Over a cliff?

Now that we are at the cliff edge, it seems that there is no option but to step over it. We can then continue arguing from the bottom of the gorge (Fernando Garea on Catalonia and Spain).

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Giles Tremlett is British but has lived in Spain acting as a correspondent for the Guardian newspaper and is occasionally interviewed also on Spanish TV. He authored a book which we read early on in our time in Spain, ‘Ghosts of Spain’. Reading the book it became clear that he had embraced the land and the article that I reference here gives a good current read on the Catalonian situation: Catalan separatists prepare for war of attrition against Madrid.

In it there is a telling quote from Fernando Garea of El Confidencial (online newspaper):

Now that we are at the cliff edge, it seems that there is no option but to step over it. We can then continue arguing from the bottom of the gorge.

The situation changes day by day. Almost certainly this week the government will have ratified the use of article 155 and impose direct rule on Catalonia. How will this work out? Will the Catalan police (the Mosos) take orders from Madrid or defy them? The same police who were praised across Europe for their handling and swift response to the Barcelona attack, and then heavily criticised for their refusal to exercise force (violence?) on the day of the referendum. How comfortable will it be to be one of the drafted in police personnel to restore order to a territory that you do not identify with? And what about if you are one of the suited people brought in to replace a local person in an administrative position?

‘Fake’ Image from October 1?!!!

Over the weekend the foreign minister was interviewed on British TV and he held that many of the images of violence were ‘fake images’ or ‘fake footage’. How this term,’fake’, is being used and now part of political speech is seriously alarming. The media being silenced is such a sign of oppression and dictatorial rule.

In most situations, such as the current one, there is propaganda on all sides. Stubborness and pride is evidenced on both sides. What is sure there will be more losers than winners in this conflict – witness already the departure of over 1000 businesses from Catalonia.

Maybe as an observer the hardest part is seeing the squeeze on Catalonia not simply from Madrid, but from Europe. Refusing to get involved (officially) but clearly all the powers are on Madrid’s side. The main European powers are involved but are not involved at a peacemaking level. They have not pressed Madrid to take in their quota of refugees – in direct contrast to Barcelona’s powers that have sought to open their door and heart to refugees.

We have prayed over these years into divisions within the land. First into issues surrounding the civil war, then into the both the Jewish and Muslim expulsions. Such divisions have to be healed and what we are witnessing today in Catalonia is not a recent division, but a historic wound that is being re-opened (time does not heal, reconciliation does). It is being re-opened either because it cannot be covered over for ever or the situation is being deliberately manipulated. Either way we believe that what is taking place – in terms of exposure of the division – is necessary. The conflict, the pride, the suffering of people is not necessary, but will be inevitable unless healing is brought. Oppression through article 155, loss of economic power through companies relocating will not resolve something. Nor, should Catalonia get independent status, resolve something either.

Blessed are the peacemakers.

We have prayed often for one peacemaker, Ada Colau, mayoress of Barcelona. From an activist background, not an independista, and one calling for dialogue.

We also carry a perspective that, whether it is Catalonia, or the Brexit (or Lomabardy and Veneto in Italy, and probably a growing number of other European regions) that there is something deeper taking place. There is a re-shaping of Europe that we believe is surfacing. Our biggest concern on the Brexit was not of Britain leaving Europe (and of course there was a rhetoric ‘we are not leaving Europe only the EU’!!) but of a disengagement from believers in the UK with the political, social and spiritual development of Europe. 500 years on from a Reformation that changed so much, yet left so much (christendom) in place. I am not a Zionist (surprised?) but there is something of a move back to Jerusalem, not for some doom and gloom Armageddon (the place does not exist – John makes the name up!). That move back – and I have been declaring this since the late 80s is back through north Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle Eastern nations. What would a Jerusalem look like revisited by a (political – small ‘p’) gospel recovered that Paul and others were passionate about? Surely marked by convivencia (the co-habiting of space by those who have found a way through their differences). This is not about a political solution, but a spiritual one with a deep political and social manifestation.

It is very hard to know how to respond to the current crises. We have thought about renting an apartment in Catalonia and taking shoes of peace on the streets. We might need to do that. But there is always something we can do today. Align not with a ‘side’, but with justice and seek to see everyone as ‘human’. Maybe then we will get fresh sight on the one true human.

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Europe’s opportunity

Yanis Varoufakis writing at SocialEurope.eu makes some insightful points and worth a ponder. He suggests: The duty of progressive Europeans is to reject both: the deep establishment at the EU level and the competing nationalisms ravaging solidarity and common sense in member states like Spain. The Catalonia crisis is a strong hint from history that […]

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Yanis Varoufakis writing at SocialEurope.eu makes some insightful points and worth a ponder. He suggests:

The duty of progressive Europeans is to reject both: the deep establishment at the EU level and the competing nationalisms ravaging solidarity and common sense in member states like Spain.

The Catalonia crisis is a strong hint from history that Europe needs to develop a new type of sovereignty, one that strengthens cities and regions, dissolves national particularism, and upholds democratic norms.

in the article he also highlights the approach of Ada Colau in Barcelona, who is pushing for a redemptive way through the current lock up. As mayoress of Barcelona her administration had created excellent housing for 15,000 refugees only to find that central government barred entry to the refugees. It is always amazing what is termed illegal by those in control (referendum = illegal; banning refugees that Spain was mandated to accommodate by the EU is not illegal?).

It is naive to think that anyone – Colau or whoever, or proposals of a new approach – by Varoufakis or whoever, will produce heaven on earth – as if!! But when we understand that the body of Christ is to open space so that it can be occupied by those who will create shapes for convivencia there are exciting possibilities that open up. This I believe is one of the central thrusts for this time, and is part of the recovery of the radical social outworking to the Pauline gospel.

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Optimism is the first option!!

Half full or half empty? There is a lot to be pessimistic about such as climate change and seemingly endless conflict across the world. No person in their right mind can be naively optimistic given the unbelievable human capacity for stupidity. Yet on some issues and situations I am optimistic. The EU with all its […]

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Half full or half empty? There is a lot to be pessimistic about such as climate change and seemingly endless conflict across the world. No person in their right mind can be naively optimistic given the unbelievable human capacity for stupidity. Yet on some issues and situations I am optimistic. The EU with all its failings has one of its major sources in the vision of Robert Schuman, who pulling on his Christian take believed that we had to find a way of being together across the continent where the (world) wars had ravaged, in order to avoid such conflicts again.

Since moving to Spain our focus has been on the healing of the land. (So glad that there are things that are not main stream for us and those things are down to others to pick up. We all have whatever focus is given to us.) We have touched on the civil war and on some of the prayers could pinpoint newspaper headlines where a straight line could be drawn from what we have prayed to what they have printed. This past year has been very profound for us with the Muslim rule and subsequent ReConquista and expulsion being the focus. Few things have impacted us so much as giving ourselves to that. Now there is a serious conflict not simply brewing but bubbling up with hard to predict consequences. The Catalonian situation (and even what spelling to use is a challenge – Spanish, Catalan or Anglicised spelling?).

How do we read this? Well I am opting for an optimistic response, and not simply because it is easier and less painful but I do believe somehow that these conflicts are the consequences of prayer. By that I do not mean ‘we’ (how important are we!!!) have prayed and now look at how powerful our prayers are(!!), but that the Lord is way ahead of the game and there has been much prayer focused to bring the nation to this point.

Prayer into history does not lead to our straight line of answer. Wounds that are there are to be healed but the first step is that of exposing what is there. Seems to me there is a pattern – a handful pray, probably naively expecting everything to be sorted, then what they have prayed into surfaces (in the land and in them too). What happens at that stage is important. If it surfaces in them – or in the wider community of faith – how they deal with the issues will be very important. Every big issue has a leverage point in the community of faith. The leverage point is not at the same scale as what is manifesting in the land, but is of the same spirit (cf. Jesus words on adultery and lust; murder and anger). In the current situation it is a ‘Spain / Madrid’ is correct; or ‘Catalonia / Barcelona are in the right’. In other words it is a taking of sides. However both with Joshua at Jericho and his ‘are you for us or for them?’ kind of question, or our core prayer instruction from our Teacher – ‘let your kingdom come’ there really is no ‘Madrid is right’ or ‘Barcelona is right’. Of course there might be a ‘I lean this way because it is more redemptive’ but the idea it is right is a myth. This is the fault line that is being exposed in the West at this time. I see many appointments not being the answer to prayer in the sense of we now have our ‘person in the WH / #10 / Moncloa’ or wherever. Where did we get that idea from? However I can accept them as appointments to expose the lies the faith community that owns the name of Jesus has bought into – that faith community that has been claiming a kingdom vision for years!!

What is manifesting now in Catalonia is a divisive spirit. What is manifesting from central is a divisive spirit. One manifests as separation, the other as control but they are one and the same. We have focused on the Muslim expulsion – this was Spain controlling Spain (excuse the anachronistic nature of those words), Spain evicting Spain… we began our journey praying into the first Christian martyred by fellow Christians pulling on Imperial power, the death of Priscillian. One could be pessimistic. After all that prayer now what has changed?

What has changed is what was simmering below the surface and therefore would never yield to healing is above the surface. I referred to a pattern above. Something begins with believers who pray. Then things seem to get worse – NO they become very visible. In the current generation the issues get flushed right to the surface there being nowhere to hide. There are no political solutions, but there is a solution which begins with a pathway of humility. The humility leads to dialogue and through the dialogue solutions are found.

I have no doubt that Spain has a calling now to lead the way to find a path of humility for the sake of Europe. Maybe the EU has had its day? But Schuman’s vision of being together has definitely not had its day. That is a vision of convivencia, of co-habiting / co-stewarding the same space.

There is so much more I could write on the current situation, suffice it to say that the struggles will not go away quickly – and for there to be healing they really cannot. Conflict will be here in Spain for the next years. We have to engage with it, calling for the third way of the cross.

A few years ago we had a very helpful dream sent to us. Gayle and I were standing at our table looking at invites and situations from across Europe. We did not know how to respond to the person standing there waiting for our response. Eventually I looked up and said to him ‘We will go and talk with the man of Spain and he will help us make our response’. This past year we have met the man of Spain – Al Azraq, Al Avez, Priscillian and many others we could name. People of the land – and from that era the majority were men. We are now needing to open space for a new manifestation of the ‘man of Spain’ to rise. This will not be one person, nor male, but a new humanity occupying space, regardless of faith, with the humility and grace that will be recognisable as containing heavenly qualities.

Amidst all the conflicts, Spain and Europe is such a wonderful place to live. Conflicted space, at the small level we have here, is a creative space.

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Convivencia

We watched the unfolding of the Catalan (non?) referendum yesterday appalled at the violence with over 800 injuries some serious. Glad to see that those who resisted did so (in the main) non-violently. It is never easy to be a law enforcement person in those situations, but the way the Catalan police behaved was very […]

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We watched the unfolding of the Catalan (non?) referendum yesterday appalled at the violence with over 800 injuries some serious. Glad to see that those who resisted did so (in the main) non-violently. It is never easy to be a law enforcement person in those situations, but the way the Catalan police behaved was very moving indeed confronting unnecessary force by police from outside Cataluña. The intransigent stances of central government and the separatist movement in Cataluña and the resulting clashes was at a level beyond what would be expected in any Western country. The video below will give some indication of the level of tension on the day:

No one is the victor after such a day. It was Wellington who was credited with the statement that the only thing sadder than a battle won is a battle lost. Yesterday highlights the deep wounds in the land, and (being optimistic!!) those wounds have to be exposed for there to be healing. We anticipate a few years of unrest and tension. Into that has to come the good news of Jesus that is intensely political. Not political in the sense of party politics, but in the sense of how we live together.

‘Convivencia’ was a term used to describe the era when there was majority Muslim rule in Spain and those of the three faiths: Islam, Judaism and Christianity, were living together. Whenever we look back we can often romanticise about a past era, and I am sure it was not perfect, but there was something taking place that was good. The repair of the damage caused to the land and the corporate memory of the (re-)conquering of Spain for the Christian faith and the subsequent expulsion of both Jews and Muslims is what Gayle and I have given ourselves to this year. If there has been any shift in that then what is beneath the surface will become very evident. As we travelled we became convinced that the Pauline Gospel has a message for society that is well summed by the word convivencia.

Words have some measure of intrinsic meaning but they essentially carry the meaning that is injected into them. In that way a word can change meaning over time, or be used in different ways by different people. We want to use the word ‘convivencia’ to express that the Gospel gives space to one and all to live together, with their differences honoured, and with a specific watchful eye to make sure that those who are marginalised have space to live. I would not consider that Paul was looking to ‘christianise’ but that he understood the church as royal priesthood for the wider world.

So we have been using the word as a shorthand way of expressing our desires for society. Maybe the word has always been in the vocabulary of the politicians in Spain, but over the past days, and yesterday in particular I don’t think a politician has talked into the Cataluñan / Spanish situation and not used the word. In the few speeches we listened to yesterday it must have been mentioned 50 times. Maybe we are now hearing it and it was always there, but I have my suspicions…

The word is now in the spiritual realm to re-shape hopes and release substance. At that stage the next element that happens is a strong attempt to colonise a word. In colonisation something is owned, redefined and rendered as a result powerless. It seems that when the word was used yesterday convivencia was fought over to mean, you have to live the way we say and that is convivencia!! Control and conformity, and certainly any confrontation or opposition has to be resisted otherwise convivencia will be broken.

Convivencia can never be shaped that way. It is something given away; it will result in messiness, difference, tension, conflicting ideas… but in listening and dialogue. It is a Gospel gift, for it is in God that we all move and have our being.

One huge aspect that first placed Spain on the map for me was in 2001 when in response to a question I made a totally non-pre-meditated response that Spain has no need for a revival history and that it was the only nation that on biblical authority could claim that there were first century apostolic unanswered prayers in the land.

If convivencia is a useful word, and if it is the outworking at a societal (political) level of the Pauline Gospel then we should anticipate a battle both over the word and the reality these coming years. And if there are a handful of believers who will see their faith as calling them to seek the true welfare of the city (polis / political space) these next years might just yield some very interesting results that could just smell a little like heaven. Not a Christian country (where did that myth come from!!??) but an environment where all can dwell – where the gates are never shut.

Yesterday was a catalytic day. Maybe this week Cataloña could declare independence. The narratives spun by central Madrid and by Barcelona will continue to gain traction. But there is another narrative, and we expect that narrative also to be spoken. It is not down to the church to speak it but to take responsibility for it to be spoken. The word is now in the the spiritual realm ready to re-shape hopes and also release substance.

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A week away and home via…

For Gayle and I this year has been extraordinary, with so many aspects coming together for us. Almost 12 months ago we were convinced that we were to follow the path of the ReConquista (the ‘re-conquering’ of Spain & Portugal for Christianity and ending the Muslim rule) and seek to find the hot-spots (most of […]

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For Gayle and I this year has been extraordinary, with so many aspects coming together for us. Almost 12 months ago we were convinced that we were to follow the path of the ReConquista (the ‘re-conquering’ of Spain & Portugal for Christianity and ending the Muslim rule) and seek to find the hot-spots (most of which are marked with a red dot on the map below) where there was unresolved issues in the land. Weeks of research led to four main trips across Spain and Portugal with some 5k miles (8k kms) covered. We loved this time, just kind of what we feel we were born for!

And once our travels were over, ending with some wonderful people coming to join us in Gibraltar, we were really happy to head north to Zarautz, camp on the headland and be joined by Noel & Tricia Richards (from Mallorca). It is so good to have friends that demand nothing, give a lot and one can totally relax with – nothing to prove. That was so good for us. A few days in and two other places came on our horizon, two places where we could go and maybe make a small contribution. So a slight detour on our way home to Tarragona and to Cambrils (top right on the map). The latter place being where the young men who were involved in the Barcelona attack were radicalised. Young men that the locals knew, young men with whom they played football. Tarragona being the place where the campaign for independence of Cataluña was launched.

Cambrils, a small town, clean and mainly pristine. A pleasant place to live, but underneath it what would appear to be some strong divides. We prayed on a bridge over the river, the river that divides the town almost perfectly in two. Praying that healing might come not simply to the recent reason for being in international news but healing that goes before that in time and goes deeper. Praying somehow that angels will hold the land and its divides.

It was probably, though, Tarragona that pulled us more strongly, and we went to the (former) bull-ring to pray where the ‘yes’ campaign had been launched. We are a few days away (October 1) from an ‘illegal’ referendum in Cataluña concerning independence. If the vote is a majority for independence then the Catalan government has said they will announce Cataluña as an independent republic in the days following. The vote is ‘illegal’ because the constitution of Spain says there is one indissoluble Spain. There can be no separation according to the constitution.

As per all such possible divisions there are underlying narratives that stretch back in time. Immediate history of finances going to the central administration (Madrid) and little coming back; Civil War history when Franco’s forces were extremely brutal toward Barcelona / Cataluña and the language was suppressed; the war of succession history (1702-1714) when Cataluña supported the ‘wrong’ side and was subsequently punished, suggesting to hard line Catalans that they are the spoils of war. Wrongs that have to be righted – but how?

At this point of time there are two intransigent forces. On one side the central government of the PP and President Rajoy. They have seized ballot papers, detained people, actively instigating heavy fines on anyone involved in the administration toward the referendum, and even drafted in large numbers of police from outside Cataluña, taking over the organisation of the police from the current Catalan boss. Just short of putting the army in the show of force is very deliberate and visible. On the other side there is also no backing down, an assurance that there is no plan ‘B’ and that in spite of the courts’ ruling that the referendum is illegal they are insisting they will go ahead with it. Spain is divided and Cataluña is divided. The ‘yes’ campaign is very visible, organised and strong. It is being fuelled in reaction to the response from Madrid. The ‘yes’ campaign is also very hostile toward those who wish to remain as part of Spain. Madrid is seeking to silence the democratic voice, Cataluña is seeking to allow only the ‘yes’ voice to be heard. (It was easy to find the ‘yes’ flag of Cataluña flying.) Not the way to right wrongs!

A week ago the two mayoresses of Madrid and Barcelona (both of whom have reduced the debt in the cities, along with many other positive changes) were interviewed on TV. They called for a lowering of the testosterone, the aggessive stances on all sides, and calling for the ‘feminisation’ of politics. This was a theme that Gayle had picked up from Ada Colau (Barcelona) when she studied a couple of years back on the politics of love. Not simply more women in politics (Spain has some very high profile women in politics) but of a different approach, characterised as ‘feminine’. Dialogue, listening and seeking to find a third way (maybe in my language ‘the most redemptive way forward’?).

These next days will be very challenging. The language (wonderfully) used in Barcelona after the attack by the people on the streets of ‘we are not afraid’ is now being used by those on the streets in opposition to the excessive resistance from Madrid to the referendum. The language of ‘convivencia’ which we have seen as a suitable term for the societal outworking of the Pauline gospel is being used by Catalans of them co-habiting space, but not with the rest of Spain.

Many years ago I had a waking vision, one we are still engaged with, of a man lying across Spain. His right arm pinned to the north east around the A Coruña area, the head over Bilbao, the left arm over the Barcelona area, the lower back over Madrid and the two legs going down over the south coast. A few weeks ago I again had a waking vision and it was of a bear trampling over the border into Cataluña, causing it to become very unstable. Maybe there is a connection with history as there is the strong suggestion that the (‘Christian’) troops from Madrid who joined the battle that defeated the Muslims at Las Navas de Tolosa (1212) carried a banner with a bear on it, and soon after this the bear was part of the shield of Madrid. Whether the bear represents Madrid specifically or not it certainly represents imperial power. In the waking vision the bear was stamping just across the southern border of Cataluña (pretty much where Tarragona is) and trampling Cataluña as a whole so threatening that it could be trampled into the sea.

The outcome of these next few weeks will not be pretty whatever takes place. Even if there is a referendum there will not be a resolution. Wounds are not resolved by aggression, but through dialogue and forgiveness. So we prayed in Tarragona… our hope is through the next few years of pain and restlessness there will be a long term shift. We trust that the prayer into the ReConquista will have a knock on effect on these internal Spanish politics, but again it highlights that there are ongoing unresloved issues in the more recent past.

Spain has so much to offer. A nation of great diversity, geographically and to some extent ethnically. A nation that could open its doors to those from other nations, particularly those fleeing troubles of war and economics. What is for sure this is not a time to turn the clock back, not a time for a conservative response but for new ideas that will facilitate a depth of ‘convivencia’.

We are sure that Spain will come into a time of great restlessness. It could set things back at least 20 years, or through these strains and stresses we could see something fresh come through. Ever since visiting Bilbao two years ago to pray into the thinking in Spain we have seen that the constitution has to loosen up. Tension, stress, conflict. Yes that is what we expect these next years. A pull back to the status quo will be a disaster… the challenge is finding the right way forward.

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October 1

Not many days left in September. Bought our first set of ecological logs yesterday for our wood burner, nicely named ‘the Hobbit’ (should be getting some commission for that mention?) as from the end of October we will be lighting up right through to March. Seems crazy haring had so many heat waves this year. […]

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Not many days left in September. Bought our first set of ecological logs yesterday for our wood burner, nicely named ‘the Hobbit’ (should be getting some commission for that mention?) as from the end of October we will be lighting up right through to March. Seems crazy haring had so many heat waves this year. A small change, but as we head to October 1 there is potentially a very big change in Spain. Spain is divided into 17 comunidades, one of the bigger ones and the richest is Cataluña with its capital being the well known city of Barcelona. On October 1 the Catalan government is intent on having a referendum concerning Independence. The central government (based in Madrid) is in total opposition to that and the courts have deemed it illegal.The BBC article gives a fair report on where things are at. It seems Madrid will not put troops in to Cataluña to block the vote, but there are very real threats of a significant number of arrests. Likewise it seems the Catalan government will not back down and last night the campaign was launched at a public rally. The president of the Catalan government, Puigdemont, even cracked a joke last night about all the legal action against them: ‘From lawsuit to lawsuit until the referendum.’

Of course there is history that lies behind all the tension. My take is probably very inadequate on it all but I will have a go. Spain consisted of a number of independent kingdoms, the two of Aragon and Castile being the most prominent and it was when there was a marriage between Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabel of Castile (1469) that there was a movement toward a unified Spain which was formalised in 1516. Cataluña was not a separate kingdom in this period but was subject to Aragon.

In the war of succession, the outcome of which is what gave Britain Gibraltar and the Spanish slave trade (1713), established the Bourbon family as the royal family of Spain. Cataluña was punished for its opposition to the Bourbon king (as was Valencia and Aragon), resulting in the Catalan constitutions being abolished and with it the Catalan and Valencian parliaments and their rights. The Catalan universities were suppressed and the administrative use of the Catalan language was abolished. Mid way through the 1700s the Catalan language would also be banned from primary and secondary schools.

In the period of the Second Republic (1931-39) Catluña and the Basque Country was given space and even favour that could have opened the door to independence. Franco resisted this, conquering Spain for Spain and for God, and he treated both Cataluña and the Basque country oppressively. Again post-Civil war the language was suppressed.

Not being a fan of centralisation, and certainly not being a fan of oppressive centralisation I have huge sympathies with the Catalans, but… living here in the Valencia communidad (the one directly south of Cataluña) there would be a strong sense that often what Madrid is to Barcelona, Barcelona is to Valencia. Cataluña would really like to include Valencia and the Balearics in this movement to independence. After all the languages are so close (much closer than Scottish Gaelic / Irish / Welsh) and the Spanish government recognises them as sharing one language.

It is hard to know how this will be resolved. Two pretty intransigent positions with a load of history behind it all. Having travelled as we have and come to the conclusion that ‘convivencia’ (sharing life in the same space and time / co-habiting) is part of the Pauline Gospel it was interesting to come back to a statement from Puigdemont that nothing will break ‘conviencia’ in Cataluña.

Rights and wrongs, and how much can ever be settled at a ballot box or politically? But the way of Jesus, that third way is what is so needed in our world. I have sympathies with Cataluña but whenever I seek to address the situation in prayer, it is hold back, don’t go.

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Animals together

Jesus might have had a little twinkle in his eye when he sent out the disciples imparting an identity to them: I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. So be as wise as snakes and as harmless as doves. Apparently on the ‘wolf restaurant’ there are all varieties of dishes with lamb as […]

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Jesus might have had a little twinkle in his eye when he sent out the disciples imparting an identity to them:

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. So be as wise as snakes and as harmless as doves.

Apparently on the ‘wolf restaurant’ there are all varieties of dishes with lamb as the star of each dish: roast lamb, boiled lamb, barbecued lamb, lamb in salsa… They seem to just love eating lamb! Just a tad vulnerable I think.

It struck me the other day that if Isaiah has a value as a backdrop to so much of the New Testament we have two passages there that tie in: Isaiah 11:1-9, and the shorter passage Isaiah 66: 25

Wolves and lambs will eat together.
Lions will eat straw like oxen.
Serpents will not bite anyone.
They will eat nothing but dust.
None of those animals will harm or destroy
anything or anyone on my holy mountain of Zion.

For those who have followed our journey through the ReConquista we have come to understand that Paul’s Gospel had at its heart ‘convivencia’, and that the body of Christ as royal priesthood carries a catalytic responsibility for the society where it is located so that the society might be a place where at a real level convivencia is manifest. This is indeed a tall challenge when we look at the state of the world as we have it, but we would also contend that society has been hampered from experiencing anything approaching convivencia by the invasion of empire into the church. Imperialism draws on (supposed) external authority to legitimise its behaviour as the ‘good’ manifestation of power so as they can at least give benefits to those who comply if not punish those who do not comply. In Christendom terms it means we can name some nations as ‘sheep’ nations and expect increasingly for some kind of Christianised laws to be applied, allowing us to purify the land through increased border controls.

This is why we are convinced that there is a revolution (a turning around) that is at hand. 500 years after the Reformation there is a rooting out of imperialism. For empires to really shift there has to be a shift in the church. The breaking free from the paradigm of ‘the few at the centre who shape the future, promising benefits to those who comply, while in reality the benefits make their way back to the centre.’ At the last supper Jesus set the pattern of breaking the centre. He gave himself away, including to Judas, thus any former centre had been dissipated. Pentecost follows the same pattern – on all flesh, and with an emphasis on the margins. The margins became the new focus – hence not a hope of a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem!

In these days something has to be pioneered, and maybe the place where this could take place is in ‘secularised’ Europe. I consider it is certainly easier to see such a shift in a place where the church is already marginalised. Easier never to dream of being a centre when without power, than of having a key place at the table of power (early church vs. post-Constantine). All that has to be dealt with is ‘fear’ and all that needs to be increased is faith.

Lambs among wolves – that is a fear inspiring identity, and requires a faith increase.

Convivencia – the lamb and the wolf lying down together, eating together. The vision of the kingdom, a vision of convivencia. Sadly, as we have seen in the ReConquista, the wolf identity was too often taken by those who claimed to follow Jesus. At best we end up with wolf against wolf (war) and at worst the followers of Christ place on the table their ‘enemy’ to eat: a complete reversal of the Jesus’ paradigm.

This next phase will require faith at a new level, and with it many changes of paradigm. It will require mission being understood as relocation. Sent among. It will require witness more than evangelism. Or maybe evangelism will not be something done but something proclaimed – a new order of being and relationship, and that will have to be witnessed to. It will require an understanding that we are not here to get as many out of the world into the church, but as much of heaven into the world.

There are many ways this can be expressed. Of late the understanding of Israel and then the church as royal priesthood has been illuminating. The pursuit of the path toward nationhood by Israel marked her failure, and the alignment of church with Imperial power so that there was a mutual endorsement of each other likewise marked her failure. But if we can recover the vision of this being God’s world, and that there is a redeemed people so that the presence of heaven might be beyond that redeemed people (‘the two hands of God’ as per the early church fathers) we will see a profound shift and progress. Maybe if we can embrace new paradigms more opens up than is closed down. Of course we will lose something – our specialness in the wrong sense; an understanding of grace as salvation as opposed to a gift-calling to serve and to lay down one’s life; a shift from power to love; from the taking of life to the giving of life.

Royal priesthood as calling, or maybe we can suggest it will manifest as a true convivencia. Space opened up where all can live together, where hospitality reigns, where it is not dependent on age, gender, race nor religion. Holding that space in humility with the clarity that Jesus alone is the way to the Father is a challenge. He exhibited what it was to create convivencia. Those who set themselves against that were the religious exclusivists, those who would not give hospitality would find that their future would be harsher than that of Sodom. The way of Jesus is not one way among many, but it is the way for the many to live together.

Challenging days ahead. But as lambs we have to be.

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Gibraltar: an ending

It is quite amazing to be home… a journey that effectively began some 9 months ago when we were convinced that we were to give ourselves to the ReConquista and the expulsion of the Muslims from Spain. The final four days of that journey were spent both on La Linea (the Spanish side of the […]

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It is quite amazing to be home… a journey that effectively began some 9 months ago when we were convinced that we were to give ourselves to the ReConquista and the expulsion of the Muslims from Spain. The final four days of that journey were spent both on La Linea (the Spanish side of the border) and in Gibraltar itself. Before arriving home yesterday Gayle and I spent one final night in Granada on a hill overlooking the city. Granada, being the final Muslim kingdom to surrender, was quite a place to reflect back, at sunset, on the past months. We are not sure what more we will do in direct focus on the ReConquista / expulsions. In the immediate we know something has been completed and we will need time to reflect further. There are so many parallels to the Civil War (36-39) and this might indeed pull us.

In a few days we will head north to the Basque Country, being joined there by Noel and Tricia Richards. After all-but 8000 kms (5000 miles) we plan to kick back for a week!

So Gibraltar – the place where Tariq landed in 711 with a relatively small invading force from Morocco. In a few years from Gibraltar the whole of the Iberian peninsula (with a small exception) was Muslim. The majority of those in the land before and after that invasion were Spanish / Portuguese (excuse the anachronism). They converted from ‘Christianity’ to ‘Islam’. Being the entry point this is what led us there and shaped our plans to end in that geography. We were so glad that we were joined by 8 from the UK (Roger & Sue, Graham & Nicky, Julie, Steve, Lee Ann, Kay), 4 from Sweden (Claes & Kina, Bjorn & Maria), and very thankful that the three who came with us in the first few days of travel some months back were at the end of this phase too – Sam (France), and our Spanish friends who have welcomed us again and again to the land, Noe & Loli. In Gibraltar itself we were welcomed by Stewart and Louisa Duthie who many of us knew from Bridgend in Wales almost 20 years ago. They created wonderful space for us and it was so good to reconnect. So a great group of people all who carry so much history in God. Gayle and I could never have accomplished very much without this group of people.

It is genuinely hard to report on the time there, and certainly we are less able still to make an assessment of what took place. We know as we drove away Sunday night that a huge weight was off our backs, even if we had slept only a few hours each night these past days. Gibraltar was not only the entry point for Islam into the land, but it is a portal from heaven to earth, and as such there are always layers of history in such places. Our focus then was not simply on the entry of Islam – indeed that was barely a focus – but on seeking to align ancient purposes of right trade, hospitality as opposed to piracy and borders that exclude.

We had a big focus on piracy. In our first years in Spain (2009-11) we had a focus on a threefold manifestation: piracy (at work in the banking system), betrayal and murder / destruction (we owe those insights to Michael Schiffmann). As we have travelled we have seen again and again that there was a pattern in the expulsions of betrayal followed by murder. In Gibraltar we sought to shut down the root of the spirit of piracy, not simply in relation to that geography but as it affects the western world system. We worked toward this and on the final morning focused sharply on closing it down and opening what has increasingly accompanied us in our travels – ‘convivencia’. A living together, giving one another space regardless of gender, age, ethnicity or faith. We see this as that which the body of Christ, as a catalyst, is responsible for. Of course the outworking is very challenging. It can leave us as vulnerable and open to being persecuted, and open to living out the Pauline gospel once again! This we consider is the trajectory for the coming years. Vulnerable… lambs among wolves!

We were acutely aware that the era we are living in is so focused. Empires, regardless of what adjective goes with that, are not simply being challenged, but are being exposed and are showing real signs of crumbling. Hard borders will give way to inclusive boundaries. Simply put we believe that our time in Gibraltar contributed to that trajectory. Of course we are probably more impacted as we were involved so our sense might well be exaggerated, but there is a real sense of a before and an after.

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Posting a good quote

We are in Gibraltar and making a plan or two. While on the road we have read a little of The Day the Revolution Began and a few days ago we read Wright in the opening paragraphs of a chapter on Romans. These depth contained in these few sentences slowed us right down: The primary human problem that Paul notes is not “sin”, but “ungodliness”…

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We are in Gibraltar and making a plan or two. While on the road we have read a little of The Day the Revolution Began and a few days ago we read Wright in the opening paragraphs of a chapter on Romans. These depth contained in these few sentences slowed us right down:

The primary human problem that Paul notes in Romans 1:18 is not “sin”, but “ungodliness”. It is a failure not primarily of behaviour (though that follows), but of worship. Worship the wrong divinity, and instead of reflecting God’s wise order into the world you will reflect and then produce a distortion: something out of joint, something “unjust”. That is the problem, says Paul: “ungodliness” produces “out-of jointness,” “injustice.”

For us very profound. And if our paradigm for God’s core is ‘power’ then we head in one direction, if ‘love’ then the direction changes…

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Getting up to date

A couple of hours ago we arrived in La Linea – the Spanish side of the border with Gibraltar. A bed and a shower in a room – luxury for a night or two!! Dust, sand and who knows what else went down the shower plug!! As per usual we have been without WiFi for […]

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A couple of hours ago we arrived in La Linea – the Spanish side of the border with Gibraltar. A bed and a shower in a room – luxury for a night or two!! Dust, sand and who knows what else went down the shower plug!! As per usual we have been without WiFi for the past days, so a quick catch up here.

After leaving Huelva we drove to the Portugal side of the border, then drove on to Lagos (not the Nigerian one….) to meet a Brazilian couple who have been there a few months. As is often the case they have to figure out what to from here. Changes / transition like that are enormous, and much easier to speak into than live through. The necessity of the desert is that is the place where you can see what cannot be seen and hear what cannot be heard.

Our main focus in Portugal was two situations – Ourique where there was a decisive battle in 1139 that helped establish Portugal as a nation and overcome the Muslims and Evora that Gerald the Fearless took from the Moors in 1165. He later went on to take the city and taifa of Badajoz (1169). Both situations surprised us a lot. There was not the heavy element that we had discovered elsewhere in our travels. It felt as some aspects had already been undone. Maybe there had been others there long before us, or the Christian presence was living in a different spirit to the ReConquista? It felt as if it should have been heavier!! Mr. ‘Fearless’ is certainly someone of interest, described as the ‘El Cid’ of Portugal he likewise seemed to play both sides, reminiscent also of a certain Juan March whose legacy we are sure to encounter in the next few days…

We slept the night the Portuguese side of the border in Elvas before crossing over to Badajoz. We wanted to be there fresh and ready. Badajoz had come to our attention in a dream a few weeks ago when a Spanish man came to me asking that we don’t forget Badajoz and the life threatening storm coming to it. It was a very strong time there. That city needs joy, laughter and songs. If ever we need a throw-back to some kind of March for Jesus (‘Shine Jesus shine…’) then Badajoz is the location. It is great to have ideals – no Imperialism, the Pauline Gospel restored and all that – but a group of people singing on the streets would do something in that city!

We experienced so deeply the blood shed there, the forgotteness of the city. When things come this city is one that gets hit harder than other cities in Spain was our sense. Taken in the ReConquista, taken by Wellington at great cost – and not cost to his troops alone, but to the city as his disciplined troops went on a rampage of rape and pillage, then in the Civil War when there was the repeat of that history with rape and pillage and some 4000 civilians were murdered after the city was taken. Truly those events were storms, and not simply life-threatening but life-taking storms.

We went to the old bull ring where the slaughter took place. No real acknowledgment of the event. I asked a man walking his dog about one of the sculptures that we knew was supposedly to be a memorial to the victims of the Civil War brutality. A neighbour in that area and he did not know what it was. FORGOTTEN. We said we would not forget you Badajoz as we poured out wine, and the city needs those who will be there to remember the city. If the story will not be told, it will not be remembered, and if not told and remembered it will not be owned; if not owned it can only repeat. Maybe in our travels this was the most challenging of all the places we have been. Come on you singers!!!

In the image above the background building is the palace of congress for arts – built where the old bull ring was, the bull ring where the slaughter took place. It should be a sign of hope and of a new future, but the reality is (and we found this before when visiting Badajoz years ago) that the old allows a semblance of a new to manifest but only allows it to be a semblance, as in reality it swallows it up. In the foreground is a sculpted work in metal that was placed there to remember those who had been slaughtered. This was the piece that I asked the man about. It has no plaque, it was opened with the families of those affected present, without any speech, without any mark of silence or acknowledgement of what had gone on. FORGOTTEN.

From there, pre-Gibraltar, we went to Hornachos, ‘the last refuge of the Moriscos’. A small village, but something strong there. When we left we felt something very strange. We might not need to visit Morocco in this trajectory as from Hornachos we were able to call for the new convivencia in Spain. The last refuge had seed in it to call for the future. From that time on we have been more focused on the future than the past. Strange as we are now overlooking the rock of Gibraltar. The place of power and where the Muslims first came. What of the past will we need to address here? We are not sure. What of the future needs to be called for – that is what we will discover. We are rested and ready. Today is the first time we have been in the shadow of the rock knowing this is the right time.

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Niebla and Huelva

Always a few challenges on the road regarding charging devices and good internet access and now we discovered that our phone contract does not give us roaming in Portugal. A little difficult as we are due to meet a Brazilian couple who relocated to Lagos, people I met many years ago… So now almost sorted!!! […]

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Always a few challenges on the road regarding charging devices and good internet access and now we discovered that our phone contract does not give us roaming in Portugal. A little difficult as we are due to meet a Brazilian couple who relocated to Lagos, people I met many years ago… So now almost sorted!!! But we had a great day yesterday, a great day for us, so here goes (and one image today that I managed to find on the internet – we do have some great images so use your imagination!!)

Way back when we were living in Cádiz we went on a trip up through Spain connected to the expulsion of Jews from Cádiz and with the promise we would find angels at a key point. It was in a season when we encountered swifts at key moments, including one that flew in our window, flew round the room and out again, then repeated this twice more before flying off. In Niebla we found an openness in the Spirit, felt that was the place, prayed and swifts showed up. That was probably 2012/13.

Yesterday we visited there but this time connected to the ReConquista (it is very interesting to note the parallel aspects to the Jew and Muslim story in Spain). Niebla, now a smallish town was once the centre for a sizeable kingdom that went right across the south of Portugal (the Algarve). In the centre of town there is statue of ‘the last king of the Algarve’. Mûsâ Ibn Muhammad Ibn Nassir Ibn Mahfûz (the last king / emir) was defeated by Alfonso X in 1262 who had sided with a rival Muslim leader then when he had his objectives met took control. Our prayer time there was strong, I pushed into the history and (of course somewhat subjective) there was a deep sense of touching the history. I also – and will continue to do so – prayed into what we now believe was a specific curse left across Spain through the expulsions of there being no rest in the land. Gayle has picked up on the descendants of those who went before and prayed for them including those in Morocco.

We then left to go back to our van, back through the gate of ‘socorro’ (help but more of rescue) – the gate that Alfonso entered the city. There was one person sitting near our van, and only one person in that area. I asked him a question about one of the Spanish words on a plaque. He instantly opened his phone and searched it for us. We began to talk. ‘Are you from here?’ ‘I am from Morocco but am Spanish.’ He was born in Niebla but to Moroccan parents. We talked a little about what we are doing and then he opened up about his own faith (Islam) and issues of racism and suspicion which of course have increased since the Barcelona attack. He said that now walking into a cafe he senses he is looked at differently with people wondering if he too might be a potential terrorist. We then did a small prophetic act with him – put some money in his hands as a sign for his future and for the future of Spain. Could he even have been a descendant of the former emir?

At this point two photos that are on a phone we cannot access would have been sweet!! Although neither of us are of the ‘selfie’ kind of photo taking people (I hear the shock at that revelation) we took two photos yesterday. The first was of us with the statue of the emir. The next one – and we only realised later – was of us with Samir, the young Spanish Moroccan we met. Past and present, with a seed for the future. We now pray for him to find Jesus amidst dreams and to be a young man of peace for the future, for a renewed deep convivencia. If the wolf will lie with the lamb… then we must have convivencia as a kingdom sign.

Huelva: Christopher Columbus

In 2014 we made a little attempt at praying into Columbus Day while in Madrid. It seems that there has been more objection to it since that prayer. There is of course a tie to the ReConquista and Columbus (1492, he sails; Jews are exiled and Granada falls). He is sent out to conquer for Spain and for God – same theme as in the ReConquista and in the Civil War.

We believe we are at a time in history when we have to go much deeper. Each generation has to be obedient to God in their generation, and what was permitted in one generation is not necessarily permitted in the next. God has been in and through Christendom, not because he approved of it, but he goes where we go. We see the same principle in the life of Israel – he is in and with the priests, the king and the temple, but none of those three elements did he call for! It is time to undo the Christendom agenda and pattern, so it was awesome to stand before the statue in Huelva and declare a shift. For us a connection with our prayers in 2014. We will head south next week toward Gibraltar to meet up with others there, and en route we will pass near to where Columbus first sailed from, Puerta Santa Maria. We had wondered if we had to go there en route, but as soon as we stepped out of the van in Huelva we both knew that this was the power source and the place to push for the shift. The statue says it all – Columbus travelling to conquer supported by the cross!!

Today we head West and head for Lagos, then to Albufeira so that tomorrow we can be set ready for two places up through Portugal: Ourique and Evora sleeping in Elvas at the end of tomorrow – right across from the place we will seek not to forget, Badajoz.

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A summary round up: Sunday to Wednesday

I was hoping to blog each day but with challenges on internet, access to electricity for re-charging I have decided to get a summary blog out there bringing our travels up to date, and will major on the time (9 days away) in Gibraltar when I return home. Sorry no pictures – and that is […]

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I was hoping to blog each day but with challenges on internet, access to electricity for re-charging I have decided to get a summary blog out there bringing our travels up to date, and will major on the time (9 days away) in Gibraltar when I return home. Sorry no pictures – and that is your loss as the landscapes have been spectacular. Over the mountain pass Via Puerto de la Ragua (2000metres / 6600ft) just has to be done! This is our third extended time away and by tonight we should be across the border and in Portugal.

We are also trying to pace ourselves with an occasional down day. We had one yesterday in the national park just west of Huelva. This was the scene of a huge wild fire this summer, the evidence of which is clear. Today is Thursday, we left home last Sunday. Our first place was

Polop, one of many mountain villages in Valencia (Comunidad). In one sense we could have chosen any number of others as the history varies but there is such a pattern of hostility and violence. We chose Polop because of a very perverted response. After ‘converting’ from Islam to Christianity and being baptised local Christians then attacked and killed 300 Moriscos with the shout of ‘Now we will raise their souls to heaven and fill our pockets with their coins’. While praying by the church Gayle felt strongly that somehow not only is the memory held in the land, but that descendants – knowingly and unknowingly – continue with the memory in their ‘blood’. These things are challenging to wrap one’s head around but the complexities of generational relationships are probably much more complex than we realise. So our prayers also went for the descendants many of whom are probably in Morocco, where there certainly was a strong connection to the Barcelona attack.

Las Alpujarras: second visit

From Polop we travelled to Caniles (east of Granada by about an hour. We were deeply privileged to be introduced to Antonio and Antonia who live there on the north side of the Alpujarras. Truly people of the land. Antonio found Jesus while deeply searching in all kinds of directions while living as a young man in the Alpujarras. He understands the deep spirituality that is there, the searches that end up with the seekers mostly ending in despair. Connecting with the land and also history. Antonio is in charge of the water supplies to the fields of the area, with the same system of diverting water that has been in place for 1500 years. We slept the night in their house – sleeping in a literal cave! That was a first for us. In Caniles before we began our journey into the Alpujarras we prayed at the monument marking the Civil War. An interesting parallel again with the ReConquista is that many Republicans were on the high ground (like the Muslims) and they were thrown of it by Franco’s forces. Evictions carried out by the ‘Christians’ and throwing off people who were not looking (on the whole) to be antagonistic but were the stewards of the land. Again it underlined for us that we need to continue as Spain could be coming to another cycle. In a few days time with a referendum in Cataloñia, with one politician suggesting that if there was Independence then Cataloñia would raise its own army.

Last time we were travelling the Aplujarras we were using GPS, particularly when we were going to a small village up narrow roads up the mountain gorges. Not so with Antonio. We probably covered 200 miles. No map in sight, tracks that frankly were only at times just wider than his (small) car. I even think at one point he was relieved that we made it. That was after we had climbed to the highest point amidst thunder, lightning and rain. We prayed at:

Guadix: where there is an impressive castle built for the ReConquista. Built to control and then advance from the whole area.

Laujar de Andarax: this was one of the most marked places in history. A priest was tortured, Eventually his eyes gouged out and he was forced to eat them. On the other side when the Christian army arrived they massacred many, including blowing up the Mosque where 200 women and children were taking refuge. No plaque in the town that we could find that made a record of this.

Cadiar: here there was the exchanging of whose hands the town was in numerous times over. At one stage a regiment of Christian soldiers were murdered while sleeping. And of course the response. Blood upon blood, and truly it cries out from the ground.

Juviles: here a number of prisoners tried to prevent a ‘Christian’ soldier from raping one of the Muslim women. Scores of unarmed prisoners were then killed in cold blood.

One aspect that had been with me all day was that as well as there being a curse on the land by all the bloodshed and for evicting the stewards that I could hear those who were evicted specifically cursing the land for those who would come replacing them through conquest. I heard the ‘you will have no rest, you will not find peace, but will face destruction’. Gayle reminded me later that are words from the latest Dayesh video targeting Spain. It is the sad story of so many who come to the Alpujarras seeking an alternative future. Going from one search to another, with many ending their lives either in meaningless or literally ending their lives. It was great to be with Antonio a true steward of the land, knowing every inch of the territory, the animals, the vegetation, herbs and fruit. We prayed into that curse but I do not sense that it is yet broken. More to be done!!

At the end of Monday night we came to Granada, and on the Tuesday drove almost to Huelva. Yesterday we walked a good part of the coastline, and today plan to get to Niebla, Huelva and by night time to be in Portugal.

Niebla is very interesting. Around 2012 /13 (don’t have the dates on me) we went with Simon and Amy following a word that had been given to us about the eviction of Jews from Cadiz and of finding angels. We came upon Niebla and were deeply impacted there. In the town square Gayle photographed a statue of ‘the last (Muslim) king of the Algarve. This was long before we were on the ReConquista journey. A few days ago she remembered this. We tried to find it on google maps, and eventually found the square where the photo was taken. However no king of the Algarve in sight, rather a ‘Christian’ king… Yet the palm trees in both images matched up. We found that between the time of the google map images and the photo the Christian king had been replaced by history that was further back. Replacing the ReConquista image with something more ancient to us indicates a place owning its history, and probably why we found the angels there. We will revisit as this is our door in to the Algarve. Then Huelva – a Christopher Columbus location… 1492 and all that.

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