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Archive for the ‘God’s Victory in Our Trials’ Category

Where sheep may safely graze 2

(My stats page records which of my blog entries have been read on any given day.  This entry from 2012 recently received attention, so I decided to run it again.)

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“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.  He leadeth me beside the still waters.” Psalm 23:1-2

During the 1950s and 1960s, my father had a cattle ranch in Nevada.  When ready to be sent to the fattening yards in Missouri and Iowa, the cattle were loaded into huge trailers.  With my penchant for Western movies, I pictured an old time cattle drive from Texas to St. Louis—or wherever—with a John Wayne type at the rear and cowboys riding alongside to prevent a stampede.

For eighteen years, I raised a small spinner’s flock of sheep.  When it was time for shearing the trick was to lure the critters into their enclosure, quickly shut the gate so they could not escape, and then pray they wouldn’t bust out of their shed before the shearer arrived.

Sheep are reputedly stupid.  Bah!  Or I should say, “Ba-a-a-a-a-a!”  Time and again they proved to be smarter than my husband and I were.  If the sheep got wind of the fact that we really wanted them in their shed, they would be impossible to catch.  There was no way we could chase them into their shed.  There was no way we could drive them, the way cattle are driven.  Although they may be herded by a smart border collie, sheep just don’t drive!

The only possible way we could incarcerate our sheep on their “beauty salon day” was to LEAD them—and then only with the best of grain, with plenty of molasses in it.  Only horse “sweet feed” would do, on shearing day.  Even then, the perceptive creatures seemed to have eyes in the back of their heads, and would nervously skitter back out to the pasture if they sensed that we planned to close a gate behind them.  Stupid?  I don’t think so.  Silly, yes, but very intuitive when intuition is needed.

When we belong to the Lord, we are His sheep.  Life may seem full, but He never drives us.  He makes us lie down in green pastures—and gives us rest.

Life may seem stressful, but He never drives us.  He leads us with the finest food—His Word, the Bread of Life.

Life may seem hectic, but He never drives us.  He leads us beside still waters—the Living Water.

Life may seem terrifying and threatening, but He never drives us.  He leads (and protects) us with His rod and His staff.

Life may seem confusing, but He never drives us.  He leads us home through the fog with goodness and mercy, and we will dwell in His house forever.

Cattle are driven; sheep are LED!

Margaret L. Been

Note: The above photo was taken by our grandson, Tyler Been, during his nine months attendance at Capernwray Bible School, New Zealand.

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We are fast approaching December 7th, and the 78th anniversary of what has been known as “The Day of Infamy.  Although I was only 8 years old on that historic Sunday, I recall it as if it happened recently.  Yes, the radio broadcast, and my Mother’s thoughtful explanation of a violent event to a clueless, sheltered kid.

That Sunday was not anything like most Sundays in our home.  No family games.  No losing myself in my favorite radio broadcast, highlighted each week by the spooky words:, “The Shadow Knows” . . . followed by an ominous cackle, courtesy of The Shadow (Lamont Cranston, who had the ability to make himself invisible due to a secret he’d learned “years ago in the Orient”).

Beyond the horrendous news and my wise Mother’s explanation, what is vividly ensconced in my mental hard drive is the night of Pearl Harbor Day.  My Dad was out of town on business, so Mom drove my 16 year old sister and me to a concert at Lawrence College (now Lawrence University) in Appleton, Wisconsin–about 27 miles from home.

In concert that evening was the beautiful Afro-American contralto, Marion Anderson (1897-1993).  If you are not familiar with Marion Anderson, you can GOOGLE her name, and see for yourself (as well as hear on a U-tube) what a privilege it was to attend her concert.  As if her rich contralto and winsome personality were not enough to snow an audience on December 7th, 1941, Marion ended her program with GOD BLESS AMERICA–so timely as to dissolve her listeners to tears.  For years following that concert, my Mother described it with the words:  “There was not a dry eye in the auditorium!”

On the drive home late that evening, I experienced what may have been angelic intervention–or at least a miracle!  A wet snow (Wisconsin style) had begun while we were attending the concert.  Roads were slick on a just-below-freezing night.  My Mother (very carefully, I’m sure) drove over a small bridge above a culvert, on a slight uphill stretch of the highway.  There were guardrails on each side of the road, and I recall our car spinning, hitting the guardrail on our side of the road, lurching forward past the guardrail, and falling off the road (car on its side) onto the ground beyond the culvert.

I do not recall getting out of the car; we obviously must have had help getting out and home.  But I clearly recall that the three of us were totally unharmed–no bruises, no bumps, no anything, except that my sister’s silk stockings were snagged and running.  Even more wonderful was the fact that my Mom had the presence of mind to turn off the ignition as we careened off the road–thus quite possibly preventing the implicit tragedy of a flaming vehicle containing 3 people.  Not only had Mom turned off the ignition, she had wrenched that key so hard that she broke it in 2 pieces: one piece was stuck in the ignition, and the other was found in our car.  (My Mother was a quiet woman–quiet and strong!)

Where in the world am I going with this?  Simply to emphasize that along with remembering our brave Americans who fought (and are fighting) for our nation (then as well as before and since), the concert and my mother’s fortitude are the main details I want to recall of December 7th, 1941.  I no longer want to look at pictures of our U.S. Navy bursting into flames, or post some of the photos on this blog (as I did a few years ago).  I no longer want to read about the action, blow by blow, as I have so often over the years in WW2 documentaries and fiction.

Every nation on earth is composed of fallen humans.  As in the case of us humans, there is no nation without sin–no not one.  My age propels me forward rather than back.  I may be closer in forward years to that joyous time of the peaceful 1000 year earthly reign of our Lord Jesus Christ, than I am in retro years, to “The Day of Infamy”.

“Yes, many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and pray before the LORD.  Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.” ‘ ” Zechariah 9:22-23*                 

Margaret L. Been — November 9, 2019

*Note that Scripture says nothing about the notion of “globalism”.  Global peace, global respect–one nation for another.   But not globalism as politically referenced today.

The earth will be ruled by the actual presence of our Lord Jesus in Jerusalem, but national entities will remain, along with all the beauty of specific ethnic cultures, life affirming customs and traditions.  The great difference will be an international (global if you will) seeking after Jehovah God–Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah who died for our sins, and rose to give us Eternal Life.

 

 

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Winter Breakup

The tyranny of winter is about to break up, as the above watercolor rendering depicts.  Since my last entry with reference to a merciful winter, 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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October Clouds 1

“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”  Hebrews 13:2 KJV

Angels are prominent in the lives of Old and New Testament people, speaking God’s messages, shutting the mouths of lions, predicting the birth of Jesus and John the Baptist, joyously announcing our Messiah’s birth, ministering to our Lord after His trial in the wilderness, present at the empty tomb after the Resurrection of Jesus, attending His ascension into Heaven, springing Peter out of prison, and in countless other references where angels speak to or assist in God’s dealings with His people—plus the glorious accounts of angels accompanying our Lord at His return and singing praises around His throne throughout eternity.

Whether angels have appeared in Scriptures as men bearing God’s messages, or as Heavenly beings radiantly decked out as in the descriptions of angels at Jesus’s birth and His ascension into Heaven, they are very clearly sent from Heaven to carry a message or perform a task.

But equally exciting, is the Scriptural verification that angels are active in the daily lives of ordinary Church Age believers—not appearing in radiant white and shining glory, not speaking in overt messages from the Lord, but rather appearing as just plain people intervening in our lives in significant ways.

In such instances, it will seem that a human has intervened; yet in retrospect we have a growing sense that something supernatural occurred.  There are occasions in a believer’s life that defy human logic, when we have met an angel: “unwittingly as in the New King James Version; “without knowing it as in the New International Version; or, as in my very favorite traditional King James Version of Hebrews 13:2, “some have entertained angels unawares”.

Two such scenarios are outstanding in my past, and I recall them as if they happened last week.

Scenario #1—!990:  Our daughter, Martina, and I had flown to the outskirts of Washington D. C., rented a car, and headed out to New Market, Virginia, where we had a motel reservation.  I’d booked a weaving class out of New Market, at a farm on the Shenandoah River, and 14 year old Martina accompanied me just for the fun of a trip.

The weaving class ran from Monday through Friday, with the Wednesday off—giving Martina and me a chance to explore part of the George Washington National Forest into the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia.  The owners of the farm where the class was held loaned me a road map of the territory.  I had a bit of panic when I first saw the map, the roads of which resembled a pile of cooked spaghetti.  Then I thought, never mind.  There will be signs.

But once we left the main highway and went up into the forest, there were no signs—at least I didn’t see any—until after a couple of hours of winding through gorgeous scenery on the spaghetti roads, when we saw a small, rugged wooden sign saying “Reddish Knob” and pointing somewhere down a road.  Several roads converged hither and thither, and I had no idea of how we had arrived at the spot where we were.  My spaghetti map was no help.  We were alone, lost in a wilderness, and I had no idea how to get us back to civilization.

So I pulled off the road, and Martina and I prayed.  Suddenly, across the road and up a few yards from us a sedan appeared—and out of the car stepped a man in a business suit and a hat. The man walked over to our car and, through my rolled down car window asked if he could help us.  Now I am normally a very cautious individual, but in this case I had no fear.  I showed the man the map and asked him if he could tell us how to get back down to the highway.  I don’t recall whether or not the man used a pen or pencil, but he very clearly explained the way back.  I thanked him and that was that.  The man drove off in his sedan, and Martina and I followed his directions back to familiar territory.

A kind person, suddenly appearing to meet our need.  But later I began musing about that gentleman, as I have ever since.  What in the world was he doing, dressed in a business suit in a place where there were no subdivisions of homes, no commercial malls or office parks?  We were on government land, so it was unlikely that he was there to buy a lot or oversee some business venture.  The man was dressed for a day’s office type work, in an area where one might expect to see back-packers dressed for wilderness hiking.  Even a casual sightseer would not normally be dressed in business attire.

An angel unawares, unknowing, unwittingly?  I absolutely believe he was an angel, as the man and his appearance defied any logical explanation.

Scenario #2—1993:  My husband, Joe, and I had just flown from Boston, USA to Glasgow, Scotland where we rented a car to embark on a 2200 mile excursion on back roads in rural Scotland, England, and Wales—staying at Bed and Breakfast Sheep Farms for most of the 17 nights.  As we left the airport, headed for the boonies of Argyll (home of my Campbell ancestors) with Joe driving on the “wrong” side of the road in a car with the steering wheel on the “wrong” side of the dashboard (and never mind our jet lag!), we were confronted with something we had not yet experienced in our slow moving part of Wisconsin:  a roundabout—buzzing with traffic going who knows where, seemingly in all directions of intersecting highways.

Again, we had a map—this time one I had ordered stateside from the British Travel Authority, complete with descriptions and photos of Sheep Farm B & Bs all over the United Kingdom.  As Joe was keeping us alive in traffic, I was trying to make sense of the map and our destination.  Just as frustration began to peak, we saw an old man walking by the side of the highway, with a cane and a large Shepherd/Labrador type dog.

Somehow Joe managed to pull off the highway, and I asked the man if he could tell us how to aim for the area in Argyll where we were headed.  “I’ll show you,” the man said.

He climbed into the backseat of our small car with his large, friendly dog, and off we went under the man’s direction.  After a few minutes, he pointed us on our way.  As the man and dog got out of the car, Joe and I were both concerned about him, and we said, “What about YOU To which the old man smiled and replied, “Oh, I’ll be all right.” 

Again, “Thank you”, and that was that.  We immediately realized that Scotland was (and indeed is!) a very friendly part of the world.  But again I have mulled over that incident for years.  What was an apparently frail old fellow doing, walking his dog along a busy highway system with no neighborhood in sight?  Wouldn’t it make more sense for him to walk his dog around the area where he lived?  And where did he live, amidst that maze of traffic?  How could he have been so casual about getting back to the place where we had found him?

Maybe the kind, elderly man was more physically fit than he seemed to be.  Maybe he simply loved to hike with his canine buddy for miles of highway, rather than along the picturesque lanes of rural Scotland.  Maybe, but I don’t think so.  I believe our roadside friend was an angel unawares.

This is not to say that any time we have roadside help, it is via an angel from Heaven.  There are plenty of kind and helpful humans, as our road trips have proved.  I know it was a real down-to-earth county sheriff who helped us change a tire on a Kansas highway, in a tremendous wind that reminded me of THE WIZARD OF OZ—also set in Kansas.

And I’m not foolish enough to believe that help will always be on hand whether on the road or anywhere else.  On our fallen planet, we may experience troubles beyond our wildest imagination!

But I do understand that our days and lives have been known by God from eternity past.  He enables His people to cope with whatever circumstances prevail, as we focus on Him, always through His infinite grace and occasionally through the ministry of Heaven’s Angels—who may appear to be helpful humans, but actually are angels unawares,.

Margaret L. Been — December 28th, 2918

Note:  I have just added Ghana, Turkey, Russia, and Switzerland to the international list of readers on my 12/22/18 blog entry.  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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