Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Abi's Ephiphany...9 Years Later

Nine years ago, I had an Ephiphany ephiphany...I had a vision on January 6, 2006, (with words, if that makes any sense) of a community I came to call CovenantClusters.  I had been trying to take a much needed nap (chronic exhaustion being the normal state of an elderly mother of three young boys). But instead of sleep, ideas -- actually, words -- intruded.  These words were so persistent that I asked God if I should get up and write them down.  I know it was God, because the boys all slept through the three hours I spend writing it down, very much like dictation...with drawings and everything! Over the next year, I worked it up into quite an interesting church planting proposal.

Fortunately, no one was interested it in.  Whew...dodged a bullet with that one!

Of course, at the time, I was disheartened...but over the years I have had the opportunity to learn and experience so many things that have changed just about everything concerning how I see the church. To have moved out earlier might have meant missing all of that...and probably would have meant an Epic Fail!

It is fascinating to me to see how that vision has changed so much while remaining unchanged over all these years. How I adore paradoxes.  ;^)   Most of the change has been related to changes in my perspective and perception, as my vision changed from church planting strategy to missional communitas fostering.  I also began to realize that the vision was not something that God wanted me to undertake, but was a glimpse of something that God wanted me to be able to recognize some day...something that They are working to bring together.

I don't know how many more years it will be until I bump into that awesome vision in real life, but I have plenty to do in the meantime...and both Perichoretic cHesed and Simple Living will be core components.

Today, when we remember the arrival of the Wise Men -- bringing precious gifts to honor and worship Father's Eternal Son Incarnate -- may we be reminded that we (all that we are and all that we have) are the precious gifts we are to bring to Jesus...and then relax as He leads us with gracious loving-kindness into The Great Dance.

This day.

Every day.

Special shoes not required.  ;^)



Sunday, January 4, 2015

Abi Ponders Perichoretic cHesed...again!

My new Facebook friend, James Paul, asks great questions. I am wanting to learn to ask better questions myself so I appreciate hanging out with him on FB...this was the question he asked:

Flat Hierarchy

Are flat hierarchies tenable in the real world? The Superbowl XLVIII Champion Seattle Seahawks think so ... Danny O'Neil, Mike Salk and Dave Grosby discuss the outlier relationship between coach Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider. What are your thoughts regarding top-down vs. flat models of power distribution? Is consensus building worthwhile? What, if any, are the implications for the church? Leave a comment - let's have a conversation!

After reading through a number of comments about mutuality and consensus building and collaboration, I chimed in with this:

Organizational Management is my corner, in degree and work experience. One of the most powerful experiences I had was during a management workshop, where we were divided up into group of four or five and given a list of 100 tasks that must be done to start an organization. We each had to work alone to put them in order -- what came first, etc., all the way to what was the last thing you go. It took a bit of time to get your head around all 100 items and think through the process.

After everyone was finished, the group was tasked with negotiating a group order. The kicker was that everyone had to agree. No one could sit out and no one could give in. Everyone had to share why they picked the order they did and be convinced that they were wrong or convince others that they were wrong in order to come to a true consensus of which steps should be taken in which order.

Then, once that process was finished -- which took about twice as long as our personal ones -- we were given the "correct" order. We "graded" our individual efforts and then our "collaborated" effort. The results were striking.

The group got 95 out of 100 in the correct order. I got 95 out of 100 in the correct order. The interesting thing was looking at the precise ones each missed.

The five choices I made that were wrong were catastrophic. Like, what I put at 45 should have been at 3 and so on. They would have been difficult to recover from. It's not always how much you get right, but the nature of what you get wrong, eh?

Well, the group's five errors were all just one place off. Like 4 and 5 were transposed, or 33 and 32, or 73 and 74. None of those were even remotely catastrophic. It took the group to see where my five were so far off (and I had the best stats of the group) and negotiate together to see why a different order was better. We had one quiet person -- with great intuition but not much confidence -- that we had to remind many times not to cave to peer pressure...and it was this person's ability to articulate why they thought the way they did -- and the requirement that the rest of us HAD to listen and consider -- that brought us to the better decision almost every time.

That's a long example, but it has been a powerful lessons to me, almost 24 years later.

When Jesus, Creator and Sustainer of ALL, chose to be first among equals, it was the most important (and regularly the least recognized) example he set.

And he is still to be first. He is the source, the head, the initiator...but he includes us in each step of the process. He leads...so that we can follow and exercise all our gifts together. If we don't follow, he doesn't fire us or punish us or have a tantrum of blame and guilt. Because, in the end, he knows that it is our participation that is the real point.

This is the reality of perichoretic hesed -- the interpenetration of selves with one will, without loss of self, that moves with gracious loving-kindness for the best interest of the other...this is the Great Dance of the Triune God into which Jesus has brought us through his life, death, resurrection and ascension.

Jesus said we are to call no man "Father", because we have one Father in Heaven -- so the prestige and iron rule of patriarchy was set aside.

Jesus said we are not to be called "Teacher" or "Lord", because he is both Lord and Teacher ... and after his ascension, he sent the Spirit to continue educating the human race concerning our adoption as joint heirs with Jesus. [It is a long process, because we are not always apt students, eh?]

Jesus said we are not to lord it over one another. We are to participate in the Perichoretic cHesed of God, so that we might see each other in that same light and learn to dance in that same manner together in all our dealings.

It is breath-takingly simple, but also the most difficult of things to do, because it seems so counter-intuitive to those who have come to rely on experts to tell them what to do, instead of using their gifts and brains and hands and feet and hearts to see and hear with the Spirit is teaching them...so that they might be able to share it with the rest of The Body of Christ.

It's simple. But it's not easy...at least not at the start. Not until you have experienced your own five single-point failures, and have learned about your own blind spots, and have embraced with your whole heart that every person has an important perspective to contribute...but Jesus, with the Spirit, is the quiet voice of the Truth that we must train our eyes to see and our ears to hear and our heart to resonate with and follow.

James asked where he might read more about Perichoretic cHesed...so this is what I said:

I started thinking about perichoresis from the early days of Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed blog, back in early 2007. There were pieces of it floating around in my mind, but always just out of focus. I played with it, but just had to wait. The number of times I blogged about "I'm getting ready to blog about perichoresis" is pretty funny.

My long study of cHesed took an interesting turn in June of 2009, when I met Wayne Jacobsen at a weekend retreat for my small house church...and we talked about cHesed a bit and he said I had the order wrong...that cHesed is not something we do, it is something that we receive from God. My whole world began to spin as I pondered how I had managed to miss that we are to live loved by God first and foremost before we can ever respond to that love appropriately -- either to Love God or to Love Others.

Then, I had been introduced to C. Baxter Kruger and his Perichoresis organization, but it was not the right time yet...until his book, The Shack Revisited, came out in the Fall of 2012. It was then that the other shoe began to drop -- both for getting perichoresis to focus in my mind, and for cHesed to be married to it. I had not seen, previously, that they are interconnected.

That's when I coined the term Perichoretic cHesed as the reality of the Triune God, into which Jesus has brought all of creation through the Incarnation of the Father's Eternal Son.

It is as though Perichoresis is the Music of the Great Dance (as it has been often called, and Baxter has a book called The Great Dance), whereas cHesed is the steps of the Dance itself. The melody calls forth the footwork, as it were.

* * * * * * *

So, there it is...the work on sharing Perichoretic cHesed begins in earnest.  I ran it past my Hebrew scholar cousin the other day and he thought it was on track. Not that I need approval, but it is nice to have every once in a while.

Of course, none of this will be new to those of you who have been hanging out in my wee purple corner of the interwebs, but I wanted to share the conversation with you.

Slowly but surely the concepts are beginning to gel well enough to be able to talk about them in a free-flowing manner.  This is good. It means it is making itself at home in my heart and mind.

Enough for today...off to do neurological exercises....

Be blessed!


Saturday, January 3, 2015

Abi and The Dones....

I have been following the Facebook page of Josh Packard, as well as his website concerning those he calls the dechurched. Yesterday and today he linked Facebook posts to the blog of John W. Hawthorne, where I read this blog post. It is important to go and read that post...or the rest of this post will not make as much sense as it should....

What follows is the comment I left on Josh's Facebook post:

Very well said. I do believe that there are a segment of the Dones who are done with institutional Church...and this article hits many of the reasons why. When I was growing up in Michigan, we had an old record called The Game of Life, which was essentially an audio of an announcer at an imaginary football game...where Jesus was the quarterback...and all the players were personifications of character. Think Paul Bunyon does Football.... While it was hysterically funny, I don't think it was intended to be.

We have been given the personification for the church, actually three:

It is a Family -- the family of the King. Kingdom life is family life. And Lord knows there are plenty of rules that have formed around family life. Part of the struggle has been the desire to continue to laminate the rules of patriarchy onto the Family of God...and many Dones are done with playing the patriarchy game.

The second is as Bride of Christ...and there are just as many rules about what is means to be a Bride -- ones that are a subset of patriarchy.

When half the population of the world (women) are regulated to the margins to the extent that they are in so many institutionalized manifestations of the Church, many of those women -- and their families -- find themselves unable to grow and exercise the gifts the Spirit has bestowed on the for the building up of the Body of Christ, which is the third one. It is no wonder that so many women find ministry opportunities outside the church in the social services area of communities and paracurch organizations, where the rules are less stringent because the immediate needs for workers are so high. Same applies to the mission field, where women are often embraced because there is such a high need for willing hands and feet.

Then there are some of us who have had to make a stand because we have sons who can't understand why Christians don't believe in equality.... I have embarked on a long road of providing a fresh vision of Church for the sake of my sons and their future families.

Finally, I come to the Body of Christ. If people really learned their physiology and considered the beauty and intricacy of the human body, perhaps they would see that there is another set of rules altogether that apply. But some do not see the body/soul/spirit as one whole...they see the body as parts. And when the Body of Christ moves to a mechanistic, utilitarian view, then parts are parts. If one part isn't working, just cut it out and transplant a fresh one. Or give it the latest drug (What? Side effects?!) to keep it under control.

As many of us have embraced alternatives to the professional medical institutions, ones which consider the patient in a holistic manner, we have been enlightened to how the Body of Christ has not been well cared for at the cellular level...

Well, I certainly didn't intent to wax on...but this struck some big nerves. I may have to do some pondering about this over at my wee blog later. Blessings!

There are a couple of typos in there, but I'm too tired to look for them...imperfection is important. ;^)

And I'm not done pondering this post...but I didn't want too much time to pass before sharing it here, just in case it is encouraging or interesting to any of my fellow journey mates.

Be blessed!