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It’s All about LIFE!

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Now more than ever before, we need to focus on LIFE.  As a FOX NEWS follower, I pray constantly to refuse letting the news depress or stress me!  Much of the news is so horrible, that it simply must be a matter of prayer.

Much of the news is all about death:  death by ISIS; the death of our American culture due to Godless immoral laws and deluded government leaders; and the spiritual death of a self-serving, self-centered, humanistic and materialistic worldview which has pervaded every area of American life from schools and universities to churches which once glorified God but no longer honor Him or His Word.

Without the Lord Jesus Christ—who took our sin to the Cross, suffered a cruel death for us, rose to conquer death, and LIVES to share His eternal LIFE with any and all who will trust in Him—I would certainly be depressed and stressed!

But I know that God is in control.  He is fulfilling His plan from eternity past:  “Thy will be done on earth as well as in Heaven.”  In the midst of this crazy world, His LIFE prevails and He will return to reign and bring justice to earth.

In our home, Joe and I have two identical hymnbooks.  Often, especially on Sundays, I play the beloved old Gospel hymns on the piano and Joe sings along with his hymnal.  What a joy this is!

We always include the hymn “Wonderful Words of Life”, by P. P. Bliss.  Along with its upbeat, catchy melody this song takes me back many years to when I sang in a junior choir as a child.  I recall continually bugging the director by begging her for us to sing “Wonderful Words of Life.”  The director tried to explain that we couldn’t sing the same song every Sunday and there were other good hymns to share.

But I still remember the joy I experienced when my wish was granted and our little choir belted out:  “Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life.  Let me more of their beauty see, wonderful words of life . . . .”

Yes, it is all about LIFE!

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Margaret L. Been — July 31st, 2016

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Piano Musings, Recollections, and Resolution . . . .

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In a good week I have four or five of them:  piano days.  I never sit down to play without thinking of childhood.  How pleased my mother would be with this daughter who, when young, preferred to putter in the shallow creek at the base of our property (crunching on ice floes in winter and catching pollywogs in the summer) to the discipline of piano and violin.  Yet practice I did, many hours per week.  Mom gave me no alternatives.  I had to do a couple of hours of music before messing about in the river.  Mother was passionate about music.  She was a classical pianist, and sat me down at a piano long before I can remember.  At age eight I began my 10 year stint of violin lessons.  I thank Mom for her music passion.  Throughout adulthood, music (especially vocal and piano) has been one of my passions as well.

Mother was unique—so different from some Moms, and how I praise the Lord for that!  Now and then I was allowed in the kitchen to make chocolate chip cookies.  After every meal I helped with the clean up; Mother washed the dishes and I dried them and put them away.  (That was special bonding time.)  But I NEVER cooked a meal.  I picked up a few tips from kitchen observation, but I was not taught to cook.  Mom’s famous words were:  “Soon enough you will grow up and have to cook, and since you can read you’ll be able to manage!  Anyone can cook!” 

I was taught to work.  I had to clean the bathrooms and do the ironing (both of which I absolutely love to this day).  But Mom was the cook.  We frequently had company for dinner and my job—my wonderful job!—was to get out the silver, china, and stemware, and set a beautiful table.  The centerpiece was my domain; I had free reign to arrange flowers, candles, and whatever else I could dream up.  Even when there were only the four of us at the table—my parents, my sister, and me—I dressed the table and took enormous pride in the job.  I still do!  My mother wanted me to invest time in reading, knitting, stitching, and doing other creative things along with the music—rather than cooking.

Obviously, as a wife and mother of six children, I did end up doing a lot of cooking and baking over the years!  My mother was wise.  She schooled me in the even more vital, life energizing creative things that bring grace, beauty, and elegance to those chores we have to do in the midst of life’s inevitable challenges.

I’m eternally grateful for both of my parents, and the older I get the more I think of them.  My father traveled frequently because the company he worked for (Lauson Motors in New Holstein Wisconsin/the company eventually became Tecumseh) was knee deep in wartime production.  But when Dad was home, he was my Dad!  He frequently came home with the gift of a book for me, and he always wanted to read whatever I had been writing.  The greatest boost I can recall was when, at age 11, I showed Dad an essay I’d written for a school assignment.  Dad read the text carefully, and said:  “You really think thoughts!”

I could go on forever and bore you readers to distraction about my delightful life, but I won’t.  I hope to stop short of causing abject ennuni!  Meanwhile, much as I have always thought New Year’s resolutions to be rather silly, I have set a goal for the coming year:

To constantly evoke a rather maudlin, corny old Bing Crosby tune the lyrics of which went:  “Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative . . . “.  Not that I subscribe to “the power of positive thinking”.  Mankind is fallen, and without intervention of the life of Jesus Christ we are lost.  The power of positive thinking is hogwash.  I cannot eliminate ISIS by thinking.  We cannot change our nation, by just thinking; we must pray and WORK—and then only God’s Spirit will make a difference!  Just “thinking” will never deal with the horrendous world issues which our clueless, muddleheaded, and/or downright evil President refuses to acknowledge.

Only God can change the world, and eventually He will—as He has promised through ages of Old Testament prophecy confirmed by the Lord Jesus in the Gospels, as well as in the New Testament Epistles!  Meanwhile, as I pray and live as the Lord leads, I can—as old Bing crooned—“Accentuate the positive”.

Here is an example:  rather than continuing to spout off about Obama’s idiotic State of the Union address, or grousing about the Packers’ failure to complete their great start against the Seahawks last Sunday I can (and am!) robustly cheering Speaker John Boehner for his classic End Run around our President, by inviting Benjamin Netanyahu to address The House of Representatives on the threats of Iran and Islamic terrorism.  Clearly, the Seahawks—even Obama’s speech—fade into the back of my mind, next to Boehner’s Play of the Week—maybe the play of the year!

To summarize, my goal is to continually and faithfully focus on and publish good news.  But specifically, what do all these musings have to do with a piano day?  Simply this:  On my piano days I begin by struggling over the few Chopin nocturnes I can even dream of playing, adding some easier classics such as George Winston’s arrangement of Pachelbel’s beloved Kanon, lightening up with a Scott Joplin rag or two, and ending with my treasured book of Gospel hymns including Amazing Grace. 

AMAZING GRACE!  Forty four years ago almost to this very day, I was catapulted in the Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  It was a bitter cold day in January of 1971 when I entered the Kingdom.  The sun pounding down on the pristine banks of snow was so bright, so exquisite, so unspeakably and amazingly beautiful that I still experience a flush of joy when I think of it.  And every time I play Amazing Grace, the wonder, brilliance, and joy of that day is new—all over again!

Salvation and eternal life in Christ.  That is the “positive” to accentuate, the Good News which tops all else—yes, even John Boehner’s Fabulous End Run around our misguided, muddleheaded, and possibly (quite probably!) evil President!  🙂

Margaret L. Been—January 22, 2015

Note:  Here is an aside:  my pick from the cast of GOP contenders for nomination is Dr. Ben Carson.  Someone new, someone non-political, someone with real straight arrow values—although others in the list, including our own Governor Scott Walker, project straight values as well.

In his book, ONE NATION, Dr. Carson begins by demonstrating how “political correctness” has undermined our nation, as it is literally killing freedom of speech and promoting dishonesty at many levels.  I can accentuate the fact that I positively agree 

Dr. Carson is outspokenly Biblical in his views on the sins of abortion and homosexuality.  He is not afraid to quote Scriptural references, and point to God’s Word as the ultimate authority.  Coming from a distinguished man of science, this is especially refreshing!

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Frog daysDahlia

I don’t want to let go.  Our summer has been so ineffably sweet, I will hang on to it forever. 

Beautiful weather.  No need to run the AC—except that we occasionally put it on for Baby Dylan when we have to leave him for a few hours in the closed-up home.  Okay there were a couple of times when at home, that we broke the humidity by turning on the AC for very short spells, but always with the doors and windows wide open to the out-of-doors.  And due to the ubiquitous AC in most every indoor place, our favorite summer restaurant has become a local pub with outdoor seating. 

Leisurely early morning strolls around our park.  Visits with friends.  Plenty of summer knitting, which always brings woolly recollections of being 8 years old and learning to knit on the porch of our family cottage at Lake Winnebago.  Bookish naps on our shady afternoon patio.  And best of all, mellow days with the three generations which have resulted from our marriage of 61 years!

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Recently Joe and I had the (probably once in a lifetime) experience of having our portraits painted by a friend, Janet Roberts, who is a professional artist.  We didn’t have to sit it out, as Janet works from photographs.  You can check out our portraits (“Joe in Winter Hat” and “Margaret in Summer Hat”) on Janet’s website.  Just GOOGLE “Janet Roberts, Brookfield Wisconsin Artist” and click on “Gallery” from the home page menu,  Voilà!

Our portraits have inspired a lot of mulling and musing.  With all the wonderful photos I have today—hundreds in albums and hundreds more in my computer files—a painted portrait is something unique.  I reflect on how for centuries paintings and sculptures were the only way a person’s image could be captured and preserved.  I think of the court painters such as Holbein, sent out by Henry VIII so he could visualize a future wife.  (I’d sure hate to have been one of those!)  And commodious stairwells lined with ancestors in great houses down through history.  Photography is an amazingly wonderful art, yet there is something ALIVE about paint in the hands of an accomplished artist such as our friend, Janet.

Mellow days, and a summer to remember.  A summer of quiet contentment and simply joys.  A summer of plenty in a world that grows more crazy, more sin ridden and tragically brutal every single day.  A summer in which I feel compelled to share at every possible opportunity, the one and only LIVING HOPE—that hope which is more real than this keyboard on which I type. 

In the midst of a world where an American journalist is decapitated against the background of an American president deeply engrossed in golfing and fund-raising, Our Lord Jesus Christ will return!  As He came to earth 2000 plus years ago to die for our sin and rise victorious over evil, He will return—to gather His own to Himself, and finally to reign for 1000 years in Jerusalem:  KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

Margaret L. Been, September 2014 

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Last week I enjoyed an occasion that has been a frequent event in my life for over 50 years:  lunch with a gathering of special friends.  We’ve known each other since school days in the 1940s and early 1950s, and began getting together as a group when we were young moms.

There were thirteen of us to begin with, a “baker’s dozen”.  (We even published a little cook book in that name!)  Now our numbers have dwindled, but eight of us are still present.  “The girls” supposedly meet monthly, although not every one can always be on hand.  For years we met in our homes, for a gracious three-fork spread.  Now we’re apt to include a restaurant meal here and there.

I’m frequently asked, “How can the same people be friends for all those years?  The answer is what I call “Friendship’s Glue”—and that term actually signifies the lack of gossip.  There isn’t a single backbiter in the group.  We respect each other, we don’t meddle in each other’s business, and we don’t gossip

God’s Word comes down hard on backbiting, also called “whispering”—the King James Version term for gossiping and stirring up dissention, which is one of the six things God hates as listed in Proverbs 6:16-19.  All too often we see the devastation of dissension and the decaying fruit of “whispering”, which separates friends.  And families!

It’s no secret that families are floundering in our contemporary society.  Evidence of unfaithfulness, lack of commitment, and self-centered agendas are everywhere.  Yet hidden among the glaring issues in troubled families, is a less publicized poison—a deadly potion that causes an undercurrent of strife and heartache in what often appears on the surface to be “the very best of families”. 

How many families positively shine on the outside, with a shared value of “togetherness” and mutual support, yet are riddled on the inside with scars and dissensions perpetrated by whisperers?  A group may include a number of backbiters, so that it’s impossible to guess where it all began. 

But it only takes one whisperer, one back-biting telephone call (or, as a friend commented, one entry on FACEBOOK) to set a destructive process in motion—resulting in the walking wounded, those individuals who have been misunderstood or torn to shreds by an unkind and unruly mouth.

How precious, how wonderful to have friends and family members mutually bonded by Friendship’s Glue!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012 

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An item in today’s paper highlighted a situation I’ve known about for years:  the United States Postal Service is in dire straits.  According to the article I read, within the next 15 years postal delivery will probably be reduced to 3 days per week out of financial necessity.  The decline of my faithful old “friend”, the U. S. mail, nearly breaks my heart.

Yes, email is convenient.  I love to hear from friends.  Reading my friends on a screen does convey their presence, and I sometimes print out the letters.  Prayer requests can be zapped in a little more than a twinkling of an eye, plans can be made, and timely info can be relayed via email.  Obviously for business purposes the technology of email has become nearly indispensable, because it is cost-free and efficient.

But where is the ambience in email?  Where is the visual satisfaction of notes written on pretty stationery (decades of which I have stored in memory boxes)?  Where is that rambling, stream-of-consciousness sharing which comes so naturally when one sits down with a pot of tea, a gracious tea-cup, and a few moments to devote full attention to the age-old art of real correspondence? 

How can we send a tea bag, a bookmark, or tufts of yarn from a knitting basket via email?  Email letters can include photos, music, and fancy “wallpaper” for “stationery”—but so far we are unable to insert a sprig of lavender cyberwise, or perfume the email.  (Maybe Windows Live Mail or Outlook Express will come up with perfume next!  I’d be thrilled if that would happen!)

And where is that leisurely break in the day, when one pauses to chat with the delivery person at the mailbox—or the worker behind the counter at the local Post Office?  The face-to-face exchange of smiles and pleasantries is a slow-lane treasure in this era of fast-paced communication!

My friends include many (like me) who dearly appreciate their computers, and three “holdouts”—women who dislike computers.  These friends will never go near an email unless some major miracle changes their point of view.  Yet these women correspond regularly via snail mail, sometimes in note form and occasionally in wonderful pages of reading which require extra postage.

Bottom line?  Please keep sending those emails, as I LOVE to hear from you.  But please don’t be offended if I choose to answer via snail mail.  My letters will not redeem the precious, declining U. S. Postal Service.  But every little bit helps!  🙂  Writing a real letter is a ceremony which I thoroughly treasure!  And you, my friends, will always be worth far more than the ever-escalating cost of postage!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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Family members have been telling me that wonderful family photos are continuously posted on FACEBOOK.  Since many of our family members do FACEBOOK, I decided it might be fun to join and see the photos!  So I went through the steps, and joined.

My first glimpse of FACEBOOK provided a list of several people whom I know.  They were evidently asking to be my “friend”.  I thought, this is silly.  These people are my friends.  Don’t they know it?  Then I realized that the global campfire called FACEBOOK is a means to be “friends” online—not only to share photos, but to sit around and CHAT!  How odd, I thought.  All of these friends (except for Richard in Texas) live close enough to drop in for a real chat with a pot of tea thrown in. 

I pondered this cyber frenzy, and backed off.  With maintaining five blogs, gathering information, and SHOPPING, I spend enough time at my computer.  I even read emails sometimes.  One more online connection, one as massive as FACEBOOK, might just push me over the edge of balanced living into lunacy!

I was innocently dusting my computer corner, when I was seized with a tremendous urge which I likened to  the “Blood Wrath” reminiscent of the badger warriors in Brian Jacques’ REDWALL series.  We readers always connect things in life with things in books—or the other way around.  In the REDWALL books, “badger” denotes that fierce animal badger—not the people of Wisconsin.  Our nickname of “Badger” comes from our pioneer history when Cornish miners settled in Southwestern Wisconsin, and dug makeshift homes into the then lead-rich hills—just as the animal badgers do.

Wisconsin folks can be as fierce as animal badgers, and that’s why I compared my “urge to purge” with a Blood Wrath.  Without pausing, I dismantled my cyber system.  Computer, printer, scanner, and about a million cords and connections were stashed neatly into my personal closet—perhaps never again to be unearthed, or so I thought.  The fact that I was coming down with a nasty sinus/bronchial infection helped to fuel my sudden contempt for technology—my Blood Wrath!

Thoughts like, “What about the friends who email?” or “How will I shop?” were calmed by the realization that my Joe would, on occasion, let me use his (large and much fancier) computer system in his office/den.  I would be sparing of the privilege, saving my shopping sprees and email reading for once in awhile when Joe was otherwise occupied.

For several days, I wallowed in my newly acquired office/studio space.  I felt liberated, freed at last from those disgusting computer cords!  More room for art supplies, more room for books!  How wonderful!  Meanwhile, my sinus/bronchitis flare mushroomed to epic proportions where I felt like a Salvador Dali clock, listlessly draped over a tree branch.  Who needs cyberspace, anyway?

Then as a $7.00 per day bazooka antibiotic (avelox) began working, I seriously wondered!  How would I continually feed my hunger for information, without my computer?  How would I frequently access email from friends, not just the FACEBOOK friends but friends all over the country?  How would I satisfy my desire to share my thoughts for others to read? 

How would I SHOP—not just occasionally when Joe’s computer was clear, but whenever I realized that I needed a different size paintbrush or a new shipment of chai tea?

Again, this time in the evening, the Blood Wrath surfaced.  In a twinkling of an eye, I reclaimed my computer, printer, and cords.  Forget the scanner for now.  I cleared off my studio corner, and returned the computer and printer to their spots.  You can see the camouflaged computer in the above photo.

When it came to putting the right cords into the right ports, I thought oh my—what will I do now?  My mind doesn’t work along electrical lines, and I am somewhat mechanically dyslexic.  To my brilliant techi friends Patti and Kathleen:  if you are reading this, please don’t guffaw too much! 

I realized that to complete my hookup, I’d have to call upon Joe who was in his den watching March Madness on the basketball court—and he definitely might be tempted to guffaw.  Joe graciously, patiently put everything in its correct slot.  Did I glimpse a faint smirk on his lips, a trace of a smile that said, “I knew this would happen”?  Yes, I think I did!

Now the ugly computer cords are mostly hidden behind a decorative metal tray, and I am clicking away again:  blogging, gathering information, reading emails, and shopping.  These activities involve reasonable limits of time.  But I’m avoiding FACEBOOK—that great, global campfire.  I love friends, but . . . !

Meanwhile, I’m hearing that FACEBOOK is not only about sitting around, holding cyber hands and singing Kum Ba Ya.  “Wars and rumors of wars”, are waging between “friends” around the campfire!  Blood wrath is mounting over an issue far greater than my frustration over computer cords–the issue of our Badger governer, Scott Walket’s budget.  Were I to take my place around the FACEBOOK campfire, I know I’d get pretty lively in staunch favor of our governor and his totally necessary budget. 

But no cyber campfire for me!   I enjoy my blogs and at this time they are all I have the energy for, along with that most urgent business—PRAYER!  (And how we need that!)  The blogs are my mini campfire where I contend with the world, as well as celebrate life.  My Blood Wrath will continue to flair in print, over the many concerns of the day.*  

And I’ll continue to do battle in prayer!  It’s too late in history for just sitting around and singing Kum Ba Ya.

*Issues are most apt to be aired on my other blogs, especially:  http://hiswordistrue.wordpress.com/ and sometimes on http://gracewithsalt.wordpress.com/  or http://richesinglory.wordpress.com/  .  But sometimes a current concern will find its way to this page!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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As evidenced in the above 1960 photo of our son Eric and me, I thoroughly savored my early years of mothering—work-filled days and occasional sleepless nights notwithstanding.  Our family was intact and centered at home.  Life was good. 

But drastic changes followed those years.  As our children grew. each child became his or her own person.  That is perfectly natural and desirable, and it teaches a parent to learn flexibility.  Life was still good, because LIFE IS GOOD.  But mothering became more complex as time passed.

The most challenging aspect of my life as a woman began in the late 1970s, when I became the “filling” in what has been aptly described as a SANDWICH—composed of elderly parents, my husband (who was always supportive and helpful), adult daughters, teen age sons, our 6th child, and grandchildren!  I loved my family members, and tried to give my best to each.

As is the case with many women I’ve known, the accelerated responsibilities came at a period when my physical body was losing energy FAST!  And that period of time included those years of family adversity, as referenced in my last posting. 

Sustained by God’s Grace and the realization that He never gives us more than He will enable us to handle, I managed.  Now I share my experience, in the hope of encouraging other women who may be the happy but exhausted filling in a SANDWICH today!

Fatigued, I often failed to perceive correctly.  In the early SANDWICH years there were times when I felt overwhelmed, and times when I was!  At first I felt that I could never meet all of the expectations of those I loved.  What I failed to understand was that many of these “expectations” were frequently my own ideas of what I should be and could do. 

Often I imagined that family members were needing or desiring more from me than I could produce, when actually they were notI kept berating myself for not being able to do and give more than humanly possible, and I lived in fear of not being able to give enough.  Perfectionist that I was, I was critical of myself

My release from false conceptions and an over-burdened sense of responsibility came at mid-life when I bogged down, healthwise.  A major surgery in 1983 involved months of healing, and caused me to realize that I could never be all things to all people.  I realized that if I didn’t stop trying to be Everybody’s Everything, I would end up being Nobody’s Anything!

From 1983 on, I no longer imagined that anyone expected more of me than I could produce.  The responsibilities were still there and I thrived in the midst of them.  People need responsibilities!  Those busy years were enjoyable and rewarding to the max!

Then as now, the grandchildren were the “frosting” on the sandwich—providing endless fun for Joe and me.  We were rejuvenated inside and out by our grandchildren, and we still are—with great-grandchildren added!

How thankful I am that I learned to weigh my priorities in light of reality, measure my days, and apply my heart to wisdom.  Blessings upon blessings have followed in the wake of my realization that only God is perfect.  In Him I am complete.  And best of all, no matter what happens He is in charge!  God and God alone is all things to all people, Everybody’s Everything!

Margaret L. Been—All Rights Reserved

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