Please check out Bill Sweeney’s latest blog post. You will be encouraged.
Most people don’t think of breathing as a luxury, after all, even the poorest among us can breathe. They wouldn’t be among us otherwise. Luxury: a condition of abundance or great ease and comfort. After almost twenty-three years with ALS, which greatly affects my ability to breathe, I believe the above definition of luxury perfectly…
I am sitting here in the middle of summer, bogged down by winter.
In early spring our roof partially collapsed from the weight of ice and snow.
We noticed our dilemma in the middle of April after the snow finally melted. Since then we have been busy with insurance adjusters, structural engineers, desk adjusters, and eventually a builder. All have come to the same conclusion, namely that a complete tear-off is necessary before more snow comes. This process includes the removal of the entire roof structure. Shingles, decking, rafters, fascia boards, and gutters all have to go. At this point we hope we don’t have to remove insulation, ceiling joists and ceilings. Our insurance claim for the de- and reconstruction of the roof has moved from a regular desk adjuster to one who handles catastrophes.
The term deconstruction was recently used by a Christian who examined his faith by taking it apart and ultimately rejecting it. The word comes out of philosophy and was popularized by a scholar named Jacques Derrida. According to Wikipedia, “Deconstruction denotes the pursuing of the meaning of a text to the point of exposing the supposed contradictions and internal oppositions upon which it is founded—supposedly showing that those foundations are irreducibly complex, unstable, or impossible.” While carefully considering and critically thinking about a text are important, deconstruction’s teardown of meaning seems to me a catastrophic endeavor.
I am eager for my contractor to get here and take down our roof. I am even more eager to get it put back together. There are many concerns I have. Are long periods of rain causing damage while the roof is gone? What about all the debris? Will the ceilings stay intact? Can we stay here while the construction is going on? How long will it take?
What is far more concerning than the deconstruction and reconstruction of my house is the deconstruction of the Christian faith and Scriptures that some are performing. In the case of my roof, we hired someone who knows much more about construction than we do. Our builder knows how to read an engineer’s report, about weight distribution, and knows his math. He has a measuring tape and knows how to use his tools. When it comes to faith, we have a Master Builder who is able to answer our doubts and questions. He invites us to reason with Him and come to Him with lament when the world doesn’t make sense. Tearing down faith without consulting and trusting the One Who knows us might leave us without a roof over our soul and eventually out in the cold.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
“And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
The other day my teenage daughter came to me with a photo of her when she was a toddler. Because we adopted her when she was older, I didn’t know her back then. She told me what she remembered about the photo and the circumstances. It made us chuckle at the changes that have taken place between then and now.
I am reminded of this conversation as I am processing the news of a well known ex-pastor who renounced his faith. Many years ago his message on dating had swept through Christian circles like a wildfire. Today, he has apologized for the message of that book and has changed his mind on Jesus altogether.
I must admit it scares me a little. When those who made undeniable commitments to relationships, spouses, and their faith suddenly walk away, what is one to think and do?
The fact is that humans change. From the time we are conceived to the time we leave this earth we are in the constant process of change. Good and bad. Beside the physical changes that occur, we become different friends, spouses, parents, and different followers of Christ. I am not the child I used to be, nor the wife I was 30 years ago, nor the mother I was to my babies. I am also not the Christian I was when I first gave my heart to Jesus.
As Christians we are to look to the One who doesn’t change and His unchanging Word. He has chosen to pour out His eternal, unchanging message through imperfect, changing vessels. While we are encouraged in the Word to be Holy as God is Holy so that the love of God can be seen, we must also understand our depravity before God without Jesus.
The Gospel does not change. It was set in place before God created man and always will be the only means by which we can approach His throne for all Eternity. The messengers change. The message does not.
When I grow in the knowledge of such amazing news and in the understanding of my depravity, the Gospel becomes greater. The awareness of God’s grace to me becomes an ever-increasing gift. This awareness of God’s unchanging love toward me may continue to change me toward more Christlikeness. However, I must let humility do its changing work.
While we may become frustrated with the changes in our lives and the people around us, we can be assured that God and His Gospel do not change.
God is not human, that he should lie,
not a human being, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act?
Does he promise and not fulfill?
“Lord, everything around me seems to change continually.
Please keep me from making idols of flawed ideas and feeble people.
Keep me steadfastly chasing after Christ and Your Word, which stand forever.”
I better get on it, spend time in the Word
Plug in to the sermons that everyone’s heard.
Must listen to views on You-tube from preachers
Must squeeze in “the Spirit” from all those teachers.
The newest conclusion in Christendom
Has five million hits, “I should listen to him”
At the end of the day I fall into bed
Can’t recall a thing that anyone’s said.
Too tired to think, too tense to remember
That my life is all Christ’s – My need is surrender.
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us.
Psalm 62:5-8 (ESV)
(Poem and Pictures, Heidi Viars, 2019)
Beware of the When-Thens. I tell you they are dangerous. As a matter of fact, I have been invaded by them and am only slowly recovering. They are the tiniest creatures, lurking about to discourage their unaware hosts. Like a virus on a cruise ship, they are bent on taking over entire endeavors. When-Thens get into your head and attack your vision. At first you will hardly know you have been infected. Symptoms range from moderate feelings of a need for leisure to laziness and can eventually produce a deep sense of meaninglessness ineverything. In some cases, as in mine, the When-Thens convince their invaded victim to do meaningless tasks to distract her from the most important.
When-Thens derived their name from their most powerful tool. When a When-Then gets into the head of the host, it releases a sense of doubt and tells the unsuspecting victim to put something off until another significant event occurs or something gets done. When-Thens sound like this: “When you get the house clean, then you should sit down to write!”
Please pray for me to recover fully. I have had a severe case. These When-Thens have gotten into my head and I have heard things like,
“When you get the cracks in the hardwood floor cleaned, then you can write.”
“When all the kids’ college loans are paid off and the house is renovated, then you should do something fun!”
“When fall comes, then you should plant an apple tree.”
“When spring comes, then you should plant an apple tree.”
(The last two When-Thens have been around for 18 years since we moved in. Unfortunately we have not had a harvest of apples.)
I finally went to my Maker to inquire about a cure. That in itself was reason enough for the When-Thens to launch a blitzkrieg. “When you get some rest, then you should schedule some time with God!” He wrote me a prescription and has told me I better come see Him every day.
Just in case you are dealing with When-Thens here is some of my prescription. But you better go see the Doctor soon!
And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’
And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’
But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’
Lord, teach me to seek you in this very moment. Keep me from chasing things and moments that have not come yet. Let me not waste the gifts of today on the worries of tomorrow.
When I was a teen
All skinny and smart
I wished for a man
With whom never to part.
I got a good man
And wished for a ring
For the vows to last
That to me he would cling.
He clung to my heart
We wished for a child
Six kids down the road
It got crazy and wild.
I wished for my house
To be neat and clean
Then kids moved out
Making wishes and dreams.
I am asking my self …
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24 (ESV)
(Pictures and poetry, Heidi Viars, 2019)
I got up with an attitude. I hadn’t slept well and the fog outside wasn’t helping my mood. I grabbed a quick cup of coffee and the leash and stumbled outside and went for the woods. I walked and prayed but couldn’t climb out of the funk.
“Lord, I don’t know what’s going on, but I need your help. Please show me you are with me!”
The flowers in the field looked drab, the gnats were bugging me, and my allergies were acting up. I was feeding my grumpy attitude with negative self talk, how I was failing, especially as a wife and mother. Then I saw what put me over the edge.
Something that reminded me of Hansel and Gretel slowly unfolded. But instead of breadcrumbs and little rocks on the trail, candy wrappers were strewn all along the path. Every few feet, like pictures from a crime scene of a kid gone rogue on sugar, the case unwrapped. Tootsie Rolls, Jolly Ranchers, and Starburst had all been on the offender’s menu. Then at the end of the trail, a brown lunch bag gave evidence that the spree had ended for the litterer. My mind went nuts. “I can’t believe this! Who does that?”
I stomped ahead for another half a mile and turned around to head home. When I came back to the place where the wrapper trail had ended I heard something in my soul,
“Pick them up!”
My husband says, “You can tell a German. But you can’t tell a German anything!” He is right. This strong impression didn’t sit well with me. If it was God telling me to pick up the wrappers He was just going to be out of luck.
“Pick them up!”
If this was just my conscience I could talk myself out of it, but if this was the Lord, I was being disobedient. Reluctantly, I grabbed the brown lunch bag and stuffed one wrapper into it. Then another and another. Each time I bent over I became more irritated.
I walked until I found a garbage can close to where my car was parked and tossed the wrappers into it.
I didn’t expect what happened next. When the wrappers hit the bottom of the bin, it was as if a huge weight went with it. My attitude suddenly changed. Like a mountain climber untying a heavy backpack after a long hike, I felt a burden lift.
“You only carry burdens for a short while!”
I knew it was the Spirit. So many things came to mind that I carry around. The weight of my own burdens seems to be too much to bear at times, not to mention all the burdens of others I often carry. I quickly get bogged down and let these things make me sad and angry.
There, in the woods next to that garbage can, set in a deep awareness of the temporal. When we serve Jesus, we give God permission to put burdens on us as He sees fit. At times they seem too heavy and even unfair. However, we are only stewards of them for a short time. We can be assured that He is with us on the path and shows us how far we must carry them. He is faithful. We can trust that He is going ahead of us and in due time will have us put them aside.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
Matthew 16:24-26 (ESV)