Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘The Need for Solitude’ 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

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Always Time for Tea

“Always Time for Tea” is the title of the above rendering.  Tea Time in March is charged with anticipation, excited about change, and zesty with the invigoration of fiercely raging wind and ever-stretching sunlit hours.

Today’s wind is not kind; it’s raw and bitter to the taste, like afternoon Earl Grey Tea when it’s been allowed to over-steep.  Today’s sun is glorious—redolent of fragrant places where ripe and mellow leaves were harvested for an “Irish Breakfast” most anywhere in the world.

Along with the joy of anticipation, my St. Patrick’s Day Irish Breakfast musings (in Nashotah, Wisconsin, USA) are shadowed by things that are lost:  a Malaysian jet carrying over 200 passengers, and perhaps millions of people in our culture who haven’t even the faintest comprehension of the importance of solitude—or whose once-valued serenity has gone missing.

How many of us are there left in this crazy culture, who still understand (and prioritize!) the serenity of spending time alone/alone/alone.  I don’t mean always being physically alone/alone/alone.  I speak of mentally/spiritually/emotionally investing time alone and nurturing that soul solitude and serenity which can only come from a depth of completion—the integral completion which we can receive from God’s Grace through the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in one’s life as revealed in Scripture.

How many individuals still treasure time alone:  perhaps really alone for a few hours or minutes—strolling in a sheltered woods, basking in a sunny window, lounging on the patio in the summer—with the ubiquitous iced tea (Earl Grey or Irish Breakfast) in hand?  Alone in one’s mind, unfettered by the worries and potential issues that surround anyone who is breathing and thinking?

Alone.  Apart. Soothed by the realization that the heartbreaking issues of the day are a bleep in Eternity.  Solitude, serenity, ALONENESS!  Busy schedules have been common to much of mankind since the beginning of time.  But today life can become even more complex, if we so allow.  In an age of electronic communications and the proliferation of Facebook friends, how many remember the concept of being alone?  And how many even care, or have the foggiest idea of what they are missing?

I love my laptop for shopping, acquiring information, and blogging.  These are refreshing pastimes.  How wonderful to shop without driving to a store where you may or may not find exactly what you want—be it a special garment (most of my clothing is purchased online), a sable paint brush, a new-to-you line of watercolors or gouche in exciting colors, or the base and fragrance oils for your soap-making avocation.  How rewarding to be able to access an endless library of answers in your ongoing quest for learning.  And how fulfilling to communicate via a blog with people from literally every corner of the earth.

But certain other aspects of the electronic world would quickly threaten to undermine my serenity, if I would fail to preserve a balance—and those specific aspects are email and Facebook.  Email has become a kind of necessity in the minds of many, and for business purposes and the sharing of prayer requests it is indeed valuable.  Facebook serves one and only one purpose for me:  that of viewing and sometimes downloading charming photos of the people in my life.  But balance and frequent avoidance of both of these computer areas are necessary to my discipline of preserving serenity and an atmosphere of solitude in the midst of an overflowing life filled with precious people and their needs.  Thus I will often go for at least a week without checking either Facebook or my email.  Anyone who really needs me will find me via telephone or snail mail—or best of all, with a knock on my door.

Today I pray that someone among the 26 participating rescue nations will discover the missing jet.  Every day I pray that I’ll remember to savor as many serenity-inspiring sights and sounds as I can find, with which to greet each day:  and certainly always before accessing email or Facebook.

A pot of tea helps, whether celebrated alone or shared with a kindred soul.  There’s always time for tea!

Margaret L. Been, March 2014

Read Full Post »

North

My above-pictured collage, simply titled “North”, tells a story—an account of eight years when my husband and I lived, year around, north of Highway 8 in the Wisconsin Northwoods.  Included in the collage are photos of our lake and the Big Elk River around the bend, snippets of my cropped art, bits of aluminum foil, Japanese lace paper, some cheesecloth, lots of acrylic paint, and a favorite quote from a beloved American author:  Henry David Thoreau:  “I had three chairs in my house . . . one for solitude, two for friendship, and three for society.”  Walden

People who know me may laugh when I share this favorite quotation.  They know that:  1) I have far more than three chairs in our home, as well as far more than three of most anything else.  I’m a collector of everything! and 2) My idea of “society” is a lot more than three people.  We have a gargantuan family.  All are welcome to come and sit on our multiple chairs—although many are still in the stage of running around rather than just sitting.  (My “up north” friend Sandy commented after viewing a photo of our family, “That’s not a family; that’s a tribe!”)

Meanwhile, aside from Thoreau’s eastern philosophical views, I love most everything that he wrote.  His chair quote, to me, symbolizes an inner peace and unswerving stability.  A true Yankee at heart, Thoreau was never swayed by customs, crowds, human opinion, or even his own precarious health issues.  I have his complete diary spanning 24 years and two huge volumes.  Right up to his last entry, when Thoreau was dying of tuberculosis, his focus remained on the wonders of creation and the intricate details therein.

The wonders of creation predominate around our home in Northern Wisconsin, along with solitude and an undescribable stillness.  Black bears abound. Despite the fact that they tore up a few bird feeders and pulled a screen off our front deck, I loved the bears (but my husband did not!).  Perhaps the most unique thrill of all was seeing timber wolves on the ice in front of our pier.  The wolves brought unforgettable excitement to a minus 25° morning.  (That’s 25 degrees below zero, folks!)  But nature’s wonders notwithstanding, my most precious memories of up north have to do with the friends we made—friends forever.  As always, I was thankful to have more than 3 chairs in my home!  🙂

Now we are back in the Southern part of our state, where much needed medical care is within 13 minutes from our door.  And family!  In recent years, 16 great-grandchildren have appeared on the scene and we live close to 9 of them.  We are watching the little people grow up.  We attend their school concerts and some of the birthday celebrations.  I attend church with children, grandchildren, and 7 of our great-grandchildren.  When out-of-state family members visit, we are all together in one county—so tribal gatherings are easily managed.  Joe and I enjoy our condo home, my little gardens, the good neighbors on our lane, the park and woodlands beyond our door, and quick access to great restaurants and bistros.  A new grandbaby is due in June—within rocking and cuddling distance. 

Yet now and then on hot summer nights—when I lounge outdoors on the patio while viewing the hazy moon and scanty stars over our nearby metro area—I recall those northern night skies, plastered with millions of stars.  I often think of my friends up there, and I’m thankful that we stay in touch. 

We never really lose the beloved people or places in our lives.  There’ll always be a part of my heart labeled, “North of Highway 8”.

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

Read Full Post »

Recently I heard a woman of retirement age say that she was selling her large Victorian era home, and hoping to move into a smaller place.  Someone had told her of condos in our neighborhood—with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, kitchen, and “loft” over the garage.  The woman replied, “Oh good!  If I bought a place with a loft I could take up painting!”

Perhaps the woman was kidding.  But I shuddered at her comment—sincerely hoping that she hadn’t spent her lifetime denying herself of a dream simply because she didn’t have a loft in which to paint!  Certainly a huge Victorian era home could have supplied a spare corner where she could have pursued her dream. 

The compact four room condo in which Joe and I live is not too small for me to have a corner in which to paint and create collages.  I have appropriated one end of our bedroom by an expansive window.  If we didn’t have a large bedroom, I’d find a corner somewhere else—in the living room, kitchen, or our seldom used front hall.  The old adage, “Where there’s a will there’s a way” applies!

I made the foolish mistake of putting off painting until I turned 73.  I used the excuse of “no talent”.  Finally I realized that talent is not (and never has been) necessary in order to have fun.

Actually, I’ve always disliked excuses made for anything.  As a mother of six children and partner in our family construction company, I had many decades that some would have deemed “busy”.  But I hated the word “busy”.  The “busier” I was, the more creative activities I pursued—my music, writing, knitting, spinning, weaving, gardening, soap making, raising critters, etc. 

Frequently young mothers (or women with outside careers) say they would like to knit, take piano lessons, learn to quilt, or whatever—but they are “too busy”.  I can hardly resist getting on my soapbox when I hear the dreaded “too busy” words.  “Too busy” is hogwash!  These young women might be too busy to leap into five or six restorative hobbies, but a few minutes a week can always be spared for at least one desired activity! 

A hobby is far more than fun and games.  Creative pastimes are God’s tangible, material manifestations of His innovative life.  Perhaps they seem like just fun, or even “fluff” to begin with.  But when life really sinks in, when the storm clouds fall like lead bricks, when adversity strikes big time (and it probably will!) our hobbies help us to get up in the morning, and motivate us to keep on despite the most discouraging of circumstances. 

We need to cultivate the hobby habit before life gets terribly difficult, so we are ready for the disasters that lie ahead!

Some individuals say that people are “their hobby”.  These energetic types seem to need to be constantly talking, and all their spare time is spent with people—either in social activities or good works.  But for one’s own personal deep-level soul survival, much more than people contact is needed.  We cannot even begin to benefit others, if we’ve neglected our own soul need for solitude, silence, and creative expression.

We desperately need our intrinsically quiet private time, in prayer and Scripture, to keep our hearts and minds balanced and refreshed at all times.  Then we need that outward manifestation of God’s imprint on our lives.  We can live serenely in all circumstances when we do some little thing for ourselves—not because it needs doing, but simply because we love to do it.

We need to make music, poetry, and/or art.  We need to plant gardens, and/or nurture house plants.  We need to apply our hands to something, not necessarily useful but hopefully beautiful—or at least whimsical and entertaining.  Making music, writing poems, gardening, and crafting are living proof that we are made in the image of a creative God.  Hobbies may be simply fun at first, but ultimately they are soul sustaining in the larger scene as our life challenges increase with every passing year.

Don’t wait for the loft, before pursuing your heart’s desire.  Just a few feet in a corner of most any room will do.  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

 

Read Full Post »

We’ve just had another round at St. Luke’s where Joe had stents inserted into stents which were formally inserted into one of his challenged arteries.  One simply never knows what lies around the next bend. 

Yesterday, after 2 days and nights in the hospital (where I slept on a cot beside Joe’s bed in the cardiac unit) I made the hour drive home at 6:00 a.m. 

Joe was discharged later in the morning.  Our son, Eric, brought Joe home and picked up our Baby Dylan at his “social club” (our vet’s boarding kennel) en route.

The few hours at home alone gave me time to relax from the hospital pace, catch up on laundry, water the garden, and resume my routine which had been abruptly severed when we made our emergency run to St. Luke’s earlier in the week.

When my tasks were completed, I poured an iced tea and rested on the patio.  I thanked God for the medical technology which keeps Joe’s arteries open, for our freshly watered garden, and for all of God’s goodness and grace.  I mused on how the Girl Scout motto of my childhood has served me so well throughout my life:  Be Prepared! 

This is life, I mused:  never knowing what lies ahead; always being prepared with a tote bag containing a change of clothing, toiletries, knitting, and a book; always being prepared in a spirit of prayer, with a grateful heart and an attitude of flexibility!

Now Joe is home again, with his new stents inside the old ones.  One might say Joe has arteries of steel.  Home again!  Life is a series of comings and goings.  When we are in Christ, we carry God’s peace and the serenity of home with us wherever we are called to go. 

Someday, rather than “Home Again” we will be “Home Forever!”

Margaret L. Been, ©2010

Read Full Post »

Here is a photo of sunrise over our Northern Wisconsin bay.  The glow on the trees is reflected, as the trees border the bay on the west and catch the glory of the sun rising in the east.  This week Joe and I spent a couple of days at our home on this bay, where the sun spews diamonds on snow-covered ice.

Our guest house (uphill from our home on the bay) recently experienced heat loss, frozen pipes, and water damage–but never mind that.  Workers are drying the house out, and repairing the damage.  Our insurance will cover all but a fraction of the cost. 

Meanwhile, the constants prevail.  While up north we saw a bald eagle, high in a tree–scanning the countryside for his lunch.  And of course we enjoyed the plethora of deer.  (Each year I get concerned at hunting season.  Will hunters take out all the deer?  Of course that’s a hoot.  According to the 2006 Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources estimate, there are 1.5 to 1.7 million deer in Wisconsin.  The hunters merely protect our forests from being totally devoured by the whitetails.)

Constants!  Where would we be without them–those aspects of life that never change, but rather go on inspiring us no matter what our circumstances?  We have sights and sounds to mark each season, and every day–concrete facts created by God to remind us of His faithfulness, material joys to cheer us during our time on earth:  invariables like sunrise and sunset changing on schedule–progressing and digressing throughout the years, decades, and ages.

Today, January 23rd, we have 9 hours and 35 minutes of daylight here at our Southern Wisconsin, Nashotah home.  That’s a gain of 36 minutes from the lowest ebb at winter solstice.  Even a few miles make a difference in the timing.  The city of Hartford, Wisconsin, just 15 miles northwest of our door, has 9 hours and 34 minutes of daylight today.  But after the spring equinox in March, the northern locations will pass us up; they’ll receive more minutes per day than we have here in the southern part of our state. 

I love figuring the daylight.  The afternoon (sunset) time must be changed to Army time.  (The morning increment–falling between midnight and noon–automatically reads the same as Army time, so it doesn’t need to be changed.)  If the number of sunset minutes is less than the sunrise minutes, one simply bumps back the afternoon Army time 1 hour while adding 60 minutes to the minute factor.  Voila.  Subtraction works, and it’s such fun–especially in these post New Year’s weeks when every minute counts!

Because of a recent medical emergency, our family has been reminded that life is “iffy”.  We thank God for our daughter’s healing which grows more and more encouraging as the days pass.  We realize that we can never know what’s around the next bend.  Yet there are the constants.  I love these words of a favorite hymn–Great Is They Faithfulness*:

“Summer and winter, 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.”

Earth creature that I am, I celebrate the constants and thank our Lord for them.  He is the creator of the seasons, and the progression/digression of sunrise-sunset.  Our Lord is the ultimate Constant!

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

*Great Is Thy Faithfulness–T. O. Chisholm-William H. Runyan

Read Full Post »

Our praises never cease!  Our daughter Judy is out of ICU, and settled into a spacious single room on the cardiac floor at Waukesha Memorial.  She began eating soft foods today, and sipping coffee.  Even hospital coffee is better than nothing, although Judy prefers STARBUCK’S.

Judy knows all of us by name (and there are a lot of us!), even her young grandnieces whom she doesn’t see all that often.  Today she whispered the lyrics of some of her favorite country tunes on her IPOD.  I brought Judy a book of devotions with lovely art illustrations, and she was pleased–as reading is one of the great joys of her life.  (The saying,”The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” applies here.)

God has done a huge thing for our family.  Judy loves to witness to His grace–and now she has a whole new arena for sharing His love.  The cardiologist in the ICU commented, “We just don’t see anything like this very often!”  And there we were–from 10 to 20 family members and friends at a time–gathered prayerfully, united in a common desire for God to bring our Judy back!

God is GOOD!  Yet it has occurred to me that even if the last few days had not turned out so beautifully, even if we had lost our loved one, God would still be GOOD!  We would be grieving, big time, but He would be welcoming His own and comforting those left behind.

Two of my very closest friends have lost an adult son and daughter in recent months.  I’ve prayed that my friends will know–and I long for them to know–that God is GOOD even in the midst of their loss.  His wisdom is perfect, and His plan is always right.  This is easy for me to say when I’m on a pinnacle of rejoicing.  But there will be valley days ahead.  Sorrow and loss are a part of the human scenario.  Even as our family has so many reasons to thank God, I pray I’ll always remember that God is GOOD!  No matter what, God is GOOD!

Meanwhile, I’m taking a few days’ hiatus from blogging.  Something has happened at our guest house up north–something actually laughable in view of the trauma of recent days.  Our furnace went out there, pipes burst, the house got down to 4 degrees, a wall buckled in, and water froze under the carpets.  How we discovered all of this is another story–too lengthy to bother relating.  Let’s just say our discovery was a testimony to the goodness and personal concern of “up north” people.

So now that Judy is stabilized, and since her husband and daughter are at her side nearly every moment, Joe and I are going up north for a few days to survey the work being done by a crew that specializes in thawing and drying frozen and flooded houses.  We’ll stay in our own dear little home up there, our home on the bog. 

I thought of taking my computer (it’s a laptop), but NO!  I’ll take Dosteovsky’s THE IDIOT, as I’m glued to that novel and welcome hours and hours to stay glued.  Like my beloved Charles Dickens, Dosteovsky is a genius at exposing the evils of the human heart, compounded by man in society.  I will also take watercolors, brushes, 140 pound watercolor paper, and my writing journal.

Joe and I plan to visit with our neighbors, dine at our favorite restaurants, watch for deer and the lynx we saw in our yard there last November, look for steaming brush piles indicating a bear’s winter den, check out the latest wonderful old stuff at the antique shop owned by my friend Terry, and RELAX!  And of course Baby Dylan will go with us, back to the wild 14 plus acres which he loved for the first 5 years of his life.

I know that God can change our plans, if they don’t fit into His program.  No matter what, God is GOOD!

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »