Breathing And Other Luxuries

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 fits being able to breathe in ease and comfort. But maybe only those who’ve had breathing problems view breathing as a luxury. I hope this simple post will give readers a new appreciation for the ability to just breathe. I think this is important because, if we learn not to take breathing for granted, we’ll begin to view material luxuries for what they really are – just stuff!

Regardless of location, status, race, religion, politics, or anything else that divides people, taking a breath is the first thing we do when entering this world and the last thing we’ll do when exiting this world.

Breathing is a great equalizer.

The ability to breathe was also the first gift that God gave to mankind:

“And the LORD God formed a man’s body from the dust of the ground and breathed into it the breath of life. And the man became a living person.” (Genesis 2:7).

Even though I don’t have the ability to use or the money to spend on the latest gadgets, I am fascinated by technology. I am literally surrounded by incredible machines that add to my quality of life. My wheelchair reclines and is very comfortable. It even has headlights and taillights for cruising around at night. This wheelchair cost as much as a new car. It was donated to the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) after the original owner died from ALS. I am borrowing it from them.

In front of me, attached to the wheelchair with a bar, is my eye-tracking computer. This special computer enables me to communicate, type this post, and do so much more.

To the right of my wheelchair is a little pump mounted on an I.V. pole. This pump is connected to my feeding tube, and for twelve hours a day, its slowly pumping a lab concocted formula into my stomach.

Finally, to my left, is a ventilator that breathes for me through a little breathing mask that’s plugged into my nose.

Now that I think about it, I might be more machine than human.

Because ALS also weakens the muscles needed to breathe, I’ve been relying on a breathing machine when I sleep for the last twenty years. Increasingly over the last few years, I’ve also had to use this ventilator during the daytime. When fighting for every breath, it’s such a relief when Mary puts the breathing mask on me. I am finally able to relax. That’s a luxury.

A few weeks ago, I was watching a television show called “American Pickers.” This is a show about two men who travel America in a van looking for old items to buy and resell for a profit. In the episode I was watching, these two men were in Florida trying to buy old luxury cars from a wealthy man who lived in a mansion near the ocean.

This elderly man owned several once-beautiful and very expensive cars, but because he lived near the ocean, these cars were just rusting away in the salty air. When I was a boy, while playing with my Matchbox Cars, I dreamed about one day owning some of the very cars that this man was letting sit in his garage and rust away. That little boy in me and the adult me were in total agreement; they both had the same thought – WHAT A WASTE!

The “Pickers” made offers to buy some of the cars, but the man refused to let go of his rusting luxuries.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

In the years following my diagnoses with ALS, I’ve learned to place a higher value on my many blessings. Apart from the rare visits from that little boy inside of me, my definitions of treasures and luxuries are not the same as they once were.

Breathing is a great luxury.

No matter how bad things look to you, there is hope for a better tomorrow if you’re breathing today.

Thanks for dropping by my blog.

About Bill Sweeney

In 1996, Bill was diagnosed with ALS (“Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) and the doctors told him he had 3-5 years to live. He is now completely paralyzed and unable to speak, but by God’s grace, he’s still alive and through his blog shares a message of hope in Christ - Unshakable Hope!

Posted on August 23, 2019, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 111 Comments.

  1. Happy Belated Birthday, Bill! Aunt Rose just gave me your blog address the other day and I finally had time to visit it. You are an inspiration, Bill, along with your whole family. I have always enjoyed your family Christmas letters. This blog is sooo you!! God bless you all. Steve & Joan

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Always a blessing reading your blog Bill. YOU ARE a blessing to all of us.

    love and hugs,
    ann

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Bill and Mary – thank you for your prayers! It fills me with encouragement to think that you pray for me the way you do. I also pray for the two of you. I love this blog about breathing being a luxury. I get it, Bill. When I had pneumonia and my lungs were filled with fluid I absolutely could not breathe – or it felt that way. You on the other hand deal with this 24/7. You inspire me with your trust and hope in God.

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    • Yes, Terri, I know you can relate. There’s nothing more difficult than gasping for air when your lungs are filled with fluid. I’m so glad you’re back in the old facility and near family, friends, and church. We continue to lift you up in prayer. Thanks for your prayers.

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  4. It has been a journey for me the last 13 months. Due to my polio at a very young age of 6 1/2 months my body at age 71 1/2 has been working so hard to keep up with the rest of the world that it is physically worn out. My husband and I sold our 4100 sq ft home in August 2018 and bought the perfect home for us on May 20, 2019. Our journey was a little bit of a challenge and with help from kids, g-kids and wonderful friends we are now getting settled in the last and perfect home for us. At this time we are still hanging pictures and riding of the last STUFF (that will not fit but we wanted to fit) through donating and giving to anyone that can use the item. I hope and pray by Christmas we will have made the last of improvements and our bodies can rest over the long cold winter heading our way. So glad to read your post. I always feel uplifted when I read of your journey. I spoke to a Rotary Club on September 12, 2019 and I had not done that for awhile and I so enjoyed it. Sharing the need to eradicate Polio is so important to me and spreading that importance to those around. Keep up the great work that you do. i can type things in just a few minutes and I am sure it took you days to finish your wonderful post. God Bless you and your wonderful loving wife.

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    • Thank you, Linda. I’m glad you found the perfect retirement home. 4100 Sq ft is a lot to keep up with. We considered moving when Mary lost her job last November, but with her 87-year-old mom living with us, it is hard to find a place that meets our needs and is more affordable. We decided to stay here. I’m glad you are getting a chance to speak.

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  5. Wow! Your gratitude for life and thankfulness to God despite all odds is inspiring. God bless you 🙏 This is truly an unshakable hope♥️

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  6. I’ve just now discovered your blog and I am so grateful to have found that link! This was such an incredible post, power packed and full of God’s best wisdom.

    It is so easy to get caught up in the issues of life that mean absolutely nothing in the long run. To remember to be grateful for the very breath God has given us – it really gives a completely new perspective.

    Your story is so powerful and so touching. God bless you for sharing your heart. You are changing lives with the love and wisdom of our Good God! ♥

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  7. Thank you for the like. Looking forward to reading more of your thoughts on your blog. :>)

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  8. Much of this applies to walking and other things we take for granted, too, as I’ve learned in the past several years, particularly after breaking the heck out of my foot last September. I wish I could quote him word for word, but T.D. Jakes once said you’d be surprised what you’ll look back on and thank God for someday.

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  9. Good morning Bill,
    thanks for looking into Agnellus Mirror and deciding to follow us.
    Your story of the old cars reminds me that Abel, my 4 year old grandson, loves playing with the actual 1950s to 1970s Matchbox cars that my brothers and I once played with. They were made to be played with – even unto the third generation! In once sense they have lost value, like the rusty old cars. But they are fulfilling their ‘vocation’ as old books do when they are re-read, including, of course, the Scriptures!

    God Bless,
    Will.

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  10. Prayers Bill for easy breaths today!! Blessings. Good thots. So true about Pickers. I always say these ppl have THINGS stacked and STILL wont part with it. Anyway. Have a good day!!
    Lisa!!

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    • Thank you, Lisa. Since Mary was Laid-off in November, she’s been busy cleaning, painting, and other doing other projects around the house. We’ve accumulated so much stuff over the 34 years we’ve been married. Unfortunately, it’s not stuff Pickers would want 🙂

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  11. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
    This is why I named my son Matthew.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m grateful Heidi Viars sent me your way, Bill, via her blog. I so appreciate what you wrote, and as God keeps reminding me about the gift of each breath, I will pray for you and Mary. Thank you for being an amazing conduit of God’s hope in your difficult circumstances.

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  13. Dearest Friend,
    You said, “Now that I think about it, I might be more machine than human.”
    You are too funny … because I have never “met” more persevering, Christlike and Gospel loving humans than you and Mary … just sayin’ 🙂

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  14. Hi my friend. This pst took my breathe away. Haha sorry couldn’t help a grandpa joke. So good Bill thanks for the encouragement. Always a good day when your blog arrives in mail. Love ya mate.

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  15. I’d never really thought of breathing as “the first gift God gave mankind,” or by extension, the first give he gives each person born. Everything is indeed a luxury. I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in Luke 14:33: “Any one of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be My disciple.” To lose everything for His sake is to gain everything that matters. You never fail to remind us what really matters, Bill.

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  16. Thank you, Bill. I’m always encouraged when I stop by your hope-filled blog.
    Blessings of His joy to you and Mary ~ Wendy Mac

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  17. Amen! Thank you brother Bill! That was convicting

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  18. Thank you for a great post once again! It’s all about perspective, isn’t it. I recently saw some great teaching about breathing in the Holy Spirit and the extent someone can take a deep breath is how free we are when dealing with our brokenness. It has helped me in those moments of stress to take a deep breath and remember that God’s spirit dwells in me. This post is a great reminder! Taking in a deep breath of the Spirit now!

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  19. Glad to read your post – a reminder to go back to the basics of life – appreciation and thankfulness, that you convey so well. Blessings to you as you continue to teach us.

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  20. It always does me good to read your posts.

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  21. Hello Bill, I do not take any breath or day for granted. When I was 18 years old my mother died from lung cancer. She was only 39 years old. I have lived 8 years longer than she did (I’m 47 now) and every moment is precious and God-given! She’s only one breath away from me in Heaven!
    Have you heard the song, “To Where You Are” by Josh Groban? Just beautiful!!
    I really enjoyed your post. Thank you.
    May God continue to bless you and your family! 🙂

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  22. A powerful and moving post, Bill. We take so many of God’s blessings for granted. All the while, He holds our very molecules together. Though ALS has placed enormous restrictions on your activities, you continue to serve God faithfully. May the rest of us do likewise.

    Your friend,

    Anna ❤

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  23. Wow, wow, WOW! I absolutely love this. I’ve never thought about what I treasured when I was young and even what I truly treasure today. I think I’ve taken EVERYTHING for granted. Thanks so much for letting God speak through you.

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    • Yes, Teri, I also took so many things for granted, especially my health. Before being diagnosed with ALS at the age of 36, I had always been so healthy. I’ve learned the hard way not to take my many blessings for granted 🙂 thanks for reading and commenting.

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  24. Love this latest!

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  25. Bill, God has a way of using you to speak directly to my heart. Thank you. I hope it’s ok to reblog it. I think it’s so important for us to consider what you have to say in light of our current world of unrest, and our focus on the unimportant. We all have so much to be thankful for. I’m breathing. And I’m praying for you.
    Connie

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  26. Bill, have you ever got a speeding ticket when
    on your wheelchair? 😄 Your a great Godly man and I pray for you
    and your family everyday!

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  27. Dear Bill
    So good to see your post.
    Your blog is such a blessing. You are such an encouragement and inspiration in your service to our God and Saviour.
    Prayers for you and your family.

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  28. I was glad to see your name come across my email. Thank you for the glimpse into your life. I am grateful for every breath I take.

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  29. Mr. Bill you are hilarious! When I read your title I laughed out loud and cried at the same time! God is sooo good to give us His breathe in our lungs and you captured that so beautifully that I literally just wept for joy because of the Fathers abundant love! Your heart is AWESOME!! & so are your writings!!

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  30. Thank you so much for sharing these precious thoughts. It does seem that we take for granted so many of the precious gifts that God brings to us, until they become a struggle. I know I have surely felt some of those gifts more deeply since my journey with chronic illness began. You are a true blessing as you share from your honest heart and help us to see the truth in our own lives. Blessings and Grace to you.

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  31. Bill, it’s always a delight to see your posts pop up in my reader. I stop everything I’m doing and quiet my heart to hear what the Lord has to say through you and am never disappointed. As I read, I found myself consciously breathing and had to admit, I have taken this gift for granted. Thank you for reminding me today that “Breathing is a great equalizer” and a gift to us all, especially when you consider we have been giving the breath of our Father.

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  32. I think and pray for you often Bill. Somehow in the scheme of things (way beyond my thinking grade) God uses the breath you do not have to breathe life into others. I’m speaking for myself and probably countless others.

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  33. Always important to realize the blessings we have.

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  34. What a wonderful reminder! How ironic that every time I have moved or even cleaned out a closet full of “stuff,” one of the first things that happens is breathing difficulties from the dust. The more the stuff, the more the dust. I am so grateful that we have rid ourselves of most of it and moved to a much smaller place. Now that we have fewer things, I am, quite literally, breathing easier.
    Thank you, Bill, for always bringing our minds back to the things that are really important. You are a blessing to so many.

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  35. Lynda Kay Verity

    So happy to see your new post. I always get excited to see it in my email. I can also relate as recently my husband passed away and I was finding it hard to breathe much less exist and soon also realized how all my “stuff” has no meaning whatsoever. None of it matters in the end. I am on a mission of clearing out all unnecessary stuff and breathing more and realizing the blessings of both. Thank you for your encouraging words and story. Love to you and Mary. ~♥~

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  36. Prayed for you my friend and for God to reach people through your blog. After bouts with bronchitis or asthma flare ups, breathing is something I appreciate more. Breathing is a gift from God. Now I am thinking of the worship song- This is the air I breathe

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  37. Shame on me when I complain! Thank you for this loving and gentle corrective rebuke. So much to rejoice over from the most necessary and simplest to the GIFT of being one of Jesus’ little sisters.

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  38. I am most aware of the gift of breathing after a cold! Thank you, Bill, for once again redirecting our perspective to a rightful, God-honoring place. If YOU see many blessings surrounding you, how much more should the rest of us?! Thank you also for continuing to write. We need your voice!!

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  39. Thoughtful and uplifting message as usual, Bill. His strength is made perfect in weakness.

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  40. Thank you for blogging. This post touches my heart. I am praying.

    Theresa

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  41. I understand.:)

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  42. Thank you for slowing me down and reminding me that He gives us “life and breath and all things.” God bless you!

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  43. Perspective is powerful. As I’m breathing right now, I’m thinking of the blessing that it is, because of you. God is in control and every breath is a gift. Thank you Bill for the blessing you’ve been to me. I think of you often, and I’m grateful that God had our paths cross. Praying for you my friend.

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  44. Theresa Schrock

    Oh Bill, your beautiful wisdom causes my heart and mind to reflect on what really matters. Your shared perspective convicts me of taking Gods pressure gifts for granted. Thank you so much! I love you and Mary!💙❤️
    Our hearts bubble over as we celebrate the fame of your beauty, bringing bliss to our hearts. Ps 145:7 TPT

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  45. I’m always thankful when I see one of your new posts and I’m grateful that your testimony continues! Know that you and Mary and your family are daily being held up in prayer. Grace and blessings Bill!

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  46. Bill, your posts always make my heart smile. After reading, I sat back, drew in a deep breath, and praised God for who He is and for YOU.
    Many blessings on you, Mary, and the family.

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  47. Brother, you will never know the fruits of your ministry until you reach eternity. Bob and I are so encouraged, thinking and praying for you and Mary.
    Surely the breath of God dwells within you and comes forth to bless our hearts.
    Thank you Bill, we love you and Mary across the miles.

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  48. Bill, thank you for sharing hope with us. Your courage and faith are a testimony to many. Praying for you.

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  49. L.O.V.E. this one Bill – I as diagnosed with COPD – it gets in the way a little – and only sometimes – but your post connected at a very deep level. Brought back the shivery scary memories of those odd out of control panics!

    Love the description of your mechanical surroundings! You have a really cool gift(s)

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  50. We all needed this reminder today while Diane is in surgery. Life is truly not about stuff. Love you. p

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  51. Praying always for you brother Bill. ❤🙏

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  52. My heart is breaking again. I love you, Bill. Our family and so many others are better because you are breathing today.

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