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The Music of Christmas


It was early evening, just before Christmas.  My Mom was shopping; Dad and I were parked, waiting for her.  I was four years old, and I was sitting on the backseat floor of our family car. 

No seat belts in cars, or special seats for children in 1937.  We were free to bounce around as much as we liked.  I enjoyed the floor after dark when there wasn’t a lot to see from the windows.  The floor was my private hiding place.

Meanwhile the car radio played Christmas music.  So vividly, I remember hearing “It came upon a midnight clear . . . .” and wondering, what is a “midnight clear?”  

That is my earliest clear memory, and it is as vivid as if it happened yesterday.  All of my growing-up Christmas recollections have to do with music.  Although we did not attend a “live” Bible Church, some traditions such as a children’s Christmas program were a part of my youth.  I loved the drama of the manger scene, the singing of carols, and the small brown paper bag of hard candy given to each child after the performance.

Over the years, between violin and voice, music participation was a huge part of Christmas for me, and we had musical children who continued the joyful times.  Now that my once-competent contralto/second soprano voice has morphed into the croaking of a frog, I am still besotted with music year around, and Christmas music big time.

What a time to be alive, when one can stream all the great music of the Western World, via Amazon or other hosts!  Here are some of the selections which go from my I-phone or I-pad, into our speakers:

John Michael Talbot’s “The Birth of Jesus”.  John Michael Talbot, a monk/troubadour, has several albums and I think I have loaded them all into “My Music”.  His renderings are simply beautiful, and Scriptural—ranging from soothing vocal and guitar meditations to rousing celebrations of praise to our Lord Jesus Christ, accompanied by an orchestra and choir;

A Christmas album by The Three Tenors (Italian tenors.  There is nothing on earth like “Cantique de Noel” sung by Luciano Pavarotti!);

Several Christmas albums by The Irish Tenors (also a trio);

The complete Handel’s Messiah performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir.  This is the pinnacle, in my estimation.  I think of the many times I sang the beloved “Hallelujah Chorus”, all Scripture, before I actually knew what I was singing about.  Many recordings of Messiah only include the choruses.  I love this album because it is the entire work, with the beautiful solos.  One that I love is “I know that my Redeemer Liveth”—the hope-filled words of Job, during his extreme suffering;

An especially touching and heart-rending Christmas song is available on U-tube.  If you GOOGLE “Mary Did You Know?”, performed by The Pentatonix, you will glad that you did.  The Pentatonix is an a cappella group, actually a modern madrigal chorus of musical excellence. 

“Mary Did You Know?” is sung in a cave with remarkable acoustics.  You can search out the lyrics, if you are not familiar with the song.  Lines like “The Child that you delivered will soon deliver you” and “When you kiss your little Baby, you kiss the face of God” melt me to a jelly.  But the climax is the last line—“The sleeping Child you’re holding is the Great I AM!

Obviously, Mary did know a lot that the angel had disclosed, as affirmed in her song in Luke 1:46-55.  We read that Mary knew her baby would be great and He would be “the Son of the Most High”.  Mary knew about the long-awaited Messiah, and she knew that she was favored by God. 

Yet the details of Jesus’s life reflected in the above-mentioned song were things she may not have known.  Especially poignant in the New International Version Bible is Luke 2:19, where after Jesus birth and the excitement of angels and shepherds, “. . . Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

This song touches me profoundly because it is a clear picture of humanity and deity:  Mary, a chaste young Jewish woman, totally human and clearly from Scripture not deity and not to be worshipped, and Jesus, God appearing in flesh as a tiny baby who would grow into the perfect man/perfect God who would suffer on a cruel Cross to bear the punishment we humans deserve, and then rise victoriously from His grave to give Eternal Life to all who believe in Him. 

Music that glorifies God, lifts our hearts to Him—regardless of the language in which it is sung or the instruments on which the music is played.  The praise music we love is an earthly glimpse of the endless and incredibly exalting music which is to come, in praise of our Lord when He makes all things new.  

“However, as it is written, ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him . . . .’ ”  I Corinthians 2:9

Christmas music foretelling the birth life, death, resurrection, and LIFE with our Lord forever!  An eternity of music.

Margaret L. Been — December 17th, 2018


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“He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be my son.”  Revelation 21:7  NKJV

One more promise, among many, for God’s people concerning our future glory—an eternity with Him, for all sons and daughters who have trusted the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation.  Had this been the first Bible verse I’d ever read or heard, I might have thought the promise inferred that I was going to be doing a lot of work in the process of “overcoming”.

Fortunately, just the opposite is true.  Our “overcoming” is accomplished by our Lord, as we look to him in faith and obedience.  Indeed, God is the author of our faith; He enables and empowers our obedience through His indwelling Holy Spirit. as we admit that we are powerless and needy.  

I cannot begin to count the times God has proven this principle in my life.   He is all sufficient.  When I am weak, He is strong.  Whatever He has planned and willed for me to do, He will do through my life, so long as I realize that I simply cannot do it in and of myself.  So long as I rest in Him, knowing that the Indwelling Lord Jesus Christ alone is able!

Of course, I do not always acknowledge my inadequacy and weakness.  I am capable of bumbling along, thinking I am strong.  How faithfully, our Indwelling Lord leads us back to realizing that every breath we inhale and every step we take depend on His grace!  

“For whoever is born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that overcomes the world—our faith.  Who is he that overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”  I John 5:4-5

Nearly 50 years ago, the Lord picked me up and placed me into His Kingdom.  That very night, I opened the Bible which had been given to me as a child.  I had only read the 23rd Psalm in my Bible, and that had been a long time ago.  But on the night of my salvation birthday, God in His grace led me to John 15:5:  “I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”

And how beautifully these truths are embodied and realized in the Ultimate Birthday we celebrate this month, and every day of the year:  “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given . . . .”  Isaiah 9:6a

The Lord Jesus Christ is our Overcomer.  He is our LIFE!

Margaret L. Been — December 16. 2018

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It’s All about Hope!

Blood Moon 1

“. . . even we  ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of the body, for we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.”  Romans 8:23b-25 NKJV

Obviously, if we have something in our hands, our “hope” has materialized, and rather than hope we have moved on to experiencing the object of our hope.

But our eternal future is yet to be realized.  Meanwhile we have the blessed hope of the redemption of our bodies—for that time when, according to God’s promise, He will make all things new, all of God’s creation including you and me!  No more tears, no more arthritis, and hopefully no more trips to the dentist!

To review the meaning of the New Testament word, “hope”, the Greek word—from which our Bible is translated—is “elpis”—meaning “anticipation and a confident expectation”.

So when Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans, he was not using the word “hope” as we would use it.  Examples:  I “hope” that I will spend time with all of the grandchildren at Christmas;  You “hope” that you can go to (wherever) for your vacation next year.

Rather, Paul was assuring the Romans that the “hope”—our promised future glory—was something definite to persevere with eager anticipation.

I have been mulling over this hope, thinking of how—yes—I eagerly anticipate the future glory.  But in the meantime, life here in Wisconsin is so good—at least for my family and everyone whom we know.

I anticipate Christmas with our family, adequate medical care in the next year, and plenty of pleasant times ahead:  spring mornings when we can take our great-grandchildren to the park which is just over the berm from our front door; frequent enchiladas and flans at Senor Tomas Restaurant, six minutes away; summer evenings on our patio—watching the fireflies and enjoying the colors of glowing solar lights in our gardens while sipping my solar-brewed ice tea.

These hopes are so lovely, it is easy to focus on them and keep the future hope on the back burner!  But what of the martyrs, past and present, around the world—people imprisoned and tortured for their faith?

Their “present” resembles a living Hell.  Nothing around them is gracious, beautiful, or kind.  They suffer from illness and pain for which there is no medical treatment.  They are starved and tortured.  They exist in filthy and often solitary cells, with no sanitation.

For the Christian martyrs, there is only one “hope”, and they cling to it because they believe the promises of God; they have no outings at a park, good meals at a Mexican restaurant, or evenings of ice tea and fireflies on a patio to distract them from the ONE HOPE which is a certainty, a future of glory forever!*

Meditating on the above passage in Romans has moved me to tears as I think of those around the world who have only the hope (certainty) of the God’s promise to occupy their minds.  I am praying for these people, whomever and wherever they are!

How those who are suffering due to their faith must cherish God’s proclamation in Revelation 21:6!  “It is done.  I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.  I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.”  NKJV

Margaret L Been — December 14th, 2018

*Having been greatly moved by the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, written while he was incarcerated in a Nazi prison—and reading of how he was hung (near the time of Germany’s surrender and allegedly within hearing distance of advancing Allied troops) with total calm, dignity, and a gracious demeanor—I truly believe in an extra blessing of supernatural GRACE for those faithful martyrs for Jesus Christ, to enable them to lift their hearts and minds in praise for the BLESSED HOPE!

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“All Things New”

When God Speaks.JPG

“For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him Who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the sons of God.  For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.”  Romans 8:19-22 NKJV

Frequently when I watch the news or hear of a tragedy, I experience mental and emotional pain and I pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!  Please come soon!”  Perhaps my plea is—in a way—similar to the “groaning” of creation when flood waters rise out of control, or when drought prevails in a region and fires destroy thousands of acres of timber.

My passion for nature and all living creatures was a large factor used by our Lord in drawing me to Himself.  I tried very hard to be a secular humanist, but as I grew older I began to question all my programmed suppositions, one of them being evolution—which I first learned from my high school ancient history text.

When I was in my thirties I began to ask questions big time—concluding that nature couldn’t have “just happened”:  the intricacy of a snowflake, or the human body, or any body; the power in thunder and the beauty of a sunset; the majesty of the mountains in my beloved state of Colorado.

( I tried to be a nature worshipper but God, who knew me from Eternity Past, steered me away from that temptation*, as He was calling me to Himself—long before I had any knowledge of Him, in fact all of my life!)

Shortly after I became a Christian, I sat under excellent, thorough teaching of the book of Romans.  Here I learned that pagan peoples may be drawn to faith through the witness of creation, as well as via the God-given conscience.  I learned that along with the fall of man, nature had fallen as well.  Many of my questions were answered:  the death of a neighborhood child to leukemia, my dog’s epilepsy, and the blight on my tomatoes.

In sequel to the above passage in Romans, God speaks emphatically in Revelation 21:5:  “. . . Behold, I make all things new . . . .”  No more leukemia.  No more epilepsy.  No more blight.

How this newness will work in terms of wiping out disease was something I could begin to imagine.  After all, that once-terrifying annual threat of polio which I’d experienced as a child had been eradicated, in time for my children to be immune.  Thanks to God’s revelation in science, polio was one concern I had put to rest.

But how could God’s making all things new affect those aspects of nature which, in my fallen human comprehension, were wondrous beyond words?  I thought a lot about this.  Is there anything more pristine than fresh snow on country fields and forests unviolated by the machinery of man?  Or yesterday’s snowfall on a sunny, 20 below zero morning?

We were privy to such beauty during eight years of living full time in the Wisconsin Northwoods, 285 miles from where we live today.  Winter mornings undisturbed except by the footprints of deer.  That one deep cold winter morning, when we thrilled to the sight of timber wolves on our frozen lake, their coats mellowed to peachy-rose by the low-in-the-horizon January sun.

And summer nights when we could hardly distinguish between sky and water for the millions of reflected stars—far from lights of communities and civilization.  What could be more “new”?  Could anything be “newer” than the Northern Lights, pouring a palette of blues and eerie greens, from Heaven to earth?  More new, more beautiful?

Yes, “all things new” will be infinitely more beautiful!  Our Lord tells us in His Word that He will make ALL THINGS NEW!  God’s Word is true, in every detail.  It follows that He will make our vision new, along with all of our senses so that we can fathom and experience the new creation.  What a truth to anticipate until the time when we believers are a part of God’s ALL THINGS NEW!

Come, Lord Jesus!

Margaret L. Been — December 13th, 2018

*See Deuteronomy 4:19

 

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But what about tomorrow?

Birches I

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”  Romans 8:18 NKJV

God has shown me this verse and affirmed the practical truth of it time and again.  Scriptures abound in testimony to the glory which is to come.  To focus on God’s glory and that joyous moment when we shall see Him face to face, is to put the trials of daily life in proper perspective.  My “troubles” shrink in comparison.

Yet as I read this passage, I am arrested by the phrase “this present time“.  And a purely fallen human thought clouds my mind:  “But what about tomorrow?”

All of my past and current “sorrows of present times” have been so bathed in grace. so undergirded by the comforting presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, that I realize any question concerning tomorrow is remiss.  Yet none of my sorrows have been catastrophic.  I have never really suffered—never been mistreated, hungry, cold, or homeless.  I have never been unloved!

With all of life’s bumps and grinds, I have never suffered what I consider unthinkable:  the loss of a close family member—husband, child, grandchild, great grandchild.  Will tomorrow’s unchartered territory include sorrow of that magnitude?

How frail and finite, the meanderings of the human soul!  Sorrow yes and possibly pain which at this point I cannot even begin to comprehend.  But will not God still be God?  Has He not lovingly navigated countless millions and billions of His own through sufferings my head cannot imagine, simply because they have not happened to me?

“This present time” will not always be “today”.  Tomorrow will someday be “this present time”.  Times change, and circumstances change,  but “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”  Hebrews 13:8 NKJV

Scripture is Scripture, eternal and unchanging.  In Matthew 6:34, Our Lord specifically instructs us not to worry about tomorrow, as there is enough going on today.  Tomorrow will bring its own issues and challenges.

And throughout Scripture, we are continually exhorted to look ahead, beyond the things we see to the unseen but ever-so-real future glory—for each and every individual who has trusted the Lord Jesus Christ for eternal salvation!

Margaret L. Been  —  December 11th, 2018

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aguilars

If a picture is worth 1000 words, you have just read 13,000.  There would be a lot more if I could find pics of everyone in our tribe—Joe and Margaret plus 6 children, 14 grandchildren, and 19 great grandchildren. 

We have framed pictures of everyone—the entire Tribe of Been—planted around our home, but not so many in my computer files.

We progenitors are pictured above, at a formal ball—UW-Madison, Wisconsin—in 1953, just a few months before our marriage.

Family is our greatest earthly blessing, and need not be bonded by blood and DNA.  Family can be any and all of those around us—the people God has given us to love. 

And don’t forget all the other “creatures great and small”—be they canine, feline, equine, or most anyone else!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Margaret L. Been — November 20, 2018

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“For thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘He sent Me after glory to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye.’ “ Zechariah 2:8

The above words to Israel and God’s chosen people, the Jews, provide imminent warning.  Those of us who remember the 1930s and 40s are absolutely sickened by signs of the times, around the world—and now in the USA.  At least I hope we are sickened.

As if it were yesterday, I recall the 1945 LIFE MAGAZINE photos of what Allied troops found at Dachau and Auschwitz.  I pray my generation has not forgotten.  God has not forgotten.  Woe unto any nation who harms the “apple of God’s eye”.

Meanwhile, our LORD’S patience with our “one nation under God” defies comprehension.  For nearly 50 years, babies have “legally” been slaughtered in the womb—the most dangerous place on earth for American children.  Rank immorality prevails along with a mockery of God’s institution of marriage between one man and one woman.  In an ever-widening circle, gender confusion is not only tolerated but welcomed in areas where a child’s gender may be “changed”, regardless of the body parts which have differentiated boys and girls since the beginning of time.  Or, a newborn can be classified as an “it” until the day when “it” decides whether to be “he” or “she”.

We are way overdue for judgment—even obliteration.  Perhaps the countless number of God fearing, God loving individuals remaining in our country has kept us here, still in a relative degree of safety and comfort.  But ever mounting indications of trouble for God’s chosen race, the Jews, are poised to tip the balance AT ANY MOMENT!  Indeed there are areas where liberal, anti-God views flourish, and judgment may be in blatant process as I keyboard these very words.

Most of our Universities are no longer sites of higher learning, where opposing views are freely entertained and examined—especially in the studies of Humanities, Political Science, History, Psychology, Sociology, etc.  To disagree with the powers that be in these areas of matriculation is to court verbal abuse, alienation and ostracism, and even a deflated grade average.  Our once venerable institutions have been infiltrated, and students are getting their brains scoured and remade into GROUPTHINK.

In many instances, the GROUPTHINK extends to throw a blanket of condemnation over the Jewish race, the very people whom God chose to showcase His life and His values to the entire world.  The very people through whom our Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ came to save the world from condemnation.

I sense that some of you readers may be eye-rolling, those of you who have no interest in, or grasp of, even recent history,  Well it is happening.  It happened in Nazi Germany and it is happening here.  Beginning with universities, where minds are trained for leadership, and yes—running our government.

And we all know that throughout history the Satanic monster of anti-Semitism has weaseled its way into allegedly Christian Churches.  Anyone who knows and understands Scripture literally from Genesis to Revelation, understands that nearly 1/3rd of Scripture predicts Christ’s Kingdom on earth, where He will literally and bodily reign for 1000 years in Jerusalem in the midst of God’s nation of Israel—to be restored to its former glory.

A church where traditions and leaders speak louder than the pages of the Bible and literal prophecy is not a church to be trusted.  The horrible history of discrimination and persecution of Jews via “the Church” has not been perpetrated by the literal Biblical Church, but rather by institutions of religion where traditions and powerful “leaders” have trumped a literal Scripture.

Here is a contemporary case in point—a rerun of the travesty enacted some 12-14 years ago:  On June 27th, 2018, the U. S. Presbyterian Church voted unanimously to support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction of Israel, until Israel ends its occupation of Palestine.

But there is still light in America.  An October 11, 2018 article in the Jerusalem Post states that the American Presbyterian Church is braced to lose some 400,000 members in the next 5 years—precisely over the policy of BDS. Praise God for that!

Light notwithstanding, America is on the edge.  Anti-Semitism was around in some areas in the past—i.e. the disgusting example of Henry Ford, and traitorous nuances of Charles Lindbergh.  But fresh concern arises when the ugly voice of prejudice is raised in the centers of our government, as is the case today.

Just GOOGLE documentation of anti-Semitic candidates who have won Congressional seats in recent elections.  GOOGLE Keith Ellison and Ilhan Omar.  GOOGLE Anti-Semitism, USA.

However one may feel about our current president, Donald Trump, with his name-calling and mouthy tweets, his championship of Israel is wonderful—an encouraging sign among the growing clouds of gloom.  But how long will his pro-Israel stance, indeed how long will he and his beautiful Jewish family members be significant in US policy?  Godlessness pervades our nation, and even some Jewish leaders have forsaken Israel.

Scripture remains unchanging, eternal, and literally true.  Therein lies our joy, our peace, and our future bright promise.  Meanwhile, LOOK OUT, AMERICA!

Margaret L. Been — November 17th, 2018

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