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Archive for the ‘Clouds of change’ Category

As the clouds grow thicker . . .

Sunday morning sky

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Against such there is no law.”  Galatians 5:22-23

Have you ever witnessed a crazier pre-election circus?  Has the world ever before seemed to be crowding in so quickly, closer and closer?

Have communications ever been more constant and all-encompassing—inescapable unless one stuffs his or her electronic devices in the back of a remote drawer and goes for a long, solitary walk?  Or even better—the very best of all—unless one plunges head first into the depths of God’s ever-faithful, ever beneficial Word!  God’s Word is the only place to go for rest, for comprehension, perspective, and power.  God’s Word not only mined daily, but stored as priceless treasure for instant, ongoing accessibility and application.

While the clouds grow thicker so does our call, as Christians, not only to share the Gospel of our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ—but to mirror His indwelling Life, so that the fruit of His Holy Spirit can be seen by all, everywhere we go!  In simple terms, we are called today just God’s people were instructed centuries ago:  to live the Christian life, as mandated in Galatians 5:22-23.

Not to rant and rave*  over all the things that are amiss (although, when watching the news I sometimes forget!)  Not to rend our clothes, Old Testament style.  Not to scream at those who are “out of line”.  And certainly not (even worse!) to scream at those who are in line.

The fruit of the Spirit is the genuine outworking of Christ’s life in us, the “hope” (sure-fire fact!) of glory.  Whatever we are doing as the fruit is displayed, and wherever we may be, will differ with each individual whom God calls.  As we focus on our Lord, He directs our whatever/wherever.  Our “Full time Christian Service” may be public (as in church, missions, or workplace) or private (as in home and/or friendship circles).  Both are equally valid and vital.  But fruit there must be, if our witness is to be effective.

I have blogged near-volumes on this topic, and God-willing I may continue to write more.  The issue is ever-green because (probably like every other believer, and definitely as Paul recorded in his letter to the Romans) I struggle with reflecting God’s fruit—even given prayer and immersion in His Word.  Patience (longsuffering) is a bit of a challenge for me; and as we all realize about the fruit of God’s Spirit—we cannot select.  We need to present the whole basket.

God knows His own.  If I bungle my witness, His own people will still be saved for Eternity; they haven’t lost a thing.  And when I refuse to relax and let Jesus display His fruit through me, I am nonetheless still saved for Eternity.  But I will have missed the here-and-now blessing that would have come had I been in sync with our Lord in that instance.

Margaret L. Been — March 21, 2016

*The most famous sermon in U.S. history is without a doubt, Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”  God used this masterpiece (not only of Scripture truth but of literary construction) to pave the way for the movement of His Holy Spirit in an unprecedented revival on our continent. 

Did Jonathan Edwards shout, and rave?  No way.  His delivery was unremarkable, and it has been recorded that he actually read his sermons. 

It was God’s truth in this sermon, not the human vehicle, which set the course of American Christianity from the 1700s on.  In fact, had Edwards ranted and raved, his words may never have taken such a profound course.  The man might have attracted more attention than the message.  God chose a quiet-mannered man for the most spectacular movement of the Holy Spirit in our nation.

Although “Sinners” is the most famous of Edwards’ individual messages, it has been his sermons of joy-filled wonder at the magnificence and beauty of God that theologians (and everyday readers like me) have cherished, found edifying, and re-read again and again for rich spiritual food.  MLB

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 christmas-food-5
 
I can only smile when I think of an incredibly wonderful classic for all ages—HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS, by Doctor Seuss
For the uninitiated, here is how the story went:  the Grinch stole the Christmas tree, the trimmings, the trappings, the toys, and I believe I recall that he even opened a refrigerator door and stole the “roast beast”.  Then, on Christmas morning when the nasty creature thought he’d really pulled off a job he heard a sound from the village which he had plundered—“the sound of music”.  
 
The entire village was singing.  It was CHRISTMAS, and nothing of consequence had been stolen—nor will it ever!  Nothing could stop Christmas from coming!  As the Grinch listened from on top of a mountain (or whatever), something snapped.  His heart grew (by I can’t exactly remember what dimensions) until it all but popped.  Then the Grinch returned everything he had stolen—all the material goods which are really not Christmas at all, simply our way of celebrating Christmas.  I recall the lines, “Maybe Christmas didn’t come from a store.  Maybe Christmas means a little bit more!” Mr. Grinch realized that Christmas means everything more!  And the story’s finale is beautiful.  The Grinch himself “carved the roast beast” for all to enjoy!
 
 
 
I can remember my family Christmases as far back as 1937, when I was 4 years old.  I recall my parents taking me out shopping in the late afternoon or early evening, when of course it was dark in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Those were pre-seatbelt days.  Being a kid who loved to be alone, and always tried to find secluded hiding spots, I sat on the floor of the back seat while the car radio beamed out, “It came upon a midnight clear”.  I  listened to those words and wondered:  “What is a ‘midnight clear’?”  Unlike the Grinch who caught on within minutes, it took me 33 more years to actually understand and receive the meaning of the midnight clear—that I was a sinner who needed Salvation by the Only One who could provide Eternal Life for me!  But I recall that backseat floor event as an epiphany.  It marked the beginning of my spiritual consciousness and an albeit vague concept that indeed there was something more—a free gift for anyone who will confess their need for salvation and trust in Christ’s finished work on Calvary! 
 
Never before in my lifetime has there been such a blatant war on Christmas.  Atheists are posting disgusting signs in public places.  School music directors are being bullied and intimidated into omitting the name of Jesus in their “holiday” programs.
 
Chain store employees are mandated to answer “Happy Holidays” in response to my very cheery and overly-audible “MERRY CHRISTMAS!”  (Actually, this last week one checkout clerk smiled and said “Merry Christmas” to me, in what was almost a whisper!  I had a tragic sense that this woman was cowering in fear of reprisal!)
 
Depressing?  Yes, but . . . !  But for the fact that I know and understand the meaning of the Midnight Clear, I would be depressed.  But because I know the Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator God of the universe, as my very deeply personal Saviour, I am rejoicing—even as the darkness thickens and spills out all over our country and world.
 
In a sheep shed 2000 plus years ago, in a tiny country overwrought with darkness and oppression, the Saviour of the world was born—born to die on a Cross (the cruelest of Roman executions) and rise from His grave in triumphant victory over all the powers of darkness and oppression then and forever more!  King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  Period!
 
The darker and more depressing our nation may grow, the more we Christians can look Heavenward and SING!  When mankind utterly fails, plummets to the bottom of the universe, and gives up in abject desperation—that is precisely when the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ can (and I believe WILL!) flood our land with His cleansing rain of revival and rebirth. 
 
It is not too late for a widespread recognition of the “Midnight Clear” in all its glorious meaning!
 
Bethlehem
 
Margaret L. Been, Christmas 2013

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We don’t have to travel far to experience the glory of autumn in Wisconsin—just a few feet from our front door.  ↑  This gorgeous tree creates a stained glass effect when the morning sun beams through the high window over our front door.

I’ll never tire of watching clouds.  ↑  How blessed we are to have (also just outside our front door) a panorama of sky over a grassy field bordered by wild woods.

 

My gardens are still thriving, and it’s October!  ↑   Amazing after our brutally hot, dry summer.  Perhaps this is the fruit of diligently lugging “grey water” (leftover from dish washing and hand washing of clothes) to the gardens so that I wouldn’t over-use our building’s water supply and risk depleting the well which we share with seven other condos.

Moving indoors, you can see that the “cottage industry” of soap making continues around the year.  ↑

And art making, as well.  ↑

 

Recently, Great-Grandson James came for an art day.  ↑  James is just six years old, and he’s a little prince.  After creating four paintings, he said, “My arm is tired”. 

That was my signal to take him to the park (just outside our front door).  I pushed him on the tire swing.  James paused in the middle of a swing, looked very concerned, and asked me:  “Are you too old to be doing this?”

I assured him that I could handle swinging him.  Then we passed and caught his little Packer football.  James showed me how to place my hand under the stitching when passing the ball.  I never knew that.  But it’s not surprising, since I carried a violin throughout my youth—not a football!

Later James told his Dad, “Grandma caught nearly every pass I threw!”  Was I ever puffed up after that!

So you can see why I’m a bit behind on blogging!  There is so much life, beyond a computer screen!  🙂 

The snapdragons are still blooming gloriously!  ↓  They have won my “Most Faithful Flower” award!  They bloom from April until the first deep frost!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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I named the above rendering “Autumn Creeps In”.  There is a subtly to September, even considering that this year the air is prematurely snappy.  We’ll will undoubtedly have some warmish, golden Indian summer days in October.  Yet autumn is creeping in at a consistent pace. 

Beauty!  Color!  Invigorating Days!  Bittersweet Reflections!  All of these characterize the season at hand.  Recently I’ve been wrapped in bittersweet reflections—recalling the riches of the short summer from which we are emerging.  June remained chilly, and I kept a handspun, hand knitted hat in the car until early July.  Then summer began in earnest.  How languid, how lovely—except for about 5 unbearably hot, sticky days when we had to turn on air conditioning which we absolutely hate to do!

Summer guests, summer afternoons on the patio, summer evenings with frog serenades ringing from the gardens beneath our windows, summer rains (not enough of them, however), summer ice cream outings, summer, summer, summer!  We grab hold of summer in our souls, stash it in our cupboard of poignant memories, and dream of it in January when it’s 10 below zero in Wisconsin (or 30 below zero up north where we lived for 8 years).  Summer!

This week I’ve been thinking seriously about autumn creeping in, and I’ve responded accordingly.  House plants have been moved from our patio to a spare table in Joe’s den.  Most of our house plants never went out for the summer, as we have doors and windows open nearly around the clock and it’s like a garden indoors.  African violets stay inside all year, relishing their eastern exposure and the shelter of our living room.  Most of my jades, Christmas cacti, orchid cacti, and aloe plants stay indoors in our southern windows.  But a few jades and cacti have been hanging out on the patio for the last 2 months, adding to the decor.  Now all have been garnered in.  Soon the Christmas cacti will be stashed away in a dark closet, resting and preparing to bloom.

Today I dismantled our sweet little patio fountain, as those inevitable early frosts are advancing from the north.  Any night now, icy fingers could move in—snipping here, blanching there, and freezing the water in fountains.  Our fountain (with a hidden electric pump) consists of 3 levels of pretend rocks (actually fiberglass, but very realistic and rocklike) over which the water tumbles—plus a small girl and a family of ducks.  Carefully I dismantled the 3 sections, wiped the pieces dry, and transported them to our garage on the seat of my 4 wheel walker.

Now the little girl and her ducks have been re-assembled (but not in the operating mode) in a far corner of the garage, where I keep treasures:  seasonal wreaths, decorative odds and ends, junk from rummage sales, etc.  It’s fun to wander and browse among stuff in our garage.  And even during winter’s bleakest period there are sunny days when Joe and I can bundle and sit inside our garage on comfy chairs, while pretending we’re staring into a New Mexico sky.

We have a large fountain in our community pond.  Soon it will be shut off for the season.  I’ll mourn the loss of moving water, while knowing the fountain will resume it’s refreshing showers next April.  I’m thankful for the small indoor fountain which graces our living room table of African violets.  The sound of water tumbling from this diminutive ceramic “friend” will cheer many winter days.

Along with bittersweet reflections, comes the anticipation of additional hours for indoor pleasures—including extra time to knit, and spin gorgeous wool on my spinning wheels.  During the colder months, I keep a spinning wheel in front of our surrogate (electric) fireplace.  What a cozy place to sit and spin. 

Stacked in my corner studio are many paintings and collages in progress.  And for every piece waiting to be completed, more paintings and collages are lined up in my head—just waiting to be born on paper or gallery wrapped canvas.  Even when the autumn color fades, indoor color will prevail!

A new piano book of easy-version Scott Joplin rag tunes has arrived in the mail, and I’m getting a handle on “The Entertainer”.  “Maple Leaf Rag” is a bit more challenging with 4 flats, but (God willing) I’ll learn to play that as well in the coming weeks.  There are 18 rags in the book—enjoyment forever.  I have music for each day and every mood.  I love Mozart Beethoven, and Chopin.  And I also love ragtime, especially Joplin’s works!

Soapmaking is ongoing in my kitchen, as I supply many family members and friends with my beautiful facial (and body) soap.  The thrill of a creating a new batch of soap never grows old.  Our home is redolent with rose, wisteria, sandalwood, patchouli, and (for occasional novelty) soaps scented with of coffee and chocolate fragrance oils. 

(When we moved to a condo 2 years ago, a friend was shocked to hear that I was still making soap.  “You make soap in a condo?” my friend asked.  I answered something to the effect that I will always want to go on living, no matter where!  Maybe this friend thought that I should just zone out and twiddle my thumbs, since I was advancing in age and now living in a condo!)

And then there are books, books, books, books, and more books!  Within a few minutes of our door are 2 libraries, in different directions.  Although we don’t fancy many of the newer books due to their inferior writing quality and mediocre content, we love the used book sales which are frequent at the libraries.  These sales never let us down.  As we come home with bags of “new to us” used books, we add to the leaning towers of books against the walls of our home.  A KINDLE® or NOOK® would never be welcome at this treasure trove of tattered covers, coffee stained pages, and people who are passionate about real books!

So you see, as autumn creeps in my bittersweet reflections give way to downright enthusiasm.  Spring and summer will return.  In the meantime, what a wealth of joyEach day is an adventure to be embraced and celebrated—regardless of the season!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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One of the many advantages of living outside of cities is the ever-present panorama of sky.  At our northern home, we had sky over water.  Now, in Southern Wisconsin, we view the sky over a park and nature preserve.

This has been an odd summer around here, in that the really warm (sometimes HOT!) weather did not set in until July.  Everything is different from last summer.  Perennials which were mushrooming and spreading in May, 2010 never even made themselves known this summer until mid June.  

Consequently, the obvious harbingers of autumn are late in appearing.  Our neighorhood wild prairie has yet to flash in the sun with goldenrod; coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, and Queen Anne’s lace still flourish there.  The sumac along the park path barely hints at the glory it will soon display, whereas in most years the turning sumac leaves provide an early sign of change.

The cardinals still “cheer-cheer”, cheering my heart in the process.  Mourning doves still mourn their poignant “oooo-oooo-oooooo”, reminding me of catapulting years of mourning doves—since I was a small child, first thrilling to their threnody.  Every evening at dusk, a flock of sparrows roosts in the tree outside our bedroom window.  They chirp and rustle in the leaves and branches until dark.  Then all is still, until the first ray of dawn when the birds resume their chirping, and take off for another day of foraging. 

Flocking birds are a sign of seasonal change.  I treasure the busy little creatures who hang out in the tree beside our window, because at this point I do not want summer to end.  But end, it will! 

Meanwhile, the clouds clearly forecaste change—those famous clouds of August.  Due to changing air currents, temperatures, and moisture, August clouds are distinctive.  After a suddenly cooler night, the clouds are seen as mist rising off the ground in our park.  Up north the clouds rose off our lake in August and September, reminding us of the picturesque lochs we saw years ago when we traveled the back roads of the Scottish highlands.

Clouds of change!  We who live with four seasons (one of which seems a lot longer than the other three in Wisconsin!) are accustomed to change and ready for it.  Already I’ve done some shifting around of clothes in my closet, so that when the first brisk day arrives I’ll have something warmer at hand.   I’ve laundered the summer blankets and taken a wool blanket out of its cleaner bag. 

I’m preparing my heart for that blast of sheer beauty which Autumn brings—followed by the silent, white months.  But we can never be totally prepared for the metaphorical clouds of change in our personal lives.  Last year, as August whispered sweet promises around us, little did we know that we were about to enter a ten-month period of severe medical issues—with one emergency compounding another. 

We can never accurately predict our seasons of circumstances.  All we can do is remember that emergencies are Holy Ground.  God gets our attention and speaks to us through times of crisis.  All we can do is take off our metaphorical shoes and say “Yes, Lord, whatever You will shall be done.”

Actually, for the Christian all of life is Holy Ground.  To recognize that fact is to experience the peace of God’s indwelling Holy Spirit every day, regardless of whatever the clouds of change may bring!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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