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Archive for the ‘Religion’ 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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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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Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet.JPG

“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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It is known by all the people in my life, that I am passionate about dogs.  Have had them most of my life—with the exception of college and most of our new baby years.  Every one knows that our last dog, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi named Dylan, died of old age a year ago—and that health issues have prohibited us from finding another dog to fill our canine-shaped void.

Actually, I love animals of all kinds—and stuffed animals as well.  Our current in-house Teddy bear population hovers around 14, along with various other species: a toy lamb, a hedgehog, etc.

Today our daughter, Debbie, came in with her almost 14 year old granddaughter, Olivia (obviously our great-granddaughter).  Exuberantly they brought a gift—a (stuffed toy) Dachshund, LUCKEY, the name of our first long-lived family dog when our children were young.  I’m using the spelling with the “E” simply because that was the name and spelling of my maternal grandparents:  Ambrose and Catherine Luckey*.

Luckey gazes at me like our dogs always did, particularly Dylan because he was our only dog for years.  And now Luckey has captured my heart BIG TIME.  I just hope all the resident Teddies will be able to accept him, and not come unglued!  Or unstuffed! 

My joy in this new, easy-maintenance “pet” matches the joy I saw on the faces of the givers—Debbie and Olivia!  The joy of giving; the joy of receiving!  A gift of love—for no other reason than the desire to give, to warm the heart of the receiver. 

Does that read like the season at hand and the Gift of Unconditional LOVE we are about to celebrate?  Actually the GIVING AND RECEIVING we celebrate every day of our lives, when The Lord Jesus Christ indwells us!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Margaret L. Been — December 1st, 2018

*My grandfather, Ambrose Luckey, was of Irish descent, specifically from Londonderry.  I never really met Grandpa Luckey because he died when I was 1 year old.  But I sense a kinship because he was remembered as loving his farm in Central Wisconsin—just as I loved our 3 acre hobby (sheep) farm for 21 years, in Southern Wisconsin.  Isn’t the love of the land kind of an Irish thing?

As a writer I have always tried to avoid traces of overt sentimentality.  But now that I am in my dotage, I know I’m becoming more “Irish” in that respect.  Predictable with 24 per cent Irish DNA—and proud of it! 

 

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Hopping around on one leg is teaching me so much.  Actually it is the LORD Who is teaching me, opening up for me the huge world of people who have overcome physical (and mental) challenges and have lived amazingly creative lives.

I am streaming the world’s greatest music, nearly 24/7, from my I-phone or I-pad through a beautiful pair of speakers—one of which is right beside my ear on the little sofa where I spend all of my nights and much of the days.  Last night I added some fine Christmas music to my library of albums via this wonderful technology—and played the Christmas albums already on my devices.

Among the existing albums is a Christmas one by Andrea Bocelli, the Italian tenor.  (Bocelli’s rendition of THE LORD’S PRAYER on this album defies description.  You need to hear it for yourself.)  While “shopping” for additional albums, my fingers stumbled on many more by Andrea Bocelli—some of them opera.

Because I love Italian opera, I added some of these to “My Music” via Amazon, and I am astounded!  He is not Pavarotti, but Bocelli is perfect in his own right.  Curiosity prevailed, and I GOOGLED “Andrea Bocelli” to learn more about this man.  What I found on Wikipedia leveled me to tears, and will continue to inspire me forever.

Bocelli was born to a family in Italy.  His parents had been advised by doctors to abort the pregnancy as it was apparent there would be something amiss with this child.  His parents refused abortion, and Andrea was born in 1958.  Almost immediately problems with vision were recognized, and a diagnosis of congenital glaucoma followed.

Music was a great passion and comfort to Bocelli, from early on.  At age 6, he began playing musical instruments.  Wikipedia states that “By age 7 he was able to recognize the famous voices of the time and tried to emulate the great singers.”

At age 12, Andrea Bocelli became totally blind.  He was playing goalkeeper during a football* match, and was hit in an eye, resulting in a brain hemorrhage.  Yet Bocelli persisted in the study of music, performing, entering contests etc.  He studied law at the University of Pisa where he performed at piano bars in the evening to earn money.  After finishing law school, Bocelli spent a year as a court appointed lawyer—but soon after, his music career took over.  He was encouraged and promoted by the great Luciano Pavarotti.

His opera training gave Andrea Bocelli a depth and resonance which adds dimension to his pop genre music.  In addition to singing, Bocelli composes.  For fun I checked his website which lists the tenor’s pending engagements; they are in many countries—and he is beloved around the world.

All because an Italian couple refused to abort their child.  All because that child was born with the God-given GIFT OF MUSIC—and because that child had the will, perseverance, and self-discipline to develop his GIFT, for the immeasurable blessing of music lovers everywhere.

I have been tremendously blessed by learning more about Andrea Bocelli, and adding more of his albums to my APPLE devices.  There is so much to learn, if we only take the time.

Margaret L. Been  —  November 25th, 2018

*I ran this information through my husband, Joe, who is extremely knowledgeable in an area about which I know hardly anything:  SPORTS.  Joe commented that in Italy “football” probably means soccer. 

 

 

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There are definite benefits when being physically “on hold” while a broken femur heals.  Time to immerse oneself in hours of Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Paganini, Chopin, Mozart, and the contemporary poetic piano renderings of George Winston.

Time to savor every beautiful moment, and the people who fill my days.  Time to refresh my soul, and hopefully never forget the message continually being programmed into mind and heart:  SLOW DOWN!

My mother was a treasure trove of wise sayings, many of which you undoubtedly know:  “Haste makes waste”; Look before you leap”, etc. 

And one of our young grandsons, inspired by fables that were read to him, went around pontificating “Slow and ‘teddy’ wins the race”—“teddy” being his version of “steady”.  (This grandson is now CEO of a restaurant chain,  “Slow and ‘teddy’ ” evidently served him well!)

Just for fun I GOOGLED “Wise sayings about slowing down” and came up with a treasure trove of my own.  Here are a few:

“I am a slow walker, but I never walk back.”  Abraham Lincoln

“For fast action relief, try slowing down.”  Lily Tomlin

“Wisely and slow.  They stumble that walk fast.”  Shakespeare, ROMEO AND JULIET

“Talk low, talk slow, and don’t say too much.”  John Wayne

Scripture contains the most and the best of wisdom concerning lifestyle, summed up in Ephesians 5:15:  “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise . . . .”

Much as I like to think I’m the relaxed, meditative type, my family tells me I am also a “doer”—and it seems they are right.  I love to work, and I love order.  When a job needs doing, the thought of procrastinating is anathema. 

This is all very lovely, until the day when “doing” is not an option.  Then the relaxed, meditative aspect has to kick in as a matter of survival.  To maintain balance—even when “normal”, I have a wise saying that never fails to promote perspective:  “The only finished work on earth is what Jesus did.”  

Meanwhile, “Slow and ‘teddy’ wins the race.”

Margaret L. Been — November 23, 2018

Note:  The above turtle is a long-ago grade school art project rendered by our son Karl, when he was seven years old.  The “pinched turtle” is surrounded by other mementoes, spanning decades of the children in my life.

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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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