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Archive for the ‘Amazing Grace’ Category

Winter Breakup

The tyranny of winter is about to break up, as the above watercolor rendering depicts.  We have had a good amount of snow, accompanied by below zero temperature readings plus way below zero wind chills.  Then a sudden and violent thaw along with bone-biting days of sleety rain and icy windshields on cars—and potentially treacherous roads rendered slick with icy rainfall.

But by mid February, a difference—for which we are watching and waiting.  Not a difference in difficult temperatures or driving conditions (which can last into April in Wisconsin) but the radical rebellion of Spring overcoming the darkness of Winter.

The difference is visible in sun faithfully and predictably climbing back into the northern hemisphere.   In just three weeks, that sun will rise through our patio door and flood our living room, kitchen, and dining area—after being out of our living room view since October.  Always I think of a favorite hymn:

“Summer and winter and springtime and harvest, sun moon and stars in their courses above, join with all nature in manifold witness to Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.”  from the hymn GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS by T.O Chisolm and William M. Runyan

Bringing the excitement of watching and waiting right up to the area of contemporary music, that poet of the piano George Winston has an album titled WINTER INTO SPRING.  This music brings the drama of watching and waiting into the marrow of the listener’s soul.  As an impassioned music lover, I hear and sense the reality of Winston’s music in the core of my being.

Great is Thy faithfulness and Winter into Spring!  I’m reminded of a prophecy in Malachi, at the end of the Old Testament:  “But to you who fear My name THE SUN of RIGHTEOUSNESS shall arise with healing in His wings . . . .” Malachi 2:4a

This passage especially impacts me because The Lord Jesus, God’s Son, Who will literally return to reign in Jerusalem as KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS, is pictured as “The SUN”, thereby invoking the physical “sun” as a metaphor for our Lord Jesus Christ.

How beautiful, the poetry woven into the truths of Scripture.  We are watching and waiting for the sun to return to our hemisphere to banish the hardships of Winter.  And we watch and wait for the return of THE SUN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, to establish a promised government of peace and justice, overcoming the centuries-long “Winter” characterized by the sins of fallen man.

Watching and waiting, for Winter into Spring—-for Death into RESURRECTION.  Indeed, GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS!

Margaret L. Been — February 8, 2019

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Here's what it's all about sans GB

This precious photo takes me back to 1962, when our daughters, Laura and Debbie, plus our son, Eric, reenacted an historical event which needs no explanation—as a part of our Christmas Eve celebration at home.

We had another daughter, Judy, somewhere around—and a real live baby, Karl, who for some reason was not available at the moment, so a doll took the place of Baby Jesus.  Obviously we overlooked the fact that we had no boy doll to fill in the gap. 🙂

I think some of our children understood the Christmas message better than I did in 1962.  Children can be so receptive to the simplicity of it all!

I was reminded of this last evening, at our church’s annual special Christmas worship:  Scripture readings from the Genesis 3:15 first mention of our Messiah, prophecies concerning the Lord Jesus from Micah and Isaiah, the beautiful account of Jesus’s birth in the Gospel of Luke, and the joyous climax in the book of Revelation when God’s glorified people will be worshipping the Lamb Who was slain—KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.  All of the readings were interspersed with the singing of beloved Christmas Carols.  As a finale, we lit our individual candles and sang “Silent Night”.

It brought tears to my eyes, to think that people all over the world would be replicating this service of worship and adoration:  people of countless denominations, in many languages and in every possible setting—be it a cathedral, church, public venue, or at home either in safety and comfort or at risk of arrest, incarceration, and/or torture and possibly death.  Scriptures, carols, and candlelight.

When singing the carols, I thought of all of you who may be reading this blog—brothers and sisters in Christ in the USA, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, UK, Ireland, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Portugal. Australia, New Zealand, India, Myanmar, Hong Kong, Nigeria, Gabon, South Africa, Afghanistan, and other places around the world.  All lighting candles and singing praises to the Lord Jesus Who is the Light of the World!

Today we are united in love, through His Holy Spirit.  Someday we will be united in person, praising our LORD OF LORDS, KING OF KINGS—thanks to His message of Salvation, Redemption, and Eternal Life:  a message so beautifully simple that even a receptive child can understand and believe it.

To all of you readers, wherever you are, I pray you will have a blessed Christmas!

Margaret L. Been — December 22, 2018  

Note:  I am adding Ghana, Russia, Turkey, and Switzerland to the above international list.  Welcome friends!!! 

 

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“Since then you have been raised with Christ, set your heart on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, Who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”  Colossians 3:1-4  NIV

Even as we deliberately choose to set our minds on things above—and perhaps because we have chosen a Christ focused mindset—-we are apt to be needled and poked by petty annoyances in our circumstances:  not only the big dilemmas, but those rinky-dinky irritations too silly to mention.  These are the fiery darts of our enemy, and I am wondering if any Christian is immune to experiencing them!  Dear reader, if you have never been needled and poked, please share. 

This morning, some silly technical frustration “stuck in my craw”, and rather than ignoring, or at least responding with serenity and grace, I reacted in anger.  This after a wonderful start to the day, with prayer and communion with our Lord.

In the midst of my reaction, I said, “Oh, Lord, I am so sorry!”  Immediately, the Holy Spirit brought to my mind my very favorite Psalm and the particular passage I especially love:  Psalm 139:9-10–-“If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.”  NKJV

Being reminded of this passage in the circumstance of my reaction and remorse was an epiphany for me.  For decades I have claimed the promise of Psalms 139:9-10 for two occasions:  1) flights (as in planes); and surgeries requiring general anesthetic—perhaps because in both of those scenarios I have no control whatsoever.  I simply have to trust God to work through the humans involved in flying the plane or “fixing” my body.  (As if I really ever DO “have control”. )

Obviously, I know that God is with us and active in all of our issues, great and small—a fact He has revealed to me again and again over the years.  But today God showed me in a more visceral way that He is ever present, to nudge me out of temptations and sinful reactions—by applying a beloved Scripture, to the “uttermost parts of the sea” implied in my anger.  Even there God’s hands are holding me and leading me out of the morass of fallen self, back into His light. 

I cannot trust myself to respond correctly, even in the rinky-dinky issues of life.  I can only trust the Lord Jesus Christ, Who not only will someday make all things new, but at this very moment is lifting me to Himself in praise and gratitude.  The Lord Jesus is all sufficient and all powerful for today—for the huge calamities we may encounter, and also for those silly needling and poking scenarios.  He is Lord over all the fiery darts. 

Meanwhile, we are in the midst of beautiful family and friend celebrations of our Lord’s first appearance on earth—to show us how to live and then to die for our sins, and rise to give Eternal Life to all who believe in Him.  Our Lord’s first coming anticipates the wonder and joy of His second coming.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them.  They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’  He Who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’  Then He said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ ”  Revelation 21:3-5  NKJV

Come, Lord Jesus!

Margaret L. Been — December 19th, 2018 

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“My soul melts from heaviness. Strengthen me according to Your word.” Psalm 119:28 NKJV                                                                                                                                              

Characteristically, my blog essays deal with victory over trials—the victory of the indwelling Jesus Christ via His Holy Spirit.  At all times God’s spiritual attributes reside in my soul, as well in the souls of all who belong to Him.  When and if we focus on the Lord through His Word, His love, peace, and joy will flow from us.

Yet, in my zeal to reflect and express the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, it has occurred to me that I sometimes overlook or downplay the blatant fact of our universally shared humanity.

Yes, we have victory.  Yes, God is all powerful, and He provides all we need for wherever He has placed us to serve and honor Him.  But also, “yes” we are human—broken vessels, vulnerable to pain and sorrow, prone to seasons of weeping.

We are not unfeeling robots, mechanically spewing out truths through a plastic, pasted-on smile.  We are people.  Sometimes we CRY!  If we never cried, we would never be qualified to come alongside another grieving individual who needs a quiet, understanding friend.

Jesus wept for His beloved friend, Lazarus.  Jeremiah wept for his sinful, fallen nation.  And numerous Psalmists wept over their own pain and sorrow.  Sometimes WE weep, yes even for OURSELVES.

Recently I had a lapse of weeping for myself.  Right in the midst of a series of victory laps where God’s palpable presence and joy had prevailed, I succumbed to tears for my self—as currently I literally have only one leg to stand on.  As if my mini-infirmity matters at all in the vast scheme of things.

As I wept tears of frustration, knowing all the time that God is in control and He will never leave me comfortless, it dawned on me that I was weeping not just for my invalid self but also for the lost, pain ridden world.  In this sudden flood of tears, God reinforced the fact that I am not a robot, nor am I beyond or above the pathos of the human race!

Yes, we have victory in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Yes, He will never forsake us.  And yes, we are humans saved by Grace.  As sinners saved by Grace we are never to lose our capacity to love and come alongside the shared sorrow of humanity.  When we are broken, when our strength is revealed as utter and absolute weakness, God shines through in all His glory.

“For it is God Who commanded light to shine out of darkness, Who has shone in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency may be of God and not of ourselves.  We are hard pressed on either side, yet 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 may be manifested in our body.  2 Corinthians 4:6-10 NKJV

Margaret L. Been —  December 2nd, 2018

(First published on November 19th in my blog:  GOD’S WORD IS TRUE)

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“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ . . . . I Peter 1:6-7

 

California is being literally tested to the max—by fire.  I cannot begin to fathom such terror, not primarily due to loss of possessions but because of the very real threat of tortuous death.  Yet around the world, there are trials far more severe and devastating.  At the present time, Planet Earth can be a very treacherous piece of real estate!

Realizing all of that, and given the words of the Apostle Peter, my little inconvenience of recovering from surgery and being physically unable to control the mounting chaos and confusion that once was our well-ordered home—these “trials” are not really trials at all.  Here I am, well fed and clothed, clean, loved, warm and dry.  The physical pain is being managed, and I am surrounded by people who care.  No, in view of California, I am not experiencing a trial.

Yet there is frustration, and sometimes the enemy of our soul tempts me to grouse about the mess at hand.  Then I metaphorically hurl myself on God’s Grace, feeling ashamed of having lapsed into moments of consternation!

Two words in the above passage of Scripture stand out to provide tremendous comfort and consolation:  “various” and “grieved”.  Peter’s exhortation spans the centuries—popping right off the pages of my Thompson Chain Reference NKJV, right into my head and heart.

There are VARIOUS TRIALS, no matter where and when one is on this earth.  Some issues are catastrophic, like the California fires or, much worse, the “fires” of tyranny and injustice around the world.  Other trials, like my physical limits, are lightweight to the point of being almost silly.

And Peter wrote to individuals who GRIEVED.  Like you and I, believers in the Apostle Peter’s day were real.  Vulnerable to temptation—yes, even to grouse.  Challenged by their emotions.

God’s Word never leaves us helpless or hopeless.  We are not victims of our trials, nor do we need to be dominated by our emotions—as valid and understandable as they may be. 

We are deliberately being tested, so that the genuineness of our faith may rise above the circumstances of the moment—to the eternal praise and honor of our Lord Jesus Christ who has allowed the trials—to conform us to His image that we may glorify Him.

Yes, knowing “WHY” makes all the difference!

Margaret L. Been — November 14th, 2018

 

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Wisconsin natives have no illusions about the weather outside, and we should certainly not be surprised by inner weather changes as well!  The above digitally altered photo of our river in our years ago up north home shows the next thoroughly predictable November weather development–due to land tomorrow, just outside our patio door in Southern Wisconsin.

My inner weather change is due to a complication following last summer’s hip replacement:  a femur in that leg which was silly enough to tear itself away from the prothesis, creating all sorts of unpleasantness.  The subsequent second surgery wasn’t all that much fun, but hey–with 4 weeks left of a 6 weeks no walking sentence (expect for hopping on the good foot, via a walker) I am having FUN.

In our living room we have a roomy sofa, and a compact one.  For this one leg duration, Joe and I are sleeping on the living room sofas–large and small.  Joe has always loved sofa sleeping and often has retreated to it when his restless legs tire of thrashing on our bed.

For me, while recuperating, the small sofa presents a special world.  Next to the sofa are 2 small tables and space beneath, all of which contain my current life:  Bible and notebook, books in progress, art books, mixed media art supplies and papers, letter writing needs, knitting projects, a space for the ubiquitous coffee and diet ginger ale, cosmetics and primping paraphernalia, a mirror–of course I am no longer (never was!) fairest of them all, but only the wicked witch would care about that and I don’t want to be anything like her.

Also sofa-side, my I-phone (source of frequent enjoyment including Amazon Priming) and my I-pad for news, French lessons, and–along with a lot more–the PBS Passport App with its world of science, history, amazing documentaries, and fantastic fiction (where I am currently engrossed in a review of the convoluted plots and subplots at DOWNTON ABBEY).

If that were not enough, I have on my I-pad 2 wonderful British art magazines with monthly additions and the capacity to read several years of back issues.  The artist in me is continually fed by these publications and my art books.

Along with these percs, both I-pad and phone connect me to the greatest music of Western Civilization, streamed through 2 fine speakers in our living room.  At the moment, Van Cliburn’s recordings of Rachmaninoff and Grieg top the list of my very most beloved.  There is something about PIANO, and in my estimation Van Cliburn’s was (and remains) the most passionate and earth shaking of all!

And, as of today, my laptop.  Oddly, I have never thought of this appliance as a portable friend.  But it has dawned on me (DUH!) that the word “laptop” means something.  Now I am putting it to use.  It has taken its place as a part of my sofa home rehab center.

If there is anything of depth to share with you in all these mundane details it is this:  I refuse to feel sorry for myself.  It would be sin to do so,  I am delighted with the people in my life (a family of 53 immediate members counting generations–no cousins, etc.) and the fact that I am as comfortable as possible in our lovely warm home, with plenty of excitement at hand.

And now a typical Wisconsin November weather promise.  Snow tomorrow.  In general, we are a hardy lot here–descended from brave pioneers.  Life is all about different kinds of weather–indoors and out.

Margaret L. Been — November 8th, 2018

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Jesus’ last words, recorded by the beloved Disciple, John, should fill us with wonder, awe, and gratitude beyond words to express!  “It is finished!”

Our Lord’s proclamation is the affirmation of our salvation.  His sacrificial death in which He took all the sin of the world, from beginning to end, liberates me—has exonerated me, and all who believe in Jesus’ finished work, from all the condemnation that we deserve.

Then, after dying to pay the unspeakably enormous price of our sin, Jesus rose—alive and triumphant—defeating the power of death.  Those who have trusted Christ for their salvation share in His Resurrection Life.  He has given us His Holy Spirit, and we are a new creation in Him!

Back in January of 1971, when the Lord Jesus catapulted me into His kingdom, I literally felt like I had been shot out of a cannon—like the lady in the Shrine Circus which our family enjoyed every year when it came to Milwaukee.  But the talented and skilled circus performer was simply shot out into the arena for the purpose of entertaining an audience.  I was catapulted into the Kingdom of God and Eternal life.

“Catapulted” is the perfect word for my salvation.  One moment I was a skeptic steeped in humanism, and suddenly in the next moment I was a child of God.  Today, nearly five decades later, I still savor that joy, and sense of sudden freedom, as I contemplate Jesus’ finished work on Calvary, and His Resurrection.

Many people do not recall the moment they were saved.  Our youngest son, Karl. was seven years old when I became a believer.  I couldn’t keep my mouth shut and our entire family was privy to the GOOD NEWS.  Shortly after that great day Karl said, “I don’t know when Jesus came into my heart. I guess He just walked in.”

Obviously Karl had a sweet, open soul and he didn’t need to be catapulted in the fashion of his stubborn, thirty-seven year old mother.  God works differently in every life—uniquely customizing the miracle of salvation to each one of us.

It is finished!  Those powerful words resonate with me.  How often do we fret and obsess over some unfinished task looming over our heads—be it a report or assignment in our workplace, or muddy windows or a closet heaped with disorganized odds and ends at home?  The completion of these jobs is sometimes interrupted by immediate concerns which alter our schedule and consume time and energy: the computer freezes, a toothache suddenly has to be fixed, our car dies of old age, or a child throws up.

Life is wonderful, life is GOOD.  But we have a fallen planet, someday to be restored when our LORD returns—and at the moment we are living in the “meantime”.  The meantime can be a piece of work!

Finally, at the age of 84, I am learning that my “work” will never be finished in my lifetime.  There are always more projects lined up on the runway than I have months or years for completion.  The daily tasks can be all-consuming, because I love to do everything well.  But my hyper-perfectionism died on the Cross with our LORD.  It was wood, hay, and stubble compared to simply relaxing in Jesus love, focusing on Him, doing my best, and choosing to glorify Christ in whatever I do—knowing that my life is a process and my work will never be completed while I am still on this fallen earth.

Yes, I stumble, and Yes I am lifted up by His redeeming love.  Musicians, the monk, John Michael Talbot, and his brother, Terry Talbot have a beautiful song (among all of their incredibly wonderful compositions) referring to that redemptive love in their album NO LONGER STRANGERS—a song called “We Will Rise”, with these words: “. . . in Him all our failures shall not be defeats, and when we are weak He renews our strength.

How comforting to realize, to understand with all our heart and mind, that the only finished work on earth is that which Jesus did for us on Calvary.  Jesus paid it all!  He is risen.  He is alive.  And it is finished!

Margaret L. Been — March 31st, 2018

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