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.


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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