Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Leader In Waiting


I think one of the worse things in the world is being a leader with no place to lead. It's one thing to not know who you are. It's another thing altogether to know who you are, understand what you were born for and yet have no place or voice to be you. 

This is the place where humility shines best. This is the place where we learn to limit ourselves and come up under another and serve the vision in their heart without guile, without ambition, without expectation. 

This is the place where trust shines brightest. The place where you choose like Jesus to say, "Father, into Your hands, I commit my spirit." This is the place where you admit not knowing, not seeing and yet fully trusting, like Jesus, "Father, thou knowest." 

This is the place of expectation, where Romans 8:28 becomes a living, breathing truth that God indeed works all things together for good to them that love Him and are called according to His purpose.

This is the place of hope, confidently expecting good to come. In this place, we're waiting for good, anticipating good, looking for good around each corner; knowing that God has His very best in store for you, for no good thing  will He withhold from those who walk uprightly. He's a good Father right? No, scratch that. He's the perfect Father and He only gives good and perfect gifts. Trust His timing, it's the best.

This is a place of celebration and honor. This is a time to cheer on your leaders. Honor those who have the charge. Honor doesn't mean agreement. You are uniquely you. Of course you would do things differently, that's why you're a leader.  Celebrate their gift of individuality and how they see things.  Don't use this time to compare, critique or judge. Don't get offended at what's not happening. Celebrate what is happening. Use this time to develop an attitude of gratitude.

This is a time of preparation. God is 100% responsible for His part and you are 100% responsible for yours. Do your part. Ask Holy Spirit how you can prepare for your moment to lead. Read. Grow. Develop your personal history with God. Cultivate listening skills. Work on you. Agree with God. David didn't become a great warrior the day he defeated Goliath. He became a great warrior in
the field keeping watch over his father's sheep. Often times, the things we deem minuscule, meaningless and mundane are the things that sharpen our character and hone our leadership skills. 

Let your life be your platform, not your position. Whether you are in the pew or the pulpit; the  boardroom or the factory floor; the front office or the mail room, you are a display of His splendor. Don't shrink back from being you because the now moment doesn't quite look like you want it to. The world needs you now. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Ode To The A

I left my heart in Inman Park
My soul is stuck in midtown
The sights and sounds of the city
Call out for me
City life so full of beauty

So deafening is its roar
My heart is crying out for downtown
Tis the city I do adore

I've set my foot down,
Claimed the A as my town
The city calls out to me

The city alive
The city electric
In the A, as it is in Heaven

Deep wells of the past
Prophesy its future
"Free at last. Free at last."
Thank God Almighty
The A is free at last

Voices of love
Ring out o'er the city
Hope carriers abide
Within its walls

Peace to the A
Great grace to you
O, sweet city of mine!

How I love you, Atlanta
Your rhythm
Your banter

There's greatness with your walls
And I'm here to unearth it

You are a portal of greatness
Releasing love to the nations
Marked by justice and reconciliation

You're a forerunner of redemption
You're love on a mission
To reclaim and to restore

May your love for the A
Consume us
Oh God!
Give us more, Lord!
Give us more!

The Giver


Don’t you just love receiving gifts? I do. A few months ago, some friends were visiting and as we were driving, I started pointing out a few rogue patches of wildflowers that were growing in random places on the highway or roadsides in our area.   

And just off the cuff, perhaps I may have said, “I love wildflowers!”  I do. I love their vibrant colors, I love the way their stems grow long and tall and then bow with the fruit of their flowers. I love the randomness of where they pop up and their ability to thrive and survive in the most obscene and toughest of environments. Or perhaps, I didn’t say anything at all.  Perhaps my pointing out the wildflowers was enough to plant a love idea in my friend’s heart.

Later in that journey, we stopped at a store to pick up a few items. I noticed my friend purchased a bag of potting soil and I remember thinking, “That’s random.” But then, you’d have to know my friends!  When we arrived home, I commenced to saying I love you in the language I know best: cooking and feeding people. As I prepared dinner, I’m oblivious to what’s happening around me.

My friend has taken some spare wood from the woodpile along with some nails and crafted me a planter for my deck.  In it, he dumped soil from that bag of potting soil and embedded wildflower seeds in the soil! Imagine my delight and surprise when he and his wife told me what was inside. 

With great diligence and care, I have watered those seeds. Over the last few weeks, the wildflowers have started flowering. Every time I walk onto my deck, I smile at my planter and remember the gift of love and friendship we share with this amazing couple. 

I marvel at how many people struggle with admitting that their primary love language is gifts. For most, it seems selfish to say I love gifts. I don’t feel that way. When someone gives me a gift, whether it’s the gift of their time – friends sharing a cup of coffee, a glass of wine, great conversation over a good meal; whether it’s an act of service or a physical gift (yes, I honestly love those too!) that gift says more than words could ever say.   

It says: I’ve taken the time to KNOW you.  I UNDERSTAND you.  I am CONNECTED to you. When someone gives me a gift, I feel honored. I feel loved. I feel valued. I feel significant.  I am in awe that someone would take some of their precious time to think about what I would like and then more of their precious time to actually go and purchase that gift for me. It makes me feel so special.

The gift to me says you were thinking about me even when I wasn’t in your presence.  The gift says I am important to you. Because of that, I love giving gifts just as much, if not more than receiving them. I plan my gift giving months in advance. I start thinking about what I’m going to get my kids or my husband for their birthday usually the day after their birthday! Because I want it to say, I love you very much, I’m always on the hunt for just the right thing to convey that.  I want my gift to say, I know you.

As I sat today, enjoying the quiet of my home, Holy Spirit highlighted this love language to me. Father God is the ultimate giver. When He gave us the gift of His Son, He was saying to us, “I KNOW YOU. I understand exactly what you need. And I'm going to give you MORE than what you need. I'm giving you the best. I'm giving you fullness. I'm not just fulfilling the law's requirement; I'm giving you relationship. I know your heart's desire. I'm giving you the gift of grace (divine empowerment, unmerited favor).” 

As I reflect on the gift of salvation through grace, I am honored that I was so important to Papa God that He would give me Jesus. Not only did He give me the gift of Jesus, He's given me the keys to His Kingdom. He's given me His authority. He's given me the mind of Christ. He's given me the gift of the Holy Spirit. When I realize the magnitude of His gifts to me, I begin to see just how much God values me and how significant I am to Him.   

That Father God would grant me the gift of a Comforter who would also be the most amazing friend, confidante, and teacher on the face of this planet is almost unreal.  Every day, I get to commune, walk with, talk to, and partner with the most strategic person I've ever met.  Every day, I get the gift of His kindness crashing in on my life. Every day, I'm gifted with His manifest presence, His abiding peace, His magnificent love for me. I'm gifted to walk alongside and do life with the One who reveals more of Father God and Jesus to me. Talk about James 1:17, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows,” bursting forth with clarity in my heart! WOW!

As I marveled at the goodness of God, I queried, “If giving gifts is the way I say I love you very much, what have I given to you, Papa? How have I said I know you to you?”  To which He answered, “You gave Me you.  You've submitted yourself in childlike faith to be loved by Me. You, the spotless, unblemished bride fell in love with my Son. You welcome Holy Spirit with abandon. You love others as I have loved you. You draw near. You pursue Me. Your smile is a gift; the color of your eyes. You are my gift.” And so, the melodic answer continued from the heart of Papa God burrowing its way deep into my spirit man. And yet another verse of scripture comes popping alive in my heart, “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! (Ps 139:17)” Oh, that we might receive His magnificent gifts! Oh, that we would offer ourselves as a gift to Him!

All of the five love languages: physical touch, words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, and gifts accurately portray a part of who God is and who He wants to be to us.  As He is, so are we in this world (1John 4:17). When we love and embrace who we are, when we begin to identify how we hear I love you, how we say I love you to others, it’s easier to show up in our world with self awareness and intentionality. Instead of downplaying those aspects of ourselves that we feel may be misinterpreted, we can embrace and celebrate our uniqueness. 

 I bless you today with permission to be intentionally you. I bless you to evaluate your experiences through the lens of Holy Spirit and grow from them. I bless you to awaken the potential in yourself and others by extending the gift of honor, even when what they carry and walk in is different from you. I call your spirit man to the front and I bless your spirit man to know that YOU are Father’s greatest gift. I bless you to receive the truth that He only gives good and perfect gifts. I bless you to be not only a giver, but also a receiver. May you receive the gift of Father’s love today. May you experience the joy of your salvation today. May your communion with Holy Spirit be deeper and richer today than it was yesterday.

Enjoy the gift of YOU today and enjoy the gift of those around you. But most of all enjoy the gift of Father, Jesus and Holy Spirit.


©Felicia Murrell    2012    All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Threefold Cord

God is awakening His kids to living fully loved by God, having the mind of Christ, and cultivating a friendship with Holy Spirit. There is a higher place for us to live from and that place is the Father's heart.

Father God longs for the day when we are so secure in His love for us (who He is to us/who we are in Him) that the cares of life no longer rock us or cause us to be unsettled. When we know who our Daddy is, we can hear His affirmations, whether loudly spoken or softly whispered. We hear Him. Often times, we are seeking someone to give us prophetic words because we are honestly, not hearing God for ourselves or perhaps we're questioning our source of protection, our source of provision, the direction of our life, the strength of His love for us. We need reassurance that we're ok; that life is ok and that we're headed in the right direction. Often times, we find that place of total reliance and confidence in God pockmarked with fear and doubt. Father longs to completely love the fear and doubt away.

When Father God fully loves you and you see Him as He is, you will begin to rest in His protection and provision. When you behold Him, you can easily identify things that are incongruent with His character.

How can we truly begin to know the Father? Everything we need to know about Father God is found in the person of Jesus. According to Hebrews, Jesus is the EXACT representation of the Father. We are transformed (made into the image of Jesus) by the renewing of our mind. How does one possess the mind of Christ exactly? Honestly, I think we already have it. And Peter would agree with me since in 1 Peter we are told that God has giving us everything we need pertaining to life and godliness. Having the mind of Christ means that we have the ability to perceive divine things, to recognize good, to hate evil. It is the ability to perceive, to understand. I believe the mind of Christ is summed up in the word righteousness. This word according to the Greek means rightness or correctness of thinking, acting, and feeling and is used of him whose way of thinking, feeling, and acting is wholly conformed to the will of God, and who therefore needs no rectification (correction or adjustment) in the heart or life. The mind of Christ gives us the ability to live in constancy just as Jesus lived. It gives us the ability to be our same self no matter the situation or circumstance. The mind of Christ eliminates the roller coaster of religious experiences because I no longer live in my circumstances. I live in Jesus. I no longer focus on my problems. I focus on the promises. Why? Because the promises of God are all fulfilled IN HIM (2 Cor. 1:20) and I am in Him. This is the mind of Christ, the ability to recognize good and hate evil. Problems = evil. Promises = good. What do you choose?

 In our friendship with Holy Spirit, we recognize that He is not only in us. He is with us. He is full of wisdom, full of counsel. He is an amazing teacher, the greatest friend. He is our comforter because we're guaranteed to find ourselves in uncomfortable situations. He is the most brilliant strategic planner on the face of the earth today. All of who He is, is available to us every moment of every day of our lives. He longs to talk TO us, hang out WITH us and do life together.

Ecclesiastes tells us that a threefold cord is not easily broken. I believe Father is highlighting these three things for fruitfulness and success: 1) the love of the Father 2) the mind of Christ 3) friendship with Holy Spirit.

The Book of Romans tells us that the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by Holy Spirit. It's hard to receive the Father's love if we've closed our hearts to Holy Spirit. Hebrews tells us that Jesus is the exact representation of the Father. It's inconceivable that one could know Father God and experience His great love without the mind of Christ to perceive and understand it.

What does it look like to be friends with Holy Spirit? How would your life change knowing He is not only in you but also with you, every moment of every day of your life? What does living fully loved by Father God look like to you? What is different today about the way you think, act and feel than before you received the mind of Christ? How can you come into agreement with all Father has and desires for you?

May you be blessed in your journey as your heart is awakened to love.

©Felicia Murrell    2012    All Rights Reserved


Thursday, April 19, 2012

By The Riverside


Today’s blog feels like it was ripped from the pages of a diary of a mad black woman.  In Fatherheart School today, we embraced the subject of heart forgiveness.  Now mind you, I’m here as a team member and not a participant and while I readily admit that we’re all on a journey, I didn’t expect my journey today to be one of open-heart surgery.  But that’s exactly what it felt like and of course it left me wondering how many other people struggle with similar issues. So, using myself as a guinea pig, I’ll invite you into the pages of my life and share what Father is doing inside.

As a little girl growing up, I was unfortunate enough to witness my dad physically abuse my mom many times.  On one such occasion, his sisters joined in his attack trying to prevent my mom from fleeing as she was trying to get in our family car and drive away. One grabbed the door, one grabbed the keys from the ignition, another grabbed my mom’s purse and my dad jumped over them to grab my mom.

Adding to that memory, were plenty more that felt like rejection, emotional distancing and just plain dislike. I never felt welcomed in my paternal grandmother’s home, tolerated out of familial obligation, but not “I’m so excited to see you” welcomed. I felt like the dislike they had for my mom was passed on to me. I never experienced love, acceptance or any type of positive emotion inside my paternal grandmother’s home. To be honest, I don’t have one good memory of times spent there. I looked forward to our annual family reunion when people gathered there from different states. It was the only time I felt safe.  The glares were hid discreetly behind the niceties of fellowship with distant relatives. 

For years, even into adulthood, I managed my half of the relationship sending pictures of the kids here or there, going to visit for an hour when I came home. 
One day, as I sat in my Tennessee home reflecting on my childhood, I wondered if I would be missed if I just stopped going ‘down to the house’, as we called it. No one ever called me. No one ever sent cards or pictures to me. I felt like I was having a one sided relationship with people who could care less if I came around or not. So, I stopped visiting altogether.

But, I carried that rejection, that disapproval in my heart for a very long time.  I can’t tell you the number of times, I’ve chosen to forgive or the number of times I’ve repented for judging my paternal family or the number of times I’ve released them from my expectations of what family should be like, literally shredding into thousands of pieces every IOU I held against them.

Someone once said bitterness is when the pain of a memory is as fresh today as it was the day it happened.  You know there’s still heart work to be done, when you look at that person and still feel hate, still feel pain, still want to close your heart and run away.  Because I had chosen to disconnect myself from my family ties, I never had the opportunity to test the strength of my forgiveness towards my dad’s people. That is, until very recently.

A few months ago, my dad was diagnosed with vascular dementia.  That diagnosis, along with other conditions, caused the doctors at the Veteran Hospital to be concerned about his safety as well as the safety of my mother so they chose to hospitalize my dad in the psych ward while looking for bed space for him in a Dementia nursing care facility.  One Sunday, while visiting my dad at the VA hospital, his sisters came to visit.  It was the first time I had seen them in probably 8 years, maybe more.  They walked in. I greeted them with a smile. I felt nothing but love and an overwhelming since of honor that these ladies would love my dad enough to drive 40 minutes to come see him.

I didn’t walk away going, “Yippee!!! I’ve forgiven them!” I didn’t process any emotion or anything. On that day, we all had one thing in common. We loved the man sitting in front of us.  The next day, we moved my dad into his new bed space and while we were there, my mom’s phone rang.  It was my dad’s mother.  She handed me the phone and said your grandmother wants to speak to you. I thought she was referring to her mother.  I said hello and then realized the voice that greeted me back was not my maternal grandmother at all.  My dad’s mother and I spoke for a few minutes and the conversation took place as if time had stood still and it hadn’t been 8 years since I heard her voice. Even my husband remarked at how well the call had gone.

I felt nothing, no anger, no rejection, no ‘you owe me’, no pain of loss relationship…nothing.  Here again, this was a woman with one thing in common with me, we both love the man I was standing in front of: her son, my dad.

Since my dad has been admitted into the nursing home, several things have happened and all those estrogen-laden matriarchal figures want what they think is best for him: my mom, his mom and four sisters.  And their opinions most often don’t agree.  Because they don’t agree, it doesn’t often come out in the prettiest way towards my mom.  Being a few states removed from the scene and my dad no longer able to provide a barrier between “those who love him,” these differences of opinions   started bringing to the surface a lot of old memories and negative emotions towards my paternal family.

Insert Fatherheart lesson here: Trevor is teaching on heart forgiveness and he says, “When I forgive from my heart, my heart changes toward that person.  With Holy Spirit’s help, I can release that person from my unforgiveness and pour the cup of poison I’ve been drinking down the drain. Circumstances of life are just circumstances of life. Heart forgiveness doesn’t mean the person changes or that the circumstance will change.  It means you change.”

As he says this, I write the word HATE in big letters and double underline on my paper.  And then I begin a journal rant, “ I hate them. I hate who they are. I hate how they love. I hate their ridicule. I hate how they treat my mom. I hate that they don’t change, won’t change, don’t care. I hate that they don’t see how their behavior, their control damages our family. “

And I realize, this is too much for me. I need to be alone to process this with Father, Jesus and Holy Spirit. So, I opted to skip our community lunch and lunch alone with the Godhead by the riverside.  There I sat, food and journal in hand, ready to begin again.

As I open my journal to write, I immediately pen these words, “Father, I don’t hate them. Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” And then I ask Father, what was all that? I’ve forgiven them.

And He said to me, “ Those feelings are a familiar spirit.  Those lies are the voice of the accuser.” The evil one was trying to get me to go back and pick up those negative emotions as if Jesus never took them away.  He almost tricked me into believing that they were mine. 

Once Holy Spirit highlighted the evil one’s scheme to me, I began to journal again, “Father, I forgive them for being unable to love me like I need to be loved.  I forgive them for their lies, for bashing my mom. I forgive them for trying to control everyone’s life. I forgive myself for hating them, for not being able to trust them. From the heart, I forgive them. I am tearing up every I O U and I repent for being critical of them and for judging them.  These are Your kids, God.  And You love them.  Father, give me Your eyes, Your heart for them. Let Your voice, Your words be louder in my spirit than the voice of the accuser.  I’ve closed my heart to them.  I don’t know how to recapture what is lost. Truthfully, Father, I don’t know if I want to. “ And again that old feeling welled up within me, “I HATE THEM,” I railed.

“No, you don’t, “ He said, “you hate the brokenness. You hate the puppetry. You hate that their eyes are blind. I hate that too.  I long for them to know me. I long to be discovered by them. Daughter, just make sure your boundaries aren’t brick walls.”

“I don’t want to be in relationship with them,” I said.

“No one is forcing you to be in relationship with them.  Are you safe? Can you be vulnerable? Do you feel valued? Significant? You’re not required to be in relationship with everyone in the world, “ Father said to me.

Then, I had the thought; “Just because you’re born into a family doesn’t make them family.”

To which Father gently replied, “Even though it’s my desire for you to be family.  There’s something I’ve placed in you, they need and something in them, you need. Beloved, love always requires a choice. “

“Nah, I don’t want that for myself,” I admitted to God, “I can risk loving but it’s not worth the risk.”

Father God says to me, “Remember Redeeming Love (Redeeming Love is a must read fiction novel by Francine Rivers that retells the biblical account of the book, Hosea)? 

To which I reply, “Yea, but everyone can’t be Hosea.”

Again Father whispers gently on my heart, “ Love always requires a choice.  How have I loved you? “

I answer, “While I was yet in sin, Christ died for me.  Even when I couldn’t love you back. “

Father says to me, “So why are you requiring something of them they can’t give you?”

I answer, “ I’m not. “

Father again, “And yet you’re withholding love because of that.”

I say to Him, “No, I’m just choosing to not be in relationship. There is no connection.“ 

And Daddy God says to me, “ There is the blood.  Don’t repay evil for evil, my beloved. Overcome evil with good. “

“Hmmm,” I reply, “so what does it look like to manage my love towards them in a way that honors You? How do I re-present You to them?”

 Father says, “Are you doing this for Me or you?”

“Oh it would definitely be for you,” I answer truthfully, “I’m not interested in a relationship with them.”

“Why?” Father asks.

To Daddy God, I say, “Because I don’t want to be around them.” That was the nice answer.  My heart said, “I can’t stand the sight of them.”

Dad being Dad, who is more for something than against something doesn’t even address my verbal or heart answer.  He simply says, “So what can you honor about them?”

To which I reply, “ They love their brother and their mom the best way they know how. I feel nothing for them. I don’t hate them. I don’t have remorse or regret. I don’t even feel numb. It’s as if they are strangers. “

Father says, “Then love them like a stranger.  How would you love a stranger?”

I say, “I would speak when spoken to.  I might speak or wave or smile.”

And Papa says to me, “My beloved, start with what you can do. I am the God of increase. I can take a meager lunch and feed thousands. I can take what you offer me and exponentially multiply it.

What did I learn today? What am I hoping you will learn by slicing myself open and sharing my insides with you? John 13:34 reads, “ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” Father always manages His love towards us.

How has the Father loved you?  That commandment didn’t say love the people you like as I have loved you or love the people you get along with, as I have loved you.  So, the question to me and the question to you, how has the Father loved you?

When you can let go of every expectation of what love in return should look like, you are free to love unconditionally.

So what does honor look like in the midst of dysfunction and toxic relationships? Ask God to give you an honoring thought.  If that’s doesn’t come to you, ask yourself, how would you honor a stranger? For me, the answer is easy.  When I don’t know someone and I want to honor them, I always ask Father how He sees that person.  Then I love them through God’s eyes as I hear what He says about them.

Why is this so easy to do for strangers and sometimes not as easy to do for those we are familiar with? I’m not sure.  But I do know that Father hasn’t loved me based on my performance. His love for me is far deeper than what I did do or what I didn’t do. His love for me isn’t based on me getting it right, saying the right things, or even reciprocating love to Him at the right moments. In all of my frailty, in all of my failings, in all of my successes, in all of my confidence, His love never fails. It never gives up on me. So, if I am to love as Father loves, what does that look like?

1 Corinthians 13 is definitely a great place to start. Does this mean for me that I’m running back to my paternal family to reconcile? No, no it doesn’t. It means I’m free to love them right where I am today.  Reconciliation takes two.  Just as I’ve made no effort to connect, neither have they.  No connections = no relationship.

But I am committed to loving them. I am committed to seeing them and honoring them as Father sees them. I am committed to keep no record of wrong, which means I can no longer agree with the evil one every time they do something that reminds of days gone by adding it to my proverbial scorecard of wrong doing. I am committed to suffer long and to be kind. I am committed to not behaving rudely or being provoked. I am committed to NOT thinking evil of my paternal family. I committed to believe and hope that even in this, my relationship with my paternal family, reconciliation and restoration will come. I am committed to boundaries that don’t look like brick walls. Most importantly, I am committed to loving as Father has loved me.

I don’t hate them. I have forgiven from my heart. And today, beside the river, Holy Spirit empowered me with a plan to be more for love and honor than against being betrayed, rejected or hurt.

If you struggle with relational dynamics in your personal, immediate, or extended family, I pray you will grab a hold of the wisdom of Holy Spirit, the love of Father God, and the all sufficient grace that Jesus blood provides for us to love even has you are loved by Father.

I bless your coming in and your going out. I bless you to be bold, be strong, be resolute and confident in whom Daddy God has called you to be. May your face radiate His goodness and your children rise up and call you blessed.


©2012  Felicia Murrell

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Power of Words Not Spoken


This week I have the privilege of being a part of the ministry team for Fatherheart Ministries A School in Jacksonville, FL.  This is significant for me because of my own personal journey in finding Father. While Trevor Galpin was sharing on God, our real Father, I was having my own little time of revelation and reflection with Father God. Trevor read (NASB) Genesis 3:10, " He said, "I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself."" 

I immediately began to dissect the scripture along with Trevor.  Four key points: 1) Adam says to God, "I heard you." 2) He admits to being afraid. 3) He acknowledges that he was naked. 4) He makes a decision to hide based on the truth, as he perceived it. I found myself asking the question, "When God comes into your garden, do you recognize Him as Father or do you hide from His voice in fear?"

Fear causes us to hide our real self. When you're afraid, what do you cover yourself with? Anger, Rage, Victim, Passiveness, Over Explaining, Blame Shifting? What would it look like to not need to defend yourself? What would it be like to live in perfect love without fear? 

As I began to reflect on my past, I realized that I grew up in churches where I never once heard the preacher, Sunday school teacher or anyone say, "You have a Father in heaven and He loves you." I mean, sure we sang Jesus loves me. But, we were never told that Father God loves you. In fact, all we were ever really told was what we shouldn't do, couldn't do or what would happen if we did. There was a lot of emphasis on how to behave to assuage God's temper. 

Reflecting further, I realize that I transferred this same model of behavior modification into my parenting paradigm.  In my early years of parenting, I struggled with showing love and affection to my kids. I felt like 'well, they know I love them'. I need to tell them what to do and what not to do.  So, I focused on teaching them how to behave, what to say, good manners, etc. I even had an IF…THEN chart that told them what would happen if they did. Then one day, I began to wonder how my kids would behave when I wasn't around to enforce all of the rules we had set in place to keep their behavior in check.

I started thinking once again about my experience in the church and the number of teenage girls, including the pastor's daughter and myself that got pregnant out of wedlock. I started thinking about the number of people who professed to be believers but were sleeping around or doing other things from our list of don't do, shouldn't do, and if you do do, bad things will happen to you and I realized there was an unfortunate parallel happening between my parenting paradigm and my pastoring paradigm under which I had been shepherded.

In the absence of love, the emphasis for how to do life is based on rules, on behavior. With rules, at least for me, I'm only motivated by your ability to punish me when I'm in your presence. So if the enforcer is not present, I don't keep the rules. I'm sad or disappointed when I'm caught, but not enough to not break the rules. 

In my former church culture, you saw this often with a cycle of repentance. People would sin. They would feel guilty or get caught. They would flood the altar to repent and then they would repeat the process all over again, week after week; sometimes month after month. There was no power to sustain a victorious lifestyle.

In parenting, we would work with our kids on an issue. We would punish or chastise them to 'teach them a lesson.' They would continue to repeat the offense over and over again. Always repentant, always remorseful, definitely sorry to have gotten caught; they didn't like the consequences of their actions, but for some reason, it wasn't enough to keep them from making the same foolish choice time after time.

What was missing in both of these scenarios? Love. In both cases, love was never expressed, never shown. I can know in my head that you love me, but that head knowledge isn't enough to help me make good decisions. Love has to be expressed, felt. Love is to be experienced with your heart.  I'm not convinced in my head, I'm convinced in my heart. And it is out of our heart the issues of life flow.

I began to wonder, "What would it be like to have someone believe in you? To affirm you? To actually look you in the eye and say I love you?"  I wonder what would happen, if we would stop for the one and say, "Sweetheart, you're way too amazing to be doing that. I love you. I believe in you."

All of my life, I believed myself to be a failure because I couldn't stop doing all the things I shouldn't being doing. Thus, I lived in constant fear and regret; fear of disappointing people I very much wanted to be proud of me. I lived in regret because I kept disappointing those very people I didn't want to disappoint over and over again. To date, I've never had the pleasure of hearing my earthly dad say I love you. Growing up, I never had the pleasure of hearing a minister or church leader say, “Your Father in heaven loves you.”

I often wonder would I have made different choices if I had.  I can’t go back and change the past. I’m grateful that my past has led me to this place of finding God, my real Father. And while I can’t change the past, Father has graced me with the amazing privilege of being able to speak love, affirmation and blessings into the lives of four wonderful children.

In our home, day after day, I get to see our children make decisions and choices as they manage their part of our relationship. I get to see them direct their love towards their father and I in a way that honors us. I get to see the freedom and the strength in their character as love is expressed.  I get to observe them finding  security in who they are because of our expressed, felt love for them.

Don’t assume that people know you love them.  Tell them.  Don’t for a second give the evil one the power of words not spoken.  How are the words we are not saying impacting the lives of those who matter most to us?

What would hearing I love you do for you? What would I love you do for those around you? What could you accomplish if you knew someone believed in you? What could those around you accomplish if they knew you believed in them? What would you stop hiding if you knew that even your failures were safe with the people that surround you? Are the people around you safe with you even when they fail or make mistakes? Can you keep your love turned on even when someone is displaying their worst and look at them with acceptance and love despite their poor choices? Could your decision to love and to say I love you be the very thing that draws someone from the pit and bring them to the Father who loves them?

How will we know, if we never say the words?





©2012  Felicia Murrell

Monday, April 9, 2012

In Search Of The Missing

Today has been one of those days for me.  Do you know what I mean? Graham Cooke says when we are in Christ, we no longer have good days or bad days, we only have grace days.  Some days, God gives us grace to enjoy the day. Other days, God gives us grace to endure the day.  Today was definitely an enduring day for me.

If I was completely honest, I'd admit that it has been a bit of an enduring season for me, in one aspect or another. One of the benefits of such a season has been a deepening of my friendship with Holy Spirit. In moving to Georgia, 17 months ago, life and friendships as we knew them in the past shifted. While I enjoy a wonderful friendship with my husband, he is my absolute best friend. I am admittedly woman. I like the sound of a girlfriend's voice, her laughter, the way she sees things that's altogether different from a man's perspective. I've missed the shared camaraderie of the deep friendship one shares with a girlfriend. At holiday times, the magnitude of this loss seems to be even greater than it honestly genuinely is. But the pain of missed shared memories and happy times is certainly immense.

I love to sit and ask questions. Today, as I was reflecting on authentic connections and intimate friendships, a Danny Silk teaching, "are you your own happy manager or do you need someone to manage your happy," came to mind.  I had to ask myself, "Why am I sad that no one invites us over for dinner? Why does it make me sad that no one calls to invite me on excursions to the mall or to grab a glass of wine?"  To which Holy Spirit responded, "Is it really true that no one invites you over?" No, it's not true. We've received invitations to dinner since we've been in Georgia. Even Doug, reminded me of one such invitation this morning. Why is it so easy to get swept away in what's not happening? Why do we naturally gravitate toward negative emotions? Why is it so easy to attach ourselves to discontentment?

So I asked Holy Spirit, "How do I partner with you to find joy in solemn times?"  His answer, "Cry until you can't cry anymore. Find something to make you laugh and laugh until your side hurts. Rehearse my goodness. Tune into my love."

And suddenly I realized, it's all in the choosing. Joy is all around. Peace is all around. Love is all around. Contentment is all around. But so is all that other stuff: loneliness, depression, despondency, fear, anger, panic, rejection, betrayal, abandonment, and that list goes on and on.  Sometimes it can feel like a battle to choose well, but it's so worth it. Just a slight turn of the head gives a person a completely different perspective.

As long as I keep waiting for a friend to come along to "make me" happy, I'm going to be miserable. The truth is, no one makes you anything.  Happiness is a choice. I can keep waiting for a flowered path or I can choose to shift my focus and enjoy the flowers on the well worn path of life I'm currently traveling on. Our situation may not change, but when what we believe to be true about our situation changes, we have the ability to look at the same situation through lenses of hope, lenses of confident expectation where at first there was no hope.

In my adult life, I've moved several times. I'm no stranger to change. It's like two sides of the same coin: I hate to move. I love adventure! I miss my friends, my routine, all things familiar. I love discovering new places, meeting new people! Looking back at each move, I realize it took about 2 years to develop that genuine, ride or die kind of friendship with another woman. There's a level of risk to fully opening your heart and sharing you with someone else. I understand the levels of authenticity that one must progress through in order to reach this stage of friendship.  So what's really going on?

Outside my husband and my family, I want to be important enough to someone to be willing to take the risk. I want to surround myself with people who are important enough to me to risk knowing them, really knowing them. My picture of authentic, intimate friendship is much deeper than surface, know by name friendship.

The truth is people need the core needs of their heart met.  They need to be loved unconditionally. They need to be accepted.  They need to be significant. A person has to have a sense of value, of dignity. A person needs to know that who they are matters and that they can and will make a difference. When asked the question, If I moved away tomorrow, would my absence be felt?  They need to know, the answer is yes. 

First and foremost, this needs to happen in an encounter with Father God.  We must have a vibrant, love-filled, intimate connection with the Perfect One before we can ever connect with imperfect people. Am I looking to gain from people what only God can give me? If my answer is yes, I must first return to His lap and allow Him to love me.  But knowing that it was never God's heart for man to be alone, if the answer is no, I receive His grace to endure the waiting with joy filled expectation that friends are all around, while partnering with Him to build deep, heartfelt connections with the people He's placed on my present path.

Just a slight turn of the head, from 'oh woe is me' to 'wow! what an opportunity'. Does the loneliness go away? No, I'm still very much in search of a friend to share my life with.  My situation hasn't changed.  But I'm no longer looking at my situation with hopelessness. I can choose to be overwhelmed by the absence of deep, heart to heart friendships or I can choose to be overwhelmed by the opportunities to build those friendships. Life always has a way of bringing us back to this choice.  What are you choosing to be overwhelmed by?

Today when my present alternative is sadness, I choose joy.  Today, when my present alternative is loneliness, I choose His presence.  Today, when my present alternative is despondency, I choose hope.  Today, when I could be disenchanted, I choose to be encouraged. I will not partner with fear. I will not befriend the 'dis' family - discouragement, disenchantment, disillusionment, disappointment. I will not live with regret. I choose to fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith.  Today, I will marvel in His goodness.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Suffering with Jesus

This morning I was struck by the words of Hebrews 5:8 in the Message Bible, "Though he was God's Son, he learned trusting obedience by what he suffered, just as we do."  In the NASB, those last four words, just as we do, are not included in the text.  But today, as I meditated on this verse, I was amazed at just how good Father God's intentions are towards us.

Many times when we are suffering, we turn our attention from God to the trials and circumstances that we are facing. In the midst of shifting our focus, our God becomes small and our problems become big. Like Jesus on the cross, we cry out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" Has God really forsaken you or does it just feel like God has forsaken you? If He himself has said, "I'll never leave you nor will I ever forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5), it's probably more that we are believing the lie that God has forsaken us.

So, the question remains: how do I learn trusting obedience through my suffering? To really get to the heart of that, I must first consider how trust is formed. Trust happens when I have a need.  I express my need. There is a response to my need. My need is met and I am comforted (Defining the Relationship, Danny Silk). When my need is met, I believe that you care about me and I begin to trust you. When I trust you, I know that my heart is safe with you and I can be vulnerable, open and transparent with you. I can show you all of me and you will still love me. You will still accept me. I find it interesting that the root word of obedience in Hebrews 5:8 means to give ear to a teaching or a teacher; to comprehend; to understand.

If it is true that teaching happens best during times of intimacy, isn't it interesting that the evil one would try so hard to shift our attention from Jesus to our problems in times of trouble? If we focus on our problems, we're more likely to become offended, get mad at God, ask 'why' questions, feel sorry for ourselves, be jealous of others and the list of pity could go on forever. We're more likely, in that moment, to believe the lies of the evil one and agree with him thus giving him the legal right to torment us. In that moment of looking at our big, big problem, we are more likely to partner with victim, anxiety, fear and worry.

I believe this is why Father God inspired Holy Spirit to include in the gospels the story of Jesus asleep in the boat while a storm raged around Him. It's a great image of the very words Jesus Himself spoke in John 16:33 when He said, " ...in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have trouble.  But, take heart! I have overcome the world."

So, in that moment, as a son/daughter, I get to choose. Will I look at all that I'm suffering through and be overwhelmed by my problem? Or will I keep my focus, my attention on the One who has promised that I will overcome what I am suffering? In that moment, if I choose well, I learn trusting obedience.

I learn that I can be completely honest and transparent before God. I can tell Him how I feel and what I need. I can trust Him to respond to my needs, in His way, in His time. I give up my right to tell Him how to fix it. I allow God the opportunity to manage His love towards me and I confidently expect that good will come to me. In keeping the posture of hope and reliant confidence in God, I allow myself to give ear to Teacher who comes alongside as my Helper, my friend to walk with me through seasons of suffering. In those times, Holy Spirit speaks gently to my heart, maturing me, allowing me the opportunity to see who God wants to be to me and how He wants me to be. It's an amazing opportunity to learn more about Father's nature while having the fruit of the Spirit formed in you in an even greater way; transforming you more and more into the image and likeness of His dear Son.

If my focus is on my problem, I miss the opportunity to learn more about God and more about myself. No, I do not believe that God brings trouble to teach us a lesson. I do believe, however, that God can use the trouble that happens in this fallen world to reveal more of His goodness, His bigness and His great love for His kids to us. Many of us, however, miss the opportunity to learn more about God because we wallow in the gravity of our situation instead of remaining steadfast in the magnitude of God's bigness and His love for us.

The answer is not in the whirlwind. It's not even in our circumstance or situation. If there is no response to my need, my need goes unmet and I never have the opportunity to receive comfort. When I am not comforted, mistrust develops.  Comfort can never be found in inanimate objects( your problems, your circumstances). If I want a response to my need, I must look to the One who holds the answer. The One who can wake from a dead sleep and command the wind and the waves to be at peace. In Christ alone, my hope is found. He alone has the key. And in that place, I learn to trust Him. And in trusting Him, I learn to hear His voice, teaching me, growing me, maturing me into the glorious freedom of sonship.

There is a method to the madness. There is a purpose in the pain. Find comfort in the circumstance and see Jesus standing there, asking gently to take the pressure, to take the sense of being overwhelmed or being swept under. See Jesus standing there, waiting to make a divine exchange in the moment of your suffering. See Jesus standing there waiting to teach you, to give you an upgrade so that you can see the love of His Father, our Father in an even greater way.

I bless you to look with your eyes and see the One who holds you in the palm of His hand. I bless you to know that He is with you. He is for you. The Lord your God is a Mighty Warrior and He has arrived to live among you. He rejoices over you with great joy! With His love, He calms all of your fears. Only look to Him, He is mighty to save!

What are you learning about Father God in the midst of your suffering? Who does He want to be to you? What part of Himself is He offering to you? Who is He asking you to be? What fruit of His Spirit is He asking you to display in this season? What would your life look like if you allowed yourself to more overwhelmed by God than your circumstances?


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A PICTURE OF GREATNESS

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For most people, the struggle of their life is to answer the questions: Who am I? What’s my purpose in life? What am I called to do?

For me, my struggle doesn’t lie at that end of the spectrum.  I know who I am or more importantly, I know Whose I am. I have a very good grasp on my purpose. I know what makes me come alive. I know what it’s like to be burning on all cylinders. Like Jesus, I can fully articulate, “for this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world.”  For me, the struggle of my life is: What do you do when you know you’re called to greatness and you don’t feel like you’re living it?

You see, I’ve seen my end from my beginning. I have a vision of what greatness looks like.  What I wrestle with is how to get from here to there.   In this place, in this time, I’m a no one. I have no title. I have no responsibility and yet I’m destined for greatness.  The mere paradox of the statement begs me to question if my picture of greatness matches Father God’s picture of greatness. After all, it is He who has called me to such height.

What’s my picture of greatness? Speaking to crowds of ten, hundreds, thousands. Sharing relevant messages on the finished work. Preaching about grace and bringing a revelation of the Father’s love. Mentoring. Equipping. Empowering. Raising up leaders and world changers. Giving my life to see people get it. Teaching others how to live in constancy. Bringing believers into agreement with God so they can learn to live as sons and daughters in right relationship with Father God empowered by the Holy Spirit. This is the desire that burns within me. This is my sweet spot. When I am doing this, everything in me shouts, “For this cause was I born. For this cause have I come into the world!”

Sounds noble, doesn’t it? Why yes, yes it does, such a grand and lofty thing to accomplish for the Lord.  And yet, even this, as noble and honorable as it is, is all dung when held up beside Father God’s picture of greatness.

If there was never another pulpit would I still be significant? If there was never another applause would I still be significant? If every atta boy faded away, would I still be significant? If I never teach again, preach again, would I still be significant? The answer is a resounding yes. My significance is not tied to what I do. I am significant because of Whose I am. Even if I never do another thing for God, Jesus, you alone are enough for me. When all is stripped away, I remain significant.

I saw greatness in light of what I did. An easy mistake that fuels discontent. Father God sees greatness in light of who I am. A right belief that breeds confidence. I’m great because I have received the spirit of adoption whereby I cry, “Abba, Father” or “Daddy, Daddy!”  I’m great because I’ve chosen the good part, which is living life fully loved. This is the height to which He has called me.

When I understand Daddy God’s picture of greatness, it eliminates my need for striving. I’m not trying to achieve some far off status.  Because of what Jesus has done, I already am.  I am confident that Daddy God is good and He is for me. I get to be great in every situation or circumstance because I am hid in His bigness and His goodness for me.  I don’t need a stage to be great. I am great in my living room. I am great at a lunch counter. I’m great at the park or wherever life takes me. Greatness doesn’t come in an event. It comes in the revelation that I am a son or I am a daughter and because my Daddy is great, I am called to be as He is.

Greatness looks like peace – the exemption from rage and havoc of war.  I am great because in my Dad I get a free pass from madness, from violence, from uncontrollable anger. I get a free pass from destruction and chaos. I am great when I am my same self no matter the situation or circumstance. I am great when I am free from danger (security).  I am great when I am free from loss (safety).  I am great when I am successful, flourishing, thriving (prosperity).  I am great when I am happy (felicity).

All the time, I was focusing on an external picture of greatness and Papa God was focusing on an internal picture. Often times, we try to do to be. Papa God calls us to be. Our internal reality creates our external reality.

I would ask Father God, “how can I serve you today?” “What can I do for you today, Lord?”  And He would say with such grace, “Come sit with me. Come be with me. Come play with me. Come sing with me. Come fly with me.”  Always fun. Always free. Always relational. Always my choice. Often times never saying a word, just sitting…being. I wanted to change the world. He wanted to change me. I had articulated my purpose in life. I had a mission and so did He. His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Somewhere along the way, I believed the lie that if I wasn’t doing something big for God, I wasn’t being great. Now, stripped of titles, devoid of responsibility, with nothing to do except be, I’ve come to realize that if I never do another single exploit in the name of God it won’t discount my greatness any less or esteem my significance any more.  Simply learning to live as a daughter is the greatest thing I could ever do. To master the fullness of living life fully loved is to live a life of peace, safety, security, acceptance, rest, and trust. It is total confidence and reliance on God as my Father.  This is why Jesus came.

I am because He is. If I never do another thing, Papa God, Jesus and Holy Spirit, You alone are enough for me. In You, I am found. In You, I am free.  When I understand fully in my inner being that my greatness, my significance is tied to my sonship, no matter what task or role I find myself in: speaking to thousands or cleaning toilets, I can live head high and heart abandoned to the One.

When I have peace, I am living in greatness. When I have safety, security, prosperity, trust, acceptance, I am living in greatness. When I’m confident in Daddy God’s bigness and His goodness for me, I am living in greatness. Every day I wake up and I feel the Father loving me, I am living in my sweet spot. It’s the greatest moment of my life to live life fully loved.

Right perspective changes everything.




 Felicia Murrell ©2012

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

LOVING OUR CITY THROUGH PRAYER

--> 1 Corinthians 13:13: "Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."   Faith is our belief system. It's that place of absolute confidence, conviction and trust that God is who He says He is and He will do what He says He will do. When we are praying for our city, we must be absolutely persuaded in how big God is. If we have a big, big God by default it makes the evil one an itty-bitty devil. And who is he is and what he does is so miniscule in comparison to our BIG, BIG Daddy God. When I am absolutely persuaded of God's bigness and I pray from that revelation of majesty, fear will never enter the equation. 

Hope is the confident expectation of good. When I bring hope to my prayers, I come with a revelation of how good God is. It is in that confident place that I can boldly declare, "Lord, overwhelm my city with Your goodness. Draw them to change their mind for the better (repentance) by pursuing them with Your goodness." When I understand that God is good and that He is in a good mood, my prayers become devoid of judgment. 

Agape love is good will, charity, fondness, benevolence. I John 4:8 says it best, "God is love." When I bring love to my prayers, I bring God. I bring the full expression of who He is. When I bring God into my prayers, I enter into a partnership with Him. I get to ask what is on His heart for my city. I get to see the areas of my city that break His heart. I get to ask what His good intention and His purpose and plan is for my city. When I bring God to my prayers, I am afforded an opportunity to have a Philippians 3:10 experience," that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection of the dead." In those moments, God shows me where the injustices are over my city and then He shows me His good intention towards my city and I get to be the bridge that prays His heart, His desire, His perfect plan for my city back to Him. I willingly join Him in the fellowship of His sufferings, because like Jesus who endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him (Hebrews 12:2), I know that God is big and He is good. In my belief and confident expectation, love shows up in my prayers. As does patience, kindness, endurance, hope, belief; because love covers (see 1 Corinthians 13). So, I blanket my city in love who is God. And that's the safest place to be in the whole wide world. This is what I bring when I come to pray for my city. 

Listening further, I was directed to Matthew 6:9-13. Yes, we all know it, the Lord's prayer. I felt like I heard Holy Spirit say and this is what you pray for and then He began to dissect this passage in my heart.

Our Father - Pray for identity. Pray that the people in your city would come to know God as Father. God as a loving, perfect, holy Father who is drawing them to Himself. Pray that they will learn to live fully accepted, fully loved, and completely safe. 

Holy is your name - Pray for sanctification. Pray that your city would be a city unto God. Pray for a revelation in the hearts of the people to know how jealous I am for them. How I long for them to come to me. Pray that they would know that I have set them apart for myself, to be loved by me, to live in my family. My Son's blood has purified them that they might come and be with Me.
Your Kingdom come. Your will be done. On earth as it is in heaven. - Assignment. Your job as my Kingdom ambassador is to bring My Kingdom to any place in your city where my Kingdom rule does not exist. And any place in your city that does not look like heaven, release heaven. Any place in your city where injustice prevails, release the Kingdom. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of my throne. Lovingkindess and truth go before you (Ps. 89:14).

Give us this day our daily bread. - Pray for provision. 
 
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors - Pray for forgiveness. Stand in the gap with identificational repentance for sins that have been committed in your city. John 20:23," If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained. Forgiveness restores the standard. Forgiveness leads to restoration and reconciliation. Is not this the ministry God has given us (2 Corinthians 5:18)?

Lead us not into temptation - Pray for guidance. Pray for a revelation of Holy Spirit in the lives of the people in your city. Pray that the Spirit of truth would guide people into all truth (John 16:13). Pray that Holy Spirit would guide them into a revelation of Jesus as Lord and Savior and God as their Heavenly Father. Pray for divine appointments and God encounters. 

Deliver us from evil - Pray for protection over your city.

For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. - Dominion. Pray Revelation 11:15,"that the kingdom of this world (the kingdom/governmental office of your city) would become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. Pray that our city would be known for making the name of the Lord famous. 

I bless you today to love your city through prayer. May you be the one to pray for your city with an understanding of who you are and what you carry. Pray for your city with love and compassion. Pray from heaven, praying God's heart, His blueprint, His strategies, His good intentions for your city. Agree with God. Grab a hold of His heart for your city and then pray it back to Him.