The Kindness of America

I still remember seeing her for the first time. I was craning my neck while looking down from my window seat as we approached the airport. She stood motionless in her green patina reaching out her torch to enlighten the world. She moved something deep within me. She came from France. I came from Germany. We both were immigrants.

When I moved to the United States over thirty years ago to live with my American husband, I was taken aback not only by this larger than life symbol standing at the port but by the largeness of the freedom she represented. I had not experienced such openness and hospitality, such patriotism and devotion to the concept of freedom in people who believed in it. Germans didn’t salute flags or were proud of their history. To me, there was hardly a difference between raising one’s hand to place it over the heart and raise it upward toward an evil flag. Patriotism scared me at first. I hadn’t been taught to love a country. My own history books were full of warnings against such foolishness and falling prey to propaganda.

Slowly over the years I was educated, not by books but by a people. I remember calls I made back home, telling about the nice people I met everywhere, strangers and family alike. I learned that freedom and kindness were tightly knit together in the hearts of those who believed in it.

After many years of experiencing the kindness of the American people, and after I came to Jesus through them, I wanted to make my own commitment. I wanted the right to vote for what I had come to believe. It required for me to make a choice, to give up my passport and submit to the covering of a much different government. On December 16, 2004, I entered a courtroom and gave an oath to “absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen”. I have never regretted the decision.

While Liberty still holds out her torch to enlighten the world, I pray we remember that the greatest light and Freedom is in Christ and living out His kindness is a command to those who know Him.

“Lord, help us who know you, to view our flag as a symbol of your kindness and the freedom you have given us. May we always be driven out of love for our neighbors and desire freedom for all people. Give us the strength to use our freedom to live out Christ’s love.”

Galatians 5:13-15
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: 
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.”

The Truth about Lies

It’s good to remember where we come from, who we were and who we are today. I am grateful that God’s grace and mercy in Jesus Christ covers my mistakes in the past … and the many I have made and still make in parenting my children. 

“Never seen him before in my life!”

My mother knew I was lying.

She had been watching him closely from behind the curtains of her bedroom widow whenever he sneaked around. Someone should have told him an American camouflage uniform in a small village in Germany is not at all concealing a young man. Quite the opposite is true. Those uniforms attract a teenage girl’s (and her mother’s) attention faster than a speeding bullet. 

His smiling eyes had captured my heart in the Gasthaus across the street just a few weeks before. 

“He follows you like a puppy. You’ll never get rid of him!” 

I could barely hear her yelling as the front door closed behind me. Didn’t she know this was exactly what I wanted?

That was thirty-three years ago. I still think his eyes smile.

I look at my teenage daughter.

“No worries, mom. You can trust me!” she says as she heads out the front door.

I smile and remember the lies. She doesn’t know yet. Not only the truth makes moms wiser, lies do too.

“Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”
Colossians 3:9-10

 

Family

We signed bazillion dotted lines
On twenty pounds of paper
We went to classes – stretched our minds
Did court instead of labor

Then welcomed three into our clan
Their pain became soon ours
We knew that family was God’s plan
Here evil loses power

God knits a family of love
Of many different colors
Forms bonds with cords designed above
So hearts and lives grow fuller.

Our Father wants us fig’ring out
There’s no such thing as “others”
That all His children walk about
As sisters and as brothers.

To love my brother as I ought
Is Heaven’s only option
For our Father signed in blood
In Jesus our adoption.

Since adoption almost six years ago, we live in a family with members of different colors. 
My mother’s heart hurts for my kids when the color of their skin is the cause for insecurities or even slander. But more often it aches for the hurt that comes from somewhere completely different. The inability to believe that we are worthy of love despite our shortcomings causes much pain. Sin makes every human being aware we are not lovable, the sins of others as well as the sin deeply rooted within ourselves.

God fully knew us, from foibles to strongholds, and yet completely loved us. He gave His one and only Son to die for our sins. He loved us so much that He didn’t want to be without us. 

A new commandI give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 13:34-35 

(poem, pictures and pondering, Heidi Viars, 2020) 

It Matters

We are made to tell our story and listen to the ones around us. We are storytellers because our Father is an eternal Storyteller. He weaved our story into us before He gave creation its first breath – before He gave it to us. Our story is not finished with our final breath, not even when the earth breathes its last. 

Why wouldn’t we gently share and carefully listen to find out what it means to be human, what it means to be fully known and completely loved? 

I wonder if we might even walk into danger if we don’t tell and listen. We might find ourselves forced to hear it while it’s squeezed out with a final, earthly breath on a cold concrete. 

We are made to tell our stories and listen to the ones around us. 

Philippians 2:3
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

The Wellspring

When Love is abundant, store it away
For a time of great hate will come
When it does and you stand in warring days
 You’ll have plenty to draw love from. 

When it’s day and gorgeous Light fills your eyes,
Keep the vision of Light in mind.
For darkness will come and and evil will rise
When for the blind your light must shine

When Hope spills like water over your day
When within your soul all is well
Pour this hope in a well – make it to stay
Then dig deep, when fear wants to dwell

When Joy overwhelms you with peace untold
When you know Christ near and real
Ask the Spirit to reign – take over your soul
To guard these reserves with His seal.

For nothing in all of earth and her might
Has the power to drain the stored 
From the heart of God’s children who’re walking with Christ
From HIM good will endlessly pour. 
Guard your heart with all diligence, for from it flow springs of life.
Proverbs 4:23

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good,
and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Luke 6:45 

“Lord, guard the spiritual blessings you have entrusted into our care. Help us to reach deep into the storehouse of heart and  soul in times of chaos and confusion. Keep us from rushing to our flesh for answers, but look to Jesus, our Living Hope.” 
~
(Pictures and Poetry, Heidi Viars, 2020) 

Wedding Invitations

My son and his fiancé have been planning their wedding. It’s quite the challenge in this pandemic. They picked the date long before stores and venues shut down. They chose the anniversary of a disastrous, near fatal accident my son had five years ago. Both had decided to redeem the bad memory and turn it into a good one. They had no idea a different disaster would be looming over the plans and COVID 19 would be clouding the day.

Today, while contemplating where to get my dress and hearing that some of the guests have already (and understandably) declined the invitation for fear of exposing themselves to the virus, a parable came to mind.

In Matthew 22:1-14 Jesus likens the kingdom of heaven to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. When the king sends his servants out to gather those who were invited, the servants find guests who don’t want to come to the feast and have many excuses. Some of these reluctant guests even go as far as killing the messengers. The king then tells other servants to go and gather anyone they can find in the streets and bring them to the feast. All the attendees must however wear the garments the king provides. When he surveys the party and finds one who decided not to wear the proper wedding attire, he has him tied up and thrown into the “outer darkness”.

While a pandemic is a valid excuse to not attend a wedding on earth, there will not be a valid excuse for declining God’s invitation to His Kingdom wedding. Ignoring God’s call is a detrimental decision.

In Jesus Christ, God extends Heaven to everyone. He flings the door to the party wide open. God supplies everything we need to attend. We don’t have to worry about looking shabby or inappropriate for this occasion because He has even made provisions for what we should wear. Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins becomes our perfect cover. What a high price He paid for us to attend. While I will carefully pick a dress for my son’s occasion, I could never afford the clothes God provided for me on the day of His great wedding feast.

Dear friend, if you have not considered the feast of the King, if there are many things that are more important than giving your life to Jesus, or if you think about declining the invitation altogether, I want you to reconsider. RSVP to Jesus soon because time is running out. Your Maker would love to welcome you to the feast. Leave what you consider important and go.

Ephesians 5:15-16
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,
making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”
~
(Pictures and Devotional, Heidi Viars, 2020)

Ground Zero

It started at ground zero. A microscopic organism caused havoc on an entire planet and shut down the World in the physical realm. It made us worry, fear, retreat, and isolate.

What might God do, if we became truly infected with His love? What if we stopped protecting our hearts from His painful work in us? What if we let Him in and burn away the selfishness? What if we died … to self?

What if deeds done and words spoken in the name of Jesus become that contagious? Fueled by the Holy Spirit, may they have the power to set the World on fire with the Love of God?

What if you are ground zero?

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.
John 15:16-17

“Father, Creator and Sustainer of our souls, give us the awareness of our great and dangerous purpose, namely to show a hurting world you came to cause peace through Jesus Christ. Make us bold and start with us!”

(Prose and Pictures, Heidi Viars 2020)

Of Monsters and Beasts

I came in the house carried food from afar
Like women of old, who shopped at bazaars.
Was tired and beat from reading the signs,
From standing on blue tape and waiting in lines.
“How was it?” my hubs and all the kids asked.
I collapsed in the chair and took off my mask.

“Oh, my dear children, let me tell you a tale
How I found tp and this food on sale.
It’s scary and dark as the land has gone mad.
There’s monster out there and it’s evil and bad.
The people have found they can keep it at bay
While they scrub and clean, and they wipe and spray.

My kids paid attention, sat around my old chair,
“Tell us more mom!” they begged, and then listened with care.
“The Monster is sneaky, it feeds of the fear
Of the people who live far away and live near.
No one has seen it. It’s quite the demise
The monster is tiny!” … My kids looked surprised.

“The monster stopped concerts, closed parks, held up trains,
Closed the schools and the churches and halted the planes.
Some people can’t work and make money no more
Some are afraid that things vanish from stores.
It’s made all the land seem careless and cold
While the monster keeps threatening the sick and the old.”

“So, our dear mother how can it now be,
How can we kill monsters that we can not see?”
I sat back and thought for a moment or two,
Looked down at my kids and thought this thing through.
I went back and forth in my mind for a while
And then I sat up – and my face made a smile.

“Don’t pretend you have answers for those who don’t ask.
Be kind, if they wear or don’t wear a mask.
Some people feel sad cause they can’t hug their friends
While some rather stay inside til the end.
Be patient, endure, and love all the same
For love is the reason that our Lord came.

He knew from the get go, no surprise to Him
He knew that the people be missing their kin.
He said, “Persevere!” to not lose our mind!
He said He’d come back and wants to find
His people bring Good News and hope to all –
For in the end that’s how all the beasts fall.

“Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.”
Revelation 3:10
~
(Poem and Pictures by Heidi Viars, 2020)

 

A Not-So (Socially) Distant God

A Holy God came down to earth
Indwelled the human race
Imago Dei now its worth –
God close, on every face.

He took a basin and a towel,
Got close and cleaned our feet,
As Servant He fulfilled the vow
We made and couldn’t keep.

What man deemed unclean, sick and lost
He chased relentlessly
Paid our payment on a cross
Came close and set us free.

He said, “Do not forsake to meet!
Fear not as you once did.
Remind each other as you eat
That God is in your midst.”

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
Hebrews 10:23-25

 

She Much Rather …

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The pastor gave the final blessing over the congregation from an empty stage. He looked down at his guitar as he strummed a few soft chords and prayed. He was a gentle musician and an honest preacher.

“Love people and love God!” He’d say. Everybody knew he meant it. He lived it.

Her church wasn’t perfect, but her living room was no sanctuary either. She hated leaving like this. With a click. She wished he would have played one more hymn. She closed her laptop and swallowed hard.

She much rather have stood in the foyer for a while and shook a stranger’s hand. She would have loved to give her good friend a nod from afar as they said their good-byes with just a smile, while she finished the conversation with the new couple.

She headed toward the kitchen to make lunch.

She much rather have sat at the burger joint with her family and a few others who would have made their way there. They would have bantered between tables about things that didn’t matter much. But they did. All of it mattered. She just had never realized how much it did.

“Lord, help us not take our blessings for granted, especially your Body. Help us to encourage one another. Put us on each other’s hearts and minds. Teach us to pray … for one another. Help us to not take each other for granted. Lord, let us not go back without understanding fully, that we are your Body and you are the Head. Keep us one in love as you are One.”

1 Corinthians 12:27
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

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