Privileged immigrants

Living with integrity is always a challenge but if our ‘yes’ is to be ‘yes’ and our ‘no’ to be ‘no’ we have to at least try to have a go at doing so. Yesterday we both went to the Police Headquarters in the nearby largish town, Gandia, to try and get our residency papers raised to the level of ‘permanent residents’. We left home at 8.30pm, were back home by 1.30pm to prepare one more document and finally home by 4.30pm. What did we achieve? I finally left with a permanent resident status – but we have one more step for Gayle (more below).

Back in the day when we were voting on the referendum for the Brexit a UK citizen, living long term in Spain, asked me which way I would vote. I said for me it was easy. He replied with ‘you can’t do that. It is all about the country first [UK]. And it is clear – there are two different words. They’re immigrants. We’re ex-pats.’ I was blown away by what he said. Since then we have described ourselves as ‘immigrants’. We have never used the term ex-pats, but have deliberately called ourselves immigrants. However…

We are privileged, white, middle class, accepted by others – that is the kind of immigrant we are. We have resources behind us. Any comparison with those who have come from (e.g.) Africa without papers would be hypocritical. The government can process them and give them legal status eventually – provided they have a contract for 35 hours a week. Something most Spanish citizens do not have.

So yesterday. We had with us probably around 30 documents including photocopies. We had to make one exit during the process to find the local Social Seguridad and get details of how to prove I have paid into the system for over 5 years. Then to an internet cafe to print it off, and back to the police station. Eventually (and seemingly reluctantly) I was given my new status and paper. A marriage certificate is needed for Gayle to get hers… but not any marriage certificate. So home we came and had to post it to the British Foreign office to be authorised by them. When it returns we then have to find a Spanish government registered translator (nearest office is 12 miles away) to translate the document we presented yesterday.

All the above costs… all the above demands papers in order… all the above in the context of bureaucracy. Much easier now before any Brexit. And MUCH MUCH easier than if we had recently arrived from the African continent.

Ex-pats? No way. Immigrants? Not sure now.

We have two more legal situations coming up. The most bizarre one is the tax office who want me to prove I live in Spain. Oh yes – the same tax office that takes 20x what the UK government used to ask me for in social security each month, and taxes at a considerably higher rate than I used to pay. The reason why? They have held on to money that was overpaid for over a year… then written to say they cannot pay it back until I prove I live in Spain. Bureaucracy gone mad… but we are white, middle class who know almost nothing about the red tape of government that shuts down one’s rights.

Theology and foreign policy

The influence of ‘end-time’ theology on the (middle Eastern) foreign policy of the US has been there for some time, certainly since the Reagan era. This article in the Guardian is a good precis of where things lie currently:

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jan/11/trump-administration-evangelical-influence-support

Sadly the eschatology behind it all – even the adjusted schemes – can only be historically traced back to 1830 or thereabouts; in its unquestioned support for Israel it embraces not a Jewish framework for eschatology, but a Hellenistic one.

The integrity of those who hold this kind of position is not what is at stake but it is the clear danger of any theology to justify our actions to control that is the concern.

A healthy spine?

When in the UK in December I was carrying this sense that there was an increase of apostolic authority to bring a new level of alignment. This was in particular related to England, and coming to Leicester (midlands) it seemed very appropriate for that geography but applicable wider. I was aware that King Richard’s body had been found there but do not think I knew that the confirmation that it was his skeleton was in part because he had a crooked spine.

Prior to coming across I had a dream just after setting the various dates and places. In it I was present in a Christian gathering and there were some great things taking place. People touched by God, healings etc. There was a very clear voice and the people present were focused and in harmony. A person then explained to me that these great things were taking place because of the unity of purpose. I had already observed two things: 1) that the clarity of voice was coming from one person and there was a great agreement with that voice, and 2) that when I looked out the people were of similar ethnic and class background. There was a uniformity to them.

These two elements disturbed me so I took time to respond to what I was being told saying that the voice of God is as the sound of many waters. It does not come through one language or one culture. If God can speak through a donkey he can certainly speak through a white middle class male. But the fullness of his voice has to come through the diversity, and such diversity will mean that we might not even be able to hear clearly!

Miracles do not attest a person’s authenticity. Paul does say the signs of an apostle were with him and he included miracles as part of the evidence. But by themselves they are not enough. After all Jesus made it clear that there would be those claiming to have done miracles in his name but that they were unknown to him.

The spine and the dream?

A healthy spine is not simply straight but also flexible. It is aligned but allows for movement; it facilitates multi-directional communication.

An apostolic gift must have patience as its context (2 Cor. 12:12) as it seeks to be aligned with the Gospel. Paul exhibited this as he described himself as one called to be an apostle and eschewed the title ‘apostle’. (A title would have given him authority over, the calling a mission to be accountable to.) He was not disobedient to the calling and made himself accountable to heaven for his work. He was aligned personally – he had his ‘true north’ set. If there is to be an increase of apostolic authority then it has to start with right alignment. If those with apostolic gift are not rightly aligned how can they help align the body of Christ. I am not professing to know what this might be but surely at the centre is the commitment to the spiritual and social transformation of the world (let your kingdom come). If there is that alignment in the apostolic then there can be a legitimate voice coming to the body of Christ to align in this way.

True North

A focus on other aspects will be a deviation from true north. All other directions have to flow from that. A straight spine! But a flexible spine that allows and facilitates movement in such a diversity of directions. This is where the multi- and diverse-language voices have to be heard. It is not the voice of the donkey, nor of the white middle class male, but of the multitude who are finding their direction in the light of the true north setting.

If there is to be an increase of apostolic authority that manifest in the UK / England great patience will be needed. A settling for the one voice speaks for all will not be sufficient, and even if miracles manifest there will be a falling short. The diversity might even be somewhat confusing, but the greater fullness can only come that way.

The Brexit

The above thoughts too I believe are totally relevant to a new Europe. The new Europe has to be made up of all of us who are now arriving. We all – those of us who have been established for some time in this context – and those who are more recent on the scene, all have to see ourselves as arriving to shape something new. The Brexit is to do with the reshaping of Europe. The UK (England?) has a huge contribution to make into this context. The gift has to be that of diversity. If a nation can only go where the body of Christ goes then I consider the apostolic increase is needed right now. If not then we are in for a very traumatic future. If it does there is also great trauma ahead, but a pathway through.

Madrid is open!!

More to follow in coming days, but last night we slept in an apartment we bought and signed for a few hours earlier. Been an adventure so have not posted on the process as there were a number of complications along the way. Yesterday the possibility was that we made a payment before signing – the owner then did not need to sign, would have his mortgage paid off, still own the apartment and we be a sum of money down and no apartment. There was approximately an hour when this could happen. The estate agent, who sought to help us all along, came up with a plan. It was to trap him in the back of their car – it being a two door car would mean he could not escape!! Eventually we were able to complete in 2 hours. The critical part being able to buy without the debt on the apartment being transferred to us. As far as we are aware we are successful…

Last night we opened the letter box.’You have 2 days to settle the electricity bill before legal proceedings begin’… Nice one!! So off to the bank – can only be paid at certain banks (don’t ask why!) and told – sorry you can only pay this on certain days, at certain hours – next slot is next Wednesday. Quick count and that is more than 2 days away… Found another way to do it, so we will continue to have electricity. PHEW.

A few more practical things to go of paying of bills and taxes. At least in Madrid one only (?) pays 6% of the cost of purchase in tax to the government (in Valencia we paid 10%!).

A couple more nights on a blow up mattress… but happy.

10 years ago we moved to Spain. 7 years ago we left Mallorca en route to Madrid via Cádiz. Had another diversion via dreams to Oliva and now!!

In the summer it became very clear that we cannot see the shifts we need remotely from Oliva but needed to be in Madrid to do so. If you have followed a little of our journey then you will know that the ‘success’ of the passing in parliament to get Franco’s body removed from the Valley of the Fallen was then responded to the push to have him reburied in Madrid. We went to the actual site in the crypt where he was to be reburied and prayed last time in Madrid. Breaking news from this morning is that the government has now blocked that possibility. Madrid is open and we are no longer just pushing ‘lock / unlock’ remotely.

Much more to come I am sure.

The photo… We were given a prophecy that our arrival in Madrid would be on a magic carpet. Gayle bought a carpet a while back. We have sat on it in Oliva and the photo is of the landing (well at least in our imagination!).

Which bag for my money?

Christmas time is here. I am sure there will be many presents given and received. Maybe someone will receive a present of a new wallet / purse to keep all their worldly wealth in. Apparently Scripture seems to be offering two options this Christmas. One that was modelled way back in time set in a garden, and the other proposed by none other than a self confessed ‘chief of sinners’ and called as an apostle.

The two bags are consumerism and contentment.

I have suggested that the original sin is that of consumerism. The garden gives us a very generous setting – eat of all the trees, except for one. Only one tree forbidden! That is minimal restriction, indicating that whatever restrictions we embrace when responding to the call to follow Jesus, the reality is that there is enormous freedom within that call. The language of:

  • I saw
  • I desired
  • I took

is the language of consumerism, and when set in the context of generosity is appalling, yet this is so common. When one has nothing it is understandable that someone should look and desire and seek to take, but when someone has so much there is that drive to obtain the one thing one does not have. I really need… Really need what? A bigger house, a newer car? We need?

The issue with the advertising world is that it suggests a lack that can only be filled with obtaining of something that we do not have. It comes close to robbing us of our dignity and identity only to sell it back at the price of the product. Consumerism does not open the door to growth because it works on the negative value of discontentment. In the garden there was the possibility of great growth provided we were willing to set contentment boundaries. So to the second money wallet / purse.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength (Phil. 4:11-13).

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs (1 Timothy 6:6-10).

Contentment is not easy, and certainly comparison often leading to jealousy does not serve us well. Poverty is not seen as a blessing in Scripture, but to confuse financial prosperity with a sign of God’s blessing is likewise to miss the mark. Passivity is not to be equated to contentment, but thankfulness is probably the best and nearest companion to true contentment.

Contentment is the polar opposite to the consumerist spirit of this age. Maybe this Christmas I might just try one more time to look at the gift contentment might be to my soul.

And as I leave this post, I step back in amazement, realising that I was almost reflective in what I wrote.

Happy Christmas one and all!

A new Europe?

At this time there seems to be so much fear of the ‘other’, expressing itself in xenophobia and centring in on a response to issue of immigration. There are real issues involved, and certainly there might be many good reasons for having voted ‘Brexit’ and a vote to leave cannot be blamed for what is rising negatively in Europe. Maybe though it has inadvertently made a contribution to what we are witnessing in many places of separation from and exclusion of the ‘other’.

The rise in the extreme right is not limited to the European context. Leaders have used rhetoric that has not helped and I think that there are three aspects that has resulted:

  • what has been present there already has been revealed. It is not as if the negative aspects I mentioned above have suddenly appeared from nowhere. They were there prior to Brexit and prior to the rhetoric of leaders.
  • what was there has been fed. This is a serious situation. Leadership rhetoric has permissioned what was there, and once permissioned there has been a growth.
  • it has hidden another narrative. This is an encouraging aspect and one that I had not considered prior to these days of discussion and prayer. There is another narrative, one of recognising that there is a shift to the identity of our world, that the future is going to look different, that those seeking to Europe for safety will be among those shaping the future. This narrative seeks to look at the situation with faith rather than self protection.

This narrative that is hidden has to be the shaping narrative for the church. It is the resistance to fear and an openness to the future. Prior to these days I had not seen that this narrative is present, rising from the grass roots. This is what gives hope for the future. Stories such as those from Germany of many finding faith when they have relocated should encourage the church enormously. Surely in the move from their homelands God is at work to reveal himself.

Another aspect of our praying was to see a shift from an over-Western orientation. This would impact on a shift from a male-dominated / masculine-bias to a more female / feminine approach to issues and relationships. A further shift in the economic base.

One of the aspects that we can see visibly, certainly in Spain, is that there are changes already taking place where there is a greater femininity in politics that promotes a third way beyond conflict and opposition to that of dialogue.

One of the participants read from a book reflecting on native north Americans’ experience of the Europeans who came with their different cultural values. That colonial encroachment and domination is always a provocation, but it prompted a new language. Rather than ‘then the Europeans came…’ to the concept of in the current scenario that the new Europeans ‘arrived’. There has to be a new Europe and that is more than the reshaping of an institution (EU) but is with all those who are committed to the geography, that means all of us, all of us who are arriving now – even if we have been present before. Again the concept of the body of Christ modelling this is the challenge before us.

The final aspect that I will reflect on here is that – and this is a push theologically – that we should be expecting people to rise up who are committed to doing an ‘apostolic’ job in and through society. It seems

  • our responsibility to hold the shape so that they can emerge;
  • that it is immaterial whether they are believers or not;
  • that when they get in place we need to pray for their protection. It is easy for us believers to be alert to spiritual attack (mainly in the form of betrayal in these settings) but someone who does not believe in spiritual realities is not going to be alert to this.

The photo above the article is of the parliament building in Strasbourg. The building is modelled on Bruegel’s painting of the tower of Babel.

The Tower of Babel

The similarity can be read as a clear sign that the EU is simply Babel… and it is in as much as there is Babel within all institutions, or as seems to be symbolism, the EU is a project that will never be finished, and if the attempt is simply to raise it up from the earth it is doomed for failure. A place therefore to contribute I consider.

Where to Europe?

The final four days we spent in the UK was with 20 other people from England, Ireland, Wales, Spain, Germany, France and Sweden to consider how to pray into the future of Europe with the ‘Brexit’ somewhat as a background. A very good and trusted prophetic friend had emailed most of those in the above group with a vision that she had very soon after there was an announcement that there would be a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU. The summary of that vision was that the UK would be removed and in that time light and colour would drain out of the European continent, but at a later stage there would be a re-connection and a corresponding shift in the continent. An obvious, and possible, interpretation to the former part was that the referendum would be a vote ‘out’. And given that this vision preceded any referendum we have given it a lot of weight. The context though that our friend said was that this next season was more about the future of Europe than of the future of the UK.

Our days were less focused on the Brexit than on where to Europe. However, it was interesting that although the dates were set months ago the context of the debate and total lack of clarity was the context for our gathering.

(Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor)

We met in Ashburnham Place, a most remarkable centre, given the geography of an event that shaped England with the Norman Invasion of 1066. An event that only left the city of London free – and the origins to this day of its status that allows it to be one of the ‘treasure islands’ that can defy taxation laws. Ashburnham Place as a land is also most interesting in that it was originally part of land that was apportioned by William’s conquest but had been given away freely. The sense of the land being free was tangible and gave a real leverage point.

With reference to the loss of light and colour for some time we have considered that this loss is embodied in the rise of xeno- and other phobias, the demonisation of ‘immigrants’, the rise of fascism and the like in almost all European nations. This suggests that there has to be a shift in the UK if there is to any level of re-plugging to bring about a change in Europe. Prior to meeting I would have been very negative about any such change being possible, but having been in England for these past two weeks. But I am convinced that there is a real (and maybe still hidden) shift taking place as I sensed the biggest spiritual change in England in the 10 years we have been in Spain.

Whether the Brexit is abandoned or not is not the key issue. The EU has evolved and has many flaws for sure, though with the vision of being together to avoid the horrors of war, my strong preference would be to see it reformed from the inside. The primary aspect of the future is not reversing the Brexit but for something to rise that is inclusive of the ‘alien, widow and orphan’ so that a new Europe can arise.

Rather than prolonging this post I will post again tomorrow…

A pre-Christmas post!!

This post will not have much to do with Christmas, just flagging up that I have made it well through December and hardly posted at all, but this will be in cyber space before Rudolph and his partners are in the air.

I am sure I could have posted these past days, but we have been ever so busy. Twelve days in the UK. Probably the longest stint there in these past 10 years, taking in Chester, Leicester, North London, Leatherhead (family) and Ashburnham Place. It was a really great time and I probably won’t be able to do it justice in this post.

The diversity of the body of Christ is always a joy to touch, and there is, I am sure, more to come of the diversity. In Chester I had some personal time with Andy and Sue Glover who have faithfully held in at many levels for the health of the city. I was also there (unplanned) for the last prayer breakfast before one of the key families relocated to France. An expansion of boundaries for sure.

In Leicester I was privileged to address in the morning and early afternoon church leaders, followed by an evening in a prophetically orientated Anglican church. And down in Ashburnham Gayle and I met with 20 others over 3 days to pray into the future European shape, partly in response to the ‘Brexit’.

The above is a brief ‘what’ and ‘where’. It would not be possible to recount blow by blow each place so I will rather summarise a few points below.

In the various times of coming to the UK over the past 10 years I was convinced this time that there is something ‘brewing’ in England. There is an increasing apostolic call and mantle. This will manifest in a diversities of ways. Encouragingly I was given very positive statistics of growth in London, mainly among Afro-Caribbean and Anglican churches. There is a new wave of activity there. There will also need to be a turning to society where there is an apostolic release also coming (more below). When in Chester Andy asked Sue (as I was coming silently down the stair case so that we could leave): ‘I wonder if he is ready?’ I jokingly said that was such a penetrating question! But I quickly sensed the Holy Spirit was saying that England is ready. (We will also feel unready, things not done that we should have done, and of course that is the case, but there is a real readiness in the nation.)

Before coming over I had a dream in which I went to a place where there were many good things happening including miracles. I was told of the clarity of voice and direction. However, when I looked out I saw that the people were all pretty much the same colour of skin and of ethnic background. I had to then say that God can speak through a donkey, or a white faced person, and that what was said was the word of God, but that the richness of his voice is as the sound of many waters and that until there was a reflection of the diversity of ethnicity there will never be the fullness of God’s voice. His fullness comes when the diversity means we cannot easily hear but are deeply impacted. (In Leicester I also prophesied that there was coming now an increased move of the Spirit among the Asian community.)

The second aspect was that of being called to ‘straighten the spine’ of England. I did not realise that in Leicester the discovery of King Richard’s body was confirmed by the fact that the skeleton’s spine was twisted. The spine must become straight but flexible. A strong but flexible spine will mean that the body can extend further than ever.

I will post another time to reflect a little more on our time in Ashburnham, but will simply note one element here that has been something strongly on my heart for some time. It is that God is not simply looking for forerunners for the church, but that there will be those who will open up space for true forerunners to rise up in all the areas of society. Gayle and I have come home with the increased provocation to pray for their protection. They are vulnerable. If we (believers) have some understanding of spiritual opposition we might be able to withstand some of the attacks, but for those who do not know Jesus we now sense we have a greater responsibility to stand for them. There is an apostolic (foundation laying) mantle coming for society. In the chaos of Brexit and the European scene this might not look likely, but of this I am convinced. Those with a wisdom who see a third way through the extremes, deeply practical but with vision. They are coming… and as many of them will not profess faith we can be the ones who raise a shield around them.

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Where, how and what

A historic election took place last night in the Southern comunidad of mainland Spain in Andalucia. Historic as there was the breaking of a 36 year hold by a particular party, but more historic in the level of vote a new ultra-right party received. At one level a resurgence of Francoism, using the language of, for example, ReConquista, but positioned within the rise of the popularist and nationalistic ultra-right across Europe. Two further provocative aspects for us… the entry in the South, and the birth of the new party leader in Bilbao (the north). Some 4 years ago we went the first time to Bilbao to make a declaration that from there new thinking will come forth into Spain. We left though to pray for the richness of diversity within unity.

I had an email recently from someone who in passing asked a question about the EU, stating that I was ‘for the EU’. Maybe I am… maybe I am not. It is far from perfect, and not being a fan of bureaucracy and red tape it is not too difficult to see why anyone could find one or two reasons to resist the ‘beast’ (small ‘b’ as this applies to all power bases that control). With the EU there seems to be two choices – get out for the above reasons or try to stay in and see change. Pulling back, strengthening national sovereignty and seeing the breakup of the EU is more likely, in my opinion, to further strengthen what we saw last night in Spain. And it is the future that could spring from last night that is the concern. Living in mainland Europe it is probably not surprising that I am ever hopeful if we can hang in together that there will be change, particularly as the EU, in measure, acts as a lever to weaken the sovereignty expressed in nationhood.

I am not a political animal as I have so little understanding of how it works and what really ‘left’ or ‘right’ means, but I have many concerns about what is rising. When we pull back, when we have language that seeks to exclude all others of a different opinion, parties that seek to shut the freedom of the press then there is great concern for the future. The election in Andalucia last night certainly was an earthquake and a strong sign that the past can come back around.

We live at a point in history when the unthinkable could bite. Whatever the future of the EU, whatever finally (!!) outworks with respect to the Brexit, we will continue to pull for friendship across the borders, co-operation, a weakening of sovereignty so that borders are not shut inhumanely. One has to be optimistic when we know that we have access to prayer. Prayer to go deeper – yes we will have to go deeper – and pull up roots, and to connect with imagination for the future.

An earthquake last night? Maybe. A wake up call? Certainly. A provocation? Indeed.

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Listen and speak

I am in the process of thinking about writing a few books that would try and bring together the many random thoughts that have developed over the past 10 years. The 10 years prior to moving to Spain were years of travel with an emphasis on how history shapes a geography spiritually (the land being the place where the corporate memory is held) and then how the church is to be a redemptive presence to remove the effects of the past and connect with and release the gift of the geography. The last ten years have been marked by a greater desire to see how the body of Christ can be repositioned within the world as a priesthood for the nations. Anyway those are my reflections and into that are continual thoughts about social transformation. So recently as I have been writing I am thinking about God’s ear and his voice, at least as far as concerning oppression.

God’s ear is turned toward the one oppressed and his voice comes to challenge the one oppressing.

We read:

The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob (Exod. 3: 23,24).

The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering”(Exod. 3:7).

The ear of the Lord is toward the oppressed. He hears their cry. He then responds to the cry and commissions Moses.

And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt. (Exod. 3:9,10).

In response Moses is commissioned to speak to Pharaoh. Moses does not incite the people to riot and rebel, but is sent to speak to Pharaoh thus delegitimising his control and oppression over others. The word of the Lord so often comes to those with power to repent and come down from their position of control, independence and abuse. ‘Woe to you…’ is what we read to such people, whereas we often read ‘blessed are you…’ to those who are at the receiving end of such abuse.

If the Lord’s ear is toward the oppressed so that he hears the cry but his mouth is directed toward those who are the reason for the cry of the oppressed this surely must position the church with her ear and mouth turned in the same direction. God does not do everything. He calls, commissions and acts with those called and commissioned. It is the church’s responsibility to listen and speak.

The cry of the land, the groan of creation in bondage comes to the ‘sons and daughters’ who have found freedom and glory. There is a longing in creation to come to the same destiny, for creation to become all that it was meant to be. That cry is not always a pretty sound, nor an articulated sound, and certainly seldom is it a pure sound. Most pain sounds are not pretty! Therein lies the challenge. It can be easy to write off an impure sound, or an oppression that expresses itself in a less than attractive way, and in the process to miss the cry for freedom. It can even be easy to fail to listen but to speak to that impure sound and rebuke it. How many cries for freedom have we missed, and if we have missed them how many opportunities to be agents of change have we missed (and I am thinking more corporately than individually on this)?

Likewise it can be to easy to run with the status quo and not address the powers. And maybe speaking is not possible until we first listen?

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