Music, Prayer, Purpose

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings


“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?


Marvelous are Your Works

girl and butterflies

“You have a complex cyst, but it is benign. There is absolutely no cancer”

I’ve been thinking a lot about Job lately. About how he was able to say “though He slay me, yet will I trust Him…” during the midst of his trial. Actually it was trialsss, plural. When I read about them I realize that my worst trial on my worst day seems like a hangnail compared to Job’s mess! I personally think it would have been so much more helpful for Job if he had known about the conversation between God and Satan at the beginning of the book, about Satan asking God if he could test Job, but I did not get to vote on the matter. I can only be grateful that the conversation was recorded in Scripture because knowing about it now has been extremely helpful for me. It reminds me that the Enemy cannot touch me unless God allows it and if He allows it, He means to bring good out of it. Job got “double for his trouble” and this is very good news to you and me. Good news like those words I heard this past week.

Three years ago, the doctors found a nodule on my thyroid that needed to be biopsied and removed. It was unnerving, to say the least, but I will never forget the day I sat down at the computer to look up information about the thyroid. A picture of it appeared on the screen with the caption: “the thyroid is often called the butterfly gland because it is a gland in your neck shaped like a butterfly…” Google an image of the thyroid and you will see it! Now, you may think I’m being “kooky-spiritual” here but I’m willing to risk it. My name Vanessa means “butterfly”, so when I saw that image I suddenly imagined the conversation between God and Satan concerning me…”yes, you may test her but the only place I will allow you to touch her is her thyroid because when she looks at that picture, she will hear Me say her name and know that I am in it, that I will see her through it.” And truly He did.

Now, fast-forward to the lump found in my breast this past year. The clinic in Coweta where the “abnormality” was first found does not have a radiologist on staff, so they sent the films off to be read by someone else and we only got to read the report. Remember how last month I told you I was a bit frustrated (i.e., “throwing a fit”) about having to go yet again to have more films made since the other ones were outdated? Well, the specialist also recommended this time that I get “digital imaging” which would have to be done at Claremore Indian Hospital. I had several people praying with me that there would be no lump at all when I had the new mammogram, but it was (and is) still there. But wait. . .

A kind and lovely African American woman in her early 60’s came in to discuss the films with me, and when she pointed out the white spot on the black screen, I nearly gasped. Y’all, the thing is shaped just like a butterfly! I have the films to prove it but felt it might not be “newsletter-appropriate” so you will have to take my word for it. 🙂 The radiologist said, “well, would you look at that…” And just as I was about to completely lose my composure, the fire alarm went off and they had to evacuate the building. I was still in the flimsy half gown and about to panic, when the tech saw my look of horror and mercifully said, “This is only a test. You don’t have to go out like that. You just stay here and wait for it to pass.

As I sat in the dimly lit pink room, the tears began to flow as I thought of the past year—closing the house of prayer, being separated from my family, all the feelings of doubt and uncertainty about the future. And in that place I heard His voice. I believe it is His message to you today as well, so let me be your messenger of mercy like the radiology tech was for me. God says, “This is only a test. It’s not going down like that. Just stay here with Me and wait for it to pass…I AM WITH YOU” At that point, it didn’t really matter what the results would be because I knew He was WITH ME and would go “out of His way” to say my name and send me pictures of His Love. Don’t lose heart. Remember Job. “After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.” (Job 42:10) So, who can you pray for today? I am praying for you!

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