Music, Prayer, Purpose

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

SongBird[1]

“I saw a beautiful red bird in a cage surrounded by music notes. One of the music notes became the key that unlocked the door…”

I was sharing this vision with a pastor friend and his wife recently after praying with them for their aging mother, Joy. Later when Savannah and I worshipped in the “prayer room” at our house, me on the keyboard and she on the percussion bells, I realized the vision was as much for me as it was for them. Perhaps even it was entirely for me. And well, maybe for you.

We are in a season of raising a support team as missionaries as we step into this new season of ministry. The Lord has directed us to move to Kansas City for the next few years to be further trained and equipped to establish houses of prayer in Oklahoma and to train missionaries who will be sent out to Indian reservations across the nation. We have commitments for half of our estimated monthly budget, but with our August deadline approaching, the Enemy is doing his best to “put me in his cage” of fear and doubt and rejection. The mental attacks have been relentless, but as I sat singing “Holy holy is our God almighty”, I realized it was my own heart that had become “the bird in the cage” and the music notes mixed with prayer were the “keys” that would unlock my Joy and set me free. When we finished I felt like Hannah must have felt after she poured out her heart to the Lord from the anguish of her barrenness. She went away and was “no longer downcast.” (1 Sam. 1:18) Now, it’s entirely possible and even likely that my heart will end up “back in the cage” by the end of the week but at least I know “where the keys are”, which is more than I can say for my car keys most of the time. Ha!

What is your “cage” made of? Perhaps yours is not made of fear, rejection and doubt like mine. Maybe for you it is debilitating grief, loneliness, busyness, unforgiveness, addiction, depression or an unfulfilled dream. Worship and prayer will be the keys to unlock your heart and set you free. It causes tormenting spirits to flee (think David playing the harp for Saul) and it transforms us into a “different person”. (see verse at top of page 1) But know this—there is more at stake here than your own “freedom.”

One of our partners shared a verse with me that has rocked my world lately. Proverbs 15:15 (Amplified) says “All the days of the desponding and afflicted are made evil [by anxious thoughts and forebodings] but he who has a glad heart has a continual feast [regardless of circumstances].” When I studied it out, I found that the Hebrew word for “evil” here means “bad, as in bad cattle or bad waters. . . malignant”. The Hebrew word for “glad” is “towb”, meaning good, as in good (fertile) land, a good tree or get this—benign.

These definitions struck a deep chord in me, since I just spent a year worrying (or let’s say wondering, shall we?) over whether or not a lump in my breast was malignant or not. The message or lesson here for me is that since the breast is a symbol of nourishment, my “anxious thoughts and forebodings” are actually the malignancies that keep me from being fully alive and nourishing those around me. Like “bad cattle” and “bad waters” poison others, my doubts and fears poison my own heart, which will eventually affect those around me. Oh, but a “glad heart” is not only benign, it is like a fertile field or tree that yields good “food”, a continual feast for myself and others!

In the film Coach Carter, a student who had once been trapped in his own cage of poverty and racism, quotes this passage to his coach, whose “life song” has somehow entered into and unlocked his cage. . . “We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”  Your “song” is a key. So sing, caged bird. SING

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Prayer, Purpose

What Do You Want?

Friend of God

“What do you want?”

Before that day, he had been a complete stranger. We shared a two hour shuttle ride from Santa Fe to Albuquerque in 2005 and my life would never be the same. I’m still not certain that he wasn’t an angelic messenger, though I remember now that he had said he was a therapist of some sort. He was talking to me about an illumination session that he took clients through to get to the core issues that were holding them back from love, peace, fulfillment.

“That’s the first question of the session… I always ask ‘What do you want?”

As soon as he said those words, I felt like my whole world sliced wide open. It completely caught me off guard because I realized I didn’t know the answer! Do YOU know the answer to that question? That is something I’m very passionate about–helping people find their unique purpose and challenging them to find a way to “walk in it.” That all starts with this one question. What do you want?

Thankfully, the woman in the seat in front of us suddenly turned around and started showing us the greeting cards she had designed with her own art. We passed them back and forth and Tom the Angel would ever so often pause and lean over to show me one, “you’ll like this one…” And y’all, I was stunned because well, he was right! The ones he picked are exactly the ones I would have pointed out and there’s just absolutely NO WAY he could have known that from a two hour conversation. Unless he were an angel. Or maybe Jesus in disguise. Okay, I know, I know.

I used to be a sign language interpreter for the deaf at a mental health center and I remember one of the group sessions when one of my favorite clients confessed, “I can’t read the Bible too much because I start thinking I’m a prophet.” I kept my robotic interpreter face on and continued to sign with my hands but inside I admit it’s all I could do not to shoot my hand up and shout, “I KNOW, ME TOO!” It’s possible they might have kept me over then at that point for “observation” (doing the quote signs with my hands) so it’s probably best I kept quiet in that particular situation. I tell that story in case you are thinking that I’ve been reading the Bible too much and now think I’m seeing angels. or Jesus. But don’t call the psych ward on me just yet because that’s not even the point, people!

The point is that it made me think about how Jesus was always asking people, even the ones whose answers seemed obvious. “What do you want?” or “What do you want me to do for you?” It’s obvious the man was blind. Did He really need to ask that? Or what about the man who laid by the pool of Bethesda for THIRTY-EIGHT YEARS. “Do you really want to get well?” He always looked past what was on the surface…to the heart.

As I boarded my plane that day after waving goodbye to Tom, I realized that no matter who or what he was, God had used him to send a message to my heart. “What do you want?” I sat staring out the window and finally the answer bubbled up from the depths of my heart in a single word. Intimacy. I heard once someone describe the word “intimacy” as “into-me-see”. . . The same messenger who asked the question also gave me the answer. He listened to me and then showed me that he “heard” me. He “saw” me. Into-me-see. That’s what a personal relationship with Jesus is. He listens. He sees inside your heart, then He goes out of His way to show you pictures of His love. “You’ll like this,” He says and then paints the sky your favorite color at sunset. Then it’s your turn and you write Him a poem or sing Him a song. “You’ll like this…” And He does.

Sometimes we have to ask ourselves that question over and over and over again before we get to the true desire of our heart. I once led a workshop where I asked people to pair up and ask one another that question again and again and again. At first we start listing our immediate needs and wants….I want a new job….I want a new car….I want a bigger house…I want another baby….I want human trafficking to end…I want to quit smoking…I want my children to be healthy…I want to write a book…I want to learn to play guitar…I want to write a song that will change lives…I want to be held close…I want passion….I want adventure…I want peace…I want joy….you get the picture.

So, what do you want? I finally know the answer to that question for me. I want intimacy and passion for Jesus. I want adventure. I want to be a great wife and mother and friend. I want to pray and write and teach. I want to love deeply and be loved deeply. I want “face time”.

Take action: Have a friend ask you this question over and over again or ask yourself again and again and record your answers on a sheet of paper until you feel like you have narrowed it down to the “core issue”….the desire of your heart. Imagine if Jesus knocked on your door or sat down next to you on a shuttle today and asked you that question, “what do you want Me to do for you?” What would you say?

Uncategorized

Who I Am and Why I Am Here

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A few years ago, I helped coordinate a 24 hour prayer tent outreach in the middle of our city during it’s annual Fall Festival. The theme for that year’s outreach was “Like Me” inspired by the hymn “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.” A local musician and artist (also my brother and partner in ministry) painted this picture and another with spray paint cans while people gathered to watch and we asked them how we could pray for them. I feel like it best describes who I am because indeed I am a “wretch”, the worst of sinners saved by grace and faith in Jesus Christ. Song of Solomon 1:5 says it this way, “Dark am I, yet lovely…” When we think of how our hearts must look to God, we see images of darkness and brokenness. Imagine right now if you had to describe what your heart “looks like” with a word picture, what image do you see? Do you see lava spilling from a volcano or a broken-winged bird that was a victim of an oil spill? Do you see a desert or dry bones or broken pieces of glass? Sigh…I know, me too, but that’s why I love this picture! This is how my Beloved Jesus sees my heart. He says it is lovely and overflowing with life, butterflies and flowers. Vanessa means “butterfly” and while I often feel like a caterpillar inching along in the mud and mire, I was made to fly.

Who am I? Aside from the wretched-worm-made-beautiful-butterfly, I am a wife and mother, a writer, musician and teacher. My mission is to inspire, encourage and motivate others to spend time with God (prayer) and to find and fulfill their unique purpose. My life is about prayer, passion and purpose. I believe the world would be infinitely less hostile and ridiculous if more people had a personal, passionate relationship with Jesus Christ, knew their purpose and were equipped and empowered to walk in it. That is why I pray and write and speak and teach. And breathe, I suppose. It is why I started this blog. What about you? Do you know who you are and why you are here?

Take action: Spend some time in prayer asking God these very questions: “Who am I? Why am I here?” Write down the response in a journal or on an index card to post where you can see it every day. Share it with a trusted friend.