Discerning the best way to write a book on discernment
The Lord was very much in my trip to Majorca, right from the start at check in when I had a nudge at check-in to see whether there might be a seat available with more legroom. I was able to procure one without cost, and found myself sitting next to a lovely woman who turned out to be a Christian counsellor who is emerging from a difficult patch. We had an exceptional time of fellowship and prayer, in which the Lord’s presence came near. Her husband and two teenage children were in the row immediately behind, and although they are not in the same place that she is at spiritually, she read them out portions of one of the books I gave her to in the course of their time on the island!
I have been hard at work this year compiling thoughts for a book on spiritual discernment. There is an obvious need for material on this topic in the wider Body of Christ – but there are many potential ways to tackle this theme and I have been exploring a number of different options.
It was therapeutic to be Internet free for a couple of weeks, and with none of my normal duties to be responsible for I was normally up and going well before five o’clock. The whole time was a perfect balance between time with the Lord, long hours of focused time pooling thoughts for the book, and then heading out for times of rich involvement with the Iglesia Christiana in Palma.
I had come armed with huge piles of thoughts to sift through that I have jotted down over the past couple of months. To my surprise, the Lord promptly began by adding new themes to weave in, leaving still more rolls of assorted textiles in the cutting room.
I feel like a tailor contemplating these huge rolls of fabric– well aware that I now have far more material with me than can possibly fit into one book. The task feels somewhat Herculean, so please pray strength and wisdom for it. I can ‘feel’ the tailor’s scissors in my hand, but I need to cut and shape according to the Lord’s preferred pattern!
Good Friday predictably involved some intense wrestling with a tricky theme I was working on, followed by a joyous breakthrough early on Easter Sunday. Most of the time it was just sheer bliss to be closeted away in such idyllic surroundings.
The temperatures were perfect, and although the beaches were fairly full, there was none of the intensity that overtakes Majorca at the height of summer season. As a result the whole island felt a great deal less oppressed.
The pictures are of the beach directly under the apartment I was staying in, two of Valdemossa and then of the cathedral as seen from the sea. I took the ‘banner’ picture at the top of this article straight from the apartment early in the morning.
Huge thanks to everyone who prayed for my time abroad. As you can see, it was really special. I have returned home with hundreds of ideas sketched out, in much the same way that artists inspired by the Mediterranean light fill their sketchbooks and then return home to work on their material. Thank You so much, Lord!
At a rather less rarefied level, I was invited to speak again at one of the church’s house groups out on the beautiful west coast, as well as at the main midweek meeting that both Sheena and I addressed last year. I decided to have a go this time at giving my message (on prayer) in Spanish. It is not a language I have studied seriously, but I have long been able to read the New Testament in it, and after a few days on the island felt ready to have a go, having done some grammatical tweakings beforehand with the help of a friend. It went really well, and it saved the time and possible change of emphasis involved in speaking through a translator.
I had many precious encounters with the Lord, including one on the final night. I had been feeling a bit upset, not so much because a wonderful time was coming to an end but because I was about twenty hours work shy of where I had hoped to reach.
Ever practical, the Lord nudged me to go and take the rubbish to the tip! As I walked past a beach on the way, a cat came and rubbed against my legs. It reminded me of the cat that comforted Shasta in the beautiful Chronicles of Narnia series, The Horse and His Boy, on his long trek across the wilderness. In that case, of course, the cat was really Aslan – and sure enough the Lord promptly began speaking to me too – precious, reassuring and helpful words that are helping to shape and sharpen the overall template for the work. I would have missed a great deal had I sat tight and left the task of emptying the rubbish till the final morning!
No prizes for where my main emphasis will be for the next few months – discerning what to include in the book on discernment!
Pleasure Beaches and Killing Fields
The delightful cala (cove) we were staying in is a brand new development – until recently there was nothing here except the beach and a rocky hillside. We knew nothing of its history! We went for an evening walk very close to where we were staying and unexpectedly stumbled through a desolate area owned by the army that gave us the creeps. It had once been a fort dating back to Napoleonic times with a concealed but commanding view over the Bay of Palma.
That, however, was not the problem. Much more recently, and sinisterly, when Franco came to power he ruled with a rod of iron, stamping out the local Mallorcan dialect (a variant of Catalan) and dealing harshly with all who opposed, or were accused of opposing, his Fascist Nationalist party. Sadly a number of local people were denounced, for example as being Communists, (some no doubt out of pure spite and rivalry). These unfortunates were marched up to this hill and summarily shot.
The local authorities have recently planted trees with individual nameplates in honour of each victim – a most fitting tribute. I have just come across this reference to those events.
Catalan has more than survived Franco`s worst efforts to wipe it out; it is very much the top language now, although the majority of people still speak Spanish if they have to. (See below). Majorca also became the front line air base from which Mussolini`s Italian air force brutally bombed Barcelona’s civilian population. This was all part of Mussolini’s illusory sense of inviolability, and where the German armed forces also gained experience during the Spanish Civil War shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War. Mallorcaobserved.com
You could make out a pretty strong case that both Italy and Spain are still recovering from the effects of their twentieth century dictators, Mussolini and Franco. The roots of division still go deep on the island and beyond. Recalling the deep oppression that used to be over Spain as recently as the early 1970`s when I first visited it we were surprised to come across strong glimpses of the continuance of Fascism on the island today.
This is perhaps not so surprising when you remember the economic plight Spain is still in with its distressingly high unemployment rates (even though it is showing signs of recovery now). Many are are eager for a strong hand at the helm, without worrying too much about what such longings may hook into, and what dark roots and practices might come in with that strong hand.
You will appreciate that these are very much only initial and ill-informed snapshot insights. You would need to connect with the likes of Martin Scott to get a more informed view on the spiritual state of the island. (He made his home here for several years before moving across to the mainland).
Things have moved substantially in Majorca since our one and only previous visit to the island back in the early 1980’s. Rather as in Wales, Catalan (which was firmly suppressed by Franco when he came to power before the Second World War) has made a huge recovery. Spanish is very much the second language now, and is only taught two hours a week in the schools.
From October onwards, I believe, Maths and Environmental Studies are, going to be taught in English! It must have been quite a challenge for them to get enough teachers in those subjects who can speak English, but they will soon be up to speed with that.
Majorca is making serious efforts to free itself from the reputation of British (and other) drunken tourists. Twenty of the most infamous hotels were dynamited, but what remains in the popular resorts (as opposed to the more exclusive ones) is by no means high culture. Sadly, pickpockets also abound; on one bus Robert was crammed into, the British woman standing next to him had her purse, wallet and phone taken.
22,000,000 passengers pass through Palma`s busy airport every year – and quite probably more than that this year as the island has benefitted considerably from fewer tourists going to Egypt. Planes take off on average every minute for something like twenty hours a day!
This all-consuming tourist trade must inevitably have affected the soul of the place. Far fewer people under the age of forty now attend church on what was once a deeply religious island (although we strongly suspect that other spirits were, and are never, far below the surface). Most of the priests we saw were very old.
Life for us was simple was simple as we were self-catering, but there were would have been few obvious takers either amongst locals or the hordes of tourists to heed Peter’s injunction that Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewellery or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. (1 Pet. 3:3-4)
The overwhelming feeling (certainly as far as tourists were concerned) was that: In the last time people will be lovers of self and lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God’ (2 Tim. 3:3-4). As you can imagine this takes its toll on the spiritual atmosphere. In all too many of the posher places I kept hearing the strong words from Jesus’ mouth:
‘Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’ (Matt. 19:23).
May the Lord do something to bring a fuller knowledge of Himself to many to these beautiful Balearic Islands!