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The Prophecy of Declaration
* * *
"He spoke, and it was created."
Some time ago I was visiting friends in Albuquerque. Yvonne and I were sharing our morning tea when in stumbled Antonio, a usually gregarious and affectionate eight-year-old. He sullenly sat down at the table, pulled his cereal bowl close and began to eat. "Antonio," asked Yvonne, "can't you give Laurie a breakfast greeting?" "No," he said. "Why not?" she asked, beginning to get upset. He raised his head, looked at her with exasperation and cried, "I can't, Mom, because it's not morning in my throat yet."
How we laughed and laughed. I think, however, that Antonio's words are descriptive of many of us. We can't seem to give each other pleasant greetings because we feel "it's not morning in our throats yet."
This is a tragedy, because all of creation stems from the spoken word. "God said, Light be, and Light was." (Genesis 1:3)
Words are the building blocks of civilization. With words we enchant, entice, enthrall, entertain, and educate. (And that's just the e's!)
Jesus said we would be judged by our words, so they needed to be measured and weighed out carefully.
"But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgement. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." —Matthew 12:36
Yet we carelessly toss and jangle, unleash and release floods of words, many of them curses or complaints. Are we aware of what we're doing? I think not.
In J. Rodale's Synonym Finder, we find that "word" means term, name, expression, ideogram, symbol, sign. "Word" also stands for assurance, promise, pledge, warrant, guarantee, oath, vow. "Word" means news, tidings, report, notice, information, intelligence, command, directive, prescription, ordainment, rule, edict, mandate, charge, bidding. The phrase "word for word" means exact, precise, accurate, close, faithful, honest, strict, undeviating, explicit, express, unambiguous, unequivocal.
"He's as good as his word," is a compliment we don't hear often enough these days. People who realize that "word" means bond or pledge or command use words more carefully.
As I was writing this book I had an amusing incident occur which was perhaps sent to remind me of the importance of this chapter on words. I was at my home in Texas, talking with Dee Jones, my administrator, on the phone about the future direction of our company. I told her that I wanted us to be like a beehive—with lots of bees going out, dancing around the flowers gathering pollen, and then returning to the hive to help make honey. Dee said that was a very powerful image, and we talked about a few other items and then hung up the phone. I left to run some errands, and when I returned I noticed that a few bees had gathered around a lampshade in the living room. "How odd," I thought to myself as I carefully trapped them in jars and then set them free. When I awoke the next morning I heard a buzzing sound in the living room. "The yard man must have come early," I thought to myself as I groggily made my way toward the kitchen. I was not prepared for what awaited me. There, in the living room, were thousands of bees. They were swarming on the windows, the sofa, the coffee table, the fireplace. I hurriedly made my way through and called the exterminators, who said they couldn't come out until the following day. I then called Mom, who said, "Honey, make sure they aren't killer bees." "How does one know?" I asked. "Wait a minute—I'll look it up," she said as she retrieved one of her hundreds of reference books. "It says here that the only way to tell the difference between killer bees and regular bees is that killer bees have an extra membrane in their wings. Do you see any extra membranes?" she asked. "Extra as opposed to how many?" I asked. "This difference is usually only detectable under a microscope ..." she continued to read. There was a long pause. Then she said quietly, "Honey, run!" "Don't call me honey," I yelped as I made my way to a friend's house to await the pest control man. He came the next day and shook his head. "I've never seen anything quite like this," he said. "They must have thought the queen had moved in here. Looks like they came down through the fireplace." "Very funny, Lord," I thought to myself as I awaited the time when I could make my safe return.
You may think this story is an exaggerated example of the power of words to attract and create. I don't think so. That's why I don't let anyone curse around me. I truly believe that words are among the most powerful tools of the universe. Jesus thought so, too.
We are all constantly prophesying the future by the very words we speak. Is the future we are prophesying a positive one—or a negative one?
One of the root prefixes for "prophet" is "pro"—which is derived from Greek and Latin, with the meanings forward, advancement, movement. The second root of the word prophet comes from the Greek "phetes"—which means speaker. So the word "prophet" gives us the picture of a speaker who goes in front of someone in order to advance their movement.
One of the most important aspects of prophecy is that it must be spoken. Prophecy must be heard in order to be received. A renowned musical trainer was consulted by opera singers who, for some reason, could not hit particular notes within an octave, even though the notes fell well within their range. After conducting extensive tests on their vocal cords, the trainer decided to check their hearing. He discovered that the singers could not express notes they could not hear.
The same is true for us. I expect that many, if not most, of the men and women who have found themselves in prison today cannot express positive lives because they never heard the sound of one.
We are only now beginning to learn the power of sound to create, motivate, and destroy. Today militaries are spending millions of dollars to create weapons which emit high frequency blasts, blasts which are capable of destroying entire armies. As strange as that might sound, it has historical precedent. When the priests followed the instructions of God and blew on rams' horns while they circled the walls of Jericho, the walls came tumbling down. Some experts and archeologists claim to have found scientific evidence that the walls crumbled as the result of some mysterious vibration.
In the book of John we are told, "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us." (John 1:14)
I am convinced that the people we see walking around everyday are also "words become flesh." The question is whose words? Yours or mine? God's, their parents', or someone else's? Whose words are we fleshing out with our deeds and actions? And what will be the consequence of those words?
In some ways, prophecy is like a blue pan. Let me explain what I mean by that. When I first moved into my new home in Texas I drove past a neighbor's backyard and noticed a plastic white goose standing on the back porch. Chuckling to myself that at least it wasn't a plastic pink flamingo, I continued on my way. One day, however, I noticed that the neighbor had put out a small blue plastic pan of water for the goose to stand in. "This is getting ridiculous," I thought, and I drove up to the fence to take a closer look. Suddenly the plastic goose burst into hissing, flapping, charging life—and came running at me with full force. I beat a hasty retreat, marveling at how big that plastic goose really was.
Whenever I rode by after that, however, I couldn't help but notice that no matter where my neighbor placed that pan, the goose would always be sitting in it. It didn't seem to occur to the goose that there was a whole yard for it to explore. The small blue plastic pan was home. I began to wonder why my neighbor didn't get a larger pan for the goose, since it spent all its time there. For that matter, why not dig out a whole pond for it? Or even a swimming pool? There was no shortage of space in the yard. "Poor goose," I began to think as I drove by. "Confined to a small blue plastic pan in such a huge backyard."
Now I know that all prophecy is like that small blue pan of water, and we are like that big white goose. Human nature will always gravitate to a place it feels is "home," no matter how small or limiting that place might be. As prophets pour out their words, they are setting up blue plastic pans for us—sometimes big, often too small.
"You'll never amount to anything. You're going to end up in jail just like your father." There the goose will stand. "You're going to be a great leader some day. You will make your home among the mighty." And there, too, the goose will be, flapping its wings and swimming around the pool in comfort, feeling that this space is indeed home.
Prophecy pours out a form for us to fill.
And words are the tools of prophecy.
Careless words or overarching generalizations can become prophecies that haunt us. One woman said in a seminar recently that her parents had told her, "You can do anything you set your mind to." This woman said she has spent her life going from one endeavor to another, flailing about seeking the career that was right for her. When I began to ask people in my seminars what some negative prophecies were that they had received from their families, a surpising number said that being told "you can do anything" had actually put a great deal of pressure on them, delivering a shroud of anxiety rather than a mantle of comfort. I am reminded of the Peanuts cartoon where Charlie Brown is walking around with his head down. When Schroeder asks him what the matter is, Charlie Brown sighs. "There is no greater burden than having `potential.'"
Well-meaning generalizations are not enough to qualify as a true prophecy, if they set the person adrift in a sea of possibilities with no compass and no support.
Not to speak is to shout. Not to prophesy is to prophesy. One of the more touching stories I have heard in my seminars is that of a man who has suffered most of his life with uncertainty. When I asked him if he remembered his parents telling him anything positive he said when he was a little boy his bedroom was located right next to the kitchen. After he had gone to bed he would sometimes hear his parents speaking about something his teacher or coach had said about him. "I remember pressing my ear up against the wall trying to discern exactly what was being said. I never could quite make it out though. The walls were too thick and my parents whispered. So I never knew if what had been said about me was good, or bad. That question seems to haunt me still." Perhaps his parents came from the school of thought that taught you shouldn't praise children because they might get a big head. How tragic that this man never heard a word of praise from those closest to him.
In the Path Training seminars I often ask people to write down what their parents' unfulfilled dreams were. Usually at least half of the group cannot articulate a dream that their mothers or fathers had which was even spoken or talked about. Not surprisingly, these people have the most challenging time when it comes to writing down their own dreams or visions for the future. By their parents not sharing with children their personal dreams, the subconscious message they are sending is "Dreams don't matter." Not to speak is to shout.
Words spoken casually as generalizations can become broadcasts, as well. One seminar participant shared with us that her mother used to go around muttering, "We're not from the best stock, you know." This woman grew up in Appalachia, and went on to get married, have kids, and work as a teacher's aide. When I asked her why she never went on to become a teacher she replied, "Hearing that we were not from the best stock made me afraid that no matter what I accomplished in life, someone would discover our family background and expose me. So, I have always kept a low profile and tried not to be noticed."
We live according to the words which have been declared for us, either consciously or subconsciously. Words are the prophecies which pull us, guide us, shape us into who we are to become.
The words we declare—for ourselves and for others—are prophecies.
1. Which tool is the most vital one for any prophet, and why?
2. Describe your personal "blue pan." What size and shape is it? What words make up its water?
3. Why is not speaking really speaking volumes?
4. Why must words be chosen and spoken so carefully, especially around children?
|Section I Types of Prophecy|
|Learning to Recognize the Forms Prophecy May Take||1|
|The Prophecy of Declaration||3|
|The Prophecy of Names||13|
|The Prophecy of Defeat||25|
|The Prophecy of Desire||37|
|The Prophecy of Expectation||47|
|The Prophecy of Culture||57|
|The Prophecy of Protest||65|
|The Prophecy of Play||77|
|Negative Prophecies and How to Overcome Them||103|
|Section II Sources of Prophecy|
|Learning to Recognize the Messengers||125|
|The Prophecy of Family||127|
|The Prophecy of Friends and Strangers||149|
|The Prophecy of Professionals||163|
|The Prophecy of Angels||173|
|The Prophecy of Animals||179|
|The Prophecy of Scripture||185|
|The Prophecy of Dreams and Visions1||93|
|Section III How to Prophesy|
|Tips on Cultivating and Sharing the Gift||215|
|How to Prophesy||217|
|A Prophecy Unfulfilled: WhatHappens When There Is No|
|The Prophetic Pledge||253|
Posted April 12, 2002