Six words – second reflection

Feels like I am treading on thin ice, any minute now it could break. Vulnerability is not a location with which I am familiar! So many helpful tools out there, I am pretty ignorant of most of them, have a small acquaintance with the ‘enneagram’ which like all those tools does not put one in a box, but helps one to see what box you are already in. Gayle and I have almost completed an online course, so I am now pretty qualified to write about all of her weaknesses… maybe I have got the wrong end of the stick? It has been ever so helpful. We are so alike and so unalike, though thinking to myself, she does have plenty of time to adapt and change… surely?

Anyway one of the early comments was ‘there is one type on the enneagram that is really happy with themselves and don’t really see the need to change’. I thought ‘I hope she reveals that as I would love to know who that would be’. Gayle keeps quiet and at the end of the session out it comes – me!! How true.

I have 7 siblings, my mother 1 of 13 so I reckon between us all we probably hold the entire DNA for the human race, including I am sure the DNA of the Neanderthal race – I am just trying to work out who got what as I know that I know my DNA will come back as pure… of course. Anyway, a little more serious, an elder brother has written an excellent reflection on his life and in early chapters he writes about the Scotts and the Eunsons (parental lines). As I read this I shout to Gayle, ‘You have to read this chapter in Ken’s book. It’s about his parents, it is incredible!’

Although I do realise they were also my parents, there was more to the comment than a little bit of humour. First, we all have different experiences of parents and home life. Mine was independence. A farm has fields, many fields, a boy has a football. Perfect. Eating? Well that can be done in 6 minutes and off again.

#8 on the enneagram is quite happy in their own company. They normally learn to spell relationships / friendship much later in life, as those elements can simply get in the way. Unbelievably I had another birthday this year, and so now I can begin to think occasionaly about reflecting back to an earlier life (I have not read stuff on ‘second half of life’ but probably should get round to that in one of the coming decades). So with deep reflection, that I will think about a few times as I go on my four trains today to get to my destination tonight, here are my six words for today:

Standing strong alone or leaning in?

Six words for today

I am in the UK and tomorrow travel to Amblecote (where is that I hear you ask)… the who is more important than the where, so it is with Adrian and Marion Lowe and then a team on Friday for the day. Adrian introduced me to ‘The Six Word Story’. Here is a good post to read expalining it:

https://churchanew.org/blog/posts/char-rachuy-cox-six-words

Here are a couple of examples:

  • Born in the desert, still thirsty.
  • Followed rules, not dreams. Never again.

The idea they summarise something that helps focus. So me being one who never excelled at the ‘reflect back’ / meditation exercises decided I will give it a go today (who knows about tomorrow and whether I will have a go then!).

Not always right so discovering life.

OK… it is only my first attempt so I will improve (oh no, did that sentence reveal something about me always striving and never coming up to the line? Surely not… hey, it was only an aside so no comments about ‘ever thought of therapy, Martin?’)

I love the right / wrong divides. I have realised the first word out of my mouth when in conversation is the word ‘no’, particularly when I agree. I have come to realise this in Spain more than elsewhere as when one puts the word ‘no…’ followed by something like ‘estoy de acuerdo’ one is actually saying fairly strongly ‘I disagree…’ In my head I am saying ‘I really agree with you whoelheartedly’, and I guess somewhere in there emotionally I am saying – ‘I will tell you I sooooo agree with you, but first I must let you know that I am not about to submit to you, I am independent’. So ‘no’ means I insist on my own autonomy while agreeing, without acknowledging that you came up with the position. Gayle now just let’s me get on with it as she knows she is the one who knows about mutual submission… Dang how did she get to that understanding before me?

Anyway, I am making progress. I am not always right, on many issues and situations I simply don’t have a clue, and have started to realise that if we all were to get it right (translation – line up with Martin’s reality) we could well end up in a big corporate unity of independence (now there’s a concept worth exploring!!!!!!). There is something so much bigger than getting it right, it is of discovering life, kind of ‘train a child up to discover their life and what makes them really come alive and they will love that path, feel good about themselves, and go on to make their contribution to humanity as they develop’ (a very rough translation of the Hebrew, or nowhere near a translation but I think I got the sense).

Celebrating life. Seems that is what God has always done. Not tied to rights and wrongs (and of course there are some rights and wrongs, but they are not best discovered as if they are a set of edicts), but the Author of life, the one who came to bring life, even abundant life. The one who died so that we might live; the cross that does not deal with the issue of justice from a right / wrong aspect, but one that releases life that overcomes death, and if death is overcome, life is embraced and we will then discover that any rights and wrongs were written in invisible ink.

So today my six words are along those lines. Probably will need to think about them throughout the day, and likely to forget them many times also!

Discover life. Why ‘discover’… cos many times life is hidden, covered over.

Tatuajes

So as not to create any controversy I have used the Spanish word, and thus totally disguise what I could be referring to. There are those who use Scripture to suggest any inking is against the will of heaven. I find that a bit of a stretch, given there is considerable weight also against two kinds of material being worn, or mixed seeds in a field being sown – all under the rubric of ‘holiness’. I don’t like it when I see ‘sleeves’ or people covered in tattoos (DOB has something to do with the ‘I don’t like that’), but an ink here or there seems immaterial.

Here is a tattoo that some smart guy in Madrid slapped on me. Why the little cartoonish bear? Glad you asked.

Some while back I had on my back (no pun intended) ‘True North’ inked with the ‘o’ being a compass. I had it up my spine cos I need to have a straight spine, be upright and know where I am headed. If I get my true north then I can venture in all kinds of directions, not deviating from who I consider I am meant to be.

I am challenged by a few (understatement) of Paul’s statements. The ones I understand and the ones I don’t; the ones I think I take in context and the ones I know are out of context. So to the last category, here is one that I take out of context:

But this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.

One thing I do. We all probably have 100 things we need to do, to give ourselves to, but I have long considered that I might try the 100 things, the result being I might do okish with 3 or 4 of them but not touch the ‘one thing’ that I must do, or in line with the inking, I might not align to ‘true north’. If I really focus on the ‘one thing’ I might well then end up achieving quite a few more than I expected.

So the friendly bear?

I took a piece of paper that Gayle had been doodling on, that doodle was this bear. I had the result done when we were in Madrid, the symbol of Madrid being the bear. And then… keep with it, all will be revealed as to how significant this was… How do you find ‘true north’, the pole star? Find the bear and follow the trajectory, the bear will lead to true north.

One thing – hope I am not cheating with two things here! If I lose true north I need to allow the bear (drawn by Gayle) to guide me, so I need to find Gayle, be aligned to her and from there I will find my true north; or maybe find Madrid, who is she, what does she symbolise, align to her, her future, the future of Spain, the future of Europe. If I do that I will find myself being aligned to my true north.

Maybe I am not cheating by naming two things, maybe it is not two things, but I need to pick one or the other when I am in danger of missing my way cos I suspect they are intertwined.

I don’t think tattoos are taboo, they are neither here nor there, but a focus on true north and the ‘one thing’ and when we need to the finding of helps that redirect us back to our alignement seems very significant.

Note to self:
Don’t be too concerned about all the things you have not done well… what should be your focus, Martin, that one thing?

Interview on OGC

My interview with Off Grid Christianity is up and loaded. The blurb says:

Martin discusses what it was like as a Christian when his first wife, Sue, passed away. He also shares his thoughts on the house church movement and what a prophetic theologian is.

https://www.podash.com/podcast/5594148

A non-apology?

I recently posted on the pope’s apology to native Americans in a Canadian context. Experience shows that such an apology is part of a chain of events, there being responses that precede and further, deeper apologies that will flow subsequently. Today I read a response from a native American (Lori Campbell) who called the apology a ‘non-apology’. Wow and does she make some points… oh yes.

Here is the link to her article: https://www.yesmagazine.org/opinion/2022/08/05/pope-apology-indigenous-canadians-catholic-church

I still maintain that the pope’s apology is significant, it is part of a chain, but the article highlights major shortfalls, and I think a comment such as:

Money flows where priorities go, and the Catholic Church clearly prioritizes renovations over reconciliation.

opens up the difficulties all institutions have. Survival is the name of the game for institutions. Having life taken from someone / (maybe I also thnnk from something?) is named as a sin, and Jesus did not allow that to happen to him… but the day came when he lay donw his life. Nature, with diverse plants growing together, the end of one set in its right season provides life to the plant growing next to it; maybe during the life cycle it also provided shade. Diversity co-habiting space… but not one of dominance and survival at the cost to others.

Yes I remain positive about the apology… but sobered at the journey we have to make. I wonder will we ever make it back to a major root apology – an apology to the planet / creation? And apparently Lori would suggest that money, apology and reconciliation have to journey together.

Just a few thoughts

We have a lot going on, not least of which is seeking to avoid too much sun, for at 34+° each day with a heat wave to come (so what was the last 10 days?)… anyway as an outside observer to the UK here are a few thoughts.

Churchill has reluctantly gone, and might try to re-appear (Boris as ‘Churchill’); we are about to get a reincarnation of a former Prime Minister, the one ‘who was not for turning’. (I have been convinced for some time that the next was going to be a woman.) The England football team have won the Euros with the help of a certain Dutch woman: Sarina Wiegman. As one smart person responded to the suggestion that she become the next English men’s coach – why would she want to do that and take a step down? (And on the game, apologies to our European German family – I think that was a hand ball not given…) But my comments this day are not about football so moving on.

I am thankfully not a politician and of course it is very easy to criticise from an armchair, so my comments are not personal to those involved, simply noting that they seem to act as signs. So much hope / hype from certain Christians about Churchill back in the person of Boris; and I am sure that our next will act (hopefully a little tempered) Maggie-esque. Male commentators will come along saying ‘I have always supported the women’s game’, thus getting in on the act…

It all illustrates the issue we are currently seeing in many places, the battle for true humanity, with a true balancing of the masculine and feminine; without it toxic-masculinity and also toxic-femininity manifest.

I have a chapter in one of the books I wrote about the ‘new creation’ being feminine. Or at least I went on to qualify that statement that it will appear ‘feminine’ as it is in contrast to the patriarchial one that is around us (a fallen creation). One of the Scriptures that I hold as central is the transformation that takes place for those who are in Christ:

From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! (2 Cor. 5:16,17).

A new creation is our context, and that affects sight. Old categories prove inadequate, with ‘a human point of view’ falling away. Indeed Paul uses stronger language – has passed away… everything becoming new.

Looking in from the outside there are signs in the UK around the masculine / feminine. Paul looking in on that one-world-government anti-Christ system challenged them – and challenges us – with regard to our sight.

Sometimes something (someone) inadequate holds space, but there has to come a time when that space is filled. Perhaps the creaks and groans will give way to substance. It is a time (when was it not?) for imagination, for a way of seeing that registers a new reality though it remains invisible if one holds to a human point of view. Imagined, responded to with repositioning, so that it truly rises.

‘From now on…’ That is a time reference if ever there was one.

Foundational Story / Stories

At a personal level we all have stories, some of which we would love to have a measure of amnesia over. The young Martin is an embarrassment – ‘did I really say… no surely that was not me’. (Thankfully I have a birthday soon so will on that day no longer be young… never again to make a mistake. I am ever hopeful that one day soon I will enter the ‘second half of life’.)

Pragmatism. I am where I am today because of the journey I have taken, mistakes, wrong turns included. I am not suggesting ‘fate’ (or predestination!) but I do believe there is a God who works in all things, through all things for redemptive purposes. Some of my foundational stories I have outgrown. They were in Chapter 1 of my book, and I am now in Chapter 10… however, in this post I am going to press into the corporate area.

Many corporations (if they claim to have purpose that does not have money as the bottom line) have a foundational story – the why for which they are doing what they are doing. As time develops (thank you Walter Wink) changes take place, the corporation takes on a personality that if left unchecked is increasingly separate from the founders / foundational story. I have tracked with three organisations where I consider this is the case. I have noted in one of them that around 25 years after the start the foundational story had become unknown by those who joined from that time on.

We can legitimately move on from a foundational story, in the sense of ‘that was the young Martin’ and thankfully I have matured. We can move on by saying – that was at the core but I could not live up to that, so no longer am pushing for that. I have no issue with that. Honesty counts high in the kingdom of God; probably counts higher than getting it right (but what do I know?).

We can move on… but I consider if we move on by simply ignoring it we will find ourselves with a movement / corporation that decides the future, a future that does not fulfil the foundational story but deviates from it.

I am pondering if boards / leadership teams / eldership / blah blah blah have a couple of functions: to ensure the foundational story is alive (even if it has developed and been adapted) so that any movement does not veer off from the foundations (not a good idea for buildings… look at the Temple built on sand: although the claim was it was rock, Jesus spoke of the flood coming and the true foundations would be revealed). And maybe the second aspect is that such a board / leadership is there to hear the voice of the practitioners and seek to ensure that as much as possible is in place to help provide a decent shape for the river to flow. The foundational story brought to a suitable next level but through some centralisation but through the ‘practitioners’. In Ephesians language: growth; filling; built on the foundation of.

Yes! An apology

The pope has travelled to Canada and to lift a few sentences from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-62296834

In his first public remarks in Canada, Pope Francis has asked indigenous residential school survivors for forgiveness.
“I am deeply sorry,” the Pope said on the grounds of a former residential school in Maskwacis, near Edmonton.
He said his apology is a first step, and that a “serious investigation” into abuses must occur to foster healing.
The pontiff is in Canada to apologise for the Church’s role in schools meant to assimilate indigenous children.

A start.

And that is what apology from the heart does, and when it comes from someone / a group who are in relationship to the original perpetrators it is so powerful. This, I know, is not the first work done on apologies into the first nations people of Canada (who of course do not recognise the artificial border).

Plenty of Old Testament passages that can be pulled up – forgive us our sins and the sins of our forefathers / mothers. And all of it seems to undergird the work of Jesus, from his baptism that launched a movement. John was very reluctant to baptise ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ in a baptism for the ‘forgiveness of sins’. Understandably so! But once Jesus said it was to fulfil all righteousness, into the water John plunged Jesus. Jesus, confessed sin – for that was the baptism of John – not his own sin, but the sin of the nation. Going all the way back to the wanderings in the wilderness, for therein lies the background to the 40 days in the wilderness and his meditations on those passages of Scripture. A door was opened, not all came through it, for to do so they had to separate themselves from this perverse generation.

First nations peoples. We need this start that the pope has taken on in and through his apology. The land is crying out for it. Talk to anyone in our neighbourhood who is over 60 years old and they will verbalise (in non-scientific language) the earth / climate has changed beyond all recognition. Sit as we do in 39°C (98°F) heat without air-conditioning and we do not need much to persuade us of the changes! Ask first nations people and they without scientific language will tell us.

I wonder what might happen if the start gets momentum. In Canada a nation of mercy, then beyond?

Beni Johnson

Many of you will know Beni Johnson, married to Bill, where with many others they have dedicated themselves to a ‘culture of honour’ amidst a pursuit of the miraculous. Yesterday, Beni, passed away having battled with cancer in recent times.

I first met the Johnson family in April 1998 as they graciously invited me to address the church on a Sunday evening. Flowing on from that I had many visits there and had many private conversations with Bill. A public figure, and as such will always attract criticism; I think though there is never a higher accolade than ‘what a person is in public that is what they are in private’. He never promoted himself, and held to a line based on his convictions when many others would have deviated.

Of course there will be many questions and insinuations that will now come their way. I wrote to Kris, at Bethel, earlier this year that since March 2021 I had been praying for them, as a number of attacks were being set up against them. There are ‘days of evil’ or ‘opportune times’; not all of life moves forward at an even pace.

The global body of Christ. The multiplicity amidst diversity. I honour the partnership that I have observed close up as well as at a distance. They held to a true line. 2009 was my last visit (with Gayle) to Bethel. We had to personally dig into our new geography and be more hidden than before. The occasional communication has taken place, but nothing face to face.

A few years back I had a tattoo placed on my spine. It simply reads ‘TRUE NORTH’ with an arrow and a compass for the ‘O’. I sometimes wish it was more visible for me to see, but up my spine it has to be.

I honour what I have seen in the Johnson family, holding to their true north.

Beni has entered her rest. We will all follow. In the in-between time we too must hold to the line of our convictions.

Not fulfilled – repentance

Jonah, you old false prophet you, where is the destruction you prophesied? Although I don’t think there is any reason to think Jonah was literal (and I am not sure if Jesus thought he was literal… OK just a rattling of the cages in those totally aside, probably irrelevant comments), there is so much to learn.

Jonah did have some internal issues. And those were not dealt with after getting on with the job. He came to the city of Nineveh that never took three days to walk across(!) but probably did symbolically. Three days of being in the place of death, covered in whale vomit, is the only way to walk across any city. And certainly there is no way a city can be walked across and words of judgement be brought without carrying the vomit of one’s own failures with us.

When we do that we think we do well… until it does not turn out right. Yes, we all deserve judgement, but I have repented… so still show up and expose this city as evil. God doesn’t do it and then plays a game with Jonah. Up grows this shade, this protection only for it to go again. The shade of our repentance hiding the bigger issue of not understanding the mercy of heaven. God’s mercy is extended… even because in the city are many cattle! God’s respect for and love for creation, his sight of cattle is bigger and more merciful than all of us who have been so repentant and humble. That is just a cover for when the shade goes it is exposed. ‘I have gone through this and that…’ get’s exposed with and ‘I still don’t understand the love and mercy of God’.

Prophecy is not automatic. I love when we get warnings. Gayle hates it. She is the ‘glass is half full’ and never wants anything that changes that opinion. I need her cos I am ‘look the glass is half-empty’. In my glass half-empty scenario the real issue is to find how we can fill it right up or at least as close to the top as possible. For me warnings help! When we hear this is before you, set out for your destruction, I think OK now what are we to do as none of that is ‘predestined’.

Thank God for unfulfilled prophecies. For what can be turned.

So to the negative people, those who see demons here there and everywhere (OK simply writing to me in this paragraph)… you see some of that cos of internal issues. Getting swallowed by the whale was not enough. You do stink with the vomit, but there are deeper issues. Issues about understanding how God sees cattle!

But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?” And he said, “Yes, angry enough to die.” Then the Lord said, “You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals (cattle)?

Perspectives