Lowest rate since 1971

This report came out a short while back that the USA now has the lowest abortion rate since the historic date of 1971. Statistics such as this are a huge challenge to those who hold to the sanctity of human life, and how we work with how Christian legislation and redemptive legislation might not always coincide.

I am very glad that I do not have to make choices that politicians and lawmakers face. Is it possible to hold to a position personally but hold to a different position when wearing a hat within society? I think so. On the very tough issue of abortion the response to that from us believers I think is likely to differ enormously. I cannot buy into ‘it is my body and I have the right to choose’ – of course we all want to shout about the right of the unborn. But I think we also have to push far deeper. I consider that the way we can dehumanise others (war of course necessitates that) must have a direct bearing on how many can take it one step further and dehumanise the unborn.

I am not sure how I would respond with regard to having to vote on the abortion issue. An absolute ban (except in the obvious exception cases) is ‘right’ but I am not sure it is redemptive. I therefore have great sympathy with those who are against abortion when it comes to their personal decisions but have not imposed that on the wider community. Dirty hands, but I think in biblical imagery, better described as dirty feet – dirty because of the dust on the road we must travel.

Christian politicians – admiration for you as you wrestle with rights and wrongs in the context of seeking redemptive choices.

Christians in the medical field – another level all together. As a politician I might be able to come to terms with making a painful choice and taking a personally conflicting decision. So assuming for a moment I was able to make that choice. What about when I then took on a medical profession and had to sign papers for someone wanting an abortion. Could I simply refuse? Could I get round it by referring them to a colleague? If the latter does that resolve my issue?

Difficult choices, challenging pathways.

But for me today – from the luxury of blogging – I am thankful for the downturn shown by the statistics, and have to play my part in living redemptively. Seems the most major contribution I can make on that front is in humanising those I meet, and in seeing faces rather than statistics. That is an easier path than the one facing my politician or medic who is a believer. Their choices are more visible. Mine can be kept private – and for that I will have to be accountable one day.


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Predestined smoker ready for outreach?

Well a totally cheeky title, but as I have not posted for a while I am surely allowed to be a little left of field. Apparently in the Southern Baptist world there is some debate over the appropriateness of those from a Calvinist persuasion being among them or whether they should find a home among Presbyterians. (See: Scot McKnight’s post.) There are, so I read, a number of New Calvinists who have made their way in to the fraternity, prompting this response from an objector:

Some New Calvinists, even pastors, very openly smoke pipes and cigars, just as they drink beer, wine. They may even home brew the beer themselves, attempting to use it as an outreach to identify with other smokers and drinkers.
Sin is not a form of outreach.

I don’t think the comment was made humorously but it did provoke just a little laughter in our household. Now though a little more seriously…

We all try and make sense of Scripture, the traditions of the church, and maybe even the creeds, so (Old or New) Calvinists are in the same boat as I am in trying to do just that. Theirs is a tradition that I have never been able to settle in. I have always thought that regardless of how nuanced the theology is that we end up with the inevitable of only the elect can be saved. At least Spurgeon got round that one emotionally by saying he prayed ‘God save the elect then elect some more.’ If that were how it worked that would be OK, but don’t really think that is how the theology was set out to work, with everything set from ‘before the foundation of the world’.

A huge divide for me is over how we understand God. Is he defined as omnipotent, sovereign… or is s/he defined as love, with all the implications of that, and maybe even the belief that such love is uncontrolling (Thomas Oord) and indeed that God’s will could (at least in theory) remain unfulfilled. I have read, but as I do not have a copy cannot confirm with certainty, that Calvin in his commentary on 1 John on ‘God is love’ comments that love belongs not to God’s essence, but only to how the elect experience him. If this is what he writes then ‘God is not love’ at his core.

I am not writing to refute old or new C’s but am struck by the huge challenge the ‘God is love’ statement makes. It seems to me that we cannot elevate any other character element to such a level that his love is simply something that we (the elect) experience. He is love, hence we are called to love our enemy. Loads of implications… two crosses, two ways of responding to God. And too aware that I can respond to God according to my own selfishness regardless of what theology I theorise over.


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Two crosses

caidosThe cross over Franco’s tomb provoked for me a serious question as we went there to pray in the Spring of last year. My question was whether if one uses the cross in a wrong way does it tap into the power of the cross and release that power, but release it negatively – a little like electricity (as a ‘good’ power) lights and heats a house, but if wired wrongly it does not serve well but is actually destructive. Some of that did not fit well with me as the power of the cross is not some sort of abstract power source. God’s rule is kenotic, is self-emptying love, not some sort of sovereign crushing power. But why the cross?

I am considering that we have two crosses which, dependent on which cross is chosen, of course will reflect back somewhere into the nature of the Gospel. There is the Constantinian cross (‘in this sign you will conquer’) that can be placed on the banners and it results in yielding evidence of its power by vanquishing all foes. As such it is aligned to an imperial power, and fits well with Christendom and all forms of getting the right person(s) in power. It was that kind of cross that manifested in the Civil War with Franco being a ‘son of Spain and a servant of God’. His conquering of the land was for the uniting of Spain and the uniting of it under God – a repeat of the ‘Reconquista’ that saw the Muslim rule in Spain end. A ‘Christian’ conquest that fitted with the wider context of the Crusades to rightly align Jerusalem to God. That cross gives us a right of power over and we are vindicated by it when we use force to establish righteousness, as that cross itself is a symbol of power.

The second cross represents a power of a different kind. It does speak of imperial power, but only when used against us. It is carried as an instrument that can be used by others – it is the same spirit as when Jesus sent out the disciples as ‘lambs among wolves’ (guess the favourite meat in the restaurants that wolves frequent?). There is no protection… unless heaven itself is involved. It takes faith to suggest that in the process of living for God that ‘no-one can take our lives from us’ but that the course we are on means we will ‘lay down our lives’ for others. It takes a whole load of faith to believe that such death is not the end, and in that death there is an undoing of imperial power.

The second cross is not the conventional sign of strength. Yet it is through that cross we are aligned to the God of heaven who give us a strength of courage that does not insist on one’s own will.

This (might) have implications for both the Gospel (good news) that we believe in and how we present it. Sovereignty will demand being appeased (Anselm: God’s honour to be restored; Reformers: an eternal debt to be paid). God will have to be bought off somehow. If we respond we will then be on the right side, all others on the wrong side. The cross as satisfying the wrath of God, that wrath being understood in personal terms. If the cross however fully satisfies the love of God, it becoming the symbol and act (when aligned to the resurrection) that fully shows us who our God is, then the work of the cross is to do a deep healing in us, to re-humanise us, to remove the scapegoating of the ‘other’, and to release us as reconcilers for the sake of others. This view of the cross will work more (note the word ‘more’) with alienation, shame and sickness than with ‘guilt’. It will see the necessity of Jesus’ true humanity being for our sake rather than for God’s sake.

The cross is to re-humanise us. The work that has to be undone is that of de-humanisation. The latter we all need to be delivered from. I don’t think the imperial cross can help at any level to re-humanise us and align us with the re-humanising God. Somewhere on the spectrum of the two crosses one seems to me to be a parody of the real one.


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An angel came knocking

This morning we read a headline about a certain politician who should have been facing trial for corruption but had evaded this by holding on to her seat as a Senator, thus giving her immunity, that she died suddenly of a heart attack. The Guardia Civil had announced that her administration had been involved in nothing less than organised crime. A certain group of MPs did not respond to the minute of silence for her but walked out of parliament. Maybe I can understand their feelings but the good/bad line runs through us all and however guilty she and her administration was I don’t think the walking out was a good response.

It is though a reminder that all of us have a limited opportunity to stand in the gap between the past and the future. There are so many challenges that come our way and it does seem necessary every now and then to re-examine one’s integrity and authenticity in relation to the land. I have been doing so recently. On the one hand knowing that the land cannot evict us now (took us all-but seven years to get there) and yet facing the painful journey of regular reminders that my level of language, and inabilities with respect to learning, can raise the challenge for authenticity. Ah well, we all have a few battles I suspect!

Angelic OrangesThen last night just as we are about to eat, we can hear on our steps, very, very slowly someone coming up the stairs. Eventually our door bell rings. There is an angel on the doorstep. For sure. He appeared as the 40 something old man from a very humble family down the street. Struggling with health, strength and I am sure financially, he passed over a wonderful bag of oranges/satsumas, saying

This is what the land gives to us.

Truly an angel and a message from heaven gratefully received. It remains though the need to know that all gifts call us to a new level.


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There and back

1450kms (900 miles) in total through the most wonderful scenery there and back. En route eventually snow-capped mountains, a final long tunnel and across the border to France. Two fully packed days to catch up with each other and then to pray and seek to make intelligent declarations for the continent of Europe. What a time to be alive. While there the primaries in France, Angela Merkel’s announcement of a fourth term all seemed to make for the underlining of these times. Interestingly as soon as someone said we need to put a limit on a particular extreme situation suddenly there was a wind that rose from nowhere, blowing and banging all the shutters. Of course could be coincidence but so often creation responds to earthly activity.

The who? This time there were 11 of us, from France (Sam & Michéle – hope I got the accent the right way round!!); from Germany (Michael and Andrea); from Ireland (Peter); from the UK (Roger & Sue, Julie & Lee-Ann) and Gayle and I. This group has proved very significant for us over years. Last year we were together in Spain and the year previous in Ireland.

Our desire has been that there will be suitable boundaries and peoples in place so that what God intends for the continent is best served. The Brexit gave a good backdrop to that and laying aside personal desires we sought to push beyond that. Ultimately this side of the parousia we do not deal with straightforward rights and wrongs in many situations, but in the realm of redemptive ways forward. This is where we have to co-operate with God, and if one has an ‘Open Theological’ approach what is more scary is God co-operating with us! In that mutuality the outcomes are not always as great as they could be. Allowing the future to be so open is a challenge, and even if the theology is wrong (I don’t think so!) there is a very real sense that we need to live and act in that way (so there was an open invite to all Calvinists to also approach the future in that way – even if you believe it is already set and predetermined…). Let’s pray and act as if we make a contribution.

In the run up to these days Gayle and I have been contemplating that there are two crosses (another post is needed to pull this out) – one that is erected over the tomb of those like Franco, and one that will take us to our tomb – ‘take up your cross and follow me’. I will post on this another day, but both crosses proclaim that ‘in this sign we will conquer’. One happily puts it on the shield and flag and vanquishes all enemies, subjugating them. The other is carried and made available to the ‘enemy’ to use as the means of shortening our lives. Very poignant as the area where we were meeting was one of the bastions of the Templars.

Last year Lee-Ann sent us all an open vision relating to the Brexit and the outcome of it. This is both what pushed us to be together and to the geography that we settled on. We also had a very clear dream given to Michéle (France) prior to our days together. Her door was rung and when she went to it, the visitor hiding in the shadows pronounced that he was ‘Heracles (Hercules)’ and was looking for an entrance. Hercules the man of great strength. This dream sharpened our focus enormously.

As always it was very enjoyable to be together (we normally meet once a year like this somewhere in Europe), there was some great challenges, but our expectation (G & I) is that the benefit to us personally will unfold over the next 3 or so months. That is what we have found to be the case on previous encounters. And we were given a good strong push toward Madrid so for that we are very grateful.

Enjoy the photos below – we certainly did enjoy the drive… and on the way up we had the extra bonus of taking a night in Huesca, the birthplace of the venerable San Lorenzo. Always worthwhile connecting to the martyrs of yesteryear.







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Take up your cross

RevolutiionWe have just picked up this book again as I have been away in the UK… and of course cannot possibly read without Gayle! This is our current reading and we began Chapter 3 yesterday. I will probably not post on each chapter of the book, but the section was so hard hitting that I have to reflect back. The first part of that chapter was on crucifixion in the ancient world, and how Rome used it to make a point of showing ‘subject peoples who was in charge and to break the spirit of any resistance.’

Wright points out that in 88BC Alexander Jannaeus had 800 Pharisees crucified for resisting his rule; in 4BC the revolt of Judas ben Hezekiah resulted in 2000 rebels crucified; and how in the 66-70 rebellion that so many were crucified that they ran out of timber for the crosses. He then opens up that those in Galilee knew about Rome and its power to control with the horrendous death penalty of crucifixion as the ultimate and very visible symbol of power. Many of Jesus’ contemporaries would have seen, and certainly been told of crucifixions.

The call to ‘take up your cross and follow me’ cannot be sanitised. The political undertone is clear in that call. It is the call of the resistance. How far we have moved from that call to the ‘in this sign you will conquer’ of Constantine and christendom. Taking up the cross was to take up the means of brutal punishment that the Imperial powers would use to crush all dissenters. It was not taking up a weapon of warfare to defeat and crush others.

The political and revolutionary message is as strong in the words of Jesus as on the lips of any would be revolutionary leader. The difference is that of laying down one’s life not taking the lives of others to correct the status quo. The cross is the sign of victory, in this sign we do conquer but only because of a belief in the resurrection.

I had not seen, till reading this chapter, that the call to take up the cross, the call to discipleship was a political call. It now sits for me alongside the Caesar / Jesus is Lord proclamation; the parousia language of the visit of the emperor / Christ; the basileia language of kingdom / empire; pax Romana / peace by the blood of the cross; son of the divine Caesar / son of God and the many more references and allusions to the Imperial context.

The gospel is political – not in the sense of party politics. To debate capitalism / socialism is to miss it somewhat, particularly when we either inject meaning into those words that do not implicitly belong there, or we only understand capitalism through the lens of unbounded neo-liberalism (Reagan / Thatcher and beyond) or that of hegemonic state communism. The political nature of the gospel is understood as carrying the seeds for the reformation of society (the polis). It is first a call to those who are aligned to Jesus to lay down our weapons of control and to walk the walk, with the cross, with the very instrument that those who oppose us can kill us. In the year that… the belief that through losing our lives there will be an advance of the kingdom is the challenge. Maybe we have lost sight of that because the reality of the cross and what it was is not visible in our society. Only by sanitising the cross, and thereby distorting it, can we rejoice when the powerful are enthroned.

Like Israel before us any enthronement denies true good news to the nations. There is another, and only one king, and his rule is visible at the cross.


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In the year that

I was reading Lk. 3 again recently as it is contains such a clear path toward political transformation. So…

In the year when the UK referendum called for a Brexit
the year when David Cameron resigned and Jeremy Corbyn held on
the year of no government in Spain but Mariano Rajoy was finally manouevred back into office
the year of the unpredictable
when Leicester City were crowned… and the Cubs too
when the ‘Trump’ declared America to be made great again
in the year when extremes of left and right provide the answer
but fear became the narrative and dehumanisation followed…
the word of the Lord came…

in the wilderness.


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All of creation

Many will have seen this video of the buffalo showing up at Standing Rock. To say it is moving is an understatement. In the wilderness not only did angels show up for Jesus, but he was also there ‘with the wild animals’ (Mark’s version). Creation care is not an optional extra. Angels and animals both can find their place as we are positioned rightly.


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Prayer in Washington

Jerry Cartwright (Eureka, CA) let me know about a gathering of First Nations that took place yesterday. (Here is a link to alltribesdc.org.) Gathering in DC to release forgiveness:

We stand in the gap for those who are unable or unwilling to forgive, and call upon the Master of Life, to forgive us for harboring un-forgiveness, resentment, hatred, bitterness and rage; We repent of every curse spoken over America by our ancestors and we release the power of forgiveness to bring healing and the peace of Creator God to this land.

We declare and decree that our voice will no longer by silenced and that this nation and the world will hear our voice as we speak life and blessings over the Americas and the world.

In 2004 I with others from the UK, and with great support from friends (including Jerry) in the US walked the West Coast from Oregon to San Francisco, with one of the highlights being prayer on ‘Indian Island’ (with apologies for the name) with some immediate results. Some years prior to that I had a dream where an angel took me to a room and showed me a map of North America and across the land was written one European nation after another. (There was no border as we have today.) I understood deeply that we had raped the land, and the sins of the children are our sins.

I also followed the work of Wiconi International and although I never met Richard Twiss had some correspondence with him before his premature death. I am a strong believer that for restoration to take place, we need to see a restoration of the first nation peoples. This is not about going back, but about moving forward on a clean foundation.

When, as took place in Washington, those wronged forgive they have extraordinary power to release blessing. It was David who said to the wronged Gibeonites, ‘What must we do so as you will bless us’. Blessing is in the hands of those wronged.

These events should be provoked by repentance on the side of the oppressors and I am thankful for the many who have repented. However, if the church continues to embrace (be silent on) racism, and dehumanise other ethnic peoples (other faiths) the blessing that comes as the result of such First Nations forgiveness might indeed release more than we realise. It might, and I consider will, release the false cover over the root issues that have plagued the church – the colonialism. In other words a mess will be revealed, not a mess created but the revelation of what was already there.

In 2005 I was burdened to prophecy that the next two elections in a certain nation would leave many believers confused, and if they could not embrace the result of the first one the second would appear tougher for them. I then said the outcome would not create the confusion but simply reveal the confusion that was already there. (I am not lost and confused while driving and I suddenly realise I dont know where I am, that experience is simply the realisation I was lost earlier while thinking I was doing OK.)

So in reality I anticipate a wonderful uncovering to be the blessing released on the Americas and Europe. All such blessings must come first to the priestly responsible nation.

So a huge thank you to all First Nations people. Your humility humbles and also embarrases us.


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What does it mean?

Not sure why but been thinking over some prophetic words that had unexpected outcomes. There are so many that I am pretty sure the best way to interpret the prophetic is after the event. Peter’s use of Joel a few days before the Day of Pentecost and after would probably be quite different. Before – Joel is predicting… but after he says ‘This is that’.

In one setting I remember having a prophetic word reported to me that was given over a pastor concerning the eyes of the Lord being on him, never leaving him, the Lord travelling with him everywhere he went. Two or three days later it came out that he had been involved in an affair. At the time the expectation was that this was a word of deep comfort. Afterwards? Well afterwards it was also a word of deep comfort. Here is a God who cared deeply enough to go with this man wherever he went. Yes it would have been great had he never entered into the affair, and also better had he confessed after hearing the Lord speak to him… but in spite of ‘missing it’ that word is still a deep word of comfort assuring him of the presence of God.

I have, in a post a while back, covered how we respond to future prophetic declarations with an interpretation that comes from our expectations that have been shaped by where we have come from. (Peter in Matthew 16 is a classic example of this.) That really complicates things. We hear something, draw a straight line and then – caboom – we know what will happen.

What if there are prophetic words about God using a person as a wrecking ball? Expectation might be that s/he will wreck what we want wrecked and perhaps wreck what they are seeming to aim at. But what if the wrecking ball is on the religious self-preserving walls we have built and not on the evil secular house that we despise? Why would God do that? Judgment? Maybe but I think we always have to see what we think of as judgment as being merciful. That pastor who received the prophetic word about the eyes of the Lord was not so that he would forever fear (be afraid of) God, but that he would receive the unconditional love of God for only that keeps us focused on the right path.

If there is a wrecking of the religious walls it is because of love. Jesus did not prophesy the end of the temple because of some anger issue he had not dealt with. Something that had been allowed for a season, that God had appeared in, would no longer be a suitable channel for what was coming. Sadly we find it hard to let go of such things so find it very hard to embrace the enlarged expression of God. I do think there is something being wrecked at this time. The ball is swinging. But to see what the ball is hitting we need to look a little closer to home. Old political allegiances upheld by religion are being hit. I think we should be assured there is something else – not something perfect – that is on the horizon to connect with. And any connection will leave us softer in two directions – to God and to the world.


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