Tag Archives: Strongholds

30 Days of Gratitude-Day 21- Changed Heart

Heather Murdock

I’m grateful for God’s power to change my heart.

Several months ago I let frustration and resentment build up in a relationship with someone I care about. And I felt justified. As time went on, I became more resentful, and my heart began to harden against this person. I started to fixate on all the things I didn’t like, all the ways they had hurt me, which prevented me from seeing anything good. One night in an angry vent session to my husband, I stopped short and said “I need to pray right now.” As we prayed, the Holy Spirit reminded me how much God loves this person. I felt a strong conviction and I knew what the Lord wanted from me. My voice cracked as I choked out, “Lord, please help me love them too.”

This was the beginning of a change of heart. Over the next few days, every time I thought of this person, I prayed. I prayed and cried as God softened my heart, making room for love and compassion. I could finally see this person as broken, someone needing my forgiveness. In my brokenness, Jesus has always met me with forgiveness, compassion and mercy. Not only does He call me to respond in the same way, He gives me the power to do it.

In the Bible,  to repent means to change one’s mind. The Bible tells us true repentance will result in a change of action. Imagine yourself walking down a hallway. Now abruptly turn and walk the other way. A 180 degree change in direction. That is true repentance. With repentance comes God’s power. When my thoughts are in alignment with His, then my actions are, too.

I knew in this situation God was calling me to take action. He wanted me to speak the truth to this person, to confront them with a desire for restoration. To speak the truth in love.

But I was nervous.

It takes courage to take a stand, but it takes real courage to put a friendship on the line to speak the truth. And it takes humility to speak that truth in love.

God had been preparing my heart. Gone was the bitterness and resentment; what remained was love and concern for a dear friend.

I’m thrilled to share with you that with prayer and obedience, our conversation was absolutely blessed. In fact, before I could even begin to share my heart, they revealed they had been having revelation about some of their behavior that was hurtful and wrong. They welcomed my feedback and agreed with my concerns. They invited me to continue to speak into their life, to help them with these issues. 

I sat there amazed. Amazed at the power of God. Amazed at the living God who is real and active and who cares so deeply for His people.

As believers, we ache for an experience of God. Some believe experiencing God will result in some sort of supernatural ecstasy that overwhelms and shakes our core. We cry out like Moses did for God to show us His glory. But I believe I experienced God and His glory in this intimate moment of truth with my friend. Exodus 34 tells us that God’s glory is the manifestation and revelation of His love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness and justice.

When we repent of our bitterness in relationships, and allow God’s love to flow through us, we experience God’s glory. We experience God.

Who are you holding bitterness and resentment against today?

How is that impacting your life?

He wants to set you free. Those who know and live the truth are free. Free indeed.

I encourage you to pray right now. Pray for your heart to soften and for bitterness to be replaced with forgiveness and openness to possibility.

All things are possible with God.

What are you grateful for today?

 

30 Days of Gratitude Day 20-Am I Enough for You?

“Heather, am I really enough for you?”

This was the question whispered into my heart by the Holy Spirit one recent early morning.

I have to admit, it startled me. Not the question. My answer.

You see, a few months ago I stepped down from a ministry leader position in my church after several years serving on a weekly basis. The ministry I led was fruitful, fit with my spiritual gifts and filled me with passion and purpose. But God revealed to me that it was time for a new season. As I began to pray and obey into this possibility, I began to see what God had in mind. My family needs more of me, as does my growing career. And then there’s the vision; the vision God has stirred in me since I was a little girl. The vision that will realize one of my most cherished prayers; my husband and I in ministry together. It’s time to get serious about building it. More on that later…

But as I sat with Jesus just a few mornings ago and struggled to answer His very direct question, I realized there’s more to the story. It isn’t just about family, career and ministry. It’s about me. Me and God. Nothing is more important to God than each of us in intimate relationship with Him. God wants more of me

I tearfully confessed to a couple of friends at church what the Holy Spirit had asked me and the struggle I had in answering the question. In that simple question, Jesus revealed to me that ministry had become my enough. My identity was getting mixed up in what I DO for Jesus, instead of who I am in Jesus. The fruit of ministry was becoming my personal yardstick, instead of who God says I am. I was beginning to believe God loves me for what I do for Him.

I actually said out loud to my friends, “If I’m not working for God, then what good am I? What value do I hold?”

I know better than that. Yet…

This was quite startling because I preach and teach on identity in Christ. My passion and conviction has always been about intimacy with God. Before I was a believer, I was very performance driven. As I pursued a relationship with Jesus, He really worked on me in those areas. I experienced a lot of victory. This revelation was like living in a house where you know every room only to discover a basement. My friends pointed out that Jesus is calling me to a place I haven’t yet been. A place of deeper healing and calling. A place of deeper intimacy and identity. 

It’s amazing how sly the enemy is. These performance traps aren’t obvious. They are subtly set and disguised as good things. Many times the enemy will use good things to distract us from the best thing; intimacy with our heavenly Father. If we’re not careful, what starts out as loving and serving God can become working FOR God. He doesn’t need us to work for Him. He invites us to work WITH Him. 

I’ve come to believe I’m in a time of rest and preparation. The preparation is in the rest. The preparation is in the letting go and going deeper, getting uncomfortable where all I have to hold onto is my Savior who leads me. He’s inviting me into a deeper place of more abundant fruit. But first I must let go of the things that bring me validation and approval. The things of man.

He must be my ENOUGH.

If He’s calling you out of something and it doesn’t make sense, trust Him. Let your heart surrender. Get uncomfortable, and trust Him.

I’m so grateful for the counsel of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God that teaches us.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15:1-5

What are you grateful for today?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

30 Days of Gratitude-Day Thirteen

emerson1

Our Pastor has inspired me to use this season to improve my attitude of gratitude. I have committed to writing about thirty things I’m grateful for. Even the hard stuff. Gratitude is not about our circumstances. It is a choice. 

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Today I’m grateful for my body.

Now that may sound really brazen. I’m on the thin side, so some may think that is easy for me to say. Some may even think it sounds boastful. But I assure you it’s not. You see, I struggled for almost twenty years with an eating disorder called Bulimia.

Webster Dictionary defines Bulimia as

“an emotional disorder involving distortion of body image and an obsessive desire to lose weight, in which bouts of extreme overeating are followed by depression and self-induced vomiting, purging, or fasting.”

Let’s look at the word distortion. The definition is

“a change, twist, or exaggeration that makes something appear different from the way it really is.” 

I’ve always been relatively thin. It runs in my family. But because of childhood trauma my identity was defined by the emotional needs of others. That’s cause for a lot of dysfunction. In my case, I believed that if I was perfect enough, I could control the behavior of others. I believed that if people valued me as perfect, then I would finally experience the love I so desperately sought. 

I could never be thin enough.

At nineteen, I entered a fitness model contest. I was in amazing shape. I worked hard, denied my cravings and built the body I had dreamed of. But when I looked in the mirror I saw the same body I had always seen. One that was imperfect and disappointing. One that didn’t measure up. 

A year later I moved to New Jersey to pursue a modeling career in New York. I lost another ten pounds and got down to 111 pounds at 5’8″. I was so emaciated that my face just sunk in. When I returned home, my own family didn’t recognize me when they picked me up from the airport. Everybody commented that I looked like I had been sick. I deflected their comments, but inside I was pleased. I thought I had finally arrived. But when I looked in the mirror, I still didn’t measure up. 

That’s distortion.  That’s the lie we buy into. That we have to be perfect. That we are damaged goods. And as a therapist once told me, we spend the rest of our lives trying to disprove the lie that we are bad. 

I found something even more interesting about the meaning of the word distortion on the Wikipedia site.

“a distortion is the alteration of the original shape (or other characteristic) of something, such as an object, image, sound or waveform.”

That is profoundly true! What is our original shape?

The image of God!

We are made in the image of God! That is our original shape! But because of sin and brokenness and hurt and darkness, our original shape is altered and distorted. Since Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden, man’s natural instinct has been to pursue his identity apart from God. That’s why we are broken! But there is GOOD NEWS! There is redemption in Jesus Christ!

As believers, we must understand our identity in Christ!

As people recovering recovery from eating disorders, I think we must pursue 3 key disciplines. 

  1.  Forgiveness of self and others. People with eating disorders keep standards that no one can meet.  It’s a way to stay in a perpetual state of disappointment that allows one to punish themselves and others. A person with an eating disorder will be served well by focusing on forgiveness, which leads to acceptance
  2. Communication. I was unable to communicate my feelings as a child because of fear and shame. For me Bulimia started as an experiment, and quickly led to an obsession. It became a way to not only purge my food, but symbolically to purge my painful feelings. Please talk with someone you trust. Reach out.
  3. Renewing our mind. Romans 12:2 says “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-His good, pleasing and perfect will.”  When we focus on the Truth instead of our feelings, we are renewed. When we fix our eyes on Jesus, instead of the world, we are renewed. We must learn who we really are. Who God made us to be. Who God says we are. Most importantly, we must learn who God himself is. That is a process. 

Eating disorders are mental disorders and they are complicated. If you have one, I pray you will get professional help. I’m not a trained professional, and only share my personal experience and beliefs. I have 7 years of recovery from my disorder without one single relapse. All Glory to God! I have been delivered and set free and I believe that is possible for every one of us. 

I’m praying that you will have the strength to look into the eyes of Jesus and see the absolute love and adoration He has for you. You are enough. He has a plan for your life. It is a good plan, because He is a good God.

What are you grateful for today?

30 Days of Gratitude-Day Nine

emerson1

I just watched a video on Youtube of a mom freaking out before a Christmas party because company is coming and she is trying to get the house in order. I mean she is freaking out. But the skit is funny so I almost peed my pants. It’s funny because she is so over the top perfectionist. I think we can all relate to company coming and the last minute “throw everything in the closet” approach.

I’m sorry if you don’t relate to that,  but I am crying and laughing at the same time. Seriously. That is so me. That so USED to be me.

It’s hilarious, but it’s also sad.

Now let me tell you what I’m grateful for.

I’m grateful that I’m learning my identity as a wife, mom and woman is not based on what I do or how well I do it. 

That’s quite a statement from someone who once firmly believed that perfection = love and approval. 

Can you relate?

Have you almost ruined holidays for yourself and your family with your obsession to make everything look perfect?

Have you missed moment of real, good life with your family because you were so focused on making things look perfect?

Did you miss the life you were trying to make it look like you had by working so hard to create a life of perfection?

Do you notice the common thread there?

Perfection.

What a lie.

There really is no such thing. And the more we try to attain it, the more we alienate the people we are trying to win over. It’s ironic because we think perfection will cure the loneliness inside, but all the while it creates it. The path to perfection leads to isolation and depression, as the perfectionist’s standards are ever increasing. The perfectionist lives in a perpetual sense of disappointment in themselves and others. No one or no thing can measure up. Discouragement and failure become their constant companion.

Acceptance is beautiful. That’s what I have discovered. When I came to understand that Jesus accepts me just as I am, and not only that, but adores me just as I am, I began to love myself.

His love changed me.

Really hear me. I had been working on loving myself for a long time. I read so many self-help books, I could have written my own. I went to therapists and watched DVDs on the power of self-love, but nothing ever really changed on the inside where it counts. I looked the part of someone who had it all together and knew all the motivational answers, but inside was a very different story. 

We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19

Jesus changed everything. Jesus began changing me from the inside out. The parts of me deep inside that were dark with shame and guilt were the parts that drove me to perfection in the first place. That’s where He started. Instead of cleaning the outside of the cup, He began from within, where it counts. 

I’m still working on not being perfect. I’m a work in progress. The desire to love and be loved is now showing up in real authentic relationships with messy, imperfect people just like me. The emptiness I once felt is now filled to overflowing with the love of Jesus. There’s no room for lonely. 

Today I’m grateful for real life.

I’m grateful for the love of Jesus that saved me.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

What are you grateful for today?

 

 

 

How I Met God in the Valley

My family and I went backpacking recently in the Eastern Sierras a few miles from the edge of Yosemite National Forest. We had an amazing, much needed, unplugged weekend filled with laughs and breathtaking scenes. On one of the days we hiked up into a valley above our camp. I have posted this picture so you may take this journey with me, although the picture doesn’t do it justice. Indigosky Photography

As the five of us crested the slope at the lip of the valley, my breath caught and my mouth gaped. There before my eyes was one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. My eyes took in the expanse of the emerald green valley floor with the towering blue mountains standing guard on either side, marching down as far as the eye could see. The stillness of the air was only interrupted by the overwhelming presence of God that filled my being. Tears began to roll down my cheeks as unspeakable joy and peace flooded my soul. In utter awe and reverence, my eyes darted quickly down to the ground by my feet. It was too much. There I noticed the little worn path we had been following that seemed to disappear just a few feet away…

God’s silent voice was everywhere, booming and clear.

I AM with you in the valley. I’m like the mountain standing guard, watching over you, protecting you. I AM your Strongtower.

I AM like the path that leads the way, yet seems to disappear just ahead. I AM leading you with clarity and purpose. I AM limiting your vision so that you don’t run too far ahead. I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life.

I AM the peace that passes all understanding, that transcends knowledge and sight. In the valley I sustain you.

I AM the joy you discover in the moments you pause to acknowledge my Presence. My joy revives your soul and brings a new song to your lips.

I AM your Teacher. I use the valleys to teach you how to live on the mountaintops. The valleys are intentionally placed in your path by Me. The valleys are blessings where you draw your hope and breath. The valley is a place of rest.

Oh Lord, I surrender! Again, I surrender.

I’m reminded of Psalm 23, which is commonly read at funerals, but It’s a perfect passage for our journey here with Jesus.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

When you give your life to Christ, you are assured an abundant life. Not a life free from trouble. Not a life free from valleys. But an abundant life, whether on the mountaintops or in the valleys. He is always with you. He will never leave you or forsake you. He knows where He is taking you. Trust Him. Follow Him.

He always reminds us of His Presence when we need it the most.

I’d love to hear how God has spoken to you in the valleys…

 

Performance Anxiety

My cousin shared a funny memory of me being about four or five years old at a family get together where there was a pool. I kept yelling for everyone to,“Look at me, look at me,” as I awkwardly attempted to entertain them with water tricks.

I remember that little girl. She thought she was invisible.  She needed to be seen. She desperately wanted love and attention.

That little girl learned to perform.

Somewhere along the line that little girl grew into a woman who believed she had to perform for love.

Even years later when I became a believer in Jesus, I believed I had to earn his love. I just knew that if I didn’t perform correctly, if I didn’t measure up or meet the standard, he would pull his love away in disapproving punishment. “You should have known better,” he would say. “I’ve changed my mind about you, you’re just not getting it.” These thoughts and feelings intensified as I began to understand and pursue my purpose. I was sure that he would yank the call right off my life. Just snatch it away and give it to somebody more deserving.

Well, there’s a couple of things wrong with this thought process. First of all, God’s grace isn’t dependent on our performance. In fact, his grace abounds all the more in the face of failure and sin. He is attracted to weakness. He rushes in where ability runs out. Performance actually hinders the inflow of grace. Not because he doesn’t give it, but because we are too focused on ourselves to receive it.

Second, God isn’t taken by surprise by anyone or anything. He knows the end from the beginning. He isn’t disgusted by our humanness, or disillusioned by our brokenness. He is a patient Father, working his plans and purposes together despite our clumsiness.

These days I’m experiencing a new freedom from these defeating thoughts. Oh, I may still stumble into a pothole now and then, but I understand more deeply how much God loves me. I am experiencing a new level of security in his love. I don’t have to perform, I just have to rest in His love. I matter to him and he ALWAYS sees me. He never takes his eyes off of me. In his redeeming gaze, I am truly free. I am truly loved. 

He loves you too with a redeeming love that fills every need and desire. I encourage you to go deeper, deeper still, in your relationship with Jesus. Beneath the deep waters is a world of  intimacy, purpose, fulfillment and utter completeness. 

What prevents you from trusting God?

In what areas of your life are you still performing for God or man’s approval?

How can you make time in your day to spend time with Jesus?

I’m praying with you…