Revelation for a New Wineskin
There is something valuable and precious about learning to live in the moment. Of becoming aware of not only our physical surroundings but the spiritual realities taking place in our everyday lives. Of walking with our feet on this earth while attuned to the greater reality that we are seated with God in heavenly places. These days of great challenge and greater opportunity in which we live are awakening us to our dual citizenship and the authority we carry in Jesus’ name.
For me, it began in Washington, D.C., of all places, as I was stranded in the airport, having missed my connecting flight to Dublin, earlier this year. It was 1o’clock in the morning. Hundreds of passengers were stranded along with me; no one seemed to be in charge or know what to do; chaos and anger were building by the moment in what seemed to be aptly named a terminal. I started out my trip in Denver, acutely aware that what I was seeing was not all that was happening, that what was happening was on a surface level; a sign of a deeper spiritual reality.
Meeting Mauro was perhaps the most significant part of the journey. A young man in his early 40’s, I suspected from the moment I met him that he was, in fact, an angel. He and I laughed our way through a ridiculous set of events until eventually, he went one way and I, another. I felt safe and protected from the moment we met, though from outward appearances we were a most unlikely team. Throughout these strange hours in the airport, I was very much in the moment and at the same time, aware of being seated with Christ in heaven, looking down on what was happening, seeing from a higher perspective.
Part of what caught my attention from the start is the fact that the person God sent to help me was a young man and in this age group. In the past months, the Lord has brought numerous young men in their late 30’s – early 40’s into my life, each one making an impact in their own way. So, Jim and I have been asking God what He is up to with all these young men?
I’d been home a few weeks when I encountered two young men at a grocery store, here in our hometown. Once again, there was a deep awareness that the atmosphere felt as it had in D.C., in terms of both being in the moment and outside of it. It happened as I came upon an elderly lady who had fallen on the cement by
the shopping carts, outside of the store. I was standing guard to keep people away from the area until the ambulance arrived, when two young men walked up. They stopped to ask if everything was ok: if I was ok and needed help: if they could do anything. What caught me was not only their kindness but the fact that they asked if I was ok. They perhaps thought I was the lady’s friend or family member. If I believed the current narrative in the news, I would have been thinking how scary and horrible and untrustworthy young men are, yet once again, I was encountering just the opposite. When I assured them all was taken care of, they went ahead in to the store, but not before asking a second time if I was truly safe and well. I longed to follow them and ask if we could have a coffee together, just to hear their stories.
I went to my car to compose myself as I was feeling a bit shaken up and quite emotional, not by the woman who had fallen: she was being well cared for by the first responders. I was shaken by my heart’s reaction and response to these two young men. I sat in my car and cried with a compassion toward this generation of young people, young men especially. Once I was composed, I began to drive home. As I sat there processing what had just transpired, I’d been asking the Lord what this is all about. Why all these young men in my life, suddenly? Why the compassion and care for them that is obviously from Him? As I drove, I heard God’s clear answer, powerful and sure, spoken to my heart in a whisper: “This is Ben’s seed.”
For the first time I knew that I knew that I knew that God has accepted my offering, given over a lifetime. What I have given Him through intercession and action has been pleasing. So, I want to encourage you as well, that in every way you have paid a price, given your time, energy, money and heart in intercession and action to reach others with His love, God has seen. He has heard. He is bringing His reward. I encourage you to take time to ask Him how He feels about, how He sees your offering. Even when the results we see with our eyes are not the results for which we longed, God sees from His own perspective and delights in how we love one another.
Far too much to tell here, Benjamin was a young Chinese man we adopted into our family while living in China years ago. I was teaching on a college campus, and he
and two of his roommates would come over to our house every Thursday night. We had a little toaster oven: the Chinese don’t use ovens, but they found these for all the foreigners. Those of us from ‘outside’ nations were required to live in the same stairwell as this made it easier for the local authorities to listen in and keep track of us. So, on Thursdays, everyone would bring their little oven to our house: this gave us the ability to make enough pizza for our family as well as these three young men. They’d never had pizza or a lettuce salad: I would spend all day Thursday getting the banquet ready. Our standing date was for them to come over, eat pizza and watch movies or play games. This particular night was the night Ben gave his heart to the Lord.
As I was standing in the kitchen preparing, the Lord asked me, “Would you lay down your life for your children?” Shocked, I replied, “Lord, you know I would lay down my life for my children.” Then He asked, “Would you lay down your life for Ben?” And I hit the deck. When God asks you if you’re willing to give your life for someone and you’re in China, you don’t take that lightly. I was on my face on the floor, undone, as I wrestled with my answer.
Eventually I stood back up and said, “Lord, yes, I would. If that’s what it would take for Ben to know you and spend eternity in Your presence, yes, I would give my life for him.” The heavenly response was, “You don’t have to, I already did. But I wanted you to know that I know – this one you did not birth from your womb, but you have birthed him from your heart through your tears and years of intercession for this land.” Within weeks, all three of these young men accepted Jesus and took on our last name as their own.
Understanding Begins to Awaken
Each generation has a unique call, placed like a banner, a marker, a signpost in the vastness of time. Within that generation, the Lord calls out those who will follow Him and forever, His grace is spacious and encompassing enough for all who trip and fall along the way. (Aren’t you glad?) You see, Ben’s story didn’t end the way any of us expected it to, including himself. Highly gifted, remarkably talented, Ben was not content to be a middle school teacher in his home village, despite this being what every one of his classmates was destined by the government to do, and what they are doing. Benjamin left the village for the big city, and the choices available to him there gave space, granted not only permission but celebration of
his gift of multiple languages, his beautiful singing voice, his feet that were created to dance. Ben found acceptance, but at a huge price, and five years ago, Benjamin died of AIDS.
We know Ben’s story. We know his background, his family of origin, and enough of his parent’s story to know there was more pain than comfort, more confusion than answers, more death than life throughout the days of the Cultural Revolution. We are/I am not excusing Ben’s poor choices nor am I saying I condone or accept as right the lifestyle choices that he made. But Ben’s life as well as his death at age 40 touched that deep part of my heart from which I also birthed him into the Kingdom, and I know that he was forgiven and welcomed into the Father’s embrace when he stepped across the veil into eternity. I also know I cannot judge an entire generation – more than one generation, all across the globe – as I would have with my religious ideals intact, pre-Benjamin. So, the question arises: how do I/we reach those with whom we have such opposing views on something so deeply personal, so rooted in the longing to be seen and known, accepted and loved? I need something more than words.
In the midst of all this, I had a phone conversation with my pastor, Ryan. A throw away line he said stuck with me when he talked about the church needing to become ‘boutique-esque.’ As he so poignantly expressed it, the church must now shift and change from being like Wal-Mart or Best Buy. ‘We are big. We are flashy. We have all the new stuff; what do you want? Just take what you want, and we’ll see you next time you come in.’ Ryan is bravely changing the way his very successful church functions and operates, to create a new wineskin. This is the only way we can hold and steward the New Wine.
I began pondering that word, boutique. I decided to look up the definition, to find that, as expected, it means a small shop or specialty department within a larger store, offering customized services or products. ‘Boutique’ is the French rendition of the word and from them we have our concept and understanding of what a boutique is and what to expect there. While that is exactly what Pastor Ryan is called to do, it didn’t seem to fit – it wasn’t Bespoke – for what we are called to do. I looked up the root meaning of boutique, which is Bottega.
Bottega comes from Italian, and means, a shop. But the deeper definition is:
– the studio of a master artist, in which lesser artists, apprentices, or students learn by participating in the work.
YES!!! Yes, yes, yes. This is it. This is where we are headed. This is part of the storehouse, part of the answer and understanding of what we as The Jericho 500 are called to do and be.
A boutique speaks of femininity and feminine beauty and vanity. Bottega speaks of creative expression. It must have enough of the feminine to appeal but enough of the masculine to call forth destinies and true identities of both men and women, of all ages. Safe in Father’s house – the Bottega. This is the storehouse of which I’ve been prophesying and speaking for years. We have a name – and we will create Bespoke Bottegas in the nations. In our cities. In buildings fashioned just for this, and in our own homes. I’ve never been crazy about the term ‘storehouse’, but it was the only language I had. The issue is, ‘storehouse’ can sound like we are going to develop storage centers where people will bring shopping bags and fill them with supplies, not unlike a food bank. While that may indeed be part of it, at least in some areas, this language and concept of Bottega more fully describes and defines what my heart has held for nearly a decade.
Many of this generation(s) are not interested in going to ‘church’ or being part of ‘my ministry’; these are flash words that are not working. BUT, people will go to a Bottega where their creative gifts and expressions can be lived out and celebrated over a cup of coffee.
This will look different every place it happens. It will truly be bespoke, that is, custom made and designed for where it is happening.
THEN, I saw this entire generation – including those embracing the LGBTQ lifestyle, so many of whom are superbly creative, being given a space and an opportunity to come back into freedom as they experience the presence and reality of a Father who loves them, in whose heart they belong. Of course, this is for all, not just those in these lifestyles, but to date we’ve not had a vision for how to reach the Benjamin’s of this world, with true belonging in God’s heart.
THEN, the Lord whispered to me, “Remember Zechariah?” I saw that homosexuality is one of the horns spoken of in Zechariah, a strong-hold that comes against the people of God. (As you will recall, our call to creativity and craftsmanship comes from Zechariah 1 and 2). This stronghold denies and defies the very foundation and principles of Genesis creation and procreation. Its acceptance has spread like wildfire across the nations of the earth in a very
short time. It is the CREATIVES, the CRAFTSMEN that are so often drawn into this lifestyle, as it provides them an acceptance and belonging they have not found elsewhere. And it is the CREATIVES, the CRAFTSMEN in Zechariah that
take down the horns! So, by developing Bottegas, studios where participation in the creativity required to provide housing, food, shelter; where the expressions of the heart in painting, poetry, music, cooking, woodworking, mathematics and science, auto repair, etc. are all expressed – THIS IS PART OF GOD’S STRATEGY FOR TAKING DOWN THIS HORN.
What It All Means
We do not know the ins and outs, the particulars and practical applications of all of this, but we are so grateful for new levels and depths of understanding as we move forward. Will we literally name what we do ‘Bottega’s’? I don’t know and frankly, that, to me is not the point right now. God is so faithful to give us a road map when we need one, – having language is HUGE to me! – and an invitation to follow Him in great faith and courage as we walk each day. Each one of us in this ‘school of fish’ will be called upon to share the revelation we are given, to offer our time and energy to train others in what we know how to do, to be a listener and an open heart to welcome each one who comes to our bottegas, wherever they are and however they look.
We will create and be creative in how we reach a lost generation. We will preach the Gospel at all times and, when necessary, we will use words. (Thanks, St. Francis.) One beautiful thing about all of this is that EACH ONE OF US has something to share, to give. We tend to think we don’t have anything to offer if we aren’t doing something as a profession and getting paid for it. The remarkable thing about this is that whatever you do, whoever you are, there is room, space, and need for you in the Bespoke Bottegas that are coming.
Let’s go! Let’s pray. Let’s believe. Let’s give God our “YES!” and watch Him do what only He can, through us – the people He has prepared over decades of walking with Him and learning His ways. For such a time as this, we can all say, “such as I have, give I thee.” As we do so, we will begin to disciple nations and see them heal.