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Cross

Before our last presidential election, President Obama stated that “Al Qaeda is on the run.”  And just recently, Al Qaeda staged a public demonstration in the country of Yemen—telling the world that Islamic terrorism is stronger than ever before.  Al Qaeda spokesmen declared that they will defeat THE CROSS, and that THE CROSS is represented by America; therefore America is their prime target.  These words, ominous as they may be in their tragic potential, did not terrorize me one bit—because I know in my heart and mind THE CROSS of Jesus Christ will never be defeated.  THE CROSS is victorious!

We are living in “perilous times”, as predicted in II Timothy 3:1.  Ever since a certain couple was ousted from a garden, there have been perilous times.  Yet a study of prophecy in light of world events indicates that peril on all fronts is ramping up to what may be a prelude to Christ’s return.  He has defeated sin and death, through His death on THE CROSS and His bodily RESURRECTION—which we Christians will celebrate this coming Sunday, just as we celebrate THE RESURRECTION every day of our lives.

This week I’ve been musing over events leading to THE RESURRECTION of our Lord Jesus Christ:  the perfidy of the crowds in Jerusalem, the travesty of evil religious leaders, the rotten political scene as exhibited in the illegal and phony trials which our Lord endured, the cruel oppression of Rome, and of course the unspeakable horrors of Jesus’ death on Calvary.

As I consider the downfall of our nation and the recent scandals which our government has largely ignored I recall how Jesus was born, lived, and died—yes, and ROSE—in the midst of a perilous, sin-ridden world characterized by evil.  Yet none of that evil could defeat Him.  Instead, His Word spread—and has flourished in many places over some two thousand years.

THE CROSS, always a symbol of victory, prevails.  It will never be defeated or obliterated.  Down through history, right up to (and including) my own lifetime, many have tried:  Hitler, Stalin, myriads of angry atheists around the globe, and now Al Qaeda.  Nations will crumble and fall, as portrayed in Isaiah 40: 15:  “Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance; behold, He taketh up the isles as a very little thing.”  But THE CROSS will prevail!

Our Lord is victorious.  He is a personal God who desires the salvation of every single person.  A personal photo—just taken this very afternoon on the maternity floor of a local hospital—expresses what THE CROSS, and RESURRECTION are all about!

New Joy 2

“The thief cometh not but to steal, and kill, and to destroy; I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly.”  John 10:10

THE CROSS AND THE RESURRECTION ARE ALL ABOUT LIFE!  He is Risen!  He is Alive!  He is LIFE!

Margaret L. Been, April 2014

Poppo in Nevada

The man on his horse is my dad, Ernst A. Longenecker, circa 1952.  The photo was taken on Dad’s ranch in Clover Valley, Nevada, with the stunning Ruby Mountain Range for a background.  Although Dad worked as an Industrial Engineer in Management capacity for most of his career, his Nevada ranch was a lifelong dream come true.  For the formative years of his childhood, Dad’s family lived on claims in North Dakota and Utah where his father was a preacher on what was still largely “frontier”, in the early 1900s.

Why am I featuring my Dad and his history today?  Because I am passionately disturbed over the plight of Nevada ranchers who have had the true grit to stand against our current, oppressive federal regime—which allegedly is trying to protect a tortoise (a creature so abundant elsewhere in Nevada that the environmentalists are killing it).

The Bundy family has raised cattle for generations, availing themselves of open grazing on land which the federal government has now claimed as its own in what appears to be just one more power grab and an attempt to undermine individual freedom while controlling areas where the states’ rights once ruled.

I applaud these ranchers, the Bundy family and others.  They are heroes.  When Dad had his Nevada ranch, I visited there and got to know many people like the Bundys.  A number of Nevada ranchers belong to a religious group known for strong family values, a diligent work ethic, and the ability to take care of its own.  Although I cannot agree with this group’s theology, I have never met a member of this religion whom I didn’t highly respect and like. Had our last presidential election gone well rather than disastrously, we’d have one of this group for our president.  I believe our nation may have been diverted from its present crash course, had Governor Romney won the election.

As an aside, I must speak out against the current idiotic assertion that everyone who doesn’t like the policies of President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder is a racist.  Come on!  In 1966 my husband and I happily accepted an offer to purchase our home from a fine black couple.  As a result, we experienced an amazing number of malicious pranks and flack from the folks around us.  Although the couple was unable to procure a loan for the house, we stood firm in wishing they could buy it.

After we moved, in the late 1960s I petitioned for Open Housing in our new community—trudging from house to house in bitterly cold winter weather.  I marched with Milwaukee’s famous Father Groppi, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King.  Today I have a beautiful Nigerian son-in-law and a precious part-Nigerian grandbaby.

NO, I AM NOT RACIST.  But I object with all my heart, to the evils of our present government administration.  Benghazi, the IRS scandal, foreign policies, and every obnoxious government interference propagated by our president’s “pen and phone’” turn my stomach to a point of wanting to throw up!  Among the worst of all is Senator Harry Reid—and he is WHITE!  I keep wondering how the state of Nevada ever came up with Harry Reid!

Wake up and stand up, America!  May the Nevada ranchers inspire us all to risk everything if necessary—to return our nation to its former status of opportunity and dignity among the nations of the world:  truly “The land of the free and the home of the brave!”

Meanwhile, the latest “breaking news” reports that the Bureau of Land Management has backed off from the fray in Nevada.  Obviously the people can still make waves, even as our national government is looking a bit more “Putin-esque” (as in Vladimir P.) by the moment!

NOTE:  The most sinister of all aspects of the Nevada invasion was the establishment by the federal government of a “NON First Amendment Zone—a large area in which free speech was denied.  This is beyond the beyond, and absolutely incredible.  Only the fact of a justifiably outraged group of citizens carrying guns and rifles caused the BLM to back down.

Our present national government is evil beyond comprehension.  Please, America, WAKE UP!

Margaret L. Been, April 2014

Coming Home (2)

“And I said, ‘Oh that I had wings like a dove!  For then I would fly away, and be at rest.  Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness.’ ”  Psalm 55:6-7

David was intimidated and beleaguered by his enemies when he wrote this plaintive Psalm.  Yet those of us who love solitude, and seek it with a passion, can echo the words:  “For then I would fly away and be at rest.” 

Numerous are the critics of the Kaufman family who set off with a baby and a toddler on a 30-something foot sailing vessel, with the goal of crossing the Pacific.  But for the response of the U. S. Navy in San Diego and other rescuers, this family might be added to the endless list of tragic current events.  Yet I love the name of their craft, REBEL HEART, and something innate draws me to this family.  Although life-threatening adventure has never been my forté, a passion for solitude is an integral factor in my DNA.  I identify with the need to “wander off”—even when country roads, inland waters, and forest trails are more in line with my instincts than the Pacific Ocean.

When I grew up in the 30s and 40s, solitude was easily accessible.  We had a quiet household, and I could always hide under a chair or, by the time I was 8 years old, in a tree.  Our only “devices” were:  a telephone, a radio (in a cabinet with a phonograph record player), a doorbell, and a clock which did nothing more than tell the time.  The understanding that every individual on earth needed space and time “to wander off” was a given in our home, and we respected each other’s privacy.

Today I wonder how many younger people (with the exception of a few individualistic types like the Kaufmans) even begin to comprehend what solitude actually is, let alone want to pursue it.  An astonishing amount of everyday life is social, groupy, organized, and pre-planned—frequently controlled by the detached stroke of a finger on a device.

I see people striding the park path outside our front door, with eyes and ears (or both) literally glued to whatever device at hand.  Do they hear the mourning dove in the bush, or the sand hill cranes yodeling overhead in the clouds?  Do they see the fat, pregnant buds on the chestnut tree a few feet from the path?  When May wafts in, will the device-laden striders even bother to inhale and exclaim over the perfume of the French lilacs which abound in our neighborhood?  Will the device-embellished ears be able (or even want!) to hear the fountain in our local pond, or the redwings nesting in the reeds beside our local lake?

Our park path is lovely, bordered by a nature preserve on the east side.  It deserves strollers, as well as striders—some of whom may be hustling along for the sake of good health.  Strollers like me also walk for health—soul health, which I happen to think is even more vital (and certainly more eternally valuable) than the beneficial aspect of body maintenance.  Yet the majority of park users stride rather than stroll.

I often wonder what the present generation of activity-driven, device-dependent, socially-oriented individuals will do when they add a few years and the inevitable stresses of life to their résumés of non-stop everything—everything but substance for soul and spirit, that is.  I visualize that an indescribable dryness will set in—a thirst which no material goods, or frenzy for social contacts and career advancements, will ever quench in a million years.

DRY, DRY, DRY!  The absence of everything but perhaps a desire to “wander off”—without even beginning to fathom how that may be done!  No turned upside down chair to hide under.  No metaphorical tree.  No hypothetical REBEL HEART sailboat.  A park path perhaps, but not even the foggiest knowledge of how to stroll rather than stride on the path, with all ones senses attuned to the beautiful nature along the way.

Off course the only lasting cure for dryness, driven-ness, and people-produced burn-out is to drink deeply from the well-spring of LIVING WATER in Christ Jesus—to accept His sacrifice for our sin at Calvary and rejoice in His Risen Life which indwells those of us who trust in Him.  He provides a depth of inner solitude wherever we are.  That solitude is fed by removing ourselves whenever we can—from the crowd, from our electronic devices and our daily agendas.

And that solitude is fed by whatever kind of retreat appeals to whomever we are—be the escape a turned over chair, a tree, a forest trail, a park path, or a sailing vessel.

I’m thankful for the Kaufman family—for the fact that they have returned safely.  I pray that their sick little one will continue to heal with no complications.  And I’m thankful for the Kaufmans’ reminder of something important:  a passion for solitude.  Although my preferences run to forest trails, the rivers and lakes of Wisconsin, and the path around our neighborhood park, I thoroughly track with concept behind the REBEL HEART!  :)

Margaret L. Been, April 2014

NOTE:  Awhile back, a Christian friend described me to a group we were in together, with these words:  “Look at her.  She has REBEL written all over her.”

We all laughed, realizing that my personal rebellions have nothing to do with any kind of anarchy.  I will never challenge or rebel against my life-enhancing Judeo-Christian values.  But yes, I do have a rebel heart.  Perhaps I’ll share more of that with you in an future entry. 

Or maybe I don’t need to share.  Perhaps, in the 5 and 1/2 years I’ve been blogging you’ve discerned exactly what I mean by my rebel heart!  :)

Always Time for Tea

“Always Time for Tea” is the title of the above rendering.  Tea Time in March is charged with anticipation, excited about change, and zesty with the invigoration of fiercely raging wind and ever-stretching sunlit hours.

Today’s wind is not kind; it’s raw and bitter to the taste, like afternoon Earl Grey Tea when it’s been allowed to over-steep.  Today’s sun is glorious—redolent of fragrant places where ripe and mellow leaves were harvested for an “Irish Breakfast” most anywhere in the world.

Along with the joy of anticipation, my St. Patrick’s Day Irish Breakfast musings (in Nashotah, Wisconsin, USA) are shadowed by things that are lost:  a Malaysian jet carrying over 200 passengers, and perhaps millions of people in our culture who haven’t even the faintest comprehension of the importance of solitude—or whose once-valued serenity has gone missing.

How many of us are there left in this crazy culture, who still understand (and prioritize!) the serenity of spending time alone/alone/alone.  I don’t mean always being physically alone/alone/alone.  I speak of mentally/spiritually/emotionally investing time alone and nurturing that soul solitude and serenity which can only come from a depth of completion—the integral completion which we can receive from God’s Grace through the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in one’s life as revealed in Scripture.

How many individuals still treasure time alone:  perhaps really alone for a few hours or minutes—strolling in a sheltered woods, basking in a sunny window, lounging on the patio in the summer—with the ubiquitous iced tea (Earl Grey or Irish Breakfast) in hand?  Alone in one’s mind, unfettered by the worries and potential issues that surround anyone who is breathing and thinking?

Alone.  Apart. Soothed by the realization that the heartbreaking issues of the day are a bleep in Eternity.  Solitude, serenity, ALONENESS!  Busy schedules have been common to much of mankind since the beginning of time.  But today life can become even more complex, if we so allow.  In an age of electronic communications and the proliferation of Facebook friends, how many remember the concept of being alone?  And how many even care, or have the foggiest idea of what they are missing?

I love my laptop for shopping, acquiring information, and blogging.  These are refreshing pastimes.  How wonderful to shop without driving to a store where you may or may not find exactly what you want—be it a special garment (most of my clothing is purchased online), a sable paint brush, a new-to-you line of watercolors or gouche in exciting colors, or the base and fragrance oils for your soap-making avocation.  How rewarding to be able to access an endless library of answers in your ongoing quest for learning.  And how fulfilling to communicate via a blog with people from literally every corner of the earth.

But certain other aspects of the electronic world would quickly threaten to undermine my serenity, if I would fail to preserve a balance—and those specific aspects are email and Facebook.  Email has become a kind of necessity in the minds of many, and for business purposes and the sharing of prayer requests it is indeed valuable.  Facebook serves one and only one purpose for me:  that of viewing and sometimes downloading charming photos of the people in my life.  But balance and frequent avoidance of both of these computer areas are necessary to my discipline of preserving serenity and an atmosphere of solitude in the midst of an overflowing life filled with precious people and their needs.  Thus I will often go for at least a week without checking either Facebook or my email.  Anyone who really needs me will find me via telephone or snail mail—or best of all, with a knock on my door.

Today I pray that someone among the 26 participating rescue nations will discover the missing jet.  Every day I pray that I’ll remember to savor as many serenity-inspiring sights and sounds as I can find, with which to greet each day:  and certainly always before accessing email or Facebook.

A pot of tea helps, whether celebrated alone or shared with a kindred soul.  There’s always time for tea!

Margaret L. Been, March 2014

Valentine bears etc.

1)  Bears:  In recent years I’ve received a Valentine Bear most every Valentine’s Day.  This year I decided to move the Valentine Bears from our bedroom settee to a living room sofa, to celebrate their day.  Well, you should have heard the hullaballoo coming from the Other Occasion Bears who were left in the bedroom.  “Unfair!  Discriminatory!  We are Entitled!”

So I promptly moved the Others to the sofa to join their Valentine friends, thinking they could all spend the day there and I’d move them back to the bedroom at bedtime.  Then Joe and I went out for a Valentine dinner.  When we returned home, we were greeted with a petition.  It seems the bears had a secret meeting while we were gone.  They unanimously decided to Occupy Sofa through next Thursday when a young man named Lucas is coming for wiener roll-ups, pop, and an afternoon of art.  Wisely, the bear contingent choose Senior Paddington Bear to present the request to me, as they know I love British accents.  And of course I caved in.  After all, that sofa is an extra.  We have plenty of additional places for people to sit.  And Lucas will definitely enjoy the bears.

Now, Dear Readers I know exactly what you are thinking:  “This woman is eighty years old, and the February Blaaaas have pushed her over the edge.”  Sorry, but I have news for you.  I’ve always been this way.

Shawls Galore

2)  A GOOD YARN:  My fellow Knitwits will love this one.  The stats always soar when I post a yarn and needles bit.  Above you will find a just off the needles shawl.  Who says old dogs (or people) can’t learn new tricks?  Up until a year ago I had Circular Needle Phobia.  But I have overcome, and now I can’t quit making shawls.  This one will go to our local Vince Lombardi Cancer Center, as my family members and friends are by now completely shawled, scarfed, and hatted out.  Note the colors.  They give you a clue as to what is frequently on my mind as I gaze out on our garden buried in snow.

Southwest

3)  FRESH DECOR:  It’s fun to greet a new season with a few changes.  For years we went to Colorado and New Mexico—often at this time of the year.  We love our old comfy couch (not the bears’ sofa, but the one Joe and I normally hang out on).  New fabric on the couch brings the Southwest right into our living room.

Taking a step

4)  THE BEST BLAAA CHASER OF ALL—A CHILD:  This is our littlest sweetheart.  A week ago last Thursday, Tuks came for an entire day.  She is eight months old, and has begun stepping between close furniture rather than dropping to her knees.  We had so much fun with Tuks.  She took good naps for us, and maintained her sunny personality throughout the eight hours.  She loves to eat, loves people, loves dogs, loves life!  Who can ever have the blaaaas with someone like that around?!!!

And here’s a parting thought to cheer you on:  In three weeks, DAYLIGHT SAVING!  :)

Margaret L. Been, February 2014

Flag of the United States of America

Two highlights made the viewing of the State of the Union Address somewhat entertaining for me:  1)  Obama’s swivel-headed Secret Service Men—the one on the left, bony and bald and the one on the right, a benign appearing and rather rotund version of a traditional Dr. Watson; 2)  Speaker Boehner’s facial expressions, reflecting exactly my thoughts and sentiments.

To his credit, our President actually mentioned Israel and God.  To his credit, and undoubtedly at the behest of his advisors, President Obama stifled his customary demonizing, accusatory tone and demeanor when referring to his opposition—specifically our current U.S. House of Representatives and Republicans in general.  The 2014 State of the Union Address proved that our President can still do the one thing he does well:  Talk.  Talk.  And talk some more.  The full text of the address is available online, for the perusal and evaluation of any and all who desire to do so.

It is my prayer that those who were unable to view the State of the Union Address will avail themselves of the contents of that speech—either online or in a newspaper.  I also pray that countless individuals will measure Obama’s glib and self-laudatory oration against what the President and his cronies really stand for, the damage this administration has already done to our nation (in terms of power grabbing, lawlessness, outright lies, and continual scandal), and what the Obama gang still purports to do.

Meanwhile, it is probably a good thing that I listened to our President’s oratory, as it undoubtedly raised my blood pressure from it’s customary 106 to a more healthy 128.  Admittedly, history has produced some great orators such as the Revolutionary Patrick Henry (“Give me liberty, or give me death!”) and Queen Victoria’s famous Prime Minister, Disraeli whom I love quite simply because he was one of God’s Chosen (whether or not that mattered to him).

But I am eternally suspicious of oratory, ever since my 1940s childhood when I frequently attended our small town theatre.  Back then many movies were prefaced by a newsreel featuring impassioned orations, accompanied by a raised arm and blatantly screamed out over public gatherings in Munich and Berlin.  Although I was too young at the time to comprehend the translated words, the spirit of the oratory was terrifying to a Midwestern American child.

Today we can GOOGLE Hitler’s speeches:  endless diabolical diatribe centered on “the ruthlessness of the capitalist plutocrats” and “Jewish instincts of hatred . . . beclouding the world and inciting it against the present German Reich . . . .”

It is tremendously significant to recall that before he rose to power, like some in our government today Hitler also focused on the need to nationalize the lives of the people.  His early “platform” included a plethora of noble sounding social reforms.  As his hold over the people increased, he pursued his goal of exterminating the “physically unfit”, any unborn children who would not conform to his maniacal racial ideology, many sick and elderly whom he deemed unprofitable to the state—as well as the millions of Jews plus a great number of Roman Catholics, Evangelicals, and political dissidents:  whomever would not bow to his God-usurping authority and tyranny.

I find oratory not only suspect but potentially terrifying—especially when coming from an arrogant national leader whose policies seek to control the details of people’s lives.  My soul responds only to quiet, reasonable rationale within the freeing, life-affirming framework of the Judeo-Christian Worldview—the one and only Universal Truth.

Margaret L. Been—January 29, 2014

My piano bar

It’s amazing how a “one-liner” can stick with you forever!  Years ago a violin teacher, Amy, shared an unforgettable one-liner which summarizes most everything I have endeavored to do for much of my life.  At a violin lesson years ago I was sawing through a seemingly boring and nondescript exercise in my Kreutzer, when Amy interjected a teacherly command:  “Play it like a love song!”

This concept revolutionized my practice sessions.  Heretofore, violin (and piano) teachers had stressed metronome-driven precision.  Now Amy was setting me free to transform even the most mechanistic of studies into a vehicle for interpretive expression.  The Kreutzer exercises came alive.  Suddenly they were beautiful—as I learned to play them with my soul as well as with my fingers.

I grew up in the era of heart-rending love songs and idealistically elegant films.  The Hit Parade featured pop classic crooners such as Frank Sinatra and Perry Como—and the cinema portrayed love affairs framed in romantic settings.  Though some negative-minded folks might bad-mouth my early conditioning as being “unreal”, I praise God for it.  Beauty and elegance via entertainment, along with the beauty and natural elegance which my mother modeled every single day in our home, taught me something vital about living—and endowed me with a working philosophy, as succinctly summarized in Amy’s words:  “Play it like a love song.”

No, beauty and romantic elegance are not “unreal” when we attempt to bring these qualities to the most mundane of tasks, thereby inspiring and uplifting the moment—when our concept of outer beauty mirrors a quality of the inner soul.  We are free to choose, free to create with whatever we have at hand, free to play life like a love song—therefore highlighting our material reality whenever possible, with manifestations of inner beauty.

When we reflect on our loving, creative God—the Author of beauty (material as well as spiritual)—we realize that “playing it like a love song” can radically exceed some merely human philosophy on how to live.  Although beauty and/or romantic elegance need not take the form of a 1940s Hollywood production—or, for that matter, a Kreutzer exercise—the essence of gracious inner beauty can be palpable in diverse forms as well as applicable to most every circumstance and area of life depending on how ardently we love life, how we view life, and most vitally how we think!  Again, we are free to choose.

The intrinsic character of God’s beauty materialized at creation, when He spoke the beautiful Heavens and earth into existence.  Many centuries later, an Apostle whom we revere expressed God’s command for humankind through the priority of the “whatsoever things”:  “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things”  Philippians 4:8

Are there moments when your life exercises seem drab and routine, and your duties are characterized by metronome-driven precision?  Here’s an idea you might want to try:  Play it like a love song!

Margaret L. Been, 2014

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