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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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Sun on Patio.JPGHere is our patio garden in the morning March sun.  I love the pictures on my phone because I can enlarge areas with my fingers and see the beautiful detail of dried stalks and pods.  You can imagine those details.

Sun!  Our patio is in an east facing courtyard.  Because of the enclosure, our view of morning sun disappears in mid October and doesn’t return until RIGHT NOW!  The sun is back with a sudden explosion!  Actually in January and February we see an oblique ray at the ceiling above a small bit of window over our front door.  That’s encouraging.  But I’d have to sit at the top of a high ladder to bask in that bit of sunlight.

The southern exposure in our bedroom and Joe’s den is magnificent year round, especially in the winter.  Often I stretch out on our bed, with a book, on sunny winter afternoons.  I close my eyes and imagine that my body is slowly browning, like a roast in the oven.  That delight will come in a few weeks; meanwhile I go “South” five miles to the nearest Walmart where I buy coppery goop—to keep my face and body colorful in lieu of the real thing.  That helps!

Even on the gloomiest days, the sun is up there somewhere.  I refuse to insult your intelligence by elaborating on an obvious metaphor here.  But I often reflect that it’s easy to see why pagan cultures worshipped the sun.  That’s a no-brainer.  Anyway, I’m thankful that I worship the SON! 🙂

Margaret L. Been — March 7th, 2018

(And this is the way our patio garden will look in just a few weeks—give or take a little:)

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It has been a long time since I shared my abundant life on this blog!  I dislike excuses, but sometimes we have reasons.  I guess my main one would be that, along with family and friends, I am besotted with hands-on pastimes many of which are pictured here.

I have loved making things for most of my life but making has become a passion.  I LOVE creating:  textured yarns on my spinning wheels, music on my piano, garments on knitting needles, amateur but infinitely satisfying water media art*, gardens indoors and out, soaps for face and body (we have not bought soap for our household since 1976!); and I may have omitted a passion (happy obsession?) or two—not to mention the ubiquitous books which line our shelves and floors.

However today I woke up inspired to share a personal story—actually the very reason I am enjoying an abundant life, so overflowing with excitement that I sometimes fight going to sleep at night and get up with anticipation most days because there is so much to make!  If you have read my story on this or one of my other blogs, I do hope you will read it again!

Back in 1971, I was a wife and mother of five children** ranging from ages 7 to 15.  Life was tremendously good in terms of family and circumstances—but not good inside my soul.  The world was spinning and changing too fast and some of my life props and idealisms had been pulled out from under me, like the magician’s trick of pulling a tablecloth off a table while the dishes remain intact.

Visibly, I was intact. The dishes were on the table.  But inwardly I was a mess!  For months I’d had a sense of aching emptiness, a void which all my daily joys could not fill.  The void consisted of a lack of meaning.  I desperately longed for inner peace.  What was wrong with me, that I had such desperation when my outward life seemed so good?

I’ve always looked for answers in books.  Our local library was within walking distance of home, and I walked there a lot—trying to make sense out of life and find peace for my hungry soul via the world’s philosophies and religions, especially the mystic Eastern religions which appeared to offer the thing I needed most:  peace.

And although I rarely let myself face reality, deep inside I knew I was desperately flawed inside my head and heart.  I was the problem.  I was the reason I lacked peace!

I avoided the old-fashioned word for my condition, but in rare moments of truth I acknowledged that word:  SIN.  I was a sinner.  After devouring many books I found the Eastern religions to be flimsy, lacking in a down-to-earth reality which could change me.

What was the answer?  Was there an answer?  On the third Saturday in January, 1971, I said to my husband, very emphatically, “Something is missing from my life!”  Once again, I trundled off to the library to look for answers.  Having exhausted many overly-wordy, allegedly “meaty” books in the spiritual and self-help sections of the library—I “just happened” to find a very slim little book, simply titled PEACE WITH GOD.

Maybe I thought, “Well why not?  I’ve read most everything else on these shelves.”  Or maybe I wasn’t even thinking.  But I checked out the tiny book, PEACE WITH GOD.  That evening, after the household had settled into a Saturday night routine, I read the book thoroughly, absorbing its contents.

In very simple, unpretentious language, and with Biblical references, PEACE WITH GOD presented the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  All of mankind is in bondage to sin.  God came to earth in the Person of Jesus Christ, to die on a cross at Calvary—for our sins, for my sin.  Jesus paid the penalty, and rose to defeat the power of sin and death.  He lives.  He is Eternal God, an all loving, all just, all righteous, all merciful God.  When we believe in Jesus and His finished work on our behalf, He forgives our sin.  We are washed clean with His blood, and He gives us His life—with His victory over the powers of darkness, His peace regardless of circumstances as we look to Him and abide in Him, growing in Him through His Word, The Bible.

The book explained how we could do nothing, absolutely nothing.  Yet when we believe in Jesus, we have the free gift of Eternal Life with Christ Who is God—and we can have His spiritual victory over sin, His abundant LIFE on earth, His new life in exchange for our old sinful life which died with Jesus on that cross!  I distinctly recall a sense of peace from reading the book, but it was a kind of sad and wistful peace.  I recall saying to myself, “Oh, if only that were true!”

The next day, Sunday, I surprised myself by suddenly arranging to go to a Bible Church in the neighborhood  I called a friend who attended that church, and she and her husband agreed to pick me up.  We entered a bit late, and the congregation was singing a Gospel hymn; I had never in my life heard such singing.  I recall thinking, “It’s as of they believe what they’re singing about.”

During the sermon that morning, God very clearly and simply picked me up and lifted me into His Kingdom—the Kingdom of Forgiveness and Love.  In retrospect I see that God used that Sunday worship service as a catalyst for my salvation.  Suddenly I knew that Jesus was real, and I needed His forgiveness, His Life—and that understanding landed me into Christ.

But I was totally ready to be born into God’s Kingdom that Sunday morning.  I’d been prepared the night before, when I read a slim little book called PEACE WITH GOD, by Billy Graham.


As I left the church on that bitter cold January day in Wisconsin, the sun on the snowdrifts seemed nearly blinding.  At that point I knew nothing of Scripture, except that I was a new creation in Christ.  I was forgiven, and I was raised up with Him,  That night I picked up a childhood Bible which I had never read;  I’d tried a couple of times but it simply had not made sense to me.  But now I found myself in John 15, and it made all the good plain sense in the world.  “I am the vine, ye are the branches; He that abideth in me, and I in him, bringeth forth much fruit, for without me ye can do nothing.”  And “This is my commandment, That ye love one another as I have loved you.”  And “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you . . . .”

(As a lover of the Old Bard, William Shakespeare. the King James Bible replete with “eth” and “ye” seemed natural to me, and still does!)

Meanwhile, back in 1971 my peace and joy were palpable—and I was so excited that I could not keep my mouth shut.  As the days progressed I told nearly everyone I knew about the Savior—even our vet as he was negotiating with our sick pet, either a cat or a dog; we had many of both.

Now, with many years of Scripture in my soul, I can witness that God has never failed me in anyway, and although I have sometimes failed to pay attention, or to obey my Lord.  Jesus Christ sustains me.  New LIFE.  Abundant LIFE!  Articulately and succinctly explained to me long ago, in a tiny gem of a book, PEACE WITH GOD, by the late Billy Graham.bedroom gardenchair

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The Lord Jesus is the reason for my abundant, hands-on life.  And my blogging life, as well, when I blog. 🙂

*I have updated my art blog on occasion.  Just GOOGLE “Margaret Been’s MESSY PALETTE.”  Art is a language universal, and hits come from everywhere—including Afghanistan, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia as well as all over Europe, Oriental countries, South America, and our neighbors to the North.

**We had one more child, in 1976—adding up to 4 girls and 2 boys.  They are Joe’s and my best friends.

Margaret L. Been — March 6th, 2018

 

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Hymnbook

All of the arts in some way reflect human culture, but perhaps the mirror of music is outstanding.  Most every person on earth is aware of some kind of music, either as a participator, an appreciator, or simply an unthinking “bystander” who takes the current state of the musical art for granted.

Centuries of music are layered into the human experience, and the layers I love are often those which represent memories—times of life I delight in recalling and preserving over the decades.  Such is the case of the Gospel hymns which my Grandfather Longenecker played nearly every day on his violin.

And Chopin!  I grew up in a gracious home where Chopin’s Nocturnes and Waltzes resounded from room to room, thanks to my beautiful mother who was a classical pianist.  Today I play some of these.  Although I lack Mom’s highly trained skill, my passion and determination to play Chopin’s music is boundless and he is the composer whom I love the most.

Recently I met a new-to-me composer, Erik Satie—a contemporary of another of my favorites, Debussy.  I don’t know why I’d never met Satie before—except that my parents disliked discord of any sort.  I had to discover and fall in love with composers such as Stravinsky, Shostakovich, and Mahler on my own.  Satie has some uniquely discordant moments, so Mom might have considered him to be a bit off.

But Mom would have loved Erik Satie’s waltzes.  These poignantly exquisite melodies speak volumes to me of the era in which I grew up, a world which some individuals today may never even know existed—that tea-garden world of formal dances and gentility.  That time in history when boys and men still rose attentively when girls or women entered a room—a time of family dinners with cloth napkins and gracious apparel and behavior, formally set dinner tables where girls and women were carefully seated at the dinner table by boys and men.

In my home of origin, the grace and manners prevailed not only at the dinner table but throughout the days and years.  People respected other people enough to dress and look their best, with more slipshod attire appropriate only for fishing, gardening, and heavy or messy work projects.  People respected other people enough to really listen to them, rather than sit on the edge of their chairs waiting for a chance to barge back in and seize control of the conversation.

Along with Chopin, ongoing considerate conversation and a lot of laughter were the sounds of my childhood.  I was rather shocked when, as an young adult, I came to realize that some humans frequently yelled at occasions other than sporting events—and that I, myself, was unfortunately very capable of a yell.

In fact, I’d heard in-home yelling only one time in all my growing-up years:  when my UW-Madison student older sister, Ardis, brought home a Communist boyfriend named Benny.  Benny told my father that there would be a revolution in the USA, and that he—Benny—would have to assassinate his industrialist father if said father opposed the revolution.

My father YELLED!  (As a 9 year-old who regularly fed on mystery stories and spy movies, I found the yelling to be quite exciting!)

Human nature has not changed over the centuries; we are born flawed and in need of Christ’s redemption.  But outward human behavior—certainly in the USA—has changed in my lifetime of only 83 years!  And I truly believe that music heard and absorbed again and again does make inroads—whether benign or malignant—into the human psyche.  How grateful I am, for Gospel hymns, Chopin, and Eric Satie!  And the power of music, to mirror our memories and human values.

Margaret L. Been  —  June 20th, 2017

Note:  Sixty-four years ago today, I married the most precious husband on earth; and my love for Joe Been will never stop growing.  🙂

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