Come Visit!


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I’m blogging over at Magpie Girl now. Please re-set your RSS feeds and such and come on over! Urban Abbess-type posts appear under the Priestessy Thoughts category. You can also support my new etsy shop. Hope to see you soon!

Fire Sale for Simple Way


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I’ve been meaning to hold a book sale for awhile, and now seems like the opportune time.

Most of these books are used, some more so than others, but while some may have a bit of underlining, many are brand spanking new and just languishing on my shelves.

So here’s the deal, you email me with your address and I’ll send you a paypal invoice and your books. Each book is Just $5, plus $3 for shipping (U.S. only please.)

Half the proceeds will go to the Simple Way community and thier neighbors to rebuild after the fire. You can also donate directly to the cause and advocate with the Mayor to do something good in the neighborhood. Thanks for all your help and happy shopping!

Email your orders to: –sale is over– and include:
1) Which titles you’d like
2) your snail mail address

P.s. Tell a friend!

-The Urban Abbess


Books For Sale

New Titles
Telling God’s Story, John W. Wright
SOLDFlirting with Monasticism, Karen E Sloan
Flirting with Monasticism, Karen E Sloan (copy two)
The Beautiful Ache, Leigh McLeroy (two copies)
Picturing the Gospel, Neil Livingstone

Women in the Church
Women in the Church’s Ministry: A Test Case for Biblical Interpretation, R.T. France
Daughters of the Church, Ruth A. Tucker, Walter Liefeld

Postmodern Church

Church Next: Quantum Changes in How We Do Ministry, Eddie Gibbs
SOLDThe Last Word and the Word After That, Brian McClaren (an extra copy)
SOLDSearching for God Knows What, Donald Miller
Missional Church: A vision for the Sending of the Church in N. America, Wayne Gruder
Stories of Emergence, Yaconelli
My Faith So Far, Patton Dodd (2 Copies)

Spiritual Practices/Worship
SOLD!< em>The Sacred Way: Spiritual Practices for Everyday Life, Tony Jones
Circle of Grace: Praying With and For Your Children, Gregory and Suzanne M. Wolfe
Enter the Worship Circle, Ben Pasley
Ancient-Future Faith: Rethinking Evangelicalism for a Postmodern Word, Robert E. Webber
The Seeker’s Way: Cultivating a Longings of a Spiritual Life, Dave Fleming

Stan Grenz
The Millennial Maze: Sorting out Evangelical Options, Stan Grenz
Welcoming But Not Affirming
What Christians Really Believe and Why

Eugene Peterson
SOLDWhere Your Treasure Is
A Long Obedience
Leap Over a Wall
SOLDThe Wisdom of Each OtherSOLD! Answering God
Reversed Thunder

Other
SOLD!< em>Real Sex, Lauren Winner
The Quest for the Radical Middle (Vineyard History), Jackson
Invading Secular Space, Martin Robinson & Dwight Smith
The Call to Conversion, Jim Wallis

Simple Way Community Fire


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I know I said I wasn’t posting here for the summer, but a dear sibling community, Simple Way is in deep need right now. Here’s what I wrote at Magpie. If you know Shane and the tribe, or if this situation “rings” with you, please consider giving to these folks in Philly.

Shalom,

Rachelle
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________
One of the best examples of humilty I can think of is Simple Way. Simple Way is a tiny community in Philedelpia’s inner core who try to live a (re)newed kind of Christianity which focuses on taking care of their neighborhood, the earth, and each other. Living at or below poverty level, these generous, clever, imaginative folks have found stunningly do-able ways to support and celebrate the poor but VIBRANT neighborhood in which they live. From helping the neighbor kids grow much needed produce in the backyard of an abandoned house, to shooting pollution sucking clover seed through the fence of a toxic dump site with supersized water guns, these folks refuse to believe that they are too small to make a difference.

Shane Claiborne is the public voice of Simple Way and I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with him at a conference and in conference calls. One of the things I appreciate most about Shane and Simple Way is that even though they live lives of awe-inspiring genersoity and sacrife, I never EVER feel guilty after talking to them. They manage to spread what they call “prophetic imagination” for a better environment and better neighborhoods without holier-than-thou attitudes or condemning speech — a gift rarely seen among dedicated activists. If I could describe Simple Way using only two words I’d say they were brilliant, and humble.

I was just preparing to blog about Simple way and thier stunning humility when I learned the Simple Way common house–in which members live at poverty level– several of their neighbor’s homes, and their neighborhood community center was destroyed this morning. The 7 alarm fire ripped through the low-income neighborhood decimating houses, cars, and business. Members of the Simple Way and their neighbors have lost all of their possesion, including their equipment for the small cottage industries that keep them afloat.

All my love, thoughts and spare change go out to this astonishing community who are teaching me to live with humility and hope. May they soon find their way back home.

Summer Reflections before a Sabbatical


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It is the last day of May and my children are scampering through the sprinklers. It is like miracle, to be this lovely and warm so early in the sunny season. It feels as though the whole city is breathing a sigh of relief and sinking back into the lawn furniture, which they’ve only just now got brave enough to pull out from the basement to expose to the elements.

It’s Monkfish Abbey night –which, for those of you reading this post on my Magpie Girl site—is a small house church/spiritual growth community that we’ve hosted for several years now. The RSVP’s for this week have been trickling in and our numbers are teeny tiny. The summer siren song of house guests and outdoor haunts has already begun to lure people away to pursuits that can only be enjoyed a few scant weeks out of the year. As the priestess of all things seasonal, I’m totally fine with these sun-induced absences. There is nothing more important in the Northwest than enjoying the sun while you can. It’s a big part of taking care of your body and your soul while living here in this semi-hospitable climate.

Hosting Monkfish Abbey is always a bit of an uncomfortable job for me. At first I called myself a pastor and tried to do churchy things to keep everyone nice and saved/safe. Then I started seeing myself more as a spiritual director and I spent some time teaching people contemplative practices, because that is what my Type A personality needed the most. And as my ordaining mentor always says, “You only preach the sermons you need to hear.” My hope—our hope as founding members—has always been that this would be a teaching-learning community with a lot of equal footing, the sort of place where everybody could play. It’s taken me a long time to let go of old, patriarchal, hierarchical church habits. It’s only very recently that I’ve been acting more like a simple hostess—vesting the space with peace and cleanliness, making sure there’s TP in the bathroom and cutlery on the table. On my best days, this seems as natural to me as breathing. Other times, when I’m worn down it is very very hard. There’s a lot of sweeping involved–sweeping and washing dishes, and emptying ash trays. That probably doesn’t seem like much, but as you know I am sickly, and kind of a whiner. So some weeks, it feels like a lot. But no matter how burned out I am on the prep-and-clean-up, I always get a little lift when everyone is here. I always feel happy that we are not living alone, an isolated family with 2.5 kids in a house that’s made of ticky tacky and they all look just the same. Every Thursday night, when I go to bed, I am grateful.

More and more often other people are making the meals and offering the post-dinner activity, with me offering some small semblance of a ‘spiritual development’ activity just once in every 3 or 4 weeks. It’s pretty far removed from the senior pastor model of church life where the ordained person controls and takes care of nearly everything, their finger in every pie and their signature on every sermon. For most our exisistence as a community I’ve struggled with this lack of active guidance, and I rarely feel satisfied with how well I’m taking care of our little monkish life. There’s a lot of self talk telling me that I’m not doing a good job as a “pastor,” followed by a great deal of guilt that I’ve quite possibly left my real vocation behind at the mothership/motherchurch. Shouldn’t I be consistently offering people some sort of lesson? Shouldn’t I meet with people one-on-one during the week? Shouldn’t we be cracking open the Bible, or at least reading some of the dozens of religious non-fiction books publishers send me throughout the year? Shouldn’t we, you know, pray?

Simultaneous to all this worry is the undeniable compulsion to write, collage, and generally muck about in my studio – basically doing anything but pastoring. It makes me wonder what in the world a person with a master’s in theology is doing crafting zines and knitting rabbits. At the same time, these newfound studio loves are what brings me the most joy. I can’t imagine relegating this artist-work to the sidelines of my living.

When my best self is present–when I am the most centered and most aware– my guiding voice says, “You know, your pastoring self is doing just fine. You shouldn’t be doing any of those religiousy things, not any more than you are anyway. Really. It’s just fine. Go pick up your paintbrush.” It’s a peculiar thing – that all the things I’ve been preaching over the years – ‘everything we do is worship’ and ‘art creates holy space’ and ‘conversation is prayer” —all of these things are actually becoming real, and my very silly self is having a hard time believing it. It’s as though I’d hoped Willy Wonka’s factory was real, and now that I’m in the midst of the multi-colored glory of it all I’m blinking my eyes and waiting for it to disappear.(Go ahead dear, you can even eat the dishes.)

When I stop worrying long enough to ask myself “what’s really gone on this past year at Monkfish?,” I actually get a rather nice answer. We’ve talk about our lives. We’ve wrestle off and on with how to be more giving and more justice seeking. We’ve given money to good causes now and again. We’ve mourn the damage our old faith practices have done to us and others. We’ve gotten angry about stuff. We’ve engaged in our own forms of intercession and hope. We’ve put our toes in the water and to try to find new ways of being and doing and living. All of that seems pretty good really, even if it’s done in a very quiet, very laid back way. It all squares nicely with the way Jesus lived (especially all that wine!); it’s nicely moral, and its not been too damaging with the dogma. Not bad really, for a bunch of renegades and a heterodox pastor.

This summer we are closing Monkfish – at least at our house—for six weeks. I don’t think we’ve had more than two weeks off in a row since we started in 2003, so I guess it’s time for a sabbatical. When we return, if people return, I’ll continue to “hold space until something good can get born.” (Jen says that, or maybe Anne, or both.)

So, if you’re reading this on the Urban Abbess site, things will be quiet for awhile – maybe for good, as I’m considering rolling all my writing into one site again. Where on sabatical, you see, trusting the Muse and enjoying the sun. This site will stay up for your perusal and my storage purposes. Maybe I’ll see you again in the Fall. Until then, enjoy the sun, be good to each other, and eat lots of watermelon. Namaste, and God(ess) bless!

Much shalom,

Rachelle

A Different Kind of Creed


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Recently I had lunch with a bunch of visiting pastors and rabbis from the eastern seaboard. One of the women was a Unitarian minister with a jones for Jesus. When I described Monkfish Abbey, she wrote down the “rule” of her congregation. I like it so much, I’m giving it to you here:

“Love is the doctrine of this church.
The quest for turth is our sacrament,
and service is our prayer.
To dwell together in peace,
and to help one another in fellowship is our deep desire,
that all shall grow into harmony with the Divine.”

How does that work for you?

Thought Provoking Quipps


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Two fabulous Assassination Vacation“>Sara Vowell quotes to be loved by pomo’s everywhere…

“The otherside of moral certainty is closed mindedness. Give the choice, I prefer chaos and confusion.”

“The flight between questions is a workable system”

A Meditation on The Feminine Divine


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The week before Mother’s Day we did this meditation at Monkfish Abbey. I’m interested in trying to capture images that speak to the feminine aspects of God, and this was our attempt at retrieving our foremother’s knowledge, lost to us when only men became the scribes. (Read a little more about that here.) The really interesting visualization phrases are about two-thirds of the way down, so scroll down if you only have time to read that bit.

This led us to have a very interesting conversation about gender, and God, and self-identity. I wish I could have recorded it all and just podcast it here. My dear monkity monks are stunningly insightful. I feel privlidged to be exploring with them.

Much Shalom!
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Invocation
I bind unto myself today, the strong cords of the trinity
By invocation of the same, the three in one and one in three.

The Meditation
Get in a comfortable seated position with your arms loosely at your sides. Let your eyes be soft in their sockets and invite the skin at the top of your nose, between your eyebrows unfurough and relax. Let the skin under your eyes and on either side of your nose slip gently down into a more relaxed position. Imagine your scalp at the median line on the bridge of your skull relaxing and sending a relaxing sensation down along the sides and back of your head, past your ears on the sides and down to the small of your neck on the back.

With your thumb and forefingers gently massage the outer edge of your ear beginning at the top of your ear and moving down to your earlobe. Repeat that a couple of times. Create a little space between your upper and lower molars and let your jaw hang gently. Swallow to relax your throat.

Now let your shoulders drop away from your ears, rolling them slightly back and creating some separation between your shoulder blades. Let your arms find a comfortable position with your hands resting on your knees, if that is comfortable.

To align your spine adjust your sitting position so that your sitting bones can sink into the ground and your back is supported at a natural angle. Invite your joints to soften at the hips, releasing any strain in the hip joint or hip flexor. Bring your head back slightly in line with the rest of your spine, drawing you chin in slightly so that it’s not thrust forward and the muscles at the base of your skull aren’t straining.

Draw your attention to your breath, noticing the length of the inhale and the exhale. Follow your breath coming in through your nose and traveling down your spin. As you exhale, follow the breath as it moved through your abdomen and lungs and out your mouth. Follow your breath for several more cycles, allowing the length of your inhale and exhale to grow slightly every one or two breath cycles.

If your attention wanders, that’s okay, just gently bring it back to your breath. It can help to envision your breath as a cooling wave coming in on the inhale, and as a warm breeze coming out on the exhale. On your next breath count the number of beats that go by as you inhale. Exhale. On the next inhale breathe in for that number of beats. On the next exhale, breathe out two or more extra beats to fully empty the lungs of stagnant air and allow more fresh air to enter your body. Repeat that slightly longer exhale cycle for three or four more breaths.

Now bringing your awareness back to your body, notice how your sitting bones are connected to the earth. Let your body sink slightly deeper into this connection, inviting your sitting bones to ground firming into the earth. If you wish, place your hands palm down on the earth’s surface and absorb some of her pulsing energy. The first thing we know about God is that God created. Our creation narrative, our truth bearing myth is that God gives birth. The waters, the birth waters, divided and the earth came forth. When we are connected to the earth, we are connected and endless, feminine, creative energy. When we connect to the earth we connect to the feminine, birthing aspect of God.

From this grounded place, make an invitation in your body-mind-spirit to receive any images that God might want to gift to you of herself. You might imagine your heart opening up like a blossoming flower to receive these images. Or, you might imagine the crown of your head sending out a ray of light, opening your mind to new ideas and metaphors for the feminine aspects of God. It can also be helpful to place your hands on your knees with the palms up in an open, receiving position.

With your body as an anchor and your breath as a landing place, ask God to speak to you of herself and wait with expectancy.

Visualization
(3-5 breath cycles each)
I am godmother, bearer of good gifts in time of need.
I am sister, who entwines my hands and my hair, my tears and my laughter with your own.
I am mother who baptizes the birth of new things in water and blood.
I am lover who bears within her body the power to bond and to break.
I am warrior, ready to defend her young and protect her brooding place.
I am wisdom who carries great truths in the lines of her face.
I am she who holds you under her wings.

Bringing your attention back to your breath, place your hands on your abdomen. Feel you abdomen rise and fall with each breath. Now, with your mind’s eye pluck one image of the feminine face of God which came to you during this time, and retain it in abdomen, in your gut, creating a place for it to germinate and grow. Breathe into that space knowing that you, made in the image of God, have all that you need to allow that image to grow—and that God, the great Creator being is partnered with you in the growing.
On your next inhale, baptize that image with your breath. On your exhale release hope for its growth and continuation.

Benediction
Bringing your hands together in front of your heart offer an internal word of thanksgiving for what has been given to you during this time. Let your last breath be your amen.

A Healing Rite with Hot Stones


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I hosted a time of healing for the monks a couple of weeks ago. I still feel like it’s very brave of me to do things like this. Even though I’ve been doing them off and on for a couple of years now. Even though they are usually well received. I have to gather all my energy and concentration to walk people through this kind of meditative work without feeling (and sounding) like a flibbertigibbet. (Which is actually what I am best at, flibberdigibbeting.) At any rate, I thought I’d post the basic outline of what I did, in case it appeals to anyone else out there.

Note: I used special “facial massage stones” which I paid a ridiculous amount for at a migraine-inducing essential oil and massage supply shop. What a scam! Just find some small flat stones in your local river-ish type place, wash them, line your crock pot with a few washcloths, pour in some water, and heat away. Do test them before you hand them out so no one gets burned.

Healing Meditation

Getting Settled
Get in a comfortable position, sitting of lying down. If you are seated, let your spine be grounded and centered. You can do this by aligning your sitting bones with the earth, shifting back and forth slightly to find your most grounded seat, and then allowing your weight to sink in to the earth. If you are lying down, let your body sink into the ground, allowing the earth to support your head and shoulders, your upper back, your lower back, your hips, your legs, your ankles, your feet, your arms, and your wrists.

Let you shoulders drop away from your ears. Relax your wrists by giving them permission to sink into their resting place. Drop your jaw slightly and wiggle it back and forth. Swallow to relax your throat. Let your eyes be soft in their sockets.

Now, if you are seated let the crown of your head float up lightly towards the sky, as if your cranium was slightly filled with helium.

If you are lying down, let your neck be long and soft and gently extended.

Now allow yourself to breathe at a natural fullness – not necessarily your deepest breath, but beyond your unattended shallow breath. Breathe in through your nose, and out through your mouth, making a soft “ha” sound as you exhale.

As you continue, try to deepen your breath slightly, lengthening your exhale a few beats longer than your inhale. You might count the number of beats it takes for you to inhale, then count again on your exhale, exhaling two beat more than your inhale.

Continue this deeper breath for a few more cycles. If you attention wanders away from your breath, just gently invite it to come back. It might help if you imagine the breath coming in and out of your body like waves at the shore, following the path of the wave in, and out of your body. Or you might want to ascribe a color to your breath, imaging a cool blue light coming in with your inhale, exhaling a warm red light on your exhale.

The Invocation (read over the course of a few breath cycles)
Light of the World, light that is in the world, we welcome you to this space. We welcome the healing power you have embedded in the earth and in our bodies. We welcome the healing history of Jesus. We welcome the healing presence of Spirit. We welcome the healing power of God.”

Meditative Body Scan
We’ll begin now to scan our bodies for any places of pain or discomfort—not to rectify or problem-solve by our own power or will, but simply to acknowledge and observe our living reality.

With your mind’s eye or your heart’s awareness, scan your body for places of pain beginning with your feet and your legs; your torso and chest; your arms and your shoulders; you upper back and lower back; your neck, head and face; your scalp, your finger tips, and your toes.

Wherever you find pain of any kind—emotional or physical—pause and let your awareness rest with that reality. Then ask your self and the spirit within you,
Does your pain have a shape?
Does your pain have a texture?
Does your pain have scent?
Is there an emotional component to a physical pain?
Is there a physical component to your emotional pain?
Without trying to problem solve or to find a solution to your pain, let your attention rest on its shape, texture, color, and scent.

(At this point I walked around the room touching people’s hands and placing the warm rocks in their palms)

Now, with your mind’s eye or your heart’s awareness, create a space like a bubble around your pain. Not to create more space in which your pain can expand, but to create a space where healing can arrive. Invite light to rush around this pain, bringing healing. Envision God’s healing energy being held by the heat in these stones, and invite that healing energy to travel to your place of pain, bringing warmth and restoration into the space you have created.

Hold on to these stones and receive their heat as a symbol of the light, love, and power that is available to you for healing, that comes to you unbidden or undrawn—just as the heat sinks into your palms without any effort or requirement on your part. Turn these stones over in your palms as I read these words several times to you.

(I read this four times, which is our standard lectio divina practice.)

A message from the high and towering God, who lives in Eternity, whose name is Holy.

“I live in the high and holy places, but also with the low-spirited,
The spirit-crushed,
And what I do is, I put new spirit in them,
I get them up and on their feet again.

Peace to the far-off, pace to the near-at-hand,” says God—“and yes, I will heal them.”
Is 57 (abridged)

Closing
May God bless you and keep you
May God make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
May God lift up her face towards you, and give you her kiss of peace.
In the name of the God who birthed and created you,
The Son who is your brother and friend,
And the Holy Spirit, she who is your guide.
Amen, go in peace.

Then and Now


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My dear friend Jen made this beautiful video about women in Christianity as a part of a course at SPU. I dare you to watch it without crying — for the beauty and for the sorrow.

Watch here.

As always, when a woman in the church mentions the injustice and pain that our religious history has caused, and that much of our religious present is casuing, there is a backlash. So maybe you could go say something supportive to Jen here.

Much love, my sisters.

-the urban abbess

Leftovers


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I’m sitting in my darkened bedroom eating leftover pad thai from last night’s dinner at Monkfish Abbey. I didn’t get to eat it last night when it was hot, and fresh, and being enjoyed by a dozen friends. I had a migraine.

Since I fell out of remission in mid-February the thing I’ve struggled with the most is the loneliness. When you are chronically ill you are alone a lot – in the waiting room, in your sickbed, in the drug addled confusion of your own thoughts. Chronic pain is isolating. It keeps you from connecting, even when you manage to be physically present. It isolates you from your true self, the self you knew yourself to be before you got sick. And so, you are alone even from your very identity.

The other thing which is a deep wound is the way my chronic pain impacts the childhood of my daughters. There are too many times when I have to say “I can’t, Mommy doesn’t feel good.” There are so many times when I have to shut down from the frolic and noise of two elementary aged kids at play. Too many afterschools where Mom is obviously gritting her teeth and just getting through until Dad comes home. What does this communicate to my children about their value? About my deepest desire to be with them and to enjoy life with them? I am so sad over what my kids are going to remember of our times together. How many “I love you’s” do you have to say to counteract such long periods of illness-induced isolation from your mother?

Then there is what this is doing to our marriage; the way Paul and I are ships in the night, barely seeing one another in the passing between dinner and me retreating to sleep. You know the joke “Not tonight dear, I have a headache?” What happens when that’s real, and chronic, and no longer funny? And what does a spouse do with all the resentment that creeps in when he works a full day and then has single-parent childcare duties as well because his wife can’t bear to be under the lights one more minute. How lonely does he get, typing on his laptop besides his wife, her head wrapped in ice packs.

Yesterday, I went to the neurologist again. She not a cold woman, but she is, above all, a scientist, and I knew crying in front of her was not going to help us come up with a clear headed solution. I managed to pull myself together in the 20 minutes I waited alone in the exam room. We came up with a new course of action, part of which can’t be inacted for two weeks. “Don’t give up.” She said, “We’re not out of options.”

A spider’s thread to hold on to.