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The movie, The Untouchables, might not be to everyones’ liking in terms of entertainment and yet it teaches valuable lessons about life. One of my favorite movie quotes is by Jimmy Malone, the Irish beat cop, played by the one of the darlings of my parents’ era, Scot Sean Connery.
In the very violent scene depicting Malone’s death, he is discovered by his protege, Elliott Ness (Kevin Costner) and George Stone (Andy García). Seeing Malone stopped in his tracks is heart-wrenching because it is not just the death of a friend and colleague, there is an un-premeditated passing of the mantle from one generation to the next. Enforcement of the law is no longer an assignment that Ness can walk away from. Losing Malone makes the battle become personal. Malone’s last words contain the answer to Ness’ conflict as well as a missive to become fully engaged in this fight. Malone, with a raspy voice, challenges Ness, “What. are you. prepared to do?” This is the second time they’ve had this conversation. And this time Ness is prepared to do an end run for justice.
If you remember the movie, when Ness and Malone first have that conversation, Ness is very philosophical about his involvement. He’s prepared to do anything within the law; yet the objective of his mission is to enforce the law. He soon learns that his oppponent doesn’t operate within the confines of the law, and Malone instructs him to bring a knife to a gun fight, and so forth. Somehow this movie says a lot about our western culture. We’ve been taught to color inside the lines, to drive the speed limit, to make a career with a single company, and dream about a home with a white picket fence, 2.5 kids, a 52″ television, and a dog. Yet, like Ness, we are completely unprepared when it turns out that the rest of the world doesn’t think the same way. Seriously.
I can’t help but think about destiny these days, and calling. What kind of a legacy will I leave? What kind of a mark will I leave on the world? Will I have told you about the things that compel me? Will I have told you how much your Heavenly Father loves you? Will you know a journey of your own with the Father? Will you know about the orphaned children in Africa, and how they sing before daybreak? Will you weep with me as I tell you about the Mozambican babies scandalized by AIDS, left hanging on fence posts in a plastic grocery bag, abandoned by their mothers?
Engaging in this war we call life is not an assignment we can walk away from. It’s deeply personal, and our opponent doesn’t operate within the confines of the law. Yet neither do we. Our most powerful weapon is love. And it changes everything. Love beckons us to lay down our lives, sell our possessions, and live life on the edge. Dare to look. Dare to be affected.
“What. are you. prepared to do?”
This morning I had a picture of myself dancing before Michelangelo’s David. The high ceilings and marble walls of the gallery proved an amazing setting for perfect pirouettes and pas de bourrée. The beauty of my dance was perfected in my thoughts, and it became something akin to Viviana Durante in the Rose Adagio of Sleeping Beauty, … a wordless contribution of beauty for beauty.
It wasn’t long before I pondered not the perfection of my dance ~ this is my dream, after all ~ yet why dance before The David? An online travel guide for Florence, Italy so aptly reviews the sculpture, “Its position, though expressing perfect balance, alludes at movement, … The attitude is strong, arrogant and, above all, filled with inner life like no other similar classical statue.” 1
Balance. Movement. Attitude. Inner Life.
Isn’t it interesting that the reviewer detects these qualities, in a sculpture? That is part of the mystery of beauty. Just like a masterful pirouette depicts the paradox between strength and delicacy, so a marble statue depicts movement and inner life.
Reviewing the flawless dance in the presence of unparalleled, sculpted beauty, I was reminded of the nearly spontaneous combustion that can occur when individuals come together, in unity, to produce something more significant than they can produce individually. Musicians demonstrate this when their skill takes them collectively away from the written score to a breathless improvisation. Each one has submitted their skill, even rescinded their individual identities, to the greater purpose of the collective. Only mutually agreed-upon, non-verbal expressions lead to a change in key or tempo. Each musician not only participates, but also cooperates. No one person leads throughout, and no one hides. Eventually, each one takes his place to lead out into the unknown with precision. 2
2 Bents, E. Identity
Sitting beside my recently planted Butterfly Bush, I pondered its plentiful blooms and perchy branches, so inviting to tiny, flight-weary visitors. It doesn’t do much for me, as bushes go, in that there’s no rhyme nor reason to its growth pattern. It resembles the drunken and disorderly conduct of bushes. Yet it has succulent purple blossoms, and the bumblebees frequently wave their thanks as they zoom in for a sip of something cool. Butterflies dance about and then land on its wayward branches.
My heart is always warmed by the courage of the crocus in Springtime, fearlessly nudging their way through the frozen earth. When kersplatted with snow and ice, they tuck their heads and shout, “No worries! I’ll stop back tomorrow!” No promise of Spring is more faithfully kept than by the classic simplicity of tulips. Strong and straight they keep their sentry in a clear vase on the shelf, nodding only to Time as it marches by.
I love the intense aroma of Lilacs, my longtime favorite Spring flower. The front yard of my childhood home was filled with enormous bushes and we’d weave our bikes through their archways, and use lilac leaves as our money as we imagined our marriages to the stars of the tv series, CHiPS. Winding our way through the apple orchard we’d rest with our dolls beneath the crabby branches, or crawl up to get a better view. It’s only now that I realize how intoxicating the lilac’s scent can be…no wonder marrying Erik Estrada seemed possible!
I’m a girly-girl at heart. There’s nothing that makes my heart flutter more than a tiny bit of bling. Shiny, swirly, rings and things that go round and round and catch the sunlight, and make me smile for a while. Even better when that little something is accompanied by a word or two, an “I love you” or “I’m sorry”.
It’s a story worth telling since it still makes me chuckle. A former boyfriend erred by spouting words that were less than complimentary to me. Clearly, the memory is blocked due to trauma, but it involved a reference to a barnyard animal. Perhaps I was munching or crunching something with a bit too much enthusiasm. I hope I never recall. But he was rewarded with the opportunity to restore my smile that day with jewelry. We wandered into a sterling silver shop, picked out a bracelet, and together decided it was a bit of Barnyard Bling. Whenever that bracelet manages to spin about my wrist, I don’t recall the offense as much as I recall the apology. It was sincere.
I don’t own a lot of jewelry, but I treasure some of the pieces I’ve collected. A periodot from an antique shop at Five Points, NC. An amethyst from Basel, Switzerland. Two wedding bands from my Grams. A swanky 60’s necklace from my Mother comprised of blue glass ‘fingers’… fabulous. None have much financial value, and needn’t have, for the pieces I like the most are those with intense or unusual color.
The emerald-cut peridot is of the palest green. I like to flutter my hand in the sun and watch the room glitter with refracted rays piercing through it’s planes. The amethyst has a triangular gold ring band. It was one of the first pieces of jewelry I purchased for myself. When I wear it, I’m reminded of my jaunts to Europe. The old, yellow-gold wedding bands are chock full of family history, and remind me of my darling grandmother. She always wore one of them on her middle finger, and it seemed so classically handsome to me. Mother’s blue glass necklace speaks for itself as one that enters the room before its wearer. It’s dramatic and heavy, but lovely.
Color is provacative. It’s characteristics, whether brilliance or pallor, demand a response from their observer. Our minds make mental and even emotional connections with colors. The beautiful thing about color is that we are forced to engage with it, to really see it, and to let it affect us.
A man is never more masculine when his boyish grin flashes at the sight of a bright yellow biscuit joiner. They make power tools in canary yellow for a reason. A woman is never more feminine when she utters that childlike, “Ohhh LOOK!” and flutters over a proffered daisy with petals to ponder, “He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me….”
Picture a lake with a nice beach and a swimming area, with buoys that mark the drop-off. The drop-off is where it’s over 6 feet deep, so most people would not be able to stand and have their head above water. The marked-off swimming area is shallow and progressively deeper. Those who don’t know how to swim usually stay in this area. There is still some risk in the shallow area; a person can drown in a bowl of soup under the right conditions. But by and large, the swimmer is in control and there aren’t too many surprises.
Our walk with the Lord is like these two swimming areas. While many have been in the shallow area most of their spiritual lives, the Lord has been teaching fundamental things: obedience, His love, His discipline, His glory, His character, the need for Him. All incredibly important things. There have been prophetic words about destiny. There have been some supernatural experiences with His Love and the things of the Spirit. Life is still largely in the natural realm with increasing exposure to the supernatural. It’s possible that He’s given a prayer language; not necessarily.
The main characteristic about one’s readiness to head to the deep waters is the hunger. You want more.
The deep water really represents a departure from living life in the natural realm and stepping into life in the supernatural. When you begin to dabble with the idea of regularly living in the supernatural, you really have no idea what that means. All you are focused on is that you are hungry. Every exposure to the deeper life is priceless. Every prophetic word seems to pierce you and feel like there is a *now-ness* about it. You never dream that there could be lessons and growth areas that stand between you and life in the supernatural. Yet all that God has done in your life up until now has been in preparation for you to make some decisions. This is not about having Him as your Savior. That’s certain. This is not about Lordship, even. You can absolutely live life in the shallow end, and still have Him be Lord. This is about choosing to live a supernatural life, life in the Spirit, moment-by-moment.
Living a supernatural life, a life completely led by the Spirit, to interpret life through His lens, to heal and set free, to raise the dead, to bear incredible fruit … these things require aspects of the Supernatural that many of us have been exposed to but are uncertain about how to live this kind of life, day in and day out. Life in the Supernatural is a bit like leaving the house without undergarments. Most people simply wouldn’t leave the house without…at least without a high sense of awareness. You are completely dependent upon the Father for covering, because you are so given over to trusting Him, so given over to His purposes for your life that you are almost uncovered in the physical realm. It’s that raw.
In 1 Corinthians 2 Paul is speaking to the believers at Corinth and he is very transparent. He talks about the way in which he approached them, “not with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I was determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” This is someone who desperately wanted to carry the glory of God to this body of believers no matter what it cost him personally. He wanted the believers’ faith to rest “not on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God”. He talks about how the wisdom of God is wrapped in mystery, and that we learn life in the Supernatural only through the Holy Spirit, and only to the extent that we release our hold on our natural mind. In the event that we miss the point here, he reiterates it in Ephesians.
“…if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” Eph 4:17-24
If I’ve kept a journal about my life, and I have for more years than I even know, with entries as often as I can. Something that surprises me when I look back through the weeks and months is the realization that I’ve not recorded major events, major decisions, etc. There’s simply no way I can record everything. I can only put words to paper, and even inspired words, cannot always capture everything about the essence of my LIFE. In the same way, this walking in the deep waters of the Spirit is about deciding to live LIFE in the Spirit, to not insist that it go the way that I think it should go, to not quarrel when it feels uncomfortable, to simply go back to the Father, in the quietness of my personal times with Him, and to wrestle through my questions there.
Everything about the Supernatural is foolishness to man’s way of thinking. There simply isn’t a line and verse for everything about life in the Spirit. It’s almost a guarantee that everything about going into the deeper things of the Spirit will go against everything you’ve assumed about God, and how this journey is supposed to go. Yet, you don’t have to go. The main thing that I want to convey is that this bit about choosing to live life in the Deep water of the Spirit is just that, a choice.
I offer what I know from my own experience. I’m still learning to swim in the deep. Sometimes I lose heart and slip back to the shallows but it’s not long until I’m out in the deep, learning to rest in the Father even though the water is over my head, and I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s 100% relational. In 1 Timothy, Paul called Timothy his “son” over and over. It’s completely about choices. You don’t have to do this but once you decide to pursue this kind of a life, you make commitments with people and they take you at your word and you stay with it. You have to find someone that can lead you into this lifestyle. It may not be in the circles in which you currently gather. You may have to search for someone with whom you have a connection, someone you can grow from. It might be in a house church but it may also be in the traditional church. Hebrews 13:7 says, “Remember those who led you, who spoke the Word of God to you, and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.” They won’t come and find you. You must find them. Then you need to make a decision about their role in your life. There is nothing wrong with simply being friends. Or you can turn it into a learning relationship. Then you need to decide to respect their authority as a leader in your life and actually let them lead you. This might go on for a year or so, but there will come a time when you shift out of that relationship, by your choosing, and move into another growing relationship. Don’t run, though. That friend will stretch you, and you will be uncomfortable. But be intentional.
We have friends with whom we have been meeting as a house church, and they have modeled so many things about the supernatural lifestyle; they have modeled hearing from the Father, deliverance and freedom, healing prayer, prophetic blessings…so many things. Now we’re at a crossroads where each of us needs to make a decision about whether to go forward with Father into that deep supernatural lifestyle, or to stay in the shallow swim area. Both in Scripture, and in our own lives, we can see that the Lord frequently has us choose what it is we really want, and whom we will serve. You may decide that your current fellowship can’t take you there, or that you are not ready. But honestly? Find someone. Find a place where you are going to grow, and then be “all there”. Set your phones and computers aside. Maintain eye contact and really commit yourself to sharing your lives together.
Once this choice is made, to grow in the deep things of the Spirit, there will be more than one person who will influence you. But allow yourself to become committed to just one person for now. Grow with them. Be humble and become a Timothy to them. Timothy came along beside Paul and learned from him. He was not worried about his reputation. He actually encouraged Paul a great deal. And Paul recognized him as his son, and sent him to cities on his own, in his place. What an honor! I have done this many times in my life. I’ve recognized that a woman has a bit more maturity in the Spirit than I do, and built a relationship with her. I’ve taken the time to encourage her, to learn from her. I’ve cooked and cleaned many houses as a way of just spending time with another woman. This stuff is caught not taught.
I think of a baby bird sitting in its nest, demanding that the worm that is brought to him be just so juicy, about so long, and be brought to him on-time. Well, that’s a pretty safe place in the nest. We can be the very same way, insisting that the things of the Spirit be “just-so”, and that everything fits into my paradigm of how it should go. The Kingdom of God is truly an upside down kingdom. I guarantee that you will offend and be offended over many things until you begin to swim in the Deeps, trusting the Father.
Even if you don’t enter into a mentoring relationship with someone, please know that the way to really grow and bear fruit in life is to become connected with another person. The Bible demonstrates both mentoring relationships as well as covenant relationships. These are relationships where one person says, “I’m with you for the duration of the journey. I am committed to your success in your journey with the Father. I want to be there to encourage you, through thick and thin.” The world has nothing on this. It’s not something where you assume that they “feel close to you” and you “feel close to them”. Real community in the Spirit is verbalized by you, not by those who lead you … “We are in this together. I want to learn. I’m going to listen with an open heart. I’m not going to be like that baby bird making demands.”
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.” – C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
The Oxford Dictionary defines the word tryst as “a private, romantic rendezvous between lovers.” It further states that ‘tryst’ comes from the Latin word trista, ‘an appointed place in hunting’.
An appointed place in hunting…I like that.
So much of life’s journey has been filled with uncertainty, survival, longing, searching for, and choosing the narrow gate of life.
There have been a few occasions when my life has spiraled out of control, in terms of the demands it made on me. During those times I would say that I had lost sight of who I was, and what was really important. I would find that I had not kept tryst with myself. Perhaps I kept the same routine and relationships, but I know that I had lost my footing. My ability to be at rest.
It seems like my best work, whether through employment or in the home, is directly rooted in a place that might be called a tryst, or even a sabbath. There must be a time and place where my creative energies are renewed, and I am allowed to simply be. I could venture into the spiritual aspects of this place but its deeper than just a quiet time alone with God. God is absolutely in the midst of a sabbath. He created it. But abiding in this place is more about my willingness to release all of the demands on my time and attention….my willingness to lose my identity in all of the externals, and retreat to that quiet place within.
As a follower of Christ, at times I have leapt to the erroneous conclusion that if I spent too much time in that place with self, I would become self-centered, or (gasp) “New Age-y”, and depart from the ways of God. The truth is that if I pause there, I might discover that my religious veneer is pulled away, and the gritty substance of my self glaringly evident. What if my networking and e-connecting has resulted in poverty of self? Avoidance prevents disappointment. Sometimes we convince ourselves that we’ll never lose our way if only we maintain a religious routine of prayer with God, and reading Scripture. It’s really our religious answer for the problem of substance.
C.S. Lewis, in his book, Letters to Malcom: Chiefly on Prayer, says
“What seem our worst prayers may really be, in God’s eyes, our best. Those, I mean, which are least supported by devotional feeling. For these may come from a deeper level than feeling. God sometimes seems to speak to us most intimately when he catches us, as it were, off our guard.”
A deeper level than feeling…God seems to enjoy the “off guard” me. This comes through when I push away the veil of life’s superficial demands, and simply sit. In this window of time I can come to terms with who I am, my circumstances, and the possibilities. The cry for intimacy that God has placed within me is stirred, if I let it. I naturally cry out to Him in the stillness, renewed in the knowledge that nothing else fulfills me and no one else knows me like He does. It’s here that I exchange ashes for beauty, and poverty for joy. I become a wellspring of life for those around me.
There is no substitute for keeping tryst…
What is it about the rain that it seems to wash my soul, along with the landscape? It rains and I’m suddenly motivated to clean and organize and set things right. The Vibrunum in the front yard received an extensive haircut but I managed to hold off on the Hydrangeas that have refused to bloom in two years. I adore Hydrangeas. Obviously we’re not getting on well, however, and the rain makes me decisive. They need to go.
If I blame the rain for this piercing sense of direction, what is it that keeps hope alive? My experiences and memories as I trip-trop through life fan the flame….and bring desire for tomorrow. This collection of sensations and perceptions are stored far from my loping shears. Imagine if I went foraging through my soul with this same kind of tenacity – snip, snap, snipping away at this precious pile of moments. You see, the courage for the days and weeks to come is fueled by knowing that I am loved, seeing my breakthroughs in the past, believing I am safe….free to fail.
Hope fuels courage.
Hope’s flames are fanned in the smallest furnaces. I’ve been hearing a woodpecker in my yard. I suspect that he was responsible for drilling the substantial hole in the bird feeder. But I was fond of his contribution, nonetheless. He makes me smile as he rat-a-tat-tats. The poppies I’ve recently planted are just beginning to come up. Soon they’ll swish their fancy skirts in the breeze. I caught a glimpse of a robin yanking a worm from the ground …half its bird-weight in worm! What a catch! Seriously now, that’s akin to finding a pair of lovely heels on sale! Or arriving early for a library book sale.
Hope. It’s not joy. It’s hope. It’s the visceral belief, a sub-conscious knowing, that my contribution matters.
Yours does too.