Silence can feel like rejection and abandonment. This, however, is a lie. This observation is fueled by thoughts that have no intention for your good. It stems from a mindset that says your self-worth is based on constant outward affirmation of a very specific kind. But what if silence itself is an affirmation?

What if silence is actually a space of reverence and awe about who you are? What if silence is an opportunity to refresh yourself in the Presence of the Lord? What if silence is actually a potent weapon against shame?

What if silence is the soil of personal growth? What if silence is the fresh air after a storm? What if silence is the best, most hopeful experience you’ve ever had?

What if silence is the very whisper of God saying, “I love you”? Anything can happen in a space of silence. You can tell yourself any story you wish. You can make some of the most important and influential decisions while engaging in silence, whether or not you sought out that silence. Sometimes you crave it, sometimes you are force-fed it, but you can always benefit from it.

The key is to sanctify the silence. Use it to set yourself apart from the commotion of other moments and rededicate yourself to your mission, your purpose, your identity. Make it your manifesto of self-directed grace. Make it your statement of trust in the Hand of Providence.

When used in this way, when viewed from this position, any sense of shame is subverted because no longer is the experience a result of what you are not, but a gift in honor of what you are and what you will be. Silence is the breath of life—make sure you remember to come up for air every now and again.

Full disclosure: I am a big fan of figurative, symbolic, and hidden meanings. I find them life-giving and full of adventure. I feel like they deepen my appreciation and enjoyment of life. It should then come as no surprise that I feel overlooked and misunderstood by anyone who insists that figures and symbols are somehow less “real” than literal material things. It can sometimes feel like a full on assault on my worldview. The invisible realm has often been more “real” to me than the visible.

I think what I love most about symbols is that they require intentionality. Symbols are deeply linked to meaning because they require someone to purposefully endow them with a message, and they require others to purposefully seek to understand that message. Many times in the process of discovering that message, we end up adding our own message to that symbol and rather than becoming a contradiction, the symbol becomes a conglomerate. Somewhere in the midst of imparting and inferring messages, we become filled with meaning. Everything about symbols comes back and boils down to intentionality.

I fully suspect it’s the nature of intention to develop symbols. Intention tends to operate against the flow of entropy. It is something that concentrates resources rather than spreading them out. It operates with a purpose, toward a goal of building something up rather than tearing down or ceasing activity. Intention results in something that would not naturally occur but that demonstrates the invisible qualities of consciousness with brilliant creativity and rationality.

One of the most beautiful things about intention is that it can be felt. It might even be primarily perceived through feeling. Intentionality can harness the best that mental prowess can offer and utilize it toward expressing the most core fulfilling desires of the heart. Intentionality is the marriage of the heart and the head and symbols are the fruit of that marriage. And you can feel the intention that gave birth to a symbol. You can recognize purpose and affection and kindness. You can feel meaning oozing out of its very existence.

So I guess all I’m really trying to say is that intentionality changes everything. It always makes things more meaningful than they were before. Additionally, symbols are not mere coincidences. Figures and hidden meanings are not worthless intellectual pursuits. Their end goal is not to assert the dominance of the intellect but to draw your whole being into the experience of life and to discover equilibrium between the pinnacle of critical thought and the fullness of delight. As you can tell, I really like symbols and I intend to continue enjoying them.

Originally posted on The Way CA blog at https://thewayca.wordpress.com/2017/05/17/set-apart-to-the-dance/. Be sure to visit and check out some of my friend Ben’s material there as well!

Ever heard of the word sanctification? It’s a big fancy word that basically means “set apart.” Many people also explain that it’s an idea of being set apart from one thing and set apart to another. This is the essence of the term “holiness.” After all is said and done, I like to say that sanctification is a dance made complete by our participation.

“The Dance” of sanctification is never done. It was never intended to be either. The Dance isn’t measured by how far along you are, but by whether or not you’re willing to dance. It’s less like a letter grade on an exam and more like a pass/fail sort of thing, and if you’re willing to dance, you’re passing.

The Dance is between you and Jesus and if you’re not willing to participate, the Dance isn’t happening, it’s not complete, it’s not perfect. We may have our internal struggles about how the Dance takes place and we might even trip while trying to execute the moves. There will always be a process of maturing and that’s okay. However, while there is a process of maturing in our ability to dance, actually Dancing is not that process.

The Dance is all about living fully present with the Spirit of God inside of us convicting us, teaching us, comforting us, wooing us. It’s about messing up and repenting, matching our steps up with His to jump back in. It’s the experience of God’s holiness in us and our agreement to express His holiness through us. It’s about our willingness to say “yes” rather than our capacity to sustain it.

We can never arrive at a place where God no longer needs to sanctify us because sanctification isn’t something that you can build and then leave alone to remain in tact. It’s something that exists or emerges by nature of being in the presence and service of another. What’s maybe even more important however is that God can’t help but sanctify the people He hangs around. It’s His nature to sanctify.

Let’s take a look at one of my favorite verses, Hebrews 10:14:

  • “For by one offering he has perfected for all time those who are made holy.” (NET)
  • “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” (NASB)
  • “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (ESV)

There’s a LOT we could talk about in this verse, but I just want to look at the end, the part on sanctification. Rather than jump through a bunch of intellectual hoops (which we definitely could) I want to take a linguistic shortcut and rewrite this verse by putting the verb at the end into the active voice: “For by one offering he has perfected for all time those He has made and is making holy.”

By re-writing the verse this way, it’s a lot clearer that this verse is making a beautiful statement about God being a God who sanctifies. Holiness is a continual experience because God has been and still is involved in it. His nature is unchanging because He has sanctified before and still sanctifies today.

Is God making you holy right now? If so, that’s good news because this verse says that anyone who is being made holy is covered by Jesus’ sacrifice. Anyone who is learning the steps of the Dance, participating in the never-ending movement and growth, is perfect in God’s eyes.

One of the most beautiful aspects of this to me is that the moment of “now” is always a new moment which we have to sanctify with God. According to the eyes of experience, the present moment is always a new moment that is filled with God’s sanctifying presence because of His Spirit in us. If He were to ever change, then there could potentially be a moment in the future where we would no longer be sanctified; but because He never changes, we are always sanctified.

As I said earlier, the entry price of Dance itself is not about our process of growth but our willingness to say “yes.” It is an ongoing experience of the result of something that is fully complete. In Hebrews 10:14, we read that the finished work of Jesus on the cross defines everyone who says “yes.” Jesus’ sacrifice was the creation of this Dance and it continually flavors our relationship with perfect love. As we Dance through different seasons of life, we experience how holiness reacts with and shapes different parts of our lives that weren’t touched by the Dance before. We begin to say “yes” with every inch of our hearts and come into a perfect awareness of our already perfect reality.

Thankfully, a “perfect reality” doesn’t mean that we never mess up, but that we stay in connection with the Holy Spirit through thick and thin. It’s about our ability to participate rather than the level of our participation. It means that we keep our gaze focused on the fact that at all times and in every way it’s all about Jesus.

I leave you now with this summarizing thought from the brilliant Graham Cooke:

Today, I want to build on an idea I’ve previously journaled on but not shared publicly: reputation is the essence of the flesh.

I’m referring to the “flesh” talked about in the New Testament. In most places where Paul talks about the flesh versus the spirit, you can understand him to be referring to one’s reputation, not the physical body.

In Galatians 5, Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit: 9 positive characteristics that demonstrate together the manifestation of the Spirit in your life. Since we know that the Spirit is opposed to the flesh, it is a given that the fruit of the flesh, of reputation, is a negative contrast to these qualities.

As I was thinking about this idea one day, my mind jumped to the book of Ecclesiastes. That whole book is a great example of the reasoning of the natural mind, whose origins of thought are based in the land of reputation.

The portion in chapter 3 about there being a time for everything is often interpreted as a balanced view of life, pairing things that have positive associations with things that have negative associations. I think that this section is an example of allowing disappointment to convince you that the mindset of the spirit is imbalanced by itself (big lie!).

Look at how easily you can divide the list in verses 1-8 into competing perspectives between the spirit and the flesh (positive versus negative).

The Spirit:

  1. A time to be born
  2. A time to plant
  3. A time to heal
  4. A time to build up
  5. A time to laugh
  6. A time to gather stones
  7. A time to embrace
  8. A time to search
  9. A time to keep
  10. A time to sew together
  11. A time to speak
  12. A time to love
  13. A time for peace

The Flesh:

  1. A time to die
  2. A time to uproot what’s planted
  3. A time to kill
  4. A time to tear down
  5. A time to weep
  6. A time to throw stones
  7. A time to shun embracing
  8. A time to give up as lost
  9. A time to throw away
  10. A time to tear apart
  11. A time to be silent
  12. A time to hate
  13. A time for war

I’m convinced that the Spirit doesn’t ignore any parts of life or try to sweep them under the rug. However, I think that we often lack knowledge and understanding of God’s intentions about the circumstances we encounter and allow our desire for meaning to give the flesh permission to tutor us on how to interpret the things we don’t understand so that we don’t have to wrestle with mystery.

I believe that this list in Ecclesiastes is excellent raw material for us to reframe the reasoning of the flesh into ideas that give insight and hope into the work of the Spirit based on the knowledge that His intentions are good and are for us rather than against us. Here is my reframing of the negative ideas in verses 1-8:

Mystery reframed:

  1. A time to be born again
  2. A time to make room for more planting
  3. A time to destroy what keeps you from healing
  4. A time to clear the way for stronger foundations or improvements
  5. A time to release what keeps you from the laughter of joy
  6. A time to help others gather
  7. A time to embrace your independence
  8. A time to discover new meaning or value
  9. A time to prioritize freshness
  10. A time to repurpose and recycle
  11. A time to speak in a different medium
  12. A time to focus your love (deep love of one thing is often perceived as hate of another)
  13. A time to defend healthy boundaries which are the pillars of peace

All negatives in life are really misunderstood positives. The flesh seeks to clarify what we don’t understand according to the assumption that anything hurtful or extreme is probably intended to hurt us. However, the spirit affords us the opportunity to rework our assumptions about these circumstances from the intimate knowledge that God is love and intends to bless us by working all things together for good. Negatives develop from ignorance and short-sightedness; but positives emerge from long-term vision and intimacy with God.

Yep, I feel like God was using the movies recently to prophesy His intentions for us in 2017. Specifically, the new Rogue One Star Wars movie had wave after wave of Presence on various aspects in the plot. Here’s what I believe God wants us to know, cling to, and rejoice in this year, as conveyed through a movie!

* God is breaking in suddenly and setting free people who have gone through trauma or deep loss in their childhood. This will be a turning point where these people will begin to see how God is working things together for good to redeem their story.

* If you are one of these people who suffered trauma or deep loss as a child, you have the ability to give hope to those who are in the midst of suffering now. Your willingness to engage with society and fight on behalf of the oppressed will ignite hope within others that reaches far beyond your direct sphere of influence and outlives you for years to come. In other words, your choice to hope in spite of your past will empower others to choose hope in spite of their present.

* People in authority may not listen to your words, but people of influence will be drawn to your lifestyle and the people of authority will follow what you initiate among the people of influence.

* This is a time for you to be true to yourself, know your story, and not apologize for who you are – wounds and all. Your honesty about what’s going on inside of you will allow trust to flow both ways in your relationships with others.

* In the midst of this season, God wants to get a message across to you: He loves you as a Father, not a day goes by that He doesn’t think about you, and He has always had your best interests in mind.

Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.

Romans 12:14 (NLT)

I remember watching a video not too long ago of a police officer dragging a black girl out of her school desk and not knowing what story about the context to believe. I also remember feeling a strong sense of anger emanating from the student and from the officer. It marked the first moment of my awareness of the deeper issues we’re now facing today.

As a white male millennial, there are a lot of things you could assume about me. There are certain areas of life where I have experienced “white privilege” (if you call a lack of discrimination and being evenly and fairly considered among many options to be a “privilege”) and others where I’ve felt discriminated against. I’ve been discriminated against because of my height, my age, my beliefs, my poor financial status… usually not my race, but that doesn’t make the discrimination any less real.

All I know is that holding on to anger would have kept me stuck in a mess of insecurity, a mental and emotional prison, an unhealthy and stunted worldview. It’s for this reason that I want to share specific areas that I have chosen to forgive others so that I can be free to enjoy life and spread joy to others. These things I’m about to share may be real problems or they may be merely perceived by me. Either way, these are negative beliefs and experiences that I refuse to hold on to and I will also share areas where I am choosing to bless instead. This is what taking action on the issues of the day looks like for me. Maybe there will be another step after this, I don’t know. For now, let’s begin:

I Forgive White People

  • I FORGIVE any and all white people for knowingly or unknowingly exercising any level of privilege, real or imaginary, at the expense of other human beings instead of on the behalf of others
  • I FORGIVE any and all white people who deny that racism still exists today for not seeking to understand the world they live in and for not actively seeking to help those who are hurting
  • I FORGIVE any and all white people for any real or perceived attempts to drown out the voices reminding us that black lives matter by creating a cacophony of “all lives matter”
  • I FORGIVE any and all white people for being unnecessarily reactionary and unskillful in dealing with conflict and exercising humility

I Forgive Black People

  • I FORGIVE any and all black people who knowingly or unknowingly hold on to anger against white people for refusing to forgive me for the injustices of the past and present, and any injustices yet to happen, intended or unintended
  • I FORGIVE any and all black people who rail against all white people as being ‘privileged’ for not realizing that privilege doesn’t necessarily come to you because you are white but because you are affluent and for making unfair generalizations about me
  • I FORGIVE any and all black people who are equally as stubborn and naive as white people for not taking the time to walk a mile in my shoes and still have the audacity to point a finger of accusation

I Forgive Police Officers

  • I FORGIVE any and all police officers who have consciously or unconsciously allowed their prejudices to influence the way they treat black people in a manner that differs from the way they treat white people for not actively uprooting their unhealthy world views and presenting the best version of themselves possible

I Forgive The American Church

  • I FORGIVE the church for not always setting the best example of how to love people across generational and racial lines and for often serving to help divide rather than restore society
  • I FORGIVE the church for not emphasizing the necessity of forgiveness enough and demonstrating how to walk it out

I Forgive Angry and Defensive People

  • I FORGIVE any and all people who hate, argue, and disparage others for not listening to the heart cry of society today and for not being moved with compassion

BLESSINGS

I Bless White People

  • I BLESS white people with humility and joy so that they can discover the privilege and power of becoming the servants of all and establishing a standard of living that becomes other people’s floor rather than their ceiling
  • I BLESS white people with maturity and confidence to ask excellent questions and to become skilled listeners, especially when talking with people of unfamiliar backgrounds, upbringings, and persuasions
  • I BLESS white people with bravery to face criticism, however harsh, and still respond with love and honor

I Bless Black People

  • I BLESS black people with a double portion of grace and honor so that they can begin to rise up and initiate the greatest movement of healing and racial reconciliation the world has seen to date
  • I BLESS black people with abundant peace so that they can rest in the assurance that God doesn’t show partiality and His vindication is strong and complete
  • I BLESS black people with unquenchable endurance, an indomitable spirit, so that the world will know that the One who breathes life into mankind is powerful enough to sustain the people He loves

I Bless Police Officers

  • I BLESS police officers with the wisdom, strength, and love they need to serve and protect our citizens with dignity, honor, and respect
  • I BLESS police officers with insight to recognize situations and circumstances where they could be harboring potentially compromising beliefs
  • I BLESS police officers with divine action strategies to pursue personal development and foster goodwill in their communities

I Bless The American Church

  • I BLESS the church with an irresistible pull of the Spirit to make Jesus the starting and ending point of their conversations so that unity becomes the norm rather than the exception and so that they can lead the world as a light of hope in the midst of the darkness of division

I Bless All People

  • I BLESS humanity with the realization of the love of Christ, and the wisdom and understanding to apply it in everyday life
  • I BLESS humanity with heavenly keys to conflict so that people from all walks of life will be able to accurately express who they are and what they’re feeling and so that those listening will know how to interpret what they hear and understand things as they are intended and not as a different worldview or belief system may cause them to falsely appear

I’m not waiting for another opportunity. I am not waiting for a chance to make it big in life, strike it rich, or become famous. The truth is that I am famous to God. Being known and adored by God is the most elevated position in the universe. I’m already at the pinnacle of success, fame, and wealth. I am now free to pursue everything I do without a worry in the world because I’m not looking for personal gain, I’m looking to share the wealth.

Jesus Christ does not give me opportunities—He is my opportunity. He gives me permission to live abandoned to His care, to build healthy relationships simply because I enjoy it, to demonstrate to others that they’re worth my time because I am worth God’s time and now I have all the time in the world. I’m not worried about my next paycheck, finding a place to live, or having the right friends/network/connections. I’m motivated to find the people who don’t know who they are, the people lost in the negativity of the enemy, and share the abundant wealth of joy, fellowship, and provision in my life.

The truth about me is that God accepts me. I know this because I have joy. Since God accepts me, my main goal in relationships is to accept other people and demonstrate their value by listening to their stories, celebrating their victories, and plotting ways to bless them. I am looking for people to accept, offenses to forgive, and kindnesses to celebrate. This is who I am because Jesus Christ exists—there is no downside whatsoever!