair up with two other words I've talked about before: kairos and chronos.
Kairos being the kind of time that is, well, timely. It is God's time because it is eternal time that is perceived. It is the place of expectancy -- looking for God to surprise us ... and still being surprised! It is God writing stuff in our calendars....
Chronos is the seconds and minutes and hours and days and weeks and months and years in which we life out this mortal life. It is made up of all the responses we have made to God's appointments, as well as the responses we have made to all the other things that compete for our time. It is also full of reactions (as opposed to responses) we have made. :^(
* * * * * * *
All this rambling comes down to this: perhaps, just perhaps, The Daily Office is the gift of expectancy ... of crawling up on Papa's familiar lap to rest, be refreshed, have our perceptions refocused and our wounds bound up, and then sent back out to play with renewed strength to respond with love to those in our sandbox.
It isn't wildly fresh, spontaneous and new content (rather, it is ancient and cyclically repetitive) ... just the simple meeting of needs in the intimate embrace of the one who loves us the most. The shalom of sabbath rather than the pressure to perform.
Of course, there is more than this to the story ... but this is a start! And it is a very important part of the mystery that is the Purple Martyrdom ... best perceived through cHesed glasses, of course.
Here's to the next leg of the journey!
Friday, October 17, 2008
The Virtual Abbess is preparing for her first blogiversarous!
On Friday, October 19, 2007, this blog came into existence. Wow ... a lot of amazing things have happened in that time. Even though the 19th is not until Sunday, today, being Friday, is kind of like the first anniversary...so The Abbess will be having a weekend celebration at The Abbey!
I see that my profile has been viewed 920 times [only about 50 of which were me checking ;^) ] ... which means that there is a slim chance that I could hit 1000 by Sunday.... I have updated it a bit, so if you haven't checked it in the last couple of months, go ahead and give it a whirl. (Not that The Abbess is interested in statistics, don't you know!)
I'll talk more about what the past year has been about later in the weekend ... today I want to share something a friend of mine sent in an e-mail this morning. (Thanks, Peggy Jo!)
For those of you who have followed the development of The Purple Martyrdom, you will see why this story about being and mom is like building a cathedral ... and why pondering the founding of a missional order took me to Seabeck last year with 40some friends of Allelon.
While our flesh and blood runs on Chronos time, our spirit moves in and out of Kairos time ... and it is in those Kairos moments that the veil is lifted and we see what God is doing with what we think is invisible ... because God truly does see what is done in secret.
It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store.
Inside I'm thinking, 'Can't you see I'm on the phone?'
No one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all.
I'm invisible. The invisible Mom. Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?
Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a clock to ask, 'What time is it?' I'm a satellite guide to answer, 'What number is the Disney Channel?' I'm a car to order, 'Right around 5:30, please.'
I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated sum a cum laude - but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She's going; she's going; she is gone!
One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England
Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in.
I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself.
I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, 'I brought you this.'
It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe ..
I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I read her inscription:
'To Charlotte , with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.'
In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work:
No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record of their names.
These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished.
They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.
The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.
A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, 'Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.' And the workman replied, 'Because God sees.'
I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place.
It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, 'I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over.. You are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will become.'
At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life.
It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride.
I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on.
The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.
When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend he's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, 'My Mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.' That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, 'you're gonna love it there.'
As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we're doing it right.
And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.
Great Job, MOM!
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Thank you for this thread and your elaboration in the comments, Matt.
It is no surprise to me that the Spirit continues to hold the launch of CovenantClusters as my own thoughts go along with yours...and we at The Abbey are those who do tend to be bridge builders and not separatists.
I was laughing to myself at the whole "homogeneous" discussion. I take a cue from nature here: milk. We don't drink homogenized milk at our home because the process turns the good fat into bad fat by breaking them down so small that they are no longer able to separate and come to the top as cream. They are, however, so small that they can leak out into places where they do damage.
However, when you leave the cream alone, it has that tendency to rise to the top. There, everyone sees that it is separating from the milk. And in order to get it back into the milk before you drink it, so that the protein and other nutrients can be properly utilized, we have to shake everything up. Yeah...we just have to get in the habit of regularly shaking things up!
Hmmm...is that cream representative of the Holy Spirit?
Sometimes cream is scooped off the top for special purposes...like butter and ice cream. But these are special treats that we can use to help bring the wonder of the cream out into other areas. The non-fat milk is not wasted--it gets used to make other things that nourish the body.
Hmmm...the Abbess feels a future blog post coming on, so I'll stop blog-clogging here!
So...what does anyone out there "lurking" think about that?
I'm sure I'll be back to process it some more...but we do not "pasturize" here any more than we "homogonize"--so it will take a little time. The benefits of not killing the milk and pulverizing the cream are worth it!
Shaking it up regularly....
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Please take the time to read Scot's lead article, "Women Ministering", in the August edition of E-Quality. This is an wonderful example of exactly what I will be highlighting as I work my way through The Blue Parakeet: Scot brings a welcome and timely sense of appropriately detached wholeness (wholiness? :^) ) to our study of the Bible, where we are reminded that "Bereans" are to strive to look out through God's eyes, not slap God's name onto our, all too frequently distorted, view of the Kingdom.
The Abbess, a sometime deputy over at Scot's "One T Saloon", is grateful for his no-nonsense, truth-telling, fair-playing ways.
Friday, September 19, 2008
A couple of months ago, in a brilliant marketing move, Scot announced that Zondervan's would send a free copy of the book to bloggers who would read it and then blog about it. The response quickly outstripped the number of copies offered...and Zondervans even added more books to the pot! I got in late that day, time zones being what they are, and figured I'd missed out, but I send an e-mail to the address indicated stating that I would love to be involved in this.
Lo and behold...I got a response asking whether I was still interested! I quickly replied that I was, and provided my mailing address, as requested.
And my review copy arrived this past Monday!
Now, one of the things that I decided I would NOT do is this: read other blogger's reviews before I read the book myself. This is always a good thing for me, because I like to read things fresh and get my own perspective before being influenced by another's. I learned this from my classes on Biblical Tools for Exegesis and Analysis (fondly shortened to "Tools") -- where we were challenged to read the text, try to get as much context from the text as possible, do our word studies, and ponder our interpretation before reading from handbooks and commentaries.
I wish more people would do their own thinking first, using the thinking of others to sharpen their own instead of just adopting it outright! Sigh....
The other thing I must mention is that I will be doing this as a series--much like the series I did on Scot's The Jesus Creed for Lent, leading up to his next book, 40 Days Living the Jesus Creed, which I read during Scot's Preparing for Pentecost series, which was where I blogged most of my comments about that book.
I have begun to read Scot's little blue bird book...and have decided that, again, I will blog it as I go. And I have to say that this one looks to be fabulous! For me, reading Scot McKnight is the plainer, American version of reading C.S. Lewis: he says the things that I think in straight forward language. He is asking the same questions I'm asking. And his process of getting to the answers is so familiar....
I'm just a page or two from finishing the first chapter, so stay tuned for that first post. Maybe my series will function as a lead-up to the release of the book. Wouldn't that be fun! I promise not to give the whole thing away...although I wouldn't worry too much about that. I'll be talking more about what the book prompted in my thinking than "reviewing" the book in a normal way. I don't seem to do anything in a normal way....
...they don't call me AbiSomeone for nothing, eh?
More with Abi and The Blue Parakeet soon....
Some of these links have been highlighted elsewhere in this blog, but I'm going to keep this post as a place to update what's happening...so I don't have to keep wondering where those links are! And if it is helpful to someone else, that's a plus, eh?
So, here goes...the following are links to a really broad look at what this book is about and what it is not about. I have included those that I feel balance the strengths and weaknesses of the book and do it in a generally thoughtful manner. This should be more than enough to assist you in "being Berean" about it all and do some critical thinking for yourself!
Wayne Jacobson's Blog
Windblown Media's Response
Internet Monk's Blog Posts
Professor John Stackhouse's Series
Brother Maynard's Blog
Ben Whitherington III's Blog
My Post from 8/2/08
My Post on 7/29/08 about Scot McKnight's Post
The Jesus Creeders Comments on The Shack
Derek R. Keefe's Christianity Today Article
Abi's Guide to Reading Fiction
Tim Challis' Review
Christianity Today's Review by Cindy Crosby
Andy Rowell's Excellent Post with Amazing Links!
David Hayward's Balanced Review
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
As I have been processing the cancer news of my sister-in-law, I was reminded to go back and look at Dr. Randy Pausch's personal web page and then the website for his book, The Last Lecture and viewed the charge he delivered to the 2008 graduates at Carnegie-Mellon University. It is three minutes that you really must spend. Please.
While you're at it, go to the media page and watch all the coverage of the announcement that he had finally succumbed to the cancer on July 25th. Especially, watch the interviews with Diane Sawyer, too.
This is a man who ended up having just short of 48 years on earth, leaving a wife of only nine years and three young children. But I know that there are hundreds of students and colleagues and friends--and millions of readers and viewers--who have been touched by the way he lived his life and the way he left his life as an amazing legacy that his children will not fully understand for many years yet. Carve out a little over an hour of your time to watch the actual last lecture.
And, please, after you've said a prayer of thanks to our gracious God for the amazing gift of Randy Pausch ... please say a prayer for his precious widow and her parents and extended family as they go about living life and raising the children without Randy's presence, but not without his influence.
The Abbess of the Purple Martyrdom salutes Randy as one who truly gets it. May his tribe increase....
Sunday, August 31, 2008
I've spent a lot of time today reading about this horrific type of cancer on the web ... and talking with Papa about how fond I know they are of my sister-in-law, my brother, and their three daughters. And even though I have been praying as aggressively as I know the surgeons went after as much of that tumor as they could reach, I have been asking that Sarayu has been wrapping her loving arms around the entire family. I have been asking that the family be acutely aware of Papa's love, Sarayu's power and Jesus's presence with each of them as they walk through this shadowy valley.
If you find the Spirit prompting you to pray for this precious family, know that you have my gratitude. In the meantime, I'm entrusting the entire situation to Papa....
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Today's post saw a college science professor, and one of the significant players at McK's One T Saloon who goes by RJS, state that "The goal of a good teacher is to create peers out of students." Well done RJS! There are a number of other good comments. This entire series is very helpful -- please take the opportunity to check it out.
Down at comment #18, The Abbess chimed in with this:
"Great discussion, friends!
Following T's comments in #15, I think Jesus is the greatest example (no surprise there) of this. While acknowledging that he is the master/teacher, he does not call us slave/student, but friend/brother. And he expects us to do the same with each other.
This is different from "self-taught" ... we are to be Spirit led and taught. And the Spirit frequently uses us to teach each other -- using the foolish to confound the wise. It is the reciprocity of community where each is valued because each has something of value to bring to the table. We just have to recalibrate our value system....
Lifelong learners and lifelong teachers are the two lenses to the glasses we must all wear if we are to see with proper focus and clarity ... as well as proper humility and proper responsibility."
* * * * * * *
And, if course, as soon as I submitted my comment, something rang true in my heart that I needed to bring back here ... to go with my cHesed glasses, of course! Here it is:
Perception is reality -- as much as people resist it. Now, the Ultimate Reality is that which God perceives ... which is why we want to constantly be aligning our perceptions with Theirs! But just as a different dimension that is not visible to the human eye requires special "glasses", I believe that my cHesed Glasses can be further explained like this:
- Lifelong learners and lifelong teachers are the two lenses to the glasses we must all wear if we are to see with proper focus and clarity. Peripheral vision isn't to be trusted; we are to keep our eyes on the target -- loving God and loving others.
- These lenses are held together by the rims of Restraint.
- The nose pads, that keep our glasses from slipping as well as from digging into our skin, are the knowledge that Papa is especially fond of each one of us.
- The lenses are tinted with the color Purple because we are called to see life through the eyes of our Suffering Servant King ... the servant is not better than the master ... and frequently when we are weakest, God is strongest!
- Proper humility on the left and proper responsibility on the right are the arms that attach to the lenses and keep our glasses from falling off the noses right on the front of our faces. We don't think more (or less!) of ourselves than we ought -- and we take responsibility for what we see (or ignore!) and what we learn (or deny) and what we do (or don't), not shifting responsibility for our actions to others.
In the meantime ... I plan to keep my cHesed Glasses on when I'm awake, clean them frequently, and set them down carefully when I sleep...so they don't get lost or sat on or run over or stepped on.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
We were honored to be able to partner with Bob and his family and the translation team during the past 10 years and reading the stories and seeing the pictures was a wonderful thing to behold.
God is at work, friends, and it has been awesome to watch. Take a few minutes to rejoice with those who rejoice!
Hope is alive and well in the South Pacific!
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Here are the rules of the meme:
1. Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
5. Present an image of martial discord (as in "war," not marital as in "marriage") from whatever period or situation you’d like.
1. Since we're talking about martial discord (I'm still not sure why?), let me share this random fact: when I was a senior in high school, I was a finalist for the state ROTC college scholarship. I had dreams about being the first woman general and straightening out the army's organizational mess. LOL! Fortunately, I didn't make it. :^) (Although I have a friend who said I could have made a difference, I probably would have run into trouble for insubordination in my much sassier youth.)
2. My three boys had head circumference measurements that were all above the top of the curve (the top being 36 cm, the bottom being 32 cm): #1 was 37 cm; #2 was 38 cm; and #3 was 36.5 (he came a week early, or who knows how much bigger he would have grown.) With my second son, my OB said something along the lines of "it was like delivering a bowling ball." And that was just from her perspective. :^)
3. I am what my friend Brad calls an Interpolator -- which is a fancy way of saying that there are a number of good reasons why I'm a bit, well, AbiNormal! :^)
4. As the newsletter chair for my local PTSA, I design and publish a newsletter called the Howlings ... where, as our school mascot is a wolf, I spend a lot of time using vocabulary like tracking and sniffing and howling and packs and dens. Fortunately, it's a middle school PTSA, so I can get away with it.
5. Growing up in Western Michigan, I spent time every summer on the dunes of Lake Michigan at Grand Haven. So when we moved to California just before my junior year of high school, none of my new friends in Long Beach could believe that I thought Lake Michigan had better beaches and looked just about the same. They all exclaimed: but it's just a lake ... yeah, right. Just a lake....
6. During the time I was a missionary in Thailand, I was still allergic to onions and peppers. Ever tried to eat spicy Thai food without running afoul of the onions and peppers (and we're talking every variety of pepper)? Fortunately, I have since been able to resolve those allergies -- and church potlucks and dinner invitations are so much more pleasant.
7. Just about every serious injury in my younger days was associated with playing softball. At 11, I was hit in the mouth with a baseball bat in front of my house while we were waiting to start a game (please remember to check around you before you swing a bat carelessly). One broken tooth and 21 stitches later were the makings for lots of stories. At 18, while pitching in a co-ed dorm game, I was hit in the inner thigh by a line drive right to the mound. It was weeks before that bruise healed up...the stitches from the ball were imprinted on the skin! Very bad! The guy who did it was so embarrassed he couldn't look me in the eyes the rest of the year. And when I was 34, while screaming into home base so as not to be run into by a guy who hit a home run that was not out of the park, I decided to run full steam across the plate and catch myself on the back-up fence...only the cross bars were on the INSIDE and were not attached to the fence. So, my hands just kept going as the fence sagged and my glasses caught the horizontal bar and exploded in the upper right corner. That one was six stitches right along the bone of my upper eyelid. I don't play ball anymore -- for obvious reasons!
So, there's my list of random tidbits. And here's my image of martial conflict: "The Gods Descending Into Battle" is from this site, just in case it doesn't show up here... the Abbess is sometimes very technically challenged!
I'm not quite sure why we're looking for images in martial discord...especially coming from my pacifist friend???
So, in an act of peace toward my blog-friends...I will let them choose to be tagged or not! If you feel inspired--consider yourself tagged :^)
Saturday, August 2, 2008
* * * * * * *
There have been lots of things popping up about The Shack lately. Here's a couple of links:
This one is from The Columbian. Some new insights come out -- especially that the "Missy" character is also a representation of the author, in addition to Mack. Read this article, please!
And Bob Hyatt has a whole bunch of posts on his blog about talking with Paul. Don't miss any of them.
Update: just finished listening to the OPB interview. Please take the time to listen!
Thursday, July 31, 2008
I haven't had time to read all the rest of the articles in the August Edition of The Porpoise Diving Life e-zine, "Shall We Dance", but I will soon--and I hope you will, too. There are nine submissions; my article, Freedom Dances, is number eight ... right before the lone poem. This poem, titled Perichoresis, follows my article perfectly ... hmmm, perhaps Sonja and Patrick planned it that way? ;^)
* * * * * * *
I'm up to my eyeballs in PTSA stuff, with just four weeks until school begins again ... but I will work to get my series on perichoresis going here real soon. In the meantime, enjoy reading "Shall We Dance"--and don't forget to let The Abbess know what you think in the comments!
Oh ... and I noticed that:
6 word stories - About God
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Abi suggests that you read the review first and then follow the comments over at Jesus Creed. It should be interesting to see how the conversation goes over there ... my comment was #2.
And Brother Keefe...you'd fit in just fine over at Scot McK's One T Saloon, partner. Well done!
Monday, July 28, 2008
My friends Sonja Andrews and Patrick Oden asked me to contribute an article to the August edition of The Porpoise Diving Life, which is dedicated to Patrick's book: It's A Dance: Moving with the Spirit. (You'll notice I have added it to my list of recommended books!)
The theme they have chosen is "Perichoresis versus Hierarchy or Power" ... and it was just the thing Abi needed to get focused. My article is titled: Freedom Dances. What a surprise--NOT!
So, stay tuned--because I'll be blogging in August about my article and using it as the introduction to a series on perichoresis. I'll probably include some thoughts I had from reading Patrick's book, too. And may even get into some stuff from The Shack.
In the meantime I would recommend you subscribe to the monthly PDF e-zine NOW, so you'll get your copy delivered to you when it comes out!
Friday, July 18, 2008
Came over from Bro. Maynard's because I was struck by the title....
Just two weeks ago it occurred to me why my six-year experience in leading a large small group ministry (had 100 groups at the most successful time) was thwarted.
I resonate with those who say that the definition of small group is not standard, and I would wholeheartedly agree. For some is it another Bible Study. For others it is prayer group. For yet others it is food and fellowship. We tried to embrace whatever definition each individual group wanted.
It didn't make any difference because the end was the same: there was rarely any multiplication of groups. Rarely any growth of disciples who made disciples. Rarely any leaders apprenticing new leaders who would then birth a new group.... all too familiar to all of you, I'm sure.
I was convinced that my problem was not enough small group leaders. Isn't that were we all get stuck? Not enough people willing to step up to the plate and lead....
But I have come to believe, instead, that it really comes down to life transformation ... I read one comment above that talked about it ... and it was the rare group where lives were truly transformed. I would go so far as to say that MANY are touched and encouraged in small groups, as testified above, but not many are transformed into disciples who make disciples on a natural, ongoing basis.
And then I read three books by Neil Cole. His "Organic Church" in November of 2006, "Cultivating a Life for God" in February of 2007, and I just finished his latest, "Search and Rescue", last week. Have you read these books?
It is the concept Cole calls "life transformation groups" that get the job done, in my opinion. These are groups of two or three (men and women in separate groups) who meet for 1 hour a week for three things: 1) to see what God is doing in their lives through the reading of the significant passages of scripture (20-30 chapters per week) they have agreed to read, 2) to be accountable to each other for their actions and weaknesses and confess their sins when they fail, and 3) to pray for two or three people to be responsive to the wooing activity of the Holy Spirit.
Cole's second book is small and solely dedicated to these LTGs, as he calls them, and they are described in context in the other two books.
There is a place for the small group of 8-15, just as there is a place the the larger groups for fellowship and the largest groups for teaching ... but if people are not engaged at the LTG level, there just will not be the same level of transformation -- in themselves and in others.
Wesley and others have done similar things with classes and groups, but I think Cole is really onto something here.
Thanks for letting me share.
CovenantClusters will be built on a form of LTG called WordClusters. I am more convinced than ever that this foundation will make a huge difference in everything else that happens.
Anyway, here's what I had to say:
It is not the fact that humans are unable to consistently make choices that are in line with God's holiness that I have issue with when considering the concept of "original sin". Rather, it is the extent to which this reality is spun into bondage of the will that concerns me....
I think we have to stop and consider what "sin" is. If we believe sin is missing the mark of God's intent, then we have to consider what that intent (the target, as it were) was and is. What if it is as simple as this: to walk humbly and joyously in community with God; to trust God's requirements are just and right (as well as the consequences being true) and, therefore, due obedience; and to faithfully accomplish our task to steward the rest of God's creation cooperatively with each other.
Bear with me, now...as we use the archery concept from which the term for "sin" derives....
And then, what if the command against eating and getting the knowledge of good and evil was meant to be like a guard and guidance for keeping proper focus necessary for good "aim" at the "target". While Adam and Eve were constantly presented with the opportunity to choose to keep on target, their innocent trust and simple obedience made their task easier.
When they turned from obedience and trust, they basically removed the safety and guide from their "bows" and the task of keeping on target got immediately more difficult. They were distracted by the knowledge they gained and were introduced to the "evil" of which they had not previously been aware: the ability to freely choose that which is harmful (to self and others) and disrespectful and disobedient to God. Relationships crashed on all sides and the cooperation necessary to steward the creation suffered terribly.
What if, then, humans (as created in the Garden) were without sin (able to consistently hit the target) until they ate of the forbidden fruit? What we have inherited, as a result of their rebellion, is the requirement to continue to strive to hit the mark, but without the safety and guide of innocence and with a marred creation that requires much more effort to steward. It does not mandate that we cannot ever aim well, but it makes it virtually impossible to completely and consistently hit the mark.
The Law, in time, was introduced as an echo of the safety and guide in that it called out to warn against terrible choices and call God's people back to focus on God's will. It was a first level of reinstating restraint.
But it was not until Christ came and set up the New Covenant that the safety and guide is in full view again. As we are "in Christ" and continually submit to the Spirit's transforming power to make us "like Christ" that we are able to be "with Christ" -- and feel his strong arm and steady hand on our bow, helping us focus our aim and shoot ever nearer to the center of the target. Here again the importance of restraint comes to the fore....
The hope and promise of the coming age is that the time of weak restraint in dying human flesh will be supplanted with the perfection in the new, imperishable bodies -- safety and guides restored -- able to again commune with God and each other while stewarding the New Creation.
I realize that there are many out there who will disagree with The Abbess over this, but I didn't want to miss the opportunity to clarify what I believe about original sin.
Be blessed ... I hope to be back with some real good stuff to share soon!
Saturday, July 5, 2008
So here is what I want you to know:
Most of the stuff I write is processing that grows from lots of different sources collected over a lifetime of reading, watching and living -- what J.R.R. Tolkien would call intellectual "mould." It is stuff that grows out of stuff that I have "ingested" and whose nutrients I have extracted. And even those portions considered "ruffiage" that have, ahem, been "out-processed" are valuable as, um, compost. Gotta love Tolkien's word pictures....
Here's the deal. When I'm directly quoting someone, I try to identify the source -- giving credit where credit is due. When I can only remember who a main idea came from, I try to tell you their name. If I have lots of energy and it is "linkable" I try to link you to what I'm talking about. I do the best a poor, harried abbess can.... ;^)
If something I've written is helpful to you and you want to process it, make it your own and share it with others, go for it. There is no reason to hoard ideas, for goodness sake!
I'm hopeful, however, that you will deal with me in this same manner (do unto others...) because it is the right thing to do ... and don't forget the last comment in Abi's Rule: freely you have received; freely give.
I'll have a link in my side-bar that says "Abi's Copyright Notice" that will lead back to this post. It will have to be sufficient.
A pastor named Brian Jones, from my same roots in the Restoration Movement, has a very interesting blog and an interesting post from a few weeks back on what to do with comatose small group ministries. Pull the plug...euthanize them, he suggests.
Hmmm ... well the Abbess was just thinking about this the other day while reading Cole's Search and Rescue -- which I'll also get around to blogging about one of these days -- and I left a fairly long comment ... and then found out that he set the blog to "moderate comments" while he's gone for three weeks of summer camp, returning July 14th.
So this is a reminder to me to go back later and see what other comments have been waiting in blog pergatory ... and an invitation for you to have a gander at his blog and that series of posts. He strikes me as a good guy ... and that bodes well for the folks in the Stone-Campbell movement.
I was going to copy and paste my comment here, but it was lost in "comment moderation" before I could capture it ... so you'll have to wait right along with me!
...I'll be back real soon.
Monday, June 23, 2008
Our local paper recently had an article about a powerful little concept. I could not find the paper, of course, when I was ready to write this … but the concept was powerful enough that I could Google it. (I really do appreciate Google!). This is what I found: SMITH Magazine’s new book: Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure:
"Legend has it that Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in only six words. His response? “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Last year, SMITH Magazine re-ignited the recountre by asking our readers for their own six-word memoirs. They sent in short life stories in droves, from the bittersweet … and poignant … to the inspirational … and hilarious….”
Now I just happened to be reading Neil Cole’s new book, Search and Rescue, when a rush of six-word thoughts about “missional” began to pop into my head. So I began to write them down in the front pages of Neil’s book. (Note to Neil’s book designer: red paper looks cool, but is a real drag for writing notes – too hard to read!)
I transferred these notes to a piece of notebook paper and began to continue my list … and add to it … and prioritize the entries. And what I ended up with is a series of 45 six-word stories about God, God’s Eikons (human image-bearers), God’s mission, God’s missionaries and what my friend Brad calls Kingdom Culture … and it’s title is this little six-word story:
Covenant Community, Mission, Ambassadors and Hesed.
- Right reality. Right response. Right representation.
- To be is to be perceived. (Bishop Berkeley understood the essential truth.)
- Because God perceives us, we exist.
- God created, regardless of the method.
- Eikons bear God’s image. Respect that.
- God IS community; we can join.
- God’s invitation must be accepted unconditionally.
- God’s love builds and restores relationships.
- The Jesus Covenant transcends all predecessors.
- Jesus is Lord. Understand the implications.
- Adopted. Joint heirs. Ambassadors. Siblings.
- Kingdom heirs share in Kingdom responsibilities.
- Jesus is Lord – we’re his ambassadors.
- Ambassadors are sent on Kingdom mission.
- Kingdom ambassadors are the King, incarnate.
- Jesus became human to transform humanity.
- In Christ + Like Christ = With Christ.
- Apart from Christ, nothing can grow.
- Every privilege given serves a Kingdom purpose.
- God’s mission – search and rescue – is participatory.
- Covenant making implies faithful covenant keeping.
- Hesed is covenant keeping’s essential description.
- Understand hesed; everything else explains itself.
- We are responsible for one another.
- Hesed is right attitudes lived out.
- To really know is to do.
- Knowledge without obedience is basically worthless.
- God does not fear our questions.
- Hesed glasses focus on right response.
- Hesed glasses reveal appropriate covenant context.
- God’s missional covenant requires hesed glasses.
- Availability, vulnerability and the heretical imperative.
- Sin is failure to practice hesed.
- Discipline includes making timely course corrections.
- Proper pruning requires contemplation before cutting.
- Timely pruning is much less painful.
- Healthy cells result in healthy organisms.
- An interrupted life manifests kairos time.
- Interruptions are frequently appointments from God.
- Servant leaders know how to submit.
- When perceiving needs, become God’s provision.
- God’s community has unity. Get it.
- Unity is the fruit of hesed.
- The few. The faithful. The Hasidim.
- Following Jesus. Using gifts. Loving all.
And don't forget to check out the rest of the synchrobloggers:
Cobus Van Wyngaard
Be blessed as you ponder the importance of the term missional and its impact.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
[Oops! I put this into "draft" mode by mistake ... so here it is again ... sorry!]
Back on my 15th wedding anniversary, Rick Meigs posted this reflection and challenge on his blog:
I think it is time to make a bigger effort to reclaim the term [missional], a term which describe what happens when you and I replace the “come to us” invitations with a “go to them” life. A life where “the way of Jesus” informs and radically transforms our existence to one wholly focused on sacrificially living for him and others and where we adopt a missionary stance in relation to our culture. It speaks of the very nature of the Jesus follower.
To help reclaim it, I propose a synchronized blog for Monday, June 23rd on the topic, “What is Missional?”
There are any number of ways one could blog on this topic. You could illustrate what the term means, describe what it is not and how it is wrongly used, define the term, explore its misuses, explore its theological foundations, or you name it.
I think I was first introduced to the word "missional" by Alan Hirsch, during Neil Cole's first Organic Church Planting Conference in January of 2007. I'm sure I actually heard it earlier, but that was when I started paying attention to it.
And boy have I been hearing a lot about it ever since!
The volume was turned up last October when I attended the Allelon Missional Order Gathering in Seabeck -- which resulted in my launching of this wee blog. I was very happy to be able to share my ride to Seabeck with my friend, Brad, and our new friend, Rick -- the same Rick who has orchestrated this amazing event.
According to my count, nine of the Seabeck MO Bloggers (as noted in my sidebar) are in this group of 50 who have taken the time to share their passion for reclaiming the word "missional" -- and I hope that you'll take the time to check back on Monday, June 23rd, to see what The Abbess has to say about what missional means to her -- and read the thoughts of the rest of the crew listed below:
Cobus Van Wyngaard
See you Monday, if not before!
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
I've been keeping out of the whole "Wrath" series of posts over at Jesus Creed, but got snagged over at Missio Dei in a side conversation! Here's most of what I had to say:
I've been blogging a bit about covenant and hesed over at my place in an attempt to help address parts of this issue that run into the limitations of the English "love" when compared to the depths of Greek, but especially the Hebrew concept -- where it is more like a multifaceted diamond.
We see that God's lovingkindness -- his faithful covenant keeping -- is almost always the Hebrew "hesed". The same can be said for "mercy". And when we move to the NT, we can add "grace" to the pot. These are primary attitudes -- love, grace and mercy -- that are all a part of hesed. They are manifest in actions of submission, service and leading -- as summarized in the over 50 "one another" passages -- also examples of hesed.
And while I whole-heartedly agree that God is always in unity among themselves, it is challenging to see the various components of that infinite I AM-ness from our perspective as unified.
I believe that the concept of hesed, which is a huge love word, gets us closer to the reality. And, having said that, I believe that the primary attribute of God is their restraint.
It is restraint that keeps the tension between all the various components -- love, mercy, wrath, justice, sovereignty -- you name it. Restraint keeps the dance from going off-line, from stepping on toes, as it were.
Because you just cannot have relationship without restraint. And I believe that God is ultimately about relationship -- covenant relationship ... where hesed is seen in love, grace, mercy, submission, service and leading ... that is restrained in order for the best interest of the "other" to be truly served.
So, there you have it. From another angle. Best viewed with cHesed glasses! :^)
But when I speak of CovenantClusters, let me be clear: we are not making a covenant in this manner. We are acknowledging and living out the binding covenant to which we are already committed -- signed with the blood of Jesus Christ.
When it comes to missional orders, some see them as "covenant clusters" -- like my friend Len. But the way he uses it (in the "Mutuality, Triads, Spiritual Directors, and Authority" section of that post) is not the way I use it. Of course, he is free to use those words in that way. I just don't want you to be confused about how I use them.
What The Abbess is looking for as part of the whole missional order discussion is a "rule of life" and a "rhythm of life" that provides a group of Christ followers with a focus, a framework, for the working out of our cHesed -- our already-existing sacred duty to love God and love each other -- in the context of apprenticing disciples.
[Note: Just before I started this post, I ordered Neil Cole's new book, Search and Rescue: An Urgent Call to Make and Multiply Disciples (I know, I said no more books -- but it is part of the Neil Cole "set" that is already important to CovenantClusters. :^) ). I am looking forward to getting it and will probably have to blog about it sometime soon....]
That makes this whole "covenant" thing in the context of "missional orders" about "forms" for cHesed -- the how do we do this LIFE with each other in a meaningful, incarnational and missional way. And I am content to both formulate and take solemn missional order vows, as part of the "bounded set" without risking the compromise of the foundational concept of covenant. Because regardless of what "vows" I may or may not take, I remain already firmly bound to cHesed in the New Covenant. And I believe that gives a stronger foundation to any "form" another "vow" might take, while allowing them to be simpler. And simple is key.
So ... I've gone over to the Scriptorium and copied some of my key terms to review here, in hopes of clarifying what I mean:
Our primary context for understanding God and his purposes is through the concept of covenant. God has chosen to structure his relationships with humanity by making covenants, as can clearly be seen in the Old Testament. These covenants bind (cluster) all parties together with the terms and conditions God designed for relationship. These terms and conditions include both blessings for obedience and consequences for disobedience. Each party is responsible (accountable) to all other parties for faithfully abiding by the terms and conditions as well as providing whatever is needed to help each other remain faithful.
God, as documented in the New Testament, has made a final New Covenant through the sending of his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to be both our covenant-making and our covenant-breaking sacrifice. His death, burial and resurrection have conquered death and given us access to Eternal Life, if we will accept God’s offer of covenant. Acceptance makes us adopted children of God -- joint heirs with Jesus. No. Small. Deal.
The concept of faithful covenant-keeping is communicated through this deep and meaningful Hebrew word. The gist has to do with looking after the best interest of the other, according to the covenant. It is most frequently translated in connection with the motivating attitudes of love, grace and mercy. These attitudes of cHesed manifest themselves in the corresponding responses of submission, service and leadership.
When persons fully understand cHesed as the attitudes and responses that show faithful obedience to the command to love God and love others, it transforms their ability to understand what God has revealed in his Word as well as their ability to understand what God wants them to do about it. We believe it is well worth the investment in time and effort to gain this foundational understanding. (Thanks to Mont Smith for sharing these two concepts in his book, What The Bible Says About Covenant, which is currently out of print.)
I have spent quite a lot of time processing this concept and working on ways to help communicate it's complexity and nuanced presence in the New Testament. This chart (which is a Word Document you may open or download) is the latest attempt I have made, using the concepts from The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. You will see that these concepts are very important to The Abbess because you will find evidence of them in all my thinking about covenant relationships.
I use this term as a way to encourage people to check their context when they're reading scripture. Just as 3D glasses are required to get the most out of a 3D format, we need the lenses of cHesed to make God's point jump out of scripture into our understanding. If the whole of the requirement of God is summed up in loving God and loving others (so Scot McKnight, author of The Jesus Creed, quotes Jesus as saying), and if this is the work of faithful covenant keeping, then we must have tools that help us focus properly.
Putting on cHesed glasses means that we are remembering that the left lens represents the fact that God is a covenant making God, while the right lens represents the fact that God is a faithful covenant keeper — and expects the same of us (possible only with the help of the Holy Spirit, of course). This will help us ask these questions when we look at God's Word:
- What covenant is the context for this situation?
- Is this situation one of covenant making, covenant keeping and blessings for faithfulness or covenant breaking and consequences for unfaithfulness?
- What reminder can we take from this situation to help us keep the primary question before us: How will what I am thinking or saying or doing (or not) help me be a faithful covenant partner to God and to others (or not)? How does this help me love God and love others (or not)?
Most people associate the term Hasidim with ultra-orthodox Jews, as in Hasidic Judaism. This comes from the word Chaciyd, from which come words like faithful and saint…and, of course, it is linked to the word cHesed because it is referring to those who are faithful covenant-keepers: saints.
The Christian Hasidim are basically the "everyday" saints, those who make up the priesthood of the believers, those who faithfully keep covenant with God through Jesus Christ. I have been thinking about coining this term (I haven't heard anyone else use it, but that doesn't mean somebody hasn't!) for CovenantClusters folks, especially since the corruption of the term "Christian" in this post-modern, post-Christendom era. Don't want to be weird about it, but I do so like using words that actually mean what they're supposed to mean….
One last thing: please take a look at the top of my sidebar. There you will find both "Abi's Rule" (and if you have studied my cHesed chart, it will make perfect sense to you) and "CovenantClusters' Rule" (which was documented in this post -- be sure to read the clarifications in the comments) -- both of which may help you summarize my thinking.
Okay ... so it's back to sleep here at 2 a.m. ...Be blessed!