Timing is Everything

Ecclesiastes 3:1-14

For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
    A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
    A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
    A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
    A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
    A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
    A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
    A time for war and a time for peace.

What do people really get for all their hard work? 10 I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. 11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.12 So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. 13 And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.

14 And I know that whatever God does is final. Nothing can be added to it or taken from it. God’s purpose is that people should fear him.

They say that timing is everything. I know this statement is true. In fact, it’s Truth, according to Scripture. Still, in this current season, I have wrestled with God’s timing for everything. 

If you’ve been following our journey to the promised land, you know that I have much in common with the children of God. Like the Israelites, I’ve whined. I’ve complained. I’ve questioned. Yet, at the same time, I’ve also praised Him for the countless miracles He’s provided: Clouds by day. Fire by night. Water from a rock. Manna from heaven. Quail. Yet, every day, I seemed to forget how faithful He was the previous day!

It’s become a family joke when the kids reminisce about their childhood. “Mom, don’t you remember such and such?” I usually stare blankly into the abyss. “Um…no.” “Mom, seriously, remember so and so was there and we did such and such?” “Um…no.” It’s probably one of the reasons I loved to scrapbook when they were little. I tried to capture every moment in film and write a short description about the image so that I could remember. 

In this time of dying, killing, tearing down, grieving, scattering stones, turning away, searching, throwing away, being quiet, hating, and declaring war, I needed to remember…

Let me be honest. I’ve struggled to see, feel and hear God in this wilderness season. As I poured out my heart, He remained silent. It perplexed me. Quite frankly, it pissed me off! So, as any strong willed little girl would do, I kept nagging Him. Like that persistent widow that annoyed the judge until he rendered justice on her behalf, I continued to ask, seek, and knock on heaven’s door.

No answer.

Just silence.

No visions.

No dreams.

No prophetic words.

Nothing.

He wasn’t talking to me!!! At least, that’s what I thought.

I was wrong. 

He was simply communicating in a new way, in a new season. 

Matthew 4:4

But Jesus said, “It is written, ‘Man is not to live on bread only. Man is to live by every word that God speaks.’”

And when my ears finally heard what He was saying, I remembered…. journal entries I’d written, blogs I’d written, words from others I’d written down, typed and saved on my computer. The words were filled with Spirit and Truth; Prayer & Scripture that were preparing me for this current season!

I had wrongly assumed that God’s apparent “silence” was an indication that He was mad at me. I thought (and others unknowingly validated): I must be in trouble. I must be sinning, and need to repent. I must be full of pride. I must be deceived. I must be failing to do what He said. I must be failing to be still. I must be failing to know that HE is God, and I am not. I must be failing to obey His will. 

No. NO. NO! 

The enemy is a liar. God never left me. He will never forsake me. He was with me in the wilderness all along. For heaven’s sake, His Spirit led me into the dang desert! 

His perceived “silence” was actually an opportunity to remember…. 

  • who He is
  • who I am 
  • what He said 
  • what is written about me

How beautiful is the love of the Father.

His love is making everything beautiful, in His time….including me.

Home is where the heart is

Romans 2:4

Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?

I’ve often been critical of the Israelites in their rebellion towards God. But this week, I realized: I’m just like them.

Our family is on a journey to the land God promised. The battle has been brutal. The number of casualties continues to rise; and another idol just perished in my life.

We’ve made eight offers on six houses in Polk County, FL. Yes. That’s correct. 8 offers. 6 houses; 2 of which we made 2 different offers on. On Monday, one of them was accepted on our dream home- a Spanish style hacienda in Haines City. Fully remodeled on half an acre of land, complete with courtyards accessible from every room, an outdoor fountain, and swimming pool! Our realtor had fought a good fight on our behalf. We had prayed, and prayed and prayed some more. Beating out the competition with cash offers and higher escalation clauses, the owners felt compassion for our situation and accepted our offer, after we agreed to their high-risk counter.

Once the contract was signed, I immediately felt sick to my stomach. I told my husband my concerns. He agreed with my assessment, but both of us continued to wrestle…not understanding why God would allow us to win, yet feel so defeated!? The next blow came when we showed our kids the photos of “our” house. Their reaction was not what we expected. Instead, their words were an exact confirmation of the warning signs I just voiced to my man a few minutes earlier, behind closed doors. Since it was nearly midnight, we decided we needed to sleep on it. Sleep didn’t come. At 4:30a, I shot out of bed when I heard the Word: 

Psalm 106:13-15

13 They soon forgot His works;
They did not wait for His counsel,
14 But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness,
And tested God in the desert.
15 And He gave them their request,
But sent leanness into their soul.

Ungrateful for the manna God continues to provide us in this wilderness season, I had been whining for quail! Hidden in the dark recesses of my heart, I was secretly longing for the comforts of my home in Egypt. I believed I had suffered enough in this barren wasteland- losing my mother & moving in with my father. “I’m done!” I repeatedly told Him. So, He gave me what I asked for: a beautiful home. Because, after all, home is where my heart is. Did you catch that, friend? HOME is where my heart is. 

What my Father won’t do to rescue me from the bonds of slavery. What He won’t do to deliver me from the control of Pharaoh. What He won’t do to prove His love for me. He longs for my reciprocated affection. He wants a deep, intimate relationship with me. He wants my heart. My whole heart. He is a righteous, jealous God. So, as every good father does, He disciplines those He loves so that they will repent and return to Him. I gotta tell ya, friend, this spanking was painful. I still feel the sting, but I also feel incredibly loved and grateful that He intervened before we lost more than our reputation. 

We called our realtor Tuesday morning to deliver the news and to apologize for our rebellion that impacted her- as well as the owner, selling agent and other buyers. She was gracious and continues to intervene, naturally and supernaturally on our behalf in this crazy market. 

God’s promise for our family still stands. He has called us to be a part of a covenant community in Lakeland, FL. He will provide the right home, at the right price, at the right time. It may not be our dream home, but it will be a house of prayer. It will be a place where the hungry are fed and the filthy are washed with the Word. It’s what He said. His Word will not return void. He is faithful. He is just. He is worthy to be praised in the wilderness, for  

He is my Promised Land. 

He is my home.

I MUST complain!

Job 7:11

11 “I cannot keep from speaking.
    I must express my anguish.
    My bitter soul must complain.

“One of the most consistent teachings of Scripture is that moments of difficulty will come. Rather than grumblingwe should pray and push forward, trusting God to expand our souls.” 

This morning as I read the excerpt above from a devotional written by a well-known Christian leader, my eyes fixated on the words, “we should.” As I paused to consider the proceeding phrase, “rather than grumbling,” I became angry. I agreed with the sentiment of what the author was saying, “we should” pray. However, I found myself adamantly opposed to the statement that suggested what we should not dogrumble– or as Job puts it, complain. In the current season of my life, I have felt the sting of familiar religious phrases from the friends of Job who tell me what I should and should not do to end my suffering. The words they communicated may have been true, but they did not taste like the sweet fruit of love.

We should” reeks of a religious spirit. Its motivation is that of obligation to the law, not love. Jesus never taught His disciples to perform the ten commandments perfectly to please Him. Instead, He invited them- He invites us- to love Him; thus, fulfilling the most important commandment in the law of Moses. The Lords desire is that we trust Him with all of our heart (mind, will and emotions).

I know about loving Him with some of my heart. I was what some would call a strong-willed child. And that strong will didn’t go away when I was born again! As a young believer, I was on my way to becoming a well-respected religious leader. A Pharisee of Pharisees. I worked diligently at transforming my mind. I disciplined my will to submit, submit, submit. But I was absolutely void of any emotion in my relationship with the Lord. I had spent an entire lifetime learning to stuff my feelings. I knew how to pray and push on. That is, until 2011, when I saw JESUS face to face while receiving healing and deliverance ministry from others in the body of Christ. During that encounter, I was SET FREE from emotional bondage! By the power of His Spirit, I could no longer keep from speaking. I HAD to express my anguish. My bitter soul HAD to complain. As I did so, the Light of the world exposed what was hidden in darkness, thus releasing a floodgate of tears that as Corey Russell says, turned into liquid prayers.

My friend, I submit to you that we SHOULD grumble, complain, throw a hissy fit, or have a temper tantrum! God already knows what’s in our hearts. Why are we so afraid of expressing it to Him? Do we fear His rejection? Do we believe He will leave or forsake us if we don’t perform our religious duties perfectly? Or do we fear what our friends will think or say if we absolutely lose it? I encourage you to read to the end of Job’s story in the book that bears His name. Yes, God rebuked Job for his pride, but He did not condemn him for expressing what was in his heart as he suffered great loss. 

Let us, like Job, bare our souls to the One who knows every intimate detail of our lives. Let us trust that when we have a 4-year-old meltdown in our room, our mothers garden, or the Walmart parking lot, He can handle it. Let us believe He is who He says He is: comforter, healer, deliverer. Let us remember, He is a good Father, able to give us good gifts and a good spanking, when we need it. Let us be like little children, expressing the good, bad and ugly in His presence, without fear. This is how we learn to love Him with ALL of our hearts.

Valley of the Shadow

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd,
[a]shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside 
[b]still waters.
He restores my soul;
He guides me in the 
[c]paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the [d]valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no 
[e]evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You 
[f]have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
[g]Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will 
[h]dwell in the house of the Lord [i]forever.

Growing up in the Presbyterian and Methodist church, I learned the 23rdPsalm by merely repeating it over and over again during Sunday Services. Everyone knows the passage – even unbelievers can recite it from memory at funerals. We did so at my mother’s Celebration of Life last month. I know the words, but His Spirit is making the Word known to me in the valley of the shadow of death. 

It seems as if everything in my life is dying. I am surrounded by:

The death of my mother.

The death of our church community.

The death of our ministry. 

The death of relationships with family and friends.

The death of our home in North Carolina.

The death of unmet expectations as offers are rejected on homes we’ve bid on in Florida.

In the valley, there are shadows of death. In the shadows, we are surrounded by darkness. In the darkness, our vision is limited. And what we cannot see, we will fear. 

I’ve discovered that when I react to fear, I will either dismiss or deny pain. If I choose to dismiss the pain of death, I will rationalize my feelings by comparing myself to others, thus determining that I shouldn’t be depressed, angry, or disappointed. In that headspace, I belittle my suffering when stacking it against those that, from my perspective, are enduring greater hardships. If I chose to deny the pain of death by pretending it’s not happening, I will suppress my feelings, or try to avoid them altogether. The strain of carrying such a heavy burden will inevitably lead to a collapse- physically or emotionally.

With each passing day, I realize more and more that I cannot go through this valley alone. God has been faithful. He has never left me. He will not forsake me. He is with me, walking me through it. Although there are times I want to, I know that If I try to run, I’ll miss the green pastures and still waters. So, He is making melie down in the grass to receive rest and rejuvenation. He is leading me to stillness; to drink, so that I may be refreshed and restored. 

My friend, I was made- YOU were made for intimacy with the Lord. But let’s be honest. In our busy, distracted, self-important lives, we rarely take the time to pursue Him. Heck, we barely devote any time to genuinely pursuing righteous relationship with others! But isn’t it interesting? When someone dies, our calendar miraculously clears. We’ll take the time to be with friends and family in their grief. We’ll spend the money on airfare. We’ll rent a car. We’ll book a hotel. We’ll take a meal. We’ll sit and talk and laugh and weep with those who weep. Death causes us to see, if only for a moment- the reality of life. It’s in the shadow of death that we ponder- and perhaps ask the hard questions. It’s in the shadow that our ego is revealed. It’s in the shadow that He uses the rod and staff to discipline us. It’s in the shadow that we feel the loving sting of His correction. It’s in the shadow that we feel His comfort and care for us. It’s in the shadow that the things of this world grow strangely dim. It’s in the shadow that we are redeemed. It’s in the shadow that we are restored. It’s in the shadow that we see the Shepherd. It’s in the shadow that we realize that we, like sheep, have all gone astray. It’s in the shadow that we are prepared to face our enemies. It’s in the shadow that we are anointed with the oil of joy. It’s in the shadow that we learn how to dwell in the Father’s house- forever, and ever. 

Amen.

Mourning on Mother’s Day

Ecclesiastes 7:2-4

“Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties.
    After all, everyone dies—
    so the living should take this to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
    for sadness has a refining influence on us.
A wise person thinks a lot about death,
    while a fool thinks only about having a good time.

I knew this day was coming. I did not dread it, but I assumed it would be filled with sorrow.

I woke before dawn as I often do and made my way through the moving boxes and graduation decorations to the living room.I love to sit in the silence of the early morning with a cup of coffee and stare out the window at the beauty of creation. Today, the birds were extra talkative, so I opened the window to listen to their sunrise songs. I talked to Jesus. And I wept. Again. I told Him how hard this season has been; mourning ANDmoving. His Spirit once again breathed life and comfort as I re-read the wisdom of Solomon: 

“For EVERYTHING there is a season, a time for EVERY activity under heaven….”

I’m not one for the traditions of men on national holidays. I don’t like being told to celebrate someone or something in a certain way. Perhaps there’s still a little bit of that rebellious little girl in me. Or, maybe, it’s the righteous young woman that desires genuine relationship, not religious performance. Yes, I still celebrated my mother on Mother’s Day weekend every year. We didn’t miss being together very often, from what I can remember. But I told her I loved her every month of the year- not just on Mother’s Day, or Christmas or her birthday. I also tried to show it, not just tell it. Especially with homemade gifts. Those were her favorite from her girls and grandkids! Last Christmas, my daughter and I perused Pinterest and meandered through Hobby Lobby to make the perfect gift to express my heart. As she often does, mom wept when she opened the picture of hearts connected between 3 states. My sister settled in VA after her husband retired from the military, and my parents and I have remained in NC since relocating in 1988 when my dad grew weary of the rat race of Southern CA and wanted to return home to family. Next week The Bullard Pack (my family) will close on the home we’ve lived in for over 15 years in Sanford, NC. We’ll move in with my dad until we find- and close on a house in Lakeland, FL. It will be the first time in my life that my parent, sister and I will live apart; in 3 different states. I am sad. But I am also full of joy. I’m excited to follow the Lord’s call to leave our fathers family and follow Him to a new land.

I have become well acquainted with sorrow in this season. It has caused me to think a lot about death. And, it has created a deep, aching desire for MORE. More in my relationship with the Lord. For in the end, He is all that matters. I want to be ready when He comes back. I want to know Him. I want Him to know ME! I want my heart to ache for His return as it aches now for the reunion I will one day have with my mother- and all the saints who have gone before.

I am told that time will ease the intensity of my grief. Perhaps that is so, but I know that time heals nothing. Only One Man can bind up the broken hearted and set the captives free. His name is Jesus. Do you know Him? Do you love Him? Is your heart full of sorrow- longing to see Him face to face? I invite you to spend some time at funerals, my friend. Embrace the sadness of life. Let it refine your soul as you discover the Man in the pages of scripture who will one day, wipe away every tear. In His presence, there is no more death or mourning- just inexpressible JOY as we worship Him for all of eternity.