Bible Study, faith, Prayer

Guide to Centering Prayer (or How to Calm Down and BE STILL)

My First Experience With Centering Prayer

When my daughter Savannah was 9 months old, I needed to go in for an outpatient procedure that wasn’t serious but would require 2-3 days of recovery time. I took off work, made arrangements for my mom and Jeff to care for Savannah and prepared for three days of bed rest. I bought a new book, a fresh journal, chose some of my favorite movies and music cds and let others know I would not be available for a few days. While I was writing in my journal on the morning before the procedure, I was surprised and a little unnerved by the fact that I was looking forward to surgery so that I could have some time to myself. “Something is wrong with this picture,” I thought and decided then and there that I would start taking short personal retreats on a regular basis.

Personal Retreat at Osage Monastery

I made a reservation at a retreat center called Osage Monastery in Sand Springs, which was only about 40 minutes away from home. It was run by a group of Benedictine nuns, but was open to people of all denominations. I stayed in one of several tiny cabins furnished modestly with a twin bed, a rocking chair and a desk. In the main house, we would gather for meals and centering prayer, which took place in a beautiful chapel with two walls of glass that looked into the forest. We would file in quietly and find a space on the floor cushions or chairs arranged in an inner and outer circle. The sessions were 30 minutes at a time and began with a sacred-sounding chime or gong, followed by 30 minutes of complete silence. Well, except for the occasional shifting positions, sniffle, cough, sigh or growling stomach. It was awkward at first and It seemed to take most of each session to quiet my chattering mind, but each time the gong chime sounded to end the session, I felt calm, peaceful, more connected to God and well, centered.

The chapel at Osage Monastery Forest of Peace where I first learned about centering prayer

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.

–Isaiah 26:3

What is Centering Prayer?

Centering Prayer is a silent form of “listening” prayer that allows us to experience and enjoy the presence of God within us. It does not replace other types of verbal prayer and intercession, but instead is a way to simply “rest in God” and to just be with Him. It serves to deepen your relationship with Jesus Christ, moving from a place of conversation to intimate communion.

Centering prayer is “receiving” rather than “active” prayer. As you sit in silence, “resting in God”, you move from conversation to intimate communion.

How Do I “do” Centering Prayer?

  • First, choose a sacred word as a symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within. This word will help to “anchor” you so that your mind will be able to settle down. Some examples of sacred words: Lord, Jesus, Love, Peace, Faith, Shalom, etc. I like to choose a word from my daily Bible reading such as praise, mercy or steadfast. I also sometimes choose two words–one for when I inhale and another for the exhale. My favorite sacred word for centering prayer is “beloved”. I like to breathe in the words”Be Loved” and think of receiving God’s love, then exhale “Be Love” to remind me of how I want to respond to others throughout the day. Other times I will breathe in “Peace” and breathe out “Be still”. Ask Holy Spirit to highlight a sacred word for you.
  • Sitting comfortably with eyes closed (sometimes I look at the floor or out the window), settle briefly, and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within. Sit on the floor or in a chair with your back straight. Don’t get so comfortable that you become sleepy, but comfortable enough to avoid thinking of the discomfort of your body during prayer.
  • When you become aware of your thoughts, return ever-so-gently to the sacred word. It will happen. Suddenly you will be convinced that you have to make that dentist appointment right now, start a load of laundry, text a friend, or check Instagram or Facebook. Ask me how I know. Simply acknowledge it (I like to think of thoughts as clouds passing by me) and return to the sacred word. It’s normal to have to do this several times during a single session. Don’t get discouraged!
  • At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes. Remember that the positive effects of centering prayer are usually felt later in your daily life, not in the period of centering prayer itself. Think of it like taking vitamins. You don’t necessarily feel the difference as soon as you take them, but over time, they contribute to your wellbeing.

My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the meditation of my heart will give understanding.”

Psalm 49:3

Further Suggestions for Centering Prayer

  • Try lighting a candle. Over time, it will signal your body and mind that it is time to pray. I like to burn incense or sage because it reminds me that my prayers are “like incense” rising before the throne of God. (Psalm 141:2)
  • Start with 5 minutes at a time and work up to 20 minutes per session.
  • Aim for two twenty minute sessions each day, but if you only have five minutes, do it anyway!
  • Start a centering prayer meeting group. Gather a few friends once a week to sit in silent prayer together. Take time after the session to share what impressions or visions you had during prayer. You can also share what you feel that God is speaking to your heart.
  • Teach your children! I was hesitant to teach centering prayer in my middle school Bible classes because I didn’t know how this group of very active students would respond. To my surprise, they loved it! Several of them even asked “Can we do this in class every day?” It helped them to settle down and prepare their hearts and minds for the lesson.
  • Use the Centering Prayer App! It has passages of Scripture to read before and after your prayer session, and several choices for sounds that signal the beginning and end of each session. Below is the image of the Centering Prayer app icon:
This is the icon for the Centering Prayer app. It’s easy to use and offers a reminder of the guidelines as well as choices for which sound you’d like to use at the beginning and end of your prayer session.

For more information about Centering Prayer, visit https://www.contemplativeoutreach.org

Help us keep the fire on the altar burning (Leviticus 6:13) as we help support and sustain 24/7 worship and prayer at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City. We are committed to pray for your business, family and ministry, so feel free to share prayer requests!

fasting, goals, Health and Wellness, Purpose, values

Delicious Zucchini Pasta

This has become one of our favorite dishes! Spiralized Zucchini Pasta

Since March, I have made a commitment to juice and eat more fruits and vegetables. My body was sick and I had no energy. I visited the website rebootwithjoe.com and started to “reboot” my system. I lost weight, my headaches disappeared and I’ve had more energy than I have had in years! As I prepared my body for juice fasting, I incorporated more plant-based meals into my diet. This zucchini pasta immediately became one of my favorites! My friend Christina asked for the recipe and this was her response….

That was amazing!!! Pretty sure it’s going to be a once a week meal. I could’ve eaten the whole pan and it was really good with chicken.”

There are many different vegetable spiralizers. For this I used the Oxo Good Grips Handheld Spiralizer. Purchase one here.
  1. First, spiralize the zucchini into noodles and set aside.
I used red bell peppers, onions, mushrooms and spinach but feel free to use what you like!

2. Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil. Add fresh basil, oregano, mushrooms, chopped red pepper and spinach.

3. Add cherry tomatoes cut in half (optional) and spiralized zucchini noodles.

I added feta cheese (or I might have used goat cheese) because I love cheese! But if you are cutting out dairy, it’s still great without it.

4. Optional–Add feta, goat (or your favorite crumbly cheese 🙂

5. Add parmesan cheese (freshly grated is best 🙂

Enjoy! You could also add chicken, shrimp or veggie balls. Let me know if you try this and what you think!

Here’s the recipe again:

Ingredients: 1-2 zucchini (spiralized or shredded), 1/2 cup chopped onion, 2 cloves of garlic (minced), 1/2 cup red bell pepper, 3/4 cup cherry tomatoes (halved), handful of mushrooms, 1 1/2 to 2 t. each of fresh basil and oregano (chopped…you can also use italian seasoning but wow–the fresh basil and oregano is so fragrant and tasty!), 1-2 handfuls of spinach, salt and pepper to taste

  1. Spiralize or grate zucchini into “noodles”.
  2. Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil. Add fresh basil, oregano, mushrooms, chopped red pepper and spinach.
  3. Add cherry tomatoes cut in half (optional) and zucchini noodles. (Cook zucchini noodles until they are desired consistency. I prefer mine a little firm so I only sauté them for a few minutes but you may want them to be softer.)
  4. Add feta or goat cheese (optional)
  5. Add freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Education, faith, Forerunner, Health and Wellness, Prayer, Purpose, values

Going On a Prayer Walk

One of my favorite ways to connect with God is by taking a prayer walk, either alone or with a group. According to Rosalind Rinker, prayer is simply “a conversation between two people who love each other.” Enoch was said to have walked with God in Genesis 5 and since he didn’t die a traditional death, I can’t help but think of the possibility that he and his Maker had such an electrifying exchange one day that God said, “I can’t take the distance anymore! Come on up here, Enoch.” This is just my opinion of course, but I do know that when I have something on my mind or just want closer communion with God, I go for a walk. Here are a few of my favorite types of prayer walks which can be alone or with others. 

Our prayers lay the track down which God’s power can come. Like a mighty locomotive, his power is irresistible, but it cannot reach us without rails.”        

—Watchman Nee

Creation/Nature Prayer Walk

Many of the Psalms show how God speaks to us through nature, whether it be the bird who makes it’s nest near the altar (Psalm 84) or by the mountains that surround Jerusalem. (Psalm 125) Jesus uses farming and weather illustrations to teach lessons. After a prayer walk at Forerunner Christian Academy, one of my Bible class students may mention that upon seeing dandelions, they feel God is speaking to them about the “weeds” growing in their heart. Another may look at the same dandelions but feels God speaking a message to his heart about how the seeds blow in the wind and that when we share the Love of Christ it spreads all over. Walking by a rushing stream might cause you to think of how your mind is rushing and how you need to slow down. An eagle or falcon may remind you that you can soar above your problems and difficult circumstances.

One person may see dandelions and think about “weeds” growing in his heart while another sees the same dandelions and considers how the seeds blow in the wind like spreading the love of Christ.

Meditation or Devotional Prayer Walk

When I take my students on a devotional prayer walk, I have them highlight a passage in their Bible or write a verse on a notecard. This acts as an “anchor” to help them when they get distracted. As they notice their thoughts wandering to what’s for dinner or what their friend is doing, they can simply come back to the verse. They can whisper the verse or even ask Holy Spirit to open up deeper revelation or life application. One of my favorite verses to pray on a devotional prayer walk is….

Make me know Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me…”

—Psalms 25:4-5

Intercessory Prayer Walk

When I first moved to Kansas City and didn’t know any other parents at our school, I asked some mothers to join me after drop off at a nearby hiking trail. We shared personal requests and visited as we walked to the first “station” or stopping point. We gathered beside the path and prayed for the students, teachers and leadership of our school. Then we would walk in silence for awhile to another stopping point. At prayer stations, mothers could choose to pray aloud or simply stand in agreement. We saw so many wonderful things happen in our families and our school! 

Ask a group of people to join you on an intercessory prayer walk at a local trail. This trail is near our school and on Wednesday mornings after school drop-off, I met with other moms to walk and pray for our kids and school.

Family or Class Prayer Walk

I first started doing prayer walks with kids at Remnant House of Prayer in the summer camps and after school programs. We asked for prayer requests from the community and each week students would choose a prayer request card to pray over during the walk. I encouraged the kids to not only pray for the specific request, but to ask Holy Spirit and listen to what He might say. The request might be for healing but God may prompt you to pray for financial provision or healing of broken relationships. Elijah would always ask for the same prayer card, “Vanessa, can I pray for the girl with the headaches?” One of our partners had chronic migraines on an almost daily basis and God healed her completely!

Elijah asked every week for the same prayer request card. “I wanna pray for the girl with the headaches.” God healed her of chronic migraines! Use prayer request cards or index cards with Scripture to help kids stay focused.

Jericho Prayer Walk

One of the most memorable examples of prayer walking in the Scriptures happened when Joshua led the Israelites around the city of Jericho 7 times, then gave a loud shout. The walls that withheld blessing came down following their faithful prayer walk! I’ve heard of people doing a “Jericho March” prayer walk around a property or home. We have done prayer walks around polling centers on the night before an election. At Forerunner Christian Academy, my Bible classes do prayer walks around the school. It’s by far the most popular activity of every class. We walk slowly in silence about ten feet apart and share insights and revelations from the walk at the end. Then we often pray together in agreement.

Helpful Tips and Other Resources

  • Pray from Scripture. My favorite prayer list for intercession is the apostolic prayer list from the International House of Prayer.
  • Print out a map of your route. If you are going on a prayer walk around your city, print out a map with the route and mark the places you will stop and pray together with an “x”.
  • Prepare a list of prayer points.. For example, “at the city offices, stop and pray for wisdom and direction for city council members, chief of police, etc.”
  • Split groups into two’s or three’s. People are more likely to pray aloud in small groups. This works best if you have a ministry group praying over the city. For students, I tell them to keep a car’s length single file between each person so they can better focus on hearing Holy Spirit’s voice until we gather for group prayer at the end of walk.
  • Expect to “hear” God’s Voice! He may give you a vision or He may highlight a verse to you. You may “hear” a song or think of a person you haven’t spoken to in awhile. Take time to pray for that person and ask Holy Spirit if you should make contact or send a text, note or email.
  • Ask for a sign of God’s favor! (Psalm 86:17) He sends me butterflies and ladybugs, but once, a boy from RHOP asked God to see a turtle on our nature trail prayer walk. I’ll never forget the look on his face when we turned the corner and saw a lake with dozens if not hundreds of turtles all around the pond and on every log! It was his “sign”.
  • For more information on prayer walks, visit the prayerscapes.com
  • Wanna go on a longer pilgrimage prayer walk? Find out more about the Camino de Santiago here.
  • One of my favorite films about this pilgrimage is called “The Way” with Martin Sheen. Watch the trailer here.


faith, fasting, goals, Health and Wellness, values

My 60-Day Juicing Reboot

juice image by Astrid Smith

Why do a reboot?

I am on day 21 of a juicing “reboot”. In March, I got sick with a sinus infection, then ear infection, then bronchitis and multiple rounds of antibiotics seemed only to make me feel worse. Lab tests revealed I was low in iron and vitamin D, and an ultrasound showed cysts on my ovaries that were causing pain in my stomach. I was often exhausted and no matter how early I went to bed, I felt I could not sleep enough. After I slept for nearly 20 hours straight one weekend, Jeff said, “There has to be something wrong.”

How did I get here?

In 2010 I had a partial thyroidectomy after discovering a nodule and before that, I never realized how many things the thyroid affects. It produces hormones that affects your body’s energy and metabolism. An under-active thyroid can affect many different systems in the body, including the mind. I used to work as a sign language interpreter in the mental health field and was startled to walk by a poster one day that said problems with the thyroid are often similar to and confused with many bipolar symptoms! Since that surgery, my health has not been the same and though I take medication, I know that I can improve my diet.

Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead

I remembered watching the documentary “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” several years ago and was struck how a juicing fast helped a guy named Joe Cross to heal from a debilitating auto-immune disease. I looked up his website and found some great resources and an online community. I ordered his books with lots of recipes and connected with others who were juicing to regain their health. After much prayer, I decided to start on March 30, 2019.

I found amazing juice recipes and help with my reboot at https://www.rebootwithjoe.com
You can also watch his documentaries that inspired me.


Reboot = To Restart by loading the operating system; boot again; to produce a distinctly new version of; to make a change in (something) in order to establish a new beginning.

Prepare Your Body Before Juice Fasting

I started with a Daniel-type fast, eating fruits and vegetables and cutting out meat, bread and dairy. Some of my favorite dishes to make during this time of preparing my body included sweet potato and carrot fries (tossed with cumin and olive oil and roasted at 425 degrees), Caprese salad made with avocados, olive oil, basil and tomatoes, spaghetti squash and acorn squash stuffed with garlic, onion and mushrooms.

One of my favorite dishes during the week I prepared my body for juice fasting
Roasted acorn squash stuffed with onions, garlic and Bella mushrooms.
Uhhhhh….. Yes, I know. I WAY overdid it on the onions!

Why Do We Feel So Bad?

The standard American diet is literally killing us. It’s so convenient to pick up fast food and because my dad was a basketball coach, we were accustomed to eating out often when I was growing up. My physical activity (basketball) helped to keep my weight under control, but since the thyroid surgery, I have constantly struggled with my health. We no longer eat out as often, but our diet still includes far too many carbs and not nearly enough fruits and vegetables. I am determined during this reboot to learn new recipes and try new things. I recognize that I won’t like everything. Case in point…..

I was trying to make quinoa with almond milk and berries. As you can see, it was a huge “fail”. I apparently did not cook the quinoa right. It was like eating birdseed.

Benefits of Juice Fasting

The idea behind juice fasting is to give your body and organs a complete rest, which allows them to “reboot” or reset while you flood your system with micronutrients in the fresh pressed juices. It gives your body a chance to get used to fruits and vegetables and when you are done with the reboot, you will even crave healthier foods! Anyone can benefit from a 3-day, 5-day or 10-day reboot but because my body is so toxic and unhealthy right now, I know I have to do something drastic, so I’m doing a 60-day Reboot. I am now on just juices (4-6 per day) and am feeling great! I have more energy that I have had in years, my skin is clear and my headaches are gone. I’ve lost 18 pounds which is great, but my main goal is to restore my body to health. I will continue to post progress and insights throughout the reboot. Let me know if you’ve ever done a juice fast or reboot before and if you have suggestions or tips. With love and much HOPE….

\m/,–Vanessa

Education, Forerunner, Prayer, Purpose, values

Letter of Concern about Fortnite from a Middle School/Jr. High Teacher

This is a letter I wrote to parents of students in my middle school and junior high Bible class. My goal was to have parents more closely examine the games their child is playing and whether or not these games are blessing or harming them.
Dear Parents,
I want to say first of all what an honor and a joy it is to partner with you in training up these amazing forerunner messengers who I believe will carry the message of Jesus Christ all over the world! Because I am convinced of this and because I love each of them so much, I’d like to share something with you that has been grieving my heart recently and ask you to join me in interceding and contending for breakthrough.
I have noticed significant changes in the behavior of several of my Bible students this year. Some of these behaviors include consistently failing to turn in homework, dishonesty, disobedience, showing disrespect to me and to their peers, speaking out in class, the use of foul language, rude hand gestures and in some cases, blatant hostility toward one another. I believe this is a direct attack from the Enemy against the families of FCA and this work of training and equipping forerunners.
I remember a time when my daughter was 12 and I noticed her behavior change drastically. After much prayer and fasting, the Holy Spirit showed me that the “root” that was causing this “fruit” was a Disney television show that encouraged dishonesty and disrespect, especially toward parents and those in authority. It caused much “tension” between us as we worked through a solution, but once she stopped watching this show, she returned to “herself” and we knew we had done the right thing.
I am asking you to please examine what your children are watching, listening to and what video games they are playing as sometimes these things can produce “bad fruit.” I recently counseled with a parent from FCA who has been in a spiritual battle for her son. He had become desperately addicted to the video game Fortnite and when it was taken away, he became extremely angry and depressed. When I was visiting with this mother, she said, “I just wished someone had warned me about the dangers of this game. It nearly destroyed my son.”
Fortnite is a free-to-play online game where up to a hundred players can play at once. Drawing inspiration from the 1999 Japanese novel Battle Royale and The Hunger Games, players must scavenge supplies, build structures and find weapons–the goal of the game is to ELIMINATE OR KILL EACH OTHER UNTIL ONLY ONE PERSON IS LEFT. Even more concerning is the fact that there is also an opportunity for children to connect with strangers in the game, and there is minimal monitoring of who is online and what is being said in the chat.
My 12 year old nephew in Oklahoma was a “straight A” student and leader on the academic team at school. His grades dropped and my kind, thoughtful nephew became irritable, disrespectful and dishonest at times, which is the exact opposite of the young man I know him to be. My sister told me, “It became WAY too important. He was obsessed with this game! ” She also said she wished she had been warned, so after much prayer, I decided to write and ask you to prayerfully research this game and consider whether or not it is causing any behavior changes and whether or not it is blessing or harming your child.
Here are some warning signs that Fortnite or any other video game might be a problem for your child:
1.  impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context);
2.  increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities;
3.  continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.
Here is an online quiz for parents who may think their child has a gaming addiction:
There are many studies available, but here are two articles I found particularly interesting about the psychological aspect and what this game does to the brain.
I’d also like to recommend a book for those who want to educate yourself further–one of the teachers recommended  it– it is called “Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction is Hijacking Our Kids–And How to Break the Trance.” by Nicholas Kardaras, Ph.D (The Mid-Continent Library and Johnson County library systems have this book.)
Thank you so much for allowing me to share my heart and concerns with you. I recognize that each family has their own set of boundaries and opinions about what is appropriate for their children. I encourage you to educate yourself about this game and spend time in prayer before making any decision. I simply wanted to provide some resources and ask you to join me in prayer over our students.
While it is not mandatory, I am encouraging students in my Bible classes to participate by fasting or “taking a break from” media and entertainment such as YouTube or video games for a few days, maybe even a “fortnight”, which is 14 days or two weeks.
Again, it is an honor and privilege to join you in training up these world-changers and history-makers!
With love and much HOPE,
Vanessa VanCleave
Middle School and Junior High Bible Teacher

 

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Education, faith, goals, Purpose, Uncategorized, values

Write a Career Manifesto

 

Teacher manifesto image

Recently, I shared about how writing a personal manifesto for my life helped to clarify my values and vision for how I want to live in 2019. The word “manifesto” is described as “a written statement that describes the policies, goals, and opinions of a person or group.” While the previous manifesto focused on my personal life as a whole, this one reflects how I want to carry myself as a teacher. Feel free to modify your manifesto to your own career! Here is my “Teaching Manifesto”:

  1. Where there is no honor, there is no glory.
  2. Warm greetings and farewells
  3. Embrace silence
  4. Connect before you correct
  5. Under-react to problems. Over-react to solutions.
  6. Assume positive intention
  7. Raise the bar. Have Great Expectations.
  8. Iron sharpens iron
  9. Teach them to fish
  10. “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”—Maya Angelou

Where there is no honor, there is no glory

In Hebrew, the word translated as “honor” (kabed) derives from a root word meaning “weighty” (in terms of impressiveness or importance) and is often used to refer to the glory of God. We could also say that where there is no honor, there is no blessing. By promoting a culture of honor in my classroom, I open the door for the anointing, for God’s “weighty” presence to fill the room, bringing peace and joy.

Warm greetings and farewells

I meet my students at the door, and often they can see how excited I am to see them as I smile and wave from all the way down the hall. They have the option to hug, high-five or handshake as they are walking into the room. I realize that this would not work for many public schools, but I am at a private Christian school, and this positive interaction often sets the tone for the rest of the class. It shows the student that “I see you” and am looking forward to spending time with them. Often students who have moved on to a different grade level will show up randomly at my door to say, “I just really needed a hug today.”

Embrace silence

Several years ago, I was sharing Isaiah 30:15 “….in quietness and confidence is your strength…” with a group of junior high age students. One of them said, “I know what confidence means, but what is that other word?” I stared at him for a long moment. “Quietness?” I have never forgotten it because it highlighted a focus for prayer for this generation. So often consumed with their electronic devices and a desire to be continuously entertained, we have lost the ability to just sit in silence and be still. In my middle school Bible classes, I decided to introduce “centering prayer”–silent, contemplative prayer focused on a single word or thought. I was not sure my students would even be able to sit in silence for that long. I gave some instruction (“close your eyes or fix your gaze…when  you get distracted, go back to your breathing and your centering word…”) and set the timer for 5 minutes. Some fidgeted for minute or so (okay, three or four) at first, but at the end of the five minutes, they were calm and focused. “Can we do this every day?” someone asked and the others nodded enthusiastically. There are lots of great meditation and mindfulness apps, but my favorite is called “Centering Prayer”. Check it out!

Connect before you correct

Before giving a tardy slip or dress code violation, I try to connect with the student. “How was your volleyball game last night?” “How is the new puppy?” This shows students that I care about them and am not just looking for something they’ve done wrong.

Under-react to problems. Overreact to solutions.

I tend to be a little “tightly wound”, and do not like to deviate from the plan. So when the projector is not working or a lesson takes longer than I intended or someone forgets their part of a group project, my stress level rises and I start to lose my patience and my peace. I have to take a deep breath and remember one of my favorite quotes from Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well….” When a student poses a solution to a problem, however, I like to make a big fuss. “What a fantastic idea! We could change the order of the group presentations… I would love for you to invite the guest speaker who is an expert in the field…” etc.

Assume positive intention

Why is this so hard for us? I often assume that questions undermine my authority or cast doubt on my ability to lead, when they may simply be for the purpose of clarification. Once during our morning chapel service, I saw two male students get up and walk toward the back of the room. I am ashamed to say that my first thought was that they were going to the hall or to the restroom to goof off or avoid chapel. Instead, they walked over to our principal and asked if they could pray for her. Sigh. Lord, help me.

Raise the bar. Have great expectations.

My dad was a school administrator in public and Native American boarding schools, and a phrase I remember him saying often was “students will rise to the level of expectation you set for them.” In my classes, this looks like challenging them to memorize more than just one verse at a time or teaching middle schoolers to look up cross references and the original Hebrew and Greek words in their Bible reading. What would “raising the bar” look like in your classroom? I’d love to hear it!

Iron sharpens iron

Proverbs 27:17 says “As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend.” Similar to socratic circle seminars, we have “Iron Circle” discussions in my classes. The inner circle begins the discussion while the outer circle listens and takes notes. Then they switch places, giving the outer circle an opportunity to build or expand on points previously discussed. We also go on silent meditative prayer walks around the school building. We often have a theme or verse we are mulling over or praying from, but the point is to listen to what God might speak through the verse or even nature. Students share their personal revelations at the end of the walk, and I am always amazed at the depth of their epiphanies!

Teach them to fish

When I first started teaching at Forerunner Christian Academy in Kansas City, I sensed the Holy Spirit saying, “Teach them to fish.” I was reminded of the saying “Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” So rather than just teaching what a passage means (giving a fish), I teach simple Bible study methods and how to use reference tools so they can “fish” for themselves. I love hearing the stories of fifth and sixth graders reading through the Bible and doing their own in-depth studies!

How do I make them feel?

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”—Maya Angelou

This one needs no explanation. I want my students and those around me to feel loved, honored, seen and heard. Known.

Write your own manifesto

So, what about you? Are you a teacher or office manager? A waitress or nurse? A stay-at-home mom or barista? What would your career manifesto look like? I’d love to see it!

 

with love and much HOPE,

\m/,–Vanessa

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faith, goals, Prayer, Purpose, Uncategorized, values

Writing a Personal Manifesto

Writing a Manifesto

At the beginning of each year, I love to take some time to evaluate my progress in each area and set new goals for the coming year.

This year, I was inspired by Gretchen Rubin to write a personal “manifesto”. A manifesto is described as “a published declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer, be it an individual, group, political party or government.” It is a little more detailed than the personal mission statement and describes things that I want to be true of my life. We all have a “facebook fantasy self”, as Gretchen calls it. But the key here is to identify and live out what is true for you. Or at least what you WANT to be true of you. In Joel, God says “Let the weak say ‘I am strong.” (Joel 3:10) Words have power. So here is a list of things I want to be true of my life in 2019.

My Personal Manifesto:

  1. Be Vanessa
  2. One thing is needed
  3. There is only love
  4. Live with margin
  5. It is well
  6. Outer order, Inner calm
  7. Laughter is medicine.
  8. Remember the tapestry

Be Vanessa

My “fantasy self” loves to host family gatherings and dinner parties. The truth is that the mere thought of hosting or cooking for a group of people makes me nearly break out in hives. Hospitality is not my gift. What is true for someone else may not be true for me and that is okay. Be YOU.

One Thing is Needed

I love the story of Mary and Martha. Jesus commended Mary because she had chosen the “one thing” or the “better” thing–to sit at His feet and spend time with Him. He wasn’t scolding Martha for serving. Jesus Himself came to serve. The problem was Martha’s attitude and the fact that she was preoccupied with doing things He hadn’t asked her to do. What are you doing that God has not called you to do? A good way to measure this is to ask yourself, “what am I doing that I dread each day?” If He has called you to do it, it may not be easy but you will have joy and feel fulfilled.

There is Only Love

It is something I want to be true when someone hurts me or angers or irritates me. I don’t want to let offense or bitterness take root in my heart because “offense” is from the Greek word “skandalon”, meaning “bait or trap”. Don’t take the bait!Grudges are like poison to my body and spirit.

Live with Margin

If I am running from thing to thing, I cannot take time to be still and know that He is God. I love Centering (silent) Prayer. There’s a great app if you’re interested in trying it! The goal is to choose a word to focus on in silent contemplation. You breathe deeply and when you are distracted, keep coming back to the word. Sometimes you will have a vision or deeper revelation. Other times you will just feel more peaceful and well, centered. I was amazed recently when I led my middle school classes to try this at Forerunner Christian Academy. They loved it! Embrace the silence and “margin”. If you are a creative artist, you will find that often your most creative ideas come during times of idleness!

It is Well

The woman from Shunem’s son had just died (2 Kings 4), yet she kept saying in faith “It is well” until she got her breakthrough. The man who wrote “It is well with my soul” had just lost his business and his family yet carried the unshakeable faith that he would see them again.

Outer order, Inner Calm

I don’t like to admit it, but when my surroundings are in order (and my shoes are put away), I feel more calm. I love the “1 minute rule”—if it takes less than a minute to do (make the bed, put a cup in dishwasher, clear my bathroom vanity…) do it now. Your spouse or roommate will be so proud 🙂

Laughter is Medicine

Feeling down or sick? Look up the principal Gerry Brooks or John Crist on YouTube. Stream your favorite comedy or get your funny friends (or family:) together. A merry heart really is like medicine! (Proverbs 17:22)

Remember the Tapestry

If you look at the back of a tapestry where the artist is stitching, all the strings look like a big mess. But if you could see the other side, you’d see that the artist is making something beautiful. God is the Artist, and your life, a tapestry. It may look like a mess to you right now, because you are in the midst of it. But take time to be still (get the centering prayer app!) and trust Him. He makes all things beautiful in His time.(Ecc. 3:11)

Now it’s your turn! What will be your personal manifesto? You could also have a job manifesto or a family manifesto. I will share my teaching manifesto here soon. Please share some phrases or quotes from your manifesto! I’d love to hear them!

with love and much HOPE,

\m/,–Vanessa

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faith, Prayer, Purpose

What’s in Your Hand?

Then the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” A staff,” he replied…–Exodus 4:2startamomblog.com Free Stock Image 7

“When Jeff came in here carrying his own vacuum cleaner to clean your room, that’s when I knew he was the one for you….”

This was an ongoing joke in my family for years and my dad loved to tell the story. Jeff had picked me up for a date once and got a glimpse of my catastrophic room. He graciously didn’t say a word about it, but came back the next day with his vacuum cleaner and helped me clean it! 

I like to think that I’ve gotten better over the years, and I’m pretty sure Jeff would agree, though I’d rather you just take my word for it. I’ve been listening to a podcast by Gretchen Rubin and she often talks about the fact that “outer order contributes to inner calm.” I love her suggestion that if something only takes one minute or less to do, do it now.  Because of this “rule”, my bed is made, clothes are hung and shoes are put away (mostly). I still have not found a good solution for the piles of books I insist on keeping near me rather than on the shelves, but we are working on it. Pray for us.

I probably should be ashamed to tell this, but once when Jeff was traveling for work, Savannah (then age 5) spilled something on her beloved blankie. She was crying in her room and I said, “honey, we’ll wash it.” She looked at me incredulously and said, “but d-d-do y-you know how to u-u-use the w-w-washing machine?” I called Jeff right then to tell him how much we appreciated him. 

I remember feeling guilty once when I was working at the computer in the kitchen and he started to unload the dishwasher. I said, “I can do that, honey.” He said “no, you go ahead and write. I can’t write articles and newsletters or teach, but I can unload this dishwasher. Let me do my part, so that you can do your part.” I know, right?

Now his “part” includes serving on the maintenance team at the International House of Prayer Missions Base. Recently he received a thank you card from the guy he said he thought was “the head bean-counter” at IHOP-KC (although I’m pretty sure the guy prefers the term CFO). The card read, “Jeff I want to personally say “Thank You!” for your excellent work in my office remodel. Your smile and happy heart were clearly evident as Christ shone through you and left the presence of the Holy Spirit in this office through the work of your hands and the joyful attitude of your heart… 

What is your “part” and are you walking in it? When God called Moses to lead the Israelites, he felt nervous and ill-equipped, but God said, “What is that in your hand?” In essence, he was saying, “you do your part and let Me do My part. Use what you have and trust Me with the rest.” 

We are in the process of selling our house in Coweta and are hoping to buy a motorhome so that we can still visit family and friends in Oklahoma, but also be able to travel to Native reservations to help establish night and day prayer, while training up warrior messengers. 

I was wrestling with selling the house because for me it represented a sense of security and a place to call “ours”, but God showed me in the book of Numbers how He had given each tribe a portion of land except for the Levites, who represented the priesthood. He said that for them, instead of property, HE would be their “portion.”

Then the LORD said to Aaron, “You will have no inheritance in their land, nor will you have any portion among them. I am your portion and your inheritance among the Israelites. Behold, I have given to the Levites all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work they do, the service of the Tent of Meeting. (Numbers 18:20-21)

I’m not saying we will never own a place or property, but for now in this season, God is teaching us that as intercessory missionaries, our “part” is to minister unto Him, serve in the House of Prayer, and make disciples of the ones He has given us and the ones He will send us to serve. 

Also, we realize we are living for another day, believing that in the age to come, there will be great reward for every “cup of cold water” given in His name. We will rule and reign over nations! In this age, though, we are in training—a sort of internship, so to speak. So don’t be discouraged if “your part” is not on a stage or in a mansion or on a media platform in this season. Ask God to show you how to use what is in your hand for His glory. And one day, we will be given authority to govern kingdoms. But first we need to—okay, I need to—learn to pick up my shoes. Sigh.

AIDS, Deafness, faith, Prayer

The Real Snow White Knows Sign Language

He who goes out weeping, carrying seed for sowing, will certainly come again with joy, carrying his sheaves.—Ps. 126:6

“I want to go see Mickey Mouse and the REAL Snow White,” Maegan signed while I interpreted for the Make A Wish representative in the summer of 1994….

They had called in a woman who knew sign language to help with the meeting, so they could be sure that it was truly Maegan’s wish and not ours. It was hard to imagine that a parent would lie or hijack their child’s dying wish, but it was pretty clear to everyone that day what Maegan’s true desires were, as she cupped both hands on top of her head to imitate Mickey’s ears. Her eyes sparkled with hope and soon we were on our way.

It would be a magnificent week that we would never forget. We stayed in a lovely cottage at Give Kids the World, a non-profit resort that provides week-long, cost-free vacations to critically ill children and their families. We received the “royal treatment”, with tickets to all the theme parks and fun restaurants at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Universal studios and Sea World. Maegan wore a button that alerted park employees that she was a “special guest.” As soon as someone would see her button, we would be ushered through a private passageway to the front of every ride line. We would also be invited to go backstage and meet the characters at every show. I’ll never forget the look on Maegan’s face when she realized Fievel was writing her name in the autograph book. “He KNOWS MY NAME!” she signed excitedly and I didn’t have the heart to tell her that he had read her button. And then there was the day I heard shrieking from across the room, as Maegan came running toward me, arms flailing. “MOM! The REAL. SNOW. WHITE. KNOWS. SIGN. LANGUAGE!”  Sure enough, the beautiful princess signed, “My name is Snow White. I live in the Magic Kingdom.” I don’t think Maegan’s feet touched the ground the whole week. And what a gift to have a break from the “real life” of IV’s, high fevers and hospital stays. I thank God she felt healthy that week, as I noticed several of the other children did not feel as well.

I spent time back then in the small chapel, praying for Maegan, for us and the other families. As amazing as the resort was, you could not help but notice the heaviness each family carried, and the weariness in their eyes. I wept for them and for us, for the uncertainty of the days ahead.

On the last day, Maegan wrote her name on a star that they would place in the castle of miracles. Maegan lived for two more years after that trip, and I always wondered if we would ever be able to return. In the past 30 years, there have been thousands of stars placed in the castle, but on a recent trip back there, the staff members helped us find Maegan’s star. We showed Savannah around, told stories, met some of the children and again went into the chapel to pray for strength, healing and hope for the brave families battling illness both there and back home.

I opened up the Bible that was near the altar, and it fell to this passage from Psalm 126… “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” When you study it out, the picture is that of the farmer, carrying “precious seed” to the earth, weeping because he is weary, and knows not what will become of the seed once he releases it. The Hebrew word for “bearing” is “nasa”, which means “endure” and to “look up”. The farmer knows not what will become of the seed, but he must “look up” and trust God will bless it and multiply it back to him.

When Maegan died, God spoke to my heart, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it cannot produce a harvest.” Since her death, millions have been touched through her faith God through articles and posts. Now I am working with an editor to have a book published! Part of the “harvest” comes from teaching young people to find their purpose as she did. You take part in “sowing” through partnership and you will reap!

What else could you “sow”? Time in service or mentoring someone? Volunteering at a place like Give Kids the World or a hospital? Maybe you feel like something has been “taken” from you, whether it is in loss of finances or friendship or health. Consider “sowing” it instead. It’s okay to weep and to be uncertain of the future, just as we were years ago. But let your tears water the soil of your heart, as you pray and lift up your eyes to the only One who can bring Growth. He KNOWS YOUR NAME!! Watch for His “Sign Language” and trust Him for a great harvest.

 

faith, Prayer, Purpose

Making Difficult Decisions

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”                     —Isaiah 30:21

“I need you to pray for me because I have a difficult decision to make….”

As an intercessory missionary, I can’t count the number of times I have received this prayer request or some version of it. The pressure is on, a deadline looms near, and you have to step to the right or to the left. Which will it be? Do I take this job in the field I am passionate about and earn less money or the one with the corner office, prestigious title and hefty yearly bonuses?  Should we sell our house and build one or take out a second mortgage and remodel? Should I go to college even though I have no idea what I want to do or should I enter the workforce? Should I start graduate school? Should we have another child? Should we change school districts? Should our kids go to public school or private school or (Lord help you) homeschool? 🙂 Do I retire or keep working? Chances are, you are facing some sort of decision right now, and if not, you will.

I’d like to share the advice I give the people who come to me for counsel and prayer. Savannah is starting to make some of her own decisions now that she is able to drive and faced a decision last week. It wasn’t life altering, but she wanted to know what to do. When I have an opinion I don’t hesitate to share it with her, mind you, but she is getting to the age that she needs to be able to stop and listen to what Holy Spirit is saying, especially in the event that I am not around. She and I have this running joke when I am about to give her my “wise counsel” for a situation. I will stop and say “Okay jot this down. Life lesson #274: When facing a decision, you need to….”  Perhaps these “life lessons” will become a book one day. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, let me share some with you here.

1) Get alone with God. This isn’t always possible when a split second decision needs to be made. (which is why I rarely ever make split second decisions) Savannah learned at an early age never to ask me something in front of a friend or put me on the spot. “Can we have a sleepover? Can I go to the movies with _______? Will you bake enchiladas for my class party? Can you chaperone the jr high and high school lock-in? (Unless I have an angel visitation, she knows my answer will always be NO for the last one. Some things you just know 🙂 I never allowed her to put me on the spot because that leaves Holy Spirit out of the decision. Our process is that Jeff and I discuss it, we pray and wait and listen and discuss again. There have been times we did not have peace about something that any other time might have been just fine. Perhaps this time a “no” saved her from a car accident or something worse. My friends who know this about me will often ask ask “Will you pray about______?” instead of “Will you_____?

Go to your secret place where you have your “daily appointment with the King” in prayer and Bible study. Go for a walk around the neighborhood or at the local track. In Coweta one of the most popular places to walk is on the asphalt around the perimeter of the cemetery. (Talk about helping you put things in perspective!) Listen to what rises up in your spirit. Is it a verse or image or song lyric? Did God speak to you through a dream? I am grateful we have a prayer room that is open 24/7. There is always live worship and freedom to pace the floors or sit still and listen or meditate on the Word. If your city doesn’t have a prayer room, I recommend hospital chapels. God has met me in many of them. Journal or draw or play your instrument. Hannah poured out her heart at the altar without speaking anything audibly that could be understood. (1 Sam. 1:12-14)

2) Imagine or consider both scenarios in vivid detail. Think about what it would “look like” and “feel like” to step to the right and take the job or make the move. Then imagine what it would be like to step to the left and stay where you are. Consider the two choices and pay attention to what is happening in your body as you visualize in detail each scenario. Does your heart rate quicken? Is it excitement or anxiety? What is happening with your breathing? Are you holding your breath or panting? Did you get a headache or heartburn when you imagined yourself in one of the paths? Did your stomach tighten up like a rock or was it calm?

3) Follow peace. A friend was deciding between two positions and later told me, “I got in my car and felt that tightening in my gut you talked about. I had to go back into the office and ask them to tear up the contract because I realized I did not have peace about it!” A partner was considering retirement and Jeff told him, “sometimes when the cloud moves, and the grace lifts, you have to go too.” God led the Israelites with a cloud of smoke by day and a pillar of fire at night. It was exactly what he needed to hear. Think about your situation. Has the cloud moved? Listen for His voice and follow peace.