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.

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!

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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By all means compromise

I am such a purist. Egaliterian, non-hierarchical, opposing the imperial spirit. I could go on with such an impressive resumé. (You know what I am writing is so true!) Yet when I come to how God works he is not the purist that I am. He has an amazing ability to compromise.

God shows up in the midst of Empire. Even the British Empire and the spread of missions went hand in hand… the Roman Empire with its one world government was useful for communication and the road systems for travel. The Gospel spread around the then known world at an amazing rate. (Bizarrely this was how some used to explain the phrase of Jesus coming at ‘the fullness of time’. Imagine it – God just waiting for the help he needed from those wonderful Caesars!) And the OT example of God not wanting a king (and by the third generation of kings, Solomon ‘the wise’ becomes just a new Pharaoh) yet he anoints the king. He did not want a Temple but his glory showed up… he did not want priests but… All of that just plainly narks me a lot… until I realise he has shown up once or twice with me too so I don’t complain too loudly.

Compromise. To connect we have to meet, and if for example I connect with a Roman catholic priest I do not assume they are wrong in the sense that God has not called them. But I do not kiss my brains good bye and go seek being ordained or changing my beliefs. There is an element where I have to decide what carries integrity for me, what are the lines I cannot personally cross, and at the same time I cannot draw those lines for someone else.

Here are some thoughts on where we compromise (I am not talking morally):

  • We have to keep our personal integrity. We know what our personal lines are.
  • We have to decide what we can do, or if there something we need to do, that is a compromise for the sake of the Gospel. (I was once challenged that I needed to take out my ear ring if I was to ‘minister’ – I simply had one internal question: for the sake of the Gospel do I refuse, or for the sake of the Gospel do I comply. The answer can differ in different situations.)
  • If we make a compromise it needs to be redemptive so that we help move things forward and not leave them there in the place where we connected.
  • If we put some structures in place they need to be as temporary as possible. Sadly it is easier to start something than stop it – hence I see the Sabbath, the 7 year fallow, the 50 year Jubilee being to force a break. Apostolic teams might be helpful at a stage but they quickly default to a set of churches ‘belonging’ to the apostle – Paul was clear that all ministries belong to the body of Christ, not the other way round. The default is to structural domination – as illustrated by the biblical material on ‘the city’ and exemplified by Babylon.
  • Empire is a spirit. Within empires there are good kings and bad ones. But kingship was not of God – it was a rejection of God! If we do not have our eyes open to the spirit of the empire and we do something that is birthed out of a desire for position we will end up coming under that spirit. My point in my initial paragraph is that God compromises functionally for redemptive purposes, and if we decide we need do this in a given situation we have to realise what we are doing is a compromise otherwise we will come under the spirit of compromise and lose our integrity today… or tomorrow.

Not great words of wisdom in the above but simply a few thoughts. We do nothing based on that what we do is better than someone else but that we have to live out of our convictions and then interact and work with others who have different convictions.

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Power or change?

I am not sure if the brief title is adequate but I wish to explore what our beliefs are concerning societal transformational change. The political scene across many countries and regions is changing quickly and radically. In Europe the polarisation is increasingly visible and unless bridges are built the result will be increased division, hatred and violence. What fuels this is a mixture of fear (real and fabricated), being blindly wedded to a party political ideology, and what is important for this post – a belief as to how change takes place.

I have written before of an appointment we had in a local bank. The person attending us had our account on the screen in front of us and when she saw that we had actually been donating a small amount to a particular political party she responded with obvious disapproval. We then spoke of their approach to the issue of corruption that is evidently endemic throughout the political system in Spain, to which she replied with, ‘I will tell you something that you need to understand. Corruption is here, nothing will ever change…’ A few more words to educate us, then it was obvious our time was over as she said using the nickname for the political leader, ‘Now you can leave with your…’

We did not donate the money because the party is God’s answer in the sense that we have to get them in power and all will change; we did not support them because we line up with their ideology at every point; but we did support them as they would not take money and be bought by power and had been calling for radical change particularly into the aspect of corruption. At this point of time they are the smallest of the four main parties in Spain and we watched with interest when the leader was asked a direct question a couple of nights ago as to whether they would ever be in power. The response was, from our perspective very mature. Whether they ever got into power was somewhat secondary, but that their presence and where they were currently positioned meant that they had been influential in change over a number of policies. The change taking place was not through power but through influence.

There is a very revealing text that I have oft quoted in Luke’s Gospel:

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene—during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:1-3).

There is no indication in this that the Gospel is somehow non-worldly and non-political. Indeed far from it. In the context of the lock up of power, both politically and religiously there is outlined the process for change – the word of the Lord coming in the wilderness. Change not beginning in Moncloa, Number 10, Brussels, nor the White House. It was something along those lines that impressed us with this party leader’s response to the interview, where he explained about change through influence rather than through power.

The challenge at this time to the right and the left as things polarise is that both are committed to a change process which is effectively, get in power and change things top down. Maybe this is understandable for without a revelation of Jesus what alternative is there. Understandable for those without faith to take that approach, but what about those of us who are believers? Do we want power by aligning ourselves to those who have power, or are we looking for change?

John’s baptism was a preparation for a renewal of the people of God. He goes to the entry point to the land with a baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We should not understand this simply as an evangelical baptism but as a baptism for a covenant people who had failed to live up to the commission of heaven. The original people had been delivered from the Imperial power of Egypt, they were walking away from those centralised power structures being shaped by the law of God. But they had over years succumbed to the same powers that they had been delivered from with the decisive shift being their demand for a Monarchy. The result was that they understood their great days through that lens but eventually had ended in submission to the power structures they had emulated, the latest Imperial structure being that of Rome. The baptism was to prepare a people to be renewed so as they could step up into the commission of being a royal priesthood for the whole earth.

I have always been blessed when I have met people who have stood in the gap for someone else or for a situation saying that their commitment was that they would hold the space ‘on their watch’. Corporately this is how I understand what it means for the body of Christ to be the salt of the earth. That salt that inhibits the growth of evil and promotes the growth of righteousness if truly present means certain things will not take place on our watch.

I view as an insult to the body of Christ that levels of corruption can exist; that cultures that blame women for how they dress is enough to justify men’s lustful behaviour. Protests against those things sometimes seem to rise up in spite of the body of Christ, but I think they also rise up as a sign that something is shifting spiritually. This is an aspect that Gayle and I take seriously. If a political party believes that change can only take place through becoming the ones in control so be it, but if we align ourselves to that conviction we will soon lose sight of, and belief in, the transforming power of the cross. We do not look for something to rise up that is perfect, but we also look to seek to be faithful during our watch. I am sure we have missed many aspects, but if Spain is to come to a place of freedom then there has to be evidence that what has been rooted in the land is unrooted and cannot take root to the same extent again.

The answers do not lie in the right nor in the left, and certainly not in either when they believe that change is through imposition. Neither will the solution take place through the agency of a church that is aligned to the same belief about the process of change, who align themselves to the person or party that will bring in some imposed form of morality, regardless of how they speak of and treat others, and meanwhile the marginalised are marginalised even more.

We live at a dangerous time, but a time of great opportunity. I do believe there is another financial crisis waiting to happen, but my main concern is for a shift to take place in the body of Christ. That we do not retreat to another cycle of conferences that strengthen (spelt ‘isolate’) who we are, but that we find a wonderful re-positioning, an alignment from having discovered true north.

Not called to have power over… but through a commitment and alignment to the cross to have such an influence, even if invisible, that visible change takes place. Dangerous times but times of such opportunity. Not a time to quickly align with the rising extremes but to the process of change that begins in the wilderness. I suspect when that day reveals all we will discover that the changes took place not through those who held power (though there is an accountability for them) but through the unknowns who had been faithful. We will discover that it was on their watch that change took place.

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Power: fear or love

A certain gentleman whose tweets can be followed with various gasps of ‘surely this time he is joking’ apparently when asked about power and how it works responded with the word ‘fear’. For him to be effective and get things done the best attribute to have is one that enables a climate of fear to be cultivate among those around him. Fear certainly enables the exercise of a certain type of power.

In some of the medieval religious art the fear of hell fire and torment was certainly a tool employed to keep everyone in line. There are consequences to choices and it is a ‘fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God’ so some measure of ‘nervousness’ is probably in order. That though is a long way from using fear to control and make sure that everyone complies with our will.

We head off to Brazil in a few weeks time after a pause of some 9 years. Back in those days I was travelling doing prophetic seminars and soon discovered that in the highly exalted prophetic world of that country there was so much abuse. Prophets who would give a word and say if it was not received the person would be ill or even die! It was no surprise that when we broke those literal curses off people there were significant outbreaks of instantaneous healings. That was a not so subtle means of using fear to control.

When Sue was ill with cancer I had a phone message left on my ansaphone. A person with great revelation who discovered that in the book ‘Impacting the City’ there was an error. I was to seek the Lord, re-read the book, discover the error, repent and lo and behold Sue would be healed. If only there was only one error in the book!! I am glad the call was so ridiculous that it was easy to dismiss.

Discerning where there is an effect from choices that we genuinely need to put right, and where we are looking (in vain) for where we have been wrong, and so things are not as they should be, can be a challenge. However, approaching any such question from fear will not get us any where positive. Even if we were to find the right ‘answer’ the underlying approach is so wrong that the answer is unlikely to produce the desired solution.

There are a couple of fairly strong Scriptures that have a ‘warning’ sign attached.

… but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

For with the judgement you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

A couple of pretty strong ‘fear-inducing’ Scriptures those two, and two pretty strong life-giving Scriptures if we come close to lining up to them. Life-giving: forgive. Can be tough and thank God I have never faced tough situations where I have had to dig deep to forgive, so I want to be careful what I write. To forgive is to release, it is not to say what was done was OK, in fact it can mean to do the opposite of that. Forgiveness to be real is to accept what was done was not OK but I am not going to ask for my pound of flesh. Life-giving for that is what we will then experience ourselves. To experience forgiveness at a human level is wonderful but to expand that to the divine level is incredible. That is freedom, and the pathway is to forgive others. Be cautious about judging is a good bench mark. Religion likes to judge, but does not give life. I have been a happy advocate for Identificational repentance because identification is pretty easy. Repent for the crusades of 1000 years ago – easy as I too have wanted to conquer for God (= make life easy for me, prove me right, get God on my side, suppress all who challenge me).

When Jesus spoke the above words it was not to put the fear of God in us, but to outline paths of life. Imagine a world where forgiveness went up by just a few percent, and judging went down just a little. Wow!!

God does not control by fear. Indeed I would suggest that those who have something to fear are the religious… the very ones who try to control by fear. Oh and the power hungry as religion is just one more manifestation of power hunger.

The power that God exercises is power for change coming from love. That threatens us to the core. What if people do not want to change? Well apparently God is not so ignorant of that to be surprised and has not changed his ways. If he has not changed his ways I was simply wondering if it might be a good thing for a bunch of God’s people to get back to his ways?

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Privilege

We are ever so radical, Gayle and I. We have taken part in protests, stood outside courts and made proclamations, blah blah blah. Ever so radical, or not. At this moment of time a man who protested over the Russian regime is currently in hospital in Germany probably having been poisoned. In numerous nations there are those imprisoned for their faith (spiritual and / or political). So how radical are we? At the global level not that radical in that our lives are not really put at risk. It is not to likely that you will read we have been imprisoned or tortured, for we are among the privileged.

We – not all but many of the readers of this blog – are privileged. The majority of us have an education, food on the table, we are not threatened with violence, nor persecuted for our beliefs. This is who we are and our context. It seems that the issue is what we do with our privileges. In Jesus’ society to be Jewish, male and free was to be privileged, and he totally undermined all of those privileges. Those within those categories being called to humility and those outside being elevated. Paul’s pedigree was impeccable and he was highly privileged, but when he met Jesus he came to the conclusion that it was all of no value.

Privilege means we have to do something. My issue with the capitalist idea of ‘trickle down’ is that it has not worked. The divergence has only increased. My issue with the equalisation of all things where the state is the master is that entrepreneurship is squashed, concrete becomes the creative norm and poetry is lost. Gifting, entrepreneurship, privilege is part of our world, but unless something is in place ‘trickle down’ stops trickling very soon. The OT law was not simply ‘religious’ law but also state / societal law and there is plenty in there that encouraged entrepreneurship yet limited the extent of the benefit to the entrepreneurial centre and made sure through legislation that any benefit and growth were available to those beyond.

We have to do something with the privileges we have. I am not sure if I can call myself a feminist (I appreciate there are many definitions to this word, but for the moment assume the positive meaning that egalitarians see in Scripture). I am pro-feminist, but can I really call myself a feminist? By this I mean can I really move beyond a patronising response to one of integrity? I am not inside, nor ever been in the skin of the person who has lived in and through a patriarchal world. I can empathise, I can be supportive and add my voice but can I authentically take an identity that is not mine? I can be pro-‘black lives matter’, but when does is it simply a hollow noise to say so?

We all have a context, and I am not writing with a downer on myself nor anyone else, but simply suggesting that we have to use our privileges with a long term vision and on behalf of those who find themselves in a non-privileged position. I cannot be as radical as those who oppose oppression in lands where freedoms are closed down, but I still have to use the context I am within to push for freedoms, even if I personally already experience those freedoms.

The world of academia is a privileged world. It is dominated by those privileged by class, previous education, world-view of home or society, money etc. Those wishing to change the world in the political realm often come from that background. Does change really come from the realm of the intellect? I love to write about a bunch of societal issues, and the word ‘write’ should be spelt beginning with a ‘p’ – pontificate – and ‘on things he is unqualified to write about’ added in parenthesis. I have sat recently opposite one of the main financial advisers in a local bank to say ‘money is not real, it is digits on a computer, only 3% of what you and your like claim exists can be substantiated’. But truth be out – what do I really know about changing the system. There are those (I presume) who can talk about these things and outline a genuine and just way forward. They are usually those with ‘Dr’ / ‘Professor’ before their name. I hate to admit it but the privileged have power.

Gayle and I have the privilege of being able to travel to places to seek to undo the effects of history. We can outline our (very impressive) vision for Spain and Europe. We can post a newsletter outlining how important we are to the future. The circumstances of others means they cannot do any of the above. Survival is their vision. If we (G & I) ever assume we are important in a way that others are not we have lost the plot, yet we have to live in our context. We have to be faithful to our vision and use any privileges we have for long term purposes of justice.

We have the context of being able to debate the implications of ‘true north’ for the body of Christ. Other contexts are simply trying to survive and they meet together for this reason. They are to be respected… but we in our privileged position need to push for new expressions, new positioning not to show how smart we are, but so that we help create something long term that re-positions the body of Christ globally for genuine societal shift.

We cannot compare our lives to those who are under the thumb of oppression. We can empathise but we cannot patronise with a glib ‘we understand’. We can look for shifts, small or large, believing that all shifts contribute to the future both pre- and post-parousia. For this reason whatever privileges we have we need to accept that they are of no value status wise, but place responsibility on us to live and act humbly from those privileges for the future. Privilege is ours to enable us to help level the field.

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Beyond mind to mind

Gayle found a little phrase that I said a few months back when ‘true north’ was a focus. It was:

This is not a time for mind to mind communication but for mouth to imagination inspiration.

Maybe the ‘mouth’ word needs some tweaking, particularly in the light of the previous arts post, but there remains something key in the quote.

The mind is to be honoured. Great thinkers, even some of whom have had inadequacies socially, have brought about change. We are told to love the Lord God ‘with all our mind’. We are given instructions as to what to think on in Scripture. I am deeply grateful for those who have abilities I do not have who have opened up whole new avenues of thought and insight into both the Scriptures and the world.

I appreciate the deep surprise when I say I am not of a Reformed persuasion (!) and I cannot square the passion some of those from that camp have to share their faith and by ‘all means win some’. I might be wrong but I cannot see how the theology and the passion connect. Those from the opposite viewpoint (e.g. Open Theology) could be viewed as surely being insecure about the future and God’s intervention. Regardless of camp we might think we can square all the corners that need squaring, even if how we do that is a mystery to those of an opposite persuasion. What is sure, regardless of doctrinal belief, is that passion transcends beliefs.

Mind to mind communication is not wrong, but it does appear that God does not put too much weight behind convincing others of how correct my beliefs are. I found that out a long time ago! Some people track with Gayle and I because they can see the journey we are on is consistent, others do not track because… Now if only God could recognise how important it is for all to embrace my beliefs!

Mouth (arts / imagery / sounds etc.) to imagination inspiration. This is what is needed. Once the imagination is inspired we might well need to examine the validity of the inspiration so as we do not simply embrace a fantasy (vain imagination in Scripture), but something has to begin in the imagination to bring about an inspiration that we might not even be able to square with our beliefs. It does not seem to me that there will be too many questions on the final exam paper concerning doctrine, and certainly none about how well we did in convincing others to accept the finer points of what we thought were our important beliefs. The ‘questions’ apparently will be over what we did. I hope I go beyond my beliefs.

I think we find out that true imagination transcends fantasy when we hit adversity, and the challenge of what we see around us. And one aspect that is hard to quantify is how much transformation will we see prior to the parousia. I am no scientific expert (and maybe the word ‘scientific’ was superfluous in that phrase) but the mess we are making of the planet and the pollution to the oceans, the waters, the land, global warming etc. challenges any imagination for a different future. To proclaim ‘I have a dream of the coming back to life of species, of clean water, of climates in balance’ would either take great faith or be simply the empty words of fantasy… unless we can see that what we sow now will carry through to the age to come. We are the ones preparing the material for what only God can put together. Maybe the original creation was ‘ex nihilo’, maybe God worked with some already existing material that was chaotic. The new creation though does not come about ex nihilo, but from material that God himself will, and only he can, work on to produce something beyond our dreams. That material will come from our works and our imagination.

It is not a time to pump out meaningless fantasy, but it is a time to allow our communication to focus on the imagination. Bless the mind and the intellect, but we have to elevate the imagination in this season. Not simply imaginations that will enable us to survive but that can set something in motion for our world.

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