A Threshold

2020… perfect vision… or perhaps to quote a figure from a byegone era:

Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into (Oliver Hardy).

I kind of think there is a bit of both going on as we cross over into the coming year. Vision to be had, and coming to terms with the mess around us and how to navigate our way through it.

In 2010 (repetition coming up here) I had two dreams, one of the facades opening up, so as we could see inside of the institutions that had shaped public live, but being closed again through an alignment to the familiar, casing things to revert back to the status quo. The second dream was of a see-saw and the numbers 20 falling on the left side, then 10 on the right side. The see-saw was weighted and although there were ‘wobbles’ when it might tip the other way it always came back down solidly on the left side. Eventually as the dates came 20 fell on the left and 20 on the right side. The dream ended with the see-saw balanced.

At the time I took it to mean a complete reversal and ‘whoa just wait till 2020’, … BUT… like all prophetic revelation we are not in a place to interpret it when we immediately receive it. Revelation comes from the future, interpretation is sourced in our expectation that is shaped by our experience (past). As the years have gone on I have continually reflected on both dreams and as we are about to cross over into 2020 it has again naturally become a focus.

The dream ended with a level see-saw… not a reversal.

That aspect is key for me. If I change the analogy a little to a sporting one, a level playing field. But the game still has to be played.

And the mess… yes we are in a mess. There are huge danger signs for those of us with faith in Jesus. ‘Our’ faith has been hijacked in many places to serve an agenda that is nationalistic, xenophobic and misogynist. When faith is pulled in to serve a political agenda we really do end up in trouble – it is the sign that there is a fullness of times (the critical moment of Jesus’ birth was into that context, and the outcome was the centralised decision that Jesus had to be sacrificed so that the ‘place’ was preserved). Religion prevailed and Jesus was expendable.

Of course dependent on one’s standpoint will depend on what mess is seen. Climate? OUCH. Economics? Enough said.

The mess is a challenge to interpret. A mess comes before there are breakthroughs. A right old mess also becomes more visible and more vocal at a time when we thought ‘the beast had received a mortal wound’ but lived again.

Some of what follows is personal as I reflect back on 2019. A year of great shifts. Tomorrow marks a one year mark of purchasing this apartment in Madrid – a goal achieved that we first aimed toward in 2011 and continually pushed toward it with many resistances. The year began with a drawn-out major battle to hold our ground with just under 3 months of continual meetings, documents being produced to establish our status in Spain. The year has brought us to a threshold, and I suspect that the end of this year / the beginning of next is indeed a threshold in many situations and for many of us. (And personally Jan 1, 2020 begins our 12th year in Spain.)

At the threshold point there is sight to be had. There is a fresh view to see what level playing field is there for us. There are closures where some fields can be left; there are also new fields that open up. As the threshold is crossed there is no need to hold on to what was. We have to discover what is now for us to hold on to. Battles are strange – we do not always finish all the battles that we believe were ours.

Threshold also marks that we lose grace over certain previous contexts, but there is great grace for what is new. The new though does not come in the same package, nor provision in the same way as before. (As per losing day to day provision of manna, and having to see beyond the giants to experience season to season opportunities.)

I consider that the early months are months in which clarity will come to what is being seen, as opposed to blasting into the year with sight. As the sight is embraced so contexts, and contacts will come into place. There is urgency, hence the need to move at a measured pace.

The level playing field means ‘game on’. Engagement and strategy will have to be hand in hand. Or maybe I should write engagement and new strategies.

In the process there will be an increase in ‘camps’ being formed. A ‘I am of…’ type of response. There is no issue in knowing where we belong, a question that Gayle and I often ask ‘who is our church?’ is appropriate, but this is not a time to narrow down. There are resources and connections from outside our narrow vision. The parting of company has to be with what is shaped religiously, as the pulling of religion into the power structures is the mire that will withstand progress. Religious was is here. The drawing to others is where life is shared.

Truth-telling is a key to open huge doors. Self-disclosure comes from a defenceless position and this will be increasingly necessary. The visible gap between truth and lies will increase. That gap is masked when religion speaks to expose. Religion does not expose reality but covers it, and when religion is brought in to speak it is to pervert what is true.

We anticipate fresh voices, with strange clothing, appearing in unusual places to mark this coming year.

And – again maybe personal – but with the three-fold focus we had this year on ‘students, women and pensioners’ I see all three gaining a clarity in their voices.

Sight to see the mess… but sight to see where we can stand before we lose sight because of the mess. And standing to see the beauty of heaven being expressed in the midst of the mess.

Time – no time

Been a while since I blogged, just been too focused and busy on other things, though I do have a Romans 13 thought, in the light of ‘of course Boris [replace with ‘whoever’] is appointed by God, the Bible says so, so no disorderly conduct here then by you’.

But Time… the magazine. N.T. Wright has an article in there from Dec. 16th. The opening paragraph and opening sentence of paragraph 2 reads:

One of the central stories of the Bible, many people believe, is that there is a heaven and an earth and that human souls have been exiled from heaven and are serving out time here on earth until they can return. Indeed, for most modern Christians, the idea of “going to heaven when you die” is not simply one belief among others, but the one that seems to give a point to it all.

But the people who believed in that kind of “heaven” when the New Testament was written were not the early Christians.

The link is here:
https://time.com/5743505/new-testament-heaven/

Alignments for the future

Some while back we had a confirming word sent us while we were focusing on the removal of Franco’s body from the valley of the fallen. It was during the time when the process seemed stuck. We had begun to home in on the release of three groups of people: the students (youth), the women and the pensioners as key in that process and the wider picture of Spain. After a number of weeks without knowing about our focus Michael Schiffman called us to say we needed to release 3 distinct groups of people and the shift on Franco would come.

Today Greta Thunberg will arrive in Spain and will be present at the climate crisis change conference in Madrid over the coming days. She is a sign in these times. A young woman. And with her are rising an army of youth. It is their future that they are calling for. Recently while presenting a small paper on politics and theology I touched on the ‘touchstone’ issue for many Christians, the issue of abortion, which for sure is a major issue, yet I suggested there is a spectrum that it sits on which has to include that of creation care (also war, nationalism and immigration are on the same spectrum). Both the issue of abortion and climate care are to do with the future and how we relate to those not yet born and those who are yet to live – true life being defined as becoming those who contribute to others, that being the real test of how much glory is present.

Columbus Square

Some years back we made a small visit to Columbus Square where the adventurer(*) is honoured and it has become one of the centres for nationalism (Spain Day), the military and power displays. Since our little venture into that square we have noted some wonderful shifts in the response to such celebrations of power. And just after that time this wonderful focused statue of the woman has been there. And in this photo with the juxtaposition of the woman and the Spanish flag surely speaks loudly! Love for nation and nationalism are not one and the same. It is the same as equating evangelism with seeing people as objects to be evangelised… no good news there!!

The woman, the feminine. There is a future that is held at this time in the hands and hearts of women. In the same way as there were good men at the time of Jesus, so there are ‘bad’ women today, who use power and ungodly position for their own ends. Yet Jesus died as a man – he nailed where the central corruption of humanity lay. So I suggest there is a new centring in of hope to be found in and among women in this time.

In Spain since 2003 there are over 1000 women who have been killed in domestic violence situations. Many more physically and emotionally beaten. Yes there is a violence that at times has gone the other way, but this is not a level field.

In parliament yesterday

Pensioners. Some who have made their contribution, have lived through trauma to help give a future (and some of course who have not been contributors over their years). Care for the elderly. Honour those who have walked before, otherwise there is little genuine hope for a better tomorrow. Many pensioners are going to find a new lease of life. Their time is not over, even if the money (in Spain) set aside for them has been raided by previous governments. (Not a surprise when so much financial basis is founded on debt, the way to ‘create’ wealth!)

Yesterday in parliament – yes still no government here, and a total police barricade so we were not able to get to the building yesterday – Agustin Zamarron (70+ and still seeking to serve as an MP) with great dignity spoke of the responsibility to Spain and the deep embarrassment he felt that to date there has been no success in forming a government.

An army that is different. That has a different spirit. I am looking at this when I think of the 2010 -2020 dream and the final level playing field. I am not a student, nor a woman nor a pensioner… but I am and need to be involved. There is though a centre, and maybe it is just Spain but there is something congregating around youth, women and pensioners.

Madrid, with the work of the last mayoress, despite reversals being activated by the new administration has seen pollution drop by 20%, the most of any major world city. The climate conference is here, and the TV news spoke of this conference and ‘the planet is looking for her salvation’. That is a quote from someone I read… where then are the daughters and sons of God? And maybe we also have to ask who then are the daughters and sons of God? The opening day one of the biggest Spanish polluters of the environment were on the front page of most of the main papers. Money can buy publicity, as always. It buys elections. Power wins. Or it has, but here comes 2020. A level playing field. Could love find a way?

Before 2020, comes tomorrow (literally). The streets will speak once again in Spain, so we need to be there as wisdom cries out in the public square. Walking boots on and with many thousands others we will walk.


*I very generously described Columbus as an adventurer. Read the stories as he left in the service of God and Spanish crown, accompanied by a priest who preached in Spanish, giving all an opportunity to respond to the message of salvation (I know some preaching is hard to understand but this takes the cake!), then those who did not respond were ‘legitimately’ killed or enslaved. I called him an adventurer, and I do that not to excuse him, but to allow the challenge to be ours of clearing up the mess, for those who have conviction that something is wrong surely must be those who seek to shift the effects of what has gone before.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!