Transformation?

Way back in the day, when I was not so grown up (!!) I loved to talk of transformation, of city-shifting (not easy to say, and did on more than one occasion got it wrong… though we do need to see a whole lot of that sifted and shifted!) influences. A straight line from strategic prayer that would change the effects of history and open up a new spirituality where the church would prosper was my focus. As the years go on beliefs are refined, honed, and even sometimes abandoned. In my case a core continues unabated… Jesus poured out his Spirit redemptively on a growing number of followers, not simply so as those followers could grow in numbers, and certainly not so as they might have a ticket to somewhere else, but so that they might take responsibility for the world around them. So that that world might change.

I have been away for the past week engaging with two interesting scenarios. Both in the South West of England. Both with a focus on entrepreneurship so that there can be a societal, an environmental change. The first, based in a city and focused on that region looking to re-open what had been abandoned, looking to spark leading-edge technology. The other coincidentally meeting in that area of the UK but with a strong emphasis that all of us, that is us communicating animals, carry the image of God, and that we are to be changed in order to bring about change. I resonated very strongly, with no emphasis on the financial outcome being the bottom line, but health and well-being being the gauge of progress.

Two environments, both looking for transformation.

I am deeply grateful for the strategic (and sometimes in my case I am sure un-strategic prayer) that has gone on. I consider that it has opened up so much space during these past decades. It has also contributed to some of the crises, for the Western house that has been built, at least in part, on sand was never going to be fit for purpose.

My vote is for those who are engaged beyond the congregation, those who take the call to business, health care, the arts etc., seriously. There is space now. Space that is visible, sometimes space in the midst of the mess for engagement.

I am aware that every scenario is different. We might not always see those situations correctly. Some we might be over-optimistic about, others where we have despaired might be the very ones where there is hope.

Over the past 5 years we have taken responsibility to pray for the political scene in Spain. We are not those who believe that change takes place through legislation, through influence from the top down (a christendom value). Yet we are looking for that political realm to come into health, to create a shape where there can be true prosperity. A kind of ‘we hold a shape’ so that there can be a ‘healthy political shape’ so that people can prosper, with great grace for the marginalised being expressed. An unhealthy political shape then is an offence and we take it as a personal insult.

2019… they shall not pass!

There are times we are caught out, not seeing what is coming and as a result we end up playing catch up. However, in 2019 it seemed that we were so ahead of what was coming. We saw the patterns of history and understood the geographical ground where that was expressed, were able to go there and be ever so strategic (!) with our timings, actions, prayers and declarations. Then… what a set of blows came our way as one aspect after another went against us. History just seemed intent on repeating itself with intent. We saw the number of fascists in parliament go from 0 to 24 to 52 in the course of 7 months. We saw divisions appear and hostility against one another be vehemently expressed by those who should have known better. I could go on… To be honest it proved pretty tough and insulting. Seemed almost personal when the ultra-right proclaimed ‘we have passed’ when entering the parliament. I still ask – could we have done more.

2020… a level see-saw?

It has been a battle to see something healthier come through. Just as the year turned a promising coalition, the first in 80 years, where a level of maturity has been shown., has been voted in. It made it in by 2 votes – had one person gone the other way (and there was huge pressure on those sitting in the middle) we would have been headed to yet another election, and with the growth of the ultra-right this would not have been something we would have been optimistic about. In the government, one of the ministers is a card carrying communist! Neither Gayle nor I are of that persuasion (as if!!), but given the history of Spain what a sign. (Ultra-right and ultra-left carry the same spirit – people are subject to a centralised and depersonalised power, a true principality or god.)

I am not suggesting that where I started – the business realm, nor where I am now focused – the political realm – is where it is at. I simply find it interesting that there are evidences of a level playing field appearing. Not everything is reversed, indeed one could suggest the political scene, for example, in Spain is worse than ever. Perhaps. Or perhaps game on. I consider it is the most dangerous yet with the most potential in the past 80+ years.

Let’s look for the gaps, the places where we can squeeze in, or make space through some spiritual elbow work for others to enter that space. I am convinced we are not going to see things just shut down, keeping the space open though will require our engagement.

A Threshold

2020… perfect vision… or perhaps to quote a figure from a byegone era:

Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into (Oliver Hardy).

I kind of think there is a bit of both going on as we cross over into the coming year. Vision to be had, and coming to terms with the mess around us and how to navigate our way through it.

In 2010 (repetition coming up here) I had two dreams, one of the facades opening up, so as we could see inside of the institutions that had shaped public live, but being closed again through an alignment to the familiar, casing things to revert back to the status quo. The second dream was of a see-saw and the numbers 20 falling on the left side, then 10 on the right side. The see-saw was weighted and although there were ‘wobbles’ when it might tip the other way it always came back down solidly on the left side. Eventually as the dates came 20 fell on the left and 20 on the right side. The dream ended with the see-saw balanced.

At the time I took it to mean a complete reversal and ‘whoa just wait till 2020’, … BUT… like all prophetic revelation we are not in a place to interpret it when we immediately receive it. Revelation comes from the future, interpretation is sourced in our expectation that is shaped by our experience (past). As the years have gone on I have continually reflected on both dreams and as we are about to cross over into 2020 it has again naturally become a focus.

The dream ended with a level see-saw… not a reversal.

That aspect is key for me. If I change the analogy a little to a sporting one, a level playing field. But the game still has to be played.

And the mess… yes we are in a mess. There are huge danger signs for those of us with faith in Jesus. ‘Our’ faith has been hijacked in many places to serve an agenda that is nationalistic, xenophobic and misogynist. When faith is pulled in to serve a political agenda we really do end up in trouble – it is the sign that there is a fullness of times (the critical moment of Jesus’ birth was into that context, and the outcome was the centralised decision that Jesus had to be sacrificed so that the ‘place’ was preserved). Religion prevailed and Jesus was expendable.

Of course dependent on one’s standpoint will depend on what mess is seen. Climate? OUCH. Economics? Enough said.

The mess is a challenge to interpret. A mess comes before there are breakthroughs. A right old mess also becomes more visible and more vocal at a time when we thought ‘the beast had received a mortal wound’ but lived again.

Some of what follows is personal as I reflect back on 2019. A year of great shifts. Tomorrow marks a one year mark of purchasing this apartment in Madrid – a goal achieved that we first aimed toward in 2011 and continually pushed toward it with many resistances. The year began with a drawn-out major battle to hold our ground with just under 3 months of continual meetings, documents being produced to establish our status in Spain. The year has brought us to a threshold, and I suspect that the end of this year / the beginning of next is indeed a threshold in many situations and for many of us. (And personally Jan 1, 2020 begins our 12th year in Spain.)

At the threshold point there is sight to be had. There is a fresh view to see what level playing field is there for us. There are closures where some fields can be left; there are also new fields that open up. As the threshold is crossed there is no need to hold on to what was. We have to discover what is now for us to hold on to. Battles are strange – we do not always finish all the battles that we believe were ours.

Threshold also marks that we lose grace over certain previous contexts, but there is great grace for what is new. The new though does not come in the same package, nor provision in the same way as before. (As per losing day to day provision of manna, and having to see beyond the giants to experience season to season opportunities.)

I consider that the early months are months in which clarity will come to what is being seen, as opposed to blasting into the year with sight. As the sight is embraced so contexts, and contacts will come into place. There is urgency, hence the need to move at a measured pace.

The level playing field means ‘game on’. Engagement and strategy will have to be hand in hand. Or maybe I should write engagement and new strategies.

In the process there will be an increase in ‘camps’ being formed. A ‘I am of…’ type of response. There is no issue in knowing where we belong, a question that Gayle and I often ask ‘who is our church?’ is appropriate, but this is not a time to narrow down. There are resources and connections from outside our narrow vision. The parting of company has to be with what is shaped religiously, as the pulling of religion into the power structures is the mire that will withstand progress. Religious was is here. The drawing to others is where life is shared.

Truth-telling is a key to open huge doors. Self-disclosure comes from a defenceless position and this will be increasingly necessary. The visible gap between truth and lies will increase. That gap is masked when religion speaks to expose. Religion does not expose reality but covers it, and when religion is brought in to speak it is to pervert what is true.

We anticipate fresh voices, with strange clothing, appearing in unusual places to mark this coming year.

And – again maybe personal – but with the three-fold focus we had this year on ‘students, women and pensioners’ I see all three gaining a clarity in their voices.

Sight to see the mess… but sight to see where we can stand before we lose sight because of the mess. And standing to see the beauty of heaven being expressed in the midst of the mess.

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