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Archive for the ‘Easter’ 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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HE IS RISEN!

“The angel said to the woman, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.  He is not here; He has risen, just as He said.  Come and see the place where He lay.  Then go quickly and tell His disciples:  He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee.  There you will see Him . . . .’   So the woman hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell His disciples . . . .”  Matthew 28:6-8

Come!  Rush out

where roaring rivers glorify the One

who broke their winter bondage with His sun.

Hurry!  Waste no time

to greet the wind unleashed upon the land;

and see the fields grow boldly green at His command!

Come!  Praise our Maker.

He has granted one more spring of song and seed.

Sing Hosanna for the Life that sprang out from the Cross

where we were freed.

Come! 

Run to see the empty tomb

the Victory!

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MLB

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Easter was special this year!  Just as Joe and I spent last Thanksgiving and Christmas at Aurora Summit Hospital, we spent our Easter there as well.  We have nick-named our hospital, “Holiday Inn”. 

Joe’s leg pain augmented to a point where it was impossible for him to be at home with only 110 pound me to help him get around.  Last Tuesday Joe was admitted to the hospital Inpatient Rehab Unit for medical care and the assistance he needed.

The leg pain was baffling.  Joe’s 4th degree burn from the October accident had healed beautifully.  His post-op rotator cuff healing was progressing well—and the pain was in a leg, not in the shoulder.  Why the severe pain?  Joe’s physiatrist (pain management doctor) puzzled over the enigma, ordered an ultra-sound, and discovered a large Baker’s cyst.  Once the cyst was dealt with the leg improved daily, and now—although with great effort—Joe can walk with considerably diminished pain.

Joe was hospitalized in the rehab unit for 7 nights.  I stayed there with him for 6 of those nights.  As before when I have “vacationed” with Joe at our Holiday Inn, I cannot thank God enough for the care and comfort received in this hospital.

I’ve learned so much over the last 6 months, it would take a large book to even begin to tell it all!  I’ve grown to love many of the individuals who have tended Joe’s needs (and mine, when I was a surgery patient there over Christmas).  We are amazed at the personal care and compassion of our doctors, and many of the nurses and aides.

Often, when going through a crisis, we are tempted to ask, “Why, Lord?”  That question has been answered for me, again and again, before I even bother to ask!  I’m certain that more answers will be unveiled as time passes. 

Over the 3 holidays, as well as during our 9 other hospital sessions in the last 6 months, I’ve had many opportunities to share God’s grace.  God fills us with His joy and peace, as we focus on Him.  We were thankful on Thanksgiving.  Christmas was still very much Christmas, our surgeries notwithstanding.  

And Easter was Easter!  Christ is risen!  The joy of the resurrection superceded any inconvenience or potential regrets we might have had over being away from our home and the “normal” holiday routine.

Visits from family members have been wonderful.  One day I heard the chatter of children down the hall.  I knew they would be some of our great-grandchildren, as Joe was the only patient in the unit during our stay.  Sure enough, a group of our treasures popped into the room bringing their freshness and excitement! 

I always bring arts and crafts with me, to keep my hands and imagination fulfilled during hospital “vacations”.  Nurses and aides often pause to visit, and frequently they are curious about my knitting projects and amateurish forays into sketching and painting.  They are fascinated when I show them my homemade soap, and they enjoy the music from our IPOD.  These women share their interests with me as well, and the social time is rich!

Last Saturday one of the aides asked me (2 times!) if she could bring her boy friend into the room to meet us before they left the hospital for their dinner date that evening.  I was touched and absolutely thrilled (almost to tears!), and of course I said “Yes”! 

What a treat it was to be included for a few moments in a young couple’s life.  I reflected over the many years of welcoming the friends of our 6 children, and sharing our home and dinner table with them.  Sharing our hospital room was a small scale replay of those delightful years! 

Perhaps the highlight (if I can single out only 1) of our most recent hospital stay happened in the “dead of the night”.  The aide who came into the room to check Joe’s blood pressure suddenly noticed my Star of David earrings.  She gasped, and said, “You are wearing Star of David earrings.  Where did you get those?” 

I told her about my favorite Hebrew jewelry website, and then she asked, “Are you Jewish?” 

I gave my favorite reply to anyone who asks about my Jewish jewelry:  “I’m a Christian with a Jewish heart!”* 

The aide was thrilled.  She said, “I am Jewish.  Oh, I love you!”

Then I showed her my ring with 12 glass stones signifying the 12 tribes of Israel, and she was even more thrilled.  My parting words to her flew out spontaneously from my Christian/Jewish heart:  “I think it’s so important that we make a statement today!”*

So you see, I have no problem with the question, “Why, Lord?”  His answers abound before I even ask!

Meanwhile, Joe comes home today.  It’s 2 weeks today since his shoulder surgery.  In 4 weeks the brace can come off.  Then, “God willing and the creeks don’t rise”, we can go fishing!

Yes, I’m thankful for the experiences God has provided during the past challenging months, for His ongoing care, encouragement, and strength.  I’m thankful for the assistance of family members and friends.  I’m thankful for modern medicine, and the caregivers involved.  And I’m thankful for your prayers!

Margaret L. Been, 2011

*Note:  I’ve come to consider jewelry as far more than just adornment.  My lovely Cross with turquois stones and my Hebrew jewelry have been great conversation starters, providing many occasions to share what I believe!

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The events of Christ’s death and resurrection are as familiar to those of us who know God’s truth as if they had happened only yesterday rather than nearly 2000 years ago.  These events were prophesied many times in the Old Testament, and fulfilled down to the last detail in the Gospels.

How much closer in time, for those of us alive today, are the events of the Lord Jesus’s 2nd advent when the Lord will return to establish peace and justice on earth as He reigns from Jerusalem! 

We sorrow as storm clouds thicken around the world, and we are tempted to despair.  But these very clouds signal the completion of prophecy.  Beyond the storm clouds, a glorious future awaits—when our Passover Lamb will return to reign as KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS!

“And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He doth judge and make war. 

“His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns; and He had a name written, that no man knew but He Himself.  And He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood; and His name is called The Word of God. 

“And the armies which were in heaven followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. 

“And out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations; and He shall rule them with a rod of iron; and He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 

“And He hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written:  KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”  Revelation 19″11-16

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“For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.

“And the Gentiles shall see thy (Israel’s) righteousness, and all the kings thy glory;  And thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name.

“Thou (Israel) shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of God.”  Isaiah 62:1-3

Margaret L. Been, 2011

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Joe, Dylan, and I just returned from an early morning hike around our park.  Mourning doves “wooo–oooo-ed”, robins chortled, and cardinels “cheer-cheer-cheered” us along the path.  A huge flock of snow geese (flying in a wavy line as opposed to the Canadas’ V formation) rejoiced overhead—focused northwest, in the direction of our northern home.  He is risen!

The world darkens around us.  Our nation has fallen from Grace due to a departure from God’s truth, as manifested in legalized baby murder and rampant immorality.  But God’s creation testifies to His unchanging truth.  Great is His faithfulness!  Christ will return, perhaps very soon, bringing righteousness, peace, and justice to earth!  He is risen!

I have a personal Easter story to share, from the pages of my 2009 journal.  A year ago, we were living in our Northern Wisconsin home—settled there, loving life, and believing we’d be there “forever”.  Yet there was an underlying sadness, as many of our family members—including a number of our great-grandchildren, all of whom had been born since we’d moved north—were 285 miles away in Southern Wisconsin.

At Easter last year, our daughter Debbie phoned and told us how she’d bought colorful little plastic wheelbarrows for each of the children and they were planning an Easter egg hunt in her yard.  Something in me ached over hearing about this event which we were missing.  Joe and I went south 3 times a year or so, but simply couldn’t be there for every occasion.  Now it was Easter, and we were missing a special gathering of a whole new generation—our great-grandchildren.

In my April 14, 2009 journal page I wrote this prayer:  “Easter was good, but I missed being with family.  Lord, you know my desire to return home to the family.  I love this place here, the woods and water.  Joe and I have grown infinitely closer to each other from living in this quiet, remote spot.  But since coming here, great blessings have occurred around our former home in Southern Wisconsin—great-grandchildren!  Lord, I want to go home with my Joe—to Waukesha County!”

Weeks passed, and spring came to our northern land.  Life was pleasant and good, and I enjoyed each day—having spelled out my Easter petition to the Lord.  There is perfect peace in knowing He is in control.

God really does work in mysterious ways!  On June 13, 2009 it became apparent that Joe would need to go to St. Luke’s in Milwaukee, for a heart procedure.  In the next 2 weeks, he was hospitalized twice at St. Luke’s.  Stents were inserted into clogged arteries.  His cardiologist said, “If only you people lived around here, it would be good!”

The days around the 2009 summer solstice melted into a blur.  Our daughter Debbie found a sweet condo on a Monday; the next day Joe and I looked at the condo and bought it.  We returned to Northern Wisconsin at the end of June, geared to packing and moving.  All of that history is recorded on the summer and fall entries, in this blog as well as on “Grace with Salt”. 

Here we are, looking forward to Resurrection Day 2010.  Debbie has planned another Easter egg hunt.  Since the life-changing events of last June, 2 more little people have joined our roll call of great-grandchildren—2 baby boys who are crawling all over the place, grabbing on to each other, grinning, and giggling.

Christ is risen!

Margaret L. Been—All Rights Reserved

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Quagmired in stagnant bogs,

Eons old

And motionless, the cattails stand

Where no wind blows . . .

When, meadow-born, a redwing lights

On solitary reed

Proclaiming joyously the news,

“I have been FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEED!”

 

Margaret Longenecker Been—All Rights Reserved

The Evangelist” was published in POETRY OUT OF WISCONSIN V, Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Publishers, and in MORNING IN MY EYES by Margaret Longenecker Been.

The painting was featured on the cover of a recent issue of WestWard Quarterly.

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