Blog

M&M / U.K. 2016, Weeks 2-3

Got the highest scoring word I ever played on the flight to France — "QUITTERS" for 110 points.
Got the highest scoring word I ever played on the flight to France — “QUITTERS” for 110 points.

After a really full week and a half, things slowed down tremendously for Mary and me. We flew down to Cambridge, had supper with our friends, Sue and Paul Butler, and then all four of us got up very early the next morning to board a plane for Limoges, France. The Butlers own a small cottage near the village of Beaulieu and the four of us were going on a retreat there. Both Paul and Sue are ordained ministers in the Church of England having come from charismatic church backgrounds. You could say they’ve got both the theology and the spirituality to be dynamos for the Kingdom of God. We spent time praying together each day and even reading Scripture from the Church of England’s daily office (these are Scripture readings and meditations for each day).

In front of the Butlers’ cottage near Beaulieu

The French countryside was beautiful – rolling hills, deciduous forests, farmland, and villages that date back hundreds of years – in addition, we were just a couple of hundred yards away from the Dordogne River. Very different than our surroundings in Colorado! In a span of four days, we also got to tour churches, have a couple dinners out, and sample French pastry each day at teatime.

Beaulieu, France / The Dordogne River
Beaulieu, France / The Dordogne River
The Triumph of Christ above the door of the church in Beaulieu
The Triumph of Christ above the door of the church in Beaulieu
Mary and Sue outside a delicious bakery

We have known the Butlers for years and they were our primary tour guides when we were on sabbatical back at the beginning of 2014. They hosted our Scum of the Earth mission team last year for a full week and ministered to each member in significant ways. It’s especially good to be prayed for – and have your future prayed for – by people who know you over a length of time. It is especially significant when those people know the highs and lows, the heartaches and joys, of ministry on a daily basis just like you do. All I can say is that Mary and I are very grateful for their care.

We flew back to Cambridge, England a few days ago and were dropped off on the doorstep of Heather and Dave Male’s home. We have known them even longer. It was Dave Male, on sabbatical in the USA during 2007, who just happened to be visiting a friend in Denver one weekend. While looking for an out-of-the-box kind of church to attend on Sunday he spotted Scum of the Earth on the Internet and thought to himself, Well, with a name like that, I have to check it out. He contacted me and we agreed to spend time after the service. It was then, over a couple of beers at Bennigan’s, that he asked me if it was okay for him to bring students from his theological classes at Ridley Hall in Cambridge to visit every couple of years. I assented, figuring it probably would never happen; but that’s not David Male. He never says something unless he means it. The next year he showed up with about five students. Two years later he showed up with a larger group and he brought his wife, Heather, along. A couple years later, more came. Then in 2012, Dave asked me if I would go on a small speaking tour with him to six cities in England; and of course, I agreed. I had never been to the UK before. We spoke to people in London at the headquarters of the Methodist Church, to students at St. John’s College in Nottingham, to a group of pastors in Tunbridge Wells, to Fresh Expressions folks in Hereford and then in Oxford, plus students and pastors in Cambridge. While we were in the UK, Dave and Heather invited us to live in their home come 2014 while they were on sabbatical in Australia for four months – and that is how Mary and I ended up in their home in Cambridge for four months. In between, we’ve had three different interns come to Scum of the Earth from here in Cambridge, one of them being Dave and Heather’s son, Callum Male.

Mary and Heather
Mary and Heather
Dave, cooking us a Thai chicken curry for supper
Dave, cooking us a Thai chicken curry for supper

Jesus works through his people, and sometimes the most seemingly “random” meetings turn out to be major events in our lives. I have been contemplating the impact of the relationship with Dave upon my ministry while here. It really is remarkable. Not only has everything I’ve already mentioned transpired, but I’ve taught classes at Ridley Hall in Cambridge. Never saw myself doing that in my wildest dreams.  And so, yesterday, Dave and I met together to talk about my future after I step down from Scum of the Earth staff in a couple of years. (Mary and I will not be leaving the church we helped start, but I do feel it’s time to pass the torch of leadership completely to the next generation.) I have no intention of retiring, and we couldn’t afford it anyway. I look at it as a job description change – and my conversation with Dave was about what that may look like. I’ve got about a page of notes and a lot of work ahead of me. I think I will leave writing about that for another time.

 

M&M / U.K. 2016, Week 1

It’s been a week since we have come to Glasgow, Scotland. Mary and I were picked up at the airport by our friend, Jill Morrison, with whom we lived in July, 2015. We were all set to stay with her and her husband, Graham, at their home again this time; but just a few days before we left Denver, a fire began in one of their upstairs bedrooms. The fire did a great deal of damage to the top floor of the house and filled the bottom floor with smoke, but the house was saved by the fire brigade. (They think that a faulty extension cord hooked up to a phone charger may have been the cause.) It will take six months to restore their home. In the meantime, we are staying with good friends of theirs, Liz and John McFarlane, for the first week-and-a-half. After that, we will be spending time with friends from Cambridge, England for two weeks – and then it’s back to Scotland where we will be staying with the Morrison family in their rental home until we return to the U.S.A. in December.
That first night we had a lovely supper with both the McFarlanes and the Morrisons, and the next day took the train to the Falkirk area to meet up with Stuart and Lynsey Gilmour. The Gilmours are the young couple I’ve written to you about before – the ones who feel called to begin Scum of the Earth in Scotland. Lynsey was struggling through a cold (which I promptly got myself) but we had a marvelous time catching up and having suppers together. Over the next few days we kept going back to visit them via the train and rides from Stuart or John. Our discussions have obviously been swirling around the beginning stages of planting a church. To that end, we’ve also been watching a series of videos I received from a fellow pastor who specializes in this.
We also met with American missionaries from Communitas (formerly known as Christian Associates). To make a long story short, Communitas is a missions agency, based in Denver, which has people in the Glasgow area. They possess both the legal covering the Gilmours need in Scotland and the conduit for donations to come from the United States. It was a very good meeting. They are fine people who already love Stuart and Lynsey and we are looking forward to working together. Mary and I also met with the pastor from Mosaic Church, where Scum of the Earth folks have attended whenever we came to work at the Glasgow City Mission (GCM). He  is also a Communitas missionary, so we heard some good old American accents a couple days in a row. He has also met the Gilmours and is excited about what we are attempting.
From there, we went to meet with people from the GCM, spending the afternoon in separate meetings with the director and the assistant director. The primary reason was to reestablish the relationship between Scum and the mission. We had each decided to take 2016 off and not have a Scum team work there this summer. The upshot of the afternoon was this: they are excited about us returning with a crew of people who can fill-in for volunteers who go on vacation. (This past summer they’ve had many shortages.) That evening, we ate with the staff member who had been the volunteer coordinator for GCM last year when Mary and I led the trip for the month of July. We had a fantastic time at our favorite Greek restaurant in Glasgow. The owner came to our table and we had quite the conversation about the Isle of Crete (where he was born and where my mother’s side hails from).
In between all this, we’ve been trying to keep up with things in America –  our family, Scum of the Earth Church, the World Series – and trying to avoid the U.S. election process. I get asked about our country’s presidential choices daily, so it’s hard to escape it even over here.
I regret to inform you that due to purchasing airline tickets over here and other ministry expenses, I did not receive a full paycheck this month. I sent out a special plea to a list of “Scum Alumni” hoping they may help make up the difference. Could use your prayers about that situation.

"Brushy Brush Brush" Stuart brushes Indie's teeth while she brushes his.
“Brushy Brush Brush.” Stuart brushes Indie’s teeth while she brushes his.
The view of Glasgow's West End from our meeting with Communitas missionaries
The view of Glasgow’s West End from our meeting with Communitas missionaries
Staff at the Glasgow City Mission
Staff at the Glasgow City Mission
Mama Lynsey and Hiromi
Mama Lynsey and Hiromi
Chris Mckenzie, pastor of Mosaic Church in Glasgow and us.
Chris Mckenzie, pastor of Mosaic Church in Glasgow, and us.

Warriors of Heaven in an Unseen Battle

Joshua Peebles and his Sheildbearers
Joshua Peebles and his Shield-bearers

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Our weapons are different from the world’s because our enemy is different. A Christian’s real enemies are never people. On the contrary, we are to love people! Our enemy is the Devil, the one Jesus called the “Father of Lies.”
This is an extremely important distinction. We build up people and destroy lies. Hindus, Buddhists, Moslems, New Agers, Wiccans, Atheists, Agnostics, Abortionists, Liberals, Conservatives —these people are not our enemies. Our enemies are spiritual strongholds of deception, half-truths, arguments over insignificant theological points, proud thoughts and anything which leads the people we love away from knowing the God who loves them completely in Jesus Christ. It’s good to remember this.
Your brother-in-arms,

Mike-Signature

Why It’s Hard to Follow Jesus

Design by Katina Lowe

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself.
And became obedient to death.
Even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the Glory of God the Father.

Phillipians 2.5-11

The lesson here is simple yet difficult. In following Jesus we are following One who did the opposite of our natural inclinations. We are inclined to equate our own thoughts with God’s (instead of considering that beyond our grasp), we are inclined to make more of ourselves than we ought (instead of making ourselves nothing), we are inclined to be served (rather than to serve), we are inclined to appear to others greater than we actually are (not less), we are inclined to pride (not humility), we are inclined to disobedience rather than an obedience which causes even a part of us to die (i.e. our self–image, our comfort, our desires.)

We enjoy following Christ up to the point where He heads towards the cross. After that, He’s on His own, it often appears (sadly).

But those who follow Him “on the way down,” will also follow Him, “on the way up.”

Keep the faith,

Mike-Signature