Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Abi's New Year's Eve Reflections

A Facebook post by Sarah Bessey asked for a word or phrase to sum up the year.  What popped into my head was:  Preserved to Persevere.

These were the words whispered into my heart earlier this year when I pondered the reason for so many horrific injuries, accidents and trauma visited on me (any my family) over the past 20 years, with an emphasis on the past five.

I had been preserved.

In the face of so many times when I could have been lost -- or more severely injured -- Death had been turned away.  No.  It is not her time...not yet.


We rarely find an acceptable answer for the "Why?" question...I had learned that lesson over the years from my Patron Saint:  Job.  This year was so hard I found myself back there...wondering why.  And the Spirit answered.

I had been preserved.

You will have heard me say "privilege is always given for a purpose" many times. So I wondered what purpose there was in the continued privilege of walking on this side of Kingdom Life.

I had been preserved to persevere.

There is to be no giving up or giving in....

Interestingly, I finished the year reading an amazing book. Neurological issues have severely limited my ability to read these past five years, so I knew this was a gift.  I read "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand.  I totally recommend this book. But this story had been told from another angle. Louis Zamperini had written his autobiography earlier.  He talked about two things:  never give up and never give in.

Louis Zamperini knew what it meant to be preserved to persevere.

My wee story is nothing compared with his. What a remarkable man. But I think, if we will have eyes that see, that each of us can see how we have been preserved to persevere. Whatever obstacles are thrown in our path, we find a way to not give up or give in. But is not not easy and it is done one step at a time. In the moment, we can't see a way forward...but somehow we take one more step....

One step at a time, I have arrived at the end of this year. Tomorrow will bring 2015...and I do not know what the journey will look like.

But I will put my hand in the hand of God, every day. And Father, Son and Spirit will be to me better than light and safer than a known way.  Seven New Year's Eves now since that post...and still so much darkness. But I will persevere. And, even though it is clear that I knew I was not alone seven years ago, I have such a deeper sense of God's presence...of my participation in The Great Dance.

I will day at a time...with 2015 being a bit of a 12 Step dance, I think. ;^)

Be blessed!


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Abi's Advent -- Week One, I was gone Sunday through Friday night late for the entire first week of Advent...the week where we talk about longing...longing for the Savior to come and make things right, bringing justice and righteousness.

I spent this week longing as well.  Longing for this week of intensive neurological therapy to restore balance to my battered brain.  It was a lot of work, but the good news is that the wonderful team at NW Functional Neurology were, effectively, able to reboot my brain and restore balance.

The bad news is that my newly-balanced pathways are not solid enough yet to withstand the waves of stress that wash over my brain day in and day out...and so I must work through my set of nine exercises three to five times a day...and make these fragile pathways solid from repetition...and more repetition. And I have to find a way to reduce the stress.

There is no one in my home who is particularly interested in this essential task before me, much less eager to help me -- either with the exercises or with the reduction of stressors.

...just me -- and Jesus and Papa and Grandmother, that is.  Somehow, it is time to make this foursome the true Reality in all aspects of my life...every day...all day long.  Yes, I would like to have my family help, encourage and care for me. But that's just not what's happening right now. It makes me very, very sad and lonely to own that reality.  But it is, as they say, what it is.

And so I have had a very intense sense of longing this week...longing for the Primary Family of Father, Son and Spirit to take their rightful place in my heart this dull the ache of expectation and replace it with the healing balm of expectancy. 

All. Will. Be. Well.  [Always makes me think of that recurring theme from Shakespeare In Love:  It will all work out in the end.  How?  I don't know, it's a mystery.]  Embrace the mystery....

As Advent cycles around again this year, I am a completely different person than I was last year...and every year before. I am grateful for all that I have learned and all the ways I have grown.  I believe that this was the year and the time for this work to be accomplished with my very purple, broken brain...and I trust that Jesus will walk with me through the therapy.

So...just had to get this first post of Advent in before midnight, when the Second Sunday of Advent begins.


Blessings on you....


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Abi and November's Synchroblog: Spiritual Abuse and Redemption

Updated update!  Kathy Escobar chimed in...better late than never, indeed! 

Update!  Scroll down to the bottom for the links for the rest of the posts....

* * * * * * *

Hmmm...I have found it a bit challenging to write about a topic that still actively triggers me, but I have had a look at it from a couple perspectives lately, so here goes. This post is part of November's Synchroblog. Please do take time to go and read all the posts!

I think that the root of spiritual abuse stems from confusion: about who God is, about who we are, and about how to treat each other. Everyone is confused, on some level, about these three things. The problem is not that we are confused, but that we are unwilling to embrace self-awareness about it so that we can deal with our confusion effectively.

Spiritual abuse comes from two basic kinds of relational dysfunction:
  1. Because I am confused about who God is, I am confused about who I am in relation to God and to Others. This confusion, if I am not vigilant to seek the Truth for myself, can make me vulnerable to being dominated by the convictions of others.
  2. Because I believe I am right about who God is, I am self-righteous about who I am in relation to God and Others. This conviction makes me vulnerable to dominating others who remain in confusion.
In order for spiritual abuse to occur, you have to have both kinds of people:  the vulnerable and the dominant.  As Dr. Phil and Robin McGraw say: You teach people how to treat you.  The problem is that we usually teach this without realizing it. We give away our power to those we think are more competent to manage it. What we put up with is what we'll get.

But this is not a post about shame. It is a post about repentance and redemption. And it's something that we all need to engage with throughout our lives.  We never get past the need for repentance and redemption, because none of us are perfect.

As an aside, I think many Christians have problems here because they have misunderstood Sanctification as a state to be achieved instead of a process to embrace.  It is yet another example of the Already/Not Yet Paradox....

The late M. Scott Peck, MD, in his important book, The Different Drum, spoke about the four stages of spiritual growth.  One important insight is that as you grow, you have to choose to remember yourself as you were in the earlier stages so that you are able to relate to those still in those stages.  People who forget this tend to only relate to those in the last stage they passed through. Those who are farther back in the stages of growth will not only not relate to such a person...but will typically think they are evil.

One more morsel from Peck (see this post) that I think comes into play for this topic has to do with laziness. Peck came to see original sin as laziness:  “attempting to avoid necessary suffering, or taking the easy way out.”

The vulnerable and the dominant are both caught in the web of laziness.  Striving to know God and know yourself and others is the ultimate in necessary suffering. No one can do this work for us--we must embrace the struggle ourselves. Yes, we need companions on this journey, but we must each walk the path, step by step, ourselves...or we do not gain the strength, experience and stamina we need for relationship with God and Others.

To take the easy way out, to attempt to avoid this necessary suffering, misses the mark. It's sin.

For those who are confused and vulnerable, missing this mark can look like trying to find someone who will tell you what to think and do. These folks teach people to treat them like children who can't do things for themselves. They find their way to churches or other institutions that will give them boundaries and, for all intents and purposes, make their decisions for them. These churches or other institutions will, by definition, stunt the growth of these folks by encouraging them to cede their personal power and self-control.  It may seem benevolent, but it is still domination and it slowly steals Life.

For those who believe they are Sanctified (done deal) and Authorized to represent God, missing this mark can look like choosing programs and policies and procedures that control and standardize the thoughts and actions of others. These folks, intentionally or not, make others dependent on them rather than discipling them toward greater maturity. Resorting to power and control are actually attempts to take the easy way out by not really having to love and teach and correct personally in the context of authentic relationships.  "If you would just do what I tell you to do, everything would be fine." Or maybe not....

Now that I've sketched out spiritual abuse a bit, let's turn to redemption.

I have become more and more convinced that AA's 12 Step program is possibly the best foundation for discipleship, and certainly a good way to engage in the necessary suffering of growing up. Yes, it is a program, but it is one that brings persons into the hard work rather than shielding them. In the end, we are all addicts trying to recover from something!

The 12 steps, as outlined on the Realistic Recovery blog, are powerful.  Have you ever read them? Worked through some of the program? It is worth your time...and it is something that needs to be done with at least one other, preferably a mentor.

I would prefer a group of three:  someone I look up to as farther along the road, me, and someone who looks up to me. I think it is most balanced if someone is helping us up and we are helping someone up. Of course, these persons must be willing to engage the process with you and have already proven themselves to be trustworthy. It is not a small commitment, this....

The key to redemption is being willing to engage in the suffering that comes from honest  self-reflection.  And this is where Step #4 shines: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.  Yeah, when was the last time you did that?  Have you ever done it?

Take a look at this list of Character Defects and Assets...Looking at the Man (or Woman) in the Mirror.  One man, talking about processing Step #4, said that they were not able to look at the Assets until they had thoroughly processed the Defects...because it was too easy to fool themselves into thinking that they were not really that bad--all things considered. Our capacity for self deception is, sadly, enormous!

Again, this is not a guilt or shame exercise.  Rather, it is a courageous opportunity to look deeply at your character.  Of course, Step #s 5, 6 and 7 deal with those defects discerned, while #s 8 and 9 move to identifying who we have harmed through these defects and the making of amends, where possible.  Step # 10 commits to regular self-examination and promptly admitting defects as they are recognized.  This is what the process of Sanctification looks like, friends.  It is a life-long process.

Step # 11 commits to improve our conscious contact with God and # 12 commits to living life by these principles and sharing them with other addicts.  Yeah, sounds like the Jesus Creed, doesn't it?

* * * * * * *

There are so many others who have developed such important works that will help with understanding spiritual abuse and redemption.  My friend, Brad FuturistGuy Sargent, is a fabulous place to start....

In the end, I believe the only way to approach spiritual abuse and redemption is to realize that we all participate in it, one way or another.  We have spots where we avoid necessary suffering and take the easy way out. We have spots when we use our power to control others so we don't have to do the hard work of confrontation and correction. We have spots where we submit to the power and control of others so we don't have to do the hard work of being confronted and corrected.

If you have been abused, seek help as you process the are not alone and guilt and shame will not bind your wounds. If someone speaks to you with words of guilt and shame, RUN! Look for resources to help you. Be gentle with yourself, because the process of grief can be intense and last longer than you might think.  God can handle your emotions....

If you have witnessed abuse, wake up and look for those who are hurting and come to them with listening ears. Hear their story fully. Bear their pain with them in silence, without inflaming it with your own emotions. Honor their trust with fidelity. Your presence is more important than any words you might want to say. Be patient and do not press them beyond what they are willing to share.

If you have been abusive, gather up the courage to STOP and confess it to God. Follow the 12 Steps. Get deep into Step #4. Look into the options offered on the other posts in this Synchroblog. Find someone who will walk with you as you embrace the necessary suffering of repentance, confession, reparation and, if possible, reconciliation.  Let God's redemption drill down into your soul, to drain the swamp and clean up your soul.

* * * * * * *

We teach each other how to treat us...but we need to learn a better way.  I call that way Perichoretic cHesed. The 12 Steps are a particularly lovely theme of The Great Dance.

Whether we like it or not, the human condition is wrapped up in suffering because growing is painful -- physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally. But this is the sweetest of pains, because our dancing partner is Jesus. Are you draging him along in your dreadful dance, or are you letting him lead you in The Great Dance?

Life is a long list of Necessary Losses:  the loves, illusions, dependencies and impossible expectations that all of us have to give up in order to grow. Trying to cheat and avoid the pain of these necessary losses leads to all manner of chaos and destruction. That way dragons lie....

Be blessed as you journey. Do not think that you go alone, for Father, Son and Spirit are always with you. But do find companions to hold your left hand and your right hand as you go, because we're all in this together.


 * * * * * * *

Here are the links to the reset of the posts in the Synchroblog:

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Abi's "One Sentence Summary"

I am always fascinated by the pathways the Spirit leads me down!  Today's led me to the blog of Andrew Perriman, to whom I was introduced during the work of producing Wikiklesia, Volume One: Voices of the Virtual World.

Anyway, I found my way to this post, which I found interesting. The challenge was to capture the message of the Bible in one sentence. So I decided to make a wee attempt [after two years of processing, Baxter!], which ended up in their spam filter...but I copied it so I could paste it here:

Hello, Andrew! Very late to the convo, but here's my wee attempt:

From Eternity, God has dwelt as Father, Son and Spirit in 3-in-1 Perichoretic cHesed, and chose to create in order to include Their Imago Dei, male and female, in Their relationship, though the "already/not yet" process was long, counter-intuitive, difficult, subversive and traumatic, as well as intimate, gracious, merciful, loving and joyous; and it would, from Eternity, require the Incarnation of the Son as Jesus the Christ--fully God and fully Human--to "finish/begin" the recreation/adoption/inclusion process via his birth, life, ministry, death, burial, resurrection, ascension and sending of the Spirit as indwelling guide and advocate for the new brothers and sisters until Chronos ceases and Kairos is our Now/Forever reality.

From an older, white, post-evangelical, Trinitarian, American "virtual abbess"...taking a page from the Apostle Paul's "run-on-sentence" playbook.  ;^)

The first time it was blocked, it erased my "sentence" ... and I was appalled because it felt like one of those times when what I wrote could not be repeated.  But then I felt like, if this was something that was really jelled in my heart, I could repeat it.  So I did...and that is what I pasted above.  And it is close...but, I think, even better than the first attempt.  So, thanks, Spam Blocker, for the help!  ;^)

Feel free to take the challenge yourself. You can go and read all the attempts at Andrew's blog first, if you want. Or you can just jump in without being influenced (other than my wee attempt above). You can put your attempt in my comments section...I will check the Spam file and rescue you if you end up there.  :^)

This was a fine exercise for this crisp, cold and blue sky day! 


Be blessed....


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Abi and the Already/Not Yet Paradox

One of the things that never ceases to amaze me is the way something deep and important is revealed to me by the Spirit, but it takes another 20 years for me to "get" it.  More than just that, the process of "getting it" usually involves coming to the point where I just don't believe it anymore.  It is as if what was first revealed was a taste of the truth...but the context of my reality was such that the full flavor of the truth was blocked. It was as if that intriguing taste compelled me to slowly begin to move away from those ideas and practices of my contextual reality that were out of sync with the truth.

I love and am consistently drawn to paradox.  Perhaps that's why I enjoy space/time paradox books and movies....

I have recently finished reading Wayne Jacobsen's new book, Finding Church. It describes exactly where I find myself these days. I have gone through the deconstruction and rubble-clearing stages and have begun looking for the pattern of healthy reconstruction. So, his book is a helpful bit of confirmation of what the Spirit has been on about these past eight years.  Just as all his earlier books have been important steps along the path of my journey.  I am so grateful to God for Wayne.

I just started reading Kathy Escobar's new book, Faith Shift.  I am looking forward to finding new ways to understand what I have been experiencing, looking through her eyes and trying on her words.  Stay tuned....

I know that Wayne's book is one that I will need to give to friends and family who just don't understand my current experience outside of institutional Christianity.  I have a feeling Kathy's book may need to join it.  I am grateful to God for this brother and sister, their lives, ministry, blogs and books. I was blessed to spend time with Wayne five years ago, and I'm looking forward with hope to meeting Kathy in a couple of months.  Stay tuned for that, too....

What this added up to this morning is the realization that I have come around...again! the power of the simple/complex concept of covenant keeping centered in the Hebrew concept of cHesed.

I know you're surprised.  Not.

There is a Covenant Formulary that Dr. Mont Smith made in his book What the Bible Says About Covenant.  [Note:  this book is out of print, but copies can be found through various internet sources.  I have a couple dozen of them myself for use in teaching situations. Someday I hope to reformat it for digital distribution.] It is the definition of what it means to faithfully keep covenant. The formulary goes like this:  In Christ + Like Christ = With Christ.

When I first learned this over 20 years ago, it was presented as a kind of two-sides-to-a-coin thing.  The In Christ side was the faith side and the Like Christ side was the works side.  The Faith plus the Works added up to the fullness of life With Christ.  And that fit with my thinking at that time.

But that was before the deconstruction began...and as my mindset broke apart, it could no longer hold that concept. What was I going to do now? 

I had to let it go...and trust that the Spirit would return it to me when the time was right.

Apparently, that was this morning!

Because in the meantime, the Spirit was immersing me in the spoken and written words of Dr. C. Baxter Kruger...hammering out the concept of perichoresis that has been floating around in my brain for quite some time.  And while that was happening, the other shoe dropped, as it were. I found that Perichoresis remained "out there" -- just beyond reach -- until it was connected with cHesed.

So, I have been processing Perichoretic cHesed through most of 2013 and 2014. Today the old formulary was transformed so that it is real again.  It looks like this:

  • Perichoresis is that wonderful dance of mutual interpenetration without loss of distinct individuality, where the Father and Son are in one another through the power of the Spirit. It is into this Great Dance that we (all of the cosmos, actually) have been drawn by the finished work of Jesus, the Father's Eternal Son. It is this reality that is represented by the component of the formulary known as "In Christ".  Everything is now In Christ, who holds all things together. This is true whether we know it or not...whether we accept it or not. It is Reality.
  • cHesed is the attitudes and actions of perichoresis.  It is the very steps of the dance. We learn them by dancing with Father, Son and Spirit.  Their attitudes toward each other and us are revealed as we partner with them, as they lead us in the dance, as we relax and follow their lead. These attitudes of cHesed are gracious loving-kindness toward one another and manifest in specific actions:  deliberate affection (love that submits), unmerited favor (grace that serves), and kindness mutually owed (mercy that leads). To follow Jesus' lead and dance the steps of gracious loving-kindness with him is to be "Like Christ".
  • Perichoretic cHesed is the Great Dance in its fullness...the dance of covenant keeping. It is a covenant dance where everything depends on the very nature and character of God as Father, Son and Spirit.  They dance the covenant faithfully with each other -- submitting, serving and leading according to the best interest of the Other -- and have done so for Eternity...from before Creation. And by creating the Cosmos, they widened the scope of the dance so that we may join them. This is what it means to be "With Christ" -- to know the love, grace and mercy of Father, Son and Spirit intimately and to dance the steps of submission, service and leading in step with them.  When we are "With Christ", his faithful covenant keeping becomes ours. We cannot do it on our own, we do it with him.  It's a gift we share, not a skill we hone. It is not about is all about Jesus Christ and his relationship with the Father in the Spirit...and our inclusion in that relationship.
The paradox remains...we have already been included In Christ. It is not our choice or reward, but the Eternal will of God which was completed through the birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection and ascension of the Incarnate One, the Father's Eternal Son, Jesus Christ.  But we do not yet experience it fully, because we can't get our brains around what it means to live Like Christ...we have a hard time relaxing and letting him lead us in the dance.

But as we learn to accept that we are fully included -- done deal -- In Christ, and relax into the arms of Jesus and let him lead us in the Dance -- Like Christ, we will finally have peace and rest -- With Christ. 

We will be Home.

Listen to Aslan as he calls the faithful into come further up, come further in.  [Time to read The Last Battle again. ;^)]

My journey seems to be one of climbing a spiral staircase.  As I go further up and further in, it seems like things I've recognized in lower rungs become clearer as I climb higher.  They are not new things I am seeing, but each time I come back around, I see things with better -- renewed -- vision.  The more that I am confident of my place In Christ, the more I begin to see and perceive Like Christ, the more I am at peace With Christ.

The Already/Not Yet Paradox.  It will remain until all things are made new.  But I don't have to wait until then to dwell in the Shalom of Perichoretic cHesed and participate in the Great Dance.

I am already a New Creation In Christ...I am participating in the Dance Like Christ...but I have not yet arrived at the top of the spiral staircase that is my Journey. The Spirit, however, is continually calling me to repentance for my poor theology, renewing my mind, and cleaning the mist off my glasses, so that I see more and more clearly.

It is an awesome that I want to share with those God brings across my path.  It's a process of hope and courage.  Stay tuned!

With immense gratitude as we American's approach our Thanksgiving....

Be blessed!


Monday, July 28, 2014

Abi and the Great Library....

Well, I was trying to post a comment to RJS's wonderful post over at Jesus Creed today...but it got lost.  Sigh.  So, I decided to write it all down here instead and just link back to it in the comment.

The gist of the post, which you really should go and read first...go ahead, I'll be here when you get the unfortunate tendency to put God and Science in different rooms, or viewed wearing a different pair of glasses.

RJS introduced an interesting project:
My job (or one of my jobs) at the workshop both this year and last was to moderate a group where grantees discussed their projects and the progress made to date. The creative effort involved in the broad range of projects underway is impressive.  In one project The Author of Life now nearing completion Diane Sweeney (a high school biology teacher) and Joshua Hayashi (a school chaplain) are producing a multimedia curricula with seven short videos (about 6-7 minutes) to encourage high school students (and others) to think deeply about God’s role as Creator. Their collective experience as chaplain and teacher shapes the approach they take to reach students, either Christian or non-Christian who have questions and concerns about the relationship between science and faith.
I am going to watch all the videos soon....

Anyway, in the comment section, someone said this:
"How and when does the scientific narrative go off track?"

When it exits the room labeled "science" and walks across the hall to the room labeled "philosophy" and tries to take over.
To which someone replied:
But I would add a caveat.
We don't want the image of two totally isolated rooms, where never the twain shall meet. That doesn't work in either direction -- if our metaphysics talks about the real world it can't isolate itself from science, and science doesn't operate in a metaphysical vacuum (not to mention the need to bring meaning and values to science).
So maybe not two separate rooms across the hall, but two adjacent rooms with windows and doors which are not meant as conduits for conquest but rather for respectful and constructive dialogue. And each of us (and our communities) walking between the rooms and listening and doing our best to integrate the contents of the rooms into a coherent view of all of reality.
And it went to to this comment:

Yes, thank you, the game is played both ways. Agree with your caveat as well. Each professor must know the other and the others material well.
And here's where my mind's eye saw a vision that I tried to capture in a comment...which got lost.  It's a vision inspired by C. Baxter Kruger's hope that Theology will one day reclaim her place as the Queen of the Sciences -- which she lost during the Enlightenment period.

Here's the vision:

I see one beautiful home, built and in-dwelt by the Triune God. The centerpiece of this home in an enormous library with a domed ceiling of beautiful stained glass, portraying some beautiful scene--perhaps the one of the Tree of Life. (Maybe it looks something like this!) Anyway you know the type...with books from floor to ceiling--and even a balcony, because the ceiling is so tall--with ladders on railings that you can slide back and forth in order to get to the book that's out of reach.

Okay...maybe only those of us who love books and reading and learning would see this, but bear with me!

In this beautiful library there would be sections containing all the various arts and sciences, including the earth sciences,the mathematical sciences, the biological sciences, the life sciences, the literary sciences, the healing arts...including philosophy, sociology, ecology, psychology, philology, nutrition, gardening, sewing, woodworking, metallurgy--all the crafts--well, you get the picture.

All this material--forms and evidence of what J.R.R. Tolkien calls our acts of sub-creation--would be found in this great library, gathered and hosted by the Eternal Father, Son and Spirit who first created the universe in order to build this home where we would dwell together in Perichoretic cHesed.

When RJS asks the question about whether we tend to see life through two different sets of glasses, I immediately think of the importance it has been to me over the years to recognize that each of us do, in fact, wear glasses...even if we don't know it.  Many of us have more than two pair!

I have decided that there is just one pair that I need.  They are a very special pair, but I think they do the trick! I call them my Perichoretic cHesed Glasses.  (Some of these posts are older and my thinking has grown, but they are still good background.)

I yearn for the day when we look up and around and notice the incredible diversity found in this very special library.  There is room for everyone here because the Queen of the Sciences is Queen over all--even those who do not recognize Her--and all are welcome to dwell in her home and learn.

Actually...this is facilitated by two other important rooms in the house:  a room that looks quite a bit like the One T Saloon, where folks come to relax and have fun and talk over their favorite forms of refreshment. (One where I no longer need to be a Deputy.)  There would also be a Cafe.

Conversation is important in God's universe. Everything communicates -- just in different ways. The more fluent we become in these different forms of communication, but better we will understand each other -- and the better we will understand God and Their amazing creation.

This is the foundation of civil communication, something that has become less and less easy to find in the Internet Age.

So, there you have it.  Reminds me a bit of this other virtual house I built.

May we so yearn for lives of true hospitality that we are driven home to the Kingdom of God...the one that is all around us as well as within us...the Already / Not Yet reality we are to find in the local outposts of the Kingdom which are called the Local Church. (And they aren't necessarily all found in buildings with services 2 or 3 times a week, either.)

Be blessed....


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Abi and June's Synchroblog -- From Peggy...To Peggy

Update:  The Synchroblog Links are up and added at the end!

* * * * * * * *

This post is part of June's Synchroblog, where we were invited to travel back in time to the “You” of 10 or 20 years ago and tell yourself something you know now but wish you had known then

This is not as easy as one might think...given the Temporal Prime Directive, and all.  My post title is a reference to one of my favorite Star Trek: Voyager episodes.  The important line of advice from Captain Janeway to Harry Kim is:  "Well, if you won't take it from me, take it from you."

Temporal paradoxes are very complicated and trying to understand them will burn your brain up in a hurry...and if I was, in fact, able to go back in time and tell myself something very would, undoubtedly change my timeline today.  That's the point, right?

There are so many things I have learned in the past four, er, eight years that I wish I had known 10 or 20 years ago. But calculating the when of this endeavor is of paramount importance. It can be any time after Memorial Day of 2000. So, I'm going back just over 14 years ago.

Why then?

Because if I change anything between October of 1992 and April of 2000, I risk the loss of the three most precious gifts God gave this earth through me:  my three sons.  (Cue 1960s music....)

And that is something that simply must not happen.

But there is a day that sometimes messes with me...still.  And if I could go back and change one thing that day, everything would change for me and my family...and it would perhaps mean that all traces of AbiSomeone, Virtual Abbess of the Purple Martyrdom, would disappear from the Internet.

Such are the risks one takes when playing with time.

* * * * * * *

"Robert, could we turn right and take the scenic drive home, please? It is so beautiful with all the spring flowers blooming and the water in the creek is running so high and fast -- there is that little waterfall that should be just awesome.  Please?"

* * * * * * *

On the 3rd of June, 2000, we were celebrating our oldest son's 5th birthday (a few weeks late) at our local Denny's. As we pulled out of the restaurant's driveway, I simply suggested that we turn right. I didn't say why. Maybe Robert didn't hear me...maybe he had other plans for the drive any case, he turned left and we ended up at the front of the left turn lane, just as the light turned green.

Just then, as we accelerated, we heard the sound of a siren coming toward our intersection.  Robert stopped to ensure that the way was clear. The young man in the big pickup behind us didn't hear or see what was happening, and slammed right into us...our Mazda 929's bumper a good 8 inches lower than his steel bumper, which went straight into our trunk.

Right then all our lives changed.

My 5 year old and 17 month old sons, seemingly secure in their car seats, both suffered concussions as their heads were slammed back. Neurological damage is slow to manifest and even slower to resolve. I can't even talk about heart is breaking all over again.

I knew I was pregnant -- just two weeks! Somehow I was turned toward the boys in the back seat, which is how I saw their heads bounce off the backs of their car seats. I sustained twisting injuries of my cervical spine/neck muscles and ligaments as well as of my L5/S1 vertebrae in my low back.

...and with a little over eight months more of ligament relaxing hormones pumping into my 44 year old, ever-changing, body mechanics, the prognosis for full restoration was not very hopeful.

That day my babies lost a mostly functional mommy and had to learn to make do with a very broken-down, purple one. This is not something that they have understood very well...especially the two little ones, who never really knew me "before"...but that is another story for another time, perhaps.

In particularly melancholic moments, I wonder if I would have even had the rest of my slew of injuries in the ensuing years...compounding, as it seems, from that first, catastrophic, injury.

"What if?" is a place where I have spent a lot of energy, these past 14 years.  It is not a good place to be -- because there is no time travel. And even if I had a Time Turner, I couldn't safely go back more than five hours. And the Omega 13 Device could only go back 13 seconds. Way too late for fixing....

* * * * * * *

Nope, I can't go back. I must live fully in the present, forgiving the past as the best we knew how to do at the time. I must embrace the severe mercy of my beloved Triune God, whose merciful and loving grace faithfully works in and through all of our pain and suffering to bring into being amazing goodness that would not otherwise exist.

Suffering is part of the hard work of learning patience and compassion.  For myself...for others...for all of Creation.

Living in the past or living in the future are time wasters for me.  I need YHWH, the Present Presence, to keep me in the here and now...walking baby steps with Jesus in the midst of the darkness and nightmares.  We will get through to the light of morning.

I keep waking up every day.

We do not have the opportunity to deal with temporal paradoxes, but Perichoretic cHesed Paradoxes are all over the place for this wee, purple, forward-looking, Papa-trusting, Jesus-following, Sarayu-transformed abbess.

In due time God will restore what the locust has eaten.

But that will not be my doing -- I cannot fix any of that.  There is no magic wand...there is only embracing pain as the way of human learning.  I must walk in faith into what I am learning about who God is and who I am and what it is that I am to be doing:  receiving God's merciful loving kindness and returning it by sharing it with those God puts in my path.

...I'm happy not to lose all of my virtual fellow journey mates.... ;^)

Be blessed...and do read the rest of the bloggers, when the links are up!


* * * * * * *

Here's the blog links!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Abi ponders privilege and purpose....

There has been something that keeps coming back to me these past few months, as I have been pondering patriarchy and the purpose of God.  It is something that one of my college professors, Dr. Knofel Staton, used to just hammer into us:  Privilege is given for a purpose.  If the purpose is abandoned, the privilege is no longer valid.

God called Abram to be the Father of the Hebrew people.  Not because Abram was exceptional, but because God was faithful. The Hebrew people were set apart as God's chosen people.  Not because they were exceptional, but because God was faithful. God was, as Baxter Kruger so frequently says, preparing the Womb of the Incarnation.

Abram, when his name was changed to Abraham, became the first of the great patriarchs:  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Each of these men were deeply flawed in character, but God was faithful.  They were given privilege in order for the purposes of God to be accomplished.  When they held to the privilege and lost sight of the purpose, things did not go well.

In those times we saw the cHesed of God move to prevent disaster in what we call wrath. Wrath, since it is an aspect of cHesed (love, grace, mercy), does not strike without warning.  Those on whom wrath is visited usually know they have strayed.  (I think Job may be one exception.)

The patriarchs and the prophets and the priests and the kings of the Hebrew people frequently had problems keeping their privilege aligned with the purpose of YHWH. They too often became enamored of the glory and honor that accompanied the privilege...and not only forgot the purpose, but frequently they abused their privileged positions.

When the fullness of time had come, and the Womb of the Incarnation was fully prepared, Jesus took up human flesh in order to dwell among humans and bring about their Adoption--which, by the way, has always been the purpose.

Jesus--by his words and deeds--gave notice to the patriarchs and prophets and priests and kings that their time of privilege was coming to an end. The Holy Spirit was about to be poured out upon all flesh, and Father, Son and Spirit would dwell within each of us.  We would become a Royal Priesthood for King Jesus and God would hold the title of Father in the Kingdom of God.

Throughout history there have been those who continue to grasp tightly to the privileged positions which Jesus set aside. Clearly they had not understood...they did not wish to understand...they were unable to understand.  The mind that is not renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit remains darkened and confused. And so history is cluttered with those who would claim privileged positions given by God...but who used their privilege for their own, or others, purposes and call them God's purpose.  Multitudes of the abused cry out against their abuses.

Surely, I do not need to list out the abuses of the Popes, bishops, priests, kings, nobles, officers, leaders...those who used their privilege to deprive others of their privilege as Children of God and Joint Heirs with Jesus.

I mourn the millennia of abused and confused privilege...and rejoice where it has been rectified by the work of the Holy Spirit.  There is, unfortunately, much work yet to be done.

Happily, the Word of the Lord does not return void.  This victory is already won...but it has not yet been fully realized.

May we each, in our own way, be beacons of the Kingdom...where all are brothers and sisters in Christ and only Jesus is Lord and God is Father...where the purpose of reconciliation and restoration can only be delayed but not thwarted.

We walk in suffering solidarity on this journey with those oppressed by the hand of men who hold to a privilege that has been rescinded because its purpose has already been accomplished.  May they see that there is a new task set before us by the Master....

Patience is a difficult discipline, but our God is full of love and grace and mercy for us as They walk the path with us.

Be blessed...

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Abi links to a great post which asks: Is God Male....

Friends, you must simply take the time to read this beautiful post--shared on their Facebook page by the wonderful folks at The Junia ProjectIs God Male or Masculine? 

I have written posts about patriarchy and accommodation and about pondering the Spirit as the Grand Mother.  This post is an important background document to flesh out what I have so imperfectly tried to say in my broken, purple way....

Be blessed!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Abi and May's Synchroblog..."What the hell?"

Update 6/10/14 -- interesting chart over at Jesus Creed.  Why am I not surprised that I don't seem to fit any of the options?

* * * * * * *

Update 4/25/14 -- added another blogger at the bottom...

* * * * * * *

This post of part of May's Synchroblog.  Please see the listing of other bloggers at the bottom of this post, and take the time to read the variety of responses with as much openness as your heart and mind will allow.  

I encourage you to follow J.R.R. Tolkien's advise and "suspend disbelief" long enough to enter into the narrative and let the Spirit speak--either to confirm what you have come to suspect (but thought you were the only one) or to challenge your own belief in what you have been taught.

If there were ever a time to be Berean, it would be for such a time at this!

Be blessed....

* * * * * * *

As with just about everything else, my ideas about wrath and hell have changed significantly over the past five years. It has been a slow and confusing process of looking at things that I hadn't really thought about--just taken them for granted as they had been taught.

When one's foundational ideas shift, the whole house shifts....

So I need to start with wrath as an aspect of love. I started thinking about this after reading The Shack and meeting Wayne Jacobsen. There was plenty to ponder about in these conversations...and ponder I did.

But there was something that just wasn't setting right...and it wouldn't be until I finally took the time to read and listen to C. Baxter Kruger that things began to fall into place in a way that really helped my ideas about wrath and hell shift. I started sharing that shift in the April Synchroblog. A shift that I have begun to talk about as Perichoretic cHesed.

Perichoretic cHesed is all about the very nature of God as Father, Son and Spirit. But that nature has been clouded by an infiltration of pagan Greek philosophy by some of the most influential church fathers--like St. Augustine and Martin Luther.

Baxter Kruger has done a tremendous job of documenting this subtle infiltration--and I'm so very grateful to him! In a nutshell it comes down to this:
  • A Deistic GOD which is basically solitary, distant, impersonal, disappointed and angry--among other things--is mostly a reflection of Greek ideas about god. Those ideas made a lot of sense to people steeped in the Greco-Roman culture of Western Civilization. But those ideas appeal to the fallen mind...and that is problematic. A solitary God does not love by nature. 
  • A Trinitarian God which exists in the loving relationship of the Father and the Son in the Spirit, that I have come to describe as Perichoretic cHesed, is consistent with the realities of the Hebraic culture of covenant that God developed as part of what Baxter calls "the womb of the Incarnation." This Triune God loves by nature.
And this is where all the troubles arise....

When God does not love by nature and is cast in the most of humanity's fallen mind, we're going to get an angry judge, offended and looking to punish sinners.  Jonathan Edwards did an unfortunately great job describing that God.... It is this God of wrath who condemns sinners to a Hell of eternal punishment and torment, as Dante's Inferno popularized.

But what if that God is not what God is really like?

What if God, dwelling eternally as Father, Son and Spirit, are a community of self-giving and other-centered love that always looks out for the best interest of the other? What if they planned, from before they even created, to include their creation in their relationship of Perichoretic cHesed? What if that is what Jesus took on human flesh to accomplish--our adoption? What if the task of the Spirit, for all these centuries, has been one of educating the human race concerning their inclusive adoption into the very Family of God? And what is part of that education is the pruning away of ideas and habits that hurt and destroy us and keep us from living in the truth of who we are in Jesus? What if the things we have build in this world have been made from wood or straw or stubble rather than gold and silver and precious stones...and when the fires of trials in this world burn up that which is flammable?

What if the fires of hell are not ones of eternal torment and punishment but rather are ones of purification and restoration? (HT: Wm. Paul Young and C. Baxter Kruger)

What if hell is what we experience when we separate ourselves from the love of God...and the fires around us are a way of herding us back to the Shepherd?

Hour #33, starting in minute 43:35, in Baxter's "Big Picture" series of lectures gets to this definition of hell:  " is the form of human existence that takes shape in wrong-headed takes shape in the "I am not".  It is false religion. It's the misery of your own soul because of what you believed under the lie and harassment of the Evil One. And that can be extended indefinitely. But even though we suffer eternal  hell and misery, it doesn't change the fact of who we are. Who we are is beloved children of the Father. The Spirit's been sent to us to help us know the truth.  Whether we believe it or not doesn't change the Real World. It just means we are living in an illusion. And, to me, as the New Testament testifies, we can live in that illusion for eternity. That's the scary part."

That means that heaven is living in the reality of the Good News that Jesus has laid hold of us and brought us to live with with him and his Father and the Spirit. We hear and receive by faith what Jesus has done, and if we believe it and repent (change our minds), we experience heaven.  If we don't believe it--because "I am not" ... you fill in the blank--then we experience hell, because of what Baxter calls "our stinking thinking."

* * * * * * *

I think there is a lot of room for more thinking about this, especially because we just do not have that much really clear teaching about hell and a lot of murky teaching has resulted ... and I am looking forward to the rest of the folks writing about this.

* * * * * * *
Here's the collection of links from the May participants in this Synchroblog:

Jeremy Myers – Does Jesus Talk About Hell More Than Heaven?
Wesley Rostoll – Hell, thoughts on annihilationism
K. W. Leslie – Dark Christians
Angie Benjamin – Hell Is For Real
Paul Meier – Hell Is For Real – I’ve Been There and Came Back
Glenn Hager – Abusing Hell
The Virtual Abbess – What The Hell?
Kimbery Klein – Hell, if I know.
Michael Donahoe - Hell Yes…or No?
Liz Dyer – Hell? No!
Margaret Boelman - Hell No I Won’t Go
Loveday Anyim – Why the hell do you believe in hell?
Linda - If you died today, where would you go?
Edwin Aldrich – What the Hell do we really know.
Mallory Pickering -- The Time I Blogged About Hell
Elaine – What The Hell?

Monday, May 5, 2014

Abi redefines and refocuses the controversy....

I have mentioned before that I'm not really comfortable with the terms currently used in the debates. I have had my synthesizing hat on for the past few years, looking to see if I could get my brain about things enough to describe what I have come to understand about the foundational issues that underpin the controversy.
Some of the key players in my thinking  these past 20+ years include: S. Scott Bartchy, Scot McKnight, C. S. Lewis, George MacDonald, Mont W. Smith, Lewis B. Smedes, Wayne Jacobsen, Alan & Deb Hirsch, Eugene H. Peterson, Neil Cole, Michael Frost, Tony and Felicity Dale, Len Hjalmarson, Wm. Paul Young and C. Baxter Kruger ... and all the thinkers of the past they have brought with them into today's arena. I would have a very difficult time separating the various threads each of these persons contributed to the wee tapestry I want to share today.
The following definitions are intentionally very dense as I try to squeeze 40 years and millions of words into something that begins to represent what I believe about how humans are meant to treat one another.  These concepts have been heated white-hot in wrath's purifying and restoring hell-fire (not sure whether I'm ready to join the May Synchroblog: What the hell? ... I may need a rest!) and hammered out on the anvil of spiritual formation over the past five years in my wee purple experience. And now they have been plunged to cool in the Living Water of Truth to harden and prepare for service.
My glasses are still a bit fogged from the steam...and I'm still a bit tender in places that have been pruned and cauterized...but I trust the love of Sarayu that sometimes wounds in order to heal.
I pull no punches today, so I know those brothers and sisters who have invested their lives in what is currently called Complementarianism will not be very happy with me.  The term "Patriarchal Subjugation" will probably offend them.  I am intending to be precise, not offensive. I endeavor to speak the truth in love, spritzing a bit of Trinitarian Windex on their Augustinian glasses, as Baxter says...but I know that they will not see differently until they get a new prescription.
And I realize that it is not my task to convince them and call them to repentance--that is the work of GrandmotherI trust that Jesus is on their journey with them right where they are and that the Spirit will lead them according to their readiness to follow.  I certainly know how long it took me to make this difficult transition. They are still my brothers and sisters in Christ, but that does not mean that I must agree with them.
If you've been following my thoughts over the past eight years, you will see how I've come to this particular synthesis. And, as Craig Groeschel told a group of us at a Church Planting Conference in Kansas about seven years ago:  I only guarantee what I'm saying for 90 days. The Spirit is always at work teaching and leading me toward deeper growth along this journey...and there's always something being pruned, weeded, mulched... hey, it's spring! ;^)

Here goes--I suggest that you read it slowly and out loud (if your surroundings allow!) 

Patriarchal Subjugation 
is a male-centered, domination-based 
functional social structure of scarcity 
implemented by coercion and aversion. 
It's Christian practice flows from 
Augustinian-based scriptural interpretation and tradition, 
which is influenced by the pagan Greek philosophy of Socrates 
as taught by Plato, Aristotle and others. 
(Interestingly, Socrates rose to influence 
as the 400 years of prophetic silence 
was beginning for the Hebrews 
and his philosophy was firmly entrenched 
in the dominant culture of the Roman Empire 
when, in the fullness of time, Christ was born.)
Its infiltration from Western Civilization into Western Christianity 
was as subtle as a pagan wolf in Christian sheep's clothing 
and its practice ultimately fosters bondage and stunted maturity—
both of the oppressor and the oppressed.
Its peace is built on the coercive order
and cruel efficiency of the PAX ROMANA.
[I will need to come back and unpack this later...
probably with lots of links
to things that have already been said better
 somewhere else!]

Perichoretic cHesed
is an other-centered, self-giving 
relational social structure of abundance 
implemented by gracious loving-kindness 
and manifests as unmerited favor, 
mutual submission and 
mutually-initiated helpfulness
based on the best interest of the other. 
It flows out of Trinitarian-based scriptural interpretation, 
which is influenced by the Hebraic covenant philosophy of YHWH 
as revealed to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, 
and given to Moses in the Law,
known as the Old Covenant, 
and taught by the prophets. 
As it was radically reinterpreted by Jesus 
and introduced as the New Covenant, 
(cut in his very own body 
and shedding his very own blood,
to bring about our rebirth and adoption)
and taught by Paul and the very Early Church Fathers, 
its faithful and humble practice
results in the growing freedom
and growing maturity 
of ALL toward Christlikeness. 
Its peace is the very own peace of Christ Jesus, 
which is not at the world gives,
but rather removes both anxiety and fear
as all come to learn of their 
inclusion in the very Life Eternal
of the Father and the Son in the Spirit
as adopted children and joint heirs with Christ Jesus.

Perichoretic cHesed...

It's News...because we didn't know it.  And it's Good!  (HT: C. Baxter Kruger)

Grace and peace to you!


Monday, April 21, 2014

Abi and April's Synchroblog: Bridging the Divides

Updated update!  The last stragglers have been added to the list.  I hope you wander through these thoughtful posts...take your time, they're not going anywhere!  ;^)

Update!  The list of the other participants in this Synchroblog are listed at the bottom of the post....

* * * * * * *

It is always a miracle when I am able to participate in the Synchroblogs of my friends ... and when I first read the topic on this one, I was filled with turmoil.  You see, there is entirely too much division in my house...and the bridge that used to unite us was effectively blown up five years ago. I have been pretty much in survival mode since then.

Some bridges cannot be unilaterally built -- they require cooperation between those who possess the land on either side of the gulf that divides.  And so I wondered if I would have anything to say this month...that I was willing to say in public, that is.

But today I find that I have a few things to say!

The house that Jesus was talking about is the house of the Triune God, where Father, Jesus and Grandmother dwell in Perichoretic cHesed. Where there is such unity and togetherness that there is no other word to describe their reality other than that they are One. Interesting that the last Synchroblog in which I was able to participate was on that topic...kind of like a warm up to this one, eh?

Take a look at the entire story in Mark 3...see that the context is about whether Jesus is of God's house and just who make up the members of that household.

This little story tells two important things:  the Household of the Trinity cannot be divided...but the neighborhoods in the Kingdom sure can be.  This gives me a firm foundation as well as a firm reprimand. If Jesus gave no special place to his flesh and blood family, I should consider my priorities carefully too....

When I get all caught up in the distinctives of various neighborhoods, it is all too easy to forget the distinctives of the Kingdom.  Kingdom reality carries the proper pH -- not too acid nor too alkaline -- that sweet spot described by the number seven:  complete, whole and full -- where human life flourishes and homeostasis is possible:  Just Right!

When Jesus became human, it was a distinctive he would carry for the rest of Eternity.  And in that blend of Trinity and Humanity he took hold of all of creation. He became the first truly fully human; one who was not divided by the knowledge of good and evil, but united with Father and Grandmother as he hammered out what it meant to be fully human and fully God. He laid hold on his creation and took us down with him in death, where he entered fully into our fallen darkness and blindness. He put to death fallen humanity and voided Adam's sin. He fell with us into our hell ... and turned on the lights! When he rose from the grave, he bought all of creation back to life -- recreated!  In Christ there is no gap left to bridge. We have been included in the Perichoretic cHesed of the Trinity because we are IN Jesus. All humanity has been adopted through the New Covenant in Jesus.

The challenge he sent Grandmother to work out, when he returned to Father, was the education of the newly adopted children. This is no small challenge:  most of the children have not heard about (or do not believe) what Jesus has done for them: They have nothing to earn. They have only to see and hear, believe and receive, repent and reorient to Kingdom life.

And that is where we come back to division. Or should we say poor vision? In and out. Us and them. Included and excluded. Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female. What a big gulf is represented by that little word: division.

The problems of division come when we look at our lives through our own eyes, rather than through the eyes of Jesus, as revealed by our Holy Grandmother.  We need new glasses for this new reality -- for our eyes will not be healed until that day when our bodied are transformed into ones like Jesus. Until then, we all need glasses. I call them cHesed Glasses....

One of the reasons why I have had to step away from institutional forms of Christianity is kind of like keeping 3D glasses on after you leave the 3D environment. Thinks just don't look right. Images look blurred and flat instead of crisp and bold. I have talked about the 3D quality of my cHesed Glasses, but there is an update needed.  I guess they need to be called 3D Perichoretic cHesed Glasses! ;^)

These 3D pH Glasses are kind of like those glasses said to have been made by Benjamin Franklin for reading the secret map on the back of the Declaration of Independence in the movie National Treasure, staring Nicholas Cage. Depending on which lens combination was being used, different things on the map could be seen....

3D pH Glasses see through the lenses of love, grace and mercy. They show us not only how God's love, grace and mercy are poured out over us at all times...they also show us opportunities for us to share this gracious loving-kindness with all of Creation -- humans, animals, plants, planet.

I have come to see that the glasses that Western Christianity has ground out for us to wear have a prescription that looks more to Plato and Greco-Roman legal constructs (which influenced Augustine, and through him, Luther and Calvin and so many others) than toward Moses and cHesed as covenant relationships. I have become more and more convinced that this is one of the biggest sources of division within the neighborhoods of the Kingdom.

It seems to me that all divisions come, um, from vision problems. I love how Baxter Kruger says that theology is basically just Windex to clean away the dirt and smudges that mar our ability to properly perceive God as they exist as Father, Son and Grandmother. We need to remember to not only wear our 3D pH Glasses, but to regularly clean them with Trinitarian Windex!  That Platonic Windex just doesn't work.

When I am looking out through glasses that are ground to help me see the amazing relationship between Father, Son and Grandmother -- where there is no competition or hierarchy, but only the freedom of Perichoretic cHesed for one another and for me -- it is such a fresh and beautiful sight. But when I look at structures of law and judgment, expectation and responsibility, organization and hierarchy, power and control that so many churches have adopted...well no wonder it gives me a headache!  And when our Platonic Windex only smears without cleaning, we multiply the problems.

* * * * * * *

In the end I have to keep reminding myself the division in the Kingdom is not really Real. It's just a bad case of distortion -- one that requires new glasses and proper Trinitarian Windex!  That being said, poor vision is the cause of many an injury...and neighborhood divisions in the Kingdom are the most tragic form of "friendly fire" that exists!

May Jesus help us find ways to replace division with his vision....

Be blessed!

* * * * * * *

Here’s the list of other bloggers contributing posts related to healing the divides this month: