Perhaps a more fitting title would be ramblings of a mad woman! From mad at the world to mad about Love, I must warn you now that I am extremely opinionated and yes, long winded! So, grab a cup of java or a glass of vino, and curl up on your comfy chair...Deep calls to deep...come take a drink.
Note: I started this article a few months ago with the intent that Doug (my husband) would add to it and we would release the published work together. He never got around to adding to it, but I still thought it was worth sharing with my readers in the form that it's in.
Why Are All The Animals Dying?
Why are all the animals dying? Is it the end of the world? It is a 'sign of the time'? In three short words, I don't know. I could put on my colored lenses of religion and reach into the Old Testament and tell you that His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways (Is. 55:8) and most would be satisfied with that.
Since I understand that Jesus is perfect theology, with permission from Jesus in John 15:15, “ No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” and additional encouragement from the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 1:9, that God has made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself; I started leaning into the heart of God and asking, “Father, what are you doing?”
From my core value that God is in a good mood and that He gives life and life to the full, I know He is not causing these deaths. There is no death or sickness in heaven therefore these phenomena cannot be from Him. Well, is He allowing it? Is He sending a warning? Has judgment began? In three short words, I don't know.
1Peter 4:17 admonishes us that judgment should begin with the house of God, not with the beast of the field, the birds of the air, or the fish of the sea. Honestly, I think the answer is found in Romans 8: 19-22, “For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope;because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.”
Jesus is the head. We are His body. He has seated us in heavenly places(Eph. 2:6) so that we can see and grab ahold of the blueprint of heaven and then execute and build heaven on earth. This is the core of Jesus' prayer in Matthew 6:10, “On earth as it is in heaven.” How can we replicate heaven on earth if we don't know what heaven looks like?
In John 14:12 we find ourselves face to face with a bold declaration that we would do greater works than Jesus did. How can this be possible since John 21:25 tells us, “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself couldnotcontain the books that would be written.” Through His death, burial, resurrection, Jesus became the firstborn among many brethren. Just as our natural body as millions of cells, so the body of Christ is made up of many members. Creation is groaning and laboring in travail for the body to understand with their heart that, “As He is, so are we in this world.”
So the question becomes, How is He? And the answer I believe is found in 1 John 4:8, "For God is love." and in John 8:12, Jesus declares that He is the light of the world. Additionally, in John 5:19 – 21 , “ Then Jesus answered and said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.
More than focusing on the why, I think the stage has been set for Sons of God to recognize the hour that is upon us. A new era has come, a new day indeed has dawn. Rise up Sons of God, declare life; declare love. Let your light shine so that men may see your good works and glorify the Father which is in heaven. Instead of being distracted by the sign, fix your eye on Jesus. He alone will reveal what Father is doing. In that, we can partner with the Holy Spirit as Sons of God and loose heaven on earth.
Rise up, Son of God! Rise up, daughter of God! Creating is waiting. We don't have to partner with a victim spirit. We stand in out authority and from our seat in heavenly places, we can grab ahold of heaven and loose it into the earth.
Why are all the animals dying? In three words, I don't know. But what I do know is, "On earth as it is in heaven." There is no death in heaven. With all of heaven backing me up, I boldly declare over the birds of the air, life be. And over the fish of the sea, life be. And of the beast of the field, life be.
Ever since the days of my own childhood, I have vacillated between not wanting to have any children to looking forward to being a mother of teenagers. I secretly longed to do all the things I felt my parents didn’t do or should have done with me. Now in that season of parenting four amazing, world changing teens that range in age from 20 to 13, I no longer feel that I know all of the answers or have an upper hand on all of the current parenting methods of the day. Truly, I often find myself praying for strategic wisdom and creativity from the Holy Spirit and receiving the Lord’s grace to parent our children.
One such occasion happened four years ago. Our eldest was then a sophomore in high school. We recognized that in a few short years, she would be on her own attending college somewhere. As Christian parents, Doug and I had heard the all too often told stories of Christian kids leaving home for college and going wild with their new found freedom. This was not our heart for our daughter so after years of sheltering her from the harms of the world, cartoons and movies that may expose her to the demonic, secular music that might corrupt her soul, and anything else that could tempt her away from her Saviour, I began to ask the Lord for wisdom in how to prepare her in two short years for the freedoms she would experience.
As life lessons go, one day as I was zooming down I-264 towards Norfolk at the jolly ole speed of 70, I saw a state trooper and immediately put on my brakes to slow down to a respectable 55 miles per hour. Immediately, the Holy Spirit began to use this experience as a teachable moment. He said to me, “Felicia, why do you speed?” I answered, “Because I like to get where I am going.” He said, “No, you have no value or understanding for the rule and so you choose to break it. When the Enforcer is not there to enforce the rule, you don't follow the law.” Then He asked, “What makes you obey my rules?” I answered, “Because I love you and I wouldn't want to do anything that would hurt You, or Father, or Jesus.” To which the Holy Spirit responded, “If you will deepen and protect the heart to heart connection between you and your children in the same way that you protect our heart to heart relationship, you will not have to live in fear of them falling away from the things you have taught them.”
The sky opened. The music played. I had an aha moment. Eureka! I sped when there was no one to enforce the law. If pulled over, I simply accept the penalty for my wrongdoing and pay whatever fee is assessed or go to court and ask for mercy. I recognized that I had not experienced a consequence severe enough to keep me from speeding. What consequence would be great enough to keep our daughter from exploiting her freedoms and disregarding all that we had invested in her for the last 18 years? There had to be a great value on our relationship. It had to be her choice to love us so much that she wouldn’t want to hurt us; that the things that are important to us would remain important to her. It had to be her choice to take personal responsibility for her part of our relationship and protect our heart.
Armed with this revelation, our first test came when she successfully obtained her Virginia driver’s license. While most of our friends were issuing curfews with their teenager's driver’s license, we chose not to set a curfew right away. We decided to give her the opportunity to manage her freedom and see how she handled it. We celebrated her accomplishment, made her aware of the Virginia law for teen drivers – how many could be in the car, what time they required her to be off the road, etc. Only twice in her final year of high school did she come home later than we would have liked. Both times, she called to make us aware that she would be thirty minutes late and in both instances, she was not personally driving. It was fun to watch her handle her part of our relationship with respect and honor.
The atmosphere in our home is modeled after 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love cast out fear: because fear involves torment (punishment). He that fears is not made perfect in love.” By choosing to train our children in self-control and protecting our heart to heart connection, we no longer demand obedience or conformity. Is this hard? Yes! Yet, we have decided that it is more fun to raise kids who are personally responsible for their choices, empowered to think for themselves and capable of managing their freedoms.
2 Corinthians 3:17 says, “Now the Lord is Spirit; where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty (freedom).” Why were there two trees in the Garden of Eden? I believe it was because love and freedom always requires a choice. It's not freedom if there aren't options. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (self-control).” God gave us all self-control to manage ourselves and handle freedom. When you can't manage you, you are out of control. As parents, when we see our children out of control, more often than not, we begin to operate in a spirit of fear and try to control the situation.When we believe parenting is about obedience and control, we miss the opportunity to partner with God in teaching our children how to clean up their messes. In doing this, we actually sow a lie into the core values of our children that says, we can control others and others can control us. When the truth is found in Galatians 5: 22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is...self-control. Against such there is no law.” Teaching our children to control themselves sets them up for a lifetime of wisdom and freedom. A Murrell mantra in our home, “On a good day, you control you.”
One really funny example of this from the Murrell parenting archives: our boys share a bedroom and at times, it is nothing short of a disaster zone. Honestly, I often just close the door and let them live in it. But as days would have it, the boys found me on a day when I was over the messy room and thus a choice was presented to them. “Boys," I said, "you have 10 minutes to clean your room or you can pay me to clean it for you.” The boys continued playing their gaming system, craftily ignoring my warning. Because they can trust that I do what I say, when 10 minutes passed, I appeared in the door of the game room and said, “What’s your decision? Are you ready to clean your room or would you like to pay me to clean it?” To which my oldest son replied, “We don’t even have any money to pay you with. So how are we going to pay you?" I smiled and said to him, “Sure you do. I will just sell video games until my cleaning fee is paid in full." With a few murmurs under his breath, he continued to play. My response, “No problem.” No problem in our home really means, no problem for me, possible problem for you. With that, I turned and entered their room and began cleaning it. When they saw the trash bag and the vacuum cleaner, the boys started singing the ‘Mom’ song. We’ve all heard it, “Mooooom. Moooom. We were gonna do it.” After cleaning the room, I went to collect my fee. Stepping into the game room, I asked the boys, “Would like to give me the games you want me to sell or should I pick them out myself?” Needless to say, our oldest son was pretty livid that I had followed through to collect payment.
As a parent, part of me managing me is the decision to not allow the character defects of my children to control me. This revelation is significant in maintaining my heart to heart connection with my children as it gives me the freedom to allow my children to work on their lives and their problems while managing me. As a result, my children are confident of two truths: 1) “If you need my help, I'll be over here.” and 2) Even at their worst, they are safe with me.
Since this sounds good in theory, but really is a process of learning to master the art of telling myself what to do and then doing it, I went on with my other tasks without allowing my son's tantrum to pull me into an emotional vortex. Dad, however, was being drawn in at a steady pace and pretty soon, our eldest son had manage to push and ignite his father’s big red button called DISRESPECT! As the night came to a close and Room Time (our kids are asked to retire to their room 30 to 40 minutes before bed to soak, read their bible, or have some quiet reflection time) fell upon the Murrell abode, our eldest son was still a little bent out of shape about having to pay for his clean room. Dad had finally had enough!
From the kitchen, I could hear voices rising. I went to our boys room and saw Dad standing over the bed with hands on hip, “That’s my wife you’re talking about. You’re not going to disrespect my wife.” Looking up from his bed, our lanky teenager responded, “Well, she shouldn’t have taken my games.” I stepped in the door and said, “ I’m sorry. I thought it was room time. Room time means I don’t want to see you. I don’t want to hear you. Why can I hear you all the way downstairs?" Then looking directly at my oldest son I said, “ Son, are you tired? If you’re not tired, I can give you something to do.” His response was simply to stare back at me. With a gentle tug of my husband’s hand, I led him out of the room and closed the boys door. In the privacy of our room, I admitted to my hero that I was ok. Our son had not wounded me with his behavior or his words. With a few pouts, dear hubby puffed and went back to his reading. I returned to the kitchen. After 5 or 10 minutes I heard, “Felicia, I’m gonna hurt him. He won’t be quiet.” Back up the stairs I went. I stepped into the door of my son’s room and said, “Son, put some socks and shoes on.” As he started to dress over his pajamas, I said, “No need to get dressed, just put on your socks and shoes. I’ve something for you to do.” With socks and shoes on, I asked him to come with me. I directed him to our backyard with a rake and said, “the leaves need to be raked into piles. When you get tired, you are welcome to go to bed.” With an incredulous look, he grabbed the rake and went outside. Since the motion light only lit up one area of the backyard, he stayed in that area and raked the leaves. After 10 minutes or so, I walked out back and asked, “Are you ok? Would you like some water?" And then I added,"When you get tired, you can go back to bed. OK?” With a gruff and a nod, he continued to rake. A few more minutes passed, I heard the screen door shut and looked up to see my son coming through the door. I said, “Are you tired?” “Yes,” he replied. I leaned up on my tippy toes to kiss him goodnight and said, “Goodnight, son.” As he shuffled up the stairs, I heard, “G’night, Ma.”
A lot of things happened that night: 1) As parents, we do not always get it right. But thank God that every day in the Kingdom is a do over day. 2) My son knew that he could trust me. I mean what I say. I say what I mean. 3) My words are like $1000 bills. I shouldn't have to use a lot of them to discipline my children. Instruction actually happens better during times of intimacy. When they are angry,their hearts are closed to receiving your pearls of wisdom. 4) I taught my sons that services cost money in the real world. You don’t have to cook, clean, wash your clothes, wash your cars, etc. You have a choice to pay someone to do those things for you. You have to decide if it’s worth the cost or if you would rather do them yourself. 5) I managed me and did not respond to his anger. No one makes you do or say anything. On a good day, you are responsible for you. 6) I was able to give choices in love and administer the consequences of those choices in love. As a result, now when I ask the boys would you like to clean your room or would you rather pay me to clean it, they remember the consequence of loss video games and choose to clean their rooms. And now, when we say room time, they have a full understanding of the consequence that follows not being tired. 7) Our son and his dad both had an amazing opportunity the next day to clean up their mess and restore their connection. Forgiveness ALWAYS restores the standard.
As for our eldest, she is now a sophomore at Yale University and continues to do an amazing job of managing her freedoms and maintaining her heart to heart connection with us.
We've lifted the lid and given our children permission to think. They have permission to fail. They have freedom to make their own choices. They understand that there are consequences to the choices they make. They are secure in our love. It's a high call to raise up world changers who will influence their culture for the Kingdom of God. We have decided that loving on purpose is more important than getting our kids to behave in a certain manner. Yes, it means they are not always perfect. And yes, even we have been known to raise an eyebrow or two at things they say or do. In lieu of punishment, we've created a culture of honor in our home that allows for confrontation. Our standard of discipline is more vision based than behavior modification. We go after the gold that is inside of each of our children and we parent them by constantly loving them and coaching them into becoming whom God has predestined them to be.
Once, our youngest daughter was chatting with several guys via facebook. Doug and I felt that some of it was becoming inappropriate for our young teen. One evening before room time, we called them into our bedroom and began to remind them of our desire that they keep themselves pure for the mate that God is preparing for them and preparing them for. As parents we have always stressed that purity is more than not having sex. It's the protection of your body, soul and spirit. That night, we talked to the boys about being their sisters keeper and protecting her innocence. Again for us, this means protecting what they hear, see, how they are spoken to and treated by others. Then, we turned to our daughter and began to remind of who she was in Christ. That she was our princess. She was valuable. We just began to lavish her with love and a remembrance of her worth. We said to her any guy who will not honor you or speak to you in a manner that honors you is not worth your time. We don't mind you being friends, but remember who you are and be bold in defining your boundaries. That night, I watched as my husband ministered to our baby girl. Her tears fell and her body racked with sobs as she cried in her daddy's arms. It's easy in the world of technology for our children to lose the vision of whom God created them to be. Instead of punishing her or demanding that she close her facebook account, Doug took the time to esteem her, to remind her of her worth. From that day to this, she carries herself like the princess she is and has a good handle on how and when to set boundaries in her friendships.
Felicia, I have such a profound love for you. When you have a revelation of my love, you'll learn to live in my love, live from my love and fashion and govern your life according to my love for you.
God is love(1 John 4:8). He manifests Himself as Father, Healer, Provider, Protecter, Friend, Goodness, Comforter, Teacher, Nurturer, Companion, Warrior, Judge,etc. When we commune with Him, He sows the seed of His nature into our hearts(1 John 3:9). When He deposits His sperma (Greek word for seed) in us, we reproduce the fruit of His Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is love(Galatians 5:22). The fruit of the Spirit is as multifaceted as the nature of God.
Love manifests itself as joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, meekness(strength under control), self control(Galatians 5:22-23).
We don't strive to produce fruit. We don't even have to strive to be righteous. We don't have to strive to be something that we already are. The blood of Jesus makes us righteous(Romans 5:19). Fruitfulness flows from intimacy.
Just as the fruit is in the seed, so the fruit of love is sown into our hearts when Jesus comes to live there. How does the seed from an apple become an apple tree? Or an acorn a mighty oak?
He spreads his branches outward and upward soaking in sun rays, allowing the heavens to water him and receiving nutrients from the soil. As his roots grow deep, he matures and becomes all that was intended for him to be.
This is the act of grace for the New Testament believer. Grace is the operational power of God to do what we can't do on our own. No amount of striving, work or toil will produce the fruit of the Spirit in your life. No amount of striving to be holy will produce holiness in your life. Simply turn aside like the tree, extend your hands and your heart outward and upward in worship and allow the Son to shine upon you. Receive the nutrients of the Word of God and allow the Presence of Holy Sprit to rain upon you. As you abide, the seed of life, the seed of love will begin to germinate and mature, and that acorn (you) will be transformed into a mighty oak (your destiny).
When Jesus cried out, "It is finished"(John 19:30). He meant it. There remains for you a sabbath rest(Hebrews 4:9). Learn to do the hard work of rest. You no longer are required to do to be. Religion requires. Grace enables. Because God is I AM that I AM(Exodus 3:14) we can be all that He has destined us to be.
There is no law that can prevail over the law of love(Galatians 5:23). Why? Because where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom(2 Corinthians 3:17). Increased levels of His presence equals increased levels of freedom. Is greatness crying out from within you? Maintain a lifestyle of practicing His presence, do the hard work of rest. Soak in the Son and the go out and live in freedom.
Ephesians 1:7 (MSG)
Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we're a free people---free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free!
What would it be like to be free? Truly free. What does freedom look like to the believer? How do you handle My freedom? How do you live in freedom? Love in freedom? Show honor in freedom?
Love allows you to rightly handle your freedom and manage your options well. When we live from love and govern our lives according to Father's love for us, everything in us will make protecting the love that flows between us and God a priority.
Relationships are the most important thing to Father God. He's far more concerned about you connecting with Him and connecting with others than He is about what you can do for Him.