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”:
- Where there is no honor, there is no glory.
- Warm greetings and farewells
- Embrace silence
- Connect before you correct
- Under-react to problems. Over-react to solutions.
- Assume positive intention
- Raise the bar. Have Great Expectations.
- Iron sharpens iron
- Teach them to fish
- “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.”
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,
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:
- Be Vanessa
- One thing is needed
- There is only love
- Live with margin
- It is well
- Outer order, Inner calm
- Laughter is medicine.
- Remember the tapestry
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,
Then the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” A staff,” he replied…–Exodus 4:2
“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.
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.
“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.
What does it mean for God to enlarge your heart? The Hebrew word for “enlarge my heart” here is “rachab” meaning “to make large; to open one’s heart to instruction; to be spacious; wide; spoken of meadows; a heart that’s expanded with joy; to make room for Him; to expand borders…”
I asked my fifth and sixth graders what they thought it meant yesterday. “It’s like when the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes after he learned the true meaning of Christmas.” Then we had a great discussion about the things that cause our hearts to “expand with joy”. “When I hold a kitten…when I score a goal…when I forgive someone or when I feel forgiven…” What makes you feel like your heart is “enlarged” or expanded?
VV (Vanessa’s version) = When I open my heart to Your instruction, and make room in my life for You, You will expand my borders (my sphere of influence) and I will run free, like in a wide open meadow. And I will finish MY race with joy.
In the film “Chariots of Fire”, Eric Liddell said, “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” Fill in the blank for you: “When I _______________________, I feel God’s pleasure.” This is what expands our hearts too. Proverbs 18:16 says “A man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men.” In other words, when you make room for God and His instruction, He will cause you to walk in your God-given purpose and give you supernatural favor.
Secretariat was a triple crown winning race horse that broke records and inspired the film “Secretariat.” After Secretariat’s death, they did a necropsy to examine what made him different. They found that his heart was literally almost three times the size of a normal horse’s heart. God enlarged his heart and he won race after race.
Father, I pray for grace to run the race set before me and to finish with JOY. Help me make room for You and your instruction. Enlarge my heart so I can run.
“LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting my life is.” —Psalm 39:4
“You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, non apologetically, to say “no” to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside. The enemy of the “best” is often the “good” —Stephen Covey
One of the most powerful exercises I have experienced at a conference is to imagine that I am at my 80th birthday party (another variation is to imagine you are looking in on your own funeral. I prefer the birthday thing, but do whatever works for you 🙂 You imagine thatthere is going to be someone from each area of your life who will be speaking at the party or funeral. There will be someone from your immediate family and someone from your extended family, a friend, a co-worker, someone from your community, etc. In the exercise, you are to imagine what you would want them to say when it is their turn to speak and then write it out. This exercise is a great way to determine how you want to live today and what choices and decisions will help you become the person you imagine your family and friends describing. This exercise will also help you to discover your core values, or the things that are most important to you.
What are your core values? I rarely find people that can answer this question with any real clarity. When we allow our lives to be guided by our values, we feel happy, fulfilled, and a deep sense of connection with God and others. We also know that when your behavior is out of alignment with our core values, it creates a deep disturbance in your mind and spirit that can lead to lack of passion and loss of energy in your life. If you have never taken time to ponder what values are most important to you in your life, now is a great time to do it and I can help!
Step One: Identify Your Core Values. First, review and circle or write down the values listed below that are important to you. Be sure to trust your instincts. You can always eliminate it later if you decide it isn’t a fit. Don’t add values to your list that you “think you should have” or “want to have.” This list is about what actually matters to you.
Core Values: authenticity, achievement, adventure, authority, balance, beauty, boldness, comfort, compassion, community, creativity, contribution, courage, dependability, determination, education, equality, fairness, faith, family, freedom, friendship, fun, growth, happiness, health, honesty, humor, influence, inner harmony, integrity, joy, justice, kindness, knowledge, leadership, learning, love, loyalty, meaningful work, openness, optimism, passion, patience, peace, pleasure, poise, popularity, power, privacy, recognition, reputation, respect, responsibility, safety, security, service, spirituality, stability, strength, success, status, trustworthiness, truth, vulnerability, wealth, wisdom (circle yours)
This list is certainly not all-inclusive, so if you think of one that you do not see here, add it! Two of my main core values are not on this list—prayer and purpose. My personal mission statement is to inspire, encourage and motivate others to spend time with God (prayer) and to find and fulfill their unique God-given purpose. When I am doing this, I feel like I am doing “me”—I feel content and at peace with myself and others. When I am not doing this, I feel anxious and out of sorts. At this moment, I have five different requests being made of me that are not related to my mission or core values. They are “good things”—things I might enjoy doing or even be good at, but I know if I say yes to these “good” things, it could ultimately mean saying no to God’s “best” for me.
Luke 4:42-44 tells one of my favorite stories in Scripture because it portrays Jesus saying no to a “good” thing so that He could say yes to the Father’s “best”. Look it up and ask God to show you His “best” for you!
Step 2: Write positive action statements incorporating your top 5 or 10 core values. These statements should start with “I am” and when you read it, imagine what it would feel like if this were already happening. This creates a healthy tension that will ultimately spur you to take action. So, for instance, one of my core values is “influence”. A positive statement might be I am powerfully influencing others through my writing and speaking. (Hey, I’m walking this one out right now! 🙂 Another is “education”—I am passionately teaching tomorrow’s leaders and developing curriculum for students who will be world-changers and history-makers. Now it’s your turn. Two of my mom’s core values are education and literacy. She received messages last week from a parent saying how she had increased a love of reading in her son. Another student posted on FB that my mom made her more confident in reading aloud. So. . . begin with the end in mind.
”The worst possible thing you can do when you’re down in the dumps, tweaking, vaporous with victimized self-righteousness, or bored, is to take a walk with dying friends. They will ruin everything for you. First of all, friends like this may not even think of themselves as dying, although they clearly are, according to recent scans and gentle doctors’ reports. But no, they see themselves as fully alive. They are living and doing as much as they can, as well as they can, for as long as they can.”—Anne Lamott, “Small Victories”
This reminded me so much of my mother in her battle with cancer. She remained extremely optimistic, almost annoyingly so, right up until the day she died. “No Mom, I do NOT think it is a wisdom for you to drive to Graceland when Aunt Cookie comes to visit . . . well, because she has back problems and can’t drive long distances and you are on so much pain medication that I’m sure she would rather have Mr. Magoo driving her than you . . . Mom, did you order anti-aging cream from a television commercial? Do you really think your crow’s feet are an issue right now? Yes that IS a beautiful semi-truck…no, I don’t think I have ever seen a turquoise semi before…I doubt he will let us ride in it…because that’s a long way up and you were barely able to get in my Camry this morning. . . well, the dr. said if you eat solid food you will be back in the hospital, but yes, I guess you could put that plate of Gary Rippy’s fried fish in the freezer until you are well….” These may or may not have been some of the conversations I had with my mom in her last months. You can’t keep a good woman down, I tell you. She had more hope than all of us I think.
I was reading some of the text messages recently and cracked up when I read this report to my sister after her last surgery: “Well she seemed to be in a lot of pain when we helped her to the bathroom, but then we heard her singing ‘don’t it make my brown eyes blue…wait a minute, I have green eyes…..don’t it make my green eyes….then she started talking about a dog in WWII from one of her kids books at the library.” Okay, I know what you’re thinking and I guess some of the optimism could have been narcotic-induced, but over and over again I heard from nurses and staff members at the hospital and hospice home about what a positive attitude and “bright spirit” she had, always encouraging someone.
There are several traits I believe I got from my mother—a love for reading and a strange compulsion to have books (or at least A BOOK) around me at all times. Another quirk I got was carrying tons of various pens with me. Is this a teacher thing, I wonder? Jeff marveled at my mother’s collection of colored pens in the outer pocket of her purse and once and asked her, “Linda, are we about to take a test?” She looked at him puzzled and he pointed at the pens. He teased her almost as much as my father did. Lots of people tell me I look like my mother and some people could never tell our voices apart on the phone. I got my “teacher look” from her that my students believe could actually turn them to stone. Granted, my father had this “gift” too that served him well as a principal so I may have gotten it from him. Nonetheless, I am grateful.
Don’t get me wrong—there are some traits I did not inherit from her or would never admit to it if I did. Mom was a bit of a hoarder. Not the filthy kind but the kind that wanted to fold up and save the wrapping paper her gifts came in because it was just “so beautiful.” And don’t get me started on the Elvis memorabilia. She also had the tendency to need to rush to the bathroom when she laughed too hard. Or if someone startled her. Those traits I am quite happy that she didn’t pass to me.
The thing I hope most, though, that I got from my mother was her ability to enjoy her life and enjoy people, and to feel enjoyed. On the evening of July 4th, Savannah and I were with her in her Tulsa hospital room on the 14th floor, and we had a spectacular view of every fireworks display within a 30 mile radius. We sat by the window holding hands for hours, oohing and aaaahhhing and laughing. The next day, doctors would sit by that same window and tell us in somber tones that there was nothing else they could do, and that we should prepare for the worst. Mom looked at me brightly, squeezed my hand and said, “Don’t cry honey. This means I get to go and be with your daddy!” Later she looked at me and said, “Vanessa can you believe they did all that for me last night?” I was perplexed. “What do you mean, Mom?” She was talking about all the fireworks….the celebration. She believed she was being celebrated…that someone knew she would be coming Home. And maybe she was right.
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One of my students wrote in her Bible study assignment, “Gabriel got a message from God because he stood in the presents of the Lord. I need to stop being the presents of the computer and get in the presents of the Lord…” 🙂
This made me laugh out loud. 5th and 6th graders are so…well, honest and direct. During the first few weeks of my Bible classes, I outline the 7 Commitments of a Forerunner (Pray daily, Fast weekly, Live holy, Do justly, Give extravagantly, Speak boldly and Lead diligently) and we always talk about the importance of what I call having a “daily appointment with the King” (Jesus). We talk about the importance of reading the Bible and “listening” to what God speaks to us through His Word. Many of them also go to the Global Prayer Room at the International House of Prayer too because their parents are missionaries like us or have moved here to be trained and equipped to establish and strengthen other prayer ministries in the earth. The S.O.A.P. method of Bible study is one of the lessons I share in the first few weeks of school. Thanks to one of our partners, this year I had individual soaps to use as an illustration. (I love when God cares about the details! My friend has a “thrift anointing” and often blesses us with her finds. Recently I got to donate glue guns and popsicle craft sticks to the supply room! A few months ago, she said, “do you happen to have a need for a bunch of individually wrapped soaps?” Why, YES I do. 🙂 I challenged my students to use the soap and when they washed their hands to pray from Psalm 24 “Give me clean hands and a pure heart.” I also asked them to let it be a reminder to have their “daily appointment” in prayer and Bible study. Here is a brief description of their assignment. I have used this Bible study method for years and I believe it will be a blessing to you too!
Scripture—Take today’s Bible reading and read through slowly. Write down the verse(s) God is highlighting to you. Writing it down is not mandatory but I tell my students that there is a “heart to hand” connection and writing it down helps to get it into their hearts. I tell them to think about how when they play their instrument or draw, sometimes their heart is moved. They are skeptical at first, but usually they will come back to me and tell me something powerful God spoke to them as they were writing. Try it! Since a dramatic encounter with God on October 13th of 2000, I have used the One Year Bible for my daily appointment with Jesus. It has a portion of Old Testament, New Testament, a Psalm and a Proverb and can be read in 15 minutes each day. You may have a different Bible reading plan. Many of my students like the YouVersion Bible app. They can take the verse God highlighted to them and make a verse image. There are also several daily Bible reading plans to choose from The important thing is that you do it daily.
Observation—What is God showing you in this passage? Jot down in your journal any words or events that stand out. Are there any truths God wants you to learn? Warnings? Commands? Guiding principles? Often God’s promises have an “if you…then….” Don’t just write down the promise. What is the condition? Record those in your journal. What is the overall message God is speaking to you in this passage? Be sure to record what God is speaking to that person or group at that time. You can make it personal to you (application) but it’s important to look at the context of the verse. What was happening then? Luke 3:4 speaks of John the Baptist, “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the LORD, make straight paths for him.” But it also speaks of forerunner messengers who “prepare the way for the Lord” today. You and me.
Application—Make it personal. How does this verse apply to me today? How does it relate to events in my past? What does it mean for my future? Does God have instruction (something for me to DO—I call it my “marching orders”)? Encouragement? Correction? One morning I was shocked because I had been in an argument with Jeff the night before and Y,ALL…my “word for the day” was Proverbs 21:19 “It’s better to live alone in the desert than with a crabby and complaining wife.” Gulp. Sigh.
Prayer—Pray from the verse. Prayer is simply a conversation with God. Help me to be loving and encouraging (not crabby and complaining). Or why am I crabby? You may find that as you pray over what He has shown you (revelation is God revealing more of Himself and His heart to yours) He will reveal even more of what He is wanting to show you. Consider journaling your prayers. I can’t tell you how encouraging it is to go back and read a prayer and realize that God has supernaturally answered it!