Learning On The Go
On Monday night returned from a seven day trip to Sweden. This was a return trip to a Nation on the back of visiting through the rambling words of these blogs. Rambling as in sometimes lots of talk but also rambling as in sharing about the walk. A walk that always seems to be unfolding and shifting and challenging and changing. As my life touched and journeyed through the Nation with my friend and companion Geoff Reed from Cramlington, near Newcastle in the North-east of England, we both realised how much we were learning and being continually shaped by the journey itself. Geoff also a connection via the blogs and a visit to the north-east of England. This was truly a walk in the new along the ancient paths. We spent four days in Helsingborg in the south, right on the Danish border, and then moved up the country a short way to Borås. This blog is some reflections of the journey. A personal perspective that I trust will help us see a part of God’s heart. Like the journey itself it my be full of random comments and lots of loose ends, but hey that is the reality of this adventure.
Part One: Helsingborg
A city on the border of Denmark. A contended city like many border cities. Through it’s history has been part of both Nations. A city of much bloodshed on the streets. Is a very obvious gateway city as a ferry terminal and centre of new business reveal. The headquarters of the famous Ikea is here, where we were given a tour inside by our host Torbjorn Erling, who along with his wife Anna-Karin and daughter Johanna, made us feel so at home. Torbjorn is a gatherer and connector. Not out of any sense of building ministry or title but out of love for those he walks with and love for the city. Was a part of a few gatherings connected by prayer, but more than that there was connection out of love. Love for fellow travellers. Those sowing into the heart of the region of Hoganas and Helsingborg. We met a small group of leaders with a strong bond, not joined by that normal competitive spirit but through heart. Broken leaders, poured out for the city. One a pastor of 500, another a leader of a small spontaneous house church network, both shoulder to shoulder for the sake of the city. It was great to meet individually with these guys and just share heart and journey. There were questions on all things and sometimes no answers. Here are just a couple of personal reflections. Do our prayers change the city or bring transformation? Big question. After thinking about this as we gathered in many different ways to pray for change I think the answer is yes but maybe not in the way we are all looking for. I asked the question how does transformation come to a city or a Nation? One life at a time. If prayer draws us deeper into connection with Him who is already present then that can bring change to me. Then every time I change it already changes the city. Transformation comes as I am transformed, moving from glory to glory. Transformation happens just by me being here. As we live love, freedom, peace, joy etc. the atmosphere of the city is already changed. As we listened to leader’s struggles and the weight of the work and expectations spoken and unspoken there was a sense that there had to be a death to leadership of position and title. This constant need to perform and be seen to be a success. Always waiting for the next big thing or the next answer. Shifting positions and churches but still the same issues. Lives full of doing the stuff but not full of life. Was stirred about a wave of buried leadership. If apostles and prophets are a foundational ministry they must be underground and unseen. In the dirt and mud of the earth, the city, the Nation. Getting their hands dirty. Not to oversee but undergird. Not to be the voice but to connect others to The Voice, the whisper. To serve and not to be served. A seed sown into the earth that has died. Only that type of seed will bear much fruit. Maybe never gaining recognition by man but always seen by God, even in the depths. Always drawing out of others, always prefering others in love, poured out as a drink offering, broken, earthen vessels. Walking shoulder to shoulder and not breaking rank. Never taking ownership. I saw this so much in Torbjorn. What a big heart to just serve and love. As we left Helsingborg we left with hope for the City. People prepared to sow in the opposite spirit of the fought over nature of the city of the past. People not building empires but demonstrating kingdom love and hope. People that will always be a part of our hearts like the wonderful Erlings, Rickard Cruz, Jonas Hallobro, Alejandro Gallardo, and others. Not forgetting Mohammed who we prayed for, a young man recently saved, a sign for the city. Firstfruits. Helsingborg we love you!!! To end this chapter a quote from Jonas, ‘I was expecting something dynamic but instead found life.’
Part Two: Borås
This was a return visit to Borås and the home of the wonderful Maria and Bjorn Isacsson. Maria has one of the biggest hearts I know. A heart that reaches out to broken pastors and their families, to immigrants and generally to anyone that comes in her direction. This led to the opportunity to pray for many people and to stand with them in this part of their walk. To hear stories of lives torn apart and living on the edge of society. Women about to be deported, family members lost, brokenness. Moslems coming for prayer out of the desperation of their heart. The story of hope of Milena, an immigrant whose life was turned around through miracle. Now walking in fulfilled prophecy. A walking ball of life and fun. Already a leader of a new way, a cleaner but boy what she is carrying into people’s homes is nothing other than God’s glory. Meeting Bradley Abrey and Ja-Kyung Moon, two lives being sown into the nation in mission with Operation Mobilisation. In one moment there were people from four continents in one room, Asia, America, Africa and Europe. Many languages where translation was interesting, we joked from Geordie to English, to Swedish to the immigrants language. The many coloured God displayed in one place. We also felt the weight of a so called ‘spirit of death’ on the community. Five pastors all losing their sons to suicide. Why? Expectations, guilt, too much weight? Making the call more important than the walk? To close I want to bring an ancient story that became the focus for both Geoff and I, a learning place, a dwelling place, a place of refocus and hope.
Part Three: The Garden
In the garden were two trees; the Tree of Life and the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The second tree being the forbidden tree that brings death. That is why we kept being drawn here, why is there a spirit of death? Where are the roots of death? In the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The evil bit we understand, sin leads to death, no arguments there. But the knowledge of GOOD!!! As I once read, trying to be a good Christian is eating from the wrong tree. Praying, reading the Bible, preaching, unity, etc. etc. All these things are good but if they do not flow out of the right tree, they become a weight of expectation and a yoke we are not prepared to carry. That is why we can become weary in doing good. Only see postion as a way of serving God. Feel that fasting will make a difference. Too many children of Christians, especially leader’s children, live with such a weight of hope and expectations. They feel they can never be good enough. They need to be released to live and even become the prodigal. They need to be shown love not depentant on anything. A love that we all need to return to, the love of a Father that just wants to walk in the cool of the day with us. That whether we pray or not He loves us. Whether we read the Bible or not He loves us. Whether we ever do anything for Him or not He loves us passionately. This is the Tree of life. The mystery revealed to the church at Ephesus, that we are loved. That by the time Revelation was written they had forgotten. They did the good stuff but forgot the key, their first love. They were called back to the Tree of Life. Eating from this Tree will bring a freedom to all people, including the children. Son of Christian parents you do not have to be a youth leader, you do not have to go to prayer meetings, you do not have to go to church!!! Parent you need to parent in a new way without unspoken weight and control. You cannot live your hopes and dreams through them. They must be allowed to have their own dreams. They must know you love them whether they stand or fall in these dreams. Teach them to eat from the right tree. We do not fast and pray to draw near to God, that is good but it leads to death. We draw near to God and then those things flow from that place out of love response. The same with all other spiritual discplines. It is time to stop doing the good stuff, it is killing us. It is time just to dwell at the tree of life and eat from the fruit of freedom.