Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Wandering with a Waiting Abbess....

I am happy to be inspired to contribute to the December Synchroblog - Advent As A Journey.  I am still relatively new to the whole idea of "Advent" ... coming from what I have learned is a "low church" background.  Once I got over feeling slighted...  :^) ... I've enjoyed embracing this -- and many other "high church" traditions.  But, of course, in my special "abi-normal" manner!

My third year with Advent (you might have noticed that I did not blog through Advent last year ... I was, well, journeying through it) finds me in a very different place in my Journey with Jesus.

As I have been deconstructing "religion" over the past few years, my journey has been one of asking hard questions and being willing to be led out into a kind of desert detour -- where the bustle of life does not intrude so much and the heart is better able to hear that still, small voice of our amazing Papa.

No one comes out of a desert detour without being changed.  I am no exception.  I would also suggest that no two desert detours are the same journey ... for that is one of the things I have learned over the past four years:  just as each of us are unique, our journey with our Triune God is unique.  Formulaic responses are less than satisfactory.

This, then, is my Advent of Reconstruction.  I have pretty much finished deconstructing my religious experience and have begun reconstructing my relationship with Jesus ... as sister and as part of his Bride, the Church.

But there is an interesting leg of the journey between "de" and "re" construction.

Grief ... mourning ... letting go of all the expectations which have disappointed -- sometimes enslaved -- my heart and kept me from joining the Great Dance

Part of the problem is that I did not have dancing shoes.  Or, more precisely, I did not take off my steel-toed shoes necessary for the process of demolition, where dangerous pieces of brokenness threatened harm.  I was nearing the end of my desert detour when I realized that I had been slogging through the desert in battle boots!  How they slowed my steps, draining my energy, tripping me up with their "protection."

Then, I arrived at an oasis.  With a lovely pool of water.  How I longed to put my tired, aching, dusty feet into that inviting pool.  But like Eustace-the-Dragon, Aslan needed to "undress" me ... lest I foul the water.  So Jesus helped me take off my boots.  He drew water from the pond and washed away years of caked-on debris.  My feet were so refreshed that I no longer needed to wade in the water.  And then he did the most amazing thing:  he brought me dancing shoes.  Beautiful, purple (of course!) satin shoes.  Shoes that will not wear out -- like the sandals of the Hebrew people in the desert -- because they are Eternal shoes.  They are shoes made by the Spirit / Sarayu.  They ARE because God perceives them.  They are Kairos shoes ... and like Dorothy's Ruby Slippers, they can take me Home at any time ... when I understand their power.

So, this Advent, I am journeying in my new purple dancing shoes.

I have put all white candles in my Advent Candelabra ... because I am embracing a life of greater and greater simplicity ... and I could not find the right colors this year as I did back in 2007 ... and Papa helped me see that the color of the candles is not important.

This year, we are going through Advent with the Mosaic Bible ... in a relaxed and simple time before dinner.  (I am excited to go through the entire year with this wonderful tool.  It is a very Ancient/Future kind of thing!)

Last week we read and thought about Longing -- Waiting for the treasure that Jesus is.  We talked about how some things just take a long time.  (Like grieving the loss of everything familiar that you had built your life around -- beware the process of deconstruction, it will tear down more than you are expecting!)

And this week we read and thought about Hope -- Hoping for Hope that shines like a light in the darkness.  We talked about how difficult it is to wait for things we really want ... and that sometimes we just have to hope for enough hope to be able to wait until the time is right.

So, this wee abbess is grateful that the Waiting of Deconstruction and Mourning is passing ... and is Hoping for the Hope that comes with her new purple dancing shoes.  (Perhaps now the Spirit will release me to write about Perichoresis ... that Great Dance!)

Hope does not disappoint us, because our Hope is not in people or religion or any other human ideas or institution.  Our Hope is in the Lord Jesus Christ ... for whose birth the whole of creation longed, waiting until the fullness of time had come.

As each of us wait, may we all come to realize that the fullness of time is unique to each of us as we journey with our God.  May you wait patiently for your dancing shoes ... I hope to see you in yours in the Great Dance.

Be blessed....

Waiting ... Not for Advent, but for Comments to be Moderated!

Thanks to those of you who commented on my Anniversary Blog Post ... I somehow didn't get the notification that there were comments awaiting moderation.  So, for those of you who wondered if your comments went into the Cyberspace Black Hole ... no.  There visible now.

Blessings to you ... and I'll get over to respond to them just as soon as I put up my post for the December Synchroblog - Advent As A Journey.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Three years later, Abi is still blogging ... kind of

I am hoping that I will return to regular blogging soon.  However, I didn't want the day to pass without saying what a terrific experience blogging has been for me these past three years ... and will continue to be, I hope.
Mostly, I have continued dwelling deeply in the blending of the Mosaic Bible and the Celtic Daily Prayer ... facilitated by the memory card in my LG cell phone, onto which I have saved the mp3 versions I purchased of Peterson's "The Message" and Northumbria's sung version of their "Daily Office" (which also includes the spoken version)... along with Tyndale's Bible Alive NLT (although I am not much of a fan of Stephen Johnston.)

Sometimes my youngest climbs it bed with me to sing the Morning Prayer ... if I start before 7am and he is awake.  MidDay  and Evening Prayer are more challenging, but I am going along at a slow but steady pace in this new discilpine.  It has become especially precious to me to go to sleep with the thoughts of Compline floating around in my heart ... and I find that I fall sleep more quickly and rest more refreshingly.  I am grateful for both results.

I have also been listening frequently to The Message's Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) ... and am being slowly changed by a focus on these foundational words of Jesus.  I'll have more to say about that one of these days.

I just this week read an amazing little book -- the first in a 3-part fiction series -- called "The Hawk and the Dove" -- about the very purple abbot at a Benedictine abbey in the 1300s.  I am not done processing the surprising and profound resonance I experienced and am feeling very much in common with Father Peregrine.  I have ordered the entire 3-in-1 book set, as well as another book from the author, Penelope Wilcock.  I hope I get some other stuff done before they arrive.... ;^)

I have joined a local Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) for the first offering of a new study on Isaiah.  While I am not crazy about all their hermeneutics and structure, I am happy to be studying Isaiah in this kind of depth ... as well as encouraging my Mother-In-Law as she returns to BSF after not having one nearby for years.  My hopes, other than a better familiarity with Isaiah, are that Papa will use this time to help me become a better listener and to be more restrained in what I say and how much I say.  This is a very important discipline for me....and I think that Papa may be bringing me a new friend in my discussion group.

Mostly, I find that I am being asked to move away from reading and talking (even blogging!) about what it means to follow Jesus -- and get on with the business of living it.  As always, I am grateful for your company on this journey.

Be blessed!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Mosaic Bible and Celtic Daily Office

Well, this wee abbess is very happy!

I have finally got a rhythm that works for me ... using the weekly meditations and bible readings from The Mosaic Bible in conjunction with the Northumbria Celtic Daily Office.  And, even as I type this post, I am downloading the music file from Northumbria so that I can learn to sign the daily office.

Woo hoo!

With the singing version, I just may be able to get my children to join in....

I start with the daily office and when I get to the meditation, I go to the current week in The Mosaic Bible and read the four scripture selections and variety of writings.  The I go back and finish with the rest of the office.

And I have the mp3 version of Eugene Peterson's "The Message" bible ... and am listening to the Beatitudes daily, as well.  I'm going to be adding the daily prayer music to my microchip so that it is on my cell phone, too.  Wow....

Yep ... one very happy girl, here!

Blessings to you....

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Virtual Abbess and the iMonk –Part II

Part I, which I didn’t know was going to be the beginning of a series, was posted shortly after Michael Spencer, the one and only iMonk, passed from this life. He has always been someone I appreciated, but I followed his journey with cancer especially close, since he also left this life too early and very quickly – as did my sister-in-law last year. Her first grandson was just born last Tuesday … and that just isn’t right, you know?

I had been considering reading his book and just hadn’t put it on my list … until a couple of weeks ago. And so I just recently finished reading Michael Spencer’s one and only book, Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality. It was just the right thing at just the right time … truly a kairos time moment with Papa.

The front and back covers of my copy of this book have notations from 37 pages throughout the very important little book. Notations that I wanted to be sure I could find again. But the one for page 184 is the reason for this post today.

Near the end of the chapter 15, The Good and Bad of Being Alone, Michael says:

Jesus is the Model for faithfully following God no matter what the group advocates, teaches, legislates, or demands. He was the most distinctive individual of all time, and he possesses the power to make us both like himself and fully, completely ourselves. In Jesus is the power of holy solitude and Jesus-shaped community…. (pp. 183-184)

When I read those words, something clicked in my brain. I wrote this in the space following that paragraph:

Hmmm … our first community is to be with Father, Son and Holy Spirit – Perichoretic Community.

Contrary to some of what I had heard, the iMonk is not advocating an inappropriately individualistic version of Christianity. He is suggesting that our primary community is to be Perichoretic – intertwined with the Eternal Community. Until we can be one with Them, we will not ever be fully ourselves. And until we can be fully ourselves, we will not be able to fully give ourselves to others.

... I'm pondering this well ... and there is a good reason why perichoretic is purple.... But we'll get to that as we go along.  ;^)

* * * * * * *

I have been waiting for a very long time to write about perichoresis … but I have been waiting for the right time. And it seems that the right time has finally come. Thank you, Michael, for handing that final Jesus-shaped piece to me … I am so very grateful.

So … I will be looking over some of the things I have scribbled in journals about perichoresis over the past four years and seeing how they look with this piece in place. I have a feeling that it will be much simpler and more straight-forward. I was waiting until the complexity resolved … and, as always, the time has been important for me – so that I was ready to receive this piece at this place in my journey.

Stay tuned ... and, in the meantime, be blessed!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Have you heard of Fronting?

Well, I have learned another new term today:  fronting.  It is so new that Wikipedia doesn't have it!  So I had to go to Urban Dictionary to find it! 

My nephew's wife has given the definition a bit of a spin (this is from her "about me" on her blog):

to be a successful fronter you have to be honest, give credit where it's due, and ultimately love yourself as the fronter you are. 

I can see that this will take me a little bit of time to process well ... because it is coming at life from a completely different tack than I'm on.  Or maybe it's just another way to say the same thing?  Hmmm....

Perhaps it's an important cross-cultural opportunity?   I tend to be on a bit of a counter-cultural bent as of late, so this concept is challenging for me.  But I can see that there are nuances that I need to ponder.

My nieces and nephews (via Facebook, mostly) are helping me get up to speed as my children are entering the teen years ... I have been way off the map and my learning curve is pretty steep. ;^)

Have you heard of this term? 

Help me, AbbE ... I'm fairly confident you know something about this....


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Abi Responds to David Fitch About reJesus....

I was caught by a Facebook entry by David Fitch about reJesus...so I popped over to see what he had to say.  I like Dave and I can see where he's coming from in this post -- just as I can see the perspective of my friend Len, who made the first comment (...Len, I've not had a chance to read your recent post -- but I will!).  That being said, this is what I had to say:

Having just posted a bit on this new book myself, I find that I understand what you're saying -- but think it might be a case of "methinks he doth protest too much".

The organic/missional church is frequently confronted with those who are afraid of both this and "heresy" -- as if the Holy Spirit is not able to teach and lead competently.  Perhaps it is a holding-on to the security of "history" rather than being able to have God lead us on down the road to a new place.

For many (most?) of those for whom organic and/or missional are where the Spirit is leading, it is precisely because the forms of church they have experienced have been so toxic that they must move away.  That does not mean that they are going as "individuals" -- they are going as disciples of the wild Messiah.  They are being gathered together so that they may engage the incarnational/missional pulse in the situation in which they find themselves.

Hirsch and Frost are not anti-church.  I believe that they are not convinced that the institutionalized church that many hold to is the "right" form of church.  My experience is right with them -- moving away from 40+ years of practice into something very other.  And I have had to move away so that I might see clearly enough to peal away the "laminations" of the institution in order to free the living organic body.

Perhaps many forms of the church have, like Eustace, wandered into the dragon's lair of consumerism and patriarchy and numerous other disractions ... and has awakened to find that is has turned into a dragon itself.  Today's fantasy world would welcome a friendly dragon that is powerful and flies and breathes fire with which to vanquish all its foes.  But, again like Eustace, it will find that the Body of Christ is a human reality ... and keeping and feeding and trying to carry a dragon along a wild sea-faring journey is just not practical.  And so the Dragon that was Eustace follows Aslan and submits to the Lion's claws in order to be un-dragoned and the boy trapped inside is set free to journey with his companions again.

There is much to be gained from the continuity of the church's history.  But it is too easy to set up the form as an idol and find Jesus outside that door knocking....

...or so this wee abbess thinks!


...and that's about all I have to say about it at the moment.  Miles to go before I'm finished packing....


Friday, July 2, 2010

Abi's thoughts about reJesus and UNTAMED....

Why I love Alan & Debra Hirsch

When I went to Neil Cole's first Organic Church Conference in Long Beach, CA, in January of 2007, I did not know the Hirsches.  As I was trying to decide which seminars to attend, I thought Alan's sounded interesting.  It was beyond interesting ... it was mind-blowing.  Not in what Alan was saying -- but that he was saying what I had come to in my heart, but didn't know how to articulate.  I later told Alan that listening to (and, later, reading) him was for me just like reading C.S. Lewis was in the 70's:  seeing/hearing what I had come to believe in my heart but had no words with which to articulate it.

It will come as no surprise to my friends that what links me to Alan is our common embrace of Hebraic thought over and against Greek/Platonic thought.  This need to approach all things of God through a Hebrew filter is what drives my insistence on understanding cHesed and using cHesed glasses to view scripture and discipleship and relationship.

Really ... if one wants to understand scripture and the Incarnation, there is no way to get there without learning to think like a Hebrew.


I will have to unpack their book later, but suffice it to say that it is a fabulous book -- and one perfect to use with a small group.  The thoughts for pondering at the end of each chapter are priceless.  And I must say that it is a book that really whets one's appetite for more.  Especially the hint that Deb will be writing a book of her own.  I look forward with great expectancy to that one!

For a wee abbess known for asking hard questions and telling it like it is, this book was so refreshing.  My frequent feelings of "abi-normal" ness were met by companions who share them.  It helped me understand even more why I resonated so strongly with both of them at that conference.

The Abbess highly recommends that you get their book.  You will not be sorry.


Alan's newest book with Michael Frost is also wonderful.  I found myself nodding along as I read.  So  much frank analysis and fresh views of where we are as little Jesuses ... and where we need to be.  Another book to process with a group, although they do not have the wonderful discussion helps at the end of their chapters.

That being said, it was a bit of a shock to run into what I consider a bit of infiltrating Platonic Greek thought in their discussion of Paul's Vision of the Jesus Community in Chapter Seven:  The Church That Jesus Built.

Beginning with page 168, there are a number of examples where they embrace the understanding of "head" as authority rather than source.  Frankly, I was shocked by this.  One of the challenges of bridging time and space and culture and language is to realize how words are used at different times with different connotations.  Consequently, the next few pages brought a few raised eyebrows rather than head nods.  These were also the only times in the book that their words didn't ring true and their thoughts did not convince.  For me, at least, this was a missed opportunity to free the wild Messiah from another misconception.

In using the Ephesians1:22 verse where Christ is head over all things for the church, we  have an example where head is clearly used as a metaphor for authority -- over all things FOR the church.  And I agree with their conclusion that this means that all Christ's influence is used to benefit the church.  This is cHesed -- looking out for the best interest of the covenant partner.

But when Paul goes on to speak of the church as the Body of Christ, then the head metaphor must change from authority to one of source -- both as to origination as well as to sustenance.  I know that this is a hotly debated issue ... and getting hotter still.  But there is some important context which I find compelling.  And I am hopeful that Alan might find it so as well.

One of the critically important ancient arguments has actually been one of physiology -- concerning the location of the mind (the center of intelligence, reason, thinking, and decision-making).  In Paul's day, there had been two camps:  head and heart.  ( I am indebted to my friend, Dr. S. Scott Bartchy, for sending me an important article on this by Troy W. Martin from Saint Xavier University.  I am sorry that I do not have a link to it to include here.)

Plato, Philo and Plutarch held the head to be the center of intelligence, reason, thinking, and decision-making -- the center of control of the body.  It was no jump for those of that camp to see Paul's use of head as control or authority.

But Aristotle and the Stoics held the heart (kardia) as the center of intelligence, reason, thinking, and decision-making.  Many translators have shown this confusion when they chose to translate Paul's use of kardia as "mind" rather than "heart."

This, then, frees Paul to use "head" in what many see as the more common metaphorical sense -- as the source, origin and one who sustains life rather than the ruler and authority over another.

If we are to really hold to the Hebrew mindset, we must realize that when God came in Christ, he did not come to rule and exercise authority over humanity.  Even as we recognize him as Lord and Savior, Jesus shows himself to be the quintessential covenant-maker and covenant-keeper who uses all his power and influence for the best interest of the covenant partner -- us.

It is never in anyone's best interest for someone to rule over another.  That way leads to dependency and immaturity.  No, the way of Christ for his Bride is one of love that submits and grace that serves and mercy that initiates and supports.  There is no wielding of authority or ruling by coersion.  There is only wooing and waiting for the return of cHesed from the Beloved.

No, there is no way to biblically show Christ as the head of the Church his body in such as way as to allow husbands to rule with authority over their wives -- not at least in a way that is internally consistent for our God who is Love -- mutuality-in-equality. 

To have Paul making an appeal to order out of the wild freedom Jesus brought to the downtrodden is to really miss the point here.  He calls men to realize that Jesus had stripped them of their patriarchal power and calls them to love their wives by submitting to their needs, to be gracious to their wives by serving them and showing mercy to their wives by initiating and supporting their growth to maturity in Christ.  As sister in Christ first, wife second, the brethren are to embrace the mutuality-in-equality modeled by Jesus -- within the Trinity as well as within the disciples/the 120.  As wild as this freedom was for the sisters, it was a real twister for the brothers.

Paul finally gets around to speaking it explicitly in Ephesians 5:29-30, where he shows that nourishing and caring for his Body is what Jesus is about. As Alan and Michael say so clearly:  lets not tame Jesus and make him the opposite of what he said and is.  I say the same about Paul:  let the wild apostle of the wild Messiah be set free from our image of his message!

...stay tuned, there will be more about UNTAMED and reJesus from Abi!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Thoughts on Women and Men who "Get" Relationship

Processing lots of thoughts these days...and entered the discussion over at Jesus Creed today.  Scot wonders why studies consistently show that women are more religious than men, and I responded this way:

Perhaps it is that women believe that God both hears and understands them and values them enough to offer intimate relationship and personal empowering by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

They might also believe Paul (following Jesus) when he talks about how men are to behave:  laying down their lives for their wives, as Christ did for the church.  This is something that engenders hope where there is frequently despair and oppression.

There are men who want to view Jesus through a power/command paradigm, and so are drawn to religion.  There are also some who get the servant nature of God, and are drawn to relationship.

But it is really true that woman "get" relationship more readily than men ... and so resonate with a God who is so devoted to relationship as to embody frail humanity in order to live among us.

Men who value being loved unconditionally while being drawn to Jesus as the example of being fully human are, in my experience, the ones who embrace and encourage the sisters to fully engage in the life that God offers us in Jesus.
Dying to self is not for wimps.  Neither is giving birth and raising children.  Marriage is the first relationship where God asks us to die to self.  Parenting is the next step.  God is the perfect model for both relationships -- walking the talk in earth in the body of Jesus.
Taking things one moment at a time -- trying to live in kairos time with Papa, knowing that this is the only way I'll survive chronos time with those around me.

Be blessed....

Oh, and while I'm at it, stay tuned for the release of Wiki2.  I am excited to finally see it.  What I've been hearing sounds awesome.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Abi and The Great Sadness

I have recently gone back to read The Shack a second time -- two years after my friend, Annette, loaned me her copy and said that I must read it.  This time I was reading my own copy (a hardcover), so that I could make notes as I read.  This time I was also in a very different place -- physically, emotionally, spiritually ... but not geographically.   ;^)

As I read I realized that I was in the midst of my own version of The Great Sadness -- that place Paul Young describes as where our heart is so broken by pain and grief that the resulting pool of secrets feed a shame that allows those around us to unwittingly help us build something he has called The Shack.

What is The Shack?  Paul says it is a metaphor for being stuck by The Great Sadness ... the facade we build to hide our pain and secrets and shame from those around us -- those who think they know us.  Sometimes -- especially? -- it is built to hide us from seeing ourselves and from recognizing our warped ideas of God.  

But what Paul Young does in his book is to ask us to consider the "what if" involved were God to invite us to hike back out to the wilderness where The Shack is hidden -- run down and desolate and frightening.  If we will accept this invitation, we will see that Paul has provided another metaphor for the loving Papa who (with the help of Jesus, Sarayu and Sophia) helps us dismantle The Shack in order to finally heal our broken heart and mend our relationships -- with God and with others ... and especially with ourselves.

The challenge, of course, is that Paul puts into one weekend for Mack what took him 11 years of hard, hard work.  There is no "magic wand" -- it seems very much like Eustace having to be un-dragoned by Aslan in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  We scratch and scratch and are successful in shedding a few thin layers of dragon skin.  But we cannot dig deep enough on our own to free ourselves from the result of "thinking dragonish thoughts".  It takes Aslan's powerful and sharp claws to sink into that thick, knobby dragon skin and peel it away and release our true selves from bondage.

Little did I realize over two years ago, when I first thought of the Purple Martyrdom, that it would include hues this dark -- almost black.  God's amazing grace only tells us what we need to know when we need to know it, eh?  The reality is that even as I fear I have let go of that knot at the end of my rope ... I find I have always been safe in the strong hands of the Love that will not let me go.

It really is, as Lewis perceived, a severe mercy.  As severe as the death of the life I knew ... yet as merciful as the Love that promises to bring me back to True Life.   Perhaps it is not unlike Ramandu (the burned-out "star at rest" from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader) who was brought one fire-berry from the valleys in the sun each day.  And each fire-berry takes away some of his age ... until he is again as young as a newborn child.  Then ... he will rise again to take his place and once more tread the great dance....

I do not know how Papa will accomplish this task.  I am often wide-eyed and somewhat pale as I feel Aslan's long and sharp claws dig in and do their work.  Sometimes my heart shudders as I feel the scales being pulled -- firmly yet gently.  But I choose to believe that this is a work of Love ... and that I am safe in the hands of the Great Physician.  The Master Craftsman.  The Good Shepherd.  The Lion who is The Lamb ... that was slain before the foundations of the world were laid ... because He has always been especially fond of me.

In the hope of embracing Abundant Life, I surrender my grasping perception of life.  I trade life-affirming and spontaneous expectancy for death-inducing and stifling expectation ... and childlike and trusting response for controlling and legalistic responsibility.  It may not be neat and pretty from an earthly, human perspective ... but I hear that it is full of glorious fractals where Sarayu is at work in a wildly unconventional garden known as Peggy's Patch -- watering with the precious tear drops that She collects in a little bottle....

Be blessed....

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Relaxing into the Dance....

Well, it just might be that the long-anticipated blogging about perichoresis is about to begin.

It started yesterday, with Don Miller's "What If?" challenge (by the way, I don't know what's up with Don's blog showing up as being suspended, but I hope it gets figured out soon). 

I spent some time processing Don's challenge and posted this reply yesterday.  It was striking to me that I would process all the scads of things that I would like to do for others ... and the thought about water just popped into my head.  I didn't see it coming ... Sarayu just popped that one in there to see if I was paying attention.  Since I type pretty fast, it got out of my thoughts on through my fingers before I had time to discard it.  Good one, Papa!

Here's the deal:  I have sensed for a while that my body is finally going to come out of this Decade of Decay and regain some significant vitality ... that is, before The Fall (no, not that one ... the one when I fell on the way to the mailbox and almost bought the proverbial farm).   While it did a good bit of physical damage to face and hands and knees, the worst of it has turned out to be a whopper of a concussion.  A year later, I'm still not 100% recovered. 

It has been quite a year ... one in which I began to journal in earnest.

Using a pen and paper, even.

And I'm still at it ... just got a new journal the other day (even found a purple one!)

Part of the concussion-processing has been a different kind of depression ... and that's a whole different story we're not going to talk about today ... through which Papa has been peeling back layers of stuff.  Stuff like disappointment and discouragement and isolation and loneliness and abandonment and guilt.  Stuff that has been hanging around for just about my whole life.  This, against the backdrop of processing Wayne Jacobsen's book, "He Loves Me" -- and trying to understand what it means to relax into Papa's love.

So here's the deal:  relaxing into Papa's love means living in expectancy rather than expectations.  To do that means to trust Papa's love for me and give up trying to earn it.  (It especially means giving up trying to earn the love and respect of others.  Yet another story for another time.  Get it straight with Papa first, or everything else is a no-go.)  Relaxing means recognizing that expectations are the doormat in front of the house of guilt and shame we have all built in order to survive in our harsh realities.  Paul Young has called this house The Shack.  We all have one.  No really.  Believe it.

Some of us have to get whacked on the side of the head (literally) to shift paradigms and let go of expectations.  (Please, don't be this stubborn ... unless that's the only way.  In which case, keep the Arnica, a cold compress and butterfly bandages handy.  And receive my heart-felt condolences.)


I have been stuck in my Shack and at a loss as to how to get out.  Looking back it reminds me of that scene in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone when Harry and Hermione and Ron are being strangled by a huge, root-like plant ... the more you struggle, the tighter it gets.  Hermione remembers from Herbology studies that the only way to get it to let you go is to relax.

This is where Don's post today comes in.  It is called "How I learned to like exercise..." -- which I have linked, but since the blog is not working, I'm going to repost it here (hope that's okay with you, Don!):
The first time I joined a gym the trainer worked me out until I nearly died. She put me on a machine and had me lift the weights in sets of ten, decreasing the weights each time, doing as many sets as it would take until I literally couldn’t lift an empty bar. She wanted me to know what a workout felt like, and wanted to make sure the initial work out was as hard as it could be, so I’d have something to compare my subsequent workouts to. I think she hated men. The result was that I could hardly get out of bed the next morning, or the morning after that, and I hated the gym. I associated the gym with pain and emasculation. And even when I went to the gym, unless I nearly killed myself, I felt like I hadn’t worked out at all. After a year or so, I just quit going.
Years later, though, I met a personal trainer at a coffee shop. He was hoping to write a book and I struck up a deal with him. I told him I’d give him some pointers on writing if he’d reintroduce me to the gym. He agreed, and I definitely got more out of the deal than he did. My trainers name was Dave, and he was great.
For our first workout, I showed up and he gave me a tour that stopped at the exercise bikes. We got on bikes next to each other and I started to pedal hard, trying to impress him. He quickly told me to slow down, to get my heart rate up to a level where I had to open my mouth to breathe, but could still talk. I did so, and it was pretty easy. We rode for about twenty minutes and then he told me to stop. I assumed we were going to move on to the real workout, but he said we were done. He told me to go home, that I’d done a good workout. I stood there shocked, nearly feeling ripped off. After all, I’d given him valuable information about writing, like the fact that books are often broken up into chapters.
Dave explained to me, though, that if I showed up at the gym and got my heart rate up for twenty minutes, I’d worked out. He said I needed to do that every day, and if I did, I had nothing to feel guilty about. He then told me to come back the next day, and we’d do the same workout, only increase it a little bit. The next day we rode for twenty minutes and he congratulated me on working out two days in a row. Then he asked if I wanted to do anything extra. I did, of course, so we ended up doing a mildly difficult workout with weights. Within a month, Dave was working me out so hard I once had to stop him and ask if I could go out in the alley behind the gym to throw up. And no kidding, he moved the rest of the workout into the alley so I wouldn’t throw up on his floor. But he kept working me out, always reminding me that what we were doing was extra, that I’d already finished my workout.
That was three or four years ago. These days, I almost never exercise for under an hour, and I exercise at least every other day, if not more often, depending on whether or not I am traveling. I love going for long walks or hikes or bike rides. What changed? All guilt went away. Before, I’d nearly kill myself and feel guilty for not doing enough. But now, I feel like anything over twenty minutes is extra. Before there was negative association with exercise, now there is positive association with exercise.
The same technique can be used with all sorts of areas in our lives where we are defeating ourselves. The question is, what constitutes a satisfactory job? What do we really need to do to be a good father, a good employee, a good wife, a good teacher. If we do that, we’ve done a good job, and anything else is extra. What you’ll find is you’ll do a whole lot extra, and feel great about it.
Any other tips on learning to like exercise? Or learning to do the things you don’t want to do?
Here's what clicked for me:  I have been trying to get to the "anything else is extra" stuff without getting the basic 20 minutes in.  You can only get the extra through the basic.  This is fairly simple, you think it would be easy ... but because something is simple does not mean that it is easy.  Not when you're stuck in The Shack.  Not when you have never really been good at taking care of yourself.  But when you have a husband and three growing boys and have spent 10 years in physical brokenness, everything gets broken.  And I do mean everything.  There is so much to do that it is just overwhelming to begin.  Wayne helped me learn to start by relaxing ... and I've been working hard at learning about relaxing for the past year.  Whew!  I had to learn the hard way (is there any other way?) that if I am not well, I cannot help my family be well.  (And that applies to spiritual family as well as physical family!)

Why is this so hard to get?  It this just a female thing?  I don't think so ... I think different folks just manifest the same struggle in different ways.

So, after doing great with my water drinking yesterday, I got up and did all the right stuff again today.  And after reading Don's post, I decided to go to the garage and lug the recumbent stationary bike out into the driveway and spend 20 minutes processing this with Papa while getting my Vitamin D fix for the day.

Not worrying what the neighbors driving by thought about the crazy woman talking and crying and cycling, I forged ahead.  After about 10 minutes, my legs began to tire (part of my problem is too many years of varying levels of muscle atrophy -- yet another story not going to be told).  But instead of stopping (or worse, continuing on and courting injury to already broken-down systems), I just dialed the tension on flywheel down to where I could keep the same pace without fatiguing the muscles.

I must have stopped every five minutes and dialed the tension down.  But here's what happened:  it suddenly dawned on me that it was perfectly okay to do that.  No guilt necessary.  There is no "exercise police" out there checking my work (or, more importantly, giving me a failing grade).

And while I was feeling the sun on my face, I decided to take off my glasses and just close my eyes and talk with Papa about what I've been learning in this ... when something else clicked:  it was like I was riding tandem with Jesus.  My job is to get on the bike and pedal.  I don't steer.  I don't pick the route.  I just get on and go wherever he's going.  Years ago I wrote about prayer as learning to walk with God, and I included that in my "Getting In Shape" segment of each day in my 40 Days of cHesed series on this blog -- and the idea of the tandem bike struck me, having ridden a tandem bike with Robert in the early years of our marriage.

Well ... long rambling story short:  the only way out of this Shack of mine is to let Papa dismantle it.  And the only way to get my broken down body back into shape is to start taking care of it at a pace that is appropriate for me.

Water first and foremost -- how many years have I been preaching about the myriad complications and symptoms of dehydration?  Duh....

And when the sun is shining, I'm gonna drag out my bike and ride for at least 20 minutes and see if I can't knock out this Vitamin D deficiency I've got going on, too.  Heck, even if the sun is hiding, I can dress warmly and pedal away in the garage!

What was that?

What happened to perichoresis, you say? 

Well, I've heard it's a Dance -- one in which I have to relax and follow Jesus' lead.  (Listen to Wayne talk about What do I do to live loved? at the bottom of the page -- the dance story is near the end, but the whole talk is worth hearing!)  And when I stiffen up, it means I'm trying to lead -- and boy that's tiring ... and fruitless.  So when I start cramping up, I dial my resistance down until I can relax into his love ... and away we go!

I'm sure that I will be processing the implications of this for quite some time.   But I'm going to keep my focus on the basics and let Sarayu take care of the extras.

Time for a water break!  ;^)


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Abi's Entry to Don's "What if" Challenge

I've had Donald Miller's blog in my Google Reader for a while now.  I have a great appreciation for what he has to say -- and how he says it -- even though I have not read any of his books.  (I am confident he won't take that personally because, well, he doesn't  know me and probably will never see this post ... and will forgive this poor abbess who doesn't have the time to read as she would like.)

The other day he had an amazing post up about acting on our "what if" scenarios ... and followed it up today with a challenge.  A challenge which I am taking.  Here.  In this post.

Well, at least I'm starting.  Now.

His point is this:  what if we actually starting acting on some of our "what if" thoughts and dreams.  Not the ones we cannot control ... like, what if I had a billion dollars.  No, more like what if I did not lose my temper with any of my children today.  That would be a good one, by the way.

The deal with the challenge is to make a list of, say, five "what if" ... and then pick just one and do it for a week ... just to see what would happen.

So, since this is a blog of the Abbess of the Purple Martyrdom, I am going to suggest five "what ifs" that have to do with some of the purple things in my life over which I might be able to assert some control.  Things that I could choose to do that would address issues of weakness, both physical and spiritual.  Things which have no answer but "my grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness."  Or perhaps "when I am weak, then I am strong."
  1. What if I accepted this season as a time in the desert, when outside distractions are removed so I can hear Papa's voice more clearly?
  2. What if I actually spent 45 minutes of each hour the boys are at school doing whatever I want to do (or not do, as it were) ... and the last 15 minutes doing what I've been too depressed to start?
  3. What if I actually spent the first 15 minutes of each hour the boys are at school doing what I've been too depressed to start ... and see if I start to lose track of time while Jesus dances me through my day.
  4. What if I trusted Papa's cHesed for me ... and chose to act with deliberate affection, unmerited favor and out of duty mutually owed to whoever Papa puts in my path.
  5. What if I stopped mourning the feelings of loneliness and isolation and let Papa's love fill up a part of my tank no human can fill.
Hmmm ... how about a little tighter focus?
  1. What if I choose to do only what I see Papa doing, joining his work, in my own heart?
  2. What if I choose to say only what I hear Papa saying to me, in my own heart?
  3. What if I choose to secretly do one special thing out of love for my husband and each of my children each day?
  4. What if I choose to care for myself more intentionally, even thought my body is 10 years into various levels of atrophy and won't turn around on a dime?
  5. What is I choose to hold only thoughts and intentions of love and grace and mercy in my heart toward those who come across my path?
I don't know ... what about one more try....
  1. What if I spoke with a cheery tone?
  2. What if I looked at others with a smile (and no wrinkle between my eyebrows)?
  3. What if I listened fully to my children?
  4. What if I relaxed and trusted Papa's love for me?
  5. What if I actually got fully hydrated again?
It's getting closer, I think.

Okay ... I know this might seem weird (but you are dealing with an AbiSomeone now!), but I am going to go with hydration.  I'm going to give my body the water it needs ... and trust that the Living Water will do its work in my spirit.

There ... I've said it.  I don't drink enough water and I'm going to change that this week.

When you take a drink of water, will you pray for me ... a prompt to take a drink, too?

...and consider taking this challenge yourself!


Monday, April 12, 2010

The Virtual Abbess and the iMonk....

Like thousands of others, I did not know Michael Spencer IRL -- I knew him mostly as the Internet Monk, or iMonk.  His rapid journey through the valley of the shadow of death these past four months has found me looking in at his blog more often than I have before.  I have not been disappointed.  If you haven't read what's been up over there during the past few days, please get a box of tissues (or an old cloth diaper, my favorite) and spend a couple of hours reading.  Really.

I am not sure what would bring me to blog about what's happening in my journey over the past year, but the loss of the iMonk just might do it.  We'll see.  So much about so many things that have been quietly filling up spaces in my heart and mind might be ready to be shared.  Or not. Yet.

In God's good time, eh?

In the meantime I join those who struggle with the paradox of sorrow and joy that accompanies the death of one of the saints (what I call the Christian Hasidim).  As C.S. Lewis said (and I so often quote):  we have been granted a severe mercy -- as severe as death and as merciful as love.

Rest in peace, iMonk ... and may Sarayu and Sophia wrap his wife and family and friends in the shawl of the peace that passes understanding.


Sunday, February 28, 2010

Two Sides of a Coin

One of the problems with dualism is that it has a tendency to separate one side of a coin from the other side. It is convenient to do this because we generally cannot see both sides of the coin at the same time, so we focus on one side as if it stands alone, when it is but another expression of the other side.

There is only one coin … with a duality of sides. Its two sides contain different information about the coin as well as different aspects of it, but there is only one coin … one coin with two sides that cannot be separated without destroying the coin.

It doesn’t take much pondering to see how this comes into play. Let’s take a look at just three.

1. The Image of God has been created male and female. Together they are the God’s image. Just the man alone is insufficient (which God made abundantly clear with Adam and Eve). So when one side of the image is valued differently than the other, it is because this duality is out of balance. There is no explaining that they are meant to be of different value or usefulness without damaging the reality of the Image of God. Yes, they look different … but they must be yoked together in order for God’s true image to be seen. Inconvenient for some, yes, but still true. God is a community – the Three in One. Humans, to reflect that image, must also dwell in community – as male and female and with God. It is a mystery that must be embraced.

2. cHesed, a foundational Hebrew concept for understanding God’s idea of relationship, has two components: covenant-making and covenant-keeping. God does not have one without the other. God makes covenant, which means that God keeps covenant. This is core to God’s identity. He is the covenant-making and covenant-keeping God. Everything depends on this reality being rightly perceived. So, cHesed means, basically, BEING in covenant and DOING what the covenant obligates you to do. Being in covenant means that you follow through with your commitments so that your covenant partner does not suffer because of your unfaithfulness. You can’t be in covenant unless you do the terms of the covenant.

3. Doing the terms of the Covenant, being obedient to the will of God, requires faith and works. You cannot obey without faith, because if you do not have faith, you cannot believe in God or what God asks you to do. You cannot obey without works, because, well, being obedient is something that you are as shown by what you do. James said it clearly: faith without works is dead. And what has God asked us to do? The will of God has been summarized as this: loving God and loving others. (See # 1 and #2 above.)

The unity of the Body is most powerfully and winsomely seen when the Image of God is clearly reflected by right relationships between men and women who are in right relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Right relationship, as understood by the Hebrew concept of cHesed, is realized when men and women, by the power of the Holy Spirit, accept God’s invitation to join the New Covenant in Jesus Christ … and then undertake the journey of transformation to be like Christ as faithful covenant-keepers with each other. It is a mysterious, paradoxical process, different for each of us, that will continue our entire lives.

Embrace both the journey and the companions God sends; no one can do it alone.

Moses and Plato are coming up next….

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Confusing Blessing with Approval


The Abbess was saved from rambling on in the comments over at Jesus Creed (in these threads) by taking the time to compose her thoughts in Word first. So, they are here for you to read, with a link left over at Scot’s blog….

Many years ago I heard a fascinating sermon on TBN that took them to task.  I will never forget it, even though I have forgotten the name of the brave brother who delivered the message.  The bottom line was this:  do not confuse God’s apparent blessing with his approval of your methods.

Scot, I believe this is the core issue surrounding this difficult circumstance:  There are those who believe that the religious institution that we call church IS the very Body of Christ, rather than that the body of Christ is made up of those who name Christ as Lord.  I think it is an important distinction.

Certainly the God who sent first his Son and then his Spirit to birth the church, who is the master of taking whatever is available and creating amazing masterpieces, can and does (and will continue to) do amazing things through those who will offer themselves up to his will and seek to be obedient servants.  Not an issue.  Cracked pots with light streaming and all….

The issue is with humans (those very cracked Eikons) want to pick and choose and label the work of God in ways that exclude other expressions that God apparently has also inspired and blessed.  It is not an either / or situation.  It is more than a both / and situation.  It is an expression of the amazing diversity that is the reality of the Kingdom of God:  those persons and situations where the rule of God is found.

The way in which this is manifest will be different in different contexts.  It always has been and always will be.  There is, in each manifestation, a bit of that Kingdom-of-God-light streaming out through the cracked pots.  When one pot (or group of pots) tries to exclude other pots, or suggest that they are not letting God’s “true” light shine through their cracks, it is so very sad.  As if God is not capable of blessing any pot offered up to him….

As in other conversations that have been raging through the internet of late, there is a significant difference between criticism and critique.  One seeks to tear down and the other seeks to build up.  It is a matter of intention.

I do love the Church, the Bride of Christ, to which I have actively chosen to belong for the past 44 years.  But I have, in the last 8 years, come to experience something that reminds me of Jacob’s dilemma:  the bait and switch.  After working for seven years to earn Rachel as his wife, he finds that under the veils he has been tricked into marrying her older sister, Leah.  His love for Rachel is so strong that he works another seven years for her.  Yet, even in the midst of this amazing trick, pulled on an infamous trickster, God was neither absent nor thwarted nor tainted in planting the seeds of his love and grace and mercy in their midst.

Many want to say that God planned each piece of this long trail of deception in order to bring Israel into being.  I cordially disagree.  And you are welcome to cordially disagree with me.  When we do this, we offer up critique in order to try to better understand the mystery that is the will of God.  When we choose not to be cordial, we can fall into criticism … cracked Eikons and all.

The Bride is not ours to have and to hold.  We are the Bride of Jesus.  He is the one who makes us holy, by being both the source and the sustainer of our being and our mysterious relationship.  We are to accept his outrageous love and amazing grace and sometimes severe mercy and to connect with and support those parts of his body with whom we find ourselves associated.

There are some, however, who want to put the wedding veil on Leah (or Hagar, before her) as a way to not offend custom.  God, however, does not find himself bound by human customs.  He uses or transcends customs according to his wisdom as means to advance his will.

I have come to believe that what many call the Institutional Church has too often embraced religion at the expense of relationship. Seeing power as something to be grasped and wielded rather than influence to be recognized and spent on behalf of the least of these. When we offer this version of the Bride as part of the Good News, it can sometimes turn out to be a Leah under the veil.  Then we have to work very hard to get to Rachel – that with which we were initially smitten.

Those who toil through are rewarded with partial bliss.  They are finally with Rachel, the beloved … but they find they have continued obligations to Leah, whom they have come to despise.    To take this chapter out of Israel’s history and suggest that is it our Father’s intention for his Son and Bride -- that it bears his stamp of approval – is too much for me.

In the end, all who are married find that the reality is very different from the expectation.  This most intimate of relationships is also the most challenging … and, if given due respect and attention, it is the most rewarding.  When looking at each other through the eyes of love, the reality is not what is seen on the surface, but what has been nurtured over time.

There is not one experience of being The Bride that fits all.  Christ has been known to come where two or three are gathered and do amazing things in their midst.  He has also been known, through the ages, for being in the midst of many other expressions of his Bride.

Do not confuse the presence and blessing of Christ with his stamp of approval on the methods at work in that manifestation of his Bride.

Marriage is truly a mystery.  The marriage of Christ and the Church is no less a mystery.

The Good News in Jesus transcends culture and transforms culture and indwells culture.  Please don’t make judgments concerning the many marvelous and miraculous ways that Christ does this.  See him in the big churches, within the deep and beautiful traditions of the Orthodox and Catholic and Protestant expressions of devotion.  See him in the movement that transformed culture among the Celtic faithful.  See him in the millions of underground clusters of believers who live the dream in the midst of a nightmare.  See him in the hearts and dreams of those who resonate with missional or neo-monastic or unorthodox spaces and expressions of devotion.  Open your eyes and ears and you will see the Spirit at work in the most unlikely of places.

Please, answer the call of the Spirit to join in The Dance around you.

Rejoice and give thanks for the love that never gives up and that pursues cracked pots.  Be grateful that the Spirit pours out that love according to the strength of the pot to contain it – some fast and overflowing, others gently and measured.

But never, ever believe that splashing mud on or hurling insults at or ridiculing the appearance of Christ’s precious Bride is ever a method that bears the Father’s stamp of approval.  Watch, however, for what happens when these things occur.
·       He will pick up his towel and basin with which to wash off the mud – reaching out to cleanse both the muddy boot and the soiled garment … if we, like Peter, will submit to being cleansed.
·       He will give his incomprehensible peace to heal and guard the hearts and minds of those who have been injured with words used poorly … while looking into the hearts and minds of the heartless and thoughtless and asking the hard question:  Do you love me?  If we, like Peter will submit to being restored.
·       He will take the downcast face in his hands and look deeply into the shamed eyes and, his own eyes sparkling with tears of both love and grief, and say, “You are absolutely exquisite!” – while challenging the perceptions to be transcended:  Do not call unclean what I have called clean.  If we, like Peter, will believe that Christ is not concerned with outward appearances.

Critique, if you must.  But be sure to have the Spirit remove the plank from your eyes before you presume to remove the speck from the eyes of a brother or sister.  What hurts one member of the Body should be felt by all the members of the Body.

Oh, and one more thing.

Please, please, do RELAX a bit and have a sense of humor about it, won’t you?  It’s a dance, for heaven’s sake…we all look a smidge ridiculous now and then next to our glorious Bridegroom!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Abi is, really, a very simple abbess. Really. On purpose.

I'm on information overload.  I just cannot process any more complex theology.  Not right now.

I have come to realize over the years that my place in God's Kingdom is to help synthesize some of the complexities in order to remove stumbling blocks to understanding and living the Good News.  For many, the complexities of theology (and all the other "ology"s) suck the life out of the Good News.  There is Good News that is simple enough for the simplest mind to grasp.

Please, let us all grasp that Good News -- before we spend all our heart and soul and mind and strength loving knowledge (that so often puffs up) and then arguing with others (which so often does not take the form of speaking the truth in love) about things that we may or may not really understand all that well -- so that it will radically change the way we see ourselves and those around us, and move us to live loved by God so that we can live loving others.

None of us are cross-cultural enough to "get" everything.  But we must "get" some of the key cultural contexts in order to bring the counter-cultural power of Jesus (and Paul) into our current context.  I have mentioned some of my current thoughts about that here and here.  And some core thinking herehere, and  here.  For those of you who have time on your hands for reading, that is.... ;^)

So, let's have a look at some of the simple things Abi embraces, shall we?
  1. Our heavenly Father loves us with an everlasting love.  Period.  He consistently and faithfully is at work in us and in the midst of life's circumstances to get us to RELAX in that knowledge. Really.
  2. Jesus Christ, from his pre-existence, birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension, was sent from God to show us the Father completely and to reconcile our brokenness.  If you don't get #1, you will not recognize the Truth here in #2.
  3. With God now understood as "our" Father -- our heavenly Papa -- we are to call no man father in that sense. There is no human who has the power to command our total obedience and usurp Papa's place.  Those who have been set free are not to submit to bondage again!  Men, deal with it, please.
  4. We are to understand each other as brothers and sisters first and foremost in all relationships and dealings.  There is to be no more struggle for honor or position or place or power or influence over others.  We are younger siblings of Jesus Christ, Papa's Firstborn.  As Jesus was completely obedient to Papa's will--even unto death--we are to do the same.  Sibling rivalry is deadly.
  5. Jesus is Lord -- and he chose the path of service.  Don't look to be served.  Whatever service you give to others, Jesus receives it as service to himself.  If you don't get #1, you will struggle with this.  Please, get #1!
  6. The Kingdom of God is found in each life journey where Papa's love is received and his will is obeyed.  It is about relationships.  It is a dance.  The Holy Spirit is the Piper and we dance according to the tune played.  Learn to recognize the many tunes in the Spirit's repertoire.  Jesus knows all the steps in the dance--relax and follow his lead.  Really.  RELAX!
If you can find your way to leaning into the power of these six items, the rest is gravy.  Really.  It will sort itself out with time and love and humility.  How?  I don't know -- it truly is a mystery of the Spirit.

If something you read or hear or experience does not line up with them, engage the Spirit's filter and ask for help to sift truth from error.  Be patient.  Ask questions.  Ponder.  Be patient.  Wait for it.  Patiently.

If you would like to see a chart that fleshes this out and shows you some of the steps of the Dance and some of the chords used in the Spirits tunes, I humbly suggest this might be helpful.   It is very dense ... take your time pondering.

You will find lots of other posts and links here to thinking that will help you on your journey ... as well as bring you companions along The Way.

Be blessed.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Of Sacred Cows, Golden Geese, and Elephants….

Much of my time lately has been consumed with friends considering how to effectively turn up the volume on accountability in the realm of brokering Christian influence via personalities.

When does the hype of blogs and books and tours and conferences, etc. have to match up with the reality of the journey being traveled by these folks in their day to day lives.  Who are those brokering these personalities?  And what responsibility to they have when it comes to the walk and the talk jibing?

Where is the line between what they want others to know (so that these others will support the blogs, books, tours and conferences) and what they use, exploit, or ignore in order to get the most bang for their buck.  (A crass image for a sadly crass reality.)

And when there are questions concerning said walk and talk being out of sync, where is the line that cannot be crossed in calling the brokers (and their clients/associates) to account?

Just as Jesus used parables in his day to "out" the Pharisees and other religious leaders who had become consumed with the letter of the law but had quenched the spirit, this wee abbess has decided to light a small purple candle to shine on the suffering that comes from being unwilling to look in the mirror and deal with what is beheld.  No names are going to be named ... I offer up these words for the Holy Spirit to use to reflect the light of Papa's love into some very dark places out there.

To remain quiet is to give tacit assent.

* * * * * * * *

The sacred cow might be an example of a useful creature that is respected for its contribution to the health and wealth of society becoming more than respected.  When respect turns to worship, then we have idolatry.

The goose that laid golden eggs might be an example of where the sum being more than the parts meets the problem of greed being the difference between understanding needs and wants.

And, finally, the elephant in the room might go beyond the familiar idiom for turning a blind eye tglaring issues that are embarrassing, emotionally charged, or potentially detrimental.  It might include the fact that elephants, while appearing to be slow and docile beasts carrying incredible burdens when domesticated, are capable of incredible speeds, terrifying trumpeting and incredible destruction when sufficiently provoked or backed into a corner.

What does one do when confronted with all three of these at once?


Rather like the old adage that the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time, confronting this interesting trio must be taken step by step.

Let’s start with sacred cows.

We have all been in social situations, whether it is religious or familial or political or business, when everyone “knows” that certain “things” or “issues” or “people” are just NOT to be touched or addressed or questioned.  If this cultural norm is transgressed, the perpetrator is usually dealt with swiftly, officially or unofficially, and sometimes very harshly.

The problem comes when a conflicting cultural value, such as integrity, is sacrificed to protect the sacred cow.  Over time there will be one of two outcomes:  the offending sacred cow must be sacrificed for the welfare of the whole, or the value of integrity is stripped of its importance.  You cannot have both.

Next, let’s look at the goose that lays those golden eggs.

Golden eggs are rare.  Geese that lay them are even rarer.  The truth about them is that they are what they are.  Each day they are capable of producing one precious golden egg.  No more, no less.  Feeding them more doesn’t work.  Giving them more luxurious housing doesn’t work.  Praising them doesn’t work.  Providing high priced grooming and accessories doesn’t work.

You cannot get more than one egg per day.  Deal with it.

The problem comes when “need” and “want” are confused and result in some form of greed.  Even worse than this, the golden egg-bearing goose is a GIFT to be received gratefully.  Need and want shouldn’t really apply, and appreciation and stewardship should come to the forefront.  When they do not, frustrated greed frequently ends up destroying the gift in a misguided move of entitlement- or creativity-base "deconstruction".  A gift is more than the sum it its parts.

Finally, we come to the elephant.  Poor elephant … he has been taken from his natural environment (where it's presence has context) and is forced to go wherever its master goes.  It wants to be free.  Surely, someone will notice it and say: “Hey, that elephant doesn’t belong here.”  But, no … it finds itself crowding rooms, breaking doorways, stepping on toes, and making huge, steaming, stinking messes.

Each of these humble creatures—cow, goose, elephant—are not really the problem we're talking about, are they.  It is their handlers with whom we have issues. 

·       Handlers who USE them to dominate and control others.
·       Handlers who EXPLOIT the gift—abusing and destroying the vessel in the process.
·       Handlers who IGNORE their responsibilities to deal with inconvenient issues, destroying persons and relationships instead of building and strengthening them.
No, we are not about to identify cows, geese or elephants.  We are only holding up a mirror and calling you to humbly take a look at the reflection you see.

·       Are you or someone you know being used, exploited or ignored?
·       Are you or someone you know a handler in need of accountability?

These issues can frequently be identified by outsiders, but they can only be dealt with properly by those on the ground, in the context of healthy relationships.  There are example of this being done properly, but many more examples where that is not the case.  (Yes, I just might be talking to you!)

Let me leave you with a little chart that might be a good starting point:

Effective Handlers
Common Issues
Honesty (assisted by Confession)
Integrity (assisted by Repentance)
Humility (assisted by Vulnerability)
Transparency (assisted by Availability)
Discernment (assisted by Character)
Faithfulness (assisted by Reconciliation)

* * * * * * * 

Perhaps pondering David's words as recorded in Psalm 51 would be timely.

Grateful for God's faithful love, his amazing grace and his mighty mercy through Christ Jesus our Lord....