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.

Childish things

1 Corinthians 13

13 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it;[a] but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages[b] and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! 10 But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.

11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.[c] All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

Amidst the ongoing political chaos, I recently got sucked into the vortex of fear that invaded the body of Christ. As I continued hearing and reading the urgent messages by the right, left and middle that consumed the media, I began being tossed to and fro on the waves of public opinion.

Why?

I pulled up my anchor.

I stopped going off to a quiet place EVERY DAY to pray. Instead of picking up the Word, I picked up my iPad to read the words of others. I wanted to be informed. I wanted to be prepared for what might or might not happen. I wanted all knowledge of good and evil! I wanted to be. Like. God.

Thankfully, the Spirit within me interrupted the noise of the storm one morning and whispered 1 Corinthians 13 to my soul. I turned off the world and tuned into heaven. When I looked at the One sitting on the throne I realized that my focus had shifted to the words of prophetic people, Trump and Biden, Republican and Democrat. As a result of eating that fruit, I found myself naked and afraid- hiding from God. 

But…..He is faithful. He never grows weary of calling out to me, “Jodie, where are you?!”

Once again, His Word anchored my soul. His Word washed me in His love. His Word corrected and rebuked me. His Word cast out fear. And His Word beckoned me to love- regardless of church doctrine, regardless of political affiliation, regardless of who was right or wrong. I found it interesting as I re-read the overly familiar passage (1 Corinthians 13), that Paul seemed to divert from his love message to the church in Corinth by mentioning his childhood.

Why?

Perhaps he was saying that spiritual maturity does not equal soul maturity. 

Spiritual maturity (gifts):

Speaking in tongues

Praying in tongues

Prophesy

Words of knowledge

Faith

Giving

Service

Soul maturity (fruit):

Patient

Kind

Not jealous

Not boastful

Not proud

Not rude

Not demanding

Not irritable

Not record keeping

Not rejoicing in injustice

Never gives up

Never loses faith

Hopeful

Enduring

I’ve been saved and following the Lord for more than 20 years. I’ve grown in spiritual maturity; knowledge of the Word, prophesy, praying in tongues, giving and serving others, and interpreting Gods secrets revealed through dreams.

But in areas of my heart- my soul, I’m still a little girl. In immature little girl. I often think like an 8-year-old. I often reason like a 4-year-old. I haven’t put away all my childish things. Case in point: when the arrows of pain and pressure penetrate my heart, I sometimes react in outbursts of anger. Like a volcano, I erupt violently, spewing hot lava all over the people I’m supposed to love. Like a child, I basically throw a massive temper tantrum.

As I’ve listened to and read other believers words, posts and comments on social media I see that I am not alone in my immaturity. The body of Christ has many infants and toddlers who refuse to grow up. Instead, we’re content to remain in adolescence for decades. Instead of crucifying our flesh, we continue to operate out of our anointing without operating out of the Fathers heart. Instead of repenting for our childish ways, we decree and declare and demand our own way. We have been nosy gongs and clanging cymbals during this election. It grieves the Lord. And it should grieve us.

I don’t understand His ways, but I believe the Commander of Heavens armies is sovereign over the Commander in Chief of America. I don’t understand His ways, but I believe the Spirit is saying to the churches in this hour, “it’s time to grow up in love.” I don’t understand His ways, but I believe God is calling those of us who’ve been prodigals to come home. He’s causing those of us who’ve been stuck in the pig muck of society to come to our senses. He is running out to meet those of us who’ve spent our inheritance on the Great Prostitute. He’s putting a ring and a robe on those of us who’ve lived as orphans. He’s welcoming us as sons and daughters back into His house. He’s teaching us how to pray. He’s training us to love, as He first loved us. 

My brother, my sister, I humbly ask you to take a moment. Leave the worlds playground and go off to a quiet place to pray. Allow the Spirit to search your heart. Ask the Lord, “what are the areas of immaturity in my soul?” Confess your childish ways. Repent for your temper tantrums. Receive His love, and return His love by obeying His commands. 

The world is watching and waiting for us to prove that we are His disciples. 

John 13:35

35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”