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tears

It’s the eve of my 365th day of my 38th year.  In one day and few sleeping hours I will be 39 years old.

Thirty-nine.  When I turned 34 I wrote a little ditty called “34 Reasons to Smile.”  You can read it here: https://lorirodeheaver.wordpress.com/2013/10/30/thirty-four-reasons-to-smile/

I was trying to focus on all that God had given me despite my nagging inner pain.  Somehow, I thought, if I could just grasp how very many beautiful things surrounded me, I would have no choice but to bask in daily joy.

Since then, I have tried.  Sometimes I succeed.  My failure is certainly not from lack of good things.  Still, I have tried and failed so many times.  I have tried to bury the pain of desperate loss; of crushing discouragement; of inner loneliness; of unwarranted rejection; of utter failure.

Somehow, five more years went by.  Time never did stop.  Blessings and trials keep coming down in crashing waves upon me like an unending storm of beauty and destruction.  Life is even more beautiful than it was then in so many ways.  So very many ways.  But at 39 I realize that it is far too late to make new old friends.  I realize that things really won’t ever go back to the way they were; to the way I thought they should be; the way I planned.  Every time I think of so many of those I hoped to grow up and grow old with, I see only a cemetery.  Alive, but dead and gone from my life never planning to return.  I think of them and I examine myself.  I think of them and I wonder just what makes me anathema; pariah; untouchable.  I wonder if it’s something I really could change even if I knew.  I wonder if it isn’t just who God himself made me that repels.  I don’t know.  But I think, always.  I think of them and I write.  I write because they are no longer here.  They didn’t stay.  I can’t send them a text.  They don’t want a call from me.  I am 39 and they aren’t coming back.  No matter how much I miss them, they won’t be returning.  But who really wants to talk about that?  I know.  It’s so last year.  I should be over it by now.  I know.  But I’m not.  And I’m not really sure I ever will be.

My paper, it listens. I write because I have to.  My paper has always listened.  It has never abandoned me.  So to it I talk.  My paper hears me when all others stop their ears.

I am not alone.  I have a mechanic in shining armor who loves me more than I ever thought I could be.  I have four beautiful daughters who like me a little even though they won’t admit it.  I have a good mom who’s always rooting for me and standing behind me.  I have a Savior who saves me from myself daily.  But so often, I feel alone.  Vacant.  I feel like a failure.  A fool.  A friendless follower of the only One worth being a friendless follower fool for.

And somehow it is OK.  It hurts like living hell at least once a day but it is good.  It must certainly be a better plan than all the ones I buried in my sea of bitter sorrow and sullen-faced surrender.

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”

I know, Daddy, but it isn’t the world.  It is the church.  I don’t understand why they hate me.  I don’t know why you made a girl who was born to be hated.  A lot of days I hate me, too.  Because being hated hurts.  But you know.  You were hated first.  You were hated more.  You were murdered by my own sin.  I know you know.

I don’t know how much longer I have here on the earth.  I know I’ll be 39 years old in 1 day and a few sleeping hours.  I know it is the eve of my 365th day of my 38th year.  I know I don’t have any more time.  I have no more time to grieve them, Lord.  I have no more tears.  I want to be done.  Please set me free from this grief.  Have mercy, Lord.  Lord, have mercy.  Kyrie, eleison.

“NO.  No.  No, daughter.  Love.  Love and expect to be hated.  Love, and be willing to be hated.  Love, and be broken when you’re hated lest your heart become hard.  Love, and stay loving enough to grieve over them until there is peace.  Peace, I promise.  One day, peace.  I promise.  Be patient.” 

Why, Lord?

“Because I did that for you.  Move forward, Christian.  Walk on.  Sling your Bible and leave them behind if they simply refuse to come.  You cannot wait.  You have more work.  Bring your tears and face forward.  One day all will be made right.”  

It’s my party and I have only one request.  It’s my party and I’ll cry if you want me to.  It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.  If these tears can’t be taken away, I just want to be allowed to cry and know these tears are not in vain. Because life is hard, it is good, and some things really are worth grieving over.  I think I’m old enough to know.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” ~Revelation 21:4

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yoda

Do you ever go somewhere and think, “This sure feels like a waste of time…” On the way you may be thinking, “Maybe I shouldn’t even go…I don’t think I’ll enjoy this…but everyone else is going…I don’t want to miss out….but usually when I go to this place I am miserably bored, wishing I was home, and wondering what on earth could possibly be wrong with everyone around me because they are over the top excited to be here…”

Ok.  Do you have your place?  Mine is the movies.  Once in a great while I will actually enjoy a movie, but nine out of ten cause me to kick myself for not staying home and reading a more entertaining and exciting story.

Last night was one of those nights.  We went to see the new Star Wars movie and all I could think the entire time was how the Bible – the living, active, real in your life today story – is infinitely more exciting to experience than this movie – or any other entertainment the world has to offer for that matter.

But the theater was completely full.  I mean filled to the brim.  I had my normal I-wish-I-would-have-stayed-home-guess-I’ll-take-a-nap-in-this-uncomfortable-overused-chair experience while everyone else held lightsabers and wore fangirl t-shirts with edge of their seat excitement.  There was only one problem for me.  Every few minutes the sound of clapping, cheering, sobering sighs, and otherwise giddy excitement coming from row beside us would wake me after I’d dozed off.

These people must have been the only kind of Star Wars fans there are – fanatics.

A funny thing happened to me during my transient nap at the movie theater, though.  I felt, as I often do in this context, a certain sadness come over me – not because I felt like I was wasting time and money simply by being present – but, this time, because I realized that they were.

I had to ask myself when the last time I’d seen any young people – no – any people of any age at all – get that excited about the Word of God.  When was the last time I’d seen any passion in anyone – other than my husband when he preaches  – about what God was showing them in his Word – anyone cheering, clapping, sighing, and sobering over what they were seeing, hearing, and learning from the Scriptures?  I have been in church my entirelife.  That kind of genuine passion for the Lord is rare, and, for the most part, here in America, altogether obsolete.

At that moment my heart felt so sad for my generation and those younger because I know the absolute amazement the Word of God offers; the unmitigated adventure knowing and serving the Lord Jesus Christ in earnest really gives.  And I know that it is the very thing that many of these empty entertainment junkies of today are so desperately desiring.  Humans want adventure and excitement.  But in our day, they think it comes from watching fantasy movies like the Avengers and the Jedi rather than living a real life that follows the Living God.

Friends, real adventure and excitement come from following Christ!  Every single page of the Bible is like a new journey.  It is not always rainbows and butterflies, but it is good and it is real.  My generation is missing out on the real life living experience of knowing the God of the Universe because they have never taken the time to read, study, and know His Word.

Not long ago I was considering past events and asking the Lord why I had to go through some hard things.  At that very moment my husband said, “You raised your hand.”  It was in response to something else in a different context.  He had no idea that I had just asked the Lord these things.  God used him to remind me how when I was young I had written about wanting to be used of God and using the analogy that I was raising my hand hoping with all my heart to simply be called on.

To that end I say, if you go to church or begin reading your Bible and think, ““This sure feels like a waste of time…” Or if on the way you are thinking, “Maybe I shouldn’t even go…I don’t think I’ll enjoy this…but everyone else is going…I don’t want to miss out….but usually when I go to this place I am miserably bored, wishing I was home, and wondering what on earth could possibly be wrong with everyone around me because they are over the top excited to be here…,” you are not investing and engaging in true Christianity.  Get to know God.  Get to know His Word – front to back, inside and out.  Become a light-bearing, card-carrying, scripture t-shirt wearing fanatic about Jesus Christ and then you will be the only kind of Christian there is – a true one – and you’ll have no need to be endlessly entertained by false wars in the stars.  In fact, those things will become incredibly boring compared to the real cosmic star wars you are fighting in the Name of the Lord.  Amen!

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familyworship
In Exodus 25, we find the three furnishings that the tabernacle was to house.  Here, we find what the contributions the people of God had been called to make were designated for.

It is somewhat unusual to build furniture before building the house, but perhaps the Lord intended here to show us an order of importance of sorts.  What goes into God’s house, namely the law, the mercy, the place designated for the bread, and the lampstand, is more noteworthy than the building itself.  These items represent what actually constitutes a true Christian and a true church today.

If we have not law and grace, a special place for the presence of God, and a light-bearing witness, we have not an individual nor a place prepared and fit to worship Almighty God.  We can place all kinds of other things into our hearts and inside church buildings but nothing other than these particular furnishings will suit.  Nothing other than these particular things will make either us or that building a place fitting, pleasing, and suitable for the Lord to dwell.  I imagine the reason why so much unnecessary and spiritually unrelated “stuff” goes on in the church is because the real elements and foundation necessary for true worship to take place are not even present.

 

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family

2:49 a.m. – He sends a text that tells his wife he’s almost home and can’t wait to put his arms around her.  He’s been drag racing again.  Normally, she would be there cheer leading from the eardrum breaking bleachers, but the the race track is no comfortable place for a woman with child.

His friends may think that having a supernaturally fast street car, an even faster race car, and a bread-winning business to prove it is what makes him most respectable.  But we both know better now.

Don’t get me wrong, his gifting is found in gears and gadgets.  He has given his life and livelihood for building things to go.  Fast cars bring home the bacon – bacon, by the way, whose “better eat me and broadcast it if you’re a big man” blasphemy has created a sincere aversion for him.  No.  Tim has not bought in.  Bacon hasn’t the slightest thing to do with being a man.  Neither do beards or how much of it (bacon) you bring home.   Being a man, brothers, is found in something a little bit bigger and badder than that.

 Here is a day in the (new) life of a recovering bacon braggart’s wife…

8 a. m.  – He gets up early on Sunday morning after his 3:30 a. m. return from drag racing to go over the Bible lesson he’s about to teach the children at church.  He takes the dogs out, brushes little girls’ hair, and eats a breakfast void of bacon.

9:30 a.m. – He turns the car around when his wife remembers something she forgot.  He laughs instead of yelling.  Upon returning, he gets out and kindly get the said item for her.

10 a. m. – He teaches Sunday school, complete with funny faces, friend-making foolishness, and all the same fervor he has when fueling up his fast cars.

1 p. m. – He buys lunch for extended family.  He takes them to the river to picnic and play.  He picks his wife a wildflower.  He buys his daughter a heavily overpriced elk skin purse, his other daughters a wooden trinket and his wife a handmade flower for her hair.  He teaches them about nature and geography with enthusiasm.  He sneaks away and buys them ice cream.  He baits their fishing poles with slimy worms they can’t bear to touch repeatedly.  When the pregnant wife wants to wade in the water, he holds both her hands and leads her carefully.  He carries everything back to the truck.  He always drives.

7 p. m. – He sits down on the couch and watches a kids movie.  He rubs his wife’s feet and doses off unintentionally.

10 p. m. – He tells the kids a story, prays with them, and puts them to bed.  He lays down with a sore back.  He talks with his wife for a while and then prays with her about the trials of the upcoming week.  He remembers those in need, in pain, in leadership, in darkness.  He thanks God repeatedly.  He asks the Lord to bless his wife and children.  He plans to get up early for a walk with his wife before working all day on a holiday.

He wins.  Not with his race cars or his worldly wealth.  He knows that can be taken away.  He wins the hearts of those around him because he has put away self-indulgence.  He has refused the lies of worldly gain and it has been revealed to him what is worthwhile.

The measure of a man is never about his net worth, his appetite, his appearance, or his material possessions.  The measure of a man is most evidenced by his love for God demonstrated by his love for others.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. ~John 15:13

Big beard wearers, bacon eaters, big car builders, take note of Mr. Rodeheaver.  He has taken note of Christ.

~Mrs. Rodeheaver

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work

Paul continues the Lord’s instructions for human relationships in teaching on how to be a good servant.  The application is for anyone who is a subordinate of another in the context of labor or service.  Any employment given to men by men stands to benefit in regards to these commands.

The Biblical prescription for employees, servants, and subordinates in the work place?

“…obey in everything those who are your earthly masters…”

“…work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…”

Paul teaches that all requests of earthly bosses and masters are to be taken seriously.  We are to serve men in a genuine and whole-hearted way, not in a for show, pretend, lazy behind their backs way.  The reason Christians are to work in this way is because of our fear and respect for the Lord.  That way, the attitude and advocacy of the boss makes no difference regarding our job performance.  We are not working to appease unruly bosses, we are working to please the Lord.  Even when we are treated unjustly and harshly, we remember that the Lord will give us our due.

Paul reminds us that God is impartial to men and that he favors no one based on status, position, race, or ethnicity.  God is completely just and will repay each of us for the work we have done as well as the way we have done it.

Paul also tells masters, aka, leaders, bosses, CEOs, etc., that God is watching.  He warns those in authority over others that they must treat their subordinates well lest they be judged by the true Master in heaven.

If you are a servant, employee, or subordinate of someone else, work hard and obey them as if they Lord were the one commanding you.  If you are a boss, leader, master, or person with any authority over others, be fair and just dealing with your subordinates as you would have the Lord deal with you.

If the instructions on work ethics found here in Colossians were taken seriously, the vast majority of the problems seen in the work place would be eliminated.

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lj

This is me!  🙂

Faithfully, they stretch wide before me.  It is the second week of June.  It is time to gather the harvest.  Black raspberries, and after, blackberries, sprawl over the outermost portion of my backyard.

I carefully begin to cut away the weeds and reposition the unwelcoming briar bushes – also known as “jaggars.”

“Daddy would be proud,” I think.  He who took me every year in somber search would want me not to waste these.  Of course he set them here for me to find.  Soon after he was gone, they found their way into my backyard and beckoned of blessing.  Little wonder why they grow so close to Father’s Day.

Daddy gave the gifts.  How can I not go out and harvest them?  Still, I feel like Christian in “Pilgrim’s Progress.”  Poison, snakes, thorns, heat, and my personal favorite, ticks likely await as I begin my journey into the blessed brush.

Cut the thorns away.  Cut too many and the shade-less berries will dry up.  Leave some thorns.  Be gentle.  I must, must, must remember gentleness when picking my treasures lest I squish them, drop them, or get impaled by an intrusive thorn.  Move the vine, just a little, and a whole new load of berries are unveiled.  Shake the vine too hard and they will fall to the ground lost.    Dropping even just one into the place of no return is tragic to me.  The utmost care must be taken with each new find.

Now begin again.  Think of Christian.  Think of Christ.  Is this not how we are to make disciples?  I reckon it surely seems familiar.  I liken these blessed berries to those to whom we must preach the gospel; those to whom Our Father has given us; those whom he has placed in our own yard, ripe for the picking, no, choosing, perhaps.  Only he is the one who has done the choosing beforehand.  We have simply come to reap the harvest.

I feel like the lumberjack the little girl Lori always wanted so very much to be.  To my surprise, just the other day I discovered that my very name – my married name, that is – literally means, “to clear away, area of forest designed for clearing, to chop or cut down.”  I can hardly contain my excitement knowing that I have veritably been a lumberjack of sorts for the past fifteen years.

The Lord gives the desires of the heart.  He gives the gifts.  He makes them ripe and ready.  He asks us to harvest – carefully, gently, painstakingly.  And when we do, he shows up every time.  He changes our name,  fifteen years go by, and we fail to even realize who we have become.

His.  We are his.  That is, Our Father’s.  We love what he loved.  We do what he did.  We are the remnant of who he is.  We are not of him because we are like him, we are like him precisely because we are of him.

And he is always with us in the garden that he made especially for us – even after the thorns have come.

 And to Adam he said,

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
    and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
    ‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
    in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
    and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
    you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
    for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
    and to dust you shall return.” ~Genesis 3:17-19

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idol

Ok.  So maybe this isn’t a topic most people think about.  Maybe it isn’t something that’s an issue for anyone besides me.  Or maybe most just don’t recognize idolatry when it rears its ugly head.  In any case, placing my security, hope, joy, faith, and trust in my abilities, my spouse, my appearance, etc., etc. has been a struggle for me for the better part of nearly two decades now.  Well, as long as I’ve been a Christian.  Let me try to explain.

Every single person who has ever come to Christ has come out of need.  We need many, many things in this life that we are not capable of obtaining on our own.  We try.  And we try.  And we try.  But we always seem to come up short no matter how much money, entertainment, material possessions, relationships, or busyness we can possibly fill our lives with.  Idol after idol after soul-starving idol.  Continuously our gods fail.  We simply cannot climb out of the hamster wheel of wants because it is always the next one which promises what the last lacked.

For men, jobs and accomplishments are usually at the top of the idolatrous list.  For women, though, idolatry is often even more close to the place God seeks to occupy: the heart.  Yes, our idols also include material things and status symbols and I suppose I could write for days on the effects of our greed in those areas.  Instead I would like to focus on the idolatry of relationships for a moment.

What happens when Christ meets our need for a marriage relationship or a child…and we trade intimacy with Him for that blessing?  What are we to do when we are called by God to please and to serve another human being but it feels almost like we do so in place of serving Him?  Is that even possible?  What you do to the least of these…right?

We’ve all learned that it’s easy to do the right things in the wrong way.  How can we know whether our service to another is bona fide service to God or whether it is idolatry?

I’m asking, by the way.

I try to recognize the facets of idolatry, but it often still leaves me second guessing myself.  For example, there is no peace when your idol does not produce joy.  On the contrary, there is perfect peace when God is in the right place even when others are difficult to deal with.  Still, when sensitivity is your most dominant character trait, it is hard to know when you are practicing idolatry in a relationship or simply being both human and female.  Is sensitivity a sinner’s excuse for idolatry?  Or is love simply an emotion that is difficult to override?  Where is the peace that passes all understanding?  Surely it applies here as well as anywhere else.  But sometimes we pray and pray and fast and study scripture and pray some more…and that peace still eludes us.  Why?

I’m asking.

What if sacrificing for another person comes at the expense of sacrificing for God?  Or vise versa?  How do we know which is best?  Or are they one in the same?  What did Jesus really mean when he said  “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life” or “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” ?  Why would God give us good things only to use them as a test to see whether we love him more?  I.  Don’t.  Understand.  Am I reading it all wrong?  Perhaps.

Conversations on the drive to church bits of pop culture trivia borrowed from the radio and pieces of our own motley collection of philosophies.

“Janet Jackson turned down the role for Trinity in the Matrix?  She doesn’t seem athletic enough for that role.”

“What?!  Janet was my role model!  She went through phases.  Sometimes she was extremely fit but other times not so much.”

“Well I’m sure it’s hard when you’re rich and famous.  Confusing, really.  You probably have to try everything to be happy.”

“When you have everything you want there’s really no hope at all for happiness outside of Christ.  Because when you have it all, you know nothing satisfies.  At least when you’re striving for things you ‘think’ things will make you happy.”

How does Jesus satisfy us, though?  And if he satisfies us, why do we so often seek satisfaction elsewhere?  Do we not allow him to satisfy us or do we want things he never intended to give us?  Health and wealth preachers will falsify the gospel and contend that he gives us what we want.  We sure would like to believe that, too, but it simply isn’t true.  Because it isn’t true, at least on this earth, we often seek fulfillment and happiness elsewhere – keeping Jesus in our pocket in case something goes wrong with our self-sufficient climb.

The pastor warned us of seeking Christ for what we want instead of who he is.  To be very honest, it concerns me.  I evaluate myself over and over and over again.  Do I love Jesus?  Do I love him?  Do I love him?  Do I trust him?  Do I believe him?  Do I live like it?  Do I?  I imagine scenarios of loss and consider what I would really do.  I know the right answers.  I study them diligently.  But do I have the faith it takes to carry them out if I’m called to?  These are the thoughts that trouble and terrify me day after day.  Am I accused by the Enemy or am I convicted by the Spirit?  How can I not know?  Why can I not tell?

Answers too often escape me.  Still, I know him.  I hear him.  I seek him.  Therefore, I choose faith.  As Piper calls it, faith in future grace.  I do not understand right now.  I do not know what I would do if x, y, or z happened to me.  But I know that I desperately want God.  Therefore, I will fear no evil.  Father, keep me from the sin of idolatry.

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