Delicious Zucchini Pasta

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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."

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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.

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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.

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

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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 :)

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5. Add parmesan cheese (freshly grated is best :)

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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.

Going On a Prayer Walk

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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.

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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! 

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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:

https://gamequitters.com/gaming-addiction-quiz-for-parents/

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.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sax-sex/201805/fortnite-boys-and-self-control

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/06/12/addictive-video-games-may-change-childrens-brains-way-drugs/

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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Write a Career Manifesto

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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

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Where there is no honor, there is no gloryIn 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 farewellsI 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 silenceSeveral 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 correctBefore 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 intentionWhy 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 ironProverbs 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 fishWhen 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 AngelouThis one needs no explanation. I want my students and those around me to feel loved, honored, seen and heard. Known.Write your own manifestoSo, 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

Writing a Personal Manifesto

Writing a 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

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Be VanessaMy "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 NeededI 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 LoveIt 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 MarginIf 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 WellThe 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 CalmI 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 MedicineFeeling 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 TapestryIf 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

What's in Your Hand?

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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, Ineed to—learn to pick up my shoes. Sigh.

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.

Begin With the End in Mind

“LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting my life is.”                                  —Psalm 39:4You 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 CoveyOne 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.donate button

A Life of Purpose

 IMG_8359“At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, ‘I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”  —Luke 4:42-43 NIV “He’s like me..he came here to teach people about love and about Jesus. Now he has to go back home to heaven and soon I will too. . . ”Two weeks before our daughter Maegan died in 1997, we were watching a movie about an angel who had come to earth on a mission and at the end of the movie when it was time for him to return, she turned and said this to me in sign language. (Maegan was deaf) There was a hint of sadness in her expression, but I was taken aback by how confident she seemed, knowing that she had completed her assignment on earth and was ready to go “Home.”I decided then that I wanted to be like Maegan—to know without a doubt what I was made for and to walk out that purpose in my everyday life so that I can hear one day as I have no doubt she did, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” As believers, we all have the same purpose in that we were made to love and be loved by God and to bring Him glory with our lives as we love and serve others, but we each have an unique personal mission as well—a “Tailor-made blueprint” for our days on the earth. Our problem is that we get sidetracked or loaded down with the cares of this world or even helping someone else with their mission, which is not necessarily a “bad” thing. In fact, it is most often a “good thing”, but we have to continually be asking the question, “is this God’s Best for me? Is this why I was sent?” It would have been a “good” thing for Jesus to stay and continue to minister to the group in Luke 4, but He recognized it was not His Father’s BEST and so in this circumstance, Jesus said NO.One of my favorite stories (from the book Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver) is about a man who asks God if he can do something for Him and God gives him the task of carrying three rocks in a wagon up to the top of a hill. The man is thrilled about his “mission” for God and takes off singing. Along the way, friends hear what he is doing and ask if he could take their rock or “bag of sand” or “handful of gravel” to the top of the hill too. He agrees and lets them put their burdens in his wagon because well, surely God would want me to help my friends, right? As the wagon grew fuller, the man was no longer singing praises, and resentment began to build until he was ready to give up and let go of the wagon altogether.God comes along and asks what the problem is. “You gave me a job that is too hard”, the man sobbed. God begins to unload the items others had placed in the wagon until only the three stones He had given him were left. “Let others shoulder their own belongings,” God said gently. “I know you were trying to help but when you are weighted down with all these cares, you cannot do what I have asked of you.” (pgs 51-52)The first step to finding out “why you were sent” is to ask God what “rocks” He has placed in your wagon. My rocks are prayer, writing and teaching. Recently Savannah’s school had need of someone to organize the library and for someone to plan special events and parties. While I was tempted to meet the needs out of a genuine desire to serve her school, I waited and I’m so glad I did because the following week, I was asked to join a weekly prayer group with other parents to intercede for staff and students and later to substitute for an elementary Bible class teacher. I was able to say “Yes!” to these requests that were God’s “best” for me, and clearly rocks that He had placed in my wagon. (AND the event coordinator and library organizing positions were filled by others who were gifted in those areas and thrilled to serve!) One of the best definitions of stress I have heard is “when your mouth says yes to a request while your heart says no.”There’s a commercial that asks, “What’s in your wallet?” Today I am asking you, “What’s in your wagon?” As we near the end of the year, take some time to go to a “solitary place” and ask God what rocks HE has placed in your wagon and ask for the grace to remove some rocks that are not His “best”. In John 17:4, Jesus was able to say “I finished the work You gave me to do”. So did Maegan, and by His grace, so will we.    donate button

Training Up a Forerunner

IMG_8443Jesus, I plead Your blood over my sins and the sins of my nation. God, end abortion and send revival to America.”It is a prayer Savannah has prayed hundreds of times over the past several years. She even wears a red bracelet with the word “LIFE” to remind her to pray. But on the night before the last presidential election, God showed her just how powerful that prayer can be.It was November 6, 2012 and I remember being a little concerned about how she would respond if President Obama was re-elected. She adamantly opposed his Pro-Choice position and since she is sometimes  stubborn (i.e. bull-headed) and quick to speak her opinion, (I believe she gets these things from her father, of course) I have had to have SEVeral conversations with her about honoring and continuing to pray for our leaders even when we do not understand their decisions. Sigh.On election day, she told me very matter-of-factly, “Mom, President Obama will win today but God gave me a dream and showed me how important it is that we keep praying for him. In my dream, he came into our prayer room at RHOP and he was wearing a red suit. (now, a few people, who I won’t name, have interjected at this point in the story, ‘was he holding a pitchfork too?’ These people are a tiny bit angry I think and we should definitely pray for them.) He sat down beside me and as I told him about abortion, he started to cry really hard and he kept saying, “I didn’t know…I didn’t know….” I think God was showing me with the red suit that we need to keep praying and pleading the blood of Jesus over him…” Can you think of the name of a leader today that you can pray for and plead the blood of Jesus over? Do that now.As I shared last month, our family is being led to enter into a season of equipping in Kansas City over the next few years. We will continue our ministry of intercession and evangelism, and Savannah will attend Forerunner Christian Academy. She recently sent out her own support letter and since I am highlighting the training of forerunners this month, I will share part of her letter here:“. . . While we are there (in KC), I will be attending Forerunner Christian Academy. At FCA I am going to be able to play the drums on a worship team. I will also be attending the prayer room at least 4 hours each week. Forerunner Christian Academy believes it is critical that children learn and interact with Scripture on a daily basis to build proper foundations. Students there study the major themes of Scripture in Bible class every afternoon. In addition, musically gifted students have the opportunity to join a student worship team. The daily worship time creates a context for students to sing the Bible in addition to studying it. I believe God will use this school to help me grow in my studies and be closer to His heart. Part of the curriculum actually includes spending time in the Global Prayer Room worshiping Jesus and studying His Word! My mom and I have visited this school and after the tour and visiting with some of the leaders, we sat in the car crying tears of joy because as soon as I set foot in the building I felt God’s presence and well, it felt like “home”. In addition to drumming, I have a calling to pray for the ending of abortion. At the prayer room at IHOP-KC I will get to exercise my calling by joining (and sometimes even leading!) the Life Initiative prayer meetings each week. When we were there in January, I prayed LIFE over China on the live web stream that is broadcast to 200 nations! I know I am called to pray for life and to be a messenger who will prepare the way for Jesus’ Return….”If you are a parent or teacher or have any sort of influence on a child or young person, I am praying today for you (and me!) to have God’s wisdom and guidance as we train up and encourage this next generation. The pull of the world is so strong that it will take fasting and prayer to “turn the tide.” Stay encouraged and keep praying!In order for our family to fully give ourselves to this calling of intercession and training forerunner messengers, we need to raise up a team of friends like you who will “link arms” with us in prayer and financial support. Would you prayerfully consider joining our ministry team? We need 10-12 more monthly partners and approx. $5,000 in special gifts to pay for her tuition and moving expenses. We love and appreciate you and will continue to pray…….night and day until He comes!donate button

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. SINGTo make a tax-deductible donation or join our partnership team:Image

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?