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“There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.  For the law of the Spirit of Life has made me free from the law of sin and death.”  Romans 8:1-2

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8:38

We who belong to the Lord Jesus, and love Him because He first loved us, choose to be immersed in Scriptures, letting God’s glorious truths continually renew our minds.  And yes, we pray/pray/pray!  We desire a life of GRACE, an abundant life brimming over with His FRUIT!

As California Pastor Phillip De Courcy has titled his amazingly wonderful and practical teaching on the work of the Holy Spirit, YOU HAVE THE ADVANTAGE.

Fruit!  Love, joy, peace, and all the rest in the GRACE package—a gift from God the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Fallen and sinful world notwithstanding, some of us still have an outwardly abundant and peaceful life—for which we are immeasurably grateful!  We experience joy, and one of our greatest delights is to share God’s joy—with family, friends, and even possibly in a public ministry.

Abundant Life!  Yet sometimes we wake up in the morning to find ourselves smack dab in the midst of II Corinthians 4: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed.  We are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” 

So long as we are here in this fallen, sinful world, we are surrounded by the universal human experience, and our physical frames may bear evidence to that experience.  As Christians, we are walking oxymorons.  God’s life, moving around in physical bodies, often imbued with physical signs of the fall.  Oxymorons, often weary, sometimes physically ill or burdened with physical pain, hard pressed and perplexed, yet beaming out God’s life within us—despite circumstances that would threaten to do us in!

Along with evidence of the fall, we Christians have an additional dimension of perplexity.  We are targets and refugees in history’s cosmic war.  We are embattled Pilgrims hounded and tormented by the enemy of all that is Good, Righteous, and Beautiful.

Our enemy’s days are numbered, but until our Lord returns Satan will continue to fling at God’s people everything possible from the arsenal of evil, in order to impede and discourage any and all of us who belong to our Lord Jesus Christ.  But whatever flack he may manage to muster up, our enemy cannot destroy those of us who belong to Jesus!

We may go along quite peacefully—enjoying every moment in touch with our Lord and thanking Him for His GRACE, when suddenly WHAMMO!  We are buffeted and broadsided.  How we need to be ever ready for that “roaring lion seeking whomever he may devour”.  I Peter 5:8

All of Scripture, rightly understood and applied, is God’s remedy against the wiles of the devil.  In Ephesians 6, the Apostle Paul summarizes our weaponry via the metaphor of battle garments we are to wear for our protection in the war.  As we make certain we are wearing the armor by staying in the Word and in prayer, here are just a few observations from decades of surprise “attacks”:

1)  Beware of mountain tops.  Now, some of my family members love to hike the famous Colorado 14-ers, and that is fine so long as their legs and lungs can handle the trip.  Here I am thinking of spiritual mountain tops—those “sheltered” high on life “experiences”, exhilarating and refreshing.  God may occasionally allow these for our encouragement, but mountain tops are not where we are to live 24/7.

God created us to let His light shine with our feet planted on the ground where the nitty gritty of life occurs, and where the lost world needs to hear the Gospel of Jesus’s death for our sins, His burial, and His RESURRECTION to bring us to ETERNAL LIFE.  Being human, we are apt to get lightheaded in the rarefied air on the mountain top—so wound up in “experience” that we forget where God intentionally planted our feet!

2)  Enjoy, and be grateful for, the everyday “simple gifts”:  family, friends, good food, the birds at the feeder, gardens, and other creative pastimes.

3)  Stay rested whenever possible:  not only “resting in the Lord” per Hebrews 4, but physically rested whenever possible.  When we are exhausted, we are especially vulnerable to enemy attacks.  Plus, a chronically worn out and complaining Christian worker is not normally the best witness for our Lord.

4)  Remember, any good that flows from our lives is His good:  His GRACE, His love, His creativity, His everything.  Apart from Him we can do nothing!

5)  Do not entertain self-pity, no matter what.  Our enemy wants us to focus on ourselves, but in God’s strength we will focus on Him.

6)  Do not indulge in unhealthy self-incrimination.  The evil one whispers insidious ideas, such as “Who are you to think you can serve Jesus?  Look what you did!  Remember what you said!  Remember what you once were like!  Shame/shame/shame!”  Satan gloats when we go around bathed in self focus—wallowing in our past guilt, or current lapses (which we are to confess and turn from, while moving on).

Through His Holy Spirit, the Lord will nudge us, and inform us when we wander.  God will even “take us to the woodshed” if we persist in disobedience.  God does not tolerate sin in our lives, and we will experience His discipline, because we are His beloved children.  And we are always His beloved.  He always seeks to reestablish us on His chosen path.  He never says “Shame/shame/shame” as a part of His necessary discipline!  The Lord Jesus says, “Look to me and LIVE!!!  

Buffeted, Broadsided, but always Beloved!  Praise Him!

Margaret L. Been — May 3rd, 2019

“But God commended His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

I am many decades years old, and yet I have never suffered.  There were times in my self-focused, fallen personhood that I thought I was suffering—from experiencing physical pain and illness, heartache over a loved one’s predicament, or the betrayal of a friend.  These things have happened to me because I am alive; I have experienced LIFE!  But in the entire scope of humanity, I have never suffered.

At an early age, I was made aware of the fact of true suffering.  When I was five years old, my mother (the wisest woman I have ever known) told me about the Christian martyrs in the Roman arena, and that they sang hymns of praise to God as they were being carted off by the lions.  I have often pondered that early exposure to the concept of martyrdom, and I believe my exposure was an act of deliberate training and tremendously astute mothering.

My mother was a quiet person.  She never “chattered”, or spoke carelessly.  She sometimes went for hours without even speaking, and I don’t recall any careless or thoughtless words coming out of her mouth!  Mother had an innate understanding of people—including the realization of what they were like, and what they needed most beyond the obvious.

With her reserve and never-flagging self control, my Mother was a deeply compassionate and intuitive God-fearing woman.  Telling a five year old kid about Christians and lions did not just fly out of her mouth.  Rather, she saw in her child a self-centeredness coupled with a flare for drama.  The lions were certainly dramatic.  Mother also knew that her daughter had a passion for animals—fueled by the faithful family dog and a preoccupation with stories about animals, plus a few stuffed critter toys who were loved to tatters.

The Roman arena sharing was well thought out.  Had I been told about beatings, starvation, or any other form of horrible abuse and suffering, I wouldn’t have identified and may well have soon forgotten.  But LIONS—huge, beautiful, hungry cats!  The mental picture of people in lions’ jaws terrified me, and will stay with me forever.  But over the decades, that visual imagery has morphed from focus on the beasts to an appreciation for the singing of hymns—as well as for the reason thereof.  At the age of five, without beginning to fathom what was happening, I was learning about actual suffering and the sufficiency of God.

It would be another thirty-two years before I was catapulted into God’s Kingdom, finally knowing that I was a hopeless sinner who could not save myself.  Understanding at age thirty-seven, that the Lord Jesus Christ—God in human flesh—died the cruelest of tortuous deaths even for me.  And that He rose, triumphant over sin and death, even for me!

I cannot begin to comprehend the weight, that ultimate weight, of all the sin—past, present, and future—of sinful mankind.  And I can only begin to understand the ultimate love that motivated our Lord’s carrying our sin to His Cross!  

The saddest words from the Cross are, “My God, my God why hast Thou forsaken me?”  In order to be a perfect sin offering—to completely take, for once and for all, the punishment we deserve—Jesus had to suffer the uttermost penalty for sin:  estrangement from God the Father.  Thus, we are saved!  Thus we can focus on Christ’s glorious Resurrection!

“For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Romans 5:10 

I cannot share the account of my personal salvation, without adding something that happened only a week after God drew me to Himself.  A Christian friend invited me to her home for morning coffee.  Along with the steaming cup which was placed before me, was my friend’s Bible—opened and highlighted to Revelation 19:11-16.  My friend actually commanded me to read the passage—a moment as real as if it happened yesterday rather than back in 1971!

Thus I read that powerful description of the God-Man, Who died for our sin and rose to give us His LIFE, returning to earth as “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”

Because, in His ultimate love, The Lord Jesus suffered the ultimate weight of the Cross, He has given to whomever will believe in Him, the ultimate freedom:  that of His eternal and abundant Resurrection LIFE!

Margaret L. Been — April 8th, 2019

Today’s blog entry is indeed unplanned.  I had “planned” a tremendously timely and vital Gospel message—which I hope and plan to post soon.  (Before Resurrection Day!)

But this morning I opened my I-pad, and it greeted me with the site I’d last accessed yesterday:  FOX NEWS—with a headline concerning the amazing immediate success of the film UNPLANNED.  In its few days of exposure, this film has already made $6.1 million in only 1,059 theatres.

As you readers undoubtedly know, UNPLANNED is the true account of Abby Johnson, a woman who worked at PLANNED PARENTHOOD for 8 years until she was asked to assist with an ultra-sound guided abortion of a 13 week old unborn child.

Abby’s life was totally changed when she witnessed the grisly reality of murdering an unborn baby.  Abby saw the baby struggle to get away from the suction, and then get vacuumed into the machine.

“The life that was there just a couple of minutes ago was gone.  In that moment I saw for myself what I was, and it broke me.”  Abby Johnson—former PLANNED PARENTHOOD employee.

I am overcome with PRAISE, for Abby’s bold witness, for the film and its immediate success (bigger than DUMBO!), for the fact that there is salt and light in one of the seemingly darkest places in our nation:  the motion picture industry!

Overcome with praise, yet overcome with fervent prayer for our sick, sick nation where the self-centered desire of a woman gives her the legal right to murder her unborn child.  We older Americans rightfully remember and abhor the atrocities of mass murderers Hitler and Stalin!  Yet here is our once-safe United States of America—also guilty of the mass murder of innocents.

Online sources differ in exactly how many babies have been killed in our country since the 1973 legalization of abortion, but over 60 million appears to be a frequent agreement.  Certainly this atrocity adds to America’s already tarnished past of the enslavement of Afro Americans and the ill treatment of our Native Americans!

I can only (and do constantly!) pray for God’s Holy Spirit to move in our sinful nation, for the wind of true revival to sweep through our land, revitalizing God’s people to return to God’s Word.  For our nation to return to its Judeo-Christian worldview foundation:  to righteous living, to God’s standard of morality and a respect for human life—including the life of unborn children.

To wind up this discourse, I must add that I have spent considerable time weeping this morning, as I have frequently in the past, over those 60 million (or however many) murdered children.  Any mother who loves her child or children should weep!  Any person who values LIFE should weep!

I am a mother of 6.  My husband and I have 14 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren, the youngest of which is due to make her appearance on planet earth next October.  How infinitely precious!  Each life is God’s incredibly wonderful gift!

New Joy 2

Great-grandma Margaret Been with Leonardo Aguilar II—son of Leonardo Aguilar and our granddaughter, Jamie Been Aguilar.  This family lives 6 minutes from our home. 

“Little Leo” will be 5 years old in two weeks.  He is excited (and we are all excited!) about Leo’s baby sister who is due in October.  

Margaret L. Been — April 1st, 2019 

The handsome gentleman pictured above is my Dad, Ernst Longenecker.  The portrait was taken in the late 1930s when my cousins and I (clustered on the steps of our Grandparents’ home, on the left side of the picture) were kids.  I think most everyone who knew my Dad smiles over memories of this man.

He was an individual!  He was a mechanical engineer by degree, a manager of various manufacturing companies, an inventor, a wonderful father, an outdoorsman, and a mellow story-teller.  Dad had a passion for life.  His enthusiasm influenced many people who knew him.

When Dad was 88 years old, I asked him if he attended the Retired Men’s Club at his church.  Dad’s answer was classic: “I’m not about to hang around with those old geezers!”

Dad lived until age 102.  His last years were marked by an increasingly painful arthritis and other ortho issues which slowed him down, physically.  But he loved books, and continued reading until just after his 101th birthday.  Suddenly his eyes would no longer focus, and the absence of reading broke his heart.

My dad had a pet peeve:  people who spoke condescendingly to senior citizens.  He used to say (rather vehemently!) “Don’t call me ‘spry’, and don’t call me ‘sprightly’! ”  My husband and I chuckle every time we mention those words.

Why are some individuals young at 95 and others seem old by the time they reach 60?  Health often plays a role, yet I’ve known people with frail health who maintained that life affirming vitality to the very end.

Both of my Grandmothers were youthful until they died, in their late 80s.  One suffered from many ortho issues (my Dad’s Mother) and the other had serious cardiac issues. Neither of my Grandmothers let health problems interfere with their joy in living.  They were Christian women who knew where they were ultimately going, and they had a lot of fun on earth in the meantime.

The common denominators (in every person I have known who lived a vibrant old age) are FAITH and PASSION!  Faith in GOD and meaning in life.  A passion for something, or things, causing joy when everything else hurts.

Dad loved travel, and when his body no longer traveled he continued to travel via books.  He was passionate about new discoveries and technologies.  He read THE WALL STREET JOURNAL assiduously, and he always seemed to know things the rest of us wouldn’t realize until years later.  Dad lived on the “cutting edge”.

In the 1950s, when many of us (including myself) were cluelessly puffing and inhaling on our cigarettes, Dad began sending me clippings (from the above mentioned news source) linking smoking with lung cancer and other respiratory ailments.  While most of my friends were still smoking, I had bouts of pneumonia and severe bronchitis—and I experientially understood the dangers of tobacco.  In 1963 I quit smoking and never looked back.

One incident involving my Father looms large.  When our 1st child was a toddler in 1955, she fell against a space heater and burned both hands.  Laura’s fingers curled as she screamed with pain.  Without hesitating, Dad sprang from his chair, picked Laura up, and rushed to the sink where he poured cold water from the tap on Laura’s hands.  He held her hands under the cold water for many minutes.  Finally, he turned the water off.  Laura was peaceful and comfortable, and her burns never even blistered.  This, in an era where most of us were still putting grease on burns!

In the 1960s, Dad got very excited.  He told me that someday infinite amounts of information would be contained in a little “chip” about the size of his thumbnail.  Quite frankly, I thought my father had crossed the line into science fiction.  But he had such a glow in his eyes, when he talked about an “information revolution”.

Today I recall that conversation frequently, whenever I load the photos from my camera chip into my computer, or when my Husband’s cardiac technician holds a little disc in front of Joe’s chest where a pace maker/defibrillator is installed, to record the activities of his heart.

My body is following the genetic course set for me by Dad and his Mother.  I have inherited the orthopedic issues—disintegrating bones and lumbar discs, spondylosis, sacroiliac disfunction, and general arthritis which becomes more pronounced, painful, and physically limiting every year.

But I’ve also inherited the passion gene.  With books, a computer and I-pad, a piano, two spinning wheels and a plethora of gorgeous wool and vibrant silk for spinning (purchased online), knitting supplies, plants growing indoors and out, and art paraphernalia at my finger tips my body doesn’t need to be an athletic wonder.  And I do not have to focus on pain!

A passion for living!  A passion for learning, fueled and satisfied by books and online sources, and a love of creative pursuits—as many as possible for as long as possible.  Most of all, a PASSION for our Lord.  Praise Him, I know where I am headed!

Meanwhile, I love to dress up in fun and funky attire, drape beads around my neck, plug my ear holes with gems and dangles, and blend my PT exercises with the slow intro to the famous Greek ZORBA DANCE.

Recently, my loving and admiring husband said, “Oh my, you look spry and sprightly!”  Unlike my Dad, I don’t mind those adjectives one bit! 🙂

Margaret L. Been, March 25th, 2019 

(Reprinted, edited, and brought up to date from a 2011 entry in my health blog:  accessible through GOOGLING “Margaret L. Been —  RICHES IN GLORY”.)

“For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen. being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse . . . .” Romans 1:20

Every year in early March a wonderful transformation occurs in the living area of our home; the sunrise returns after rising to the southeast of our view for six months—around the corner of our building.  We do have winter sunshine in our south view bedroom and den windows, but it is the glorious sunrise that we miss from October to March.

When sunrise and morning light flood our living room, dining area, and kitchen, my heart overflows with praise.  Of course I praise Him year round, whether or not the sun is evident.  My heart affirms “Great is Thy Faithfulness” in that the seasonal changes go on—and on schedule—year after year!

But when sunrise invades our home, I am overwhelmed and I thank God for it constantly.  Please understand, I am not a sun worshipper—much as I love just lying in the sun all spring, summer, and autumn, absorbing as much color and vitamin D as possible.

I worship the Creator of all of nature, manifesting His power and glory in the things He has made—including that symbol of warmth, light, healing, and life:  His physical sun.

As the sunshine streams back into our living area after weeks of darkness, I anticipate over and over the return of His SON, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Margaret L. Been — March 21st, 2019

Gini's Irish Forest.JPG

I have “graduated” from a grueling six weeks of PT for a weak left leg, and am so much improved—I am working on the ZORBA DANCE, until the music builds to a frenzy.  Then I have to quit 

Meanwhile, I wanted to get back to this blog, and decided to reprint a recent entry from my art blog—since it is in keeping with the March
“holiday” when I am happy to display my 24% Irish DNA in that famous color.

My friend, Gini Waltz, took the above gorgeous photo on a trip to Ireland.  I have been inspired to paint the venerable old tree, but began with many unsatisfactory attempts.

Photo realism of a natural landscape is out for me.  In one of her books, American fine artist Barbara Nechis wrote: (I will paraphrase) “If we try to compete with nature, nature always wins.”

That quote is etched in my head, and I believe it with both head and heart!  I can only do “impressions”—the start of a term famously attached to artists far beyond me in excellence and scope.

After several pencil sketches and trial runs with paint, I sat down and contemplated. Exactly what did I want to capture in my rendering of this scene?  I came up with two priorities: 1) the TREE-NESS of the starring tree, and 2) the GREEN-NESS of the scene, photographed in the land of “Forty Shades of Green”.

With that analysis, I was on my way—and here is the result:

March 11th, 2019  . . .  Margaret L. Been 

NOTE:  For those unfamiliar with my art blog, just GOOGLE “Margaret L. Been Messy Palette”.  That one is fun because art is an international language, and the hits are amazingly diverse from literally all over the world.