Monday, October 24, 2011

Sometimes we change more than we think...and other ramblings!

As I have been re-reading Peck lately, I find that there are many (and I'm talking MANY) nuances to how I think that just weren't there when I first read these books 20+ years ago.  I am certain this is true because I am not the person I was then.  I have changed.  I have grown.  I have suffered great pain and loss.  I have had three sons.  I have been ordained, entered the pastorate, and left the institutionalized "church" experience.

Yeah, I'm in a completely different place than I was back in the 80s.  It is good to look again at those works that were important transition books in periods of intense growth ... especially when entering that process again!

Which takes me back to a comment I made on the Facebook group "Into the Wardrobe" concerning C.S. Lewis ... someone was wishing that he had written the "Left Behind" series ... which went lots of interesting places full of interesting assumptions all around.  Anyway, someone brought up the fact that Lewis was not a theologian.  And there is where I jumped into the fray:
Interesting thread ... it is an important note that Lewis was NOT a theologian and that he was using his incredible logic and literary depth to help clarify the common ground of all who name Christ as Lord. After he married Joy -- and especially after he wrote A Grief Observed -- i think a number of things that were once logical to a confirmed batchelor may have changed. I am sorry that we do not have more writing from his last days -- but grateful for what we have :-)

I read Lewis' Mere Christianity when I was 19 years old.  It was the most serious reading/thinking I had ever had to do ... and I read it again 20 years later ... when I was in a totally different frame of mind.  Some of the things I agreed with at 19 were not going down as well when I was 39....  I think that if Lewis has gone back and done a revisit to his Mere Christianity after his amazing experiences with Joy, there were many things he would have seen from a very different perspective.  A Grief Observed is really the only window we have into that perspective.

So ... back to Peck ... which I read for the first time when I was in my 30s ... and am now reading again in my 50s!  There were so many important concepts I learned from him that have been helpful over the years.  I am finding, again, that there is a difference when we are learning something because we think we need to learn it -- and understanding exactly why we need to know something. 

I first experienced that when I returned to college for my sophomore year, um, 17 years after my freshman year.  Yeah ... interesting story, that one.  Anyway, I was taking all the normal college classes, living in the dorms with the 18-21 year old students ... but I was now 35.  I understood why I was learning what was being taught because I had been out there working and living and had ready application for all of it.  This is why, of course, professors often love their adult students.... ;^)

I am, however, a little overwhelmed with reading Peck because there is so much that I truly wish I had understood 35 years ago.  Things that are foundational to life, but didn't turn up on my radar when I was growing up in the 70s.

And so, just as this abbess started out describing "reverse mentoring" in her chapter in Voices of the Virtual World, it seems she is there again ... perpetually learning what NOT to do or say or think or be based on trying not to follow poor examples, rather that having been mentored well.  What a sad commentary....

There is nothing more important than being a positive mentor in the life of another.  It is never too late ... but it is a lot harder to do later (although there is much more experiential "mulch" out of which beautiful things may grow!).

Well, this was quite a ramble, eh? 

Be blessed wherever you are in your journey.  May you see those Father is bringing to breathe love and freedom and fullness into your life ... and be present in the lives Father brings across your path, as well.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Abi's Fourth Blogiversary

Four years ago, this wee purple abbess began sharing her story in this blog.  It has been an important thing to do ... and I believe I will continue to do it.  The changes that have transpired in my life over these past four years are, well, mind-blowing.  Many changes have made their way into posts ... much more has not.  The Mystery is profound ... and sometimes the only proper response is silence and contemplation.

Many things that I thought I would write about have not yet come to pass.  But I believe that, in Father's good time, they will.

I am reading more than I expected -- but not what I expected.  I am doing personal journaling more consistently in these past four years than ever before ... words of joy and pain, life and death, clarity and confusion, peace and turmoil, order and chaos ... that are only between my Father and me.  Change is difficult.  Transformation is an intentional dying so that the new life is free from the old forms.

To quote Peck:  "Life is difficult."

Why do I sometimes still grieve for those old, dying forms?  I guess because I had grown accustomed to them and they were comfortable and predictable.  Because sometimes I am lazy ... and unwilling to do the work necessary to extend myself for the other.  My cHesed glasses need cleaning.  I need to continue to trust Father, even (especially?) when it is dark.

For those of you who have journeyed with me during this time, thank you.  Your companionship has been more important than you can possibly imagine.  I am grateful for the light you have shed on my path ... and glad if I have been able to shed any light (probably in shades of purple) on yours.

May you be blessed according to your need as you follow according to your readiness.  Father is both able to supply all your needs and lead you safely and effectively wherever you are on the journey....


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Abi and "The Church"

Well, as seems to be consistently the case, I know it is time to read something when I actually am able to read it.  That happened this week as I finally read So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore, by Jake Colesen.

Friends of Abi will remember that I have been processing the impact of a weekend Wayne Jacobsen spent with our Short Yellow Bus missional group over two years ago.  As a result of that event, I first read Wayne's He Loves Me, which was a good reinforcement for what I heard in person.  I have since read it maybe three times.  It takes a very long time to make new maps of territory you have lived with for your whole life....

It took be a little longer to read his Authentic Relationships, because I had spent so much energy on authentic EVERYTHING over the past 12 years. But I found there were ideas that had changed in subtle ways, along with so many other things this Virtual Abbess has pondered the past four years.

Before I went on my "stimulus fast" for my tired brain, I was listening to Wayne's Transitions podcasts.  More reinforcement for what I had read and heard.

So why did it take so long to get around to reading the Jake Colesen story?  I am trusting Father, as I strive to live more in Kairos time, that it was finally the right time.

It certainly was.

Jake story covers about four years ... hmmm, it will be four years since I started blogging next week.  It is a story that speaks to so much of my story, it is quite uncanny.  But the best part -- and the reason I think it was finally time -- was realizing that I am finally moving into that reconstruction stage.  Where living loved is getting closer to life than thought.  Where living free is on the rise ... and living full is on the horizon, over the next hill.

  • Jake moved from one career to his dream of paid pastoral ministry -- only to find that there are lots of things that are just not right in the way the church-as-institution plays out.  My move from organizational management -- and my long-time sense that church-as-business was not always very holy -- brought up some interesting, um, challenges as my dream of pastoral ministry came true.  I handled some better than others...and, with Dickens, I would realize that -- "It was the best of times; it was the worse of times."
  • Jake tried to incorporate some of the new things he was learning ... with some fairly disastrous results.  Can you can "misunderstood assumptions"?
  • Jake was devastated by the poor way "crises" were handled by the leadership ... and lived many years with lots of people have a totally wrong ideas of why he left -- and why he wasn't even going to church somewhere else.
  • It seemed to get worse before it got better ... with lots of "huh" times, trying to figure out what Father was up to.
  • It usually comes down to people not knowing what Jesus is really like.  They've heard lots about him, but it wasn't translating into a dynamic, living, relationship.  The culture of institution falls far short of the experience of journeying with Jesus -- and those who cross your path.
In the end it came down to realizing that the Church -- the Bride of Christ -- is a reality to be lived rather than a place to go with programs to implement and expectations and responsibilities met.

* * * * * * *

Freedom ... lots of talk about it these days.  So I was interested to run across a pamphlet (sorting and consolidating books) I've had for some 30 years, by my ministry mentor.  And his thoughts about freedom (that it is so often sacrificed for security -- not just in society, but in the Church) took me to some other thoughts I had been sharing here and at Jesus Creed about M. Scott Peck's ideas about laziness....

I have been wondering if it is time to read that section of The Road Less Traveled again.  I think it might be. Then I will have more to say....

In the meantime I am learning to lean into Father's love for me ... to embrace the challenge to live free from condemnation and false security ... so that I may live full -- of life in the Spirit.  As I experience life in the Church, I am content to let Father take care of the on which journey others are traveling.  Father knows where each of us are and meets us there.  Whew ... I don't have to be the church police any more!

Be blessed on your journey.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Loosening the leash...and other news from Abi....

Well, it has been such a long time since I got any spam, I'm going to try not having to moderate comments again.  We'll see how it goes.


School ... it has begun, again!  I have one of each of the three schools that are right next to each other -- "School House Row" we call it -- elementary, middle and high school.  Working with the PTSA at the elementary and middle schools always means that August is a crazy month, getting ready for the Back To School madness. 

It is a good thing to engage with the school, and since this will be my last year with a student at the elementary school, I'm finally giving in -- yes, President of the PTSA.  I felt I owed them -- I have had a student at that school for 12 consecutive years, now ... and I've never done much more than join. 

One year, back in 2006, I volunteered to help count & process Scrip on Mondays.  I worked with a lovely woman who became my dear friend ... and she recruited me into leadership when my oldest and her youngest left elementary school for middle school.  I started as the Newsletter Editor, then President for 2 years and Secretary for 2 years.  I'm just being a member there this year, helping mentor the new leadership from the background.

And so now I'm using all the wonderful training the PTA/PTSA provides for its leaders ... and giving back. 


Back To School stuff went great ... first week of school was exhausting, but great, too.  Then the weekend hit with a vengeance...and I spent 8 1/2 hours of my Saturday in the ER with my 5th grade son ... who went too fast and jumped too high off ramps with his bike (actually, his friend's bike -- his is not good for ramps ... and there was a good reason for that!) ... lost control in the air ... and landed head first on the street.

Not going to go into all the details ... my son and I are both weary of telling the story ... but I will show you what's left of his helmet (a pile of plastic shrapnel was left at the impact spot on the street, but I was too busy with a very injured boy to stop and take a picture of that!) ... and remind you to be sure you and your kids wear your helmets when riding bikes!

My son is the school poster boy for helmet safety for now ... let's hope the lesson is learned this time ... because we don't want to do this again!

This helmet gave its life for my son.  A grateful and exhausted mom says "Thank You!" -- to God for which ever angel it was who dove between my son and the road, to that helmet, and to my son -- for wearing it!


p.s.  Oh, yeah ... skull in tact, neck not broken (but lots of sore muscles there!), two sets of stitches around his right eye, 5 or 6 patches of road burn on his face, knuckles, shoulder and back ... and one broken bone in his right hand ... called the Boxer's metacarpal.  Arnica Montana and Calendula came to the rescue in a big way and he was back to school on Tuesday, with his cervical collar, splint, sling and, um, striking appearance.  He is making incredible progress ... stitches out Friday, hopefully, and cast on his hand (up to the middle of his forearm) next Tuesday.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Abi ponders Peck, Post #4

Okay ... I finished the book last night.  And got my copies of Peck's People of the Lie in the mail and started the the first few chapters.  It all came flooding back.  The hard work of looking at the truth that we would go to amazing lengths not to see is very difficult.  So much so that an increasing number of people are choosing to take the easy way out.  Laziness rears its ugly head....

I am not going to discuss this book here.  The topic requires much more respect and discernment from those who have read the book in its entirety.  There is much to be misunderstood and I believe that there is no easy way to understand what Peck has labored to share.  You must read it for yourself.  But if you have read it, I will be happy to discuss it with may leave your contact information in the comments here.

I have to say that both of these books are important reads.  For two main reasons:
  1. Peck is looking to be the bridge between religion and science ... from the science side as a gifted thinker and physician, and from the religion side as a mystic and seeker who got all the way through the seeking to the finding.  And he did, in fact, find Jesus.  His embrace of Jesus as Messiah was complete.  Now, there will be those who will not agree with some of his theology.  Go and do your own searching before you turn away.  Tolkien's call to "suspend disbelief" in order to understand fully comes to mind here.  The unfortunate rift that was torn in the whole cloth of Truth, in order to take the "mystery" out of science is in need of restoration -- the divorce of the natural from the supernatural -- and Peck was ahead of his time on that front.  I find his books to include more than a pinch of the much needed salt of humility.  He was, indeed, a Cracked Eikon ... and we would do well to heed his example of looking at the Truth head on so that we may learn from our myriad mistakes.
  2. What passes for "calling out evil" these days seems quite pathetic to me.  This is probably where I will do the most pondering in subsequent posts -- most likely because it is really a byproduct of sloppy thinking and deficient discernment concerning ethics and morality.  Too often we call "immoral" that which is not aligned with what we think or desire ... and "ethics" is becoming a form of Political Correctness.  If we are to return these important disciplines to their rightful place, we are going to have to spend time thinking deeply on root issues, not sidetracked by circumstances and emotions and talking points.
 There is much evil running rampant all around us.  Until we are willing to look in the mirror and deal with our own evil -- our own laziness -- our own unwillingness to exert ourselves for the best interest of the other ... we will continue to be blinded by the plank in our own eye and so unable to help the other with the speck that is troubling them.

One of the things Peck says is that human evil is basically concerned with taking the wide path, as it were.  When confronted with difficulties (whether relationally or economically or physically or spiritually or intellectually), the choice always exists:  (a) do I take the narrow path of love and discipline -- of my heart and soul and mind and strength -- wherever it leads and do what is right ... or (b) to take the wide path, the easy way, where my problem are not really MY problems that I must wrestle with and allow the Holy Spirit to both convict and instruct and heal -- but someone else's problems that relieve me of responsibility for my actions, or inaction.

Take a minute to read Matthew 7 ... the whole chapter.  If you have time, read the entire Sermon on the Mount.  Make this a regular practice, reading the Sermon on the Mount.  Read it in a different version every day.

In the end Peck says that we cannot deal with human evil "out there" until we deal with the evil in our own hearts ... where we allow the Holy Spirit access to the shadows in order to shine the Light of Truth and dispel the lies than ensnare us.  Only then can we look unblinking at our own laziness and ask for Jesus to disciple us.  To teach us.  To work the hardest of work in our own hearts.

This is another aspect of The Purple Martyrdom ... this work within.

The reason that there are so many monastic traditions that have these three chapters as the foundation of their rule is that they have an understanding of this important personal work that must be embraced and walked every day of their lives.  Every day.  There is no end to this discipleship ... until until we are fully conformed to the image of Jesus. When we are released from this body of death and are clothed in the imperishable, that work will be complete.

Embrace it ... there are those who will journey with you on that narrow path.  There will, no doubt, be many more "Peck Posts" ... stay tuned.  And better yet ... get the book for yourself and follow along!

Be blessed.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Abi ponders M. Scott Peck, MD -- Post #3

Well, one of the interesting things about chronic exhaustion and neurological challenges that I have observed over the past decade is that when I am "supposed" to do something, I mysteriously find the strength to do it.  Totally a God thing, that.  And so yesterday, as I ordered 2 copies of Peck's People of the Lie, I ran across his last book, which was published in 2005, the year he died ... and that was the book I got for my Kindle yesterday -- and read the first half of last night.  I'll be posting about that soon.

In the meantime I have been pondering lots ... and decided to refresh myself as to the particulars about Dr. Peck.

His official website is not very comprehensive.  It is, however, a good place to start, with the following things:
On the page of his website called "Conversations", I found this (added emphasis mine):
On Psychiatric Illness
"Starting with the Road Less Traveled, perhaps the most radical thing that I said in that book that deviated from traditional psychiatry is that I located the source of psychiatric ills in the conscious mind, rather than the unconscious. And that the previous view, the Freudian sort of view, had been that the unconscious was filled with all these bad feelings, and angry thoughts, sexy thoughts, and whatnot. And that was where psychiatric, psychological illness originated. When in fact, the real question is why those things, which were obvious, were in the unconscious, rather than the conscious mind. The answer was that it was a conscious mind that didn’t want to face certain truths, and pushed this stuff into the unconscious. But the problem is with a rejecting consciousness in which we simply don’t like to think about things….Over the years I came to believe, and again I’m leaving out the biological aspects, but that psychological disorders are all disorders of thinking. So narcissists, for instance, cannot or will not think of other people…. What we used to call passive-dependent people don’t think for themselves. Obsessive-compulsives tend to have great difficulty thinking in the big picture. And I would say that if you have a patient or a client who has some real difficulty, psychological difficulty, look for the problem in their thinking. There is some area where they are not thinking correctly. "
The article on Peck at Wikipedia has a great deal of good information.  And, as with everything (and I really do mean everything), there will be those who are determined to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  By this I mean that M. Scott Peck was a human.  He was far from perfect.  He was better at understanding and correcting the problems of other people than he was his own.  (Anyone who does not find this to be true of themselves has a problem with self-deception, IMO.)

I find it particularly sad that Dr. Peck, after 43 years of marriage, was surprised to find that his wife had had enough. (She left around January, 2004.)  He was not particularly easy to live with and she came to end of her coping mechanisms.  I wonder, as did he, whether his growing, but not yet "diagnosed" pancreatic and liver duct cancer, and Parkinson's disease, contributed to the demise of their marriage.  I would be willing to bet they did.  No doubt, his last months with his second wife (he and Kathy married sometime in late 2004 and he died on September 25, 2005) were yet another kind of Severe Mercy....

I am grateful for the wisdom God shared with us through this particular cracked Eikon (HT:  Scot McKnight).  Peck knew that he did not know it all.  And he also knew the sometimes terrible price the family of a doctor/prophet/writer pays for the brilliance he exhibited.  There but for the grace of God....

I will be throwing no stones ... but I will be looking to think more clearly.  And for that, I have Dr. Peck to thank.  He has done for psychiatry (in my eyes), what homeopathy did for "modern medicine" -- taken it beyond flat earth thinking.  The mind-body-spirit reality that is humanity parallels the Triune God in that they are all one yet continually interpenetrate each other as they form that one-ness.  When you focus on mind without taking body and spirit into consideration, you will not have the full picture.  Just as if you focus on God the Father without taking Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit into consideration, you won't have the full picture, either. 

The Father, Son and Spirit are ONE -- they cannot be separated and still be perceived properly.  Mind, body and spirit are ONE -- they cannot be separated and still be perceived properly.  And pondering the mysteries involved there needs massive amounts of clear thinking!

I will wait patiently as Father shows me more of his cHesed (which Peck understood -- you can tell by his definition of love -- I wonder if it was part of being partially Jewish?) ... and am confident that I will continue to learn what it means to do the hard work of thinking clearly ... of turning away from the laziness that seeks to skirt the pain and suffering necessary to grow up into the image of Christ Jesus.

Okay ... neurological wiring beginning to overload....

Be blessed, friends.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Abi thinks she might do a series on Peck, Laziness and Thinking....

So, I've really been thinking about that last post ... I mean, I'm waking up thinking about it, even!  And even before I've been able to go back and read the Grace section in Peck's book, I'm pondering the implications of this idea about laziness being the manifestation of Original Sin....and thinking I may have to buy another copy of The People of the Lie (since it was never returned from the last time I loaned it out...maybe I'll buy two -- DONE!).  Peck's work in that book is very important ... and I could see the foundation of that book in Peck's statement about the patients he had the most trouble helping (he was a psychiatrist) were those who were not willing to do the hard work to get well.  That laziness, taken to an extreme, turns evil.  It is not an easy read, but I think it is an important one -- especially for our times.

And then I've been thinking about the opening section on Thinking in Peck's sequel, The Road Less Travelled and Beyond, which is worth the price of the book alone.  The first section of the book is called "Crusade Against Simplism" -- which he summarizes thus: "...I decry the primitive and effortless simplistic thinking that lies at the root of so much individual and societal sickness."

The last two sentences of the opening paragraph on Thinking nails it:  "One of the major dilemmas we face both as individuals and as a society is simplistic thinking--or the failure to think at all.  It isn't just a problem, it is the problem."  BINGO!

Dr. Peck went on to say that only twice during his very long career as a lecturer did he give a 1 day seminar on Thinking.  "At the beginning of each (seminar), I pointed out that most people already think they know how to think.  At the conclusion of each, during a feedback session, someone said in sheer exasperation, "The subject is simply too large."  "...most of the participants were so overwhelmed by all that is really involved in thinking that they were either numbed or horrified."  It was no understatement when he continued with:  "Needless to say, these were not among my more popular engagements."   Yeah, no kidding!

I tend to believe that people are much more willing to "talk", whether in person or in virtual venues, than they are to do the hard work involved to think clearly.  They suggest that they are telling you what they think, but I think that they do not really know what they think about anything because they are really too busy telling about what they "feel" or "believe" or "observe" or "read" or "heard", which is usually something else altogether than clear thinking on their part.

Blessings to you ... and may you open your minds to thinking well--it is part of what it means to love God!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Abi is pondering re-reading M. Scott Peck's books....

Update 8/7/11 -- I have, indeed, decided to do some more thinking and blogging about Peck, so stay tuned!

Unfortunately, my brain is a little fragile right now, so reading is pretty much out and light and sound are stressful, so that means REST without any of the things I usually do to relax.  But I am grateful for the field of chiropractic neurology, which is able to help me rehabilitate my brain naturally ... and for getting enough sleep!

Anyway ... in the meantime I have been reorganizing my library / living room area to accommodate the arrival of a three-piece entertainment / storage unit.  And while I was organizing this morning, I ran across Peck's book, The Road Less Travelled -- which I first read over 25 years ago.

Apparently I brought my father's copy home with me (he was at the stage when he was getting rid of books -- even before the Parkinson's diagnosis, he knew he just wasn't able to process information like he had, so reading was just not something that absorbed much of his time), because I like to have a "loaner" copy of books that are important to me.  Anyway, I must have read it again, because I wrote the following note on the inside cover pages on 7/18/06 -- apparently triggered by something I read on page 263 -- in the midst of the amazing section called Grace.  I have largely left it the way it was (with occasional elaboration to bring it current with my thinking today) ... it is not polished writing!   ;^)

The cHesed of God manifests itself in every possible place in order to interact with us to faithfully bring us the love, grace and mercy we need to grow up into the image of Jesus Christ.  It will begin from the "Imago Dei" placed in us at creation and be added to by those in our path who love and nurture us.  It will come to us through the presence of God that holds the universe together through the continual act of being perceived by Jesus -- manifest by the collective unconscious.  When we are able to acknowledge this source and understand and accept God's outrageous offer of covenant adoption, the Holy Spirit is given the invitation to indwell our hearts.  It is then that the link between the wisdom of God that is found in the collective unconscious can (if we will be still and listen) engage with our conscious will to know and be known, seeking the Truth at all costs, always looking to know and align our will with God's will.
The peril, though, comes to us in that the evil one will try to use this same interface (the original hacker) trying to corrupt us with "pirate viruses"!  God's Word is our firewall (current updated thought:  I challenge you to reconsider the thought that this is talking about scripture and, instead, refers to Jesus Christ.  HT:  Wayne Jacobsen).  We must know Jesus as The Truth for our spiritual firewall to be effective!  Firewall software follows rules -- instructions for what to allow through and what to keep out.  [I would add today that God's Love for Eikons is our factory-installed Operating System ... which many have allowed to be replaced with a variety of much less effective OSs.]
The first rule we must set is the one of knowledge.  We must know and acknowledge that we can never know it all -- only God knows all.  So we must be humble and submit all we think and do to the Holy Spirit -- so Sophia can help us see what is good (leading toward holiness / cHesed/community) and that which is evil (leading toward sin / covenant breaking / narcissism:  essentially Peck sees it as laziness, as it is described here.   Key:  It is not what we perceive, but rather what God perceives, that is Truth.  We need to know The Truth -- Jesus, the Sword of the Spirit and our main Offense.  This speaks to the foundation truth that it is all about relationship with Father, Son & Holy Spirit.
The second rule we must set is cHesed.  If we will allow cHesed to be the contextual filter (glasses!) of all we think and do, God's ability to guide us will be greatly enhanced.  (I linked to my distillation of cHesed rather than list it here.)  This speaks to proper attitudes of love, grace and mercy as well as proper actions of submission, service and initiative within all relationships.
The third rule is humble accountability (mutuality in equality) -- to God and others -- for making right choices and accepting responsibility for those choices.  Right choices take effort and foster growth and maturity.  Poor choices tend to stem from laziness and inhibit growth through dependence or independence instead of interdependence in our relationships.  Poor choices bring the opportunity to repent and confess and seek forgiveness and restoration of relationship.
I was struck by Peck's chapter on Entropy and Original Sin, where he defines laziness as "attempting to avoid necessary suffering, or taking the easy way out."  Then Peck identifies laziness as "the force of entropy as it manifests itself in the lives of all of us."  (p. 271) In between these two statements, Peck observes that love is the willingness to extend one's self (to work and be disciplined) -- for personal growth or for the benefit of others.  It takes effort -- energy.  It underscores Peck's famous beginning phrase of this book:  "Life is difficult."

"...non-love is the unwillingness to extend one's self.  Laziness is love's opposite."

As always ... Abi live in a guilt- and shame-free zone ... but pondering is always lovingly encouraged. ;^)

I believe I will have to start with the Grace section ... when my eyes are better.

Be blessed.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Abi throws a wrench in "biblical" perspectives....

It has been a while since I have issued an R2A2 alert ... but I've been processing a significant paradigm shift over the past two years.   Something so foundational that I find many things that I encounter today -- that I would have totally agreed with just a few years ago -- throw a wrench in my spiritual "gears".  And while I am still looking forward to doing some significant blogging this fall, I just had to stop in today.

Marriage in not the foundation of our society.

There.  I said it.

Don't get me wrong ... I think marriage is a fine thing.  I think marriage is the gift of God to help us learn to love and serve one another with integrity and humility and intimacy ... and it is a very important foundation to lay for having children -- which is the gift of God to help us learn how Father loves and puts up with our whining and selfishness in order to show us what it means to lay down our lives for our own precious children.  It is the ideal place for children to grow up with healthy models of loving nurture.

But the thing is this.  All marriages are not created equal.  There are lots of reasons why people get married.  Lots of them are stupid and very short-sighted and selfish.  Lord, have mercy!  Heck, not all marriages result in children!  Marriage is a gift as the proper context for the gift of sexual intimacy.  Celibacy is a gift for those who have passions for service and mission and creativity and community to which they give themselves -- instead of giving themselves to the passions of sexual intimacy that can, well, interfere. There is not enough time today to even go into this one....

I will say this, though:  there is no such thing as a Christian Marriage ... although there is such a thing as a marriage between Christians.  Spend a few minute thinking about that.  And just being Christian doesn't stop people from getting married for stupid, short-sighted and selfish reasons.  Sometimes the assumptions they bring just makes it worse.  :^(

Just having the piece of paper or the ceremony or whatever does not result in the "one flesh" reality that God designed as a shadow of the interpenetrating mutuality-in-equality that is the reality of the Triune Father-Son-Holy Spirit.  The mystery that is marriage can lead us into the mystery of life In Christ.  It is just too bad that it doesn't always make it.  Look at how people make a mess of Ephesians 5 because they don't understand male culture at that time.  Paul was following Jesus and blowing up the men's patriarchal gig big time...but it still too often seems to be all about women's submission and male headship.  Sigh....

No ... intimate, vulnerable, honest, humble, sacrificial, patient, joyous relationship is an ongoing journey in marriage.  It is an investment of "presence" with the beloved ... day in and day out.  For better or worse.  For richer or poorer. In sickness and in health.  To love and to cherish ... until death parts us.  It is an invitation to die to self ... to lay down one's life for the other.  It is where the rubber of cHesed/agape meets the road of life.  A testimony to the reality that agape love is, in the words of J.B. Phillips, "the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen." is an all too rare experience.

Loving your neighbor as yourself ... looking out for one another ... THAT is to be the foundation of our society.

The "idea" of marriage, it seems to me, has for too long been co-opted by religion as a means to control behavior -- to reign in fornication (yes, I said it!) -- without really accomplishing the task of intimate mutuality-in-equality ... because it regularly shows itself up for the sham it too often is.  The Apostle Paul says that it is better to marry than to burn with passion ... and that seems to be giving us grace rather than giving us a directive.

But I digress....

* * * * * * *

Considering the scriptures to be jewels of principles to be mined for whatever our issue-of-the-moment is ... well that is, in my wee purple opinion, abuse.  The rash of "bibilical" ... you fill in the blank ... is a symptom of the still-raging epidemic of Pharisee-ism that Jesus and Paul began stamping out -- and there's still plenty of fires burning.  Why is that?  Well, whatever you feed, grows.  And there are way too many folks feeding those Pharisee fires ... logs of guilt and shame and expectation and authority and self-righteousness and condemnation and performance and competition ... you get the idea.  Straining on gnats and swallowing camels, and all....

I know what I'm talking about ... I am a Recovering Pharisee.  Lord, have mercy....

* * * * * * *

Read the scriptures ... please!  Read them as entire books ... please!  Read them with your cHesed glasses on ... please!  Read them in the cultural context of those who first heard them (yes, this will take a lot of work to bridge the historical and cultural distance ... but I have reinforcements coming!), with all the assumptions that go with it!  Let Jesus blow your mind as he blows your Western presuppositions up ... just as he and Paul blew up the presuppositions of those who lived in the Mediterranean area almost 2,000 years ago.

But please, please, please don't read them looking for a way to put God's stamp of approval on your method of doing whatever it is that you're doing.  Let God bless what you're offering up to him without presuming that your experience is to be the model for everyone else -- God consistently has completely different stuff being blessed in lots of other folk's experiences.  If you hang around long enough with your cHesed glasses on ... you'll find you're constantly seeing things that you just didn't see before.  And if you cast each new "vision" in concrete ... well ... where are the seeds of change going to grow?

Okay ... finished stirring the pot for today.

Be blessed, friends.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Abi Ponders the Circle of Life....

Quite a lot has happened since last I posted....

I am a great-aunt for the 10th time -- and little Wesley Carter Ahlberg and his parents are doing great.  It was good to see them in their fun home in San Diego.  Before long Jeff will have a harness made for Nukie, their enormous white Alaskan Malamut, and baby Wesley will be ready to learn mushing (on wheels, of course -- no snow in SD).   :^)   Even though it was technically "against the 2 weeks of rest" rule, they braved the trip to Fullerton what was a very eventful weekend.

I have a new niece-in-law!  Steve and Merrilee Sandy's wedding was lovely ... even if we didn't get that their little ring bearer was dressed up as Frodo with Steve's ring on a chain around his neck -- and walked down the aisle to the Hobbit's melody from LOTR....  The rehearsal dinner and reception was lots of fun and Alexander had a grand time soaking up as much hang time with his cousins as possible.

But the most ... well, I don't have the proper word to describe it ... profound will have to work ... the most profound experience of this past month has been experiencing the passing of my father, Gene S. Carter, on Wednesday, June 22, 2011.
All the family was already planning to be in town for the wedding on Saturday, June 25th, so it made sense to plan for his memorial service for Sunday afternoon, June 26th.  On the one hand it was the right thing to do so quickly and efficiently.  On the other hand, it was a whirlwind of a weekend!  I know that there were those who would have wanted to attend but just didn't get the word in time.  That's just the way it goes, eh?

The experience was much like a wedding, in fact -- you are aware of lots of people around, but you don't seem to be able to get to talk with everyone and the memories are a little fuzzy.  But the service itself was just about perfect.  My sister, Becky, had apparently been working on it for about 5 weeks.  It showed.

Dad loved to sing ... and we did a lot of singing.  But the best singing was the Men's Ensemble -- two of Dad's favorites directed by Becky and sung by his only son, two of his many "honorary sons", three sons-in-law and five grandsons.  Dad would have said "that was just marvelous" ... and he would have been right.  My firstborn doesn't do a lot of singing, but he has a lovely bass and it was a very moving experience for him to be able to participate.

* * * * * * *

The mystery of blending loss and gain, grief and joy, tears and laughter, holding on and letting go is beyond profound.  The slowly spreading awareness of the loss of Dad's presence is deeply profound for me.  I can only imagine how it is for my Mom -- his beloved wife and companion and partner in ministry for 64 years.

For each of us who loved Gene Carter there is a deep sense of gratitude to God -- for Dad's life, his ministry, his generosity, his servant-leadership, his wonderful preaching, his effective way of teaching in so many different venues (church, college, Lions, camp, business, community, relationally).  He was a fiercely loyal man -- a trusted and valued friend and ally who seemed to be able to move heaven and earth with a phone call ... and a force to be reckoned with for those who harmed or hampered those he loved.  Sometimes he could have used a little tempering of that ferociousness....

Dad had a few "wishes" about his death:  to precede his wife and children, to not linger -- especially not to prolong his death with heroic measures (he was ready to meet Jesus), and to be clear-minded and "present" until the end.  Well, he got two out of three ... because the Parkinson's disease that impaired the use of his muscles took his ability to be "present" with those he loved long before his strong, healthy body wore out.

When I saw him last summer, communication was so challenging for him.  Some good moments in the midst of significant disorientation.  It was frustrating beyond measure for this dynamic communicator to be excluded from life in such a cruel way.  In one of those few clear moments, we had a great talk.  We shared our gratitude for having been able to work together at University Christian Church, Long Beach First Christian Church, but especially in the Degree Completion Program at the college; for sharing the joy of preaching and teaching -- and especially of interim ministry at the Wananalua Congregational Church in Hana on Maui; and most of all for the blessing of working together on his book -- and finishing it just in time to distribute it to his children and grandchildren at the family reunion honoring their 60th Anniversary. 

He had a blast with his book -- sending it to all his siblings and nieces and nephews and friends from churches and work places and Lions.  He took one last trip to his hometown of Springfield, IL for the Carter Thanksgiving Reunion and had a great time.  His last time of speaking in public came during a luncheon in his honor in December of 2007.  As a result of reading his book, the president at HIU realized that Dad's influence at the college/university over the previous 35 years had been profound -- and he resolved that Dad would be honored at the mid-year commencement with the Founder's Award -- HIU's highest honor.  While he declined to say anything upon receiving the award, he did say a few words of thanks to those at the luncheon.  He rose to the occasion and left us laughing and wiping our eyes.  He was diagnosed with Parkinson's the following spring...but he had already tied up all the loose ends of his life. 

The mystery of the Severe Mercy (what C. S. Lewis called the death of the wife of a friend:  as severe as death; as merciful as love) engulfed my Dad -- and those who loved him -- in the four years that followed his diagnosis.  As severe as the decline into isolation (unable to converse freely) but as merciful as the love of Mom and family and friends -- as his Savior -- surrounding him all the way to the end.

He looked at me on one "good" day last July -- what turned out to be the last time I saw him -- and said: "I'm ready to go."  I said: "I know you are, Dad."  It would be 11 more months before his name was called....  It was a great encouragement when Mom told me that Dad frequently browsed through his book this last year.

I believe that Dad was "present" down the stretch at the end of his Race.  He came out of the fog of disorientation and realized it was time to go on to the next stage in his journey.  In those last two weeks, as he closed his eyes and seemed oblivious to his surroundings (seemed is an important word here) and his family, I felt like his spirit was growing stronger as his body grew weaker.  He was completely calm -- no agitation or restlessness.  He was moving deeper into the mystery of the Dance -- the interpenetrating reality of Life In God.  He was living less and less in Chronos and more and more in Kairos time.

I do not understand the mysteries of loss and grief ... but I am beginning to sense -- at least for me -- that it contains a wee bit of "green" longing ... for Dad has moved from faith to sight.  For those of us who are already in Christ but not yet present with Christ, our lives are profoundly changed by Dad's absence.  After a while I know my mourning will be turned into dancing ... because I know I will meet Dad in the great Dance -- in a very already-but-not-yet way.

I am confident that I will be pondering this for some time to come ... and that I will be forever grateful to be The Youngest of the Youngest.

Be blessed.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Abi and Oprah, Part 2

For years I have said:  "God helps me because I am pathetic."  And it was true then ... just as it is still true now.  This is all part of what I call the Purple Martyedom ... the witness of those bruised and battered brothers and sisters who keep following Jesus, no matter how hard the road gets.

Each year I have a better understanding of just how pathetic I am.  But wait!  It was never a pejorative use of the word ... not the way folks in the South use "Bless her heart!"  No ... rather in the sense of a daughter invoking the pity of her Father because of her vulnerability and miserable inadequacy.  And the Father responds with cHesed ... initiating whatever it is that his precious girl needs in order to learn and grow in love and grace and mercy.  Not Pharisaic pity that passes by on the other side ... but Samaritan pity that is compelled to stop and help.

Because it is only as we perceive how pathetic we are (in the face of the majesty and mystery that is Father-Son-Holy Spirit) that we will be able to receive God's love for us (from wherever is might come) and return that love to him and others ... with joyful humility and heart-felt gratitude.

And so I have seen, yet again, that what I said in the original post ... "Saved me some of what I knew I had to say myself" ... is still true.  Read this spot-on post about Oprah's "Last Sermon" to see what I mean.  Well done, brother!

The Spirit is always at work ... and wonderfully able to say what needs to be said from a wide variety of sources.  So even though I am not yet ready to process the rest of my notes, here's the link to a blog that says more of what I wanted to say.

...if I wait long enough, I won't have to say anything ... except Amen!. 

And that is just fine with me!    :^)

Be blessed.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Abi and Oprah....

I saw the link to this post on Facebook today, and was glad to see it!  Saved me some of what I knew I had to say myself.  Go ahead and read the post.  Here's what I had to say in the comments.

Thank you for this ... I will be linking to it when I get around to blogging about yesterday's episode.  I had to get my journal out and take notes.  It was a striking moment ... a moment when, yet again, the church has shown that it is just behind the curve when it comes to so many things.

The church is still behind the curve when it comes to women and equality ... and it is behind the curve when it comes to the message that God is Love ... and that each human is an Eikon of God and that makes them worthy of God's love.  Not what they do or say or believe or attend ... but being a precious Eikon whom Jesus left Heaven to come to earth to serve and save. 

And when the church becomes the source of so much "negative energy" -- it becomes a tool of the Enemy.  Those who name Jesus as Lord need to be mindful of the energy they bring to every life and every circumstance and every place and every word.

There's plenty of time to work on doctrine ... but if you don't get the bit that God loves you more than you can even imagine -- right in the midst of your mess -- then nothing of your precious doctrine will transform your life or the lives in your sphere of influence.

...I kept thinking:  "Preach it, Sister!"

I will be back later to process the rest of the notes I took ... and I am hoping to get a chance to see it once again before I do.

Blessings to you ... remember that you are loved by God ... remember that you are a gift of God to this world -- so figure out your calling and get busy sharing the love!


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Abi and Idea-ism

I have a number of posts written over the years which speak to my indebtedness to Bishop George Berkeley and his life-changing statement:  to be is to be perceived.  He goes on to explain that the ultimate perceiver is God.

Scot McKnight is starting a series over at Jesus Creed:  Are we more than matter?  So, I had to comment -- because I am thrilled at the opportunity to share the dear bishop's amazing insights.

So, here are my various posts concerning perception as being:  first, second, third and fourth.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

May Synchroblog -- Letting go....

While I've been working on my perichoresis series off-line, I have been seeing the many posts pop up for this month's synchroblog.  And even though I have not even been able to read one of them yet, I finally felt this morning that this wee, purple abbess needed to chip in a few words.

Those of you who have wandered through the posts here know that I have been letting go of ever so many things over the past few years ... but today I just want to say that the most important thing that I have had to let go (and let go again and again and again) is the desire for the approval of man.

When I have been concerned over the approval of man, my ability to listen to the voice of the Spirit and follow the example of Jesus in being obedient to the Father's will has been compromised.

I'm not talking about the approval of the "worldly culture" here ... I'm talking about the church culture that has been institutionalized.  (If you want to get a better understanding of what it means to be institutionalized, watch The Shawshank Redemption -- as Red talks about what happened to Brooks, and again at his last parole board hearing.)

I'm looking forward to reading The Faith of Leap, by Hirsch and Frost ... as I'm pretty sure this will be part of what they're talking about....

Letting go of the approval of man in favor of the approval of God is risky business in the church.  Turning away from the security of conformity to the conventions of man in order to embrace the risky freedom of being love by God, loving God in return, and loving others as ourselves is not for the faint of heart, it seems.

While there are many things that could use letting go, I have found that as I let go of this one -- the approval of man -- there are many others that fall away almost without thinking.  When we live in the reality of the cHesed of God, his love and grace and mercy set us free so that we may live full.

It's like that old story of the monkey with his hand in the peanut jar ... stuck because he has grabbed a fist full of peanuts and so can no longer slide his hand out of the jar opening.  Only when he lets go of the peanuts can he escape ... and then learn that he can get the peanuts out by dumping the jar out.  The prisons we get caught in by holding on greedily to that which has been freely given, eh?

Peace to you all ... and may our Father give you the courage to let go of whatever is keeping you stuck.

...and I am sorry that I have not posted all the other synchroblog posts.  I think you can find them here.  [Note on 5/16...updated the link.  Sorry about that :^(  ]


Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Abbess and the Prodigal Prophet....

Back on May 15, 2010, I ran across an interesting post by Dylan Morrison, whose
...story is a cross between ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and  ’The Pilgrim’s Progress’ – a roller-coaster journey through a maze of religious belief. I’ve been a zealous Evangelical, Charismatic Christian, a disillusioned agnostic, a burnt-out school teacher, psychology devotee and more recently the receiver of two profound spiritual experiences. I feel a deep empathy with all those who’ve been damaged by religion of all varieties, especially those led by charismatic gurus whether Christian, Islamic or Eastern. I believe that when all the irrelevant bath water is thrown out, a deeply precious and profound ‘baby’ is left.
which led me to a PDF version of his autobiography.  I read his story with a sad sense of "been there, done that" ... and many of you who know of my interest in spiritual abuse will find his blog and book both familiar and yet fresh.

I have found the posts on his blog thought provoking and appreciate the opportunity to ponder things some might consider, well, AbiNormal.... ;^).  This wee purple abbess certainly resonated with a book described as "A story of hope for those in pain."

After almost a year now, after final tweaking was finished, Dylan's book has been published.  Hurray!  Congratulations to Dylan on making his book wildly available to all budgets and styles:  in ebook format (and the array of ebook formats supported is awesome), and at Amazon in paperback (do read the reviews at and Kindle.  Well done, indeed!

For those of you who enjoy the wonderful artistry of The Naked Pastor, you will be interested to know that the cover for the book is the work of Canadian artist David Hayward, whom Dylan regards a true soul brother.

Just as I say so very often:  everyone has a story that is worth hearing.  Some struggle with the telling of their story.  I am grateful that Dylan chose to share his story, told so very well, with the rest of us on this journey.

Be blessed.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Abi and the Wrath of God....

Well, all the buzz about Rob Bell's not-yet-released book, and his video (look at this article to catch the drift and see the video) brought me sharply back to something I have been pondering from The Shack as well as from Wayne Jacobsen's amazing book, He Loves Me:  have we totally missed the meaning of God's wrath?

I'm thinking that we have ... and that too often we have sided with wrath/justice over against love/grace/mercy as the big defining concept of God in our presentation of the Gospel.  And like so many, including Rob Bell, say ... that is not such good news, is it?

One of my new favorite books, The Hawk and the Dove, has an amazing chapter covering a debate by 13th century abbots (fiction) on whether God's justice or his love is the most important ... and I agree wholeheartedly that it is God's love that wins.  Hmmm, that sounds like what Rob Bell is saying?  We'll all just have to wait and read the book, now, won't we?!?

Anyway, the abbot arguing for love said something along the lines (I don't have the book handy) of justice being a branch, but love being the root ... and justice being the setting in which the jewel of love is set.

I have been pondering Wayne's way of describing the wrath of God for almost two years now, and it seems to be settling down to this:

God loves us, his Eikons.  Anything that hurts us incurs his wrath.  God's wrath is aimed to destroy whatever keeps us away from his love and life.  (It is really very deep, this topic.)  Those of you who are parents or first aid/medical responders know that it is very difficult for those who are injured to separate the pain of the injury from the pain of the remedy.  Sigh.  But this gives me great insight to the issue here....

Wayne describes sin and death as the main targets of God's wrath ... going to far as to describe them an a kind of cancer -- an illness that Jesus came to provide the cure for on the cross.  Jesus, as the God-man representative of humanity, was the only human capable of enduring the "treatment" and eradicating the disease.  Yes, the treatment was so severe it took his life in only six hours or so.  But once the "cancer" was gone, sin and Death were defeated and could no longer hold Jesus -- and God raised him from the dead.  And in the blood of Jesus we receive the antibodies that make us immune to the cancer of sin and Death ... and we have new Life in Jesus.  This Life is in the Spirit and is the "already" part of the already/not yet reality of Kingdom Life.  Already Jesus has cleansed us from sin and defeated Death ... but we are not yet delivered from the human struggle in our mortal bodies.  We must persevere in Papa's love for us.

Wrath came because the Law shone its light on sin ... and its consequence:  Death.  Love and grace and mercy came to the fore when, in the fullness of time, Jesus came to show us what the Father is like ... and triumphed when love transcended wrath on the Cross.  For those who walk in the Light of Love there is no Wrath.  Read John chapter 3 ... all of it.  The wrath was appeased because that which enslaved his Eikons was dealt with.  Finally.  No more blood spilled over terms of the Law.  Ever. 

...some narrow presentations of the Gospel, it has been postulated, act as a kind of immunization against the real power of the Good News for the current generation.  I have seen this at work ... and I prefer my children come down with a full-blown case of the Good News, eh?  That is the only way that the immunity-rich blood of Jesus can remove the cancer and bring them Real Life.

We do not know all the ways the Father has chosen to apply the remedy Christ provided on the cross.  It is advisable to do the best we can with what we do know and be humble enough to leave room for the Spirit to work in ways that we cannot understand.

Really I think it comes down to the story of the two sons and their prodigal (extravagant) father.  The father loved both of his sons equally.  The problem came when the younger brother who was "lost" returned to his senses and came home ... and the elder brother resented that the father received him gladly. 

Give Luke 15 a read ... and the rest of the parables of Jesus, while you're at it.  I see threads of a common theme....

Lots of issues in Jesus' day were elder brother problems ... and I think it is the same today.

Brothers (and sisters!), love one another!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Abbess and Triads ... again!

I find it interesting that there are so many things that come in threes, don't you?

Recently I have been pondering what is essential, in terms of covenant community ... as I await the unfolding of the vision that is CovenantClusters.  Those of you who know me know that I am a cHesed girl ... someone who views everything through cHesed glasses.  Purple ones, at that!

But Papa has been broadening my focus ... and it started almost two years, when I met Wayne Jacobsen.  I have been pondering deeply what it means to live loved by our Father, and I have finally begun to, as Wayne says, relax into that love.  Relaxing is something that "driven" people frequently have problems doing....

Last Thursday (as I was revisiting Robert Bank's book, Paul's Idea of Community) I began to write some of my thoughts down together ... and realized that they would become this post.  I titled it " The order of understanding the gospel's power and purpose, as it is manifest in the already/not yet reality that is life in the Kingdom of God."  Clearly, too long a title for a blog post....  ;^)

Anyway ... it turned out to be another triad!  A triad consisting of a What, a How, and a Who.

But I am getting ahead of myself....

First, we have the What.  What is the first and foremost aspect of the gospel?  It is that God loves us.  God loves us so much that, even when we did not know him, he was hard at work implementing The Plan--the one where we become part of God's community.  We are to don our dancing shoes and join Father/Son/Holy Spirit in the Divine Dance ... the perichoresis that is the Eternal interpenetrating relationship that weaves its way between the Three-in-One and results in the accomplishment of God's Will.  We who are "in Christ" dance as part of His Body -- as His Bride, with whom he shares the "one flesh" mystery that is marriage.  It is part of the biblical construct called "covenant" ... and it is the primary context for all things concerning God.  It is the environment in which relationships exist.

If you do not know the reality of this love ... cannot relax into this love so as to live loved each moment by Papa ... then everything else suffers terribly and becomes distorted.

But there is a remedy for that distortion!  They're part of the second in our triad.

Second, we have the How.  There is no way for us to truly understand the Truth in the reality that God loves us without help.  Lots of help.  But, no worries ... this help comes to us in the partner of covenant:  covenant keeping.  I have come to understand and experience this through the richly nuanced Hebrew concept of cHesedlooking out for the best interest of the other, according to the covenant.  To keep covenant is to do cHesed.  God's love is shown through cHesed.  Our love for God and others is shown through cHesed, too.

cHesed is, in effect, the glory of Love [apologies to Peter Cetera].  It is the visible manifestation of the reality of Love ... and none who are in its presence are unchanged or unaffected.  Love is the primary descriptor for God:  God is love.  God loves us with an everlasting, faithful, love.  (See #1 above.)

We receive God's love as a gift through the Holy Spirit -- actually as the gift of the Holy Spirit!  Those who accept God's love, as made known in and through Jesus, are "in Christ" because Christ has come inside them as the Holy Spirit ... another of the great mysteries of God.  And it is through the Holy Spirit that we learn the attitudes and actions of love, grace and mercy ... the components of cHesed.  We learn about God's faithful love, amazing grace, and gentle mercy for us -- so that we may show love and grace and mercy to ourselves and to others.

Third, we have the Who.  The right response to God's love/cHesed is to accept the covenant and keep the terms and conditions agreed to by the parties:  to love with deliberate affection in submission to the partner's need, to give grace as unmerited favor that serves the partner at their point of need, and to show mercy as kindness mutually owed to ensure that the partner succeeds in keeping covenant.

It boils down to what Scot McKnight calls the Jesus Creed.  (If you wanted, you could go through my 40 Days Living the Jesus Creed for lent series!)  What Dr. McKnight has coined as the Jesus Creed: Loving God. Loving Others, is the answer Jesus gave to the question:  what is the most important commandment? 
The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these. [Mark 12:29-31]

When we try to get more "specific (read:  legalistic) about what it means to love God and love others than doing cHesed, we can usurp the role of the Holy Spirit to teach and prompt us toward maturity.  When we have laws/lists, there can be perceived "loopholes" -- where the letter of the law is kept, but the spirit of the law is transgressed against.

With cHesed, it is very simple.  If you miss the target (looking out for the best interest of the other, according to the covenant), you have sinned.  Sin requires confession, repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration.  The greatest part of the Good News is that Jesus has perfect aim ... and the more we relax into his love, the more the Holy Spirit will be able to guide our aim.  Sin is not the boogey man ... just a fact of the "not yet" reality of Kingdom living -- one that has been completely dealt with by Jesus.  We just need to "take our medicine" when we take our eyes off the Target!

Triads ... this Triadial Abbess loves them!  God's Love is the what, Holy Spirit-empowered cHesed is the how, and living the Jesus Creed:  Loving God, Loving Others is the who.  This is the Gospel as well as the repeating cycle of maturity, eh?  Reminds me of a spiral stairway to heaven...just keep walking, one step at a time.

Sure ... there's more and more nuances concerning God's love and life in the Kingdom that we learn and understand as we get higher up on the stairway.  But if you don't get this triad right, the journey is so much more dark and difficult ... and peace and joy so much harder to find.

Today, I'm leaning into Papa's love for me and allowing the Holy Spirit to transform and inspire my love for Jesus and those that cross my path.  It keeps me plenty busy! ;^)

Be blessed.