People: God’s idea


What a smart ‘idea’ is written about, and written in a way that almost makes one imagine that God – in the counsel of the ‘gods”??? – considers pushing creation to a new level with the phrase ‘let us make humanity’. The power of myth captures theology in a way that scientific statements cannot and the imaginative story of a transcendent Being walking with humanity, and not simply in the cool of the evening but in and through the heat of despair, murder and idolatry unfolds in our holy writings.

People, with the heavens being God’s domain and the earth ‘given to humanity’ sets the scene for the journey to begin. What can be achieved is incredible hence the story of the origins of language so that whatever they imagine will not come to pass – something reversed at Pentecost, thus the Spirit and imagination are closely linked. Humanity inbreathed by the Spirit can respond to that early statement with ‘Let us…’

What can be. God saw and it was good… John saw a new heaven and a new earth (the renewal of all creation) and then he describes all that is good,no longer a couple starting an adventure but a company from all backgrounds that cannot be numbered; God present in fullness permanently; no tears of regret and pain… creation having come to a fullness, perhaps even with the potential of more to come with the description that the gates of the city will never be closed – room for more?

Because God released humanity as the agents to work with creation so much could / can happen… and so much has gone wrong. I don’t think the writers of Genesis saw where all this would lead but God’s commitment to humanity and the authority given to humanity is what produces the Incarnation – humanity still has to sort out the mess, so into first Century Israel appears the one who walks among them – the truly human one. First miracle? Water into wine. Barrels used for purification get transformed into barrels for joy.

Land and place come together to resist the future that could and should be… but with vision (which includes blindness with integrity for we all see in part, hence blind in part) people are uniquely able to pull in a future that resembles – even if like an impressionist painting, rather than a photograph – heaven’s realities.

We have some work ahead of us. I wonder if it begins with painting a picture of a new future and inviting people to change perspective (repentance) and come on board (ekklesia) to push and pull, and more importantly to love all fellow travellers. [Surely the heart of the ‘gospel’?]

I think the next couple of decades will be critical with potential end of world crises… or potential new adventures. I am calling this the great unravelling. We have well and truly ‘ravelled’ everything, but like a balll of string that is totally screwed up one has to start to pull one end and nothing moves… but eventually if one persists an end comes loose and in a quick period of time everything comes loose. Most of the loosing happens by accident, one just happens to pull the key part at the right time. Hence blind integrity is so important. To imagine that we know what to do would be fantasy indeed, but to groan with creation, holding on to hope might bring us a little into line with Romans 8.

People. God’s idea. And God’s dream is not a dashed dream. The adventure continues… Land, place, people… and time (a few thoughts to come on this).

Place: what is located on the land

Land is so foundational, with not simply great physical diversity but great ‘spiritual’ diversity. (The word ‘spiritual’ is not the right word to be used for this and perhaps I should have used something like ‘innate gifting / purpose’, but chose the inadequate term ‘spiritual’ to indicate that material land, physical location relates to the equally real (not more real) world of heaven). There is a connection that Paul affirmed between people, times and specific land when addressing the crowd in Athens, so that God can be found. Scripture indicates that the land can be polluted and can also be cleansed / reset to original intent.

Place… and again what term to use? I am using this term as an overall term to cover what we call city / town / settlement, business, trade, commerce – any institution or corporate construct that is ‘placed’ on the land. I also have to include church within this though I think Paul’s vision for ekklesia was different to that, essentially being a body of people who with a vision of, and from, the future were to be a redemptive catalyst, enabling the land to reset and accommodate whatever would develop a future that was beyond simply creational beginnings but moving toward new creation manifestations. If that be true, once again we can note the phenomenal and crazy Gospel. A Jew suffered the fate that many fellow Jews suffered in the first Century, and the claim was that the entire order of things had changed (way beyond ‘personal salvation’). Hard to believe this could be a made up new religion, and the traction the message gained in the Roman context surely indictes that there was a major endorsemnt of the message from heaven itself.

The challenge is once land is polluted – and I have written about the four elements that seem to repeat as being that of idolatry, blood shed, sexual immorality, and broken covenant – land then subsequently draws to itself that which sits comfortably with the pollution, hence a stronghold is established. Those sins seem also to sit under the (not surprising) umbrella of power to achieve whatever is wanted with the exploitation of fellow-travellers trampled over: a de-humanisation process.

The encouraging element in the Babel story (same word as ‘Babylon’ which is tracked to a clear exposure in Revelation) is the unfinished nature of it. Evil is not complete, only Jesus is the one who ‘becomes mature’ and as the firstborn of all creation offers hope for us all, and for our world. Everywhere can experience some level of redemption. I am agnostic about the future but I am inspired in the present to look for a new future in every situation, and hopefully not naive to expect this will take place without elements of Babylon coming down (could have written dominant Western culture as that is my context).

Place… changes within institutions so that the Babylonish elements are in part dismantled, and elements that belong to the New Jerusalem (not what rises up but what comes down) manifesting.

These next years are inevitaby going to see a major shift of understanding and activity among followeres of Jesus toward being placed in diverse locations with a view to seeing this provocative Gospel being expressed in a way that works with the innate gifting of the land.

The first parable that Jesus spoke of in the set that are put together is the well known one of the parable of the sower / four soils. Jesus explained that one in some detail and he said if we don’t get that parable how would we get any of the other ‘kingdom’ parables. In that first parable the seed is the ‘word sown’ and the soils represent different responses. Certainly, and necessarily, indicating that a personal response and receptivity.

And the parables move on… the challenge is for us to move on, for the second parable also speaks of seed that is sown, but the seed this time round is no longer the word of God spoken but the word of God incarnated – the seed is ‘the children of God’ and they are sown into the world. Place / location.

In that context two incarnations grow up together (wheat and tares), and they grow up together to the harvest.

The pessimist sees the glass as half-empty; the optimist sees the glass as half-full – so we are told. I suggest that the one gripped by a measure of new creation sight sees the opportunity to help fill the glass fuller than it has ever been, in other words moving beyond pessimism or optimism. A full (or fuller) glass is envisaged.

I am one monnth away from another birthday, and this year will accept that I am now more than half way through my life (that is not an optimistic perspective, just a straightforward stupid one!), but I would love to see the Lord give us (as humanity) another 500 years to help move the land forward. Maybe the Trumpet will sound long before that, maybe even before my birthday… regardless (why does American English use the term ‘irregardless’?) of when the trumpet sounds there must be an apple tree that can be planted (placed) today. Small, ever so small changes, probably not visible above the land, but what and who is planted today determines what will be visible tomorrow.

Placed on the land – organisations, cities, institutions – they can all lock the land up or… they can help bring about a redemption. Redemption does not mean perfection but a better afterwards than before.

And in the 20 year reset (signalled by COVID) there will be displacings of what is on the land and prayerfully and slowly new placings. Perhaps this is why many have felt displaced over the years preceding and running through 2020.

Land, place, people and time

I think we all love to have some measure of understanding: to have a perspective on ‘why?’ Maybe some are happy with ‘random’ as the explanation but I have not been content with that response. Theists and, I guess, scientists want an answer. I cannot comment on the latter set of people and with regard to the former I distance myself from those who resort to something along the lines of ‘God is in control’ in the sense of controlling all things. Maybe better to think of something like a chess game, where the ‘master chess’ player responds to every move that is made… make that into billions years of history and seemingly continual damaging ‘plays’ by human figures and the God that is presented is more than a static ‘unmoved mover’ but so much wiser and innovative than anyone can imagine. I say billions of years as that seems to be where scientists take us, and who am I to argue, and then if I stick an amateur theologian hat on I have to probably go to an eternal creation / eternal creations – otherwise the concept of ‘time’ is difficult to work with and one has to posit in some way a Creator God who was at some time not creating???? OK… early in the morning here but I do have a cup of coffee by my side.

Leaving all the above behind I have been thinking about the four elements in the title for some time. Maybe just in my inadequate search to find meaning… but I think however inadequate it is my search to find some sight on what are we supposed to do to co-operate in the invitation from the ‘chess master’ to be freshly positioned. The invitation always is from love and the invitation is to co-operate… to not be disobedient to the heavenly vision so that the grace of God toward us is not in vain. [A chess game might not be a good analogy as it is too small to illustrate cosmic movements and in a chess game the pieces are inanimate and do not determine the outcome of the game… but if we imagine a major, MAJOR, chess game and some very stupid self-willed pieces that are continually making the completion of the game look totally impossible, we might then have something that looks like our world.]

Land… what is all around and under us. Land that we are related to – from the dust of the ground bizzarely pushes us toward ‘mother earth’ (toward). Land that we are alienated from; land that is brutally affected by our sin, sin being that failure to be human in the sense of calling. It is not surprising that Scripture with its 1200 references to land has a theme of ‘the land being cursed / blessed because of you’, and in a global era there are theological aspects to our global land crises.

Land holds the corporate memory, and if that be true imagine what is remembered, the layers that have built up one on another. Can the land have its memory healed? Imagine that. God ‘imagines’ that and we are invited to as well, to participate with the God who makes all things new (not whose end goal is to make all new things).

More to come… but how about this image of the ‘keynsham clock’ that was put up to reflect the history of the town. The distortion of the hands that took place a few days ago are a mystery and they are going to be fixed… The clock might be fixed, but history and time? Distortions methinks.

Remembering who you are

I am about to go on a Zoom to learn a little bit about politics, and do I need to learn a lot – no comment please!! Last night I was also on a Zoom. I was blown away. A woman from Nigeria who resides in the UK gave us (I exaggerate not) a thousand nuggets of wisdom. One day when I finally grow up I will have 2% of her insights. Until then…

There are so many aspects I could pick up on but the one that is simply reverberating in my mind and spirit still some 24 hours later went something like this.

We all need a place / a land where we remember who we are.

I might be misquoting it slightly, but I understood the issue of place / land can also be expanded into a relational context. How easy to forget who I am. Paul hits how we see others – we now see who they are in new creation realities. But maybe when we quote Paul we should start with we see no-one according to the flesh (societal / parental / gender / class etc. categories) we should quote it with a mirror in hand.

I had a Zoom call with Roger Mitchell today and reflected on the quote. He responded with – and the opposite is true. We can find places / situations / contexts where we forget who we are.

Israel had three main feasts. Get yourself there if at all possible. The feasts were to remind Israel of who they were, where they had come from, what shaped them and where they were headed. (And of course I see the Synagogue routine as a major step back from that.) They had to visit a place / an appointed time when they remembered who they were. Three times a year was enough to keep them focused.

For some of us home might be that place. For some of us home might be the very place where we forget who we are.

Who are you? Identity, not defined by anything external. Shaped of course by the negatives as well as the positives we have experienced. But deeper than that. This is who I am.

Find the place, the context, get there as often as you need to in order to REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE.

Rosie, thank you. I was, and I am sure the others on the call were, deeply impacted.

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:

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.

A whole lot of groaning

There are three connected ‘groans’ in Romans 8:

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Rom. 8:15).

That’s a pretty clear cry, though it is childlike, not at all sophisticated, and a cry that comes from deep within.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies (Rom. 8:22, 23).

Two groans in these verses with creation and ‘we ourselves’ groaning. These two are placed together as they are deeply related.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words (Rom. 8:26).

Ever despaired as to how to pray? Sure, praying in tongues helps, and maybe Paul has that in mind here, but I think he is also pushing for something deeper than that, with a word used only once in the NT (alaletos, from a related word for ‘mute’ – alalos), maybe we could say with sighs / groans that are inarticulate, sounds without words.

Land / geography holds the corporate memory and so responds from that memory until either the memory is healed or new memories come in. New, as in new and different, do not occur naturally as memory locked in the geography draws yet more of the same kind of action to itself thus layering and re-enforcing earlier memories. (The rape of Dinah in Gen. 34 and the subjugation of the woman in John 4 seem related, being the same geography though separated by more than 1000 years. The pain from Genesis 4 is still present and manifesting in John 4.) Thus there has to be a healing for the memory locked in the land.

The land, responding as victim shouts with a voice of pain, that sound being one that is seeking recompense. Land does not by itself automatically release the pain through forgiveness. We have to hear the voice of the land, but we also have to help the land to articulate more than pain and to rise up so that ‘a better word than that of the blood of Abel’ is spoken; that original word coming up from the land being one that was requiring justice. If that voice is heard and responded to then the cycle will simply continue.

Back then to the Scriptures in Romans 8.

The Spirit within us groans with inarticulate sounds, sounds that cannot be put into words. We might not be able to articulate with words, but in yielding to the Spirit a sound is made, a groan is offered that will connect with creation.

This un-wordy groaning is for the future, for something different than that which is here now to manifest, something that is in line with liberation. The groaning calls for the future but springs from the past. The past of a simple understanding that we have been set free, that an unsophisticated, childlike cry of ‘Abba Father’, an expression of freedom is what we also desire for the land that is beyond us and yet present to us. Nothing smart there, something that could even be viewed as naive and childlike.

And in the same way creation has been groaning for liberation, a liberation akin to ours. Creation becomes our responsibility (nothing new there – consistent from the creation stories onwards).

We were in bondage, the Spirit comes and we receive a firstfruit, and respond with ‘Abba Father’.
Creation likewise is in bondage, but ‘sees’ our future and groans for the same. I suggest looking for our response. How do we respond, for we feel weak; the Spirit comes to align us toward the future, perhaps also we should expect that the land could receive her firstfruits, some measure of freedom, even if not the fullness.

I wonder also with this liberation of the family of God if we are not challenged to hear something from heaven that we can teach the land to speak forth. In 2 Cor. 12:4 Paul speaks of being

caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat.

Although he uses another (rarely used) word regarding what he heard, there seems something parallel to the Spirit’s help. ‘Inarticulate sounds’ and ‘sounds that are not to be put into words’. Could it be that to truly help the land we have to hear some sounds that cannot be put into words so that the land calls out beyond a cry for recompense but we teach the land to also groan without words?

Our neighbourhood

Unbelievably it is 3 years ago that we were able to get an apartment in Madrid. Three whole years. I was looking at the picture that is on my FaceBook page (the page I ‘never’ look at) and here follows a little explanation (Plaza San Martin). Since 2012 we have always stayed (AirBnB) on that side of Madrid, nearly always in the ‘Lavapies’ barrio, at the bottom of the hill it (literally) means the place of washing feet. It has always been a place that has drawn the immigrants (seems appropriate as that is who we are to Madrid and to Spain), a challenging place where drugs are easily available, the drugs scene run in the main by Chinese mafia with foot soldiers often drawn from the African community. Since 2012 until 2018 we have (all-but) prayer walked every street of the barrio. Gentrification is setting in – the good side it can ‘lift’ a community, the down side of course is that people are squeezed out. We have tried to use the apartment as gift when we are not there, and I am always amazed at how within our hands there will always be something we can do that is small but sows into a future. The ultimate small is the ‘container’ for glory in the Bethlehem context that we mark at this time of year.

Land is interesting. It is the container for the corporate memory, hence can resist renewal or can be very open. Lavapies… a great history.

Quite a crowd, with the photograph taken in 1977 and of a funeral cortege in our area. In January, seemingly in order to provoke a reaction so that the military would have to step in and reverse the democratic process post-Franco, three gunmen entered a lawyers’ office and killed five of those present. However, it appears that the desired result did not take place. On the day of the funeral the response called for from those who identified with the victims was one of responding in silence and not to participate in any violence. As can be seen a crowd of some 100,000 gathered, without any physical retaliation. It is said that rather than reverse the democratic process it was a major catalyst in moving it forward.

Right in the centre of the area (Anton Martin) is this memorial to that event. The ‘hug’ says it all, and at the top of the plaque is a quote:

If the echo of their voice weakens, we will perish.

This is our area, and each time we walk past that memorial it is indeed a memory provoker. Beyond our memory that land has a record of it.

(Image by Tulimori – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

How many places are there that we can stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before, those who had faith and those who did not, but they knew somehow that their responses were sowing for a future. Add to that a true apostolic vision, marked by long term patience aligned to consistent direction, and I am sure there are many geographic situations that are waiting for us nobodies to connect with.

Living in or on?

Some of us have little choice about where we live, others do have a choice. Some have no choice, and I should really write ‘many’, having no home, fleeing violence, war, persecution, hunger or desperately searching for some work. It is ever so easy to pontificate when one is part of the top 10% (probably more likely top 5%) wealth-wise in the world. There are luxuries we have that others do not have. We turn a tap on and drink the water; we go to the fridge and can put something together to eat. I am aware of our luxuries as I write.

Land has been an important part of my life for as far back as I can remember. Maybe being born on a farm gave that to me? I recall back in 1991 receiving a prophetic word about moving geographically. It impacted me greatly and the seeming imminence of it felt as if it was immediate. At 5.30am the next morning I got up walked the area, and can remember stopping at one of the corners saying to the town – don’t worry someone will come and look after you, considering your interests before their own. One Christmas I was in Paris, and in a dream I was taken to the bottom of the Eiffel tower. There Paris came to me and said, ‘People come here from all over the world. Romantic words are often spoken, engagements take place. But when will someone come here just for me, to love me for who I am?’ A short while later I woke with a tear-filled face, the pain of the land being very real.

So many conquests have been to possess land, to change the civilisation. Even a lot of tourism follows suit. Plant restaurants that cater for our taste buds, our culture, buy a second home… The result is an enjoyment of the land, but a living ‘on’ the land. I could go on and comment on financial investments in countries that profit us but long-term impoverish others. I realise we live in a complex world (though the drop-out culture does appeal at times) and our feet certainly get dirty whatever direction we walk in. I am not knocking those elements per se, but simply relating the above examples to indicate that so often we see it as our right to something, and never connect with the land, other than as an observer. Sometimes that might be all we can do.

But, if at all possible, we need to live in the land. At this moment of time Gayle and I are immigrants in the land of Spain, but we are seeking to be in the land. To be in the land does connect one to the voice of the land, the cry of the land, the history, the pain, disappointments but also hope and destiny. To marry the land does bring about a phase of receiving from the land what is in it. It can affect one’s finances, even one’s health. But the long term issue is for the land to be affected.

We cannot – God does not and we cannot – control outcomes. We cannot override peoples’ choices but we can stand in prayer and stand in attitude and stand in humility and stand in persistence and stand, so that there is an interchange to the land, so that the land begins to gain the benefit of who one is in Jesus. The land begins to change; (bad) fruit that was once fruitful no longer grows; good fruit begins to appear, small at first then in greater measure.

We have had some major setbacks these past weeks. We have stood and drawn a line. The line has been walked over. The very words we have used (they shall not pass here) as we have stood have been literally spoken back on TV news – the ‘conquerors’ saying publicly ‘we have passed’. Even after 2015 and the incredible shifts noted by every newspaper after we prayed at the Valley of the Fallen; after going to Franco’s birth home in 2018 (11 hours away) and the government passing the next day the edict that they will move his remains from the Valley of the Fallen – we are back with the governments edict being stalled and resisted. I could enter a few other such examples, and truth is we are very sore indeed.

I could also outline other positives, some of which have been recorded even in the press beyond Spain.

There will be setbacks. But to live ‘on’ and not ‘in’ the land is something we have to resist. We have to stand but the standing is in the land.

I am not looking to trample on anyone’s convictions, but I consider that we all have to regularly ask if we are simply ‘on’ or are we ‘in’ the land.

And to those in the land. Stand. The day of evil does pass, even if not as soon as we would like.

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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